Talking about transit planning and regional public policy works better in a place that serves beer and great food. That’s why Capital Metro took to Scholz Biergarten last month to sponsor Project Connect’s Game Night.
Hosted with Glasshouse Policy, the event was designed to get people thinking about transit planning and the future of Central Texas transportation with all the limitations imposed by the real world. This can be difficult for a few different reason:
- Because the circle of people interested in transit planning is already pretty small.
- Because the people who are interested in transit planning tend to be firm in their opinions.
- Because sometimes those opinions don’t fully take into account all the real-world factors that professional transit planners deal with.
- Because sometimes those opinions conflict in ways that are hard and even impossible to reconcile.
- Because, really, it can be tough to find people interested in coming out on a Thursday night to talk transit planning.
So, you can see the dilemma. That’s why we bring folks to a beer garden and combine our planners’ expertise with the experience and crowd-pleasing skills of Glasshouse Policy. It was fun!
The idea was to give people a real-world situation, throw some complicating factors at them and then have them design a transit solution. Like say, you’ve got a fast-growing medium-sized city with a traffic problem and an affordability problem that’s pushing lower-income residents further out of the central core. But those people still need to commute into the city for work. Add in an entrenched car culture, small but passionate fans of various forms of transit and a growing reluctance to approve bond elections. And you have to work within a budget.
But make it fun!
The participants were given their instructions and the advice to play rounds of the game in a couple different ways:
- First, implement a transit project you’re truly interested in (light rail, streetcars, rocket ships, whathaveyou).
- But then the second time you play, go in a different direction. So, if you’re a light-rail-down-Lamar-and-Guadalupe true believer, try bus rapid transit or streetcars instead.
The intent was to make the players understand the complications inherent in the process and to see the possibilities available when you’re more flexible. In essence, to give these armchair planners a glimpse into the life of professional planners. (But make it fun!)
And it worked. The crowds came out and had a good time. About 60 people showed up, playing on 11 teams of 2 to 6 players each. The winners worked with their $1.1 billion budget and built three lines that were judged on their capacity to carry riders, frequency of service and ability to sustain operations for the long term.
It really was a good time, and the Capital Metro team has plans to bring it out to neighborhood events over the coming months to give more people a chance to play. Be sure to check ProjectConnect.com to find out where and when.