The perspective’s author suggests multiple ways to improve public transit, including a raise in funds.  -  Photo: Canva

The perspective’s author suggests multiple ways to improve public transit, including a raise in funds.

Photo: Canva

Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) released the latest perspective from research associate Joshua Schank, "Fixing Our Broken Transit Planning Process," which analyzes potential improvements to the planning process through a greater focus on outcomes over projects. 

How to Improve Public Transit

Based on extensive analyses, the perspective’s author suggests that: 

  • The first change must come before the official planning process even starts—as funds should be raised for an outcome rather than a project. Outcomes (e.g., reduced travel times) are the ultimate goals for the public and impact on communities, not necessarily the specific project. 
  • Agencies should separate the planning and environmental processes to free each to focus on appropriate objectives, leading to more specific outcomes with lower costs and, potentially greater public impact and approval. Rather than conducting a mandated environmental review process in which public input is sometimes superficial, a separate planning process would free planners to incorporate public input more authentically. Planning agencies often design public outreach processes around a set of requirements. If instead they were designed around soliciting critical feedback, the entire process might feel more valuable for everyone involved.
  • Agencies should integrate planning, construction, and operations costs upfront. One strategy that has been effective is the use of a Project Charter wherein all parties agree before a project begins exactly what their role is in the project, and how decisions will be made. The charter can be updated throughout the process, but, at a minimum, it sets the expectation for how the project will unfold and assigns responsibilities to each department.

“There is a joke about transit agencies that goes as follows: planners plan a project that can’t be built, engineers engineer a project that can’t be operated, and operators operate a project very different from what was planned. It doesn’t have to be this way,” explained the authors.

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