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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Rethinking Transportation Networks

A Better Way to Plan for the Future

Historically, transportation planning—at all levels of government—has too often been fragmented. Road planners focused on roads, public transit planners focused on transit, rail people focused on railroads. Disparate transportation systems didn’t work smoothly together because they hadn’t been planned together as a network. Uncoordinated planning also led to inefficiencies and drove up costs.

In addition, transportation planning often took place without fully accounting for community impacts. Transportation systems ideally connect neighborhoods, support communities, and provide opportunities for residents. But too often in the past, transportation planners have designed roadways and rail that cut through neighborhoods or directed travelers away from commercial districts.

All of this needs to change.

America Needs Multi-Modal Transportation Networks

The future of American transportation requires that we break down silos. To meet the needs of a growing population, we need coordinated planning efforts that result in robust, flexible multi-modal transportation networks that include public transit, ridesharing services, and bikesharing, as well as driving, safe walking routes, and other options. These systems must be planned and built with community input, with the goal of providing better mobility and an improved quality of life for all.

Transportation planners and government leaders in particular must think in terms of regional networks, not one-off projects. We must move past thinking about transportation in binary terms — a or b, car vs. bus — and instead think holistically about transportation — a and b and c and d, car and bicycle and bus and streetcar.

The flexibility and choice of multi-modal networks will also help meet the needs of people who travel at different times and with different destinations. Past transportation planning often focused largely on bringing rush-hour commuters from suburbs and outlying areas to a city center and then back again. Smartphones and sophisticated data analysis are already enhancing current networks, but coordination must take place in planning stages, too.

Forward-thinking transportation planning must account for a greater range of transportation needs, enabling more geography to be covered during more times of the day via multiple modes of transportation. When multiple modes of transportation intersect and transfers are seamless, networks will be more cost-efficient and speed travel.

Last year’s passage of long-term transportation legislation, the FAST Act, lays the groundwork for building new transportation networks. Now we need local, state, and federal leaders to work together to build and connect whole transportation networks.

What transportation additions and improvements would you like to see in your area—or what changes are you already seeing? Please share your story and thoughts with us today.