Transit Tech – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:58:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Analysis suggests autonomous transit would be most efficient use of AV technology https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/27/autonomous-transit-technology-art/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/27/autonomous-transit-technology-art/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:42:37 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22139 Authors make the case for employing AVs in ways to minimize VMT increases Mobility Lab has often stressed the importance of autonomous vehicles being introduced as fleets rather than personally owned, so what might those fleets look like? How would this emerging technology be applied to the transit solutions already known to work? If autonomous rapid transit –... Read more »

The post Analysis suggests autonomous transit would be most efficient use of AV technology appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Authors make the case for employing AVs in ways to minimize VMT increases

Mobility Lab has often stressed the importance of autonomous vehicles being introduced as fleets rather than personally owned, so what might those fleets look like? How would this emerging technology be applied to the transit solutions already known to work?

If autonomous rapid transit – also referred to some places as “ART” – became widely used, it could reduce vehicle-miles traveled and limit the associated impacts of private AVs. Imagine small buses and shuttles as a new form of transit, moving along in dedicated lanes or car-free city centers.

As Peter Calthorpe and Jerry Walters write in their article on the Urban Land Institute’s Urbanland blog, “Autonomous Vehicles: Hype and Potential,” autonomous rapid transit could be just that: a low-cost, 24/7 service, that avoids meandering miles and miles without passengers (as AV taxis might operate, on their way to pick up passengers).

Further, autonomous transit could be like bus rapid transit, but without the cost of paying for a driver. It could also, according to Calthorpe and Walters, run more efficiently by “tailoring capacity by time and place to match demand,” could cut travel time, and could function more like an on-demand service during off-peak hours. On-demand service during off-peak hours would reduce inefficient low-occupancy service, eliminate late-night shut-downs, and allow the service to operate 24/7 without ever running zero occupancy vehicles.

Calthorpe and Walters cite an unpublished study by their consulting groups Fehr & Peers and Calthorpe Associates that explores the option of replacing proposed BRT along Geary Boulevard in San Francisco with ART. In two dedicated lanes, the authors imagined replacing buses with platooning fleets of four-person AVs, which would gather three or four passengers and take them to their destinations, skipping unnecessary bus stops along the way.

In the end, Calthorpe and Walters suggest ART reduced travel times by 35 percent compared to the BRT proposal, and by 50 percent compared to private vehicles in their corresponding lanes. Rush-hour ART could also carry as many as 3,000 to 4,000 people each hour, the same as current international BRT systems. That’s more than five times the capacity of an urban car lane, they write.

ART could also attract riders more accustomed to driving themselves rather than taking transit, given its relative privacy, direct-to-destination service, and shorter travel times.

Addressing autonomous tech’s benefits and consequences

While ART sounds like a great transit option, there’s much we still don’t know about the technology behind it. Applying autonomous possibilities in a transit context, even early on, could be important because widespread use in personal vehicles carries the high possibility of traffic and sprawl-inducing effects.

Personal autonomous vehicles are generally known for their potential to operate well with other AVs, syncing to move as a so-called “platoon” and working together at intersections. But throw in bikes, pedestrians, person-driven cars, motorcycles, and everything else, and what do you have? Inefficient traffic flow and more congestion, say Calthorpe and Walters. More research is confirming that personal AVs could worsen traffic nightmares.

Induced trips could be added in the form of, for example, trips taken because the stress of driving is no longer a factor, empty cars running errands for people, and having “zero-occupancy vehicles” picking up people. Calthorpe and Walters say this increase in VMT could cause sprawl.

In a taxi model, AV cars then could also roam in between passengers, ratcheting up VMT per passenger. So high, that in the next 30 years, it would exceed the past 30 years’ rate of VMT growth by five times.

But if AVs are shared and used as mass transit connections, they might actually lower VMT. This is where the efficient transit function that Calthorpe and Walters put forth pays off.

“There are a lot of positives to an AV transit-like fleet,” said Paul Mackie, Mobility Lab’s communications director. “For one, they could make access to society a lot easier for people who can’t drive, like some seniors and those with disabilities.

“If we can take some of the people who currently drive alone and make it easy for them to instead take autonomous rapid transit straight to work or at least to a bus or train, then those who are driving will be a lot less miserable in traffic. Given the high cost of personal AVs, governments will have the time to figure out how this transportation system of the future is going to work.”

