bigredmed wrote: TitosBuritoBarn wrote:
Professor Woland wrote:My prediction, and I may well end up being wrong, is that in a decade, when most of the millenials and the older part of the following generation are all busy with their kids and have moved out to the suburbs to escape OPS and provide the kids with a yard, the next cadre of young adults who moves into the area won't be nearly as enamored of the streetcar, seeing it more as a lumbering behemoth that doesn't suit their transit needs. The true believers will try desperately to preserve it, but the costs of the first track replacement will be too much to justify and the system will be scrapped. The developers will have waxed fat thanks, in part to the streetcar, the area along the track will have some nice buildings and good restaurants, and the overwhelming majority of the residents will prefer to get around by car. Maybe it will be "worth it", a couple hundred million might be an okay price to pay for a concentration of development as opposed to a similar amount of development dispersed throughout a more diffuse area, that is for each person to decide for themselves.
The thing about that reasoning is, should the next generation decide they like a different style of mass transportation - an autonomous pod or something - will Omaha still be the city that sits there and thinks "no, this will be a boondoggle. Autonomous pods will have a novelty of five years and the next generation will want teleportation devices. Let's wait until then." Meanwhile the new hip cities of the era will have found a way to integrate autonomous pods with street cars and some kind of future bus and all the cool kids will move to those places while Omaha digs itself into a hole of mediocrity and backhanded complement internet lists like Best Places to be a Cat Lady.
I think you are too dark in your pessimism here. Omaha is full of practical people. People who look at mass transit based on how they and their neighbors will be affected or will use it. My employer has been pushing its employees to bus or carpool due to parking. The big concerns and blow back were not people losing their minds over "boondoggles", but over the hassle of park and rides, where they drive to a mall that may or may not be secured, leave their car and then hope the bus gets there on time, and hopes that the bus gets them to work on time (Note, big employers love mass transit as it fixes their parking problem, but they don't love it enough to take the fangs out of their HR policies.)The problem that you and the rest of the cheerleaders have is that you never pause for the moment that would tell you that people who don't do what you think is best are not doing it because of some moral or intellectual defect, but because their lives are not like yours and the solution that you have dreamed up for a problem they don't have is unwelcomed by them.
As Professor Wolland stated, OPS continues to circle, every steadily around the drain. It is run by people who took 127 votes to see who got to be chair of the school board. It is run by entrenched camps that don't give a rat's backside about anything but getting their wish list paid for. Any problem at all is an excuse for the teachers union to demand a raise. A light bulb burns out and the solution will involve a raise. Meanwhile, they look at the suburban schools growing and the kids graduating from them doing well. They look at big chunks of Omaha sliding back into the 1970s (where you put your kids in catholic schools, or they didn't get much of an education.) People will continue to flood the burbs. Look for Bennington to take off, and look for DC West to start growing in the next 10 years (especially if developers figure out a way to effectively develop the flood plain between the Elkhorn and Platte.) You will need to have a mass transit system that at least has some functionality there. Even if the urbanists get hives west of 72nd street, reality is reality.
I definitely agree with most of your points here. It's certainly the goal to achieve a transit system that can serve all corners of a metropolitan area reliably and I am optimistic that that's achievable in most places. The challenge in trying to build a fully metropolitan transit system in the US is that it has to serve a number of different lifestyles while not being a massive drain on the city budget. That's no easy task, particularly because our metropolitan areas aren't built in a way (anymore) that's conducive to simply laying down some track or bus lines every couple blocks anywhere in the metro and achieving success. You need to be pretty clever.
Personally, despite being a big proponent of transit, I drive 40 miles round trip to work each day to a suburb known for its gigantic mall and office parks. I could sell my car and take two trains and a cab/bike to work, but I'm not going to. It's inconvenient for a number of reasons. As a part of my job, I've worked on a number of projects to promote and enhance comprehensive transportation systems (and compatible land uses) here in the Chicago area. Through this experience, I've learned that there are a lot of moving parts that need to come together for great successes to occur in adding value to the current transit system and you often have to think far outside the box.
Some parts of most metros are built conducive to alternative modes of transportation. These places are typically inhabited by people whose lifestyles are also most conducive to alternative modes of transportation and who are most open to using it. They are the low hanging fruit. If you can win them over to increased reliance on transit - hit some grand slams in creating infrastructure where it's easiest - you can set a good precedent for expanding the system to ever more challenging areas of the metro, like exurban areas. A standard bus system like what most metros have doesn't often cut it due to the stigma they've developed. Transit needs to bring some heat if it's going to hit that grand slam. In my opinion that heat could be streetcar, BRT, bikeways, it all depends. Then expanding to the more challenging areas is where being clever comes in. Transit is not a one size fits all deal. You need to implement systems that are both compatible with the existing system but also meet different needs. For example, in the Chicago area, we recently implemented a program where several express bus lines running from the far flung suburbs to downtown are allowed to use the freeway shoulder to bypass traffic. Ridership increased over 200% on each line compared to before they were allowed to do that. It's unusual, but it works.
In summation, in my experience, a good transit system starts where it's easiest, does well where it's easiest, and incrementally expands outward adding new pieces with a level of innovation that meets the needs of the people in that area while being reasonably compatible with the rest of the system.
"Video game violence is not a new problem. Who could forget in the wake of SimCity how children everywhere took up urban planning." - Stephen Colbert