Research – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Low-stress streets mean more biking, greater transit access https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/17/low-stress-streets-biking-transit-access/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/17/low-stress-streets-biking-transit-access/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 15:46:22 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22384 New study examines how bus and bicycling travel times interact in stressful street networks As cities move forward with ambitious plans to revamp bus services and add dedicated bike infrastructure, which in turn will help draw riders and bicyclists, the level of comfort in nearby streets still play a large role. Streets free of the... Read more »

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New study examines how bus and bicycling travel times interact in stressful street networks

As cities move forward with ambitious plans to revamp bus services and add dedicated bike infrastructure, which in turn will help draw riders and bicyclists, the level of comfort in nearby streets still play a large role. Streets free of the stress from dangerous, fast-moving traffic can not only support bicycling, but also expand the accessibility of nearby transit stops.

For planners, the solution is to create a network of roads with moderate traffic, fast enough for buses but comfortable enough to encourage bikes and pedestrians. So concludes a new report, “Improving Livability Using Green and Active Modes,” from the Mineta Transportation Institute. “Our study looks at a classic trade-off between livability and mobility as it relates to green and active modes, specifically between bicycling and transit service,” explains Dr. Bruce Appleyard of the San Diego State University School of Public Affairs, one of the report’s authors.

The research relied on detailed information about specific cities, neighborhoods, and streets, including their “transit travel times, frequency of service, and access networks.” The authors used a 2012 model, “Low Stress Bicycle Network Modeling,” also developed by the Mineta Institute, to compute the study areas’ Level of Traffic Stress, or LTS.

The scale of levels begins with LTS 1, which is generally too slow for bus and other traffic, and goes as high as 4, with crowded, speeding traffic in multiple lanes, which only a few fanatical bicyclists will brave. LTS 2 proves ideal for modes that mix biking or walking with buses, as well as for entirely non-motorized trips. The main conclusion is that a street network should maintain a LTS 2 to encourage bicycling and walking in a mixed-mode environment.

Levels of stressful streets mapped in Denver, Colo. Source: MTI.

Levels of street stress mapped in Denver, Colo., show low-stress neighborhoods separated by thoroughfares. Source: MTI.

Importantly, the report shows how high-stress streets make it hard to access transit, while low-stress streets create larger catchment areas for pedestrians and bicyclists. In other words, networks of LTS 2 or LTS 1 streets support higher bus ridership, because they allow people to bike or walk to stops. Of course, LTS 1 is too slow for most bus service, making LTS 2 ideal for all modes.

While less appropriate for children on bikes, LTS 2 appeals to the majority of bicyclists and potential bicyclists while creating a safe, pleasant walking environment. An LTS 2 road is one where “cyclists are either physically separated from traffic or are in an exclusive bicycling zone next to a well-confined traffic stream … or are on a shared road where they interact with only occasional motor vehicles with a low-speed differential.” Turn lanes are configured to give bicycles priority, and safe street crossing are available for pedestrians. Depending on conditions, car speeds should top out at around 30 mph – which, in practice, means a posted speed of 20 or 25 mph – and street width should be limited to two or three lanes.

Along with achieving LTS 2, the report suggests other enhancements to encourage walking and biking, including connectivity, effective transit, and accessible stations. Specifically, the report recommends “transit-only lanes, transit priority lanes at the intersections, transit-stop bulb-outs, and integrated networks of pedestrian and bicycle routes.”

The idea is to create a network that will appeal to “interested but concerned” bicyclists, that large group who would bike to work if only it weren’t so difficult and dangerous. As the report puts it, “The single most important factor for bicycle travel is safety.” Creating a safe and comfortable biking environment would draw out more women riders, as well as younger and older people, conditions that currently exist in Denmark and the Netherlands. In the United States, by contrast, the much smaller number of bicyclists consists largely of young men.

Separated bike lanes are an additional improvement, one strongly encouraged by bicycle advocacy groups, that can help create safe, bikeable networks. Explains Appleyard, “Creating separated bike paths that would increase comfort for cyclists through greater separation from traffic, would be an effective solution for improving Level of Traffic Stress.”

The caveat to such improvements is that making a street network safe and inviting for bicycles means some ridership competition with buses, as it will often be as fast simply to bike. Since buses and bikes both maintain a speed of around 12 mph, she who begins a trip on a bike might choose to stay on a bike, if conditions permit.

