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.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The answer is: Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority association

Is this the best you got?
WMATA map with the Silver Line


In the discussions about WMATA, most people are focusing on WMATA, which runs two types of transit service at the metropolitan scale of Washington, DC.

This is illustrated in what will be a three-part series on GGW, by Dan Tangherlini, former director of DC Dept. of Transportation and General Manager of WMATA, where he writes that "we should double down on WMATA."

-- "What do we want WMATA to do?," February 22, 2017
-- "This is how you fix Metro’s funding problems," March 1, 2017

But we need to think beyond WMATA and consider transit more comprehensively.

Sure, we need to be doubling down on our investment in transit, but maybe that doesn't necessarily mean "WMATA."

We need to get away from a focus that is mode- and operator- specific and centric.

Definitions:

Metropolitan area: an area with a center city and suburbs (Washington DC is a metropolitan area comprising Washington DC and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia; Baltimore is a metropolitan area comprising Baltimore City and adjoining Maryland counties as well as York County, Pennsylvania)

Region: two or more metropolitan areas (such as Baltimore and Washington or Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond)

In the 2009 piece "The meta-regional transit network" I lay out a way of thinking about transit services at the metropolitan and regional scales, as a set of interconnected metropolitan, city, and suburban transit sub-networks.

In  the DC area WMATA transit services are complemented by city and suburban bus services, and streetcar service in Washington, DC.  Regional railroad and bus commuter services connect outer Maryland and Virginia areas to the DC metropolitan area.

In Baltimore, most local transit services--subway, light rail, local and regional bus--are provided by Maryland Mass Transit Administration (which also funds Maryland's share of WMATA), except for certain intra-city Circulator services provided by the City of Baltimore.  Baltimore is served by regional railroad services within Maryland, and by commuter bus services from Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Asking the right question.  The issue isn't to focus on Metrorail, although it is in crisis and needs to be fixed, the right question is "What to do about transit?" more generally.

A lot of this is discussed in the 2015 entry, "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example."

The short answer to that question is:
Integrate transit service provision, separating planning from operations, providing a seamless network of multiple modes that is efficient, cost-effective, and understandable.
From the standpoint of planning, management, and operations, the longer answer is:
Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority comparable to how transit is managed within Germany regions, such as Hamburg. (Although Transport for London and RATP serving the Paris region operate similarly.)
Hamburg/German Transportation Associations are the best model for repositioning transit service in the DMV.  Hamburg is a city-state of 292 square miles, but the Hamburg region "leaks out" into the adjoining States of Schleswig-Holstein and Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), serving an area of almost 3,500 square miles.  (The DC metropolitan area is 1,400 sq. miles at the core and about 5,500 square miles total, including exurban sections.)
Hamburg, Germany, map of integrated transit system
This maps shows all the rail services across the Hamburg region, regardless of who provides what service.

In 1960, transportation planners in Hamburg realized that transit riders didn't care who provided what service, whether it was a bus, subway, train, or ferry in the core of the city or in the suburbs, that riders wanted an efficient and inter-connected set of transit services that was logically and comparatively easy to use.

At the time they started--and it took five years to get the organizations to agree to work together--it took as many as seven different providers and fares to get from one end of the region to the other.

-- HVV, Hamburg Transport Association
-- "HVV Celebrated 50 Year Anniversary, City of Hamburg

The city planners organized the transit providers into a single association and began the process of integrating services, schedules, and fares, and creating a separate planning and coordination system. Who offered what service was determined by who could do it best--in any case, transit planning was separated from transit operations.

Two agencies, Hamburg Hochbahn (subway and bus) and Deutsche Bahn/S-Bahn (commuter railroads) provide the bulk of the service, and a third, HADAG, ferry services. But 30+ operators provide services within the system, mostly bus, but also exurban rail services.

HVV does the transit planning for Hamburg as well as the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, even though the HVV organization provides actual transit service to only portions of the latter two states.

Not unlike how starting in the 1920s many U.S. cities ended up acquiring suburban transit services in order to maintain an integrated transit system, the City-State of Hamburg often ends up owning a portion of suburban and exurban transit services.  But the complicated ownership structures aren't reflected in how the system of comprehensive and integrated services is used by riders.

Over time, the "Transport Association" model in Hamburg, called Verkehrsverbund, was adopted throughout Germany.

