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33 Five Case Examples This chapter reviews the experiences of bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improve- ment practices at transit agencies and regional transportation authorities. The study team conducted case example follow-ups with five agencies that responded to the project survey and reported strong improvement programs, unique practices in prioritization, or relation- ships and collaboration with regional partners. Four case examples focus on a single transit agency while one case example looks at three agencies in the same region. The study team interviewed staff members at the participating agencies to learn more about their programs and to gather supplemental information based on the previous survey answers. Table 3 presents a matrix that summarizes notable practices in infrastructure improvement programs from each of the five case examples. Athens-Clarke County Transit The Athens-Clarke County Transit Department (ACCTD) is the public transit system in Athens, GA, operating 18 routes throughout the city. According to the 2018 National Transit Database (NTD), the agencyâs service area covers 44 square miles with a population of 119,980, and around 80% of that lies within the Athens-Clarke County, GA, urbanized area. The agency operates 18 routes in the city as well as bus service connecting to stops at the University of Georgia (UGA) when classes are in session; service is scaled down to 16 routes with lower frequency during the summer. The system is designed as a hub-and-spoke route structure, with routes running outbound and then returning inbound to a central transit center, using different streets. The ACCTD service footprint has remained relatively consistent for the last few decades; ACCTD did significantly expand services into northeast Athens in 2017 by adding Route 30. Table 4 summarizes the fixed-route bus service provided by ACCTD. Organizationally, ACCTD is the transit department within the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County (ACCGov). The bus stop improvement program (BSIP) is primarily funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding in the state of Georgia. ACCGov includes a dedicated division for SPLOST programmed improvements. ACCTD works C H A P T E R 4
34 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access with the Planning, Public Works, SPLOST, and other departments to accomplish BSIP and sidewalk improvements. ACCTDâs annually renewed agreement with UGA is separate from the BSIP (Unified Governments of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, 2020). UGA operates its own bus service on campus but pays a portion of its student transportation fee to ACCTD so that UGA students, faculty, and staff can ride the service fare free. In addition, ACCTD offers fare-free fixed-route bus services for senior citizens (65 years of age and older), individuals with disabilities or mobility challenges of all ages (with medical certification), and anyone age 18 or younger. The study team chose ACCTD as a case example because of its bus stop programs, relation- ships and agreements with local organizations or higher education institutions, and role as an agency providing service in a small urban transit district. The agency has continually improved bus stops in the system, using a prioritization system for investment decision making. Athens-Clarke County Transit Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, and Pace San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Utah Transit Authority VIA Metropolitan Transit Athens, GA Chicago, IL San Francisco, CA Salt Lake City, UT San Antonio, TX Functional art The Art Shelter program engages the community while generating interest in the transit system and partner support for bus stop amenities. Piggybacking CTA works with the city DOT to tie improvements at bus stops into the cityâs projects, saving costs for the agency. Corridor prioritization Bus stop improvements are conducted as part of larger corridor improvement projects, identifying the needs of all bus stops. Expanded tools UTA integrates its bus stop inventory and work order management systems to track progress on bus stop improvements. Local partnership State DOT and regional public entities partner for funding and implementation of infrastructure improvements. Planned platting The departments in the agency work together to include bus stop infrastructure into plat permitting to preserve the location for bus service. Proactive coordination Both transit agencies take a proactive approach in working with other entities to include transit issues in the local conversation. Capital projects lead The shelter program is led by the finance group within the agency as a function of structuring bus stop improvements within larger projects. Planning commitment The bus stop master plan document provides a guiding transparent method that is updated annually and sets a long-term vision. Dedicated maintenance Agency uses a team of professionals focused exclusively on bus stop upkeep and repair to maintain the quality of amenities. Stated program goals The program goals set at the beginning of the program have evolved over two decades. Maintenance sweeps CTA staff conducts an annual check of the status of all bus stops to update the inventory database and learn about needs at specific stops. Design emphasis Better design of streetscapes (such as transit bulbs and other complementary features) improves safety and accessibility to transit. Use of agreements Evolving formal and informal agreements with other entities work to ensure proper construction and bus stop maintenance. Community value Regional entities have formed a philosophical agreement about the value of bus service and the need for high-quality infrastructure. Prioritization scoring The method scoring system uses bus stop boardings and existing amenities to guide decision making. Packaging improvements RTA Access to Transit program groups smaller projects together and creates larger and more competitive proposals. Equity strategy Extensive equity plan and outreach identify areas of high need and implement targeted improvements. Engagement with riders A committee formed by UTA engages riders with accessibility needs to incorporate input into planning. Proactive communication Strong relationships among agency, state DOT, and city staff help them share information about their projects. Table 3. Matrix of notable practices at case example agencies. Mode Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicles Operated at Maximum Service Bus 1,542,456 22 Source: U.S. DOT, 2018. Table 4. Athens-Clarke County Transit key operating statistics, by mode.
Five Case Examples 35 Overview of the Bus Stop and Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Program The ACCTD BSIP includes shelters, benches and seating, landing pads, and lighting in the amenities directly listed in its prioritization scoring. Some bus stops are equipped with solar lighting, and a couple of stop locations are larger facilities with bus bays, such as the primary transfer location at UGA. ACCTD separately coordinates with the Public Works and Plan- ning departments on sidewalk, curb ramp, and intersection crossing improvements needed for better pedestrian transit access. SPLOST leads the BSIP in its role as capital programming and facilities funding for ACCGov. With an annual budget of approximately $75,000, the BSIP considers improvements for ACCTDâs 525 system stops (Athens-Clarke County Transit Department, 2020). These funds are also used for local matches for FTA Section 5307 and Section 5339 capital grants. The 2018 update to the BSIP (Athens-Clarke County, 2018) states the following goals for the program: â¢ Every bus stop should be easily identifiable and consist of an accessible paved area. â¢ Bus stop shelters and other amenities shall be provided consistent with the Mayor and Commission approved bus stop development criteria and design. â¢ Bus stops should be located for roadway safety and convenience of customer. Stops shall be visible, near crosswalks when applicable, and well lit. â¢ Bus stops should be clearly and consistently identifiable with information for riders about services at the bus stop. â¢ Bus stop design should be sensitive to the community setting and may incorporate features that identify the stop with the community (such as Art Shelters, bus stop adoption, or site- specific design). ACCGov staff will seek partnerships that share responsibility for maintaining bus stops. â¢ Bus stops should be accessible. ADA considerations will be given top priority in the siting and design of new and existing bus stops. Bus stops shall be located in support of insti- tutions and with clients having special needs, large employers, and community centers. â¢ Bus stops will be spaced to maximize the efficient operation of [bus] service while not requir- ing riders to walk more than a quarter mile to the bus stop. ACCGov will work with local businesses, schools, neighborhoods, and land developers to construct sidewalk connections to bus stops, advocate for safe and comfortable street crossings, and improve the overall walking environment near bus stops. â¢ New or sustained [bus] service or future bus stop locations shall be incorporated into new developments. â¢ Bus stops shall be well maintained and free of trash and vandalism. â¢ Bus stop features shall be repaired or replaced promptly, as they become worn and/or damaged. Program History The BSIP was created in 2000 following a SPLOST referendum approved by county voters during the same year. SPLOST funding was reapproved in subsequent referendums in 2005, 2011, and 2018. ACCTD leveraged ideas on standard costs for basic amenities and fund- ing from the initial 2000 referendum to help develop the BSIP goals and prioritization system. ACCTD started with a bus stop inventory and a boarding and alighting survey to devise criteria for bus stops based on riders per day. ACCTD and the county board also collaborated to specify standards for bus stop amenities, using TCRP Report 19 (Texas A&M Transportation Institute, 1996) on bus stop design as guidance. These standards help ACCTD achieve a high level of accessible bus stops for a small transit system.
36 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access The BSIP supports ACCTD decisions about installing amenities where they are most appropriate in the system. Improvements for individual transit stops are evaluated in light of specific needs based on ridership and current amenities at the bus stop location. Besides improv- ing infrastructure and making riders more comfortable, the BSIP improves the marketability of transit by enhancing existing ridership and contacting new customers. ACCTD estimates that as of the date of this report, most bus stop improvements have been completed, and the project will be nearly complete by the end of the year. Before 2018, approximately $3 million was expended on the BSIP since its first year (2000), resulting in 403 various bus stop improvements, such as 68 improved landing pads, 223 benches, and 110 bus shelters (including 11 Art Shelters). From 2018 through June 2020, an additional approximately $3.6 million was expended on BSIP, producing 412 various bus stop improvements, such as 23 improved landing pads, 194 benches, and 195 bus shelters (including 43 Art Shelters). Separate from the BSIP, ACCTD also conducts the Art Shelter program. This initiative was implemented in three instances over the last 15 years in partnership with either the Athens Area Arts Council (Unified Governments of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, 2008) or the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. The program seeks to serve transit riders in the county with bus shelters that also function as public art, not only emphasizing the public transit system but also injecting creativity into the built environment (Athens Area Arts Council, 2005). ACCGov and the Art Shelter program partner (which differs depending on the program year) both commit funding support for each shelter installation as part of an agreement contract, and ACCTD provides some extra support in staff hours. The Art Shelters were introduced community-wide during each of the program interactions. For each program iteration, ACCGov and the program partner send out announcements and information to invite artists to enter the competition and submit their shelter design and concept ideas (Unified Governments of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, 2018a, 2018b). Each shelter must fit within the standard shelter footprint (Athens-Clarke County Transit Department, 2018). Applicants are directed to submit shelter concepts with covered comfortable seating for three people and space for one customer using a wheelchair. Figure 12 displays examples of Art Shelters installed at bus stops in Athens, GA. ACCTD and other ACCGov staff members review the designs submitted to the competi- tion to make sure that the planned shelter is constructed of durable materials, is not smaller than the current size, and is designed for specific sites proposed. ACCTD also confirms that designs accepted from the competition are safe for people across different age groups and satisfy ADA requirements as well as the agenciesâ own design standards. Per previous Art Shelter program agreements, ACCGov owns the bus shelter upon installation. ACCGov respon- sibilities in the agreement include removing existing shelters and preparing the existing landing pad, receiving shelter materials, and installing the shelter and all associated amenities (Nehf, 2008). Governance, Oversight, and Coordination ACCTD functions as a department within the ACCGov city-county government and works with other government departments to accomplish bus stop improvements. Community support for transit in Athens, GA, has been continually favorable for ACCTD services and funding of infrastructure projects. SPLOST funding referendums have been approved three times by citizens, including funding available for bus stops and remote transit facilities. The 2011 voter-approved referendum extends through 2021, supporting improved transit amenities in the community.
Five Case Examples 37 The Transportation and Public Works department within ACCGov handles sidewalk and curb cut improvements. ACCTD works with the Public Works department on the siting of bus stop amenities and sidewalks planned during a development. ACCTD leads some short sections of sidewalk improvements (around 20â30 feet) if such upgrades tie into the bus stop, working with Public Works to secure proper permitting at the location. ACCTD operates two bus routes that briefly extend outside the Clarke County boundaries to supply safe turnarounds to begin the inbound portion of the route path. ACCTD worked with elected officials to commu- nicate the need for the appropriate turnarounds and received approval for the routes. ACCTD Source: Athens-Clarke County Transit Department. Figure 12. Examples of Art Shelters in Athens, GA.
