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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MBTA does something along the lines of what I suggested wrt WMATA, by splitting out "jobs"

In the ongoing discussion about WMATA's problems, I've discussed how MBTA in Greater Boston is undergoing simultaneously a similar kind of pileup of management and operational failiures--although there it was precipitated by six feet of snow and many years of underfunding of maintenance and equipment which all came to a head.  (I've also discussed how in Greater Toronto and to some extent, Chicago, there are ongoing discussions about better ways of coordination and integration at the regional scale.)

I am leery about the WMATA transit system being successful at hiring "a savior" ("Virginia tells Metro to accelerate search for a general manager," Washington Post) because the new CEO will have to somehow fix all the planning, financing, and oversight issues that emanate from the jurisdictions (DC, MD, VA and to some extent, the Federal Government) that "own" the system, which are distinctly different problems from but also shape the operational failures of the WMATA system.

Independent of the operational failures, I don't those problems are easily fixed, but if they remain unfixed, WMATA stays broken.

In the intermediate run, I believe that WMATA needs to hire a great operator to take over the Metrorail system, and fix its rampant operational failures and broken organizational culture.

In the meantime, WMATA ought to "take its time" hiring a GM, and ideally, should focus on rebuilding the regional consensus on transit and all the components of such a consensus--planning, operations, network definition, financing, etc.

MBTA has done something along these lines, hiring three key people.

But all this has come about AFTER--granted, produced pretty quickly and politically--an analysis of the transit system's problems.  We don't have that yet for WMATA, except for some reports from the Federal GTransit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

-- Back on Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA |Submitted by the Governor’s Special Panel to Review the MBTA
 
From the Metro Magazine article, "MBTA leadership team divided into 2 positions":
MassDOT announced Brian Shortsleeve will serve as the Chief Administrator for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), working alongside the newly appointed Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB). Interim GM Frank DePaola will continue in his current role focusing solely on operations and Jeff Gonneville, a 14-year veteran of the MBTA, will serve as the permanent Chief Operating Officer.

Given the immense reforms underway at the MBTA, Secretary Stephanie Pollack has divided the T’s leadership into two positions in accordance with the recommendations of the Governor’s MBTA Special Review Panel. The chief administrator will focus on the fiscal health of the organization, enabling the general manager to focus on improving service for customers.
WMATA's current cash flow problems are the result of poor financial controls, which led the Federal Transit Administration to stop advancing funds to the agency before projects were finished. Now WMATA gets reimbursement only after work has been performed. From "Gov.'s MBTA legislation includes 3-year fiscal control board":
The legislation, An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA, would establish a Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB) and Chief Administrator to oversee operations and finances through 2018, create capital plans, introduce reporting and audit requirements and lift procurement restrictions for the MBTA. Together the FMCB and Chief Administrator would be charged with establishing a safe, reliable, financially sound and sustainable customer-oriented public transit system.
It's much harder to pull this  off for WMATA, because unlike most transit systems, WMATA involves three separate "states" and the Federal Government, meaning Congress has to vote favorably, all must act in a coordinated fashion to take similar action. 

By contrast, MBTA's service operate solely within the State of Massachusetts, and the state, not local jurisdictions in Greater Boston, run the service ("Operational apples and oranges: Comparing Boston, D.C. rail systems," Post).

And as I have written, the DC area jurisdictions aren't taking responsibility for their contributions to the crisis.  The Massachusetts report identified nine main problems:

1. Unsustainable Operating Budget
2. Chronic Capital Underinvestment
3. Bottleneck Project Delivery
4. Ineffective Workplace Practices
5. Shortsighted Expansion Program
6. Organizational Instability
7. Lack of Customer Focus
8. Flawed Contracting Process
9. Lack of Accountability

In the DC context, I would add at least two others, (1) a failure to separate transit planning from transit operations and a failure in planning transit comprehensively at the metropolitan and regional scales and (2) failures in board/jurisdictional oversight and accountability, separate from the "Lack of Customer Focus" and "Lack of Accountability" to the Governor.

However, note that the MBTA analysis was commissioned by the Governor, who has his own agenda. 

So the conclusions in the report likely are different in many respects from what independent, objective transportation analysts would have recommended. Not that they are objective, but among others, MassCommute, the state's association of transportation management associations and the Conservation Law Foundation identified many gaps in the report's analysis and recommendations, which includes budget cuts not increases.

