Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Transportation infrastructure interruptions as a missed opportunity for improving transportation demand management programming

Exogenous shocks to a system are great opportunities for the adoption and routinization of new behaviors.

With advanced notice and the development of structured responses, major road closures have often ended up shifting travel behavior, and proving hypotheses about induced demand as an explanation for how increasing the number of road lanes increases use rather than reduces congestion.

Note that the local jurisdictions, including DC, have engaged in many measures to facilitate mobility in the face of Metrorail line closures for the SafeTrack repair initiative.

But these changes have been more incremental than structural.

Closure of Beach Drive for reconstruction.  Yesterday's Post reported ("D.C. officials' advice to Beach Drive users: Find an alternate plan") on a press conference where local officials told motorists to seek alternative commuting options because Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, a major commuting artery serving Northwest Washington and Montgomery County as well as Virginians, will be out of service for some time as the road gets reconstructed.

Beach Drive approaching Calvert Street.  (The road here is in much better condition than areas where the road will be closed for reconstruction.)  Photo from WTOP radio.

Obviously, people will have to seek alternatives because the road will be closed.


That's what government is "supposed to do."  Especially if it is concerned with managing transportation demand and supply under constrained situations.

For example, for years I've argued that DC should treat certain commuting roads as HOV-2 during rush periods.  That would significantly increase road capacity, by reducing the number of cars through doubling up.

1.  WRT the closure of Beach Drive, the city could institute HOV-2 on 16th Street NW (and maybe Georgia Avenue) as an interim measure.  DC has not yet instituted HOV-2 on any surface street arterials.  In the metropolitan area, perhaps the only jurisdiction that has is Alexandria.  DC could work with the State Highway Administration and Montgomery County for parallel actions on Maryland arterials.

2.  Create temporary bus only lanes on 16th Street and Georgia Avenue.  (Which are in the process of being developed anyway.)

3.  And specially developed commuter bus services from Montgomery County to DC.  Consider developing these routes more permanently.  For various reasons adding commuter bus may be justifiable regardless of the existence of Metrorail and regional Metrobus service.

4.  With great ride-matching/car pooling support, for both individuals and van pool programs like vRide.

5.  Even support for what are called "microtransit" services like Bridg, although I'd aim for larger carriage of riders via commuter buses.

6.  Support long distance bicycle commuting through focused initiatives, especially with e-bikes. The Urban Cycle Loan program of the London Cycling Campaign in a number of London communities is a model for trying out biking.  This needs to be paired with greater general promotion of longer distance bike commuting.  With e-bikes, a 10 mile bike commute is realizable when most people would not consider riding such distances every day without an e-assist.

I-270.  Similarly, yesterday's Post also reported on I-270 ("New coalition wants a better ride for I-270 commuters") following up on how in the spring the State of Maryland announced an RFP for "technological solutions" for increasing capacity of I-270, a major commuter artery between Washington and Maryland and Virginia ("Maryland to ask companies for $100 million tech solution to ease I-270 gridlock," Post).

Traffic merging from the Capital Beltway (I-495) onto I-70.  Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press.

My response when I first heard about the $100 million offer was quizzical (I didn't write about it because I was up for an MDOT job).

The easiest solutions are the hardest.  And I don't think a whole lot of technology is required.

If you could get 25% of the traffic to switch to car pooling or transit, there would be a massive increase in road capacity.  Free parking induces driving, so charge for parking.

1.  Figure out how to impose and collect a daily parking tax on office parking lots and structures in Montgomery County, especially for "free parking."  From the paper "THE EFFECT OF FREE PARKING ON COMMUTER MODE CHOICE: EVIDENCE FROM TRAVEL DIARY DATA":
The mode choice model predicts that with free parking, 62 percent of commuters will drive alone, 16 percent will commute in carpools and 22 percent will ride transit; with a daily parking charge of $6, 46 percent will drive alone, 4 percent will ride in carpools and 50 percent will ride transit. The mode choice model predicts that a daily parking charge of $6 in the Portland CBD would result in 21 fewer cars driven for every 100 commuters.
2.  Expand MARC passenger rail service on the Brunswick Line, in both directions throughout the day.

3.  Market rail passenger service integrated with Metrorail comparable to the London Overground program (past blog entry, "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example").

3.  Add an in-city station at Fort Totten as a way to provide extra-connection to the subway network outside of Union Station--Fort Totten is a transfer station for the Green and Yellow Lines, which would also provide redundancy to the network if Union Station were not operative for any reason.

4.  HOV-2 on major roads within I-270's "car shed".

5.  Develop more commuter bus solutions for the I-270 corridor.

6.  With great ride-matching/car pooling support, for both individuals and van pool programs like vRide.

7.  Make implementing the element of the Montgomery County bus rapid transit program targeting the I-270 corridor the top priority in the launch of the program (use the State's $100 million toward this).  See "Poll: 71% of MoCo residents support bus rapid transit," Bethesda Magazine.

