Mobility Lab http://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Sep 2016 14:58:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In LA, Rams’ return creates parking demand “laboratory” http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/23/la-rams-return-creates-parking-demand-laboratory/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/23/la-rams-return-creates-parking-demand-laboratory/#respond Fri, 23 Sep 2016 14:32:38 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19033 Last week, the Los Angeles Rams played their first home game since returning to Southern California. And while it took place in their temporary home, the LA Memorial Coliseum – a historic stadium that has twice hosted the Olympics and currently hosts USC football games – the arrival of the NFL created a unique transportation-demand situation,... Read more »

The post In LA, Rams’ return creates parking demand “laboratory” appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Last week, the Los Angeles Rams played their first home game since returning to Southern California. And while it took place in their temporary home, the LA Memorial Coliseum – a historic stadium that has twice hosted the Olympics and currently hosts USC football games – the arrival of the NFL created a unique transportation-demand situation, specifically when it came to parking.

While season ticket holders could pay $50 for a spot, the LA Times’ Brittny Mejia described a surge, where nearby lots charged hundreds of dollars for a single spot, creating a “laboratory” for transit and parking demand.

The LA Coliseum is especially notable since it’s blocks from two stops on the recently-extended Expo light rail line, which now runs from Santa Monica to downtown LA. Mejia writes:

A group of urban planners have long supported hefty parking rates as well as high road tolls as a way of encouraging motorists to get out of their cars and use public transportation.

Some cities – especially those with extensive mass transit systems – have adopted these “congestion pricing” concepts. L.A. is a tougher case because rail service is limited and so many people still get around by car.

But backers say the Coliseum offers a good test case because it’s close to the Expo Line and several bus lines and it’s also served by ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA and parking policy expert, says sky-high parking prices could be exactly what L.A. needs. Price gouging could motivate otherwise reluctant Angelenos to embrace the many mass transit alternatives to the Coliseum.

There’s some indication that fans might be taking notice already. In just the preseason, the Los Angeles Daily News noted that the Rams games boosted Expo Line ridership nearly 30 percent above its typical Saturday numbers.

And in general, LA Metro reports that the Expo line is drawing a number of riders new to transit: at least 70 percent of riders at the new, western stops were not previously regular Expo riders. Though the prices featured in the LA Times are extreme (as the demand surely is), accurately-priced parking is a key tool for encouraging drivers to try out transit and other options. As the LA Rams have three seasons to play in the Coliseum before moving to their new stadium in Inglewood, the transportation scenario – and parking prices – will be something to keep an eye on.

Photo: Packed parking in Santa Monica (Chris Goldberg, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post In LA, Rams’ return creates parking demand “laboratory” appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/23/la-rams-return-creates-parking-demand-laboratory/feed/ 0
How are people in the DC region getting to work in 2016? http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/21/2016-state-of-the-commute-region/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/21/2016-state-of-the-commute-region/#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 18:30:57 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19020 Initial findings from the Transportation Planning Board’s 2016 State of the Commute analysis Teleworking is up, driving alone is down, and commuters are, on average, traveling farther and longer. Today, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments released the preliminary analysis of its 2016 State of the Commute survey. The regional, triennial report presents a snapshot... Read more »

The post How are people in the DC region getting to work in 2016? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Initial findings from the Transportation Planning Board’s 2016 State of the Commute analysis

Teleworking is up, driving alone is down, and commuters are, on average, traveling farther and longer.

Today, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments released the preliminary analysis of its 2016 State of the Commute survey. The regional, triennial report presents a snapshot of how workers in the Washignton, D.C., region get to work, with a specific eye on non-driving alternatives. The data includes responses from commuters not only in the District of Columbia, but the surrounding counties, including Arlington.

In a blog post, the National Capital Transportation Planning Board notes that commutes are getting longer, in both terms of average time and distance. Looking more closely, that range is widening: the segment of those with short commutes is also growing.

The TPB also notes that one of the major, continued trends is the percentage of workers routinely using telework. About 32 percent of all commuters telework approximately 1.5 days per week, and responses indicate potential for an additional 20 percent to telework, if their employers allowed.

telework by sector

Image from the TPB findings summary.

Over the past six years, the percentage of workers teleworking in all job sectors has grown, too, with federal agencies reporting the most telework at 45 percent of workers. By mode, the commuter rail and Metrorail commuters are most likely to work from home some days, while those who bike, walk, and drive are least likely.

While workers who reported teleworking as their main mode grew by 25 percent over the 2013 share (up to 10 percent from 8 percent at that time), carpooling has continued its drop, falling to just 5 percent of the regional modeshare. Meanwhile, driving alone has fallen, and transit and biking/walking have risen slightly.

