Monday, March 05, 2007

TTA giving 20 pennies for your thoughts

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, March 3rd:

Do you use public transportation very often? If not, what would you encourage you to use it more? Wireless Internet? More comfortable buses?

The Triangle Transit Authority is asking those questions in a creative web survey currently available on its site at Folks are given twenty “pennies” to spend on a variety of possible upgrades to buses as the agency makes replacements in its fleet.

Some of the items are pretty cheap. One-penny upgrades include things like expanding the front-of-bus rack to accommodate three bikes rather than the current two or to install 10 bike lockers per year at various stops around the Triangle.

Others are so expensive they will use up almost your entire “budget.”

For instance, putting a rear window on the back of the bus would cost 16 pennies and implementing Sunday service would require all of your money.

I take the bus every day to work in Raleigh at the Sierra Club so I devoted my greatest expenditure of six pennies to fuel the buses using B20 biodiesel.

Seems like the right thing to do working in the environmental community. It’s not the cleanest fuel TTA could use but it would still be a definite step in the right direction.

I gave three pennies to have wireless internet on the buses. I actually enjoy its current lack of presence to some extent because the two hours I spend on the commute each day are about the only main chunk of the day where I’m not attached to my e-mail.

On the other hand, I’d like to see a lot more Chapel Hillians who commute to Durham or Raleigh use public transportation, and for the busiest workers out there that extra period of connectivity could give folks the impetus to dump their cars and take the bus. There are also certain days where it would be nice to finish something up on the ride home so it’s not waiting the next day.

Another four pennies went to providing headrests for the seat on the buses. It’s kind of amusing to see all the people in suits napping on the way to work in the morning, and although I try to read books I must admit that the allure of sleep is often too much to pass up.

This expenditure would go a long way toward increasing the comfort of riders.

Those three items were my highest priorities but I still had seven pennies left. This sum wasn’t large enough to buy any of the big ticket things but good enough to get a few other small enhancements.

Four of the pennies went to building five regular bus shelters. Nothing will get you back behind the driver’s seat faster than getting soaked while waiting for a ride. Five is not a lot considering the scope of the TTA system but it’s still a step in the right direction.

I decided to give the balance of my “funds” to installing 10 bike lockers per year at various stops. I’m not a cyclist myself, but I think a lot more folks who don’t want to actually take their bike on the bus would be happy to ride it to the stop and know it was somewhere safe when they got home in the evening.

Some of the big ticket items I eschewed spending my funds on included real-time bus arrival information at 10 stops (the buses are pretty prompt!) and creating a 100 space park-and-ride lot. Some of the smaller ones I can live without were luggage racks and individual high-quality lights at seats.

The “Transit Design Game,” as TTA calls it, is one of the most engaging ways of soliciting citizen input I’ve ever seen a local agency use.

The information the TTA gleans from this should give it a much better sense of how to improve the riding experience for current customers as well as what sorts of amenities are likely to draw more people in the future.

A lot of the time the path to better citizen participation is not just to schedule a bunch more meetings folks have to go to, but to create a way for them to give feedback that is simple and even fun.

With this project TTA has set a good model that other local governments should look to find ways to emulate when soliciting opinions from the public about various issues.

Whether you’re a public transportation user or not, go to and play the Transit Design Game, which will be available through this Friday. It’s a great opportunity to have some fun while also giving important information to the folks who buy our buses.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home