As Appleyard puts it, “lower levels of traffic stress (LTS 1 or 2) make the choice between a bicycling/bus transit and bicycle-only modes become equally attractive and substitutable.” He adds that, “There are health benefits to consider, as well as a bicyclist’s sense of independence.” (It is, however, important to maintain bus service as an alternative mode when bad weather makes bicycling difficult or impossible.)

LTS3 service denver

The street network along a bus route in Denver, if one considers all streets up to LTS 3. The report explains that differing colors near bus stops mean either the “stop may not be used because it is not connected at that level, or its travel time is more than another accessible stop at that access speed.” Source: MTI.

The report examines the cities of Denver, Colorado and Oakland, Calif., in detail. It finds a majority of streets to be LTS 1 or 2 in both cities, with Denver particularly navigable by bike, possessing a whopping 81 percent of LTS 1 roads. The problem comes with main thoroughfares at LTS 3 and 4, which block access to other streets, fragmenting networks.

While the report concentrates on buses as a public transit mode, higher speed transit is available, including rail and bus rapid transit. In such cases, people are willing to travel a greater distance to access transit, greatly increasing coverage area. Future research is needed for such situations, but this report lays the foundation.

As Appleyard puts it, “policymakers can make choices that work for all modes. It is important, however, that they consider the needs of these modes comprehensively.” “Improving Livability Using Green and Active Modes” offers an important lesson for decisionmakers wishing to design a pleasant, multimodal city in which low-stress streets support multiple non-driving options comfortably.

Photo, top: An ART bus and a bicyclist share the street in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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In Arlington, when is it cheaper to choose carsharing over car ownership? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/11/arlington-residents-save-car-carsharing-costs/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/11/arlington-residents-save-car-carsharing-costs/#comments Thu, 11 May 2017 17:40:15 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22328 Arlington County, Va., includes carsharing in its Master Transportation Plan because it adds important connections to and from its already-rich transit infrastructure. But for car-owning Arlington households, how does carsharing fit within their transportation needs? For one, cost can play a large role. Marietta Gelfort, a carsharing analyst for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, recently took a detailed... Read more »

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Arlington County, Va., includes carsharing in its Master Transportation Plan because it adds important connections to and from its already-rich transit infrastructure.

But for car-owning Arlington households, how does carsharing fit within their transportation needs? For one, cost can play a large role.

Marietta Gelfort, a carsharing analyst for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, recently took a detailed look at the question. Gelfort’s study compared the costs of different car ownership scenarios – new cars, used cars, purchased with and without loans – against the membership and use costs of the two carsharing operators in Arlington, car2go and Zipcar.

Gelfort said, “Carshare makes you more aware of the costs because you get a bill every time you use a car. With ownership, you aren’t reminded [of the high and mostly hidden ongoing costs].”

So how exactly are Arlingtonians supposed to know when carsharing memberships are a better deal than car ownership?

There are many variables that affect ownership costs, including the make and model of the vehicle and how much of it has been paid off. But, for an Arlington resident, Gelfort’s research found that, on average, carsharing is a more affordable option if one generally drives 3,000 miles or less annually (equal to 58 miles per week).

carshare 3000 vmt

At 3,000 miles annually, several carsharing rates still cost less than many ownership scenarios. Source: Arlington DES report.

Arlington residents with multiple personal vehicles might be good candidates to explore carsharing, according to Gelfort. If a second or third car is rarely used, replacing one of those cars with occasional use of a car2go or Zipcar is likely to result in substantial money savings.

As is the case in many places throughout the U.S., there are other people besides multi-car owners who could benefit from carsharing.

“Young people who are just starting to drive would be good candidates to consider carsharing over ownership. It could be a good idea to talk them out of buying cars. And that might be an easier sell before they’ve started getting used to having their own cars,” Gelfort said.

carshare 1500 vmt

In the 1,500 annual VMT scenario, every carsharing scenario emerges as cheaper than car ownership.

Melissa McMahon, TDM planning program manager for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, also worked on the study and added, “There are a substantial amount of one-car households in Arlington and Washington, D.C., that have a car for grocery shopping or weekend trips. Carsharing could even be a great deal for them, especially when they might have monthly parking costs of $150 or so a month.”

It’s worth noting that parking was not considered into Gelfort’s study, as it is “such an individual thing” that is difficult to average.

