Network Redesign

Miami: A New Network with a Resilience Plan

Español

For the past 18 months, we have been redesigning the bus network for Miami-Dade County, Florida with the local advocacy group Transit Alliance. As the final public engagement phase was coming to an end, the pandemic reached the United States, and like many other agencies, Miami-Dade Transit went into crisis management mode. So our work paused for about four months.

As the pandemic wore on, it became apparent that the agency needed more than a single transit network ready to implement.  It needed a plan that could adapt to a range of unpredictable futures. Nobody knows how long the pandemic will go on, or what affect it will have on tax revenues that the agency relies on.

So, in finalizing the Better Bus Network, we worked with county staff and Transit Alliance to develop a Resilience Plan, to guide future decisions about how to ramp service up or down in the face of an unknown future.

But first, let’s talk about how we got here.

In the first phase of the project, we developed a Choices Report to analyze the existing network and discuss key questions that determine how the network should be designed. We took input from the public about those questions and developed two concept networks that highlight the tradeoffs between focusing on coverage and focusing on ridership. We returned to the public to ask them which way they lean between these the two concepts. Remember that it’s never one or the other; the ridership and coverage concepts represent two ends of a spectrum. Based on public input, we designed a Draft Network that was halfway between the two Concepts and now we revised it into the Final Network.

Below are slices of the Existing Network and New Network for the core of the region (click the maps to see the full-size maps of both networks).

A comparison of the maps of the Existing Network and the Final Better Bus Network in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Note the line colors, which indicate midday frequency.

Click here for the full map of the Existing Network

Click here for the full map of the Final Better Bus Network

 

The New Network creates a frequent grid that helps residents get to more places sooner. In this network, 353,000 more residents are near a frequent route (an increase of 13% over the existing network). With the new network, the average resident can reach 36% more jobs in 45 minutes by walking and transit.

The frequent grid means that it is easier for people to make connections between routes allowing them to get to many more places in a reasonable amount of time. The following animation shows where someone can get to in 45 minutes by walking and transit from Liberty City (NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street).  The gray area shows where someone can get to with the Existing Network and the light blue area shows where they can get to with the New Network. With the Better Bus Network, someone living in Liberty City can get to 60% more jobs and 50% more people.  This is what we mean by access to opportunity.

This map shows the areas reachable from Liberty City within 45 minutes using the Existing Network and using the redesigned Final Network

This vast expansion in access is only possible because of the frequent grid. This means that if Miami-Dade Transit has less revenue but wants to maximize access like this, they have to protect the frequent grid. That is what the Resilience Plan does. The network’s corridors are divided into tiers to establish what service should be provided at different levels of revenue.

The Resilience Plan protects the frequent grid in case of budget shortfall.

In the grimmest financial scenario (Tier 1), the network would keep only frequent corridors spaced every mile, and a few coverage routes that are critical to ensuring equitable access. Yes, this network will make people walk longer distances. But when they get to a route, a bus is always coming soon. If the County has more revenue, they can add the service in Tier 2 and so forth.

Nobody wants to see these service cuts, but if they become necessary, MDT will be able to minimize the damage to people’s access to opportunity by using the Resilience Plan.  On the other hand, if MDT did service cuts the usual way – by leaving the routes as they are but cutting frequencies – access to opportunity would decrease drastically.  Consolidating routes to make them more frequent can actually make people’s trips faster, despite the longer walks.

This Final Network is now in the hands of the County Commission to endorse and, if approved, to be implemented by Miami-Dade Transit. There will likely be additional opportunities to comment on this plan before it is implemented. If you’re in Miami-Dade County, remember to submit a comment or tell your Commissioner about this Plan, particularly if you like it.  Sadly, most of the public comments received on transit plans are negative even if the plan is broadly popular, because people who like it falsely assume it will happen anyway.  This plan will not be implemented if it does not attract strong support.   The County would like constructive comments about the plan, which will be used to make the final implementation even better.  But if you like the plan, it’s important to say that as well!

Miami-Dade: A Draft New Network

Esta página está disponible en español aquí.