2016 mode split

Image from the SOC technical report.

However, when it comes to satisfaction, Metro riders were by far the least satisfied with their commutes. Not strangers to delays, malfunctions, and track work, rail riders also reported building in the the second-most time into their commutes. While the survey did not capture the relatively recent effects of SafeTrack on Metrorail commuters, it does depict the general, negative effects on satisfaction, commute time, and planning those riders have been experiencing.

Respondents reported fewer commuter programs than in the past six years.

Respondents reported fewer commuter programs than in the past six years. Image from the TPB findings summary.

There’s room for improvement in commuter benefits, too. A little more than half of employees reported having access to any kind of commute services, which is unfortunately down to 55 percent from 61 percent in 2010. Of those who do have access to employer commute benefits, by far the most popular are subsidies for transit and/or vanpools. Additionally, more than half of commuters said they would be more open to shifting the timing of their commute (i.e. away from peak hours) if given a $3 daily subsidy. Combined with those who are open to teleworking, there’s a high potential for effective transportation demand management programs.

In coming months, Mobility Lab will analyze the State of the Commute data, looking specifically at Arlington County commuting patterns.

Read the rest of TPB’s analysis here.
Report materials: Presentation summary of the 2016 State of the Commute [PDF]
2016 State of the Commute technical report

Information on past Arlington analyses of State of the Commute data

Photo: Commuters leave a Metro train (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

The post How are people in the DC region getting to work in 2016? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/21/2016-state-of-the-commute-region/feed/ 0
After 60 years, chances to overcome the interstate system’s legacy http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/20/60-years-chances-to-overcome-the-interstate-systems-legacy/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/20/60-years-chances-to-overcome-the-interstate-systems-legacy/#respond Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:29:46 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19003 Editor’s note: This is one of the final parts of our Transpo(nation) series, in which Andrew Carpenter bicycled across the U.S. – from San Francisco back to Washington, D.C. – to report on transportation options. A series about transportation across the United States would be remiss to gloss over the country’s highway system. Rather than... Read more »

The post After 60 years, chances to overcome the interstate system’s legacy appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
transponation sm

Editor’s note: This is one of the final parts of our Transpo(nation) series, in which Andrew Carpenter bicycled across the U.S. – from San Francisco back to Washington, D.C. – to report on transportation options.

A series about transportation across the United States would be remiss to gloss over the country’s highway system. Rather than connecting places, highways affected my trip mostly in how I could not use them.

Riding along even state routes proved dangerous: restricted access roads near Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge forced me around  – instead of over – some boundaries, and massive structures divided neighborhoods in the cities I explored, like the I-43 and I-794 interchange in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which cleaves through Marquette University’s campus and walls it off to the south. From a cyclist’s perspective, the limits that car-centric infrastructure places on mobility are obvious.

This June marked the 60th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established the interstate system as we know it now.

Much like the railroad expansion of the 1800s played a huge role in national growth and westward expansion, the interstate system played a pivotal role in development and social evolution through the second half of the 20th century, though with a highly mixed legacy. As many segments of the Interstate system near the end of their useful life, more cities are questioning their value and are considering other options as they move past a car-dominated transportation system.

(Mostly) unintended consequences

While the interstate system allowed for the creation of affluent suburban communities by establishing car access to downtowns, it had the opposite effect within cities by fragmenting neighborhoods.

It’s widely told that when President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, he hadn’t intended for interstates to develop the way they did. Instead, the supposed goal was to establish interurban freeways that connected cities and ended with a distinct, separate road network upon reaching these dense areas. It would have created two complementary systems that provided fast, cheap transport through spacious rural areas and funneled vehicles into densely populated areas without tearing apart the urban fabric by prioritizing traffic flow.

However, the aggregated effects of lobbying, concessions to urban elected officials to justify funding, and less-than-subtle racial discrimination, pulled the country’s interstates into auto-centrism. Transportation planners came to neglect transit and walking, leaving travelers in many areas without options and disrupting urban cores in a way that negatively affected poor, minority communities at disproportionately high rates.

In the end, focusing so heavily on developing car infrastructure without any alternative modes backfired, creating communities that are entirely dependent on personal vehicles. Thanks to the phenomenon of induced demand, expanding roads doesn’t solve the mobility issues that highways are supposed to address, and they sink into a spiraling strain on states, overspending to maintain or expand them, further creating car demand and crowding out more efficient modes physically and financially.

On the Embarcadero

New approaches

Transportation infrastructure, in any form, is expensive to build and to keep up. Six decades after President Eisenhower signed the interstate system into law, it is getting old, deteriorating faster than it can be maintained. In many places, sustaining interstates is becoming more expensive than the value they supposedly add. As a result, cities from San Francisco to Rochester, New York and Providence, Rhode Island have been rethinking the presence of highways within their cores.