38 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access has no official bus stops in these areas, and no ACCGov funding is allocated for bus stop amenities outside the county. Prioritization, Program Design, Accessibility, and Equity ACCTD created its prioritization model based on bus stop design guidelines and ADA requirements. At the beginning of the program, ACCTD reviewed the amenities and condi- tions of every bus stop in the system, along with daily ridership numbers. The initial priori- tization criteria were established in 2005 based on a system of levels, beginning at Level 0 (a bus stop with no amenities) and up to Level 5 (bus stops with shelters and full amenities at major transfer points). Bus stops are classified based on the daily ridership, and amenities are implemented. The criteria for ridership were adjusted over time and were updated in 2018 as more bus stops in the system were improved, phasing out Level 5. As of 2018, 65% of the existing bus stops meet or exceed the updated levels of improvement. Table 5 lists the 2005 and 2018 BSIP criteria and levels. ACCTD does not have a formal committee organized to address ADA accessibility needs, but the agency does hold public meetings to present any proposed route and service changes and to acquire feedback. The ACCGov outreach and marketing coordinator works with the local Community Council on Aging to respond to the needs of the disability community. If the coordinator receives a request for shelters and amenities at a bus stop, ACCTD reviews the request and addresses the need as appropriate. ACCTD assesses equity considerations in the routing of its services, using demographic data at the traffic analysis zone (TAZ) level and tools available in Remix software. Most of the initial BSIP improvements were installed in corridors of observed high need because of their higher ridership. Partnerships, Relationships, and Agreements Under an agreement between ACCGov and UGA, the university faculty, staff, and students ride ACCTD buses fare free, funded through a portion of the universityâs student transportation fee. The agreement does not address bus stop infrastructure for either ACCTD or UGA. ACCTD runs some routes that stop at UGA bus stops on campus. UGA applies different standards for Priority Level 2005 Criteria 2018 Criteria Level 1 â¢ 10 or fewer boardings â¢ Improved surface â¢ Trash can â¢ Route information â¢ 1 or fewer boardings â¢ Improved surface â¢ Trash can â¢ Route information â¢ Lighting Level 2 â¢ 11 to 19 boardings â¢ Level 1, plus â¢ Seating for 2 people â¢ 2 to 5 boardings â¢ Level 1, plus â¢ Seating for 2 people â¢ Lighting Levels 3 and 4 â¢ 20 or more boardings â¢ Level 2, plus â¢ Shelter â¢ Art Shelter (Level 4) â¢ 6 or more boardings â¢ Level 2, plus â¢ Shelter â¢ Art Shelter (Level 4) Source: Adapted from McDuffie (2018). Note: The table is adapted to make minor text corrections. Table 5. 2005 and 2018 bus stop improvement program criteria.
Five Case Examples 39 its bus stops and holds responsibility for any required improvements to the stops themselves. ACCGov does make improvements to some infrastructure on corridors to the university, working along rights-of-way and usually proceeding without any coordination needed between the two entities. Informal Agreements ACCGov informally coordinates with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) as necessary, without a master agreement in place. For any ACCTD bus stops on state roadways, ACCGov sends the specification drawings to GDOT and obtains right-of-way encroachment permits. ACCTD estimates that around 15% to 20% of the system bus stops are located along state routes. Private Developers and Property Owners Through ACCGov, ACCTD requires developers in the community to help defray the costs for amenity improvements at bus stops as a condition of permitting approval. The ACCGov Planning department reviews plans from developers and notes, in coordination with ACCTD, whether the location needs transit amenities. If so, the bus landing pad location and construction cost are incorporated as permit requirements and are built into the easement for the property. The developer or construction contractor then pours the concrete pad for the landing pad at the initial development construction. Sometimes, the developer assists with sidewalk construction and costs. The Planning and Transit departments work together to site landing pads in developments, keeping an eye on future bus service by enabling the landing pad to already be in place whenever bus services are expanded in the corridor. The landing pad infrastructure becomes part of the property plat, so any new tenant must work with existing ACCGov requirements for the property. If a project enters redevelopment, ACCGov can again resort to zoning and permitting to require new developers to implement transit amenities improvements. ACCTD has encountered ROW and property easement issues at many locations where bus stop improvements would be made. At the time of this report, 22 locations cannot be enhanced because improvements are impractical for various reasons, mostly an inability to acquire sufficient available land or to build improvements. At 39 locations, improvements are practical and desirable, but ACCTD has been unable to obtain the necessary land and has not exercised its right of eminent domain to secure the property. In addition, 15 locations are not scheduled for improvement at this time because of issues such as pending development projects and construction projects undertaken by other ACCGov departments. ACCTD looks for buy-in from property owners for the installation of bus stop improvements and amenities, particularly in the Art Shelter program where untraditional shelter aesthetics may be selected. If a property owner objects to the installation of an Art Shelter or regular shelter in front of its property, ACCTD reviews the bus stop improvement to identify alternatives. Funding Most financial support for ACCTD bus stop improvements comes from SPLOST funding, which must be separated from general funds. The ACCGov SPLOST department manages this allotment, which is used for capital improvement projects for transit, including (but not exclusively) bus stop infrastructure. ACCTD also employs SPLOST funding for location matches in FTA Section 5339 grant applications to help multiply the value of the revenues. The 2000 and 2005 SPLOST program funding supported implementation of 398 bus stop improvements
40 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access in a $3 million budget. The 2011 and 2018 SPLOST program funding provided a $1 million budget, which was matched with $2.6 million in state and federal support to install additional improvements and solar lighting amenities at bus stops. Program Tools and Data Analysis The ACCTD bus stop inventory is maintained in an Excel spreadsheet but has existed as an Access database. ACCTD maps the bus stop inventory, available in GIS software. As bus stop improvements are completed, the ACCTD staff works to update all of the amenities in the inventory. ACCTD also tracks amenity conditions as they change over time, for example, as a result of collisions with private automobiles or vandalism. ACCTD has not conducted a standalone analysis or study of BSIP effects. The staff regularly reviews ridership by route and location and includes these measures as part of its transit development plan process. Anecdotally, as ACCTD has expanded the program, the transit staff has observed an increase in bus system ridership following improvements in bus stop shelters and other amenities across the system. Summary ACCTD uses a prioritization method, design standards, and program goals to decide on bus stop infrastructure investments. ACCTD also works with other ACCGov departments to include bus landing pad locations as part of the planning and development process. ACCTD and its partners have increased interest in the transit system by employing the Art Shelter program to engage riders and the community at large. Notable Practices â¢ Functional art. The Art Shelter program has proven to be a popular way to engage the community, generate interest in the transit system, and attract partner support for bus stop amenities at selected locations. â¢ Planned platting. The departments within the government authority work jointly to include infrastructure such as landing pads in the development permit to preserve the location in the plat for future bus service expansion. â¢ Stated program goals. The agency has stated program goals for its BSIP that were devised at the programâs onset and have evolved over two decades. â¢ Prioritization scoring. A set methodology scoring system based on stop boardings and existing amenities guides decision making on improvements. Challenges â¢ Smaller system. The agency faces the challenges of a transit system in a small urbanized area, including limited sidewalk connectivity, lack of operational dollars, and lower ridership demand that can limit system utilization. â¢ Permit reviews. The agency aims to guarantee that the requirements for developers are stipulated in the permit reviews, but sometimes key locations for bus stops are overlooked until it is too late to change the permit. â¢ Measurable impacts. Although ridership seems to respond positively to bus stop and infra- structure improvements, the agency does not have direct measurable outcomes outside of ridership levels.
Five Case Examples 41 Lessons Learned â¢ Design standardization. Using set equipment standards for bus stop amenities (including the specific materials) eases the procurement and construction process and leads to longer life expectancy for the transit infrastructure. â¢ Community involvement. Working with the agencyâs board and the community helps stakeholders, including property owners and tenants, understand the value of improving bus stops and sidewalks. â¢ Preplanning. Being proactive and planning ahead are key to keeping uniform improve- ments across the system in place and including bus stop improvements as part of new developments and larger corridor projects. Chicago, IL, Region Transportation Agencies The Chicago region is home to multiple transportation agencies with programs or processes aimed at improving bus stop amenities and pedestrian infrastructure for bus service. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) serves as the financial oversight, funding, and regional transit planning body for transit agencies in the greater Chicago, IL, metropolitan area, including the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace. RTA does not directly operate or purchase any public transit service, but it distributes funding annually to its agencies, drawing on regional sales tax and state monies and paratransit certifications. RTA manages a $5 billion 5-year capital program that issues RTA bonds and administers grants to the transit agencies (Regional Trans- portation Authority, 2020a). CTA and Pace handle service planning and operational agreements internally, and both provide fixed-route bus service and manage the needs of their transit infrastructure. CTA provides service in the City of Chicago and 10 surrounding suburbs while Pace offers service in six counties in the Chicago metropolitan area. Table 6 lists the 2018 statistics for non-fixed-guideway fixed-route bus service from CTA and Pace. No one overall bus stop improvement program encompasses the Chicago region or individual improvement programs within CTA or Pace (although both agencies have informal processes for improvements). RTA runs the Access to Transit program to support upgrading of bicycle and pedestrian connections to the transit stops in municipalities served by the local transit Mode Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicles Operated at Maximum Service CTA: Bus 242,173,010 1,569 Pace: Bus 171,090,145 636 Total 413,263,155 2,205 Source: U.S. DOT, 2018. Table 6. CTA and Pace key fixed-route bus operating statistics, by mode.