 

For the last year we’ve been working on a bus network redesign project in Miami-Dade County, Florida, partnering with the local advocacy group Transit Alliance on their Better Bus Project.  In this unusual arrangement, Transit Alliance is paying for much of the work out of funds that they have raised, though of course Miami-Dade Transit is an active partner in working to develop a plan they can implement.

A draft of the New Network is now out and ready for community input, and you can read the full report here. This New Network is based on the public input received on the Concepts released last fall and it reflects a shift in the balance of ridership and coverage goals toward higher ridership based on the public response to those concepts. This New Network has been created in partnership with Transit Alliance, County, and municipal staff, and in particular City of Miami and Miami Beach staff who have helped guide the redesign of municipal trolleys.

The local newspaper, the Miami Herald, has a good article about the Draft Network and the major improvements it provides to most people in Miami-Dade. If you live in Miami-Dade you should study this New Network and take the survey before March 31st.

We previously released a Choices Report that highlighted one of the major shortcomings of the existing network, a lack of a frequent grid. The New Network builds more of a frequent grid, at least in the core of the network, through consolidation of closely spaced routes, trading roles between the County and municipal trolleys, especially in the City of Miami, and some reductions in coverage, particularly in municipalities that provide trolley service.

Below are slices of the Existing Network and New Network for the core of the region (click the maps to see the full size maps of both networks).

Existing Network

New Network

The result of this frequent grid is that 368,000 more residents are near a frequent route, which brings the total population near frequent service to 25%. In the Existing Network only 11% of residents are near a frequent route.

The power of the frequent grid means that there is a vast expansion in where people can go in a reasonable amount of time. Below is a comparison of where someone who is starting in Liberty City (NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street) can reach in 45 minutes by walking and transit. The gray area is what is reachable today under the Existing Network. The light blue area is the area reachable with the New Network. The frequent grid in the New Network vastly expands your freedom if you live here and means you could reach 60% more jobs and 55% more people.

We can assess this change for all people and places across the county and doing so gives us the map below, showing in blue the areas where people can reach more jobs and in red the areas where people can reach fewer jobs with the New Network. Each dot in this map represents 100 people.

The map shows that the vast majority of people and places see a large increase in job access. Averaged across the entire county, the typical county resident would be able to reach 33% more jobs in an hour with this New Network.

Now these improvements are part of some painful compromises. This network emphasizes Ridership goals more than the Existing Network. Thus, some low productivity routes serving Coverage goals are cut so that more frequency can be provided in dense, walkable, linear places. Overall, about 3% more residents would be more than ½ mile from service with the New Network.

The New Network costs the same as the Existing Network and is fully implementable within six to nine months, but this network isn’t going to be implemented until the public, stakeholders, riders, and others have a chance to consider this change and respond. So, read up and tell Transit Alliance and the County what you think.

If you agree this New Network would be an improvement for Miami-Dade, it’s important to speak up because many people who will benefit from this New Network won’t be paying attention and won’t speak up. And if you don’t like the plan, please let Transit Alliance and MDT know how it can be improved. But remember, any change must be made in a cost neutral way, so an increase in service in one place means we have to cut service somewhere else.  We always get great ideas out of public comments at this point.

It’s also important to think beyond current and potential transit riders to all the other interests that will benefit.  A vast expansion in where people can get to means better access to jobs, services and shopping across the county.  Businesses can see how the plan improves access for their employees and customers.  Finally, everyone who cares about transit outcomes – economic, environmental, or social – should care about what this plan could achieve.

Finally, as consultant, we don’t claim that this is all the service that the county needs; it’s just what the county and cities can currently afford. There are obvious places were additional investment in service would greatly improve access for thousands of people. Some ideas for improvement are documented in the Report on the New Network, such as increasing the frequency of service on the 20-minute routes in the New Network (Routes 9, 62, 88). Also, on Sundays most of the frequent network becomes every 20 minutes. In a region with such a large tourist economy, Sunday service should be closer to weekday and Saturday levels.

Miami-Dade: Una Nueva Red de Transporte Público, Plan Borrador

This page is available in English here.

