Environment – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:47:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Barcelona’s “superblock” plan to return dedicated car space to the public https://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/19/barcelonas-superblock-plan-return-car-space-public/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/19/barcelonas-superblock-plan-return-car-space-public/#respond Thu, 19 May 2016 16:20:56 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18267 Barcelona is in the midst of dramatically rethinking its urban fabric to address issues around urban mobility and climate change. Initially laid out in this 2014 Urban Mobility Plan for Barcelona [PDF], the city is now implementing something it calls superilles (or “superblocks” in English). Here’s what it looks like: The idea is to concentrate transit... Read more »

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Barcelona is in the midst of dramatically rethinking its urban fabric to address issues around urban mobility and climate change. Initially laid out in this 2014 Urban Mobility Plan for Barcelona [PDF], the city is now implementing something it calls superilles (or “superblocks” in English).

Here’s what it looks like:

The idea is to concentrate transit and vehicular traffic onto the edge of these new superblocks and then convert the interiors into livable spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Here’s a description from the Agència d’Ecologia Urbana de Barcelona:

“Superblocks are made up of a grid of basic roads forming a polygon, some 400 by 400 meters, with both interior and exterior components. The interior (intervía) is closed to motorized vehicles and above ground parking, and gives preference to pedestrian traffic in the public space. Though the inner streets are generally reserved for pedestrians, they can be used by residential traffic, services, emergency vehicles, and loading/unloading vehicles under special circumstances. The perimeter, or exterior, of Superblocks is where motorized traffic circulates, and makes up the basic roads.”

The result is going to be an absolutely radical shift in the amount of public space given to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. When their 2014 report was issued, it was estimated that 73 percent of public space was allocated to cars (versus pedestrians). This plan will completely flip that ratio. With the superblock model, it is estimated that 77 percent of public space will now be allocated to pedestrians.

Here’s what that is expected to look like…

Before:

After:

There are also plans to expand the bicycle network to roughly 95 percent of the city’s population.

Before:

After:

This post originally appeared on Architect This City. Barcelona residents, please chime in there if you would like to share a local perspective on the plans.

Images, from top: Barcelona’s Eixample as seen from the Sagrada Familia (Santi, Flickr, Creative Commons). Maps from the Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona 2013-2018 [PDF].

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Bursting the car bubble: Urban mobility for mental, social and physical health https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/18/bursting-the-car-bubble/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/18/bursting-the-car-bubble/#respond Thu, 18 Feb 2016 18:02:51 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16891 This post originally appeared at the Center for Urban Design and Mental Health blog. Does the way we move around our cities make us, and the planet, healthier or indeed happier? In order to answer this question, we need to take a step back to understand why we move around our cities as we do... Read more »

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This post originally appeared at the Center for Urban Design and Mental Health blog.

Does the way we move around our cities make us, and the planet, healthier or indeed happier?

In order to answer this question, we need to take a step back to understand why we move around our cities as we do today. In the twentieth century, car companies, urban planners, and national governments focused more on GDP than well-being and sold us private transport. Car corporations, backed by national governments, built lots of cars, planners laid out sprawling cities to accommodate them, city officials invested more in road infrastructure than public transit, and advertisers told us we needed a car to be happy and show our peers we were successful.

In many cities, such as Atlanta and Kuala Lumpur, people have been left with no alternative but to buy a car, unless they cannot afford one. Then getting around the city can be very problematic. The result in many cities is private automobile-dominated transport systems, with entrenched transport inequality. In other words, while the “haves” drive cars, low-income groups take the bus. These groups also have diminished access to workplaces and social gatherings with friends and community groups when public transit is infrequent or of poor quality in cities built for cars. The Brazilian politician and urban planner, Jamie Lerner, writing in The New York Times in December 2015, points out that cars take up more space than humans, and the average 50 square meters of space that a car occupies when parked at home and at work, is equal to the size of a family home or workplace in many countries. What if, as Lerner asks, this space was available instead for small businesses? Instead of “each to his own” in their private car bubble, we could replace the social isolation of car-dependent neighborhoods with the heightened sense of community found in more coffee houses, bookshops, pocket parks, and walkable streets.

By 2030 the number of cars on the world’s roads is anticipated to double to 2 billion. Much of that demand is coming from the burgeoning middle classes of China and India as they embrace the advertiser’s promise of “freedom” and status on the open road, an illusion which slowly unravels with each traffic jam. However, a century of the car has revealed that such car dependence has known health and well-being impacts, falling into five areas:

  1. road deaths and injuries, an annual average of 1.2 million deaths globally, according to a 2015 WHO road safety report
  2. respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer associated with air pollution
  3. obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease related to physical inactivity
  4. social isolation and higher rates of depression in car-dependent neighborhoods
  5. social and health inequalities, a sense of social exclusion of non-car owners, who nevertheless must breathe the pollutants emitted by cars.

