Monthly Archives: November 2014

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.

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

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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

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

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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)

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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

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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.

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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.

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Unbiased, “Plain English” Transportation Terminology

By Dom Nozzi

Ian Lockwood, a transportation engineer, prepared a report for West Palm Beach Florida in the 1990s that identified biases inherent in some of the transportation language commonly used today for transportation projects.  The report recommended more objective language be used for all correspondences, resolutions, ordinances, plans, language at meetings, etc. and when updating past work.

The following is based on that report.

Background. Much of the current transportation language was developed several decades ago at a time when the car was the major priority in cities. However, an important contemporary objective for many cities is creating a balanced, equitable, and sustainable transportation system characterized by freedom of travel choice. Unfortunately, transportation language has not evolved to comply with this objective, and much of it still carries a pro-car bias. Continued use of biased language is not in keeping with the objective of a balanced, equitable, sustainable, “smart” transportation system.blackboard

Language Changes. There are several biased words and phrases that are still commonly used, and which should be phased out as a way to achieve this objective.

The word “improvements” is often used when referring to the addition of through lanes, turn lanes, channelization, or other means of increasing motor vehicle capacity, speeds or both. Though these changes may indeed be “improvements” from the perspective of those driving a car, they would not be considered improvements by those using a more sustainable form of travel. For example, a resident may not think that adding more lanes in front of the resident’s house is an “improvement.” A parent may not think that a channelized right turn lane is an “improvement” on their child’s pedestrian route to school. When the transportation staff of a community refers to these changes as “improvements,” it indicates that the community is biased in favor of one group at the expense of others. Suggested objective language includes being descriptive (e.g., use through lanes, turn lanes, etc.) or using language such as “modifications” or “changes.”

Biased

The following street improvements are recommended.

The intersection improvement will cost $5,000.

The motor vehicle capacity will be improved.

Objective

The following street modifications are recommended.

The right turn channel will cost $5,000.

The motor vehicle capacity will be changed.

Like “improved” and “improvement,” there are similarly biased words such as “enhance,” “enhancement,” and “deteriorate.” Suggested objective language is shown in the examples below.

Biased

The level of service was enhanced.

The level of service deteriorated.

The capacity enhancements will cost $40,000.

Objective

The level of service for cars was changed.

The level of service for cars was decreased.

The level of service for cars was increased.

The increases to car capacity will cost $40,000.

“Upgrade” is a term that is commonly used to describe what happens when a local street is reconstructed as a collector, or when a two-lane street is expanded to four lanes. “Upgrade” implies a change for the better. Though this may be the case for one constituent, others may disagree. Again, using “upgrade” in this way indicates that the community has a bias that favors one group over other groups. Objective language includes “expansion,” “reconstruction,” “widened,” or “changed.”

Biased

Upgrading the street will require a wider right of way.

The upgrades will lengthen sight distances.

Objective

Widening the street will require a wider right of way.

The changes will lengthen sight distances.

Promoting “alternative modes of transportation” is generally considered a good thing at the City. However, the word “alternative” begs the question “alternative to what?” The assumption is alternative to cars. “Alternative” also implies that these alternative modes are nontraditional or nonconventional, which is not (or should not be) the case with the pedestrian, bicycle, nor transit forms of travel. In addition, the term “alternative” disparagingly implies that it is a form of travel only used by undesirable, strange, or weird people, and will therefore never be a form of mainstream transportation used by us “normal” people.

If we are discussing “alternative modes of transportation” in the City, direct and objective language or modifiers such as “non-automobile” or “sustainable” forms of transportation should be used.

Biased

Alternative modes of transportation are important to downtown.

Objective

Non-automobile forms of transportation are important to the downtown.

Non-motorized forms of transportation are important to the downtown.

Sustainable forms of transportation are important to the downtown.

“Accidents” are events during which something harmful or unlucky happens unexpectedly or by chance. “Accident” implies no fault. It is well known that the vast majority of “accidents” are preventable and that fault can be assigned. The use of “accident” also reduces the degree of responsibility and severity associated with the situation and invokes a inherent degree of sympathy for the person responsible. Objective language includes “collision” and “crash.”

Biased

Motor vehicle accidents kill 200 people every year in the County.

He had an accident with a light pole.

Here is the accident report.

Objective

Motor vehicle collisions kill 200 people every year in the County.

He crashed into a light pole.

Here is the collision report.

Everyone at the City should strive to make the transportation systems operate as efficiently as possible. However, we must be careful how we use “efficient” because that word is frequently confused with the word “faster.” Typically, efficiency issues are raised when dealing with motor vehicles operating at slow speeds. The assumption is that if changes were made that increase the speeds of the motor vehicles, then “efficiency” rises.

