Monday, July 10, 2017

Understanding Dutch Design by Visiting Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague

We gathered at the New Church at 9 AM and broke into two groups.
Paul and Peter lead the tours. We exited Delft on Delftseweg on a newly opened rebuilt fietsstraat. There was a lot of #FreshElmo as we headed north with several different configurations. One treatment that isn't very common is head in parking, which suggests that most configurations work in the Dutch concepts.

The Portland State University Study Abroad program visited Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague and Delft. Rijswijk has 350 companies and 15,000 jobs with the two prominent local employers being the European Patent Office (2,700 jobs) and Shell (2,700 jobs).

The local planner provided a summary of the community's transportation plan and a few select projects. One example project was the new bridge in Broekpolder that opened up three years ago to connect Delftseweg to the west side of the river and the employment areas. Just as we arrived, the bridge opened and we got a nice view of the cross section, which also happened in 2015.

Cross section of the bridge (opened for barge traffic)

We stopped on the Delftseweg where we spent some time looking at the tram line (Route #1) and the Haagweg where the most narrow green space was installed to make the separation between the light rail tracks, the motor way, and the service road.

From left to right: Rail lines, auto space (with chicanes), cycletrack 

Our next stop was on Caan van Necklaan, which was a diagonal street that used to serve as a cut through for car traffic. The intersection of Da Costalaan was designed with a circle that provides bicycle through movement and limited access for automobile traffic.

General Spoorlaan was a facility that surprised me on this visit. It is a street that has a significant distance where four auto traffic lanes are carried through the signal, allowing for passing in front of the old City Hall. Our guide Paul indicated that this sort of design isn’t used today, and is a remnant of 1960 design principles.

Our host at Rijswijk mentioned that they will be reducing this cross section for traffic safety and to reduce maintenance costs. Peter Furth said: that’s brilliant and our host says: “It’s common sense”.

PSU Study Abroad Visit to Gemeente Delft

The Portland State University Study Abroad program visited the City of Delft today. Our host was Jan Nederveen, who visited Portland and Boston a few months prior to our visit. The presentation he gave focused on the planning of Delft and how they have approached the challenge of getting people to cycle more.
Traffic signals and intersections are designed specifically for cyclists.
The City had a good start in 2005 when they worked on the City transportation plan because nearly 15% of the population is students at TU Delft (a technical university) and the town is 100,000 inhabitants, so the scale of the city is very easy to cycle in because it is 5 km x 5 km, so you can get anywhere in the City with a 20 minute ride. In the transportation plan, the City used five key categories to guide transportation decisions:

  • Air Quality, 
  • Noise, 
  • Safety, 
  • Emergency Response, and 
  • Ecology 
The transportation analysis showed with these categories determined that cycling was a good way to increase the air quality. They have done a lot with cycling, but it's not the entire story. Transit is a big part of their work becuase many people are commuting to TU Delft from significant distances, the City has also invested quite a bit on transit planning. The presentation describes their investment in rail which has been centered on the main train station which is at significant cost. There has been limited work on the connections to the bus network. The bus provides some connections for people that can not cycle.

One of the massive initiatives in Delft to help them realize their goals was undergrounding the railroad that divided the main center from a significant neighborhood to the west. The largest impact of the rail corridor (200 trains per day) was the noise of the trains crossing near the homes in the area and its impact to the community.

The City recently completed the railroad tunnel that provided 4 tracks and is 2.3 km long. It provides an amazing boost to the nearby neighborhood adjacent to the station. Two tracks are operational now, but an additional two tracks are being dug out so that there won't be a need to come back later to address capacity needs between The Hague and Rotterdam.

1 Billion Euros was the overall cost of the project. 80 Million Euros were contributed by the local agency (Gemeennte Delft). The financing for the project was established because they are in the process of building 10,000 houses as a part of the project on the land that is reclaimed as a part of the railroad tunnel. Unfortunately for Delft, the housing crisis hit at the wrong time for the community and as the market returned the project has suffered from delays in the finance plan coming to fruition. Ultimately, the investment is worth the costs, because of the alternative of not building would result greater societal costs.

The project also included a high capacity bike facility separate from the other modes and bike parking facilities. In 2007, the bike parking was overloaded, even though there were 6,000 spaces. In  2016, the completed project added 2,700 parking spaces with a bike garage of 5,000 spaces!

The Delft station and an adjacent parcel that will be redeveloped in the coming years as a "Student Hotel" for students that are staying for four weeks (or something like that) and there's another plan for the Delft City office buildings were opened a few weeks after our opening.
Hey kids, let's go to the 5,000 space bike parking garage on vacation!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It was another successful year in collaborating with professionals involved in research or applications that are worthy of presenting at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting. 

Here's the list of papers that will be presented in 2016:
Paulsen, Kirk, William Farley, Todd Mobley, Michael Ard and Peter Koonce, “Analysis of Active Warning Sign to Address Potential Bicycle "Right-Hook" Conflict at Signalized Intersections”. 

