Selecting Sustainability Indicators

By Dom Nozzi

In January 2005, a committee in my community evaluated the value of various “sustainability indicators,” which are measures of trends that show whether a community is advancing or declining with regard to various measures selected by the community to show how well it is doing.Upward Trend

For example, a sustainability indicator might be the amount of gasoline consumed on an annual basis, either for the entire community or per capita.

The committee reviewed all the relevant documents from various community organizations, officials, media, and other sources.

The committee then vetted the indicators, discussed them with regard to the instructions from the Indicators Committee, and then seven members ranked them.

The results were as follows:

#1 Rank: SOx/NOx and other priority air pollutants

My evaluation:

This indicator would be relatively difficult to obtain on a regular basis and air pollution measurements in this sort of community tells us very little, or tells us the wrong thing. For example, higher air pollution levels in a town center could very easily be an indicator of a healthy, sustainable community because it can quite plausibly be due to more people/cars being in the town center. And this increase in the number of people or cars is likely to be due to an increase in town center health, attractiveness, or both. Manhattan certainly has higher Sox/NOx levels than most town centers, but Manhattan is perhaps the greenest city, per capita, in America.

#2 Rank: Total CO2 equivalent emissions

My evaluation:

Again, this data would be extremely difficult to come by, particularly on a regular basis. And might give us incorrect impressions of community health or sustainability. I am certain, for example, that the most UN-sustainable, environmentally ruinous communities in America have (or could have) an impressive collection of LEED buildings (buildings that are highly rated for energy efficiency and other green measures associated with building design), homes using solar energy/water, an impressive tree canopy, etc. Have we achieved sustainability and environmental conservation and a healthy community if all our homes have solar water heaters, but thousands of such homes are in remote, utterly auto-dependent, sprawling suburbs that are served by 8-lane arterials? Hardly. Every single building/home in Los Angeles could be an EnergyStar/LEED building. Every home could be consuming “green” energy. Does this mean that LA is meaningfully healthy?

#5 Rank: Acres of parks & conservation, preservation lands

My evaluation:

The supply of park acreage is very difficult to employ usefully. For example, if urban parks are located on large arterial roads and cannot be reached by bicycle or foot, they will tend to be underused (because of poor accessibility), and therefore not correlated to a more physically fit community. In town centers, parks can contribute to an enormous existing problem: Most all American town centers – despite what he conventional wisdom tells us — has a huge excess of open space (mostly consisting of parking or roads or private yards). Much of this urban “open space” needs to be put to urban uses such as residential, retail or office. Indeed, Steve Belmont (Cities in Full) makes the crucial point that the most important indicator of a healthy city is that lands are being converted from less intense to more intense uses (parking converted to retail, for example). Too often, in-town parks have a deadening effect on a town center. Note that I strongly agree that greenbelt land that rings the perimeter of a community is a very important sign of sustainability and health. Again, would LA be noticeably more healthy and sustainable if it had a big increase in parks? Absolutely not.

#6 Rank: Water quality (TMDL)

My evaluation:

Again, it would be exceptionally difficult to obtain this data. And there are a number of transportation indicators that can proxy for this indicator.

#8 Rank: Total Municipal Solid Waste Disposed & Recycled

Would it matter if the residents of LA all recycled their beer and soda cans? Or is this just an exercise in finding a convenient way of easing our guilty consciences because our lifestyle is so overwhelmingly unsustainable?

#9 Rank: Stormwater runoff

My evaluation:

Very, very difficult to gather data for this. And what would our public policy response be if we saw a declining trend? Put a moratorium on increasing the amount of asphalt parking? Much as I’d love such a tactic, it is a non-starter in American communities. Other conventional tactics, such as requiring the construction of enormous storm basins are commonly counter-productive because they create more unwalkable, car-dependent places.

#10 Rank: Biodiversity

My evaluation:

Again, this would be very, very difficult to gather data for.

In sum, it is crucial that the following criteria be used to select useful indicators:

  1. Tracking. Is the data for the indicator available? And is it easily tracked over time? Is it available on an annual or otherwise regular basis? If not, the indicator is nearly useless.
  2. Relevance. Can the indicator be used to draw conclusions based on the adopted community goals and objectives? Can it be used to make policy decisions? If not, how would the information be used?
  3. Durability. Can the indicator be used for the foreseeable future? Will data for the indicator be available in the future? For example, some indicators, such as lead levels in the air, are interesting, but may not be useful as a future measure of air quality if lead is completely removed from gasoline in the future.
  4. Accuracy. Does the indicator have a measurement methodology that produces accurate data?
  5. Responsiveness. Is the indicator relatively sensitive to subtle changes over time? If not, important changes can occur without being shown by the indicator.
  6. Clarity. Is the indicator readily understandable by the general public? Does it allow for a single interpretation, or is it so ambiguous that several conflicting theories can be used to explain the data?

Given the above six measures of indicator quality, I would suggest the following indicators for a community:

  • Citywide and town center residential density. There is no measure that more effectively creates a sustainable, environmentally benign community, on a per capita basis, than higher density. And nothing more environmentally ruinous than a low-density city. Higher densities are the most effective way to increase transit use/bicycling/walking, improve physical health, increase the number and viability of small & locally-owned/neighborhood-based retailers, discourage sprawl, minimize per capita energy/water use, and minimize per capita air/water pollution. Most, if not all, of the proposed indicators are strongly and directly correlated to residential density.
  • Mileage of travel lanes per capita. An effective measure of community quality of life, potential for sprawl, potential for transportation choice, and degree of tax burden. There is a strong inverse relationship here to a healthy, sustainable community. Less mileage per capita means more health and sustainability.
  • Gasoline consumption per capita. A powerful indicator of car dependence and community sustainability. More per capita consumption indicates more pollution, lower quality of life, and less sustainability. A relatively easy—yet meaningful—indicator to gather data for.
  • Total number of town center parking spaces. Nothing degrades the walkable town center lifestyle and town center residential and retail viability more than excess (particularly free, surface) parking. Any net increase in the supply of town center parking puts another nail in the coffin of town center health. Currently, nearly all town centers in America have an enormous excess of town center parking spaces.  For a town center to be healthy, it must be compact, walkable, and cozy – which is delivered by relatively high density. Parking is perhaps the most effective way to minimize density and reduce walkability. Less town center parking is an indicator of a healthier, more sustainable town center.
  • Per capita motor vehicle registration. A powerful indicator of car dependence and community sustainability. More per capita motor vehicle registration indicates more pollution, lower quality of life, and less sustainability. A relatively easy—yet meaningful—indicator to gather data for.
  • Average speed of cars on major town center streets. Higher average speeds directly correlate to more sprawl, lower quality of life, less viability for town center residential and retail, and a less healthy town center.
  • Annual number of road diets. This is a very direct correlation to higher quality of life, community health, sustainability, retail and residential health, and minimizing sprawl and pollution. A larger number of diets indicates a positive trend.
  • Traffic congestion in the town center. For locations where the community seeks to promote more infill, residential density, or commercial health, the most effective tool available is a growth in vehicle congestion. Increased congestion is also a powerful disincentive to suburban sprawl. And an effective way to promote transportation choice.

In sum, without adding a number of transportation indicators I suggest above, the proposed indicators I evaluate above from the sustainability indicators committee are “feel good,” lip service measures that will have very little utility for the purposes of measuring health and sustainability, or guiding public policy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Energy, Environment, Sprawl, Transportation, Urban Design

Traditional, Sustainable, Affordable Urban Design

By Dom Nozzi

When I was a town and transportation planner in Florida, I sought to incorporate the following traditional neighborhood development principles into the long-range land use and urban design plans for my community. I was not allowed to do so, but I hope that planners elsewhere will be able to incorporate some or all of this in the plans of their communities…

Cities throughout the country face many of the same problems — increasing traffic problems, worsening air and noise pollution, the loss of outlying farms and open spaces to suburban sprawl, the growing need for costly road widenings and the provision of expensive urban services to such remote development, increasing visual blight, traffic injuries and deaths, wildlife habitat loss, the decline of downtowns, loss of independence for children and seniors who cannot drive, loss of civic pride, a growing household financial crisis, a loss of serendipity, and a loss of a sense of place and community.

