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 patternfrom highly compact to widely dispersedcan 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; and Vancouver, British Columbia. 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.
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About the Author
Robert Cervero is professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Transit Villages for the 21st Century (McGraw-Hill, 1997).
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The Transit Metropolis
A Global Inquiry
By Robert Cervero
ISLAND PRESSCopyright © 1998 Robert Cervero
All rights reserved.
Transit and the Metropolis: Finding Harmony
Public transit systems are struggling to compete with the private automobile the world over. Throughout North America, in much of Europe, and even in most developing countries, the private automobile continues to gain market shares of motorized trips at the expense of public transit systems. In the United States, just 1.8 percent of all person trips were by transit in 1995, down from 2.4 percent in 1977 and 2.2 percent in 1983. Despite the tens of billions of dollars invested in new rail systems and the underwriting of more than 75 percent of operating expenses, ridership figures for transit's bread-and-butter market—the work trip—remain flat. Nationwide, 4.5 percent of commutes were by transit in 1983; by 1995, this share had fallen to 3.5 percent.
The declining role of transit has been every bit as alarming in Europe, prompting some observers to warn that it is just a matter of time before cities like London and Madrid become as automobile-dominated as Los Angeles and Dallas. England and Wales saw the share of total journeys by transit fall from 33 percent in 1971 to 14 percent in 1991. Since 1980, transit's market shares of trips have plummeted in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and former East Germany. Eroding market shares have likewise been reported in such megacities as Buenos Aires, Bangkok, and Manila.
Numerous factors have fueled these trends. Part of the explanation for the decline in Europe has been sharp increases in fares resulting from government deregulation of the transit sector. Public disinvestment has left the physical infrastructure of some transit systems in shambles in Italy and parts of Eastern Europe. However, transit's decline has been more an outcome of powerful spatial and economic trends that have been unfolding over the past several decades than of overt government actions (or inaction). Factors that have steadily chipped away at transit's market share worldwide include rising personal incomes and car ownership, declining real-dollar costs for motoring and parking, and the decentralization of cities and regions. Of course, these forces have partly fed off each other. Rising wealth and cheaper motoring, for instance, have prompted firms, retailers, and households to exit cities in favor of less dense environs. Spread-out development has proven to be especially troubling for mass transit. With trip origins and destinations today spread all over the map, mass transit is often no match for the private automobile and its flexible, door-to-door, no-transfer features.
Suburbanization has not crippled transit systems everywhere, however. Some cities and regions have managed to buck the trend, offering transit services that are holding their own against the automobile's ever-increasing presence, and in some cases even grabbing larger market shares of urban travel. These are places, I contend, that have been superbly adaptive, almost in a Darwinian sense. Notably, they have found a harmonious fit between mass transit services and their cityscapes. Some, like Singapore and Copenhagen, have adapted their settlement patterns so that they are more conducive to transit riding, mainly by rail transit, whether for reasons of land scarcity, open space preservation, or encouraging what are viewed as more sustainable patterns of growth and travel. This has often involved concentrating offices, homes, and shops around rail nodes in attractive, well-designed, pedestrian-friendly communities. Other places have opted for an entirely different approach, accepting their low-density, often market-driven lay of the land, and in response adapting mass transit services and technologies to better serve these spread-out environs. These are places, such as Karlsruhe in Germany and Adelaide, Australia, that have introduced flexible forms of mass transit that begin to emulate the speedy, door-to-door service features of the car. Still other places, like Ottawa, Canada, and Curitiba, Brazil, have struck a middle ground, adapting their urban landscapes so as to become more transit-supportive while at the same time adapting their transit services so as to deliver customers closer to their destinations, minimize waits, and expedite transfers. It is because these places have found a workable nexus between their mass transit services and urban settlement patterns that they either are or are on the road to becoming great transit metropolises.
