Research – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:48:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Report envisions possible paths transportation technologies may take us in next 20 years https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/22/report-envisions-possible-paths-transportation-technologies-20-years/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/22/report-envisions-possible-paths-transportation-technologies-20-years/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:20:08 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21642 A version of this post originally appeared on contributor Hannah Budnitz’s blog, Go-How.com. As in the United States, how people will get around Great Britain in the near future is especially unclear given a number of emerging technologies. A recent report from RAND explored this uncertainty, offering three alternative visions of the future of mobility,... Read more »

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A version of this post originally appeared on contributor Hannah Budnitz’s blog, Go-How.com.

As in the United States, how people will get around Great Britain in the near future is especially unclear given a number of emerging technologies. A recent report from RAND explored this uncertainty, offering three alternative visions of the future of mobility, which are intended to cover the spectrum of probability, rather than a forecast of reality. The aim of the project, according to one of the report’s authors, was to review emerging technologies that influence transport efficiencies, and envision the multiple potential futures that might encompass the actual future.

Why? The one certainty in this crystal ball-gazing is that technologies affecting transport, which have not changed substantially for decades, are changing now and will change not only how we travel, but also our lifestyles, even our societies. So we need to have vision if we are to be ready for it.

It is not only the giants of the tech world that realize this. Did you see Ford’s Superbowl ad? The car company is promoting a vision of mobility for the future where it would be selling a lot more than just cars. Will it be selling “mobility as a service?” Car manufacturers have to offer different models of ownership, operation, and efficiency if they are to stay in the transport game in the future.

Transport planners have to change their tactics too. Cost-benefit analyses for investment in infrastructure currently calculate 60 years into the future – an unhelpful timescale when technology is changing so quickly that predicting possibilities for even 2035 is challenging. Also, transport appraisal has never been much good at predicting social impacts, but if we don’t want the RAND report’s dystopian vision of a “Digital Divide” – where income inequality separates who has access to major technologies – planners need to correct that fault quickly. More investment in adaptable infrastructure should happen as well, so as to not lock society into 60 years of something that will be obsolete in 20.

Meanwhile, a lot of the buzz is around fully autonomous vehicles, which will probably be electric and shared as well. The RAND report’s “Driving Ahead” scenario focuses on this technology, whilst the UK government is investing heavily to be a world leader in its development. The UK research agency Transport Systems Catapult offers some thoughts on this future, summarizing the many potential benefits of going driverless.

However, it is clear from discussion around the report’s release that it is not only the difficulty of transition that may threaten an autonomously-driven society. Land use planners face a capacity conundrum. If autonomous vehicles result in much less parking adjacent to homes and commercial uses, what should that land be used for instead?

Other questions crop up as well. The vehicles themselves still need to be off-road some of the time, stored and maintained. Where is that going to happen? How do streets need to be re-configured for picking up and dropping off instead of parking? If the reduced travel cost and additional productive time offered by autonomous vehicles attract more use than the additional road capacity their efficient movement frees up, is the answer to build more road infrastructure?

The RAND report specifically ignores the need for new infrastructure. But even roads aside, all the scenarios require more electricity and information technology infrastructure, built to be as resilient as possible in the face of frequent severe weather and other disruptions.

Yet it is not all doom and gloom. Freight drivers may not be out of a job if the complicated work at either end of the journey becomes ever more involved with shared loading and consolidated delivery. Children may be able to play on the streets again as space is freed from parking, and if autonomous vehicles can be better trusted with their safety. And if policy makers and planners and transport practitioners are proactive about standards, regulations, taxation and investment, we can push the future to better resemble the RAND report’s more utopian “Live Local” vision, where a cost for driving replaces the gas tax and mobility is not only a service, but an equitable one.

