Sunday, April 22, 2012

Realistic mobility strategies

Three different items to share this week with a common theme of getting realistic about mobility improvements. The first excerpt is from a Wall Street Journal op-ed on "California Declares War on Suburbia":
The love affair urban planners have for a future ruled by mass transit will be obscenely expensive and would not reduce traffic congestion. In San Diego, for example, an expanded bus and rail transit system is planned to receive more than half of the $48.4 billion in total highway and transit spending through 2050. Yet transit would increase its share of travel to a measly 4% from its current tiny 2%, according to data in the San Diego Association of Governments regional transportation plan. This slight increase in mass transit ridership would be swamped by higher traffic volumes. 
Higher population densities in the future means greater traffic congestion, because additional households in the future will continue to use their cars for most trips. In the San Diego metropolitan area, where the average one-way work trip travel time is 28 minutes, only 14% of work and higher education locations could be reached within 30 minutes by transit in 2050. But 70% or more of such locations will continue to be accessible in 30 minutes by car.
(sidebar: more on California in yesterday's WSJ interview with Joel Kotkin "The Great California Exodus", #1 most read, emailed, and commented WSJ story this weekend)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: any urban area that did most of it's growth in the post-WW2 automotive era is simply not going to be transit friendly, and that cannot be substantially changed.  Yes, you can create a few New Urbanist neighborhoods around a light rail line, but they will always be trivial in the overall context of the metro area.
That said, there's a lot that can be done to make simple bus transit much more attractive in these urban areas (and it's already dramatically more affordable than rail), as this Salon article "It's time to love the bus" describes:
But one thing is certain: When it comes to improving mass transit, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit on the humble city bus. The vital connective tissue of multi-modal transit systems, the bus could be an efficient — nay, elegant — solution to cities’ mobility woes if only we made it so. 
And yet we rarely do. Streetcars are replacing bus routes in cities across the country, and billions are thrown at light rail while the overlooked bus is left to scream “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” “If you decide that buses don’t merit investment, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to help people get where they’re going, and to expand their sense of freedom of movement, just because you don’t like the vehicle they’re riding,” says transit consultant Jarrett Walker.

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At 11:04 PM, April 22, 2012, Blogger Rail Claimore said...

I'm surprised Michigan lefts aren't more common in the rest of the country.

At 12:06 PM, April 23, 2012, Blogger Jardinero1 said...

The other great benefit of "right to go left" is that many accidents are prevented. A significant plurality of auto collisions are on left hand turns.

At 1:10 PM, May 01, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some buses in Denver run on natural gas. They are very quiet and cause less CO2 pollution than gasoline or diesel. Natural gas is a fuel that is almost guaranteed to be cheap for a long time in the States. I think more cities like Houston should phase in natural gas-fueled buses.

At 1:35 PM, May 01, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not CO2, but CO


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