City character becomes blurred until every place becomes like every other place — all adding up to no place.

Our streets become increasingly congested and our destinations further and further away. We increasingly spend our time as anonymous individuals waiting at the traffic light instead of socializing with friends at the corner store or playing with the kids at the park.

All the places where people could meet in public and experience a sense of community — the square, the corner pub, the main street — have been replaced by oceans of asphalt for the movement and storage of space-hungry cars.

There were neighborhood design principles that characterized development in the U.S. before WWII. The following principles exemplify these conventions:

* Neighborhoods are limited in size and oriented toward pedestrian activity.

In general, “limited in size” means that most every form of daily household need is within a five-minute walking radius (approximately one-quarter mile);

* Residences, shops, workplaces, and civic buildings are interwoven within the neighborhood and in close proximity, which creates a vibrant, livable neighborhood featuring transportation choice. This mixed use is primarily achieved by calling for compatibility of scale and intensity;

* Streets are interconnected and the blocks are small. This street pattern, in combination with other design features of the traditional neighborhood development, strikes a balance between the needs of the car, the bus rider, the pedestrian and the bicyclist;

* Civic buildings are given prominent, high-visibility locations that thereby act as landmarks, symbols and focal points for community identity. These buildings are therefore assigned the proper level of community priority and serve as places of assembly for the neighborhood;

* There is a distinct edge, or transition, between the developed area and outlying farmland and greenbelts;

* Public spaces create a pleasant, safe public realm and are formed and defined by the proper alignment of buildings;

* A full range of housing types is provided, which allows all age groups and income classes to be integrated.

A traditional neighborhood also features the following benefits:

* Gives people without access to a car, such as children, the elderly, and the disabled, more safety and independence in their world.

* Substantially reduces government and household costs — especially because of the enormous savings in the building and maintaining of road infrastructure, and the purchase and maintenance of cars.

* Features streets designed to slow traffic. It increases travel choices and reduces the length and number of vehicle trips. This, in addition to providing proximity by mixing land uses, allows the traditional neighborhood development to achieve a relatively high “trip capture rate,” which vastly reduces the significant transportation impacts the neighborhood displaces to the larger community.

* Contains structures built for permanence, instead of structures designed, as too many contemporary structures are, for a short-term “throw-away” life.

* Makes walking feel more enjoyable.

* Minimizes strip commercial visual blight.

* Increases citizen access to culture.

* Creates a good environment for smaller, locally-owned businesses to become established and to operate in.

* Creates a sense of place, a sense of community, a sense of belonging and restores civic pride and place-based loyalty.

* Increases transit viability, primarily through density, access, traffic calming, community-serving facilities, compactness, mixed use and pedestrian amenities.

For these reasons, City land development policies and land use categories should be revised to make such traditional, “timeless” development more feasible – particularly because such development is highly desirable for the reasons described above, yet there is little or no choice to live in such developments. Important ways to incentivize such traditional developments:

* Adopt a traditional neighborhood development (TND) ordinance.

* Revise land use categories to make TNDs allowed by right.

* Establish town center design guidelines that will transform centers into walkable, transit-oriented developments (TODs). See the Transportation Element for a description of TOD elements.

* Reduce fees, and the review and approval process, for TNDs and TODs.

The Ahwahnee Principles (adopted in the long-range plans of several communities around the U.S.)

Preamble

Existing patterns of urban and suburban development seriously impair our quality of life. The symptoms are: more congestion and air pollution resulting from our increased dependence on cars, the loss of precious open space, the need for costly improvements to streets and public services, the Haile Village9inequitable distribution of economic resources, and the loss of a sense of community. By drawing upon the best from the past and present, we can, first, infill existing communities and, second, plan new communities that will more successfully serve the needs of those who live and work within them. Such planning should adhere to these fundamental principles:

Community Principles

  1. All planning should be in the form of complete and integrated communities containing housing, shops, work places, schools, parks and civic facilities essential to the daily life of the residents.
  2. Community size should be designed so that housing, jobs, daily needs and other activities are within easy walking distance of each other.
  3. As many activities as possible should be located within easy walking distance of each other.
  4. A community should contain a diversity of housing types to enable citizens from a wide range of economic levels and age groups to live within its boundaries.
  5. Businesses within the community should provide a range of job types for the community’s residents.
  6. The location and character of the community should be consistent with a larger transit network.
  7. The community should have a center focus that combines commercial, civic, cultural and recreational uses.
  8. The community should contain an ample supply of specialized open space in the form of squares, greens and parks whose frequent use is encouraged through placement and design.
  9. Public spaces should be designed to encourage the attention and presence of people at all hours of the day and night.
  10. Each community or cluster of communities should have a well-defined edge, such as agricultural greenbelts or wildlife corridors, permanently protected from development.
  11. Streets, pedestrian paths and bike paths should contribute to a system of fully-connected and interesting routes to all destinations. Their design should encourage pedestrian and bicycle use by being small and spatially defined by buildings, trees and lighting; and by discouraging high speed traffic.
  12. Wherever possible, the natural terrain, drainage, and vegetation of the community should be preserved with superior examples contained within parks or greenbelts.
  13. The community design should help conserve resources and minimize waste.
  14. Communities should provide for the efficient use of water through the use of natural drainage, drought-tolerant landscaping and recycling.
  15. The street orientation, the placement of buildings and the use of shading should contribute to the energy efficiency of the community.

Regional Principles

  1. The regional land use planning structure should be integrated within a larger transportation network built around transit rather than highways.
  2. Regions should be bounded by and provide a continuous system of greenbelt/wildlife corridors to be determined by natural conditions.
  3. Regional institutions and services (government, stadiums, museums, etc.) should be located in the urban core.
  4. Materials and methods of construction should be specific to the region, exhibiting continuity of history and culture and compatibility with the climate to encourage the development of local character and community identity.

Approve proposed accessory dwelling units, such as “granny flats”, carriage houses, garage apartments, and add-ons to a detached single-family residence. When done properly, this allows the city to retrofit higher, more livable densities without harming neighborhoods. Encourage or require a mix of housing types.

Strategies:

* The City will promote a mix of land uses and activities that will maximize the potential for pedestrian mobility throughout the city.

* Buildings should be sited in ways to make their entries or intended uses clear to and convenient for pedestrians.

* The location and pattern of streets, buildings and open spaces must facilitate direct pedestrian access. Commercial buildings should provide direct access from street corners to improve access to bus stop facilities.

* Creating barriers which separate commercial developments from residential areas and transit should be avoided.

* Direct sidewalk access should be provided between cul-de-sacs and nearby transit facilities.

* Traffic calming should be further developed on city streets to enhance the safety of street crossings. Curb radii should be minimized to reduce the speed of right-turning vehicles and reduce the distance for the pedestrian to cross the street. Calming should be used to discourage speeding and cut-through traffic. Street widths should be as narrow as possible.

* The City will encourage the provision of pedestrian scale improvements that fit the context of the area. The color, materials, and form of pedestrian facilities and features should be appropriate to their surroundings, as well as the functional unity of the pedestrian network.

* The City will encourage housing development near major employment centers to foster travel to work by all forms of transportation.

* The City will encourage a variety of housing types and densities, including mixed use developments, that are well-served by public transportation and close to employment centers, services and amenities. In particular, the City will promote the siting of higher density housing near public transportation, shopping, and in designated neighborhoods and districts.

