Mobility Lab http://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:30:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Forget the Motor (City), sightsee Detroit by bicycle http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/24/sightsee-detroit-by-bicycle/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/24/sightsee-detroit-by-bicycle/#respond Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:30:34 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18527 When I arrived at Wheelhouse Detroit to rent a bicycle, I explained to the people there that I like to tour any new city I visit by bike. Ironically, I was in town for the TU-Detroit auto-technology show, but bikes are by far the best way to quickly and enjoyably get a sense of the... Read more »

The post Forget the Motor (City), sightsee Detroit by bicycle appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
When I arrived at Wheelhouse Detroit to rent a bicycle, I explained to the people there that I like to tour any new city I visit by bike.

Ironically, I was in town for the TU-Detroit auto-technology show, but bikes are by far the best way to quickly and enjoyably get a sense of the place. And even with its historic reputation for car-centrism in all aspects, Detroit proved itself a highly bike-friendly environment for this visitor.

IMG_4481

The author at Wheelhouse bike rental.

I mentioned to the workers at Wheelhouse that I had recently done a similar ride in Cleveland, which resulted in some kind-hearted trash talk about how I would enjoy Detroit much more.

While Detroit doesn’t yet have a bikeshare system like Cleveland’s UHBikes, Wheelhouse is roundly ranked as the best place to rent a bike in Detroit, and the central location can’t be beat. The shop is right downtown on the extensive RiverWalk trail along the Detroit River, which is about the only place in the U.S. one can look south into Canada (the city of Windsor, to be exact).

I even received a lunch tip, to make my first stop about 20 minutes away in the Mexicantown neighborhood at a favorite taco truck.

To get there, I leisurely cycled southwest past the iconic General Motors towers that distinguish the city skyline and provide an excellent place for people to commune and relax. I then continued along the beautifully-done riverfront path, bustling with people even on a weekday afternoon.

The RiverWalk abruptly cuts off at Joe Louis Arena, home to the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. The trail ending there is not a big deal, though, because, like in Cleveland, the streets are so wide and carry so few cars that it feels like bicycling in the Sahara Desert compared to the car gridlock I’m used to throughout the Washington, D.C., region. In the last 10 years, Detroit has added 170 miles of painted bike lanes, and is currently extending a Copenhagen-inspired protected bike lane towards downtown.

Before reaching the food truck, I stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border; however, I was informed there’s no crossing allowed by bicycle, so stepping into Canada was off the list of great things to do for bicyclists in Detroit. (Bicyclists are awesome and should therefore get some kind of waiver for this.)

Continuing southwest, I rode across the five year-old Bagley pedestrian bridge, which connects downtown and Mexicantown. It crosses so many highways that I couldn’t even take a picture wide enough to capture the massive number of traffic lanes passing underneath.

Continuing on, Tacos El Rodeo appeared not far into the neighborhood. After lunch, I made my way back down Michigan Avenue to downtown. I had thought Joe Lewis Arena would be the best-looking sports arena in town, but Detroit’s other stadiums – Comerica Park for the Tigers and Ford Field for the Lions – don’t disappoint either.

A bike is also the best way to get great photos. As I glided along the sidewalks near Ford Field, I almost got in trouble for taking a picture when a stadium employee came out and claimed that, ever since the Paris terrorist attacks, the NFL had enacted a rule forbidding pictures on NFL stadium property. I still got this nice shot (see the employee walking towards me).Detroit's Ford Field, home of the Lions

Detroit’s downtown has plenty of sights to see and they’re all pretty close together, making it an excellent city for those who like to bike and walk to discover places – and improved by access to the automated Detroit People Mover train that circles above downtown on a three-mile track.

After exploring downtown, I still had enough time to go back past the Wheelhouse and head northeast along the water, where the RiverWalk picks up again on and off for quite a distance.

My last stop of the day was Belle Isle State Park – a three-mile by one-mile-wide island in the Detroit River. I was unable to see it all because workers were tearing down all the gear from a recent IndyCar racing event, but it’s a pretty amazing amenity for locals and tourists alike.

Even if you only have a window of about three hours – like I did – you can see a lot of the Motor City on a bicycle.

Photos by the author.

The post Forget the Motor (City), sightsee Detroit by bicycle appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/24/sightsee-detroit-by-bicycle/feed/ 0
Where do Capital Bikeshare users stop and see the sights? http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/23/capital-bikeshare-gps-see-sights/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/23/capital-bikeshare-gps-see-sights/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:13:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18512 Part 3 of a study of Capital Bikeshare GPS data This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks. Read part two, which examines infrastructure usage, and part one, which looks at trip distances and times.... Read more »

The post Where do Capital Bikeshare users stop and see the sights? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Part 3 of a study of Capital Bikeshare GPS data

This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks. Read part two, which examines infrastructure usage, and part one, which looks at trip distances and times.

Walking around the Mall I often see Capital Bikeshare bikes laying on the ground or leaning against a tree while a tourist takes in the sights. To determine the most common places to do so, I created a density map created of GPS pings from casual trips registering speeds of zero and classified them by place of interest. These may be prime locations for new or expanded stations.

