Mobility Lab http://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 26 May 2016 18:06:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Biking’s role in San Francisco’s transportation network http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/26/biking-san-francisco-transportation-network/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/26/biking-san-francisco-transportation-network/#respond Thu, 26 May 2016 14:54:51 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18321 Editor’s note: Mobility Lab’s technology reporter Andrew Carpenter is spending the summer biking across the continental United States, reporting back on transportation issues he encounters along the way. His series, “Transpo(nation): A cross-country tour of how we get around,” begins in San Francisco. My first full day in San Francisco, May 12, also happened to... Read more »

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transponation smEditor’s note: Mobility Lab’s technology reporter Andrew Carpenter is spending the summer biking across the continental United States, reporting back on transportation issues he encounters along the way. His series, “Transpo(nation): A cross-country tour of how we get around,” begins in San Francisco.

My first full day in San Francisco, May 12, also happened to be the Bay Area’s Bike to Work Day. Since my goal is to ride anywhere, I followed my host through the Presidio, stopped at an energizer station with food, coffee and free bike checks, and continued through the city to the Ferry building. We were two among dozens of riders along just this one route.

The energizer stations, cheering volunteers and high density of cyclists along popular routes throughout the day provided a look into how bike infrastructure and community can help provide affordable transportation options in one of the country’s more infamously expensive urban areas.

Bicycling is certainly affordable, costing a fraction of driving and even transit. And the city has connected many of its neighborhoods, reducing stressful rides and therefore lowering barriers for many who might be wary of pedaling through traffic. It makes sense, then, that San Francisco’s biking population [PDF] continues to grow.

IMG_1469 crop

The author’s bike at San Francisco International Airport.

Connecting across topography

The Wiggle is one of the city’s primary commuter routes, helping bikers get in and out of downtown while avoiding particularly steep hills – a possibility I unfortunately was not aware of when I first rode in from the airport. Knowing that there is a way around geographic barriers encourages biking, and as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency actively helps people find these routes, more will be willing to try it.

I followed The Wiggle downtown my second day in the city. Even after Bike to Work Day, the route was packed with bike commuters. Back at home in Washington, D.C., I’ve always been excited to see more than five cyclists at a time commuting to work. But in San Francisco, especially as riders converge on The Wiggle towards downtown, dozens of bicyclists line up together for blocks at a time.

Connecting by transit

For those who live outside San Francisco’s downtown core, biking all the way in is likely too far. But it can be a tremendous option as one leg of a trip – key to getting commuters to and from major transit corridors. Bay Area Rapid Transit and the San Francisco Bay Ferry provide spaces for bikes, depending on the level of crowding. Though it was an option, I didn’t take BART from the airport – the ferry was an especially pleasant experience, and the staff even approached to ask about my trip. Caltrain, which describes itself as having “the most extensive bicycle access program among passenger railroads in the nation” can carry up to 80 bikes on a train.

A few bikes

Bike racks on a ferry from Sausalito.

Space for bikes on BART, Caltrain and ferries is a great way that the area is increasing options for regional commuters, providing them more access to the system by increasing the distance they can cover to the station. The availability of electronic lockers for bike storage also offer some security to the process. By comparison, in the D.C. region, MARC, Amtrak and Virginia Rail Express bike services into D.C. are restricted, if not entirely unavailable, limiting the options for commuters. I’ve foregone a few regional trips in D.C. due to this limited access.

Connecting by bikeshare

Bay Area Bike Share is currently anticipating a 10-fold expansion of bikes in its system by 2018, which would make it one of the largest in the United States. The system shows promise in creating more multimodal options for commuters, as stations specifically connect commuters from farther outside the city to their transit stations.

As it expands beyond downtown and across the Bay, Bay Area Bikeshare could follow the lead of D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, New York’s CitiBike or Chicago’s Divvy Bikes and provide low-cost options to low-income residents. Lowering the barrier to such an integrated network is essential to keeping San Francisco accessible to everybody.

Connecting (in a good way) with drivers

While drivers in San Francisco have a certain level of aggression that one would find in any city, motorist behavior is markedly more courteous than in D.C. By building a culture and city design that encourage yielding to pedestrians and passing bikes at a safe distance, San Francisco creates a far more welcoming environment for active transport than some of its East Coast counterparts.