But the health of people and the environment are inseparable. The transport sector is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming. Climate change is leading to more extreme heat events, the effects of which are more intense in cities because of the urban ‘heat island’ phenomenon. The urban poor also suffer more from water-and-food-borne gastrointestinal infections, and vector-borne (e.g., dengue fever) diseases due to climate change.

So, the way we move around our cities can make us sick, or even kill us in other ‘distant’ ways, not just on the road. The best hope may be to stop driving cars which burn fossil fuels, and use active transport such as walking and cycling, as well as mass transit.

Tokyo transit riders

Different people sharing a train carriage in Tokyo. Photo by author.

However, we should acknowledge that cars do afford certain freedoms. They allow us to look after family members, for example, by transporting children and elderly parents to medical treatment, give us access to social networks and education and employment, and satisfy the consumer desires of some. However, the collective cost to society has been too high. As Jamie Lerner also said, “Cars are the cigarettes of the future.”

So, no, cars have made neither us, nor the planet, healthier. And while individuals may experience a brief spike in happiness as with any consumer purchase, and derive happiness from looking after family members with cars when necessary, cars are not an enduring source of personal happiness. Collectively, the impact of many cars, their infrastructure (roads, parking space, gas stations), noise, and emissions, degrades neighborhoods and diminishes our happiness and wellbeing.

We have now awakened to the fact that our cities have been designed primarily to move cars, rather than people. And, as the preeminent urbanist Jan Gehl poignantly reminds us, a city can be designed for cars or designed for people, but not for both.

While the automobile has a place in the mobility mix, active transport such as walking and cycling and mass transit options such as light rail and Bus Rapid Transit are more desirable for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are designed for everyone, not only for people with the means to afford a car. They promote individual health by making us more physically active and reduce pollution-related illness. Fewer carbon-emitting cars on the roads means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. And when cities are designed for people, rather than cars, public space is reconfigured towards more walkable neighborhoods, which encourage social interaction and build social cohesion within communities. And as the famous twentieth century urbanist Jane Jacobs wrote in the 1960s, more walkable neighborhoods means “more eyes on the street,” the best and most natural form of security.

When most people rely on public transit, namely middle class and low-income groups, social equality is strengthened, and non-car owners suffer less from the fumes of cars they cannot afford. Children can walk and cycle without fear of being hit by cars, the elderly are more inclined to venture outdoors, and green space is restored to spaces previously occupied by cars. And our sensory landscape becomes more attractive, when the sound of cars and the smell of their fumes give way to the underlying sounds of the city itself, and the smell of fresh air.

Its is clear then that active transport, combined with public transit, makes us and the planet healthier, and makes for happier, more connected communities. Re-imagining mobility from a people-centred prism has had great results. In Mexico City, for example, new bikeshare systems are proving popular with women especially, a group that is often more vulnerable to transport exclusion, mostly due to safety fears. In Copenhagen, the preferred mode of transport for almost half of the population is the bicycle, and as the city ‘s Green Wave initiative is rolled out to make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025, wireless LED lighting embedded in bicycle paths uses sensors feeding into software to provide information to cyclists about traffic conditions ahead.

But as we embrace this technology, we must not lose the lesson of the twentieth century – that mobility should be designed first and foremost for people, whose happiness and well-being is found in the social ties of strong walkable, human-scaled communities free of car fumes and the threat of traffic injury.

Photo: top, people walk along Manhattan’s High Line (George Bremer, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Taking fewer car trips is the best thing you can do for the environment https://mobilitylab.org/2015/12/07/taking-fewer-car-trips-best-for-the-environment/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/12/07/taking-fewer-car-trips-best-for-the-environment/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2015 18:58:42 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16357 This article originally appeared on Triple Pundit. As leaders from around the world are meeting over two weeks in Paris to advance collective action on climate change, it’s heartening to note that transportation continues to gain prominence as an accepted path to cleaning up pollution. In order to keep global temperatures below levels that are dangerous... Read more »

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This article originally appeared on Triple Pundit.

As leaders from around the world are meeting over two weeks in Paris to advance collective action on climate change, it’s heartening to note that transportation continues to gain prominence as an accepted path to cleaning up pollution.

In order to keep global temperatures below levels that are dangerous to humans, transportation offers both the curse of being the fastest growing source of CO2 in the world and the blessing that offers significant hope: if we can reduce the number of cars on the road and, more importantly, the number of total trips, then we can cut the 27 percent of greenhouse gases that originate from transportation vehicles in the U.S.

Perhaps most crucial of all to transportation goals than the UN’s Conference of Parties 21 meeting is the parallel launch in Paris of the Climate Summit for Local Leaders. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and Michael Bloomberg, just named the first-ever UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, lead the group.

