Transportation network interruptions as an opportunity: Part 2
I was rushed writing yesterday's piece ("Transportation infrastructure interruptions as a missed opportunity for improving transportation demand management programming"), because I had a bunch of meetings, and so the piece as published wasn't as complete as I'd have liked.
I intended to augment the piece and republish it with today's date, but instead there are two follow up pieces. This one is more about some general planning points I failed to include. Tom Quinn's comments on the previous piece provides additional and specific solutions for Montgomery County-DC transportation network interruptions, which will be addressed in the third piece on specifics.
Corridor management as a strategy. The biggest omission was the failure to talk in general terms about the concept of "corridor management and planning," which is a big emphasis of the Federal Highway Administration. There's a lot of good work, published reports, etc., on the concept.
From the FHWA report, Integrated Corridor Management: Implementation Guide and Lessons Learned:
Integrated Corridor Management is the operational coordination of multiple transportation networks and cross network connections comprising a corridor and the institutional coordination of those agencies and entities responsible for corridor mobility. It will transform the manner in which transportation networks are managed within a corridor, enabling agencies to see the overall impact of multimodal transportation network management decisions and to optimize the movement of people and goods within the corridor instead of just on individual networks.The crisis generated by the rolling Metrorail closures is an opportunity for jurisdictions to apply corridor management approaches to more sections of the metropolitan area.
Virginia DOT (VDOT) has already adopted this approach to freeways as can be seen with the addition of HOT lanes as a capacity expansion and roadway management strategy for I-95/I-395 ("Virginia to extend I-95/395 HOT lanes north to D.C. line," Washington Post) and new plans and programs for I-66 ("Virginia launches its latest HOT lanes project "on I-66," Post), which they have branded the Transform 66 program with separate initiatives for "Outside the Beltway" and "Inside the Beltway."
The previous entry mentioned Virginia's desire to extend HOT lanes to Maryland in part to deal with future needed upgrades to the American Legion Memorial Bridge. We can criticize this proposal, but the integrated approach it represents is worthy of consideration.
I can't claim to be an expert on roadway planning in Maryland, and the State has announced an initiative for I-270, but I think it's fair to say that there isn't the same level of an integrated approach on the Maryland side. I-270 and I-495 as freeways need to be managed as an integrated system, but the I-270 and I-495 corridors need to be managed as part of the the broader transportation network, and corridor management planning needs to be based on transportation demand management principles and the incorporation of transit as part of the toolbox of solutions.
Roadway expansion often comes at the expense of investments in sustainable mobility. Like the tension in Northern Virginia between support of automobility versus sustainable mobility exemplified by Arlington's original opposition to HOT lanes ("Officials to consider road widening, HOT lanes through Arlington," Post) because rightly, such infrastructure promotes more single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips, which are not prioritized in the County's Transportation Plan, this kind of transportation system management strategy has its downsides.
But since automobility isn't going away anytime soon, ignoring these issues doesn't help anyone either.
Ideally, a corridor management strategy focuses not just on expansion of capacity and management of the movement of motor vehicle traffic, it also focuses on transportation demand management and the complementary deployment of transit and other sustainable mobility initiatives as a capacity management program.
That's what needs to happen with I-270.
I-270, Wikipedia photo.
Inter-county traffic versus intra-county mobility priorities shape the agenda for County BRT. I think part of the issue with I-270 in terms of transit, at least for Montgomery County, is that because the road is a limited access freeway and under control of the State Highway Administration, it's not on their radar in terms of management because it doesn't have the same kind of impact on the county as do traffic-engorged arterials.
Note that as part of the FHWA development of corridor management planning approaches, I-270 was a test case, with a published report.
Rockville Pike is one of the corridors where Montgomery County proposes a robust BRT service. Washington Post photo by Bill O'Leary.
While the arterials that make up the bulk of a Maryland county's transportation network are mostly under state control also, because they are surface roads abutted by commercial and residential buildings, they have a much different impact on quality of life and the mobility system within the county, and that's why the County's BRT program is focused on improving transit and reducing automobile trips on these roads and not the freeways.
At the same time, it's not likely that in ordinary circumstances the SHA will be at the forefront of developing sustainable mobility approaches to I-270 improvements, so Montgomery County DOT needs to step in, and Frederick County needs to be in the mix as well.
Freeway-based bus service vs. arterial BRT. In the US, it's generally understood that freeway-focused bus rapid transit services haven't worked out very well in terms of ridership.
El Monte busway, Los Angeles County, the nation's first busway (but opened to HOV use three years later and to HOT use in 2013) opened in 1973. LA MTA photo.
