Getting to the Route of It offers insights for regions across the country, drawing on anonymous interviews with transportation professionals in six regions: Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, the New York metro area, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
On January 6, TransitCenter and the Eno Center hosted a forum entitled “Best Practices in Regional Transit Governance” that included a presentation of Getting to the Route of It at the University of Illinois Urban Transportation Center. Over 100 professionals attended the half day event where elected and appointed officials addressed the need to improve transit performance measurement standards and the equitable distribution and oversight of public funds for public transit agencies in metropolitan Chicago.
Some highlights from the report and its launch event, which was hosted at an event hosted by Regional Plan Association at Baruch College, with lively discussion of the report from MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager Beverly Scott, Chris Ward of Dragados, and Robert Paaswell of the University Transportation Research Center.
Board composition matters. The fact that New York City’s mayor appoints only 4 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 17 board members creates a situation where capital investments are slanted towards the suburbs, Joshua Schank of the Eno Center argued at the launch event. MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast begged to differ.
The San Francisco Bay Area has 26 different transit agencies, making interagency cooperation severely challenging — but the presence of a strong regional planning organization, the Metropolitan Transportation Council, has allowed regional planning and coordination to occur nonetheless.
Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority is “just strong enough to be an obstruction, but too weak to have any real planning influence.” Eno’s Schank argued that Chicago was a prime example of how poor governance can trip up a region; responding to a comment that governance was less important than funding, Schank pointed out that Chicago does have “scarcity of resources,” but that these resources are also “being wildly misallocated” due to the dysfunction of the transit agency structure.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, the lack of coordination between transportation and land use means that the region’s extensive rail network mostly serves a sprawling, park-and-ride market that will not result in long-term ridership growth.
Structure matters, but as TransitCenter’s David Bragdon pointed out yesterday, good leaders can trump a flawed governance structure — and the wrong leaders can ruin a perfectly good governance structure. MBTA’s Beverly Scott argued that one of the most important governance issues for regions to address was creating the right transit board culture — one where board members feel motivated by public service rather than political patronage.