 

Durante el último año hemos estado trabajando en el proyecto Better Bus para rediseñar el sistema de autobuses en el Condado de Miami-Dade, Florida, en colaboración con el grupo de interés local Transit Alliance. Este es un caso inusual ya que Transit Alliance está usando fondos recaudados para pagar por gran parte del proyecto, aunque Miami-Dade Transit ha sido un miembro activo del equipo desarrollando un plan que ellos pueden implementar.

El plan borrador de la Nueva Red ya se publicó y está listo para recibir comentarios del público. Puedes leer el informe completo aquí.  Esta Nueva Red se diseñó considerando los comentarios que recibimos del público en la fase de los Conceptos el otoño pasado. Siguiendo los resultados encontrados en este proceso de participación ciudadana, la Nueva Red refleja un cambio en el balance entre más frecuencia y cobertura, resultando en más servicio de alta frecuencia (que aumentaría el número de usuarios). Esta Nueva Red se creó en conjunto con Transit Alliance, el Condado, empleados municipales, y en particular empleados de las Ciudades de Miami y Miami Beach, quienes han ayudado a guiar el rediseño de los trolleys municipales.

El periódico local, el Miami Herald, publicó un buen artículo sobre la Nueva Red y las mejoras principales que afectan positivamente a la mayoría de la comunidad de Miami-Dade. Si vives en Miami-Dade, deberías revisar la Nueva Red y tomar la encuesta antes del 31 de marzo.

Previamente, publicamos un Informe de Opciones que destacaba una de las mayores deficiencias del sistema actual, la falta de una red frecuente. La Nueva Red crea una red más frecuente en las partes más densas del sistema a través de la consolidación de rutas muy cercanas unas de las otras, cambiando la función entre algunas rutas del condado y los trolleys (especialmente en la Ciudad de Miami) y algunas reducciones en cobertura, particularmente en municipios que ya tienen servicio de trolley.

A continuación podrás ver unas secciones de la Red Existente y la Nueva Red en el centro de la región (haz clic para ver los mapas completos de ambas redes).

la Red Existente

la Nuvea Red

En esta nueva red, 368,000 residentes más están cerca de una ruta frecuente, lo cual hace que el número total de personas cerca de servicio frecuente suba a 25%. En la Red Existente, solo 11% de los residentes viven cerca de una ruta frecuente.

El poder de la red frecuente significa que hay una expansión significativa en los lugares a donde la gente puede ir dentro de un tiempo razonable. A continuación, hay una animación que compara los lugares a donde una persona en Liberty City (NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street) puede llegar en 45 minutos en transporte público y caminando. La zona gris muestra a donde una persona puede ir hoy, con al Red Existente. La zona azul claro muestra a donde una persona puede ir con la Nueva Red. La red frecuente en la Nueva Red provee una expansión muy grande a tu libertad si vives aquí. Podrías acceder a 60% más oportunidades (trabajos y servicios) y 55% más personas.

Podemos evaluar este cambio para todas las personas y todos los lugares del condado. El resultado se muestra en el próximo mapa. Las zonas azules muestran en donde la gente puede acceder a más trabajos y las zonas rojas en donde la gente puede acceder a menos trabajos con la Nueva Red. Cada punto en este mapa representa 100 personas.

El mapa muestra que la gran mayoría de la gente y los lugares ven un grande aumento en el número de trabajos accesibles. El promedio a lo largo de todo el condado muestra que el residente típico del condado puede acceder a 33% más trabajos en una hora de viaje con esta Nueva Red.

Estas mejoras son parte de compromisos dolorosos. Esta red enfatiza más las metas de alta frecuencia que la Red Existente. Por lo tanto, algunas rutas de baja productividad con metas de proveer cobertura se han eliminado para poder proveer más servicio en lugares que son más densos, caminables, y lineares. Aproximadamente 3% más de los residentes estarán a más de ½ milla de servicio con la Nueva Red.