City officials in attendance are learning from each other what can be done. For example, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is focused on the conversion of his city’s vehicle fleet to fossil-free fuel for a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions. Olympia, Washington’s Mayor Stephen Buxbaum stresses the importance of consistent, public reporting of his city’s climate data as a way to show how action affects change. And Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has ambitious climate goals, which include engagement with employers to reduce commute and business trips.

Determining which modes to promote from an environmental standpoint

This isn’t about granola-crunching hippies with anti-car axes to grind. Cars are great. They can be beautiful. They can be a life-safer, like when you’re running late and have three kids to drop off at three different play dates. They can even – every great once in a while – truly take you away for a refreshing, exhilarating Sunday drive that’s mostly free from stressful, annoying traffic jams.

But those kinds of uses are becoming less and less commonplace in a landscape that is simply becoming too crowded to continue incentivizing people to use personal vehicles for all their trips.

The environmental benefits are clear for fewer drive-alone trips. The University of California and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy recently found that pollution in cities can be cut 40 percent by 2050 by more people switching from cars to taking trains or buses, bicycling, or walking. That, in turn, would put about $100 trillion back into the economy.

How universities (and maybe someday schools) are on the leading edge

It’s no accident that traffic seems considerably more pleasant the moment you enter many university campuses around the U.S. They have been some of the most forward-thinking entities on designing spaces that make it easier to get from place to place. For example:

  • As part of its master plan, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania is moving car travel to the periphery to make it a more walkable campus.
  • Free transit passes, a campus bikeshare program, and implemention of a $150 charge for an annual parking pass have helped Westminster College in Salt Lake City reduce its drive-alone rate for students and faculty from 77 percent to 57 percent in just four years.
  • Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., added 40 electric golf carts to its fleet to improve the way employees move about campus.
  • The University of Kentucky’s Lexington campus offered a $400 voucher for students to use at local bike shops if they agreed not to bring a car to campus for two years.

And, as researcher Todd Litman notes, these programs (which he lists in detail at his website) are often “particularly effective and appropriate in such settings. It is often more cost effective than other solutions to local traffic and parking problems, and students and employees often value having improved transportation choices.”

One area, however, where much improvement is needed is at elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The fact that Mobility Lab published an article with this headline – Arlington County First in Nation with Program to Ease Public-School Staff Commutes – earlier this year indicates a big problem.

“Jurisdictions have typically focused on reducing car trips for students – like under the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, which gets them thinking about walking or biking to school. But the drive-alone rate for Arlington Public Schools staff is a surprisingly high 88 percent, compared to 53 percent for the county overall,” said Elizabeth Denton, business-development manager for Arlington Transportation Partners, which partners with APS in the ATP Schools Champions program.

“Staff at Discovery Elementary School, which is brand new and is also one of three net zero schools in the nation, is forming carpools and establishing walking groups. H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program started a student after-school bicycle club. Other schools are conducting staff commute surveys and working with Safe Routes to Schools to start walking schools buses and to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian education into PE and health classes,” she said.

Denton promotes the Champions program using environmental messaging, which she says is an important motivational factor for school staff. APS is a “green” school system, ranked third nationally in green-energy usage by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The research presents a compelling path forward

Two studies by Susan Shaheen of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California-Berkeley have the data that could prove influential in getting more people to understand the power of reducing car trips as a way to save the economy and the environment.

She studied what the effects of the growing trend in ridesharing would be. Two of the positive factors include potential monthly savings for those who change from driving alone to pooling in some way of $154 to $435 and a decrease in their contribution of greenhouse gases.

And just recently, the Natural Resources Defense Council announced an upcoming study with Shaheen’s group to determine the environmental impact of major ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft and whether they are indeed – as these companies have hinted – removing the total number of car trips from the nation’s roads. The recent launches of uberPOOL and Lyft Line, which hold great potential for reducing car trips, could help change a long-held societal distaste for riding in cars with strangers.

Sure enough, the Mineta Transportation Institute recently found that uber and Lyft may be reducing vehicle miles traveled in the San Francisco region by as much as 23 percent.

Whether those numbers add up or pan out over time, at this point, it’s safe to say that we have reached an important period when truly realistic “future of transportation” scenarios like autonomous cars, electric vehicles, ridesharing, and an on-demand economy present an opportunity – a glimpse in time – when we have a chance to redefine and reinvent the ways we travel and go about our business.

How can leaders in business and policy connect the environment and transportation for people?

Bike advocates have been buzzing about it for a long time now, but truly, one of the best things company leaders and politicians can do is call for better bike infrastructure. Once that happens, it will be much easier for all those Americans with bikes sitting unused in their garages for the past two years to gain the confidence needed to ride sometimes instead of drive.

Some of the most compelling recent evidence for how much bicycling matters to local transportation networks comes from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. It found that if cities work harder to get people to bike, carbon emissions from urban transportation could be cut 11 percent.

