Policy – 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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Dallas area is pinpointing ways to make transportation easier and better – Dallas News https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/19/dallas-area-is-pinpointing-ways-to-make-transportation-easier-and-better-dallas-news/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/19/dallas-area-is-pinpointing-ways-to-make-transportation-easier-and-better-dallas-news/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:14:38 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22765 It’s encouraging to see that, even in car-centric suburbs, more and more people are starting to open their eyes to the possibilities of more and better transportation options. Take Plano, Texas, for example, right outside of Dallas, where a new study finds that 41 percent of the population is interested in options other than traveling... Read more »

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It’s encouraging to see that, even in car-centric suburbs, more and more people are starting to open their eyes to the possibilities of more and better transportation options.

Take Plano, Texas, for example, right outside of Dallas, where a new study finds that 41 percent of the population is interested in options other than traveling alone.

According to the Plano Star Courier:

Over the next 12-18 months, about 15,000 new employees are coming to Plano, thanks to several corporate headquarters calling west Plano home. But as Liberty Mutual, Toyota USA, FedEx and JP Morgan Chase come online, traffic congestion in the area will continue to be a problem.

During Monday night’s City Council meeting, Peter Braster, director of special projects, presented an updated mobility study, suggesting the city establish a transportation management association (TMA). “We’re drawing up the papers for the nonprofit corporation,” Braster said.

Congestion in the area is sluggish, especially at peak commuter hours, and will continue to be congested this summer. A proposed TMA could make a large difference on spreading the message, but Braster said residents must be open to changing their commuting habits.

According to the November 2016 mobility study, 41 percent of residents are curious about other travel options aside from solo travel, so the more residents explore Uber, Lyft, and carpool options, hopefully, a noticeable difference can been seen.

Down in Dallas, leaders are well aware that improvements are needed, even in a state where the car is still king. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is really excited to improve transportation.

He said the city council would also be “very unwise” if they failed to include money for bicycle lanes and connections to bicycle trails. Rawlings believes Dallas “could be a great biking community” and already is in some places, such as White Rock Lake and the Katy Trail.

He sees bicycles as one part of “a new philosophy that is emerging today” on transportation planning in cities.

City Councilor Mary Deros said in an interview that many of the city’s residents still have cars but use the city’s public transportation, car-sharing and bicycle network.

“The easier you make it for them to travel, the less they’ll have that dependency on cars,” she said.

Bicycle planning has been a challenge for Dallas since the city’s bike czar left in 2015. City leaders are still searching for a qualified replacement. But Dallas council members have taken a renewed interest in Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which some feel has failed to make transportation easy within city limits. The council will vote next week on replacing almost all of its DART board appointees.

Read the complete article at The Dallas Morning News

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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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House reps re-introduce bill to make bikeshare eligible for transit benefits https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/house-reps-re-introduce-bill-make-bikeshare-eligible-transit-benefits/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/house-reps-re-introduce-bill-make-bikeshare-eligible-transit-benefits/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 17:04:56 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22705 While many in the industry understand that bikeshare systems are a true transit option and should be treated as such, that distinction has been slow to be codified in federal law. Namely, bikeshare is missing from pre-tax transit benefits that offer many commuters savings on transit passes. Last month, Reps. Joe Crowley (D – N.Y.)... Read more »

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While many in the industry understand that bikeshare systems are a true transit option and should be treated as such, that distinction has been slow to be codified in federal law. Namely, bikeshare is missing from pre-tax transit benefits that offer many commuters savings on transit passes. Last month, Reps. Joe Crowley (D – N.Y.) and Erik Paulsen (R – Minn.) introduced the “Bike to Work Act,” which would fix that gap and add bikeshare to the list of modes eligible for commuter benefits.

The availability of transit commuter benefits can play a large role in one’s choice to take advantage of those options. Adding bikeshare to the mix (through a lower barrier by savings on membership) would encourage commuters who already take transit, too, to extend the reach of that transit trip through a bikeshare ride on either end. In a press release, PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal noted that for many, this “last mile … is a challenging component for their daily commute.”

Steps to expand federal support for bikeshare haven’t been alone in the House in recent years. In 2016, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D – Ore.) introduced a bill that would have reclassified bikeshare as transit, thereby making it eligible for U.S. DOT’s transit funding.

