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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Policies and Practices For Cost-Effective Transit Investments: Recent Experiences in the United States


A structured survey of transit agency staff and interviews with agency executives and other local leaders were conducted in areas that have undertaken a major transit investment project in the past 5 years. The purpose was to identify methods and procedures used to evaluate and select projects and, in particular, to document how land use considerations are being incorporated into project decisions. Staff members responsible for 41 projects were contacted, and 28 completed the survey, discussing projects in 23 regions of the United States. Supplementary interviews were conducted for 10 of the regions. The study found that most agencies use federal guidance and regulations on the evaluation of transit investment as a starting point, but give equal weight in project design and selection to state and local policy objectives such as social equity, economic development, and fair-share distribution of projects among local communities. A number of transit agencies give priority to projects in jurisdictions with transit-supportive land use patterns or plans. The availability of public or private funding contributions is increasingly important in prioritizing projects. Increasingly, transit agencies are hiring staff to work with local governments on land use planning and on funding partnerships and are working with them to develop a shared understanding of the area’s transit needs and related development objectives. Staff and political leaders deem these efforts at least as important as technical evaluations of cost-effectiveness.

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