Moore, Adam, Peter Koonce, Paul Zebell, and Jon Meusch, “Timing Issues for Traffic Signals Interconnected with Highway-Railroad Grade Crossings”.

Sobie, Christopher, Edward Smaglik, Anuj Sharma, Andy Kading, Sirisha Kothuri, Peter Koonce, “Managing User Delay with a Focus on Pedestrian Operations”.

Boudart, Jesse, Nick Foster, and Peter Koonce, “Improving Bicycle Detection Pavement Marking Symbols to Increase Comprehension at Traffic Signals”.

The TRB Annual Meeting is one of the most wonky times of the year.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NACTO 2015 Conference in Austin, TX

NACTO held its annual conference in Austin, TX. Austin is a good city with the potential to be great. The National Association of City Transportation Officials meeting was a great chance to learn about updates from many of the NACTO member cities and industry leaders.
Austin has spent a lot of effort making connections for multimodal travel in the past 10 years. 

The meeting set a record for attendance (650!) and included many of the leading voices in multimodal transportation. I spent a lot of time with notes on Twitter, so if you want to review more you can look back in my timeline. I find Twitter useful for sharing and learning more about what others are thinking. In fact, I learned about "The New Social Learning" this past week.

NACTO offers a chance for cities to share ideas. These include big picture policy ideas and design details such as what an engineer needs to know to get a facility built. The Commissioner panel and keynote speeches were fantastic for providing the big picture guidance.
Global Street Design Guide: A New Approach to Street Design
Janette Sadik-Khan kicked off the conference with a keynote on advancing transportation policies and a preview of the Global Street Design Guide, NACTO's latest project. This latest initiative will incorporate guidance from the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Urban Street Design Guide, and other documents into a document that represents international best practices. The most interesting concept from the preview included an emphasis on desired outcomes such as health and safety with a focus on users and context.

Great quote from LADOT GM.

The presentation was followed by a pecha kucha session that included former APBP Board Member Seleta Reynolds who is General Manager of LADOT, Robin Hutchinson, who the Director of Salt Lake City Transportation, and Ryan Russo, Deputy Commissioner of NYCDOT. The pecha kucha session challenges presenters to offer quick thoughts in a fast paced way that keeps attention of the audience. It's something that I hope to see more of in the future because of the excitement created by the quick pace.

One of the best parts of most conferences are the technical tours in cities that afford an opportunity to learn about the implementation of innovative projects from the practitioners responsible for the project. In Austin, we had a chance to visit their downtown protected bike lanes, the City's Traffic Signal Shop and Operations Center, and many other facilities. The City of Austin have completed some fantastic projects that are advancing walking and cycling in a traditionally car oriented community. The protected bike lanes on the ground in Austin have evolved since my last visit to Austin, two and a half years ago. During that visit, I learned about the detector confirmation light which was using an "off the shelf device" for greater purposes. The City of Austin still hasn't installed a bicycle signal stencil like we have in Portland (map at the link), but they have several projects that have made cycling better in the City.

My main takeaways from this visit were not signal related. Although, City employees have done some very interesting work in deploying an ap developed by Kimley Horn that can use data from mobile phones within the traffic signal system. The data transmitted from the phone is a Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) prototype that may be used for detection of people on bicycles (although it could be used by people in cars as well).

The most important reason to attend the conference is to put faces with the names and exchange ideas. 
Nathan Wilkes shares knowledge with attendees.
Ideas that are "traded" City to City save the public money. Take for instance the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The City of Portland doesn't need to reinvent the wheel and develop a "Portland specific Guide", we can use NACTO's version. If we need more information, we can also call our colleagues as opposed to using consultants for every detail. (No offense to my consultant friends). The example of curb types for protected bike lanes is one such example. I was impressed with the City of Austin's abilities to implement curbs on some on-street sections where it would have been easier to leave separation and transition to either shared space or a more traditional bicycle lane. As Nathan Wilkes, our tour guide said, "the City did a lot of outreach in order to insure that the protected lane was preserved for the entire length of the street".
There are some design details that have to be seen to appreciate 

Friday, August 7, 2015

History of Traffic Signals in Portland

The Oregonian had a nice write up on the 100th birthday of traffic signals in Portland. The column concluded with an email I sent awhile back thinking to the future of transportation.