42 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access agencies (Regional Transportation Authority, 2020b). CTA works with other local authorities to implement improvements to bus stop areas outside of its jurisdictional control and to piggy- back new bus stop infrastructure onto other area projects. Pace collaborates with townships and businesses in its service area to coordinate and obtain input on desired locations for bus stop improvements. No explicit formal coordination occurs among these agency programs, but informal communication and relationships are used to expedite improvements in bus stops and pedestrian connections to bus service. The study team selected the Chicago region as a case example and designed the follow-up around multiple agencies because of the variety of levels in improvement processes and fund- ing programs at RTA, CTA, and Pace. The RTA funding program and RTAâs relationship to other transit agencies are unique because of its role as a regional oversight agency. The CTA infrastructure improvement efforts are conducted through its relationships with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and other local community stakeholders. Paceâs posted bus stop policy efforts improve on the inherited bus stops and their low acces- sibility and also convert flag stops to bus stops with full amenities and accessibility, working with public and private stakeholders in the community to cultivate support for infrastructure improvement funding. The region provides a model for funding projects in urban and suburban communities. Overview of Bus Stop and Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Program RTA Access to Transit Program RTA conducts no service or infrastructure planning for local transit agencies, instead focus- ing on regional planning functions while the transit agencies handle their own operations and planning. The Access to Transit program seeks proposals for infrastructure or amenity projects such as sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, bus warming shelters (for waiting passengers), and covered bike parking. This RTA program leverages local and regional funding with federal CMAQ funding to increase the capital improvements support available for smaller community projects. The program has two categories of applications: Category A provides funding for Phase II engineering and construction while Category B offers Phase I engineering support. Category A projects receive a mix of CMAQ and local funding; Category B projects are funded by RTA local money. The Access to Transit program specifies the following types of bus stop and pathway improvements as eligible for applications: â¢ Crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads, sidewalk connections, wayfinding signage â¢ ADA accessibility improvements â¢ Bicycle infrastructure â¢ Bus stop infrastructure and warming shelters â¢ Micromobility Chicago Transit Authority CTA does not hold direct authority over shelters, seating, and other related amenities at the immediate bus stop areas, except for those within CTA facilities. CDOT manages and maintains shelters and benches in its right-of-way through a contract with JCDecaux, but some older shelters originally installed by CTA are still under agency control. CTA has about 11,000 bus stops in its system and aims to locate them at far-side blocks at signalized inter- sections. Before any bus stop in the system is moved, added, or removed, CTA must get approval from the alderman in the neighborhood where the planned bus stop is located. The Chicago
Five Case Examples 43 City Council comprises 50 aldermen elected to 4-year terms, each representing a specific ward in the city. No written legal requirement requires aldermen approval of bus stop changes, but in practice, their concurrence is needed to proceed. Pace Pace does not operate a formal bus stop improvement program but works to upgrade the amenities at bus stops and to transition existing flag stops to posted stops with installed flag poles, landing pads, and shelters. Pace manages a total of around 35,000 total posted bus stops, which represent approximately 60% of the stops in the Pace system. The remaining 40% of bus stops are flag stops, which are under review to become posted stops with newly installed bus stop amenities. Pace is converting all bus routes to a posted-stops-only operation, selecting stop sites that maximize safety, ease of access, and bus operational efficiency (Pace, 2020b). Of the 220 routes in the Pace system, 133 have been converted to posted-stop operations. Pace focuses transit infrastructure at locations that serve major office complexes, main streets, and key business complexes in its service area. Accessibility and safety rank as high priorities for Pace in the planning and installation of bus stop improvements. Program History RTA Access to Transit Program RTA started the Access to Transit Program in 2012 to encourage the implementation of bicycle and pedestrian improvement recommendations made through the RTA Community Planning program. The Access to Transit program leverages federal CMAQ, RTA, and local funding to support packages of smaller projects (including bus stop improvements) from municipalities in the greater Chicago region. The program culls smaller projects biannually, in conjunction with the regular cycle for CMAQ funding from the FHWA. The program takes smaller projects that might not compete as effectively in the CMAQ application process and assembles them into a larger application with a higher funding probability. Other program goals include the implementation of recommendations from planning studies completed through the RTA Community Planning program or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance program. As of March 2020, the Access to Transit program has funded 28 projects in communities throughout the greater Chicago region, for a total of $13 million in combined funds (Regional Transportation Authority, 2020f ). Figure 13 shows essentially a before-and-after example of a sidewalk and crosswalk improve- ment funded by the Access to Transit program for a community with Pace bus service. Chicago Transit Authority As a strategy to accomplish bus stop improvements, CTA monitors any project that CDOT is performing on a city street and promotes the inclusion of shelters, landing pads, sidewalks, bus bulbs, or other pedestrian access improvements to transit as part of such projects. This strategy creates opportunities for CTA to observe city initiatives and to coordinate improve- ments for transit as part of the overall project cost. CTA follows CDOTâs lead for construction projects because of the latterâs authority with city right-of-way and the bus stop shelter contract. CTA also manages some grant-financed and locally funded projects that help the agency complete improvements for individual stops or smaller projects.
44 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Pace Since beginning service in 1984, Pace has worked with existing bus stops that it inherited from the period when area townships ran their own bus services. Some of the previously installed bus stops are located in inconvenient places or are not connected to accessible path- ways. Over time, Pace has identified bus stops that need better locations or suffer from acces- sibility issues. Pace considers factors of visibility and snowfall in siting posted stops, preferring locations where businesses tend to shovel snow consistently. In conjunction with its express Pulse service, Pace is also implementing real-time bus tracker signs on Pace shelters that list the routes that stop at the location by order of next arrival. This technology has been implemented at about 25 shelters so far; Pace is testing the feasibility of installing the screens at more bus stop locations with service from multiple routes. The Pace Development Guidelines document (Mohammed, 1999) specifies that shelters should be designed taking into account the following considerations: â¢ Wheelchair access and maneuverability â¢ Visibility of approaching traffic for 1,000 feet â¢ Adequate lighting â¢ Seating capabilities â¢ Quick access to the bus â¢ Route and schedule display â¢ Protection from weather Governance, Oversight, and Coordination RTA Access to Transit Program Frequently, projects for the Access to Transit program are proposed by suburban areas in the region, usually with municipalities taking the lead in the application. Sidewalks to transit stops in suburban communities might not already exist, and municipalities supportive of bus service understand the needs for improved infrastructure in their respective areas. Pathways to transit stops in suburban communities typically face more property ROW issues than similar Source: https://www.rtachicago.org/plans-programs/access-transit-program. Figure 13. Example of sidewalk and crosswalk improvements nearby Pace bus stops in the City of Rolling Meadows.
Five Case Examples 45 pathways in denser areas of the region. The program is also open to transit agencies in the region, including CTA and Pace. Most frequently, cities or counties prepare and submit pro- posal applications directly rather than the transit agencies managing that process. Each transit agency impacted by the project is invited to review submitted applications, and RTA encourages all applicants to contact relevant transit agencies before proposal submittal. The application for the 2020 Access to Transit Program (Regional Transportation Authority, 2020d) is included in Appendix D of this report. The community serving as lead for the application oversees the engineering and construction progress of the project. RTA requires quarterly updates from the lead community, providing program guidance as needed. The Access to Transit program is open to municipalities and counties that have completed (or are completing) a planning or implementation project through the RTA Community Planning program, the CMAP Local Technical Assistance program, or other community planning efforts. The plans should specifically recommend bicycle and/or pedestrian access improvements to transit. Recently, RTA expanded the program to allow Phase I engineering projects, which can originate from any plan adopted by the community applicant. A community applicant must be served by CTA or Pace and must lie within the RTA jurisdiction. RTA does not oversee, on behalf of area transit agencies, bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Chicago Transit Authority CTA must work with the municipalities in its community to undertake any changes in bus stop areas or connecting pathways to access transit. CTA works with CDOT to enhance coordination and concurrence in improvements to bus stops or bus lane infrastructure. For example, CDOT controls parking spaces and loading zones in the city, which fall under specific regulations that can make relocating a bus stop difficult. Chicago has privatized revenue parking spaces across the entire city under the cityâs parking meter agreement with a third-party entity. If any paid parking space is eliminated, it must be replaced by an equivalent space and approved by the third party. Similarly, specific businesses pay for loading zones in the city, so they are challenging to relocate to open up space for new bus stops. In these situations, CTA may come to CDOT with potential solutions for moving parking spaces or loading zones as part of a possible bus stop improvement or relocation. CTA works informally with the City of Chicago Planning and Development department, and CTA usually is invited to talks on planned developments and/or large-scale developments with new roads. CTA provides relevant information on which roads would have bus service and the general traffic and transit flow on that road. Developers and city staff members may have suggestions on different ways to incorporate bus stops into the project. CTA must stay up to date on the evolution of other city developments in order to be part of the input process for such projects. For communication with customers, CTA reviews before-and-after data on bus service and ridership during corridor initiatives and sometimes conducts customer surveys to acquire feedback on the project. These types of surveys normally include both onboard surveys and online surveys for customers to access and complete. Pace Pace receives notification from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) when a road is being updated, noting any road closures involved. Otherwise, IDOT performs the project itself, and Pace temporarily adjusts its service and bus stop locations. Pace sometimes
46 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access experiences issues in coordination with road construction projects in its service area, leading to missed opportunities for concurrent bus stop improvements. In other cases, Pace has taken advantage of landing pads installed during recent construction projects to reconfigure bus stops at more accessible locations along a route. Pace works with local townships to identify their preferences for bus stop locations and sometimes provides funding support to pay a contractor to install shelters or walkways. Pace will also coordinate with businesses, employers, and housing complexes to address requests for bus service or bus stop amenity improvements. Some businesses have built their own landing pads and shelters for Pace to connect its fixed-route bus service. Amazon contacted Pace to discuss bus service and supplied input on considerations for stops, service relocation, and fund- ing contributions for infrastructure installation. Private sector businesses that make requests generally do the legwork for obtaining the permits needed to build bus pads and sometimes to purchase shelters for Pace to install at the location. Pace also seeks and receives passenger feedback on requests for new bus stops or stop improvements, and it considers customer feedback during infrastructure planning. Passengers can submit a request by contacting the Pace customer relations department, which then dis- tributes the request to the Planning, Safety, and Sign & Shelter departments. Once decisions are made on changes to bus stops, Pace sends detailed information in a letter to each applicable township affected, along with the dates of public forums attended by Pace representatives. The public forums offer an opportunity to hear from residents about any issues and to maintain agency accountability. Prioritization, Program Design, Accessibility, and Equity RTA Access to Transit Program The RTA Access to Transit program prioritizes projects near transit that are supported by recently completed planning processes and either provide new infrastructure or replace unusable infrastructure. In 2020, RTA broadened the program to also cover Phase I engineering costs (not supported by CMAQ), using RTA general funds to further help communities in need in the Chicago region. RTA requires all proposed projects to be supported by completed local planning efforts. The RTA Access to Transit program focuses on funding for small pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects that support connections to transit. This program has historically funded only Phase II and construction-related expenses, but in 2020, RTA added a second category to encompass Phase I engineering in high-need communities. RTA uses the CMAP community cohort data to determine a communityâs required match, which falls between 0% and 20% for Category A (Phase II and construction expenses) and 0% for Category B (Phase I engineering). The CMAP cohort data compile information on the community tax base, average household incomes, and other demographic factors to define a level of need. The lower ranked cohorts (i.e., the high-need communities) are asked to supply a smaller community match for their proposed projects. Chicago Transit Authority CTAâs main approach to bus stop improvements is to piggyback onto other projects that the city already is planning, allowing CDOT to spearhead the necessary coordination and present CTA bus stop projects to the entities affected. CTA also looks for opportunities to improve intersections and pavement markings near bus stops, which did occur while the city constructed
