Engaging minority, non-English speaking, and low-income communities in transportation planning represents an enormous challenge for planners, designers, government agencies, and municipal officials alike. Low-income constituencies are more dependent on walking, biking, and using transit than other population sub-groups, yet they do not often get the opportunity to articulate how their community’s transportation infrastructure could be enhanced to better meet their needs.
With funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Public Transportation Participation Program (PTP), PPS, the UCLA Department of Urban Planning and the Latino Urban Forum created a series of tools that will more effectively engage transit riders in the transit station, system and network planning process — especially regarding the walking environment to and around transit stops/stations.
The planning tools were designed to provide communities with methods to communicate their vision for the role that transit facilities and service can have in realizing a broader range of community development and empowerment goals. These tools will enable communities to have a strong voice in the development of strategies to improve walkability and access to transit, while enhancing the economic and social functions of streets as public spaces.
The tools developed in the study were tested in two pilot neighborhoods in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA. They included assessment maps; quality of the journey and quality of the transit stop survey; community destination and transit route mapping; the walk-it audit (an evaluation of the walking trip to transit), the place-imagination exercise (a photo montage board showcasing best-practices); and a modeling exercise.
In both neighborhoods, the tools proved successful in engaging a wide range of participants of different age groups, ethnicities, and cultures in meaningful discussions about the quality of the pedestrian environment, major improvements that need to made, and the most appropriate partners with whom they could work with to achieve these goals. They will be a valuable asset to transit agencies, planning organizations and government entities alike.
Transit is a component, but by no means the extent, of your experience at a station that is a place. Memorable and enjoyable stations and stops that create value for neighborhoods are perfectly attainable. In fact, a transit station or stop can serve much more than a transportation function; it can be a setting for community interaction, a place that fosters a diversity of activities.