Sunday, June 7, 2015

About the city's bus routes ...

Posted By on Sun, Jun 7, 2015 at 6:32 AM

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Public transit is a topic that many don’t want to talk about — they don't use it, so they don't care very much. However, in terms of a city's success, transit is about the closest thing to a “silver bullet” as it gets. Do it right, and the city will prosper without knowing why. Do it wrong, and, well, you'll be Colorado Springs.

Transit reform is difficult. You have to be willing to ask the tough questions and be chastised for doing so. I attended a breakfast discussion on the the topic a couple of months ago. It was a good discussion, where a spokesperson for the city said all the right things — "We want choice riders,” "Frequency of service is needed,” etc. — while, of course, legitimizing the failure of Colorado Springs' transit with budget constraints.

We are incredibly underfunded — there is no denying it. But given the instigative personality that I seem to possess, I asked, "Have you considered removing service in places that have low ridership and are seemingly only in place so that the Springs can attempt to 'tag' every portion of the city?” I mentioned this would free up money for more frequent service elsewhere and begin to target the "choice riders."

I don't know how it happened, but suddenly I was labeled a Judas by a woman next to me. I was scorned; this was unfair, favoring the young professionals, etc.

Perhaps I should’ve anticipated this reaction. But the fact of the matter is that even more recently, both Omaha and Houston took on a similar reform.

"Eventually you end up with a system that's so sprawled out and spliced that it doesn't work as an entire network," says Eric Jaffe, from The Atlantic’s CityLab.com.

What would transit look like if it were simplified and reformed? How many would truly be affected in Stetson Hills if bus service were no longer available?

Imagine if we had a robust, predictable transit line — running in 10-to-15-minute intervals — that could take a someone from Memorial Park to Manitou Springs. It's a simple, linear route that somehow changes street names three times without a hard turn of the bus (Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Avenue and Manitou Avenue). That one route, especially if separately branded as, let's say, the "Heritage Line,” when advertised and given service priority, could change the transit game in the region.

Sure, money could make this happen, but when we don't have any, we may have to decrease the footprint to regain users.

Four years ago, Steve Bach created the Transit Solutions Team when he became mayor. I don't have a clue what came from this. But on a positive note, I have great hope, and anticipate, that new Mayor John Suthers will make transit a priority. We can do this, Colorado Springs!

John Olson is a licensed Landscape Architect, working and residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Urban Design and Landscape for Altitude Land Consultants, formerly doing business as EV Studio Civil Engineering + Planning. He has a strong passion for our region and directs it through the business and the non-profit, Colorado Springs Urban Intervention.

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