Peer Exchanges, Planning for a Better Tomorrow, Transportation Planning Capacity Building

Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program

— Peer Exchange Report —

Completing the Streets for Transit

Location: Nashville, TN
Date: May 7, 2007
Host: National Complete Streets Coalition
Participants: Barbara McCann, National Complete Streets Coalition, (Facilitator)
Ron Kilcoyne, Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority
Scott Windley, Access Board
Adetokunbo Omishakin, Nashville Planning Department

I. Summary

The second roundtable was held at the May 2007 American Public Transit Association (APTA) Bus and Paratransit Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Nearly 50 attendees learned about complete streets nationally and locally and participated in a discussion session. Topics of particular interest to attendees were design standards for bike lanes on transit routes and accessible pedestrian crossings.

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II. Background

The National Complete Streets Coalition is working to fully integrate multi-modal planning practices into everyday activities at transportation planning agencies. A few states, MPOs, and local governments have adopted a variety of innovative planning techniques as they attempt to routinely ensure that every transportation project considers all users.

Yet this integration remains a challenge for many agencies that have previously focused on a single mode. Many agencies are unsure how to integrate their existing bicycle, pedestrian, paratransit, and transit projects and programs with long-standing project development procedures that emphasize automobile mobility. Transit agencies are often unsure how to make sure that the public right-of-way adequately serves transit vehicles and transit riders. Additionally, agencies that have attempted this integration have not always been effective.

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III. Presentations

A. Barbara McCann

Coordinator, National Complete Streets Coalition

Ms. McCann introduced the complete streets policy concept. For the nearly one-third of Americans who do not drive, many streets are inadequate for their needs. A complete streets policy ensures that the entire right of way is routinely planned, designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. The goals are to create a complete network of roads that serve all users and to integrating the needs of all road users into everyday transportation planning practices.

Figure 1: An incomplete street: the pedestrian network is discontinuous.
Figure 1: An incomplete street: the pedestrian network is discontinuous.

A Federal Highway Administration review of safety literature1 found that sidewalks, raised medians, better bus stop placement, traffic calming, and treatments for disabled travelers all improve pedestrian safety. Complete streets improve opportunities for physical activity and can help address climate change. The right-of-way needs to be more inviting if we want to encourage zero or lower emission traffic. The complete streets movement began with a focus on walking and bicycling, but there is an increasing focus on transit and accomodating people with disabilities in developing complete streets policies. Standards for ensuring routine accomodation of transit are still evolving.

Ideal complete streets policies cover all road users, specify any exceptions and require high-level approval of those exceptions, direct the use of the latest and best design standards, allow flexibility in balancing user needs, and apply to all phases of all projects. (A summary of elements of good policies can be found at http://www.completestreets.org/policies.html.)

Table 1: Sampling of Existing Complete Streets Policies
  State County MPO City
Public: legislation, ordinance, resolution OR, FL, RI, NC, SC, MA DuPage, IL
Sacramento, CA
San Diego CA
Jackson, MI
Columbus, OH
Bay Area, CA
Columbia, MO
Sacramento, CA
Spartanburg, SC
Internal: Policy, plans, manuals TN, CA, KY, VA, PA, MA   Cleveland, OH
Bay Area, CA
Knoxville, TN
Gulf Coast, FL
Austin, TX
Chicago, Charlotte, NC Boulder, CO
Santa Barbara
San Diego
Ft. Collins, CO
W. Palm Beach, FL

While not all policies are well-enforced, they represent significant progress towards institutionalizing complete streets concepts. These policies are most commonly found at the city level but different types of policies have been adopted at the state and regional level as well, through legislation and resolutions, as well as through inclusion in general plans or through internal policy statements. Over time, these policies often result in adoption of innovative new design standards and new procedures.

Transit is a critical component of complete streets. Planners must ensure that transit stops are convenient and accessible and that transit users can safely cross the street at every transit stop. Bus shelters must also be accessible. Streets can also be designed to minimize delays for transit vehicles.

Figure 2: bus stops should be connected to the pedestrian network and of sufficient size to allow loading and unloading.
Figure 2: bus stops should be connected to the pedestrian network
and of sufficient size to allow loading and unloading.

