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Michael Brown, PE, AICP

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Ideal Network Grid Spacing

America has a 70-year tradition of 20 and 30-year plans.  That’s fine for project programming, but bad for corridor preservation.  What worked well enough for the last “horizon year” suddenly stops working in the next one. But by the time you realize “we could really use more through-streets, more multimodal paths, and more transit guideways,” haphazard development will have blocked off all your options.  Thus the few corridors you have become overwhelmed, then super-sized into “Stroads and Big Dig freeways” in response.

Metro Analytics is pioneering techniques for “getting it right the first time,” as well as retrofit strategies for dealing with the mess that came from a lack of connectivity.  NCHRP 19-14 is about right-sizing, and was led by Metro Analytics staff.  In that, we describe a technique that has gained high visibility in Utah where we first tried it.

In ITE’s Transportation Planning Handbook, they describe the ideal macro-network spacing as an expressway or freeway every 5-miles, an arterial every 1-mile, and a collector every half-mile.

In Salt Lake County, the left is what they “should have had” and the right is what they actually have.  Notice that the worst congestion in the state is where the grid is lacking both expressways and collector streets. What few streets exist are being widened to 5 and 7-lane “Stroads,” with not choice but to serve both regional and local mobility needs.

This graphic is used frequently by planners and leaders to make the case for doing a better job of connectivity in SL’s remaining Greenfields.

Application in Utah County

This “Scottish Plaid” comparison of what could have been to what actually is has proven to be a very popular graphic, used in presentations by Envision Utah, UDOT, the MPO’s, and many other agencies.  Utah County has a lot of quickly urbanizing Greenfield land, and asked us to help them develop a “Buildout Grid.”

Their developed areas usually have at least a collector every half-mile. And because they are pinned in by mountains and a lake, they may never need as much arterial and expressway as these seems to suggest. But it is easy to see that they eventually will need a lot more than they’re currently planning on.

In this graphic, we applied “Grid Thinking” to create a “best fit” blend of existing with ideal.  The majority of these corridors won’t be needed until after 2040, but unless the county acts soon to preserve them, they won’t be available when they are needed.

Identifying Level of Urgency for Preservation

This graphic shows which elements of the ideal build-out network are under the highest threat due to emerging development. “Highest threat” usually means that what is needed or funded by 2040 is something less than what is eventually needed.  Thus the “eventual need” is not being actively preserved for, and fast development around that space means dozens if not hundreds of homes and businesses will block every path.  Black paths need immediate attention, or they will be closed off as options, likely within a decade.  

Spalding County, Georgia

Metro Analytics is leading a project in Spalding County, a “rural but urbanizing” county that is in the pathway of Atlanta’s expansion.  It will likely take a very long time before it is fully urbanized, but if it ever does, it is easy to see their existing + planned network (middle) is woefully inadequate for anything close to build-out.  Though still to be refined, the right-most diagram could end up being “what is possible” for preservation in the near-term.  If their county commissioners and other leaders then work hard to require developers to “create continuity” in the general arterial and collector network, it may well be possible to have a reasonably adequate grid at build-out.

Graphics like this are an excellent way to quickly and visually discern how well your reality matches this ideal spacing (and if you’re like most, it won’t be very good).  If it isn’t good, we know what to do!  Place-Making Alternative Intersections, 8F transit, and other strategies will help a lot.

Also note, this is half-mile spacing, or a thru-street every 2,600 feet!  Historic grids are much tighter than this – with a street of considerable length every 400-700 feet.  Thus this recommendation is only for your macro-grid.  Ideally your micro-grid would be even finer, especially in town centers and other activity centers with considerable emerging multi-modal potential.

Let Us Compare Your Situation to the Ideal

It is very easy to do this, and we are very fast at it.  In not many hours, we can probably compare your city, county, or region to this ideal, and help you spot problem areas.  We can also do a quick scan of opportunities to create better connectivity, and give you multi-modal project ideas (such as place-making innovative intersections) for addressing locations that cannot realistically increase macro-connectivity.

StreetPlan.net: Free Tool for Creating Complete Streets

It’s easy to criticize existing streets as too fast, too ugly, too many cars, too unwalkable, etc.  But unless you’re an architect with specialty software and a big budget, it can be hard to depict how you’d reinvent the street to make it better.

