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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

How other cities deliver transportation functions (Part 3 of the series, Proposed changes to DC's transportation agency structure as another example of acting without solid planning)

I woke up realizing I should/could have written more extensively about peer cities when it comes to comparing and contrasting how transportation functions are delivered within DC.

DC is unique across North America in that it is a city-state, and while a city, it is not subsidiary to state or county regulatory and legal requirements concerning the delivery of public services.  In theory, this provides to the city an incredible opportunity to be innovative in all of its governmental functions and services, including transportation.

The two previous entries used San Francisco and London as the best examples of peer cities for comparison purposes.  I still stand by that, but would also include Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto.  So those cities are the best examples although not necessarily best practice, but other communities are still worth a look for comparison purposes.

New York City isn't included, but it's a judgement call.  Its situation is most comparable to DC in terms of the level of control that the city has over its street and transportation planning, while most of the city's transit services are provided by other agencies.  But it is so much bigger than DC--NYC is 302 square miles of land plus another 160 square miles of water and has 8.337 million residents--that most people will get hung up on the size and density differences, rather than focus on how the respective agencies are organized and how they function.

I would argue that by proposing a separate sustainable transportation agency, a separate parking agency, and a separate streets (transportation) agency, DC City Council Bill B20-0759,  Transportation Reorganization Act of 2014 is a major step backwards in municipal best practice as it relates to the delivery and integration of transportation services and functions.

Most communities run streets, biking, and walking within one agency.  Parking is usually separate.  The bulk of transit services are usually provided by a different agency run at the state or regional level.  Transportation planning may be handled by the transportation department or by the planning department.  If transportation planning is handled by an agency also containing land use planning responsibilities, usually transit planning is handled separately.  In a couple places, such as Minneapolis, the transit agency is run by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, but that is extremely rare.

If transit services cross state lines, mostly they are delivered by separate authorities that are state-based.  If transit services cross city-county lines, they may be delivered by different agencies.

Parking.  Because of how government accounting systems are set up and parking generates revenue, it is called an "enterprise" activity or "enterprise fund," and most cities and counties that run parking lots, structures, and meters organize these activities in a separate department--in Maryland parking is one of the activities within "Revenue Authorities," which may run other "enterprise" activities, like golf courses. 

Chicago and Indianapolis, to raise money or for ideological reasons, have sold off the city's parking concession on long term leases. 

Most cities charge a parking tax on commercial parking, at a rate which is typically higher than regular sales tax.  The revenues typically go into the general fund.  (In DC, parking taxes are used to pay off the bonds for the Convention Center.)

So the number of cities that integrate parking with other transportation functions is more limited for historical reasons, and  the organizational structures are very difficult to change.  With the exception of communities that have been influenced by the work of UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, most municipal parking authorities are not particularly innovative.  Separating parking from DDOT would be a step backwards.

Transit.  Because transit is usually delivered at the metropolitan scale and because it is beyond the funding capacity of even comparatively wealthy cities, with two significant exceptions--San Francisco and Toronto--most city transit services in the US and Canada are provided by county, regional, or state authorities.

Advertising in the public space.  For the most part, this hasn't come up in the context of the proposed reorganization, but from the standpoint of comprehensiveness could be addressed.  Like how most cities have separate parking agencies, most cities contract the sales of advertising in the public space separately from transportation, and the money goes into the general fund.  In return for advertising, the city receives street furniture, mostly bus shelters.  In New York City, this includes bus shelters, some information kiosks, news stands, some public toilets, and some covered bike parking (repurposed bus shelters).

Some cities, such as Baltimore, do not allow advertising within the public space.

However, these contracts are usually pretty restrictive, limiting the opportunity for integration and innovation because without exception the contracts have not been written to allow for changes as opportunities develop, such as digital advertising.  And most cities haven't been too good at tracking the revenue, especially if they are to receive royalties rather than lump sum payments.  Contracting can also be subject to suasion and corruption and other issues.

Restrictive contracts that favor the vendor have prevented most cities from being able to include advertising as a revenue source within bike sharing systems, and is a major reason why bike sharing in Los Angeles has not launched.  Paris included the provision of bike share as a key element in its public space advertising contract.