Place of Interest Percentage of Casual Trip Stops
World War II Memorial 14.79%
Lincoln Memorial 13.73%
White House 8.52%
Jefferson Memorial 7.81%
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial 7.34%
FDR Memorial 7.10%
Washington Monument 5.33%
Capitol Building 5.09%
Smithsonian Castle 4.14%
Vietnam Veterans Memorial 3.67%
Korean War Veterans Memorial 3.08%
Arlington National Cemetery 2.60%
Gravelly Point 2.01%
Dupont Circle 1.89%
Iwo Jima Memorial 0.36%

Not surprisingly, the majority of (in)activity is located on the National Mall. Most popular areas to stop include the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and areas around the Tidal Basin such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and FDR Memorial. Locations outside of the National Mall include Georgetown and Dupont Circle. Popular points in Virginia are Gravelly Point, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Iwo Jima Memorial. It is notable that many of these locations do not have a Capital Bikeshare station nearby. The ones that do – Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial – are some of the most popular stations in the entire system.

CaBi stop density map

Density map of non-docking stopping points. Click to enlarge.

For all trips in the time period last spring, the top seven most popular trips start and end on the National Mall. Most notably, until last week, there was no station near the World War II Memorial, where nearly 15 percent of all casual trips stop. Though popular, the Mall stations do seem to be re-balanced well, as they are rarely left with no available bikes or docks.

DDOT addresses many of these popular stopping locations in its D.C. Capital Bikeshare Development Plan [PDF], which outlines expansion plans for the next three years. In addition to the new World War II Memorial station, others were added recently to the north side of the Lincoln Memorial and the National Gallery of Art . Other popular areas slated to receive a station in 2016 include the White House and Washington Monument.

Bikeshare programs like Capital Bikeshare will continue to offer attractive methods of transportation to locals and visitors alike. Improving systems and facilities to allow bikes to be more easily rented and ridden will only attract more users and help cities achieve their sustainable transportation goals. One of the ways to do this is by using GPS data to study rider behavior to inform system and infrastructure improvements, as this study has. A GPS-enabled mobile app could provide the system more data while helping users find available stations and infrastructure more easily. Spotcycle currently shows bike/dock availability, but the aforementioned Virginia Tech study reported that only 40 percent of casual users were aware of it.

More broadly, as bikeshare systems grow and evolve, greater availability of anonymous GPS data will be an essential part of ensuring their usefulness and accessibility.

Photo: Two Capital Bikeshare bikes stopped in front of the Capitol (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr).

The post Where do Capital Bikeshare users stop and see the sights? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/23/capital-bikeshare-gps-see-sights/feed/ 0
Columbus could set tone for the transportation system of the “smart city” http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/columbus-smart-city-winner/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/columbus-smart-city-winner/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 20:18:25 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18504 It’s been a very good week for the state of Ohio. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first-ever NBA title. Now Columbus is named the $50 million winner of the U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge. This is an exciting development for a couple of reasons. First, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has uncovered a very visible way that... Read more »

The post Columbus could set tone for the transportation system of the “smart city” appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
It’s been a very good week for the state of Ohio. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first-ever NBA title. Now Columbus is named the $50 million winner of the U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge. This is an exciting development for a couple of reasons.

First, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has uncovered a very visible way that the federal government can portray itself as valuable and spur the kind of inspiration to get cities battling to become the next great places – the places where future generations want to live, work, and play.

Second, Columbus’s win allows a city in the Midwest – which is much more car-dependent in general than the coasts – to illustrate how auto-oriented places can develop a new blueprint for moving around a city, whether people are travelling by car or not. And as BikePortland editor Michael Anderson notes, Columbus’s average-size metropolitan area will offer a lesson for the numerous other medium American cities.

Although more will be known tomorrow when USDOT officials visit Columbus to present the award, it appears the winning application’s focus on transportation equity was a deciding factor. Within its proposal, the city made explicit a goal to connect a low-income, high-unemployment neighborhood with the area’s job centers. Columbus beat San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Denver in the finals, as well as the dozens of other cities who had previously been eliminated.

Ultimately, the grant should help improve access to jobs, healthcare, and education for people in the city’s low-income neighborhoods. This reinforces the city’s priority to provide mobility services to the people who rely on public transportation the most.

It’s also great news for Columbus’s growing community of startup businesses, notes Jay Donovan in TechCrunch: “It’s not hard to imagine many of the logistics and machine-learning startups in town being able to get involved, since autonomous vehicles appear to be a big output focus of the competition.”

Among the tentative plans for Columbus, which actually will receive closer to $140 million when matching contributions are included:

  • A transit pass payment system that could be used for multiple forms of transportation
  • Kiosks for reloading transit cards, or a smartphone app as a universal payment system
  • An autonomous vehicle test fleet that can deliver passengers from a Central Ohio Transit Authority train station to the Easton Town Center shopping area
  • Increase electric vehicle access in the city, and
  • Improve communication between vehicles and infrastructure, which could help reduce crashes.

Columbus has long been on a slow progression to demanding better transportation options. In a 2014 commentary in the Columbus Dispatch, Eric Davis of advocacy group Transit Columbus wrote:

In the past six to eight months, transportation demand and behavior has made a remarkable shift: New bike- and car-sharing options have sprung up through CoGo and Car2Go respectively; more than 5,400 people of have signed a petition in support of the return of passenger rail to Columbus; and, more than 100 voluntarily have become involved in activities related to “designing” the transportation system of the future for central Ohio.

In part, these shifts respond to an obvious deficiency of public transit and mobility options for this metropolitan area of nearly 2 million people, an area that continues to lag the rest of the nation in terms of options.