Though voters rejected tearing down San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway in 1986, the freeway had to come down after the Loma Prieta earthquake, and has since become a multimodal waterfront area (above). Rochester has begun filling in a portion of I-490 with plans to reconnect the neighborhoods that they cut off. The city of Providence and a wide set of stakeholders are currently fighting the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s plan to scrap plans for an urban boulevard and instead reconstruct a highway interchange, indicating how entrenched car-centric planning remains, despite its known negative impact on cities.

And even in D.C., the ongoing Capitol Crossing project is reconnecting part of downtown with a seven-acre cap over I-395. The development looks to bridge the downtown region with the Union Station and NoMa areas in the city’s Northeast quadrant, which can feel physically and psychologically divided by arterial roads like the interstate.

Nationally, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is looking to take advantage of the opportunity that the aging infrastructure and changing mentalities offer at the city level, and shows promise of changing the national paradigm for how we approach transportation planning. Speaking on NPR in May, Secretary Foxx touched on the ill effects of urban highways, the idea that planners must be conscious of how they replace aging infrastructure, and the necessity of rebuilding in a more equitable, multimodal way.

Building on that, the department unveiled a growing focus on changing transportation to be more inclusive, efficient, and responsible. This summer, USDOT launched the Every Place Counts Design Challenge, seeking to “identify innovative community design solutions that bridge the infrastructure divide and reconnect people to opportunity.”

As interstate infrastructure ages, it provides an opportunity for us to focus on new modes that improve mobility and accessibility, being careful to ensure the new expansion of American transportation is more equitable and sustainable than in the past. Applying this 60-year lesson into how the U.S. prioritizes transportation projects should ultimately reconnect neighborhoods and make possible more non-driving transportation options.

Photos: Top, Interstate 794 cuts off Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shore, to the left of the photo (Jaremey Jannene, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, San Francisco’s post-highway Embarcadero (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr, with permission).

The post After 60 years, chances to overcome the interstate system’s legacy appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/20/60-years-chances-to-overcome-the-interstate-systems-legacy/feed/ 0
Park(ing) Day: The annual glimpse into livelier streets http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/16/parking-day-glimpse-livelier-streets/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/16/parking-day-glimpse-livelier-streets/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 19:16:19 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18988 Since the first pop-up parklet conversion in 2005, the third Friday in September has become an international holiday celebrating a vision for streets beyond the car default. Today, five parklets appeared in the streets of North Arlington, while more than 30 can be found across the river in the District, with more still in Montgomery County... Read more »

The post Park(ing) Day: The annual glimpse into livelier streets appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Since the first pop-up parklet conversion in 2005, the third Friday in September has become an international holiday celebrating a vision for streets beyond the car default.

Today, five parklets appeared in the streets of North Arlington, while more than 30 can be found across the river in the District, with more still in Montgomery County and Alexandria.

In terms of transportation demand management, Park(ing) Day is about looking ahead into an environment where fewer people get around by driving. Limiting parking – and ideally dedicating that space towards other uses – is a key TDM lever to guide people toward more efficient modes. 

So what if residents, workers, and businesses discovered that they would rather their streets include benches, mini-libraries, green space, and other things that would bring life and activity to the area? What about massages or games?

 

Park(ing) Day showcases a move past our current default of “parking spot” for curbside use, suggesting instead “public space for public use.”

courthouse-parkingday

The Courthouse parklet. Photo by author.

In Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, the parklet (above) is actually an ongoing pop-up park, which replaced a number of parking spaces at the block-wide Courthouse surface parking lot. The county hopes the small, shaded space will help passersby envision what the entire area will be like as a public park space, as depicted in the Courthouse Square plan. That plan even includes shared streets in which people, not cars, are given the priority and can walk within the street right-of-way – a definition that Arlington County is considering adding to its Transportation Master Plan.

And that’s perhaps Park(ing) Day’s greatest feature: with a few pieces of turf and a bench, it makes it easy to envision a better, less car-dedicated use of our communities.

Did you see any greater Park(ing) Day parklets in your area? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Below are a few of our favorites we’ve seen so far:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKa0r-pBxB_/

Above, D.C.’s 13 councilmembers all gave up their dedicated parking spaces for the day.