* The City will recognize accessory housing units as a viable form of additional — and possibly affordable — housing, and will develop special permit procedures, criteria, and restrictions governing their existence that are designed to facilitate their development while protecting existing residential neighborhood character.

* Neighborhood streets and sidewalks will form an interconnected network, including auto, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit routes within a neighborhood and between neighborhoods — knitting neighborhoods together and not forming barriers between them. Dead ends and cul-de-sacs should be avoided or minimized. Multiple streets and sidewalks will connect into and out of a neighborhood.

* To keep all parts of the community accessible by all citizens, gated street entryways into residential developments will not be allowed.

* On long neighborhood blocks, intermediate connections in the pedestrian network should be provided, with a maximum distance of about 500 to 700 feet between walking connections. In particular, direct walkway and bikeway routes to schools should be provided.

* All multiple-family buildings should be designed to reflect, to the extent possible, the characteristics and amenities typically associated with single-family detached houses. These characteristics and amenities include orientation of the front door to a neighborhood sidewalk and street, individual identity, private outdoor space, privacy and security.

* Home occupations should be allowed in all residential areas provided they do not generate excessive traffic and parking, or have signage that is inconsistent with the residential character of the neighborhood.

* To foster visual interest along a neighborhood street, the street frontage devoted to protruding garage doors and driveway curb crossings will be limited. Generally, garages should be recessed, or if feasible, tucked into side or rear yards, using variety and creativity to avoid a streetscape dominated by the repetition of garage doors.

* If possible, the view down a street should be designed to terminate in a visually interesting feature.

Converting Conventional Shopping Centers into Walkable Urban Villages

Conventional shopping centers containing only retail, office and service uses, tend to be designed only for the car. Asphalt parking lots tend to be enormous, and push buildings a tremendous distance from the street. This form of “auto architecture” significantly reduces transportation choice, makes access difficult for those without a car, create urban “heat islands” and stormwater problems, and eliminate the possibility of buildings defining a pleasant, human-scaled public realm. The atmosphere tends to be unpleasant. There is no sense of place, sense of community, unique character or sense of civic pride.

Increasingly, however, such shopping centers are being rebuilt to form a pleasant, walkable urban village. Shops, offices, and residences face each other in a compact atmosphere reminiscent of traditional main streets.

Because they promote transportation choice, they equitably allow access and enhance environmental conditions. And they provide a superior quality of life and ambiance that allows them to profitably compete with more conventional centers.

Clustering higher density housing near the walkable urban villages can substantially increase transit use.

Features of a Walkable Urban Village:

* A gridded street network lined with street-facing buildings, and interspersed with squares and plazas.

* A comprehensive sidewalk and street tree network.

* Compact, vertically and horizontally mixed land uses including residences, retail, office, service, and civic activities.

* A “Park Once” environment.

* A strong connection to transit service.

* Bounded by relatively high residential densities.

* A vibrant public realm created by healthy pedestrian volumes, street vendors and performers, a broad mix of uses, and 24-hour activity.

The City should adopt land development regulations that lead to the transformation of conventional shopping centers to walkable urban villages.

Causes of sprawl:

* Widening major roads with travel lanes and turn lanes;

* Free and abundant parking for cars;

* Lack of quality public facilities in core areas, such as schools, parks, and trails;

* Poor codes enforcement in core areas, which leads to excessive noise pollution, car parking problems, unsightly signage, and unkempt homes;

* Poor public schools in the city center, and construction of public schools and community-serving facilities in areas remote from the city center;

* Land development codes which excessively promote the convenience of the car instead of transportation choice;

* Water and sewer extension policies;

* Low-cost gasoline;

* Poor quality transit service;

* Low overall quality of life in the city;

* Flight from crime, poverty, and “auto architecture”;

* For non-residential uses, more convenient access for cars throughout the region due to abundant space for parking, lower costs for building construction, lower land values, and easier access to Interstate highways;

Negative effects of sprawl:

* Increased city costs for infrastructure and services;

* Increased per capita trips by car;

* Increased travel times;

* Increased household expenditures for transportation;

* Reduced transit cost-effectiveness and frequency;

* Increased social costs (increased air, water, noise pollution);

* Loss of farmland;

* Reduced farmland productivity and viability;

* Loss of sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat, or fragmentation of  such areas;

* Loss of regional, community-separating greenbelts and open spaces;

* Increased urban ugliness due to “auto architecture”;

* Weakened sense of community, sense of place, and sense of civic pride;

* Increased stress;

* Increased energy consumption;

* Reduced historic preservation;

* Segregation by income, age group, and race;

* Separates low-skill, high unemployment areas from new jobs;

* Increased fiscal stress for the city;

* Increased rate of inner city decline;

Returning to these design principles is a recipe for a more sustainable, affordable future rich in lifestyle and transportation choice, equity and quality of life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design

Does the Price of Gasoline Modify Travel Behavior?

By Dom Nozzi

Studies show that American demand for high-priced gasoline is extremely inelastic (that is, Americans are willing [compelled?] to buy gasoline at their current promiscuous rate regardless of how high the price goes).

Why inelastic?

Because it is currently so incredibly rational to drive a car, even high-priced gas has only a relatively minor impact on changing travel behavior. After all, driving gives you extreme comfort, freedom from criminals, status, speed, convenience, heavy government subsidies, etc. By contrast, taking the bus, walking or bicycling requires one to recklessly and irrationally avoid all these wonderful benefits and instead, risk your life. As for “putting up with extra time,” studies show that Americans hate congestion almost as much as they hate density (which is a related problem in their minds). That is why we have a NIMBY epidemic, and why Americans hardly blink when their federal elected officials spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars each year to make cars happy (less burdened, in the very short term, by congestion, that is). It is also why, at the local level, Americans show “road rage” to the point of shooting people who make a left turn too slowly, and only elect commissioners who promise to spend all our local tax dollars to widen all the roads. I’ll never be mayor…

For all these reasons, I recommend “planned congestion” as a very effective aversive technique for car travel. “Planned congestion” is a tool with which a community makes a conscious decision NOT to widen roads/intersections or synch traffic signals, or engage in other conventional methods to “reduce” congestion.

Significant restrictions and higher prices for parking are also relatively effective ways to influence travel behavior. In Gainesville, Florida, very high parking costs and parking inconvenience on the University of Florida campus led to a nation-leading increase in bus ridership by UF students in the late 1990s.

As Donald Shoup points out, higher priced parking overwhelms higher priced gas in terms of impact on your pocketbook. After all, even with a gas guzzler car and gas that costs, say, $4 per gallon, howmuch would it cost to drive across town? But look at how quickly the price of that trip goes through the roof if we jack up the price of parking from, say, $1 to $10 per time parked across town (which is M~ SUN0805N-Gas 5quite fair, given the public and private costs to provide parking).

This is not to mention the highly effective nature of “congestion fees,” in which you charge motorists fees based on when they are driving on major roads that tend to become congested, and even better, to charge fees that vary throughout the day (higher fees charged when the road is more congested).

For the record, I am not recommending that Americans “give up their cars.” I just want the cars to behave themselves — by driving more slowly and attentively in towns, and by having their drivers pay their fair share.

Fairly priced parking, parking scarcity, and congestion fees are very durable (in terms of modifying behavior), if designed correctly. They effectively send a very loud signal each day: If you choose the socially irresponsible, unsustainable travel behavior, you will pay through the nose. If not, you are free from such payments and can instead use your hard-earned money to spend a romantic weekend in Paris…  The message is especially clear if you see your fellow citizens zipping along in the tolled or high-occupancy vehicle lane next to your bumper-to-bumper congested “free” lane, or if you see your co-worker chuckling over his/her higher paycheck because he is not needing to pay for his workplace parking space with his paycheck, since he/she gets to work by bus, and has “cashed out” their “free” job site parking space.