That’s why a consortium of agencies in Utah partnered with Metro Analytics to create StreetPlan.net – a free on-line “drag and drop” tool where you can to depict an existing auto-oriented street, then start making it better!

StreetPlan offers “red / yellow / green” best practice guidance based on “Designing Walkable Thoroughfares” – a joint publication by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Congress for New Urbanism (ITE and CNU).  Just tell StreetPlan the urban context and street type you want, and street elements turn red when they work against your desired outcome.

This overview highlights:

  1. Best practice guidance provided by StreetPlan
  2. General features of StreetPlan
  3. Comparison of StreetPlan vs. the popular StreetMix
  4. History, Testimonials, Known Uses for StreetPlan
  5. Examples of Streets Created with StreetPlan.

 

Best Practice guidance includes…

 

Hundreds of tiles to build with…

 

NACTO Templates

StreetPlan also has numerous templates from NACTO’s “Urban Street Design Guide.” Just download a template closest to what you want, and make changes to fit your situation.

Depth Layering

Tiles can be layered to show multiple uses. For example, show trees and planter boxes in the same lane as parallel parking; show a bike in front of a vehicle with a “sharrow” lane marker; or show a car in front of a bus to depict transit, but not exclusive right-of-way.

Unlimited Cloud-Based Projects

No matter where you are, just find a web browser to work on your projects.  Each project can have multiple streets, and each street can have multiple alternatives.

Email Sharing

Only you can modify your designs, but you can email the link to others so they can view and comment on your designs in read-only format.

StreetPlan vs. StreetMix

StreetMix.net is an open-source project by volunteer programmers.  It is widely used because it is very simple, and has been available much longer than StreetPlan.  In contrast, StreetPlan was designed by professional engineers and planners, and has far more capability. It’s biggest drawback relative to StreetMix is a longer learning curve, which we address with popup tutorials and “How-to” videos.   Both are completely free.

Below is an arterial street with the same features on both the left and right.  StreetMix graphics are sketches, while StreetPlan strives for a level of realism.  Also shown is a comparison list.


History, Testimonials, Known Uses

Early versions of StreetPlan from 2014 to now were limited to users primarily in Utah, while enhancements were developed for nation-wide release in August 2017.  Here is what we know from some of our first users:

  • Prior to StreetPlan, one community spent $12,000 in consultant fees, then waited over a month only to get “underwhelming” cross-section renderings.  Shortly after discovering StreetPlan, they redesigned the same cross-sections with no consultant assistance, and had something they liked better in about an hour, for free! (well, not quite free, as they’re still out $12k).
  • Several communities have required their staff & consultants to use StreetPlan on many of their Complete Street design projects.  Dozens of public meetings have occurred were StreetPlan was used.
  • Though architects have better software, they still like StreetPlan for quickly sketching many concepts, and allowing stakeholders to modify those concepts during meetings.  They then create 3D renderings from the short-list of favorites.
  • City staff are sketching typical sections and project ideas, then printing directly for inclusion in corridor plans and master plans.
  • Community groups are sketching what they want, rallying support, and taking their ideas to those with the power to do something about it.
  • College professors are using StreetPlan in urban planning classes.

Thanks to Our Partners!

StreetPlan.net is a Public-Private Partnership between Metro Analytics and several seed-funding agencies in Utah, including the Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Utah Department of Transportation, and Utah Transit Authority.

 

Example Uses – Logan, Utah

Existing Conditions:  Logan’s Main Street is depicted below as it exists today.  With roughly 85 feet of asphalt, it feels like an ocean of automobiles.

 

One-Way Walkable Boulevard:  Serious traffic congestion is getting worse each year, and they are considering converting to a one-way couplet to help manage traffic, but more importantly to them, to help release right-of-way for alternative uses.  Here is one rendition of what they may finally choose:

 

Example Uses – APA Great Streets

Broadway, New York:  Each year, the American Planning Association identifies several “Great Streets” across the country.  On StreetPlan’s home page, all awarded streets from 2014 and 2015 are depicted, including Broadway in New York.  The graphic below shows the components and dimensions of Broadway.  Notice the 9-ft lane on the left, yellow because it’s a little tight for buses.  The yellow 35 mph speed is also probably still a bit fast for the context.  Four lanes in one direction is also yellow – too many for a typical boulevard – but it is Manhattan after all.