 

The post Park(ing) Day: The annual glimpse into livelier streets appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/16/parking-day-glimpse-livelier-streets/feed/ 2
Mobility Lab Express #94 – Safer by transit http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/15/mobility-lab-express-94-safer-transit/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/15/mobility-lab-express-94-safer-transit/#respond Thu, 15 Sep 2016 15:23:45 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18982 In the last Express, we remarked upon the U.S. Department of Transportation’s release of 2015 traffic fatality data, which showed a 7.2 percent increase in driving deaths over 2014. Now, with good timing, APTA’s new report on transit and traffic safety cites the key role of public transportation and transportation demand management as ways to... Read more »

The post Mobility Lab Express #94 – Safer by transit appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
55eb1472-d120-436b-bffe-3bd1b65898b7In the last Express, we remarked upon the U.S. Department of Transportation’s release of 2015 traffic fatality data, which showed a 7.2 percent increase in driving deaths over 2014.

Now, with good timing, APTA’s new report on transit and traffic safety cites the key role of public transportation and transportation demand management as ways to address the dangerous effects of more driving. The report recommends that TDM, rather than just addressing congestion, should also be considered and applied as a potential measure to increase public safety for cities.

Mobility Lab Express #94

The post Mobility Lab Express #94 – Safer by transit appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/15/mobility-lab-express-94-safer-transit/feed/ 0
“Trail towns” embracing economic benefits of long-distance biking routes http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/14/trail-towns-embracing-economic-benefits-of-distance-biking-routes/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/14/trail-towns-embracing-economic-benefits-of-distance-biking-routes/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 14:41:13 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18969 Editor’s note: This is one of the final parts of our Transpo(nation) series, in which Andrew Carpenter bicycled across the U.S. – from San Francisco back to Washington D.C. – to report on transportation options. The home stretch of my trip through Pennsylvania and Maryland followed the Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal... Read more »

The post “Trail towns” embracing economic benefits of long-distance biking routes appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Transpo(nation) logo

Editor’s note: This is one of the final parts of our Transpo(nation) series, in which Andrew Carpenter bicycled across the U.S. – from San Francisco back to Washington D.C. – to report on transportation options.

The home stretch of my trip through Pennsylvania and Maryland followed the Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath trails.

Meeting in Cumberland, Maryland, the trails form 325 miles of unbroken, off-street walking and biking paths from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. It was a relaxing finish to a cross-country route marked with close-passing freight trucks, potholed highways, and punishing sun.

Along the trails, I met multiple people on repeat trips of the GAP and C&O. These travelers praised the beauty and serenity of the route, but also the easily accessible destinations along the way. In turn, residents and local businesses also benefit from this increased access through active transportation.

Communities along the GAP and C&O trails, historically grown around the respective train and canal routes, have been enhancing their accessibility for recreational hikers and bikers on long-distance and day trips, which has improved options for active transportation within towns. With encouragement by advocacy groups, communities along these trails provide an example of the economic and social benefits, yet in a rural context, that can come with increased active transportation.

ac-trail-town

Embracing the trail town role

Along the GAP, as well as other developing rail trails in Western Pennsylvania and Maryland, Pennsylvania-based non-profit The Progress Fund has been running an economic development initiative called the Trail Town Program. It works to harness the economic potential that comes with access to quality outdoor recreation and communicate how walkability can benefit rural and urban communities alike.

The stretch of trails provides access to active travel for a significant number of people  – approximately 700,000 people are estimated [PDF] to have used the GAP in 2013. According to a user and business survey [PDF] that Trail Towns conducted in 2014, more than half of the people on the rail-trail were taking multi-day trips, and the number of first timers doubled to 46 percent from three years prior, suggesting an influx of visitors to the towns along the way.

Put into economic context, the benefits of accessible trails and outdoor recreation become very apparent. According to the same survey, 40 percent of all businesses along the GAP indicate plans to expand due to this increase of trail users. According to The Progress Fund, the Great Allegheny Passage has generated about $50 million in income from visitors using the trail.

trail-towns-user-survey-chart

The Trail Towns 2014 user survey found travelers spending more per night than in previous years.

With so many travel options to reach the Passage, there is a wide potential customer base, and the Trail Towns Program is working to ensure  there is a similar abundance of bike- and pedestrian-friendly options in these towns for lodging and eating. Through technical and marketing assistance, the initiative coordinates with businesses to improve wayfinding and bike parking, as well as fosters the expansion of resources for travelers, such as gear shops and campsites, creating a welcoming and attractive atmosphere for active travelers. Connellsville, Pennsylvania, exemplified this with free Adirondack shelters for camping, as well as route suggestions that encouraged me to spend extra time there and explore the restaurant scene.

Cultural benefits

Having developed around a canal and railway in the 19th century, these towns are uniquely positioned to bring that history to modern users of those routes. Each town I passed through showcased substantive historical exhibits and many promoted active arts scenes. There was a noticeable level of civic pride around what they had to offer travelers.