Five Case Examples 47 a new bike lane infrastructure. More coordination is required for changes to the bus infrastruc- ture that will affect general traffic. The CTA staff participates in Phase I project meetings for Complete Streets and other related projects conducted by CDOT. The cityâs arterial surfacing program gives CDOT and CTA a blank slate for pavement markings and bus pads. For any isolated changes to bus stops, CTA coordinates directly with the alderman in the ward to obtain concurrence. CTA also responds to requests from aldermen, customers, and other community members on the need for bus stops. Typically, major bus routes with high ridership and frequent service are prioritized for improvement. CTA uses a Bus Priority Network plan, which includes its frequent service network and bus priority zones to help target sites for improvements. CTA decides on relocating bus stops based primarily on ridership levels but also considers issues at specific destinations (such as land uses and types of destinations). CTA tracks the condition of its bus stop infrastructure and identifies improvement opportunities based on existing stop conditions, ADA compliance, and complementary city projects. The CTA Planning department leads the bus stop improvement efforts, database management, and coordination with the city and other stakeholders. Planning for infrastructure improvements looks beyond the shelter and seating amenities to include sidewalk paths and in-street bus pads as potential amenities. Some bus stops might not have an adjacent sidewalk pad while other stops might be moved to accommodate operations and must be brought into ADA compliance. CTA keeps track of city initiatives to facilitate the equity of improvements. The CDOT Invest Southwest program is driven by equity considerations and focuses on high-need neighborhoods in the city, leading to some bus stop improvements in these areas. CTA also considers the geographic diversity of bus stop infrastructure improvements rather than focusing solely on where the most people are located. In a corridor project, CTA compares the corridor service to other routes in different parts of the city, helping CTA in improving infrastructure conditions throughout the system. CTA does not have an existing ADA transition plan that includes bus stops. As projects with the city evolve, CTA uses its bus stop inventory to identify stops that are not yet in ADA compliance, assisting in prioritizing these stops. A CTA coordinator in the Planning depart- ment works with disability groups and related organizations in the city. This staff contact conducts outreach to communities with disabilities and obtains their feedback for incorpora- tion into CTA plans. Pace Ridership data constitute the primary driver for Pace decision making on where to implement bus stop improvements. The Pace research process ensures that the locations chosen to be posted stops adhere to passenger accessibility and convenience standards. Pace designates sites for bus stop improvements based on research by multiple departments in the agency organiza- tion. Staff members from the Safety, Planning, Sign and Shelter, and Marketing departments meet to review information about the proposed improvement locations and agree on the final selections. The Pace Development Guidelines (Mohammed, 1999) include a transit checklist for evaluating the accessibility of a public transit development, including checklist items for amenities and pathways. Paceâs guidelines on passenger waiting areas follow United States Access Board (2002) and IDOT standards for curb ramps, sidewalks, detectable warnings, and landing pads (Pace, 2020b). Pace verifies that every new bus stop is ADA compliant and accepts input from customers and staff members who observe that existing locations are noncompliant. Pace examines each reported location for accessibility and safety factors such as adequate room for safe boarding,
48 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access traffic levels, grade of the sidewalk, and size and condition of the landing pad. In addition to meeting the requirements for ADA compliance at posted stop locations, Pace has integrated accessibility elements into the bus stop locations for its Pulse express service. Real-time bus tracker information at Pace shelters includes a button with Braille; when the button is pressed, the speaker reads out loud the information displayed on the screen, and the volume of the speaker fluctuates based on detected noise. Partnerships, Relationships, and Agreements RTA Access to Transit Program RTA forms intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) with each local community that receives an award from the Access to Transit programâusually around 10 awards for each call for projects (Regional Transportation Authority, 2020c). The IGAs document the agreed-on funding split between the community and RTA, and they demonstrate that the community is committed to the project. Sometimes IGA amendments are needed to address any issues that arise because of scope adjustments or cost increases. The Access to Transit program has two categories of applications, Category A and Category B, each with specified requirements for the community. For Category A, projects selected for the program are funded if RTA secures CMAQ funding. The community applicant works with IDOT to oversee the project, and the community and RTA enter into the IGA for the project. For Category B, once the IGA is executed, the community applicant can procure engineering services. If a proposed project includes the right-of-way of another entity, applicants are advised to submit related letters of support or interest with the application. RTA is not involved directly with any coordination between transit agencies and developers. RTA assists with transit-oriented development plans and recommends key sites around a transit station; RTA support includes hiring planning firms and participating in implementation of the long-term vision for the station area. Chicago Transit Authority CTA has IGAs with RTA and CDOT, mainly tied to funding and service as a mechanism to pass funding between the agencies. CTA also has maintenance agreements with CDOT for the LoopLink infrastructure, bus lanes, and bus platforms. Smaller projects are handled case by case and rarely operate under a formal agreement. CDOT signs a contract directly with the contractor to install bus stop shelters and perform associated maintenance. Any CTA-proposed changes to bus stop amenities or locations must be approved by the city and then negotiated through the city with the contractor. Under the current agreement, as many as 1% of the bus shelters can be moved for free within a given calendar year. Any additional shelter changes require an increase in contractor compensation. CTA has informal agreements related to project input and participation in planning with CDOT and with suburban municipalities where the agency operates bus service. Because road- way jurisdiction falls under CDOTâs purview, CTA proactively works with CDOT to enhance planning and input, with no formal documentation or agreement. CTA seeks opportunities to piggyback on CDOT projects with available funding to make improvements in bus stop infra- structure, including creating sidewalk paths alongside bus route extensions and improving the ADA compliance of existing bus stops. During a large-scale development in the city, CDOT and CTA coordinate with private developers and property owners, in most cases on infrastructure improvements. For smaller
Five Case Examples 49 projects, a developer may notify CTA of an upcoming development near existing bus service. The CTA staff proactively stays abreast of progress in developments in their service area so that the agency can be involved in potential transit improvements that provide prospects for piggyback development. Pace Pace maintains relationships with RTA and CTA, as neighboring organizations. When a bus stop is being installed or removed in the city of Chicago, Pace contacts CTA with a request to include the Pace route number on an existing CTA sign at the location, which is accommodated by reprinting the existing sign to include the updated routing information. If no CTA sign is present, Pace generally attaches a new bus stop sign to an existing pole at the location or places the sign in a cast iron base pole on the sidewalk. Pace usually does not insert poles for bus stop signs into the ground within the Chicago city limits. For the RTA Access to Transit program, Pace has forwarded proposals for bus stop and pathway improvements to the affected townships, based either on customer requests or on agency service plans. Townships typically handle proposals for the program themselves, so Pace coordinates with the township on the permitting needed for bus stop improvement locations. Pace does encounter issues with private property owners that do not want bus stops installed on or near their property, including difficulty in finding, and receiving callbacks from, the property owners. Pace will move the bus stop improvement location from the primary desired place to another site if the private property owner does not cooperate with the agency. Some property owners work with Pace staff members on bus stop locations, providing helpful input on the best site for bus stop infrastructure on their property. Funding RTA Access to Transit Program The RTA Access to Transit program is funded through federal CMAQ funding, RTA general funds, and local municipal monies, depending on the project. Category A projects, which address Phase II and construction, primarily rely on federal CMAQ funding, which covers 80% of the costs, with RTA and the community sharing the remaining 20% match. Category B projects are supported through RTA general funds. RTA employs the CMAP cohort data to determine a communityâs level of need and its ability to raise a community match. If an Access to Transit applicant falls under Cohort 4 (smaller communities or communities with lower tax bases), RTA usually assumes the projectâs entire 20% match if a CMAQ award is made. For communi- ties in higher cohorts, RTA typically agrees to evenly splitting the local match (as appropriate) with the applicant, so each contributes 10%. RTA works with the city to determine its capability to fund the project in addition to reviewing the available data. RTA structures the program so that projects fall into either Category A or Category B. In Category A, the local match contribution for a project is dependent on community need, with RTA assuming either half or the full amount of the CMAQ local match require- ment. Category A project budgets must total between $150,000 and $1 million in project costs. Category A funding is available only for Phase II engineering and construction expenses. Category B projects allow Phase I engineering expenses, to be covered by RTA. Category B project budgets must fall between a total of $5,000 and $50,000. Any applicant seeking only Phase I engineering support can receive funding directly from RTA and is not included in RTAâs combined CMAQ application.
50 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Chicago Transit Authority CTA uses federal, state, and local funding for capital improvements, including bus stop and pedestrian pathway improvements. In the past, CTA applied for funds from the Access to Transit program and received awards for some projects; in such instances, CTA must negotiate the details with CDOT to obtain their approval for the proposal application. Pace Pace allocates a certain percentage of state funding toward bus stop maintenance and improvements. Advertising on Pace bus shelters generates additional revenue. Paceâs online information indicates that shelters at bus stops are available to communities at no cost and will be installed by the agency if requested (Pace, 2020a). Many suburbs served by Pace bus routes work diligently to improve the structures of existing stops by purchasing shelters for specified locations and updating Pace about any infrastructure additions that a new stop will require. Townships may fund Pace to construct improved landing pads if requested, particularly for new locations. Businesses have furnished financial support to Pace to underwrite some of the costs of bus stop infrastructure installationâcommonly in conjunction with requests for bus service stops near their commercial sites. Program Tools and Data Analysis RTA Access to Transit Program CTA and Pace both share their bus stop data with RTA, so the regional agency has the same data available for its use. RTA maintains RTAMS.org, a regional transit database with information on all bus and elevated train routes, including ridership and amenities data going back to 1992. The RTA staff has typically applied the data in its demand and trip modeling processes; for example, RTA performed an analysis that used bus stop data in an examination of the effects of flooding on bus stop infrastructure. Chicago Transit Authority CTA performs an annual status sweep of all bus stops in its system to verify the current condition of the stops and to update its bus stop inventory. The sweep is conducted by CTA staff members themselves, entering data on laptops in their vehicles while checking all of the bus stop sites, even if the stop is not under CTAâs direct control for maintenance. Information collected during the sweep helps CTA understand where improvements are needed, and sometimes CTA staff member observations about bus stops in poor condition lead to targeted improvements for individual bus stops rather than waiting to piggyback the upgrades on future projects. As noted previously, CTA and Pace share their bus stop inventory data with RTA, so the agency has the information required to analyze regional infrastructure if necessary. CTAâs bus stop inventory is documented in a spreadsheet database. The agency is transi- tioning to a GIS-based database to streamline the data collection process during the sweeps and to automatically update the database, using ArcGIS software on mobile tablets. CTA has developed tools that employ the database to run analyses on the system, such as current bus stop spacing. CTAâs bus stop information is open source and is available on third-party applications such as Google Maps and Bus Tracker. CTA conducts before-and-after analyses of changes related to projects or improvements. CTA assesses issues by corridor and route ridership to identify factors that contribute to ridership changes.
Five Case Examples 51 Pace Pace uses an Excel database to track bus stop inventory information, installation dates, condition information, and site photographs. The database is useful for cross-referencing data queries within the workbook and with other software. Pace staff members employ the Collector app in the field to enter data and photographs of the bus stop. Data from the Excel database can be imported into GIS software to create maps as needed. As requests for improvements are received from customers, Pace staff members scout the locations addressed in the requests, making in-person observations and reviewing route data and mapping to consider the viability of the site. Summary RTAâs program for funding infrastructure improvements in its region provides a mechanism for making small but important improvements in communities and packaging projects to leverage common needs across the region and better compete for funding under federal programs. CTA focuses on proactive coordination with the cities that it serves and searches for opportunities to tie bus stop improvements to larger projects. Pace communicates with passengers, local businesses, and property owners about their requests for new or improved bus stop locations. Notable Practices â¢ Piggybacking. CTA works with CDOT to tie improvements at bus stops into the cityâs projects. Often, improvements to bus stops and sidewalks can be built in as part of the existing project cost. â¢ Proactive coordination. CTA and Pace take proactive approaches to working with the city and other entities to include transit issues in the local conversation. The transit agency may also present alternatives to these discussions that would still supply helpful information for planning considerations. â¢ Maintenance sweeps. CTA staff members conduct an annual sweep to check the status of all bus stops and to update its inventory database. This process helps the agency learn firsthand about needs at specific stops. â¢ Packaging improvements. RTA uses its program to group smaller projects, creating a larger and more competitive proposal package for federal funding opportunities. Challenges â¢ Direct control. Neither the regional entity nor the local transit agencies hold complete authority to improve bus stop infrastructure, due to both ROW jurisdictions and third-party contracts for shelter maintenance. â¢ Local buy-in. CTA and Pace must work with other local entities and elected officials to obtain concurrence on project scopes, a process that can be complicated by limited street space and by parking and loading needs. â¢ Limited funding. Communities in suburban areas, typically in the Pace service area, and those with lower tax bases have limited available revenues to support funding for the infra- structure improvements needed to enable access to transit. Lessons Learned â¢ Local coordination. Transit agencies can accomplish a lot of improvements at no cost by coordinating with their respective cities and piggybacking on projects that are already planned or in progress.
