Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Levels of Service and Travel Projections: The Wrong Tools for Planning Our Streets?

http://www.pps.org/reference/levels-of-service-and-travel-projections-the-wrong-tools-for-planning-our-streets/

By Gary Toth, August 2014

Would you use a rototiller to get rid of weeds in a flowerbed? Of course not. You might solve your immediate goal of uprooting the weeds — but oh, my, the collateral damage that you would do.

Yet when we try to eliminate congestion from our urban areas by using decades-old traffic engineering measures and models, we are essentially using a rototiller in a flowerbed. And it’s time to acknowledge that the collateral damage has been too great.






First, an explanation of what I call the “deadly duo”: travel projection models and Levels of Service (LOS) performance metrics.Travel projection models are computer programs that use assumptions about future growth in population, employment, and recreation to estimate how many new cars will be on roads 20 or 30 years into the future.

Models range from quite simplistic to incredibly complex and expensive. Simple models deal primarily with coarse movements of vehicles between cities, while complex models deal with the intricacies of what happens on the fine grid of urban areas. To be truly accurate, growth projection modeling can be expensive. Therefore, absent compelling reason to do otherwise, most growth projections tend to be done using less expensive techniques, which usually lead to overestimates.

Levels of Service (LOS) is a performance metric which flourished during the interstate- and freeway-building era that went from the 1950s to the 1990s. Using a scale of A to F, LOS attempts to create an objective formula to answer a subjective question: How much congestion are we willing to tolerate? As in grade school, “F” is a failing grade and “A” is perfect.

Engineers decided that LOS “C” was a good balance between overinvestment in perfection and underinvestment leading to congestion. In urban areas, a concession was made to accept LOS D, representing slightly more restricted but still free-flowing traffic. LOS is commonly (actually, almost always) calculated using travel projections for 20 to 30 years into the future.

Using basic traffic models and LOS C/D to plan and design the interstate system was a no-brainer in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. When deciding how many lanes to build on a freeway connecting major cities, a sensitivity of plus or minus 10,000 trips a day could be tolerated, and the incremental difference in cost to plow through undeveloped land was relatively insignificant.

Good approach, wrong setting 

I’m not going to look back and quibble with the general philosophy of how the interstates and the associated high-speed freeways were planned and designed. On many levels, the approach made sense.

But it became increasingly less persuasive when applied to the rest of our road network. Unlike interstates and freeways, most roads exist not just to move traffic through the area, but also to serve the homes, businesses, and people along them. Yet in search of high LOS rankings, transportation professionals have widened streets, added lanes, removed on-street parking, limited crosswalks, and deployed other inappropriate strategies. In ridding our communities of the weeds of congestion, we have also pulled out the very plants that made our “gardens” worthwhile in the first place.

It’s worth remembering, too, that not all congestion is bad. John Norquist, former Mayor of Milwaukee and current CEO and President of the Congress for New Urbanism, suggests that congestion is like cholesterol: there is a good kind and a bad kind.

What makes the prevailing situation even more troubling is that there are no comprehensive requirements dictating the use of either LOS or travel modeling in transportation planning and project design. The “Green Book” from the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) (more formally known as “A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets”) clearly states that these are guidelines to be applied with judgment — not mandates. So does the Federal Highway Administration’s “Highway Capacity Manual.”

The idea that we must rid our roads of  any and all traffic congestion is, in fact, a self-imposed requirement. As Eric Jaffe wrote in an article for Atlantic Cities in December, 2011:
Although cities aren’t required to abide LOS measures by law, over the years the measure hardened into convention. By the time cities recognized the need for balanced transportation systems, LOS was entrenched in the street engineering canon.
Worse yet, many designers size a road or intersection to be free-flowing for the worst hour of the day.Sized to accommodate cars during the highest peak hour, such streets will be “overdesigned” for the other 23 hours of the day and will always function poorly for the surrounding community.

