Can good planning help address the grievous problems of the Palestinian territories, including the challenge of conceiving its patchwork of lands as a viable state? My friend Doug Suisman, a Los Angeles architect in private practice, has been working on the problem for years, through a remarkable project called the Arc. The New York Times profiled it five years ago. Despite all the bad news from Israel and Palestine since then, the work has continued. The idea is to have a plan for the urban structure and transport infrastructure of a Palestinian state, something that’s ready to go when an independent state is created and that can even be part of the run-up to independence. Continue Reading →
Strategic Transit Planning
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
For the last four months, I’ve been part of a team looking at the big-picture problems of public transport in Sydney, sponsored but not controlled by the city’s main newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald. We released the draft report today, so I can finally talk about it. Continue Reading →
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.