Strategic Transit Planning

u.s. transit capital funding: a big picture?

An email asks a seemingly eternal question, from reader Aaron Brown:

I … wanted to reach out to see if you’d be willing to provide any thoughts on the massive capital funding backlogs that major transit systems face here in the US. The latest reports I’ve seen throw around numbers above $50bn just to bring systems into a state of good repair, excluding any expansion. Given the current condition of local, state, and federal budgets, this number seems extremely daunting to me.Here in Chicago, for instance, we have a pretty solid transit system (relative to most US cities), but one that is old and badly in need of repairs. Again, however, the amount need just to bring the system to a state of good repair ($7bn for the CTA alone) seems overwhelming. We have aging buses and railcars, tracks and ties in need of replacement, and an L system with structures over 100 years old that are all competing for limited funds. And this is in a city and transit system that is seeing record ridership and will need to expand over the next few decades to serve one of the largest (and growing) metro areas in the country. Continue Reading →

Willingness to Pay for Transit Improvements

Los angeles frequency survey Do your city’s political leaders understand what funding sources people would support if they knew what they were buying?  A few weeks ago, the Source (a blog by the Los Angeles transit agency Metro) reported on a survey showing that current riders would pay 50c more in fares for a doubling of their frequency of service.  This isn’t as encouraging as it sounds, because a doubling of frequency, even with significant ridership increases as a result, will cost a lot more than 50 cents per new rider.  But it’s a useful soundbite.  These questions, broadly called “willingness to pay” questions, need to be asked more, and more probingly. Continue Reading →

Sydney: Grid Networks for Gridless Cities

Whenever I talk about the value of grid networks, as I did here, someone always says: But my city isn’t a grid.  For example, Sydney, where I live now, is about as ungridlike a city as you’ll encounter.  In fact, there’s no large system of order in Sydney’s road network at all.  Some roads follow what were once Aboriginal tracks, but mostly it just grew, one bit at a time, an accretion of millions of short-term decisions.

Syd inner basenao Continue Reading →

vancouver: the almost perfect grid

In the last post, which explains why grids are such an efficient structure for transit, I mentioned that Vancouver has one of the best transit geographies I’ve ever encountered. Here’s what I mean.

Vancouver Transit

A grid pattern of arterial streets covers almost all of Vancouver. Most of the time, parallel major streets are spaced about every 800-1000m apart, and since a comfortable walking distance is about half that, this spacing is perfect for efficient transit. Continue Reading →

Long-term Transit Plans: Asking the Real Questions

For several years I worked on a Strategic Public Transport Network Plan for Australia’s national capital, Canberra, so I’m happy to report that the plan has now been released for public comment.
The concise Executive Summary pulls together a number of key ideas about long-term transit planning that I’ve found useful in many cities, so even if you don’t know or care about Canberra you might find it interesting.

Canberra 2031

The most important single idea in the plan (as in much of my long-term planning work) is the Frequent Network, which consists of services that will run every 15 minutes or better all day, every day of the week.  This is the level of service that can motivate people to choose a transit-dependent lifestyle, because it assures you of the ability to get around without building your life around schedules. The proposed Frequent Network includes Rapid service (red lines in this image, stopping at “stations” every 1 km or so, averaging 40 km/hour) and Local service (orange, stopping every 200-400m, averaging 20 km/hour).   (As always, click image to enlarge.)

Continue Reading →