Peter Rogoff, Chief Executive Officer of Sound Transit, shares his perspectives on transit issues and innovative solutions. Peter’s previous roles included Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration and USDOT Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy.
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The following are my perspectives on transit issues and innovative solutions:
It is so painful hearing from all you officials about the transportation funding all the time, whether it is highways or transit. Maybe, president Trump sees it the way I do, when cutting the transit funding. New transit development in the US is currently chaotic at lot of places as I can see it. Many of the transit routes (BRT, LRT) are being instituted based on political obsession without proper transportation systems development based on real travel demand as well as on the proper choice of appropriate travel mode, and understanding the different operations characteristics of each mode.
Most parts of these developments are meant to provide social services to those, who possess the socialistic mentality of entitlement regardless of the enormous cost to the society. In all of these cases, the transit operations are poorly utilized and subsidized a way beyond their justification, while everybody becoming a looser. On top of it, there are other negative consequences of the poorly utilized transit, such as the obstruction of highway traffic instead of the reduction of highway congestion.
It is the total mismanagement of the available funds not only in transit, very much in highways. I keep talking about this for many years and it does not get any better. It is the absolute lack of the transportation system design management and the construction of many wrong and ineffective transportation facilities. This is all due to the inadequate recognition of our leaders to be well educated and experienced in traffic engineering, transit operations design, and in general transportation planning. The level of this profession and the related leadership is frightening to me.
All of the innovations and technology can be useful only, if someone really knows how much of it is practical, and how to apply them. Otherwise, you waste a lot of engineering energy and funding without any real benefits. I worked at a few transportation research centers, the best one was the General Motors Transportation Systems Division, where I have learned these statements to be absolutely true.
The transit needs to be designed and constructed in order to deal with the travel demand which cannot be handled effectively by highway traffic and will provide effective solution for traffic congestion, creating livable environments in our cities, and a lot more. In these cases, there needs be a real potential demand, corresponding to the transit travel mode used to satisfy this demand. Only then there is a justification for use of the public funding for transit operations, because only then everybody benefits from its existence, transit riders as wells the highway traffic. That is where the most important part of transportation leadership starts. Good examples are in New York City, and Washington, D.C., and most of all, in Europe, built a long time ago.
To accomplish that is another huge story. The effective transit system in this car oriented society is to provide a lot better travel service, savings of travel time, reduction of highway congestion, proper combination of transit modes, grade separated operations, direct connections for most of the transit trips, good coordination between the individual transportation modes and still a lot more. It is an art of designing transit. I find it repeatedly impossible communicating with the people in the powerful decision making positions.
Transit operations design is a complex profession; something you find out only after being trained and experienced in this business for several years, hands on designing and operating each of its parts in the field on daily basis, instead of being appointed to a top transit position without this kind of background. Without it you cannot really lead.
There is a way for the design and development of powerful transit systems, which provide savings in travel time and create pedestrian malls in downtown areas, free of all traffic. I worked at one of those in Europe. It is an unwritten rule in Europe that every metropolitan area having more than one million populations has to have an underground metro. The most attempts to share this experience have repeatedly met with ignorance and disdain from our transportation “professional” community.
Ing. Rudolf Kolaja, P.E., T.E., PTOE