What these areas have in common—adaptability—is first and fundamentally a calculated process of making change by investing, reinvesting, organizing, reorganizing, inventing, and reinventing. Adaptability is about self-survival in a world of limited resources, tightly stretched budgets, and ever-changing cultural norms, lifestyles, technologies, and personal values. In the private sector, any business that resists adapting to changing consumer wants and preferences is a short-lived business. More and more, the public sector is being held to similar standards. There is no longer the public largesse or patience to allow business as usual. Transit authorities must adapt to change, as must city and regional governments. Trends like suburbanization, advances in telecommunications, and chained trip-making require that transit agencies refashion how they configure and deliver services and that builders and planners adjust their designs of communities and places. In the best of worlds, these efforts are closely coordinated. This will most likely occur when and where there is the motivation and the means to break out of traditional, entrenched practices, which, of course, is no small feat in the public realm. Yet even transit's most ardent defenders now concede that steadily eroding shares of metropolitan travel are a telltale sign that fresh, new approaches are needed. Places that appropriately adapt to changing times, finding harmony between their transit services and urban landscapes, I contend, are places where transit stands the best chance of competing with the car well into the next millennium.
This book tells the story of how twelve metropolitan areas across five continents have become, or are well on their way to becoming, successful transit metropolises. Each case study tells a story of the struggles, strides, and successes of making transit work in the modern era. Together, the cases offer insights and policy lessons into how more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable transit services can be designed and implemented.
It bears noting that a functional and sustainable transit metropolis is not equated with a region whereby transit largely replaces the private automobile or even captures the majority of motorized trips. Rather, the transit metropolis represents a built form and a mobility environment where transit is a far more respectable alternative to traveling than currently is the case in much of the industrialized world. It is an environment where transit and the built environment harmoniously co-exist, reinforcing and enhancing each other in the process. Thus, while automobile travel might still predominate, a transit metropolis is one where enough travelers opt for transit riding, by virtue of the workable transit–land use nexus, to place a region on a sustainable course.
It is also important to emphasize that this book focuses on the connections between transit and urbanization at the regional scale versus the local one. While considerable attention has been given to transit-oriented development (TOD) and the New Urbanism movement in recent years, both by scholars and the popular press, much of this focus has been at the neighborhood and community levels. Micro-scale designs that encourage walking and promote community cohesion have captivated the attention of many proponents of TODs and New Urbanism. While good quality designs are without question absolutely essential to creating places that are physically conducive to transit riding, they are clearly not sufficient in and of themselves. Islands of TOD in a sea of freeway-oriented suburbs will do little to change fundamental travel behavior or the sum quality of regional living. The key to making TOD work is to make sure that it is well coordinated across a metropolis. While land use planning and urban design are local prerogatives, their impacts on travel are felt regionally. In part, this book aims to focus attention on the importance of coordinating transit-supportive development at a metropolitan scale. However, it also seeks to give balance to the equation, examining legitimate approaches to forming sustainable yet low-density transit metropolises, namely through the design of more flexible forms of mass transit.
Types of Transit Metropolises
The cases reviewed in this book illustrate cities that have successfully meshed their transit services and cityscapes in a contemporary urban context, namely one of post-World War II decentralization. There are cities—New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Moscow, and Toronto, for example—that certainly qualify as great transit metropolises but that are not included in this book, either because their principal transit investments date from a much earlier period (e.g., London), or their experiences are viewed as either extreme (e.g., unusually dense Hong Kong) or well chronicled (Toronto). Since the book focuses on cases from free-market economies, examples from China and other communist or socialist countries, either current or former, are not included. What are presented, then, are the best cases of contemporary transit metropolises—ones whose co-planning and co-development of transit systems and cityscapes occurred under largely free-market conditions during the past half-century of rapid automobile growth and ascendancy.
The twelve cases examined in this book sort into four classes of transit metropolises:
Adaptive cities. These are transit-oriented metropolises that have invested in rail systems to guide urban growth for purposes of achieving larger societal objectives, such as preserving open space and producing affordable housing in rail-served communities. All feature compact, mixed-use suburban communities and new towns concentrated around rail nodes. The book's case examples are Stockholm, Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Singapore.
