Shifting from LOS to VMT would save time, money, and better support local goals
Two recent studies suggest that California’s change in assessing the impact of development—from level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT)—can reduce costs for developers and streamline the review of projects. Under the new guidelines, both studies to determine transportation impacts and any mitigation measures after review are less costly than the previous requirements. This has been confirmed not just by academic studies, but also by the City of Pasadena in a paper by recently-retired Director of Transportation, Fred Dock. [more]
Want to increase transit ridership without adding service? Make it easy to get to the stations
As in the United States, many rail transit lines in Sydney, Australia, have imperfect connections to the local street and pedestrian networks. In Sydney, 44 of 178 rail transit stations have entrances on only one side, necessitating long walks for unlucky travelers seeking to get to the hard-to-reach platform. A new report calculates the potential benefit from adding missing links between stations and local networks at those 44 stations. They calculate the increase in accessibility to the platforms from surrounding neighborhoods, then they estimate the effect in ridership from that change. [more]
Researcher launches open source accessibility toolbox
DOTs and planning agencies interested in measuring access to destinations have a growing number of packages and data sources to choose from. Folks not looking to reinvent the wheel are turning to shiny products like Citilabs’ Sugar Access, Conveyal, and Remix. But those with tighter budgets and a little more technical expertise can build on existing platforms like OpenTripPlanner, UrbanAccess, and now the Accessibility Toolbox for R and ArcGIS, featured recently in Transport Findings. [more]
Los Angeles and San Francisco using data to target Vision Zero efforts
As cities commit to Vision Zero, they have started to examine intersections and roadway segments with high crash rates, serious injuries, and fatalities to pedestrians. What they have found is that a small percent of roadways account for a large portion of serious crashes. And crashes disproportionately affect certain populations. [more]
As cities commit to Vision Zero, they have started to examine intersections and roadway segments with high crash rates, serious injuries, and fatalities to pedestrians. What they have found is that a small percent of roadways account for a large portion of serious crashes. And crashes disproportionately affect certain populations. Intersections and roadway segments with high pedestrian crash rates are often located in areas with populations that are majority low-income, black, brown, non-English speaking, and neighborhoods with generally poor health outcomes. Older and younger residents were also found to be disproportionately represented in fatalities.
The most recent Vision Zero report from Los Angeles found that 65 percent of severe and fatal traffic collisions involving pedestrians occurred on six percent of the city’s streets. In San Francisco, 77 percent of severe and fatal injuries to people walking occur on only 13 percent of the city’s streets, according to a 2015 report—updated in 2017—that maps high-injury corridors.
Unlike most previous research, San Francisco’s Vision Zero High Injury Network study integrated hospital reports with police data. Because patients undergo a full medical analysis, hospital data are more accurate in revealing the extent of injuries than are police reports. Disturbingly, “half of all severe and fatal injuries occur” in “areas with high concentrations of low-income residents, immigrants, and non-English speaking residents and seniors.” Furthermore, seniors constitute half of pedestrians killed by cars, but only 15 percent of city residents.
Los Angeles has also done a High Injury Network study as part of its Vision Zero effort and the data from Los Angeles tells a similar story of disproportionate impact on certain populations. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children 5-14 years old, and 30 percent of those killed or severely injured while walking or bicycling are under 18 or over 64 years of age. Nearly half of the High Injury Network streets are in communities burdened with the poorest health outcomes and economic conditions according to the city’s Health and Equity Index.
The city has the most dangerous intersection in the state, and the road design and land use near the intersection is typical of many of the most dangerous intersections, with multilane, high-speed roads, many driveways, and generally car-oriented development patterns. The FHWA has found that the danger to pedestrians increases with the number of driveways. Speed was also found to be a top contributing factor in fatalities.
Fortunately, both cities have aggressive plans to address problem areas and conditions. The cities are also using a public health approach, considering behaviors as well as the physical environment. And they also recognize that disparate impacts on already burdened populations must be a top priority. However, without the collection and analysis of injuries and fatalities, not just from police reports, but also hospital records, these targeted interventions would have been difficult.
Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.
What’s the best policy for managing spillover parking?
A new study suggests that while minimum and maximum parking requirements can be effective in some ways at managing spillover parking, they are anything but a one-size-fits-all approach. Using economic models, researchers tested the effects of different pricing and regulatory policies on nearby residents, local shoppers, and non-local shoppers of an urban mall or other major retailer. They found that regulating the supply of on-site parking is only effective if the retailer has enough market power to adjust the price of goods, and even more so when parking is also priced accordingly. [more]
Neighborhood walkability and residential preferences in midsized cities
Many studies have established a significant relationship between walkable neighborhoods and impacts on health and travel behaviors. In the past, most of these studies were based on large metropolitan areas with significant variability in built environment and residential options. A recent study examined relationships between residential preferences, neighborhood walkability, and health implications in a Canadian midsized-city. And, the findings are substantially different from those of similar studies done in large metropolitan areas. [more]
By Saumya Jain
Many studies have established a significant relationship between walkable neighborhoods and impacts on health and travel behaviors. In the past, most of these studies were based on large metropolitan areas with significant variability in built environment and residential options. A recent study by researchers from University of British Columbia and the Waterloo region examined relationships between residential preferences, neighborhood walkability, and health implications in a Canadian midsized-city. And, the findings are substantially different from those of similar studies done in large metropolitan areas.
Using a sample of 2,597 adults, the researchers found that approximately 65 percent of the respondents lived in the neighborhoods of their preference, i.e., people preferring car-dependent neighborhoods living in low-walkability neighborhoods and vice-versa. The remaining 35 percent were mismatched. Along with describing their travel and neighborhood preferences, socioeconomics, and vehicular kilometers traveled (VKT), as a part of the survey the respondents also weighed their neighborhood preferences through a series of trade-offs.
For individuals who preferred low-walkability neighborhoods, the researchers found that the built environment had little to no effect on travel behavior. According to the researchers, while VKT could be reduced by increasing density and improved accessibility, it would take more than just planning initiatives to change individual preference from automobile to active transportation. The same was concluded for obesity; the researchers did not find a significant association between high walkability neighborhoods and lower levels of obesity. Instead, they suggest that obesity may partly shape neighborhood preferences, and interventions might require more than planning strategies. Through the trade-off assessment, the researchers found that even individuals who preferred living in walkable neighborhoods were reluctant to completely sacrifice low-density living environments in exchange for “livability,” but would prefer added active transportation infrastructure.
The key findings and conclusions from the study may be useful for planners and designers working with mid-sized cities and suburban towns. In the paper, the researchers also translated their findings into possible planning and policy implications, mainly suggesting moderate changes to the built environment and a greater focus on matching residential preferences for achieving successful planning outcomes.
Saumya Jain is a Senior Associate at SSTI.
Help us explain induced demand
Induced demand is the heart of why our transportation decision making is broken. Many times when we expand roads or highways, we encourage more people to drive. This ultimately makes traffic worse. Unfortunately, explaining induced demand to people outside of the transportation world is really difficult. That’s why we need your help finding a quick and powerful way to communicate induced demand and its negative effects. SSTI is running a contest to help us develop a meme, GIF, graphic, drawing, or other illustration of induced demand. The winner will receive some small gift from us as well as all the satisfaction that goes with helping explain a difficult concept to the general public. [Submit your idea(s)]
Transportation project prioritization: Hear from Virginia and Hawaii
Wednesday, July 10 at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT/9 a.m. HT | Register >>
State DOTS are moving toward more transparent, data-driven, and multimodal project prioritization. Virginia’s Smart Scale, effective since 2014, prioritizes transportation investments based on six criteria using metrics and methods that VDOT continually works to refine. Its goal, according to the agency, is picking the right transportation projects and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. The Hawaii DOT more recently piloted its SmartTRAC program and is now learning from that experience to formalize a similar program. Join VDOT’s Chad Tucker and HDOT’s Ed Sniffen as they share lessons and visions for these innovative approaches. Register for the webinar.