Why (almost) nothing ever gets done, part one
Having led a regional business coalition for nearly 15 years in the Research Triangle region, I have viewed firsthand the challenges of advancing rational, sustainable investments that will enable enhanced mobility and quality of life.
During my time with Regional Transportation Alliance business coalition since 2002, I have compiled a number of sayings and observations. Here is my summary of transportation reality:
- Don't be amazed by how long transportation projects take to complete ... Instead, be amazed that anything ever gets built in the first place.
Why do I say this? There are a number of reasons, but the primary one is that the projects take too long and cost too much.
More specifically: Too much time to study, data that takes too long to collect, too many approvals needed, too many years of analysis, and ultimately too much money to spend on a project that may have taken a decade or more to plan and that might be obsolete by the time it opens, lose public support, or both.
What could we do differently?
First of all, we need to find a way to reserve transportation corridors - in advance of when we need them - that would pass federal legal muster. That has not been easy, especially in North Carolina.
Second, we need to find a way to make data work better, faster.
Third, we need to incorporate flexibility into the environmental analysis and design process. For example, communities can find themselves selecting a specific transit technology (e.g., light rail, bus rapid transit) - to the exclusion of others - more than 15 years before a project will even open.
We surely can do better than this, and for fast-growing markets it is imperative that we find a better framework for advancing mobility.
See this follow-up post for more on this topic.