52 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access â¢ Removal of barriers. Lowering or eliminating the barriers to project funding support is critical to addressing the needs of lower-income communities as much as possible. â¢ Funding support. By requesting partial or full funding support from businesses and town- ships for new infrastructure, the transit agencies can secure help in covering costs and can facilitate local buy-in. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) operates public transit service known as Muni in the City and County of San Francisco. As both a transit system and a city DOT, SFMTA is unique in its control over certain aspects of street rights-of-way; through its Sustainable Streets division, SFMTA plans and designs the streets in the city, including bus lanes and sidewalks. The fixed-route services directly operated by SFMTA include buses, trolley coaches, Muni Metro light rail, and cable cars and historic streetcars. Table 7 lists 2018 statistics for key SFMTA fixed-route bus service. SFMTA is a department of the City and County of San Francisco and holds responsibility for managing all ground transportation in the city. As a department within the city, SFMTA leads service and corridor planning projects that incorporate improvements to bus stops and pedestrian infrastructure. Beneath the director of transportation, the organization is divided into eight divisions, including Transit, Sustainable Streets, and Capital Programs & Construction. The Transit division is responsible for transit planning, while the Sustainable Streets division holds responsibility for livable streets and planning initiatives. The two divisions work together to determine needs for service planning and long-range planning in the city. A separate Depart- ment of Public Works (SFDPW) in the City and County of San Francisco is responsible for city streets and infrastructure, including installation and maintenance of curb ramps, sidewalks, and tactile warnings. SFMTA coordinates with SFDPW on any sidewalks that require improvements, either as one-off projects or as part of large corridor improvements. The study team selected SFMTA as a case example because of its emphasis on equity in infrastructure improvements, relationships with other city departments, and agreements with private entities concerning bus stop areas and joint use of bus stops for service. SFMTA also combines fixed-route ridership and specific equity metrics through its Muni Service Equity Strategy and considers safety data when prioritizing pedestrian improvements at bus stops. Mode Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicles Operated at Maximum Service Bus 111,809,076 493 Trolleybus 49,199,803 186 Total 161,008,879 679 Source: U.S. DOT, 2018. Table 7. SFMTA key fixed-route operating statistics, by mode.
Five Case Examples 53 Overview of the Bus Stop and Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Program The SFMTA amenity programs focus on shelters at key ridership locations, corridor improve- ment projects, and equity of improvements in high-need neighborhoods. SFMTA has a shelter improvement program that subsequently includes other amenities (such as landing pads, benches, and lighting) once installed, based on standardized designs for system uniformity. SFMTA coordination with SFDPW enables the implementation of improvements for sidewalks, crossings, curb ramps, and detectable warnings on the pathway to the bus stop. SFMTA operates approximately 3,500 system bus stops, with roughly 1,100 shelters positioned at sidewalk stops and on its 150 platforms. SFMTA attempts to install lighting at shelters where power is available, but the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission handles lighting and public utilities. Most shelters also provide real-time information (as available) for the next-bus arrival time, branded as NextMuni by the agency. SFMTA does not install benches or seating at bus stops unless a shelter is present. Seating and shelters rank as the top amenities requested during public outreach with seniors and the disability community, and riders also place high value on real-time bus arrival information at stops. Shelter upkeep and maintenance are the responsibil- ity of the shelter advertising company (as part of the cityâs agreement with the shelter contractor). Figure 14 shows the agencyâs organizational structure as of December 2019. SFMTA moti- vations behind the shelter program include improving bus stop accessibility; bolstering rider- ship; upgrading bus stops in transportation-disadvantaged areas; taking advantage of available funding; improving safety, security, and comfort for customers; and responding equitably to Source: Adapted from the SFMTA Organization Chart (2019). Figure 14. SFMTA organizational structure.
54 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access community requests for amenities and access. The SFMTA Finance and Information Tech- nology division manages the shelter program, with key support from the Transit division in charge of fixed-route operations, the Sustainable Streets division, and the Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS) group in the Communications & Marketing division. Program History The SFMTA corridor prioritization program began in 2006 with a multiyear comprehensive review of the Muni system known as the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), which was later rebranded as Muni Forward (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2020c). TEP personnel conducted market research, a service assessment, and an operations review, which informed recommendations for route changes and improvements to reliability and travel time. TEP recommendations included creation of the Rapid Network, an interconnected set of core routes that carry approximately 70% of the systemâs ridership. Establishment of the Rapid Network enabled SFMTA to focus on targeted improvements to reduce travel times, increase reliability, and deliver an enhanced customer experience. SFMTAâs current shelter contract system has been in place since 2007. A contract during the previous 20 years began financing the entire shelter improvement program through advertising at the sheltersâone of the first transit agencies in the country to introduce this type of initiative. SFMTA shelter and amenity improvements are typically conducted as part of the larger effort to undertake corridor improvement projects. The agency identifies key corridors for needed improvements based on higher ridership rates and balanced service equity and then examines the conditions of the bus stops and pedestrian pathways within those corridors. SFMTA also solicits and receives input during a community outreach process focused on the needs at specific locations, which then are considered in transit improvement efforts. SFMTA also emphasizes changes in sidewalk design that can upgrade both bus service and accessibility to bus stops. SFMTA employs transit bulbs as a mechanism to widen the sidewalk, enabling quicker boardings and improving on-time performance. Concurrently, transit bulbs widen the bus stops and ease the boarding process for persons using wheelchairs. Many city sidewalks in San Francisco are too narrow for a shelter location consistent with ADA require- ments and the agencyâs design standards (for example, some locations are too narrow to accommodate a 4-foot track behind the bus shelter). Transit bulbs have enabled SFMTA to install shelters in locations where bus stops were not previously possible. Governance, Oversight, and Coordination SFMTA has an agreement with a single contractor to maintain existing shelters throughout the city and to replace old shelters with a new standard design (the result of the cityâs decisions). The San Francisco Arts Commission chose the existing shelter design based on the SFMTA proposal for the shelter design. SFMTA sees a benefit in uniform shelters for Muni bus service so that riders understand that they are using a single systemâthus avoiding any confusion that might arise from alternative shelter appearances. SFMTA shares a few bus stops with other transit agencies (Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans); these bus stops fall under the same citywide shelter maintenance contract with no contributions from the other transit agencies for shelter costs. The maintenance contractor also cleans each shelter and the 5-foot area around it. This one contractor services the bus shelter sites in the system, using a maintenance staff of around 20 people. Sometimes, SFMTA asks the contractor to help in upgrading a utility or sidewalk
Five Case Examples 55 as part of shelter site improvements. The contractor is only required to spend a reasonable sum to bring power to a site. SFMTA has had difficulty in conducting quality control reviews of contractor shelter maintenance because of the number of bus stop locations. SFMTA relies on informal input from its staff and complaints from the public about bus stop conditions, dispatching staff members to investigate the location to verify the cited issues. The city has a 311 system with phone, web, and mobile app portals that send any complaints from the public directly to the contractor. Some complaints received from the public are ultimately sent to the finance group to investigate in its role as the program lead. SFMTA purchases signs for the bus stops from a different contractor and controls the information on the signs. Both contracts were awarded following a solicitation requesting proposals. The planning staff in the SFMTA Sustainable Streets division reviews land use developments. Any development agreements that fund street improvements can also be beneficial for bus stops. The finance group works in close coordination with the planning staff on shelter improvements with respect to shelter construction and transit in master planned areas. SFMTA handles the shelter locations and features while SFDPW is responsible for the permitting processes for improvements. SFMTA conducts robust outreach to communities in the city through its POETS group in the Communications & Marketing division. Most of the time, such outreach is part of the general project process as opposed to changes or considerations for individual bus stops. When SFMTA undertakes improvements to a corridor, the POETS group seeks more targeted feedback from the community in the corridor. Examples of SFMTA outreach methods include in-person presentations and open houses to encourage in-depth feedback from community members. Sometimes staff members perform onboard passenger surveys to obtain feedback on desired improvements for bus stops and bus service. SFMTA also uses text-based surveys by cell phone to garner feedback; information about how to take this survey is posted at the bus stops along affected routes. The POETS group collaborates with community service organizations to expand the reach of engagement. This approach is effective in acquiring feedback from populations with English as a second language, residents of single-room occupancy units, and other types of underserved groups. The POETS group likewise interacts directly with organizations for persons with dis- abilities and for low-income communities. The POETS group also uses traditional tools, such as email outreach, physical mailers, and posters on street blocks on affected corridors. All outreach information is translated into the four most common languages in the city: English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Filipino. Prioritization, Program Design, Accessibility, and Equity SFMTA prioritizes shelter improvements based on the location of planned corridor projects and the areas where the most people are using the bus service. The agency estimates that around 12 of the systemâs 80 routes carry three-quarters of the ridershipâtogether desig- nated as the Rapid Network of core routes. The Muni Forward program identifies factors for prioritization of improvements and determines the highest utilized corridors in the city and the places with the highest level of bus service. SFMTA prioritizes improving bus stops by enhancing amenities in the high-level corridors, allocating limited financial resources where they are most needed. The Muni Forward program began in 2006, following a detailed evaluation of the existing system to determine ways to improve bus service and increase efficiency, and concluded in 2014 with a set of project recommendations. The resulting Muni Forward: Implementation
56 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Workbook (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2015) sets a framework for bus service categories and solutions for improved service and then outlines transit priority features for several categories, including improvements for pedestrians such as new transit bulbs, new ped bulbs and islands, boarding islands, wider sidewalks, extended bulbs, new crosswalks, and extended boarding islands. Other types of implementation features that affect access to bus stops include improved stop spacing, relocation of stops relative to traffic, and traffic calming at intersections. The workbook provides an analysis for each route in the system, noting specific improvements needed for the bus stops, route paths, bus service provision, and other features. Muni Forward includes engineering improvementsâalso known as Transit Priority Projectsâ designed to address transit delay, improve reliability, and increase the safety and comfort of customers along its most heavily used routes (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2020d). These projects include various treatments that specifically address the root causes of delay and passenger frustration, such as traffic congestion, transit stops spaced too close to each other, narrow travel lanes, and slow boarding times. Specific project elements include lane modifications, traffic signal and stop sign changes, transit bus stop changes, parking and turn restrictions, pedestrian improvements, and many others (San Francisco Municipal Transporta- tion Agency, 2020d). SFMTA strongly emphasizes service equity in its service and amenities improvements. The agency uses information on communities with marginalized populations and desired transit outcomes, in concert with fixed-route ridership data, to make bus service and amenity improve- ment decisions. The Muni Service Equity Strategy was created to ensure that system improve- ments were not implemented only in areas with high ridership (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2018, 2020e). SFMTA operationalized the equity strategy to both obtain feedback from community groups and involve them in the planning process for bus service. The initiative originally identified eight Equity Strategy Neighborhoods and recently added a ninth. SFMTA staff members prioritize improvements on routes serving those neighborhoods, includ- ing upgrading bus stop shelters and pedestrian pathways. Figure 15 displays the Equity Strategy Neighborhoods on a map of the city of San Francisco. Muni Service Equity Strategy development focused on improving transit service in neighbor- hoods with higher numbers of households with low income, persons with disabilities, people who have no available private vehicle, and people of color. The SFMTA Equity Working Group includes members of government and community-based organizations; the group works with each identified neighborhood to learn about its transit challenges, analyze identified needs, and implement strategies that consider funding resources (San Francisco Municipal Transporta- tion Agency, 2018). The strategy analyzes transit performance metrics for Muni routes serving identified neighborhoods (compared to peer Muni route performance), including on-time performance, service gaps, customer satisfaction information, and other factors. Using estab- lished service performance baselines and targeted outreach, the working group prioritizes new capital improvements, including responding to real-time transit information and constructing the bus stop enhancements identified for each neighborhood. SFDPW serves as lead for the ADA transition plan related to the accessibility of bus stops and pedestrian pathways, which is incorporated into its Curb Ramp program (San Francisco Department of Public Works, 2020). The SFMTA staff uses feedback from community groups focused on the needs of persons with disabilities to identify amenity needs at bus stops; seating at bus stops is the amenity that persons with disabilities most frequently request. In recent years, SFMTA has tried to remove redundant bus stops (i.e., those spaced too closely together) to
Five Case Examples 57 make the system more efficient, but sometimes this effort produced negative feedback from individuals who feel strongly about their particular stops. SFMTA balances that feedback against overall system needs to decide whether alternatives should be considered. Partnerships, Relationships, and Agreements The responsibility for bus stop amenities at Muni stops is divided between SFMTA, the SFMTA contractor responsible for shelter and bench maintenance, and SFDPW. SFDPW holds responsibility for the condition of bus landing pads, sidewalks, crossings, curb ramps, detectable warnings, and roadway and intersection stripping. The SFDPW Curb Ramp pro- gram aims to provide accessible travel paths for all public sidewalks in the city by installing curb ramps. SFDPW designs the curb ramps and reviews curb ramp requests and projects proposed by various city organizations, including SFMTA and the public. SFDPW receives limited funds under Prop K (approved in November 2018) through the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Mayorâs Office on Disability, and other agencies. As of October 2018, the agency rated 64% of the existing or potential curb ramp locations as in good condition, but 23% of them had no ramp, and at other locations, the curb ramps were in either fair or poor condition. SFMTA also has an agreement with private commuter shuttle services operating in the city, which have become more prevalent in the past decade. SFMTA permits the shuttle services to use designated stops with low levels of Muni bus service, seeking to minimize service conflicts. In addition, some stops exclusively for commuter shuttles are designated. Following an Source: https://www.sfmta.com/projects/muni-service-equity-strategy. Figure 15. SFMTA Equity Strategy Neighborhoods.