The San Francisco Bike Coalition plays an important role in this by training professional drivers of fleet vehicles in safe driving practices. This makes the streets far more welcoming by raising awareness among drivers but, more importantly, building a working relationship between them and the biking community, something far more likely to garner positive results than a black-and-white combative stance.

Connecting the region

Disconnected bike corridors fail to provide a truly safe transportation network. Low-stress biking should be connected throughout a city or it threatens to separate neighborhoods from each other, especially if they already lack a transit connection. Disconnected neighborhoods as such can exacerbate the growth of inequality.

San Francisco appears to be addressing this, by creating a very extensive network of bike lanes and routes, such as the Bay-to-Beach Bikeway, that connect almost every neighborhood within the city.

These lanes extend into the surrounding region. I was able to bike all the way from San Francisco International Airport into the city using lanes and the San Francisco Bay Trail. Only one steep downhill at the city’s edge felt a little tricky, though I could have avoided it by taking the longer route following the Bay all the way in.

Bike connections within San Francisco are essential, and have shown their worth. Expanding the network beyond the city limits, through on-street facilities and transit connections, will prove to be a major step in reconnecting people who have been pushed outwards from the core. Even if biking from the suburbs is not one’s primary option, it is still available as a backup.

The Bay Area has great multimodality options, with bike access to trains and ferries, as well as miles of bike lanes and trails that connect downtown to relatively distant places, like the airport 15 miles out. With its expansion, Bay Area Bikeshare has the opportunity to provide lower-income neighborhoods with last-mile connections to these transportation corridors.

San Francisco has made great strides, and is still working towards becoming a more bike-friendly city. There is a strong, encouraging community that is engaged in making biking an accessible transportation option for all residents in the entire area. As a result, biking is growing as an affordable way to connect everyone.

Photos, from top: Riders on the Wiggle (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Flickr, Creative Commons). The author’s bicycle, loaded up at the airport (Andrew Carpenter). Bike racks on the Sausalito Ferry (Doug Letterman, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Transportation planners need to use tech to catch up to public demand http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/25/planners-need-tech-public-demand/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/25/planners-need-tech-public-demand/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 14:23:31 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18313 Technology – from broad improvements like GPS to the autonomous cars still on the horizon – is swallowing many of the advances our engineers and planners have made since the invention of the Model T. It’s scary, and perhaps a little disheartening, for cities and their transportation agencies. But it also presents a do-or-die opportunity for... Read more »

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Technology – from broad improvements like GPS to the autonomous cars still on the horizon – is swallowing many of the advances our engineers and planners have made since the invention of the Model T.

It’s scary, and perhaps a little disheartening, for cities and their transportation agencies. But it also presents a do-or-die opportunity for them to adapt, strive to catch up, and excel.

It’s a chance like never before to reshape all the bad mistakes that have led to the poor state of America’s current transportation network and the subsequent bad transportation habits forced upon our citizens.

Mobility Lab interviewed Tyler Duvall, a principal at McKinsey & Company, for the below video. He said:

“I think the smartphone, people’s willingness to participate in things like Waze and a lot of these other technologies, these are providing information and data sets that five years ago governments would have dreamed to be able to get access to.”

Relationships between cities and Uber and Lyft have often been cantankerous. A major reason for that can be at least partly credited to city leaders’ lack of preparedness, as researchers at the National League of Cities recently found:

“Only 3 percent of transit plans are even taking into account the impact of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft even though they already operate in 60 of the 68 largest markets in the U.S. That’s according to a content analysis of transportation planning documents from the country’s 50 most populous cities.”

That should be quite sobering.

Another one of the biggest motivators for engineers and planners to catch up should be the onset of autonomous vehicles. If we thought the animosity caused by Uber’s introduction into cities was bad,  what happens as driverless cars begin to mix into our 20th century infrastructure and policies? Now is the time to at least catch up to the trends, needs, and demands of today’s traveler.

The good news: the U.S. Department of Transportation has recently lit a fire for cities to get more competitive at transportation design. Nearly 80 cities applied to win a total of $50 million in the agency’s Smart City Challenge.