Coordination of freight delivery.  We won't discuss it, but it's important, and under-addressed for the most part.

Taxis.  San Francisco and London are exceptions where taxi regulation is handled by the city transportation authority.  In most jurisdictions, taxi licensing and regulation is handled separately.  In some places it is well managed, especially in New York City, but often it is a regulatory backwater.

Not part of this series sort of, taxi innovation was discussed in a piece earlier in the week, "What a terrible idea: deregulating taxi fares in DC for mobile-based hails."

The five peer cities: London, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto

San Francisco and London are the best examples of integrating all transportation services into one agency, including parking.  Seattle is a pretty good example of this, but while it provides some transit services--streetcar--most transit service is delivered by county or regional agencies.  Toronto is a good example of political meddling, limited budgets, and multiple city agencies delivering services in ways that at times are innovative, but aren't necessarily integrated and transformational, because they are not housed within a single agency.

Unlike San Francisco, Philadelphia isn't a good example of integrating transportation services at the city level, but is a good example of the creation of a cross-agency coordination program, the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities in a situation where it is very difficult to reorganize government agencies and functions in a comprehensive way.

In London, transportation operates at the metropolitan scale, and Transport for London runs everything--streets, parking, taxis, transit, etc.--but the railroad system, including subways, but even certain railroad services do involve TfL, because it works better because of TfL's expertise in marketing, operations, and fare media.  However, while the agency runs the subway system, other transit services are delivered on a contract basis by private operators, even though the services all use the TfL brand.  The boroughs also have significant input into streets matters.  The Oyster fare card can be used on most transit services, with some exceptions for railroad service.

London Cyclist Campaign is one of the best cycling advocacy groups in the West, and they have an extensive ward-based cycling promotion and advocacy program.  But they are assisted by Sustrans and various city and borough advocates.  The London Cycle Design Manual is one of the best (I relied upon it when I was doing planning in Baltimore County).  They have bike sharing, called Barclays Cycle Hire, etc.

Philadelphia is a city-county 141 square miles in size (more than double the size of DC) with 1.5 million residents.  It doesn't run any of its transit services.  Within the city they are handled by SEPTA, a regional agency serving Philadelphia with bus, streetcar, subway, and commuter railroad services.  The city is also served by NJ Transit, PATCO, and Amtrak.  The city is hurting financially and its transportation functions are distributed across a huge number of city agencies, including the Philadelphia International Airport.

The city has some great public spaces but doesn't really stand out as an example of local level best practice in transportation at the scale of New York, San Francisco and Seattle, with a few exceptions, including the reinstitution of streetcar service on Girard Avenue in 2005.

What is most relevant to the DC situation is that while the city still delivers services through a variety of agencies, including the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Mayor Michael Nutter created a new unit, the Mayor's Office for Transportation and Utilities, headed up by a deputy mayor, to begin the difficult process of coordinating the agencies and making their policies, practices, and operations more congruent.  From the MOTU website:
Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) was charged with building a shared vision and coordinating decision-making among agencies and departments - Streets, Commerce, Public Property, Traffic Police, City Planning, the School District, Parks and Recreation, the Airport, the waterfront and port agencies, SEPTA, PATCO, PennDOT, Amtrak, and DVRPC in order to save money and improve conditions throughout the City’s transportation system. 
The other exception is that the city has some great "public-private partnerships" and civic groups.  The Center City Business Improvement District is one of the best BIDs in the country and it has pushed forward Philadelphia's public space planning and improvement program, including wayfinding signage, street furniture improvements, and transit history interpretation.   The University City District is working similarly in its area of interest, which includes the 30th Street Station, and there are many interesting public space improvements happening there.  The city's Mural Arts Program is a national best practice which adds value to the public spaces across the city.  The Design Advocacy Group works with neighborhood groups on public space and land use planning initiatives.  And these are only some of the examples of the great non-governmental programs that operate there.

