Community Design – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 California merchants, public clamor for rethinking our transportation impulses https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/california-merchants-public-clamor-rethinking-transportation-impulses/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/california-merchants-public-clamor-rethinking-transportation-impulses/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:04:11 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22839 In bustling city cores, people driving alone in their personal cars can be the worst thing for local merchants. Many of them simply didn’t know it before, but they’re slowly beginning to figure it out. Three new stories out of California show that the state is taking the concept of transportation demand seriously. Take this example:... Read more »

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In bustling city cores, people driving alone in their personal cars can be the worst thing for local merchants. Many of them simply didn’t know it before, but they’re slowly beginning to figure it out.

Three new stories out of California show that the state is taking the concept of transportation demand seriously.

Take this example: In downtown San Francisco, the drive-alone rate has dropped from 14 percent in 1989, when the non-profit Transportation Management Association was founded, to 8.5 percent in 2017. That’s both an impressive drop and impressive overall that so many people appear to understand the countless societal ills their personal actions can bring.

However, traffic congestion just keeps getting worse, with 81 percent polled in the city saying it has reached a “crisis level.” So it’s a practically Herculean uphill battle, but the San Francisco Business Times notes some of the strategies the TMA and others are trying:

The city passed a new Transportation Demand Management Plan [that] encourages the creation of bike parking, car-share parking and delivery services and a boost in high-occupancy vehicles and parking management. It’s up to employers to provide commuter benefits, shuttles or incentives, and the challenge is growing in size without adding parking, said Carli Paine, who works on these issues for SFMTA.

Down in Los Angeles, Culver City has a new Metro station and leaders are hoping to take this opportunity to make sure it creates a much wider sphere of vibrancy than simply one immediately adjacent to the station. UrbanizeLA notes that Culver City:

… currently sees approximately 70,000 daily car trips into the city, mainly for employment – roughly twice its residential population. These commuters traverse a road network [described as] an “incomprehensible web,” with east-west circulation pinched into the center of town before spreading back out. Culver City may also consider a city-wide transportation demand management program, as has already been implemented in Santa Monica. This strategy involves coordinating with various employers in the city to manage automobile trips, with consideration to peak travel times.

Throughout the state of California, these TDM plans are simply a growing reaction to what the people truly want, according to a new survey commissioned by the California Bicycle Coalition. Streetsblog California sums up the findings:

The results seem to defy the notion that Californians want to drive everywhere. “Transportation officials are decades behind acknowledging this shifting demand,”wrote Jeanie Ward-Waller, the CBC’s policy director.

Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed say they believe that state and local transportation departments need to change the way they build streets and roads to make it safe for all users, including people who walk, bicycle, take transit, and drive. Voters want better bicycling conditions: two-thirds agree that their city government should do more to encourage bicycling.

Photo of San Francisco street by Richard Masoner/Flickr.

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Closing gaps in low-stress networks to bring bicycling to more people https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/20/close-gaps-low-stress-montgomery-bike-plan/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/20/close-gaps-low-stress-montgomery-bike-plan/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:43:03 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22758 Montgomery County, Md., revisits how it plans bike lanes Creating safe biking connections between low-stress streets can pay off in improved access to a broad network of bike lanes. Montgomery County, Md., is seeking to do just that in its forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan. It includes about 1,000 miles of separated bike lanes in the next... Read more »

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Montgomery County, Md., revisits how it plans bike lanes

Creating safe biking connections between low-stress streets can pay off in improved access to a broad network of bike lanes.

Montgomery County, Md., is seeking to do just that in its forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan. It includes about 1,000 miles of separated bike lanes in the next 20 years and examines specific neighborhoods block by block. The plan will apply “a level of analytical rigor that has previously been reserved for large transportation infrastructure projects like highways and transit systems,” says Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.

