Thursday, September 25, 2008

Implementation a common debate

Perusing public transit headlines around the Internet, I came across a debate similar to Ottawa's current discussion of how best to begin our transit plans. The areas in and around Indianapolis, undertaking a similar project to upgrading their transit infrastructure, are also debating whether to begin North-South or East-West, ironically enough. Here's a quick excerpt from their debate, as published in the Indy Star:
One of the most common questions we get from constituents when they hear we serve as CIRTA board members is, "Why are we talking about building a mass transit line to Hamilton County first? Why not go west -- especially when a new airport is about to open?"

The answer is that while we represent the folks in our area, our job as CIRTA board members is to do what's best for the region. Starting with the Northeast Corridor is indeed what's best for the region. The good news is that it's also what's best for the west side.

The best way to prove that mass transit can work in Central Indiana is to start in the area of greatest opportunity and lowest cost. After plenty of study and discussion, it was decided that running a line from Downtown Indianapolis to Hamilton County offered the winning opportunity-and-cost combination.
Certainly an interesting debate. It also deals with the naturally opposed viewpoints of NIMBY people (not in my backyard!) and the WIMBY people (when in my backyard?). Most important for Ottawa to keep in mind is beginning with the most effective route--whether that prove to be north-south or east-west--in order to get off on the right foot, and to prove to funding partners (federal and provincial) that their money is spent wisely. Another part of the story, preaching lessons learned from improperly-implemented Nashville transit plans:

The Hamilton County-to-Downtown line is seen as the first leg in a region-wide system. Success there will give us a track record on which we can build a system that will reach in every direction.

That initial success is important to attracting federal funds for expansion. Our counterparts in Nashville, Tenn., started with a route in an area that was not ideal and, as a result, have seen ridership well below projections. It's unlikely that it will attract federal support for future legs.

Some lessons to learn from, to be sure.

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