San Francisco has organized its transportation functions, including transit and parking, into one agency, called the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.  San Franciscans always complain about the system, vociferously, but I think it's pretty remarkable.  The agency's placemaking programs are very good and the city is particularly innovative now with parking policy.  Note that bike sharing is delivered through a multi-jurisdictional program not unlike how bike sharing operates in the DC region.  Bridges are run by a regional authority as is the Caltrain commuter railroad.

SF is unusual in that the city runs an extensive transit system--MUNI includes bus, light rail, streetcars, and cable cars--that operates only within the city, called MUNI, which is separate from the BART heavy rail system that operates at the regional scale, with 8 of the system's 44 stations serving San Francisco.

By comparison, Chicago, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, and Toronto also have extensive transit systems that mostly operate only or mostly within the city limits, but except for Toronto, those transit systems are run by state or regional authorities.

(San Francisco's heritage streetcar operation has influenced the proposal I made for a similar kind of operation on DC's National Mall.  See "A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is a way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall.")

BART and MUNI don't have integrated fare media systems, although the region has developed an integrated fare card system with the intent of full integration.

Left:  Port-a-park: A temporary park was set up in a parking space on Mission Street by Rebar, an art collective. The group declared Sept. 21 "Park(ing) Day" and installed this temporary park in a parking space on Mission St. in downtown San Francisco, CA. The group moved the park to several different parking spaces throughout the day. San Francisco Chronicle photo by Laura Morton

San Francisco is also where in 2006 the Re:Bar design collective innovated the concept of the "parklet," as a way to challenge how people conceive of public space and parking spaces in terms of quality of place.  What distinguishes the SFMTA is that the parklet initiative led to a significant reconceptualization of how the city deals with public space and streetscapes, and the Livable Streets program developed out of the parklet initiative. 

Re:bar isn't the only vital civic-advocacy group either, SF Planning and Urban Research Association is an important group and there are many others.

Seattle controls most local transportation matters including parking within the Seattle DOT, but other than streetcar, land-based transit is provided by two different agencies, King County Transit for buses and Sound Transit for light rail and railroad commuter service. The State of Washington delivers most ferry services, with a couple of exceptions.

The city is better than most at integrating land use and transportation planning and is very active in expanding biking and livability infrastructure, and streetcars, while Sound Transit is expanding light rail service.  The city's parking policies and planning are particularly innovative.  The Orca fare media system can be used on all of the different transit systems (Sound Transit, King County, Seattle, Washington State Ferries).

The Feet First citizen group is a national best practice example of walking promotion, integrating mapping into planning and walking and biking promotion, Safe Routes to School development, etc.  The State of Washington's requirements concerning Safe Routes to School planning means that Seattle is way ahead of most cities when it comes to SRTS initiatives.  

Like San Francisco, Seattle has been a pioneer in "right-sizing" parking requirements within building regulations, eliminating parking minimums in the Downtown area in the 1990s and extending similar requirements to transit station zones and "urban villages" in 2006.

Toronto is so f***ed up right now in terms of its local politics, especially all matters concerning transportation in particular the management of the city transit agency, planning for transit expansion, and bike policy and infrastructure, but it does run its city transit agency along with other transportation matters, including parking, and has an incredibly robust planning department.   The city transit agency is run separately from other transportation and planning departments.  The Mayor is pro-car and had bicycle lanes removed from some city streets and the expansion of biking infrastructure has stalled.

Toronto charges significantly more for street parking permits than any other jurisdiction in North America.  Recently, the transit authority took control of the bike sharing system and contracted out its day-to-day operations.

The city is an amalgam of city and suburbs and delivering transit service to the suburbs within the City of Toronto has created various problems.  The cost of expanding Toronto's heavy rail transit infrastructure is so expensive that the province will become more directly involved in financing.  Road and railroad commuter services are provided by a provincial agency for the region, called Metrolinx.  The fare media system used in Greater Toronto is run by Metrolinx and can be used in multiple jurisdictions across Ontario.

Bike and pedestrian planning in Toronto is very good.  The city's guidance on bicycle parking is amongst the best in North America, as is the Toronto Walking Strategy.  The city's "BUG" program provides small grants to "Bicycle User Groups."  Cycle Toronto probably has the best "ward-based" initiatives (organized at the Council District scale) of any such group in North America.  