The National Complete Streets Coalition includes user groups and practitioners alike and is working toward adoption and implementation of new complete streets policies in five states and 25 local jurisdictions by 2009. The group is working on a complete streets provision for the next Federal transportation bill. The Complete Streets Coalition website has more information, including success stories, tools, presentations, and more.

B. Ron Kilcoyne
General Manager, Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority, Connecticut

Ridership is the bottom line for transit agencies. Transit agencies cannot reduce greenhouse gases, improve air quality, reduce energy consumption, or increase accessibility with empty buses. There are both internal and external factors that affect transit ridership. While land use and the streets are not within the agency's control, the agency can try to exercise influence. Street design and access to the street are both critical to ridership. If customers cannot reach the bus stop, they cannot ride the bus.

What not to overlook:

  • Take advantage of the blank canvas. New development allows the agency to help determine where the streets and bus stops will go and what the pedestrian experience from their home or place of business to the stop itself will be like.
  • Determine where the bus stops should go
  • Pedestrian Access — Look at the big picture. Advocate for direct pedestrian paths to the transit stops. The transit agency can get engaged and work with the developer to ensure good pedestrian access to transit.
  • Avoid the curse of the driveway. Driveways are often located near the intersection and may force the bus stop to be pushed back from the intersection. Where there is a bus transfer, this encourages jaywalking by passengers and reduces pedestrian safety.
  • Bus pull-outs are not a transit amenity. Bus pull-outs take buses out of traffic which increases delay for passengers and is less safe, as accidents often occur when bus is pulling back into traffic.

Development review for complete streets

  • Review at the earliest stage. The cost of incorporating necessary elements is much lower if they are designed in from the start. Developers will be more willing to cooperate before they reach final design.
  • Review even when transit doesn't appear to be impacted. Construction may allow opportunities to add other improvements and remedy existing pedestrian access problems.
  • Be vigilant about over mitigating. Planning departments may require parking standards and traffic mitigations that assume access by car. If transit amenities are going in, advocate for allowing the developer to reduce parking spaces and traffic improvements.
  • Be aware of mitigation that is transit unfriendly. Street widening may worsen the pedestrian environment.

Tips for enlightenment

  • Make priority
  • Build relationships
  • Be patient and persistent
  • Educate policy boards
  • Embrace developers
  • Collegial learning
  • First hand experience
  • Find champions

If you educate developers, they can be excellent advocates for complete streets. After ten years of hard work in Santa Clarita, Mr. Kilcoyne found that he and staff did not even have to show up at the meeting for their voice to be heard. The developers and planners had begun to think about transit on their own.

Mr. Kilcoyne's full paper on complete streets for transit is attached as an appendix to this report.

C. Scott Windley
Accessibility Specialist/ PROW Team Leader, United States Access Board

The U.S. Access Board writes the guidelines for buildings, facilities, and transit vehicles. Bus and van guidelines are currently being updated and are available in draft form on the Access Board website at http://www.access-board.gov/news/vehicle-draft1.htm. Mr. Windley encouraged participants to take a look and submit any comments by June 11, 2007.

Access to transit

When transit stops are sited or constructed so that they do not take pedestrian access into consideration, their catchment area is effectively reduced. Many bus stops are sited so that pedestrians would have to appear out of thin air or arrive by helicopter to access them.

Figure 3:  This bus stop is not accessible by any pedestrian facility and does not have a concrete pad to allow a lift to be deployed
Figure 3: This bus stop is not accessible by any pedestrian facility
and does not have a concrete pad to allow a lift to be deployed.

Mr. Windley discussed the cost of providing ongoing paratransit versus the costs of capital improvements to improve pedestrian accessibility. Based on estimates from the Maryland Transit Administration, providing a bus stop and improving the pedestrian facilities to it is significantly more cost-effective in the long-run than providing paratransit service to a single passenger. Providing paratransit for a daily commuter costs about $38,500 a year. Basic improvements to a transit stop costs $7,000, the equivalent of just two months' worth of that service for a single rider. More extensive improvements, such as adding a lighted shelter and bench and replacing the sidewalk leading to the stop, costs about $58,000 — a cost that could be recouped in just over a year, just 33% more than providing a single year of paratransit service for one person.i1

D. Adetokunbo Omishakin
Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Nashville Planning Department

The Nashville-Davidson County Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways was adopted in 2003 and is a landmark for the region both in funding and in policy. Before the plan was completed, there were only two roadways with dedicated bike improvements at a length of six miles. Since the plan, the planning department has worked with the state and the public works department to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle facilities as other projects are being built. In this fashion, over 64 miles of bikeways have been completed in a five year period.

