The most basic solution for "transit deserts" is adding transit
NextCity reports, "New York City Council Wants to Find a Cure for Transit Deserts," on how the NYC City Council has charged the city's transportation department with addressing transit deserts. The City Council action likely is a response to discussions touched off by the production of transit desert maps produced by Chris Whong ("A new map of New York's 'transit deserts'," CityLab).
The white areas in the map are outside of a 10-minute walk to the city's rapid transit lines.
From the article:
“We know that major portions of the city are not connected to subway service and are left to rely on cars or long walks to get to subways or take unreliable bus service,” says Russell Murphy, Rodriguez’s deputy chief of staff. “We wanted the city to take a look at this and really develop a road map to connect those communities. If not necessarily by new subway construction, at least they’ll develop new strategies to ensure the communities are accounted for.”Marin County/San Francisco Bay. Separately there is an opinion piece in the SF Chronicle discussing the opportunity to add transit to Marin County, by putting rail transit on the Golden Gate Bridge ("Bay Area needs transit plan that includes Marin.
Apparently it had been considered during the initial phase of planning for BART, but the Bridge Authority was opposed, even though engineering studies asserted that the bridge could support the weight of trains.
The article quotes Bill Stokes, one of the founders of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, who used to say:
“Build it now. It will never be cheaper.”Note that Sonoma and Marin Counties are in the process of launching a train service called SMART, and it includes a parallel cycling-pedestrian trail as part of the program.
Granted providing rail transit connections to Marin (and Sonoma) isn't a matter of providing mobility access to the impoverished, but it is still an important element of transportation demand management and expansion of the area within the metropolitan area that is accessible for workers of all income levels.
Solving transit deserts. The solution to transit deserts is adding transit. And it doesn't get any cheaper, the longer it takes to build, the more it is put off.
In any case, using the frame of "transit desert" as a way to outline improvements and extensions to transit systems ought to be a basic element in outlining transit system planning in master transportation plans.
In NYC, they are adding more ferries to the transit mix, a new line launched yesterday ("To Rockaways Residents, New Ferry Service Is A Promise Kept," New York Times)
New New York City Ferry Service Map. NYT map.
While there aren't plans to execute such proposals, many people have outlined ways in which existing railroad lines and previously used railroad rights of way could be better leveraged to provide more intra-city transit service. These proposals are from the Transport Politic blog:
-- "Regional Rail for New York City - Part I
-- "Regional Rail for New York City - Part II"
-- "New York Regional Rail: A Coda
Another is the Regional Plan Association's Triboro RX proposal.
Note that my sense of the proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar--called the Brooklyn-Queens Connector--is that much of its route doesn't make a big difference in terms of applying the transit desert lens ("City Unveils Possible Routes for Streetcar in Brooklyn and Queens," New York Times)."
But if you apply a different lens, in terms of access between boroughs not dependent on connections between Manhattan, it would come out differently. (Although I think the core of NYC is better served by subway/rapid transit services, not streetcar/light rail.)
Calculating transit deserts. Note that the 10-minute walk calculation used in the map produced by Chris Whong is too "hard core" of a definition on which to base billions of dollars of investment decisions.
A 10-minute walk calculation is comparable to the problem of defining food desert as an area outside of a 5- or 10-minute walk to a grocery store, when the supermarket industry organizes the reach of their stores for a five mile radius (called a "retail trade area").
Other factors include:
- frequency of rapid transit service,
- bus line access,
- frequency of complementary bus service,
- adding bikes to the mix as a 20-minute walk to a transit station becomes a 5-minute bike ride
- the density of the transit network (I've written a lot about the difference between the DC and Baltimore areas coming down to DC having a rapid transit network, while Baltimore has a light rail line and a single truncated subway line)
- night and weekend service frequency, etc.
-- Measuring What Matters: Access to Destinations, University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
-- Access Across America, University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Access to jobs. Similarly, the Brookings Institution has been doing ongoing work through their Moving to Access initiative, calculating transit provision and access to jobs across a metropolitan area.
-- The growing distance between people and jobs, Brookings Institution
-- "Transit Accessibility to Jobs for Metro Areas Examined," Governing Magazine
The Brookings results tend to get a lot of media coverage within the various metropolitan areas that they have studied, which probably helps build the stakeholder support for transit, even if the average automobile-dependent person isn't convinced.
Smart Growth America has developed an analytical approach to this question too, which they have only used in studying Baltimore, for the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and the MTA's coming launch of their bus reorganization that they call Baltimore Link ("Transportation alliance critical of MTA's plan to overhaul bus routes," Baltimore Sun). From the article:
O'Malley said the alliance spent $25,000 to hire a consultant with Smart Growth America to produce the study using computer models of today's MTA transit network and comparing it to the one proposed.-- Will We Be Better Off? Assessing the benefits of the BaltimoreLink plan, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
According to the alliance's findings, the new routes would, on average, provide access to slightly more jobs, schools and healthy food sources on weekdays. Opportunities would vary depending on where residents live.
People in West Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood would have access to 5 percent fewer jobs with those in East Baltimore's Berea neighborhood able to access 8 percent more, the analysis showed. Access to key job centers, such as Woodlawn, Columbia and Linthicum, would not be improved.
The report also says that the new system would not considerably increase the number of schools that children could access within 45 minutes or less and only "marginally" improves access to stores that sell healthy food.
O'Malley said average travel time under the retooled bus routes would remain at nearly an hour, about the same as under the current system.