Photo: A bus passes a pedestrian on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, the focus of Calthorpe and Walter’s analysis. (Gabriel White, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Analysis suggests autonomous transit would be most efficient use of AV technology appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/27/autonomous-transit-technology-art/feed/ 0
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 »

The post Biking in Arlington gets a boost from Safetrack and warmer winter weather appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
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.

The post Biking in Arlington gets a boost from Safetrack and warmer winter weather appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/biking-arlington-gets-boost-safetrack-warmer-winter-weather/feed/ 0
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 »

The post WMATA Metrobus data projects explore effects of fare payments, disruptions appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
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).

The post WMATA Metrobus data projects explore effects of fare payments, disruptions appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/wmata-bus-techies-data/feed/ 0
A visualized day of New York’s transit options, working together https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/11/nyc-visualization-transit-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/11/nyc-visualization-transit-options/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 19:54:48 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21882 New York City is blessed with a lot of ways to get around town. From MTA buses to regional Metro-North rail lines to the omnipresent subway, the overall transportation system moves millions of people every day. A new visualization puts 24 hours of them together, showing how each works together in the broader context over... Read more »

The post A visualized day of New York’s transit options, working together appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
New York City is blessed with a lot of ways to get around town. From MTA buses to regional Metro-North rail lines to the omnipresent subway, the overall transportation system moves millions of people every day.

A new visualization puts 24 hours of them together, showing how each works together in the broader context over the course of a day.

Multimodal Symphony from Will Geary on Vimeo.

Will Geary, a graduate student at Columbia University, recently constructed the video by incorporating transit data from a number of sources. Speaking with John Metcalfe of CityLab, he explained how, depending on the option and the availability of the transit data, some of the sets were taken from schedules, while others were real trips.

“Data on taxi and Citi Bike trips are drawn from a single day in 2015, and most of the rest he obtained via schedules downloaded from various transit agencies. ‘So this is static data according to the timetables, not real-time data that would reflect delays or deviations from the schedule,’ he says. ‘It is also worth noting that information is only available on the pickup and drop-off locations for each taxi and Citi Bike trip—not the actual route taken—so the visualization simply draws a straight line from point A to point B.'”

In the transportation demand management industry, programs emphasize “transportation options” in spreading out the demand for streets across many different modes, from transit to vanpools to bikes.

What Geary’s visualization captures is not only the origins and destinations of that demand (typically from the entire region into Manhattan, and also a steady stream to and from the three airports) but also how the different modes complement each other. Northeast Regional Amtrak trains bring commuters into midtown from New Jersey and Connecticut, while buses fill in gaps in the outer boroughs. Other options, like the barely-visible navy bikeshare dots, provide options for unique shorter trips where a bus may not make sense.

While few other cities have the spread of transit options New York does, it’s enlightening, and even fun, to see the system working in a broader sense.

The post A visualized day of New York’s transit options, working together appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/11/nyc-visualization-transit-options/feed/ 2
On-demand “flying Ubers” could ease East Coast traffic https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/06/demand-flying-ubers-ease-east-coast-traffic/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/06/demand-flying-ubers-ease-east-coast-traffic/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 17:23:05 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21822 What would happen to congested urban traffic if some trips could simply be picked up and moved into the air? That’s a question players from Uber to Airbus to NASA are seriously studying. But to Bruce Gunter, who often has to take unnecessarily long car trips from his home in Virginia Beach to Richmond to... Read more »

The post On-demand “flying Ubers” could ease East Coast traffic appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
What would happen to congested urban traffic if some trips could simply be picked up and moved into the air?

That’s a question players from Uber to Airbus to NASA are seriously studying. But to Bruce Gunter, who often has to take unnecessarily long car trips from his home in Virginia Beach to Richmond to visit family, some of the pieces of this “on-demand urban air transportation” puzzle are missing.

“I’m frustrated because most of the research is being done in California and there’s nothing in Virginia along the Interstate 95 corridor. It’s almost comical because almost all the work is being done by NASA [from its offices in] Langley, Va.,” Gunter laughed.

Gunter has more than a passing interest in what can no doubt be simply referred to as flying cars. He is managing director of Veetle, a company that is producing these VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing vehicles). But he also has deep knowledge of lengthy Federal Aviation Administration processes, especially from his days working at Cirrus, which has gotten extensive news coverage about its parachute-deploying small planes.