Davis went on to note that a 2011 poll of local young professionals found many citing the lack of transportation options as a major reason they were leaving for places like Portland, Denver, and Chicago.

It will be interesting to see how much the ability of Buckeyes to move about their city is improved – and how many future young professionals decide to stick around in what could become a booming Columbus.

Photo: Downtown Columbus (wyliepoon, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Columbus could set tone for the transportation system of the “smart city” appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/columbus-smart-city-winner/feed/ 1
Where and how do Capital Bikeshare riders use bike lanes? http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/capital-bikeshare-gps-riders-bike-lanes/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/capital-bikeshare-gps-riders-bike-lanes/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:17:51 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18482 Part 2 of a study of Capital Bikeshare GPS data This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks. Read part one, which examines general attributes of trips, here. As shown in the previous post, GPS... Read more »

The post Where and how do Capital Bikeshare riders use bike lanes? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Part 2 of a study of Capital Bikeshare GPS data

This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks. Read part one, which examines general attributes of trips, here.

As shown in the previous post, GPS data gives us the ability to look at precisely which roads and paths on which users like to bicycle. By separating miles ridden into different categories, I was able to calculate on what type of road member and casual users tend to ride, and visualize where infrastructure and new stations may be needed.

Where CaBi users ride

To calculate facility usage, I summed miles-ridden on three different surfaces: bicycle infrastructure (bikes lanes, paths, and protected bike lanes), roads that lack any cycling infrastructure, and, given the large amount of parkland in Washington, I decided to include miles ridden in land managed by the National Park Service (including the National Mall). Roads within NPS land are generally low-traffic, with many sidewalks and paths present. Parts of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park are also closed to cars on weekends. Of the recorded trips on this road, all were on the weekend. Bike trails within NPS land were considered part of the park layer.

An analysis of D.C. GIS data reveals non-park bicycle facility mileage amounting to 10.58 percent of total bikeable roadway mileage – bike lanes accounting for 7.64 percent and non-park trails 2.94 percent. In this study, bicycle infrastructure was utilized for about 25 percent of miles ridden, indicating that users seek it out. This number jumps to 59 percent when National Park land is included, meaning that all Capital Bikeshare users ride on streets without any cycling infrastructure for about 41 percent of miles.

Further breakdown by membership type shows a large difference between the two user groups. Casual users ride the majority of their miles within National Park land (confirming the earlier heat map) and ride on bicycle infrastructure for less than half of their other miles. Perhaps better wayfinding could direct out-of-towners to the city’s bicycle infrastructure, improve their bicycling experience, and make it more likely that they will consider bicycling in the future.

Member riders more heavily use bicycle infrastructure, but stay clear of the busier parks. Half of their miles are ridden on roads without any bicycling infrastructure.

To determine most-traversed sections in this category, I further examined member segments outside of cycling infrastructure, as these could be prime candidates for future bicycling infrastructure improvements. The most-traversed segments lacking infrastructure included M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Georgetown, and Louisiana Avenue NW and Massachusetts Avenue NE near Union Station. 14th Street NW between Florida and Columbia Avenues NW, and K Street between 3rd Street NW and 1st Street NE were also very popular.

CaBi segments no infra

Popular riding segments that lack bicycling infrastructure. Click to enlarge.

High ridership on these blocks are likely because these segments are gaps where a bike lane ends and picks back up further on. DDOT has recommendations in its Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan, moveDC [PDF], for additional infrastructure in all of these sections except for the K Street segment. DDOT has proposed protected bike lanes for the Louisiana, Massachusetts, and 14th Street sections identified, and a bike lane for M Street NW. A 2012 study [PDF] by Virginia Tech revealed that casual users were generally unhappy with the city’s cycling infrastructure. DDOT should start with the highly-trafficked segments identified in the above maps, as they will affect the most users.

Part three of this series will determine where casual users like to stop to take in the sights.

Photo: A man rides a Capital Bikeshare bike on the Pennsylvania Avenue NW protected bike lane (Elvert Barnes, Flickr, Creative Commons). Map and chart by the author.

The post Where and how do Capital Bikeshare riders use bike lanes? appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/22/capital-bikeshare-gps-riders-bike-lanes/feed/ 1
Bikeshare GPS insights highlight stark differences across types of trips http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/21/capital-bikeshare-gps-data-trips/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/21/capital-bikeshare-gps-data-trips/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 14:38:34 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18467 A sample of Capital Bikeshare GPS trip data offers a unique look into rider behaviors This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks. Most bikeshare programs generate a wealth of data about their trips—where they... Read more »

The post Bikeshare GPS insights highlight stark differences across types of trips appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
A sample of Capital Bikeshare GPS trip data offers a unique look into rider behaviors

This series of posts discusses a study undertaken in the spring of 2015 where several Capital Bikeshare bikes were outfitted with GPS devices and tracked for several weeks.

Most bikeshare programs generate a wealth of data about their trips—where they start and end, what kind of user is taking them. Some, such as Phoenix’s dockless , even generate GPS data for its users to view. Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, however, does not, and so virtually nothing is known about where the bikes actually go – what routes they take, where they stop, and what infrastructure they use.

To gather this information, the District Department of Transportation in the spring of 2015 outfitted a number of Capital Bikeshare bikes with GPS devices and tracked them for several weeks. This undertaking resulted in a wealth of data (over 300,000 GPS points), and DDOT approached Virginia Tech’s Urban & Regional Planning program in Alexandria for help in deciphering it all. I took the opportunity to fulfill the capstone project requirements as part of my Master’s Degree in Urban & Regional Planning.