The other good news: Once the winners and losers begin to filter out of the Uber-type conflicts, new transportation companies that cities have struggled to plan for in the past could have more incentive to open their data – which they have thus far wanted to hide from competitors – in exchange for more formal agreements with cities for curb, street, and transit-hub access.

Planners and leaders need to examine today which companies, systems, and technologies fit best within their particular geographies and a whole new round of plans, policies, partners, and more will need to be developed aggressively and nimbly.

Technology ompanies working within the transportation sphere. Image from TransitScreen.

Technology companies working within the transportation sphere. Image from TransitScreen.

Older approaches centered on building our way out of problems have been yielding decreasing, and often harmful, returns. Duvall said:

“I think the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ debacle at the federal level was a real pivot moment where people finally said, ‘Maybe this isn’t the right way to make these decisions. Maybe investing several hundred million dollars in a bridge that carried 50 to 75 people was not the right way to allocate scarce resources. Maybe there are better ways. Maybe data and facts should guide that.’ That is a big departure from where we were for many, many years, when it was largely an engineering decision, people were drawing maps, and it was unrelated to demand or to planning or economics or technology.”

So how can all this data – all these facts we now have easy access to – help us make better planning decisions?

  • Get up to speed on apps. Use them. Partner with them. If you’re not incorporating fascinating new applications like RideFlag’s “carpool on demand” and Waze Rider into your workplans, then you’re not meeting people in the palms of their hands.
  • Take all that data and turn it into stories. All the big data in the world means absolutely nothing if it’s not translated into information people can use. Service updates are a minimum, but getting the public engaged, excited, and promoting your brand should be the standard. Tell transportation stories at your websites.
  • Begin to consider the head-spinning influx of battery-powered last-mile solutions. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Rob Cotter of Organic Transit in Durham, N.C., was quoted: “People talk about demand for batteries for electric cars, but about 60 percent of all battery production in China goes into e-bikes.” China is out ahead of this trend and ready for when demand spikes for last-mile solutions.
  • Government pilot projects that can often be done without a lot of money or approval, such as Santa Clara’s VTA Flex Pilot that offers microtransit public transportation to shuttle people between busy areas. This relatively inexpensive ($1.1 million) pilot will help bring in new riders from underserved areas, help unjam traffic, and offer a public model of flexible transit ridership that the private sector has been perfecting over time.
  • Information advances like TransitScreen, which is bringing real-time information to 40 cities by year’s end, and Sidewalk Lab’s “Flow” project, designed as kiosks for people without smartphones but also for governments to better understand the flows of the public’s travel behavior.

All of these exciting opportunities with data and technology won’t mean anything if cities don’t display bold leadership. Movers and shakers who want to get something done have no shortage of options.

This article is based on a presentation made to the 2016 Virginia Transit Association’s annual conference in Fredericksburg, Va.

Photo: A Metro rider checks the system map on a phone (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cuts solo driving with employee programs http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/23/gates-foundation-building-tdm/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/23/gates-foundation-building-tdm/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 15:40:44 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18264 The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is renowned for helping people lead healthy, productive lives. And at its headquarters in Seattle, the foundation encourages its employees to adopt healthy transportation and commuting habits. All full-time commuters at the foundation benefit from an internal transportation program. Established in 2011 by Bree Moore, the foundation’s transportation and life... Read more »

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is renowned for helping people lead healthy, productive lives. And at its headquarters in Seattle, the foundation encourages its employees to adopt healthy transportation and commuting habits.

All full-time commuters at the foundation benefit from an internal transportation program. Established in 2011 by Bree Moore, the foundation’s transportation and life safety program administrator, the program has likely contributed to the decline in traffic in downtown Seattle.

In 2010, 88 percent of employees at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation drove alone to their jobs. Within one year of the new program, that number dropped to 42 percent and continues to decrease.

Adjusting that drive-alone rate didn’t happen magically. It took time to educate staff about their transportation options, and implement incentives that would motivate them to change their commute behavior.

“First we set goals, then we gave our employees the flexibility to choose how they travel to and from work each day. There are a lot of [employer programs] that do not or are not in the position to provide all the information and the choices we offer our employees,” Moore said during a recent webinar co-sponsored by the Association for Commuter Transportation and Best Workplaces for Commuters.

