Transit author discusses Tucson’s mass transit direction

Published: Jul. 15, 2014 at 7:08 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A transportation guru of sorts paid Tucson a visit Friday and discussed how methods of mass transit, such as busses and rail, are becoming more essential, and how to run those systems better here.

Jarrett Walker was in town from Portland Oregon and has written a book about human transit.  About two hundred people showed up, and the event was standing room only at one point.  He said that the miles that Americans drive stopped growing and leveled out in 2006; therefore, the demand for public transit can be justified.  Of course Tucson faces challenges.  One problem is simply showing people the frequency of the bus and rail lines so that they can see when to depend on being picked up.  He made and displayed a map of Tucson to show routes with less than a 15 minute waiting time.

As federal transportation funding is dwindling and the future of the Federal Highway Trust Fund is becoming uncertain, he said that the burden of future projects falls locally.

“That’s a tremendous challenge, having to more of the funds closer to home, through state government, through local government.  There is a bright side, though, which is, you get to decide, right?  Because with federal money comes all of these federal guidelines, and sometimes that can actually get in the way of a community having a clear conversation about what it wants and what it’s willing to pay for,” Walker said.

He also says that transit agencies should be able to raise fares as necessary to maintain and improve public transit services.  Concerns about subsidizing fares should be handled by social services instead of transit agencies.

“We end up with a clearer conversation because if we want to spend money on fare subsidies for low-income people, that’s great, that’s a social service, let’s do that, but let’s set transit fares where transit fares need to be in order to serve the broader population,” he said.

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