“We’re a very small company, with big ideas.” Gunter said Veetle is operating on about $1 million in its first year but that once it starts marketing and gathering investments, it could be a $200 million to $300 million effort. “Unless you’re a legacy company like Boeing or Airbus, this is all about putting tons of companies together to put the planes together.”

On-demand air travel in Virginia

Uber, in a report it released last year, predicted:

Daily long-distance commutes in heavily congested urban and suburban areas and routes under-served by existing infrastructure will be the first use cases for urban VTOLs. VTOLs will have greatest appeal for those traveling longer distances and durations [and] a small number of vertiports could absorb a large share of demand from long-distance commuters since the “last mile” ground transportation component will be small relative to the much longer commute distance.

Along Virginia’s stretch of I-95 or in other congested nearby cities like Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Washington, D.C., flying cars could certainly be an option worth exploring.

“This could broaden the scope of how people get around, even more than what Uber has shown us already with cars,” Gunter said, adding that passengers would reserve a plane just like an Uber, but would instead, unlike an Uber, head to a designated rooftop to jump in.

He added that it’s great Uber is one of the few players in the market, but that the ride-hailing company can’t do much until it has an actual product like the kind Veetle is developing. “Logistically, we could be the aerial Uber, for lack of a better term.”

Keys to making flying Ubers a reality

Some of the bigger keys, besides simply getting the public to change long-ingrained travel habits and developing policy guidelines, include making trips inexpensive, reliable, and shared in the sense so they would be more like transit than personal vehicles.

Uber further predicts:

In the long-term, VTOLs will be an affordable form of daily transportation for the masses, even less expensive than owning a car. Normally, people think of flying as an expensive and infrequent form of travel, but that is largely due to the low production volume manufacturing of today’s aircraft. The economics of manufacturing VTOLs will become more akin to automobiles than aircraft. Initially, of course, VTOL vehicles are likely to be very expensive, but because the ridesharing model amortizes the vehicle cost efficiently over paid trips, the high cost should not end up being prohibitive to getting started.

Another matter is whether the vehicles would create noise and air pollution. Gunter said the battery technology is still at least a decade away to make them powered fully by electric propulsion. Until then, they would need to be “some kind of hybrid” of gas and electric. But he added that the noise would be minimal because they would operate somewhat like drones, which the public already largely understands as being relatively quiet.

Also, would we simply be displacing traffic jams on the roads for ones in the sky?

“I’ve got 6,500 hours of flying and, in my experience, it’s rare if you ever see another airplane. If you do, it’s near the big airports by places like New York and Atlanta,” Gunter said, adding that VTOL traffic is mainly a matter of being managed effectively.

As science-fiction-y as it seems, we may indeed be hearing more about on-demand urban air transportation soon. Uber is sponsoring an invitation-only conference April 25-27 in Dallas.

Photo by Uber.

The post On-demand “flying Ubers” could ease East Coast traffic appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/06/demand-flying-ubers-ease-east-coast-traffic/feed/ 2
Capital Bikeshare heat map visualizes 2016 rides, first look at Fairfax ridership https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/27/capital-bikeshare-heat-map-visualizes-2016-rides-first-look-fairfax-ridership/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/27/capital-bikeshare-heat-map-visualizes-2016-rides-first-look-fairfax-ridership/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:20:21 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21685 Earlier this month, Mobility Lab tech advisor Michael Schade shared a look at the latest Capital Bikeshare ridership data with his new heat map. Not only does the map grant an easy way to create a more detailed look at how individual neighborhoods use bikeshare, it also includes the first few months of ridership in... Read more »

The post Capital Bikeshare heat map visualizes 2016 rides, first look at Fairfax ridership appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Earlier this month, Mobility Lab tech advisor Michael Schade shared a look at the latest Capital Bikeshare ridership data with his new heat map. Not only does the map grant an easy way to create a more detailed look at how individual neighborhoods use bikeshare, it also includes the first few months of ridership in Fairfax County, which joined the system in October 2016.

