October 10, 2014

Old Maps, New Plans: Lessons for Vancouver

Colleen Hardwick recommends this article from CityLab:


What Old Transit Maps Can Teach Us About a City’s Future

An analysis of once-rejected, later-constructed routes in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston.


During the past 50 years, citizens in Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles rejected transit plans only to see elements of those same plans re-emerge in today’s growing systems. By delaying the development of mass transit within their most densely populated corridors, in some cases for decades, all three cities missed opportunities to expand mobility, contributing to many of the problems they face today.
(Kyle Shelton undertook) an analysis of historic transit maps from each of these cities to highlight many of these once-rejected, later-constructed routes.


Los Angeles

Forwarded by the Southern California Rapid Transit District in 1968, the plan called for the construction of five inaugural transit lines.



Voters rejected the plan for a variety of reasons.  … In the 1970s, L.A. voters rejected two other plans with similar route proposals for comparable reasons. Finally, in 1980, a plan that mirrored the previously rejected routes was accepted.



While the city still faces massive traffic problems on its freeways, the system L.A. has and will continue to develop allows the region to move forward with a full complement of options—albeit decades after that process might have begun.



… the lesson is that historic transportation decisions offer evidence to support citizens, elected officials, and transit authorities making bold decisions about regional transportation in the present—sometimes even before travel demand exists—that will pay dividends in the future.
Time and again, American cities have chosen to embrace road construction and neglected to fund mass transit at anywhere near the same level. As the nation’s highway network once again faces what seems to be a now annual funding crisis and calls for state and local funding of new projects grow, ensuring that municipalities and metropolitan areas reflect upon the historic paths that have brought them to the present day and what choices made today might mean for tomorrow has never been more timely or essential.


More here for comparisons of Houston and Atlanta.  
Within a year, Vancouver will decide whether it will join this list – and add the Mayors’ Council vision for rapid-transit expansion, among other proposals, to rejected plans that will be rersurrected in the future at vastly expanded cost.

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  1. The key issue is that you cannot ask the citizens for an opinion as most are far too uneducated or uninformed for these complex, expensive and very long range decisions. Like MetroVan today. A transit referendum will therefore fail.
    Ergo: Just build it, even against opposition. It is called leadership.

  2. “American cities have chosen to embrace road construction and neglected to fund mass transit at anywhere near the same level.” Even with a great deal (billions of dollars) of rail construction in the past 25 years, this remains true for the L.A. Region.