With about 37 percent of Arlington households owning one car, and 55 percent owning two or more, it stands to reason that there are a number of cases in which residents might save by trading a car for a carsharing membership.

Photo: A Zipcar parked in Rosslyn, Arlington (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

 

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

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

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

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

An illustration from the original 2003 Eisenhower East plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will growth of shared mobility make people more willing to share their own cars? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/25/shared-mobility-willing-own-cars/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/25/shared-mobility-willing-own-cars/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 17:36:02 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22101 As many as 95 percent of trips in big cities could be shared with no more than a 5-minute inconvenience for riders, according to a recent report co-authored by Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab. Back in 2010, the Albany Times Union did some interesting reporting to delve into why New York State residents... Read more »

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As many as 95 percent of trips in big cities could be shared with no more than a 5-minute inconvenience for riders, according to a recent report co-authored by Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab.

Back in 2010, the Albany Times Union did some interesting reporting to delve into why New York State residents seemed incapable adopting a sharing mindset when it comes to driving. (Granted, 2010 was before the Uber craze, but even that kind of ride-hailing more often has a taxi feel than a carpooling one.) The paper’s own surveying found very few people carpooling and this article gives a range of the unlimited excuses people can make for their lack of enthusiasm about sharing.

In conversations about mobility these days, sharing is understood as a necessary part of the solution for fixing overwhelming demand on transportation systems. Even (and especially) car companies are beginning to lean heavily on shared rides or shared vehicles as an important component in their future share of the transportation market.

While one kind of shared mobility question may still remain – will people eventually grow accustomed to sharing their private vehicles? – sharing a common, company-owned vehicle does seem to have a growing place.

Walter Rosenkrantz, ‎senior business-development manager at car2go, itself owned by German automaker Daimler, spoke at the Association for Commuter Transportation’s Public Policy Summit last week in Washington, D.C. (which Mobility Lab co-sponsored).

“Carsharing has exploded. It’s kind of here to stay. The more there is out there, the more personal vehicles are going to be shared. Pretty soon it’s not going to make sense to have a car. It’s just going to be easier to get around without a car, so why have one?”

The numbers indeed look impressive. Car2go’s membership surpassed 2 million in 2016. But looking more closely, those are global numbers, and people in the U.S. haven’t always behaved like those in other countries, especially when it comes to transportation. In fact, carsharing revenue in North America is expected to drop – given faster growth in international markets – to just 23 percent of the global total by 2024. And numbers for projected U.S. growth in carsharing can be difficult to come by.

Further, think anecdotally. When I have conversations with residents of the D.C. region and mention the concept of sharing – even in a place as traffic-clogged as the nation’s capital, where there are tons of alternatives to driving alone – I get blank stares. They may as well be saying to me, “I spent $30,000 for my nice car, why would I let someone else tag along on my commute?”

Surprisingly, it appears we have little understanding regarding the fundamental question of whether or not people are even willing to share their own vehicles in the first place.

And if people are willing to share, is that number going up or down? Does “shared mobility” include being in a small, non-transit vehicle with strangers? The pieces of the sharing economy and shared mobility that are working fabulously – AirBnB for home rentals, bikesharing – are not shared at the same time but rather used continuously.

“I’m not sure people think about their transportation [as shared resources]” said the Shared-Use Mobility Center’s Sharon Feigon, who also presented at ACT’s conference. “People join carsharing programs when their car is broken down, they have a major break up [in a relationship], or have just moved to a new city. They try it as temporary thing and it ends up working for them.”

She’s right: it often takes a major life change to get people to think about not just sharing, but the overall way that they move around.  A brief survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that, in 2015, only 44 percent of U.S. adults were familiar with the sharing economy. More specifically:

According to our data, 8 percent of all adults have participated in some form of automotive sharing. 1 percent have served as providers under this new model, chauffeuring passengers around or loaning out their car by the hour, day or week. Of all the categories we examined, this is the one in which consumers would most like to see the sharing economy succeed.

Today, many people simply don’t share their vehicles, for any number of reasons, despite the emergence of some rental-like services like GetAround. But there is hope, because even though nobody wants to share their cars, they all want other people to share their cars.

“Unless you raise parking prices or make it prohibitively difficult to drive, you can’t change the balance,” Feigon added. “[The Shared-Use Mobility Center is] not fixated on whether people do or don’t like to share. There is something healthy about it, given the rise of [sprawl- and auto-driven] loneliness, and land use that promotes pedestrian activity is inherently social and also involves physical activity. Setting up the conditions for that is really good.