The Bike to Work Act, which was also introduced in 2014 and 2015, admittedly faces another uphill battle in a Congress where support for transit funding is uncertain. But the bill represents the desire for continued efforts toward legitimizing bikeshare’s role within transportation systems.

Photo: A Citibike in New York City (Peter Burka, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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GMU “blueprint” study suggests avenues for expanding reach of Arlington’s transportation options https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/08/gmu-blueprint-study-suggests-avenues-expanding-reach-arlingtons-transportation-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/08/gmu-blueprint-study-suggests-avenues-expanding-reach-arlingtons-transportation-options/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 13:45:06 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22563 This is part one of a two-part series on a report by George Mason University graduate students. Students were tasked by Mobility Lab with creating a new transportation blueprint for Arlington, Va., geared toward connecting more people to its transportation network. This part focuses on passenger transportation – part two will examine freight and deliveries.... Read more »

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This is part one of a two-part series on a report by George Mason University graduate students. Students were tasked by Mobility Lab with creating a new transportation blueprint for Arlington, Va., geared toward connecting more people to its transportation network. This part focuses on passenger transportation – part two will examine freight and deliveries.

Arlington County, Va., has one of the nation’s most connected transportation networks, with nearly every resident living within a half mile of a transit option.

Even still, graduate students of Professor Jonathan Gifford’s transportation policy class at the George Mason University Schar School of Government and Policy have compiled recommendations – based on field observations and interviews – to make it easier for residents to forego a personal vehicle for other transportation options.

The recommendations generally fell into three areas: improving bus service, improving Metrorail connections, and improving transit information through technology.

Making ART bus service better

The report, entitled “Connected City: A Blueprint for Arlington County,” notes that Arlington Transit experiences problems familiar with many fixed-route bus systems: “ART faces service gaps in areas of Arlington County that are the least densely populated. For areas that have a higher population, buses often experience overcrowding.”

The students found that the ART 41, which runs from Columbia Pike to Courthouse, is the busiest route, with 34 percent of all ART trips in the 2015 fiscal year occurring on that route.

On the other end of the spectrum:

ART routes 53, 62, 74 and 92 fail to meet the productivity and cost-efficiency standards [identified in Arlington County’s latest transit development plan]. In 2015, these four routes combined had an operating budget of $1,264,897 (13 percent of the overall operating budget) and 131,397 riders (only 4.7 percent of total ridership). They recovered $116,245 (4 percent) of the $1,264,897 operating costs from riders’ fares in 2015.

So with some ART routes regularly experiencing overcrowding, some routes struggling to maintain ridership, and some areas where service is not convenient, the students recommend that county officials explore ways for on-demand taxi services to complement ART bus service.

Policy should require these partnerships replace underutilized bus routes with private ridesharing companies. It should also restrict service between origin, public-transit access points, and destination. Similar to other cities, cost savings as a result of bus replacement could be used to subsidize travel of passengers, or to low-income households.

More cities are considering similar kinds of public-private partnerships, but actual results have been difficult to come by so far. The report details one example worth following:

Direct Connect in Pinellas County, Fla., allows commuters to take Uber, United Taxi, or Wheelchair Transport to key bus stops and hop on a bus to their final destination. The county pays half of a commuter’s Uber fare (up to $3 per ride) if trips begin and end at designated stops, remain in a designated zone, and occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The subsidy is applied by entering a promo code in the Uber app. United Taxi is used by those who do not have access to the smartphone apps needed for Uber rides. Its website shows that Lyft will be an option soon. Direct Connect replaces an under-performing route with an average weekday ridership of 26. While it costs  $160,000 to operate the connector, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority forecasts costs for Direct Connect to be around $80,000.

Improving accessibility to Metrorail stations

A highlight of Arlington’s “first/last mile” options is the continued enhancement of bike- and carsharing throughout Arlington. But the students see room for improvement by way of Uber and Lyft: for people who can’t incorporate Metro conveniently as part of their trips.

Although some partnerships like this have struggled to succeed – take Bridj’s recent Kansas City program, for example – the students note that partnerships with Uber, Lyft, or other potential providers are still worth exploring and “would not only improve transit service in Arlington County, but could potentially reduce the cost of their public-transit programs.” The report cites examples from several cities to show how this could work:

  • Uber became the official ride-hailing partner of Chicago-area commuter rail agency Metra, with agreements to encourage rides to transit and an Uber payment of $900,000 for ads in Metra stations.
  • Ford’s Chariot vans service fixed routes to transit. It operates in San Francisco, Austin, and Lake Tahoe, with expansion to more cities planned this year.
  • Scoop offers ridesharing for co-workers, and it has a cost structure in place that could be attractive for companies to offer their employees.

