In The Atlantic CityLab's series The Future of Transportation: How getting from here to there is changing forever, Terra Curtis and Paul Supawanich wrote an article titled "Transportation Projects Don't Need to Take as Long as They Do." Throughout the article, the two authors point out that while public transit projects are mostly successful in their methods, there are recent examples of "lean transportation planning," a term discussed the previous month by attendees of an event hosted by SPUR and Young Professionals in Transportation, that could move urban mobility projects along at a more rapid and publicly beneficial pace. Some of these "lean transportation planning" projects include better bus queues in Vancouver and agile transit service development in multiple cities in the United States.
Here is the opening excerpt from the article:
Why are new car models released every calendar year? How come there's a new iPhone every 6 to 12 months? And, why do those apps on your phone download updates every few days? These consumer products are the outcomes of a design and production process that values prototyping, rapid iteration, and a learn-from-mistakes approach to production that minimizes the costs of design while increasing the end value to users. These concepts represent what has come to be known as "lean production," or simply "lean."
So why should transportation planners, engineers, or even the public at large care about lean? At an event last month, SPUR and the Young Professionals in Transportation asked attendees that same question. Transportation projects have a reputation for taking an inordinate amount of time to complete and don't keep up with the pace of change people expect. As professionals serving the public in a sector with limited and uncertain funding, transportation planners can better serve their communities by embracing a more nimble and proactive process.
All this isn't to cast aside the tried-and-true (and often required) methods of the transportation planning process. That process, developed over decades, has evolved with the best intentions to think comprehensively, invest equitably, and implement projects with local support. Still, there may be strategies we can borrow from the successes of other industries to improve outcomes for our cities and their residents.