Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reconciling Sprwal and Transit Part 2

To answer my first two questions from the previous post, I hope so, and yes.

Now to elaborate just a little bit. I personally believe this type of construction or planning will slowly fade away with time. Eventually, it will be seen for what it is, resource consuming, inefficient, and just plain wasteful. Is that time now? I like to think so, but there's not a whole lot of hard facts to say that it is in fact the truth. In the Pittsburgh area specifically, much of the re-development of former industrial sites are in the areas of commercial and residential development. There hasn't been a lot of re-development of former industrial sites in an industrial capacity.

That leads us to the answer of my second question. Because sprawling industrial parks will not suddenly disappear from the landscape, it is worth making an attempt to integrate them with transit, especially those closer to urban centers.

The hard question

Now that I've answered the easy questions, the hard question is how exactly do we integrate these sprawling industrial sites with transit? It's certainly going to cost money, and you will be hard pressed to get the owners of the parks to shell out for the integration. Most likely the authority which operates service to that park would have to shell out, but that's another topic for another post.

Before you can even think of integrating an industrial park, like RIDC East or West, Southpointe, or any industrial park you have to give them decent transit service period. The RIDC Parks have decent bus service, but I'm talking about station stop on a separated grade system, whether that be BRT, LRT or even commuter rail.

In this sprawling environment, simple access is not enough, however. A patron getting off at a central transit stop in a sprawling industrial park could be potentially be faced with a mile+ walk with no sidewalks to their place of employment.

The answer to me is pretty simple; a mini circulator. A small bus that runs on a schedule that is closely tied to the schedule of the connecting transit (BRT, LRT etc.). This circulator should provide at least street corner service, if not front door service (This ability would obviously be impacted on the size of the industrial park). Schedule integration is the key. If someone can get right on a bus from their connecting form of transit, and be able to do so under protection from the elements, they would be much more likely to utilize the transit service as opposed to waiting 5 to 10 minutes for a bus to make a connection, potentially exposed to the elements.

The Harder Question

The biggest sticking point, as usual is the cost. Will this be financially feasible? In my mind a circulator would be a relatively inexpensive investment with relatively low operating costs. The big issue from a cost standpoint is getting the connecting form of transportation (BRT, LRT etc.) to the industrial parks. Most of these parks are missing connections to begin with. That is step 1 to integration, and must occur for these mini circulators to make any sort of sense.

If they (the politicians and public) can be convinced to give industrial parks adequate access to public transit, getting the circulators, by comparison will be easy.


dhd said...

It just dawned on me that another model for the kind of "mini circulator" you're talking about is the shuttle buses that ply the extended parking lots at the airport. They don't actually have a fixed route or schedule, but through some combination of two-way radios they manage to consistently get you to the terminal in 10 minutes or so...

Snacky D said...

I think this is a great idea, especially since I am also an urban-dweller who works in a suburban industrial park (RIDC in Blawnox). Another possibility would be if the Port Authority buses all had bike racks, you could count on taking your bike on the bus and then riding the ~1 mile or so from the bus stop/hub to your office.