Community Design – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:01:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Station upgrades mean it’s now easier to get a Capital Bikeshare key right away in Arlington https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/20/capital-bikeshare-key-kiosk-arlington/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/20/capital-bikeshare-key-kiosk-arlington/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 18:51:14 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21987 Observant Capital Bikeshare riders in Arlington and Alexandria may have noticed some changes at a few stations in the past months. Older bikeshare station kiosks are gradually moving out to other stations, replaced with new ones that have the ability to dispense bikeshare keys. This week, new key-dispensing kiosks are coming to the bikeshare stations... Read more »

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Observant Capital Bikeshare riders in Arlington and Alexandria may have noticed some changes at a few stations in the past months. Older bikeshare station kiosks are gradually moving out to other stations, replaced with new ones that have the ability to dispense bikeshare keys.

This week, new key-dispensing kiosks are coming to the bikeshare stations closest to the Clarendon, Court House, and Pentagon City Metro stations. Together with those already added to other select Arlington and Alexandria stations last year, nearly every Metro stop in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City corridors has a nearby bikeshare key dispenser (East Falls Church and Virginia Square are the only exceptions). The proximity to Metro stations should emphasize the availability of connecting transportation options, especially for new visitors, and create a predictable place for people to pick up their keys.

While in the past members have had to wait for their keys to arrive by mail, key-dispensing kiosks mean that new members can skip the one-to-two week wait. Those signing up online can select “pick up at kiosk” and get their key on the same day. New registrants receive a code, and enter that at their key-dispensing station of choice to get their key.

key kiosk

A station with a key-dispensing kiosk, feet from the Rosslyn Metro stop. Source: Capital Bikeshare.

The new kiosks also lower the barriers to those tempted to try the “daily key” membership option, which is geared towards infrequent riders or visitors. Under that plan, riders can register for a key, and only use it to activate a daily membership when they need it. While getting such a key might have required more planning ahead for a visitor in the past, the experience is now more streamlined.

“We’re glad to offer this quicker process for new members to get their keys,” said Henry Dunbar, Arlington’s director of active transportation. “Having the immediate ability to start using a service once you sign up is often key to establishing a regular use habit. Moving forward we hope to make this a standard feature in our new high-use stations.”

Key-dispensing kiosks can be identified on the Capital Bikeshare station map by the gray key icons. In addition to dispensing keys, the kiosks’ new screens provide a streamlined menu system, the ability to review one’s past rides, and other detailed options.

Photo, top: A newer kiosk in Rosslyn (photo by author).

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SXSW audio: How to Uber-ize public transit to save it https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/07/sxsw-audio-uber-ize-public-transit-save/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/07/sxsw-audio-uber-ize-public-transit-save/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 15:41:32 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21829 Our panel at SXSW in Austin last month, How to Uber-ize public transit to save it, agreed that there is a lot that public transit can learn from Uber in terms of selling the public on its worth. At the same time, we also agreed that Uber absolutely can’t replace transit. I moderated and asked the panelists (Doug... Read more »

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Our panel at SXSW in Austin last month, How to Uber-ize public transit to save it, agreed that there is a lot that public transit can learn from Uber in terms of selling the public on its worth. At the same time, we also agreed that Uber absolutely can’t replace transit.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 2.03.06 PM

The PowerPoint slideshow that ran in the background throughout the session

I moderated and asked the panelists (Doug Kaufman of Transloc, Mike Russel of Texas Christian University, and Marlene Connor of Marlene Connor Associates) a series of questions, including:

  • In what ways should and shouldn’t public transit become like Uber?
  • Is transit nearly perfect in any place in the world, so much so that services like Uber and Lyft aren’t even necessary? Where are the candidates in the U.S. for making an “ultimate connected city?
  • What things do you think could get people in the U.S. to change our 100-year-old habit of always defaulting to driving alone?
  • What needs to happen with data sharing for public transit, private service providers, and even roads to all truly work together and make our transportation system benefit from where we are technologically?
  • What do you think autonomous vehicles will do to transit?
  • We don’t know much about what President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will do, but it seems safe to say they will want private services to complement transit as much as possible. Is this smart and how can it happen?
  • Thinking of technology and AVs, if car companies and tech companies become the big breadwinners, in what ways can that trickle back down and provide jobs and income equality?
  • If the public sector’s role in mobility were reduced (it has been doing some great things like USDOT’s Smart City Challenge and FTA’s Mobility On Demand Sandbox grants), what do you think would happen to the transportation opportunities of unbanked people and people in rural areas?
  • What do you predict we’ll be discussing 5 years from now if this panel reunites?