La Nueva Red cuesta lo mismo que la Red Existente y es completamente implementable dentro de seis a nueve meses, pero esta red no se implementará antes de que el público, las partes interesadas, los usuarios, y otros interesados, tengan la oportunidad de revisar estos cambios y comentar. Por lo tanto, lee y dile a Transit Alliance lo que piensas.

Si estás de acuerdo que esta Nueva Red será una beneficiosa para Miami-Dade, es importante que lo digas porque mucha gente que se beneficiará con este plan no estará prestando atención y no lo dirá. Si no te gusta este plan, por favor déjale saber a Transit Alliance y a MDT como se puede mejorar. Pero recuerda, cualquier cambio se debe hacer manteniendo un presupuesto neutro. Por lo tanto, aumentar el servicio en un lugar significa que hay que quitar servicio en otro lugar. Siempre recibimos buenísimas ideas de los comentarios públicos en esta fase.

También es importante pensar más allá de los usuarios actuales y pensar en todos los otros intereses que se beneficiarán. Una expansión grande en el acceso a empleo, servicios, y comercio en el condado. Empresas pueden ver como el plan mejora el acceso a sus empleados y clientes. Finalmente, a todo el mundo que le importan los beneficios del transporte público – económicos, ambietales, o sociales – le debe importar lo que este plan puede lograr.

Finalmente, como consultores, nosotros no decimos que este es todo el servicio que el condado necesita; esto es solamente lo que el condado y las ciudades pueden pagar ahora. Claramente hay lugares donde inversión adicional en el servicio podría mejorar el acceso a miles de personas. Algunas ideas de donde se puede mejorar el servicio están documentadas en el Informe de la Nueva Red, como aumentar la frecuencia de servicio en las rutas de 20 minutos en al Nueva Red (Rutas 9, 62, 88). También, la mayoría de la red frecuente se reduce a 20 minutos los domingos. En una región con tanta actividad turística, el servicio de los domingos debe ser más como el servicio de durante la semana y los sábados.

Alexandria, Virginia: A New Network Plan

At about 15 square miles, the City of Alexandria is relatively small, but it is firmly within the core of the Washington metropolitan region with key job centers like the large Department of Defense facility at Mark Center, a historic Old Town that draws many tourists, burgeoning employment centers like Eisenhower East, and many leafy suburban neighborhoods. It grew and changed dramatically, along with the rest of Washington region, in the latter half of the 20th Century, much of it in an auto-oriented design. And like many of the inner suburban areas of the Washington region, Alexandria is trying to find its way to a more transit-focused future, because in the nations 6th largest metro area, there’s just not room for everyone to get around by car.

When looking at Alexandria in the context of the ridership recipe, a key feature is that most of the density is around the edges of the city, along the Metrorail lines to the east and south, and along I-395 to the north. But not all of that density is equally suited to high transit ridership. In the western parts of the city, much of the development is auto-oriented, with less connected streets and poor walkability. In the middle of the city is a large area of primarily low density residential that is not dense or walkable. This doughnut pattern makes the transit network design and planning work particularly interesting and challenging for Alexandria.

Old Town Alexandria (Photo: Ken Lund https://flic.kr/p/o5Pgtc)

Skyscrapers_on_King_Street West End Alexandria Virginia (Photo: Ser Amantio di Nicolao via Wikimedia.org)

In that context, we’ve been working with the City, its local transit agency (DASH), and the regional transit agency (WMATA), on the Alexandria Transit Vision since 2018. The City recently released the Draft Recommended Networks that we helped design.

The networks are designed around the policy direction from the DASH Board that, by 2030, 85% of resources should go toward high ridership service. The plan includes a short-term network that could be implemented as soon as 2022, with no new service hours. It also includes an option to improve evening and weekend service in the short-term with new investment. Plus, the plan includes the ambitious Vision Network, a 2030 plan to expand the frequent network and evening and weekend service to substantially increase access across the city, seven days a week.

A major focus of the plan is building up a frequent network from what is mostly a low frequency system with lots of one-seat rides today. That means some trips that a person can make today on one bus might require two buses in the future, but the frequency of service means that total wait time is the same, or less, than today.

