Category Archives: tools

Weekend Musing: Less, More and Mozart

These slipped in over the transom in the last days here in Helsinki, and while some of you will be well on top of all three let me take the risk and share them with those  who may not have spotted them  for your weekend reading, listening and musing pleasure . Continue reading

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World City Modal Split Database: An invitation

This open project from EPOMM — the European Platform on Mobility Management — is an absolutely brilliant idea. It does not require much explanation to get started; you can be off and going if you simply to click here and dig into their Google map. That said, a few words of introduction may not be altogether without their use to help you take full advantage of their good work. Continue reading

Grading Sustainable Transport: Scholarship A. Leadership C-

One of the often voiced claims of World Streets is that those who best understand the issues and priorities behind sustainable transport and sustainable cities are failing to command the high ground in the debate and the politics of decision simply because we are just not good enough at communicating our ideas, first to each other and then to the world. All too often when confronted with a decision issue, with our strong academic orientation and backgrounds, we prefer to turn to the familiar world of more research, fatter reports and that next great conference, while at the end of the day what we really need is a concise, credible, understandable presentation of our best ideas and the choices that need to be made. Continue reading

"In the slums of Nairobi" What do you do when you are losing a war?

If it is your assumption that we are at present losing the war for sustainable transport and sustainable lives — and that is very definitely our position here at World Streets — and if it is your firm intention not to lose it — as it is ours! — then what do you do when the going gets tough? Well you look around and put to work every potentially promising tool you can lay your hands on. Now we make a pretty consistent effort in these pages to bring to your attention creative media that illustrates, renders more understandable and supports our noble cause. But we need more: so what about doing more along these lines taken from today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune?
Continue reading

Wanted: Crowd-Sourced Transportation Analysis (An open thread for collaborative tool building)

This is the second of a two-part article by Charles Komanoff, activist, energy-economist and policy analyst, looking at goals and tools for finding the right strategy for implementing some form of congesting charging measures in New York City’s crowded streets. He invites comment on his proposed “Balance Transportation Analyzer” tool.

Wanted: Crowd-Sourced Transportation Analysis

– by Charles Komanoff. Reprinted from NYC Streetsblog with the author’s permission

My recent post refuting David Owen’s attack on congestion pricing ignited a long, rich thread. Here’s one comment, from “Jonathan,” that struck a nerve:

[A] cordon-pricing plan … which doesn’t charge center-city residents could result in an increase in those residents’ automobile use. If the streets are free of outer-borough traffic, more of my Manhattan neighbors might drive to work, or simply make extra automobile trips within the cordon that without CP [congestion pricing], they would have made by subway or taxi.

Jonathan’s right: Any Manhattan cordon-pricing scheme will lead to an uptick in car trips that start and end within the charging zone. It’s one of those “rebound effects” that congestion-price modeling needs to account for, and which I’ve taken pains to incorporate in my Balanced Transportation Analyzer pricing model.

Indeed, I daresay that the BTA handles just about every issue ever raised on this blog about congestion pricing. How many transit users will switch to cabs? Will variable tolls really flatten rush-hour peaks? Won’t faster roads lure back the trips killed off by the toll (Owen’s conundrum)? And many more.

Technically, the BTA is a spreadsheet. But I think of it as a vast mansion, whose 46 interlinked “rooms” (worksheets) are stocked with precious data and ingenious algorithms for cracking open questions like these:

* How does congestion on weekends compare with weekdays?

* How sharply do traffic speeds rise as volumes fall?

* Which boroughs and counties stand to pay the most with congestion pricing?

* Will a cordon toll lead to more bicycling, and will that improve public health?

* Can decommissioning vehicle lanes increase congestion pricing’s benefits?

* Which will boost transit use more: lower fares or better service?

* How many fares does a cabbie get in a ten-hour taxi shift, with and without pricing?

Multiply that list a hundredfold and you get a sense of the BTA’s hidden treasures.

I say “hidden” because, except for a few mavens like “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, who calls it “the best [modeling] tool that I have seen in my nearly 40 years,” the Balanced Transportation Analyzer remains largely untapped by advocates. To me, it’s as if we’re all starving while this rich storehouse next door goes to waste.

Which prompts me to ask:

1. Why is the BTA so underused?
2. Is our community missing out on a valuable tool?
3. What should we do about it?

Let’s make this an open thread, with emphasis on what can we do together to make the BTA more accessible and useful to New York’s livable streets community. (The model is adaptable to other cities, so those of you not from NYC are also invited.)

As for Jonathan’s question: the BTA shows that over the course of a typical weekday, 72 percent of all vehicle miles traveled inside the Manhattan Central Business District are by cars, trucks and buses that have crossed into the CBD, either at 60th Street or across the Hudson or East Rivers, and thus would pay the congestion toll. The remaining 28 percent of VMT is mostly by medallion taxicabs (22 percent). Cars and trucks that stayed within the cordon zone and couldn’t be tolled accounted for just 6 percent of all CBD traffic. (All this is derived and shown in the table at the bottom of the BTA’s “Cordon” worksheet.)