We finished by fielding about a dozen audience questions from the 200 or so people in attendance.

Listen to the session above or here (except the introduction, which appears to have been edited out by SXSW)

Photo of transportation options in downtown Austin during SXSW, by Paul Mackie.

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Atlanta’s I-85 disruption shows importance of transit, flexibility of demand https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/05/atlantas-85-disruption-transit-flexibility-demand/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/05/atlantas-85-disruption-transit-flexibility-demand/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 14:17:28 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21803 Current estimates of Atlanta’s I-85 collapse give the freeway at least several months before it is repaired and re-opens. When the fire collapsed a section of the highway last Friday, a major route became closed for commuters. Like similar emergency disruptions in other major metropolitan areas, the situation is a clear glimpse into how people... Read more »

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Current estimates of Atlanta’s I-85 collapse give the freeway at least several months before it is repaired and re-opens. When the fire collapsed a section of the highway last Friday, a major route became closed for commuters.

Like similar emergency disruptions in other major metropolitan areas, the situation is a clear glimpse into how people shift their traditional commuting habits, and the significance of transit in providing alternative options.

On Monday morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported MARTA stations flooded with new commuters looking for a non-driving way into downtown Atlanta. Fare sales provided an early look into how many new riders were trying out rail this week.

Sales of Breeze cards were up 100 percent in some stations. Or more: Sales were up 111 percent Monday morning at North Springs and a whopping 172 percent at Sandy Springs.

“What we’re also finding is that people weren’t buying just one (trip) on a Breeze card,” Taylor said. “They were buying 10 trips or monthly cards, because they know this is going to be a long haul.”

And as Joe Cortwright notes at City Observatory, the predicted “Carmageddon” – similar to other daunting shutdown situations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – never quite appeared on Monday morning.

The fact that Carmageddon almost never comes is powerful evidence of induced demand: people travel on roadways because the capacity is available for their trips. When the capacity goes away, so does much of the trip making.

Transit options like MARTA rail play a key role here. When disruption occurs, commuters, fearing clogged highways, have the option to shift their trips off of the road. These emergencies create an environment in which people who would not typically try rail or bus take it for the first time, potentially changing their habits. Together with other flexible options, such as telecommuting, the potential for congestion on alternate highway routes is reduced.

But telework may not necessarily be a sustainable long-term option for many Atlanta commuters as they wait for the I-85 to be repaired. Georgia politicians are already citing the I-85 collapse as a key reason to fund expanded MARTA transit service and capacity.

Photo: A man waits for a MARTA train (Druh Scoff, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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How do we encourage more transit-accessible sports stadiums? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/04/encourage-transit-accessible-stadiums/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/04/encourage-transit-accessible-stadiums/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 20:33:11 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21797 As baseball season begins this week, the Atlanta Braves officially relocate from Turner Field – much closer to Atlanta’s downtown – to SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County. The move raises interesting questions about the transit accessibility of new stadiums. Part of the Braves’ stated reason for their relocation was that Turner Field was not easily... Read more »

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As baseball season begins this week, the Atlanta Braves officially relocate from Turner Field – much closer to Atlanta’s downtown – to SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County. The move raises interesting questions about the transit accessibility of new stadiums.

Part of the Braves’ stated reason for their relocation was that Turner Field was not easily accessible to transit. Even though the field was close to downtown, the closest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station was a mile away, requiring bus shuttles on game days.

But now SunTrust Park will likely have even greater challenges bringing people to games via transit. For one, the new stadium has no MARTA rail access. And the incentive to drive may be too great, since the park is nestled right at an interchange of two of Atlanta’s busiest highways (I-75 and I-285).

That said, the Braves plan to have a shuttle service connecting major points of interest in metro Atlanta to SunTrust Park. MARTA suggests taking a MARTA bus as close to the stadium as possible, then taking on-demand services or a Cobb County bus. There is also CobbLinc, a bus service connecting Cobb County to Downtown and Midtown Atlanta.

SunTrust Park currently has no rail access, but the region envisions an extension of rail lines into Cobb County. This would be roughly on par with Turner Field’s rail access, with a rail line connected to the field via shuttle.

The bike amenities look to be improved, though now in an area less conducive to biking. Turner Field’s closest bike racks were a mile away, and SunTrust Park is planning a bike valet. In addition, SunTrust Park will soon have a long pedestrian bridge across the freeway.

suntrust park sept 2016

SunTrust Park under construction in September 2016 (Google Street View).

