What is tactical transit and which cities are applying it.

8 Mar, 2020 | NEWS | 0 comments

Tactical transit is derived from tactical Urbanism, idea whereby a local movement of citizens improves the environment by using non-permanent methods in order to develop a new style of life. These citizens do this kind of initiatives because they consider that it’s important to care of the environment. But, why is it important? We’re going to try to discover it.

Why tactical transit initiatives are important?


In order to understand why tactical initiatives regarding transport are of such importance it is necessary to understand exactly what “Tactical Transit” as a phrase means.
The term was used first in the United States in 2016; in the simplest of terms it applies to the technique of using temporary (although the results do not have to remain temporary) methods to increase the efficiency of transport and enhance passenger experience. The term is derived from “Tactical Urbanism”, whereby a local movement of citizens improve the environment by using non-permanent methods. A good example would be an empty area of land transformed into a park by the use of planters, portable seating and other items.

Quite often temporary improvements used in tactical urbanism have such a positive effect upon the local populace that they would object to them being dismantled, resulting in a permanent improvement.

The use of similar methods to improve transit options is a clear development of tactical urbanism.

What generates the need for such action? Because of the amount of traffic and street layout there will be areas where the use of buses can be impeded by a lack of an appropriate number of bus stops to allow potential passengers to access buses. By using simple, non permanent methods, such issues can be overcome. An early example was used by the New York City Department of Transportation in 2008 in what it called its Select Bus Service. This scheme utilised the marking out of discreet bus lanes, the repurposing of parking meters to allow purchase of tickets off-board buses and the prioritising of buses through traffic signal stop signs. Another temporary but effective measure was to increase curb side boarding and disembarkation ease by the use of rubber platforms rather than permanent cement options.

It is easy to see how the example used above can be applied to any city or town where increased traffic flow, construction work or other factors impede the flow of public transport services and the collection of passengers. The temporary arrangements can be set up very quickly and at greatly reduced costs to permanent methods, often using re-cycled products. They can also be quickly adapted to cope with ongoing changes.

Some very clear positives of using such methods are:

  • Rapid adaptability to passenger need
  • Decreased disruption to transport routes by use of non-permanent solutions
  • Reduced costs of meeting need for change
  • Reduced impact upon the environment.


Such methods need not only apply to bus routes; with careful thought and planning they can be applied with equal effectiveness to underground and metro alike, playing a vital part in transportation development through sustainable transport.


How can tactical transit change our future?


The application of the methods of tactical urbanism to transportation offers great promise. One of the most useful aspects of the technique is that it provokes less resistance in the public to effective change. For example, the use of temporary measures often means a greatly diminished need to get through planning permission and other formal systems. Permanent solutions require various permissions and a consultation process that can throw up objections as well as agreement. In fact, permanent solutions tend to polarise attitudes towards change, with those concerned either agreeing of objecting. There is no in between area.

Non-permanent solutions can create such a positive response amongst the public that there is call for the permanent measures to be made permanent, creating far less objection and helping to ease projects through.

The adaptability of the measures to the growing and changing needs of a city, town and population make it a very obvious choice for fast and effective improvement. Whilst it has been citizens and charitable or non-profit organisations who have initially been responsible for urban tactical measures, the methods are proving themselves worthy of adoption by formal, government and urban planners and administrators. The result will hopefully be a unison between citizens, urban activists and formal bodies that results in an effective, environmentally-friendly and cost effective approach to solving transport problems within the modern environment.

Those concerned with the environment and improving the quality of life within their own block, street or immediate area have traditionally driven tactical urbanism projects. The movement was named as one of the major trends in planning in 2001-12. Ease of access to the internet and social media have allowed groups of citizens to publicise their projects and share important information, adding weight to the strength and size of the movement.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial outcomes of the urban tactical movements in its applications to transport is that formal bodies are now working with groups to seek effective remedies to real issues. Planning regulations have become cumbersome and have previously inhibited the immediate addressing of issues that have relevance for small groups. This scenario is changing. There is already evidence to demonstrate that formal regulatory bodies are working with small groups of citizens in a way that stands set to paint the scene for urban planning in the future.

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