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?