To Regain Transit Ridership, Policymakers Must Address Land Use and Housing

More buses and trains alone won't bring back riders; other incentives are needed to boost ridership and encourage new users.

August 20, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Vermont BRT

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Vermont BRT Proposed Concept 1

"[N]ew federal spending on transit could mean faster, cleaner, more reliable and more numerous buses and trains," but this may not be enough to bring back riders. Thomas Day argues that state and local governments must also address other issues: "ensuring that lower-income residents can afford to live in central cities, removing parking from many urban streets, and reducing or eliminating transit fares." 

"To make the federal spending on transit work, [policymakers] will need to make decisions around land use and affordable housing that will be far less popular" than those around transit, Day writes. "In 2020, suburbs of the 55 U.S. cities with metropolitan populations above 1 million grew at five times the pace of urban centers, according to data analyzed by the Brookings Institution’s William Frey," putting more dependent transit riders farther away from central cities. "If there indeed is a direct relationship between lower-income residents moving away from urban centers and the decline in transit ridership, local officials will need to work harder to ensure sufficient affordable housing near public transit."

Some relatively accessible tools for improving service and getting riders back on transit do exist: "Designating lanes to allow bus rapid transit service to race by other traffic, for example, has the benefits of lower capital costs, little if any public opposition and the ability to quickly respond to demographic movements." Day also suggests eliminating fares, which, while it may not attract more commuters, benefits low-income dependent riders. If "urban leaders are willing to move forward with policies that have a real chance of luring riders back to transit, the new infrastructure spending package could transform American cities and dramatically reduce carbon emissions. "

Thursday, August 12, 2021 in Governing

Soldier Field

Phase 1 Revealed for $20 Billion Chicago Megaproject

Plans for One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would add 22.3 million square feet of buildings to the city of Chicago, are taking shape.

October 19, 2021 - Chicago Tribune

Boston

Boston Introduces 'Maximum Parking Ratios' for Large Buildings

Large buildings with uses of all kinds will be subject to Boston's new "Maximum Parking Ratios."

October 14, 2021 - Streetsblog Mass

A person in a bright green vest with the words "Covid Marshall" patrols a street fair in Australia.

5 Tips for Planning Safe Post-Pandemic Events

As community events start move off-screen and become available to the public again, here are five ways organizers can ensure public health and safety.

October 13, 2021 - Devin Partida

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.