Note that MBTA's problems aren't solely of its own making (and neither are WMATA's). 

The state saddled MBTA with a lot of debt from the Big Dig.  And the service footprint keeps getting expanded while the operating budget continues to shrink in real terms.  And they haven't been able to get the money they need to invest in new equipment. 

And the snows MBTA experienced last winter would have crippled most transit systems running most of their service above-ground--by contrast, because of winter snow conditions, Montreal's subway system was designed with no above-ground sections.  Therefore, Montreal's subway service always runs regardless of weather conditions.

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22 Comments:

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Richard, small housekeeping matter -- your post on housing sizes is really messing with my browser. In particular the MST graphic you linked to (house sizes). Not sure if you are seeing it.


In terms of your planning vs operations, I think there are a few parts to this:

1. In terms of planning -- well, planning follows the money. And WMATA doesn't build new lines Maybe they should, but until then the planning goes back to the state.

2. Your more subtle point is metrics, not planning. Having the same board set metrics (and then you manage by that metric) is a conflict of interest. The number of trains per hour, passenger numbers, understanding the long term impact of shutdowns are all related to this.

3. Which goes other core problem of governance, which is the WMATA board is supposed to be representatives of the owners, and they are generally not transit experts or even urbanists. Or even decent mangers.

4. So much of the problems is a basic breakdown in ability to do anything from the Richard White era and the corresponding inability to manage contractors. If you don't know what contractors are doing they will fleece you. Better ways to manage them.

5. So as I've been saying for a while, I think they answer going forward is to shut down the "railroad" and bring in a operator. Perhaps WMATA can run stations, or escalators, or the rail yards, but nothing gives me any confidence that they are capable of that either.


 
At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard, I think you have some of the roles here confused.

Metro's operations are a mess right now, which is why they absolutely must hire someone as the GM sooner rather than later. The latest derailment left no one to hold accountable - are they going to fire the interim GM and bring on an interim-interim GM? Someone needs to be in charge of the day to day.

The role of rebuilding the regional transit consensus can't be just on the GM, either - that's the role that the Board must play. But you can't expect them to do that when they can't even agree on what the job description for the GM should be.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Second one first. I agree, it's "fouled" up in almost every element--operations, management, financing, etc.

I think it's so bad they need to hire a top notch operator to just run "the railroad" and fix it.

And not to focus on everything else that's f*ed up.

Having to fix the railroad and everything else that isn't working with WMATA is too big a job for everyone.

That's what they figured out at MBTA.

Even Jay Walder lost his job at MTR because of problems in constructing a new rail line and ballooning costs.

And Jay Walder was considered one of the best people in the industry.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt that graphic, I will just convert it to a link. If you're having problems, undoubtedly, other people are too. Now that you mention it, it's why I think I have some weird effects with /# type positioning of posts, but I didn't realize that was it.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

yes, I mean planning in general and planning for operations--metrics and expectations.

They need to be separate for what you said and what I've been saying for for many years too, that operations will always be satisficed to the budget, that if there are broadly set expectations independent of the transit operator, than the operator can go back to the funders and say, look, give us more dough, etc.

But the planners/jurisdictions can also say "that pricing/fare structure isn't reasonable, and pay/pensions, etc." too.

2. You've argued for a long time that bus and rail should be separate. I've always been resistant.

There's no reason that a transit agency shouldn't be able to run this stuff, but WMATA is failing.

Partly it's because the strong bureaucratic culture isn't able to be flexible and innovative when it needs to be.

And because of poor oversight. And because of the failure of the jurisdictions to invest in maintenance.

And because of a failure in system design--lack of a third track means that when your system ages and there are many more equipment failures, service breaks down because there aren't ways to continue service by moving around the problems.

(E.g., We just took the train from here to Salt Lake--I thought it would be cool, but I'm not sure I'd want to do it again. We sat four 4+ hours in Nebraska because of a Union Pacific freight train derailment ahead of us, and the lack of a way to move around it.)

Rather than slough Metrorail off to the private sector (although I guess, like with TfL bus operations or certain operations in Greater Hamburg, I can't really say no to it) what I'd recommend is the creation of a new transit agency, built from the ground up to succeed WMATA, everyone would have to apply for their jobs, etc.

