Road Network and Transit, Pt. 2: What a Transit System Needs


Here’s the second part of Just John’s piece from yesterday and, unlike some of the more dramatic proposals, this one is just a common sense look at how we might enhance our transportation system. Somehow we’ve got to move from the idea that each person in Knox County must drive everywhere they go – alone – in their own personal car. The idea that a commenter posted yesterday that she was told by “professors” and others when she moved here that public transportation is a last resort has to somehow be challenged. Here are Just John’s suggestions (I’m particularly keen on park-and-ride facilities which I think are the future):


Our little downtown has a decent start, with the trolley-buses. We can improve it into a true rapid bus system. Here are basic rules for a successful system:

  • The Route Must Be Short and Legible:

The route should be somewhat short (a loop along Gay Street, Market Square, via Cumberland Avenue, to University Commons, and back, for example, or up one of the boulevard ‘spines’ and back) and very well defined. The route should be easily ‘legible’ to users – perhaps marked with special light-additions at every light-pole on the route, or by a painted band in the roadway along the route.

  • Buses Must Look Decent and Safe; Bonus for Looking Fast and ‘Special’:

The bus itself must look different from the usual dirty, exhaust-belching, old fare – cleaner, faster.  In other words, it must look like we care about them, rather than give the impression that they’re an afterthought.  Modern bus designers have created vehicles that outwardly look like true streetcars (like the current trolley design but more substantial) and also vehicles that have low running lines and streamlined edges, and look very much like modern trains.

Modern Bus

This bus looks very modern, clean, and fast—without the expense of a train or streetcar.

  • Buses Must Arrive Frequently:

The system must run with short headway times, on the order of 10-15 minutes at most – since this line is replacing local traffic rather than long-haul transit, the wait for a bus must be similar to, if not shorter than, the corresponding trip would be by car.

  • Riders Must Feel Safe and Respected:

Stops don’t have to be fancy, but each should be enclosed, lighted, clean, and secure.


Man Waiting
Inadequate: Man Braving Elements Next to a Simple Pole
Proper: Protection from the Elements, Comfortable Seating
Proper: Protection from the Elements, Comfortable Seating
Proper: Protection from the Elements, Comfortable Seating, Ticket Sales
Proper: Protection from the Elements, Comfortable Seating, Ticket Sales

A proper stop offers protection from the elements, relatively comfortable seating and perhaps ticket-purchase before boarding the bus—another key method to improve the user experience.

  • Ticketing and Boarding Must Be Simple:

The system should provide electronic kiosks at each boarding stop, so that each rider is prepared upon entering the bus, and delay is minimized.

  • Dedicated systems and access are better than mixed-traffic systems:

A bus system with dedicated and marked lanes is both faster and more efficient than a system that must enter and exit shared traffic to make stops.  It could also be granted signal priority to further enhance the transit experience. Additionally, a transit center must be beautiful and functional—that is, the people using it must want to be there, rather than simply feel forced to use it.  Open and inviting spaces make any necessary transfer/connection less problematic and make using the system more appealing.



Transit Corridors

This is a selected image from the City’s preparatory materials for the ULI visit.  It has five ‘Transit Corridors’ marked.  These are quite similar to the network image we created earlier, with the exception that the City isn’t quite ready to ditch the interstate highways in the city.


We’ve spent many pages building beautiful multiway boulevards to replace the limited-access interstates and upgrade major streets in the central city.  This type of roadway offers both rapid and slow transportation options—and the opportunity to even further integrate transportation into urban life.  A ‘transit boulevard’ simply adds dedicated transit lanes to the mix of uses; or, if space is limited, the medians offer excellent locations for transport stops.

Transit Boulevard One
Transit boulevard w/ dedicated bus lanes in the median.
Transit Boulevard Two
Transit boulevard w/ streetcar lanes in the outer medians. (It could be narrowed.) 
Transit Boulevard Three
Transit lanes do not require wide boulevards:  This avenue has dedicated median bus lanes, in a narrow space.


We created lots of nodes by refining the network of major roadways with transit components.  As I mentioned, each of these could in theory support greater density of development.

At the edges of the central city, along what is currently I-640, there is an opportunity of a different type:  Park and ride facilities.  Park-and-Ride is easy, since we’ve laid the foundations already. The terminus of each truncated interstate segment, and each interchange with I-640, would mark an ideal site for park-and-ride garages – especially if downtown parking policies encourage parking peripherally when possible.  Many cities, including Atlanta in our area, are replacing previous park-and-ride surface parking lots with mixed use facilities, with parking garages and retail/residential/office space.  At each of the five major sites along I-640, a park-and-ride TOD can be created.