Oregon study offers guide to success for small-city transit

By Norman Clark

As the training coordinator/planner for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Public Transit Division, I often see cities and transit agencies struggle over ways to make local transit systems more accessible, more comfortable and supportive of general community goals. These goals include downtown revitalization, economic development and better mobility for local residents.

I was therefore pleased when I received an invite to serve on the Project Advisory Committee for the development of a new guidebook, Transit in Small Cities: A Primer for Planning, Siting, and Designing Transit Facilities in Oregon (www.oregon.gov/LCD/TGM/docs/fulltransitprimer4-4-13.pdf).

In partnership with ODOT Public Transit Division, the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program (TGM) produced the study in conjunction with Parson’s Brinkerhoff in Portland.

The new primer gives specific guidance to small-city transit providers for planning, designing and locating transit facilities. It offers instruction for bus shelters, signage, access-ways to transit stops and other amenities that support public transit systems. The primer lays out a basic planning process and offers tips for success that are easy tailored to the particular city. Finally, it draws upon successful examples from Oregon to provide relevant advice and illustrate best practices.

This study addresses dozens of questions central to making public transit easier to access and use:

• How can bus shelters be integrated into
the community?
• What shelter fixture and amenities, such as benches and lighting, should the agency provide?
• How can transit agencies improve access to transit for everyone, including elderly and disabled pasengers?
• How can access to transit stops be improved for pedestrians and bicyclists?
• Where should transit providers locate park-and-ride lots?
• How can these and other parking facilities be integrated into surrounding neighborhoods?
• What funding sources are available for
transit facilities?

Small-city transit helps connect people with the places they want to go. Public transportation opens economic opportunities for local residents and businesses, enables students who do not own cars to get to school or college classes, and helps the elderly stay independent. It allows rural populations access to jobs, retail centers, healthcare and social services. Much like larger transit systems, small-city transit enhances quality of life and economic vitality.

As in larger communities, small-city transit systems function best when integrated with local land use and community design decisions. When transit planners collaborate with local land-use planners and key stakeholders in the community, they leverage the investments of others. Well-located, well-designed transit facilities can help advance broader community goals, such as downtown revitalization. They can promote active transportation by providing direct access to transit stops and nearby destinations.

In this era of economic austerity and tight budgets, transit providers can significantly improve their system by working with local governments to create a package of small and low-cost transit amenities.

Kimi Iboshi-Sloop of Parsons-Brinckerhoff’s Portland office served as the lead author of the primer, while many transit and land use representatives provided insights into the project.

The project advisory committee included Steven Allen, South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART); Constance Beaumont, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development; Joni Bramlett, Oregon Department of Transportation Public Transit Division; Norm Clark, Oregon Department of Transportation Public Transit Division; Sue Geniesse, Oregon Department of Transportation; Will Mueller, Lane Transit District; Cheryl Jarvis-Smith, Oregon Department of Transportation; Frank Thomas, Community Connections of Northeast Oregon; Paige Townsend, Rogue Valley Transit District; and Dinah Vanderhyde, Oregon Department of Transportation Public Transit Division.

For more information about the primer or TGM’s technical services to local governments – contact Constance Beaumont at constance.beaumont@state.or.us. To exchange ideas on how the primer can be used for training purposes – contact Norm Clark at norman.clark@odot.state.or.us.