New Partners: Frustrating Transit Administrators
I jumped in to a panel on streetcars fairly late. It featured people from Portland, Tuscon, and other cities that have recently deployed streetcars. When I came in, they were expressing major frustration with the FTA and its decisionmaking.
The FTA formula is very restrictive. Unless you have extremely detailed individual trip data, you can't get credit for all kinds of trips within the zones and that handicaps streetcars. Portland had a great city, people moving to the West Coast, a high tech economy, but as soon as they put in the light rail line then their floor-area ratios in the area doubled. Meanwhile the FTA says that new development would have occurred anyway, but now it is near transit; it's reducing VMT, but the FTA won't give credit for that.
Cities are headed in direction of smart growth and transit investment, and the FTA is still trying to calculate the same old way. Either the FTA will go over to where cities are, or the rubber band will snap. We'll see if a new FTA administration in a new year will make that rubber band connect.
In "a tale of two counties", 25 years ago Arlington put the Orange Line through the middle of the county while Fairfax put it in the I-66 median. Now, Arlington County gets 35% of its revenue from the Orange Line corridor, while Fairfax County is struggling to make TOD work because there's a big old Interstate in the way. Meanwhile, the FTA's criteria rewards the auto-to-transit trip more highly than the bus to transit trip or the walk-to-transit trip. It's crazy.
On a non-FTA topics, Harold Foster of the Prince George's County planning department asked about the objections raised to the Purple Line by UMD administrators about safety running the line through the center of campus, concerns about vibrations affecting microscopes, and other concerns that could derail the Purple Line entirely. Portland State University and the University of Arizona both dealt with this problem and were able to alleviate the concerns.
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