58 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access 18-month pilot, SFMTA launched the Commuter Shuttle program in April 2016 for a 1-year period, targeting improved shuttle operator behavior while minimizing impacts on the existing transportation network (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2020b). The program involved as many as 125 shuttle stop locations, including shared Muni zones and shuttle-only loading zones. In February 2017, the SFMTA board voted to approve the Commuter Shuttle program, allowing SFMTA to continue regulating commuter shuttle operations in San Francisco and to charge a per-stop fee (set by the state of California) after March 31, 2017. The program enables SFMTA to safely separate the large volume of private services from the higher-density Muni bus service corridors, managing any shared bus stops by supporting program admin- istration costs. Figure 16 depicts a map of bus stop locations and the permitted streets of operation for private providers participating in the Commuter Shuttle program. The San Francisco Planning Code (City and County of San Francisco, 2020) includes provi- sions specifying that developments meeting certain criteria must make streetscape improve- ments. Developers must submit a streetscape plan that satisfies a required threshold, as reviewed by the city planning department. The city may impose alternative streetscape improvement requirements to supply equivalent or better protection to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit Source: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/projects/2017/CommuterShuttlesMap_Current.pdf. Figure 16. Commuter Shuttle program stop locations and permitted streets.
Five Case Examples 59 vehicles. Subsequent applications for street improvement permits are submitted to the city and then reviewed by the appropriate agencies. The requirements for streetscapes are codified in the cityâs Better Streets Plan in Planning Code Section 138.1, including requirements for curb ramps, marked and high-visibility crosswalks, mid-block and raised crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands, and transit bulbs or boarding islands. The code applies to developments that construct new buildingsâincluding increasing the square footage of existing buildings by 20% or moreâor alter off-street parking or loading areas. In addition, Section 138.1 states rules for sidewalk widening and minimum sidewalk width as set by the city planning department. Sidewalks may be widened after the city evaluates the sufficiency of roadway space and the portion of fronting public right-of-way that is available for the recommended sidewalk widths. If the upgrade is feasible and specified by the city, the owner of a new development must install the wider sidewalk as a condition of application approval. Any new publicly accessible rights-of-way proposed as part of development projects must either meet or exceed the recommended sidewalk widths in the Planning Code. Table 8 summarizes the recommended sidewalk widths by street type according to the San Francisco Planning Code. SFMTA coordination with developers is characteristic of relevant state legislation and the agencyâs unique role as the transportation department within the city government. California state government requires a complicated environmental review process, which can function as a negotiation process between the city and the developer. The San Francisco Planning Department leads the review of the documents required from the developer in its application, but SFMTA staff members also participate in the process, serving in a liaison role. The entitlement process within the city is large as well but does not pose much of a problem for SFMTA because of its jurisdictional control. Street Type (per Better Streets Plan) Recommended Sidewalk Width (Minimum required for new streets) Commercial Downtown commercial For Downtown Commercial Streets that are sited within the Downtown Streetscape Plan Area, the recommended sidewalk width shall be the width recommended in the Downtown Streetscape Plan. For Downtown Commercial Streets that are sited outside of the Downtown Streetscape Plan Area, the recommended sidewalk width shall be 15 feet. â Commercial throughway 15 feet â Neighborhood commercial 15 feet Residential Downtown residential 15 feet â Residential throughway 15 feet â Neighborhood residential 12 feet Industrial/Mixed Use Industrial 10 feet â Mixed use 15 feet Special Parkway 17 feet â Park edge (multi-use path) 25 feet â Multi-way boulevard 15 feet â Ceremonial Varies Small Alley 9 feet â Shared public way N/A â Paseo Varies Source: San Francisco Planning Code, Section 138.1. Table 8. City Planning Code: recommended sidewalk widths, by street type.
60 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Funding SFMTA uses a combination of sales taxes, general local and specified contributions from municipality and county, and specialized sources (e.g., rentals and advertisements) to fund improvements to bus stop accessibility. The advertising revenue from the current contractor is sufficiently high to pay for the shelter program. The agencyâs capital improvements pro- gram includes a designated line item for Transit Stop Improvement Program. Most other local revenues for transit capital improvements are not devoted toward bus stop amenities. In general, bus stop improvements are folded into many types of projects, such as corridor improvements. Program Tools and Data Analysis The planning group in SFMTA tracks bus stop conditions, using bus stop inventory data maintained as a dataset in GIS software. The GIS server and dataset make information about the system more open and give the planning group the capability to analyze the dataset as needed. For example, public feedback on bus stop conditions could be assigned to the appropriate bus stop IDs and then linked to the dataset for the bus stop inventory. Data In addition to analyzing the bus stop inventory and the data on boardings and alightings, SFMTA also considers safety data as part of its prioritization process, applying different tools from the cityâs Vision Zero initiative to summarize collision data. Transit improvement projects are filtered through a safety lens to assess areas needing pedestrian safety improvements. The safety data analysis constitutes a separate but related effort within SFMTA given that pedestrian safety and transit stop enhancements are intrinsically linked. Safety data are becoming more of a priority in SFMTA Complete Streets designs to provide safe passages to bus service. Other Factors SFMTA does not directly link the bus stop inventory data to corridor improvements as prior- itization is focused more on route-by-route analyses or route segments within the corridor. SFMTA staff members then assess every single stop on the route, paying particular attention to high-ridership locations to confirm that they have proper amenities. SFMTA applies a boarding threshold of 125 to 150 boardings per day to determine whether a shelter is needed at the bus stop, though the agency sometimes places shelters at other locations with fewer daily boardings, particularly if a request comes from the public. SFMTA has not conducted any studies or analyses specifically evaluating the effects of bus stop and shelter improvements. The agency focuses on how improvements to the corridors have changed fixed-route ridership and other bus service factors. The agency also tracks customer complaints and pedestrian safety data in corridors to determine whether positive changes occurred following improvements. In general, improvements to shelters and sidewalk path- ways have improved fixed-route ridership and lowered customer complaints and pedestrian collisions near the bus stop area. Summary SFMTA bus stop and pedestrian pathway upgrades are notable for the agencyâs approach to major improvement projects, a series of programs related to improvements and accessibility, and its organizational structure and leadership of its shelter program.
Five Case Examples 61 Notable Practices â¢ Corridor prioritization. SFMTA implements most bus stop improvements as part of larger corridor projects. Once a corridor is identified, the agency analyzes bus stop locations within the corridor to specify needed improvements in amenities. â¢ Capital projects lead. The SFMTA finance group leads the shelter program. The lead designation is a function of the agency structuring improvements as a component of larger projects. â¢ Design emphasis. SFMTA emphasizes the design of streetscapes as a means for enhancing pedestrian safety and accessibility, including features such as transit bulbs and other detailed street improvements for pedestrians. â¢ Equity strategy. The SFMTA equity plan and outreach mechanisms enable the staff to iden- tify areas of high need, obtain feedback on specific bus service and amenity improvements, and implement those changes as part of planned corridor projects. Challenges â¢ Stakeholder buy-in. Even with multiple efforts and avenues for outreach in the community, SFMTA still faces challenges in generating buy-in from the community for agreement on needed improvements. â¢ Ensuring equity. The equity program helps identify neighborhoods with the highest level of need, but funding improvements in those neighborhoods compared to other corridor upgrades in the system can challenge decision makers. â¢ Funding availability and budgeting. Advertising revenue only funds the shelter program (not other sidewalk and pathway improvements), and there is no guarantee that this rev- enue will be sufficient to continue supporting the program. Funding availability for all of the improvements needed for bus stops poses a persistent challenge. â¢ Contractor oversight. The size of the SFMTA system makes it difficult to proactively check on the condition of bus stops, shelters, and amenities under the responsibility of the contractor. The agency must rely primarily on customer feedback and staff observations. Lessons Learned â¢ Data management. An important connection links transit schedules and planning for bus stop improvements, including bus stop and amenity data. â¢ Establishment of standards. Consistency in bus stop amenity design and the determination of amenity placement underpin branding uniformity in the system and justify installations at specific bus stop locations. Utah Transit Authority The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) provides public transit service in the Wasatch Front region of Utah. The agencyâs service area covers 737 square miles, with a population of 1,883,504 (U.S. DOT, 2018). The Wasatch Front includes Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, and Weber counties in full and parts of Tooele and Box Elder counties; Salt Lake City is the largest municipality in the service area. UTA operates the fixed-route bus services, including 87 local bus routes, 29 Fast Bus express routes, and 2 bus rapid transit lines (35 MAX and Utah Valley
62 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Express) (Utah Transit Authority, 2020). UTA local bus routes are further distinguishable by groups of higher-frequency, lower-frequency, flex, and ski bus flex routes. Additional overall statistics about UTA fixed-route bus operations are shown in Table 9. UTA is a transit authority established in 1970 under the Utah Public Transit District Act of 1969. Members of the UTA board of trustees are appointed by the governor and approved by the Utah State Senate. The nine-member local advisory council, which reviews and approves UTA plans and funding, includes representatives appointed by the member countiesâ councils of governments and the mayor of Salt Lake City. An executive director manages UTA, which maintains approximately 6,000 bus stops and allocates $1 million annually to bus stop improvements. UTA was chosen as a case example because the agency has a current bus stop master plan and uses quantitative tools, such as a ranking matrix with several screening criteria. UTAâs primary goal for the bus stop program focuses on making all bus stops in the system ADA compliant. The UTA planning and customer service departments function as leads in the bus stop program, and UTA employs different types of formal agreements in the process of upgrading bus stops. Overview of the Bus Stop and Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Program The UTA bus stop program primarily addresses the transit infrastructure at the stop (e.g., shelters, seating, signs, and concrete pads). Using its bus stop inventory, UTA tracks whether bus stops are connected via sidewalks to the sidewalk network or to the nearest intersection. The local property owner holds responsibility for improving connectivity. However, UTA may construct the upgraded pedestrian connection if the agency has decided on a bus stop in a specific location and if the improvement will not be implemented by the adjacent property owner, city, or Utah DOT. Sections of existing sidewalks may be lowered if they are too high so that the pathway is more accessible. UTA does not review sidewalks constructed by other entities (e.g., Utah DOT) for compliance with ADA standards but does try to be involved in design reviews. UTA builds bus stops in accordance with ADA requirements and agency-specified dimensions for components such as shelters and benches. The primary goal of the UTA bus stop program is the ADA compliance of all stops in the system. Once bus stops are safely accessible, UTA assesses installing suitable bus stop amenities. Bus stop improvements begin with UTA service planners, who determine bus stop locations and coordinate with affected cities. The UTA Bus Stop Master Plan (Utah Transit Authority, 2018) includes mutually agreed-on criteria that the agencyâs service planners apply to guide decisions about stop locations and proposed stop amenities. Next, the UTA customer experi- ence team concurs on the proposed level of amenities and confers with the UTA property team Mode Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicles Operated at Maximum Service Express Bus 563,563 43 Local Bus 19,061,372 418 Total 19,624,935 461 Source: U.S. DOT, 2018. Table 9. UTA key fixed-route operating statistics, by mode.
