There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Transit in 2035

Thursday, March 20, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments board will vote on the adoption of its Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035. This is the transportation component of the agency's award-winning Blueprint project, which seeks to guide the region's growth along sensible avenues.

"With 2.1 million people in our region and another one million projected by 2035, moving within and between communities is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge. Adding 525,000 new homes and 535,000 new jobs to our region, one might expect increased traffic congestion, dirtier air and longer commute and travel times," the plan notes in the introduction. "The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035 links land use and transportation planning, with $42 billion in transportation investments in the six-county Sacramento region over the next 28 years. With strategic investments in our current transportation system, we can curb the growth in traffic congestion each household experiences. We can create opportunities for residents of the region to spend less time in their cars and protect our air quality while improving the quality of life."

You can read the documents here.

But it will still be up to the individual transit agencies to make the effort. As the budget part of the plan explains, "SACOG controls decisions on only about 15% of funds in this plan, enough to fund perhaps one-third of planned regional-scale improvements, so state and local agencies will have to serve as funding partners on essentially all regional-scale projects."

Which brings up the question: What is Sacramento Regional Transit doing to make this plan a reality?

With great fanfare last year, RT launched its own Regional Transit Master Plan with promises of expansive community involvement. But other than creating a static Web site, the community is left to wonder what's going on.

Under "Links and Documents," visitors are told: "Check this page for the latest information, documents and press releases as well as for website links to our partner agencies and key stakeholder groups." Checking, checking ...

Under "Get involved," RT says: "Please check back here for updates and for ways in which you can share your thoughts and ideas about Regional Transit." Checking, checking . . .

CalPIRG's excellent transportation study, "A Better Way to Go," reports that poll after poll shows an interest in expanding transit options. But transit agencies have to do their part.

"If Americans are to invest in a 21st century transportation system, they deserve to know if they are getting their money’s worth. All levels of government, along with transit agencies, should set measurable goals for what they hope to achieve from new transportation system investments, including goals related to energy savings, global warming pollution reductions, and long-term costs. ... Transit agencies should also provide detailed, up-to-date information on transit service indicators such as on-time performance and ridership, with comparisons to established benchmarks and goals. Transit performance information should be available to the public via the Internet, thereby giving transit users and public officials the ability to gauge the effectiveness of transit service and advocate for changes that improve performance."

Checking, checking . . .

This is part of RT's continuing problem of communicating with its customers. Press releases to mainstream media are not enough. RT has Web sites. It should use them.

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