“Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” webinar materials and answers to your questions now available

Thank you to everyone who attended Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network webinar “Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” earlier this week. This webinar was hosted by Smart Growth America, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, and the National Housing Conference.

Listen in: Click here to view the archived webinar

Speaking on the webinar were Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics and partner in the Center for Transit-Oriented Development; Crista M. Gardner, Senior Planner at Portland Metro; and David Johnson AICP, Director of Planning, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The webinar was moderated by Elizabeth Wampler, Program Associate at Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.

Click here to download “Corridor-Level Approaches to Creating Transit-Oriented Districts,” by Dena Belzer
Click here to download “Transit Planning with a Land Use Lens,” by David Johnson
Click here to download “Putting Land Use First,” by Crista Gardner

Though we ran out of time while answering your questions, our presenters were kind enough to provide some responses. First are the answers from David, or click here to jump down to Crista’s responses

From David – 

1. How many passenger/mile? Rate of transit?

A: Please see the table below for 2009 data:

2. Which TDMs gave the best bang for the buck to keep levels down?

A: According to Lynn Rumbaugh, Aspen’s Transportation Programs Manager, “The short answer to that question is the combination of paid parking and convenient transit service. The rest of our programs are great, but would get us nowhere without that foundation. “

I am working with development of MPO’s of new bike-ped committee. At same time, Manatee/Sarasota Counties are moving forward on implementing TBARTA southern section transit service. I am having difficulty making committee and public understand importance of land use analysis to ensure good bike-ped connectivity to future transit stations and station design.

3. Do you have examples of other jurisdictions that have created BRT or other types of services and included bike-ped analysis of surrounding land uses in their transit station placement and designs?

I regret to say that I cannot provide a complete answer. Originally, starting in 2003, when we were planning a BRT system in the $100 million+ range, structured parking was a major component of the project. The municipalities, however, felt that parking structures would be aesthetically unattractive and that people from other communities would park and ride at their structure. No one wanted to be a bedroom community for cars. In 2008, RFTA chose to pursue a grant through the Very Small Starts program, with a $50 million total project cost. As we began consulting with the communities about their visions and ideas for BRT stations, bicycle parking emerged as the most desired amenity. So, between the major reduction in available funding and the lack of community desire for structured parking, the emphasis shifted to walking, bicycling and local feeder-circulator systems to provide access to the BRT stations. If it’s helpful, all I can say is that good bicycle and pedestrian connectivity is a lot less costly than good structured parking. I believe the cost of underground parking is about $75,000/space + maintenance.

4. What is farebox ratio for the BRT?

A: For the first year of operation, projected operating budget is $6,947,000. We anticipate farebox revenues of $2,374,000, for a farebox ratio of 34%. This ratio roughly corresponds with the recovery ratio on the SH82 (Aspen to Glenwood Springs) regional routes.

5. The mocked up station graphics don’t show much TOD, are land use plans working to get proximate development?

You are correct. Station graphics do not show much TOD. We have focused most of our attention on the design of the transit system, and perhaps not enough on land use. RFTA’s new Vision Statement (“..to connect and support vibrant communities”) is a marked contrast to the 2006 Vision Statement, which focused on the development of BRT. We anticipate that our efforts will now focus more on developing transit-oriented communities, and less on developing transit.

6. How does the BRT system costs compare to a comparable light rail system?

In my opinion, the definition of BRT is more open to interpretation than, say, commuter rail or light rail. Our system is relatively simple and bare-bones. We are acquiring a few acres of property for parking and stations and, but overall, we will be using existing land and ROW. Total project cost is roughly $6 million over the 40-mile corridor for an average $1.1 million – $1.2 million per mile. I believe that a good estimate for light rail is $50 million/mile.

7. Why do people say they don’t want more than the station and parking? Is it all really about property values?

RFTA’s service area extends from Rifle to Glenwood Springs on the I-70 corridor. That’s roughly 30 miles. We also serve the State Highway 82 corridor from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, which is another 40 miles. Over that 70-mile service area (granted, we’re only providing BRT on SH82 from Glenwood to Aspen), there is a wide variation of community character, ideology and demographics. It’s not matter of not wanting more than the station and the parking, and it’s not all about property values. I believe it’s going to take a lot of time to define transit oriented development community-by-community, assess the potential for it, and make it happen in manner that benefits the viability of transit (and walking and bicycling) and that meets community goals and visions. And I thought that developing BRT was a challenge.

From Crista –

1. Metro was known a decade ago for pioneering minority and disadvantaged business contracting in your capital projects. Is this a continuing initiative, and if so, could you tell us about how its operating today, and what evolutions have occurred?

A: Metro places emphasis on contracting minority and disadvantage businesses for capital projects. Metro’s minority, women, and emerging small business (MWESB) program was established following the Oregon Regional Consortium Disparity Study issued in 1996. Metro created contracting programs to provide opportunities to MWESB contractors. The intent of these programs was to level the playing field for small businesses and also to boost the local economy. In 2009-2010, the dollar utilization for Metro was 18 percent to MWESB, or 34% of total contracts. More information is available here.