“In my own experiences, taking the train, I catch up with people I know. And you don’t have to deal with anybody if you don’t want to. [Taking transit or sharing] can make you more accepting of different kinds of people,” she said.

Other than focusing on people who are making major life changes, one demographic Feigon suggested could be ripe for more sharing is women with school-age children, who drive the most of any category of people and make lots of short trips that conflict with the poor ways we’ve designed our communities.

“That was not the biggest category of drivers 50 years ago,” she laughed.

We often hear how technology alone won’t change behavior; rather, it takes true willingness of people. But with getting people to share, technology may currently be a helpful motivator.

Along with that hope, it’s a safe bet that more research about the willingness of people to share and, specifically, what could make them share seats in their own cars, is equally critical.

Photo, top: car2go cars parked outside of a light rail station in Austin, Texas (Lars Plougmann, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Biking in Arlington gets a boost from Safetrack and warmer winter weather https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/biking-arlington-gets-boost-safetrack-warmer-winter-weather/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/biking-arlington-gets-boost-safetrack-warmer-winter-weather/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 19:21:06 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21964 Has there been an increase in biking in Arlington due to Washington D.C.’s region-wide SafeTrack initiative to repair Metrorail? It’s a difficult question to answer at this point. BikeArlington has already reported that there were increases up to 75 percent over 2015 daily averages in bike traffic at the Rosslyn-Custis Trail bike counter during the... Read more »

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Has there been an increase in biking in Arlington due to Washington D.C.’s region-wide SafeTrack initiative to repair Metrorail? It’s a difficult question to answer at this point.

BikeArlington has already reported that there were increases up to 75 percent over 2015 daily averages in bike traffic at the Rosslyn-Custis Trail bike counter during the first surge back in June 2016.

How much were this and other increases caused by SafeTrack or simply a product of a trend of bicycle traffic building up steadily over the years?

I took a look back at 2013, 2014, and 2015 data (see the graphs I created at the bottom of this article) in order to compare cycling daily averages from these times to the SafeTrack surge averages in 2016 and 2017. I controlled for weather to some extent, since it has such a significant impact on cycling and walking.

It seems that the only major difference from previous analyses is that increases in later surges are attributable to trends over the years of increasing winter ridership.

For the Surge 8 through 11 time period (in 2016, from August 27 to December 20), trail use had shown a decrease over the same time period from 2013 to 2014, but then it steadily increased after 2014 (except during Surge 9 on the Mount Vernon Trail). This could be attributed to some of the increase in winter ridership during SafeTrack to overall increasing trail use since 2014.

Ideally, this is the desired effect too. As transportation options become more plentiful and more well known, it makes sense that, over the years, cycling numbers increase.

Looking at the Surge 12 (which ended in February 2017) time period, however, all previous years showed a decreasing trend, with the SafeTrack surge creating quite an increase in ridership, going above even the 2013 numbers. Part of this can be attributed to an unseasonably warm February.

How much of this increase can be attributed to SafeTrack versus summer-like weather?

In the fall, trends stay fairly steady. SafeTrack caused quite an increase in traffic, and David Patton, Arlington County’s bicycle and pedestrian planner, says, “[Over] seven years of data for [the Custis Rosslyn bike counter], there is about a 3.5 percent compounded increase [for bikes]. It’s not a straight line – highly conditioned by weather – but on a slow upward trend.”

Henry Dunbar, program director of Bike Arlington, added, “It’s really difficult to pinpoint how much direct effect SafeTrack had on bike ridership. A lot of the original mode switching likely went back to riding Metro after the early surges proved to be not that disruptive, but we won’t know for certain until some more in-depth surveys are done. For now, the bike counter data alone can only tell us so much.”

The pattern over the years is very curious too: decreasing ridership in the summer, followed by stable ridership in the fall, and increasing ridership in the winter, until January.

Stable and increasing ridership are understandable, as Americans become more multi-modal.

The decreasing summer trends are questionable, also because they are not steadily decreasing. This means that there could be an anomaly in one of the years that is causing this shift. Is it really decreasing as people choose not to bike, or is it all due to external factors not accounted for?

The patterns surrounding Surge 12 are quite curious as well. The initial surge was thought to have caused such a large increase due to its novelty, but Surge 12 has none of this novelty, and compares in magnitude to the increase of Surge 1.