A common issue with heat maps is that they do not easily allow for a nuanced view of data. Switching from the “heat map” view, which displays the spread of stations, to “weighted by trips” showcases where the majority of trips took place. In this case, the default “weighted by trips” view shows a trend that’s already well-understood with regards to the geographic spread of bikeshare trips. The vast majority of Capital Bikeshare rides take place in an area that encompasses downtown D.C., the National Mall, and Dupont Circle. Trips also gravitate toward the denser urban villages along Metro lines, such as Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

arlington cabi 2016

That behavior is shown to continue in the 2016 data, supported by the preference of Capital Bikeshare members who use the system as a way of connecting to transit.

On most heat maps, places that do not draw as many trips as those most-popular areas generally do not depict any noticeable coloring. But this visualization of Capital Bikeshare data allows users to isolate the trip visualizations by jurisdiction. Where, in the same view of downtown D.C., Arlington may only show a few trips on the R-B and Crystal City corridors, the “Arlington-only” view shows a more nuanced view of bikeshare ridership extending into the Columbia Pike area and the more suburban parts of the county.

By selecting only “Fairfax County” under the jurisdiction, it becomes more clear how the county’s first bikeshare riders used the system in the fall of last year.

fairfax trips

At the 19 stations split between Reston and Tysons, a heat map weighted by the number of trips highlights a general preference for the former, despite the three Metro stops near the Tysons bikeshare stations. It is likely that the more biking-friendly street grid in Reston Town Center is encouraging more riders there, while others are making the last-mile trek from the Wielhe-Reston station, currently the terminus of the Silver Line, to the commercial and residential center.

fairfax overdue

Trips in Fairfax weighted by overdue rides.

While the maps for “registered” and “casual” (unregistered) riders are virtually the same for both areas of Fairfax, a heatmap weighted by overdue rides suggests that riders may be taking longer, more recreational rides around the Town Center. It is also worth noting that Reston’s stations are closer to the multi-use Washington & Old Dominion trail.

Even for large jurisdictions, it’s possible for advocates and the bikeshare-curious to zoom in on the adjusted heatmap of any area they select. Using the adjustable circle and square selection tools, users can select certain parts of the system, highlighting specific areas and weighting them across multiple variables. These make the site a versatile tool for understanding how riders used Capital Bikeshare in 2016.

Are there any new insights you can spot? Let us know below in the comments.

The post Capital Bikeshare heat map visualizes 2016 rides, first look at Fairfax ridership appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/27/capital-bikeshare-heat-map-visualizes-2016-rides-first-look-fairfax-ridership/feed/ 0
Bikeshare operators addressing rebalancing and other fixes to maximize reliability https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/21/bikeshare-techies-rebalancing-maximize-reliability/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/21/bikeshare-techies-rebalancing-maximize-reliability/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:51:50 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21621 Other programmers at CaBi Hack Night sought to better understand riding connections between stations and data accessibility issues Bike rebalancing is one of the most costly and inefficient issues that bikeshare systems face. The constant need for rebalancing manifests most frustratingly in “dockblocking,” those times when riders reach a station to find all of its docks filled... Read more »

The post Bikeshare operators addressing rebalancing and other fixes to maximize reliability appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Other programmers at CaBi Hack Night sought to better understand riding connections between stations and data accessibility issues

Bike rebalancing is one of the most costly and inefficient issues that bikeshare systems face.

The constant need for rebalancing manifests most frustratingly in “dockblocking,” those times when riders reach a station to find all of its docks filled and must keep riding on to the next one. It’s telling that many past Transportation Techies presentations have focused on how best to avoid being dockblocked, and that bikeshare operators are now focusing their efforts on addressing this and other demand problems.

Motivate, which operates Capital Bikeshare, is looking to riders to help address the problem in a pilot with New York City’s Citi Bike, which it also operates. The program, called Bike Angels, encourages participating customers to rebalance bikes as they ride. Those who ride a bike from a full station to one lacking bikes receive points that can be redeemed for raffle tickets and membership extensions. Motivate considers the program a success, with “angels” now providing more than 10 percent of the system’s rebalancing on busy days.

Alex Tedeschi, a GIS developer at bikeshare company Social Bicycles, dug into trip data for the Citi Bike fleet and mapped it to visualize how widespread rebalancing trips – rides taken against the commuting flow that return bikes to emptier stations – are for the system. While he found that rebalancing trips dropped 5 percent from 2013 to 2015, it is still a prevalent behavior.

citibike station type

Citi Bike station usage types, in three different colors.

