National Academies Press: OpenBook

Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study (2019)

Chapter: Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
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Page 2
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
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Page 3
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
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1 As transit agencies, local governments, and citizens look for ways to improve existing and start new transit service, many of them are turning to the Quick- Build (Tactical Urbanism) methodology. This approach uses inexpensive, temporary materials and short-term tactics as a way of implementing projects in the short term while longer-term planning takes place. The following report documents the current state of the practice with regard to what are called Tactical Transit projects, specifically, for surface transit (bus and streetcar). These are both physical and operational strategies that improve the delivery of surface transit projects using this methodology. This report is not meant to be a catalog of all current examples, but it is rather a snapshot of the current state of the practice and puts forward a pedagogical framework within which projects can be explained and further avenues of research catalyzed. A project can be considered a Tactical Transit project if it: • Is implemented on a much faster timeline than typical capital projects (within 1-2 years); • Uses impermanent or low-cost materials; • Is executed with a much smaller budget than a typical capital project (usually less than $100,000); • Seeks to build upon the design of infrastructure; • Is short in duration, but part of a larger or longer-term effort; • Is used to accelerate implementation of transportation infrastructure; or • All of the above. This report features 20 bus and streetcar Tactical Transit projects both physical and operational in nature, three advocacy groups, and two funding programs, all investigated through 36 interviews plus additional conversations with more than 60 individuals from local government, transit agencies, advocacy groups, consulting firms, and other agencies. Geographically, the work included spanned 11 states across five different regions of the country, with variation in project location, community size, and local government structure. SUMMARY PARTNERSHIP MODELS The three most common partnership models, or project team compositions, of the 20 Tactical Transit projects are described below. Surprisingly, most projects were led by city departments, not transit agencies! City as project lead, with transit agency support. This model was particularly applicable when the project was infrastructure that would be installed in the street. In this case, most projects used city staff or on-call contractors to install the projects and did the conceptual design in-house to save resources and streamline the process. City and transit agency share equal weight of project. This model was most applicable when the project was operational or amenity-based. Third entity leads project, with city and/or transit agency support. Some projects strongly reinforce that advocacy groups are well-suited to create momentum to help city staff get buy-in from their directors.

2 Speed + Reliability: Speed and Reliability projects addressed transit travel times, improved headways, improved boarding times, and reduced dwell times. The main project types in this category are dedicated bus/transit lanes, dedicated pre- boarding areas, and operational changes, including consolidation, route realignment, signal adjustments, vehicle access restriction, queue jump lanes and other intersection treatments. • Projects saw transit travel time savings from 20% to 50%, with the most common savings being in the range of 20% to 30%. • Tactical Transit projects were shown to improve both transit and car travel times. • Most transit lanes studied were under one mile in length, yet saw significant improvements in travel times. Access + Safety: Access and Safety projects focused on improving multimodal and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access to transit stops and/ or boarding areas. The projects in this category feature elements such as modular boarding platforms, bike lanes, pedestrian infrastructure, road diets, parklets and other enhancements of public space, and wayfinding. (A road diet is a tactic often used to take back excess asphalt on streets and repurpose it as dedicated transit lanes, bike lanes, etc.) • Projects in this category documented reductions of 40% to 65% in collisions as well as reductions in pedestrian fatalities. • Projects showed increases in ridership of up to 17%. • Projects documented increases in bicycle travel from 40% to 400%! Rider Experience: Rider Experience projects involved improvements to customer experience, both pre- and postboarding. These projects included improved seating or furnishings, public art, design competitions, wayfinding, and the creation of new public spaces around transit. • Three projects resulted in proposals for dedicated permits or design guidelines to guide future similar projects. • Most of the work highlighted in this category was led by advocacy groups, foundations, or nonprofits. Where transit agencies supported their efforts, the impacts were significantly amplified. The Tactical Transit projects in this report are placed into three broad categories that describe their intended outcomes (some projects were placed in more than one category): • 13 Speed + Reliability projects (10 of which are/include dedicated bus lanes); • 13 Access + Safety projects (4 of which are/include boarding platforms); and • 7 Rider Experience highlights (these include both Tactical Transit projects and a few of the featured advocacy groups and funding programs). SUMMARY