The program was conceived in 2010, when Anderson approached the Montgomery County Planning Board (he was not then a member) with sophisticated heat maps from the Capital Bikeshare program, then just launching. He suggested applying the same technology to county planning. A bicycle heat map – which represents data as colors – shows projected demand for bicycling. The idea inspired a new ambition in Montgomery County, a plan that would begin with heat maps that define where bicycling is most needed, where residences might be hooked up to jobs, transit hubs, schools, or other activity centers.

From heat maps to stress maps

The next step was devising bicycle stress maps – which won a national planning award – to define where bicycle riding is already comfortable for the majority of potential riders. These employ a four-level scale (previously discussed on Mobility Lab), with levels 1 and 2 acceptable for the majority of adult cyclists. The idea was to find ways to create routes that the 51 percent of “interested but concerned” potential bicycle riders would feel comfortable taking.

The 2011 heat map projected demand for bicycling, especially along the Rockville Pike and Georgia Avenue corridors. Source: Montgomery County.

Although some 78 percent of roads and trails in the county are already low-stress, biking is still difficult because of blockages along many potential routes. People “might want to ride a bicycle from White Flint to downtown Bethesda,” says Anderson, but cannot “if the Beltway is cutting off access.”

Metrorail right-of-way and high-stress roads are among a series of obstacles. For streets that may seem insurmountable, with multiple lanes of high-speed traffic and few crossings, the Bicycle Master Plan Framework, approved in October 2016, recommends separated bikeways on both sides of the street (or on nearby parallel routes). These types of streets, narrow unusable sidewalks, and other obstacles discourage what should be easy rides.

The problem is often on small stretches “that might not seem meaningful until you realize it makes a difference for local bikers,” says Hans Riemer, a county councilmember and bicycle advocate [Editor: And past Mobility Lab contributor]. The framework shows that low-stress streets “are often surrounded by high-speed and high-volume roads” that discourage biking. The plan will connect these islands into a cohesive, bikeable network, often by using separated bike lanes on otherwise high-stress roads.”

“Wherever you are, you should be able to get to your destination on a low-stress bike route,” Riemer says.

The stress maps formally displays conditions that the majority of bicyclists (or would-be bicyclists) actually experience daily. The idea, says Anderson, is to “understand where there are obstacles, find where there is likely latent demand,” and efficiently build the routes that will serve the most people. The framework employs a “weakest-link” logic in which any one stressful feature, like a frequently blocked bike lane, means the whole street is categorized as stressful.

Putting it together

An overlay of the heat maps and the stress maps leads to the most useful, cost-effective solutions and is the basis of the preliminary recommendations currently being discussed in community meetings across Montgomery County, informing an update of its 2005 plan.

The current bicycling plan also moves beyond the traditional planning split between recreational and commuter bicyclists, explained David Anspacher, project manager for the Bicycle Master Plan, at a Bethesda community meeting. Forthcoming plans will assume that bicycling is for innumerable daily tasks, errands, school trips, recreation, and other utilitarian trips.

Though the process may seem abstract so far, the Bikeway ReactMap graphically shows the planned network and allows users to make specific comments about individual roads and intersections, a process that is ongoing through July 15.

Feedback by locals who actually know neighborhoods is crucial. Anderson explains that “everybody who regularly bicycles in an area finds informal connections that aren’t officially part of public right of way.” Comments already on the ReactMap, for instance, warn of particularly dangerous stretches of road or intersections, point out existing alternative routes, and suggest priorities.

Bicyclists have plenty of comments – denoted as text bubbles – on the ReactMap’s proposed bike lanes (dotted lines) in Bethesda. Source: Montgomery County.

The forthcoming plan is also meant to facilitate public transit, to solve not just the first-mile, last-mile problem of getting to transit, but the first three-mile, last three-mile problem. Networks of low-stress streets mean a bigger bike-shed. To further encourage bicycle-transit connections, the framework includes major bicycle stations that shelter and secure bikes at transit hubs, such as the Silver Spring Metro Station. To increase neighborhood connections, the framework recommends bike racks at local bus stops that might currently appear unfriendly to bicyclists. Advocates also hope to convince local businesses to provide bike racks, showing that bicycle facilities are not just an obstacle to parking but actually bring in customers.