According to Tedeschi, there are consistent patterns for availability and ridership for every station in the system. His breakdown of bike availability shows three distinct groups of station behavior, largely depending on their location in New York. Orange stations in the above map, for example, are places where riders will leave bikes in the morning, but not take them in the afternoon. While he calculated riders stand a 3.4 percent chance of being dockblocked overall, in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, the likelihood of striking out is closer to 8 percent.

Social Bicycles, whose systems are “dockless” bikeshare, claims to have found an alternative to rebalancing vans by offering financial incentives to return bikes to areas that are considered “hubs. Colin K. Hughes, Social Bicycle’s director of strategic development, explained how the computer “brain” on a bikeshare bike’s fender collects an array of GPS data and allows customers to park and find SoBi’s bikes anywhere within its service area.

But to ensure the bikes spread themselves evenly and that people without smartphones can find them, Social Bicycles systems have established hubs, small geographic areas rather than limited-capacity stations. Some systems incentivize users to return bikes to reliable areas and charge a convenience fee for parking elsewhere. Because of this structure, Social Bicycles found the vast majority of bikes make it back to a hub within three trips, reducing the worry that bikes will become stranded in far-away areas.

Know your network

Riding conditions also play a major role in how customers use bikeshare systems. The availability of comfortable routes contributes to how or if people bike, and Capital Bikeshare data creates a useful starting point to understand a jurisdiction’s overall network.

Tracy Hadden Loh presented an analysis of how Capital Bikeshare stations in Arlington County connect with each other along comfortable routes. While the average station connected to 19 others via low-stress streets, there were 21 with no such comfortable connections at all. These areas remain inaccessible to many potential cyclists, but Loh also showed how relatively small, stress-reducing changes would better connect Capital Bikeshare stations, and therefore the bike network overall.

James Graham of the District Department of Transportation shared the agency’s efforts to make Capital Bikeshare’s live data as accessible to as many people as possible. Since not everybody is a developer, Graham explained, changes to the data feed can be confusing, especially during disruptive events like January’s inauguration, when several bikeshare stations were closed. Now, by combining the system information with GIS-compatible code, Capital Bikshare’s data is more useful to more people and agencies.

Michael Schade added the latest Capital Bikeshare ridership data to his visualization tool that examines system-wide and neighborhood-specific bikeshare usage. The new 2016 data includes the first few months of bikeshare activity in Fairfax County. The map’s “heat map” function displays high ridership areas and, not surprisingly, shows high activity at downtown D.C. Metro stations, but the view can be toggled by jurisdiction to closely examine other areas. Schade also added a boundary tool that helps focus on specific areas by capturing stations in a neighborhood or a transit corridor like 16th Street.

And at last, someone has answered a question that only the most ambitious bikeshare riders have considered: how long would it take to bike to every Capital Bikeshare station in the system? Jonathan Street determined the most efficient route and found that, in order to reach all 441 locations, the shortest route is 264.6 miles. Supposedly the ride should take 32 hours and 10 minutes. Just imagine the time overage charge on that ride.

Photo: Colin Hughes of Social Bicycles presenting at CaBi Hack Night (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Bikeshare operators addressing rebalancing and other fixes to maximize reliability appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/21/bikeshare-techies-rebalancing-maximize-reliability/feed/ 0
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 »

The post Fully autonomous vehicles may make us safer, but could add to traffic appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
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).

The post Fully autonomous vehicles may make us safer, but could add to traffic appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/20/autonomous-vehicles-safety-add-traffic/feed/ 3
Will people ever share rides in small and mid-size cities? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/16/shared-rides-small-mid-size-cities/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/16/shared-rides-small-mid-size-cities/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:46:37 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21579 Cities and providers face challenge of promoting shared options against the ease of drive-alone trips This week our communications director Paul Mackie is reporting from South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Why would there be much urgency in creating shared-mobility options in a place like Austin? RideAustin, Fasten, and others easily slipped in to take the... Read more »

The post Will people ever share rides in small and mid-size cities? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Cities and providers face challenge of promoting shared options against the ease of drive-alone trips

This week our communications director Paul Mackie is reporting from South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Why would there be much urgency in creating shared-mobility options in a place like Austin?

RideAustin, Fasten, and others easily slipped in to take the place of Uber and Lyft when the industry leaders wouldn’t agree to the city’s driver-fingerprinting requirements. Ride-hailing is still doing well in Austin. But while ride-hailing may be helping some get around, the chances that it’s reducing traffic is likely slim at this point.

