As both a public participation/community engagement professional and a public transportation enthusiast, this story concerns me. On the one hand, I view the Bay Area as a big transit success story. They have an amazing tool called Transit 511 that connects all the various systems, including buses, light rail, streetcar, commuter rail, and from multiple counties, so for someone with a phone and/or Internet in the Bay Area, you’re set, on a level I haven’t seen anywhere else.
On the other hand, this post raises concern because it makes it appear as if the agency has not meaningfully incorporated public input into its planning. I have no way to verify the accuracy of the statements made here, but I think it’s imperative that transit agencies heed the concerns in the Bay Area for robust public participation and inclusive community engagement. Transit projects needlessly bog down when agencies make decisions without meaningfully engaging the public, thereby making them feel as if a project is being thrust upon them and, by extension, they don’t feel it’s theirs, as they should. My local transit agency is wrestling mightily with this challenge and I think has come a long way towards making itself more open to public input, but agencies around the country should heed the lessons being learned in the Bay Area.
If we’re going to make transit the mode of choice (and I emphasize choice rather than a mode of necessity–some folks will have to ride no matter what, but lots of folks will ride only under certain conditions), we have to ensure we’re involving the public in creating their public transportation.