Make transit technologies easier for Arlington residents

With technological applications in transportation moving rapidly, the students concluded that access to information is lagging when it comes to learning about and using Arlington’s transportation options.

Mobile networks play a vital role in day-to-day life and real-time tracking of services has become a necessity for busy commuters. Current smartphone applications are constrained by variations in technology platforms and do not allow real-time tracking for all of Arlington County’s transit services. [Uber and Lyft] are also not integrated with these platforms. Mobility Lab’s web-based service, CarFreeAtoZ, has worked toward integration by providing travelers with a comprehensive multimodal trip planning tool. Developing this tool as a mobile application would create greater convenience for commuters.

Whether or not the county should get involved in building an app may be up for debate, but the students explained during their presentation that this could be another area ripe for public-private partnering. Several noted that the Transit app is regarded as a leading real-time information app, and that Boston’s MBTA, for one, has an agreement to promote using it to navigate the city’s system, clearing up the problem of having to choose from many competing apps. The endorsement also allows Transit to work closely with the transit authority on piloting new features.

In a related vein, while Arlington performs TDM outreach through programs that educate residents, businesses, and property managers about existing options, the students recommended that the county could “develop strategies to facilitate two-way dialogue that encourages more public feedback on future transportation decisions.”

The My Arlington app could be more user-friendly in facilitating user feedback (much like how the ArlingtonVA Service Request app allows for the reporting of non-emergency issues) and could incorporate more engaging real-time transit information. However, the students said these apps alone are not sufficient to generate meaningful community engagement. They also noted that more intercept surveys of people at or near transit stations could provide additional input on how to improve Arlington’s options.

Taken together, the recommendations suggest improving access for Arlington residents to transportation options through a combination of better information and service.

Next, look for our summary of the group’s findings on how freight movement impacts congestion in the county.

Photo: People getting on and off an ART bus in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab; www.kittner.com)

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With online shopping on the rise, cities look to address congestion impacts of deliveries https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/13/role-of-deliveries-in-congestion/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/13/role-of-deliveries-in-congestion/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:50:32 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21886 With more people moving to urban areas and doing more shopping online, delivery vehicles are becoming a serious concern in traffic congestion. The Federal Highway Administration says 947,000 hours of vehicle delay can be attributed to delivery trucks parked curbside in dense urban areas. The U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast predicts a truck freight increase by... Read more »

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With more people moving to urban areas and doing more shopping online, delivery vehicles are becoming a serious concern in traffic congestion. The Federal Highway Administration says 947,000 hours of vehicle delay can be attributed to delivery trucks parked curbside in dense urban areas.

The U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast predicts a truck freight increase by roughly 27 percent between 2016 and 2027. With such looming statistics suggesting more traffic in areas with severe congestion in the first place, many cities and agencies are looking into various methods to decrease congestion from the high demand for deliveries.

Perhaps part of the problem, however, is that much of this thinking is scattered and still pretty far from being standardized across geographies. Much of the conflict is in mixed (urban) environments, where trucks occupy curb space, and often double park in bicycle lanes and segments of traffic lanes, causing congestion and dangerous circumstances for people walking and biking.

Here is a general look at what’s happening throughout the world of delivery management:

Off-peak deliveries

Trucks waste time and fuel delivering during rush hour, all while increasing existing congestion, especially through double parking. Thus, off-peak deliveries would be more efficient, saving drivers and companies more time and money, as well as benefiting everyone with less congestion. The International Transport Summit 2016 Summit, the New York City DOT’s Urban Freight Initiatives, and the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge all discuss off-peak, or overnight deliveries as a feasible solution to congestion caused by delivery vehicles.

In fact, in the District of Columbia,  DDOT launched an effort in 2015 to encourage deliveries overnight, offering financial incentives for companies that do. The U.S. DOT, as well, announced a pilot for overnight deliveries to relieve congestion.

Multimodal options

The use of cargo bikes is gaining traction as a way to provide delivery service in a less disruptive manner. One model can be found in Freewheel Cargo, a Seattle-based delivery company that uses cargo bikes. It has companies deliver to its central distribution center, or it picks up products itself, then bikes those goods to their locations.