Photo: A highway in the UK (Matthew Wilkinson, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Fully autonomous vehicles may make us safer, but could add to traffic https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/20/autonomous-vehicles-safety-add-traffic/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/20/autonomous-vehicles-safety-add-traffic/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 16:18:32 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21604 Split of benefits and costs could spark much-needed national transportation discussion Just what a future transportation system with autonomous vehicles looks like isn’t completely clear-cut. However, Kara Kockelman, a University of Texas-based leading academic on the subject, has predictions for their economic impacts. In a South by Southwest presentation last week, she put forth a... Read more »

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Split of benefits and costs could spark much-needed national transportation discussion

Just what a future transportation system with autonomous vehicles looks like isn’t completely clear-cut.

However, Kara Kockelman, a University of Texas-based leading academic on the subject, has predictions for their economic impacts. In a South by Southwest presentation last week, she put forth a rapid-fire, yet nuanced, synopsis of the numerous studies she’s completed with UT students on an approaching autonomous future.

“I don’t think these cars are going to help us with congestion. I think they’re going to make it worse,” Kockelman said, adding this this will be an area that will require crucial legislation. “But I think they will save us on safety.”

Safety is certainly a top selling point upon which auto and tech experts will rely as they push autonomous vehicles as a future transportation solution.

The nearly 33,000 U.S. traffic deaths and 6 million crashes in 2014, according to Kockelman, created a cost of more than $500 billion. Driver error caused more than 90 percent of those crashes, and she said AVs would dramatically reduce that number, since at least 40 percent of those deaths resulted from alcohol, drugs, fatigue, and/or distraction.

With 100 percent adoption of AVs, the country would gain $488 billion annually in “pain and suffering” avoided from car crashes. That equates to $1,530 each year per person in the United States.

The congestion side may be a much trickier message for auto and tech experts to pitch to the public. Kockelman calculated that, in 2014, traffic created 7 billion hours of delay and caused $160 billion in economic loss.

On top of that, the bonus of “productivity en route” would be a $645 billion gain to the economy each year.

Add together the two economic gains – pain and suffering plus productivity – and the country would save a whopping $1.4 trillion in costs. On the per capita side, that comes to $4,419 per person in the country.

However, Kockelman balances the positives with the many consequences that would likely domino throughout society, including:

  • Longer travel distances, including people more likely to take induced driverless trips to destinations they currently wouldn’t drive to due to stress or other factors
  • More driving trips by people who are presently unlicensed or have barriers to driving
  • Less air travel by passengers
  • Less rail travel by freight
  • Possibly larger, less-efficient vehicles for longer trips, and
  • More sprawling land use
SXSW AV

Kockelman and Loftus-Otway presenting at SXSW. Photo by author.

Kockelman continued, saying these side effects could, in turn, increase congestion and infrastructure damage in many places. This would create a need for “systems to be operated more efficiently, equitably, and sustainably, including incentives for ride-sharing and non-motorized travel, route guidance, credit-based congestion pricing, and micro-tolling.”

“We’re going to see a lot more travel, but hopefully we’ll travel together, so that will avoid congestion,” she said. Kockelman added that improved technology should make tolling more efficient and that better public transportation and true ridesharing (as opposed to Uber- and Lyft-like ride-hailing) will be keys along the autonomous path.

Perhaps most importantly, she and her co-presenter Lisa Loftus-Otway, also from UT-Austin, said AVs offer a momentary chance to have a national conversation about transportation in the U.S. – something that has never truly happened on this scale.

“We’ve never really had an honest discussion on what transportation costs us,” Loftus-Otway said. “Terminology matters and [for example, we] shouldn’t call it a gas tax. It’s really a usage fee. Growing up, I never really knew how we paid for transportation. I guess I used to think the road fairy paid for it.”

Hopefully the AVs that appear in the near-term will help people better understand how transportation works. And then again, it may take some deliberate, and creative, outreach to help people understand the issue.

“Hopefully you all have been inside [an autonomous vehicle],” Kockelman told the audience, before laughing, “I have … and it’s pretty boring.”

