Utah stepping up multimodal planning and investment under new law

Transportation decisionmaking is changing in Utah, thanks to the state’s SB136, which passed earlier this year. The bill garnered attention in part because it reforms the governance of the Utah Transit Authority, but UDOT is also moving forward on other important aspects, including adding a new deputy director, developing a strategic multimodal vision, and supporting the development of new project prioritization criteria.

New multimodal trip data on the horizon

StreetLight Data, which provides trip-making data compiled from cellphones and mobile devices, recently announced a new multimodal data initiative called “M2.” The company has offered data from personal and commercial vehicles for several years. SSTI used these data for a study of travel demand management opportunities in Northern Virginia. By incorporating additional data from location-based services, the company can now identify trips made by walking, biking, transit, and potentially other modes.

Bicycle level of stress and equity as factors in project selection

A paper published in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation suggests integrating accessibility by bicycle, equity, and project selection to tackle the isolation and segregation of low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore. Using bicycle Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) to measure both access to common non-work destinations and disparities in access across different neighborhoods, the authors suggest that projects can be prioritized to improve outcomes for residents that do not own cars and struggle to reach destinations to meet their daily needs.

Accessibility in practice: A new guide from SSTI

The Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment recently released its new report, Accessibility in practice: A guide for transportation and land use decision making, developed by SSTI with several partners. The guide describes ways of measuring accessibility and, more importantly, how to use those metrics in planning, project evaluation, and other transportation and land use decisions. The information is useful for any state or local agency interested or already involved in making these kinds of decisions.

Connecting Sacramento

Connecting Sacramento is the first study to incorporate both accessibility analysis and tripmaking data, including data from multiple sources, and assess how they can be used together to guide transportation- and land use-related decisions. This study focused specifically on opportunities to improve first- and last-mile connections to light rail transit in Sacramento, but its findings are widely applicable.

Accessibility in practice (SSTI and Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, 2017)

Planning agencies and transportation decision makers often talk about the importance of improving access to destinations, but they rarely have the tools or resources to measure accessibility and incorporate those metrics into decision making. This report guides agencies through that process.

New research reinforces the importance of the built environment to cycling mode share

A recently published study from Montreal sheds new light on the importance of the built environment in influencing bicycle commuting and the resulting impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers also estimated the effect of bicycle infrastructure accessibility on cycling mode share. They estimated the effect of the new bicycle infrastructure as yielding a 1.7 percent reduction in transportation GHG emissions, roughly equivalent to the estimated effects of replacing the city’s buses with hybrid models and electrifying the city’s commuter trains.

Trip-making data, TDM, and connectivity in Northern Virginia (SSTI and Michael Baker International, 2016)

Commercially available GPS data offers valuable new insight about trip origins, destinations, and routes, including short trips that travel demand models often cannot capture. Using this data, SSTI worked with Michael Baker International, the Virginia DOT, and local stakeholders to identify opportunities for managing travel demand and improving connectivity throughout Northern Virginia. This final report describes the full data set and 17 selected case studies, along with recommended projects and policies, estimated costs, and benefits for each.

Intersections of equity in transportation

Concern over equity in our transportation system was on display at three major conferences the last week in October. PolicyLink’s Equity Summit took on the transportation equity conversation directly. SSTI attended this conference as part of its ongoing work developing a tool to assess equity in transportation investments. Both RailVolution and the NACTO Designing Cities 2015 conference also occurred over the same week as the Equity Summit, and both meetings notably held meaningful sessions that discussed equity in the transportation system.

As federal government mulls performance measures, the TTI congestion report returns

The timing is apparently coincidental, but the Texas Transportation Institute issued its latest estimate of traffic congestion costs in late August, just as US DOT seems to be finishing work on its MAP-21-mandated performance measures on congestion and system performance. Because it is easy to understand, describes a common experience, and is formatted in a series of lists, it is perfectly suited for uncritical press coverage. However, the press attention and catholic policy orientation notwithstanding, the TTI approach is widely criticized on both technical and conceptual grounds.