Bringing the Agency Together to Tackle Transit Planning

Discussing route detour options with CDTA Planning and Transportation staff

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, NY. It’s a pretty unique operation in the sense of their service area comprises local and intercity services across several cities within the Capital District (Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer to name a few). CDTA is doing some very cool initiatives internally (several BRT projects in planning and planning/organizing bike share on the horizon). However, what I thought was refreshing was their insistence on crowdsourcing ideas from across the organization to help their planning process.

Internal crowdsourcing for better transit

While on-site this week, we were working with CDTA to figure out how they could best leverage Remix for their planning efforts. During our time, it became clear to me that one of the best ways they were using Remix, was to empower different departments to articulate their planning ideas. For example, we had the opportunity to train senior operations staff from several divisions to use our software. This allowed them to quickly sketch out their visions, present them visually with rough cost estimates. Within an hour, we were able to have a productive cross-team conversation about route proposals and have clarity on their merits and drawbacks. From what I gathered, this type of conversation was not happening as often as either side would have liked.

Given the limited resources we have for transit in North America, it’s critical we deliver the most bang for our buck to the community and we can’t expect to burden this responsibility solely on planners alone. All aspects of the organization should bear responsibility and have the opportunity to weigh-in. Planners, customer service, operators and dispatchers to name a few, all have great ideas to contribute, but may not have the right forum (internal meeting) or platform (software) to explain their idea efficiently.

Remix as a common platform for discussion

This is where Remix could be most useful. Helping audiences of varying backgrounds, sketch out their idea simply and quickly, and see the benefits and costs for themselves and others. Using Remix as a common platform then enables a conversation amongst these groups, speaking about their transit proposals in an apples-to-apples way that’s visual and easy to understand. This approach ensures that the best options move forward in the process, eventually benefiting the riding public.

I’d love to learn more if other agencies are conducting these types of internal charrettes amongst their teams to crowdsource the best ideas and how they are structuring the conversations.