While only ten million dollars was spent on bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the period 1991 to 1999, the strategic plan has focused attention and resources on their importance. The 2003 pedestrian and bicycle budget alone was 20 million dollars. Improvements include adding missing links and adding or correcting ramps.

The sidewalk priority index (SPI) ranking system prioritizes sidewalk development and improvements. The SPI helps to keep the decision making depoliticized and focuses resources where they are most needed. Factors affecting SPI include schools, hospitals, transit routes, and roadway classification.

Photo of street with parked cars and pedestrian sidewalk.

While tremendous progress has been made, there is still a long way to go. Belmont Boulevard in south central Nashville is one of the few good examples of a complete street locally, with a sidewalk, planting strip, on-street parking, bike lane, and transit.

Subdivision regulations have been revised to be more accessible for alternative transportation. In the Southeast, cul-de-sacs are a dominant part of the landscape. The new regulations include better street connectivity and improve access and roadway capacity by reducing dependency on major roadways. Where developers insist on cul-de-sacs, Metro devised a —loop street— which requires pedestrian paths if implemented.

Other innovations include using a specific plan (SP) district. Frequently, planning departments may do an area study and create a plan, but it has no regulatory authority. With the SP district, once the community states its preference in an area study, then the plan becomes a regulatory document.

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IV. Discussion

After the panelists completed their presentations, the discussion was opened up to audience members' questions, facilitated by Barbara McCann.

Questions for the presenters

  • AC Transit has a manual, "Designing With Transit", available on its website at http://www.actransit.org/pdf/designing_with_transit.pdf. AC Transits' official board policy to go to jurisdictions when they are doing their general plan updates, which are required every five years in California. They are asked to reference or attach the "Designing with Transit" document to the plan to try to raise its visibility and increase compliance.
    • That is an outstanding idea. The more places it can be formalized the better off you'll be. A lot of designs don't cover access beyond the turning radius. The entire catchment area of the bus stop should be examined.
  • Is APTA participating in the review of the public rights-of-way accessibility guidelines?
    • They are welcome to and Rich Weaver will coordinate.
  • How can transit agencies learn from Nashville's experience?
    • Mr. Kilcoyne had several good points. The biggest impact we can have is setting complete streets policies.. Transit agencies should become partners with planning and public works departments to advocate for that. The more people you have on board the better.

Bicycles and bus lanes

  • Our community is concerned about the safety implications of having buses and bike lanes on the same road.
  • It works well in University Park, WA. Drivers are trained to watch for bikes and buses operate on 15 minute headways.
  • In Utah, a recent state law mandates that automobiles need to give three feet of clearance to all bicycles. Bicycle advocates don't want buses to stop in the bike lane, since the cyclist cannot get around the bus.
  • Cyclists have to follow the rules of the road. They should wait behind the bus or signal to get in the left lane to pass the bus.
  • From the transit operators' standpoint, we need to have data collection and create standards so that we know if shared bus/bike lanes are a safety problem.

Bicycle lane design standards

  • Some highway departments want a wider right lane, but not a striped bike lane. What are your thoughts on that?
  • A study found that striped lanes do work better. There is an improved sense of safety for both cyclists and drivers. This is an evolving science. When new information comes out, we release it in the Complete Streets Coalition newsletter and on the website.
  • Contact Ron Kilcoyne to get involved with APTA's complete streets design guidelines initiative.

Accessible pedestrian crossings

  • My community has a strong built environment for alternative transportation but ensuring that users have enough time to cross the street is a real issue for us.
  • The draft public right-of-way guidelines require accessible pedestrian signals wherever a pedestrian signal is provided. FHWA and the Access Board are changing standards for pedestrian speeds to 3.5 feet per second, reduced from 4 feet per second.
  • The Easter Seals Project Action report on bus stop accessibility and universal design is available from www.projectaction.org, and is also linked on the complete streets website.

