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5 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES issues. Findings from all these efforts are combined to sum- marize lessons learned, gaps in information and knowledge, Most transit agencies have received requests to implement and research needs. a circulator route within downtown. The concept of a spe- cial downtown route, especially one that uses a trolley-style This study is particularly timely in light of the FTA or other striking vehicle, appeals to downtown business announcement in December 2009 regarding the availability of interests and elected officials as a means to encourage and Section 5309 funds as discretionary grants for Urban Circula- support downtown revitalization. Many cities have devel- tor Systems in support of the U.S. Department of Transporta- oped and deployed downtown circulators; however, there tion Livability Initiative intended to enhance communities by is no significant literature documenting these programs investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods. and covering planning and development, barriers to imple- mentation, funding, performance, and strategies for mak- ing downtown circulators work. The limited information TECHNICAL APPROACH that exists is spread across the public, nonprofit, and pri- vate sectors. The approach to this synthesis included: The purpose of this synthesis is to document the state of 1. A literature review. A Transportation Research Infor- the practice in terms of the development, deployment, and mation Services (TRIS) search using several different sustainability of downtown circulator systems. Results of keywords was conducted to aid the literature review. a web-based survey of a cross section of transit agencies in 2. A survey of transit agencies, described in the follow- North America are used to document the following impor- ing paragraphs. tant issues: 3. Telephone interviews with seven agencies selected as case studies. Why, how, and when the circulator began. Who are the major stakeholders? The survey of downtown circulators was designed to What is the target market--employees, shoppers, tourists, solicit information on the origin of the circulator, target convention-goers, or residents? market, stakeholders, administrative and operational struc- How is the circulator structured (administratively and ture, barriers to success, funding, ridership and productiv- operationally)--who operates, service span and fre- ity, and evaluation. Once finalized by the panel, the survey quency, and type of vehicle? was posted and pretested. The pretest resulted in changes to What are the barriers to success? the survey structure, placing important assessment ques- Funding. tions toward the beginning, as well as minor changes in Performance (ridership, productivity). logic and flow. Reasons for success or failure. Lessons learned. The sampling plan involved a "core" sample of transit agencies, many of which were recommended by panel mem- Survey results included transit agency assessments of the bers or other survey participants that operate downtown cir- effectiveness of their downtown circulators, benefits and culators. In certain cases, the sample included the transit drawbacks, desired changes, and lessons learned. Agencies agency and another public- or private-sector entity that over- that have either not implemented or discontinued a downtown sees circulator operation. The core sample included 42 transit circulator were also surveyed to gain an understanding of the agencies and other entities. An e-mail with an attachment reasoning behind these decisions. from the TCRP program manager explaining the importance of the survey and a link to the on-line survey site was sent This report includes a review of the relevant literature in the to each of the 42 agencies. A known contact was identified field. In addition, one chapter documents case studies, based at each agency. Follow-up e-mails were sent approximately on interviews with key personnel at selected agencies, to pro- four, six, and eight weeks after the original contact to encour- file innovative and successful practices and to explore ongoing age response.