DDOT mounted GPS trackers under the saddles of 130 bikeshare bikes and ultimately recovered 94 trackers. The first bikes were distributed beginning April 20, 2015, and recorded data until they ran out of batteries – the longest lasting until May 16. After significant data cleaning, which removed false trips like rides in a rebalancing van, 3,596 trips worth of GPS data remained and was calculated to be representative of all bikeshare trips within the same time period. Roughly three-quarters of these trips were by member users who hold monthly or annual memberships. The remaining quarter were casual users, those using daily or three-day memberships and tend to be tourists.

Previous studies and visualizations of Capital Bikeshare trips had to assume direct-line routes or suggested bicycle routes in their analyses. Because of this, trip distances are often underestimated, and no additional details can be gleaned from trips that have the same start and end stations, of which there is a large percentage.

The animation below shows actual paths taken. All of the trips were condensed into a single day. Notice the direct routes taken by member users and the casual users touring locations near the National Mall.

The differences in trip attributes, such as duration, speed, and distance, between member and casual trips were stark. The average casual user trip was nearly twice as long as the member trip in distance, three times longer in duration, and considerably slower in average speed. Comparing actual tracked distance with the direct distance between start and end stations also reveals a huge difference, as member users take much more direct routes. Their trips were 35 percent longer than a straight line, compared with casual trips which were more than 177 percent longer. These figures can be helpful for future bikeshare studies that require accurate trip distances. Currently, Capital Bikeshare uses an average speed of roughly 7.5 MPH to estimate distances.

Trip Averages

Casual

Member

All Users

Mean Median Mean Median Mean Median
Time (minutes) 39.72 25.77 12.50 10.02 18.97 12.07
Speed (MPH) 4.71 2.32 7.85 8.38 6.29 7.83
Distance (miles) 3.12 5.50 1.64 1.36 1.99 1.53
Difference Difference Difference
Direct distance 1.12 177.59% 1.21 35.10% 1.19 67.07%

The below heat maps display miles ridden for each user type. Not surprisingly, casual-user activity follows the shape of the National Mall. It is also clear that some casual users ride to Georgetown, Arlington Cemetery, and Crystal City. (In upcoming articles I’ll examine where casual users stop their bikes to check out the sights, and also determine the most popular streets taken for both users.)

Casual heat map

Member activity centered further north, in an area bounded roughly by 13th, 17th, K, and R Streets NW. It is clear from the data that member riders tend to stay clear of the National Mall and focus more in the mixed-use neighborhoods of Dupont and Logan circles. Also evident is a large percentage of member users coming from Arlington and Alexandria into the city.

member heat map

Looking at individual streets, the most popular segments for casual riders are the sidewalks within the Mall and the roads that border it (see below). The Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia was also popular among casual riders.

Casual segments

Segments from casual trips. Click to enlarge.

The most popular segments for member riders were 14th, 15th, 18th, and R Streets NW. Also popular was Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and the Key Bridge, linking Georgetown with Arlington, Va. Most of these popular segments include bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes or protected lanes.

Member segments

Segments from member trips. Click to enlarge.

Look for my next article here at Mobility Lab. It will examine specific bicycling infrastructure usage in more detail.

 Maps and video by the author.

The post Bikeshare GPS insights highlight stark differences across types of trips appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/21/capital-bikeshare-gps-data-trips/feed/ 7
In Carson City, street changes mark shifting priorities http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/20/carson-city-street-changes-mark-shifting-priorities/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/20/carson-city-street-changes-mark-shifting-priorities/#respond Mon, 20 Jun 2016 16:29:22 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18457 Small cities face big obstacles to expanding transportation options Editor’s note: This is part four of our summer Transpo(nation) series, as Andrew bicycles across the U.S. to report on transportation demand issues. The first three parts featured at San Francisco, Davis, and Boulder. After climbing the Sierra Nevada and surviving Carson Pass, I got to revel in... Read more »

The post In Carson City, street changes mark shifting priorities appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Small cities face big obstacles to expanding transportation options

transponation smEditor’s note: This is part four of our summer Transpo(nation) series, as Andrew bicycles across the U.S. to report on transportation demand issues. The first three parts featured at San Francisco, Davis, and Boulder.

After climbing the Sierra Nevada and surviving Carson Pass, I got to revel in a 30-mile downhill ride before having to seriously pedal again. At some point, without realizing it, I crossed from California into Nevada and meandered along the edges of the Sierra foothills toward Carson City.

Getting into the Nevada capital, though, was a bit jarring. Small towns along the way had converted their street shoulders into bike lanes, even given already low car traffic and speeds. But the route into Carson City itself followed U.S. route 395 – a fast, multi-lane highway with narrow sidewalks and no bike lanes. It stays busy and intimidating even through the downtown area, which makes the whole city appear unpleasant to travel through using just about any mode.

But that is changing.

Carson Street, the stretch of route 395 through the city’s downtown, was undergoing an extensive construction project that is hard to miss. My instincts told me it was more than just utility work, and probably an important redesign. Could it be a road diet? I was thrilled to find out that it is.

Thankfully, I had the opportunity to speak with Patrick Pittenger, Carson City’s transportation manager, to learn more about the changing streetscape and his vision for making the city a more walkable place.