Adaptive transit. These are places that have largely accepted spread-out, low-density patterns of growth and have sought to appropriately adapt transit services and new technologies to best serve these environs. Included here are technology-based examples (e.g., dual-track systems in Karlsruhe, Germany), service innovations (e.g., track-guided buses in Adelaide, Australia), and small-vehicle, entrepreneurial services (e.g., colectivos in greater Mexico City).
Strong-core cities. Two of the cases—Zurich and Melbourne—have successfully integrated transit and urban development within a more confined, central city context. They have done so by providing integrated transit services centered around mixed-traffic tram and light rail systems. In these places, trams designed into streetscapes co-exist nicely with pedestrians and bicyclists. These cities' primacies (high shares of regional jobs and retail sales in their cores) and healthy transit patronage are testaments to the success of melding together the renewal of both central city districts and traditional tramways.
Hybrids: adaptive cities and adaptive transit. Three of the cases—Munich, Ottawa, and Curitiba—are best viewed as hybrids, in the sense that they have struck a workable balance between concentrating development along mainline transit corridors and adapting transit to efficiently serve their spread-out suburbs and exurbs. Greater Munich's hybrid of heavy rail trunkline services and light rail and conventional bus feeders—all coordinated through a regional transit authority—has strengthened the central city while also serving suburban growth axes. Both Ottawa and Curitiba have introduced flexible transit centered around dedicated busways, and at the same time have targeted considerable shares of regional commercial growth around key busway stations. The combination of flexible bus-based services and mixed-use development along busway corridors has given rise to unusually high per capita transit ridership rates in both cities.
The modus operandi for drawing policy lessons and insights from the cases involves identifying similarities in approach within the classes of transit metropolises, as well identifying differences in approaches and experiences across the four classes.
Diagrams are useful for conveying some of the fundamental differences in approaches to marrying transit and the urban landscape across these four classes. Schemas for thinking about the different classes of transit metropolises are provided below.
Figure 1.1 portrays the relationship between regional transit services and urban form for adaptive cities, in both one and two dimensions. The two-dimensional bird's-eye image at the bottom of the graph is a representation of radial rail lines that connect outlying communities to a central business district (CBD). Metropolises with strong, dominant CBDs and outlying communities and subcenters connected to their CBDs via rail, like pearls on a necklace, are the archetypal adaptive cityscapes. The clustering of development at nodes along the railway, and the resulting confinement of trips along the radial axes, are what makes the arrangement highly efficient from a mobility standpoint. The combination of a large CBD, concentrated mixed-use development around outlying stations, and long-haul radial links that invite balanced, two-way flows is the rail-oriented, adaptive city's formula to success.
As implemented in Stockholm and Copenhagen, this book's two Scandinavian cases, rail transit lines were combined with protective greenbelts to form a suburban landscape of compact satellite communities that are efficiently interlinked and connected to their regions' historical centers. Regional master planning was pivotal to creating this built form. Plotting densities and land prices on the vertical axis and distance from the CBD on the horizontal axis, as shown on the top half of Figure 1.1, conveys the kinds of density/price gradients found in master-planned, rail-oriented metropolises. Densities and land prices are the highest in the CBDs and spike near suburban rail nodes. They taper rapidly with distance from the nodes and fall to zero within the protective greenbelts themselves.
It is important to recognize that the challenges of building successful rail metropolises go well beyond physical planning and the formation of nodes of development. In particular, considerable attention goes into the design of new towns and communities themselves. In the case of Scandinavia's rail-served suburbs, town centers with public squares and outdoor marketplaces abut the train depots. Care is given to creating a milieu that is attractive to pedestrians and cyclists. The accent on livability is showcased by public amenities—park benches, newspaper kiosks, bus shelters, sidewalk cafes, open-air markets, flower stands, and arcades designed to protect pedestrians from the elements. In several of Stockholm's rail-served satellites, underground stations share space with supermarkets to allow returning commuters to do their daily shopping on the way home in the evening. Adjacent to the stations are car-free village squares lined with more shops and service establishments, including day-care centers (so moms and dads can consolidate the child-care trip with their own journey to the rail station). Despite both greater Stockholm and Copenhagen having high per capita incomes and vehicle ownership rates by global standards, public transit carries upward of 60 percent of commute trips made by employed residents of rail-oriented new towns.