Portland Metro area’s transportation agency, TriMet, also places importance on contracting Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). In May 2010, US Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari sent a letter to public transportation agencies nationwide praising TriMet for the innovative approach of dividing construction projects into smaller contracts, in order to give more DBE firms the opportunity to participate in transit projects and to support and train their workforces. TriMet’s program allows more DBE firms to become familiar with the contracting process by providing technical business assistance in areas such as estimating, financing, business development and job performance before the bidding process begins. The construction of the last three high capacity transit lines used on average 17% DBE contractors. For more information can be found on TriMet’s DBE Factsheet (PDF).

2. What percent of mode split in Portland Metro uses transit?

A: 80% of residents in the TriMet service area (age 16 and older) say they ride TriMet to some degree, and 43% ride “a couple of times a month or more.” According to 2008 American Census Survey, 6.4% of the greater Portland Metro area workforce uses transit as “journey-to-work.”

More information about the Portland metro area can be found here: Prosperity Index (PDF) and Our Place in the World Report (PDF) and more information about the Portland mode split (PDF) [Source: www.humantransit.org, Nathan Banks, census data for 1990 and 2000, American Community Survey (ACS) data 2000-2008.]

3. What are the most effective ways to promote transit use in the Portland metro area to attract more choice riders?

A: TriMet is the Portland Metro area transit agency. Most TriMet riders are considered “Choice” (84%) riders either because they have a car available, but prefer to ride TriMet, or they choose not to own a car because they prefer to ride TriMet. For more statistics on Portland Metro area transit riders, please see this factsheet (PDF).

The Total Transit System is TriMet’s term for the elements that make transit an attractive choice for riders. The Total Transit System includes: frequent, reliable service during all times of the day and every day of the week; clear customer information; easy access to stops; comfortable places to wait for transit and modern, well-maintained vehicles. TriMet and its partners are investing in the Total Transit System to not only meet the current demand for service, but to support regional development described in the 2040 Framework Plan and to attract the level of ridership called for in the Regional Transportation Plan. TriMet addresses ways to attract choice riders in their Transit Investment Plan (PDF).

4. Did the like/dislike precede or follow the aspirational typology?

A: Between November 2010 and February 2011, City of Tigard planners interviewed more than 45 local stakeholders as part of the High Capacity Transit (HCT) Land Use Plan. Stakeholders were selected to represent a broad cross section of the community. They include elected and appointed officials; citizens and neighborhood volunteers; employers, business owners, developers, and representatives from institutions. Members of, and service providers to, environmental justice populations were included in the stakeholder list.

Stakeholders were encouraged to talk about their ideas, concerns, and priorities related to transit and planning for the community. Stakeholder interviews revealed a number of desirable and undesirable characteristics that were then applied to the Station Community Typology. See the results of the stakeholder interviews (PDF) or learn more about the typologies developed for Tigard here (PDF).

5. How does your work differ in high or low income neighborhoods?

A: Metro works in a geographically and socio-economically diverse area. Metro staff employs the same technical skills to each project.

Metro staff, however, often adopts its outreach techniques to reflect the particular interests and needs of a local community. Metro has paid increased attention on under served populations. Metro recently conducted a scan of community based organizations that offer services to groups, including low-income, to increase and expand our engagement practices. Metro’s Diversity Action Team is currently updating the Diversity Action Plan to better reflect the diversity of the community we serve. The evolving plan identifies strategies and actions to increase diversity and cultural competence in committee membership and public involvement. To guide our public involvement efforts for transportation projects, we follow the protocols outlined in the Public involvement policy for transportation planning (PDF).

In addition, Metro recently convened a consortium of public agencies and community-based organizations for the purpose of working together to support development and implementation of a Housing Equity and Opportunity Strategy for the Portland metropolitan region.

6. You (Crista) talked about getting people’s input regarding what types of existing places they liked, in order to help create your typologies. Did you find that people’s “likes” covered the range of typologies that you (as planners) felt were needed, or were there gaps? I am thinking of more industrial areas that might not be as pleasant but are still likely a necessary part of the urban fabric.

A: Residents included in their description of a broad array of places they liked, including employment areas, commercial, retail, a mix of residential uses, and open spaces. The typologies adapted these ideas into four general ideas of places that might fit specifically in a station community or in a community focus area. For the purposes of this study, the community’s perspective was invaluable.

7. Have you explored or implemented means of value capture to help fund the transit services and facilities?

A: Today, TriMet’s main sources of revenue to fund operational and capital requirements are the employer payroll tax, self-employment tax and state-in-lieu payroll tax (paid by government agencies) which make up 55% of operating revenue, and passenger fares (20% of operating revenue). Federal, State, local and advertising dollars constitute the remainder of TriMet’s annual operating revenue. For more information about transit funding, please see the TriMet Transit Investment Plan (PDF).

Local jurisdictions in the Portland Metro area employ several methods of value capture (e.g. urban renewal areas, tax increment funding) to help fund infrastructure and investment projects. Some of that funding may be used as local contribution to capital projects, such as high capacity transit. Metro assesses an excise tax on construction permits throughout the Portland region to fund land use planning to make land ready for development throughout the region. That funding is currently not used for transportation planning, however, in the case of the Southwest Corridor Plan, two of the land use plans, the Barbur Concept Plan and the Tualatin Land Use Plan, associated with the transit and transportation planning are expected to be funded using the construction excise tax.

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