Map of the proposed MoCo BRT program by Peter Dovak for Greater Greater Washington (blog post).

Unfortunately, that system isn't designed to focus on the I-270 Corridor as much as it is Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike/MD-355.  While I understand that freeway-focused BRT tends to be less successful, it might be in concert with other transportation system improvements, such a BRT program could be successful for I-270.

8. Support long distance bicycle commuting through focused initiatives, especially with e-bikes.

9.  Instead of calling for another freeway crossing between Maryland and Virginia (and maybe one is needed), begin planning for the extension of the Purple Line west to Tysons/Fairfax County in association with future necessary reconstruction of the American Legion Memorial Bridge.
Purple Line Map  DC Metro
Purple Line full concept, from the Sierra Club Metro DC Sprawl campaign.

American Legion Memorial Bridge, WAMU/NPR photo.

10.  Only with the commitment to planning for Purple Line extension west should the State of Maryland consider the pursuit of HOT lanes on I-270, which does improve congestion, but generates more SOV trips, not fewer.  Still, connecting such lanes to similar infrastructure in Virginia, especially the HOT lanes on I-495, makes sense.


HOV 2 (from previous writings)

Intra-city HOV requirements.  Alexandria has HOV-2 requirements on Washington Blvd. and Rte. 1, two surface street arterials, during rush hours.  In response, it was suggested by Patrick Hare in an op-ed in the Washington Post in the early 1990s that DC consider similar measures.

HOV 2 Lane in Alexandria
Washington Boulevard, Alexandria.

This should be done within DC on certain roads during rush hour periods as well, to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicle trips.

Streets such as Rhode Island Avenue, New York Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, etc., come to mind.
Traffic lined up on Rhode Island Avenue NE, east of 4th Street
Traffic lined up on Rhode Island Avenue NE, east of 4th Street, during the evening rush hour.

Van pooling

In response to the energy crisis, the Federal Government supported the creation of van pools as a way to facilitate long distance commuting for federal workers.

A company was created, called Van Pool Services Inc,, to support it.  After separating from Chrysler, eventually the company was acquired by Enterprise Car Rental ("Enterprise Holdings acquires vRide vanpooling business," press release).

Today, cloud computing and wireless communications systems make providing this kind of service a bit cheaper and easier, including making it easier to "recruit" riders, called "ride matching," just as these technologies have enabled car sharing systems like Zipcar and Car2Go.

It won't change the world but it is an important element of transportation demand management.  With the rise of improvements in mobile telecommunications and software technologies, probably van pooling has more opportunities for expansion that has been realized, and could be explored in more places as a more prominent TDM measure.

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At 1:32 AM, Anonymous TomQuinn said...

I'm surprised your piece mostly looked at east of the park options.

A couple of obvious things that could be done quickly would be to suspend curbside parking on major north-south routes into DC in both directions - because there are a lot of reverse commuters but also because you'll get a few more trips per day out of the buses since they'll be moving a lot faster.

Not sure if this is possible but suspending what seem to be standard 15 minute breaks for WMATA drivers at each end of bus runs would also help or alternately being more creative and figuring out how to give the drivers their breaks but not have the buses idling at the same time and instead keep them in motion.

The biggest opportunity is one that WMATA and Montgomery County should be looking at anyhow with the coming of the Purple Line (especially with Safe Track yet to bring another round of extended single tracking to the Red Line) and that is extending WMATA bus routes past Western/Eastern Avenue or in the case of 16th Street deeper into Montgomery County. This should be done on Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues anyhow and maybe Mass Ave (not sure that'd help much with the RCP closing) and you could run the 16th and GA Ave routes further north along GA Ave and Colesville.

I presume WMATA doesn't have much slack with extra buses though so you'd need to get more out of the existing buses which is why I suggested clearing curb lanes and doing something about the inefficiency of driver breaks.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I had a meeting, I was rushed, and I forgot about Connecticut Ave. for some reason. And some other stuff too.

I didn't mention parking restrictions, which to me were included in the "incremental changes." But I should have mentioned it overtly.

I've written about the need to extend the 30s buses and maybe do a Connecticut Ave. bus service before. That definitely should be raised again, as part of this.

Definitely yes about lack of slack resources, which I forgot to mention is a key issue with MARC.

I had started a third section on the Red Line but I deleted it in the haste of time.

2. the other things I forgot to mention were highway BRT in Minneapolis, the Corridor Cities transit proposals, that MoCo probably isn't focused on I-270 because it is a state road (even though the bus lines proposed for arterials are state roads too, but have a much different impact on the County day to day by comparison) which is why they didn't propose a special BRT service for it, a crazy MARC idea, and the biggest, the general concept of "corridor management planning."

I was going to expand the piece and republish it but because of your comments I will just do a follow up piece.

Thanks as always for your insights!


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