Monday, February 28, 2011

How pedestrians "interfere with traffic"

A post by Greater Greater Washington, which is a blog I used to follow more closely than I do now. This is like but for all things transit and transportation covering three times the area/population.

How pedestrians "interfere with traffic"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brew to Bikes Book Review

My initial post on this was over at my personal blog at :

Charles Heying and his cadre of coauthors wrote a nice book and I thought a few of the recommendations are worth commenting on. This raises a question about the future of old school media and the popularity of books as we increase the amount of electronic content in the world. The nice thing about reading a book is you get a significant amount of content from one source. A downside is that it doesn't force you to articulate your thoughts on a particular subject like commenting on a blog would. Media like  is such a site where the comments can offer significant insight. The newest radio shows on Oregon Public Broadcasting offer an online format for collecting thoughts and the host brings those into the show to offer perspectives that the generalist host would otherwise have.

Back to one of the recommendations worth noting in the book...

Recommendation #2: Don't let economists design your economic development strategy. Here's the excerpt:

For one, they are trained to use data that comes from sources that were design in an industrial economy, like gross domestic product. They focus things like growth and jobs and old school terminology. "things like environmental impacts are described as externalities, as if the economy operates in some abstract world and its connection to the physical world is tangential, even accidental. Pollution and resource depletion seem to come as a surprise to economists, something akin to collateral damage.

There are some socialist leanings in this book, but having read the book "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" among other titles, I appreciate some of these critiques.

Reading the first review on Amazon, it was funny to see that the commenter was from Austin, TX a City where the "Keep (insert City name here) Weird" slogan started. Essentially, I see that sort of a movement as a keep it local concept, an effort to preserve the uniqueness of a community. I don't believe Weird is the right moniker, but it's something that one can hang your hat on (whether it be of a cowboy or bicycle messenger variety).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bicycles 2010

Bicycles 2010 in the TRansportation Research Record. also, SYNTHESIS are due Feb 18th.

Visit to Seattle to Discuss Bicycle Signals

I was invited up to Seattle to present to a group of engineers, planners, and architects from the City of Seattle, SvR Design and the Cascade Bicycle Club.

I was excited about the chance to share some of the work we're doing, because I find it forces me to reflect on the work we're doing and the presentations always stimulate discussion and in many cases ideas that I hadn't thought of. You can also get a pretty good sense from the audience when we're doing innovative things. Not just innovation for the sake of innovation, but with the intent of improving conditions.

The biggest chalenge for the engineers I spoke with is believing the build it and they will come concept. One of the engineers asked specifically how we can spend the money for detection for bikes when there are only a few of them using the facility. It's clear from the question that the City's vision hasn't been shared and the link to sustainibility hasn't been made. I feel strongly that I am serving the City and our mayor. I also happen to agree with the goals, the mode split targets, the intent of our infrastructure spending. Yet, even if I didn't I think I could make the argument with whatever policy it is that there are specific expenditures that would make the signals and street lighting better and meet my interest in sustainability.

The argument for transit priority that I would make is that the costs for transit exist and as a taxpayer, I want to reduce the costs to society of operating the transit vehicles. With street lighting, an investment in new fixtures would reduce long-term electricity costs and the coal that's burned in Boardman (Oregon's favorite coal planet).

There are obvious equity issues associated with pedestrian investments and we're able to make those investments as the requests come in because we prioritize providing access for all users.

But back to Seattle! They have been doing some great things as of late as indicated in the City's Blog. The trip to Seattle was quick with less than 3 hours in the City. I would have liked to have a chance to spend more time and have more a of a chance to learn about what they're doing as opposed to being the presenter, but that's for another time. The ITE Quad meeting is coming up in April.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peter Koonce Mention on Streetsblog

The link name doesn't jive with my mention in the blog post, but alas it was fun to come across this on a recent google search and archive the mention.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bike Signal Debate in Salem

I visited our state capital to testify in front of the Senate regarding SB 130 which would add a bicycle signal into the Oregon Vehicle Code. This is important in that it would allow engineers to consider using the display in cases where if applied would reduce confusion regarding the control of the right-of-way. It seems to be moving forward throughout the process and I am hopeful that this step will be one that makes our transportation system safer.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Innovative Intersection Design for Reclaiming Space