Finally, countering stereotypes of white, middle-class bicyclists in spandex, the framework calls for an emphasis on providing low-income communities with low-stress routes that are at least equal to the rest of the county. These neighborhoods, after all, can benefit the most from bicycle accessibility, facilitating a low-cost form of transportation.

New thinking and faster progress

Biking cities such as Amsterdam may be far advanced in terms of sheer number of separated lanes and scope of infrastructure, but Anderson believes Montgomery County’s process will lead to the greatest bang for the buck, the “most meaningful and useful [routes] per dollar expended.”

Much previous bike infrastructure planning has been haphazard. It “would throw in a bunch of bike routes, where people might want to go – low hanging fruit, what’s cheap to build,” says Anderson. Often, these routes would be sparsely used when completed. Politics and the wish to appear proactive often led to fragmentary, underutilized bike infrastructure.

The stress maps “try to stand in the shoes of someone not comfortable biking in heavy traffic, taking the lane, not in great physical condition,” says Anderson.

Given widespread support for improved bicycling infrastructure, the county has been able to allow communities to begin building separated bike lanes well before the master plan has been approved. “Three years ago, we created a funding category at the county council in order to enable us to move projects more quickly,” explains Riemer, referring to the a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas budget category.

This mechanism has already borne fruit. In 2016, the county’s first separated bike lanes opened on Woodglen Drive and Nebel Lane in North Bethesda, with a similar lane planned for Silver Spring this year. “A lot of protected bike lanes and infrastructure are coming in over the next few years, rather than a 20-year horizon,” says Riemer. That’s good news for those of us used to thinking of Montgomery as the “paralysis by analysis” county.

Still, prioritizing which routes to build first in a complex, countywide plan is a difficult task. As the plans are approved, deciding those first lanes is the next step. The same analysis that has gone into planning will make it easy to build first based on greatest need. Widespread use of new bicycle infrastructure is thus likely early in the process, ultimately building greater support among the public.

Photo, top: A man waits to cross the street in Bethesda, Md. (Eddie Welker, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Stanford’s drive-alone rate has dropped 22 percentage points since 2000 – Stanford News https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/15/stanford-s-drive-alone-rate-has-dropped-by-22-percent-since-2000-stanford-news/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/15/stanford-s-drive-alone-rate-has-dropped-by-22-percent-since-2000-stanford-news/#comments Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:43:48 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22729 Stanford is a leader on transportation demand management, and the university has a robust “No Net New Commute Trips” goal to back it. That goal seeks to accomplish “no additional automobile trips during the peak commute time in the campus commute direction in the morning and evening.” On top of the goal, Stanford has posted... Read more »

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Stanford is a leader on transportation demand management, and the university has a robust “No Net New Commute Trips” goal to back it. That goal seeks to accomplish “no additional automobile trips during the peak commute time in the campus commute direction in the morning and evening.” On top of the goal, Stanford has posted some impressive historical numbers for reducing drive-alone commutes.

Since 2000, the university has reduced the percentage of single occupancy vehicle commuters to and from campus from 72 percent to 50 percent today.

That is made even more jaw dropping by the fact that Silicon Valley has not always been the model of getting people out of their driving habits. A recent study by SPUR found that barely 20 percent of the region’s tech companies lie within a half-mile of public transit. Also, NextCity’s Rachel Dovey notes that “only 1.7 percent of Silicon Valley residents bike to work, which is still more than the national average, but, the report argues, far less than the number could be, given the region’s mild climate and flat topography.” That too may be about to change, she writes, because of a stress-free bike plan being written for the Valley.

Back to Stanford in particular, the drive-alone reduction:

 … has been achieved through a robust Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program that offers students, faculty and staff alternatives to personal auto use. Central to the program is the free Marguerite Shuttle that runs throughout campus and connects riders to other public transit services and local destinations. To further support transit use, the Marguerite shuttle is open to the public as well.

