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Question - Sierra Club

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Previous Entry Question Mar. 14th, 2007 @ 08:38 am Next Entry

I'm an urban planner, actually a transportation urban planner, in Chicago.  And I've been in the transit/car debate on and off.  One of the biggest arguments for monies not being put into transit by decision-makers is the lack of demonstrable public demand for transit. 

The argument is like a Catch 22.  People don't ride the bus so there are no buses so no one rides so there's no demand.  And when "surveys" are conducted about transit, most survey those on the bus.  This also would not show any "demand" outside of those that are already riding.

So here's the thing.  What if we could raise public awareness and voice at the same time?   I've been kicking around the idea of a "drive out of congestion" campaign.  

Suppose during Earth Day week or Arbor Day we had a "drive out."  Think of it like a smoke out.  Only, let's be realistic.  We can't shut off all traffic.  But what if we could "empty" tollways.  Tollways have counters and revenue measures.   Suppose we could get people for 5 days not to use the tollway but to take alternative routes, car pool, take the bus, have your neighborhood hire a limo, take the train etc for one week.   At the end have a party downtown or wherever and get people during the party to write (short-pre-worded)  letters for things like rapid bus transit on tollways or more rail in their area or even limo service or van pools.  Get some big names at the party to draw people, playing songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and get those in transit downthere as well to get comments.  In Chicago, people like Pace, CTA, Metra, etc.

I'm thinking if we could demonstrate some real numbers, show the public it's own power, and get people liking alternatives to what they have been doing, it might be worth it and it might have some changing results.  If we had 500,000 participants at the party, and if we dropped the numbers on the tollways significantly as far as number of vehicles, maybe we can show some public support and demand that will get the funding.

What do you think of this idea?

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Date:March 14th, 2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
I agree that methods should change for surveying the demand. What methods do you plan to use to attract people to the 'drive out'? Who would you partner with? I'm disinclined to believe that 500,000 people would participate without an awesome outreach program, but you may already have one. Good luck for sure.

PS. I am a community development major in Portland, OR. Whee urban planning. Have you heard of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit
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Date:March 15th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
Yes I have heard for personal rapid transit, but thank you for the website. :)

I would partner with the local ecology and environmental groups like Chicago Wilderness, the Conference of Mayors and Managers, definitely the mass transit community, and get the press involved. Chicago is home to major demonstrations and it is not a community that can't get "organized." For some of the marches there were nearly 1 million people. Maybe 500,000 commuters is too much, but I would like to see a goodly 30 percent less traffic that week on the major toll roads. Don't know if I'll get it, which also would be information about public will at the current time under the current "affordability" to drive. That could indicate what would be needed in policy changes to effectively bring on a more sustainable transportation structure.

I don't know any other fast and dirty way to measure "public will" for mass transit alternatives.

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