Transit and rail

Americans prefer a more multimodal transportation network

Our nation has changed its opinion of public transportation. In the 2016 elections, voters approved nearly $170 billion in new funding for public transportation. Popular support for light rail, subways, buses and streetcars is proof Americans now perceive public transportation as more than a public service, operated for those who might have no other mobility option.

Today, Americans view public transportation in a broader context: as an investment in economic growth, stronger business and a better quality of life – in addition to fulfilling its traditional role of providing basic mobility.

Several key factors may be contributing to the shift in perspective:
  • The benefits of transit go far beyond transportation: Businesses thrive near transit stations, and commercial and residential real estate rise in value. This generates greater economic activity and jobs while increasing the tax base.
  • People want choice, so they can determine for themselves the most convenient, fastest, most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B.
  • With expanding rideshare services, emerging ride-hailing and the potential for autonomous vehicle options, more people have a lower-stress, modestly priced way to connect home to station.
  • When transit and rideshare options work in tandem, they can decrease demand for parking, thus freeing up land for more fruitful development.
  • Strong leadership among elected officials, transit CEOs, general managers, transit boards and others are reframing the public’s understanding of transit’s role.

Diana Mendes, AICP, is Mid-Atlantic Division president, senior vice president and leader transit/rail market sector for HNTB. Mendes recently received the 2017 Training Professional of the Year Award from the National Transit Institute. Her knowledge of industry issues makes her a sought-after speaker and resource for such national media outlets as Newsweek and USA Today.

Mendes has more than 31 years of experience in the transit industry and has served on multiple trade association boards and committees, including the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the American Public Transportation Association, the American Planning Association and the Women’s Transportation Seminar.

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Photo: Dallas Area Rapid Transit South Oak Cliff Blue Line Extension (SOC-3)