In Bologna, Italy, a Van Sharing Consortium manages deliveries for companies through a van-sharing system. The city, through electronic booking for parking and low-emission vehicles, seeks to reduce congestion, decrease environmental impact, and optimize deliveries. The success of the Consortium is a bit in question, though as time progresses, it shall become clearer whether or not companies are utilizing this option.

In London, a 2016 study from Inrix showed that since 2012, the city’s congested roads experienced an 8 percent increase in delivery vans. As a result, several companies emerged hoping to solve the issue. A particular one, Shutl, links companies with the optimal delivery option (bicycle, motorcycle, car, van) to provide the fastest, most effective delivery to the customer.

UPS is trying out alternative methods to improve urban delivery. As the world’s largest package delivery company, it could benefit from and contribute toward initiatives decreasing delivery congestion. In Brussels, UPS is testing deliveries by bikes, and in Hamburg’s city center it is experimenting with trike and electric vehicle deliveries from designated containers. In the U.S., the company is signing up neighborhood stores to serve as drop-off or pick-up locations for deliveries, cutting its number of overall trips.

Public-private partnerships

A session at the International Transport Forum’s 2016 Summit suggests the non-distinctly transportation-oriented solution of public-private partnerships, such as Seattle’s Urban Freight Lab.

There, congestion due to delivery vehicles is getting so bad that the city partnered with the University of Washington in a proactive effort to improve freight delivery, resulting in UW’s Urban Freight Lab. The partnership brings together UW researchers with participating freight providers and retailers, from UPS to Costco, to learn from their experiences.

Urban Freight Lab’s project, Final-50-Feet, seeks to reduce dwell time and reduce the amount of failed first deliveries in order to decrease costs, make more efficient use of curb space, ensure equitable access to deliveries, and decrease congestion.

Central delivery stops

Some other London companies are approaching the matter from a different angle. Instead of a widespread multimodal approach, CollectPlus and Doddle spurred efforts to consolidate deliveries into a central pick-up location. They decrease the number of trips being made for deliveries by providing delivery pick-ups and drop-offs in stores.

Another one of the UW Urban Freight Lab’s ideas is to create centralized drop-off lockers. Through providing a central location for customers to pick up their items, the initiative would succeed in both the overarching goals of the Final-50-Feet research project: reducing vehicle dwell time (only one place to dwell, not 100) and reducing failed first deliveries (to none).

A concept expressed in the U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge presentation proposed drop boxes or safes at locations where recipients were not available to pick up goods. While not centralized, this would still decrease the number of failed first deliveries and traffic from return trips.

Curbside regulations

In Bologna, Italy’s Urban Freight Delivery Plan, the city piloted an electronic parking-slot booking service to optimize goods delivery. Designated pull-in areas will have a booking-in-advance option for the companies involved in the city’s Van Sharing Consortium.

UW’s Urban Freight Lab is considering ideas such as curb space management with different pricing and restrictions.

In the city’s 2015 report, Urban Freight Initiatives, New York proposed the development of delivery windows through curb regulations. Curb regulations would seek to balance passenger and commercial vehicles, so delivery trucks wouldn’t have to double park.

illegal private/personal deliveries and double parking issues at the expense of the public : castro, san francisco (2013)

Sidewalk robots

One more futuristic possibility is that of rolling, box-like delivery robots joining pedestrians on sidewalks, currently a reality in the District of Columbia. Postmates and Starship are test-running delivery robots that would provide quick hyper-local deliveries via sidewalks. The question of their success, considering the trips they’ll be replacing or creating, and the issues that may arise with human interactions, is yet to be answered.

starship-technologies-delivery-robot-2

Will they replace trips that delivery cars would have otherwise taken, or will they induce delivery trips that people would have otherwise never taken to go get food down the street? How will they share public space with pedestrians and impact the accessibility of often-narrow sidewalks?

Russell Cook, director of operations at Postmates, says the company sees the robots not replacing deliveries, but completing deliveries that otherwise wouldn’t have been placed. So far, humans appear to be reacting positively to them – typically staring a bit or taking some pictures. Most pass by, unphased.