As part of our broader strategy to further increase participation in the TDM program, Stanford supports local public transit by purchasing transit passes and providing them at no cost to eligible university employees for use on regional transit systems. These include Caltrain and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) buses and light rail. The Stanford East Bay Express Line U bus is free to those with a Stanford ID and connects the campus to the East Bay. The program also provides Zipcars, free rides home for those who use transit to come to campus and a Commute Club that offers incentives for participating in carpools and free vanpools.

Read the complete article at Stanford News

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Offering transit incentives is a way to avoid costly infrastructure spending https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/offering-transit-incentives-way-avoid-costly-infrastructure-spending/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/offering-transit-incentives-way-avoid-costly-infrastructure-spending/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 19:59:43 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22662 In the department of “Where Are They Now?,” Chris Hamilton is a prominent face around Mobility Lab, as one of our contributors and the former bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services, of which Mobility Lab is a part. He just appeared as a guest on the excellent GovLove podcast. Host Ben Kittelson asks to learn... Read more »

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In the department of “Where Are They Now?,” Chris Hamilton is a prominent face around Mobility Lab, as one of our contributors and the former bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services, of which Mobility Lab is a part. He just appeared as a guest on the excellent GovLove podcast.

Host Ben Kittelson asks to learn more about transportation demand management – Mobility Lab’s bread-and-butter – and Hamilton answers: “Transportation tends to revolve around adding supply and adding infrastructure. And TDM is all about changing the behavior of people so that you better meet the demand.”

Hamilton gives the TDM example of “if the roads are clogged, rather than widen the road, which is really expensive and in tons of places we can’t even do that anymore, what if we could get more people to ride the bus if there’s not a lot of people [already doing that]? Or what if we could get more people on bikes or even walking?

“In TDM, you use a set of tools to educate people about alternatives to driving. It’s often about marketing and carrots and sticks and incentives and disincentives. If you apply those tools correctly, you can often get that change and you don’t have to spend all that money on expensive infrastructure or ruin your downtown by adding more cars.”

Now serving as the program manager of Car-Free Key West in Florida, Hamilton was a key ingredient in the founding of Mobility Lab back when he was in Arlington. He tells the amazing origin stories of Arlington’s transit retail outlets, its pioneering online transit pass-purchasing program way back in 1997, and its ongoing corporate transit-sales program.

Hamilton also gives a nice shout-out to Mobility Lab as one of the industry’s “biggest thought leaders.” The host asks for more information, and Hamilton says, “We needed to tinker with better ways for making it easy for people to think about taking bike, walk, or public transportation. We birthed Mobility Lab to do research and find best practices across the industry so that we could then bring that knowledge back home to us and make our own operations better.”

Listen to the full GovLove podcast, and wonder in amazement how Hamilton took off for Key West, abandoning both his Redskins season tickets of 37 years and his streak of attending opening-day Orioles baseball games (he loves the Nationals too) since 1981.

(This article originally misstated the origin date of Arlington’s online transit-pass program. The date, 1997, is now correct.)

Photo: A street in Key West, where Hamilton is program manager of Car-Free Key West (Kenneth Garcia, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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For safe, separated bikeways, look to… 1930s Britain? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/26/separated-bikeways-1930s-britain/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/26/separated-bikeways-1930s-britain/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 18:58:50 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22458 Hidden alongside some otherwise unremarkable roadways across the United Kingdom are bicycle highways that today’s riders would envy. At CityLab, Feargus O’Sullivan reveals the research currently being conducted into these separate bike highways, all of which were built in the 1930s. As historian Carlton Reid conducted research for a new book, he realized that a... Read more »

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Hidden alongside some otherwise unremarkable roadways across the United Kingdom are bicycle highways that today’s riders would envy. At CityLab, Feargus O’Sullivan reveals the research currently being conducted into these separate bike highways, all of which were built in the 1930s.

