“We get involved with the downtown masters plans, we’ve been heavily involved with areas of the city,” Kilcoyne says. “I think to achieve the best benefit it is just that constant education effort, looking for opportunities to enlighten other individual people to think about transit and support, and how transit needs to be involved in making sure they are commenting on projects.”
He shares an example of a mixed-use development built around the train station in Fairfield that illustrates it doesn’t always go how they hope. “For the last three years we’ve been going in and saying what our needs are. Trying to find appropriate places for buses has been like pulling teeth.” He explains, “We’ve met with the city, we’ve met with the state, we’ve met with everyone. Everyone says, ‘Yeah, it’s a good idea.’
“Yeah we’ve got some bus stops in there, but I’m not really happy with what we ended up with.” He adds with a laugh, “But it was not from any lack of effort on our part. So you work and sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t.” He quickly points out that sometimes the impact isn’t immediately felt and that with persistence, changes evolve. He affirms, “It’s something you have to make a priority of.”
Looking at the riders’ trip beyond the bus or train part of the trip is one of the ways that GBTA is looking to make long-lasting impacts. From the time the person walks out her door to the time she goes into the door of where she is traveling, looking at those patterns and influencing efficient options is a focus. “The prevailing attitude is that this has been an external factor and transit operators don’t have any control over that.” Kilcoyne elaborates, “That is true. We don’t have control over land use, we don’t have control over sidewalks, but the other point, we don’t have control doesn’t mean we can’t be out there trying to influence.”
He stresses, “Most of us don’t really have any control over how much money we get. When we have to either advocate for a referendum or legislation, or even if we have dedicated funding, that goes up and down with the economy.” He points out that just as they work to influence funding, they work to influence land use.
With the infill growth potential in Bridgeport, there is a lot of potential for transit. “In the next 10 years I see us growing significantly,” Kilcoyne states. “I’m hoping that we’ll become more of a mobility manager, particularly in the downtown area where we will be working with the city of Bridgeport in some kind of partnership, managing overall transportation and just taking a more comprehensive view to transportation.”
This leads to a discussion of SUDS, the Sustainability Urban Design Standards with APTA, including its Urban Design Standards Work Plan. “We’re trying to use the same standards approach to urban design issues,” he says comparing it to APTA’s other standards programs. “It’s a very broad area because we’re looking at both, tools to give to transit agencies so they know what to advocate for as well as standards that could be adopted by the FTA when approving transit projects for transit funding.”
Because this is a formal standards process, he has hopes that it has the potential to be adopted by other organizations, as well. “We will be using some of the material that has been put into these best-case documents and will look for the missing pieces and give them kind of that industrywide standards appeal.
“It may also have more credibility with other organizations — traffic engineers, planners, architects — because they’ve gone through the standards process within a traffic engineering community.” He says with a laugh, “People are more likely to break a law than to deviate from those standards.”
Growing Opportunity, Shrinking Funding
Just as with most other agencies, funding is a concern. One thing Kilcoyne talked about at great length was the pending reauthorization. “The current SAFETEA-LU expires next year and there is an effort to get authorization — not reauthorization — because now is the time to start looking at some changes in the approach,” he stresses. “I’ve been particularly interested in the whole issue of operating assistance.