Other comments:

  • The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) provides new flexibility to fund mobility managers. They can help you coordinate mobility, including streets and public transportation. This coordination can be considered a capital expense, with 80% Federal funding. Working on complete streets issues is one possible role for mobility managers.
  • In addition, there is funding through FHWA for 100% coverage of certain pedestrian safety facilities.
  • Bicycles on transit are becoming very popular. Some agencies are running out of capacity for them and losing passengers. A recent report, TCRP Synthesis 62 may address this. In addition, specialized equipment has been designed for motor coaches.

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V. For More Information

The National Complete Streets Coalition maintains a website with examples of complete streets policies around the country, links to complete streets resources, and copies of back issues of a monthly newsletter. www.completestreets.org.

Key Contact(s): Barbara McCann
National Complete Streets Coalition
Address: 1707 L St NW, Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 207-3355
Fax: (202) 207-3349
E-mail: barbara@bmccann.net


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VI. Attachments

A. List of Roundtable Speakers

Name Organization Phone Email
Ron Kilcoyne Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority (203) 366-7070 x 106 rkilcoyne@gbtabus.com
Scott Windley U.S. Access Board (202) 272-0025 windley@access-board.gov
Adetokunbo Omishakin Nashville Planning Department (615) 862-7147 adetokunbo.omishakin@nashville.gov

B. Paper: Complete Streets Checklist
Ron Kilcoyne, Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority

Transit ridership is influenced by many factors, both internal and external to the agency. Internal factors include the amount and quality of transit service provided and external factors include land use, the price of driving, or the availability of parking. The implication is that transit operators do not have control over the external factors.

Transit operators can have an impact on the external factors that influence ridership. This opportunity is expanding as more and more planners, engineers and others are realizing that streets and highways are not just for moving vehicles rapidly but also serve the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

Are transit operators prepared to take advantage of this movement? Do transit agencies seek everything that is needed for transit friendly design when they comment on projects? This paper will present three checklists for transit operators — one for each of the following situations:

  1. When a street with present or future transit service is being designed or redesigned.
  2. How development will shape the appearance of the streets bordering or within it.
  3. Tips for enlightening architects, engineers, planners and developers who may not be thinking about transit.

The intent of this paper is to identify the issues that transit operators need to address under each circumstance and provide some direction on key issues that are frequently overlooked.

Road Design

Whenever an arterial or major road is constructed or redesigned it should be assumed that even if transit service does not currently exist, it will be provided at some point in the future. Depending on the street pattern, transit agencies should look for 1/2 mile spacing between bus routes. In some cases this involves 1/2 mile spacing on both a general north/south direction and general east/west direction. In many areas the street system does not lend itself to such a grid or transit routes radiate from a transit center. What is important is that the transit network allows for easy travel in any direction.

If you are dealing with a blank canvas such as a greenfield development where it is not too late to change the design of the development, be wiling to comment on street layout. Just as the major streets in the new development need to mesh with the road layout of the adjacent areas whether developed or not, a transit network needs to mesh with the surrounding area. This can be very challenging but should involve these steps:

  • If there is service in adjacent areas, consider how these routes would be extended into the new development. Would the service need to be restructured to eliminate one-way loops? Are there other changes that you would want to make before extending service?
  • If there is no existing service in adjacent areas consider how you would serve those areas if you had the resources. If the adjacent area is already developed you would not have an impact on the street layout. The existing network may not be optimal, but attempt to develop an efficient and effective network that provides 1/4 mile walking distance access and 1/2 mile route spacing, where density warrants, that is integrated into the rest of your system.
  • Determine if the major roads in the new development provide 1/2 mile spacing in all areas with transit supportive densities and allow for efficient and effective integration with the route.
  • network (existing or proposed) in adjacent developed areas. Can modifications to the road network improve access and/or integration? If so, advocate for these changes.
  • Determine plans for adjacent undeveloped areas. If yes, is there a conceptual arterial plan by the local government that can be reviewed? Are there changes that need to be made to this concept based on the outcomes of the above efforts? It is better to influence those changes while they are still in conceptual stage before developers make more formal proposals. However, if adjacent undeveloped land is not protected open space and is truly a blank slate (there are not even conceptual road plans), identify the best gateways where transit routes could easily be extended once more specific plans come forward. This will eliminate the need to go through any of the above steps once more specific plans are unveiled.