As historian Carlton Reid conducted research for a new book, he realized that a network of decades-old bicycle lanes existed along streets of many UK cities, many of which having since been adapted to parking, ignored, or left to be reclaimed by nature.

“In fact, as Reid discovered, Britain went through something of a cycle lane boom in the late 1930s. Between 1937 and 1940, Britain’s government demanded that any state-funded scheme to build an arterial road must also include a 9-foot-wide cycle track running the length of the road.

“… This enlightened official approach chimed with the times. Cycling was still a vital means of transit in a country where car ownership only became common in the late 1950s. Many of the new, broader roads that would ultimately take the burden of Britain’s car boom were still being planned and constructed between the wars. The cycle network grew up as part of this new road network, rather than by scraping existing lane space away from motor vehicles.”

The eventual loss of the lanes to time and memory, explains O’Sullivan, likely came about due to a lack of use, as the bike lanes had to compete with the adjacent traffic lanes, and due to Britain’s recovery in the postwar era. (See Reid’s Kickstarter video for images of some of the current conditions of the lanes.)

Though the shift from transit, walking, and bicycling toward personal automobiles happened differently in the United States and the United Kingdom, historic bike infrastructure shows how bicycling investments are far from a new idea for cities and towns. In the late 1880s, the Good Roads Movement in the U.S. was a key proponent for paving and expanding country road infrastructure to support the spread of bicycling.

And other cities had expanded dedicated bicycling infrastructure around that time, too, to support the mode. In Southern California, for example, a turn-of-the-century “California Cycleway” connected Los Angeles to the city of Pasadena, nine miles away.

As historian Peter Norton has explained on the Mobility Lab blog before, a return to “understanding our multimodal past” can play a key role in reshaping our transportation choices of today.

Photo: A modern “cycle super highway” in London, not dissimilar to the ones discovered by Reid (J Mark Dodds, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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People who work near Seattle’s protected bike lanes ride to work more often https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/23/employers-near-bike-lanes-seattle/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/23/employers-near-bike-lanes-seattle/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 19:40:41 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22438 There’s no question about it: comfortable, safe bicycle infrastructure plays a significant role in encouraging people to ride. In Seattle, an analysis from nonprofit Commute Seattle recently demonstrated how that pays off for commuters: the seven employers with the highest rates of bike commuting are all within one block of a protected bike lane. Zooming... Read more »

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There’s no question about it: comfortable, safe bicycle infrastructure plays a significant role in encouraging people to ride. In Seattle, an analysis from nonprofit Commute Seattle recently demonstrated how that pays off for commuters: the seven employers with the highest rates of bike commuting are all within one block of a protected bike lane.

Zooming out some, of the companies with the 15 highest biking rates, all are within five blocks of a protected bike lane or trail, writes David Gutman of the Seattle Times.

Of course, a number of other transportation demand management practices play a role in helping employees decide to choose biking. Seattle’s commute trip reduction program mandates employers take steps to reduce employee drive-alone commutes, and offers a number of resources for bike-friendly workplaces, such as adding bike parking spaces and showers. The Seattle Times explains how these work together with lanes to support biking:

Jonathan Hopkins, executive director of Commute Seattle, said that a company’s culture in encouraging bike commuting makes a big difference. He noted that for the price of building one underground parking spot, a company can usually supply sheltered, secure bike storage for all its employees.

Transit and TDM investments have helped Seattle reach an impressive mode split, boasting a drive-alone rate of 30 percent for commutes downtown. And the employee biking rates, which run up to a high of 20 percent, are well above the broader downtown average of 3 percent. That protected bike lanes can bolster biking in specific areas supports Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro’s point that the city could encourage more riders by connecting its currently-disconnected array of cycle tracks.

In reverse, the proximity of safe bike infrastructure to residences can work the same way, too. Last year, Mobility Lab’s former research director Stephen Crim looked at the rates at which certain Arlington neighborhoods biked to work. Mapping bike commute rates to census tracts revealed neighborhoods near Arlington’s trail network biking at higher rates than the county average.