Photo: Busy freeway (Rafael Castillo, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Capturing major DC events on bike and walking counters https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/17/bike-ped-counter-major-events-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/17/bike-ped-counter-major-events-options/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:18:27 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21595 Bike/ped traffic counter spikes for disruptive events emphasize importance of transportation options Arlington has 38 bike and pedestrian counters along its trails and bike lanes, six of which capture how many people cross the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., every day. Two counters are located on Memorial Bridge, two on Key Bridge, one on Roosevelt... Read more »

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Bike/ped traffic counter spikes for disruptive events emphasize importance of transportation options

Arlington has 38 bike and pedestrian counters along its trails and bike lanes, six of which capture how many people cross the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., every day. Two counters are located on Memorial Bridge, two on Key Bridge, one on Roosevelt Bridge, and one on the 14th Street Bridge.

The counters provide a look at what kind of bike/ped activity occurs on bridges into D.C. when there have been major events that disrupt street traffic and create crowding on transit. The bike and pedestrian daily counts can show how people are thinking as to when they resort to two wheels or their own feet.

How did the numbers of people in Arlington traveling by bike or foot compare to bike/ped ratios on normal weekends or holidays, when commuter traffic is more typical? Looking into this change could clarify how residents seek alternatives when major events disrupt transit and car traffic.

counter events

The events

Of the recent events captured in counters, the Women’s March induced the highest turnout by far, with a nearly 500 percent increase in bike and pedestrian traffic above the average weekend day or holiday. Meanwhile, Trump’s Inauguration doubled typical counts.

The travel ban protest, on January 29, 2017, drew about a 40 percent increase. As a small-scale event organized with little advance notice, the protest is still a notable recent event, as it drew thousands into the streets of downtown D.C.

The Pope’s visit to DC and Obama’s inauguration both induced a mild increase in traffic. In these cases, as with the Trump inauguration and Women’s March, much of the crowd likely came from out of town. It seems, though, that street closures around the Pope’s visit encouraged many to attempt a bike ride. Also notable: the Pope visited in September, when the weather was much more comfortable for riding.

Overall, pedestrian traffic seems less responsive to events than bike traffic. Perhaps the speed of biking allows bicycles to better replace transit and driving options. In each case, there are multiple reasons why more people might be biking or walking across the Potomac. In many instances the event closures force drivers or transit riders to switch modes in order to get to their usual destinations. In other cases, the events draw new visitors and curious Arlington residents into the District, who may augment normal counter figures.

The total attendance numbers are important to recognize: The travel ban protest, at an estimated 5,000 in attendance, was small, as a reactive protest organized in just two days. Meanwhile, Obama’s 2013 Inauguration drew 1,000,000 attendees, and Trump’s Inauguration and the Women’s March brought in at at least 250,000 and 500,000 respectively. The Pope’s visit to D.C. doesn’t seem to have cut and clear attendance numbers, as he traveled to multiple destinations within the District, but he spoke to a crowd of 11,000 people on the White House lawn on September 23, 2015.

Weather is another significant factor that should be recognized: Trump’s inauguration faced cold rain, and Obama’s 2013 ceremony was cool and cloudy. The Pope’s fall visit, however, was largely sunny and temperate.

The Memorial Bridge counters do not distinguish between bicyclists and pedestrians so that counter was only included in the total counts, but not in the individual bike and pedestrian breakdown. For the percent increase calculations, traffic counts on the day of the event were compared to weekend and holiday averages for the same month they occurred in (excluding the days of the events themselves).

Regardless of the exact reasons for the new biking and walking trips, the raised counts highlight the availability of additional travel options that can ease the impacts of major events on the D.C. area.

