Transit: If you build it wrong, they might not come

Both the San Diego Mid-City BRT line and the DC-area Silver Line Metro are struggling with lower than expected ridership. Recent news coverage points out that both lines may suffer from poor implementation. The disappointing usage may hold lessons for other cities considering ambitious new transit services. Walkability in Tysons Corner, VA, and reliability in San Diego are hampering transit use.

Innovative infrastructure and bikes on trains encourage commuting

Cities and states are trying to make biking easier, safer, and more predictable. Across the country, improved connections with transit or installing cutting-edge, on-street bicycle facilities are encouraging more people to embark on non-auto commutes. Three examples illustrate ways to help bicyclists access transit and feel more comfortable on streets with traffic.

Caltrans’ strategic plan embraces multimodalism, sustainability

The nation’s largest state DOT, Caltrans, signaled a strong move toward multimodalism, sustainability, and customer focus in a new strategic management plan released last week. The plan, which comprises a series of performance measures, represents a step away from traditional automobile infrastructure-centric views of DOT work. As Director Malcolm Dougherty notes in his introduction, this shift follows previous work to refocus the department’s mission.

Transportation engineers question the use of common practices and metrics

This month, for at least the second time in a year, the Institute of Transportation Engineers has challenged its members to rethink common practices and metrics that are often thought of as objective and unbiased, but that convey values that aren’t necessarily in line with the greater public interest. In particular, these values emphasize the movement of vehicles above all other interests.

California transportation secretary advocates for life-cycle approach

California’s longstanding principle of relying on locally generated funds and suballocated state fuel taxes to improve the state highway system poses a principal-agent problem: Local funders have every incentive to fund expansions while leaving costly owner-operator responsibilities, including eventual reconstruction, to an increasingly cash-strapped state DOT. This month Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly published an op-ed urging a life-cycle approach that prioritizes system preservation.

Caltrans achieves first state road award from Greenroads

The Presidio Parkway Phase I in San Francisco is the first state highway to be awarded a Greenroads certificate, indicating a high level of environmental sensitivity and sustainability during design and construction of the roadway. The project received a Bronze Rating. Key elements recognized by Greenroads in the project’s certification included an extensive public involvement process with special attention paid to biological, cultural, and natural resources.

UC/UCLA report: Changes needed to align transportation spending and policy goals

A new report outlines steps that federal, state, and local decision makers can take to bring California’s transportation spending in line with its environmental and energy goals. The paper came out of a one-day session that involved leaders from business, academic, and policy sectors, including high-level staff from the California DOT (Caltrans) and the California State Transportation Agency.

California travel surveys show big shift away from driving

Last year the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released the findings from its decennial household travel survey. The 2012 survey shows that the average California household made about 25 percent fewer trips by automobile than it did in 2001, and 65 to 75 percent more trips by walking, biking, and public transit. Those changes mean the shares of the three non-auto modes doubled. While the new survey better accounted for non-auto trips that may contribute to the increase in those modes, the major factor in the mode shift seems to be a decline in driving, a mode that was measured with GPS in both surveys.