But I don't see how to pull that off and keep the system running in the interim.

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Couple other points:


1. Unions/Benefits/Pensions

The other handicapping is the court decision on wages+pensions. Pensions in particular could be underfunded as a public agency rather than what is going on now. Likewise on wages you can't cut them unless you can show it destroying the system. So perverse incentives for the board -- only way to control costs is destroy the system.

Also the overtime issue, which is you can't hire more people so you do overtime -- unions and mgnmt both culpable here.


So you have a lot of misaligned incentives.

2. Transitions -- obvious no easy way. I'd say you can stage it; hire a contractor to run the thing, keep employees for two years, everyone has to reapply after that, no idea what happens to pensions.

3. The other points (ww argued about yesterday) is that your prescription doesn't do much immediately on safety, but that the important thing to remember is the safety thing is a sign of a broken system, not a disease in itself. Also entities like WMTA can only operate if they are growing, rather than static.


3.

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Why don't you think hiring a top notch operator with the "remit" (as the Financial Times would say) to run and "right" the rail system wouldn't address safety?

... my post from June, http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2015/06/ntsb-report-on-wmata-safety-failures.html

In fact, because the org. culture is so flawed and because the problems aren't improving, is why I say this is so important that a Rail division president who reports directly to the board should be appointed.

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Safety complaints are a short term complaint. You will end up with another Sarles.

Likewise the budget issue this year are short term.



Direct report to the board might work.

Having a private sector operator might not fix them either. That said I don't hear much complaints about VRE or MARC on this.

(and plenty of private sector operators used to be public)

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

maybe you're right... I hope not, but you probably are.

2. wrt contractors, the reality is that it depends on the underlying conditions.

we hear little negative about VRE and lots negative about MBTA. Both I think are run by Keolis.

But the VRE set up is comparatively new while much of the equipment and set up of MBTA is old.

http://www.wbur.org/2015/08/18/mbta-keolis-service-improvements-plan

MARC, Camden and Brunswick are run by CSX, and Penn by Amtrak.

3. there was an article about how the San Joaquin valley line in California, operated by Amtrak, passed oversight from Caltrans to a Joint Powers Authority of the relevant jurisdictions served by the service. But the complaints about "the service" from the railroad operator didn't appear to be that significant.

They complained e.g., about lagging behind other areas of Cal. in terms of getting the latest equipment (e.g., like the Pacific Surfliner), but that is a state/JPA issue, not Amtrak's. etc.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the problem with an outside contractor to run Metrorail is that like MBTA, it's now an aging system with a lot of problems. New management can't make aging equipment new in and of itself.

Last December, I met with a guy who runs a big firm that participates in such bidding teams, and he said (although he was talking about building new systems and then operating them going forward) that the best reason for doing these kinds of deals is that because everything is contract based, it becomes impossible to underfund maintenance because of the metrics and the requirements of the contract.

He said by contrast, when govt. agencies run such infrastructure, usually their overseers will deliberately underfund maintenance as long as they can get away with it, in order to reduce appropriations/short term costs.

(Which jibes with your point, generally, about capitalizing the cost of operations.)

 
At 7:42 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, as I said it can align incentives better.


But it also requires you to manage those contractors. And managing them requires you to know more than they do -- and then keep a close eye on it.

And i'd agree that the current WMATA board is not up to that.

Let's be honest, half of DC is involved in as the primary money flow here is not lobbyists or politics but government contracts. It is an art form.



 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt "not managing contractors" the Silver Spring Transit Center is a cautionary tale.

Although there too, it's also an example of hiring someone connected, in this case Foulger-Pratt, based in MoCo with a lot of investment there and in Silver Spring specifically, to build something outside of their normal type of project/skill set.

F-P hubris undoubtedly was a contributing element to what transpired.

and I wonder how much of an element contractor management has been with the streetcar "launch" debacle.

 
At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anon #2 said...

This is an astute diagnosis of the issues. A few comments:

Most importantly, I agree with this guy that DC needs a greater sense of urgency and ownership. Although WMATA is governed regionally, DC & its economic future are utterly dependent on its health but few DC pols seem to realize that. On a related note, the internally-focused and fundamentally-flawed DC streetcar program has been, in many ways, a huge distraction from the fundamental issues with transit in the city. We've spent a decade wasting time on it.