The slices of the network maps below show the western part of the city, where today many overlapping routes provide low frequency service to many destinations, but you can’t get anywhere soon with such long waits. The 2022 and 2030 networks dramatically simplify service and increase frequency to expand liberty and access through connections to other frequent routes.

Existing Network

2022 Network

 

2030 Network

Outcomes

The 2022 Recommended Network would increase the number of jobs that the average person could reach in 45 minutes at midday on weekdays by 13%. That is with a network with zero increase in service hours, just reallocating existing DASH and WMATA services in the city.

An 8% increase in service in the short-term (2022) could improve evening and weekend service so more people could get more places all week long. Specifically, it would increase the percent of residents near frequent service on Saturdays from 36% to 65% and on Sundays from 15% to 59%.

The longer-term Vision Network for 2030 would increase job access even more, helping the average resident reach 18% more jobs in 45 minutes at noon on weekdays. Plus, it would increase evening and weekend service, brining frequent service to 79% of residents on Saturdays and 74% on Sundays.

The vast majority of people and places in Alexandria see substantial improvements in overall access and freedom via transit with these networks, but like any change there are some trade-offs. Some parts of the city, particularly in the lower density center, see a decrease in service and also a decrease in access by transit.

These trade-offs were part of the concepts phase where we helped the public, stakeholders, and city leadership think through what goals they wanted to prioritize for transit in Alexandria. The outcome of that phase was the Board policy direction telling us to put 85% of resources toward Ridership Goals and 15% toward Coverage goals.

Your Liberty

We’ve also put together an interactive webmap that you can use to explore the networks and see how they affect your liberty and access to opportunities: http://alexandriatransitvision.com/. The tool compares travel time isochrones for each concept and shows you the change in jobs reachable in 30 or 45 minutes.

In these maps, blue areas are newly reachable with the network concept, purple areas are reachable with both the existing network and the concept, and red areas are where you can travel with the existing network that is no longer reachable with the concept. You can also click the “View Routes” button to explore the network structure.

Here’s a quick comparison for the Landmark Mall vicinity showing the area that would be reachable in 45 minutes with the 2030 Recommended Network:

Screen Shot Landmark Mall Isochrone

The City is working with developers to remake this area of the City, adding new housing and commercial development. With the 2030 network, someone living here would be able to reach 76,800 more jobs than with the existing network. Of course, those jobs aren’t just places you could work, they also represent the shopping, education, recreation, and other opportunities you could reach in a reasonable amount of time.

More Information

There’s much more detail in the Draft Recommended Network Report and at the city’s website, including individual neighborhood details.

If you live, work, or visit Alexandria, you should consider these changes and take the survey about them here. At this stage there is no decision about whether to implement a plan such as this one.  Any final plan will be revised based on public comment that comes in over the next couple of weeks.  That means that if you like the plan, it’s important to comment to that effect, as well.

Cleveland: See Where You Could Go

We’re excited to share the next stage in our work in Great Cleveland, where the transit agency, GCRTA, has hired us to help think through their goals and different ways that their transit network can be designed to meet these goals in the next few years, and to help imagine what the possibilities may be with modest increase in operating funds in the future. For our readers in Cleveland, our last system redesign survey on is now open.  Learn more about the networks and let us know what you think!

In May of this year, we made a post about two budget-neutral alternative networks that illustrate what the transit network could look like if the agency shifted its focus more towards attracting higher ridership, and what the network would look like if shifted towards maximizing coverage. You can find out more about these alternatives here.

We surveyed the public on these alternatives, and RTA conducted a series of public meetings throughout the county. The result of the public process suggested that many people saw the value of the frequency improvements of the High Frequency Alternative, but that most people would not be in favor of a reduction in coverage to achieve the frequency improvements.

Based on this input, we worked with RTA staff to design two network concepts that illustrate how the network could look if it were designed with a slightly greater emphasis on generating high ridership, but without reducing the overall coverage area from today.  These networks illustrate for the stakeholders and the agency’s Board of Trustees the potential outcomes of this policy choice using only today’s funding levels and illustrate what sort of network those same design priorities could produce with additional funding for bus service.