Yet, most of the emphasis is placed predictably on personal vehicles. Turner Field had up to 12 parking lots on high-demand days, with some accommodations for handicap parking and drop-off. SunTrust Park will have an app with real-time traffic updates about the games, the connection to the nearby Galleria’s parking, and the surrounding interstates. There will actually be 30 percent less parking at SunTrust than at Turner Field.

By comparison, FedEx Field, where the Washington Redskins football team plays, out in the Washington D.C. suburb of Landover, Md., was ranked 30th out of the 32 NFL stadiums in 2012 for accessibility.

Sure, at the Landover location there are acres of parking, luxury vehicles for rent, and bars that provide free bus trips to the games. But the closest Metro is about a mile away, there’s no Capital Bikeshare in Prince George’s County, and little evidence of bike racks, not to mention a bike valet like the one at Nationals Park. The congested Beltway is by no means inviting for non-driving fans, either.

While FedEx Field is miles from central D.C., there are stadiums in city limits, so aren’t those more accessible? After all, cities tend to have better transit than the suburbs.

Nationals Park, within Washington, D.C., has two Metro stops within three blocks of the stadium, though it also has eight parking garages within 10 blocks. The DC Circulator stops half a block away from the stadium and there are eight options for Metrobus within blocks. There’s even bikeshare: three stations within three blocks, corral service for some games, and a free bike valet.

And the fact that Nationals Park works closely with the D.C. Department of Transportation and its transportation demand initiative goDCgo to publicize the many transportation options is important as well. From initial research into the matter, there appears to be little TDM being practiced at FedEx Field or SunTrust Park.

For one example, goDCgo’s Nationals-centered Bus to the Ballpark campaign raises awareness of the Navy-Yard – Union Station Circulator. This connection is especially important because Union Station connects to the broader region through Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus, and other services.

It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds in Atlanta at the Braves’ home opener on April 14 – how will people get to SunTrust Park? How will drivers in the area react and how will traffic be affected? Perhaps there’s just not enough incentive for sports franchises to want their products to be more accessible to more fans in more ways. And that’s a shame.

Photo: Nats fans at the Navy Yard Metro station (bootbearwdc, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Hey neighbor, slow down – Why speed matters https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/23/slow-down-speed-matters/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/23/slow-down-speed-matters/#respond Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:27:37 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20108 It’s no secret – speed plays a major role in traffic related injuries and fatalities. With national traffic deaths on the rise, cities across the US are embracing safer street policies and lowering speed limits. Most vehicle crashes can be prevented by avoiding dangerous behaviors like distracted driving, driving under the influence, and excessive speeding.... Read more »

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It’s no secret – speed plays a major role in traffic related injuries and fatalities. With national traffic deaths on the rise, cities across the US are embracing safer street policies and lowering speed limits.

Most vehicle crashes can be prevented by avoiding dangerous behaviors like distracted driving, driving under the influence, and excessive speeding. Yes – we’re all human and we make mistakes, but human error shouldn’t result in life or death situations. Studies have proven lowering speed limits is a highly effective tool in creating safer environments for all users (i.e. vehicles, bikes and pedestrians) to share the streets.

Boston and Seattle recently joined a growing list of U.S. cities that have reduced speed limits on arterial (fancy word for major roads) and neighborhood streets in the name of safety initiatives, such as Vision Zero. As highlighted in this Vision Zero video, “No loss of life is acceptable. The road systems need to keep us moving, but it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.”

Why speed matters

It’s no coincidence progressive cities are reducing speed limits to 20-25 mph. Research has determined that traveling above 30 mph puts our most vulnerable users at higher risk of serious injuries and death. A recent study published by Smart Growth America, identified people of color, lower-incomes and older adults as being the highest risk populations.

The graphic below, created by the City of Seattle, illustrates the varied chances of a person walking surviving a collision with a vehicle. Pedestrians have a 90 percent survival rate if stuck by a vehicle going 20 mph. Sadly, chances of survival are reduced to only 50 percent when a vehicle is going +10 mph faster (30 mph).

infographic showing various speeds and people killed
 There’s no single solution to make our streets safer; however, there are proven fixes we can collectively pursue. In addition to speed reductions, tougher school-zone enforcement, installing protected bike lanes and implementing “Complete Streets” are all becoming increasing popular tools.

What’s next?