I also noticed that many more people were walking   than in other rural towns I had seen across the country. In the areas that did not have such recreational facilities nearby, anybody traveling without a car, like myself, seemed out of place, and drivers didn’t know how to deal with that presence. With so much development around active travelers, it has worked into the local culture as well , making the roads feel safer and welcoming for visitors and locals. Ohiopyle, Penn., especially seemed to embrace this role. Despite being a tiny community, there were wide sidewalks, green areas, and even bike lanes. The priority that the area gives to pedestrians and cyclists was distinct, with large groups of cyclists gathering at cafes and no cars on the streets in the few hours I spent there.

While each individual town along the two trails is small, they make up a thriving network rich in history that is also developing an impressive set of restaurants, lodging options, and cultural attractions. Such an extensive off-street trail like the GAP or C&O Towpath help promote this vitality while allowing communities to retain their rural identity.

The rise of the Trail Towns Project, and the focus it has brought to active transportation, demonstrates the role that biking can play even in a rural context. An initiative like this in conjunction with trail advocates like the Allegheny Trail Alliance or Rails to Trails Conservancy provides a great example of what is possible around the country to build and promote trails, which in turn connects communities and makes them better places to get around.

Photo, top: People riding bikes and hiking on the Great Allegheny Passage (Jon Dawson, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, a visitors center along the trailpath (Andrew Carpenter).

 

 

 

The post “Trail towns” embracing economic benefits of long-distance biking routes appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/14/trail-towns-embracing-economic-benefits-of-distance-biking-routes/feed/ 1
From routes to reality: Improving biking data with better context http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/12/routes-reality-biking-data-context/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/12/routes-reality-biking-data-context/#respond Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:37:44 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18946 Adding context to existing datasets can play a significant role in improving the bicycling experience. That was the takeaway from the most recent Mobility Lab-sponsored Transportation Techies’ Bike Hack Night VI. Programmers and advocates presented and listened to a handful of bike-themed show-and-tells under the impending threat of rain at REI’s space at Wunder Garten,... Read more »

The post From routes to reality: Improving biking data with better context appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Adding context to existing datasets can play a significant role in improving the bicycling experience.

That was the takeaway from the most recent Mobility Lab-sponsored Transportation Techies’ Bike Hack Night VI. Programmers and advocates presented and listened to a handful of bike-themed show-and-tells under the impending threat of rain at REI’s space at Wunder Garten, which provided the Meetup group’s first-ever outdoor session.

Bringing directions into real life

Eric Brelsford explained the process of adding bike lanes to Open Street Map, which he describes as the “Wiki Map” of the world. Many apps and services use this platform for their routing tools, meaning accurate data is key to a reliable user experience. New York City, one such provider, asked Brelsford to help update the city’s bike lane data on OSM so that it didn’t have to build its own routing tool from scratch.

Brelsford compared the New York City government’s comprehensive bike-lane data to what already existed on Open Street Map, identifying discrepancies to be addressed within OSM. Because such an undertaking requires a significant time investment, Brelsford explained that he gamified the process, getting contributors to reconcile one point at a time on the maps in their spare time. The end result is a more comprehensive visualization of bike lanes around the city, allowing cyclists to view safe rides to their destinations. While the project examined New York, it could easily be replicated with bike-lane data in other cities.

NYC bike lanes

New York City’s bike lane data overlaid on OSM data shows highlights the discrepancies between the two sources.

Taking a more direct approach to visualization, Ryan Abrahamsen presented Terrain360 and the technology that he uses to create a Google Street View-like depiction of off-street trails throughout the country. Terrain360 started with Abrahamsen hoping to encourage more people to explore the outdoors, and figured that showing them the routes they can take would dispel potential fears of the unknown, like on D.C.’s Anacostia Riverwalk trail, for example. His project has since grown into a full-time effort, with organizations such as the Chesapeake Conservancy looking to document their waterways and trails.

With two boats, a hiking pack, and a fat-tire tricycle, Terrain360 has profiled rivers, hiking trails and biking trails, capturing conditions such as topography and ambient weather. His tricycle carries five DSLR cameras with fish-eye lenses that take a picture every 30 feet, ultimately stitching together about 100,000 images to form a high definition, 360-degree view tied to GPS data. By merging technology with the outdoors, Terrain360 is making hidden-away trails more accessible to the interested-but-concerned crowd.

Unifying datasets

James Graham from the District Department of Transportation explained what he calls “DDOT’s New Centerline.” In the District’s Vision Zero efforts, Graham and colleagues noticed that their data sets of street centerlines, the line segments that represent streets within GIS, were not well integrated with other pieces of information. For example, the agency wouldn’t know by looking at certain centerline data if there is also a bike lane on that street – the lane information existed in a separate dataset. This division of information prevented a comprehensive understanding of road safety in D.C.