The growing trend of bikeshare systems in cities, towns, and campuses is a really easy way for business and city leaders to influence the transportation system and increase everyday satisfaction and happiness of employees and constituents. Since 2009, when there were virtually no bikeshare systems in North America, more than 50 cities and towns – from New York City to Birmingham, Alabama – have added them to their transportation networks.

Other low-hanging fruit includes:

Many business executives may fail to focus on how their workforce gets to the office, but any company – big or small – can reap economic and social benefits of promoting the kind of perks provided by LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn has a handful of bikes on site that employees can take to meetings or even to their homes as a way to have healthier, happier workers and a cleaner environment. A similar program at Facebook – still in its early stages – actually helped increase the share of people who bike to work from 1 percent to 6 percent.

Further, streets present a huge opportunity for local transportation departments to do much more than simply patching potholes. With local governments strapped for cash and infrastructure getting worse, an easy sell for politicians ought to be: one mile of protected bike lanes is 100 times cheaper than one mile of roadway, and lots more environmentally friendly.

Transportation thought-leader Chris Hamilton notes, “If we make our streets more people centered, and if we help make it easy for more people to walk, bike, and take transit, our cities will be more prosperous. More physically healthy. More mentally healthy. And more green.”

Here are eight practical ways to help the environment through your personal transportation habits. What are other ways to help?

Photo: Metro riders board at NoMa-Gallaudet Station in Washington, D.C. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com)

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Uber’s plan for self-driving cars bigger than its taxi disruption https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/18/ubers-plan-for-self-driving-cars-bigger-than-its-taxi-disruption/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/18/ubers-plan-for-self-driving-cars-bigger-than-its-taxi-disruption/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:08:07 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15614 Uber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. But its biggest disruption may be yet to come. The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured above) has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make... Read more »

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Uber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. But its biggest disruption may be yet to come.

The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured above) has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete. Such ambitious plans could make its disruption of the taxi industry look quaint in comparison.

Uber operates in about 60 countries and 300 cities worldwide. Consumers and Wall Street adore the “gig economy” company, which is worth more than $50 billion, and got to that mark in nearly half the time as Facebook.

City governments have a more complex relationship with Uber because they often continue to struggle with how and if they should regulate it.

To date, Uber has concentrated its operations in urban locations where car ownership is expensive or inconvenient. These locations have a higher demand for trips and can support Uber alongside transit, taxis, and mobility services like Zipcar and Capital Bikeshare.

The growing ubiquity and everyday-ness of these services is truly allowing people to wonder why they have a personal vehicle at all, if not completely making car ownership undesirable. A study from UC-Berkeley shows that once users try carsharing services, they are half as likely to own a car. Kalanick recently stated, “Uber doesn’t grow if car ownership is cheaper than taking Uber.” And Uber has a plan to make that possible: getting rid of its drivers.

Uber’s drivers take home 75 percent of Uber’s revenues. But with driverless vehicles, Uber would be able to keep its rates down and increase its revenues.

Cars in StreetA study by Columbia University calculates that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxicab in New York City – with a passenger wait time of 36 seconds and a cost of $.50 per mile.

Going further to an economy-wide perspective, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates, as noted by writer and entrepreneur Zack Kanter, that “autonomous vehicles would reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 99 percent, and the fleet of cars in the U.S. would fall from 245 million to 2.4 million.”

Some observers have speculated that widespread market penetration of autonomous vehicles would increase “driving” and the number of vehicles on our roads, and overwhelm the anticipated congestion relief of greater efficiency of automated vehicle control. Pairing autonomous vehicles with the fleet concept puts this in a whole different light, as suggested by the above studies.

To this point, Uber has no doubt contributed greatly to the increasing transportation options for city dwellers, but data is still lacking to demonstrate that it has had a positive, if not negative, impact on congestion. The autonomous-vehicle plan may, in fact, go a long way towards fixing our terrible traffic as well as our worsening air pollution, which have been elusive goals for decades. This is an exciting prospect to ponder.

Still, should Uber’s plans materialize, the impact may not all be positive. Self-driving cars will greatly affect the job market, car manufacturers, dealerships, transit, and the urban lifestyle itself.

Now is a good time for community leaders and urban development and transportation thought leaders – along with Uber and other shared-mobility providers – to think creatively together about the positive and negative aspects of this amazing transformation that may be coming in the next few decades. The ramifications are truly mind-boggling.

Photos by TechCrunch and Dorli Photography

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Rebranding “TDM” Could Fix the Industry’s Communications Struggle https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/11/rebranding-tdm-could-fix-the-industrys-communications-struggle/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/11/rebranding-tdm-could-fix-the-industrys-communications-struggle/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:10:01 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15574 Would a common definition of the term and practice of transportation demand management help the industry find other funding sources, do better lobbying for policies, and gain wider acceptance and popularity? And, as we at Mobility Lab constantly ponder internally, is the user-unfriendly term TDM keeping us from reaching these goals as well? Kirk Hovenkotter,... Read more »

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CMAQ unfair

Would a common definition of the term and practice of transportation demand management help the industry find other funding sources, do better lobbying for policies, and gain wider acceptance and popularity?

