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73 Conclusions The goal of this synthesis report is to feature information about the decision making and mechanisms in place at transit agencies and partnering entities for improving infrastructure at bus stops and the connecting pathways so that pedestrians can better use the bus service. Existing literature is available about the guidance and requirements for bus stop area designs, along with some examples of tools that transit agencies use to prioritize bus stops, but there is no established understanding of the extent of these practices at transit agencies across the United States. The study tasks for this report were structured to establish a baseline of published information on bus stop improvement programs, document identified examples of agency improvement programs and outcomes, and learn more from those agencies through survey and case example follow-up research. Key topic areas of interest regarding these improvement programs were program leadership, goals, tools and prioritization methods, agreements and coordination, accessibility and equity, and measured benefits. The resulting findings highlight the important elements of the programs that transit agencies, local partners, and other government entities can consider in the creation and further development of their own infrastructure improvement programs. The study found several examples of bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improvement programs and gathered information on program purposes, agency motivations, and tools and processes used to improve bus stops, sidewalks, and intersection crossings. The literature review discussed in Chapter 2 identifies transit agencies and other government entities with documented bus stop programs or initiatives, refining an understanding of the primary chal- lenges and benefits of such programs. The identified agencies in the literature review were the target recipients for the study survey; the results are discussed in Chapter 3. Survey responses that indicated robust improvement programs and related relationships and agreements with other local public and private entities supported the selection of case examples and the associ- ated invitation process. The case example interview findings summarized in Chapter 4 provided further details on agency programs and highlighted notable practices, challenges, and lessons learned from the agencies. This chapter summarizes information across the report tasks with respect to key findings, barriers and challenges, and best practices in bus stop infrastructure programs. The chapter concludes with a brief review of identified gaps in knowledge and further research needs in the topic area. Key Findings To meet the objectives of bus stop and pedestrian infrastructure improvement programs, the agencies follow certain processes for program leadership, planning, tools and data sources, outreach, and agreements and coordination. Some of the major common elements and other informative findings are noted in this section. C H A P T E R 5
74 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access Major Findings â¢ The majority of the bus stop infrastructure programs at transit agencies are led by planning departments or divisions within the agency. Capital improvement and project management offices also frequently assume the lead roles, depending on the agency. Athens-Clarke County Transit (Georgia) and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) both assign finance in a leadership role for infrastructure improvements. â¢ Amenities in transit agency programs typically include shelters, benches, and lighting because these elements are located within the immediate bus stop area and usually fall under agency control. The majority of improvement programs also include bus stop landing pads. â¢ Agreements help assign responsibilities for partners, grant access to rights-of-way, establish liability, and specify any funding support and costs for improvements. â¢ Nearly all agencies receive and act on feedback from organizations in the disability commu- nity, and most transit agencies have an ADA transition plan in place that considers bus stops and pedestrian infrastructure. â¢ Transit agencies look for opportunities to coordinate and piggyback infrastructure improve- ment projects with other public and private projects in their service area. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and VIA Metropolitan Transit (San Antonio) are case example agencies that specifically employ this strategy. Such coordination helps incorporate bus stops within other local infrastructure projects and is more cost-effective than spending agency dollars for additional construction. Other Findings â¢ Most agency programs collaborate with multiple groups and departments within the agency because of the project, planning, and service needs of the improvements. â¢ Pathway components and amenities such as sidewalks, curb ramps, and crossings are less frequently an explicit part of the agencyâs program because they are located in the rights-of- way of city or other local authorities. â¢ Bus stop inventory data are used to track bus stop conditions. Inventory data, fixed-route ridership, and nearby land uses and community services are employed to determine improve- ment priorities. Transit agencies also solicit feedback and note complaints on bus stop conditions from customers, operators, elected officials, and other stakeholders. â¢ Examples of transit agency agreements concerning bus stop infrastructure include master use agreements, performance resolution agreements, and funding support or match agreements. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and VIA are two case example agencies that focus on agreements with local cities to enable support for improvements. â¢ Community meetings represent the main method of communication for receiving public comments and feedback on infrastructure needs. Transit agencies share information on improvements through postings at bus stops, online announcements, and public meetings. â¢ Transit agencies use Title VI equity analyses and prioritization scoring for low-income com- munities to help ensure an equitable distribution of improvements in their systems. SFMTA employs a formal equity strategy for shelter improvement considerations. â¢ Programs detailed in the survey results did not rely on one clear funding source type to support improvements. About half of agencies use general local contributions while others are funded by business contributions or advertising revenues. Less frequent sources of monies for bus stop improvements are federal and state funding programs, general funds, and bonds. â¢ Although program motivations focus on improving fixed-route ridership, most transit agencies do not have explicit measured benefits or studies of bus stop and pedestrian infra- structure improvements and their results. Agencies do monitor ridership and other data on an ongoing basis to make decisions, and they sometimes conduct before-and-after analyses.