One of my RideAustin drivers made an excellent observation this week: there is no problem parking anywhere in town, so driving is simply what Austinites do. It is a place with some options, like bikeshare and light rail, that make it easy to be a multimodal citizen in the core, but they are often lost against the ease of driving for people who live more than a few miles out. For them, especially with very limited nearby transit, the personal car is king.

Where there may be hope in Austin: as ride-hailing continues apace, more of those rides could become shared. In fact, a large number of rides are made by tourists and late-night locals, and many of those are obviously shared rides. Where progress really needs to be made is during Austin’s rush hour. If commuters could start sharing those hailed rides, perhaps because of TDM outreach to employers, a major dent could be made in drive-time backups.

As the local transportation management association Movability Austin notes at its website: “The transportation system is at capacity into downtown during rush hours. And more growth is coming much faster than new transportation facilities can be built.” It’s an organization that helps Austin businesses, individuals, and others find better ways to travel that help individuals and the whole community.

In San Francisco, more than half of Uber’s and Lyft’s rides are taken through their carpooling services. A new study by Steve Strogatz and Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab found that between 60 percent and 95 percent of trips in big cities could be made into shared rides, with no more than a five-minute inconvenience for riders. There is no doubt that many trips could be shared, under the authors’ model, in many smaller metro areas.

Rasheq Zarif, the head of business innovation at Mercedes-Benz R&D North America, had an interesting take on this, from the perspective of a major car company. At a South By Southwest panel, he discussed a pilot in which his company partnered with Via in South Orange County, Calif. It’s an area with very little public transportation and miles of low-density housing.

“Surprisingly, we were able to change behavior. People liked to be picked up in an on-demand shuttle in 10 to 15 minutes. And they started interacting better and opened a bigger sense of community in that area. It got people to stop looking [down at their phones all the time] and start talking to each other,” Zarif said.

Mercedes-Benz plans to continue developing better routing methods for shared rides, but for now, that Via pilot has run its course in Orange County.

Zarif added, “We’re all so focused on getting from one thing to another and another. What’s kind of lost now in that everyone’s eating on the go, and we could get back to the idea of the family dinner.” Many people in the Orange County experiment responded positively to the idea of hopping in Via’s vans with neighbors or other community members.

While these are some of the positives, Zarif said one of the challenges is that “it’s very tough to pilot with transit agencies because there is a lot of bureaucracy.” Other broader ridesharing barriers include: the increased possibility that drivers and passengers become unhappy with the time and revenue costs of shared rides, lack of awareness that shared options even exist, low gas prices, insurance and liability concerns, free and heavily subsidized parking, and many other reasons.

According to Zarif, Mercedes-Benz is focusing on modifying the design of their cars in order to facilitate shared rides. That could include ways to reduce the need for added trips such as, for example, the ability for mail packages, dry cleaning, and even groceries to be dropped off in the trunk of the car while you’re downtown doing other errands. It could also extend to easier ways vehicles get cleaned and maintained.

But Zarif said the company plans to keep down the path of mobility rather than just automobile manufacturing. Perhaps demographics are on the company’s side, as the trend may be more generational. According to company research, a majority of people said they would be willing to let other people use their cars, with the highest numbers coming from Millennials and Generation Y respondents.

Then the next question might be: with only about 15 percent of Americans having used Uber or Lyft (almost entirely in major cities), how long will it take to reach beyond and build a critical mass of small-city Millennials who will share their rides?

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

The post Will people ever share rides in small and mid-size cities? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/16/shared-rides-small-mid-size-cities/feed/ 3
How often is that bike lane blocked? A crowdsourced tool takes a look. https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/bike-lane-blocked-crowdsourced-tool/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/bike-lane-blocked-crowdsourced-tool/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 15:46:24 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21490 It’s a common conversation topic among bike commuters: drivers block bike lanes all too often, and cities rarely seem responsive about it. This has been anecdotal for some time, but advocates in the Washington, D.C., region have been collecting some useful data and in order to develop a stronger case for better enforcement and safer... Read more »

The post How often is that bike lane blocked? A crowdsourced tool takes a look. appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
It’s a common conversation topic among bike commuters: drivers block bike lanes all too often, and cities rarely seem responsive about it. This has been anecdotal for some time, but advocates in the Washington, D.C., region have been collecting some useful data and in order to develop a stronger case for better enforcement and safer streets.