It’s simple, take action! We must demand safer streets and holistic collaboration from our elected officials, engineers, urban planners, enforcement officers, educators and citizens. After all – we’re all in this together and every day we delay taking action leaves our communities and loved ones vulnerable.

This post originally appeared on the WalkArlington blog.

Photo: A crosswalk in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Hands-on with a new standard for safer biking intersections https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/18/hands-on-with-a-solution-to-safer-biking-intersections/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/18/hands-on-with-a-solution-to-safer-biking-intersections/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:14:59 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20079 The last decade has seen bicycling rates double or triple in major metropolitan areas, helped in part by the modern consensus around what kind of on-street facilities are best at protecting and encouraging riders. While sharrows and signage have given way to protected, separate lanes, the designs of intersections – often the most stressful part of... Read more »

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The last decade has seen bicycling rates double or triple in major metropolitan areas, helped in part by the modern consensus around what kind of on-street facilities are best at protecting and encouraging riders. While sharrows and signage have given way to protected, separate lanes, the designs of intersections – often the most stressful part of biking – still pose a major problem.

Currently being adapted from successes in Denmark and the Netherlands, the protected bike intersection is one avenue of solving that. Rather than have protected bike lanes convert to mixing zones or indicate two-step turns, both of which can be confusing for drivers and bicyclists, the protected intersection aims to reduce conflicts and keep bicyclists in a dedicated space as much as possible.

Speaking in a session at TransportationCamp DC this month, transportation planner Emily Thomason and Nicholas Smith of Richmond, Va., modeled the protected intersection design for attendees, transforming a paper, four-way layout on the carpet with the addition of curb bulbouts and a delineated, green bike crosswalks (see above photo). As a bicyclist approaches the intersection, they can either move straight through the bike crosswalk, curve right along the protected lane, or take a left by first crossing straight, then left.

The main aim of the design is to eliminate sudden conflicts between bicyclists and drivers. By moving bicyclists closer to pedestrians, the intersection operates on the idea that bike-pedestrian conflicts are much easier and safer to negotiate than bike-car ones. And while left turns will take bicyclists longer to perform, Thomason and Smith explained, the easy right turns that require no traffic negotiation will create some time savings.

dutch intersection, northeasern delft

A protected intersection in the Netherlands. Note the driver turning right forced to yield to bicyclists, who cross parallel to the crosswalk.

Not only do the concrete islands protect people walking and biking, but they force drivers to take wider, slower, and more deliberate turns. Using a phone as a makeshift car in his diagram, Smith walked the session through the varying ways a driver can enter the intersection. The concrete islands are long enough so that a driver turning right can enter, clear the crosswalk, then make a right turn when they have a chance. Adding another paper cut-out and folding back the corner pieces, Thomason and Smith showed how the logic applies to low-traffic roundabouts, too.

The proposed intersection in Silver Spring. Source: MCDOT, via The Wash Cycle.

In the D.C. region, Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction with a protected bike intersection in its near-term bike plans. Part of a new network of lanes in downtown Silver Spring, the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Wayne would have concrete curb cuts on each corner.

While there are only 12 in the United States now (up from zero just two years ago), Green Lane Project’s Brad Anderson notes that the intersections make safety sense as a priority for cities, as they can be applied to conventional bike lanes too, not just protected ones. Protected intersections now exist in cities such as Davis, Calif., Austin, and Salt Lake City. Just as protected bike lanes are making streets more in line with the 8-through-80 year-old-friendly biking streets, protected intersections offer a way to complete those network gaps and simplify safer biking.

Photo: Top, the paper design laid out during the TransportationCamp (photo by author). Middle, an intersection in the Netherlands (Northeastern Delft, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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New report highlights most dangerous cities for walking, calls for pedestrian-centered streets https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/10/new-report-highlights-dangerous-cities-walking-calls-pedestrian-centered-streets/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/10/new-report-highlights-dangerous-cities-walking-calls-pedestrian-centered-streets/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 16:01:50 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19990 Ever since the car began dominating the way people move throughout the United States, bicycling and walking have become often dangerous and shunted propositions. Decades later, more engineers, planners, and developers are understanding the importance of rethinking the car-centered designs of roads in order to mitigate the dangers they pose for pedestrians. Today, Smart Growth... Read more »

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Ever since the car began dominating the way people move throughout the United States, bicycling and walking have become often dangerous and shunted propositions.

Decades later, more engineers, planners, and developers are understanding the importance of rethinking the car-centered designs of roads in order to mitigate the dangers they pose for pedestrians.

dd16-pdi-list

Source: Dangerous by Design 2016. See the full report for more information.

