He had graciously consented to my request to introduce him to Dr. Vukan Vuchic, Foundation Chair Professor of Transportation Engineering, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering and who is also Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.
He has been consultant on many projects which included the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco, where he has been consultant in operations and planning from 1991 to present, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) from 1998 to 2002, and various transportation planning projects, peer reviews.
He has been a consultant to mayors in Belgrade, Caracas, Edmonton, Lima, Manchester, Mexico, Naples, New York, Perth, Phoenix, Rome and Toronto.
Professor Vuchic is currently a partner with my firm’s consulting team for a project on the development of a transit design and operations plan, and was on his first of two visits on the project. His contribution includes working with us to compare alternative technologies and modes for major transit lines : bus light rail, rapid transit, and possibly, some automated modes. It also involves reviewing plans or developing designs for major transit lines, including types of rights-of-way and determine transit modes, stations, transfer stations and terminals.
He has written three books: Transportation for Livable Cities, in 1999, Urban Transit Operations, Planning and Economics, in 2005, and Urban Transit Systems and Technology in 2007. The last two are used as highly recommended texts in postgraduate programmes in transportation. He has also written many major technical reports and articles and presented at invited lectures and courses to more than 75 universities and other institutions.
While here, he agreed to present a 45-minute lecture to key representatives from several Government agencies. He spoke on “The Role of Rail Transit in Making Cities Sustainable” and “Incentives and Disincentives for Implementation of Balanced Transportation Systems.”
At our meeting with the Minister, one of the first things that the Minister said to Vuchic was that he was in favour of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and against rail transit. Vuchic’s response was that if that were true he would have been invited to be a part of his team as he was a well-known advocate for urban rail systems.
I later researched all 116 of my previous articles to determine where I could have conveyed that impression, and I will formally address this in a subsequent article.
My recent columns have been questioning how the new transportation system will work. Vuchic admits that he has been raising very similar questions about the need for subsidy, coordination and organisation of integrated services in transport planning.
He continues, “We agree that many problems and difficulties in upgrading transit are well known, and yet the ‘do nothing’ option is now easier but much more difficult to improve. In other words, instead of emphasizing the confusion, suggest how it should be prevented or solved.”
He further suggests that I take the stance that the present planning is intended to introduce a great leap in improvements of transit services : (Passengers — mobility and livability; physical — new lines; organisational — integration), but implementation is complex and requires coordination of different services.
It is particularly important to introduce into the programme two sets of policies: transit and pedestrian incentives, and car use disincentives. He adds that I should discuss the rationale for these two policies, emphasizing that ‘do nothing’ approach would only make solutions much more difficult and expensive in the future.
He recommends that these are required policies to be inserted into the programme in a logical and systematic way and in order to increase the chances for realistic, although complicated policies and measures for an appropriate transportation system.
I gave him a walking tour of City Gate, Broadway and downtown Charlotte Street and George Street during the evening peak period, to observe the current transit operations, including commuter pushing and shoving, the crowds standing for long periods in hope of an unscheduled PH or taxi, no amenities for users or operators, and complete absence of information outside of City Gate.
He remarked that the population at the lower socio-economic segment are at a very low rung of the ladder of transit provision and are desperate for transport. He also said there are some very simple things that can be done to lift them to a much higher level, even while major strategies are being investigated.
Rae Furlonge is a Traffic and Transport Engineer