On the capital investment, though it took more than a decade to get here, the board now appears to be fully committed to seeing through the needed repair projects. Funding the expansion projects on top of the repairs are the problem, but not one that other places aren't also facing.

I know its a pet issue of yours, but separating the planning and operations is only an issue in theory. Transport for London is a terrific model but its just not relevant in the US context. Even your favorite St. Louis planning/operations model is problematic as transit funding languished there for years (with the MPO in charge) until the transit agency led a long range planning initiative and obtained much needed sales tax funding via a 2010 vote. In LA county LACMTA plans, funds, and builds transportation projects *and* operates the regional rail and bus network within one organization... and does so quite successfully. As you point out, what matters more is generating the regional consensus for investing in transit. So long as its competent, the organizational structure matters much less.

My prediction: over the next few years, things will get noticeably better. Combined with some organizational and process improvements, an improved regional economy and reduced maintenance backlog will help put the agency on better footing, and put it in a better position to advocate for itself and the region.

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There's a lot here. I understand that my point about planning and operations is a theoretical construct, but the difference between here and TfL for example, is that WMATA only takes responsibility for Metrorail and Metrobus and doesn't take the lead on other transit, e.g., railroads.

and neither does TPB.

By contrast TfL does all of the transit planning within their interest area *(or the HVV example), for every mode (with some exceptions I believe for some of the railroad services that serve areas beyond Greater London).

If "WMATA" did that, then maybe they wouldn't need to be split. cf., the Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis is the MPO and the operator of transit services.

WMATA personnel haven't evinced much interest in planning and operating transit services in a seamless way along those lines. I can't see that changing.

I also don't think that WMATA's rail operations have demonstrated yet that they are on the path of improvement in terms of operations and safety at all.

The capital improvement program is something different. It has to get better because it can't get much worse.

But organizationally, I just don't see much room for real improvement, even if the Board is committed to financing the improvements to the current system.

One of the problems here is that we have all the separate jurisdictions and separate transit services between them. By contrast, in Greater Boston everything is MBTA or in Chicago, CTA and PACE. (The SF Bay area is like DC, with all the different entities, same with Seattle.)

As a result, having decent fare pass options, one price for a linked trip, isn't much of an option here, because each transit agency needs to make its money.

I was surprised to see how reasonable a monthly CTA+PACE pass was. Sure it doesn't include METRA, while certain MBTA pass options, at least for Boston residents, include commuter railroad as well as subway, bus, and express bus, plus the ferries.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT the quoted point about DC officials and transit, I didn't make the point because I've been making that point for at least 12 years, that one of DC's key competitive competitive advantages is the transit system, especially the fixed rail, and it is fundamental to the city's economy, and the driver of decisions to locate economic activity here and to live.

Here's what I say the city's five competitive advantages are:

- historic architecture
- historic urban design (L'Enfant Plan)
- historicity and authenticity
- the steady employment and business engine of the federal government
- a strong fixed rail transit system that enables efficient mobility without having to be reliant on motor vehicles

In the core of the city, there are 31 stations, and it is no surprise that all of those areas are either healthy or experiencing significant revitalization.

... anyway, I have lamented for years that the city's public officials don't get the essentiality of high quality transit to quality of life and economic activity in the city.

It's also why for 10+ years I pushed "the separated blue line" to add redundancy and capacity and to maintain the city's position in the metropolitan economy as transit rich and as a good place to live, conduct business, visit, etc.

I also wrote a blog entry "criticizing" the Gray Administration's "economic dev. plan" which was "written" by GU and GWU business deans for it's almost complete ignorance vis a vis transit and its place in the city economy. The word transit is used five times in that report, and these broader issues were not discussed at all.

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT streetcars, you make an excellent point about how it has been a distraction of incredible proportions.

I admit, being a semi-foamer, I was into streetcars for a long time, and still think they could make sense for serving the National Mall and Georgetown, not unlike the F Line in San Francisco. (I have blog entries on that, which you're likely to be familiar with.)

But eventually I came around to your point, and I think I've written about it in various ways. If I have to choose between Metrorail expansion and streetcars I will choose Metrorail.

