The January 25th agenda for Metrolinx contains a number of reports well worth reading. Metrolinx has the advantage, for now, that it is a planning agency and doesn’t have to worry about keeping the wheels turning on a large fleet. The focus is on reviewing conditions in the GTA and, to its credit, Metrolinx is not simply rehashing business-as-usual models.
I have not had a chance to read and digest all of these documents in detail, but will post more commentaries as I get the chance.
A long report reviews findings from a study tour in November 2007 to England, Scotland and Madrid. This covers many issues including the evolution of service delivery models in the UK, financing schemes and facility design. Madrid’s experiences get a lot of coverage because that city region has built so much rapid transit so quickly at such a low cost.
I expect that many future studies and directions in Metrolinx will flow from this review of European practices and, no doubt, from the long-overdue recognition that other cities and regions have much to teach the GTA.
Green Paper 3 on Active Transportation deals with pedestrian and cycling as an integral part of transportation planning.
Green Paper 2 on Mobility Hubs discusses the design and location of major interchange points in the transit network. It’s refreshing to see an attitude that such facilities need to be part of their communities.
They’re also about improving the relationship between transportation and land use. There’s no point building a Mobility Hub in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.” In order for them to work, mobility hubs need to be located close to lots of people, whether they are at work, at home, or at play. In other words, they need to be liveable, attractive places.
David Crawford, who comments here often, sent me a note about this paper:
One paragraph (page 42) struck me as something the TTC should think more about. Dirty stations, broken escalators and hand-made signs do not give an impression that they have a great deal of concern for “the customer”. (Neither do streetcars and buses running in packs!) The Metrolinx Report says
The station is, along with the transit vehicle itself, the best (or the worst) advertisement for any transit system. Stations have to be designed to provide a high quality of functional access; they should be a statement about the values of the transit operators and their respect for their ridership. All aspects should be designed with care and attention that reflects well on the quality of brand and generates consumer loyalty to it. The role of information technology to support that behaviour change, facilitating a compelling transit offer through regional transit integration, real-time information, variable pricing, branding and loyalty rewards, should not be underestimated. In a modern city, transit is a consumer product just like any other for those with choices. The majority of those consumers must be attracted to the new transit system.
This echoes comments in the study tour report about interchange facilities in various cities.
Other reports include:
- A status update on Alternative Financing & Procurement (AFP) for transit infrastructure
- An introductory review of an investment strategy for funding the large number of projects in regional and provincial plans
- A review of current Metrolinx activities including design work for bus terminal sites (both the existing GO terminal south of Front Street and a possible site at Bay and Harbour Streets), and comments about changes in the Environmental Assessment process. Both of these are contained within the CEO’s monthly report.
If Metrolinx publishing keeps up at this rate and level of detail, this will mark a major change in the amount of information and discussion topics for public engagement in transportation issues. How widely this material is actually read will depend partly on blogs like my own and on “official” outreach activities by Metrolinx itself. My skepticism about the GTTA/Metrolinx as a meaningful agency is no secret, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the work its staff has produced.
The challenge now is for the Board to be more than a club of senior regional politicians who don’t have time to digest the material. If they ask for it to be dumbed down into bite-sized chunks, the public will be ill-served. With luck and dedication, Metrolinx will engage both politicians and the wider public in learning about, planning and building our transportation networks.