Graham and his team have worked to pull every bit of lane data into one set. The new centerline “linear reference” standard allows users to see a cross-section of information at any one point in the line: lane widths, bike lanes, parking spots, and more. “You build data in a way that more closely represents reality,” Graham said.

From there, DDOT and civic hackers can compare any given road’s actual conditions with crash data and better determine what the city can do to make it safer for bicyclists.

Kate Rabinowitz, who runs the blog Data Lens D.C., explained how analyzing sensor data of bike ridership on the region’s trails can provide useful insights to understand usage and bike traffic. However, much like DDOT’s centerline problem, only having one set of information doesn’t provide much actionable information for planners. Raw traffic numbers require context to understand what they mean and how to make informed decisions about infrastructure.

BTWD comparison

Rabinowitz compared Bike to Work Day 2016 rider counts to data from previous years.

By providing information about weather and other conditions along the region’s trails, the data starts to suggest answers to why patterns exist or anomalies occur. Regional events can cause spikes in ridership on certain days, while a trail closure can account for days when it appears nobody has biked past the sensor. For example, integrating weather and trail usage information – a “literal heatmap,” Rabinowitz notes – illustrates the relationship between ridership and temperature, a powerful factor in whether people decide to bike or not.

With longer-term analysis, planners can see the effects of other transportation disruptions, like the current SafeTrack work on D.C.’s Metro, and how they influence changes in cycling behavior during and after such disruptions.

Rather than learning from stationary counters, Justin Molineaux of Baas Bikes explained the power of smartphones to provide “low-cost, data-rich bikeshare” while generating a wealth of detailed usage data. Using existing racks and regular bikes with Bluetooth locks in their seatposts, Baas is provides a flexible, low-cost bikeshare network in communities like college campuses that lack the money to invest in large-scale systems.

The data that Baas Bikes collect informs potential demand and cycling patterns that help the company and communities using the system to consider cyclists in future planning. By tracking bike movements, Baas can see where users tend to ride, and where they tend to look for bikes. Baas even determined the distance that potential riders are willing to walk to a bike – two minutes, or .07 miles – based on where they launch the app relative to the closest bike.

This data informs the systems’ expansion and maintenance – in one example, Molineaux explained a noticeable rise in searches for bikes near a particular building outside of the system. The usage in that area alerted his team to a college residence hall that the system didn’t cover, and now does.

Context helps everyone with decision-making, from the people on bikes to the planners optimizing the system for them. Data doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and understanding the conditions for bicyclists is a key way to help more of them feel comfortable and confident.

Also see: WABA and DCFemTech presented their regional bike lane map at the event.

Photo: Eric Brelsford presenting at the Wunder Garten (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr).

The post From routes to reality: Improving biking data with better context appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/12/routes-reality-biking-data-context/feed/ 0
WABA designing a regional bike lane map to inform a more equitable network http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/09/waba-regional-bike-lane-map/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/09/waba-regional-bike-lane-map/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 19:04:20 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18936 Across Washington, D.C., and its bordering counties in Virginia and Maryland, the data on bike facilities and who has access to them can be awkward to piece together. The region is blessed with scores of miles of bike lanes and trails, up from very few in 2000. But when D.C., for example, says it has “75 miles of bike... Read more »

The post WABA designing a regional bike lane map to inform a more equitable network appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Across Washington, D.C., and its bordering counties in Virginia and Maryland, the data on bike facilities and who has access to them can be awkward to piece together. The region is blessed with scores of miles of bike lanes and trails, up from very few in 2000. But when D.C., for example, says it has “75 miles of bike lanes,” what exactly does that mean for its residents?

This lack of clarity is what the Washington Area Bicyclists Association is seeking to address with its ongoing project to map every bike lane and trail across the D.C. region. The map – available in an early version here – currently includes geographic buffers around each facility, demonstrating how much of the region is within one mile of a lane. Ultimately, WABA would like that one-mile coverage to include safe biking routes for every resident in the region.

Presenting at the latest Transportation Techies meetup, WABA deputy director Nelle Pierson explained that the growth of bike lanes has not been balanced throughout the region. Neighborhoods where people have the time, connections, and resources to lobby for safer streets have historically received bike lanes, cementing the safe-biking network mainly to communities with privilege. A map that captures every lane will help WABA see where lanes are most needed and advocate for more equitable planning, helping bring bikeable streets to communities long deprived of them.

Coding group DCFemTech has been building the map, an idea that originally began at a two-day hackathon. “We quickly realized we actually needed months, not days, for this,” said presenter Alexandra Ulsh of the DCFemTech coalition.