2 Comments

Filed under Bicycling, Transportation

The Folly of Double-Left Turn Lanes

There is a troubling, counterproductive “solution” that continues to be employed for addressing congested intersections – even in communities that are otherwise progressively promoting transportation choice. The “solution” is to add a second left turn lane to an existing left-turn lane when there is a perception that the number of motorists waiting in the single left-turn lane has grown too large.

Conventional traffic engineering claims that creating a double-left turn lane at an intersection is an double left turn lane intersection boulder“improvement” that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing congestion. And that a double left turn does not conflict with the transportation plan objective of promoting pedestrian trips.

On the contrary, I believe that double-left turn lanes will INCREASE emissions and will REDUCE pedestrian trips.

Double left-turn lanes cause serious problems for scale and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, but have been shown to be counterproductive even if we are just looking at car capacity at an intersection. Adding a second left turn lane suffers significantly from diminishing returns. That a double-left turn does NOT double the left turn capacity – largely because by significantly increasing the crosswalk distance, the walk cycle must be so long that intersection capacity/efficiency (for cars) is dramatically reduced.

Cities across the nation are facing severe transportation funding shortfalls, yet at the same time, they are often building expensive and counterproductive double-left turn lanes.

Why? Probably because of the absurdity that transportation capital improvement dollars are in a separate silo than maintenance dollars, and that the former dollars are mostly paid by federal and state grants.  Of course, double-left turn lanes also destroy human scale and obliterates the ability to create a sense of place, but those are much more difficult arguments to make.

A colleague of mine adds that double-left turn lanes are an abomination. He adds that “they are a sign of failure: failure to provide enough street connectivity, so that when drivers do come to an intersection, it is gigantic, so it can accommodate all the left turns that had not been allowed prior to that point. Many trips on extra wide arterials are very short, and involve three left turns: one left turn onto the arterial and one left turn off the arterial: there trips could and should be made on connected local streets.”

How can a city claim it is short on transportation funding when it is building such counterproductive facilities? Double-left turn lanes…

  • Increase per capita car travel and reduce bike/pedestrian/transit trips.
  • Increase GHG emissions and fuel consumption.
  • Induce new car trips that were formerly discouraged (via the “triple convergence”).
  • Promote sprawling, dispersed development.
  • Discourage residential and smaller, locally-owned retail.

Cities need to draw a line in the sand: Place a moratorium on intersection double-left turn lanes and eventually removal of such configurations. Double-lefts are too big for the human habitat. They create a car-only atmosphere.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycling, Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation

The Colossal Boondoggle of the War on Terrorism

I just finished reading an extremely disturbing, important book. Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, by James Risen, catalogs the immense, disgusting greed, corruption, unchecked power, incompetency, loss of privacy, waste (of both lives and hundreds of billions of public dollars), and utter dishonesty of both the Bush and Obama administrations.

The War on Terror boondoggle engaged in by Bush and now by Obama has become a vicious, downward spiral of what is now an ENDLESS war against “terrorism” (that, incidentally, is making future terrorism against the US much more likely). The “Terrorism Industry” includes a large number of Republicans AND Democrats, who are criminally, shamelessly leveraging public fear to pocket billions of public dollars (in the name of fighting terrorism). Bush and Obama have been shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars into places like Iraq and Afghanistan to make those nations “democracies.” Countless people in both those nations and in the US have quickly succeeded in enriching themselves by directing that money to their bank accounts and their “terrorism/democracy” contractor businesses.

It is obscene how much money has been thrown away in this boondoggle. And how many people, communities and nations have been ruined or killed in the process.war-on-terror

It is despicable how gullible the federal government has been in hiring crooks who have, for example, claimed they have secret software able to decode secret messages from terrorists. Even a 10-year old would be able to see through this scam, yet the “leaders” and “thinkers” of America buy it hook, line and sinker. At the cost of countless public dollars and innocent lives.

Chillingly, the magical code-breaking software created by the charlatan lead, at one point, to a situation where Bush nearly ordered that civilian airliners from France to the US be shot down over the Atlantic. Think about THAT the next time you are flying home from a vacation in France.

The software turned out to be completely bogus.

This fiasco has spawned a large collection of corrupt companies that are gobbling up billions of public dollars naively being showered on them by bureaucratic ideologues and a corrupt Congress. These start-up businesses are happily creating such things as militarized drones that have compelled both Bush and to a much larger degree, Obama, to engage in war crimes by promiscuously killing civilians overseas.

This is not to mention, by the way, the torture that both Bush and Obama have authorized to extract “truth” from “terrorists”. And not to mention the vast domestic spying program that Obama has substantially ramped up.

There is no end in sight to the extreme waste of public dollars and the killing of so many people, because the “War on Terror” is self-perpetuating. The more the US kills people in Iraq and Afghanistan, the more the US breeds hatred against America. The US thereby gives birth to more “terrorists” (like “ISIS”). That compels the US to spend even MORE billions of dollars to fight harder against terrorism. And so on. Endlessly.

Do you wonder why so many American communities are suffering from a severe shortfall in dollars for education, health, and transportation? Why taxes need to be raised so often? We now know an important reason: Our hard-earned tax dollars are being squandered as we pour trillions of dollars, counterproductively, down the Terrorism Rathole.

The key leverage point to enrich all of the corrupt people involved in the Terrorism Industry is fear. The War on Terror is therefore endless. The more we fight the War, the more anger and fear we create. The more anger and fear we create, the harder we must fight the war, and the more public dollars we agree to spend. Great news for the Terrorism Industry: NONE of the US presidential candidates running for the 2016 election will do anything to start ratcheting down this endless war.

None.

Why should they? It is a great way to siphon loads of public money into their pockets, and to pour both money and jobs into their congressional districts.

Don’t miss this exceptional, courageous book by one of America’s leading investigative reporters.

Risen, James (2014). Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 304 pages.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

The Many Transportation Reforms Needed in Boulder, Colorado

By Dom Nozzi

 If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places. – Fred Kent

Boulder, Colorado is rightly considered throughout America to be a model for instituting facilities and programs that create sustainable transportation choices that promote equity and quality of life. However, it is important to recognize that Boulder is far from being able to “rest on its laurels,” as too many in Boulder seem ready to do. Even in Boulder, there are a large number of transportation reforms that are essential if Boulder is to have a chance to achieve important transportation and quality of life objectives.aerial-view-of-boulder-b

To start this paper, here is a list of objectives that Boulder (like most other communities) seeks to achieve:

Objectives

  • Reduce carbon/greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reduce SOV and other gasoline-powered transportation.
  • Increase the proportion of bicycle, pedestrian and transit trips.
  • Increase the amount of affordable housing.
  • Promote compact, walkable urban design in town centers.
  • Increase the proportion of transportation revenue that is user fee based.
  • Promote slower and attentive car traffic.
  • Promote quality of life via more healthy residential and commercial areas.

This paper offers my suggestions for needed reforms to effectively achieve these objectives. In general, to be transformative (and to avoid needing to increase needed transportation funding), recognize that it is not about providing new transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It is about taking away space and subsidies and speed for the car, by shrinking size of roads and parking, and increasing the cost of driving.

Note that car transportation is a zero-sum game. Increasing the ease of car travel, or reducing the cost of car travel, inevitably makes bicycling, walking and transit use more dangerous, less pleasant, and less practical. This becomes a downwardly spiraling vicious cycle, as easing car travel ends up inducing a growing number of bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users to drive cars more often. And that growing number of motorists then increase political pressure to ease car travel EVEN MORE. And so on…

It is essential to recognize the negative feedback loop of the travel time budget, the triple convergence, and induced trips. For example, designing streets to speed car travel results in increased community dispersal because travelers have an internal “travel time budget” that compels them to allocate travel time to their daily routine. If car speeds increase due to enabling street design, commuters respond by living further away from their destinations, because higher speed streets enable them to remain within their travel time budget.