Creating the DMV Transport Association. Here it would be as if transit planning were integrated for much of the area between Richmond and the Maryland-Delaware line within one master organization. Or that in Greater New York City, rather than MTA (bus, subway, railroad), New Jersey Transit, NYC transit services, PATH, and various suburban bus systems all being run separately, they integrated services and planning under one umbrella.

Note that some areas in the US provide a form of transit coordination that is much more integrated than it is in the DMV, although even in those places (e.g., Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, San Diego County) the transit system still lacks the level of coordination and integration typical of German cities.

Necessary steps:

1.  Have the DC-area MPO take on the responsibility for comprehensive and integrated transit planning for the DC area.

2. Create a regional transit funding system. Consider the creation of a transit withholding tax, including the participation of Federal, State, and Local Governments ("Metrolinx Toronto: 25 potential tools to fund transit-transportation infrastructure").

3.  Fix WMATA.  It could get ugly.

4.  The regional/multi-state DMV Transport Association (DMVTA) should vest transit planning responsibilities into the DC and Baltimore MPOs and related organizations, such as the Northern Virginia Transportation Authorities, separated from transit operators.

5.  The DMVTA management body should contract for transit services from transit operators, that can be either public or private sector entities.  Presuming sound and efficient operations, transit operators should never be put into the position of having to cut service to deal with budget deficits.

6.  Get rail transit services--WMATA, VRE, MARC, and MTA/Purple Line--to commit to the scheme.

7.  Develop a common branding and service structure for bus services, comparable to the GoTransit system in Raleigh-Durham (see "Will buses ever be cool? Boston versus the Raleigh-Durham's GoTransit Model")

8. Integrate fare systems, including railroad passenger services ("One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example").  Note that by this, I just don't mean fare collection, which is already done, except for railroad passenger services, but integrating fares so that riders don't pay multiple fares per linked trip (e.g., separate fares for bus and rail).

9. Still allow for separate Circulator bus services within jurisdictions as needed (such as the R-Line in Raleigh)

10.  Over time, ideally, merge MARC and VRE into one system, and expand it to include service to Pennsylvania and Delaware ("Maryland trains to Newark inch closer," Wilmington News Journal).

11.  Add other transit services to the DMVTA as they are developed (water taxi, ferry, aerial tram/gondola, etc.)

And we can start by producing an integrated map of rail services at the Metropolitan scale, and complement that with an integrated map of regional bus services (commuter, regular, and BRT).
Integrated rail transit map for the Washington DC Metropolitan area
Integrated rail transit map for the Washington DC Metropolitan area produced by Paul J. Meissner.

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17 Comments:

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

The articles on GGW are being driven by the finance question.

I had some links for you on that, but didn't post them. Basically this comes to a question of having WMATA raise money via debt (as DC water is doing, and then charging it out).


Not taking away on the Hamburg, you can look at the VRR as well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verkehrsverbund_Rhein-Ruhr

off topic:
https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/state-and-local-government-revenues-other-than-taxes-census-bureau-data-for-fy-2004-and-fy-2014/

We argued about this before, Larry L went through NYC revenue and yes, affordable housing money is basically a good 1/4 of the budget and by far the largest amount going to directly. School money is large but indirect (fed-state-city).

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

holy crap about NYC. I was reading an NYT piece, something like trying to interdict 60,000 people.

... anyway, on my neighborhood e-list, I don't remember the topic, but someone said "instead we could use that money to deal with homelessness." I countered about the cost to serve a family etc., indefinitely, is far more than this little pot of money.

I wasn't trying to be an ass, it's just that people want all kinds of stuff, but aren't acknowledging that to pay for it, we need more residents, more buildings, etc., and to be able to fit them into a city that is already built out, we have to accept some intensification. But we should be surgical about it, which means the residents need to be deep and far thinking and acknowledge constraints and contradictory goals and objectives.

Just think how much harder it would be to pay for that stuff if the city didn't collect income tax.

2. wrt WMATA finance, true. You made that very clear to me some time ago, I just hadn't made the exact leap (don't know why I wasn't thinking about it) in terms of debt financing. Toronto too offers an example.

I think I mentioned it. Anyway, the city finally agreed to toll the two freeways it controls and the Province had agreed before, but then reneged, saying "we'll give cities, including Toronto, more gas tax monies."