Today, Smart Growth America released Dangerous by Design 2016, the fourth edition of the annual pedestrian safety report, which now includes an improved version of its Pedestrian Danger Index, or PDI. While the last edition ranked the largest 51 metro areas, this year’s includes the largest 104 metro areas and adds a ranking of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The seven most dangerous metro areas, and nine of the 11 worst, are in Florida, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers taking the top (or bottom) spot by a bit of a landslide.

“The PDI is a calculation of the share of local commuters who walk to work – the best available measure of how many people are likely to be out walking each day – and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths,” said Alex Dodds, communications director at Smart Growth America.

The safest metro areas ranked are Colorado Springs, Co.; Portland-South Portland, Me.; and Madison, Wi. Of the states, Vermont, Alaska, and D.C. are the safest, while Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana rank as the most dangerous.

D.C. is a compelling example. Considered the third-safest state, it is 69th most dangerous – near the middle of the pack – as a metro area covering Arlington, Alexandria, and surrounding Maryland counties. “This provides a pretty big hint that the urban walkable places are a lot safer than the sprawling exurban, less walkable, drivable ones,” Dodds said.

SGA and its partners on the report and index – the National Complete Streets Coalition, AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates – found that people of color and older adults are overrepresented among pedestrian deaths, and that PDI is strongly correlated with median household income and rates of uninsured individuals. Poor and minority communities are less likely to have effective pedestrian infrastructure, and in many places street designs lack key features, like curb cuts, that the elderly need.

The groups have several recommendations for cities and advocates, focusing on rethinking how streets are designed.

“The report doesn’t include analysis of why these fatalities happened. The dream would be to have a national inventory of national infrastructure and what these streets look like,” Dodds said.

“There are tons of public-information campaigns about ‘don’t text and drive or drive drunk’ and pedestrian shaming. What gets talked about less is that the way the street is designed is setting a dangerous environment,” she added. “Public-awareness campaigns [are often] missing the point: you have to build a street that builds in safety as a priority.”

Meanwhile, a recent court decision from New York’s Court of Appeals supports this frame from a legal basis. In it, the court ruled that cities are responsible for redesigning streets known to be sites of dangerous driving and can be held liable for failing to do so.

Streetsblog NYC reported last week:

“This decision is a game-changer,” says Steve Vaccaro, an attorney who represents traffic crash victims. “The court held that departments of transportation can be held liable for harm caused by speeding drivers, where the DOT fails to install traffic-calming measures even though it is aware of dangerous speeding, unless the DOT has specifically undertaken a study and determined that traffic calming is not required.”

The New York ruling sets an interesting precedent. As Dodds explains, “If multiple people have been struck and killed on a given street, it should be clear to a DOT that the street is failing the needs of the community.”

She continued: “The data is out there showing what needs to happen: reducing speeds. How do you make that a priority? I don’t know what is more compelling as a motivator than death. The New York ruling might also make DOTs consider whether this is a legal liability as well.”

The full report and other materials are here. SGA encourages people to ensure their towns and states have Complete Streets policies, and to hold their elected officials accountable for using them to create safer streets.

Photo: An intersection in Alexandria in 2008. Today, the crossing has sidewalks and a crosswalk. (Anne Brink, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Our 10 most-read posts of 2016 https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/23/most-read-top-posts-2016/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/23/most-read-top-posts-2016/#respond Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:05:36 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19924 From tiny data-gathering initiatives to widespread carpooling ideas, here are our 10 most-read articles from the past year. 1. The yellow bicycle button that gets the attention of city leaders Swedish company Hovding, makers of the explosively inflating bike helmet, paired with the London Cyclists Campaign to create a simple button that cyclists could use to record... Read more »

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From tiny data-gathering initiatives to widespread carpooling ideas, here are our 10 most-read articles from the past year.

1. The yellow bicycle button that gets the attention of city leaders

Swedish company Hovding, makers of the explosively inflating bike helmet, paired with the London Cyclists Campaign to create a simple button that cyclists could use to record and, and later map, high-stress biking conditions. 

2. Bikeshare GPS insights highlight stark differences across types of trips

Contributor Jon Wergin worked with the District Department of Transportation on a rare study of Capital Bikeshare bikes tagged with GPS trackers. Wergin then identified common routes for both frequent, registered riders, and visitors, as well as areas that might benefit from new bikeshare stations.