(The session also included innovative employee-transportation approaches happening at Genentech in San Francisco and The MITRE Corporation in Northern Virginia.)

When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation moved to its new campus five years ago, Seattle required a transportation demand program to be put in place. Moore jumped into action, predicting that the location change provided the best opportunity to try to influence and inform new commute habits.

Gates mode split 2015

Mode split as of 2015 at the Gates Foundation, four years after its move. Click to enlarge.

Moore and the foundation teamed-up with Luum, a Seattle-based enterprise-mobility software provider, to understand employee commute activity, motivate behavior change, and provide all commute services in one seamless experience.

The foundation’s TDM program works by:

  • Disincentivizing parking and making it much more flexible. The foundation charges a daily rate rather than locking employees into monthly parking permits.
  • Using parking-management software that deducts parking charges directly out of employees’ paychecks, allowing them to be split between carpools, and waiving fees for vanpoolers.
  • Using a corresponding $3 daily incentive that is awarded to employees who take any form of alternative transportation to work, and
  • Offering a comprehensive range of transportation benefits for alternative modes, including transit, monorail, and ferry passes.
Employees log commute behaviors in this portal, where parking fees also appear.

Employees log commute behaviors in this calendar, where parking fees also appear.

“The Luum platform was essential in enabling us to bring together this holistic transportation-benefits program that centers around the foundation’s Commute Tool: a one-stop-shop experience for employees to find out about all of their commute options,” Moore said.

“Robust reporting and data insights gathered through the Commute Tool also help us to understand commute behavior and continually refine our program for the greatest behavior change and bottom-line cost savings.”

Photos, from top: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation office building reflects the nearby Space Needle (Wonderlane, Flickr, Creative Commons). Presentation screenshots from Bree Moore.

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Mobile ticketing bringing versatility, connections to transit systems http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/20/mobile-ticket-transit-versatility/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/20/mobile-ticket-transit-versatility/#respond Fri, 20 May 2016 18:01:25 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18283 Transit agencies are increasingly viewing the smartphone as a path towards improving the ways people book and use tickets, changes that, in turn, boost ridership and provide more connecting options. In Rice University’s Urban Edge blog, Leah Binkovitz looks into how advances in mobile ticketing are beginning to create payment flexibility for transit systems, everywhere... Read more »

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Transit agencies are increasingly viewing the smartphone as a path towards improving the ways people book and use tickets, changes that, in turn, boost ridership and provide more connecting options.

In Rice University’s Urban Edge blog, Leah Binkovitz looks into how advances in mobile ticketing are beginning to create payment flexibility for transit systems, everywhere from Portland to LA to Dallas. Houston’s Metro, which recently added mobile payments, sees 3 percent of sales now come from phones, which offer a number of options:

In Houston, riders can now purchase single-trip tickets or day passes on their smartphones for local buses or MetroRail. The tickets can be stored offline and activated before the ride begins. [Tickets] are valid for up to three hours once activated. When a fare inspector or transit operator asks to see the ticket, riders can show the activated ticket on their screen, even if they’re not online.

… This summer, the service will expand to include Park & Ride tickets. Metro is also hoping to partner with schools and hospitals to provide tickets to students and patients. And corporate sponsors will be able to subsidize trips for employees through mobile ticketing. “I think the utility of the app is really going to be seen when those features roll out,” [moovel employee Brian] Stanley said.

And the shift towards mobile ticketing, Binkovitz notes, helps people start thinking about other transportation options that may be useful to them. Portland’s integration with RideTap software allows it to display ride-hailing and carsharing services alongside its transit ticketing information, cementing the last-mile possibilities of options like car2go and Lyft for people.

In the D.C. area, WMATA cancelled a pilot this year that would have brought mobile-friendly NFC technology to faregates and payments. The new faregates would have allowed riders to tap Near-Field Communications-enabled phones and credit cards to directly deduct the cost of riding from their bank accounts.