A changing industry

In the end, most of the above tactics boil down to freight-centered TDM strategies. They either reduce demand (central delivery shops), redistribute demand (delivery routes, multimodal approaches, off-peak deliveries, and curb regulations), or use more general tactics to achieve these two objectives (public-private partnerships). The sidewalk robots, however, may induce demand, providing service to the person down the block who otherwise wouldn’t have left to go get pho.

Photos: Top, a DHL courier in Leeds, UK (Laurence, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, a common sight of a double-parked delivery vehicle (torbakhopper, Flickr, Creative Commons). Bottom, a Starship delivery robot publicity still (Starship Technologies).

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Arlington to review parking recommendations for condos, apartments near Metro https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/23/arlington-review-parking-recs/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/23/arlington-review-parking-recs/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:39:26 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21663 This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog. Each parking space in a garage can take up as much as 400 square feet, or 36 percent of an average Arlington County, Va., apartment, and spaces can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 each to build. The availability of parking also has a strong... Read more »

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This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog.

Each parking space in a garage can take up as much as 400 square feet, or 36 percent of an average Arlington County, Va., apartment, and spaces can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 each to build. The availability of parking also has a strong influence on the transportation choices that we make. That is why county policy encourages staff and the Board to:

  • Ensure that minimum parking needs are met and excessive parking is not built
  • Allow reductions in parking at locations well served by other transportation modes
  • Reduce parking requirements for affordable housing

Arlington County is reviewing a part of its policy on how much automobile parking developers must build with new apartments and condominiums proposed for Arlington’s metro corridors.

A Working Group, made up of Arlington residents as well as business stakeholders appointed by the County Manager, has been meeting since September 2016. The Working Group is putting the finishing touches on a recommendation to County staff.

Seven elements for flexible-yet-predictable parking minimum requirements

The Working Group recommends that:

  1. Parking minimums should relate to how far the apartment or condo building is from a Metro station.
  2. For each committed-affordable unit, allow fewer parking spaces than for market-rate units.
  3. If a developer provides extra bike parking, bike sharing or car sharing amenities as part of the project, then allow fewer private-vehicle parking spaces to be built.
  4. Allow developers to build garages where apartments or condos share parking spaces with offices, retail and other uses, depending on the time of day.
  5. Developers should be able to supply some or all of their parking for apartments or condos in another building or garage within 800 feet of the building.
  6. In some cases, allow builders to construct fewer parking spaces if site conditions make building that parking especially difficult.
  7. If developers build more than a certain amount of parking, they must take steps to ensure that the building does not generate excessive levels of vehicle traffic.

The Working Group crafted these recommendations based on previously established County policy, six guiding principles that members wrote and adopted and current practices in other similar communities.

Taken together, the Working Group’s seven elements would add more predictability to the development-approval process for residents and developers, and it would allow developers more room to decide how much parking they will provide as an amenity to their prospective residents. This would allow parking supply to better match parking demand as many buildings in the Metro Corridors have excess parking. Furthermore, if developers were to choose to build less parking as a result, then the community could benefit from lower costs to produce housing – especially committed affordable housing.

Of course, off-street parking is only one component of Arlington’s parking supply. However, the County will not make changes to the Residential Permit Parking program or hours of operation of rates for meters based on the Working Group’s recommendation. It’s also important to note that the Working Group process will not change the Zoning Ordinance’s minimum requirements.

What happens next?

County staff will take the Working Group’s recommendation into consideration along with input from the public to create a recommendation for the County Manager to approve and send to the County Board for adoption at its June meeting.

Arlingtonians, want to get involved?

Get more information on the Working Group’s recommendation at the project website. Staff will be posting the Working Group’s report there and opening an online survey that you can complete. You can also see readings and summaries of prior meetings.

Keep an eye on the “Project Dates” section of the page for more events where you can listen and share your views.

Photo by Sam Kittner for Arlington Transportation Partners, www.kittner.com

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Federal performance measures: What are they, and why are they so important? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/07/federal-performance-measures-briefing/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/07/federal-performance-measures-briefing/#respond Tue, 07 Mar 2017 18:29:50 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21456 Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its final rules for highway and interstate performance measures, which will play a role in the evaluation of and decision-making process for future federal projects. The enumeration of the measures themselves was mandated through the Move Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012,... Read more »

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its final rules for highway and interstate performance measures, which will play a role in the evaluation of and decision-making process for future federal projects. The enumeration of the measures themselves was mandated through the Move Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012, also called MAP-21. For a clear run-down of what performance measures meant for state DOTs and MPOs, see our one-page briefing.