In large part that's because freeway interchanges typically aren't population centers and make bad locations for gathering and concentrating bus riders.
Other places such as Curitiba, Brazil, Ottawa, Ontario, and various cities in Australia have created dedicated busway networks comparable to freeways, and those systems operate quite successfully.
But as nodes in a regional transit network, complemented by local service, perhaps in some areas, freeway-based bus transit services may deserve reconsideration.
Imagine the impact of freeway-based bus services if there were separated busways within freeway corridors, but in a manner separate from HOV and without fear of encroachment from motor vehicle traffic.
This slide from a TRB conference presentation "Integrating BRT & Freeway Operations: Experience & Lessons from Canada, New Zealand & Australia," showing the rendering for a separated busway in Brisbane, Australia illustrates the point.
The problem is that "highway agencies" tend to focus on freeways as infrastructure for cars and trucks, not transit, and don't conceive of freeways as one element, foundational to be sure, of a multi-modal transportation system providing service at multiple scales, and that the freeway element should be capable of and designed to serve transit, not just cars and trucks.
Minneapolis is working to put BRT service on I-35, calling the service the Orange Line. It already has an operating station at the 46th Street Bridge.
First photo, Metro Transit, Minneapolis. Second photo, "Metro Transit needs business community supporters to step up," Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In terms of traditional long distance commuter bus service, it's worth considering whether or not we've captured all the opportunities for such service within freeway sheds. That being said, Maryland has an extensive commuter bus program, as do farther out counties in Northern Virginia. Commuter Connections produces maps of Park and Ride locations too.
My sense is because of MARC and Metrorail service in the I-270 corridor, at least in its Frederick and Montgomery County sections, there might be fewer MTA Commuter Bus lines than there is the potential. Each commuter bus run is equal to 50 separate car trips.
Maybe there is more demand than we think, especially for west county destinations like Bethesda which aren't served now from the west. Similarly, Silver Spring isn't a destination for western commuter bus routes, although it is a destination for routes emanating from Howard County.
Adding microtransit to the service mix for "last mile" service. Primary transit services, like subway, railroad and commuter bus, are great for long distance travel and high capacity but in few instances take people to their final destination.
To facilitate efficient delivery of the passenger to their final destination, commuter bus stations on a freeway need to be complemented with local transit services. Traditionally this is done with regular bus line service.
But I don't think that's enough. Microtransit options including shared taxi services such as in "exurban" Montreal or vans and small buses such as done by Bridg or Chariot would be a good addition to the service mix, adding more support for what I call tertiary or intra-district transit needs.
These types of "flexible transit services" have been around for awhile (Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services, Transit Cooperative Research Program, 2004), but now rebranded "microtransit" since they've been enhanced with more flexible routing and scheduling capabilities enabled by IT and telecommunications (Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding, Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center' New Mobility Discussion Paper, Metrolinx, Toronto).
Suburban intra-district transit service. The
Airport Corridor Transportation Association in the Robinson District of Allegheny County, outside Pittsburgh provides one example of how to do intra-district transit in suburban settings.
They are in the region's "airport district" but a lot of workers come from the City.
ACTA has created demand-response transit services, service hubs, and other programs to make it easier for people to get to and from work without driving.
(These are the kinds of districts where I think microtransit services should be targeted, although the services tend to be focused on denser urban markets already served by transit.)
Besides the RideACT microtransit service, they have also created a transit hub at a major shopping district, at a transit stop with both regional and local bus service ("Transit Super Stop planned for Robinson," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
From the article:
The Airport Corridor Transportation Association will hold a grand opening Tuesday of what it is calling the region's first Super Stop, a hub that will serve bus passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists, at the corridor's busiest bus stop in front of IKEA in Robinson.ACTA has also published some good work on suburban district transit planning:
The stop is the transfer point for RideACTA, the free on-demand service that enables riders of Port Authority's 28X Airport Flyer to connect to workplaces within a 1.5-mile radius. Two other authority bus routes also serve the stop. Lynn Manion, ACTA executive director, estimated that 400 riders use the stop on a typical day.
The stop will have two shelters with seating and standing room, and the back walls will have a plastic film with images of IKEA furnishings so that when riders sit on the benches, it will appear as though they are in a living room. The stop will have bike racks, picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles and a bike work station where cyclists can make simple repairs.
-- Rethinking the Suburban Bus Stop, ACTA
-- Moving Around Within A Suburban Commercial Area, ACTA (the concepts pertain to intra-district mobility more generally)