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation deserves a shout out too as does the Spacing Collective, which focuses on public space matters of all types.

Other jurisdictions worth studying but they aren't necessarily full peers

I would write about Arlington County, Virginia if I hadn't done so much writing previously about their best practice transportation planning and programming initiatives...

In Baltimore, parking is managed by the separate City Parking Authority, most transit services (bus, light rail, subway, railroad) are run by a state agency, the Maryland Transit Administration, and the local Transportation Department handles an intra-city bus service called the Circulator, planning, and all street-related matters, even for what are "state roads"--the major arterials that usually connect communities across jurisdictional lines--which would normally be managed by the State Highway Administration anywhere else in the state.  

The Circulator bus service is free, and is funded through a city tax on parking.  The Charm Card transit media is a version of the DC metropolitan area's SmarTrip card, so it works on most transit services in DC and Baltimore, except for railroad passenger services.

Most of Boston's transit service is delivered by a regional agency, but the city has a robust bike infrastructure and programming initiative separately branded as Boston Bikes, and is the major player in the regional bike sharing system, called Hubway.  The director, Nicole Freedman, has pioneered important equity initiatives.  

WalkBoston, a citizen advocacy group, is a national leader in pedestrian advocacy.  The city has decent enough transportation planning, and other public space improvement initiatives.  But it is Boston Bikes that really stands out.

In Chicago, the Daley Administration sold off (on a multi-decade lease) municipal parking structures and street parking meters to get some quick cash to balance the budget and it has been a disaster, costing the city as much as $1 billion or more in lost revenue and angering residents.

A regional-state agency runs all transit within the city and region, organized in three different agencies, one for Chicago, one for railroad service, and one for suburban bus service.  Heavy rail service is mostly limited to Chicago.  The city runs the streets, including biking and walking and is extremely short of money for transportation infrastructure, but has been very much focused on bicycle infrastructure expansion and pedestrian safety improvements under Mayor Emanuel.  The city has considering licensing sponsorships of prominent infrastructure like bridges, to raise cash.  The transit media card doesn't work on railroad passenger services, but does work on city and suburban bus and rapid transit.  The city also owns and operates O'Hare and Midway Airports.  

Former Mayor Richard Daley was a strong supporter of biking and public space improvements, including the creation of Millennium Park.  The Active Transportation Alliance addresses all forms of sustainable mobility.

Hoboken, New Jersey is across the Hudson River from New York City.  It's only two square miles, has 50,000 residents, but they are doing very innovative work on sustainable transportation and parking policy.  Taxi services are handled by an agency separate from the Parking and Transportation department. The waterfront trail is run by the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy.  The city runs an intra-city bus shuttle system ("The Hop") but inter-jurisdictional transit services are provided by either NJ Transit or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Hoboken has the highest public transportation use of any city in the United States. Hoboken Terminal is served by six New Jersey Transit railroad lines which terminate at Hoboken Terminal, with private ferry service and the PATH subway system providing service to Manhattan.  PATH connects to Jersey City, Harrison, and Newark on another line. The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has three stations in Hoboken out of 24 total and NJ Transit offers bus services.

One way where the city has been very innovative is their use of car sharing as a way to reduce parking demand and manage street parking inventory (past blog entry, "Car sharing as a method for managing the demand for on-street parking: Hoboken, New Jersey").  The city tested bike sharing and will expand this into a program with Hudson County and other municipalities.

If the NYC Transit 7 line were extended to New Jersey, Hoboken could possibly get a subway station that connects to the NYC Transit system.

New Jersey Transit does not have an integrated transit media program with New York State's MTA, and the NYC Transit Metro Card doesn't work with the MTA railroad services, although there are some functions that work on the PATH system.

Minneapolis is also a great example on many levels.  Transit is provided by the Metropolitan Council, the regional metropolitan planning organization tasked by the US DOT for transportation planning, and the city is benefiting from an expanding light rail system, bus rapid transit initiatives, great bike and walking promotion initiatives, including a safe routes to school plan for the entire city.  The city has one of the highest numbers of bike commuters in the US and an extensive trail network.