This tells us that: 1) Even if “intrazonal” traffic rises sharply, as Jonathan fears, it will add relatively little VMT because it’s such a small share of overall cordon traffic to begin with; and 2) rather than fret over the free pass for intrazonal trips (which are impractical to toll with current technology), congestion pricing needs a strategy to stop a surge in taxicab use from filling the newly freed road space.

The plan currently advocated by Ted Kheel and myself does just that. It combines a 33 percent surcharge on all three taxi-fare components — mileage, waiting time, and the “drop” — with time-variable car tolls of $3/$6/$9 on weekdays and $2/$3/$4 on weekends (trucks pay double, reflecting their greater bulk, while medallion cabs are exempt from the toll but pay the surcharge). Under this Kheel-Komanoff Plan, intrazonal VMT is predicted to rise by approximately 120,000 miles a day — 40,000 by cars and trucks, 80,000 by taxicabs. But cordon VMT by vehicles coming from outside, and thus tolled, falls far more, by 450,000. This yields a net drop in cordon travel of 330,000 VMT, an 8 percent decline that, the model predicts, will boost average travel speeds within the CBD by around 20 percent.

The point of this post isn’t to advocate for a particular plan, however. It’s to show that rebound effects and other asserted congestion-toll pitfalls can be modeled and, with the right plan, accommodated.

The figures are based on 2007 traffic levels. Current volumes are probably slightly less. While a decrease in “baseline” traffic cuts into the benefits of congestion pricing, both the saved time and new transit revenue predicted for Kheel-Komanoff are still striking. And, yes, if you want to test our pricing plan (or your own) with reduced baseline traffic, the BTA even has a switch to adjust the volume.

# # #

* Click here to read comments and reader contributions on Streetsblog

* Click here to read the original posting in Streetsblog

The author:
Charles Komanoff “re-founded” NYC’s bike-advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in the 1980s, helped found the Tri-State Transportation Campaign in the 1990s, and co-founded the Carbon Tax Center in 2007. Charles’s writings include books, articles, and landmark reports such as Subsidies for Traffic, Killed By Automobile, and the Kheel Report on financing free transit in New York City. Charles lives with his wife and two sons in lower Manhattan

Outreach – Local Actors & Implementation Partners

Too often when it comes to new transport initiatives, the practice is to concentrate on laying the base for the project in close working relationships with people and groups who a priori are favorably disposed to your idea, basically your choir. Leaving the potential “trouble makers” aside for another day. Experience shows that’s a big mistake.

A Big House/Open Door Approach
Concerned local/regional government agencies, transporters, business groups, local employers and others should be brought early on into discussions, planning, implementation, and follow-up. It is vital to bring to the table as wide a range of groups and interests as possible, from the city and in the surrounding region in each case, including those whose views may be negative about any of the kinds of major shift in today’s transportation arrangements. Nobody likes change out of the blue, especially those “imposed” on us by people who are indifferent to our problems and priorities It is natural to block these unwelcome proposals.

The key to success is to take a big house/open doors approach. Make sure that you bring in all those groups, interests, people who are going to be impacted, positively or possibly negatively. Better to have them inside the tent and from the beginning.

One of the richest and most exciting phases of the preparatory projects from the outset is that of taking contact with all these groups in order to discover what they are already doing to advance the sustainability agenda in your city. And what they are ready and able to do if they get the right kind of support.

Below you have our generic checklist of possible local collaborators, partners, and interested parties. As you look through it from the perspectives of your own community, you will see that there are gaps here. But this at least can get you started.

Local/regional government agencies

1. City hall(s)
2. Communications, public information specialists
3. Community development programs
4. Energy, conservation
5. Environmental services (including monitoring stations and services)
6. Fire department
7. Fiscal and economic policies
8. Mayors (personal commitment)
9. Ombudsman
10. Other towns and municipalities in region
11. Parking policy and administrating
12. Police and traffic authorities (local and regional)
13. Public health
14. Public space management
15. Related incentive programs
16. School system
17. Social services
18. Special event management
19. Street vendors, kiosks, etc.
20. Taxes and charges
21. Transport and traffic planners
22. Urban development/master planners
23. Other concerned agencies, services?

Mobility purveyors, representatives

1. Ambulance and hospital transport
2. Carshare operators
3. Carpool/ride-share operations
4. Church, etc. buses, ridesharing
5. Cycling groups
6. Emergency transporters and services
7. Fleet managers
8. “Ghost” or black/illegal taxis and carriers
9. Goods/Freight delivery
10. Jitneys
11. Message/courier services
12. Package delivery
13. Paratransit providers
14. Parking providers (public and private)
15. Pedestrian associations and action groups
16. Postal buses (mainly in rural areas)
17. Public transit operators (rail and road)
18. Rental cars, vehicles
19. Rideshare and hitch-hiking services
20. School and other special buses
21. Taxis, limo and chauffeur services
22. Transport services for elderly, handicapped
23. Transport shelters
24. Walk/Bike to School groups
25. Other?