Photo: Seattle’s 2nd Avenue protected bike lane (SDOT, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Transit is key for new Alexandria development https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/09/transit-key-alexandria-eisenhower-development/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/09/transit-key-alexandria-eisenhower-development/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 20:04:43 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22311 Circulators, frequent buses could ease potential traffic from booming development plan Tucked into the southern edge of Alexandria, Va., between the Washington Beltway and Duke Street is the 230-acre Eisenhower East corridor. This formerly industrial area encompasses some of the newest development in Alexandria, including the Patent and Trademark Office (above) and the Carlyle Center office... Read more »

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Circulators, frequent buses could ease potential traffic from booming development plan

Tucked into the southern edge of Alexandria, Va., between the Washington Beltway and Duke Street is the 230-acre Eisenhower East corridor. This formerly industrial area encompasses some of the newest development in Alexandria, including the Patent and Trademark Office (above) and the Carlyle Center office building. It is also the site of one of the city’s most ambitious designs: the Eisenhower East Small Area Plan.

First adopted in 2003, the Eisenhower East plan seeks to create an urban village with new transit, bike and pedestrian facilities, and mixed-use development along its namesake road, all with the explicit objective of making “the pedestrian feel equally at home with the vehicle”. This noble goal was visionary when the plan was first adopted. However, in the time since, development has outpaced transit improvements, leading to congestion that could worsen as more projects are completed. More worryingly, recent studies indicate that people are most likely to try transit shortly after moving to a new area. However, once people establish routines they are unlikely to deviate, meaning that the city could miss a once-in-a-decade chance to attract new riders.

An illustration from the original 2003 Eisenhower East plan.

An illustration from the original 2003 Eisenhower East plan. The Eisenhower Ave. Metro station (unlabeled) is in the center-left section.

To start, the plan has a plethora of good aspects, many of which are finished or underway. This includes construction of a semi-traditional street grid on the south side of Eisenhower Avenue, a necessity for the plan to succeed, since true grids – because they offer a multitude of routes – move traffic more efficiently and encourage more walking and biking than do arterial systems. These new streets, as well as Eisenhower itself, contain generous sidewalks, although none feature bike lanes. This absence is deliberate, as planning is underway for the Old Cameron Run Trail, set to open in 2023. When complete, the trail will connect the existing Cameron Run and Mount Vernon Trails, feature parkland along its route, and allow for east-west bike travel that parallels Eisenhower Avenue.

Development has also continued apace, with additions like the newly-opened Parc Meridian apartments and the almost-finished National Science Foundation offices. The Parc Meridian and NSF are just the beginning of the area’s development: three public notices currently on the road call for new apartments, offices, and retail, including a grocery store.

When first approved, the most innovative part of the Eisenhower East plan was its parking requirements: it was the first in Alexandria to set maximum, rather than minimum, standards. Conventional parking minimums force developers to build maximum capacity, resulting in either seas of surface parking that subsidize driving while punishing transit with long distances and congestion, or necessitate expensive garages that inflate construction costs by around $19,700 per space. The maximums depend on building use and transit proximity. For instance, the plan caps developments within 1,500 feet of Metro stations to 1.1 per 1,000 GSF of residential. The city has recently further tightened residential standards, and is embarking on a similar effort for commercial parking.

However, not every aspect of the plan is pedestrian- or transit-oriented. First, many projects already include parking not covered under the new maximum standards; two of the public notices along the road have a combined 2,182 spaces, while the third sign near the Holland Lane vaguely advertises “five levels of parking”. Furthermore, the Hoffman Center’s full-build-out redevelopment (i.e., if everything proposed is built) includes ten garages, although many of these will replace surface lots. Finally, one of the first parts of the plan to be completed was the addition of Beltway on-ramps. To handle traffic from these exits, the Alexandria plans to add new turn lanes and will replace the traffic circle between Eisenhower Avenue and Holland Lane with a three-way stop.