However, this assumption is highly debatable.

For example, high motor vehicle speeds lead to suburban sprawl, motor vehicle dependence, and high resource use (land, metal, rubber, etc.) –which reduces efficiency. Motor vehicles use the least fuel at about 30 miles per hour, and the capacity of a street to carry cars is maximized at this modest speed; speeds above this result in inefficiencies. In urban areas, accelerating and decelerating from stopped conditions to high speeds results in inefficiencies when compared to slow and steady speeds. There are also efficiency debates about people’s travel time and other issues as well. Therefore, it is important that if the intent is “faster,” the term “faster” should be used. “Faster” is not necessarily more “efficient.” Similarly, if “slower” is meant, the term “slower” should be used.

Biased

The traffic signal timings were adjusted to increase motor vehicle efficiency.

Let us widen the street so that cars operate more efficiently.

Objective

The traffic signal timings were adjusted to increase motor vehicle speeds.

Let us widen the street so that it cars operate faster.

Summary

Biased Terms —- Objective Terms

Improve —- change, modify

Enhance, deteriorate —- change, increase, decrease

Upgrade —- change, redesignate, expand, widen, replace

Alternative —- [bus, bicycle, and walking] sustainable, non-car

level of service —- level of service for …

Traffic —- motor vehicles

Accident —- collision, crash

Efficient —- Fast

Simplifying Complex, Bureaucratic Jargon

Too often, bureaucrats use terminology in their presentations and reports that are unnecessarily confusing or hard to understand. The result is that many undesirable government actions face less public opposition because citizens are unable to understand the implications of the proposal. Many believe that this lack of using “Plain English” is a deliberate form of obfuscation, as it gives bureaucrats more power (citizens must rely on the bureaucrat to explain the communication), or protects the bureaucrat from criticism (because citizens are unaware of the implications of the proposal). In a democracy, government must be as transparent as possible, which means that communications from government must strive to use as much plain, simple language as possible. The following provides examples.

Undesirable —- Better

a majority of —- Most

a sufficient amount of —- Enough

according to our data —- we find

after the conclusion of  —- After

along the lines of —- Like

as is the case —- as is true

ascertain the location of —- Find

at such time as —- When

at the present time —- Now

at this point in time —- now

be deficient in —- lack

be in a position to —- can, be able

by a factor of two —- two times, double, twice

by means of —- by

come to a conclusion —- conclude

despite the fact that —- although

due to the fact that —- because

during the time that —- while

equally as well —- as well, equally well

fewer in number —- fewer

for the purpose of —- to, for

for the reason that —- because

for this reason —- thus, therefore

give consideration to —- consider, examine

give indication of —- allow, indicate, suggest

happen(s) to be —- am/is/are

has been proved to be —- is

if conditions are such that —- if

in a number of —- several, many

in all cases —- always

in case —- if

in close proximity to —- near

in excess of —- more than

in large measure —- largely

in many cases —- often

in most cases —- usually

in no case —- never

in order that —- so that

in order to —- to

in some cases —- sometimes

in terms of —- in

in the amount of —- for

in the case of —- for

in the event that —- if

in the field of —- in

in the near future —- soon

in the neighborhood of —- near, about, nearly

in the vicinity of —- near

in this case —- here

in view of the fact that —- because, since

is capable of —- can

is found to be —- is

is in a position to —- can

it has been found that —- (nothing)

it has been long known that —- (nothing)

it is a fact that —- (nothing)

it is evident that —- (nothing)

it is interesting to note that —- note that

it is noted that —- (nothing)

it is our opinion that —- we think

it is possible that —- perhaps

it is well known that —- (nothing)

it may be said that —- (nothing)

make inquiry regarding —- ask about, inquire about

manner in which —- how

notwithstanding the fact that —- although

on the basis of —- from, because, by

on the order of —- about, approximately

present in greater abundance —- more abundant

prior to —- before

provided that —- if

put an end to —- end

reach the conclusion —- conclude

serves the function of being —- is

subsequent to —- after

the question as to —- whether

there can be little doubt that —- Probably

utilize or utilization —- Use

with reference to —- about

with the exception that —- except that

Needless Repetition

 

adequate enough—- adequate (or enough)

advance planning —-planning

appear(s) to be —- appear(s)

basic essentials —- basics (or essentials)