Minneapolis and St. Paul benefited from a special non-motorized transportation grant program from US DOT when James OBerstar was in Congress, St. Paul is pursuing streetcar service, the main train station is getting Amtrask service again, and the city soon will be served by light rail connecting to Minneapolis.  The Twin Cities has many great civic and nonprofit groups including Transit for Livable Communities and Twin Cities Streets for People.  Right now, they have a pathbreaking program working to integrate equity initiatives into the new light rail program.

is much larger than DC in population and size and its transit agency operates mostly within the city of Montreal, but is a division of the regional transportation agency.  The city is organized as boroughs, and transportation services are delivered at both the city and borough scales.  The Plateau-Mont Royal borough is particularly committed to sustainable transportation policy and practice.  

The transit authority runs subway and bus services, has many innovative programs linking sustainable modes, such as transit passes that include car sharing and bike sharing memberships.  A separate agency runs the railroad system, which has many lines and many stops within Montreal not only located downtown.  STM is also integrating a variety of incentive and discount programs into its transit card program, which appears to be unique ("Cloud-based analytics keeps Montreal's buses full and ridership growing," Government Computing News).

Montreal has one of the best bicycle promotion programs in North America and the most extensive network of cycle tracks of any city.  They benefit from good research by engineering and transportation professors at McGill University also (something mostly lacking in DC, even though DDOT funds transportation research at Howard University).

Through its separate parking authority, the city innovated at a global scale, creating the modern system of bike sharing using solar powered kiosks, although being a division of a government agency ended up being the downfall of the bike sharing group because its financing requirements couldn't be met by the municipal financing system, and the Province of Quebec ruled that it was illegal for the City of Montreal to fund the technology development and sales arms of the organization.

Montreal was one of the first major cities in North America to introduce a motor vehicle speed reduction program comparable to the program in Graz, Austria, although implementation varies by borough.

Left:  Catchment area of public transit stops for pedestrians and cyclists.  From Planning and Design for Pedestrians and Cyclists: A Technical Guide, published by VeloQuebec. 

And VeloQuebec, the provincial advocacy group, has its headquarters on a busy cycle track in Montreal, and spurred the development of cycle path networks throughout the province, has an active research and publishing program, including a thick monthly magazine, and promotes bike tourism throughout the province also.

New York City, has the highest rate of walking and transit use and the lowest per capita energy and gasoline use in the US and biking is rising as well.

All transit except ferries, is delivered mostly by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, which runs most cross-borough bridges and tunnels too.  Heavy rail and bus services in the city are delivered by the New York City Transit Authority, which runs the subway system, a separate railway on Staten Island, and bus services within and between the boroughs.  Two different MTA railroad agencies serve mostly suburban commuters but also provide some service within the city. A different state agency, the Port Authority, controls some other bridges and runs a subway service between Newark, Hoboken, and Manhattan and runs the inter-city bus terminal (and the major airports).  NJ Transit provides railroad and bus service to Manhattan, and Amtrak is used for commuting purposes also.  

The Staten Island Ferry is run by the city Dept. of Transportation while most of the other ferry services are provided by private contractors.

Left: a Neighborhood slow zone with 20 mph speed limits in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood.  Generally, the posted speed limit in NYC is 30 mph.

Streets, including parking, biking, and walking matters, are run by the city's transportation department.  

Under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC's transportation function has focused on improving the quality of place in transformational ways, which has culminated in massive expansion in biking infrastructure, the launch of a bike sharing program, the creation of the Neighborhood Slow Zone traffic calming program, and tremendous public space expansion, improvement, and road diet initiatives including along Broadway and in Times Square, but across the city, and a variety of innovative public programs including "Sunday Streets" road closure programs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.   

New wayfinding information systems are being launched and a variety of public-private initiatives, including the High Line park, have delivered high quality public spaces to NYC residents and visitors.  The city has also published various best practice manuals on urban design and active living design.

Taxi services are regulated by a separate Taxi and Limousine Commission which has a robust research capacity.  The city's taxis were amongst the first in the nation to require credit card access with integrated tourist information tablets.