Booming construction, new parking, and widened roads is the traditional recipe for inducing suburban-style gridlock, a problem Eisenhower East hopes to bypass with increased bus transit. However, with the City’s budget stretched tight on essentials like Metro, sewer upgrades, and schools, Eisenhower Avenue’s transit has taken a backburner, allowing development to outpace infrastructure. This may seem like a small bone to pick, but without improved transit Eisenhower will become mired in traffic, making it harder and more costly to improve mobility later.

Although the area is served by the Eisenhower Metro station and is a half-mile from the King Street Metro station, many developments lie outside their half-mile walking ranges and don’t yet have bus service. This is especially troublesome for trips into nearby Old Town, where driving 10 minutes is faster than walking a half mile to Eisenhower station and waiting 8-15 minutes for a train.

Interestingly, the plan makes no improvements to the DASH AT7 bus, instead opting to launch new transit initiatives. The AT7, which runs along most of Eisenhower and connects Landmark Mall, Old Town, and three Metro stations, is one of the lowest frequency DASH buses, with on-peak headways of 30 minutes and no weekend service. It also doesn’t serve all of Eisenhower East, instead turning into Carlyle Center after stopping at the Eisenhower Metro. Increasing frequency, adding service on weekends, and improving traffic signals at the often-congested Van Dorn and Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations could attract riders and ease peak-hour congestion. The more recent sister plan for Eisenhower West does call for such AT7 upgrades, although Alexandria has not yet taken steps to implement them.

The two transit proposals included in the plan could be transformative. First, it calls for a circulator running between the King Street and Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations every 15 minutes to provide final-mile service, replacing the fleet of private apartment shuttles that currently patrol the area. As envisioned, the circulator would be free to use, feature stops with real-time displays, and, most importantly, connect the developments that currently don’t have bus or rail transit. While two potential routes are included in the plan, the city has not set aside funding or created a project timeline for the circulator. Second, the plan envisions a BRT line running along Eisenhower, although that route – the Corridor B Transitway – is now scheduled for Duke Street several blocks to the north.

The Eisenhower East corridor has matured into a nascent urban village over the past 10 years, but as growth continues, better transit will be needed. Transit along Eisenhower may get a renewed push as the City undertakes an update to the Eisenhower East plan. One can hope so, for while the original 2003 plan has successfully renewed the corridor and encouraged denser development, the numerous imminent projects combined with no new transit threatens the area with becoming a victim of its own success.

By focusing now on improving buses, walking, and biking, Alexandria can ensure that this rapidly growing area will continue to grow into a livable, vibrant community.

Photo, top: The U.S. Patent Office, which moved to Alexandria from Crystal City in 2005, and is located within the Eisenhower East area (Kazuhisa Otsubo, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Solidifying the Rosslyn-Georgetown connection with current travel options https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/02/solidifying-rosslyn-georgetown-connection-current-travel-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/02/solidifying-rosslyn-georgetown-connection-current-travel-options/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 19:33:20 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22234 Whether a gondola happens anytime soon, options still exist for better connecting Georgetown to the Rosslyn Metro station Georgetown is known to have some “public transit gaps,” most notably the lack of a Metro station. To fix this, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s 2028 transportation plan included the cross-Potomac gondola as a possible solution, creating... Read more »

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Whether a gondola happens anytime soon, options still exist for better connecting Georgetown to the Rosslyn Metro station

Georgetown is known to have some “public transit gaps,” most notably the lack of a Metro station. To fix this, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s 2028 transportation plan included the cross-Potomac gondola as a possible solution, creating a connection to Rosslyn’s Metro station. While a Georgetown BID and Rosslyn BID-funded study found the project feasible last year, the Arlington County Board voted in February not to fund the gondola over the Potomac River.

Yet, the Georgetown-Rosslyn connection is not without its transportation options today. The DC Circulator, Metrobus, and biking all provide access to each of the neighborhoods.