"Curious about what Portland's traffic and its growing signal system might look like 100 years from now, I recently asked Peter Koonce, the city's chief traffic signal engineer, to take us into the future. Here's how he responded in an email:"
I am not a futurist (yes, that's a title), but I played one when writing a Strategic Highway Research Program Project proposal back in my consulting days. There are so many scenarios, it is really hard to imagine and state what's actually possible. So, in order to talk around the question, it is best to describe various possible scenarios.
There's what I would call the pessimistic view that suggests that we'll have the same constraints in the future because the public sector will be financially constrained and afraid to innovate and adopt new technologies.
There's an optimistic perspective that offers that technology will change everything and what we have today will be obsolete. Driverless cars and "Connected Vehicle" concepts will be the new normal.  Technology could eliminate the need for much of the travel that we have to make today including the typical work is a good example of the impact of technology on shopping trips, video conferencing for business should continue to evolve and become more useful, and the population will change albeit slowly as we age more gracefully (if that trend continues).  
At the end of the day, the cost of energy (think Peak Oil and climate change) will likely play a large role in this and that's hard to pin down since you're asking a transportation professional, so that will be an influence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Vision Zero Community: Houten

I asked our host Andre Botermans in Houten about their safety record. He answered promptly "Safety is no issue in Houten".
Andre Botermans addressing the PSU-Northeastern University class

He went on to discuss the notion of traffic crashes and he said the following:
"If we're talking about fatalities, we had one (1) fatal of someone on a bicycle in 20 years. A car was involved of course.  There are car fatalities that have occurred on the ring road."

He went on to say that the safety on the bike paths has been increased by removing obstacles. They eliminated 150 bollards where cars were not wanted and it was possible for them to turn, but along the way they have found that the car drivers know not to be on the red asphalt, so these bollards and barriers were unnecessary and proved to be a problem for the youngest and oldest people on bikes.

There are low pedestrian crash rates and no fatalities in the last 20 years because the entire town is a maximum 30 km/hr speed limit (once you leave the ring road which is 70 km/hr). The City has no connector-distributor roads (collectors in the U.S.) other than the ring road because the street network offers a clear definition between that auto specific facility and the community residential streets.

People walking and cycling do not have to mix with freight trucks. The City planners put the working areas outside the ring road. All of the places where trucks may conflict there are separated bicycling facilities. Grade separation may be necessary at times to create the safer conditions (shown below).

The class discussion mentioned as much. One of the groups met with a woman at a park and she said that when her kids left Houten, she had to train them how to ride in a more complicated cycling environment. That sounds a bit extreme, but perhaps supported by Mark Wagenbuur's point that people take some of this as obvious in Holland, but it's very deliberate design that makes this happen.

Bicycle Oreinted Development: Case Study in Houten

Houten may be the best example of bicycle oriented development in the world. The land use was carefully prepared to insure that the system worked as intended. The other factors that make this such a successful Bicycle Oriented Development community includes the following:

  • Robust, safe bicycle network
  • Convenient Parking for bicycles
  • Support from the community

The layout of the city is focused first around the Houten train station, similar to what is considered with transit oriented development in the U.S. In my opinion, what makes Houten a bicycle oriented development is that the layout to the train station was designed to be accessed via bicycle first and foremost as opposed to providing efficient automobile access. The transportation system was laid out with bicycle highway perpendicular from the train station and rail alignment. Car access through the community was provided on the ring road and is less convenient than the bicycle network. It's not just about the bicycle network, it also has to include bicycle parking and of course a supportive community.

Details about the Bicycle Network

The bicycle highway is 2 km from the train station (east-west) before you reach the ring road. All of the homes in the community have a low stress route to the bicycle highway and it is only 8 minutes to the train station from the furthest house to access the bicycle parking garage. The schools were planned carefully so that they are all oriented towards the bicycle highway. There is a movement of design for 8 years old to 80 years old, Houten may be 6 years to 100 years old.
The south part of Houten decided not to connect the bicycle highway to the ring road to the east side of the community. In that case, the planners decided to

The red asphalt is a standard. The width is 3.5 meters wide. They have transformed many of their old routes to meet this new standard.

When cars are added to the bicycle network, they use the Fietstraat signs, auto te gast (cars are guests), that is used in many cases throughout the country.

Safety is a separate post next to this one. This is no issue in Houten.

Parking Layout and Bicycle Theft

Parking layout for bicycles is key for growing the use of people on bikes. Mark Wagenbuur mentioned the importance of bicycle parking in his presentation and this is clearly an emphasis of Houten's urban planning. As opposed to placing a large vehicle parking lot at the train station, they chose to construct a bicycle parking garage directly under the station.

The bicycle theft is very low in Houten. The parking garage reduced theft by nearly 40% overall, but it was still very low compared to larger cities.

Comments from the Community in Houten

The planners in Houten say that people are not that aware of what problems exist. When he talks to his friends they think that Houten is just normal. It's usual for them to see the City putting bicycles first in the plans. In Houten, there is a critical mass of people that cycle. When guests come to Houten to live, those people "have to adapt and when people explore cycling, they find it safe and more social". Essentially, the point being made was that the City's intent is to make people happy and they know from research that the more people cycle and walk, the happier they will be. He described an example in Austin, TX where there was a 8-lane street with a bike lane and they were trying to change it to include a cycletrack. The problem with a lot of cities in the world is that the streets are dominated by people that drive, so the modification of a street is resulting in a change to the most people.