You can click each map below to explore a larger annotated version.

RTA Existing Network

Current Funding Concept

Expanded Funding Concept

Remember, ridership and coverage and the opposite ends of the same spectrum so at the same funding level and without reducing coverage areas, opportunities to add ridership-focused service are very limited.

The Current Funding Concept tries to do this by minimizing duplication in the network, and by making some difficult tradeoffs about where to increase and reduce frequency. While everywhere that is served today would continue to have transit service with this concept, some lower-density places would see their frequency reduced (usually from every 45 minutes to every 60 minutes). Some key improvements include frequent service on busy corridors like Detroit, Lorain and Kinsman (all currently every 20 minutes), and frequent crosstown service on E 93rd and E 105th (Route 10).

These and other improvements are possible by reducing service levels elsewhere in the network. For example, the Center Ridge corridor on the west side of the county would be served every 60 minutes by a branch of Route 26 (which continues via Detroit towards downtown). Today, this corridor is today is served every 45 minutes, so this is a reduction in frequency, but it does come with the benefits of a one-seat ride downtown, and an extension to the new community college campus at the edge of the county (Tri-C Westshore).

Closer to downtown on the east side, low-frequency crosstown services on E 55th and E 79th would be discontinued with this design. Today, because of the crosstown routes’ low frequency and proximity to downtown, many trips along these corridors can be made more quickly by traveling in and back out along more frequent radial services (such as the HealthLine BRT, or routes 1 and 3).  Yes, that would mean having to transfer, but as we’ve explained in a past post, “transferring” can be good!

These hard choices are characteristic of a no-growth redesign; in this case, the network was designed to improve ridership potential and expand the frequent network, within the constraint of maintaining the current coverage area.

The Expanded Funding Concept deploys about 25% more bus operating resources that today’s network. With this greater resource level, this concept can increase the usefulness of the transit network in almost every part of the county that is served. Some key improvements include frequent crosstown service on W 117th in the west and Warrensville Center in the east, and on key radials like St. Clair, Superior, Quincy and Cedar. 30-minute service would be provided on corridors like outer Lorain, W 130th, and Granger where only infrequent or no service is available today.

More Information

RTA is conducting a survey in English and Spanish and public meetings on these concepts now, so if you are in Cleveland, head on over to their website to find out more: http://riderta.com/systemdesign.

We’ve also put together an interactive webmap (similar to what we were able to deploy in Dublin in 2018) that you can use to explore the network and compare some travel time isochrones for each concept: https://rtanetworkconcepts.com/viewer/. In these maps, blue areas are newly reachable with the network concept, purple areas are reachable with both the existing network and the concept, and red areas are where you can travel with the existing network that is no longer reachable with the concept. You can also click the “View Routes” button to explore the network structure of each concept.

Here’s a quick comparison for the Tri-C Western campus showing the area that would be reachable in 60 minutes with the Expanded Funding Concept:

With the Expanded Funding Concept, 30-minute service would connect TriC’s western campus to the W 130th, Pearl, Ridge and State corridors. Since the campus is only served with hourly routes today, this produces a big expansion in the area reachable from the college (the blue area shown on the map).

Finally, much more detail is available in our mini-report, which you can view here: http://www.riderta.com/sites/default/files/events/RTASRSPresentation201909.pdf

Miami-Dade: Tell us what you think about these conceptual networks!

Esta página está disponible en español aquí.

Our latest work on the Miami-Dade transit network is now available online, and we’re looking for people from the area to provide their input through this online survey.

The well-respected advocacy group, Transit Alliance, is leading the Better Bus Project on behalf of both Miami-Dade Transit and several of the key cities.  Transit Alliance and the County hired us this year to help develop transit network alternatives that would illustrate what the transit network could look like if the trolley networks were more coherently integrated with the overall county-wide network and if the balance between ridership and coverage goals were changed.

The local newspaper, the Miami Herald, has a good article about the networks and the choices they illustrate.

