Ten Highlights from the First Day of Rail~Volution

Ten Highlights from the First Day of Rail~Volution

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By Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement and Communications Director

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Railvolution-Conference-2015I arrived at Rail~Volution this morning, where I’m set to present on strategic campaigns to build support for transportation. In just a few hours at the annual conference (held this year in Dallas), there’s a sense of a conversation that’s picking up steam in cities around the country—about rethinking our streets, transportation systems, and use of public space. Here’s a quick sample of what conference attendees and presenters are buzzing about in Dallas.

  1. Apps. DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) has an app for transit passes—no paper ticket or card required. The app also was just integrated with Lyft and Uber.
  2. Holistic design. A Transit Street Design Guide is coming from NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials), with examples of design that looks at a whole system and how it works together.
  3. Car sharing & driverless cars. Driverless cars are expected within current planning horizons (e.g., by 2040). If, currently, private cars sit for 94 percent of the time, and if, in the future, cars become more shared, then ultimately fewer will be sitting and waiting for their “owners” —and we won’t need so much space for them.
  4. Streets for people. Check out Seattle and San Francisco for examples of North American streets where cars have been reduced to a single travel lane—giving space over to transit, bicycling, and walking.
  5. A shift in metrics—from counting cars to counting people and designing to move people faster. Examples: signal priority for trains at rush hour moves 300+ people through an intersection. BRT lanes on city streets in Chicago increase speed of buses through downtown. This happened on Marquette & 2nd in Minneapolis, too.
  6. Return on investment of using space differently. In Chicago, parking spaces repurposed as public spaces for 6 months of the year generate more revenue.
  7. Improving transit service. Bus systems in Houston and Barcelona have been simplified to a more predictable and understandable grid pattern. Barcelona also has committed to providing a similar level of service for every neighborhood.
  8. Transit expansion & jobs. Denver is going from three to six lines on its transit system in one year, greatly expanding access to jobs across their metro.
  9. Rider experience. Transit stations redesigned to reduce perceived walking distance for users. Duplicative facilities ensure accessibility (no more “elevator out of service at this station”).
  10. The power of pop-up demos. Using white duct tape, straw benches, snap-together walls, temporary planters, and Crayola street paint to show neighborhoods what their streets and parking lots could look like, and how a narrower street can mean more space for people.

Catch us on Twitter at @tlcminnesota for more updates from the Rail~Volution conference and beyond!