So how can these options already in place be made to sound as attractive as something as splashy and new-sounding as a gondola? A survey of how these options connect might reveal why the trip over the Key Bridge is generally regarded as difficult and offer lessons in better wayfinding and information.

Key Bridge, left, connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown. The Metro station is the red dot. Source: Open Street Map.

Key Bridge, left, connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown. The Metro station is the red dot. Source: Open Street Map.

Buses

The D.C. Circulator and the 38B Metrobus already cross Key Bridge on their east-west routes. The Circulator picks up a block from the Rosslyn Metro station, while the 38B goes directly to the bus bays outside of the station entrance.

For Georgetown staff and students, the Georgetown University Transport Shuttle connects Georgetown University to Moore St. in Rosslyn. One of the rationales for the gondola was improving traffic between the university and the Metro system.

On Georgetown’s M Street, there are Circulator and Metrobus stops within blocks of the bridge and can take riders quickly to Rosslyn.

Coming from the Metro station, there are indications that inter-agency mode switches are more difficult to identify. There is a sign with an arrow to the GUTS, but there is no GUTS sign at the stop, which is on the same corner as the Circulator’s stop. Also, near the Metro station there is no mention of the Circulator. So how is one supposed to find the GUTS or Circulator coming out of the Metro?

There is a screen mounted on the Metro main exits, displaying live information on the buses entering the bays. This only applies to the Metrobuses and Arlington Rapid Transit buses, though.

Bus ridership

The Key Bridge buses are generally not running at full capacity. Looking at Table 1’s metrics, from last year’s gondola feasibility study, there is still plenty of bus space for riders looking to make the connection to the Rosslyn Metro.

Making the transportation options already in place better and ensuring commuters and visitors already know about them would be a would be a more-quickly implemented starting point than a gondola.

GT-R ridership

Table 1: Existing Travel Trends between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Source: Georgetown Gondola Feasibility Study

Biking and walking

Coming from the District, there is no signage on Georgetown’s sidewalks that the Rosslyn Metro station is just across the river. Even in Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, in front of the bridge, there are no maps or resources of any kind. Biking or walking across, a map posted in front of the Marriott Rosslyn, only visible after one has already crossed to Arlington.

In Rosslyn, the Key Bridge sidewalk connects to two trails, the east-west Custis and the north-south Mt. Vernon Trail. A map of the “Arlington Loop” is posted next to the bike counter. In Georgetown, bicyclists heading east-west are spit out onto M Street, which is fast, frequently congested, and lacks any bike facilities.

There are even Capital Bikeshare stations on both sides of the bridge within blocks, though no indication of how to reach them. Bikeshare signage at the Metro station is similarly nonexistent. There is a map of Rosslyn, but the map has no indication of the bikeshare station on it.

Improvements

A Rosslyn street improvement plan is currently being implemented, which will improve bicycle and pedestrian access to the Key Bridge from Rosslyn. The Lynn Street Esplanade project will make the North Lynn & Lee Highway intersection safer, expand space on the nearby Custis Trail, and make the blocks connecting to Key Bridge more welcoming to pedestrians.

Small improvements could also be made: improved signage, or providing easily accessible resources at the end or along the bridge (a map stand on the D.C. side, for example).

Information about the D.C. Circulator and GUTS could be included on the screens outside the Metro Station, as well as the status of the bikeshare docks. The screens could also be placed in a more visible area, near the Metro fare gates. There is also more to do in educating visitors about how Capital Bikeshare works: where the key dispensaries are, how to pay, what the overage charges are, etc.

The more initiatives done to educate the public about the availability of bus transit, bikeshare, and walking connections, the more likely visitors and commuters alike will be to try them in crossing the Key Bridge.

Photo: The entrance to Key Bridge as seen from Lynn Street in Rosslyn, Arlington. The GUTS bus is visible traveling southbound (at left). (Sam Kittner/www.kittner.com for Mobility Lab).

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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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