The city manager countered saying "we can't issue debt against revenue streams that are inconsistent and that we don't control."

I understand the finance necessity. But at the same time, the issues are so much bigger than WMATA really.

Thinking about what I wrote this morning, in that moment of wakefulness when various succinct lines are most apt to pop into my head, I said "we've outgrown Metro."

Or basically, the transit/mobility needs of both the metropolitan area and region outspan WMATA and what it can do.

That's why we need a DMVTA, not that it would be easy to do.

3. And the thing about a WMATA property tax, is that you need to fund other stuff, because really those stations are "mobility hubs" and to work best, especially in the core, they need other complementary elements that may or may not be run by WMATA.

Furthermore, the way the things are set up, "we" don't want WMATA controlling that money. It just sets the arbitrators up to say--look at that revenue stream, you can pay more.

4. In any case, while Dan T. must think his proposal was awesome, I think it's too narrow. Frankly a versement transport would work far better financially. But I don't think it's either/or, it's and/and, and once again, GGW is too content to not be thorough and deep.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

VRR seems equally cool, especially in how the various conurbations have their own U-bahns. I guess I touched this district a bit, being in Dortmund for an extra hour because my train was late.

Ralph Buehler co-wrote a paper about another transport assn. and US examples. I've cited it in past posts, but I didn't think the paper was particularly scintillating.

There is a book in German about the history of the HVV. It's enough to motivate me to start learning German. (I felt that way too at the various museum bookshops that I visited!)

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

sorry, looking at the VRR entry more deeply, oops, I was in Essen and Bochum and Duisberg too. And saw the transit in Essen particularly, and in Bochum some (even though I was ferried around as part of a group and we didn't ride transit ever).

It is coordinated clearly at the highest level, but on the ground you don't experience the same level of integration as you do in Hamburg.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

You've probably seen this:

http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/ESP171/Intl/Mobility_wunderkind.pdf

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

hate to admit, no. Will have to check out Prof. Handy's syllabus. She is the chief editor of the textbook, _Geography of Urban Transportation_, which is excellent (although my book is a couple editions old). It has the Peter Muller chapter on transportation and urban form.

I'll probably revise this entry and mention this piece more prominently.

Thanks as always.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Obviously, I haven't experienced it personally, but the GoTransit system in Raleigh-Durham is comparable. The Triangle Transit agency is the lead agency, like WMATA, doing the cross-jurisdictional transit, housing the call center, taking the lead on branding and TDM programs, but the other agencies integrate into it, help develop and execute those programs etc.

WMATA did this for the SmarTrip card, there is cross-transfer privileges for bus passes (but I don't think for single bus fares), but there isn't coordinated branding, scheduling in the same way, and definitely not one unified customer service center.

The Puget Sound and SF Bay examples aren't anywhere near GoTransit in terms of livery, and probably scheduling, but both have integrated fare media systems that include _all modes_, including railroad and ferry, whereas in our region, while SmarTrip/CharmCard are interoperable across transit systems in the DC Metro and the Baltimore Metro, they don't extend to the railroad services. (However, a MARC monthly pass provides some cross-transit service free, all local MTA and Metrobus and RideOn. VRE has a similar arrangement with certain services. But you show your pass, it's not a matter of touching the card. Of course, the Oyster Card in London works like the cards in Seattle and SF, across all services, rather than being limited to particular modes or operators.)

(Note while CalTrain offers pass options, Sounder does not.)

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

UTA in the Wasatch Valley (not just SLC) operates the same way, but it's easier because all the modes are housed within one agency--bus, light rail, street car, commuter railroad. They do important promotion of biking too (but bike share is run by the Downtown BID--when I interviewed for the state bike and ped coordinator position there, I suggested they could leverage the bike share in SLC as the hub wrt spokes for other interested communities).

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/75247/15/guhnemanna1.pdf

I guess I am a plumber, I like to look at how the systems work behind the scenes, rather than the customer facing approach.



 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Read the article and the concept of "full mobility." Hadn't thought about this element enough in terms of it being the next stage element of "mobility integration", even though I've written plenty about mobility shed, transit shed, and mobility hubs, now calling it the sustainable mobility platform.

Should I start using the German term of "full mobility?"

There's no question that we need better integration of bike sharing, car sharing, and delivery options into what I have been calling the SMP.

