As part of ITDPs leadership and innovation program, a new year-long fellowship program for transit agency board members has been developed with TransitCenter, a U.S. foundation committed to improving urban mobility. The first cohort of transit agency board member (TABM) fellows met in Houston, Texas in March 2016 to witness and learn from Houston’s cost-neutral bus reimagining.
In August of 2015, Houston’s METRO transit agency launched a redesigned bus network. The new network increased the number of frequent bus routes and expanded weekend service. Six months later, the system witnessed increased ridership for the first time in years and that growth continues as more people in Houston are choosing to take the bus.
The push to redesign and improve METRO’s bus system was spurred by Christof Spieler, who has emerged as one of the leading transit agency board members in the country. His commitment and vision to improve bus service for Houstonians served as inspiration for TABM Fellows who saw how they could similarly be champions for better transit in their cities.
The Houston program included a site visit to three stops along the 82 frequent bus, the highest ridership bus corridor in Houston connecting areas with transit-supportive population densities with the city’s job centers. Fellows rode the bus and evaluated service in three categories: reliability, convenience, and accessibility.
Thirteen board members from a diversity of American cities are represented in the 2016 Fellows program including Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Memphis, San Mateo, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and San Antonio. The peer-to-peer network that has emerged from this initiative is meant to empower the TABM Fellows to help innovate and transform their mostly car-centric cities to be models of smart growth around world-class public transit.
The 2016 Fellows will reconvene next in Seattle to see how the city is providing integrated multi-modal transit options with supportive land uses.