Complete streets inbound

The Downtown Corridor Improvement is the city’s first major complete streets project since it adopted such a policy in 2014, which was supported by an eighth-of-a-percent increase in sales tax. And it’s far from the last, says Pittenger.

“Complete streets” is a nationwide effort to redesign streets so that they accommodate all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers. As it is now, Carson Street favors drivers over the safety and comfort of others, discouraging other transportation options and reinforcing a car-dominant mentality.

This project has been a long time coming for Pittenger and Carson City, and represents a significant step towards creating a more multimodal area. The road diet is focused around Carson Street, an important location not only because the street needs a renovation, but because it will play an exemplary role in the future of rebuilding others.

Carson Street is the downtown’s main thoroughfare, carrying about 17,000 vehicles per day along two lanes in each direction and with very narrow sidewalks. The Downtown Corridor Improvement will narrow traffic to one 10-foot traffic lane in each direction and a center turning lane, plus five-foot bike lanes and widened sidewalks. When it’s complete, pedestrians will have a much shorter width to cross, which will foster safety and walkability. The changes are projected to cut traffic crashes by a third.

Carson City, Capital+Area+1

An early rendering of the Carson Street post-road diet, with bike lanes and one traffic lane in each direction, from the project page.

As with many street redesigns, Pittenger noted the need to compromise with the project’s opponents: the city added two parking spaces per block, but left flexibility to convert spaces to parklets, drop-off zones, or other facilities that may become necessary in the future.

Updating Carson Street is necessary for the immediate streetscape and underground utilities, but it is also symbolic of the future of street projects in Carson City. The project is scheduled to be completed before Nevada Day (October 28) and will therefore showcase the new road design to the entire community when it hosts the day’s central parade.

The main challenges Pittenger and his team face are not political, but cultural and monetary, and speak to a major hurdle that small cities face in developing their transportation infrastructure. It’s not necessarily that leaders don’t want to make their cities more walkable – it’s that they face some pretty high barriers to doing so, especially in a city where 93 percent of residents drive to work.

Piecing it together

Funding is short for small cities, particularly in Nevada, with few options for revenue streams. Taxes are low and the city distributes money from a general fund, making it tough to earmark dollars for transportation projects.

Pittenger points out that the federal government prioritizes Metropolitan Planning Organizations above 200,000 people, with a small pot remaining for the smaller areas (the immediate Carson City area has slightly more than 55,000 people). Most of 2009’s federal stimulus money went straight to larger MPOs, leaving little for smaller ones to fight over. Carson City only ended up with $700,000 to work with in the end.

Municipalities like Carson City need to creatively (and legally, as Pittenger emphasizes) to put together various grants to fund infrastructure improvements and other projects. The increased sales tax helps tremendously, but if voters don’t increase transportation funding in a November ballot measure, it will still be a tough game to fund infrastructure maintenance, let alone more projects like the downtown corridor.

Hearts and minds

Pittenger, who has been a Carson City public servant for 10 years, has been working towards this throughout his tenure. When he first arrived, about 40,000 vehicles traveled Carson Street every day. With the goal of turning this into a complete street, Pittenger set out to “retake ownership of the road.” Since then, he and the city have had to position themselves to make these projects viable and convince people it’s the right thing to do.

It takes time for a city to position itself to be able to take back its roads and redesign them as complete streets. In addition to residents’ streets deteriorating in front of their houses, many view complete-streets renovations as multimillion dollar attempts to constrict traffic while ignoring other significant maintenance issues. The city faces the challenge of convincing constituents of the many intangible benefits of projects like road diets and the fact that they won’t make traffic worse.

What works in Pittenger’s favor is that the city “has had and continues to have a majority of elected officials who are friendly” to these infrastructure developments. With agreement across city leadership, it’s more a matter of convincing constituents of the necessity of these improvements and finding the funds to do so.

Pittenger points out that he and his team are “proud of what [they] do, but wish [they] could do more.” They have the foresight to work towards positive changes for their streets, starting with a prominent road diet that is as necessary as it is symbolic. But it’s an arduous process to move things in the right direction.

Based on my conversation with Pittenger, it looks promising that programs offering better transportation options will gain traction in small cities as they have begun to in larger ones, setting a path for even more communities to focus on walkability and multimodality.

Photos, from top: Carson Street in downtown Carson City, in its four-lane design in 2013 (Patrick Nouhailler, Flickr, Creative Commons). A rendering of how Carson Street should appear post-road diet (CarsonProud.com).

The post In Carson City, street changes mark shifting priorities appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/20/carson-city-street-changes-mark-shifting-priorities/feed/ 0
Two keys to how autonomous vehicles could ease congestion http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/16/two-keys-autonomous-vehicles-ease-congestion/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/16/two-keys-autonomous-vehicles-ease-congestion/#respond Thu, 16 Jun 2016 16:21:18 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18442 Autonomous vehicles could soon lead us down the road so efficiently that they reduce traffic gridlock and air pollution while saving lives and money on infrastructure projects. On the other hand, people could be attracted to riding in self-driving cars more often, making our highways even more crowded. Autonomous vehicles could also generate more trips... Read more »

The post Two keys to how autonomous vehicles could ease congestion appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Autonomous vehicles could soon lead us down the road so efficiently that they reduce traffic gridlock and air pollution while saving lives and money on infrastructure projects.

