Operating Within "Transit Deserts": The Application Of Just, Open And Equitable Circulator Systems Within Outer Urban Residential Neighborhoods
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: Operating within "Transit Deserts": The Application of Just, Open and Equitable Circulator Systems within Outer Urban Residential Neighborhoods By: Diane Jones Allen, Doctor of Engineering May 2014 Dissertation directed by: Reginald Amory, Ph. D Professor Department of Civil Engineering Morgan State University Within the past five decades, public transit dependent, and urban oriented populations have been relocated or shifted to outer-urban, auto-oriented neighborhoods at rates equaling the Great Migration of African-Americans arriving in American cities during the preceding five decades (Wilkerson, 2010). These areas of relocation are unable to offer the transportation necessities that insure economically viable employment, as well as accessibility to social and cultural networks, once common-place to transplanted urbanites. These new places have limited public transit service access, often as a result of suburban or low density physiographic forms, tied to an urban design philosophy privileging the automobile. This research explores neighborhoods burdened with long-term and reoccurring place-based transportation inadequacies called "Transit Deserts." This dissertation offers one solution to the transportation dilemma presented to such communities. The research portends that the current trend, of re-locating those less affluent and heavily dependent on transit to outer-urban areas, puts increased demand on areas of decreased service. This dissertation explores how transit can be accessed in these areas. Solutions to the problem of transit access are explored, through a case study site in Baltimore using a method to distribute additional transit to areas with lower building density, irregular street patterns, suburban form, and increasing population. These areas, with long term and reoccurring place-based transportation inadequacies, can be described as "Transit Deserts." Specifically introduced is the problem of providing and organizing transit, with increased efficiency, in areas which are more suited to the automobile than public transit. Since the physiography of areas described herein as "Transit Deserts" is a key factor affecting transit route accessibility, an alternative system to meet transit demand is proposed. The research uses a formulation for the routing and stop spacing of "neighborhood circulators", mini buses, as a way to link residents in geographies, with auto oriented form, to arterials where regional transit is found. Such circulators have been used on college campuses and more recently in downtown areas (Weitz, 2008). The use of these systems in strictly residential communities is a relatively new proposal. The research herein presents them as public systems to provide equitable access in "Transit Deserts" as well as make neighborhoods that are suburban in form more livable and conducive to transit access, availability and efficiency. Circulators can provide a secondary or localized service with smaller vehicles and closer spaced stops that connect where riders link to major transit, and allow an increase of ridership that would help pay and advocate for an increased frequency of service on existing lines, thereby improving overall transit in an area.