Making Transit Work

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Making Transit Work: Fundamentals to Success

Transit-Oriented Development Makes Transit Work

To make public transit work well, coordinated land use planning must also happen throughout our region.   Future development and urban centers need to be transit-ready, even before the first train leaves the station.  We need incentives for communities to plan for transit-oriented development and consequences for those that do not.  We need to partner with developers who build transit oriented developments.  We need to encourage major employers to locate along major transit corridors.  

We also need an incentive plan for local governments to enhance transit service for their communities by conditioning regional transit service on a demonstrated local governmental commitment by adopting and consistently applying transit-oriented land use policies, building and maintaining park-and-ride lots and other transit infrastructure, and revising zoning ordinances to promote transit oriented development (TOD):

  • A balanced mix of uses with places to work, to live, to learn, to relax and to shop for daily needs.
  • A place-based zoning code for buildings that shape and define memorable streets, squares, and plazas.
  • Limited block perimeter to generate a fine-grained network of streets, dispersing traffic and allowing for the creation of quiet and intimate thoroughfares.
  • Minimum parking requirements are abolished and maximum parking requirements are instituted 
  • Market rates are charged for all parking spaces.
  • Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable, and comfortable, with 15 minute headways or less.
  • Traffic signals timed primarily for the convenience of walkers and cyclists.
  • Traffic is calmed, with roads designed to limit speed to 30 mph on major streets and 20 mph on lesser streets.

Read more at “Transit-Oriented Development: Fundamentals of Successful Transit Systems” (by Roberta Fox, AIA, City of Raleigh Planning Dept.) at 

Pedestrians and Bicyclists are Key to Transit Success

 Planning should also include better infrastructure for bicycle and pedestrian access to transit facilities.  Bicycle and pedestrian facilities should extend out to 1 mile for pedestrians and 3 miles for bikers to attract more riders and walkers to take transit, increasing ridership and encouraging commerce at the transit stops.  

For a transit system to successfully attract riders and reduce auto use, a transit trip should begin and end with a safe and comfortable segment on foot or by bicycle.  To accomplish this, the system must be supported by development designed and built with the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Building pedestrian and bicycle friendly development means:

  • Transit stops built into the development design.
  • Stops which are secure and attractive for users, including fully enclosed bike racks.
  • Routes between stops and park and ride lots, residential, employment, commercial and other destinations which are clear, direct and well lighted.
  • Facility design which includes high quality pedestrian crossing and wide sidewalks and bicycle lanes and parking racks.
  • Roadway design features such as narrow streets that influence driver behavior to create a safe walking and cycling environment.
  • A high level of connectivity with short street blocks.
  • Mixed day and night-time uses with high density.
  • Buildings adjacent to the sidewalks, ground floor windows, parking in the rear with public spaces.

“Complete Streets” Should Include Transit

 Another critical concept for transit is “complete streets” roadways.  As roads traverse our downtowns, neighborhoods and academic campuses, they must be designed to accommodate the full range of travel choices including drivers, public transportation riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists as well as older people, children, and people with disabilities. They also should blend into the uses of the adjoining property and not distract from it. Ingredients that may be found on a “complete street” include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent crossing opportunities, raised median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, and more.

Another critical component for effective transit includes major roadway access management. 

A roadway designed to maximize mobility typically does so in part by managing access to adjacent properties. For buses to travel efficiently, road improvements to provide additional travel capacity must not be inappropriately degraded by a pattern of ―strip development requiring numerous driveways and median cuts.

Regional Transit Systems must be Efficient and Easy to Use

Creating a good travel experience for the transit user is very important.  A successful, expanded, well-coordinated regional transit system can feature:

  • An established regional fare structure with smart cards
  • Bus-stop amenities with enclosed heated and air conditioned waiting areas, seating, transit user information and wayfinding guidance, washrooms, refreshments, and Internet services
  • System wide GPS tracking
  • System wide web presence and on-line ticketing
  • Joint procurement of equipment
  • Joint farebox maintenance and paint shop
  • Multimodal connections across county lines
  • Reduce fares and offer discounts (such as lower rates for off-peak travel times, or for certain groups).
  • Regional - system wide management entity