The map itself uses lane data provided by D.C., Alexandria, and Prince George’s, Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington counties, but these all had to be reworked into a standardized style. Arlington-based bike advocate Chris Slatt, who helped unify the code styles, also explained at the meetup that the data raised questions for the overall purpose of the map.

For example, many jurisdictions classified small, 50-foot segments of trail leading into public parks as bike lanes. Should those count toward the lane coverage goal? What about marked sidewalk trails, or on-street lanes along fast-moving highways? Google Maps might include these, but they don’t help protect bicyclists or connect them to other networks.

Disconnected lanes

Would these trails in PG County help more people bike comfortably?

Beyond creating just a mapping-design problem, DCFemTech and WABA have to grapple with the question of what kinds of facilities lead them toward their end goal of safety and inclusivity, and how the map communicates and informs that.

Ulsh explained that the next steps are to add to the usefulness of the map. Adding population data will allow WABA to see who would benefit from future bike lanes, while filters will let users compare the efficacy of different types of bike infrastructure. And, in the spirit of most Transportation Techies presentations, the project is looking for more insight and help from interested civic coders.

The post WABA designing a regional bike lane map to inform a more equitable network appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/09/waba-regional-bike-lane-map/feed/ 4
Transit is 10-times safer than driving – and makes communities safer, says new APTA report http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/08/transit-10-times-safer-driving-makes-communities-safer-says-new-apta-report/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/08/transit-10-times-safer-driving-makes-communities-safer-says-new-apta-report/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 15:28:25 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18927 If you truly cared about safety, you would stop driving your car right now and jump aboard transit. That is the underlying recommendation of a study released today by the American Public Transit Association, with help from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. The latest data certainly backs up APTA’s numbers. According to the U.S. Department... Read more »

The post Transit is 10-times safer than driving – and makes communities safer, says new APTA report appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
If you truly cared about safety, you would stop driving your car right now and jump aboard transit.

That is the underlying recommendation of a study released today by the American Public Transit Association, with help from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

The latest data certainly backs up APTA’s numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 35,092 fatalities related to car crashes in 2015 – an increase of 7.2 percent from 2014, which is the largest year-to-year jump in five decades. That equates to about 100 car-related deaths each day. Per billion passenger-miles traveled, urban rail, and bus have about one-thirtieth as many deaths as car travel.

In its study, titled The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation [PDF], APTA concludes that transit trips are 10 times safer per mile than car trips.  In regards to general crash risk, the report’s authors note that “a person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90 percent simply by taking public transit opposed to commuting by car.”

The effects extend beyond individual trip choices, too: the report notes that transit-oriented communities are five times safer than auto-oriented communities. Better public transportation contributes to more compact development, which in turn reduces auto-miles traveled and produces safer speeds in those areas. On a national scale, too, the U.S. could make large advances in safety if each American committed to replacing as few as three car trips per month with transit trips.

Despite what should be a safety concern for drivers, there is often little thought given to the vast safety benefits that transit presents, as the industry faces an uphill climb on the issue.

For one, the history of transit promotion has focused on playing defensively, with fear-based messages like “If You See Something, Say Something” – which suggests scary criminals are lurking all over transit in particular – and communications that shame people into thinking they’re doing something wrong or abnormal by taking transit, bicycling, or walking.

The media’s taste for the sensational doesn’t help much either. One fatal train wreck will receive more coverage than the relentless litany of daily road-side car deaths, often dismissed as faultless accidents.

Richard White, acting CEO and president of APTA, acknowledged these concerns in yesterday’s press briefing: “That’s an unfortunate perception issue that transit has to deal with.”

Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, added, “I think it’s just human nature for us to notice when there’s one large accident. There used to be more airplane crashes, but now, because of innovative things [the industry has] done, we rarely hear about a large or business jet crashing. Buses, transit, and trains are also safe. That’s what we need to do for road safety. The challenge we face on highways is that [fatalities] are one at a time.”

Other speakers at the study’s launch admitted the transit industry – while also criticizing media coverage – needs to improve at communicating the relative safety of transit. White added that transit leaders need to “think harder about the message” and “think about how this information gets into the hands of APTA members.”

apta-recs

Notably, recommendations in APTA’s report include the expansion of transportation demand management practices, alongside other strategies – such as service enhancements – to encourage the adoption of non-driving options.

“New strategies in TDM involve reaching out to school-age children in elementary and middle schools, teaching them the benefits of taking public transportation to and from school and after-school activities,” Mobility Lab CEO Lois DeMeester said. “This long-term investment in school outreach will result in more use of public transportation, leading to less car ownership and car use overall, and hopefully, fewer youth and young-adult fatalities on our highways.”

Dinh-Zarrof the NTSB noted that “transit is a public safety tool” that “provides transportation options for high-risk groups, like distracted, drowsy, and fatigued drivers. [We need to] choose to travel by bus or train when we choose to multitask.”

