The Seattle DOT, in seeking to improve pedestrian mobility, is installing marked crosswalks in areas with anticipated demand, which is an important shift away from the conventional warrant-based system. The final form that these installations take—paint alone, or paint with enhancements such as medians or flashing beacons—will depend on the location, and ultimately still be a matter of engineering judgment and available funding.
Many transportation agencies throughout the U.S.—some working directly with SSTI—are beginning to think about service in terms of access to destinations. A few, like the Washington and Virginia DOTs, are measuring accessibility in planning and project selection. New research suggests that accessibility analysis can also be helpful in predicting travel outcomes like transit ridership.
The death of a well-known cyclist in Phoenix, Arizona, persuaded the city DOT to scrap changes it had proposed for an essential local street, in favor of protected bike lanes. As the Phoenix New Times reported, the death of a cyclist and downtown ambassador in central Phoenix galvanized supporters to call for protected bike lanes in the area of the crash. The city Street Transportation Department moved away from installing lanes shared by drivers and bicyclists, to painted, buffered bicycle lanes, and, on some blocks, fully protected bike lanes.
Culture change at large agencies like state DOTs is slow but steady. In California’s case, the agency has taken several important steps, prompted partly by SSTI’s 2014 external review. The agency started by updating its mission, vision, and goals—shifting its focus from strictly “mobility” to “a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system.” It is now formalizing that mission in its design process through a Complete Streets policy directive.
Transit agencies across the country are weighing the potential impacts of lowering transit fares or making transit free to passengers, but riders and transit advocates are concerned the fare cuts could translate into worse service. Research suggests there may be better ways to improve service and increase ridership, including leaning on partners to help cover costs.
The state DOTs in Washington (WSDOT) and Utah (UDOT) recently developed methods to evaluate the comfort, safety, and connectivity of active transportation networks, focusing on bicycle and pedestrian connectivity across highways. The studies leverage newer data sources and GIS techniques to think about how highways can create barriers for nearby communities and how major corridors can be made more permeable.
Localities can learn from each other to get out of the current bus driver staffing crisis, and also to stop the next such crisis before it gets to this point. But understanding the crisis and how we got here is an important first step. As an example, bus riders in Pennsylvania’s two largest cities are struggling to get where they need to go.
With consistent growth in most urbanized areas around the world, changes to the built environment to accommodate multimodal travel will become one of our most important adaptations. A recent study from Melbourne, Australia, of pedestrian flows over five years found that built environmental changes accounted for 50-60% of the increase in foot traffic in the downtown region.
Amid drastically rising pedestrian deaths, more states are considering how changes in pedestrian laws can help tip the balance in favor of those on foot and inspire a cultural shift to make walking safer and more commonplace.
The town of Hillsboro, Virginia, is celebrating the reopening of its main street—Virginia State Route 9—after extensive reconstruction. The installation of sidewalks, crossings, parking, and traffic circles at either end of town has helped to slow traffic and restore a residential feel to this more than 200-year-old rural hamlet.