More than the Bus

Since the time I started on Mass Transit, it’s amazing how much the industry has evolved. The big agencies are always in the news, so I did my best to learn about the small and mid-sized agencies; to know who they were, who worked there, where they were. Most of those agencies were focused on bus operations. Most operated 75 or fewer buses. And that was their mode.

And then news started coming out about the car-sharing or vanpool operations agencies of different sizes were starting. And then bike sharing. And pedestrian-friendly programs. And with streetcar and rail growth, many agencies are now running rail or connecting to rail.

When visiting the USDOT, it’s amazing how much more than just air, road, bus and rail it is. And it’s a good thing because those additional mobility options help public transportation.

One of the business cases for high-speed rail is with this world-economy we live in, we need our major cities — our major economic centers — connected. Communities need to think about the greater picture, how they can connect to the major economic centers.

It’s a similar story for public transportation; we need to think about the greater picture. Improving the alternative modes such as biking and pedestrian accommodations, improves people’s connections to transit.

Sounds like common sense as I write it, and I’m sure many reading this are thinking the same thing. But surprisingly, when I’m out talking to people, there are still some transit professionals out there that think they and the industry needs to be more focused on buses and trains and less focused on what they see as any non-public transit modes.

Not surprisingly, many of those that think we need to stay more focused on buses and trains, are folks I don’t see at conferences. We so often tell stakeholders they need to look at the greater picture. As you read about what the secretary and the Department of Transportation are doing to help all modes of transportation, remember to think about the big picture.