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.
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.
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