According to the Washington Post, however, the pilot program of 3,000 people suffered a low-usage rate, perhaps connected to the placement of new faregates only at certain stations. But with the current SmarTrip system, which a WMATA report states is “too costly to maintain, and severely limited in its flexibility” (see WAMU reporter Martin Di Caro’s note below), new technologies still hold promise for future solutions.

As smartphones become ubiquitous and riders seek to simplify the process of taking transit, there remains plenty of potential for agencies to make digital conversions.

Photo: Riders wait for the Houston Metro light rail (imelda, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Barcelona’s “superblock” plan to return dedicated car space to the public http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/19/barcelonas-superblock-plan-return-car-space-public/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/19/barcelonas-superblock-plan-return-car-space-public/#respond Thu, 19 May 2016 16:20:56 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18267 Barcelona is in the midst of dramatically rethinking its urban fabric to address issues around urban mobility and climate change. Initially laid out in this 2014 Urban Mobility Plan for Barcelona [PDF], the city is now implementing something it calls superilles (or “superblocks” in English). Here’s what it looks like: The idea is to concentrate transit... Read more »

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Barcelona is in the midst of dramatically rethinking its urban fabric to address issues around urban mobility and climate change. Initially laid out in this 2014 Urban Mobility Plan for Barcelona [PDF], the city is now implementing something it calls superilles (or “superblocks” in English).

Here’s what it looks like:

The idea is to concentrate transit and vehicular traffic onto the edge of these new superblocks and then convert the interiors into livable spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Here’s a description from the Agència d’Ecologia Urbana de Barcelona:

“Superblocks are made up of a grid of basic roads forming a polygon, some 400 by 400 meters, with both interior and exterior components. The interior (intervía) is closed to motorized vehicles and above ground parking, and gives preference to pedestrian traffic in the public space. Though the inner streets are generally reserved for pedestrians, they can be used by residential traffic, services, emergency vehicles, and loading/unloading vehicles under special circumstances. The perimeter, or exterior, of Superblocks is where motorized traffic circulates, and makes up the basic roads.”

The result is going to be an absolutely radical shift in the amount of public space given to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. When their 2014 report was issued, it was estimated that 73 percent of public space was allocated to cars (versus pedestrians). This plan will completely flip that ratio. With the superblock model, it is estimated that 77 percent of public space will now be allocated to pedestrians.

Here’s what that is expected to look like…

Before:

After:

There are also plans to expand the bicycle network to roughly 95 percent of the city’s population.

Before:

After:

This post originally appeared on Architect This City. Barcelona residents, please chime in there if you would like to share a local perspective on the plans.

Images, from top: Barcelona’s Eixample as seen from the Sagrada Familia (Santi, Flickr, Creative Commons). Maps from the Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona 2013-2018 [PDF].

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Transit delay measurements should reflect how waits affect riders http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/17/transit-measurements-delays-riders/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/17/transit-measurements-delays-riders/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 19:41:49 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18255 It matters how transit agencies measure their own performance, not only internally but also for their riders. These measurements help agencies form the basic understanding of how reliable their services are and help them identify what needs to be improved. In a post today, transit advocacy and research organization TransitCenter notes how New York’s MTA could change... Read more »

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It matters how transit agencies measure their own performance, not only internally but also for their riders. These measurements help agencies form the basic understanding of how reliable their services are and help them identify what needs to be improved.

In a post today, transit advocacy and research organization TransitCenter notes how New York’s MTA could change how it measures its subway performance in order to provide more clarity. Zak Accuardi writes that the MTA currently tracks several metrics that focus on train headways and schedules:

But those measurements might not actually indicate whether the agency is delivering good service to riders. For example, regarding subway delay, the MTA relies heavily on a performance metric known as “wait assessment,” defined as the percentage of train arrivals that cause passengers to wait at least 25 percent longer than expected.

Wait assessment has two major problems. First, it is not obvious what it means to have a “good” wait assessment score. If the A train has a wait assessment score of 85 percent, what does that mean for riders? Second, wait assessment is indifferent to how late a train is or how many riders are affected by its lateness. On a line with service every four minutes, a gap of six minutes between trains in the Bronx at 6 a.m. is equally as “bad” as a gap of 15 minutes between trains passing through Grand Central at rush hour.

