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A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts
Here is a quick share for today. This is an article by Todd Litman critiquing congestion costs and induced vehicle travel impacts:
Quoting from the article:
It is time for planners to rethink the way we evaluate congestion problems and solutions. Vehicle travel is not an end in itself; our ultimate goal is to improve accessibility. Traffic congestion is one constraint on accessibility, but others are more important. For example, the study, “Does Accessibility Require Density or Speed?” found that a given increase in urban density, and therefore proximity, has a far greater impact on overall accessibility than an increase in travel speed, and therefore congestion reductions. This is particularly true of disadvantaged groups who cannot drive or are financially burdened by vehicle expenses.
It is irresponsible for transportation agencies to expand highways in ways that contradict other community goals. If they do nothing, at worst, traffic congestion will maintain equilibrium; people will manage within its constraints. Even better, transportation agencies can invest in resource-efficient alternatives—better walking, bicycling, public transit, and telework opportunities—that improve accessibility, increasing transportation system efficiency.
If we truly want to truly optimize our transportation systems, we need a more comprehensive analysis of impacts and options, including the full costs of urban highway expansions and the full benefits of non-auto mode improvements and TDM incentives. Highway expansion should be a solution of last resort, only implemented when all other solutions have failed and users are willing to pay the full costs through tolls.
It’s time to stop obsessing about congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility that serves everybody in the community.
Source: A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts
Article share: on pedestrian facilities and climate change
Here is an article that articulates the importance of walking and pedestrian facilities in sustainability and ultimately fighting climate change. It argues that if we had the infrastructure and facilities to make it easier for people to walk, they will and are likely to walk rather than use their cars. This is not limited to short trips as walking can be in combination with public transportation, making it an integral part of trips where public transportation covers the main commute and walking is the proverbial last mile travel.
To quote from the article:
“Walking, biking, and transit need to be prioritized, and treated as legitimate forms of transportation. This means stepping up efforts to collect data on sidewalks the way we do for roads, investing in complete walking networks before engaging in expensive new road projects and making sidewalk construction and maintenance a municipal responsibility rather than an individual one.”
Article share: Redesigning Streets for Livability: A Global View
I am sharing this article on redesigning streets. It is actually a promotion for a book: “Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities”.
To quote from the article:
“Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities is an expansive 270-page volume that explores the evolving potential of the most ubiquitous public space in our cities. It offers ideas, tactics and strategies from across the world on how our streets are being, and, can be rethought, recast, repurposed and redesigned towards greater resilience and resourcefulness. The globally diverse opinions and case studies in this book remind us why cities with limited means can offer profound lessons to affluent societies that take their prosperity for granted. And in turn, how the virtues of effective urban administration and reinforcement seen in developed societies could reassuringly serve to inspire less economically developed ones.”
Why do we keep widening roads?
I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.
Video games for aspiring planners?
I saw this article on what are supposed to be the best video games for would-be or aspiring planners. To put this into the proper context, these are mostly newer games (or so I think considering certain games evolve over the years from the time they were first released).
Smith, A.N. (December 23, 2022) “These are the best video games for wannabe urban planners,” Bloomberg CityLab, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-12-23/these-are-the-best-city-builder-video-games-of-2022
When I was younger, the games to play were SimCity and Civilization. These have also evolved, and I think SimCity and Cities: Skylines (a game introduced to me by one of my students) might be the better ones for aspiring planners. You can test many concepts on these games such as transit oriented development (TOD), compact cities, etc. Of course, one can also play with actual planning and simulation software. If one has access to the transport model for Metro Manila, for example, you can test scenarios on this to see how the model will ‘react’ to various conditions or situations.
Another definition of the 15-minute city
We begin 2023 with an informative article defining the “15-minute city”. This is actually an entry in Planetizen’s Planopedia, which contains definitions of fundamental concepts in urban planning:
Ionescu, D. (December 2022) “What is a 15-minute City?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/15-minute-city?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-12292022&mc_cid=ee083e2ee7&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 1/1/2023]
I’ve written and shared articles about this concept before. Here are a couple from 2021 where I offered my opinions about the concept as already applied in the Philippines:
On the future of bike lanes in Metro Manila and other cities and municipalities in the Philippines
My friends and I were talking about the current buzz about the bike lanes including statements made by certain personalities (influencers, advocates, government officials, etc.) about biking and bike lanes. There were many recent pronouncements of motorcycles being allowed to use bike lanes or the outright removal of bike lanes. We all agreed this was backward and the way forward is to build on the current network and facilities. What we have in our cities and municipalities are not perfect and far from ideal but they are a start and perhaps the foundation for a bikeway network that can eventually make a dent on the car-centric transportation we have.
I share below the strategies, actions and targets for bicycle facilities, programs and projects from the Network Planning for the Establishment of Bike Lanes in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao that was completed middle of 2022. The project is DOTr’s with support from the UNDP. The table is from the Final Report of the project.
A Happy Christmas to all!
Shared article: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them
I’m sharing this article on active and micro mobility modes from Todd Litman, published in Planetizen.com:
Source: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them
From the article:
“Common Active Transportation Leverage Effects:
–Shorter trips. Shorter active trips often substitutes for longer motorized trips, such as when people choose a local store rather than driving to more distant shops.
–Reduced chauffeuring. Better walking and bicycling conditions reduces the need to chauffeur non-drivers (special trips to transport a passenger). These often require empty backhauls (miles driven with no passenger). As a result, each mile of avoided chauffeuring often reduces two vehicle-miles.
-Increased public transit travel. Since most transit trips include walking and bicycling links, improving these modes supports public transit travel and transit-oriented development.
-Vehicle ownership reductions. Active mode improvements allow some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, which reduces vehicle trip generation, and therefore total vehicle-miles.
-Lower traffic speeds. Active travel improvements often involve traffic speed reductions. This makes non-auto travel more time-competitive with driving and reduces total automobile travel.
-More compact development. Walking and bicycling support more compact, multimodal communities by reducing the amount of land devoted to roadways and parking, and creating more attractive streets.
-Social norms. As active travel increases, these modes become more socially acceptable.
The article is a must read if we are to understand how important active transport and micro mobilities are in the context of today’s transport conundrum. Of course, part of the contextualization and perhaps ‘localization’ on these modes will be related to land use or development. The latter is a big challenge especially for the likes of Metro Manila and other rapidly developing cities in the Philippines where housing in the cities (related to compact development) has become quite expensive and has driven more and more people to live in the suburbs. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in more pressure to develop transportation systems but infrastructure development cannot play the catch up game given the limited resources for their construction. Meanwhile, services are also behind in terms of quality and requires reforms and rationalizations.
On Metro Manila having one of the worst transit systems in the world
This is a follow-up to the previous post on the UC-Berkeley Study. Here is an example of how media featured the study outcomes:
I didn’t see whether there was a response from government. These studies end up as features and nothing more if these do not prompt or push authorities to act on the problem. Even experts from academe or industry are reduced to being commentators or even pundits providing context, assessments and opinions, even recommendations that are perceived to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps government is already desensitized about these issues and will just trudge along at its own pace? In the end, it is the commuters mostly taking public transportation who continue to suffer and lose productive time to their daily travels.
On reducing driving and its inherent risks
Ever since the automobile was invented and eventually mass-produced, there has been an increasing risk associated with motor vehicle traffic. Laws, policies and regulations have also been influenced to favor the car rather than people. And so we now have what is termed as a car-oriented and dependent transportation system that seems so difficult to undo as most people appear to be enamored by the car. Owning a car (or even a motorcycle if you want to extend this idea of individual ownership) remains an aspiration to a lot of people.
Here is a link to the compact version of a comprehensive report by Todd Litman that presents and argues for a new paradigm where driving is considered a risk factor. There are data and a table comparing old and new traffic paradigms to help us understand the situation and what needs to be redefined or re-framed in order to achieve our safety targets or vision.
Litman, T. (October 20, 2022) “Driving as a Risk Factor: A New Paradigm,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/119287-driving-risk-factor-new-paradigm?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10202022&mc_cid=beacdc2a04&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 10/28/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Safer vehicles, roads, and driving may reduce crashes but achieve few other goals, and sometimes contradict them. Transportation demand management and smart growth policies increase safety in addition to helping to achieve other planning goals, and so can be considered win-win solutions.
More comprehensive safety analysis tends to support social equity goals. Many conventional safety strategies, such as larger vehicles with more passenger protection, and wider roads with fewer intersections, tend to increase walking and bicycling risks. In contrast, lower traffic speeds, TDM, and Smart Growth tend to improve safety, mobility, and accessibility for people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive.”
The key takeaway here should be that people should have the option of not driving at all in order to reduce the risks associated with driving as well as reduce congestion. A more comprehensive