Ideally major greenfield developments should be subject to a detailed transit study before specific elements of the project are submitted for approval — at or before the specific plan stage. The study should be conducted by a partnership of the governing jurisdictions, the transit agency, and if known, the master developers. An example of this was a study conducted by the cities of Chino and Ontario in California with transit agency Omnitrans for a major development of dairy farms into mixed-use developments. The study was funded by the metropolitan planning organization. The components of such a study should include:

  • Service design
  • Design guidelines to assure a transit supportive environment. This should include the design of safe, attractive and direct pedestrian links from the entire area within the 1/4 mile catchment area of each transit stop, location and design guidelines for transit stops, transit preferential treatments where appropriate that allow for direct routing (where auto traffic may be restricted) and avoiding congestion spots to reduce transit in-vehicle travel time and improve transit reliability.
  • A funding plan for the operating and capital cost of transit service not currently being provided.

In selecting a consultant make sure the consultant has extensive transit background. All too often consultants working on greenfield development projects lack transit expertise and develop recommendations for transit that are impractical.

If a roadway is being constructed or redeveloped, advocate that bus stops be designated as part of the design. There are numerous resources that can provide guidance for actual bus stop design and location. One often overlooked factor in deciding where to locate bus stops is pedestrian access from the surrounding area. Consider the experience of the transit customer before he or she reaches the bus stop. Consider how far the customer needs to walk before they reach the street in which bus service is provided. Try to locate bus stops as close as possible points of access for pedestrians. Make sure that they can cross the roadway safely.

Bus stops should be designated on new or redesigned major roadways even if there is no existing bus service. If bus service exists or is planned, strive to incorporate shelters and other amenities, bulb-outs where practical, and other improvements. Where bus service is an uncertainty take into account these considerations:

  • There should be an impervious surface at least 50 feet in length at each potential bus stop location. If the sidewalk is flush with the curb this will be satisfactory. If there is a landscape strip, the sidewalk should be widened to replace the landscaping at these points.
  • If parking is allowed along the street try to get these areas designated "no parking" so that there won't be a loss of parking when transit service begins.
  • If there are structures fronting the street at the prospective bus stop work with the governing agency to require that a notice informing the property owner that a bus stop may be located in front of the property at some future date will be included in the purchase contract language when property changes ownership.

There are many factors to consider when determining if a bus stop should be located on the near side or the far side of an intersection. If transit service exists you will need to weigh the pros and cons of each before deciding where the stop should be located. However if there is no transit service and you are trying to reserve space for future service, unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, locate the stop on the far side. This provides for the most routing flexibility. Both buses that are operating straight on the roadway and buses turning onto the roadway can serve the same stop. Buses turning off the roadway can stop at a far side stop on the intersecting roadway, and buses making left turns can only stop at far side stops.

One of the biggest barriers to locating bus stops where desired is the location of driveways. If driveway locations are not set in stone, strive to have them located so that the bus stop can be located as close to the intersection as can be safely done. The further the stop is from an intersection, the further customers have to walk to cross a street. People tend to take the quickest route, and bus stops not close to intersections encourage unsafe jay walking, and injuries or death resulting from being hit by an auto while jay walking could result in liability on part of the transit agency. For each round trip a customer has to cross the street at least once and if there is a bus route on the intersecting street which customers could be transferring to or from, the closer to the intersection a bus stop is located the less distance the costumer needs to walk and the less likely the customer will make an unsafe action to catch the connecting bus.

Bus pull-outs are not a transit amenity. Although definitive research does not appear to be available, empirical evidence from some transit agencies indicates that more bus-auto conflicts occur when a bus is exiting a pull-out than when the bus stops in the traffic lane. Also, the time a bus waits for traffic to clear to reenter after making a stop is often longer than the actual time needed to load and unload customers. Obviously buses cannot sit in a traffic lane at layover points and where the dwell time to load and unload customers is regularly a minute or longer. You will probably also not win the battle against pull-out on high-speed roadways, where the posted speed is 45 mph or higher. However, on other roadways pull-outs should be resisted. The number of people delayed in autos is probably less than the number of transit customers delayed while the bus waits to re-enter traffic. When new roads are being built or reconstructed advocate bus pull-outs and encourage bus stop bulb-outs.