Instead, Accuardi suggests the MTA look into a different metric, “excess wait time,” which focuses on how much time riders actually spend waiting for a train rather than how much they should be waiting against the real schedule.

For starters, EWT records delay in minutes rather than as a percentage, which captures the problem of delay for riders much more accurately and intuitively. As a result, long gaps in service that cause big rider delays are weighted more heavily than small delays. Additionally, EWT weights delay by the number of people affected, so a service problem during rush hour counts as a bigger negative than an equivalent service delay on Sunday morning.

In the D.C. region, WMATA recently began pilot-testing a slightly different method of measuring its rail performance. While past reports have documented what percent of trains adhere to scheduled arrival times and headways, called “rail on-time performance,” the new pilot metric “rail customer on-time performance” [PDF] focuses more on how riders move through the system.

Customer on-time performance – measured by the time between entry and exit SmarTrip card taps – calculates the percentage of trips made on-time, integrating factors such as walking times and faregate availability into train delays. Ultimately this could mean a more realistic reading of how people are experiencing the Metrorail system; however, it doesn’t have the rider-facing benefits of translating into an easy-to-understand idea of “minutes of waiting.”

As agencies work to establish goals and quantify the effects of maintenance and repair programs, adopting easy-to-understand metrics that reflect the true experiences of riding, and costs of delays, can help to communicate reliability to riders.

Read TransitCenter’s full analysis – which also discusses how Boston’s MBTA is using EWT and open data, as well as TransitCenter’s New York-based bus EWT application – here.

Photo: Riders on the New York subway (David Barkan, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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After first test, the Hyperloop still has to convince public it’s a worthy option http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/16/hyperloop-early-test-public-opinion/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/16/hyperloop-early-test-public-opinion/#respond Mon, 16 May 2016 18:31:20 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18244 When Mobility Lab and other experts discuss improving transportation connections for people, we often mean within their local areas. A recent test of the Hyperloop, however, suggests we should allocate a bit more time considering how to better connect the entire country. Think about it, the recent travails of the Metro subway in Washington, D.C.,... Read more »

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When Mobility Lab and other experts discuss improving transportation connections for people, we often mean within their local areas. A recent test of the Hyperloop, however, suggests we should allocate a bit more time considering how to better connect the entire country.

Think about it, the recent travails of the Metro subway in Washington, D.C., almost seem  idyllic when compared to our options for getting from city to city. Across car travel, Amtrak, and the hassles of flying, a trip from D.C. to New York are all essentially a wash, time-wise.

Footage of the test from CNET.

Enter Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept. The electromagnetic rail system got a test in the Nevada desert on May 11, marking a first for one of the two firms currently constructing the technology. The system looks to average around 600 miles-an-hour and max out at about 760 mph. If it becomes serviceable, the first line is likely to be Los Angeles to San Francisco. That 383-mile trip would take about 35 minutes, meaning the 226-mile trip from D.C. to New York might run between 20 and 25 minutes.

It sounds like a big improvement, especially if we could connect every city in the country. Businesses and people would flock to the Hyperloop hubs, which could become mass centers of commerce. However, how travelers move outward from those central hubs could be a disaster if primary transit networks aren’t part of the considerations and flexible mass-transit options aren’t lined up.

As entrepreneurs like Musk march toward the science-fiction future that many have imagined for decades, even tougher than creating the technology will be winning the court of public opinion.

Zack Huhn, a startup expert and blogger notes that “every major paradigm shift relating to transportation has been met with great resistance.” He writes:

“The automobile, for example, was disallowed from many city streets because unfamiliar noise startled the horses. When Tesla introduced an effective plan for rolling out electric vehicle infrastructure nationwide, the proposition was ridiculed and essentially disallowed by big auto and oil lobbies. These interests shared an initial lack in public support – including implications such as a lack of public policy influence, and equally as important, a lack of funding or resource allocation from the public and private sectors alike.

“The most important impact from successful Hyperloop testing will be a shift in public opinion not only to become more open to ideas of different and improved means of transportation, but to be more demanding of them.”

We know that people in the U.S. rarely think of adjusting their transportation choices. So could we take the leap from mostly driving in our personal vehicles alone and riding on airplanes right past public transit and Amtrak trains all the way to Hyperloop?

