Scott says this investment isn’t just in terms of pedestrians, but also for bikes as well, anything to incentivise people to use transit. And this comes from the idea of looking at transit in terms of total view, not just moving people from place.
“It was kind of like here we are. Emerald City came up. Right outside of it when you start looking at all the things that are the connectors. That just could’ve been done and planned and thought through with our partners much better.”
Scott pointed out to me that transit is a competition. It’s not a competition of cars versus transit, though. What transit is competing against is a trip.
“I’m competing against one person [whose] trip starts from the moment that the individual is making that decision to put their foot outside their door and then what they’re going to have to do before they put their foot into where they are going on the other end,” Scott says.
“And I am competing against them being able to go put their foot, walk a few steps, maybe into their garage or down to the street and put their foot in their automobile and get off on the other end.”
Scott says the competition comes down to a variety of issues, including personal independence, security, the “one-seat ride,” and incentives and disincentives such as parking availability. To compete, transit needs to look at the trip itself and think bigger, think about not the ride, but the total package.
She says the industry over the last decade or more has questioned itself on why European cities were doing so well in terms of transit. What were they doing so differently? The answer was they weren’t building systems for people who needed to use them, but for those who wanted to.
“They are absolutely building systems of first choice, not last resort,” Scott says.
“And I’m saying and that is a whole, not only psychological, but then what winds up happening is that because they were building systems of first choice, all of their public policies and everything synergistically were lined up to support that outcome.
“So their parking policies. Their petrol prices. I mean it wasn’t happening by chance.”
Scott says this is why the upcoming SAFETEA-LU reauthorization is going to be critical, not only for funding, but in terms of federal policy making. It’s about the big picture, encompassing not just transit, but land use, sustainability, the environment, homeland security and more.
“So candidly to me whether we drill now, didn’t drill now is insignificant. The point is that it is a limited resource and it is the wrong resource for us to be trying to utilize as being what’s going to be our economic engine to drive to move forward,” Scott says.
“So when are we going to kind of connect all of the dots. Who would ever had believed, my God, not six years ago, not four years ago, that the public, the information and the facts that are out there that people really would begin to connect the dots.”
Scott says the unsustainable engine driving the transportation automobile right now is petroleum, more specifically a society and economy that are built on the voracious consumption of petroleum.
“Unless we make a major shift in that paradigm we are not going to in fact wind up having any real impact in terms of what we’re doing with the environment.” Scott says.
“This federal authorization is critical. [We] can’t do it the way we have been doing it. We laugh at national vision. We don’t have any coherence in terms of our overall transportation policies. And I am really … I believe there is clearly an element of evolution. You can’t automatically after 50 years throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
Scott says in the end it comes back to the numbers. Performance metrics need to be established so we can answer questions like what are we doing to reduce vehicle miles traveled, carbon emissions and our dependency on foreign oil. She says it might be heretical, but as an industry we need to stop talking about need and start talking about outcomes.
“These are significant public investments and we must be prepared to stand up and be accountable and transparent for moving the bar.