We previously released a Choices Report that highlighted one of the major shortcomings of the existing network, a lack of a frequent grid. The two network concepts we developed try to build a frequent grid, at least in the core of the network. Below are slices of the Existing Network, Coverage Concept, and Ridership Concept for the core of the region.

And the legend:

The concepts cost the same as the existing network, and they are fully implementable. If everyone loved one of the concepts, it would be possible for Miami-Dade and the cities to make the network changes and implement one of these in 6-9 months. But we aren’t asking people to pick one or the other. We’re asking people to tell us which concept they are closest to, so that the County Board and City Commissions can get input on the direction they should choose for Miami-Dade.

Some other key questions raised by these concepts include:

  • Should the trolleys be changed to make them complementary parts of a county-wide network? Both the Coverage and Ridership Concepts can provide more frequency on more streets because the city and county networks are designed to complement each other.
  • Should bus stops be placed farther apart so buses can go faster and people can get where they are going faster. Today, stops are about 1/8 of a mile apart. Both the Coverage and Ridership Concepts assume that stops are spaced about ¼ mile.
  • And, of course, how should the region balance the competing goals of ridership and coverage?

So if you know anyone in Miami-Dade County, send them to the project website to explore and express their views.  Encourage them to peruse the Concepts Report. And if you’re interested in reforming bus networks in general, watch the conversations around the concepts and the ultimate decisions by the local elected leaders. As with every network redesign we do, these concepts are here to help people decide what values they want transit to prioritize. We can help the community understand the options and the outcome, but it’s ultimately their decision.

Chattanooga: Choices for the City’s Transit Future

Chattanooga Incline Railway

Chattanooga, Tennessee’s most well-known transit infrastructure may be the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, a former train station made famous by a 1941 swing tune by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, or perhaps the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, a tourist-oriented funicular currently owned and operated by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA).  Most days though, Chattanooga’s transit line with the highest ridership is the Route 4 bus from downtown to the eastern suburbs. Although Chattanooga was an early adopter of electric buses, starting their downtown electric shuttles in 1992, transit has not been at the forefront of its planning policies in the past few decades.  Like many other similarly sized cities without urban growth boundaries in the US, development has sprawled outwards, enabled by highways, resulting in land use patterns that are difficult to serve by transit.

That is changing.  In recent years, Chattanooga has focused efforts on rekindling the inner city, adding housing, retail, and office space downtown, and becoming the first midsize city in the US to designate an urban innovation district.  As a recognition of their efforts to build vibrant public spaces, Chattanooga will be hosting the Project for Public Spaces placemaking conference this Fall, the third city to do so after Amsterdam and Vancouver.  But in order for a city center integrated within a growing regional economy to scale up without being choked by traffic congestion, Chattanooga needs better transit.  Today, the city is starting to reconsider the role of the bus and may be ready to make major changes to its bus services and perhaps invest more in it.

 

The recently revamped Miller Park in Downtown Chattanooga. Photo: downtownchattanooga.org

We’ve been studying the transit system in Chattanooga for over a year and in June CARTA released our report outlining four possible concepts of what the future of transit could look like. These four concepts show a range of options between coverage and ridership goals with no new funding and two options with additional funding for transit. Happily, the local newspaper’s coverage is clear and accurate.

The release of this report begins the period of public discussions and surveys. The results of that discussion will inform the decision that the CARTA Board makes in August about what direction the final plan should take.

Our report discusses four possible futures but most likely, the final plan won’t look quite like any of these. The key idea — as in much of our work — is to open up a “decision space” in which people can figure out where they want to come down on the two difficult policy decisions:

  • Ridership vs coverage? What percentage of resources should to go pursuing a goal of maximum ridership — which will tend to generate frequent service in the densest urban markets — as opposed to the goal of coverage — spreading service out so that as many people as possible have some service nearby?
  • Level of investment in service? How much should the community invest in service? The more it invests the more it gets in value, but the value it gets depends in part on how you answer the ridership-coverage trade-off.

If you live in Chattanooga or know anyone there, now is the time to get involved.  Download the report, read at least the executive summary, form your own view, and share it with us here!  The more people respond, the more confident we’ll be in defining the final plan based on their guidance.