Right:  Edison Parking billboard near the High Lane in the Chelsea District of Manhattan. 

While the city runs some off-street parking operations, the majority of off-street parking is privately owned and managed.  NYC doesn't require residential parking permits for on street residential parking, but limited parking inventory helps to restrict demand.

And of course, Transportation Alternatives is a national best practice example of a sustainable transportation advocacy group, but there are so many other initiatives active in the city that are great.  TA has some borough based initiatives as well but not as extensive as those by groups in Toronto and London.

New York City is also an important example because its adoption of transformational transportation practices has been anything but painless.  First, the State Assembly denied the city the ability to impose a congestion charge for vehicles entering Manhattan, in part because suburban and outer borough residents have more representation in the Assembly than residents in the core--NYC has similar urban and suburban dynamics within the city as does DC.

Protesting against the Prospect Park West cycle track in Brooklyn.  WNYC image ("Residents Prepare Lawsuit on Brooklyn Bike Lane").

Second, many bike infrastructure initiatives have met opposition by Community Boards and other stakeholders.  For example, some residents (goosed by a former Transportation Commissioner) sued the city over the creation of the Prospect Park West cycle track, even after the DOT demonstrated that the lane helped reduce accidents.  The opponents lost, but it still demonstrates that the forces of automobility are ever present. 

There was some opposition to the public space expansion initiatives along Broadway in Manhattan which came at the expense of roadway, but the improvements garnered wide support and opposition quietened, especially as some businesses experienced increases in revenue as a result ("Times Square Pedestrian Makeover going permanent," City Clock).

What is important to note through all of this that the Mayor didn't back down and kept supporting Janette Sadik-Khan, the Transportation Commissioner and the department's initiatives, and improvements kept moving forward and additional initiatives were launched.  

This is a big difference compared to DC, where City Council and the Mayor tend to fold in the face of opposition with regard to changes in parking and other transportation policies.

Pasadena, California doesn't provide transit services, but it's where Donald Shoup of UCLA innovated many of his ideas about how to handle street and off-street parking, to use revenues from parking for streetscape improvements, etc.  Like many of the independent cities in Los Angeles County, Pasadena is also innovative in how it handles improvements to biking and walking infrastructure, and can be a bit ahead of DC in terms of implementing best practice intersection treatments.  

Portland Oregon is an obvious example but it may turn some people off because it's so widely touted.  Portland still has a commissioner form of "city council," which combines executive, legislative, and some judicial functions.  The public safety commissioner also oversees the "Bureau of Transportation." This is separate from the Metro Council and the Tri-Met transit agency.

To start, we must note that despite all of Portland's great planning and initiatives, DC has much higher total practice of sustainable transportation modes--almost double the rate of Portland.  For that we have to acknowledge L'Enfant's Plan and the concentration of federal government agencies and the transit benefit.  

Right: streetcar near Portland state University.  Photo by Miles Hochstein, Portland Ground.

But Portland is so much better than DC at being innovative.  Modern streetcars and the creation of an aerial tramway--both owned by the city but managed privately, separately from Tri-Met--are perhaps the best known projects.  

It all started with a decision to tear down a waterfront highway in the early 1970s and was soon followed by a pathbreaking Downtown Plan.  Portland continues to build on those pathbreaking decisions incrementally, so that "to be like Portland," requires a long term commitment, vision, and continuous improvement (the entry "A summary of my impressions of Portland Oregon" dates to 2005).

The continuous incremental improvements include developing a transit mall for buses (which can be somewhat hulking from a public space standpoint), improvements to public spaces like Pioneer Courthouse Square, launch of light rail in the mid-1980s, promotion of biking and walking, and sustainability, and great civic initiatives such as the Community Cycling Center of Portland, which has a variety of path breaking programs including support of biking by women and commuting by low income residents.  Of course, parking is handled by the City Department of Transportation.

While parking is handled by the Dept. of Transportation, one legacy of "government fund accounting" is that taxi services in Portland are managed by the "Revenue Department" of the Office of Management and Finance, which is under the Mayor.

