While cities and developers have recognized the value of transit oriented development for quite some time, the advantages of proximity to and amenities building on active lifestyles and transportation are just beginning to emerge. Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, a new report from the Urban Land Institute, looks at the rise of residential, office, and mixed-use developments built around active transportation infrastructure and amenities.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking has released its biennial benchmarking report, providing a wealth of information on programs, policies, data, and case studies from all 50 states, the 50 largest U.S. cities, plus 18 additional medium-sized cities. At the same time, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report on the alarming rise in pedestrian fatalities from 2014 to 2015.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a “call to action” encouraging Americans to walk more as a way to improve health and wellbeing, and to spur improvement in the walkability of American communities. In a blog post about the report’s release, Emily Badger, at the Washington Post, notes that policies of the federal government during the last century—subsidies for suburban sprawl development, low gas taxes, and highway investments—bear a large responsibility for making walking more difficult.
The National Association of Realtors, in collaboration with researchers from Portland State University, just released the results of their 2015 Community Preference Survey. The survey reinforces other reports that younger generations are driving less and prefer communities with multimodal transportation options.
When $17 million in funding was set aside for a new interchange on NJ Route 42 in suburban Camden County in 2005, NJDOT’s design concepts involved traditional clover leaf and diamond designs to improve automobile level of service and mobility. However, after engaging the community in a dialog about their vision for the future of the area—which focused on increasing development near the interchange and creating a more walkable environment—planners and designers settled on a more context-sensitive solution that would slow traffic, preserve land for development, and set the stage for a grid roadway network.
A recently released study has added further detail to our understanding of the link between commuting mode choice and workplace and environmental variables. The study linked residential proximity to transit stops and employer-provided free or reduced-price transit passes to commuters’ likelihood of choosing transit. It also linked shorter commuting distances and the availability of bike parking at workplaces to commuters’ decisions to bike or walk to work.
The San Francisco Transit Accessibility Map is a new online tool showing how much of the city is accessible by transit or walking within a selected travel time. Although the map is useful as is, it also presents an enormous opportunity to develop a richly layered analysis that could be used to understand accessibility more broadly by adding data on non-work as well as work destinations. It could also highlight the need to improve accessibility for underserved areas.
Numerous studies have supported the linkages between transportation planning and public health. A new study out of the University of Kansas specifically addresses the cognitive benefits of walkable neighborhoods to older adults. Another study found that the prevalence of certain destinations including grocery stores, malls, and restaurants/cafes within neighborhoods inhabited by older adults might increase transportation walking trips among this population.
A new NCHRP report and presentation at the recent Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference represents a major step toward fulfilling a long-standing need for analytic methods that can effectively represent non-motorized transportation modes in the transportation and land use planning process.
As bicycling and walking have become more popular methods of transportation, cities and states are searching for better techniques for estimating traffic from these non-motorized modes. Both on individual corridors and throughout transportation systems, traffic volumes are essential for planning and performance measures. But measuring non-motorized traffic can be more difficult than counting cars and trucks, so new techniques are needed to estimate traffic patterns. Colorado DOT worked with researchers at the University of Colorado-Denver to establish Colorado-specific methodologies for estimating bicycle and pedestrian volumes via a limited sample of existing counts.