3 PUBLIC OUTREACH As with any public planning initiative, fielding public feedback can be difficult. Stakeholders can be passionate about parking, traffic, their business revenue, etc. Deciding on the level of public engagement, who to target, and how to message the project can be challenging. PUT THE PUBLIC TO WORK Ultimately, the level of public engagement and response to feedback depends on how successful the lead project team entity has been in distilling public input and integrating public involvement into the Quick-Build process. Things such as taking inventory of parking and existing curbside uses and the actual implementation of the project can be powerful forms of public engagement in themselves and are crucial parts of the project planning process. Along the way, it is key to capitalize on the temporary messaging and to reinforce that the project is about learning for everyone. 3 CHALLENGE PRO TIP DESIGNING THE PROJECT The vast majority of transit projects do not have the benefit of dedicating a full travel lane to improve transit headways or travel times. BE CREATIVE Operational strategies can have just as much impact in improving transit metrics as physical projects can. When it comes to physical infrastructure, some of the projects took parking lanes, shoulders, and integrated existing bike lanes into their projects to find the right-of-way they needed. These projects revealed creative ways to reconfigure the street. One of the key purposes of this research was to share challenges and solutions so that others could develop their own projects. Below and on the following page are common challenges and “pro tips” tied to specific steps in the planning and implementation process for agencies and other partners looking to utilize the Quick-Build methodology. 2 ASSEMBLING THE TEAM Projects might struggle to get started due to departmental silos and a basic lack of communication between agencies and the public. WORK TOGETHER This might seem obvious, but time and again project teams communicated that the cross-departmental communication necessary for success was not always the norm before the Quick-Build projects were implemented. Project teams that had the most success had designated project managers from each respective department or entity and established a regular schedule of communication. Whether these were already existing teams poised to work together on transit projects or teams formed just for the projects, setting aside time and resources up front for the creation of a single body devoted to the project made the project team more effective. 1 ESTABLISHING METRICS Projects might not show raw improvements to their primary metrics (e.g., raw increases in ridership, improvement in consistent headways). How can teams measure success? COLLECT MORE DATA Think about the problem you’re trying to solve, and expand the number of metrics you’re using to maximize the ways of communicating success. For example, consider the indirect factors that contribute to inconsistent headways, such as boarding times, pedestrian crossing times, number of maneuvers around parking cars, and so forth. These metrics can help teams identify other strategies for accomplishing their ultimate goals. 4

4 PUBLIC SUPPORT With Quick-Build projects, there can be a knee-jerk reaction to stop a test if there is a public backlash. Being framed as a short- term project does not mean the project has to be discontinued at the first sign of frustration. 7 RESPONDING TO CHALLENGES Quick-Build projects rely on a willingness to fail and iterate. Projects may face any number of technical challenges, from unforeseen roadway conflicts (curbside uses) to material failure. ITERATE The most successful projects used their data and public feedback to create a second round of improvements to fully realize project benefits. If the data show that the project is not working, do not give up—make adjustments! Because of the temporary nature of some projects, challenges can be addressed while the project is operational. Design tweaks are in the iterative nature of the Quick-Build process and can help resolve potential conflicts between roadway users. For example, conflicts involving driveways, existing curbside zones, access points, intersection treatments, signal timing, and lane widths can all be addressed during project implementation. IMPLEMENTATION Actually getting these projects implemented can provide its own set of challenges. From design to installation and enforcement, stitching together all of the necessary pieces can be daunting and costly. USE EXISTING RESOURCES Where some of the more temporary projects couldn’t provide detailed budgets, it was often because they either reallocated staff hours or scoured their departments for what they had on-hand to assist with implementation. Using staff time for a few days is still a drop in the bucket when compared with making investments that have not been vetted in the real world. 8 6 BE PATIENT Success doesn’t always happen overnight. Like any roadway project, traffic takes time to adjust. For pilot projects (those at least a month in duration), do not prematurely succumb to push-back just because of the adjustment period. In fact, 6 months is the recommended duration to fully assess the project’s impact following an adjustment period. Adjustment period confusion can also be ameliorated with very clear educational signage and targeted outreach that informs the public of how to respond. CHALLENGE PRO TIP PROCURING MATERIALS Municipal procurement regulations often work against the spirit of Quick- Build projects, making it difficult for staff to procure materials quickly and inexpensively. FIND SHORTCUTS Partner with nonprofit entities that can manage a grant-funded materials budget to help circumnavigate spending restrictions. Additionally, keeping materials budgets tight can keep costs under procurement thresholds, allowing city staff to quickly and cheaply procure materials without a bid process. Also, look at existing capital improvement projects to find opportunities to test. For example, some projects took advantage of previously planned repaving projects to implement dedicated bus lanes. 5 SUMMARY

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As transit agencies, local governments, and citizens look for ways to improve existing, and start new, transit service, many of them are turning to the Quick-Build (Tactical Urbanism) methodology. This approach uses inexpensive, temporary materials and short-term tactics as a way of implementing projects in the short-term, while longer-term planning takes place.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Research Report 207: Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study documents the current state of the practice with regard to what are called Tactical Transit projects, specifically for surface transit (bus and streetcar). These are both physical and operational strategies that improve the delivery of surface transit projects using this methodology. Tactical Transit projects, operational and physical Quick-Build projects that uniquely focus on transit, have evolved as a way for municipal governments to improve the way they respond to rider needs and increased demand for service.

The report highlights Tactical Transit projects happening in cities across North America and how transit agencies and other entities are using innovative methods to improve transit speed, access, and ridership at a fraction of both the cost and time of conventional projects.

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