The new Capital Metro CEO signed her contract yesterday. I’m pleased to see she chose to rent an apartment near three bus routes, and I wonder whether a separate car allowance is something a transit agency should continue to give its CEO. It’s not immediately clear to me why it’s necessary, but perhaps they know something I don’t. Symbolically, I would hope the agency would consider the message a car allowance for its CEO sends to the public.
If I were more of a transit purist, I might take issue with the new CEO’s comment that “There are a group of people who never ride the bus because it doesn’t fit their needs, or for whatever reason, and that’s OK.” Of course it’s okay for people not to ride the bus, but I don’t know whether it’s okay to assume that a bus system cannot meet a particular person’s needs. It would seem to me like everyone in the region needs to get around, efficiently, affordably with minimal hassle. That’s the underlying interest shared by everyone; the difference may be in how quickly someone needs to be able to reach a destination on a moment’s notice. But I would submit that the public, transit agencies, transportation planners and others mistakenly categorize transit as only suitable for meeting the needs of some–when, in reality, a well-designed system could truly meet the needs of perhaps all but first responders to an emergency.
I would also hope that people take note of the CEO’s choice to live near three bus routes. We often place “silos” around planning for transit and land use planning–that is, we think of the two as unrelated. But choices about how to arrange housing, jobs, amenities and the like impact the ability of transit to get you where you want to go, and transit can impact where you can afford to live. You can be 15 miles from a city center, but if you’re a short walk from a train station, suddenly that becomes a more desirable place to live. I applaud the CEO for choosing to live near transit, and I encourage planners to continue studying the nexus between transit and land use–particularly the notion that mixed use “activity centers,” where live/work/play all co-exist near each other, can help us develop a transit/transportation network that gets people around more quickly, efficiently, sustainably, and affordably.
Finally, I’m encouraged that Capital Metro is considering adding train runs. I recognize that the agency can’t assume that just because they add times for people to take the train doesn’t mean an increase in revenue for the agency. But I would hope that these changes would occur, in a cost-effective way, as quickly as possible. I, for one, don’t usually have a need for the train at traditional rush hours but can conceive of using the existing line at other times of day. One of the problems the line has now is the difficulty people have in knowing how to use it if they’re not commuting from the northwest suburbs to downtown. That will change once people see the line as part of a broader system, but until then, I think it’s important the agency give people additional opportunities to take advantage of it.#snappatx