In order for this to happen, public officials and transportation experts will need to focus on:

  • Making sure it works with existing transportation systems
  • Acquiring land rights and making cross-jurisdictional agreements
  • Quantifying how regional economies react, and
  • Determining its impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, the public will concern itself with questions like:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How safe is it?
  • How reliable is it? and
  • How comfortable will the riding experience be?

Given the unprecedented speeds involved, safety will be a key point for companies to get ahead of and address, as is the case with many new transportation technologies. Think of bikeshare, which has never had a fatality in the U.S., and driverless cars, which have only had one self-caused crash after millions of miles of testing. Once testing grounds prove safe, as long as riders agree to start boarding, over time people begin to think more rationally about their levels of safety.

NASA Ames research psychologist Lee Stone claims the ride will be comfortable and similar to riding a bus, that Hyperloop passengers can “drink a Coke” while traveling at high speeds. Other experts say that Hyperloop companies are planning to make takeoff and slow-downs similar to airplane acceleration levels.

Musk also seems to have the costs worked out so that the Hyperloop would truly be the best intercity option for all income levels. He has claimed that 840 people per hour could be moved between Los Angeles and San Francisco at a ticket price of $20 per passenger. But, not surprisingly, many experts disagree, and some have said that a more realistic single ticket price would be around $1,000.

The ultimate consumer cost – as with many of the specifics for operation – remains a major unanswered question as the Hyperloop moves toward reality.

Photo, top: Hyperloop One’s sled test decelerating (photo from Hyperloop One).

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Mobility Lab Express #86 – SafeTrack and TDM http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/16/mobility-lab-express-86-safetrack-tdm/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/16/mobility-lab-express-86-safetrack-tdm/#respond Mon, 16 May 2016 17:45:35 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18240 Following our video explanation of transportation demand management strategies last month, the Washington, D.C., region will soon see such policies brought to the forefront of the transportation discussion. The recently announced SafeTrack Metro repair program will disrupt the commutes of thousands of people, necessitating other options to step up and ease the travel. But as... Read more »

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Metro car crowd Kittner_20151021_7797 smFollowing our video explanation of transportation demand management strategies last month, the Washington, D.C., region will soon see such policies brought to the forefront of the transportation discussion. The recently announced SafeTrack Metro repair program will disrupt the commutes of thousands of people, necessitating other options to step up and ease the travel.

But as Mobility Lab CEO Lois DeMeester writes, this is an opportunity for the region to engage with an array of TDM strategies at an unprecedented scale.

Also covered in this issue: accessible bikeshare in College Park, Md., public-private partnerships, and bikeshare data standards.

Mobility Lab Express #86

 

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Fragmented bike networks don’t take people where they need to go http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/13/seattle-bike-greenways-network/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/13/seattle-bike-greenways-network/#respond Fri, 13 May 2016 19:50:33 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18229 People are much more likely to ride on streets with bike lanes and other bike-friendly facilities, but these lanes and corridors must actually lead somewhere to be useful and protective. In a post on Seattle Bike Blog, the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group draws this point in describing the current state of that city’s disjointed biking... Read more »

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People are much more likely to ride on streets with bike lanes and other bike-friendly facilities, but these lanes and corridors must actually lead somewhere to be useful and protective.

In a post on Seattle Bike Blog, the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group draws this point in describing the current state of that city’s disjointed biking network.

Bicyclist Shirley Savel writes:

“When I bike home from North Seattle I follow the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway south but don’t bike to the end because I value my life. I choose the greenway because it has all the elements I love in a slow street: speed humps, flashing beacons, low-grade roads and all-around less cars.

“SDOT has a way of ending this. It ends in a protected bike lane to Franklin High School and the Light Rail Station. Ha-ha, just kidding. It dumps you right into Rainier Ave. THE MOST DANGEROUS ROAD IN SEATTLE. I made this 53-second video to show you.”

While Seattle has designated greenways and protected bike lanes that provide safe, stress-less routes for riders – especially families – many of these exist in a vacuum, not connecting with each other or with other nearby neighborhoods, as Seattle Neighborhood Greenways demonstrates in this map.