And, as we at Mobility Lab constantly ponder internally, is the user-unfriendly term TDM keeping us from reaching these goals as well?

Kirk Hovenkotter, a program analyst at TransitCenter and a Mobility Lab contributor, asked these questions and urged TDM professionals to potentially reexamine their organizational goals and definitions of their work during a recent talk in Baltimore at the Association for Commuter Transportation annual international conference.

(Flip through his presentation here.)

With 59 percent of funding for regional TDM programs throughout the country coming from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, Hovenkotter said TDM organizations are somewhat forced to tailor their work to goals that are not Americans’ top priorities.

CMAQ funding

Some of TransitCenter’s latest research shows that people 30-years-old and above choose their mode of travel based on factors that don’t align with CMAQ’s requirements to target congestion mitigation and air pollution.

Total travel time, travel time reliability, and having a mode that allows them to be flexible in the times they travel are the top three ways people choose their mode of travel.

“The top motivations for people [on their urban mobility choices] weren’t traffic congestion or environmental impact, but access to affordable, reliable, efficient transportation options,” Hovenkotter said.

He also noted: the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that businesses that implement TDM programs do so because they were either responding to regulation or trying to recruit top talent. Congestion mitigation and air quality were not top priorities.

Kirk Hovenkotter

Kirk Hovenkotter

Hovenkotter, in stressing the limitations of the TDM phrase, noted that it is defined differently from organization to organization.

Having examined how TDM practitioners across the U.S. define their core work, TransitCenter has detected a transition from calling it “TDM” to repositioning it as simply “transportation options.”

He said the “bellwether” case may be the Oregon Department of Transportation’s statewide plan that forgoes the phrase “TDM” for “transportation options” and is funded by a grant from the FHWA.

The Oregon DOT plan “shies away from TDM and recognizes that the benefits of ‘transportation options’ go beyond congestion mitigation and air quality, and that many of the users who will be implementing strategies don’t have that primary focus. Their definition of ‘transportation options’ says nothing about congestion mitigation, system efficiency, and increasing occupancy. It focuses on creating choice, which is just a stark contrast [to other definitions]. It really broadens its perspective.

“Please take the time to read the Oregon Transportation Options Plan. It is 80 pages long, but I was on the edge of my seat the entire time,” he added, to laughs.

Suggesting that ACT could potentially take on the cause of rebranding the industry to carry forward the Oregon DOT’s efforts, Hovenkotter said, “There is this fine line we have to walk between being too broad and too vague and losing people that way.

“But I think the idea of ‘transportation options’ is so much more clear to me than ‘managing demand.’ It’s something you can communicate so much more easily to electeds or someone you see on the street.”

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How Broader Thinking Can Broaden Your Funding Sources https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/06/how-broader-thinking-can-broaden-your-funding-sources/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/08/06/how-broader-thinking-can-broaden-your-funding-sources/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2015 16:15:51 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15555 Arlington County, Virginia, with the help of a grant from the Virginia DOT, recently rolled out a cutting-edge multimodal trip planner, CarFreeAtoZ. In 2014, Salt Lake City launched the Hive Pass, a reduced-cost monthly transit pass for all city residents. In order to increase housing affordability, Seattle’s DOT may require new multi-family housing developments to offer “residential transportation options programs”... Read more »

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Arlington County, Virginia, with the help of a grant from the Virginia DOT, recently rolled out a cutting-edge multimodal trip planner, CarFreeAtoZ.

In 2014, Salt Lake City launched the Hive Pass, a reduced-cost monthly transit pass for all city residents.

In order to increase housing affordability, Seattle’s DOT may require new multi-family housing developments to offer “residential transportation options programs” that provide residents with transit passes and other mobility options.

These are amazing initiatives, but they’re too rare in the world of transportation demand management. That’s because the lion’s share of TDM funding comes from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program – and none of the above efforts have a primary goal of reducing emissions.

The dominance of one funding source means that many agencies that work on demand management define their work in ways that are strikingly similar to the federal government’s guidelines for CMAQ. This leads to a heavy focus on work commutes in congested corridors.

But the agencies above have been able to think more creatively in supporting the broader needs of the local community. After all, cutting traffic and improving air quality aren’t the only worthy goals that demand management can accomplish. Smart programs, targeted to the right places, can support economic development and quality of life, and even help build community.

Some places, like the ones above, are realizing this, reconceptualizing their demand management programs to focus on broader goals. By broadening their definition of what TDM can do, they can often justify the use of broader revenue sources.

For example, Oregon’s DOT has released one of the most progressive documents on TDM we’ve seen come out of a state transportation agency.