“This is interesting,” said Dunbar. “I have to wonder if that wasn’t aided by a stretch of really nice weather.”

W&OD Cyclists

W&OD Bon Air West Counter Cyclists

Rosslyn-Custis Cyclists

Rosslyn-Custis Counter Cyclists

Mount Vernon Trail Cyclists

Mount Vernon Trail South Airport Counter Cyclists

Photo: Capital Bikeshare user in Arlington by DOT DC; Graphics by Angela Urban.

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WMATA Metrobus data projects explore effects of fare payments, disruptions https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/wmata-bus-techies-data/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/wmata-bus-techies-data/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:23:23 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21941 Other presenters at Transportation Techies’ Bus Hack Night shared projects to help riders better understand their local bus routes Though the D.C. region has one of the busiest bus systems in the country, with more than 120 million trips in 2016, it’s still part of the nationwide movement to stem recent bus ridership declines. As such, WMATA is... Read more »

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Other presenters at Transportation Techies’ Bus Hack Night shared projects to help riders better understand their local bus routes

Though the D.C. region has one of the busiest bus systems in the country, with more than 120 million trips in 2016, it’s still part of the nationwide movement to stem recent bus ridership declines. As such, WMATA is looking to better understand how to provide reliable, efficient service that keeps daily riders and draws others back.

Catherine Vanderwaart of WMATA’s Office of Intermodal Planning is working on just that. Speaking at Tuesday’s Transportation Techies meetup, “Bus Hack Night,” she presented a wide range of findings pulled from multiple aspects of bus performance and rider behavior.

bus transaction time - wmata

Chart by Catherine Vanderwaart, WMATA

Vanderwaart presented the time costs of fare payment and her findings that tapping a SmartTrip card averages two to four seconds per transaction. The time it takes passengers to pay by cash or reload their card varies widely, however, taking anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds per person, which can impact a bus’s dwell time at a stop, and therefore its overall performance. Because this dwell time accounts for 19 to 25 percent of a bus’s run-time, according to another WMATA staff member, speeding up the payment and boarding process could make a noticeable difference along some routes.

Given its unique service changes, WMATA’s ongoing SafeTrack campaign has provided abundant information on how riders react to disruptions. Vanderwaart’s office has collected data on the shuttle buses (called “bus bridges”) that connect closed stations to better understand how to deploy them. Since, prior to SafeTrack, self-reported data only existed on established routes, the agency at first faced delay issues with its shuttles, but eventually established methods to automatically track shuttle ridership. With more robust tracking during each surge, WMATA now has a better sense of how to space out the bus bridges and improve their service.

surge 4 shuttle times

A day of shuttles from Surge 4. Chart by Catherine Vanderwaart, WMATA.

Vanderwaart also presented lessons from last year’s system-wide rail safety shutdown, which provided a unique chance to examine reactions on bus ridership. Using anonymous SmartTrip data from the previous 30 days as a baseline for typical ridership, Vanderwaart compared it with those riders’ behaviors during the shutdown to determine how people shifted their commutes. Those who typically combine bus and rail dropped out of the system that day – avoiding transit or working remotely – but a large number of new or infrequent users tried the bus. Overall, Metrobus saw 20,000 more riders, a 5 percent increase, than on a typical day.

Turning around bus performance

JD Godchaux, of civic tech group NiJeL, worked with TransitCenter to convert New York MTA buses on-time performance into an advocacy tool for better bus policy. Bus Turnaround NYC collects historical data on every bus route in New York and provides a performance report card. These categorize the problems facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus system and help explain why it is losing ridership despite a growing population. Now, Bus Turnaround is developing report cards for the buses of every elected official’s district in the region, to draw attention to the need for a better bus network and the ways to fix it.

Back in D.C., the District Department of Transportation’s District Mobility project has helped to visualize the broad concepts of congestion and reliability and their effects on accessibility. The site’s tools show the most crowded roads, bus routes, and even individual stops, as well as on-time performance in an effort to define and measure the idea of urban mobility.

What’s in a wait?

On the ground, there are a number of tools in development to help passengers understand the services available to them and how long one can expect to wait for a bus.

