This is an ongoing series that will keep you informed about the goings-on in the transit industry. Hopefully, it will provide little perspective on the larger environment in which DART operates.
Transit leaders see bus service as the industry’s biggest post-pandemic opportunity; high-speed rail generates conversation – and substantial funding – in California; and systems around the country continue to improve their fleets and services, including bus rapid transit.
Here’s the news from transit-land this week:
COVID-19: Can public transit recover?
Politico has an in-depth exploration of the future of transit post-pandemic. The article takes the form of a conversation between 12 seasoned industry professionals – in a town hall-like symposium the publication dubs a “hackathon” – who bring a range of perspectives. “It turned out that even during a lockdown, public transportation is the artery through which the lifeblood of cities flows,” the article notes. There’s a lot to unpack in the piece, but here’s one of the main takeaways:
While rail transit – often the mode built to lure the coveted “choice rider” – was generally built to bring commuters into the city center to work, many of the hackathon participants stressed that the bus is the workhorse and even in some cases, the “hero” of the transit network.
[Portland-based transportation consultant Jarrett] Walker noted that the flexibility of buses – the ability to change routes easily – is often held against them, with rail considered a better driver of economic development because of its permanence.
“And now we have everyone coming from the tech world pushing micro transit, [saying] fixed transit is so rigid,” Walker said. “The sweet spot that we're in with bus service... this is the only thing that is both efficient and scalable.”
High-speed rail: The conversation in California
In California, the push for high-speed rail got a major boost when Governor Newsom proposed using $4.2 billion toward to the project. Much of the conversation in the Golden State revolves around diesel versus electric. The regional transportation blog Streetsblog Cal spells it out:
Electrification, while expensive, is essential to powering 200-mph plus high-speed trains and maximizing environmental benefits for the Central Valley, which has some of the worst air quality in the state. Newsom’s budget would lock that in. Completing the Central Valley segment would also provide a proving ground for high-speed rail in America.
Fleets and services: Increasing options
Elsewhere in transit news: