Despite the prevalence of anti-tolling sentiment reported in the press, cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles that operate variably priced toll lanes have seen early skepticism give way to heavy use of these lanes by commuters. These successes and the approaches taken by the two agencies to manage increasing demand suggest a need to manage these facilities in the context of the entire transportation system. The two approaches taken by Atlanta and Los Angeles could be used by other agencies struggling with similar issues.
The Oregon DOT recently announced a new partnership with Waze—a navigational app that collects crowdsourced traffic information from its users and employs the data in real time. Florida was among the first states to sign an agreement with Waze in May 2014, granting them access to the company’s data in exchange for information about road closures and other incidents in the state. Approximately 30 agencies around the world have partnered with the company, including cities, regional agencies and a handful of states.
During ski season in Colorado, weekend traffic on I-70 between Denver and the mountain destinations is the stuff of legend, with travel times swelling by hours. CDOT, partnering with mountain towns and ski resorts through the I-70 Coalition, has developed a coordinated response to help manage travel demand. The effort suggests that close coordination between DOTs, the private sector, and the traveling public creates stronger, potentially longer-lasting partnerships to manage travel demand in areas where expansion of highway infrastructure is undesirable or not practical.
Last week, the USDOT announced Beyond Traffic—a framework for thinking about the nation’s transportation needs over the next 30 years. “As population concentrates around metropolitan areas around the country,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx during an unveiling event at Google, “it has implications on how much money we need to invest but also what we’re paying for with the money.” Foxx has stressed repeatedly that this framework—released officially as a draft to encourage a national conversation—is about understanding and getting ahead of the challenges we face, rather than trying to recreate the past. Arriving roughly in conjunction with the administration’s transportation budget, this framework aims to move the discussion beyond a six-year horizon.
Although the mass media has been quick to tout the practicalities of switching to autonomous vehicles, many complexities are also apparent. At the recent TRB meeting the number of papers highlighting the opportunities and challenges associated with these vehicles made a clear statement about the enormity of the change DOTs, MPOs, and policy makers anticipate. And a recent paper from the University of Michigan lays out considerations that raise questions about whether autonomous vehicles will smoothly transition into mainstream usage.
A new report from the Brookings Institution, and its associated interactive tool, study the flow of freight among U.S. metropolitan areas. The same metropolitan areas on which much of the nation’s freight system depends are also home to the most congested corridors. By graphically showing freight flows within the U.S., the report makes a strong argument that congestion in large metro areas interferes with interstate commerce.
The primary focus of transportation agencies for many years has been to keep pace with ever-rising levels of traffic. New policy goals focused on health and environmental impacts in California, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, as well as nationwide trends in travel behavior have begun to change this focus. Now, the emergent sharing economy also appears to be playing some part in markets that currently are isolated but that could grow quickly.
A unique approach to collecting and distributing transit data was recently unveiled. Publicly launched on May 15, Urban Engines uses spatial analytics and behavioral economics theory to improve city planning and operations. Urban Engines uses the concept of “crowd sensing,” a method of using technology to understand where people congregate and how they move.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have launched a joint pilot program requiring employers with more than 50 full-time employees in the District’s nine-county area to offer one or more commuter benefits to their employees by the end of September 2014.
Washington State Department of Transportation has been rightfully proud of their accountability and transparency with their quarterly Gray Notebook, which details system performance and project delivery. As part of that, they have issued an Annual Congestion Report. But the 2013 report has a new name and a new emphasis. Instead of highlighting congestion, the 2013 Corridor Capacity Report focuses on capacity across all modes. Rather than measuring just motor vehicle throughput, it turns its attention to moving people, regardless of mode.