Development — how it shapes the transportation infrastructure

Large-scale developments or complete roadway re-designs provide opportunities to create transit friendly environments when transit agencies have a place at the table and can be effective advocates. However much development will occur on existing roadways and will not involve a significant change to the public street system. Local governments frequently mandate traffic mitigations as a condition of construction. These may include reconfiguring intersections or adding turn lanes or other improvements.

Each development however small or large present both opportunities and threats. Even a stand-alone fast food restaurant could create an opportunity if the current use of the land creates a pedestrian barrier for transit customers, or a threat if a roadway improvement conditioned by the local municipality would result in a less desirable location for an existing bus stop.

Tips for reviewing development:

  • Development proposals need to be reviewed at the very earliest stage.
  • All developments need to be reviewed even if at first blush it appears that it will not have an impact on transit service. Outcomes to advocate include:
    • Relocating driveways to improve the location of a bus stop closer to the intersection. Prevent designs that relocate bus stops to less desirable locations.
    • Creating an opportunity to improve pedestrian access from a part of the catchment area of a transit stop. For example, if the current use of the site creates a barrier for transit customers walking to a transit stop, advocate a design to provide a more direct path for those customers. Even if a transit stop is not located in front of or adjacent to the development, the project should be designed to allow these transit customers a more direct, safe and attractive path from surrounding or adjacent areas to the nearest transit stop. Conversely, the project should protect existing pedestrian access that exists on the site.
    • The project should be oriented to the street and the main entrance should be clearly visible from the street. If the building is set back, a clearly delineated pedestrian walkway should connect the entrance to the sidewalk.
    • Parking should be hidden from the street: located behind, to the side, underneath and/or on top of the development. Parking should not separate the buildings from the street, but if they do a clearly delineated pedestrian walkway should connect the entrance to the sidewalk.
    • A sidewalk should be constructed in front of the development even if there currently is no connection on either side. This could be part of an incremental step towards having sidewalks along all streets and roads with transit service and all streets and roads within the catchment area of a transit stop.
    • Where appropriate, transit stops serving the development should have amenities that are visually attractive and useful to transit customers.
  • Watch out for over-mitigating for the automobile. Identifying the likely mode split of trips generated by a development is too complex to address in this paper and indeed needs further research. However based on the level of transit service provided; the type of development; the possibility of other mitigating factors such as the provision of eco passes, car sharing, parking charges, etc.; strive to make sure that the government regulating the development does not require more parking or roadway capacity than is really needed. Requiring excess parking or roadway capacity while requiring provisions for pedestrians, bicyclists, or transit creates a disincentive to use transit and also creates a transit unfriendly environment. Developers can be important allies since they know best how much parking is needed to satisfy the market and will want to do what ever possible to reduce costs created by mandated accommodation to the auto. Other transit agencies, APTA and TRB provide a wealth of resources that can help you build the case for a better balance between the auto and transit.
  • Mitigating for auto trips generated by a development can also create design elements that are transit unfriendly, such as wider intersections that are more foreboding to cross; turn lanes that result in removal or relocation of bus stops to more undesirable locations, etc. Make the case for less roadway capacity, but acknowledge if you can't prevent it, attempt to turn these "lemons into lemonade". Advocate that traffic lights with pedestrian signals are installed to make it safer to cross busy streets; and negotiate installing bus stops in turn lanes and using queue jumpers to allow buses to reenter traffic with priority.

Tips for Enlightenment

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for increasing the influence you have on roadway and development design. The tips below have been successful.