  • Michael Eichler of WMATA shared Metrobus Explorer, which maps the Metrobus system and shows users how they can navigate it from any point. By selecting an individual stop, or drawing a box around a group of them, users can identify routes and the frequency of buses at each location and get a sense for how the tangle of lines translate into bus lines.
  • Mobility Lab’s Michael Schade built a similar tool that maps all of the region’s transportation operators. Users can select agencies to see their service area, and select individual routes to highlight and to pick out their stops in order to see how they fit into the region’s larger transportation network. Schade built this using MapZen’s Transitland project, a “community-edited data service” that aggregates the feeds of transportation services around the world, which MapZen’s Dave Nesbitt briefly demoed.
  • MetroHero, Max Grossman, and Daniel Turse are all building tools to estimate bus wait times and when to expect them. Turse’s wait-time tool uses PlanItMetro’s historical data, which includes bus positions but also time between stops, dwell time, and what every bus did at every stop, such as skipping one. With that, the tool helps users determine how wait times vary for any route across the region and by time of day.
  • Grossman’s DC Latebus uses WMATA’s live bus position information to visualize bus lateness along every segment of a route. By comparing arrival times at each stop to the published schedule, the tool measures median deviation to show which parts of every route are most likely to bog down your bus. Grossman and Turse’s projects launched a discussion of how to measure bus delay, especially taking into account how riders might ignore schedules and focus more on frequency.
  • MetroHero‘s bus-tracking tool, a beta webpage in the same fashion of their original Metrorail app, shows current bus positions along their routes, and allows users to click on each one for performance information. Users can also click on specific stops to see estimated arrival times, and how many stops separate them from each predicted bus.
  • Ranjani Prabhakar of Fehr & Peers dove into the gritty details of traffic planning by explaining the Poisson Distribution that planners can use to predict the probability of events over time, such as if cars traveling behind a bus might be backed up into the “upstream” intersection. By understanding the flow of traffic on any stretch of road, and how buses travel along them, planners can work out the likelihood that a bus stop’s location will cause nearby vehicles to actually increase congestion.

Photo: A Metrobus picks up passengers in Rosslyn, Arlington, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Disparity across D.C. region’s commute times a “serious equity problem” https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/17/disparity-across-d-c-regions-commute-times-serious-equity-problem/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/17/disparity-across-d-c-regions-commute-times-serious-equity-problem/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 16:33:58 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21900 An analysis from the Washington Post, with transit-mapping software provider Mapzen, highlights several severe disparities in the availability of reliable, frequent transit options for parts of the D.C. region. The animated map lays out shifting isochrones, or areas reachable within similar time frames, that reflect projected transit travel times during a given period of the day.... Read more »

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An analysis from the Washington Post, with transit-mapping software provider Mapzen, highlights several severe disparities in the availability of reliable, frequent transit options for parts of the D.C. region. The animated map lays out shifting isochrones, or areas reachable within similar time frames, that reflect projected transit travel times during a given period of the day.

Washington Post reporter Faiz Siddiqui notes that the map shows serious revelations regarding commuters’ proximity to the District and their ability to reach frequent transit:

… [D]ata shows that wealthier neighborhoods and suburbs have an easier time tapping into it, while residents of poor and lower-income neighborhoods on the eastern side of the District and, farther east, across the border in Maryland face longer and often more-complex commutes.

… Most striking, commuters in some areas in Southwest and Southeast Washington and close-in Prince George’s have longer trips to get downtown than more transit-connected locations dozens of miles away from the White House.

Speaking to the Post, Mobility Lab’s managing director Howard Jennings expressed concerns that the disparities in transit access will only worsen with the coming cutbacks to Metrorail’s operating hours, set to come into effect in June. “People who are used to being rail riders, who are not bus riders, you’re going to have a real shift there in awareness of options. The onus is really going to be on providers of information.”

mapzen faiz - mvj

Faiz Siddiqui, John Muyskens, Howard Jennings, and J.D. Godchaux look over the Mapzen visualizations at Bus Hack Night. Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Using Mapzen’s Mobility Explorer and Transitland interfaces (both featured at last week’s Bus Hack Night at WMATA headquarters), The Washington Post also constructed an in-depth display of who exactly “gets left behind” by these changes. District residents in Wards 7 and 8 east of the river, for example, comprise the most concentrated areas of low-income households who are also regular transit riders.

Using the isochrone mapping technique, the Post analysis shows just how these neighborhoods would be cut off from late-night transit access under Metrorail’s new late-night schedule. Clicking from “PM rush” to “Late, no Metro” shows many areas east of the Anacostia requiring 45 to 60 minutes of travel to reach downtown.