Photo: Pedestrians and a bicyclist on the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge, looking eastward into D.C. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com)

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Transit as a lifelong habit: Early transit use informs choices later on in life https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/09/transit-lifelong-habit-study/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/09/transit-lifelong-habit-study/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 15:31:33 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21514 Travel choices are a habit, and not just one for a day-to-day consideration. A new study by Michael Smart and Nicholas Klein found that people who lived near reliable transit options early in their lives, such as in their 20s and 30s, were more likely to choose transit later on. Writing on Planetizen, the authors... Read more »

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Travel choices are a habit, and not just one for a day-to-day consideration. A new study by Michael Smart and Nicholas Klein found that people who lived near reliable transit options early in their lives, such as in their 20s and 30s, were more likely to choose transit later on. Writing on Planetizen, the authors note this held true even when people later moved to areas where transit was less reliable. These people were also more likely to live “car-light” lifestyles, owning fewer cars than average.

The study, “Rembrance of Cars and Buses Past,” published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, used a survey of households maintained since 1968 in order to follow transportation choices over long periods of time.

According to Smart and Klein, the study has implications for how planners address ridership rates and regard investments in reliable transit, many of which also apply to potential transportation demand management programs.

“Planners should consider transit as a long-term investment in neighborhoods and the people who live there. By encouraging exposure to transit at an early age (for instance, through free or reduced transit passes for students, recent transplants, or new hires), transit agencies and advocates could “plant the seed” for future ridership. These long-term benefits may be difficult to quantify and incorporate in cost-benefit analyses, though our research suggests the payoffs may be substantial.”

While many campuses might offer some kind of discounted transit pass already as a way to manage near-term issues of parking crunches, these findings support a longer-term justification. In the D.C. region, the unlimited Metro passes offered at American University and Howard University may be influencing transit riders decades down the line, so WMATA might consider the program an investment in future ridership.

The authors also point out that the findings could have considerable implications for younger people currently moving into cities at higher rates. Even if they eventually move to less-dense areas as they have families, they may take transit at higher rates than others and will likely own fewer cars.

Photo by Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com

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Single people in many metro areas becoming more car-free, with some exceptions https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/03/singles-metro-areas-car-free/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/03/singles-metro-areas-car-free/#respond Fri, 03 Mar 2017 17:16:06 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21428 Ed.: In part 2 of her ongoing analysis of car ownership rates in the U.S., urban planner Sarah Jo Peterson examines how one-person households, or singles, have been buying more cars or going car-free in the first half of the decade. Below is an excerpt of her piece, which you can read in its entirety... Read more »

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Ed.: In part 2 of her ongoing analysis of car ownership rates in the U.S., urban planner Sarah Jo Peterson examines how one-person households, or singles, have been buying more cars or going car-free in the first half of the decade. Below is an excerpt of her piece, which you can read in its entirety here.

The transportation choices of Americans who live alone are important not just because singles make up more than one quarter of all households. Between 2010 and 2015, the 32 million one-person households in the United States became both more likely to live car-free and to have multiple cars. (Yes, a one-person household with two-or-more cars is a thing!) The transportation lifestyles of singles are shifting, even volatile. Moreover, their choices are an indicator that transportation lifestyles are polarizing across the states, and also across some of the largest metros and their core cities too.

Singles let go of cars in half of the 50 largest metropolitan areas by population between 2010 and 2015. Singles in 15 metros shifted to car-free living by more than 1.0 percentage point and by more than 2.0 percentage points in the metros encompassing Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. In just 11 metros were singles more likely to have more cars in 2015.

A number of metro areas show lower car-ownership rates among singles, while others have higher polarization (more car-free and more owners of multiple cars).

Like for the states, shifts tended to be towards the extreme transportation lifestyles. In the 25 metros where singles shifted away from cars, 22 metros showed increases in car-free living. Only in the metros encompassing Louisville, San Diego, and Atlanta were the shifts predominantly about dropping down to only one vehicle. Singles made living car-two+ more common in seven of the 11 metros with more cars. Only in the metros encompassing New York, Boston, Raleigh, and Cincinnati was the predominant shift a move from no car to one car.