 

Example Uses – NACTO Urban Street Design Guide

Main Street Template:  In addition to this Main Street, StreetPlan has templates for NACTO’s Residential Boulevard, Downtown One-Way, Multi-Way Boulevard, Yield Street, Transit Corridor, Commercial Alley, and Green Alley.  There are also templates for School Zone traffic calming, and a StrongTown’s “Stroad” (as an example of what NOT to do).

Commercial Alley Template:  Build anything from Alley’s to Freeways

 

Example Uses – Stroad vs. Place-Making Intersections

StrongTowns.org coined the phrase “Stroad” to describe the typical suburban arterial that tries to be both a Street (high-access commercial), and a Road (high-speed through traffic), and the dangerous hybrid ends up doing neither very well.  The top graphic is a typical Stroad, loaded with red flags.  The bottom is what’s possible with the same right-of-way using either a Quadrant or Bowtie intersection design, which makes it possible to reduce congestion, and in turn reduce speed limits (drive slower, travel faster).  See www.InnovativeIntersections.org for more on the Place-Making traffic management strategies.

 

Are One-Way Streets Always Bad?

This is a hot-potato topic, but I’ll be brave. In the rush to convert one-ways to two-ways, I worry we’re trending the wrong-way. “One-ways bad, two-ways good” is almost a tribal chant now, and it’s getting a little loud. The rush to convert is an understandable reaction to engineering failure, but we may be blaming the wrong thing – ready to throw a fine baby with a lot of potential out with the bathwater. Soon, no one will dare speak of virtue in one-ways for fear of career-altering ridicule.

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Rachel Quednau of Strong Towns has a great article about problems she sees with a one-way couplet in her neighborhood. It boils down to being too fast. She argues that converting it could be a good way to slow it down and make it safer. It probably would slow it a bit, but other low-cost strategies might slow it more – without losing the good parts of couplets. John Gilderbloom and William Riggs have an insightful piece showing evidence that property-values along older one-ways is much lower than along similar two-way streets. The same link also implies that just “changing the signs” to two-way has helped revive land uses in some cases – no calming enhancements required.
Again, their observations boil down to high-speed. So, are one-ways inherently high-speed? Or do these findings simply indict older designs that aimed for high-speeds? (And sometimes inadvertently caused high speeds where not intended, due to lack of calming features).

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Instead of asking “which is better,” maybe ask, “Can one-ways be tamed?” If yes, the next question is how do one-ways and two-ways differ in terms of their ability to “dance well” with other modes, and promote high-density, walkable development? I think one-ways can work better than two-ways in many cases for the things the Strong Towns / CNU audience cares about. If so, we can start a new chant: “One-ways good here, Two-ways good there,” recognizing different roles for different environments.

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Multi-Part Series

There’s a LOT of momentum swinging the pendulum too far toward two-ways, so I’ve got a LOT of material to challenge you with. Part 1, addresses the existing one-ways of pre-war tight grids. Later I’ll address whether couplets can play a positive role in new urbanist projects at Brownfield, Greyfield, and even Greenfield locations. I’ll probably dig deeper into analysis also.

Case Study, Prospect Avenue, Milwaukie

Look at Rachel’s couplet in Milwaukie below. First, it’s signed for 30 mph. This is high-density residential, so 25 or even 20 makes more sense. There are few visual queues telling drivers to be cautious, and aggressive drivers know they can usually get away with 9 mph higher than the speed limit without a ticket, so closer to 40 mph will be common. Switching signs to two-way will reduce speeds a bit at virtually zero cost (slightly higher sense of caution, and inability to pass slower drivers). But then it will be harder for both autos and pedestrians to find acceptable gaps in both directions, and there are more conflict-points for both autos and pedestrians in general. That will increase accidents, although reduced speed will offset the increase. I think there’s a better way…

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A Friendlier Cross-Section

Below, I used the free “StreetPlan.net” to quickly sketch Existing vs. Restripe. The lack of white stripe between left parking and the travel lane subconsciously says “it’s wide.” If the goal is 25 or below, then 9-ft lanes will better delineate parking from traveled way, and greatly improve the bike lane to attract the non-spandex crowd. Nine-foot lanes are certainly not what traffic engineers want when aiming to help drivers get 5 or more miles up the road (hence the yellow warning). But most drivers here won’t be going 5-miles anyway. And if a lot do, then tough luck – the change will motivate them to move closer to their job. By the way, the red / yellow / green advice in StreetPlan comes from best practice guidance of both ITE and CNU, so if engineers say “It’s too tight for standards,” ask them, “Are you up to speed on your own industry? 9-ft is narrow but allowable – and recognized as a good way to reduce speed.”