Oregon plan

The department’s Transportation Options Plan doesn’t think of demand management just as a reactive tool for mitigating congestion. Instead, it casts “transportation options strategies” as an integral way to reduce costs for travelers, improve access, and address demographic change in the state.

Rather than thinking of TDM as a siloed program, it calls for it to compete on an equal basis with other transportation projects for funding.

Some of the funding for the development of Oregon’s plan came from a Federal Highway Administration grant – evidence that federal policy often works best when it creates a supportive environment for innovation. Even as TDM remains heavily influenced by federal policy, innovation bubbles up primarily from the local level.

If you’re a TDM planner or practitioner, what innovations are you developing? What impact does federal policy have on your work? We’d love to hear. Tweet Kirk at @khoven, Steven at @shigashide, and Mobility Lab at @MobilityLabTeam.

Photo by Gary Howe

This is adapted from an article originally published by TransitCenter.

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Contest Reveals Importance of People’s Non-Commute Trips https://mobilitylab.org/2015/07/20/contest-reveals-importance-of-peoples-non-commute-trips/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/07/20/contest-reveals-importance-of-peoples-non-commute-trips/#respond Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:03:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15480 Each year in May, RIDE Solutions in Southwest Virginia hosts a Clean Commute Challenge as part of its National Bike Month activities. In the past, participants only logged commute trips, but for the 2015 contest, we opened trip types up to a variety of non-commute options, including dining, shopping, business meetings, religious services, and volunteer... Read more »

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Each year in May, RIDE Solutions in Southwest Virginia hosts a Clean Commute Challenge as part of its National Bike Month activities. In the past, participants only logged commute trips, but for the 2015 contest, we opened trip types up to a variety of non-commute options, including dining, shopping, business meetings, religious services, and volunteer work.

We believed the non-commute options would primarily be used by our more competitive teams to give themselves a slight edge. Instead, we found that these trips were a major contributor to the competition:

  • In 2014, the Clean Commute Challenge logged 42,503 miles. In 2015, it logged 52,503, an increase of 23 percent.
  • In 2014, the Challenge logged 1,055 trips. In 2015, it logged 2,421, an increase of 138 percent.

Forty percent of all logged trips in 2015 were non-commute trips. Nearly all the gains came from the addition of non-commute trips.

While we were pleased in the 23 percent growth in the number of logged miles, the fact that the number of logged trips more than doubled really surprised us, and indicates a much stronger engagement with the contest than we had anticipated.

How did the non-commute trips break down?

  • 4 percent – general errands
  • 4 percent – religious services and volunteer work
  • 5 percent – shopping
  • 7 percent – non-commute but work based, such as a business meetings
  • 8 percent – dining
  • 13 percent – social, though not recreational, trips

While the nature of the challenge has changed over the years, its most recent, successful iterations have involved two elements:

  • An option for participants to pledge to use a clean mode – bicycle, carpool, walk, transit, or telework – at least one day in May.
  • The option for participants to log clean trips, by mode and mileage, for chances to win prizes and to compete against other teams.

Non Work TripsThe low-involvement pledge option gets people through the door and engaged with the program. We understand that many people who take the pledge never actually fulfill their trip commitments, but at least a channel of communication opens that may help us get them involved later.

Interestingly, retirees were one of the groups of people we heard from the most over the course of the contest. These were either people who had used our services in the recent past while they were still working and had remain engaged with us after they left the workforce, or folks who were supporters because of their commitment to environmental causes. The addition of the non-commute trips for this group allowed them to participate in the program and have a measurable impact.

While commute trips certainly make sense as the focus of transportation demand management due to their predictability and the fact that employment centers have large amounts of jobs that can allow TDM to make a real difference, it’s important to remember that census data suggests only 40 percent of trips a household makes are for commuting. That leaves a huge market – and lots of miles – to be tapped, and our initial results show there are folks who are eager to try leaving the car at home even with these trips.

Overall, this year’s Clean Commute Challenge:

  • Removed more than 47,000 pounds of CO2 from the air
  • Saved the 133 people who logged a trip a total of more than $13,000,based on AAA cost-per-mile estimates, and
  • Burned more than 77,000 calories for those who biked or walked.

Without the addition of non-commute trips, we would not have made nearly as big an impact on the region with our challenge.

Photo by Anne and Tim. Video by Q99 FM Radio.

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Uber, Lyft Get a Carpool Competitor in D.C. https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/22/uber-lyft-get-a-carpool-competitor-in-d-c/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/22/uber-lyft-get-a-carpool-competitor-in-d-c/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 19:30:47 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15117 Boston-based Bridj recently launched limited service between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. to help fill a niche not being targeted by buses. Another company, Split, launched just a couple days ago and is similar to Uber and Lyft in that you order a car to your location to taxi you to your destination. The... Read more »

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Split

Boston-based Bridj recently launched limited service between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. to help fill a niche not being targeted by buses.