Eleven metros experienced strong shifts away from cars, where living car-free went up and car-two+ went down. The eleven are the metros encompassing Hartford, Detroit, Milwaukee, Providence, Washington, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Riverside. Six metros polarized between 2010 and 2015: proportionally, more singles were living both car-free and car-two+ in the metros encompassing Indianapolis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, and Charlotte.

Strong shifts towards more cars (car-two+ up and car-free down) only showed up in the metros encompassing San Antonio, Pittsburgh, and San Juan. Only in the metros encompassing Memphis, New Orleans, and Dallas did singles embrace living car-two+ by more than one percentage point.

Read the full post, which explains how, in some instances, singles led cities away from high car-ownership rates, here.

Photo: Townhouses and parking in Chicago (Ian Freimuth, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Understanding the basics behind transportation choices https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/24/understanding-the-basics-transportation-choices/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/24/understanding-the-basics-transportation-choices/#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:12:34 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21325 When it comes to transportation choices, people generally do what is best for themselves. Understanding what factors influence people’s decisions can help the transportation industry and advocates better show the benefits of different transportation options that address different components of motivations. What motivates someone to bike, or drive, or use transit? As the industry looks... Read more »

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When it comes to transportation choices, people generally do what is best for themselves. Understanding what factors influence people’s decisions can help the transportation industry and advocates better show the benefits of different transportation options that address different components of motivations.

What motivates someone to bike, or drive, or use transit? As the industry looks to influence demand, it’s important to recognize how commuters come to their decisions.

Convenience

“Convenience is a big factor – and if it’s not there, we can’t sell it,” says Mobility Lab managing director Howard Jennings. Generally speaking, people choose transportation mode based on what is the most convenient, in terms of price, time, proximity, and flexibility. But how does one know that option is the best? Have they tried all the other ones at all? If people can use and access a transportation option flexibly, they will most likely use it. For transit, the key is typically increasing frequency and hours of service per day.

Costs

Monetary. More than half of people surveyed in randomized neighborhoods in the U.S. said that it was important to minimize costs in a trip. In the U.S., income typically informs transportation mode choices. Those with higher incomes will use transit less, unless they live in a city such as New York City or Washington, D.C., where transit is well-ingrained.

Gas prices are a major predictor of whether commuters choose to drive or ride transit. Back in 2008, for example, commuters in Washington State and many places found it easier to start a vanpool after gas prices exceeded over four dollars per gallon.

Time. In the U.S. (as elsewhere), people value their time. A key part of saving time is the reliability of how long a trip will take. If the bus is late every other day, or breaks down every other week, a commuter loses time and may choose other options. With unexpected occurrences, it’s important that transit riders have back up plans and up-to-date information. Bus-tracking apps and flexible payment systems help reduce some of the uncertainty and allow commuters to make informed, timely decisions.

Benefits

Transit benefits in the U.S. are associated with much higher ridership, even in transit-deficient cities. Employees offered commuter benefits are five times more likely to take transit regularly, as opposed to other employees who do not receive benefits.

Chart via Citylab.

In fact, as research from Virginia Tech indicates, companies offering their employees transit benefits can have a large effect on their commute choices, especially if they do not offer competing parking benefits. Rather than rent expensive parking garages, employers can save money by offering some of that cost as subsidy to their employees in the form of transit subsidies.  Property managers can do the same, and by offering residents bikeshare memberships, free Metro cards, and more , work to to attract residents to property.

Commute distance

A TransitCenter survey on commute distance and use of transit found that, at less than half a mile, it is unlikely that people will use transit, as walking/biking numbers are high. At less than 2 miles, it is quite likely that people will use transit. But after that, the likelihood of commuting by transit decreases, as car usage rises.

tc whosonboard distance

Chart via TransitCenter’s 2014 Who’s on Board report.