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Managing Intersections

Prospect Ave. looks like a drag-strip for half a mile, so I feel like hitting the gas. If the community can raise a little more money, minor intersection modifications will force drivers to slow down. Raised table-top intersections with alternative coloring would work, and/or forced curvature.

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I’m a terrible artist, so I stole a picture of bulb-outs on a two-way street, and modified to show how streetscape extensions (shaded blue) could force one-way traffic to slow down. This could be temporarily achieved with something as simple as a row of cinderblocks to create the blue spaces and some planted pots and lawn-chairs in the voids.

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So if you want to do something and the city’s too slow, take a cue from activists in San Francisco, and get some neighbors to pitch in for blocks and lawn chairs to force 5-pm drivers to go around you! You won’t be seriously impeding traffic, so you shouldn’t get in much trouble, but you’ll make the evening news and be a long-way toward demonstrating that couplets can be easily improved.

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Positioning for Hundreds of Years of Intensification

Think about downtown Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Manhattan, and dozens of other ultra-high density locations here and abroad. What do they all have in common? One-ways are a BIG part of how they achieved and maintain such densities. Their tight grids matter, but ever since Henry Ford, the ability for vehicles to flow also matters to buses, trolleys, UPS trucks, cement trucks, taxis, and automated vehicles. Two-ways will simply gridlock at lower traffic volumes than one-ways. It’s physics.

“Good, we hate those climate-disrupting drivers anyway! Make them suffer and they’ll do something else.” Yeah, like not live there, opting for sprawling suburbs instead. When ANY mode becomes unattractive, the market is hindered and will sprawl elsewhere. Engineers used to focus on both high-volume and high-speed. But you can still have high-volume at low speeds. As Andrew Price pointed out in his Strong Towns post “A case for one-way streets” traffic and other modes dance well on one-ways in major downtowns because it is slow. Pedestrians cross at-will anywhere they want, as they only need a gap in one direction. Mother Nature discovered our blood “network” is best managed as one-way streets: arteries for oxygen, veins for return. “Two-way blood-vessels” would mean high blood pressure and stunted growth.

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One-Ways… What Kind of Drug Are These? Let’s Discuss!

No wise doctor would ever discount all potential uses of a drug just because negative side-effects outweigh benefits when applied incorrectly. In our “bio-engineering” of the urban body, I’m convinced low-speed one-ways can have impressive benefits. But they’re a powerful drug that’s been abused in the past, and too many are too scared to prescribe them. They’re a bit hallucinogenic, and I’m not sure who’s hallucinating the most – me or the critics. Am I missing key weaknesses? Are critics unfairly blaming the wrong thing? Are there cases where conversion makes more sense than traffic calming?

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I invite you to weigh in, or notify anyone with a lot of experience to weigh in. I’ll respond to comments where appropriate, and hope you’ll watch for Part 2 with examples of how couplets outside downtowns can help to kill stroads!

Billion-Dollar Projects, Redefined

What comes to mind when you hear news of a pending transportation project that will run into the hundreds of millions or even billions? Invariably it is a freeway or urban rail project. It’s a celebrity culture, and freeways are the celebrities of our auto-worshiping culture.  If freeways have issues, everyone knows it and everyone’s ready to spend whatever it takes – especially on celebrity-worthy alternatives like glitzy rail.  If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with “morbidly obese” freeways like that above, or more double-deckers.

In the meantime, your region may have hundreds of ugly stroads that in aggregate are a lot more troublesome than the next freeway bottleneck. Some stroads are excessively congested. Others were once super-sized because they were popular, but have since become blighted and under-utilized. Virtually all are heavily auto-oriented, and dangerously high-speed for the level of on/off/across multi-modal activity involved.

If they could be reinvented as mixed-use livable boulevards with place-making intersections, then the reduced congestion per dollar spent would be more impressive than similar dollars spent on freeway and rail projects. And more than just congestion, we’d also be setting the stage for safer, more beautiful streets that accommodate all users much better. And these streets could then attract new growth, making it more possible to get by with #NoNewStreets.