It’s an all-too-common problem for safe bicycling in cities. In Washington, D.C., the northern section of the green-painted and concrete-buffered bike lane on 1st Street NE through NoMa – arguably the most stress-free on-street ride in town – ends blocks south of a 6-lane triangular intersection teeming with high-speed traffic. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is currently advocating to unite more trails in the D.C. area, supporting National Park Service recommendations to extend, connect and improve several trails and protected bike lanes.

Encouraging more bicycling means not only designing streets around people, but also ensuring that those streets connect with where people need to go.

Thanks to People for Bikes for originally highlighting the video and post.

Photo, top: A family rides on a neighborhood greenway in Seattle (Seattle DOT, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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College Park’s mBike brings accessible bikeshare to the region http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/12/college-parks-mbike-brings-accessible-bikeshare-region/ http://mobilitylab.org/2016/05/12/college-parks-mbike-brings-accessible-bikeshare-region/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 19:36:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18216 A new bikesharing system, mBike, recently launched in a partnership between the city of College Park, the University of Maryland, and bikeshare operator Zagster. The mBike program has 125 bikes that serves students, faculty, staff, and residents on the university campus and in the surrounding city. Though it’s not compatible with Capital Bikeshare, what’s particularly... Read more »

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A new bikesharing system, mBike, recently launched in a partnership between the city of College Park, the University of Maryland, and bikeshare operator Zagster.

The mBike program has 125 bikes that serves students, faculty, staff, and residents on the university campus and in the surrounding city. Though it’s not compatible with Capital Bikeshare, what’s particularly notable for the new system is its inclusion of five accessible bikes.

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said, “College Park is proud to be one of the first jurisdictions to have a bikesharing program that is broadly accessible to all users, including people with disabilities.”

Similar to existing Zagster bikeshare programs in Carmel, Indiana, and at The Ohio State University, mBike provides several different types of accessible bikes. Users who may be unable to ride a typical two-wheel bike without a modification (like me) can choose from two tricycles, two side-by-side bikes (similar to a tandem, but side by side), or one handcycle. Beyond the design, the bikes operate the same as the rest of the system, and can be returned to any of College Park’s 14 stations.

The system is not yet perfect – with so few accessible bikes, it can be difficult to find them amongst all the others. I spent a good 45 minutes at Ohio State with my mom last fall searching for the handcycle option, which works best for me. Zagster has said it is working on a solution to this. Still, once I’m on the bike, I’m loving it.

mBike’s handcycle option. Photo from Zagster.

Creating a standard of equitable bikeshare

Bikeshare has become popular in cities around the world, providing people who do not own a bike – or who may want to only bike a short distance in a city – with the chance to ride. And as it’s grown, advocates have raised the need to ensure all community members are benefiting from bikeshare programs.

This goal of inclusion is spreading: the Federal Transit Administration is encouraging transit agencies and jurisdictions to integrate bikesharing and other modes of “mobility on demand” with public transportation. In its MOD Sandbox funding program, the FTA includes in its guiding principles the need for “equity of service delivery” to low-income communities, the aging population, and people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

A side-by-side accessible mbike.

The author on a side-by-side accessible mBike.

Other bikeshare programs have worked to address equity, including race, class, and gender inequities – ensuring access in typically underserved neighborhoods, cash options for riders who may not have access to a bank account (Indego in Philadelphia and Capital Bikeshare in Arlington both have cash options). Zagster allows riders who don’t have smartphones to reserve bikes using text messages and may be the first bikeshare company to provide accessible bikes for different body types, or, in their words, “different spokes for different folks.”

Personally, I’ve been working alongside bicycle and pedestrian advocates for the past few years, and have friends who work for and use bikeshare systems, but the docking stations around D.C. barely register on my mind because they are inaccessible to me. To suddenly have access to a new technology that so many others take for granted is akin to being granted a door to another world.

That should be the goal for every transportation program and service: to ensure access for all. I hope the notion that bikeshare can be available for different body types will spread. Our transportation options should reflect and serve the communities that we live in – and that means ensuring sidewalks, busses, trains, taxis, TNCs, and bikeshares are accessible to, and benefit, all of us.

Photos by the author.

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