Life events

There’s nothing like having a kid to make you to realize that you need to change the way you get around. A number of studies indicate that more than 90 percent of changes in car use are attributable to a life event: having that kid, getting fired, moving cities, getting married, and more. Life events act as a trigger to reassess people’s modes of travel, which otherwise governed by habit.

The transportation industry can use these kinds of opportunities, such as job relocation, to reach out to employees and help them understand what types of transportation options could serve them best.

In Arlington County, Va., Arlington Transportation Partners does exactly that with their Relocation Services. First, they survey the employees undergoing relocation on their current commuting habits, then ask where they will be living with respect to the workplace. Using this information, ATP creates customized materials with available transportation options (including time & cost involved) and information on various commute planning tools (like apps).

Other factors

There are many other factors that can contribute to transportation choice as well. Those with environmental concerns, for example, are more likely to eschew driving, as they see the link between environmental costs and car use. However, they tend to consider other factors such as monetary cost and convenience more important.

Acquiring a driver’s license qualifies as a life event, and predisposes people to rely more on driving. Once they’ve begun driving, the convenience of being able to hop into a personal high speed vehicle is addictive. Millennials are generally putting off getting their driver’s license, though, so they don’t have to/can’t drive, and are being multi-modal instead.

This is good for the TDM industry. With some attitudes already changing towards multi-modalism, TDM just has to provide the extra support, not life-altering incentives. It is important then, in the coming years, that agencies use this knowledge to provide proper services to people.

For many, it comes down to options

Giving people multiple options provides them the freedom to do what they want, when they want, how they want. In fact, if they try one new option, they are much more likely to try more. Being able to access other transportation options allows commuters to more efficiently respond to the above behavioral factors.  By addressing any set of the above barriers, advocates, transportation agencies, and cities can encourage large numbers of people to try smarter ways of commuting.

Photo: An ART bus picks up commuters outside the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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What topics have brought people to TransportationCamp DC over the years? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/17/transportationcamp-dc-topics-years/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/17/transportationcamp-dc-topics-years/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:02:52 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21261 At TransportationCamp DC, the Mobility Lab-sponsored unconference held in Arlington, Va., transportation professionals, advocates, and enthusiasts gather each year to discuss and learn about the pressing topics of the day. We put together this back-of-the-envelope analysis to see if we could discern any trends in topics and modes being discussed in the events’ sessions. Due... Read more »

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At TransportationCamp DC, the Mobility Lab-sponsored unconference held in Arlington, Va., transportation professionals, advocates, and enthusiasts gather each year to discuss and learn about the pressing topics of the day. We put together this back-of-the-envelope analysis to see if we could discern any trends in topics and modes being discussed in the events’ sessions.

topics tcamp

Due to the structure of the unconference, the attendees set the agenda at each TransportationCamp. This grants insight into what attendees – and by extension the broader transportation industry – have cared about over time. The above chart shows sessions by category, the broad topic it was about, and the below chart shows all sessions involving specific modes, the forms of transportation they addressed.

tcamp modes

According to Paul Mackie, Mobility Lab’s communications director, this confirms what organizers have felt over the years. Technology and planning questions consistently draw attendees, especially those also familiar with the local Transportation Techies meetup group.

Sessions on data and technology have dominated the scene, comprising about one-third of all sessions each year. This makes sense for a time when the industry is rapidly looking for data-centered solutions that could help build ridership in both the short- and long-term.

2017 tcamp pie

Discussions on specific modes has been overall relatively steady. Transit has consistently been the focus of at least one-fifth of the sessions.

Policy sessions pretty consistently make up about 10 percent of the sessions each year – perhaps for D.C.-centric reasons. Equity-centered sessions fluctuated, appearing higher on the agenda in 2014 and 2017 and dipping in interest in 2015 and 2016.

Sessions were categorized based on their notes, which, in the open spirit of TransportationCamp, are publicly available online. Given the complexity of many issues, the topics of individual sessions were divided as best as possible, though overlap does exist (see: Integrating/ Creating New Mobility Options for K-12 Schools). This is shown with some sessions qualifying as multiple categories, and some sessions not specifying modes.