The seeds for creating master-planned, rail-oriented metropolises were planted in the writings of such visionaries as Sir Ebenezer Howard in England and Edward Bellamy in the United States; both advanced the idea of building pedestrian-oriented "garden cities" more than a century ago. Howard and Bellamy saw the formation of new communities separated by green pastures and interconnected by interurban railways as means of relieving cities from oppressive overcrowding and producing socially diverse and economically sustainable suburban settlements. Importantly, the rise in land values around rail nodes, as represented in the top half of Figure 1.1, would provide a means of recapturing the value added by public railway investments, allowing land price windfalls to be channeled into the finance of other supporting community facilities and services. As reviewed in Chapter 7 of this book, private railway consortia in greater Tokyo are today practicing this form of value capture, bundling together suburban rail investments and new town development in mutually profitable ways.
Excerpted from The Transit Metropolis by Robert Cervero. Copyright © 1998 Robert Cervero. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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Table of Contents
Preface PART I. The Case for the Transit Metropolis Chapter 1. Transit and the Metropolis: Finding Harmony -Types of Transit Metropolises -Transit Services and Technologies -The Case Approach Chapter 2. Transit and the Changing World -Economic Restructuring: The Twin Forces of Concentration and Dispersal -Motorization -The Changing Nature of Travel and Its Causes -Problems of an Automobile-Dependent World Chapter 3. Public Policies and the Sustainable Transit Metropolis -Demand-Side Approaches -Supply-Side Approaches -Built Environments and the Demand for Transit -Transit's Impacts on Land Uses and Urban Form PART II. Adaptive Cities: Creating a Transit-Oriented Built Form Chapter 4. Orbiting the City with Rail-Served Satellites: Stockholm, Sweden -Building a Transit Metropolis -Building a World-Class Transit System -Stockholm's Rail-Served Satellites -Balance and Self-Containment -Commuting to and from Stockholm's New Towns -Supportive Policies and Programs -Learning from Stockholm Chapter 5. The Hand-Shaped Metropolis: Copenhagen, Denmark -Institutional Landscape -Evolution of Copenhagen's Land Use-Transport Plans -New Town Development -Development and Transit Ridership Trends -Shoring Up the Finger Plan -Nonmotorized Transport -Other Constraints on Auto Use -Learning from Copenhagen Chapter 6. The Master-Planned Transit Metropolis: Singapore -From Rickshaw to Rapid Transit -Centralized Planning in Singapore -Implementing the Plan -Urban Transport in Singapore -Restraints on Automobiles -Looking to the Future: The Constellation Plan -Learning from Singapore Chapter 7. The Entrepreneurial Transit Metropolis: Tokyo, Japan -Railway Development in Greater Tokyo -Private Suburban Railways and New Towns -The Tama Denin Toshi New Town -Recent Publicly Sponsored Rail-Oriented New Towns -Learning from Tokyo PART III. The Hybrids: Adaptive Cities and Adaptive Transit Chapter 8. Making Transit Work in the Land of the Autobahn: Munich, Germany -Transit and the City -Transit and Institutional Coordination -Coordinating Transit and Urban Development -Learning from Munich Chapter 9. Busways and the Hybrid Metropolis: Ottawa, Canada -The Ottawa-Carleton Region -Creating a Transit Metropolis -OC Transpo: Fitting Transit and the Cityscape -Development Impacts -Learning from Ottawa Chapter 10. Creating a Linear City with a Surface Metro: Curitiba, Brazil -The Curitiba Approach to Growth -Evolution of Integrated Planning in Curitiba -Land-Use Regulations and Supportive Policies -World-Class Transit at a Low Cost: Transit Today in Curitiba -Learning from Curitiba PART IV. Strong-Core Cities: Transit and Central City Revitalization Chapter 11. Creating First-Class Transit with Transit-first Policies: Zurich, Switzerland -Transit and the City -Zurich's Transit-First Policy -Speed-up Transit Program -Restraints on Automobiles -Regional Service and Fare Incentives -Zurich's Verkehrsverbund -The Payoff