Obviously, people can create this platform on their own, combining transit, biking, one way and two way car sharing, and online purchasing.

I did that blog entry on the Dolly intra-market "moving service."

Suzanne is doing an art show and yesterday I used Zipcar to pick up some of the stuff from "the printer," and today we used a Zipcar van to transport the paintings (some are close to 48x48 and it was easier to not worry about jamming them into a car).

We were commenting about the difference from getting a UHaul. The van was a lot easier to get to, and you don't have mileage charges like with UHaul. Sure, you can probably get a van cheaper from UHaul, but when you factor the time to get there, and the various add-on charges, Zipcar is so much easier.

Etc.

But getting the entities to work together at a much tighter level is something else. Something I should write about within the "Transportation Wish List" framework.

Both DC and WMATA look at this in part as a revenue thing ($ for use charges for the street/parking). E.g., I argued that at "transit centers," WMATA should be more agnostic, letting multiple providers have access.

The problem of course is the failure to have the kind of subsidy/financing system that they do in Germany or France.

Here at the end of the day every agency is on their own. It makes it hard for them to cooperate and collaborate.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In Denmark, the bike sharing contracts are entered into by the national government, so all municipalities have access to the same terms.

In Ontario, the Province created the master transit fare media card (called Presto), and it is shared with all the various cities/regions, so they use one system, rather than each having to create their own thing.

 
At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Full Mobility.

Good term. Not sure if will have traction. I do think some of your terms -- say "intra-neighborhood" could be edited into something catchier -- say "point to point" or something.

In many ways you've addressed FM in your famous picturegraph of german transport planning (the one with 30 elements).

One issue is graphs like that tend not to do well in the US as they are too complex for the audience.

I could be wrong, I think U-haul is moving towards a model where you have a card and swipe a van. Need to look it up. Amerco (the u haul owner) is a vaccinating company.

On something else we discussed a few weeks ago (the new big short) from today's FT:

"
High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our T&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights.
https://www.ft.com/content/c637c7b4-fefd-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30

Investors place derivatives bet against US shopping centres
Commercial mortgage-backed securities index slumps 10% from January peak
Read next
UK student loan sell-off comes with weak grades

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YESTERDAY by: Joe Rennison and Eric Platt in New York
Investors are aggressively betting against US shopping centres using a derivatives index of commercial mortgage-backed securities that has slumped 10 per cent from its peak in January.

The health of the US retail industry has been declining for several years but recent lacklustre holiday sales, alongside rising interest rates and a stronger dollar, have reflected the intensifying pressure across the roughly $150bn industry for commercial mortgages tied to store locations and bundled up in bonds.

Department stores Macy’s, JCPenney and Sears all plan to close locations, including many centre anchor tenants. Women’s apparel retailer The Limited closed all of its 250 stores in January while BCBG Max Azria Group began closing 120 stores earlier this year as it tries to restructure its debts. 

"The same pressures we noted in 2016 and earlier are now accelerating at a quicker pace, and a good swath — but not all — of the rated US retail sector is running out of room to manoeuvre,” said Standard & Poor’s analyst Robert Schulz.

The scale of concern for the industry’s outlook is seen in the loans underpinning US centres through indices that provide investors such as hedge funds with exposure to commercial mortgage bonds.

Investors are targeting a particular index run by Markit called the CMBX 6, that tracks the creditworthiness of a basket of commercial mortgage bonds launched in 2012 and has the highest exposure to loans tied to US centres.

Morgan Stanley analysts note that CMBX 6 has the highest number of JCPenney, Sears and Macy’s stores in centres in the series of indices. The lowest “tranche”, most exposed to loan defaults, declined the most, falling 10 per cent to $79.62 on Thursday from its peak in January. Late in February the index slid to its lowest level since it was launched in 2013.""

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the problem with retail is that the US has had per capita retail space rates something like 2x or 3x Europe.

You only need a marginal loss of some of your revenue stream to make the business uneconomic.

First it was with retail sectors impacted by the internet -- office supplies, travels, music, books.

Books have bounced back a bit in terms of boutique sales and the stores repositioning as "third places" (experiences) not just transactionally focused.

Now the other categories are hurting, losing a portion of their sales to Amazon and other e-commerce ventures.