Why performance measures?

These measures will be used to determine the performance of a number of types of highways, as well as the progress in programs addressing congestion and vehicle emissions. What kind of measures these rules collect reflects what solutions might later be funded to address congestion: metrics that incorporate delay of people and the generation of emissions will allow U.S. DOT to prioritize efforts that incorporate transit and other non-driving modes.

What kinds of metrics are collected?

States will measure the percent reliability of the person-miles traveled on interstates and non-interstate highways of the National Highway System. Counting person-miles rather than vehicle-miles moves the emphasis toward testing how well the systems move people, not just cars.

Along that same line, states and MPOs will also report the percentage of trips made up of options that are not single-occupancy vehicles. To do this, they can rely on the American Community Survey, which collects data on commute modes; local surveys, like MWCOG’s State of the Commute; or system-use measurements, such as traffic counters and transit ridership.

Importantly, emissions reductions must also be reported, including the percent change in carbon dioxide generated from vehicles against 2017 levels.

How often are measures reported?

Under the final rules, state departments of transportation must, by February 20 of next year, establish four-year targets that reflect how they anticipate their highways will perform at that time. Metropolitan planning organizations then must set targets within six months of their state’s target. Urban areas only have to set one two-year goal and one four-year goal, no matter what level agency is responsible for the highways that run through them.

For what will the U.S. DOT use them?

How states and metropolitan areas measure things impacts further investments down the line. Performance measures will ensure that federal transportation funds are spent in such a way that supports the goals of U.S. DOT. They also increase transparency and accountability of the decision-making process, since it will be clear what data is informing funding choices.

Read the one-page briefing.

Photo: Interstate traffic in Arlington (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Untangling the jumbled path towards the ultimate connected city https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/28/untangling-path-towards-connected-city/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/28/untangling-path-towards-connected-city/#respond Tue, 28 Feb 2017 16:19:17 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21366 This is part 1 of a two-part series on how advocates can create connected cities, examining how public agencies can reshape their priorities. Part 2 will detail how they can then move beyond conventional projects. Smartphone owners feel connected much of the time, for better or worse. But shouldn’t that be the goal for physical... Read more »

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This is part 1 of a two-part series on how advocates can create connected cities, examining how public agencies can reshape their priorities. Part 2 will detail how they can then move beyond conventional projects.

Smartphone owners feel connected much of the time, for better or worse. But shouldn’t that be the goal for physical movement as well, to be literally that connected – with a transportation system that could take one anywhere at any time?

That’s a big ask. But what’s exciting is how realistic the vision is for cities that dramatically alter outdated transportation planning. And this is not just about the New Yorks and San Franciscos; auto-oriented towns and cities can develop completely new blueprints for how people get around.

Many people and organizations have taken cracks at defining the connected city. Often these delve into the realm of Internet of Things-type technology. And beacons, smart traffic lights, and sensors will be a big part of cities in the future.

But from Mobility Lab’s standpoint, we look at the connected city as more about access, and making sure people can get to jobs, shopping, family and friends, and healthcare as easy as possible. And that they can do this without owning a car if necessary. Affordable, efficient, easy access from anywhere, anytime is the heart of a “connected city.”

Finding new funding

Of course, the major elephant in the room is always funding, most of which still goes to highways and roads, which have both divided and connected our cities over the past century. The good news is that autonomous vehicles and an increasing focus on making places bikeable and walkable could offer avenues for bringing mass-transit funding up above its typical level of 20 percent of the overall transportation budget. The bad news is that it’s still unclear whether the growth of services like Uber and Lyft will compromise transit funding sources or expand their pool of possible riders.

“Fortunately, communities are increasingly willing to tax themselves” to fund transit expansions, says Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association, who spoke at an “Ultimate Connected City” panel I moderated at TransportationCamp DC in January. “There will be a whole new way that agencies are structured with new connectivity coming online.”

Public agencies must dramatically adjust their planning

The National League of Cities 2016 “Cities of the Future” report [PDF] made even clearer how cities are woefully prepared for new transportation technologies. Of the 68 metropolitan areas analyzed, only 3 percent considered the effects of app-based, on-demand companies like Uber and Lyft in their city plans. Only 6 percent considered the effects of driverless technology. Meanwhile, 50 percent have explicit plans for new highway construction.