close proximity —- proximity

consensus of opinion —- consensus

cooperated together —- cooperated

definite decision —- decision

elongate in length —- elongate

first priority —- priority

future predictions —- predictions

general rule —- rule

green colored —- green

increase in increments —- increase

initial prototype (model) —- prototype

joint cooperation —- cooperation

major breakthrough —- breakthrough

modern science of today —- modem science

most optimum —- optimum

necessary requirement —- requirement

outside periphery —- periphery

rate of speed —- speed

resemble in appearance —- resemble

true facts —- facts

twelve in number —- twelve

usual rule —- rule

very unique —- unique

Difficult —- Simple

Administer —- manage

allocate —- give, divide

deem —- consider

enter (on a form) —- write

for the duration of —- during

herein —- here

heretofore —- until now

implement —- carry out

indicate —- show

in the event that —- if

on behalf of —-for

procure —- get

promulgate —- make, issue

pursuant to —- under

render —- make, give

represents —- is

said, same, such —- the, this, that

submit —- Send

subsequent to —- After

to the extent that —- if, when

utilize —- Use

with regard to/respect to —- For

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Ramps Needing Grinding/Smoothing in the Boulder CO Town Center

By Dom Nozzi

Many ramps from a street to a sidewalk or parking lot have a jarring, potentially dangerous squared lip that for bicycling safety – particularly for novice cyclists and inattentive cyclists — need to be grinded to a smooth ramp. image011

Here is an inventory of sidewalk and driveway ramps that seem to have this dangerous state of affairs in the Boulder, Colorado town center as of May 2013.

I tried to ignore such lips for ramps that would be rarely used by bicyclists (and sometimes wheelchairs). This list therefore includes only ramps that I believe would be relatively frequently used by bicyclists. I also tried to ignore sidewalk ramps with such lips if the street had a bike lane (since nearly all bicyclists on such streets would be avoiding the sidewalks anyway).

Walnut

  • 19th Street at September School: Path to the west of school
  • 1940 Walnut Place: Both driveways
  • 2155 Walnut: Driveway on north side of street

Folsom

  • 1850 Horizon West
  • Alley ramp on west side of Folsom just south of Chamber of Commerce
  • Ramp for Folsom Village on west side of Folsom at 1645 Folsom
  • Sidewalk ramps on west side of Folsom/Arapahoe intersection (both southwest & northwest corners)

Arapahoe

  • Driveway ramp at Alfalfa’s just west of Broadway (1100-block)
  • Driveway ramp across street from Alfalfa’s ramp (New Britain Bldg at 1101 Arapahoe)

Goss/Grove neighborhood

  • Sidewalk/path ramps at Grove Street and 23rd Street
  • Sidewalk/path ramps at Grove Circle and 21st Street
  • Ramp needed at south side of pocket park near 18th Street and Grove Street

Pearl

  • 620 Pearl Street driveway
  • Driveway ramp at 2201 Pearl Street

Spruce

  • Driveway ramp on north side of Spruce for 2705 Spruce, and the other ramps from that location east to 28th Street

Pine

  • North side driveway ramp for Pine Street Church just east of Broadway
  • Pine Street parking lot ramp on south side at 1320 Pine Street

Portland Place

  • Driveway ramp on north side of Portland Place serving the Medical Pavilion just west of Broadway
  • All driveway ramps on both sides of Portland Place

Alpine

  • Ideal Market: Driveway on north side of street. Eastern ramp, not western ramp.
  • All driveway ramps on both sides of Alpine between 9th Street and Broadway

Balsam

  • Driveway ramp on south side of Balsam for Urgent Care just east of Broadway
  • Driveway ramp on south side of Balsam at 10th Street (ramp for Boulder Community Hospital ER)

9th Street

  • Alley ramp on west side of 9th Street just south of Alpine

 

11th Street

  • Alley ramps on both sides of 11th, just north of Canyon Blvd

13th Street

  • Parking garage just south of Alpine: Driveway.

28th Street

  • Sidewalk ramps on west side of 28th Street at Buffalo Village (1625-1661). Ramps for sidewalks at both driveways.
  • Sidewalk ramps (both sides) on west side of 28th at 1729 28th Street

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Mobility vs Accessibility

By Dom Nozzi

Mobility is about moving people and goods from place-to-place.

Accessibility is something that is easily approached, entered, obtainable, or attained.

Todd Litman (http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm84.htm):

Accessibility Versus Mobility

Cities and other major Activity Centers tend to have a relatively poor vehicle mobility (due to congestion), but are economically successful due to excellent accessibility (activities are clustered together and there are many travel options). This indicates that in the game of economic competitiveness, accessibility trumps mobility.vibrancy stroget st

This suggests that Traffic Congestion itself is not necessarily a major constraint on economic activity provided that land use patterns minimize the amount of driving needed to reach common activities and destinations, and that travelers have good Transport Options to choose from. Roadway level of service or average per-mile vehicle operating costs are less important indicators of transport system performance than average per-capita commute travel time and total per-capita transportation expenditures (Measuring Transport). Smart Growth strategies that result in more accessible land use may be the best way to improve transport and increase economic productivity, because they reduce the average distance between destinations and therefore total travel costs, while a congestion reduction strategy may provide little or no economic benefit overall if it stimulates sprawl which reduces overall accessibility in a community.

