transit

Podcast 51: The Case for FREE Public Transit Everywhere

Despite its tremendous value and egalitarian mission, public transportation remains the only essential public service that charges a fare. The only reason we still collect fares is because we always have, ever since the early days of horse-car transit. Now, user fees make up only a small portion of total revenue yet create a significant barrier to people of all incomes and lifestyles, slow down transit and cost millions to collect -- all without any justification.

I explain why cities and towns everywhere should provide free transit services and debunk the five main arguments for the status quo.

Note: I have come to these "radical" ideas throughout my years of transit service planning and advocacy. Please listen to the episode before sending me hate mail. Thanks! But please do send me your thoughts and I will gladly share them (anonymously if you'd like).

Riders seen waiting in line pay, regardless of weather. Buses spend up to 30% of their travel time waiting to collect fares, depending on the volume of passengers.

Comments? Suggestions? Please visit CriticalTransit.com or email feedback@criticaltransit.com. Follow me Twitter @CriticalTransit and follow and support my work in Boston via TransitMatters.info. Your support goes a long way!

CT 49 - MBTA, News, Fares, Solutions & Why Everyone Depends on Transit

Recent MBTA news and advocacy battles encouraged me to record a podcast to counter the dominant narrative. Let's review what's causing this mess and how to stop the bleeding and operate a reliable and effective network.

Why a well functioning and affordable T should matter to everyone, because we all depend on transit even if we never use it (some of the reasons). And right now it's neither.

The population of Boston has increased 10 percent since 2004 and T ridership is up 30 percent on major lines, causing severe overcrowding, yet no significant improvements have been made since at least 2000, and service quality is declining. People cite transit as a primary reason the want to live in big cities.

The MBTA is chronically underfunded, promoting inefficient operating practices such as a reliance on overtime, deferred maintenance and an inability to plan for upgrades. Instead of addressing these problems, the control board has chosen to vilify transit workers.

Rapidly rising rents and declining wages have forced large numbers of people to move to places with slow, infrequent and expensive transit service. We have repeatedly cut service and raised fares on these "low ridership" services, while ignoring others with great potential.

Fares impact everyone, including those most vulnerable to rising costs, middle class riders who are more likely to choose other options, and everyone impacted by increase traffic on our streets (i.e. everyone). Bus, subway and commuter rail fares have more than doubled since 1991, while the gas tax has increased only 3 cents. Like transit, roads and highways are heavily subsidized, yet only transit riders are being asked for more. Governor Baker says a fee is a tax, but apparently not if it's a transit fare.

Finally I discuss several alternatives to raise revenue -- focusing on better and faster service -- without increasing the fee for users. But no efficiencies will fill the $7 Billion budget gap -- and that's just to reliably run what we have, never mind desperately needed upgrades. A transit network is a valuable public service, not a business, and it's time we started treating it like one.

Comments? Suggestions? Please visit CriticalTransit.com, email feedback@criticaltransit.com. Follow me on Facebook and especially Twitter @CriticalTransit and follow and support my work in Boston via TransitMatters.info. Your support goes a long way!

Episode 44: Transit Data, Marketing & Communication with Aaron Antrim

Our guest today is transit data and communications consultant Aaron Antrim of Trillium Solutions. We learn how to manage, present and use transit information to improve mobility and expand freedom by making transit networks easier to use. Find Aaron's work at Trillium Solutions, including his analysis of social media for transit and what makes a great transit website. Or find him on Twitter.

Other links include: Detroit Bus Company; Rome2rio international trip planner; San Francisco Bay Area transit summary; Social Media is Bullshit by B. J. Mendelson.

Do you have thoughts on any of these topics?  Share them with the world (or just transit nerds) by emailing feedback@criticaltransit.com or using the contact form or those social media tools.

Find me this week at Transportation Camp and the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington DC, and hopefully testing out some new Epic Transit Journeys. Please get in touch if we might connect soon in Washington or elsewhere in the northeast.

UPDATE: If you're in Washington this week you might like another event called GTFS in the World, a workshop on open transit data.

Finally, if you enjoy what you hear each week, please help support this project by sharing it with your friends and colleagues, leaving a review on iTunes and other places, and consider sponsoring an episode if you are able to.

Transit Tip 1. Information: put it everywhere!

Providing comprehensive transit information is arguably the most important element of a useful system. Sure, you need to run a reliable service, but people need to know how it can help them and how they can use it. Sometimes you just need a quick schedule check. Sometimes you need to know the universe options. Usually it's something in between. Yet so many bus stops lack basic schedule information, or worse, don't even say what services might stop there.

Maintaining current schedules can be a challenge as they can change often. But the actual routes and their span and frequency rarely change. Make it a goal for every stop to display a route map, an overview of each route's span and frequency, and the operator's phone number and website.

Transit Tips: a new feature

Transit Tips is a new feature on Critical Transit, offering quick suggestions to improve transportation services and bike and pedestrian safety. Some are cheap and easy; others take time to implement, but all are simple strategies intended to help us make real improvements for transit users in a practical manner without compromising our values. Further discussion is encouraged. Transit Tips will be posting several times each week.

Have an idea for a Transit Tip, or thoughts on an existing tip? Get in touch via the contact page or leave a comment.

Episode 43: Traffic signals with Matt Steele

A new year, a new challenge to the deity of traffic engineering: the traffic light.  Streets.mn contributor and recent Minneapolis City Council candidate Matt Steele says we have too many traffic signals and explains why that's a big problem for everyone. Choosing alternative measures of traffic control offers significant benefits to pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks, and even help transit run more reliably.

