The Next Transport Revolution: Trolley Wire on Every Street?

Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl.  Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil [2nd edition].  Earthscan and New Society Publishers, 2010. 

As you’ve probably heard by now, the world is starting to run out of readily-accessible oil, and most rational predictions are that oil prices will continue to rise to reflect the increasing difficulty and risk involved in pursuing new supplies.  How will that change our transport system?  What kinds of change are needed?  What technologies most urgently need research?  And who will lead these changes? Continue Reading →

The Environmental Defense Fund Invites Us to Stop Waiting

It’s hard to pick much of a quarrel with the Environmental Defense Fund’s new report Reinventing Transit, which invites us to admire 11 US “case studies” where a major mobility improvement has been achieved fast and affordably.  The cases are:

Reinventing transit cover

  • Rural transit services in the San Joaquin Valley (Kings County, CA)
  • The Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit corridor in Los Angeles
  • The Portland Streetcar
  • Flexible suburban bus routes in Prince William County, MD
  • Bus-only shoulder lanes on the freeways of Minneapolis, MN
  • Bus Rapid Transit in Eugene, OR (as an example of a small-city application)
  • Community shuttles to commuter rail in New Jersey
  • Community-tailored transit options in Grand Rapids, MI
  • Downtown Bus Rapid Transit in Orlando, FL
  • Bike Transit Centers in several cities nationwide
  • New York City’s “Select Bus Service”, a form of partial Bus Rapid Transit

We could disagree whether these are really the “top 11,” but that’s part of the point, just as it is in those lists of “top livable cities.”  By quarreling with the list we engage in the kind of thinking that the authors want to encourage.   In this case, the goal is to inspire the general reader with the range of innovation occurring in the US transit industry.  As the authors state:

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The Disneyland Theory of Transit

Darrin Nordahl.  My Kind of Transit: Rethinking Public Transportation in America.  Center for American Places, 2008. 

Nordahl coverLike streets themselves, transit stations and vehicles are part of the common space of a city, and the experience of using them tells us a great deal, often at a crucial subconscious level, about our city and our place in it.

One of the great challenges of the transit business is to make every rider feel welcomed.  It’s easy to do this if you’re running a few buses in a small town; there, you have so few riders that you can greet them all by name.  But the challenge of big-city transit is to give a welcoming sensation to huge masses of people at once.
The great cathedral-like train stations of American railroad era did this; many great European stations still do, and contemporary station design is finding its way back to those principles.

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