On the other hand, people could be attracted to riding in self-driving cars more often, making our highways even more crowded. Autonomous vehicles could also generate more trips in the process of driving themselves between dropping people off and their next pick-up. And it should be a major concern that transit systems could lose ridership and put all those people onto the road in autonomous vehicles.

Weighing both sides, there may be two keys to having autonomous vehicles enhance and possibly improve the country’s current flawed transportation network. Without them, AVs stand a good chance of making roads a lot worse.

At TU-Automotive, a major AV conference in Detroit this month, Sam Schwartz, CEO of Gridlock Sam and former traffic commissioner of New York City, noted that vehicle miles traveled decreased between 2003 and 2014 in the United States.

“It wasn’t caused by the recession. It was millennials. They weren’t driving 1 or 2 percent less. They were driving 20 to 25 percent fewer miles. That was extraordinary, and the trend was that driving and parking [for millennials] was a hassle,” said Schwartz, referencing a new report on the younger generation’s transportation preferences. “The majority of 16-year-old millennials were still getting their driver’s licenses during this time, but those doing so went from somewhere in the 90s [percentage-wise] to somewhere in the 70s. It was dramatic. Meanwhile, transit ridership was going up the whole time.”

Those are the kinds of trends needed to keep in place as carmakers add autonomous vehicles to an already-complex mix of cars, trains, subways, bikes, pedestrians, buses, and much more.

The first key: Sharing needs to become a more mainstream behavior

To see VMT stay on that downward trend for millennials, and perhaps creep down for other generations, Schwartz claimed fleet-based autonomous vehicles will be key.

“We could be in a lot of trouble – congestion wise – if people want to own their autonomous vehicles. Most of the studies I’ve seen have shown there will be an increase in VMT if we stay the course.”

Schwartz added, “It gets a bit different with a fleet model. Fleets could keep us from adding lanes and use thinner lanes and could allow us to add things like sidewalks and bike lanes.”

For a fleet model to happen, it’s crucial that automakers get into this new mindset, but equally important for the many carsharing companies step up as well. Kaye Ceille, president of Zipcar, said, “AVs are possibly the biggest of all car technology disruptions. With autonomous cars, cars won’t be parked on the street.”

Ceille added that cities can be transformed by turning all that parking space into green space, parks, and sidewalks. Zipcar is already testing how it would integrate AVs to its fleet and its rental model.

If people broadly embrace a sharing-based model, Dr. Kara Kockelman of the University of Texas estimates that seven of every eight cars can be taken off the highway, with corresponding reductions in demand for parking space.

The assumption that people will let go of personal ownership is a mountain to climb. One study by the University of Leeds predicts that, with autonomous vehicles, VMT will increase by as much as 60 percent because AVs will help productivity rise, reduce the cost of sitting in traffic, and allow people who rarely take a car now to start doing it much more.

And, as Jason Plautz notes in The Atlantic:

A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission predicted that in the year 2040, the number of daily trips and the average trip length will increase due to the better commuting experience. The commission also predicted a decrease in public-transit trips by as much as 42 percent over the baseline in the most extreme projection, which projected total market penetration of autonomous vehicles and myriad benefits, such as reduction in parking cost and lower travel time.

The second key: Prepping cities for AVs

At the Detroit conference, Eric Paul Dennis of the Center for Automotive Research questioned why would should think autonomous cars are the panacea to traffic congestion problems at all. He said there are lots of little common-sense fixes that need to be made before unleashing AVs.

“I Googled ‘smart-city success stories’ and one of the most widely-used technologies I found in smart cities is this thing called [ShotSpotter]. It allows you to put microphones around the city and pinpoint the locations of gunfire, which has become so common in some cities that it doesn’t even get reported,” Dennis said. “These cities have concluded that their city is so violent that it needs [the ShotSpotter]. Why not get a couple of beat cops and a social worker instead?”

His point is well taken in that, in the transportation space, it is common to see agencies choosing the short-term technology patches to long-term holistic thinking about how to make the entire system more effective.

Most of the companies at TU-Detroit were focused on getting the technology right, and they seem determined to give the public AVs whether they want them or not. But another consistent theme was that the problem of traffic can never be solved as long as the entire transportation system is so disjointed.

However, emerging technologies and data can be the connecting pieces that begin to glue it all back together. Susan Zielinski, managing director at the University of Michigan’s SMART project, said, “In every different city, there are different legacies and ecosystems. We have to create open data systems that work across places; local people can customize and personalize it to make it work for them.”

Nathan Potance, vice president of business development at INRIX, replied to her, “We haven’t figured out who the major player is. The uber Uber who controls all the transportation [data].”

Zielinski added, “Technologies can now positively enable cross-sector discussions. It’s really exciting that national and local governments are seeing this as a technology and innovation opportunity rather than just putting transportation in.”

Vijitha Chekuri, senior director of the Internet of Things at Lochbridge said, “If we can get standardization of data set up, then automated vehicles can more easily follow. One way that government can help is to not interfere. All they have to do is let private companies innovate and make smart cities happen.”

Kiss and ride

For the end game, the public sector and transit have to come along for the ride

And while that all may be mostly pretty wise, there are many issues that cities are better positioned for than the private sector (which, in Detroit, seemed laser focused on making money and refining vehicle performance), including traffic control, pollution, equity, livability, and rulemaking itself.

Transit needs to be a big part of the thinking for becoming an AV society, and that too falls under the public sector’s purview. When you’re going to have more bandwidth of cloud data running into cars than what exists in many homes, how can transit possibly compete with the user experience of autonomous vehicles?