Transportation should be evaluated based on Accessibility, rather than treating mobility as an end in itself.

The following is from http://www.m-bike.org/blog/2009/06/09/accessibility-vs-mobility/

Traffic engineer Ian Lockwood...highlighted a key concept for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit advocates. Current U.S. traffic engineering culture pursues greater mobility, i.e. how fast someone can get between places. That’s often why they are stuck thinking primarily about cars, wider roads, higher speeds, and interstate expressways. Lockwood says we should … focus on accessibility instead. In doing so, we’d try to rein in sprawl…and improve transportation options.

Perhaps given our automotive heritage, Detroit seems particularly focused on mobility. A recent Brookings Institute report found Metro Detroit led the nation in job sprawl. Seventy-seven percent of our jobs are more than 10 miles from the city center.

The following is from http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/guest-blogger/13782/access-vs-mobility-happy-people-or-happy-cars

The fundamental purpose of a transportation system is to provide people with comfortable access to what we want, in a short amount of time. Whether or not we use motorized vehicles to accomplish this access, is a secondary concern. In fact, energy independence would be best served if we used motorized vehicles as little as possible. Measuring convenient human access in terms of the speed of motorized light duty vehicles, is indirect and counterproductive. This is because transportation planners often minimize transportation choices in order to reduce delays per VMT — for example by shortening signal light durations, removing pedestrian crosswalks, and minimizing bike lanes. While increasing vehicular mobility, these measures reduce the safety and convenience enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists.

…imagine an urban street grid completely dominated by cyclists and pedestrians, with many nearby destinations, and a few vehicles wending their way through the crowd at 3 mph. Such an area would generate a poor “mobility” score, even though it serves many people with quick, convenient errands, while consuming minimal energy.

…If the human goals for a transportation system also include human health and safety, community-building, minimal environmental impact, cost-effectiveness and delight, these goals can all be included in appropriate metrics. Transportation systems could easily be evaluated and designed in terms of all of these measures of human quality of life — for a tiny percentage of the cost of most vehicle-based “transportation improvement” projects. Since people pay for these systems, why settle for anything less?

If the fundamental goal of a transportation system is happy vehicles, then conventional vehicle-based metrics for mobility and congestion are appropriate. However, if the fundamental goal is happy people, then we need innovative performance metrics.

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Random Thoughts Regarding Town Planning

By Dom Nozzi

We must avoid further subsidizing dysfunctional suburban locations at the financial and quality-of-life expense of urban residents (for the sake of equity, among other reasons). And stop throwing good public money after bad.

Congestion, in cities, is our friend. It effectively delivers infill, redevelopment, multi-story buildings, less car use, more walking/bicycling/transit travel, healthier in-town retail by smaller and locally-owned business, more density, more compact development, more migration from remote to in-town locations, less severe crashes, less speeding, less air pollution and gas consumption (at the regional level), and more political support for non-car travel.

I like the idea of passively letting dysfunctional suburban development become white elephants that are increasingly abandoned. I like the idea of people increasingly looking upon urbanists as saviors for our cities.

I like the idea of leveraging envy. Having suburban folks increasingly look with desire upon a walkable lifestyle.

Having worked as a city planner for 19 years, there is little that is more naïve than the idea that we can create more connectivity in suburbia by buying Right-Of-Way and demolishing homes to build new, connecting roads (both of which are essential in creating travel choices). With the exception of places wiped off the face of the earth by hurricanes, has this happened ANYWHERE?

I am concerned that urbanists might squander scarce resources fighting, in a futile way, for such things as more connectivity or other efforts against the suburban juggernaut.

I believe we are rapidly approaching the time when we can no longer afford the road fly-overs. The road widenings. The sound walls.

I’m a materialist. I don’t believe we can convince a meaningful number of people to agree to progressive change (such as increased connectivity, compactness, or more transit) through education-based persuasion. Such change in values comes from changes in material conditions. Effective persuasion and meaningful behavior change comes, in this case, from dramatically increased financial costs and inconvenience associated with our transportation system.

Until suburban auto dependency becomes intolerably costly, there is little that can be done to shift our system toward a sustainable, equitable way of doing things. We’ll continue to privilege cars. The habitat for Fords and Chevys will “improve” while the habitat for Dick and Jane declines.

Given all of the above, the best I can do is work to equitably increase the costs of auto dependency. And establish envious urbanism. An urbanism that, as Andres Duany once said about Winter Park FL, stands as an indictment to Kunstler’s suburban fiasco.

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