Researchers re-evaluate how we value transportation

Transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations often wrestle with how to properly value transportation investments, especially when it comes to things that can’t be measured in terms of vehicle delay, such as multimodal access and environmental justice. Some of these challenges are tackled in a new issue of Research in Transportation and Business Management, edited in part by SSTI. Those familiar with SSTI’s recent work in the development and implementation of accessibility metrics may be interested in a paper describing a new measure of non-work accessibility.

TDOT puts Complete Streets policy into practice

The Tennessee Department of Transportation adopted a “multimodal access” policy in 2015, but recognized that the policy alone would have limited impact without a more comprehensive approach to improving safety for everyone. Since then, TDOT has taken steps to update its practices across the department to improve safety and access for people walking, biking, and taking transit, bringing a Complete Streets approach into all of the internal machinery that makes the agency run. Many of the changes TDOT has made could be replicated or adapted by other states.

COMMUTE bill would boost accessibility metrics

A new bipartisan bill in Congress would provide funding for DOTs and MPOs to apply innovative accessibility metrics to decision-making. It would require U.S. DOT to provide data and support for five state DOTs and 10 MPOs to measure access to destinations by various modes. Whether the bill passes or not, the field is likely to continue looking at accessibility as an important metric, and SSTI has been at the forefront of the effort to apply accessibility to transportation and land use decisions.

National Opportunity Zones Ranking Report

The newly created federal Opportunity Zones program will likely go down as the largest and most significant federal community development initiative in U.S. history. One way to make the most of that investment is by directing state transportation funds to further catalyze economic development in those distressed communities. This report helps identify which Opportunity Zones should be prioritized for investment in order to deliver positive economic, environmental, and social returns. It ranks 7,800+ Opportunity Zones, broken out by state, according to their smart growth potential and current social equity. It also provides a policy framework and case studies to ensure equitable, inclusive development in Opportunity Zones through transportation, land use, and development decisions.

Reopening of Quincy Station MBTA gate provides area households with access to hundreds of thousands of additional jobs

After sitting shuttered for more than 30 years, the city of Quincy, MA recently reopened a pedestrian gate that allows residents of the town’s Penn’s Hill neighborhood to connect directly to the Quincy Adams MBTA station. Previous to the gate reopening, residents were forced to walk more than a mile to cross the Red Line train tracks and access the station. We measured how much this improved the accessibility of the adjacent neighborhoods.

Accessibility analysis highlights transit deficiencies in New Orleans

The average transit user in New Orleans can access only a fraction of the opportunities that drivers can, according to a local advocacy group, and recent transit investments aren’t helping much. The group, Ride New Orleans, just released its annual State of Transit 2018 report, which includes an analysis of the number of jobs accessible by car and by transit within 30 minutes. They found that the average transit user can only reach 12 percent of the region’s jobs within 30 minutes, compared to 89 percent for drivers.

Estimating the amount people drive based on accessibility measures

How does the built environment influence the amount people drive? Research by SSTI’s Logan Dredske worked to answer this very question. The focus of his research was to create a framework for estimating vehicle miles traveled based on conditions of the built environment. His goal was to use measures of accessibility as the principal proxy for the built environment. The research also converted vehicle miles traveled into greenhouse gas emissions and evaluated the ability of transportation projects to reduce emissions.

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.

A viaduct or a wall: I-81 in Syracuse

Interstate 81, known locally as “the viaduct”, slices through the middle of Syracuse in upstate New York. The aging, elevated freeway effectively forms a barrier between the city and the Syracuse University neighborhood known as the Hill. A coalition of local businesses, education, and political leaders have come together to solicit input on whether to rebuild, replace, or remove the freeway. The process could serve as a model for other communities wrestling with a similar decision.