The “triple convergence” informs us that whenever we widen a road, we inevitably induce three motorist behavior changes that result in a quick return to congested road conditions: Motorists drive more often at rush hour, they drive more often by car, and they drive more often on the newly-widened street. The widening of a road (or intersection) thereby “induces” new car trips that would have never occurred had Boulder not spent large sums of public dollars to widen a road or intersection.

Why Driving a Car is Rational

Even in Boulder, the vast majority of citizens find that car travel is the most rational way to drive. As an aside, this is why adding new bike lanes, more frequent bus service, or adding new sidewalks are generally not effective in significantly reducing car use.

In Boulder, the following factors make car travel quite rational.

  • Protection/security from “bad guys.”
  • Comfort (temperature control, protection from weather, music, comfy seat, etc.).
  • Low physical exertion.
  • Status/ego.
  • Cargo carrying capacity.
  • Ability to carry lots of passengers.
  • Ability to travel long distances — particularly at times of your choosing, rather than based on a bus schedule.
  • Free parking for nearly all of your trips.
  • Untolled roads.

Boulder needs to strive to make bicycling, walking, and transit use more advantageous than car travel, and addressing the above factors (so that car travel is less advantageous in these categories) is an important way to start doing that.

Boulder’s transportation staff is well-educated about the following recommended reforms. Their infrequent instances of suggesting such reforms is therefore not due to their being unaware of such tactics. Staff would make such recommendations regularly if or when their supervisors and elected officials gave them PERMISSION to make such recommendations.

Needed Boulder Transportation Reforms

Parking

  • Eliminate any code barriers to infilling on off-street parking lots. Off-street parking is an extremely inefficient way to use the extremely costly land in Boulder – particularly in the town center, where no off-street parking should be allowed at all.
  • Eliminate minimum parking requirements and consider converting them to maximum parking requirements (particularly in the town center). In addition to converting minimum parking to maximum parking, allow increased shared parking, require the unbundling of the price of housing from the price of the associated parking, and offer employees a parking cash-out option. Regulations currently require too much off-street parking.
  • Only allow Inverted-U bike parking (or minor variations), and specify required spacing as well as required height. Regulations currently allow highly undesirable bike parking designs. The inverted-U design is about the only acceptable bike parking design. We don’t allow several car parking designs. Why do we allow it for bike parking?
  • Conduct an on-going trend analysis of the quantity of free parking – particularly in the town center. This measure is an excellent proxy for quality of life changes over time. Quality of life is inversely related to the quantity of free parking. Parking quantity changes correlate with several city objectives in a way that “green” cars/fuel does not:
    • Less noise pollution
    • Less sprawl
    • Less heat island effect
    • Less flooding and stormwater runoff
    • More affordable housing
    • More affordable transportation budget
    • More healthy population
    • More healthy retail & residential
    • Less injuries and deaths due to crashes
  • Hire a Shoup-based parking consultant to conduct a parking study for Boulder.
  • Boulder should conduct an on-going inventory of how many regional commuters park in a free parking space. This can inform the City about how aggressively to push for parking cash-out, and whether the region will be able to shift regional commuters to transit (too much free parking for such commuters makes such a shift highly unlikely).
  • Off-street parking should not be allowed to front streets – particularly in the town center. Exceptions should be only allowed on wide, high-speed streets, where conditions are too inhospitable to abut the street with a building entrance.
  • Parking in Boulder should be more comprehensively priced (market-based pricing).
  • The price of free parking should be unbundled from the price of housing so that those with fewer or no need for car parking can have more affordable housing (and reduce the incentive for owning cars). Reports providing details about unbundling the price of parking can be found here, here, and here.
  • Each year, the total percentage of total free, off-street parking converted to priced parking shall be increased.
  • Incentivize infill construction on off-street parking lots by, for example, exempting the property from FAR or density limits, and reforming property taxation.
  • Conduct an inventory of on-street and off-street parking in the Boulder town center on an annual basis. Each year, the amount of town center off-street parking shall be reduced to a quantity lower than the prior year. Essays I wrote about town center parking can be found here, here, and here.
  • Parking shall be more efficiently provided by generously allowing the sharing of parking, fee-in-lieu parking, leased parking (public ownership of parking). An essay I wrote about providing more efficient parking can be found here.
  • Work with CU to reduce Single-Occupant Vehicle travel by faculty, staff, students, in part by increasing the cost of campus parking, and reducing the number of on-campus parking spaces.

Roads and Streets

  • Convert one-way streets back to two-way in Boulder town center. Several cities throughout the nation are converting one-way streets in their town center back to their original two-way operation. Why? One way streets…
    • Increase speeding
    • Increase inattentive driving
    • Increase motorist impatience
    • Make street less conducive to residential & retail, as well as bicycling and walking
    • Newcomers more likely to get lost
    • Studies show they increase motorist travel distances, which increases GHG emissions & fuel consumption
    • Make dangerous wrong-way travel more likely.

An essay I wrote about the impacts of one-way streets can be found here.

  • Install more roundabouts and traffic circles to slow down traffic, make motorists more attentive, improve residential quality of life, and reduce intersection crashes.
  • Install raised, landscaped medians where continuous left-turn lanes are found in the Boulder town center, such as Pearl Street, Broadway (Meadow to US 36), and Arapahoe Ave (turn pockets/raised medians). Doing this will dramatically improve pedestrian safety and comfort, reduce excessive car speeds, reduce inattentive driving, create a more human scale on Boulder streets that are excessively wide, and substantially improve the visual quality of streets.
  • Humanize Canyon (20K ADT) and Broadway in the Boulder town center by putting them both on a diet. The rule-of-thumb threshold for relatively easy road diets are for streets that carry up to 25,000 average daily trips (ADT). An essay I wrote about the unintended consequences of Boulder seeking to reduce congestion, and recommendations about humanizing such streets as Canyon and Broadway, can be found here.
  • Within city limits, five lanes shall be the maximum size of streets, and no more than one turn lane shall be installed at an intersection. In the town center, the maximum shall be 3 lanes.
  • Do not create double-left turn lanes, and remove double-left turns now in existence. An essay I wrote about the folly of double-left turn lanes can be found here.
  • While synchronizing traffic signals is discouraged, when such a measure is unavoidable in the Boulder Town Center, signals shall be timed for the speed of buses and bicyclists. Signals on Spruce and 13th in the Town Center are timed for cars and are very difficult to reach at cyclist speeds. An essay I wrote about problems associated with traffic light synchronization can be found here.
  • Each year, there shall be a reduction in the amount of road space allocated to motor vehicles. Seek road diet opportunities (partly to save money in creating bike/pedestrian/transit facilities). Moratorium: No expansion of road space for car travel (via the addition of travel lanes, turn lanes, etc.) shall occur in the Boulder town center.
  • Continuous left-turn lanes within the Boulder town center shall be retrofitted to install raised medians.
  • The Transportation Master Plan contains an objective that states that “No more than 20 percent of roads shall congested.” This is counterproductive. It induces low-value car trips, more car travel, more air emissions, and more sprawl. More people bicycling, walking and using transit will NOT reduce congestion (due to gigantism, unpriced roads/parking and latent/induced demand). Contray to conventional wisdom, the “free-flowing” traffic sought after by this objective does NOT reduce air emissions and fuel consumption. On the contrary, because conventional tactics such as free roads/parking, synchronized signal lights, an excessive number of travel lanes (roads that are too wide) induce “low-value” car trips (trips on major roads to, say, buy a cup of coffee at rush hour), air emissions and fuel consumption INCREASE on a community-wide basis. An essay I wrote about the counterproductive aspects of seeking to reduce traffic congestion can be found here and here.
  • Revise the definition of Complete Streets. The definition Boulder currently uses allows the City to make the bizarre claim that Broadway is a “model” Complete Street. The definition states that if there are bicycle facilities within a quarter mile parallel to the street, the street can be considered “Complete.” This definition gives a false impression that Broadway is “complete” and therefore needs no modification (such as a road diet) to be Complete.
  • The creation of Complete Streets does not necessarily require the expenditure of money to build facilities or buy right-of-way. Often, a street can be made more Complete by simply allocating the ROW space differently, so that less space is allocated to cars and more space to bikes, pedestrians, or transit.
  • Boulder should require that service vehicles be kept relatively small in size so that large vehicles don’t drive the creation of excessively large street dimensions.
  • Boulder must emphasize accessibility when streets (and parking) are designed, NOT mobility. Mobility privileges car travel and discourages bicycling, walking and transit. Accessibility promotes transportation choices. A report I prepared which compares mobility to accessibility can be found here.
  • Boulder needs to implement traffic calming on a large number of streets, as a huge percentage of streets are overly wide and induce excessive, inattentive, dangerous speeds. An essay I wrote about the merits of traffic calming can be found here. An essay I wrote dispelling the myth that calming increases air pollution can be found here.
  • The Transportation Master Plan should list street segments needing Complete Streets or Road Diet treatments. The City should prepare a citywide road diet plan (examples of low-hanging fruit includes the conversion of continuous left-turn lanes to turn pockets). See “Humanize Canyon (20K ADT) and Broadway” above.