 

Communities would love to create great streets, but they bump up against harsh realities – they haven’t budgeted even for potholes, let alone amenities that make up a walkable Complete Street. So they require developers to plant a few rinky-dink trees, half of which will be dead in a year.

Freeways Get The Attention; Stroads Deserve More Attention

Why do freeways get all the attention?  Here are three reasons…

  1. Freeways are everyone’s problem:  Stroads are just too local. Even if everyone in the state as an ugly, congested stroad problem, the state itself does not have your stroad problem. When there are problems with freeways, everyone cares.
  2. With freeways, the solution is “obvious”:  Anyone can arm-chair quarterback the most common freeway problem. “It’s congested, so make it bigger!” Few appreciate the subtle consequences of freeway expansion, such as resultant induced demand, sprawl, white-knuckling through high-speed spaghetti, and sucking the funding opportunities away from other needs. The solutions for troubled stroads are purplexing to everyone. Commerce is dying! But how do you fix that? Or maybe there’s too much congestion, but widening would have hundreds of serious impacts. How do you fix that?
  3. States fund mega-projects:  Even if the state owns your stroad, there is no statewide excitement to fund localized improvements for congestion relief, bikeways, transit, and premium streetscape in someone else’s city. But there may be excitement for a huge bundle of projects designed to reinvigorate languishing communities!

To Rally Attention to Stroads, Redefine the Mega-Project

We need to redefine “the billion-dollar project.” A 10-mile freeway bottleneck gets funded because 200,000 drivers per day depend on it. For the same billion, you might bundle dozens of Complete Street projects, benefiting even more people every day with stronger, more vibrant communities along with less congestion. So stop settling for piecemeal arterial funding with minuscule budgets for bikes, transit, and pedestrians, and instead rally stakeholders and legislators around a “billion-dollar investment” in arterial streets as a single project, like they’re already used to doing with freeways. If such a project were defined in detail using this Shared Solution toolbox, it would be easy to demonstrate greater effectiveness on congestion and 7-D land uses than similarly expensive freeway and rail projects.

 

Addressing Critics

Many will look at the above picture and say, “all you’ve done is prettied things up and done nothing for congestion relief!  It’s even worse because I could turn left before and now there’s a tree in the left-turn lane.  At least the freeway project can help me get home for dinner!”

That’s the point of the toolbox.  The Place-Making Intersections like the Quadrant and the Bowtie (Thru-Turn) are both able to reduce congestion by relocating lefts to where they’re easier to manage.  And to those who would critique that the off-freeway network is now great, but the freeway itself remains a problem, review our suggestions for Managed Motorways, which can get freeways flowing again without needing to expand them again.

In Summary

Stroads are everyone’s problem, yet nobody’s problem.  If we elevate visibility by packaging dozens of stroad overhauls together in a single project on-par with a freeway project, there is a better chance of getting state funding because everyone will get something at the same time.  When the “project” concept varies so radically, you can still compare apples to apples when the money is similar.  Not only will this strategy prove more effective at reducing congestion, but there will be gains in alternative modes, a thriving economy, and improved safety that blowing another billion on a freeway just can’t match.

7-D’s of Traffic Managment

There are seven strategies for dealing with traffic congestion, coincidental with seven more famous 7-D’s of VMT reduction! The most common “Direct” approach, or “Build your way out” approach, usually equates to increasing capacity directly on the facility in question.

Metro Analytics recommends investigating the other “D-strategies” before conceding a need to directly increase capacity. And even when direct new capacity is a good idea, we have unique place-making methods for increasing vehicle capacity in ways that also improve walkability and economic vitality.

Here are the 7-D strategies for managing traffic congestion:

 