If that isn’t troubling enough, LOS is often calculated using traffic predicted 20 years into the future, even in urban settings. Until the forecasted growth materializes, the roadway will be overdesigned, even during the peak hour. Overdesigned roadways encourage motorists to drive at higher speeds, making them difficult to cross and unpleasant to walk along. This degrades public spaces between the edges of the road and the adjacent buildings, encourages people to drive short distances, and generally unravels a community’s social fabric.

Let me repeat: Contrary to what you may hear, there is no national requirement or mandate to apply LOS standards and targets 20 years into the future for urban streets. This thinking is a remnant from 1960s era  policy for the interstate system, and has erroneously been passed down from generation to generation.


There is no national requirement or mandate to apply LOS standards and targets 20 years into the future for urban streets. 

So what are the right approaches?

Asking the simple question, “Do you want congestion reduced at a particular location?” is a question out of context. It’s like asking you whether you want to never be stung by a bee again. Of course, the answer will be yes. But what if I told you that to in order to never suffer a sting again, every plant within a several mile radius would have to be destroyed — and that you could never leave the area of destruction?

You would have a completely different answer, I’m sure.

The question that needs to be asked in urban settings is not whether you ever want to sit in congestion again. Who does? The question is whether you want to eliminate congestion on your Main Street 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year — knowing that the consequence would be a community with decimated economic and social value, increased reliance on car use, increased crashes, and, ultimately, more congestion.

Recognizing the need for balance, a number of entities are beginning to promote approaches sensitive to the context.

I was the New Jersey Department of Transportation’ s project manager for  the “Smart Transportation Guide” (STG), adopted jointly by the state DOTs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.   The STG directs DOT designers to consider the tradeoffs between vehicular LOS and “local service.” It goes on to say that if the street in question is not critical to regional movement, that LOS E or F could be acceptable — and that designers may actually need to design to slow down cars.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers, an “international association of transportation professionals responsible for meeting mobility and safety needs” also promoted this concept in its landmark “Context Sensitive Solutions Guidelines for Urban Thoroughfares.” Florida DOT has adopted multimodal LOS standards, and cities like Charlotte, N.C., have elevated pedestrian and bicycle LOS to the level of that for automobiles. We have a long way to go, but the door is opening.

Creating balanced standards for roadway design will benefit transportation as well. In the Netherlands, the “Livable Streets” policy led to a remarkable improvement in safety on their roadways. They started in the 1970s with a crash rate 15 percent higher than in the U.S., and now have a crash rate 60 percent lower.

Design with the community in mind


It’s time for communities and transportation professionals alike to accept that we have been using the wrong tools for the wrong job. LOS and travel modeling may be effective when sizing and locating high-speed freeways, but are totally inappropriate in every other setting. If travel modeling with high rates of growth is used to make street decisions, your community may be doomed to a series of roadway widenings or intersection expansions. If vehicular LOS C or D performance measures are adopted as non-negotiable targets, major road construction will be heading your way.

Village, suburban and city streets need to be designed with the community in mind using the PPS principle of Streets as Places to  create a vision for a great community and then plan your streets to support that vision.

Lets not be fooled by the appearance of science behind Levels of Service and Traffic Modeling. As I pointed out in an interview with Wayne Senville that was published in the November 2010 “Planning Commissioner’s Journal,” LOS standards are easy to understand — and that’s exactly what makes them so dangerous.

Joe Cano Videos: SR710 Historical Record

From Sylvia Plummer, August 13, 2014

Here are the early videos from 2003 & 2009 that were discussed at the last No710 Action Committee meeting.

The 2003 video shows SCAG, Metro and Caltrans introduction of a Tunnel idea to the City Councils.
South Pasadena City Council Meeting - 1/15/2003:


Here  is what Roger Snoble is referring to when he mentions the "napkin" :

Pasadena City Council Meeting - 3/24/2003:

La Canada City Council Meeting - 10/25/2003:
 
Glendale City Council Meeting - 7/28/2009 -  SR-710 Resolution.  Representatives of SCAG ask the City of Glendale to support the closing of the gap with a toll tunnel.  Barbara Messina and Nat Reed (Former Chair of the 710 Coalition) speak for the tunnel.  Many excellent comments made against the toll tunnel.  Anthony Portantino takes the 710 Tunnel project & it's supporters to task. (starts at 1:19.51 and speaks for 5 minutes)

Thanks to Joe Cano for putting this together.