Another company, Split, launched just a couple days ago and is similar to Uber and Lyft in that you order a car to your location to taxi you to your destination.

The difference? Split will pick up additional passengers on similar routes to ride along with you. The “carpooling” system helps reduce the costs to passengers and also the number of cars on the road.

Also unlike Uber and Lyft, the app will ask you to walk a short distance (only or block or so) to ensure the car picking you up can continue on its current route in the most efficient way possible. And, most importantly, there is no surge pricing. In fact, the company’s website touts that all rides are always $2 to $8.

split_app1One morning this week, instead of doing my usual one-mile walk to the Metro, I caught a Split. (It’s currently only operating in a portion of D.C. bordered roughly by Georgetown, H Street Northeast, the U Street corridor, and the National Mall.)

One feature of Split people may really enjoy: you know the cost of your ride before you ever make a request. You enter your origin and destination and the cost quoted on the app is what you will pay. There are no changes based on mileage or time. That’s a handy feature when worrying how quickly your fare will increase or whether or not your driver is taking the shortest route.

My quote from 700 M Street NW to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station was only $3.82, with the possibility that other passengers could be picked up along the way. A similar route estimate at the same time from Uber, with no surge pricing, ran roughly $6 to $8.

split_app2Since I commute to Rosslyn, I chose to catch a Split from my house over to the Foggy Bottom Metro and finish up underground. I ordered a car and was instructed, at 7:46 a.m., to walk about half a block for my pickup at 7:50.

My driver picked me up and I hopped in. The ride was very similar to an Uber or Lyft.

Since Split is still new, I did not encounter any extra passengers along the route. But once the app starts to generate more usage, will I still get to my destination in a timely manner? My driver explained that only passengers along my route will be allowable for the driver to pick up. Generally, the app will ask the new passenger to walk a short distance to maximize efficiency.

And it’s not an issue if the person doesn’t show up. The driver told me that maintaining the speed and convenience of Split meant that drivers would only wait a maximum of 30 seconds before hitting the “no show” button and moving on. So, do not try brushing your teeth after you order your Split. You will likely miss your ride.

split_app3I was also curious what would happen if my girlfriend, who lives near me, and I want to catch a Split together. Thankfully, there is an option at the top right of the app to increase the passenger count, which also increases the cost of the ride. My $3.82 fare would have been $5.73 instead. Not bad. Rather than doubling the cost, Split only charges 50 percent extra for an additional passenger, which is still cheaper than the prices I was quoted by Uber.

My only complaint with the system at the moment is the address search looks to be missing a lot of restaurants and key landmarks that most other apps include. For example, I was unable to find the Foggy Bottom Metro in the address lookup. I ended up moving the pin to where the station is located, which is not that handy.

Overall, Split seems to be a very affordable transportation option in D.C. It is very similar to Lyft and Uber, with the promise of reduced prices in exchange for the possibility of having another rider hop into the car with you.

Some will continue to prefer a private car to reach their destination, but Split looks promising for those who want to save a few dollars.

This article was originally published by Arlington Transportation Partners.

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Is China Considering a Divorce From Its Car Culture? https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/01/is-china-considering-a-divorce-from-its-car-culture/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/01/is-china-considering-a-divorce-from-its-car-culture/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 19:10:03 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=14942 If the 20th Century was the era of America’s honeymoon with the car, the 21st has given way to the reluctant realization that this suitor has come with some baggage – air pollution, urban sprawl, obesity, and traffic congestion, to name a few. It is not just the U.S. that is contemplating a car “divorce.”... Read more »

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China mega-city

If the 20th Century was the era of America’s honeymoon with the car, the 21st has given way to the reluctant realization that this suitor has come with some baggage – air pollution, urban sprawl, obesity, and traffic congestion, to name a few.

It is not just the U.S. that is contemplating a car “divorce.” The same scenario is playing out in other parts of the developed (and developing) world, just at varying paces and in different degrees.

BAIN_DIGEST_China_new_mobilityWhile “many Chinese still associate car ownership with status, cars are losing their appeal as a status symbol in most segments in China’s mega-cities,” concludes a new report from management consulting firm Bain & Company, Inc.

This should come as no surprise. China, which is experiencing urbanization “on a scale the world has never seen,” according to Bloomberg, will contain eight cities of at least 10 million people in the coming decade. Already, cities like Beijing and Shanghai are suffering from extreme traffic congestion and poor air quality.

As we have seen in the U.S., urbanization and car ownership are inherently at odds. Bain’s report states, “car ownership in these large urban areas [is] more expensive and less convenient and safe – hence, less attractive.”

The report’s authors, Raymond Tsang and Pierre-Henri Boutot, blame changing Chinese perceptions of the automobile on deteriorating driving conditions and tighter regulations in the country. At the same time, they credit China’s significant investments in public transportation with making these alternatives more appealing.

