In the Twin Cities of Minnesota, they’re looking at expanding the light rail they have by providing what would seem to an outside observer (me) a link between the two cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Obviously, the two cities have grown up without the rail infrastructure, so lots of homes and businesses will be affected, and a group of the affected folks evidently sued to stop the project, saying planners didn’t pay them enough heed.
The judge seems to be saying, “You could have paid them more heed, but your sin wasn’t egregious enough to make me want to stop the project.” To me, this raises a couple of important considerations for transit planners and advocates, AND people who do the same day job as me–public participation/community engagement.
In theory, it would be great if the people who would be using a new transit system or line had a substantial say in where it went, and maybe even how it got built. In practice, it would be hard to please anyone. I would love, though, to see us try. I would love to see us create tools–both online and in-person–for people to use to plot out transit lines and understand the costs, both financial and otherwise, associated with their preferences. If someone wanted a stop near their home or business, but was concerned about how long construction would disrupt things, theoretically, they could toggle the amount of time spent on construction, speeding things up–which would cost more overall (labor overtime, etc.) but might seem less costly to those most immediately affected.
The mantra that “transit must pay for itself” (repeated recently by a an anti-transit-sounding member of Congress) means that the people for whom it is being built have to use it and pay for it. So, as a practical matter, those people should have a significant say in how it will run and work. While I am not suggesting that transit planners can ever prevent disruption during the construction phase and should not, therefore, stop a project because it will cause some disruption, I think we would be wise to think of ways to involve the public so that they both approve the concept AND its execution, and they understand the choices associated with a particular route or construction schedule.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged #snappatx, community engagement, iap2, light rail, mass transit, Minneapolis, Minnesota, p2, public transportation, St. Paul, Twin cities
Capital Metro is going to interview two external candidates to be CEO. It seemed inevitable that the leadership would need to change–given all the negative publicity surrounding the agency and its launch of commuter rail.
I’ll be curious to see how the public responds to these two candidates. Orlando, where one of the candidates comes from, has significant challenges related to transit planning–Orlando’s land use is planned in such a way to make transit very difficult. Each time we’ve gone there, I’ve looked ahead of time at the possibility of getting around via transit, and each time, it’s seemed impractical even for me–90 or more minutes on buses, plus long walks, for a 15 minute drive. That said, Austin is no picnic when it comes to linking our existing land use patterns to sensible transit, so the Orlando candidate could bring some valuable experience.
The candidate with more rail experience would obviously bring a lot of value to a city desperately in need of additional rail linking key nodes of density and going closer to where people currently are. That said, I’d be curious how she (and the Orlando candidate) would deal with Austin’s transportation politics–apart from the need for expertise in the subject area, there’s a need for rock-solid communication and public leadership and diplomacy skills. We shall see.
Meanwhile, Dallas continues pushing forward, and it’s making me red with envy. Granted, streetcars are not the world’s most efficient transportation mode–as folks in San Francisco will tell you, people seem to ride more for the experience than for getting quickly from A to B. But I think it engenders lots of enthusiasm for transit as a whole, which feeds into the health of the broader system, which is important. So, kudos (gulp) to Dallas.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Austin, Cap Metro, Capital Metro, Capmetro, Dallas, light rail, Lynx, mass transit, Oak Cliff, Orlando, Orlando Lynx, public transportation, rail, streetcar, streetcars, transit
This update on progress for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) plan to expand light rail certainly makes this Austinite green with envy, to a certain extent; after all, we have no rail here except for the two Amtrak trains a day and all the freight cars. So, it’s frustrating for a sprawling megaplex like Dallas to have light rail expansion discussions while we’re struggling, as a relatively compact city, to open a single line.
Nevertheless, I think it’s laudable that Dallas is moving as quickly as they are with light rail, particularly to connect DFW to downtown Dallas–given the distance between them and the significance of DFW to travelers around the world. What’s also interesting to me is the debate over alignment–how the City Council adamantly wants the line to go to the convention center hotel, even if it means spending over $250 million more than other alignments would cost (not including the political capital other lines might require).
Obviously, it makes good planning sense to have transit, particularly rail transit, connect key points of assembly, but I think it’s important that such considerations not lead to dramatic increases in cost. I haven’t seen the exact map of the alignments under consideration in Dallas, but I would submit that transit riders can absorb a slight walk (a handful of blocks) to key destinations. Before Dallas spends hundreds of millions of dollars extra (particularly stimulus dollars) to ensure the line goes right up to the convention center hotel’s front door, it should consider the possibility of asking its riders to walk a few blocks rather than cough up a lot more in tax dollars.
I don’t really enjoy sending compliments Houston’s way, even though I love my family and most close relatives live there, but I do think Houston deserves props for moving full speed ahead on light rail. Land is Houston is used so haphazardly that it remains to be seen whether transit can ever make a meaningful dent on single-rider car use, but I really applaud Houston for going after it and setting an example for many other cities to consider.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Federal Transit Administration, FTA, Houston, Houston Metro, light rail, light rail transit, LRT, mass transit, Metro, public transportation, rail, train, trains, University Corridor
Just heard a great segment during a public radio show based in Seattle called “Weekday” discussing differences in transit between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Most interesting to me were the guest’s points about how easy it is to take a train into Portland (from out of town) and then hop on streetcar, light rail, bus, bike, sidewalk, etc., all right there with clear signage. This photo from lightrailnow.org (taken by Peter Ehrlich) helps illustrate the beauty of bringing services together.
Portland's streetcar and light rail intersect and make it easy to get from one mode to another
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Amtrak, bicycling, bike paths, light rail, mass transit, MAX, Portland, public transportation, Seattle, sidewalks, streetcar, train