Monday, August 27, 2007

Keeping Transit At the Table Instead of On the Menu

Some quick thoughts on the regional-level session.

All of the speakers talked to some degree or another about the need for a proactive role for transit in the coordination of transportation and land use.

-- Waterloo, Canada, 100 km from Toronto has unified the planning for transit and land use at the regional level (think county in the United States) and are figuring out how to grow by 50% over the next 25 years.
-- The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission in the Pittsburgh metro area took a lead role in creating a long-range transit vision (not bound by fiscal constraints) and have seen that vision reflected in regional transportation plans. They have also publications to help explain TOD.
-- St. Louis has had a harder time overcoming fragmentation (2 states, 8 counties, many more municipalities) but have tried to start at the board level.
-- Charles Goodman highlighted other examples from FTA's efforts through the Transit-at-the-Table program, including Seattle, MTC in the SF Bay Area, Columbus, Ohio, Albany, NY, and Denver.

When the finger was pointed at where these efforts at regional coordination broke down or failed to be implemented, it often went towards the municipalities and the areas the regions couldn't control. Ask the municipalities, and they will often point the finger back in the other direction.

How to crack this nut? We heard about financial incentives, education tools, coordination efforts. Some of it just falls to a collective will to work together. Does this work better in growing regions than regions struggling economically? When problems are more acute is collaboration easier or harder? FTA has some insight that smaller places might have an easier time because of interpersonal relationships.

Clear as mud, but talking about the issues and working together instead of sweeping them under the rug sounds like a universal approach.

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