As well as Paul Mees’s excellent transport books, another book that should be “required reading” for those interested in public transport issues is The Transit Metropolis by Robert Cervero. Here’s the product description of this book from Amazon:
Around the world, mass transit is struggling to compete with the private automobile, and in many places, its market share is rapidly eroding. Yet a number of metropolitan areas have in recent decades managed to mount cost-effective and resource-conserving transit services that provide respectable alternatives to car travel. What sets these places apart.
In this book, noted transportation expert Robert Cervero provides an on-the-ground look at more than a dozen mass transit success stories, introducing the concept of the “transit metropolis” – a region where a workable fit exists between transit services and urban form. The author has spent more than three years studying cities around the world, and he makes a compelling case that metropolitan areas of any size and with any growth pattern-from highly compact to widely dispersed-can develop successful mass transit systems.
Following an introductory chapter that frames his argument and outlines the main issues, Cervero describes and examines five different types of transit metropolises, with twelve in-depth case studies of cities that represent each type. He considers the key lessons of the case studies and debunks widely-held myths about transit and the city. In addition, he reviews the efforts underway in five North American cities to mount transit programs and discusses the factors working for and against their success. Cities profiled include Stockholm; Singapore; Tokyo; Ottawa; Zurich; Melbourne; Mexico City; Curitiba, Brazil; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; and others.
The Transit Metropolis provides practical lessons on how North American cities can manage sprawl and haphazard highway development by creating successful mass transit systems. While many books discuss the need for a sustainable transportation system, few are able to present examples of successful systems and provide the methods and tools needed to create such a system. This book is a unique and invaluable resource for transportation planners and professionals, urban planners and designers, policymakers and students of planning and urban design.
While I will probably get around to purchasing the book properly one day, thanks to Google Books it is possible to get a pretty good taste for what it is about. One particularly interesting part of the book is when it talks about responses to low-density cities with highly complex and dispersed trip patterns. With only 12% of Auckland’s employment located in the CBD, that kind of city describes Auckland pretty well. Cervero outlines how, in cities like these, one of the best responses for public transport to take is what he calls “Adaptive Transport”. This is briefly detailed below:
There are three different types of “Adaptive Transit” that are described by Cervero: technological solutions such as Adelaide’s O-Bahn, very clever timetabling to make transfers simple and straightforward (Edmonton and Calgary in Canada are given as examples of this), and small door-to-door type services such as “jitneys“. Generally jitneys tend to only work in third-world cities where labour costs are very low.
What I find interesting is the interface between “Adaptive Transit” and land-use planning. This is detailed in the paragraphs below: I am pretty sure that I agree with the main point here – that we should be using transportation policies and projects to help achieve the land-use outcomes that we want, rather than the vice-versa situation. I think in Auckland, over the past 10 years or so, we have been attempting the ‘vice-versa’ situation, of promoting radical changes to our land-use patterns in the hope that these changes will help boost public transport patronage and reduce our automobile dependency. However, because we’ve continued to build motorways like they’re going out of fashion at the same time, there’s been a disconnect between land-use and transport planning which has made it difficult to achieve either the land-use outcomes or the transportation outcomes that we really want.
Now I don’t necessarily think that “Adaptive Transit”, as described by Cervero, is necessarily what Auckland requires. However, I definitely think that we need to be careful about the relationship between land-use and transportation planning. It seems to me as though transportation planning can drive land-use patterns a lot more than land-use patterns can drive transportation outcomes. So therefore, once we’ve worked out the type of city we want Auckland to be – a city that is healthier, safer, and more enjoyable to live, work and play in – we use transport policies (obviously in conjunction with other planning policies) to help drive us to that outcome. Perhaps we’ve all focused on the opposite situation too much?