Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

"I can't stand it" vs. "You drive me crazy": transit expansion without transit planning in DC

Not sure which song summarizes the depth of my frustration with how we do things in DC...

Today's paper has a piece ("Circulator bus service may be expanded in DC," Post) that the City Councilmember Mary Cheh (who is chair of the Council Committee that oversees transportation) wants DC's Circulator bus service to be massively expanded around the city, which could involve fare increases to pay for it.

While I believe that we should provide intra-neighborhood transit services, the Circulator paradigm isn't necessarily the best, right, or most cost effective way to do it.  And a master transportation plan, not Council, is the best way to bring about expansions in transit service.
Slide, Metropolitan Mass Transit Planning: Towards a Hierarchical and Conceptual Framework
Meanwhile, separately, DC is conducting a master transportation planning process, which I would hope would include both a framework for how to conceptualize transit service within the city and a set of metrics for making objective decisions about what type of service to provide and how frequently.

For transit networks, I recommend the framework I devised a few years ago (see "Metropolitan Mass Transit Planning: Towards a Hierarchical and Conceptual Framework") and for metrics, probably the best set that I am familiar with is was produced by King County Transit in Seattle (King County Metro Service Guidelines).

FWIW, in my writings, I argue that intra-neighborhood transit service, which is a different service than that provided by the Circulator, should be free, as is the Orbit service in Tempe, Arizona, which is probably the best model that I can think of for the provision of this kind of service.

From this past blog entry for a discussion of the network concept, "Reprint (with editing): The Meta-Regional Transit Network":

Washington Metropolitan Transit Network: Regional WMATA subway system; ferry system if added; cross-jurisdictional bus rapid transit; commuter services oriented to moving people between the jurisdiction and major job centers within the region, across jurisdictional boundaries (i.e., OmniRide from Prince William County, which provides commuter-oriented service to Metro stations and job centers, with an end point in DC [and back] or the MTA Commuter buses in Maryland).

Suburban Primary Transit Network: transit systems operated by Counties and Cities in the Washington region providing bus, streetcar, and lightrail service within the suburbs, and connections to stations within the metropolitan transit network. Transit service in this category is classified by speed and destination.
Montgomery County Ride-On BusMontgomery County's RideOn bus system is one of the more successful suburban transit systems in the United States. I don't think it provides cross-jurisdictional service, other than service along Western Avenue (which technically is 100% in DC), maybe Eastern Avenue, and to the Takoma Metro station and in the Langley Park area of Prince George's County. Photo from BeyondDC.
Rendering, streetcar service on Columbia Pike, Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Virginia
Right: rendering, streetcar service on Columbia Pike, Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Virginia.

Suburban Secondary Transit Network
: service within cities (i.e., Falls Church, Alexandria) and counties (PG, Montgomery, Arlington, Fairfax) that is intra-jurisdictional.

DC Primary Transit Network: Core of the WMATA system in DC (29 stations); streetcar system; Downtown Circulator bus service; Georgetown Connector shuttle service; cross-border WMATA bus service; bus rapid/"rapider" transit.

DC Secondary Transit Network: the other 11 subway stations in the city; other WMATA bus service within the city; water taxi service if added, depending on the routes.

DC Tertiary Transit Network: intra-neighborhood bus services. Maybe private shuttle services (i.e., Washington Hospital Center to/from Brookland Metro, university shuttle services, etc.). (The model for this type of service would be the Tempe, Arizona Orbit bus service, see "Earth Day and Neighborhood Transit.")

Subway stations at the core of the city of Washington
Left:  The subway stations at the core of the city of Washington comprise the foundation of the DC Primary Transit Network.

Note that if the two new subway lines were added in the city, as proposed on the map below, then this would change the definition of the core of the DC Primary Transit Network considerably.

And in comments on the original entry, someone made a good point that I need to expand the list of core stations to include the Navy Yard and Waterfront Stations.

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At 3:52 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

The other model is once you have a successful goverment service, you keep adding to it until it collapses.

Social security is a great example.

I need to DL and read the 2010 circulator plan. Cheh's plan seem a bad mix of intra-neighboorhood and primary. Where I think Circulalor could really excel is getting from other points inside the primary quickly.

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

re your point about the Circulator, that dovetails with my other writings on intra-city vs. inter-city transit. Mostly, bus service is focused on getting to and from the core, but not getting around the core.

Baltimore's Circulator especially is probably an even better example than DC's of why such a service may be needed, and how successful it can be.

Based on ridership, outside of the DC core, you can't justify the hyper-frequent headways of the Circulator. But as I argue you may well need a different mode of service anyway.

Hence my hypothesizing of tertiary network services, focused on intra-neighborhood service, again, based on the Tempe Orbit operation.

Since we don't have such a typology, it's why we need a transit element as part of a transpo plan.

Similarly, I got a press release today from CM Grosso's office about how they did an amendment to the budget to prioritize that the DDOT traffic safety officers be assigned to the 10 most dangerous intersections. Again, does that require legislation? Or proper prioritization within planning protocols.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt your first sentence, I think of this a bit differently, although your point is equally relevant...

it has to do without understanding why something works and then applying the "solution" to other situations, where the conditions are wildly different and therefore the service is much less likely to be successful.

But when it fails, because people didn't understand the service in the first place, they can't explain why it didn't work.

Similarly, it's related to my complaint that if we define everything we do as successful (this bugs me about bike sharing, everywhere, not just in DC), we are unable to learn and really figure out why something works or won't work, depending on the particular set of conditions.

E.g., all the other cities that want bike share are touting how DC's bike sharing program is operationally revenue positive.

But this is a function of tourists who don't understand the incremental charges after 30 minutes of continuous use, and they rack up fees. Plus casual user (tourists mostly) revenue of $7 or more per day, versus the base fee of $75 year.

Since it costs about $2000/year/bicycle to run the system, most systems can't ever be revenue positive on operations. (That's ok, maybe, depending on the justification for the system in the first place.)

But it bugs me that by not being clear about why it works the way it does, other cities are going to get hosed believing it will operate similarly.


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