Promoting Pricing Equity

Currently in Boulder, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users pay unfairly high prices to travel, and motorists pay much less than their fair share of the costs of their travel. The following reforms would promote much more cost fairness for traveling in Boulder.

  • To increase transportation funding equity and diversify funding, establish one or more of the following: a VMT fee, priced roads (an essay I wrote about tolling Rt 36 in the Boulder/Denver region can be found here), pay-at-the-pump car insurance, and other user fees. If possible, make such new taxes/fees revenue neutral by reducing or eliminating other fees/taxes when the new user fee is instituted. A detailed analysis of these sorts of user fees can be found here and here.
  • Free parking for retail or services shops in Boulder is not “free.” Those “free” spaces, which are provided only for the benefit of motorists, are not truly free because they are indirectly paid by shoppers who buy products and services within the shops at an artificially elevated price that allows the business or property owners to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the parking. This hidden cost is passed on to ALL shoppers, even those who arrive by walking, bicycling or transit. This is clearly unfair, since such non-motorist shoppers are not using the car parking. Motorists are therefore unfairly subsidized, and non-motorists are unfairly punished financially. The City needs to enact policies that eliminate this pricing unfairness. Tactics include such things as unbundling parking, parking cash-out for employees, eliminating minimum parking requirements for the shop, reforming property taxes that financially penalize shop/property owners who replace parking with buildings, and requiring that parking for the shop be priced.
  • Town center properties should have lower transportation fees assessed by the City, since their location and compact, mixed-use design reduces car trips. Doing that thereby reduces the transportation cost impacts of these properties compared to “drivable,” outlying properties. It is therefore unfair to assess town center properties the same fees as areas with higher levels of costly motor vehicle travel.
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies need to place more emphasis on sticks such as user fees and less emphasis on carrots such as bike lanes/parking.
  • Examples of user fees which would dramatically improve transportation funding fairness:
  • Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fees
  • Pay-at-the-pump car insurance
  • Parking fees
  • Congestion fees for roads
  • Weight-distance fees
  • Mileage-based registration fees
  • Mileage-based emission fees
  • Gas taxes.

Increasing the Number of Bicyclists

Many of the above recommendations promote more bicycle transportation. The following are additional suggestions.

  • A huge number of citizens are “interested but concerned” about bicycling. They are interested in bicycling, but too concerned about safety to want to bicycle regularly.
  • The city needs to remove (grind to smooth) raised “lips” at driveway ramps throughout the city – particularly in the town center. Such lips can be extremely dangerous for less-skilled or inattentive bicyclists. An inventory I conducted of locations where this corrective measure is needed can be found here.
  • Traffic calming (designing streets to obligate motorists to drive more slowly and attentively) is rarely employed in Boulder, and a enormous number of streets can benefit from such a treatment. Doing so would dramatically induce citizens to bicycle more often, as high/inattentive car travel is an important reason why “interested but concerned” citizens opt not to be bicycle commuters (see links above).
  • Road diets are a powerful way to promote bicycling, as they add more space for cycling, and reduce speeding and inattentive driving by motorists.
  • Reduce the excessive promotion or requirement that bike helmets be worn at all times. While helmets tend to be important when riding on higher speed suburban and rural roads, as well as on unpaved mountain bike trails, they tend to be unnecessary and counterproductive on low-speed streets. An essay I wrote about the unintended consequences of the tendency to obsessively call for (or require) helmet use can be found here.
  • The City should oppose any efforts at the state level to make bicycle helmets mandatory. Studies from around the world regularly show that mandatory helmet laws reduce per capita bicycling and do little if anything to improve bicycle safety – particularly in neighborhoods or town centers.
  • Repeal the Boulder law that prohibits bicycling on sidewalks of commercial streets. Canyon and Broadway are WAY too hostile to allow bicycling on street. See link to the BoulderBlueLine below.
  • As is done statewide in Idaho, allow bicyclists to treat stop signs to yield signs and red lights as stop signs. The vast majority of bicyclists already do this, and do it quite safely. An article describing, in detail, the merits of this approach can be found here.
  • “Protected bike lanes” have important drawbacks, despite their popularity with many people who strongly promote them. (1) Such lanes induce higher speed car travel (when a “painted buffer” is used to separate bicyclists from cars); (2) Such lanes lower the ability to see the cyclist (when the protected lane is created by parked cars on the left of the lane); (3) Such lanes increase the inconvenience of bicycling, because bicyclists often have a more difficult time making left turns (this directly violates the need to make bicycling more advantageous); (4) Such lanes increase the difficulty to maintain a bicycling surface that is clear of glass and other debris; and (5) It is only affordable to create such lanes on a tiny fraction of Boulder street mileage, which makes the treatment nearly useless for bicycle commuters.
  • Boulder’s town center is a surprisingly and inappropriately difficult place to ride a bicycle. There are a number of ways to correct this problem. An essay I wrote about how to do this  in Boulder can be found here.

Increasing the number of pedestrians and transit users

Many of the above recommendations promote more walking and transit ridership. The following are additional suggestions.

  • Boulder needs much more compact, mixed and dense development patterns to make transit and walking a substantially more desirable form of travel. These patterns need to be clearly, prominently called for by the Transportation Master Plan.
  • Parking cash-out should be made available for a higher percentage of employees working within city limits.
  • The quantity of “free” parking within city limits must be substantially reduced by pricing a much larger percentage of parking.
  • Add real-time information at bus stops that indicate the time before the next bus arrives.
  • Boulder should continue to require “cross-access” at mid-block locations so that pedestrians have shorter walking distances.

Some of my thoughts about increasing bus ridership can be found here.

