December 7, 2011

What is the goal of public transit?

If you care about urban planning, you should start reading The Atlantic Cities immediately. It's not a new Boardwalk Empire or anything. It focuses in on urban living with reporting that is rarely seen. While the Dispatch complains about how terrible the commute is, Atlantic Cities has an article about the role of transit compared to daily planning.

Apparently, there's this magical thing called Level of Service (LOS) which I thought was completely made up. A quick google of it came up with this wikipedia entry which proves it real. Basically, a traffic engineer calculates the delay a vehicle would experience at an intersection. New road projects investigate LOS impacts and since increasing delay of cars is shunned, it's more difficult to receive funding if the finalized project increases delay.

The interesting thing about LOS is that alternate projects such as bicycling facilities, pedestrian crosswalks, bus prioritization, etc. would adversely impact the motorist. So while a new project may increase livability, it is automatically at a disadvantage because car has been king for so long. Additionally, the LOS inherently increases the possibility that roads will continually get larger without much of an increase of livability.

The Atlantic Cities Article mentions that the goal of transit in San Francisco is "transit first" meaning that public transit, bicycles, walking, taxis, vanpools, etc. will be prioritized over automobile traffic.The LOS criteria got in the way of that "transit first" goal, but now San Francisco is working towards a new criteria which incorporates multi-modal transportation. I think that's something to strive towards.

Next up: How this relates to Columbus

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