Lyft vs. Uber: The battle between the ridesharing rivals intensifies

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-lyft-uber-rivalry-20140812-story.html

By Salvador Rodriguez, August 13, 2014






Lyft
Uber and Lyft have each offered drivers as much as $500 to switch sides, according to Forbes.

In the ridesharing rivalry between Uber and Lyft, the gloves came off with the start of 2014. But the fighting got more intense this week, with Lyft accusing Uber employees of trying to jam its computer system.

Here are the five most notable battles and attacks this year between the two rivals:

1. Lyft accuses Uber employees of denial-of-service attack 

Lyft this week said its data show that at least 177 known Uber employees have opened up the Lyft app, requested a ride and subsequently canceled it as part of a strategy to jam Lyft's service and prompt customers to use Uber instead, according to CNN Money. Since October, Uber employees have done this at least 5,560 times, according to Lyft. Most recently, this kind of attack occurred during Lyft's launch in New York City, Lyft told The Times
.
Uber denied the attacks and has instead accussed Lyft's employees, drivers and one of its co-founders of canceling 12,900 trips on Uber's app.

"These attacks from Lyft are unfortunate but somewhat expected," an Uber spokeswoman told The Times. "A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would 'go nuclear' if we do not acquire them."

2. Uber outfunds Lyft

This April, Lyft secured $250 million in venture capital funding, gaining resources necessary to catch up to Uber. But not one to be outdone, Uber in June announced that it had raised $1.2 billion.

3. Driver poaching

Uber has reportedly poached Lyft drivers by offering them bonuses since last year, but after securing its $250-million venture capital funding, Lyft began using similar tactics, according to Forbes. In May, Lyft rented a lot in San Francisco across the street from Uber's car inspection center and lured Uber drivers by offering them free tacos and other goodies. Both offered drivers as much as $500 to switch sides, according to the Forbes report.

4. Carpool services

Last week, the two companies created a new battle front by simultaneously launching carpooling services. On Monday and Tuesday, Lyft contacted reporters to alert them about its service Lyft Line, which would be publicly announced the next day. But a few hours later, Uber unveiled UberPool on its online blog, beating Lyft to the punch.

5. Lyft temporarily stops taking commissions

Shortly after securing funding in April, Lyft announced that it would not take any commissions from drivers and cut fares by 10% in all its markets, undercutting Uber rates.

Uber did not respond to Lyft's move and continued to take commissions from its drivers.

This week, Lyft restored its commission but revamped it: The more hours drivers work for Lyft, the less commission they have to pay.

Why Can't the United States Build a High-Speed Rail System?

The problem isn't geography, demographics, or money—it's federal will.

 http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/08/why-cant-the-united-states-build-a-high-speed-rail-system/375980/

By Yonah Freemark, August 13, 2014



 Image




Virtually every wealthy nation in the world has invested in a high-speed rail network—with the striking exception of the United States. From Japan to France, even from Turkey to Russia, trains travel through the country at speeds of 150 miles per hour or above, linking city centers and providing a desirable alternative to both air and automobile travel. Meanwhile, outside Amtrak's 28 miles of 150-m.p.h. track in rural Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the American rail network is largely limited to speeds of 110 m.p.h. or less. There are few reasons to think the situation will change much in the coming decades.

So why has the United States failed to fund and construct high-speed rail?

The problem is not political process. Most of the countries that have built high-speed rail are democratic, and have submitted the projects to citizen review; others, like Germany and Russia, have federated governments similar to ours that divide general decision-making between levels of authority. Nor is it geography. The British and French completed a 31-mile tunnel under the British Channel 20 years ago, while many American cities are located in flat regions with few physical construction obstacles. Nor is it the characteristics of our urban areas. While U.S. cities are less dense than those of many other countries, the Northeast is denser, more transit reliant, and more populated than most areas served by high-speed rail abroad. Nor still is it money. Though the United States invests less in infrastructure than other developed countries do, America nevertheless remains an immensely wealthy nation perfectly capable of spending on new rail links if desired.