Reforming the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board

  • Each TAB member should submit their list of top 10 or 20 transportation issues. Doing this would alert staff and elected officials about the priorities of this citizen board (and possibly inform staff and officials of issues they are unaware of), and better enable board members to collaborate with other boards (there is an admirable effort by the City to have board members collaborate with members of other boards, so that boards are more aware of what various other boards seek). By not knowing the priorities of other TAB members, TAB members are less able to convey to other boards anything about the priorities of TAB.
  • Amend TAB by-laws to allow TAB members to discuss urban design and land use. Not allowing TAB to discuss urban design or land use for particular development proposals is extremely unwise, as urban design and land use are integral to achieving transportation objectives. Without conducive land use and urban design, such transportation objectives are extremely unlikely.
  • Clarify whether TAB is reactionary or proactive. Is the role of TAB to simply react to development projects or issues brought to them by staff? Or are there benefits to having TAB members raise issues not brought before them? (issues that staff or officials may be unaware of).
  • TAB members should maintain a standing legislative agenda (issues that TAB believes should be promoted at the state level by Boulder. This is important in part because there may be state-level issues that TAB is aware of that staff or elected officials are not aware of.

Land Use

  • Designate “walkable/compact” and “drivable” zones in city so we can apply “walkable” policies fairly and appropriately. For example, features such as the ECO bus pass, reduced setbacks, and mixed use land use patterns tend to be primarily appropriate only in the zones designated by the City as “walkable.” Such tactics tend to be less appropriate in the more “drivable” outlying zones of the city. More details about such “transect” zones can be found here. Some of my own thoughts about such zoning can be found here.
  • Increase the amount of affordable housing by creating land use patterns which reduce the number of cars a household must own. Such tactics, which are mostly prohibited in Boulder, include allowing Accessory Dwelling Units, and mixing residences with relatively small, low-impact retail, services and jobs. Some of my more detailed recommendations for creating affordable housing can be found here.
  • Create more housing and mixed use in Boulder town centers. Currently, Boulder provides far too little compact, walkable housing options in comparison to a demand which is far larger and growing (particularly because the “Millennial” generation seeks walkable housing at much higher levels than older generations).

 Miscellaneous

  • Hire Donald Shoup and Todd Litman to speak/consult in Boulder.
  • VMT and ADT are an excellent proxies for quality of life changes over time. Quality of life is inversely related to VMT and ADT. VMT and ADT changes correlate with several city objectives in a way that “green” cars/fuel does not:
    • Less noise pollution
    • Less sprawl
    • Less heat island effect
    • Less flooding and stormwater runoff
    • More affordable housing
    • More affordable transportation budget
    • More healthy population
    • More healthy retail & residential
    • Less injuries and deaths due to crashes
  • Adopt an unbiased and plain English Stylebook. Use “Plain English” for plans, regulations, and presentations. Remove bias in transportation terminology. My detailed recommendations for doing this can be found here.
  • Work with Colorado University to reduce SOV travel by faculty, staff, students. Tactics: disallow ownership of cars by freshmen, and increase the amount of on-campus housing.

Expert Transportation Speakers

To kick off these reforms and increase citizen awareness of (and support for) helpful transportation tactics, I believe it is important, early on, to hold a transportation speaker series.

Speakers I would suggest (links show each of these speakers making a sample presentation):

Summary

Boulder has failed to learn Fred Kent’s essential lesson. That “[i]f you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” Instead, the City counterproductively continues to strive to make cars happy by, for example, synchronizing traffic signals, keeping densities in central areas and major corridors too low, building and retaining overly wide roadways and intersections, and requiring excessive amounts of underpriced parking. Boulder has made the ruinous mistake of thinking that happy cars promote quality of life and reduces air emissions.

But happy cars are the enemy of a quality city, and actually INCREASE air emissions.

It is no coincidence, for example, that the places in Boulder where cars are happiest — the huge asphalt parking lots and the overly wide monster highways — are the places where people feel most exposed, most uncomfortable, most in danger, and least willing to linger or hang out. They are car places, not people places. They have obliterated what makes Boulder Boulder.

This misguided path means that Boulder is, ironically, losing its ability to improve and protect its quality of life — its “small town” ambience, This road to ruin also means that achieving a community design which makes walking, riding a bicycle, or using transit practical for the vast majority of citizens is not at all possible. In Boulder, despite many achievements, it remains extremely DIS-advantageous to walk, bicycle or use transit.

A great many of the recommendations above, if employed, are essential ways to reverse this.

Mr. Nozzi has a BA in environmental science from SUNY Plattsburgh and an MS in town and transportation planning from Florida State University. For 20 years, he served as a senior planner for Gainesville FL and was briefly the growth rate control planner for Boulder CO. Today, he maintains a consulting practice in which he writes and speaks about street design, urban design, and quality of life. His primary skills are in urban design (particularly walkable streets and form-based codes), bicycle planning, transportation choice, “plain English” land development codes promoting quality of life, and comprehensive planning. He serves as a Complete Streets instructor for communities throughout the nation. He has been a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. He wrote several environmental, transportation and urban design plans & regulations for Gainesville. He is in Who’s Who for the South & Southwest. His most recent book is The Car is the Enemy of the City. His second book, Road to Ruin: An Introduction to Sprawl and How to Cure It, was published in 2003. He has been an adjunct professor for the University of Colorado at Boulder, and currently serves on the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board and the PLAN-Boulder County Board of Directors. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of other organizations or boards.

 

 

References

 

Travel Time Budget

Forbes, Gerald (1998). Vital Signs: Circulation in the Heart of the City—An Overview of Downtown Traffic. ITE Journal, August 1998.

Goddard, S.B. (1994). Getting There. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pg. 68.

Levinson, D., and Kumar, A. (1995). Activity, travel, and the allocation of time. APA Journal. 61 (4): 458-470. American Planning Association, Chicago. Autumn, pp. 458–70.

Manning, I. (1978). The Journey to Work. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Neff, J. W. (1996). Substitution Rates Between Transit and Automobile Travel. Presented at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Charlotte, N.C., April 1996.

Newman, P., and Kenworthy, J. (1989). Cities and Automobile Dependence: An international sourcebook. Gower, Aldershot, England, p. 106.

Stokes, G. (1994). Travel Time Budgets and Their Relevance for Forecasting the Future Amount of Travel.  In Transport Planning Methods: PTRC European Transport Forum Proceedings. University of Warwick, pp. 25-36.

Szalai, A. (Ed.) (1972). The Use of Time: Daily Activities of Urban and Suburban Populations in Twelve Countries. Mouton, The Hague.

Wikipedia. Marchetti’s constant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marchetti’s_constant

Zahavi, Yacov. Metropolitan Travel Survey Archive. http://www.surveyarchive.org/zahavi.html

Zahavi, Y., and Ryan, J.M. (1980). Stability of Travel Components Over Time. Transportation Research Record. 750: 19-26.

 

Triple Convergence

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/1994/08/18/the-triple-convergence/

Induced Car Trips and Air Emissions

Cassady, Alison; Tony Dutzik and Emily Figdor (2004). More Highways, More Pollution: Road Building and Air Pollution in America’s Cities, U.S. PIRG Education Fund (www.uspirg.org).

http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/PreliminaryEvaluationTransportationMetrics.pdf

Gorham, Roger (2009), Demystifying Induced Travel Demand, Sustainable Transportation Technical Document, Sustainable Urban Transportation Project (www.sutp.org). Available at: www.sutp.org/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=1461

Hymel, K. M., Kenneth A. Small and Kurt Van Dender (2010). Induced Demand And Rebound Effects In Road Transport, Transportation Research B (www.elsevier.com/locate/trb).

ICF Consulting (2005). Handbook on Integrating Land Use Considerations Into Transportation Projects to Address Induced Growth, prepared for AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment. Available at: www.trb.org/NotesDocs/25-25(3)_FR.pdf.

Litman, T. (2001). Generated Traffic; Implications for Transport Planning, ITE Journal, Vol. 71, No. 4, Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.ite.org), April, 2001, pp. 38-47. Available at: www.vtpi.org/gentraf.pdf.