APTA’s study builds on earlier research by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute originally released in 2014. The 2014 report offered some key recommendations, such as the integration of key safety findings – that heavy and light rail is about 30 times safer than driving, for instance – into the industry’s communications. Hopefully, with the latest framing from APTA’s report, that begins to become a reality.

Photo: Riders board a Metrobus in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

The post Transit is 10-times safer than driving – and makes communities safer, says new APTA report appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/08/transit-10-times-safer-driving-makes-communities-safer-says-new-apta-report/feed/ 0
How to get inventive transportation projects right early on http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/07/get-inventive-transportation-projects-right-early/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/07/get-inventive-transportation-projects-right-early/#respond Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:59:08 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18917 In 2013, the city of Nice, France, launched an ambitious “smart parking” service that allowed drivers to find available parking spaces in real-time through a smartphone app. In order for the system to work, the city paid 10 million euros (or about $11.3 million USD) to install hundreds of sensors next to parking spaces, as... Read more »

The post How to get inventive transportation projects right early on appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
In 2013, the city of Nice, France, launched an ambitious “smart parking” service that allowed drivers to find available parking spaces in real-time through a smartphone app.

In order for the system to work, the city paid 10 million euros (or about $11.3 million USD) to install hundreds of sensors next to parking spaces, as well as 291 payment booths across the city. This was a steep price tag, but the system quickly became a model for innovation within smart-city circles and gatherings.

However, Le Monde reported this May that the city has shut down the system and is returning to old-fashioned parking meters. How did a smart-city case study turn into a 10-million-euro failure? The same article suggests that its usage wasn’t properly tested. For instance, authorities failed to consider that people shouldn’t look at their smartphones while driving, or that double-parking is rampant in Nice and reduces demand for the designated spaces.

Whatever the actual reasons were, this 10-million-euro flop raises an important question: How can we anticipate how people will ultimately use innovative urban projects?

Lessons from Calgary’s quick-build bike tracks

The obvious answer is that cities should apply user-centered design principles when building these sorts of projects (such as simple test-and-learn methods). Unfortunately, the politics involved in urban projects have a way of making rapid prototyping not so rapid, which means that cities need to find creative ways to gather insights from users.

A great lesson can be learned from Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi. At this year’s Bits and Bricks forum, Nenshi explained how his city tackled both the complexity of planning infrastructure that will actually be useful to citizens, and the usual public resistance to allocate car space to bicycle lanes.

In 2015, the city deployed a one-year pilot program with temporary quick-build bike lanes. This means that test tracks could be deployed fast, not only from a construction point of view, but also politically. Indeed, the mayor pledged to keep a close watch on the consequences of the lanes and adapt them if necessary:

“I believe in experiments and I believe in trying things out, so we’re going to measure this very carefully and measure the impact on cars, we’ll measure how many cyclists there are, we’ll measure the impact on local businesses.”

To achieve this result, the city equipped the lanes with sensors at strategic points in order to measure bike usage. This allowed it to confirm usage patterns that would otherwise be considered assumptions and, by making this data accessible to anyone online, it eased political consensus by making the whole experiment fully transparent.

According to Nenshi, despite the fact that bike traffic tripled along specific lanes in the first month, some skeptics would still argue that the tracks weren’t being used. Not anymore: “My response is ‘go to this website and you will see precisely how many bikes went by this track on that day,’” said Nenshi.

calgary-bike-map

When data-driven design meets transit in Paris

The case of Calgary’s quick-build lanes can prove useful for future projects where there is no impeding infrastructure in place. But how do we gain access to similar insights when working around established large-scale infrastructure? For instance, how would we achieve the same results for the massive suburban rail network in Paris without spending millions in gathering data across the region’s 500 stations?

France’s railway operator SNCF explored this idea during a recent research study. The idea was to link data from trip-planning websites with real on-site statistics such as ticket validation and selling data.

scnf-data

By analyzing 100 million requests made across three months, SNCF found a very precise correlation between online trip-planning requests and the other data sources that indicate passenger traffic. These findings could prove to be extremely useful, not only because it is a very cost-effective way to gather data, but also because it allows the anticipation of traffic from between a few hours to a few days in advance.

Transportation operators can use this data to adjust services in real-time when there is an anticipated traffic spike (for example, allocating more people to guide travelers at train stations) or it can serve as data for studies and transport planning when traditional sources are nonexistent.

As Nenshi says, good data drives good decisions.

Photo, top: Crowds at Paris-Gare de Lyon train station (Patrick Janicek, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post How to get inventive transportation projects right early on appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/07/get-inventive-transportation-projects-right-early/feed/ 0