3. Filling up seats in cars: The future of driving

What if we could put the empty seats on highways to better use? Our video examined what a future of efficient carpooling and traffic might look like, from better ride-matching to shared autonomous vehicles.

4. Affordable housing and transit should go hand-in-hand

Contributor Michael Ryan discussed the idea of employing affordable housing as a part of transportation demand management thinking. Through financing incentives, cities can locate more affordable housing, for whose residents transit access is essential, near frequent transit corridors.

5. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cuts solo driving with employee programs

Faced with a move to a new complex in downtown Seattle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created a wide-ranging employee commuting program to reduce its 88 percent employee drive-alone rate. A combination of transit and biking incentives and flexible parking policies more than halved that rate in five years.

6. Bikeshare safer than riding personal bikes, new research says

A report from the Mineta Transportation Institute found bikeshare collisions occur at a lower rate than crashes involving personal bikes. The authors suggest a number of factors, from the types of people riding bikeshare to the design of the bikes, could contribute to the overall safety rates.

7. Transportation redefined: Cities must work with shared mobility options

Ride-hailing and -sharing transportation options are now ubiquitous in most major cities, and in order to create efficient transportation networks and best serve residents, agencies should look to ways to collaborate with them to improve access and reduce drive-alone trips.

8. Transportation options are looking different – sidewalks should too

Emerging, tech- and sharing-based transportation modes are changing how we use sidewalks and curb space. New public space design plans, writes contributor Lisa Nisenson, should consider the need for bike racks, bikeshare stations, drop-off areas, and more in addition to traditional curbside uses like private car parking.

9. Virginia’s new Capital Trail is spurring investments along its route

Not only has the 55-mile, year-old Virginia Capital Trail brought business and visitors to the corridor between Richmond and Jamestown, Va., but it’s also raising the visibility of biking as transportation in the area. Nearby towns are looking into ways to educate kids about biking and expand their biking facilities to connect to the trail.

10. Bike parking gets people riding. Here’s how to build it right.

Visible, safe, and covered bike parking can play a major role in encouraging people to bike to work and other destinations. The best kinds of racks, according to contributor Michael Ryan, are U-racks, while “wheelbenders” and wave racks actually create conflict and waste potential bike parking space.

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Virginia’s new Capital Trail spurs biking investments along its route https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/12/virginia-capital-trail-spurs-investments-biking-along-route/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/12/virginia-capital-trail-spurs-investments-biking-along-route/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:28:11 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19760 This is part two of contributor Gabriel Morey’s coverage of the year-old Virginia Capital Trail. Read part one here. The Virginia Capital Trail offers one of the best cases of how well-designed bike and pedestrian infrastructure can transform communities. The trail – a serene, 55-mile path from Jamestown to Richmond – has brought numerous economic changes... Read more »

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This is part two of contributor Gabriel Morey’s coverage of the year-old Virginia Capital Trail. Read part one here.

The Virginia Capital Trail offers one of the best cases of how well-designed bike and pedestrian infrastructure can transform communities.

The trail – a serene, 55-mile path from Jamestown to Richmond – has brought numerous economic changes to the cities and towns along its route. It’s lured large corporations like Stone Brewing to Richmond, and boosted business at mom-and-pop establishments like Cul’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City County. However, economic benefits are only part of the success of the trail: it has also brought a renewed push for bike infrastructure and an increased quality of life in the communities around it.

“We’re thrilled about the added value it brings to the Historic Triangle and the opportunities it offers for residents and tourists alike to enjoy the area,” said State Senator Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), a supporter of the trail.

Senator Mason’s hometown of Williamsburg recently won a state grant to build a similar multi-use path along Monticello Avenue, which connects the historic town to the Capital Trail. The Capital Trail Foundation has not slowed down its work either. Since the trail’s completion, the group has been busy installing amenities such as benches and portable toilets for riders. Most importantly, it has begun adding electronic bike counters to the trail to better gauge ridership and help the group advocate for expanding and maintaining the trail.

In Richmond, the city is proposing adding 25 miles of new bike lanes, including one to connect its weekly farmers market with the Capital Trail. Finally, VDOT and the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization are studying a 60-mile long expansion of the trail to Fort Monroe. While some of these projects might have gone through without the trail, its success smoothed opposition by proving the value of such infrastructure. As Beth Weisbrod, executive director the Capital Trail Foundation, put it, “Now [grade]-separated, multi-use trails are being discussed as transportation.”

Possible extension routes (red) for the Capital Trail. Image from the Hampton Roads Transportation Commission.