And Portland's City Repair "street takeover program" preceded the tactical urbanism initiatives of Re:bar by 10 years since City Repair launched in 1996.
Orange County, California's Transportation Agency runs county transit (bus and paratransit only, no fixed rail), local roads--which can include pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and highways including tolled roads and does some planning.  Parking is handled by separate cities located within the county and OCTA is one of the partners in the Metrolink railroad passenger service that links San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties.  Taxis are under a different agency, the Orange County Taxi Administration Program.

Savannah is a good example of linking parking and local transit services, especially for serving visitors.  See the past blog entry, "
Need for a comprehensive visitor transportation plan in DC."

Vancouver, British Columbia is similar to DC with about the same population (they have 603,000 residents) and size (they are 70 square miles including water, DC is about 62 square miles including water).  Like DC, most of Vancouver's transit services are delivered by a regional agency, TransLink.  It happens that TransLink has some of the best transportation planning functions of any metropolitan area in North America (their bike strategy and parking documents are the best!).

Even more vociferously than DC, residents prevented the extension of freeways into Vancouver City.  (DC has a couple freeways, but mostly prevented freeways from being built in the city.  Instead, the city's transportation budget for freeways went into WMATA.  See "End of the Roads" by Bob Levey and Jane Freundel Levey from the Washington Post Magazine, published in 2000.)

Most of Vancouver's non-transit transportation services, including parking, are handled by the City Dept. of Streets and Transportation.  But taxis falle under the police department.

Other programmatic best practices

Ciclavia tattoo, photo by Rosemary Zonni.

There are other specific programs deserving to be called out, for example, Los Angeles' CicLAvia program gets as many as 200,000 people coming out when they close streets for their quarterly events, but this entry is already long enough.

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At 3:36 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Richard, great series and thank you.

I've learned a lot.

Two words I don't see you use are silos and budget. I think both have a place here.

Also, there is something to be said for having multiple leadership positions. Optionality.

I'd say Cheh's proposal is more about increasing power of the Council vis a vis agencies than anything else.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I just did a few tweaks to the piece but nothing major.

I discuss budget indirectly by referring to DC as a city state.

You're right that it's huge.

Silos aren't insurmountable. If you make it clear that the new policy is X and if people don't conform they're gone, they start conforming. People at NYC DOT or Portland or SF or Seattle don't try to avoid having to put in multimodal infrastructure. They get that it is essential to the city's mobility framework.

Cities like DC and Philadelphia are pretty hidebound within their internal structures...

(Baltimore County too, I spent a lot of time trying to position what I was proposing as extensions of already best practice actions of the DPW, and really, bike infrastructure is just glorified traffic calming, and Balt. County had a great traffic calming program in DPW and a streetscape improvement program in Community Development.)

You don't change the culture without having top notch leaders.

2. WRT your point about Council, I'm sure that you are right.

Oddly enough, since I am consumed with organizational structures, I have thought sometimes that MCDOT needs to be under the County Council, like planning.

Montgomery County is unique among most jurisdictions in that planning is the only agency directly under the purview of the County Council, not the Executive Branch.

But it all comes down to that Executive branch leadership and vision, which I discussed in other pieces. They don't have it. The County is committed to its vision of automobility-dependent suburbia.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Again, about money, it's absolutely essential. That's why SF being a city-county, can run its transit, and it doesn't have the poverty of east coast cities.

So Philadelphia is a city-county too, but much bigger, much poorer and with most big businesses long gone from the city (except for Comcast). They are broke.

Oh, in the context of Maryland, Baltimore City is somewhat unique. They get all the state sales taxes on gasoline collected in the city and they have full control over "state roads" within the city.

But because the city is poor, they raid the monies for other things. Plus the city is shrinking, they have old infrastructure, etc.

It's too bad that Sheila Dixon "fell out of office" because she was pretty innovative on transportation, which was a shock given her demographic set up.

Like Mayor Gray, the current Baltimore Mayor doesn't stand out as it relates to transportation, but the city continues to do good things.

DC is truly fortunate, now that it is on an upward trajectory. It can do so much more than the average city.

But even it has constraints, and a lot of poverty, which is why I favor a height limit increase to raise property tax revenues.


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