Conclusions 75 Barriers and Challenges Several challenges in improving bus stop infrastructure were raised by the survey responses and the case examples. Key barriers cited by survey respondents include limited funding, difficulty of coordinating with other public and private entities, and uncertain jurisdictional control. The following barriers and challenges were found frequently during the study: â¢ Limited right-of-way is a frequent challenge when working with developers and attempting to include transit agency interests in developments and construction projects. Agencies also struggle to stay in the loop and to participate in the discussion with developers, utility companies, and even other public agencies to learn about their project plans, scopes, and schedules. â¢ Without common goals and planning processes, transit agencies find it difficult to rally diverse stakeholders, such as cities, DOTs, regional planning organizations, property owners, and private developers. Stakeholder buy-in for improvements from property owners and elected officials can also be challenging to obtain in communities that are less supportive of bus service. â¢ Ensuring the equity of improvements poses a challenge even when equity processes are in place, particularly as agencies face limited funding availability and must balance improvement priorities with the needs of high-ridership and high-density corridors. â¢ Funding availability is a commonly cited challenge for transit agencies, even when desig- nated funding programs or sources are in place. The prioritization of bus stop improvements is based on the funding budget available for capital programming. â¢ Jurisdictional control makes it difficult for transit agencies to complete improvements on sidewalks and other pathway infrastructure in concert with needed bus stop upgrades, even when transit agencies and local authorities work well in coordinating projects. Best Practices and Lessons Learned The case examples provide several lessons learned for creating and building strong infra- structure improvement programs by using methodologies, processes, and relationships with local partners that will evolve over time and continually improve the bus stops in the system. Practices that are key to effective bus stop programs include the following: â¢ Incorporating bus stop improvements into larger corridor developments or other area- wide projects ties transit needs into city projects, reduces total capital costs, and encourages coordination with other local entities for ease of implementation. SFMTA coordinates improvements at bus stops with corridor projects, and CTA and VIA communicate with local and state DOTs on upcoming roadway projects to tie in the need for bus stops and related improvements. â¢ Packaging small improvement projects together, either within a transit system or across different communities, represents a key mechanism to help create a larger project effort that is more competitive when responding to federal funding opportunities. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) (Chicago region) Access to Transit program was developed for this purpose, targeting the federal CMAQ program. â¢ Building relationships and coordinating with other local public entities and developers require a proactive process to include transit issues in the local conversation and to embed transit improvements as a part of new developments. Athens-Clarke County Transit and SFMTA both have and maintain familiarity with developers and anticipate the growth of bus service. â¢ Index processes and prioritization systems are useful for establishing a consistent and trans- parent method for decision making and for the justification of improvement placement
76 Transit Agency Relationships and Initiatives to Improve Bus Stops and Pedestrian Access based on the factor of transit use and community need. Athens-Clarke County Transit, RTA, UTA, and VIA all employ some type of scoring system to rank different areas or projects for bus stop installations or improvements. â¢ Communication with local planning departments at the city and county level is important to ensure that the served jurisdictions incorporate the bus service network and needed bus stop improvements into their planning processes. CTA, UTA, and VIA all have formal and informal communication processes in place with their local cities and state DOTs to promote ongoing conversations on the need for transit service and bus stops. â¢ Connections among transit schedules, ridership, and bus stop amenities data are established and maintained to support infrastructure improvement decisions. Regularly maintained bus stop inventory and database information provides an understanding of the needs at specific stops. UTA integrates its bus stop inventory database and work order system to continually track the bus stop infrastructure. â¢ Standards for amenity designs (such as bus stop shelters and seating) are helpful to enhance consistency in infrastructure installation, maintenance, and useful life. Standards can also help justify different levels of amenities at different locations in the fixed-route system based on usage data. Athens-Clarke County Transit and SFMTA both employ shelter design stan- dard specifications and materials as a mechanism for encouraging consistency in bus stop area quality. â¢ Barriers to making bus stop improvements in lower-income or underserved communities should be proactively addressed and removed. Improvements based on ridership levels at bus stops alone do not represent a viable method for ensuring equity in infrastructure improvements. RTA and SFMTA integrate equity strategies into their programs for infra- structure improvements and communication with their communities. Further Research Needs The literature review identified existing research on measuring the changes and benefits resulting from improvements in bus stops and connecting pedestrian pathways. However, most transit agencies in the survey and the case examples had not conducted explicit analysis to quantify the results of bus stop improvements other than measurement of boardings and alightings at bus stops before and after an improvement was made. Further development of research on the effects of bus stop improvement programs beyond fixed-route ridership is needed to understand how programs can achieve benefits for specified levels of investment and improvements. Guidance is limited for transit agencies working with private developers, other than practicing proactive communication and developing relationships. Ongoing agreements with developers are not common even as changes in land use continually affect bus service and infrastructure planning. Further research that targets examples of transit agency agreements with developers and the creation of model agreement practices or templates would be useful for easing the implementation of infrastructure improvements. Funding for capital improvements, including bus stop amenities and pathway infrastruc- ture, continues to be a challenge for transit agencies. The study tasks found examples of unique funding models and programs designed to help finance smaller improvement projects. These examples could be used as models and implemented by peer transit agencies and regional authorities seeking new solutions to funding challenges. ADA compliance of bus stops is both critical for fixed-route transit systems and difficult to achieve at every bus stop within a system because of factors such as a lack of funding, limited space and rights-of-way, higher costs for regulation-size amenities, newer bus stop priorities,
Conclusions 77 and sidewalks and pathways that fall outside of transit agency control. While the importance of ADA compliance is understood, models and mechanisms are needed for compliance prioritiza- tion in funding programs and policies to further encourage and incentivize raising the level of accessibility at existing noncompliant stops. In addition, analysis of the actual equity of bus stop improvements is required to verify the equitable use of funding to support neighborhoods with high levels of need. Existing research has addressed transit service equity, but research is lacking that assesses the equity of bus stop improvement projects conducted by cities and transit systems.