Bain’s survey found that if traffic conditions continue to deteriorate significantly or gas prices increase sharply, 10 percent to 30 percent of current car owners claim they would consider giving up their cars.

Survey respondents’ most important factors when choosing a mobility option, as shown in the below graph, are safety, timeliness, and reliability.

Bain’s research supports the introduction of “new mobility” solutions in China, such as carsharing and car-rental options, even though these services remain unfamiliar to most Chinese residents.

china-new-mobility-study-fig03_full

Shanghai Traffic photo by Dhi. Chart courtesy Bain & Company.

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Arlington County First in Nation with Program to Ease Public-School Staff Commutes https://mobilitylab.org/2015/04/22/arlington-county-first-in-nation-with-program-to-ease-public-school-staff-commutes/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/04/22/arlington-county-first-in-nation-with-program-to-ease-public-school-staff-commutes/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:29:49 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=14878 The only transportation demand management (TDM) program for public school faculty and staff in the U.S. has been created in Arlington County, Virginia. The program, called “ATP Schools,” is being administered by Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP), the employer-outreach arm of Arlington County Commuter Services. Funded by a grant from Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public... Read more »

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6695932329_e4239a534d_b

The only transportation demand management (TDM) program for public school faculty and staff in the U.S. has been created in Arlington County, Virginia.

The program, called “ATP Schools,” is being administered by Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP), the employer-outreach arm of Arlington County Commuter Services. Funded by a grant from Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, it is aimed at reducing traffic by reducing the drive-alone rate of the more than 5,000 employees of Arlington Public Schools (APS), one of the top employers in the county.

Not only is ATP Schools the only district-wide TDM program in the country targeting school staff, but there is a large unmet local need for the service. According to a survey performed by Toole Design Group as part of a broad district-wide transportation initiative called APS GO!, the drive-alone rate for Arlington Public Schools staff is a surprisingly high 88 percent, compared to 53 percent for the county overall.

When it comes to schools, jurisdictions have typically focused their TDM efforts on student trips. These efforts, under the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, encourage students to walk or bike to school. ATP Schools is a natural complement to a student-based TDM program.

6276738863_5c26dbfc48_bBy reaching out to APS teachers and staff using its business-to-business model for TDM, ATP has a good chance of switching many of these solo drivers over to more sustainable options, such as biking, transit, or carpool. The goals of the APS GO! initiative are to increase the student walk and bike rate and decrease the staff drive-alone rate by 2020.

The model has worked well for the county in the past. Arlington officials point to TDM as a key variable that has allowed the county to add tens of thousands of new residents over the last decade without adding traffic to its arterial roadways.

TDM, a set of strategies to reduce automobile congestion by educating people about transportation options, could also help ease “congestion” of another sort — inside the walls of the county’s public schools themselves.

Arlington has been grappling with overcrowding in its public schools of late. This year alone, school enrollment in Arlington increased an unprecedented 5.2 percent, and the county’s 36 schools are unable to accommodate all of them.

While Arlington comes up with alternatives to accommodate the 1,300 new students projected through 2019 — plans that include school expansions and at least one entirely new building — constructing its way out of this problem isn’t a long-term solution.

With a dearth of new land to build upon, Arlington’s land-use decisions must be deliberate. Without TDM, new construction and expansions would require more parking and add more congestion. In conjunction with TDM, on the other hand, it is possible that existing surface parking could be reclaimed for more productive uses, such as school expansions accommodating more students on the same amount of property.

The county’s schools have some specific challenges that make TDM difficult. For instance, many Arlington schools are in areas not readily accessible by Metro. And for elementary-school teachers who often cart materials to and from school, transit is a less-attractive commuting mode. Additionally, there’s a perception among APS staff that bus service is inconvenient.

Elizabeth Denton, the business-development manager in charge of the ATP Schools initiative, is sensitive to the needs of the teachers and school staff. “We don’t want to add one more requirement on teachers who are already stressed out. Rather, we intend to frame this program as something that helps the schools, and something that is fun.”

In addition to getting buy-in from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Denton plans on eliciting support from the Arlington School Board. So far, in the very early stages of the program, she has visited about a dozen area schools.

She sees healthy competition, for which APS schools are known, as a way to build excitement and motivate staff to participate in the program. She plans to engage staff with a “School Champions” awards program patterned off the Champions program developed by ATP for businesses located throughout the county.

Finally, Denton plans to boost the program with environmental messaging, which she says is an important motivational factor for this particular Arlington audience. APS is a “green” school system, having been ranked second nationally in green-energy usage by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In many ways, the dynamics of Arlington Public Schools mirror that of the county as a whole: a population that’s bursting at the seams, with overburdened infrastructure and limited resources. These issues may not be universal, but TDM as a way to combat them — and gain more utility from the existing infrastructure — certainly is.

How is your school system growing sustainably? Could TDM help your school grow?

Photos of Arlington schools courtesy of K.W. Barrett and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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