And last night, developer Doug Gooch did his pitch to the Madison City Council for their support on his light rail plan. For those who need to refresh their memory, here's my blog post about it from a few months ago.
People, I cannot stress this enough. The lack of reliable, convenient public transit is a city problem that needs a regional solution, and I don't mean just Madison County. It also won't be solved behind closed doors by some developer or a group of "civic leaders." And as long as transit is run only by the city of Huntsville, it will remain the "empty bus to nowhere." For transit to be truly successful here, there will need to be a planned regional system in place, and it will need to involve everybody, from mayors/councilmen/commissioners from every sizable town and county in the area, to the average rush hour commuter, to even college students and teenagers. Any less than that, and it will fail.
But first, like I've said before, we need a comprehensive regional transit plan. A regional transit plan would give the region specific alternatives to expanding roads and explore all the options and their costs. Some cities include this "Transportation Alternatives Study" in their long-range transportation plan (LRTP). Huntsville's 2030 LRTP has a section for public transit, but it fails to provide specific plans or options-- it basically says the area might need more in the future. We're due for an updated LRTP in the next year or so. Need some ideas?
- Birmingham, for all its faults, has a neat transit plan. The Regional Transit Improvement Strategy was completed five years ago. It includes alternatives and costs for transit improvements for major corridors in the Birmingham region.
- Chattanooga is currently developing an alternatives study, which will be included in their 2035 LRTP. This page gives a good summary of what a region the size of Huntsville's should be looking into for future plans, including: bike/pedestrian accessibility, local and express bus service, even an eventual rail transit system.
- Atlanta has a very comprehensive transportation plan, part of a larger regional plan called "Envision6"-- the 6 is for the projected 6 million residents of the metro area. While we're not envisioning 6 anytime soon (more like 1), it's cool to look at all of the options available. And they looked at just about everything.