This story hurts me on two levels–the transit level and the community engagement level. Boston and the state of Massachusetts have evidently scrapped a major plan for stimulus funding to help with rapid transit bus–widely viewed as the next big thing in at least bus transit, if not public transit as a whole, given how it compares in cost to rail.
What hurts in this case is a) part of the discussion pivoted on two important aspects of riding transit–a dedicated lane for buses and a median allowing for walker/rider safety, and b) it appears as if slightly more savvy community engagement might have (and might still) save the day. “A previous lack of communication with the community required officials to spend their time defending their actions, instead of moving the plan ahead. As a result, there was not enought time to woo some residents, neighborhood supporters of the proposal say…“I hope we haven’t blown it…My real task is to keep the civic engagement, because what we have is the [heaviest] transit ridership in these neighborhoods.’’
Turns out the real riders really wanted this thing, but the approach didn’t reach them. Lessons learned, I hope. Community engagement isn’t about making a decision at the top and then trying to sell the public. It’s about gathering input and, perhaps, buy-in, and crafting a solution that reflects that input and buy-in.