Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Man on Bus

I had some minutes in front of Fred Hansen, Trimet Director, some Trimet board members and various Trimet staff at a public hearing about proposed cuts to the transit system. I've put this together from my speaking points, and added some things I should have said.)

Thank you. I worked with Dan and Jon a couple years ago to re-define Line #39. That was a moderately successful Citizen/Trimet project.

With the Line #39 project we had Hillsdale and we had the College, 1000's of people in different communities, but with no way to get between them. No way that any normal person [indicating the many Trimet Staff present] would take to get there. So, the #39 route change was about connecting these two communities, and I think this is something we need to do all over the region.

Granted, we need to get people down town. We've gotten past the city-centric model. We need to connect pairs of town centers, and to get people through downtown. At one time, there was some semblance of the Region 2040 plan in your Transit Improvement Plan, but I think that has gotten sidetracked more recently by focusing on light rail development.

I claim that in order to keep and build ridership, we need to design an overall system that has integrity, one where people can get around using their intuition, rather than needing technology.

For example, I see lots of iPhones on the bus these days, people are using them for Transit Tracker and such. It helps tremendously. Thank You. But I use transit not just to "go to work" but also to meet my family somewhere for dinner, and I frequently scramble to use the Trip Planner in different parts of the region. The Trip Planner is no substitute for good design.

Imagine instead a system where you would know how to get from one area to another. "First I would go there, then to there". I shouldn't need carry a computer around with me all the time. [Ok, the iPhone is a computer, but that is not the point.]

The automobile addict is NOT going to put up with a lot of nonsense to get around.

We need a beautiful system map that people can UNDERSTAND and get excited about.

So, TRIMET, If you have such a map in your back room, why not get it out and show it to us? Involve communities in the design of such a system -- what ever shape it might take. Get a grant as part of the TIP to lead a large scale community design and computer-optimized system map for the region. One that is scalable, resilient, and so on. Can Trimet and Metro do this??

There is a difference between Planning and Designing.

When gas was $4, we had lots of people on the bus. But where are those people now? They've moved to Spokane, evidently, because ridership there has continued to increase in spite of gas going back down. Spokane Transit must be doing something up there... Hint: They recently re-drew their entire system map.