Links include Strong Towns, the relation between speed and death, roundabouts and a very successful shared space project at a busy junction in Poynton, England.

Today's news selection features a fantastic Bikeyface comic on what snow says about our cities' priorities, another cyclist hit without accountability, and another oil train derailment and explosion near Fargo, North Dakota. We recap the horror that is fracking (natural gas drilling) and play two songs about fracking ("We'll Be There" & "My Water's on Fire").

A listener suggests that automation in transit operations may actually decrease safety as the humans involved become less alert. The same has happened with private cars as they've become safer for the people inside. Very interesting stuff.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the book I couldn't remember the name of, about the phenomenon of drivers being less attentive given increasing automation: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.

May 2014 be the year in which we finally take traffic violence seriously and focus our attention and investments on sustainable transportation modes: walking, cycling, skating and especially public transit.  Help support this show and my other work by sharing it widely and by making a donation to my Transit Tour Fund if you are able to.  I am headed to the northeast very soon; please get in touch if we might connect.

Guest appearance on the Streets.mn podcast

Oh look ... guess who's on the latest Streets.mn podcast? Yep, yours truly. We discuss the effects of last week's Minneapolis city election, politics and transportation. It's mostly with a local focus but most things also apply elsewhere. Go listen here. Remember you can also find my local transit writing on the same site. Hopefully the impending cold weather will mean more writing.

Episode 38: Americans for Transit & debunking the small/electric car delusion

Andrew Austin stops by from Americans for Transit (twitter: @A4Transit) to share some impacts of the government shutdown and how it fits in with the ongoing austerity culture. We learn about transit diversity, labor issues and the BART strike, and review why it's critical for transit agencies to support their employees and maintain a positive work environment. That means listening to employees and riders, such as by hosting town hall meetings on buses. Later, why smaller cars, electric cars, self-driving cars, personal rapid transit and other pretend solutions fail to move us forward. The real solution is to dismantle car culture but these things promote it and leave us further from the sustainable places we so desperately need.

Check out my latest Streets.mn article critiquing the backwards transit planning process that has led Minneapolis to consider building an expensive rail line in a low-density corridor instead of improving mobility where actual needs exist.

Moreover, what are we trying to accomplish here? That’s the first question a transit planner or advocate should be asking of any proposal. I’m afraid we’re doing it all backwards. ... From the very start we have asked not “How can we improve our transit network?” but “Where should we put our next rail line?”  That makes no sense.

See some facts on Metro Transit. I also mentioned two existing routes that are due for capacity upgrades: TranksLink 99 B Line bus rapid transit, Vancouver, BC. (episode 23 and/or capacity post); MBTA Green Line light rail, Boston

Why good health care depends on transit, courtesy of previous guest Scott Bogren (CTAA). Daniel shares his thoughts on a new bus route making its only stop at a major university in the largest North American city without any public transit.

Enjoy the show? Please share this show around, follow me on Facebook on Twitter, leave reviews, tell your friends and consider making a donation to support this work.

Episode 37: Community Transportation with CTAA, another BART strike, and the government shutdown.

Community_Transportation

Scott Bogren of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) joins us to discuss their work supporting and advocating for the growing number of small urban, suburban and rural transportation services. He interviews transit operators on his own CT Podcast and spends a lot of time on Twitter.

The second transit strike in just a few months has halted Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway service in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, with no progress made since the last time. We hear what union members are asking for, and over the weekend a runaway BART maintenance train killed two employees.

Meanwhile the social service sector of the US government has reopened without an agreement (or apology from Republicans). As an added bonus we'll be right back in the same place in three months.

Share your comments, suggestions, ideas for show topics and/or guests by emailing feedback@criticaltransit.com or contact me this way.  Read my work on Streets.mn, follow the show on facebook and twitter, subscribe in iTunes (rss feed) and never miss a show. Tell your friends and colleagues, write reviews or make a donation of any amount to help support the show.  I have several interviews in the pipeline, an updated and redesigned web site, and lots of material from the places I visited on my big tour.

Episode 36: Open Streets Minneapolis

As cities respond to growing calls for safer streets and more open space, many have begun holding a series of Open Streets events where streets are closed to cars and opened to everyone else (people, bikes, skates and other non-motorized users). In most cases there is special programming including vendors, music, demonstrations and fun activities, but a few just put up some cones and let people have the street. And of course marathons, road races and charity walks are some examples of active use of streets and highways. For more info and a sampling of what different cities are doing, check out this Momentum Magazine article, the Wikipedia page and the Open Streets Project directory. Read all about the history of ciclovias (open streets) at Ciclovias Recreativas de las Américas. I took to Lyndale Avenue South on a beautiful Sunday in late June for Open Streets Minneapolis. This episode features "in the field" interviews with some of the organizations tabling as well as regular people trying out activities such and the pop-up cycle track and the slow race. Organizations represented are (in order): Metro Transit; Minneapolis Public Works Dept; Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition; Spokes community bike center; Bike Walk Twin Cities (Transit for Livable Communities, Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program); Nice Ride bike sharing; Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; Hennepin County Medical Center; Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.  The morning event I spoke about is the Brompton US Championship (photos).

Please send in your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics and guests to feedback@criticaltransit.com or via the contact page. Follow my work on Facebook and Twitter, and contact the people I interviewed for more information and inspiration.