Automobile-centric thinking (a continuation)
Transportation hierarchy, source: Transportation Alternatives, New York City.
In the book Essence of Decision, which is about the Cuban missile crisis, author Graham Allison discusses various problems in organizational decision making approaches, one being that "where you stand is where you sit," or that your position on issues is determined by your place based on your responsibilities or ways of thinking.
People who think "automobile first" have a different way of thinking than those who have a broader perspective on mobility, especially as it relates to cities (versus suburbs) and to sustainable modes (walking, biking, transit, augmented by carsharing).
I think about this all the time when I read various articles about transportation issues.
In January I wrote a series of posts in response to various hand-wringing by residents in Upper Northwest DC who are complaining about promotion of sustainable transportation. See "Car culture and automobilty: 5 stories of inside the box thinking" for an example.
But there are some things going on that make it worth discussing again. (Broken record time...)
1. Right now, certain people are up in arms in Takoma, because now land at the Metro station is being slated for apartments rather than previous plans for townhouses. I wrote about the issue here "Takoma's Brookland moment: some opposition to apartment development on the WMATA station site."
The Gazette has an article, "Officials want study, input before Takoma project votes," about how a Takoma Park Councilman and a couple of DC's Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are calling for a traffic study and other measures before WMATA signs an agreement for the change.
Right: table on trip generation rates of different types of dwelling units from the original article on the subject in Traffic Engineering journal.
Note that there are many problems with the research for the ITE trip manual. It didn't look at a wide enough sample of properties, and it didn't take into adequate consideration spatial networks, density, and capture of trips by transit. But there is no question that typical single family houses generate more trips than the average unit in an apartment building.
The interesting thing is that a traffic study won't generate the results that automobile-centric people think. Apartment dwellers, especially in a building next to a subway station, are far more likely to not use an automobile for the bulk of their trips. In short, 255 apartments are likely to generate fewer trips generally and fewer trips by automobile than 118 towhouses.
As far as real world proof is concerned, in the "Car culture" entry cited above, I mentioned how a traffic study for a nearby project mentioned how during rush periods, a 150 unit apartment building within one block of the Takoma Metro station generates fewer than 40 trips by car.
While there are many flaws with traffic engineering trip generation models, the reality is that in cities with good spatial patterns and transit systems, fewer trips are generated by automobile compared to suburban areas, buildings closer to transit stations generate fewer automobile trips than buildings farther away, and apartment building units generate fewer trips by automobile than single family houses.
2. Another Gazette article, "Bonifant Street businesses worried about Purple Line impact," discusses how some Silver Spring businesses are worked up about the loss of parking spaces on their street (8) when the Purple Line comes, and how they believe that this will negatively impact their business.
What about all the potential customers who will see their businesses while going by on a light rail train, and all the potential customers who will be able to get to their businesses more easily because of transit access that they don't have currently?
If they play it right, they should have more customers because of transit, not fewer.
3. For what it's worth, that is what should happen on H Street NE, once a streetcar starts running there later this year (or more likely first quarter of 2014). More business, fewer parking issues.
4. Which reminds me of an issue in Evanston, Illinois. A fitness facility wanted to use one metered parking space for a bike corral, to accommodate their customers who arrive by bike. A parking space can accommodate one car or 10-12 bikes.
The Evanston councilmembers complained both about the loss of revenue, and how this would be unfair to automobile users. But doesn't it make more sense to serve 10-12 people from the same amount of space versus 1 person?
The city went ahead and made the switch.
In any case, it's an illustration of how "Transportation and Parking Committee[s]" need to consider their purview far more expansively, and not just cars, but about mobility and throughput more generally.