Veteran TransportationCampers: do these match your experience? Do you have a guess as to why some of these trends may be the case?

Photo: The wall of sessions from the 2014 TransportationCamp DC (MV Jantzen, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Curing a hospital’s transportation ailments https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/16/hospitals-transportation-ailments-vhc-atp/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/16/hospitals-transportation-ailments-vhc-atp/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 18:45:22 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21248 This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog. Virginia Hospital Center is a leading medical services provider and one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals, providing 24/7 healthcare across two campuses. Over the years, the size of VHC’s facilities and the number of staff have grown considerably. That growth has provided the hospital with... Read more »

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This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog.

Virginia Hospital Center is a leading medical services provider and one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals, providing 24/7 healthcare across two campuses. Over the years, the size of VHC’s facilities and the number of staff have grown considerably. That growth has provided the hospital with an opportunity to rethink their transportation and parking strategies and to utilize public/private partnerships to find solutions.

Transportation challenges

Like many hospitals today, VHC is motivated to look at all aspects of the patient’s experience. As one of Arlington County’s largest employers, with more than 2,000 employees, they are also interested in retaining and recruiting the best talent. In a region where transportation can make or break a patient’s decision on where to receive care, or an employee’s choice on where to work, it is crucial to cater to many needs and provide multiple mobility options. Gone are the days when a large campus, whether it be a hospital, a university, or an employer site can focus solely on providing parking. VHC has been working diligently with Arlington County to make sure they have identified all these options to remain competitive.

ART 51

The ART 51 route connects commuters and visitors to the Ballston-MU Metro station.

VHC has limited parking for staff at its main campus and in recent years, management has added additional parking about 1.5 miles away with free shuttle service to the hospital. With so many employees, patients, and visitors commuting to the main campus, the impact VHC has on the county’s roads and transportation network is significant. Therefore, as part of its development agreement with Arlington County, VHC also subsidizes two local ART bus routes (left) that employees can ride for free – or opt into a more active commute with support from the hospital with provided bike parking, showers and lockers.

All these additional services came at considerable cost to VHC, yet issues remained regarding parking capacity and demand. To explore further solutions to the challenging commuting situation for its employees, VHC reached out to its long-term transportation demand management resource, Arlington Transportation Partners, to assist them with understanding current employee commute modes and identify opportunities to implement programs that would be attractive to employees for getting to work and provide a financial savings for employees and the hospital.

TDM solutions

For this concentrated effort,  ATP started a collaboration with Mobility Lab in March 2016, to survey VHC employees for the purpose of  understanding their commute patterns and provide non-drive-alone mobility recommendations based on these findings. To facilitate the survey process, a mixture of multiple on-site events and VHC intranet opportunities were incorporated. The combined effort resulted in an above average 31 percent survey response rate.

VHC shared data with ATP and Mobility Lab in order to study transit trip times against drive-alone trip times using Modeify, a software tool which is part of Arlington’s CarFreeAtoZ project. The transit options analyzed included commuting to/from the additional parking facility leased by VHC close to the Ballston Metro Station (1.5 miles from the main facility) for three reasons:

  • It is the off-site parking garage VHC promotes its employees to use
  • It is a stop for the two ART routes employees ride for free
  • It is the stop for the free shuttle bus that connects employees to the main campus

Modeify helped identify various commute options, namely that approximately 1,900 employees have access to transit, around 250 employees live within a 30-minute bike commute, and a significantly high number of employees have at least one carpool match of a fellow VHC employee within a quarter-mile radius of their house.

ATP’s recommendations

VHC-hrrep

Human resources at VHC.