Five Case Examples 63 to discuss whether right-of-way must be acquired. The UTA capital improvements staff then oversees the construction of the bus stops. Program History UTA published the first draft of its Bus Stop Master Plan for the full UTA service area in 2018 (Utah Transit Authority, 2018). The biggest driver for development of the plan was UTAâs partnership with Salt Lake City, which contributes financially to bus stop enhancements. Additional funding for bus stop improvements is allocated from countywide local sales tax revenues. UTA is about to update the Planâone anticipated change is the addition of specifi- cations and cost-sharing provisions for shelters at jointly funded bus stops. UTA also expects to revise the status of bus stops in the plan to reflect bus stop improvements completed since 2018. UTA annually updates service and ridership data for each stop. As part of the pending Bus Stop Master Plan update, the UTA staff plans to review bus stop locations, route by route and corridor by corridor, looking for opportunities to optimize the location of stops that are included in the plan but not yet built. This optimizing might mean relocating stops or consolidating stops. In the past 2 years, such optimizations have been imple- mented ad hoc as new stops come before UTA service planners. Governance, Oversight, and Coordination Before bus stop construction begins, UTA sends courtesy notices to area stakeholders, sometimes going house to house to inform area stakeholders about the new bus stop and how it might affect them. If a property transaction is needed, UTA engages with the pertinent property owner. Typically, UTA does not conduct community outreach after the stop is constructed; all due diligence is performed before construction. Salt Lake City relies on its own community engagement group to notify the public about bus stop improvements, and UTA is working with the city to define a process for communicating with the public during and after bus stop construction. The cities of Kearns and Taylorsville have approached UTA about bus stop improvements, which the cities expect to announce publicly once the changes are in place. In recent years, cities in the UTA service area have expressed a desire for improvements to bus service and bus stop amenities. If an opportunity arises to piggyback bus stop construction on a utility project or a private sector development project, the UTA capital improvements team reaches out at the beginning stage of the bus stop design process to identify the existing challenges. Prioritization, Program Design, Accessibility, and Equity The primary goal of the UTA bus stop program is making all stops in the system ADA com- pliant. Bus stops that are not ADA compliant rank as the highest priority for improvements. Then, UTA considers bus stop condition, route type, ridership, adjacent land uses, available space, costs, customer complaints, and problems observed by bus operators and other UTA staff members. Figure 17 illustrates the scoring system that UTA uses to prioritize bus stop improvements. The master plan scoring criteria for prioritizing bus stops include 1 point for equity concerns (as shown in Figure 17). Higher-priority bus stops tend to be in Title VI areas, so equity of improvements has rarely been a major issue.
64 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access UTA has an ADA transition plan and an ADA compliance officer who oversees a committee of citizens called the Committee on Accessible Transportation (CAT). The ADA compliance officer provides final approval in determining whether the bus stop infrastructure meets ADA requirements. The compliance officer cannot review every designâUTA typically brings projects to the attention of the officer when it encounters challenges such as lack of adequate right- of-way to meet ADA requirements. The UTA staff also contacts the compliance officer and the CAT when new amenities are proposed (e.g., an octagonal sign pole that might offer tactile benefits to visually impaired riders). CAT members are usually most concerned about a lack of access to transit from homes and job sites. Another common accessibility issue concerns snow at bus stops as it is difficult for UTA to keep 6,000 bus stops clear of snow for 3 to 4 months every year. UTA includes information about ADA accessibility in its General Transit Feed Specification. This information enables persons with disabilities to better plan their transit trips, using Google Transit and the Transit app. If a bus stop is not fully accessible, it is not displayed in trip planning results. Partnerships, Relationships, and Agreements UTA has a formal interlocal agreement with Salt Lake City about implementation of the UTA 2017 Transit Master Plan. Signed in 2019, the agreement covers a 20-year period. This * Non-ADA compliant bus stop locations automatically receive five (5) points. ** TSA is calculated using the average weekday ridership taken from the last eight change day periods. *** One (1) additional point is assessed each route at a transfer point with 30 minute or less frequency. Source: UTA 2018 Bus Stop Master Plan (Utah Transit Authority, 2018). Figure 17. UTA bus stop scoring matrix.
Five Case Examples 65 master agreement calls for more detailed agreements to establish responsibilities and processes for specific projects and initiatives. Developing the overarching master agreement posed chal- lenges because it represented new ground for both parties, with no existing template. The UTA staff recommends the resulting agreement as a good road map for a working relationship between the agency and other governments. The agreement with Salt Lake City is included in Appendix E. UTA staff members are working on a formal MOU with Salt Lake City to establish the capital funding and maintenance responsibilities of each of the respective parties. This MOU is expected to serve as the template for UTA to use with other cities. UTA agreements with other cities have typically been informal as their working relationships are good, and the parties generally agree to piggyback bus stop improvements on roadway projects. UTAâs relationship with Salt Lake City is more proactive on both sides, and networking with Salt Lake City staff members continues to enhance this relationship. The UTA staff aims to be more involved in design review processes in other cities. UTA also signed an interlocal agreement with Park City Transit, which pays UTA for bus service, including UTA buses and UTA bus stops with Park City Transit branding. The University of Utah shuttles share some stops with UTA buses. These shared stops are located on property owned by the university or on right-of-way that was acquired as part of a roadway widening project. Other bus services in the region (such as the VIA microtransit service and a shuttle service running to Las Vegas) commonly use bays at UTA rail stations rather than UTA bus stops. UTA develops interlocal agreements (such as the agreement with Park City Transit) case by case. The UTA staff recognizes the importance of an agreement, formal or informal, to ensure that bus stop infrastructure (including advertising media) is placed and maintained correctly and does not become a detriment to passengers. Most UTA bus stops are in a public right-of-way. When a public right-of-way is not avail- able, UTA coordinates with private developers and private property owners to determine whether the developers and owners will either sell the space or coordinate their property development around the bus stop. UTA carefully manages relationships with private developers and private property owners; no single process works in all cases. If UTA needs a bus stop in a particularly critical location, it is imperative that UTA service planners coordinate with city planners and city transportation department staff members about development conditions related to the transit infrastructure. Sometimes, developers and property owners contact UTA about a bus stop (e.g., if they are pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] certification or cultivating a project with a transit-oriented development feeling). UTA might allow the private party to con- struct the bus stop or contribute to funding bus stop construction. For example, the University of Utah installed some of its on-campus bus stops according to UTA design requirements. UTA has found improvements to be more cost-effective if the private party includes bus stop construction in the flatwork for the development project. Often, this process entails negligible cost to the developer. UTA inspects the completed bus stop to confirm that it meets ADA requirements. If the bus stop is not ADA compliant and UTA has no agreement for compliance with the private party, UTA must modify or replace the bus stop to bring it up to compliance. The most significant issue in working with private developers and private property owners focuses on making sure that the bus stop is constructed correctly. Deed restrictions and the developerâs lender requirements can also create challenges. For example, UTA cannot cover the expenses associated with lenders signing a release or other forms related to developer requirements.
66 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Funding UTA uses local sales tax revenues to fund bus stop improvements. UTA also relies on local government contributions and developer-constructed bus stop infrastructure. As cities in the region became more interested in better bus service, they approved local sales tax dollars or participated in countywide local sales taxes to improve bus systems (including service and amenities). Tax dollars for bus stop improvements are applied based on the source of funds. Program Tools and Data Analysis UTA completed a bus stop inventory in 2017 that was influential in development of the Bus Stop Master Plan. Inventory data were obtained for all of the approximately 6,000 bus stops in the system by interns who physically visited each stop. The interns then entered the bus stop data into Trapeze Bus Stop Manager, which is integrated with Trapeze scheduling software. The Trapeze Bus Stop Manager system is updated whenever bus stops are changed. Since 2011, UTA has been using Bus Stop Manager, which replaced a previous in-house tool and helped streamline the improvement process. UTA staff members report that Bus Stop Manager is user friendly for the most part, but integrating it with other processes and obtaining support can be a struggle. The UTA work order system is integrated with Trapeze Bus Stop Manager, which is updated after work orders (for activities such as repairing downed bus stop signs) are processed and the completed work is checked. For quality assurance and quality control purposes, UTA system monitors inspect a set of bus stops in the field each month and then incorporate condition data into Bus Stop Manager. UTA has no in-house studies that quantify the impacts of bus stop improvements on rider- ship, operating costs, customer satisfaction, or other metrics. However, a University of Utah paper (Kim, Bartholomew, and Ewing, 2018) found that bus stop improvements in Salt Lake City produced a somewhat positive impact on ridership and a significantly positive effect on customer complaints. A second paper describing that study (Kim, Bartholomew, and Ewing, 2020) used a propensity score to determine that improvements to bus stop amenities could be associated with increases in fixed-route ridership and decreases in paratransit trip demand. Summary UTA employs formal and informal agreements, along with long-range planning, to create a commitment to bus stop improvements in the region. The agency analyzes bus stop inventory information to track the condition of infrastructure and improvements over time. Notable Practices â¢ Expanded tools. UTA uses Trapeze Bus Stop Manager to manage bus stop inventory data and to track bus stop improvements. Bus Stop Manager is integrated with the agencyâs work order management system. â¢ Planning commitment. The Bus Stop Master Plan undergoes minor updates annually and is about to undergo a more comprehensive update. The plan documents the bus stop priori- tization method in detail and transparently. â¢ Regional partners. Bus service improvements have been specifically identified as necessary by local governments in the region, and UTA has commitments from those agencies as regional partners. â¢ Use of agreements. UTA has evolved its formal and informal agreements on bus stop infra- structure and improvements over time, ensuring proper construction and maintenance of
Five Case Examples 67 improvements. The expectation is that the Salt Lake City MOU will serve as a model for similar agreements. â¢ Engagement with riders. UTA formed the CAT and has ongoing direct interactions with it. This process represents an important mechanism for engaging with a specific rider market. Challenges â¢ Obtaining of right-of-way. Rights-of-way are needed to achieve UTAâs goals of 100% of its bus stops in compliance with the ADA and the implementation of desired amenities. â¢ Proactive communication. While UTA continues to build relationships with its partners, communications could be more proactive. For example, more advance notice of local construction projects that require temporary relocation of bus stops would be useful. Lessons Learned â¢ Flexibility. UTA has learned to be willing to evolve its processes over time. â¢ Use of agreements. Formal and informal agreements are helpful in constructing and main- taining bus stops at the desired level of accessibility and quality. VIA Metropolitan Transit VIA Metropolitan Transit (VIA) provides public transit service in the San Antonio, TX, region. The VIA service area of 1,226 square miles covers all of the city of San Antonio and 98% of Bexar County (including 13 suburban municipalities), with a total population of 1,958,578 (U.S. DOT, 2018). VIA operates 111 local and express bus routes, which are organized into express, frequent, limited-stop, local, late-night, and visitor-oriented route categories (VIA Metropolitan Transit, 2020). Additional relevant statistics about VIA fixed-route operations are shown in Table 10. VIA is a transit authority established in 1978 under what is now Chapter 451 of the Texas Transportation Code. As a transit authority, VIA receives funding through a sales tax of Â½ cent. Members of the VIA board of trustees are appointed by the San Antonio City Council (five trustees), Bexar County Commissioners Court (three trustees), and Suburban Council of Mayors (two trustees). VIA is managed by a president/chief executive officer (CEO). The study team chose VIA as a case example because the agency participates in the MyLink partnership program with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), a partner- ship program with the city of San Antonio, the Suburban Cities partnership program, and a quantitative scoring system to inform uniform evaluation of bus stop improvements. VIAâs Mode Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Vehicles Operated at Maximum Service Bus 38,312,659 387 Source: U.S. DOT, 2018. Table 10. VIA key fixed-route operating statistics, by mode.
