Thursday, June 25, 2015

What exactly is the ITDP's agenda?

What, exactly, is the ITDP's agenda, and why do they fight mode wars? They denigrate rail-based transit as if their opponents were well-funded machines slowly tracking over the world. In fact,, their "opponent" in the silly mode wars, is a small outfit in Austin which was originally founded to encourage light rail in that city, and doesn't have the same funding or, agenda, it seems, that the ITDP does.

The ITDP says that its field of expertise is "Public Transport" but have a very narrow view of public transport: anything that doesn't run on rubber wheels in a right of way doesn't really count. This is really an open question: what is their agenda? Why not focus on better transit regardless of mode? Why publish reports with unsubstantiated statistics that don't stand up to the light of day? Wouldn't their argument be stronger if they reported the facts of BRT, and didn't make up numbers?

As I've said before, I agree with a lot of what they say about the utility of bus rapid transit, but with one major difference. Bus rapid transit is an important part of moving people more efficiently, but only part of it. Buses, light rail and heavy rail transit each have their place, and need to be used where they are most appropriate. In a city like Bogotá, with wide boulevards and lower operating costs, BRT makes sense. In a city like Mexico, with gaps in a good rail network and relatively wide street, it does as well. In Cleveland, the HealthLine was likely a good investment in that corridor to spur development along the Euclid corridor. In Boston, BRT is certainly a good choice in some corridors. But, as I'll flesh out in a final post in this series (yes, all things, good or otherwise, must come to an end), trying to shoehorn it in to certain corridors just doesn't make sense.

I'd go as far as to say that the ITDP doesn't really care about public transportation. They care about their bottom line. They want cities and foundations to pay them money to write reports using the metric they made up to analyze what they want to analyze. Good work, if you can get it.

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