SEPTA’s service planners collaborated with developers of a new retail center to ensure that public transportation was incorporated into the site’s plans. The planners also worked with the public to add a bus route that provides safer access to a playground.
Living and working close to public transportation is not only convenient, but for those without a car it’s essential.
While a new concept for some, transit-oriented developments (TODs) have always been a way of life for urban dwellers living where public transit is the primary means of transportation. Developers of supermarkets and shopping centers must design their new businesses with transportation in mind. Ideally, during the planning stages each new business center will seek input from representatives of the local public transportation agency. TOD planners know it is absolutely necessary to reevaluate train schedules and bus routes to provide customers with a high level of service to retail outlets and attractions while maintaining efficiencies in operating.
Thus the challenge that is service planning.
Ridership — current and anticipated — is one of the most important factors transit service planners take into consideration when deciding how, and if, timetables and routes need to be adjusted or extended. A key to successfully meeting the scheduling challenge is having a good relationship with community groups, developers and local government representatives.
Service planning for Baker’s Centre, a new retail center (shown), included making sure roadways could support buses and the addition of an "island" that provides dedicated space for passengers to safely debark and board buses.
In Philadelphia, a retail center recently opened on the site of the former Tastykake baking factory. Vacant since the bakery relocated to Philadelphia’s Navy Yard three years ago, the new “Baker’s Centre” includes a supermarket, clothing stores, restaurants and beauty salons, revitalizing a neighborhood by providing much-needed jobs and shopping destinations. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) collaborated with developers throughout the project to ensure that public transportation was incorporated into the site’s plans. This work included making sure roadways could support buses and the addition of an "island" that provides dedicated space for passengers to safely disembark and board buses. After Baker’s Centre opened, two bus routes were modified to accommodate employees and customers.
According to Charles Webb, SEPTA's chief officer, service planning, this is a model for how transportation companies can work with developers to ensure employees and customers have public transit access to shopping destinations.
"The key with Bakers Centre was getting in on the ground floor," said Webb. "We've been able to work with the developers to make sure we're able to provide the right kind of service for our customers."
In addition to helping customers reach employment and shopping destinations, transit service expansions can also help community members participate in healthy lifestyle activities. For example, this summer, SEPTA extended its Route 3 bus on weekends just five minutes from the end of its line to Smith Memorial Playground in Fairmount Park.
A community landmark for 114 years, Smith Memorial Playground is a six-and-a-half acre facility with more than 50 pieces of equipment for children. The playground provides opportunities for children to engage in creative play and the extension of the Route 3 Bus to the facility is aimed at attracting more families to visit Smith for play and exercise.
“The Route 3 operates from Frankford Transportation Center in Northeast Philadelphia to the Strawberry Mansion section of the city,” said Frances Jones, SEPTA’ s assistant GM, government relations. “The length of the route makes getting to the playground a wonderful option for many families across Philadelphia and will allow for new families to discover the facility, getting there safely on our buses.”
Without the extension to the playground, visitors and employees have to take a walking route. In some places, there is no sidewalk and pedestrians must walk in the street. SEPTA’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was instrumental in helping the Route 3 extension become a reality, submitting a written service planning recommendation and submitting testimony at SEPTA’s Service Planning public hearing earlier this year. The extension will be reviewed by SEPTA most likely after next summer and if ridership warrants, the route extension will be provided year round.
For SEPTA’s service planners, putting together the schedules for 119 bus and eight trolley routes and one high-speed rail, two subway/elevated and 13 regional rail lines is like completing a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. But by soliciting community input and collaborating with elected officials and business leaders, the puzzle pieces can be put together a little easier.
RELATED: "Report: Equitable TOD creates better communities"
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Connected vehicles: An important step forward for the transit community"
In February, the FTA finalized its grant management requirements circular governing the administration and management of all FTA grant programs. This revision incorporates changes to these programs contained in both authorizations that have been enacted in recent years, the FAST Act and MAP-21. While some provisions the revised circular are welcome and needed because of enactment of these new laws, it also contains changes that are not only unnecessary but could threaten the industry’s health.
The benefits of using public transit are many — environmentally friendly, less stressful than driving and no time wasted sitting in traffic, to name a few. For commuters in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Montreal, there are even more advantages for using transit — discounts at local businesses for using bus/train/trolley passes.
Ask commuters who drive between Houston and Dallas almost every day and see what they have to say. They are known as “super commuters” – the nearly 50, 000 people traveling back and forth between the two cities at least once a week. That number will increase as the growth in Texas continues to climb. Super commuters and other drivers want another solution to Texas’ traffic-clogged highways. Enter the Texas Central high-speed rail project...
For many college engineering and architecture students, it’s probably a good bet that they have not given much consideration to careers in public transportation. Members of the SEPTA's Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division have worked closely with Philadelphia-area university students to introduce them to job opportunities in the realm of mass transit.
When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.