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.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

I guess the San Francisco Bay region needs a German style "transport association" too

The San Francisco Chronicle reports ("Chiu re-introducing bill to integrate Bay Area transit — and create universal Clipper Card") that State Assemblyman David Chiu wants to pass a bill that requires all the transit agencies in Greater SF to create an integrated map of all the transit services, and require that all transit agencies accept the Clipper card.  From the article: 

The Bay Area Seamless and Resilient Transit Act would establish deadlines for the Bay Area’s 27 different transit operators to create an integrated transit map for the region. 

It would also require the region’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission to create a pilot program for a unified fare pass that would allow commuters to travel across different transit operators while paying a fixed fare. Currently, some Bay Area transit agencies don’t rely on the widely used Clipper Card system, including ACE and Capitol Corridor trains.

The funny thing is that the SF Bay area is a leader in terms of transit service integration, and their transit fare media card, Clipper, is used on most services, even Caltrain, the regional commuter railroad, and they publish a bunch of good maps, and work towards service integration, such as their night transit network -- both are national best practices.

But apparently there are gaps.  And probably the gaps are bigger than Assemblyman Chiu realizes.  I'd recommend the creation of a German style transportation association, they are already a long way towards this, despite the gaps. 

I wrote about this a few years ago, in response to SF area advocates grousing about the Clipper card, and I said they weren't thinking big enough.

-- "Chicken and egg transit planning: Greater San Francisco and the Clipper Card upgrade

German transport association as a model of transit service integration.  In "The answer is: Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority association," focused on DC, and "Branding's not all you need for transit," more generally, I discuss how the German transport association model should be adopted in those US metropolitan areas where multiple agencies are responsible for transit delivery, especially across jurisdictional borders.

--"Verkehrsverbund: The evolution and spread of fully integrated regional public transport in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland," Ralph Buehler, John Pucher & Oliver Dümmler, International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (2018)
-- Transport Alliances - – Promoting Cooperation and Integration to offer a more attractive and efficient Public Transport, VDV, the trade association for German transport associations.   

In the VV or Verkehersverbund model, the master transport association is in charge of planning for all modes, with a focus on creating a fully integrated set of services and fares.  (Transit in Greater London and Paris operates similarly.)  

All the operators are part of the association, and can be a mix of government-owned and for profit operators.  Who does what is hidden from the rider--all they see is that everything is connected and one fare media card is required.  

Note that this can be done collaboratively, without a formal mandate, the way that transit agencies in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina have rebuilt their transit system over the past 10-15 years ("Will buses ever be cool? Boston versus the Raleigh-Durham's GoTransit Model").

And it can be difficult to integrate for profit mobility services that are more self focused, like car sharing firms, or bike share, especially if they compete with mass transit and/or government-provided services, like bike share.

Mobility as a service and transit farecards.  The piece on SF from a few years ago, "Chicken and egg transit planning: Greater San Francisco and the Clipper Card upgrade," focuses on how advocates wanted there to be seamless use of Clipper across mobility services including ride hailing and others.  I argue that while that is ideal, it may not really be necessary, and for profit entities aren't always good partners when it comes to this kind of integration.

It is happening more frequently, and in Berlin, the transit agency BVG actually took the initiative to create such a system, called Jelbi, contracting it out to application developer Trafi, which has developed similar apps for ride hailing firms like Lyft ("BVG Jelbi — world’s most extensive MaaS solution in Berlin").

BVG was successful in getting non-transit vendors to participate in the program.

To me,  it seems as if BVG decided to be the first mover in developing an overarching app figuring it was the best way to keep their place at the transit table, remain the top of mind leader in mobility innovation, and to keep their customers in the face of serious competition from private mobility providers less concerned about the viability of mass transit ("Berlin's new transit app Jelbi connects all modes in one place," Fast Company).

Over time, my sense is that transit media cards will be discontinued in favor of smartphone apps, and integration will either be easier or less of an issue.

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At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

Creating a transport association is easy. The association itself doesn't do anything, however.

The actual integration is hard. To really follow the German model, that means convincing (or requiring) all of those agencies to give up their authority over planning, over fare structures, etc.

And absent some kind of financial benefit in doing so, it's not going to happen.

In Germany, a key difference was that the funders collectively decided they'd be better off pooling their resources. The incentives in the US unfortunately cut the opposite way.

Another difference is the corporate structure - the City of Hamburg owns 85% of the HVV; they are essentially in control. Contrast that to WMATA where a partnership gives any one minority partner an effective veto over the others.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Can't really argue with your points. I recognize that the reason HVV could be created was because it was led by Hamburg, a city-state.

Even then, after the first wide agreement about what to do, it took 5 years for them to actually create the system and fare structure and funding.

Yes, in the DC area every agency has its own funding stream. And the three states have wildly different goals, and these goals can change significantly with each new administration.

Eg part of the reason that McAuliffe wanted tolls on I-66 was to encourage business to locate in Virginia so their employees wouldn't have to drive on a tolled freeway...

Hogan has been resistant to transit since the start of his Governorship. Etc.

2. But the point of my writings are to lay out parameters of optimality. Eg like the Greater Washington Partnership laying out the need for a merged rail passenger program.

Granted I've been writing about that since 2006 (based on earlier writings by Dan Malouff), and the ideas improved iteratively (calling it Racer, suggesting starting with the Penn and Fredericksburg Lines, integrating fare systems like London Overground, etc.).

Even so, they aren't calling for much more than integrating what currently exists, nothing along the lines of expanding to a true S bahn like network.

3. The thing with SF is that I had thought because of the widespread use of Clipper and the fact that the MTC is one of the more able MPOs, that BART is expanding, Caltrain is electrifying, and BART runs Caltrain through a Joint Powers Authority, that they were much further along.

It's easier because they are within a state. But it's still very hard, for all the reasons you point out.

One of the interesting things about HVV, and I don't know German so I haven't been absolutely able to confirm this... As you know HVV includes sections of two adjoining states, but not all of those states. But my understanding is in at least one of those states HVV is the primary transit planner for the entire state.

But while you'd think more adjoining areas want to be part of HVV, that might not be the case because of the expense, which gets at the verysame points you made.


At 2:17 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Goes back to another article you linked to months ago on the rise of block grant and the death of the ability to create these funding orgs.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Doing the right thing is very difficult or takes forever because people aren't incentivized to do transformational practice.

I have some pieces on a heritage mall streetcar visitor transportation system.
Someone who worked on creating the National Mall Circulator mentioned to me once, unprompted, based on that experience that implementing that vision would be impossible given the array of organizations involved and the in-congruence of their respective missions, which mostly are disconnected from achieving the best possible option.

... I haven't read the GWP report yet on rail passenger services but it seems pretty constrained, focused on the current footprint only, while my vision goes far beyond that.

Even so, I've been writing about it since 2006, and it's taken this long for a Growth Machine group to take it up, but in such a truncated fashion which they likely believe is quite transformational.


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