As someone who designs transit networks for a living, it’s often lonely trying to promote good network design. When changing services to create a better network, everyone who is negatively impacted complains at once, while those who would benefit (including people who care about the efficiency and usability of their city as a whole) tend not to tune in. So the political process of getting change approved is often unpleasant to say the least.
It would help if every city had advocates promoting basic principles of efficient network design. For a good example of what this might look like, have a look at the Columbus Bus Rapid Transit Plan. This appears to be the work of a local advocate who signs comments as “John,” but like Shakespeare he seems to have completely submerged his identity under his work. I can’t find out anything else about him, nor does he have an obvious place to get feedback.
(And if you know nothing about Columbus, as I did, let the Urbanophile fill you in. Capital cities with major universities are a great mix for making a town both prosperous and transit-friendly, or at least transit-hopeful.)
John’s site is more than a Bus Rapid Transit plan, although it does have an interesting idea for basic BRT along I-71, from which I took this image. John also addresses basics such as frequency, Frequent Network mapping, and stop spacing for Columbus readers.
The whole focus is on things that can be done now or very soon. Successful transit agencies have a continuous focus on short-term improvement that runs parallel with whatever long-range major infrastructure they may be working on.
The value of John’s site is that it not only focuses on the short-term, but lays out clear principles underlying its proposals. Without that, it’s easy to sound like just another raver hurling statistics.
Does your city’s transit agency think this way? If so, does it explain its thinking as clearly as John does? If not, you might want to put together something like John’s site. With links to Human Transit, of course, where I plan to continue doing articles on the basic principles.
(Afterthought: My only criticism of John’s work is this little bit:
Freeway BRT is a concept I created that would allow express buses to exit at diamond interchanges, drop off and pick up passengers for transfers to other bus lines, and then immediately re-enter the freeway.
That is, indeed, a good option for very preliminary, low-cost BRT,
but John didn’t create it. In fact the Portland city bus that I rode
to school in the early 1970s did exactly that at a place called Sylvan,
since replaced by light rail. It isn’t done more widely because (a) it
exposes buses to the signal (or worse, stopsign) to cross the
intersecting street and (b) many major cities don’t have a lot of diamond
interchanges anymore, especially at the busiest locations where you’d
most want BRT to stop. Moral of that story: If you have a brilliant
but simple idea about transit, you’re probably not the first. But so
little knowledge-sharing goes on between agencies, and between
generations, that you can still be a pioneer of a good idea in your own
city. In fact, an idea that has a history is usually a much easier
sell than an idea that you claim to have invented.)