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It's definitely a good idea to do this sort of thing every once in a while to flush out the stale bits from the network design and to realign the network with the way the city has grown. But just because you've redesigned the network from scratch doesn't mean that it has to be presented that way to the public. Chances are, many of the routes will look the same, and others will look like modifications or extensions of existing routes, and presenting it that way will keep people who use the system and are used to it from getting too confused by the changes. Also, I think this sort of exercise is still applicable for systems that rely on fixed infrastructure, like trolleybuses, streetcars, and even subways. Obviously, the options are constrained by the infrastructure, but it can still be useful to make sure you're making the best use of what you have, or to find opportunities to make small investments with large benefits in terms of providing better service.

Peter Parker

Jarrett, Having just gone through this process in Melbourne, I'm curious as to the point public consultation is brought in.

It is early on in the piece (in which you might only have an evening of their time - rather than several days as you would with professionals) or much later on when you're testing your draft network for acceptance?

Although some of the public who attend these things might be very parochial, anti-bus or have other agendas (eg local school issues), our experience is that as a whole they do generally provide sensible and worthwhile input.

Most of our reviews (which covered anywhere between 15 and about 70 routes) actually included 2 rounds of public meeting, but the last 2 or 3 cut it down to 1.

Another point relates to the frequent network, and whether there is scope for another step between when you've planned your frequent network and when you starting on the individual local routes.

This immediate step (especially in low density suburbia) could be for short corridors that don't justify their own frequent route but would need the frequency provided by two or three carefully timed overlapping local routes.

Here in Melbourne we've just had a bus review (City of Wyndham) where the reviwers understood this but it got missed when the new network was put into practice.

Hence we got a very lumpy timetable, with six bus departures from the railway station in a few minutes followed by none for 37 minutes (towards the area's biggest shopping centre that's remote from rail).



A common complaint about how public involvement is done (from the public, and often from those cynical about the transit authority's competence or motivations) is that it's all a show--a presentation of "here's what we are going to do, like it or not" disguised as the seeking of feedback. In many cases, if an agency has gone through several rounds of design already, there's little room for a late public review to result in any significant changes.

Here's a question: Were a TA to a new network design (here lets assume that the scope of the re-design is limited to route planning, not major new infrastructure--so no environmental impact statement or local equivalent is needed)--and receive overwhelmingly negative feedback from the public--under what conditions where the design be scrapped?

In my profession (SW development), there are many different levels of customer/user involvement during the development process. In so-called "rapid development" methodologies, users are involved early and often, and given prototypes (something which doesn't have an equivalent in transit system design, I realize). Even in more traditional development models, where customers aren't directly involved until later, the feedback is important. I've been on projects before that underwent significant re-design late in the cycle after customers objected strenuously to what we were preparing to ship.

Cross-discipline advice is often useful--though its use is frequently limited, so take it with a grain of salt.

Joseph E

@EngineerScotty; you said: " In so-called "rapid development" methodologies, users are involved early and often, and given prototypes (something which doesn't have an equivalent in transit system design, I realize)"

The technology underlying Google Maps and many local transit trip planners could give us a virtual "prototype". The transit planner could make a prototype schedule, and then put it into a version of the trip planner. The public would get a chance to see how their trips would change, at least if the buses are on schedule.

The next step would be to build a piece of software which would allow the public to shift around bus service, and see the results. I know I would pay a good money for a program like that! It might even sell as a Wii or PC game. On a more limited scale, the transit planners could provide several different alternative networks, based on different funding levels or different priorities, or showing the addition of a new rapid transit system.


@Joseph E,

There's a freeware game that does something like what you describe. It's a German game called "Mobility," and it was developed in part by the Frankfurt transport commission.

It's like a rudimentary Sim City, but the key point is you get to draw transit routes and stops and your goal is to move the city's passengers efficiently.

See this site: http://ecogamer.org/environmental-games/mobility-transportation-game/


Data is critically important.

One thing to do is to get the data together -- trying to figure out where people are coming from and going to, and where (and when) they want to --

Then start community meetings for brainstorming, *providing* the data, and simultaneously collecting the anecdotal information which may fill in the gaps in the data. (They have some crazy name for these sort of meetings which I can't remember.)

This all comes right at the beginning of the process. At this point, a really effective transport agency should have a sense of public priorities and desires. At that point a major redesign becomes *politically* possible, though several rounds of feedback remain necessary to *keep* it politically possible. It'll still need to be sold as "changes" most likely, of course.

At least this is what seems to have happened in the cases where there was the least public objection and the most approval of changes.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

I think I agree with all comments to this point. I write a little about "build your own system" planning games, which I use as a consultation tool, here:


Peter, the process I'm describing in the post is the core part of a service review where you actually hammer out the proposal. You really do need 3-5 experts in a room, uninterrupted, to do that. Of course those experts include operations representatives who know a lot about what customers think, and data on public opinion may be part of the data that we study at the beginning.

I'm a big advocate of doing consultation shortly after this stage, where the ideas are still soft, before we've all "fallen in love" with our own work.

Where there's a lot of cynicism -- people saying "this is all for show; you'll do what you want to do anyway" -- I recommend drawing two service plans that differ in some fundamental way, such as the balance between service designed for ridership and service designed for coverage. When people see that there are still two plans, it defeats some of those skeptics.

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