First, I think that for what we get with streetcars it's not worth the cost, compared to buses. Yes, the ride is better and all that, but we don't really know if ridership will rise by 40% or more compared to buses. If it would rise that much or more then it would be worth it to switch from bus to streetcars. But the city has not committed to that level of funding for equipment to completely get rid of even one bus line.

And we don't have good evidence from anywhere in North America that streetcars drive that level of transit ridership increase. Maybe with one exception, the way that streetcars are run like buses in Toronto. But I don't know that system well enough to know what projections are for ridership on a line, streetcar vs. bus. Some time I will look into it.

Second, as I wrote a couple times over the past few years, it'd be worth shifting the high capacity lines to double deck buses and seeing what kind of impact that has on service and ridership and rebranding. Even if we only switched out two lines as a test, it'd be worth doing. But that's a big investment for a test as we'd need what at least 20 buses per line, plus some back ups, to be a true and complete test.

The other problem with double deck buses is that they are less maneuverable if a street is closed and have to divert off main arterials (for the most part DC arterials do not have wires across the road or traffic signals "in the middle of the street"). And the way utility lines and traffic signals are hung in the suburbs prevents double deck buses from being used outside of DC, probably.

Third, from the standpoint of the city's economic competitiveness, it's more important to invest in Metrorail expansion than it is to invest in streetcars.

=====
n.b. streetcars came about in planning because Dan Tangherlini and others believed that Metrorail would never be expanded and streetcars would be the next best thing. But they aren't. And I don't think all the community strife, arguments, etc. that we've had to withstand have been good for transit overall, and I'd almost have chucked streetcar planning just because of that.

To its credit, only Arlington County kept the idea of the separated blue line alive in their transportation plan even after WMATA scuttled the idea in 2003 (plus, Virginia should never have been allowed to build the Silver Line without paying for another connection across the river, plus/2, DC should have used approval of the Silver Line as a way to push the DC specific separated blue line routing).

Instead, the city should have doubled down and focused on Metrorail expansion and how to pay for it.

I believe that the only way to really do it is by increasing the allowable building height, but others disagree with me. Plus, I think the moment in time where we could have done that and got a lot of increased development has probably passed. But that's a discussion for another day.
=======

- continued -

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

As far as rail expansion is concerned, this comes to mind

(1) Besides what I now prefer to think of as the separated Silver Line, with an extension eastward from Union Station, which would include an infill station on the north lots of the RFK stadium to allow for redevelopment of that area. (Maybe also undergrounding the orange line part to Minnesota Ave., with a stop too, in order to enable development of the old Pepco power plant site)

(2) I can see the value of a separated yellow line up Georgia Avenue a ways into Montgomery County,

(3) and perhaps a separated yellow line leg out from Ft. Totten to White Oak for MoCo and the FDA--I would also think a Metrorail on this route would interdict a lot of cross-county/city commuter traffic.

(4) There is a need for an infill station to serve Jefferson Memorial

(5) and maybe a split in the proposed Silver line from H Street up Bladensburg to Fort Lincoln/Costco shopping center, but also sort of serving Ivy City/the Bladensburg/New York Avenue intersection.

(6) an east-west connection between the legs of the Red Line in Upper Northwest DC. In the Michael Schade proposed Brown Line that I wrote about many years ago, I called for it to serve both Georgetown and AU with a line up Wisconsin Ave. and then cutting across Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenue somewhere.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/2281813917

Michael had the line going further south into southeast and PG County including National Harbor, with connection to Alexandria. I am fine with that.

BUT AS YOU POINT OUT, instead we've wasted 10+ years dealing with streetcars.

 
At 8:34 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Re: privatize systems.

London's experience was not positive.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/dec/18/tube-ppp-upgrade-london-underground

they appeared to keep the public operator, and outsource the rebuilding.


All comes down to money and financing.

WMATA can't finance.

Perhaps a deal can be struck -- take all of DC federal highway money to put it to WMATA as a type of garvee bond. DC can do whatever it wants with local gas tax money.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the London experience, that's exactly why I think having the strong overarching organization and system is necessary. You don't give up the control and oversight.

But you do then have to build strong capacity within the organization to do oversight.

Many years ago I had a conversation with a WMATA engineer who talked about the various cutbacks, like eliminating providing cars to key staff. He said in the old days, he'd drive to the work sites all the time, to keep his eye on the projects, but then when he couldn't get reimbursed for mileage, he stopped being so diligent.