What's missing is a federal commitment to a well-funded national rail plan. Instead, we have a political system in which the federal government, having devolved virtually all decision-making power to states, cannot prioritize one project over another in the national interest. We have a funding system that encourages study after study of unfundable or unbuildable projects in places that refuse to commit their own resources. And we have a bureaucracy that, having never operated or constructed modern intercity rail, doesn't understand what it takes. This helter-skelter approach to transportation improvements is fundamentally incapable of supporting large-expenditure, long-range projects like high-speed rail.

This wasn't always the case. In 1956, Congress approved a significant increase in the federal gas tax, and with it a national plan for interstate highways. That plan, which included a steady stream of funding and a clear map of national priorities, was mostly completed over the next three decades.

Though implemented by states, highway alignments were chosen at the national level, with the intention of connecting the largest cities, regardless of political boundaries. Funding came almost entirely (90 percent) from the national government and was guaranteed as long as a route was on the national map. Physical requirements for roadways were mandated at the national level and universally applied. And construction was completed by state departments of transportation that were technically knowledgeable, accustomed to building such public works, and able to make decisions about how to move forward.

The result was a system of roadways that most Americans rely on, often daily. The interstate system is unquestionably the nation's transportation lifeblood.

Yet Americans do not have the same perspective on the role of the federal government that they had when this highway system was initially funded. Trust in Washington has declined from more than 70 percent during the 1950s to less than 20 percent today. So while President Dwight Eisenhower declared in 1955 that the federal government should "assume principal responsibility" for the highway system, its approach to a high-speed rail network has reflected this change in public thinking about Washington's place in transportation planning. The response has been to reduce the federal government's ability to commit to a long-term plan and associated funding.


Via Pew Research

Recent efforts to revive this federal role have been seriously flawed. Take the Obama administration's attempt at a national plan of proposed intercity rail investments in 2009.

For starters, the map's proposed routes were vague, a number of important connections were not identified, and some routes appeared to have been chosen at random—simply the consequence of previous state studies with no national outlook. Funding had been dedicated through an initial $8 billion included in the stimulus bill, but there was certainly no guarantee that railways on that map would be built in the long term. The definition of "high-speed rail" was not applied universally; the administration proposed some links at 90 m.p.h. and others at more than 250 m.p.h., with no explanation for why some would be fast and others not. Finally, many of the states that were supposed to be implementing these projects were woefully unprepared for the task, having made few such investments in the past. None had the experience of building 200 m.p.h. electric railways to the international standard.

Such an approach to national transportation doesn't work. It leaves too many planning questions open to state decision making, and it fails to offer a financing source that actually produces the funds needed for intercity rail. Far from fulfilling Eisenhower's mandate of assuming principal responsibility, the latest high-speed rail plan assumed too little.

But the need is still there. With falling automobile vehicle miles traveled, rising transit use, and booming city centers, we need new ways to connect our cities. More highways are not the answer, not only because they pollute the environment and destroy the neighborhoods they pass through, but also because they're relatively slow and become congested almost as soon as they're built. With a growing population, the country needs an expanded transportation system. The United States must invest in clean, neighborhood-building, and congestion-relieving trains, but we cannot expect states to pick up the slack of an uncertain federal government.

The planning and funding of the interstate highway system was premised on the fact that the travel needs of Americans occur irrespective of state lines. Indeed, the 50 largest metropolitan areas, representing more than half of the country's population, are located in 31 separate states and 15 of them actually straddle state borders. Given this reality, it would be ridiculous to plan an intercity transportation system at the state level. California's high-speed rail progress—its proposed San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line remains the only truly fast train project in the country—is the exception that proves the rule; that state's size makes it no example for the rest of the nation.

It's time for the United States to commit to national planning, funding, coordination, and prioritization of rail investment. Intercity transportation systems require active federal engagement to guarantee the development of routes that reflect national needs and national priorities. Yet without political consensus on the need to develop national goals and focus investments, high-speed rail will remain a pipe-dream for decades to come.
y, the latest high-speed rail plan assumed too little.