The goal of investing substantially in public transportation infrastructure and complementary transit oriented development (TOD) is to create positive outcomes for communities, including reducing carbon emissions, increasing access to jobs, and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Two new studies highlight additional impacts of these investments; transit infrastructure leading to increased levels of physical activity and TOD residents forgoing driving for non-commute trips.
Even as the number of people killed by drivers in the U.S. continues to climb—due to what many attribute to pandemic-related reckless driving—studies keep rolling out that point to predictable patterns in where those crashes are likely to occur and who is most likely to be impacted. Two of the most recent studies come from opposite corners of the U.S., well before the pandemic began.
One of the main reasons that heavy rail projects are more expensive to build in the U.S. is that we build too few projects, too infrequently, to optimize our engineering, review, and land acquisition policies.
Housing and transportation are the top two expenses for the average household in the U.S. Increased housing near high-quality transit can reduce transportation costs, but does not come without the risk of higher housing costs and potential displacement. Two studies released this year can help us understand the ways in which transit can be a net benefit, and some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
A unique public funding structure called Transportation Reinvestment Zones is a new strategy to increase funds available for public transportation and expanded housing near transit. TRZs work on the principle that improved amenities, access, and convenience will lead to increased property taxes, generating funds for transit and other public services.
Even before the pandemic sent a shockwave through transit systems, ridership across the U.S. was on a slow but steady downward trajectory. A new report from Transit Cooperative Research Program points to some of the leading causes and, more importantly, ways that thoughtful planning and transit investments could help reverse the trend in the next decade.
Many transportation agencies throughout the U.S.—some working directly with SSTI—are beginning to think about service in terms of access to destinations. A few, like the Washington and Virginia DOTs, are measuring accessibility in planning and project selection. New research suggests that accessibility analysis can also be helpful in predicting travel outcomes like transit ridership.
Transit agencies across the country are weighing the potential impacts of lowering transit fares or making transit free to passengers, but riders and transit advocates are concerned the fare cuts could translate into worse service. Research suggests there may be better ways to improve service and increase ridership, including leaning on partners to help cover costs. Many agencies suspended fares during the pandemic, partly as relief for frontline workers, but also because fare collection became challenging. Now local governments across greater DC are considering lower fares or transit subsidies for low-income riders.
Localities can learn from each other to get out of the current bus driver staffing crisis, and also to stop the next such crisis before it gets to this point. But understanding the crisis and how we got here is an important first step. As an example, bus riders in Pennsylvania’s two largest cities are struggling to get where they need to go.
In a recent public opinion survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, Massachusetts residents expected to travel less in the future due to COVID-19’s impact. However, many residents expect to increase their trips by car and decrease trips by transit. A majority of residents polled are open to the idea of drastic changes to the transportation system.