Monday, June 8, 2009

Proactive Transportation Planning

Alex Marshall from the Regional Plan Association argues why transportation planning needs to look at area of least congestion, as oppose to the more obvious destinations. While this might seem counter intuitive to most, it seems to make sense if you want to direct people to a geographic area not serves by transit. He explains how it worked in Spain:

But you don’t have to go back two centuries to find projects that anticipate demand and make it work. Spain, eyeing the fast trains in France in the early 1990s, opted to build its first high-speed rail line from Madrid to Seville, a beautiful city of Moorish architecture and Flamenco dancers, but not an economic dynamo.

Many thought a better choice would have been to build it between Madrid and the thriving city of Barcelona. Many businessmen already made that journey, and many wanted to do so more quickly and easily.

I rode the new Seville line in 1994, shortly after it opened. I made the 300-mile trip from Madrid to Seville in less than two hours, visiting the Seville World’s Fair and returning to Madrid in time for dinner. Even so, I wondered at the wisdom of making Madrid-Seville the first line in the system.

Americans seem to recognize that infrastructure investment can jump-start an economy. But as states and localities decide where to put their money, they shouldn’t simply generate studies to show where the traffic is. They should ask how transportation can expand commerce and trade, and make better places to live.

Planning for connections for major destinations makes sense, but should we be looking at a future where sprawl and development can be controlled through transportation planning?

1 comment:

Cap'n Transit said...

It's well-recognized that if you build it, they will come. What separates good induced-demand projects from bad ones is whether they lead to development that is sustainable.

Building a train line to foster compact, efficient transit-oriented development in an area that can support it is good. But if the area can't support it, or if it drives a net increase in pollution, then it's not good. It's all about sustainability.