Litman, T. (2010). Changing Vehicle Travel Price Sensitivities: The Rebounding Rebound Effect, VTPI (www.vtpi.org); atwww.vtpi.org/VMT_Elasticities.pdf.

Noland, R. B. and Lewison L. Lem (2002). A Review of the Evidence for Induced Travel and Changes in Transportation and Environmental Policy in the US and the UK, Transportation Research D, Vol. 7, No. 1 (www.elsevier.com/locate/trd), January, pp. 1-26.

Noland, Robert and Mohammed A. Quddus (2006). Flow Improvements and Vehicle Emissions: Effects of Trip Generation and Emission Control Technology, Transportation Research D, Vol. 11 (www.elsevier.com/locate/trd), pp. 1-14; also see www.cts.cv.ic.ac.uk/documents/publications/iccts00249.pdf. And https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/5289)

Shefer, D. & P. Rietvald (1997). Congestion and Safety on Highways: Towards an Analytical

Model, Urban Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 679-692.

Sierra Club: http://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/hwyemis.asp

TRB (1995). Expanding Metropolitan Highways: Implications for Air Quality and Energy Use,

Committee for Study of Impacts of Highway Capacity Improvements on Air Quality and Energy

Consumption, Transportation Research Board, Special Report #345 (www.trb.org)

TRISP (2005). Treatment of Induced Traffic, Economic Evaluation Notes, UK Department for International Development and the World Bank (www.worldbank.org). Available at: http://go.worldbank.org/ME49C4XOH0. Summarizes transport project evaluation methods suitable for developing country applications.

UKERC (2007). ‘Rebound Effects’ Threaten Success of UK Climate Policy, UK Energy Research Centre (www.ukerc.ac.uk); at www.ukerc.ac.uk/MediaCentre/UKERCPressReleases/Releases2007/0710ReboundEffects.aspx.

UKERC (2009). What Policies Are Effective At Reducing Carbon Emissions From Surface Passenger Transport? UK Energy Research Centre; at www.ukerc.ac.uk/ResearchProgrammes/TechnologyandPolicyAssessment/0904TransportReport.aspx.

Williams-Derry, Clark (2007). Increases In Greenhouse-Gas Emissions From Highway-Widening

Projects, Sightline Institute (www.sightline.org); at

www.sightline.org/research/energy/res_pubs/analysis-ghg-roads

One-Way Streets

Baco, M.E. (2009). One-way to Two-way Street Conversions as a Preservation and Downtown Revitalization Tool: The Case Study of Upper King Street, Charleston, South Carolina. http://www.ci.hillsboro.or.us/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=3828

Brovitz, Ted (2000). Converting Downtown Streets from One-Way to Two-Way Yields Positive Results. The Urban Transportation Monitor.

Chiu, Yi-Chang, Xuesong Zhou, and Jessica Hernandez (2007). Evaluating Urban Downtown One-Way to Two-Way Street Conversion using Multiple Resolution Simulation and Assignment Approach. Journal of Urban Planning and Development 133, no. 4 (2007): 222.

Ecologically Sustainable Design Pty Ltd (2005). Summary Report on the Conversion of One-Way Streets to Two-Way Streets in North American Town Centres. Victoria, Australia: Prepared for the Midland Redevelopment Authority. Available by request through Ecologically Sustainable Design Pty Ltd.

Edwards, J. D (2002). Converting One-Way Streets to Two-Way: Managing Traffic on Main Street. Washington, D.C.: The National Trust’s Main Street Center. http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-news/2002/06/converting-one-way-to-two-way.html

Walker, G. Wade, Walter M. Kulash, and Brian T. McHugh (1999). Downtown Streets: Are we Strangling Ourselves on One-Way Networks?

Motorist Subsidies

Delucchi, M. (Inst. of Transportation Studies, UC Davis, CA 95616) (1996). A Total Cost of Motor-Vehicle Use. Access, Spring 1996.

Ketcham, B. & C. Komanoff (1992). Win-Win Transportation: A No-Losers Approach To Financing Transport in New York City and the Region. KEA, 270 Lafayette #400, New York 10012; July 1992.

Litman, T. (1998). Transportation Cost Analysis; Techniques, Estimates and Implications. Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada.

Litman, T. & E. Doherty (2009). Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis Techniques, Estimates and Implications. VTPI.

Litman, T. (2013). Whose Roads? Evaluating Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways

11 December 2013. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf

MacKenzie, J., R. Dower & D. Chen (1992). The Going Rate: What It Really Costs To Drive. World Resources Institute, 1709 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20006; June 1992.

Miller, P. & J. Moffet (1993). The Price of Mobility. Natural Resources Defense Council, 71 Stevenson l #1825, San Francisco CA 94105, 415-777-0220; Oct 1993.

Office of Technology Assessment (1994). Saving Energy in U.S. Transportation. U.S. Congress, OTA-ETI-589.

Sierra Club. America’s Autos On Welfare in 2010: A Summary of Subsidies. http://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/subsidies.pdf [accessed July 15, 2014]

Minimum Parking Requirements, Free Parking and Efficient Parking

Shoup, Donald (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking. Planners Press/American Planning Association.

4 Comments

Filed under Transportation

Efficient, Unbundled Parking

By Dom Nozzi

American cities tend to provide extremely “inefficient” parking. That is, most all parking tends to be underpriced or free to use, which encourages excessive amounts of “low-value” (inefficient) parking. An example of “low-value” and “inefficient” parking is when a single person parks a 100-square foot vehicle on an expensive piece of town center real estate to buy a cup of coffee at rush hour.

Little if any parking is “shared” between nearby land uses (such as a church and a grocery store). Parking tends to be excessively provided by developers, partially because of “minimum parking requirements” imposed by local governments (which tend to be based on outdated, excessive requirements used in other communities, rather than a local assessment of need).parking_sea

As Michael Manville notes in Spring 2014 issue of Access Magazine, when cities require parking to be provided with all new residential construction, it shifts what should be a cost of driving—the cost of parking a car—into the cost of housing. A price drivers should pay at the end of their trips becomes a cost developers must bear at the start of their projects. Similarly, Donald Shoup points out that “free” parking is not free. We all pay indirectly for the “free” parking at a grocery store by paying more for the groceries inside that store, because the grocery store must pay for the purchase of land, as well as the operation and maintenance cost, for that parking. Conventional, out-dated parking requirements have made excessive, costly parking provision the norm in nearly all American communities. Such requirements induce excessive amounts of “low-value” car trips (Shoup rightly calls “free” parking a fertility drug for cars); make housing much less affordable; induce excessive amounts of regional car trips and suburban sprawl; increase air emissions; reduce the amount of bicycling, walking and transit use; and make the renovation and reuse of lovable historic buildings much more costly and therefore less likely to occur.

It is important to note that even if a community no longer requires the provision of parking in its town centers (or citywide), developers will still face enormous pressure to provide parking. This is because lenders usually require the developer to provide large amounts of parking as a condition for obtaining a loan. And tenants and purchasers of developments (as well as neighbors) usually insist that parking be provided. For these reasons, a great many cities have converted their minimum parking requirements to maximum parking caps, since the provision of excess parking is much more likely and much more of a threat to communities than the provision of too little parking.

To make parking more efficient (and in line with a large number of community sustainability and quality of life objectives), communities should convert most or all of its minimum parking requirements to maximum parking caps. To the extent possible, the price of parking should be unbundled from the price of housing. Barriers to construction of buildings on existing (usually underused) surface parking lots should be lowered. Employers based in the community should be required to provide “cash-out” parking to employees. Shared and leased parking should be substantially increased and encouraged.  In walkable centers, parking should be located behind the building rather than in front of the building. “Free” parking should be much more rare. The exception rather than the rul.

1 Comment

Filed under Transportation