  • Build relationships with key individuals at the regulatory entities and major development companies. Inviting them to lunch or breakfast is particularly effective. It creates a relaxed atmosphere in which you can get to know each other better, and if your agency has no staff and you have no time, this presents an opportunity for relationship building while still devoting the entire workday to transit operational issues. Join a service club or attend chamber of commerce social functions or other networking opportunities to build relationships with key individuals in the development community. If you can forge a relationship with critical staff you increase your chance of being notified of new or changed developments when the rest of staff knows.
  • Education of policy boards is also important. Sometimes it takes a nudge from the governing board for staff to change.
  • Look for champions outside your agency. It could be a member of the MPO, your policy board or the municipality governing board, a citizen activist, a developer or other business interest or a governing agency staff member. For transit agencies without staff resources to devote to this, they can be the key to influencing development decision in favor of transit, but even agencies with staff need allies to be effective.
  • If a developer can be convinced of the value of transit or pedestrian accommodation you have a very powerful ally. Two anecdotes where the developer was the key to success:
    • In one community several square miles of undeveloped land was to be converted to commercial use. The EIR indicated that the traffic from this development would overwhelm the roadway systems and transit needed to capture a share of trips to avoid LOS F conditions. There were two problems — these developments would not have sidewalks but would have large super blocks that prevent effective transit solutions, and the City Council and city staff saw no value in transit. (This was the early 1980's.) One city planner decided to gather the four master developers and myself representing the transit district to develop a solution to this issue. For six months we met — I learned about the development process, the developers learned about transit. At the end the city planner came up with a policy to be adopted by the City Council. The developers felt it was too week and came up with their own language that mandated sidewalks, pedestrian cut-throughs in the super blocks, a fund for transit amenities, etc. When the ordinance came to the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, that was not part of the meetings, adamantly opposed the changes; but the four developers supported it. The City Council which normally would have seen no value in these requirements and would have agreed with the Chamber of Commerce instead voted unanimously in favor because the developers that would have been impacted supported them. Also the first phase project, which would have been exempt because all approvals were granted, was voluntarily retrofitted by the developer.
    • In another city there was one developer responsible for over 50% of the developments under review. The key staff member of this organization decided to try the bus one day after dropping his car off at a repair shop. When he reported on his experience he found that the bus trip itself was a positive experience, but it was getting to the bus stop and waiting for the bus that he found appalling. His first words were "I now understand why you ask for the things you ask for."
  • The two strategies used above — collegial learning from each other and having individuals experience first hand the challenges of getting to and waiting at transit stops can be used with any stakeholder whose understanding is needed to produce transit supportive design of developments and roadways.

Be patient and persistent as you strive to educate individuals involved in the design and approval process. The best way to illustrate this is to recount my own experience with the planners and traffic engineers in the City of Santa Clarita during the period of 1992 to 2002. There were distinct phases of understanding among city staff:

  • Have no clue as to why transit would even want to review development proposals or roadway plans.
  • Allow transit to comment on plans but still don't understand the importance — transit's conditions are the first to go in any negotiation.
  • Begin to understand the importance but still a low priority
  • Transit conditions are no longer issues to negotiate away
  • The pedestrian is very important. Planning staff go beyond transit needs in addressing concerns of pedestrians and bicyclists. If transit staff missed a meeting, no harm done — transit's interests were represented by planning staff.

Over time, notification to the transit agency of new projects improved. At first we would find out about projects in the press or other sources and begged to be included in the planning process, often too late to have a real impact. By the last stage, the agency was automatically notified at the very earliest stage of the review and approval process.

This evolution occurred through a combination of developing relationships with the staff and various education tools. Whenever a video, magazine article or other supportive media is found, share it with the staff. Be persistent and use the meetings to both advocate for specific improvements and explain why. Often it takes saying the same thing over and over again, possibly in different ways, before it sinks in.

Conclusion

All development should be transit supportive if it will contain the minimum threshold to support transit service even if transit service is not on the immediate horizon. Development does not have to be classified as "Transit Oriented Development" (TOD) or "New Urbanism" to be transit supportive. To maximize ridership and to assure that the populations that need the access that transit can provide are adequately served, transit agencies need to be vigilant about every development and road project; and consider the entire experience of the transit customer from the door of their point of origin to the transit stop and from the transit stop to their destination. Accomplishing this will not be easy. It will take creativity, patience and persistence. But transit can not achieve its full potential without it.

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Footnotes

i US Access Board

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