What a week for the East Coast! First, the region was rocked by a "surprise" 5.8 earthquake, now it is looking in the eye of Hurricane Irene — a "once-every-100-years event," which is expected to impact from down south in the Carolinas all the way up to Maine.
Through it all, public transportation has been there and plans to continue to be there to transport customers and help provide evacuation efforts.
The preparedness of these agencies reminds me of a conversation I had with a CEO from a California public transportation agency when I first started on METRO Magazine. He told me that his agency has to be prepared for anything and everything, especially in the wake of 9/11, the London subway bombings, as well as the ever-looming prospect of natural disasters such as earthquakes.
The best way to be ready, said this CEO, was to devise a plan, practice it and be ready to calmly execute that plan when it's time. Already, in cities including New York and Baltimore, transportation agencies are on alert and putting their emergency plans into effect in preperation for this weekend's hurricane.
What this week's course of events proves, though, is we never know when something out of the ordinary is going to happen. Is your agency ready for the "big one," whatever it may be?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'Protestors bring transit, civil liberties to forefront'" here.
As an experienced designer of streetcar systems, one question I am frequently asked is, "Can a streetcar _____?" The blanks are usually filled with design challenges, such as "turn left from a curb lane", or "go under a low clearance underpass" or "operate at higher speeds and frequencies." More often than not, the answer is YES! Modern streetcar systems, such as those operating in Seattle, Tucson, and Atlanta, are modeled after European trams that are designed to fit within tight, complex, and built-out urban environments. The unique combination of vehicle's size coupled with the ability to operate in the same lanes as automobiles, trucks, and buses allow designers to create safe, efficient solutions to nearly every design challenge that arises.
At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA), we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free on Valentine’s Day all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators. With low-trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.