Public transportation official says lessons learned
Developing a coordinated public transportation system is not a 100-yard dash, but is a marathon, accomplished over a period of time with patience and persistence.
That is the assessment of Dan Dirks, chairman of the Community Transportation Association of America’s board of directors. The keynote speaker for this week’s Mobility Idaho 2008 conference in Boise called on his extensive experience with public transportation in Michigan to encourage development of a coordinated plan in Idaho.
Dirks remembered the infancy of, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation), the Detroit metropolitan area’s public transportation network. The new system was within a day of folding when voters passed a tax that provided funding stability. The self-imposed regional taxing authority expires every four years and must be re-approved by voters.
Entering its second decade, SMART links 70 Detroit-area communities with locally organized services that provide 750,000 rides annually. It’s a coordinated system that relies heavily on local communities and has been built from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, he explained.
He attributes its success to a FIND approach – Flexibility, Innovation, Nerves and Determination.
Those same elements will be important in developing an integrated, coordinated system for Idaho, he suggests.
“Find out whom you are… each community is unique and has unique providers and planners. Look for alternatives and listen to your customers,” he told the public transportation planners Wednesday. “Become a public transportation disciple.
“Remember, you are not alone.”
He encouraged conference participants to take advantage of the experiences of other states and regions that have developed public transportation systems. Build on the base of the communities involved because they share common values and needs.
Public transportation’s role must change from that of a provider to a mobility manager, he insists.
Dirks complimented ITD, its Division of Public Transportation and participating organizations/communities for creating Idaho’s Mobility and Access Pathway (IMAP) as a foundation for public transportation’s future.
He responded to a number of questions from the audience related to coordination among multiple jurisdictions, participation in the planning and growth of communities, the relationship between public and private service providers, working with Medicare/Medicaid clients and the mobility demands of disabled persons.
“We’re breaking new ground,” said Randy Kyrias, administrator of ITD’s Division of Public Transportation. “We know where we’re going and will make some mistakes along the way, but we will get there despite the unintended consequences.”
The changing role of his division will be to help find solutions to meet the needs and to identify the customer.
“That’s defined in IMAP,” he said.