Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is a Transit Region???

What exactly is a Transit Region? It is something that the conference will attempt to better understand, It is a short hand term to describe a place where transit has a major role in the vision of the future. Such places understand the connection between transit and land use and actively seek to create projects where transit plays a major role in implementing mixed use, walkable communities. Transit regions are places with real transportation choices - where there are abundant opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian travel as well travel by transit. There are places where it is possible to live most of your life without a car for your daily travel. Auto usage is still very important, but it is not the only choice. Finally it is a place where there is a general consensus that this is the way of the future.

I suppose the opposite is an auto region. The difference relates to how people view the goals of transportation. In an auto region, there is essentially one goal - to reduce congestion, one tool - the four step model and one solution - to add highway capacity. While the connection between land use and transportation is acknowledged, it is not something that anyone thinks can be changed or effected. In such locations, transit is often viewed as something that is probably necessary, but not something that will have much of an impact on travel or the future of the community.

In a transit region, goals are broader (efficiency, choice, sustainability, etc.) , tools are more interactive (public participation, workshops, etc) and solutions are get into how land use system should evolve and how the transportation system can be used to work towards the goals.

The goal of the conference is to better understand how transit regions evolve. Here are some questions to ponder

  • What set of factors and circumstances are behind the transformation of a region to become a transit region?
  • How important was the role of a champion? How do such people emerge?
  • What is the relative role of elected officials, the private sector, regional planning agencies and transit agencies?
  • Where does the leadership for such areas come from?
  • Is it critical that there be a rail transit system?
  • How can a bus system be used to affect land use?
  • How important is the funding mechanism in the area?
  • What local conditions – level of congestion, growth rate, city-suburb relationships, tax structure, etc. are conducive to being a transit region?
  • How does the planning process take place?
  • How do transit agencies get involved, (at the table) in regional planning and land use?
  • How does the area resolve conflicts and reach consensus?
  • What tools, models, etc. are needed to improve the planning and implementation process?

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