68 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access commitment to an enhanced transit infrastructure has resulted in improvements to more than 1,000 bus stops in less than 5 years. Overview of the Bus Stop Improvement Program The VIA bus stop program includes transit infrastructure at the stop (e.g., shelters, seating, signs, and concrete pads) as well as sidewalk connections leading to and from the bus stop. VIA decisions to improve bus stops include commitments to adding needed sidewalk connec- tions that are not already provided through a project by an agency partner (such as a municipality or TxDOT) or through a private development. Figure 18 illustrates an example of improvements at a bus stop location, conducted in coordination with TxDOT. VIAâs primary bus stop program goal is having the highest positive impact on the most passengers. Specific desirable outcomes for the program include improved bus stop accessibility, enhanced amenities, increased ridership, and better customer safety and security. The VIA Strategic Planning and Project Development department leads the bus stop pro- gram; passenger amenities represent a vital component of all capital projects. However, requests for improvements at various bus stops often originate in other departments and from external sources. For example, the cityâs Disability Access Office might know a specific citizen who is having trouble using transit services. The VIA Fleet and Facilities department regularly cleans and maintains all of the agencyâs bus stops. A dedicated Passenger Amenities crew of 40 personnel and their 3 supervisors is dedi- cated to servicing and cleaning all of the bus stops in the system, including painting shelters and maintaining lighting, benches, and all signage. Bus stops in downtown San Antonio are cleaned under an agreement with the city of San Antonio. Program History Before 2013, VIA bus stops were improved on a limited basis as funding was avail- able. In 2013, the agency prioritized passenger amenities and developed a plan to improve 1,000 bus stops in a 5-year period. Implementation of the plan kicked off in 2014 with a Source: VIA. BEFORE AFTER Figure 18. Before and after photographs of VIA bus stop improvements.
Five Case Examples 69 bus stop inventory that tracked stop-level ridership, customer inquiries and complaints about access, and amenities. Governance, Oversight, and Coordination VIA has provided input on, and coordination of, bus stop improvements (including shelter foundations where ridership warrants shelter placement) for all city of San Antonio and TxDOT projects on roadways with VIA bus service. Coordination is generally informal across VIA, TxDOT, and cities in the service area and is achieved primarily through project review meetings, emails, memoranda, and phone calls. The resolution of more complex issues might require a meeting. Often, VIA and the city of San Antonio agree on the need for a specific bus stop or associated improvement and jointly decide who has the funding and resources to address the issue. For bus stops that are not located along a corridor targeted for improvement by an agency partnerâs project, VIA develops a design and works with a contractor to complete needed construction. VIA obtains right-of-way permits from the appropriate jurisdiction for each improvement project and fully funds implementation. The city of San Antonio rarely requests upgraded bus stops as part of the permitting and land development process, and bus stop improvements are not currently required. San Antonio is updating its Unified Development Code to include a transit-oriented development section and a bus stop review; both the city and VIA support conversations about transit needs (including bus stops) that occur earlier in the land development process. Most VIA projects take place in a public right-of-way. When embarking on a straightforward bus stop improvement project, VIA sends courtesy notices to nearby property owners. These notices provide a timeline for the planned improvement (e.g., within 30 days) and offer guid- ance on how to contact the VIA staff for more information. The notices may also state that a contractor is working on VIAâs behalf. VIA typically solicits feedback on bus stop improvements by holding community meetings, posting requests at bus stops and intersections, and promoting a customer hotline. If a bus stop improvement project is complex (or part of a larger improvement project), community meetings might be required. TxDOT and the city of San Antonio use their own processes to obtain input on transportation projects. Prioritization, Program Design, Accessibility, and Equity VIA initially prioritizes the improvement of higher-ridership bus stops that do not have pedestrian connections. A scoring measure and a guiding document for line service design standards were developed and approved by the VIA board to further prioritize bus stop improvements (VIA Metropolitan Transit, 2015). Each bus stop receives a line service design score (LSDS) based mostly on boarding data, but points are added based on factors such as the number of routes that the stop serves, average wait time, and adjacent land uses (such as education, medical, and social services). Scoring thresholds are specified in the guidance document to indicate when shelters and benches are warranted at a specific site. The scoring thresholds have changed over time as bus stops improve. Figure 19 shows the LSDS scoring criteria that VIA applies to prioritize improvements. VIA may install passenger waiting shelters at any bus stop location with a score of at least 15 points and can add a bench at any bus stop site with a score of at least 5 points. Passenger shelters are placed in the public right-of-way or on publicly owned property to avoid potential
70 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access problems with new owners if private property is sold. VIA may add amenities at a bus stop location that does not meet the minimum LSDS necessary if the amenity will serve a future or planned destination or will contribute as an area gateway indicator. VIA may also install ameni- ties at bus stops in response to customer requests or to private developments participating in the funding or construction of the improvement. The LSDS for each bus stop does not include geographic site or demographic components. A separate VIA department conducts equity analyses; however, bus stop placement decision making is not incorporated in these analyses. The VIA Accessible Transit Community Council, an ad hoc committee of the VIA board, meets as needed to review projects with regard to accessibility needs and concerns. Committee member preferences do not outweigh ADA requirements. VIA also coordinates with the San Antonio Disability Access Advisory Committee. The VIA ADA transition plan is the same as the plan of the city of San Antonio. VIA is coordinating with the cityâs asset management team to update the 2009 version of the plan and anticipates starting community engagement activities soon. This effort is focused on how to prioritize bus stops at activity centers. The VIA ADA coordinator is engaged in reviewing bus stops internally before bus stop project construction contracts are awarded. Partnerships, Relationships, and Agreements VIA has a formal agreement with TxDOT that dates to 1982 and addresses the construction, maintenance, and placement of bus stops in TxDOT rights-of-way. VIA also has signed formal grant-specific bus stop agreements with local municipalities (such as agreements with the cities of Leon Valley, Shavano Park, Kirby, Converse, and Castle Hills). Source: VIA. Figure 19. VIA passenger shelter scoring criteria for line service design score.
Five Case Examples 71 VIA does not currently have a formal agreement with the city of San Antonio regarding bus stop infrastructure. VIA and the city work jointly on bus stop improvements, recognizing that comfortable and accessible bus stops are important to the streetscape and the pedestrian environment, and are committed to working together to improve both. The city adopted a Complete Streets policy that requires the consideration of transit operations, pedestrian facili- ties, and bicycle conveniences in all roadway projects. The city has accommodated bus stops in its projects, except on occasion when the right-of-way is not available. At VIAâs request, private developers and landowners sometimes include shelter foundations and sidewalk connections in their projects. Timing is the biggest challenge in working with private developers and landowners. VIA might not be aware of a project that is under design until construction begins and the developer submits a request to relocate a bus stop. VIA prefers coor- dination in the design phase and before construction, but a trigger for such coordination is not yet in place. Sometimes businesses ask VIA whether they can construct their own bus stops, possibly using an off-the-shelf or custom shelter. In these cases, the VIA staff works with the businesses to make sure that their structures are ADA compliant and to address maintenance responsibilities. Funding VIA receives half of the funds generated by a sales tax of Â¼ cent under the Advanced Trans- portation District created in 2004. These funds can be used for advanced transportation and mobility enhancement projects, including transportation amenities (VIA Metropolitan Transit, 2019). VIA budgets for bus stop improvements in its 5-year capital plan based on the needs for each year. The majority of VIAâs funding is produced by local sales tax revenues. The city of San Antonioâs funding for bus stop improvements is complicated because it is part of the cityâs full capital budget. Private parties that contribute to the funding of bus stop improvements typically provide in-kind contributions (i.e., construction). The MyLink program is a unique partnership between TxDOT and VIA. TxDOT identified locations for bus stop improvements and assembled four funding packages to build acces- sible bus stops and sidewalks along TxDOT roadways. The funds for the packages come from multiple sources; more than $26 million has been invested in the program. TxDOT staff members report that the MyLink program increased their awareness of bus service on area roadways. The MyLink program initially kicked off with a road show presentation to inform stakeholders and build excitement about improvements. Program Tools and Data Analysis VIA uses ArcView and Excel in combination to track bus stop locations, quality, and ameni- ties and the dates and types of bus stop improvements. This inventory system goes back to at least 1999. Bus stop maintenance is tracked as part of a separate VIA system. VIA has no quantitative studies of the impacts of its bus stop program. VIA conducts a customer satisfaction survey every other year, and recent responses show that customer requests for shelters and seating are no longer in the top three concerns in the survey. Summary VIA uses partnerships with TxDOT, the city of San Antonio, and other local entities to create buy-in and funding support for bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Communication among partners is key to learning about in-process projects and identifying opportunities for making needed improvements at bus stop areas.
72 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Notable Practices â¢ Local partnership. The MyLink partnership between TxDOT and other public entities in the region assembled significant funding, successfully implemented bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improvement projects, and raised awareness of transit on area roadways. â¢ Dedicated maintenance. A VIA team of maintenance professionals focuses exclusively on bus stop upkeep, repair, and cleaning. â¢ Community value. VIA, the city of San Antonio, TxDOT, and suburban cities in the service area agree that bus stops are an essential part of the transportation system. This concurrence supports the relationships among the entities and has resulted in numerous successful implementations of bus stop installations and bus stop improvements. â¢ Proactive communication. Relationships among VIA, TxDOT, and San Antonio staff members foster concerted efforts to share information and learn about each entityâs projects and priorities for related bus stop and roadway improvements. Challenges â¢ Timing of improvements. The biggest challenge in partnering with private developers to fold bus stop improvements into private construction stems from VIA not finding out about the development projects early enough in the process. VIA staff members are not involved in the cityâs land development review processes. â¢ Limited right-of-way. Many roadways in the San Antonio area are older and therefore constructed before sidewalk and ADA requirements were in place. Lessons Learned â¢ Importance of communication. Communication represents the most important aspect of the VIA bus stop improvement program. VIAâs partners can implement many bus stop improvements if everybody knows in advance the needs and the opportunities. â¢ Consideration of user perspectives. Public agencies tend to look at projects from an opera- tional perspective. An agency might need a formal process to ensure that the user perspective (including that of persons with disabilities) is considered in bus stop improvement programs. â¢ Buy-in at all levels. VIA staff members report that the agencyâs president/CEO is very aware of the role of the bus stop in the transit system and in passenger trips. â¢ Evolving methodologies. As more bus stops are improved, the standards for prioritizing bus stop improvements might need refinement. â¢ Continued building of relationships. The VIA staff reports that a private development project is more likely to include bus stop elements if VIA already has a relationship with the private entity.