For example, an analysis of D.C. enforcement from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association found that “bike lane parking enforcement is perfunctory at best,” a situation that creates real safety issues for bicyclists and lessens the usefulness of biking infrastructure.

Across the Potomac in Arlington County, where this information is similarly difficult to find and quantify, biking advocate Chris Slatt built his own crowdsourcing site, “Parking Dirty.com,” to generate data where there was none. Slatt’s site asks users to check provided traffic cameras screenshots for infractions, with the goal of determining just how safe the lanes are for bicyclists and how often they are blocked.

Addressing a system problem

For drivers, momentarily blocking a bike lane may seem like a non-issue. But in practice, bicyclists encountering a parked car face the dangerous proposition of suddenly merging left into fast-moving traffic. Frequently blocked lanes create a stressful biking environment, which ultimately deters riders.

clarendon blvd evening

A sample screenshot from the site, pulled from a traffic camera. Note the car and FedEx truck blocking the lane.

Slatt, a member of Arlington’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and chair of WABA’s Action Committee for Arlington County, understood the challenge of documenting blocked lanes, and reached out to the area’s bicycling community tackle the task.

BAC members provided feedback on the most troublesome areas, from which Slatt chose the most-mentioned blocks, eventually looking into Arlington’s public traffic camera feeds to determine which ones have a reasonable view of the bike lanes in question. Relying on two cameras, one on Clarendon Boulevard at Wayne Street and one mid-block on Crystal Drive, the Parking Dirty site pulled one screenshot per minute for three 24-hour periods in September and October of last year.

The system then relied on participants to evaluate the screenshots, using majority rule to determine a photo’s status – at least two users must on whether or not a lane is blocked. Since he began promoting it, about 160 people have helped to build the tool’s dataset, which has revealed regularly blocked bike lanes. One block of Clarendon Boulevard was blocked from 25 to 47 percent of the time, depending on the day in question, and Crystal Drive’s bike lane was consistently above 60 percent.

Quantifying these obstructions does support bicyclists’ sense that this is a chronic issue. But there can still be a disconnect between concerns among cyclists and the police’s understanding of the issue. For example, one BAC member has brought up bike lane obstruction in the past with their police liaison, which the officer challenged by responding: if nobody is biking in a blocked lane, is it really blocked?

In practice, this means that the enforcement policy requires concerned citizens to report a blocked lane, at which point an officer is sent to fix it.

“That works if it’s an uncommon problem,” Slatt says. “But a systematic problem needs proactive enforcement. When the chances are greater than 50 percent that a lane is blocked … if it’s more likely than not the bike lane is obstructed,” then the call-to-report system doesn’t make sense, and proactive ticketing does.

parkingdirty-cc drive

Results from a September day on Crystal Drive. Source: ParkingDirty.com.

Informational barriers

Parking Dirty addresses part of a multifaceted campaign to improve bike safety in Arlington, part of which involves solving technological barriers to data collection.

For example, while it’s relatively simple for one to obtain D.C. traffic citation records, Slatt found barriers to doing so in Arlington. Slatt filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county to view tickets police have written for blocking bike lanes. Unfortunately, only summary data is digitized, and anything related to drivers endangering cyclists is filed as “other.” Getting numbers on these citations would require digging through paper records.

While the numbers from Parking Dirty go a long way in articulating a common issue cyclists face, more complete information on how the police enforce road safety would provide a fuller picture that could better focus the conversation.

Towards safer lanes

Despite the barriers, Slatt believes Parking Dirty’s dataset is enough to kickstart a discussion toward more proactive enforcement of street safety, especially for people on bikes. He also explains that it’s important to remember that “this data is just for one or two blocks. But if one is blocked 30 percent of the time, and so are the two blocks before and after, it adds up quickly.”

Parking Dirty drives this point home by providing a data-based window into how biking feels for cyclists. At the very least, the information that Parking Dirty has collected creates a starting point to better examine and work with community members in a deeper push to create a bike-friendly, multimodal community.

Photo: Top, a sign at the beginning of the protected bike lane on South Hayes Street, in Crystal City, Arlington (Elvert Barnes, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post How often is that bike lane blocked? A crowdsourced tool takes a look. appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/bike-lane-blocked-crowdsourced-tool/feed/ 2