Possible eastward extension routes (red) for the Capital Trail. Image from the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization.

This infrastructure is going in not just because localities want it, but because residents have demonstrated growing desires to have access to such facilities. Dot Boulware owns and operates the Edgewood Plantation B&B with her husband, Julian. While the trail has only minimally affected her business, it has added new life to her part of Charles City County, southeast of Richmond.

She said, “It’s not just [benefiting] the bikers, but it also [has benefits] for people that are older that can just walk the trail. People are not just sitting in their chairs anymore, or watching their televisions anymore. People are riding it, people are walking it, and are being very cordial to you. You don’t have to walk very far; you can judge your own time. It’s fun.”

Cullen Jenkin, one of the owners of the trail-adjacent Cul’s Courthouse Grille, shared a similar sentiment. “It got me off the couch,” he said. “It’s had a huge impact on me.”

Perhaps the most impressive impact of the trail can be seen at Charles City Public Schools, which has added a cycling program to its middle- and high-school physical-education curricula.

“The Capital Trail project really provided the initial inspiration for starting a bike program at our schools,” said Superintendent David Gaston. “Business and residents all noticed quickly that there was more activity as cyclists and citizens began to take advantage of the trail. If there had not been a Capital Trail built, I’m not certain that we would have thought about establishing a bike program, as these are extremely busy roads with a lot of fast-moving traffic.”

So far, CCPS has bought 24 Giant hybrid bikes for its classes, which feature both a riding component and a maintenance and safety component. The school system is also working with a local vendor to get classes on safety and technique taught to elementary-school students. While many students live far away from the trail, Dr. Gaston said that student interest in the trail has definitely increased. To further integrate the two, he hopes to get a connector built between Charles City High School and Route 5.

The economic benefits of the Capital Trail are impressive, but perhaps not as potent as the cultural changes it has brought. Just as the railroads and interstates re-shaped the American landscape, the Capital Trail is re-shaping Virginia’s Lower Peninsula, albeit at a slower and smaller pace, but as it continues to expand, one can expect to see more bike lanes, paths, and riders in places like Richmond, Williamsburg, and Hampton Roads.

Already the trail has surpassed its projected first-year ridership, drawing 550,000 riders from all over the nation. More than anything else, the trial has proven once again that if you build it, riders will come.

Photo: A couple rides along the Virginia Capital Trail near Sherwood Forest, Va. (D. Allen Covey/Virginia Department of Transportation, Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Virginia’s new Capital Trail has brought biking, business to Richmond and historic communities https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 17:05:24 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19695 Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments. First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork... Read more »

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Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments.

First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork for the trail began in 2003 when Virginia Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement made the trail a priority. The following year he helped found the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation – the non-profit that manages and promotes the trail – and in 2005 VDOT broke ground at Jamestown. Since its completion in October 2015, the Virginia Capital Trail has provided more than just a safe place to ride, walk, and run: it is also quietly changing the life and the economies of the communities that it passes through.

va-cap-trail

Map of the Virginia Capital Trail, via Terrain360. Click to see a trail-level view of the route.

No place is that more evident than in Richmond, Va., where the trail is helping power that city’s revitalization. Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Capital Trail Foundation (based in Richmond), sees the trail as a major economic engine for the city, citing packaging company WestRock’s 2006 decision to move to downtown as based partly on the then-incomplete trail. She also pointed out that smaller businesses have benefited from it as well. “When the trail opened,” Weisbrod said, “there was no place to rent a bike in Richmond. Now there are at least three.”

One of those places is The Kickstand, a non-profit founded by the Richmond Cycling Corps that advertises itself as “the easiest (and coolest) way to get on a bike and enjoy the Virginia Capital Trail.” Opened in July, The Kickstand does more than rent bikes – it also teaches kids from low-income households how to bike and fix bikes. Those students are then employed as mechanics for Kickstand.

To Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk-RVA, the trail is both a cause and an effect of increased cycling in Richmond. “I think it’s done a great job generating excitement around biking and walking” he said. “Once the snowball starts rolling, it just keeps getting bigger.” The stats from Richmond are certainly not small. The city has nearly doubled its bike infrastructure in the past three years, announced a bikeshare program, and hosted the UCI World Cycling Championships.

Furthermore, the trail has served as an anchor for new businesses. “Stone Brewing is one of the biggest examples,” Hepp-Buchanan said. “They are literally building their bistro on top of the trail.” While not all recent economic development can be attributed to the trail, Hepp-Buchanan argues that it has helped make Richmond an attractive place for corporations like Carmax, which recently moved downtown. “You can’t deny that having the Capital Trail right there is one of the biggest reasons why a company like that would locate downtown,” he said.