Movement substitutes, Demand Management

1. Activity clustering
2. Carfree housing
3. E-meeting technologies (videoconferencing, voice conferencing, other)
4. Land use planning
5. Teleshopping (and delivery)
6. Telework, telecommuting programs
7. Travel diaries, logs
8. Trip chaining
9. xWork (new ways of organizing distance work)

Other key and potential actors, Supporters, Opponents

1. Board of Trade and other industry groups (including infrastructure)
2. Automobile associations and related industry groups (get them on board early)
3. Chambers of commerce, Business groupings, Downtown associations
4. City boosters
5. Colleges and universities
6. Clubs, churches, synagogues, mosques
7. Consultants, university/research groups working in these areas
8. Developers, real estate agencies,
9. Employers
10. Financial community, banks, insurance companies
11. Foundations, individuals and others able to provide financial support or backing
12. Fundraisers
13. Green Maps (Toronto has a fine one)
14. Groups or people interested or involved in earlier Car Free Days or similar car free projects or demos in region
15. Hospitals and health agencies (including public health)
16. Including eventual sponsors and sources of active participation and support
17. International, national, regional environment, mobility, etc. agencies and associations
18. Local and regional media (old and new)
19. Local merchants, chambers of commerce, downtown associations
20. Media: traditional and new
21. NGOs, Public interest groups, associations
– Environmental, ecological, public health, clean air groups
– Non-motorized transport: Pedestrian, cycling, skating, running groups
– Associations concerned with elderly, handicapped and poor
22. Out of town commercial centers
23. Polling organizations
24. Red Cross, emergency services and public information programs
25. Schools and educational institutions
26. Specialized consultancies, working in these areas
27. Street performers, musicians
28. Transport user groups
29. Urban development, public spaces,
30. Women’s groups
31. Youth, sports and recreation groups

# # #
Comments and suggestions for improvement of this rough listing are more than welcome.

If you think that transport policy and investment decisions are best taken in smoke-filled rooms peopled exclusively by your transportation experts, perhaps accompanied by some of your principal suppliers, then the New Mobility Agenda approach to outreach and broad public consultation and direct involvement is probably not for you.

Mayors, city councils and local government have a lot more their plate than the transportation-related issues of their community. And there are just 24 hours a day. However to the extent in which local leaders are ready to reach out into the community deeply and often, they are going to find that there are resources and skills out there which need to be drawn on. 21st-century governance is based on the continuous reaching out for the skills and inputs of active citizens. Getting this right requires both considerable thought and careful use of state-of-the-art communication systems.

We have long maintained that mayors and local politicians who get this right will probably be able to stay in office as long as they choose to.

The editor

Toolbox: Walk Score your city


Here is an interesting tool that Christopher Hart, Director of Urban and Transit Projects of the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston brought to our attention in the last days:- Walk Score

To quote from their webpage on “How It Works”

Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking.

What does my score mean? Your Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100. Here are general guidelines for interpreting your score:

90–100 = Walkers’ Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
70–89 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.
50–69 = Somewhat Walkable: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
25–49 = Car-Dependent: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
0–24 = Car-Dependent (Driving Only): Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

The Walk Score™ Algorithm: Walk Score uses a patent-pending system to measure the walkability of an address. The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each category. If the closest amenity in a category is within .25 miles (or .4 km), we assign the maximum number of points. The number of points declines as the distance approaches 1 mile (or 1.6 km)—no points are awarded for amenities further than 1 mile. Each category is weighted equally and the points are summed and normalized to yield a score from 0–100. The number of nearby amenities is the leading predictor of whether people walk. (Your Walk Score may change as our data sources are updated or as we improve our algorithm. Check out how Walk Score doesn’t work.

What do you think makes a neighborhood walkable? We built the Walk Score algorithm to measure the factors that we think are important to walkability. What makes a neighborhood walkable to you? Let us know and we’ll publish your answers on our blog.

== end ==

For the rest click to http://www.walkscore.com/

Now the World Streets angle on this. Until now their algorithm works only in the US. So we got in touch and asked about what would be needed to make this into an international tool. To which they answered “we are looking into how we can open source Walk Score to collaborate with people on making it work better internationally. We’re a small, but hard working, team so we’re not there yet, but we hope to be soon.”

So if you have any ideas about how to bring this (or something like it) to your city, you may want to exchange some thoughts with Mike Maisen at maisen@frontseat.org . And keep us informed, since I am sure that many of us living outside the US would like to see how our city stacks up. (I know I would.)

The Editor