  1. Design – If you’re lucky enough to plan Greenfields, design a real grid!  Collectors and arterials every .3-.5 miles, along with a finer grid of locals, can ensure few streets will ever get seriously congested.
  2. Divert – If one corridor is overwhelmed, look for opportunities to improve competing paths and “Divert” some trips away from the struggling corridor through connectivity and alternative paths.
  3. Deduct – People drive because alternatives are impractical or unattractive. Create strategies to help people “Deduct” themselves from traffic in sensitive areas by improving the experience of alternative modes.
  4. Delete – You can “Delete” vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in part by optimizing land uses. How far do people have to go “to get a gallon of milk?” Are future schools and parks arranged to encourage walking? Review the land use elements of your plans to discern its likely effects on transportation, and to discern the likely effects of your infrastructure plans on efficient land use.
  5. Dynamic – Technology is making it easier to “Dynamically” guide people to under-utilized streets, and enhancing multi-modal options. Automation promises to increase the efficiency of streets, as well as ability to move more people in fewer vehicles. Technology is helping us accomplish more activities in shorter distances – often without even traveling at all. Consider changing technology in future plans.
  6. Direct – After pursuing previous strategies, increase capacity “Directly” on the corridor if necessary. First pursue efficiency gains through use of place-making intersection designs, such as Quadrants, Bowties, Town Center Intersections, and Roundabouts. Last, auto-oriented options like Continuous Flow Intersections. Finally, sometimes widening select locations or new facilities are the right thing to do in locales where the population is increasing substantially.
  7. Deal with it – It may sound defeatist, but there is psychological benefit to just “accepting the things you cannot change.” Have you already done what you could afford to do?  Are there strategies your community simply never wants to do? Then just “deal with it” and decide to be happy in spite of, and maybe because of, the “negatives” of congestion. “No Build” doesn’t need to be a straw-man option.

So in summary (or if you want a shorter list):

  1. Design – Greenfield “build-out” planning, to “get it right the first time.”  No Greenfields? Then…
  2. Divert – Make it possible for some trips to avoid problem areas (i.e. enhance connectivity)
  3. Deduct – Enhance alternative modes so drivers will deduct themselves from traffic
  4. Delete – Land-use optimization shortens trips, thereby deleting VMT
  5. Dynamic – Tech advances that enhance system efficiency.
  6. Direct – Create new, traditional capacity directly on struggling facilities (Last resort)
  7. Deal with it – If environmental, fiscal, or political costs are too high, then do what is reasonable, but ultimately “accept the things you cannot change.” Cities are dynamic, and eventually adapt to their new reality.

Yet another way of saying it :

  1. Design – “Begin with the End in Mind,” then phase design elements.
  2. Divert – Connectivity helps people avoid problem areas.
  3. Deduct – Alternative modes help drivers deduct themselves from traffic
  4. Delete – 7D Land-uses shorten trips, deleting VMT
  5. Dynamic – Tech advances enhance efficiency
  6. Direct – Traditional capacity directly on struggling facilities
  7. Deal with it – “Accept the things you cannot change.” Cities adapt to their new reality.

If you’re in a quagmire and no one is bringing fresh ideas to the table, contact us! As Einstein said, “Today’s problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”  Metro Analytics finds solutions that others overlook, or simply lack the expertise to see.

7-D’s of VMT Reduction

Dr. Reid Ewing, of the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, is among the nation’s leading researchers on the ability of the “7-D’s” to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Dr. Ewing is an occasional consultant for Metro Analytics, and can advise communities on actions they can take to reduce VMT by means of the 7-D’s.

Here are the key attributes of 7-D Boulevards and Activity Centers:

  1. Density – as a center’s density increases, VMT per capita decreases. When there’s a lot close together, you’re more likely to walk, bike, or ride transit. And for those who still drive, it will be a shorter drive.
  2. Diversity – If homes are in suburbs, and jobs and necessary items are far away, the result is huge driving. Consider form-based codes and other strategies to reduce restrictions on specific kinds of uses, and focus instead on how well it all fits together. Mixed-uses help people get closer to things they need.
  3. Design – If the local street system has more connections, less circuitous paths, and fewer cul-de-sacs, it will be easier for more people to walk, bike, reach transit, and take short drives. Complete Street design also increases walking, biking, and catalyzes mixed-uses consistent with the other D’s.
  4. Destinations – Part of what helps define a “Place” is popular destinations that attract people from all over, such as theaters, sports arenas, etc. Transit is more likely to focus on serving centers with popular destinations, and hence more able to reduce VMT.
  5. Distance from Transit – It does little good to install nice transit stations, and then allow a used car lot or a gas station as the first use next to that station. People use transit if transit is close, so communities are wise to adopt minimum zoning standards within a quarter mile of a rail or BRT station (such as “at least 40 units per acre, or at least four-story buildings”). It is also good to relax or eliminate parking requirements. Developers know they must provide parking, so why risk making them build too much?
  6. Demographics – Many people want to live in walkable, mixed-use areas where they won’t have to drive as much. More seniors need to, and many not yet raising families want to. But if the only quality places available are single family homes, they’ll end up in those even if they’d prefer something else. If we design with changing demographics in mind, our parents and children can stay close by. They need not contribute to congestion, and the elderly can avoid “white-knuckle” driving.
  7. Demand Management – When vehicle demand is too high, we have three options: 1) Increase supply to match demand (usually widening roadways – which may not last long); 2) Reduce demand to match supply (make it easier and desirable for some people to choose something else); or 3) just way until it gets better – because people and jobs move out! Focus on Option 2: like helping transit get out of congestion or installing paid-parking in specific locations. Also see FreewayOptimization.org for Metro’s new Managed Motorways + Congestion Credits idea to help freeways flow without more expansion!