Additionally, a high percentage of survey respondents acknowledged using transit before and expressed interest in receiving a pre-tax transit subsidy to save money on their commute. Based on the survey results and data analyses, ATP recommended that VHC offer a pre-tax transit benefit that employees could use for Metrorail, local and regional buses, VRE/MARC trains or vanpool. Offering a pre-tax transit benefit helps employees save up to 38 percent on commuting expenses, which equals $1,175/year, while employers can save just over $400 per employee on payroll taxes. Since employers are able to offer up to $255 per month, it can make a considerable difference for both employees and employers alike.

VHC agreed with ATP’s recommendation that WMATA’s SmartBenefits tool would be the best fit to implement the program due to its ease of use via its online user interface and IRS compliance as well as the interface being free to employers and employees. Over the past six months, ATP has worked with VHC Human Resources to set up and implement a pre-tax benefit for staff that is available to eligible employees starting this open enrollment cycle. ATP is looking forward to working with VHC to educate employees about the benefit and options available to individuals that would allow them to take advantage of the new benefit.

In conclusion

Hospitals generate a significant economic impact in the region with thousands of employees looking for options on how to get to work. As hospitals look for ways to improve their patients’ experience and be positive role models as corporate community citizens, it is imperative that hospitals provide convenient transportation options and benefits to their employees. ATP plans to gladly continue the partnership with VHC to educate employees about their mobility choices and increase employee participation in the newly implemented transit-benefit program.

Photo Credit: Reema Desai/ReemaDesai.com for Arlington Transportation Partners. ART 51 bus map from Arlington Transit.

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How did SafeTrack affect Arlington biking rates in 2016? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/12/safetracks-impact-biking-arlington-2016/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/12/safetracks-impact-biking-arlington-2016/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:17:47 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20026 Since SafeTrack began back in June 2016, Arlington transportation planners have been collecting and analyzing walk and bike data by using the county’s extensive network of counters. In reviewing Surge 11 data, the effects of Metro rail disruptions on the bike traffic seem to be diminishing, while still remaining above last year’s averages. Looking at... Read more »

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Since SafeTrack began back in June 2016, Arlington transportation planners have been collecting and analyzing walk and bike data by using the county’s extensive network of counters. In reviewing Surge 11 data, the effects of Metro rail disruptions on the bike traffic seem to be diminishing, while still remaining above last year’s averages.

Looking at three key counters in the Arlington trail network (Rosslyn Custis, Mount Vernon South, and W&OD Bon Air West), there was an immediate spike in Surge 1, which saw daily bike traffic increases over 2015 averaging between 75 percent and 35 percent.

Over the next waves (Surges 2-6), the increases above 2015 counts stayed, but were a more modest overall average of just 17 percent, with a range of 0 percent to 34 percent. The downward trend continued in the later waves (Surges 7-11), with an average increase of 9 percent, and a range of -9 percent to 28 percent.

Interestingly, it’s very difficult to draw conclusions about the direct impact on Arlington ridership. For example, the huge increases in Surge 1 were almost certainly a reaction to the promised decrease in rail service, with the high ridership increase seen at the Rosslyn counter very near the Orange/Silver Line with the diminished service. And in Surge 3, with repair work and service disruptions on the Blue/Yellow, there was a spike in ridership along the Mount Vernon trail.

However, two of the more dramatic spikes in the chart below (Surges 6 and 10) were during phases when the repair work and disruption was on the Red line at stations far away from the county. This could be a result of below average numbers from previous years due to weather, events, or any number of other likely considerations.

The good news is we are still talking about increases, and of the 33 select data points we’re discussing, only four were not increases. For the second half of 2016, ridership was definitely up across the county.

To look at the data in more detail, take a look at our Bike Counter Dashboard and feel free to do your own analysis. What do you think?  Are we on the right track? We’d love to hear what you find.

This post originally appeared on the BikeArlington blog. Head over there to see a chart of counter rates broken down by SafeTrack surges.

Photo: The Bikeometer in Rosslyn on the Custis Trail (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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

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

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

dd16-pdi-list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Streetsblog NYC reported last week:

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

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

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

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

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

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