See the full set of visualizations here, which include current peak-hour commute times and projected travel times under the new late-night schedule.

Ed. note: Contrary to the quote from Howard Jennings in the Washington Post article, WMATA is the fifth-largest transit system in the United States, not the second, based on average daily trips.

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Inspiring transit ridership requires meeting people where they are https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/31/inspiring-transit-ridership-requires-meeting-people/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/31/inspiring-transit-ridership-requires-meeting-people/#comments Fri, 31 Mar 2017 19:08:42 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21766 Preferences and need are major factors that influence whether people take public transportation. And communicating to those people in the places they visit throughout their day is a key to improving and inspiring transit ridership. A new report from the American Public Transportation Association, Who Rides Public Transportation?, reveals insights that will be useful to... Read more »

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Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 2.19.59 PMPreferences and need are major factors that influence whether people take public transportation. And communicating to those people in the places they visit throughout their day is a key to improving and inspiring transit ridership.

A new report from the American Public Transportation Association, Who Rides Public Transportation?, reveals insights that will be useful to transportation professionals whose jobs require them to understand who rides transit, where they are going, and why they choose it.

The report finds that 71 percent of all transit riders are currently employed (as of the time of the survey). Putting this in context by adding work-commute trips to shopping, dining, and other social trips, APTA suggests every trip creates an economic benefit.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 2.31.51 PM

Trip purposes – All transit users

 

Other interesting findings from the report about why people use transit include:

Differences across exact modes

Rail riders have a higher income, on average, than bus riders. As seen in the figure below, more people ride rail based on preference, since their income allows them to choose between multiple options. Bus riders, who generally have lower incomes, indicate need-based reasons for using transit in higher percentages than rail riders.

Thirteen percent of U.S. households have incomes less than $15,000. But that number rises to 21 percent in households that use transit – meaning transit is crucial for low-income households. They use it to get what they need, to go to doctor’s appointments, to go to school, and to run all of their other errands.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 2.36.58 PM

Reason for transit use by transit modes

 

Another notable statistic is that rail riders are twice as likely as bus riders to cite taking transit due to the cost of parking. Relatedly, roughly 16 percent of bus riders use transit because they do not have a car (as opposed to the 1 percent of rail riders who say the same as their main reason for riding).

Rail riders typically have better access to cars, and thus care more about parking costs.

Bus riders, with significantly lower incomes, cannot afford these luxuries, and rely on transit for most of their needs, such as errands, school, and appointments.

Rail riders use transit more for work and recreation than bus riders. Rail riders are also more likely to be employed than bus riders, by almost 15 percent, so it makes sense that they would be using transit to get to work more.

Bus riders use transit more often than rail riders for need-based reasons, ranking about 5 percent higher than rail riders in using transit for appointments, school, and other reasons.

City size

Population differences also distinctly affect the reasons that people take transit. Larger cities see more transit use for work and recreation, while smaller cities use it for school, medical needs, and other purposes.

Following trends mentioned above, more than 70 percent of major city transit riders are employed, as opposed to the 40 percent of riders in small cities.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 2.45.00 PM

Trip purpose and population

 

In addition, 20 percent of big-city transit riders earn a household income of $100,000 or more, nearly four times the percentage of high-income riders in small and mid-sized cities. In small and mid-sized cities, 45 percent of transit riders earn less than $15,000, while only 20 percent of big city populations do so.

This points towards what we see above with bus and rail riders. In big cities, people use transit for reasons aligned with preference, such as speed, convenience, and traffic, and smaller cities use it for need-based reasons.

Of interest are the two dominant and polarized reasons for taking transit in smaller cities: 26 percent cited convenience over driving, and 30 percent cited no access to a car.

Possible lessons

All of these trends are of interest for transportation demand management agencies looking to offer more transit options to new riders. For example, if connecting with existing transit riders is the goal, one can target rail riders, more employed than bus riders, through employers. Communicating with bus riders, who ride for more need-based reasons, could happen in community centers, doctor’s offices, or schools.

APTA’s report found that, in larger cities, riders mostly take transit to work and shopping and dining areas, whereas in small cities transit is used at a higher rate to reach schools and medical establishments.

These trends carry implications for TDM programs regarding how and where to best engage riders.

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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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