Broadway entering Time Square had an odd crossing that resulted in some significant challenges to traffic through the district. Part of making the area more livable and more successful for pedestrians was simplifying the intersection. It also increased the accessibility for bicycles. In this picture, on-street parking was added in the middle of the street to separate the cycletrack from the auto traffic.
I arrived near 5:30 PM and it was clear that there were more pedestrians than any other traffic in a period that one might think you'd see heavy auto traffic. My brief analysis would suggest that the reclaiming of street for parking and bicycle use in this case and simplifying the downstream intersections which were traditionally many of the most congested in the City, let alone the country.
Again, the City was willing to take a risk to implement refuge islands to shadow the pedestrians and the parking. Probably an important element in the City as opposed to a less agressive community of drivers like we have in Portland.
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Cycletracks in NYC

During my visit to NYC, I had a chance to review many of their innovative bicycle treatments. This one is at the cross street of 34th Street on 8th Avenue adjacent to Penn Station if I recall correctly.
The left hand bicycle lane works well because of the land use on this street. There is a large federal building on the west side and Penn Station (lots of pickups and dropoffs) on the east or right hand side. The treatment provides parking off of the curb lane, similar to the SW Broadway cycletrack. The person on the bike in the photo to the left is riding in the old bike lane that was striped to the right of the parking on the left hand side of the street. This is partly due to how the cycletrack was being used by a wide variety of pedestrians and people on bicycles.
NYC was more confident with the design of the cycletrack and incorporated some concrete to provide a buffer for pedestrians that we haven't.
This sort of treatment reduces the crossing distance for pedestrians and provides a possible waiting area for those that are not able to get across the entire street. It is Portland policy to allow time for people to get through the crossing, so the Walk time would be enough to permit movements through the median, so as not to confuse. A policy discussion could be had on the benefit of providing a longer Walk time as opposed to Flashing Don't Walk which restricts pedestrian entrance to the intersection. There is a certain expectation from the blind community that would suggest that some ambiguity here would not benefit their crossing movements. It is certainly less of an issue with a shorter cycle length (60 on west side of Portland, 70 on eastside) as opposed to a 90-second cycle length that NYC uses.
NYC has some of the most unruly pedestrians and they were on display using the cycletrack on occasion to avoid slower moving people on the sidewalk.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Transportation Research Board Meeting 2011

Woodley Park is the home to two of the three hotels
(Marriott and Omni Shoreham) that hosts the
Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in January.
Washington DC in January, a great place to be. 
I attended my 14th Transportation Research Board Meeting (the last one I missed was in 2000) and my 11th in a row. I am counting the 2004 meeting where I had a spontaneous pneumothorax (lung collapse) that is legendary among my friends and colleagues. It is an experience I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

The TRB Annual Meeting provides an opportunity to hear from so many different people. That's part of the allure of the meeting is the people and the relationships you can renew. It is also like any experience where you can look back on past meetings with nostalgia. Oh remember the snow storm of 1996 (that was the year before I started attending), and how about the snow of 2011! Yes, there was snow and the flights shut down from 1 PM on Wednesday to first thing Thursday night as the DC area had trouble with the 6-10 inches that fell. I was lucky to have a flight on Thursday night that didn't change. I did have a meeting on Thursday that was cancelled.

The experiences I have collected at TRB has been very positive. I have learned of the challenges that are facing our transportation system and the biases that people have towards traffic. I have strengthened my resolve to work towards a balanced transportation system.

I enjoy providing advice to new attendees to TRB. In this era of thinking out loud on the web through twitter, facebook, and blogs, I came across Brian Davis' post about his experience at the meeting that has been so much of my professional life. Here's the post:

Reflecting on Brian's post, I was impressed with the insights he offers. I am happy to have had the opportunity to work with Brian and other students at PSU and hope that messages like these propel the students to enjoy the same sort of success and interest I have sustained at TRB through these many years.
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