Some of this is cohort specific. E.g., uber vs. taxis is about a new cohort that is e-phone centric migrating to a "platform" (product-service-system) that better fits their preferences for how to buy/how to consume.

Some might be that we just don't want or need to buy as much stuff as before.

That's why there is such consolidation in each segment (e.g. only Bed, Bath & Beyond in linens; two companies in office supplies; two companies in electronics; shrinkage in the sporting goods category, to not quite two companies; a couple book store companies but only one is fully "national;" etc.).

Although the concept of "fast fashion" in apparel counters this statement. Buy more, buy cheaper, and you're not buying a wardrobe to draw upon for years. You'll be tossing the stuff within 18 months.

More retailers need to shift to be more experience oriented to keep selling stuff.

BUT where is the sweet spot for that? In my head, I've been working on a piece about this in terms of the cities vs. the suburbs. It's not that suburbs can't have such places. But as long as their mobility paradigm remains automobile-centric you can't get the kind of positive network effects of proximity, propinquity, and place values the way that you do in places that are designed to be "walkable."

You can have one offs, you can have districts, but you have to focus your resources on making those places great, recognizing that people will have to drive to and from, even if they can walk within the district when they are there. And accept that these places will be the exceptional jewels in a sea of paste.

Reston is probably the best example in our metropolitan area of those kinds of places in terms of post-town developments.

Of course, Bethesda Row, and while not incorporated Bethesda functions like a town-small city, was another example and precursor, showing that suburbs can be fun and concentrated spaces too. The redevelopment in White Flint is another example of the change, and it is at a scale different than Tysons.

Tysons is consolidating sure, and developing into its next stage. But it doesn't seem to be shifting towards "walkable" or at least concentrated and funky, the same way that shopping centers on Rockville Pike are changing.

The thing about the suburbs relates to department stores. I think department stores can work in the cities as a destination.

But the suburban model, depending on the place, I am not so sure. As the shopping centers sort out as A+, A, B, C, maybe Macy's doesn't locate in the B and C locations.

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Orange County is an interesting contrast to Fairfax. Granted it is bigger and with 3X the population. But there is a lot more creativity in terms of next generation retail and experience. Interestingly, there is a retail developer there that was decades ahead of the curve in terms of this. And that has created an environment where other companies see them as an example, and they are more comfortable doing similar things.

e.g.,

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/sadeghi-646243-anaheim-year.html

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/sadeghi-715490-city-developer.html

and then the follow on concept, OC Mix, by a different company

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kaleidoscope-537981-market-space.html

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

in terms of "full mobility" in North America, it might be that as a platform, STM in Montreal is closest. They have transit pass integration with bike share and Communauto (a nonprofit car sharing firm). They have a rewards program with their transit pass. ... but probably the card doesn't integrate with car2go. And they have shared taxi/autobus programs (different from uber, lyft, etc.).

But the railroad system is a separate system and they don't use the same transit media for both systems.

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I frequently mention other systems have comparably big problems too. MBTA is most akin to the financial and operational problems with WMATA. But transit systems in Toronto and Chicago have big needs/funding issues too.

Apparently the regional MPO in Minneapolis faces issues because of how the board is appointed. (Unlike other MPOs in the nation, it runs the transit system directly.)

https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/02/republican-legislators-take-aim-once-again-met-council

and the counties are changing how they fund transit because the regional funding mechanism that was created isn't getting the money that was promised by the state, so the counties intend to dissolve that mechanism, taking more direct control of the funding, while still committing to fund certain "regional" projects.

https://citizensleague.org/transit-study-committee/

http://www.twincities.com/2017/01/22/st-paul-minneapolis-board-levy-120-million-transit-might-disband/

I find it very interesting that certain systems that to me operate as best practice examples, the MPO in Minneapolis and transit, generally, in Greater Montreal, both face change for political, not functional reasons.

In Montreal, local mayors want more control over transit, whereas now the Province has more control.

In Minneapolis, because unlike in other places, the Gov. appoints the members, and because the outstate legislators, who tend to be Republican, have animus towards the city/metropolitan area and it being a "liberal bastion" they continue to take aim at the governance structure.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess too the Republican outstate legislators are pissed that by disbanding the regional board, the counties can each raise the local sales tax for transit, thereby raising more money.

http://www.twincities.com/2017/03/03/as-transit-board-considers-disbanding-county-officials-ponder-impact-on-funding/

 

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