 

Here is a shorter version of the 7-D’s:

  1. Density of Activities: When there’s a lot that is close by, you’re more likely to walk or bike.
  2. Diversity of Uses: Mixed-uses help people get closer to the things they need.
  3. Design Connectivity & Quality: Tight grids make it easier to walk, bike, get to transit, or take shorter drives on alternative paths.  Streetscape and uniform trees also boost land value, which in turn boosts density.
  4. Destinations: Transit targets popular destinations, so create popular destinations!
  5. Distance from Transit: Adopt minimum floor area ratios near stations. Replace parking minimums w/New Mobility contributions (credits for carsharing, MaaS, etc).
  6. Demographics: Design with changing needs in mind. Many from the youngest generations don’t want to drive, and increasing numbers of seniors shouldn’t!
  7. Demand Management: Create alternatives; incentives to use alternatives; disincentives for single-occupant driving: free or reduced fare transit; remove parking minimums to hasten the day when parking can be priced, etc.

8-F’s of Transit Ridership

Why do we prefer trains over buses? Maybe there is magic in steel wheels, but there are also practical reasons. Say you see a random bus. Is it an option for you? Not if you don’t know where it came from, where it is going, or how often it comes by.  Here are “8-Fs” for helping any form of transit attract more riders.

8Fs of Transit Ridership

  1. Frequent – Make sure service is frequent enough for the market you are targeting.
  2. Familiar – Branded “bus tracks,” etc., help more people become passively aware of their transit options.
  3. Fares – Match the market rather than repel it.  “Free” should be considered, as it can double riders.
  4. Fast – Reduce time spent stuck in congestion, waiting at stops, getting to stops, and boarding.
  5. Focused – Avoid circuitous routes and low-value diversions. Direct routes are easy to remember.
  6. Fun – Attractive vehicles, stops, & creative marketing remove stigmas.
  7. Fusion – With land use.  Create walkable, high-density, connected infill near stops.
  8. Frugal – Avoid ribbon-cutting glamour. Minimizing cost per rider = more riders for same cost!*

*Be sure to assess the full cost: Annualized Capital + Operating + Maintenance costs

Here is another way of saying it:

  1. Frequent – Don’t give people with choices a reason to choose something else.
  2. Familiar – Help people become aware of transit options.
  3. Fares – Know what target markets are willing to pay.  “Free” can double or triple riders.
  4. Fast – Many strategies can help transit move faster.
  5. Focused – Connect the “Big Dots” via popular corridors. Direct routes are easy to remember.
  6. Fun – Attractive vehicles, stops, & creative marketing remove stigmas.
  7. Fusion – With land use.  Create walkable, high-density mixed-uses near stops.
  8. Frugal – Avoid ribbon-cutting glamour. Minimize cost per new rider.

 

We elaborate on these concepts in this white paper entitled “The Eights” of Making Buses More Like Trains! Additional topics in the paper include:

  • 8 Rules for Creating Multi-Route Branded Corridor Segments (a strategy for creating an “almost no-cost track” where 2 or more routes happen to overlap).
  • 8 Transit Enhancements to Attract Riders
  • 8 Strategies to Minimize Operational Costs and Acquire Operating Funds
  • 8 Rubber-Tire Vehicle Styles That Could Work Well for Circulation
  • 8 Examples of Branded Bus Corridors in the US and Australia

To be clear, trains may well be the right solution for many situations.  We are not “anti- train!”  These are ideas to help you get greater return on your investment in buses – the lion’s share of most systems.