When it comes to the quality of public transportation, many cities that were once notable for their advanced public transit are seeing their infrastructure age rapidly, whereas other cities and townships (especially in rural areas) unfortunately lack the infrastructure altogether to operate modernized and useful systems of public transportation.
Local officials play a critical role in the effectiveness of public transportation in their localities depending on whether or not they advocate for improved transportation options. Luckily, federal funding and advancements in technology are paving the way to local public transportation improvements. This article will detail specific and actionable steps that you can take as a public official to improve and modernize public transit in your city or town.
Why is Local Public Transportation Important?
A well-running system of local public transit makes it easier for people to reach their desired destination, whether it be for work or pleasure, without needing a vehicle. Reliable public transit also promotes accessibility, creating the ability for all your constituents to get where they need to go safely, and conveniently.
What Are the Benefits of Modern Public Transportation
Modern public transportation is a public good; a system that is meant to benefit and serve the public. The benefits of modernized public transportation are extensive including: improved eco-friendliness, social inclusivity, convenience, and economic growth for the community.
Read on to learn about all of the benefits modernized public transit systems will provide your community.
1. Economic Development
Functional public transit systems make it easier for community-members to access stores and services within the community that weren't previously accessible for those without cars. The stores and businesses in your community will grow with the influx of new patrons.
Public transit not only increases community-member engagement, but also allows people to take public transit to work in areas that they could not previously reach. Reliable public transit creates an expanse of opportunity for constituents to grow their own economic standing and reinvest in the community. People from other towns and communities will also take public transit to work or visit your community and boost the local economy.
How Can Local Governments Encourage Local Economic Development? Here’s what to know.
2. Increase of Tourism
Easy to access bus routes, trains, subways, etc. connecting your town to neighboring towns and communities makes it easier for people to come and explore your area. With tourism comes a boost in the financial growth of your community and those who live in it, as tourists will likely visit restaurants, local shops, and any attractions your city has to offer. Financial growth in your community will also increase opportunity for your constituents on a broad scale.
Growing your tourism sector? Here’s what to know about Managing Short-Term Rentals in Your Community.
3. Environmental Benefits
The environmental impact of motor vehicles cannot be understated. Recent data suggests that high-population cities produce more than two-thirds of the world’s greenhouse gasses, by themselves. Supporting a more effective, modernized, public transportation system in your city will decrease the impact of the carbon footprint from your community.
Look more into the environmental benefits by reading our Local Government Sustainability guide.
4. Better Accessibility For All
Making your community accessible should be a high priority for your locality. Oftentimes:
- Disabled people have issues traveling around their communities due to physical hardships and a lack of helpful travel solutions.
- People from low income neighborhoods that can’t afford cars are typically unable to access amenities / work opportunities outside of their neighborhood too.
- People from rural areas have no alternative to driving to get around, since these often spread-out communities offer little to no public transit options.
- Vulnerable communities such as veterans and senior citizens who may not drive will have opportunities to navigate your community.
Expanding the reach and effectiveness of public transit will allow all of your constituents, regardless of their background, an affordable option to travel within your community and to other cities that may offer new work opportunities.
How to Improve Local Public Transportation
Upgrading public transit infrastructure:
Improving your public transit doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. In many cases, it could simply mean upgrading the previous infrastructure. Using federal grants or city / town budgets to improve railways, bridges, and bus terminals will make a huge difference in how efficiently public transit operates in your municipality.
Consider the Texas Infrastructure Bill, and all of the infrastructure improvements it made possible in Texas. Learn what similar grants can assist in updating your community infrastructure.
Upgrading existing public transit assets:
If a community has used the same vehicles such as buses or trains for decades, upgrading to newer, more modern assets can make for a better experience for users and less asset management expenses for the locality with less maintenance costs.
Utilize government technology:
GovPilot’s government technology was designed to expedite your city's public transportation, construction projects and asset management. Here are some government software modules for your locality to consider when upgrading transportation infrastructure:
- Construction permitting software expedites the permitting process, increasing project turnaround times. Tracking construction progress and permits is simple with the GovCloud.
- RFP / bidding modules allow you to receive / store bids from private-sector partners from your government website
- Asset management module for tracking the status of assets and automatically scheduling maintenance.
- Public works software enables your department to optimize efficiency, digitizing all aspects of project management for you.
Increasing city walkability/bikeability with municipal planning:
An overlooked aspect of public transit is the ability for constituents to navigate around the community vehicle-free themselves. If people have stores, job opportunities and parks within walking or biking distances then people won’t have to be reliant on cars, buses, or motorized vehicles.
Here’s some helpful urban planning resources:
- Becoming a 15-Minute City: How to Make Your Urban Transformation
- Municipal Planning at the Local Level: Tips & Considerations
- Regulating E-Bikes at the Local Level: What to Consider
- Leverage federal funding:
There are bills that exist to aid in the improvement of local public transit such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and American Rescue Plan. These resources set money aside to improve public transportation infrastructure nationwide. Prioritize modernizing the public transit in your city by applying to receive grants for the highest priority infrastructure projects.
Promote your public transportation infrastructure projects:
Like any exciting developments being made in your locality, make sure citizens are aware of the improvements to local public transit. Keeping your constituents up to date on improved infrastructure will encourage increased public transit usage, which in turn increases the revenue public transit (and the town as a whole) generates.
Prioritize safety on public transit:
An unsafe public transit system will discourage people from using public transportation. Protect the members of your community by ensuring that they have safe options for travel. Enforce safety rules and protocol for all riders and ensure that there is adequate staffing of security throughout the transit system.
Consider the recently updated New York City public transit protocol for inspiration.
Push to Improve Your Cities Local Public Transportation
Improving public transportation should be a priority in your city, because it raises the quality of life for your citizens immensely. Modernized public transit systems are continually becoming more of a necessity over time, as the convenience and benefits are growing increasingly difficult to ignore. Your constituents deserve safe and reliable options of traveling around their community. Not only will it help your community to be more accessible and equitable but benefits will be seen in overall economic development and eco-friendliness of your locality.
Local Public Transportation FAQs
What is local public transportation?
Local public transportation is a means of travel that is accessible to anyone in your community, designed to simplify travel with routes throughout the city, often reaching neighboring municipalities. Forms of mass travel such as buses, subways, and trains are important for economic and sustainability efforts at the local level.
How does public transportation encourage local economic development?
Supporting your community with modern public transit infrastructure often fosters various work opportunities for your constituents, as they are more easily able to find work outside of their immediate area. Local public transport also encourages tourism in your locality by streamlining a way for people to get into and around your city, which also introduces new revenue streams into your city.
How can local governments modernize their public transit?
Modernizing the public transit in your locality doesn’t have to mean starting from the ground up. Updating and improving upon existing assets and systems is a cost-effective way to implement necessary changes into your localities public transit. Applying for federal funding and grants is another way to receive support and improve transit in your community. Often, marketing and promoting improvements within the transit system to your constituents will encourage them to take advantage of the available transit options.
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