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.
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.
There is a growing consensus that transportation agencies, especially transit agencies, should make schedule and arrival data more publically available to support the shift to a more seamless multimodal transportation system. This new system would offer multimodal travel options using a single platform, allowing the traveler to select a mode that best suits his or her needs on the spur of the moment. In addition, developing ways to make this data widely available to the public will make the system more efficient, as well as increase equity and accessibility across the socioeconomic spectrum.
The move away from “stroads”—urban streets designed to rural road standards—received new support this month, as Massachusetts and California DOTs endorsed new design guidance that treats urban streets as livable places as well as multimodal transportation facilities.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota developed a measure of multimodal accessibility for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, which they hope can be implemented in metropolitan areas around the nation as an alternative to commonly-used congestion metrics for prioritizing transportation projects and planning system improvements. For decades, transportation system performance has been measured in terms of traffic congestion and delay, both at the project scale and the regional scale. Developers of the new accessibility measure flip the equation by asking what the value of accessibility is, rather than what the costs of congestion are.
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.
Over the last decade, “reverse commuting”—travel from central city residential areas to suburban jobs—has increased significantly. Two trends—increased movement of employment to suburbs and growing preference by some employees for central city living—are driving the reverse commute. While in-migration to walkable and transit friendly cities has reduced driving for non-work auto trips, many workers still need to travel to jobs in the suburbs during peak hours, posing new challenges for transit planners. Transportation planners, employers, and commuters around the country are attempting to adjust to these changes in a number of ways.
Tennessee DOT recently announced the creation of a $30 million Multimodal Access Fund to support local projects that improve pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access to state routes and transit hubs. A handful of states have implemented new mechanisms for funding multimodal projects in light of insufficient federal funds, but Tennessee’s dedication of existing revenues shows a unique commitment to providing transportation choices in the state.
Walkscore, the first website to offer easy-to-use walkability ratings for cities, neighborhoods, and individual properties now has some competition. Walkability, a rating system released this month targets private businesses, particularly those in the marketing, social networking, and real estate sectors.
The U.S. 36 project, now underway, will expand a four-lane facility to add an express lane carrying bus-rapid transit, high-occupancy vehicles, and tolled single-occupancy vehicles, as well as ITS systems and a commuter bikeway. Of particular interest to participants in a recent SSTI workshop was the fact that the project’s tolls will support the multimodal facilities.