Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It's Complicated

I watched this video and was sort of surprised by its conclusion: that light rail or streetcars are built as economic injectors rather than actually moving people. This is incorrect and incomplete. Then I did something I never do, I commented on the video.

"The logic in this video is sort of upside down and inside out - much of new transit is built to attract development. Creating transit infrastructure is part of city building and an aspect of planning transit is future development. Trying to decide where will people live, work and shop in the future is complex. Unfortunately it's really difficult to add new transit infrastructure in a part of the city which is already developed which is why buses are a common solution. Yet, light rail, if given the right of way and planned and implemented properly moves more people, more quickly and offers lower operating costs than buses or subways. Huge budget and schedule over runs can often be traced to poor management or political obstruction rather than the type of transportation per se. It's hard to say if this Vox piece is over simplified, poorly researched (which it doesn't appear to be) or just intellectually dishonest when they say the "real" reason for building rail is to inject economic development into an area. The goals of transportation projects are varied and site specific and this kind of generalization is at best incomplete and at worst disingenuous."

That basically sums up my thoughts and I suppose sharing the video here will only increase its influence and reach, which in Internet terms means it also increases its veracity and authority. Yet I want to dispute the premise and hopefully you will focus on all the difficult issues that go into transit planning rather than accept Vox's editorial conclusion which, as I've said is either incomplete, dishonest or at the very least intellectually lazy.