A bright spot is that local transportation departments may finally be trying to out-compete each other with the U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge. No matter the winner, that competition needs to continue beyond this particular event. While Atlanta is not a Smart City finalist, Keith Parker, CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, has predicted his agency will be one of the first to “go all-in on autonomous vehicles” as part of the system’s fleet. And simulations in New Jersey support the last-mile complement to transit, finding that AV fleets potentially increase commuter rail ridership by five times its current levels.

Likewise, Kockelman’s University of Texas study found that one self-driving taxi can replace around 10 private cars and boost carpooling. Advocates say the cars will be able to drive more closely together, as well as avoid the accidents that can snarl traffic for miles.

When asked at the Detroit conference whether AVs are part of the solution, Xavier Mosquet of Boston Consulting Group said, “With two people in a driverless cab, it could be the same price point as mass transit. It becomes affordable. You could then replace a lot of owned vehicles. And it’s a tremendous benefit if [AVs] are used for a last-mile solution.”

If AVs can come to market following these models, as carsharing and transit partners work to shift cultural preferences about ownership, it’s certainly possible that the new technologies will begin to create more efficiently flowing highways and streets.

Photos, from top: A truck equipped with autonomous driving sensors at TU Detroit 2016 (TU Automotive). A kiss and ride drop-off sign in Chicago (Michel, Flickr, Creative Commons).

The post Two keys to how autonomous vehicles could ease congestion appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/16/two-keys-autonomous-vehicles-ease-congestion/feed/ 0
Mobility Lab Express #88 – Making a bike capital http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/mobility-lab-express-88-making-bike-capital/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/mobility-lab-express-88-making-bike-capital/#respond Wed, 15 Jun 2016 18:15:06 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18435 The first “surge” of the WMATA SafeTrack maintenance program wraps up at the end of this week as track work shifts to a new section of the D.C. Metro system. And while it may be difficult to draw conclusions about changing commute habits over such a short period of time, initial numbers suggest that some... Read more »

The post Mobility Lab Express #88 – Making a bike capital appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
The first “surge” of the WMATA SafeTrack maintenance program wraps up at the end of this week as track Bike wayfinding signwork shifts to a new section of the D.C. Metro system.

And while it may be difficult to draw conclusions about changing commute habits over such a short period of time, initial numbers suggest that some riders have been finding alternative routes. Arlington’s system of bike counters recorded a significant jump in bicyclists on the county’s trails – more than 90 percent in some locations, according to BikeArlington – indicating that many are likely using SafeTrack as a chance to try their commutes on two wheels.

Also covered in this issue: What makes Davis, CA, a biking capital? Can the transit industry find marketing lessons in automakers? and more.

Mobility Lab Express #88

The post Mobility Lab Express #88 – Making a bike capital appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/mobility-lab-express-88-making-bike-capital/feed/ 0
The little yellow bicycle button that gets the attention of city leaders http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/yellow-bicycle-button-attention-city-leaders/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/yellow-bicycle-button-attention-city-leaders/#respond Wed, 15 Jun 2016 17:44:53 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18427 Swedish company Hövding – best known for its bicycle airbag-helmet, which was explosively modeled at a Transportation Techies meetup in 2015 – is back in the news with the release of another bike product that puts a modern spin on a classic function. The yellow handlebar buttons, called “Flic” buttons,  combine the best of so... Read more »

The post The little yellow bicycle button that gets the attention of city leaders appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
Swedish company Hövding – best known for its bicycle airbag-helmet, which was explosively modeled at a Transportation Techies meetup in 2015 – is back in the news with the release of another bike product that puts a modern spin on a classic function.

The yellow handlebar buttons, called “Flic” buttons,  combine the best of so many things needed to advocate for safer bicycling streets: a practical technology that allows riders to easily take action and note where they feel unsafe.

Writer and Mobility Lab contributor Brandon Donnelly explains how it works at his blog:

Working with the London Cyclist Campaign, [Hövding] distributed 500 yellow handlebar buttons. Cyclists were then instructed to tap these buttons whenever they felt unsafe or frustrated with current cycling conditions.

Every time the button is hit, the data point gets logged to a public map and an email gets sent to the Mayor of London reminding him of his promises around cycling. Both of these things happen via the rider’s smartphone.

Here’s what the public map looks like at the time of writing this post:

Not only does it tell you pain point locations, but it also seems to suggest the primary cycling routes. I think this is a brilliant initiative because it’s entirely user-centric. It’s telling you how people feel on the ground.

Should the campaign prove successful and spread to other cities, the buttons would be good news for cities around the world, and Hövding hopes to find champions who are interested in distributing them. Other cities’ local bicycling advocacy groups would be natural partners, as valuable safety data helps inform outreach and planning efforts.

In the Washington, D.C., region, for example, up-to-date bicycling safety data has been difficult to come by. Last fall, safety advocate Jacob Mason noted that it’s easier to find data on road kill in the District than data for road crashes. Thankfully, this should begin to change with D.C.’s recently passed Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Administration Act of 2016, which will require the publication of crash data, but a “Give a Beep”-style button could contribute even more granular “close call” information for when collisions only nearly happen.

As cities around the world work to identify and act on infrastructure improvements for safer bicycling, products like the yellow bicycle button have the potential to direct efforts to where they are most needed.

