Guidebook: Improving Public Transit and Active Transportation Integration

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Although public transit is far safer than driving, the walk or bike to a transit stop can be hazardous.

To grow transit ridership and increase the people-moving capacity of a roadway, it is critical to include active transportation as an integral element of all transit infrastructure and operations.

That’s why The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), based in Toronto, recently released its new guidebook on that very subject.

“Transit operates most effectively when planned and built in close connection to walking and cycling facilities,” the guidebook states.

It highlights some of the most innovative policy strategies, implimaination planning, infrastructure, and programming that transit agencies have been employed — seeking to better coordinate and improve active transportation access to public transit.

Poor Transit Access

In the U.S., the lack of public transportation is impacting Latinos and all Americans.

  • In Houston (44.5% Latino), nearly one million individuals are living in areas with high-transit needs, but do not have access to frequent weekday, weekend, and evening services
  • In Atlanta (4.6% Latino), nearly 33% of residents live within a 5-minute bike of transit, yet only 0.3% of transit users access transit via bicycling
  • Across the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., just 0.04%-1.2% of land counts as walkable urban places, according to Foot Traffic Ahead 2019.

Although more Latinos walk, bike, and use public transportation, they lack access to frequent service and safe routes to access service, according to a Salud America! Research Review.

Policy Best Practices

The first section of guide explores six policy practices.

The best, and most easily replicated, approach to ensuring safe and effective access to transit on foot or bike is to embed an active transportation analysis in the planning stages for new transit projects and the communities that transit will serve,” the guidebook states.

Undertake system-wide analysis.

A number of transit agencies have conducted audits of the environment surrounding their transit facilities to both diagnose problems and identify opportunities for improvement.

  • In Portland, Oregon (9.7% Latino), TriMet surveyed the entire bus and light rail network, to include 7,000 stops, to understand how transit fits into the surrounding physical environment and what measures are necessary to improve pedestrian access to transit. Looking at areas with a higher percentage of low-income households, TriMet identified 10 focus areas to better address pedestrian needs near transit stops.
  • In Los Angeles (48.7% Latino), Metro employed GIS analysis, community consultation and site visits to examine the active transportation environment around their 661 transit stations and bus stops with the highest ridership.
  • In Houston, a transportation advocacy group conducted a transit equity analysis to determine if frequent transit is provided in communities where residents need it the most.
  • In Northeast area of Denver, although 81% of residents live with quarter mile of a bus, only 22% live within a quarter mile of frequent bus.

    In Denver (30.5% Latino), the Regional Transportation District released their State of the System report in 2017, which explored pedestrian and bicycle access to transit and proximity to frequent transit (percent living within one-fourth of 15-minute all day service) across seven zones.

Develop specific and detailed plans.

In the U.S., plans specifically for walking to transit remain uncommon as plans generally focus on either cycling specifically or active transportation more broadly.

  • Denver’s Regional Transportation District has a wide-ranging Bicycle and Parking Plan that proposes 18 strategies to encourage bike access; increase and improve bike access to transit; modify and enhance bike parking; enhance bike marketing; tracking and evaluating; and implementation.
  • Portland also committed to a wide range of pedestrian and cycling facility improvements through street design changes in the Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan, such as hiring a Complete Streets Transit Coordinator.
  • Los Angeles Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan provides case studies of transit facilities to identify problems and opportunities for active transportation access and a toolbox of measures to improve active transportation and public transit integration.
  • The Atlanta Regional Commission supplemented their 2016 Walk, Bike, Thrive plan with an “idea book” of strategies for improving bicycling access to transit.

Provide dedicated, predictable and long-term funding.

Although grant-based programs can encourage municipalities to partner with transit agencies, dedicated funding is essential to improve public transit and active transportation integration.

In 2004, voters in San Francisco (15.3% Latino) approved a $1 increase to bridge tolls in the region to fund public transit, with $20 million going towards 54 Safe Routes To Transit (SR2T) projects, like pedestrian bicycle crossings. In 2018, voters approved a further bridge toll increase that will provide $4.45 billion for transit improvements and $150 million for SR2T projects.

Improve active transportation and public transit simultaneously.

Municipalities should strive to reconfigure streets to prioritize public transit and walking and biking to public transit. Furthermore, transit agencies should strive to include improved active transportation infrastructure in new transit projects at every opportunity.

Some cities are shifting to a Complete Streets planning framework and to multimodal metrics to increase the people-moving capacity of streets.

Additional policy best practices include, conduct outreach to riders and transit agency staff and form partnerships and assign clear roles.

Of course, there are additional considerations when integrating transit and active transportation, like equity and affordable housing.

Best Infrastructure and Programming Practices

The second section of the guidebook provides an overview of measures that municipalities and transit agencies in Canada and the U.S. have employed to improve active transportation and public transit integration, including.

  • Active transportation routes to transit: Safe Routes To Transit, Complete Streets, and transit corridors as walking and cycling routes.
  • Public transit station facilities: station environment, station access, bicycle parking and storage, and people-friendly parking lots.
  • Public transit stop facilities: stop environment, stop design, and stop accessibility.
  • Multi-modal service integration: bicycling and transit service integration, bike on transit, bikeshare and transit integration, and using transit to cross physical barriers.
  • Mitigating transit vehicle and vulnerable road user conflicts.

Importantly, lessons from other municipalities are only valuable if correctly applied.

For example, there is an important distinction between bike facilities and protected bike lanes according to the June 2019 Journal of Transport & Health.

Researchers analyzed 13 years of data from 12 large U.S. cities, and found that protected and separated bike facilities would result in 44% fewer deaths and 50% fewer serious injuries than an average city.

Walking Audits

The third section of the guidebook consists of audit tools for walking and biking to transit.

In San Francisco, a grassroots transit advocacy organization, San Francisco Transit Riders, a walking advocacy organization, Walk San Francisco, and staff from the transit agency conducted walking audits along several bus routes in communities with large minority and low-income populations.

Audits highlight both negative and positive aspects of street and transit facility design.

“Audit walks and bike rides can play an important role in actively involving residents in the process of simultaneously improving cycling, walking and public transit in their communities,” the guidebook states.

Share this guidebook with planners and advocates interested in creating better walking and bicycling access to transit.

You can also check out 10 strategies to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections to transit.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

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Pedestrians survive when hit by a car at 40 MPH

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