Cul's and bicycling patrons

Cul’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City, mere feet from the Capital Trail

The trail is also making an impact outside of Richmond. There is no better place to see that benefit than at Cul’s Courthouse Grille, a charming restaurant managed by mother-and-son team Bonnie Whittaker and Cullen Jenkins. Cul’s opened seven years ago when Whittaker, recently retired, decided to create a space for community gatherings near the historic Charles City Courthouse. Although Cullen stresses that Cul’s focuses on the community, not “dollars and cents,” it is impossible to ignore the business the trail has brought. “We’ve just tried to hold on and do the best we can,” Cullen said. “Recently, Channel 12 did a nice piece on the impact that the trail has had on small business, and they focused on us. My mom said that [business grew] by 30 percent in the interview, but she meant to say 300 percent.”

clip_ins_signThe increase in customers has meant more than just money for the restaurant. “We’ve been able to hire 10 folks because we needed them for the business,” Cullen said. Ten jobs might not seem like many, but in a small community like Charles City County (population 7,000), they make a huge difference. “These women are holding their families together with the jobs they have here,” Cullen said. “We can give someone a decent living wage where they can pay their bills and have a couple of bucks left over to improve their quality of life.”

Cul’s isn’t the only business to capitalize on the trail. Nearby Shirley Plantation recently added a large dining room to its outbuildings, placing in front of it a chalkboard sign reading “Welcome Cyclists: Please remove your clip-ins. Thank you!” Closer to Cul’s, rumor is that an old schoolhouse is being rehabilitated into a coffeehouse. And according to Beth Weisbrod, the Capital Trail Foundation is planning a connector trail to the Blue Heron Restaurant, another local eatery slightly off Route 5.

The money and cyclists flowing along the Capital Trail come from all over the world. Rich Thompson is a staff member at the College of William and Mary, where he helps lead the College’s Bike Alliance. (Full disclosure – the author was a founding member of the Alliance.) A regular cyclist on the trail, Thompson has met folks from D.C. and farther.

“I recently ran into a son and mother cyclist from Germany and Great Britain,” Thompson said. “They were vacationing here and biking in Surrey and Isle of Wight County,” and told him that they were planning on riding the trail later.

One of forces driving this tourism is the ever-expanding number of companies offering bike tours of the Capital Trail, including Road-Tested Tours, Carolina Tailwinds, Trek Travel, and Vermont Tours. Additionally, the Williamsburg Winery has added weekly 40-mile bike rides to its list of offerings, and Cullen Jenkins, for his part, is renting bikes out to Cul’s customers.

The market isn’t saturated yet either. Jennifer Billstrom is the founder of Velo Girl Rides, a North Carolina-based touring company that hopes to launch a Capital Trail tour. “The unique thing about the Capital Trail, in my opinion, is that it is fairly flat, and it is fairly doable by anyone. And it’s also just a ribbon that runs through a very rich historical area. So using this can be an educational experience … that engages people both physically and with a history lesson, and that’s very unique,” she said.

If other examples hold true, the Capital Trail is only beginning to spark growth around it. Wendy Lyman would know: as the owner of the cyclist-oriented Swamp Rabbit Inn in Greenville, South Carolina, she has seen her region’s Swamp Rabbit Trail revitalize entire towns along its route. She recently traveled up to visit the Capital Trail, and saw ample opportunity for future growth. “I was really impressed with it” she said. “That midpoint destination hub – there’s a lot of development opportunities there, and I think that would make that trail even more vibrant.”

She has observed this type of development before – the trail is built, several businesses take off, more entrepreneurs follow, local residents discover new ways to use the trail, and a new economic and transportation ecosystem is built. The Capital Trail isn’t at that point yet, but with 550,000 trips along the trail last year, that type of development is likely. The question isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Read part two of this article, about the increase in biking that the Virginia Capital Trail is generating in adjacent communities.

[Ed: a previous version of this article stated incorrectly that Richmond’s B bikeshare had already launched. The city is currently aiming for an official launch in fall 2016 or spring 2017.]

Photos: Top, the VA Capital Trail as it approaches downtown Richmond along the James River (Al Covey/VDOT, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, the Bike Alliance at Cul’s Courthouse Grille (Bill Horacio). Lower, a chalkboard sign for bicyclists at  Shirley Plantation (Rich Thompson).

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