Edit: The Flic button is manufactured by Shortcut Labs. Find more information about it here.

Photo, top: A screenshot from the “Give a Beep” campaign video (London Cycling Campaign).

 

The post The little yellow bicycle button that gets the attention of city leaders appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/15/yellow-bicycle-button-attention-city-leaders/feed/ 0
Boosting Boulder B-cycle with data insights and visualizations http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/10/boosting-boulder-b-cycle-data-visualizations-transportation-techies/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/10/boosting-boulder-b-cycle-data-visualizations-transportation-techies/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2016 15:41:36 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18413 And other news from Transportation Techies Boulder B-Cycle, the city’s bikeshare system, is looking to expand its ridership base. While it has doubled the number of annual rides between 2014 and 2015, from 43,000 to 84,000, the Daily Camera reports the 300-bike, five-year-old system  “is only operating at a fraction of its capacity.” However, an... Read more »

The post Boosting Boulder B-cycle with data insights and visualizations appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
And other news from Transportation Techies

transponation smBoulder B-Cycle, the city’s bikeshare system, is looking to expand its ridership base. While it has doubled the number of annual rides between 2014 and 2015, from 43,000 to 84,000, the Daily Camera reports the 300-bike, five-year-old system  “is only operating at a fraction of its capacity.”

However, an important step in building this base is understanding who is already riding and why. During May’s special Boulder, Colorado, edition of Transportation Techies at Spark Boulder, a group of developers presented several visualization tools to better understand the trends underneath current B-Cycle ridership.

Pass types predict usage

Monish Prabhakar examined 13 variables within B-Cycle data to examine the nature of the system’s usage. His biggest discovery among these variables was how riders with different pass types use B-Cycle. Across the four pass types – annual members, monthly users, daily users, and single-trip users – there is a marked difference of where and when riders check out or return a bike.

Annual members ride the most on weekdays while daily and monthly pass holders were more frequent and dominant on weekends. Students who have a semester pass (a great idea for D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, by the way) tend to check out bikes later in the evening. These differences are pronounced enough that Prabhakar has begun to develop a machine learning program, which uses past data to teach itself, that will predict the type of each rider’s pass based only on the trip duration.

Trip distribution pass type

Pass type ridership across day of the week. Note the increased 24-hour pass activity on the weekend. Click to enlarge.

Tyler Byers built upon the pass analysis to determine how far B-Cycle users ride using the shortest possible real route between their start and end points. Like almost all bikeshare systems, B-Cycle does not use GPS to track the actual routes, only the start and stop points. With this, Byers was able to visualize how riders likely move around Boulder, as well as estimate the average speed (7.5 miles per hour) and average trip duration, which matched Prabhakar’s analysis.

Tyler Byers plotted the number of B-Cycle checkouts by temperature.

To close, Gareth Coville  explored the possibility of identifying the differences among different purposes behind rides based on usage data. Like Byers, Coville created a map of the most likely route each bike took between check-out and check-in. Through these, he identified the most heavily traveled corridors of Boulder and, importantly, where ridership is lacking despite the presence of a bikeshare kiosk.

Coville also teased out the average distances and duration of each membership type, with annual or semester pass holders returning the bikes quickly and after relatively short distances. One- and seven-day pass holders rode for longer distances and periods of time.

Using this data, Coville hoped to determine if it’s possible to identify which rides were commuters and where they are riding. From the busiest kiosk, Coville found that many of these commuter rides begin at the transit center in the morning and end there in the afternoon, suggesting that many users actually come from out of town and use the bikeshare system to complete their trips. Understanding this dynamic will be important for B-Cycle to determine how to target locals to increase their usage of the system.

Parallels across modes in sharing systems

An interesting parallel arose between B-Cycle and car2go patterns, even across cities. Brian Timoney analyzed six months of car2go usage in neighboring Denver and found trends that turned out to be similar to how people use bikeshare systems.

Just as Boulder’s core is popular for B-Cycle users, Denver’s has been the hotspot for car2go members, who then take the cars for fairly short distances. In contrast, the fringes of either system’s service area is generally neglected by members, seeing significantly less usage than units towards the middle of the system. However, bikeshare systems like B-Cycle have the advantage of efficient rebalancing, while car2go crews can only redistribute one vehicle at a time.

While both B-Cycle systems in Boulder and Denver have shown consistent growth over its lifetime, Denver’s car2go has had to reduce its service area as a result of struggling numbers.

Take a hike

Also, if you plan on taking advantage of the Boulder region’s outdoor resources (and you should) – check out Trailsy. Trevor Ackerman presented this detailed app to help trail users identify available resources around the area’s trailheads. Pulling data from the City of Boulder, Trailhead Labs and Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, users can identify different amenities at each trail, as well as trail conditions, lengths and park-ranger tweets for up-to-the-minute information.

Smart growth

Data tools like those in these Techies presentations can be informative offering lessons to how bikeshare systems can best engage their ridership base and build to better serve it. Every city has a unique dynamic among its transportation users, and understanding specific behaviors or trends helps to establish an effective campaign to get more people onto shared bikes.

Photos, from top: Andy Gup speaks at the Boulder meetup (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr). See more photos from the event here.

The post Boosting Boulder B-cycle with data insights and visualizations appeared first on Mobility Lab.

]]>
http://mobilitylab.org/2016/06/10/boosting-boulder-b-cycle-data-visualizations-transportation-techies/feed/ 0