... and one of the major things that Dan T. did was eliminate the engineering and construction dept., since WMATA was no longer going to be taking the lead on expansion. I understand his reasoning, but you lose a lot of capacity and knowledge and expertise when you don't have those people on staff. (Then again, they could devolve to the MoCo/DDOT norm wrt the streetcar.)

This gets to your point about being able to manage the contract, overseers, etc.

2. wrt "financing," it's why I argue for increasing the height limit. Then the tax base goes up and we can do more bond financing and pay it off.

It's as big a scalar change as it was for NYC to merge with Brooklyn and Queens County (I don't know how significant it was at the time to add Staten Island financing wise, but back then the Bronx was much more economically viable) primarily in the 1890s.

There were many reasons for the merger, but a primary one was to be able to finance the subway system.

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the rail experience more generally in Britain

https://web.archive.org/web/20130227022233/http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0222-04.htm

I think it's fair to say that privatization of rail operation in the UK hasn't necessarily resulted in a better system or experience compared to other countries in Europe where the rail systems are still run by government owned firms.

That being said, the scale and frequency of UK railroad passenger service is far beyond that present within the US.

2. Kind of like our previous discussion, it's really about continued investment in infrastructure and rolling stock. Without continued investment, it doesn't really matter if it's operated by the private sector or the public sector.

again, with the proviso of adequate if not robust oversight and planning.

I don't know what TfL was like "before," but its capacity for marketing, brand development, infrastructure development, etc., such as with the London Overground reconceptualization of certain intra-Greater London railroad services, and the London Crossrail expansion project are programs that don't seem to have an equivalent in North America.

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anon #2 said...

TfL appears to perhaps THE global model for regional transportation. However it will never happen in the US as London has many things we, nor any other US city/region have:
(1) it is the ultimate global primate city (global, national, and regional capital)
(2) it has dense, 1000-year old urban core (not pierced by freeways)
(3) it has strong centralized regional governance, empowered by Parliament and controlled by the mayor
(4) it has a congestion charge, which manages traffic into the core and provides stable funding for transit

#4 might be debatable as I suppose one day a NY governor might be able to push through a Manhattan congestion charge to help stabilize the MTA, but if Bloomberg couldn't do it, I'm skeptical. The rest no US city will likely ever have. Notably #3/4 are relatively recent developments.

With London you have a confluence of factors that make TfL very effective and give it massive advantages over its peers. In an alternate universe where the DC region had a regionally-elected mayor (not subservient to any state), a regional government in charge of regional land use, transport, water, energy, etc., a broad smart growth/progressive transport consensus, and congestion priced highways (but no expansion), and unwavering federal support, I bet we'd have a pretty amazing transportation system too.

Interestingly the predecessor to WMATA, the federal NCTA, was tasked with coming up with a complete transportation plan for the region. So when the WMATA compact was being debated there was brief consideration to give it transit and highway planning duties, but the lust among VA, MD and even DC officials for highway expansion and control did not allow that to happen. Perhaps its for the best, as it likely would have distracted from WMATA's core mission.

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

fwiw, Hamburg has many of the same political conditions, which is why they have a similar system. Hamburg is a big city-state, so compared to most metropolitan cities, it has way more money and the legal authority to do those kinds of things.

I don't know how it came about that the two neighboring states went in with "the Hamburg Transport Assn." to do transpo planning.

And I guess in Greater Paris, still some of the railroad services are run by SNCF and equivalents, not the local transport authority.

... but yes, you're right. But too, places like Portland and Minneapolis do show that we could do better than we are doing, even if they aren't at the level of a London or a Paris.

Even Utah, although I guess UTA has issues, has been overreporting ridership, etc., but there, the metropolitan area does seem to coordinate land use planning and transportation better than we do here.

You mention NYC and the congestion charge, but as you know, even there, the transit system would "work better" at least theoretically, if NJTransit were amalgamated into the MTA structure. PATH too, maybe.

Interesting intellectual conundrums and discussion at any rate...

You mentioned LAMTA before and similarly OCTA in Orange County, and probably the equivalent in San Diego runs similarly. Closer to the amalgamated authority. Although OCTA does bike planning and toll roads, and LAMTA doesn't have broad authority for ped, biking, etc. the way that TfL does, and for taxi oversight too.

 

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