The federal government has taken some recent steps in the right direction, with an Obama administration report [PDF: pages 34-35] recommending pilots, workforce training, company and city partnerships, and research into future transportation engineering for autonomous vehicles.

Some places are already making headway on these guidelines. In San Francisco, if new mobility providers meet the necessary requirements, the S.F. Office of Innovation’s new City Transportation Platform grants them access to public rights of way. On a smaller, short-term scale, Washington, D.C’s Metrorail has been aggressively asking customers how it can improve, notes that “competitors” are really partners in connecting the region, and has been implementing some customer suggestions. These are the kinds of elements that need to go into comprehensive, nimble, flexible local transportation plans.

New adhesives clarify for riders

New adhesives clarify for Metrorail riders where the end of six-car trains stop at the platform.

APTA’s Grisby adds, “We would need to re-invent government. How do we maintain social equity? How can we show we’re going to be responsible with taxpayer money while making these changes? All of these changes need capital, cash, and this requires trust. We need trust.”

Public agencies must see advantages to competing confidently

Despite some remaining hesitancy, city leaders are beginning to dabble in this space. Joshua Schank, LA Metro’s first chief innovation officer, says, “As long as we continue to run mass transit systems that are treated like social services, instead of treating them as if they’re trying to attract customers and they’re trying to compete, then you’re going to have real problems in terms of trying to get our capacity to be used more effectively.”

The vision statements in many of the U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge applications show the beginnings of lights turning on. But other local officials still have a long way to go to research and understand carsharing, ridesharing, new technologies, and the needs of their constituents. Getting all of this mobility right will be a significant competitive advantage for cities, according to a recent report from McKinsey and Bloomberg.

To make one or multiple connected cities happen, local governments – and perhaps the feds as well – will simply have to start jumping in the water more than they have so far. In Finland, a government bureau called Liikennelabra (Traffic Lab) works to bring inexpensive transit providers to cities. Part of the answer may be that simple – a more fluid array of public options.

“What an agency looks like today may look different 20 years from now. A transit agency might be a contract manager, partnering with all sorts of entities. The question is: can we encourage folks to try? To not be afraid of failure?” Grisby asks.

Many transit agencies are already on the right track, but often fail to communicate the true benefits of key transit service. Transit planner Jarrett Walker recently wrote:

“The most urgent thing transit agencies need to do, right now, is start talking more confidently about what their fixed-route, high-ridership transit service is achieving, so that they negotiate with the new players from a position of strength and confidence.”

One example: Seattle has consistently supported its bus and rail transit in recent years, drawing higher rates of transit ridership to its booming downtown in a time when bus ridership is dropping in most cities.

seattle bus - BeyondDC

Seattle buses, which are given dedicated space in parts of the city’s downtown.

Educating and informing connective habits

It’s a bit surprising how successful transit projects are across the country. We’re still largely a drive-alone culture in which carpool rates have fallen consistently since the 1980s. To truly have a connected city, where people can move around seamlessly, people must be willing to share rides, and they must be aware of the availability of these options.

There is indeed hope that people are increasingly understanding that they have non-driving transportation options available. More than 30 percent of households do not own a car in six of the 30 largest U.S. cities. And people want these options, as seems apparent by the 77 cities that applied for the Smart City Challenge and the influx of younger residents to places with transit and walking options.

Connected cities must be woven into the fabric of people’s lives. There’s little doubt that Los Angeles is successfully experimenting with this concept. LA Metro is seeing a surge of new light rail riders to Rams football games because the Expo line offers a much-better deal than expensive parking at the stadium. Coordination around big events is a great way to help change people’s habits, and LA’s Olympic committee wants to further embed non-car culture into the city through its planning for the 2024 Games.

Consumer-oriented technology certainly has a big role to play in educating people, too. Apps such as Metropia, which incentivizes people to drive or travel during off-peak hours, or like Mobidot, which helps people monitor and improve their travel behavior, offer new options. Education efforts like these might be key puzzle pieces for creating connected cities.

Next, a look into how cities are finding creative ways to enhance the connectivity of their transportation systems.

Photos, from top: D.C.’s Eastern Market, where Metro riders can connect to the DC Circulator or Capital Bikeshare (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com). A six-car Metrorail sticker (WMATA). Buses in Seattle (BeyondDC, Flickr, Creative Commons).

Mobility Lab technology reporter Andrew Carpenter contributed to this article.

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