Daniel Convissor's Website

Transportation Planning

Bicycle programs must be included in the Unified Planning Work Program and other appropriate DOT plans to receive DOT financial assistance and to receive EPA 175 (Urban Air Quality Grant) funds.

--Marda Formann Mayo, Bicycling and Air Quality Information Document, prepared for USEPA by Abt Associates, Sept. 1979.

One cannot interpret the overwhelming dominance of the automobile in the United States as indicative of any innate preference of Americans for cars... When Public policy allows a real choice between the auto and mass transit, a far higher percentage of the population travels by mass transit.

-- John Pucher, Urban Travel as the Outcome of Public Policy, APA Journal, Autumn 1988. Pucher is an associate professor in the dept. of urban planning at Rutgers U.

The shortest distance from point A to point B, as one of our speakers reminded us, is to have point A and point B in the same spot.

--Preface to the chapter on transportation in the Ecocity Conference 1990 Report of the First International Ecocity Conference, Edited by Christopher Canfield. Published by Urban Ecology, POB 10144, Berkeley, CA 94709. Tel. 415/549-1724

Americans are not having a love affair with the automobile; in fact, they have no choice other than to rely on the automobile due to misdirected past development of urban areas and the underdeveloped transportation market. Americans have been led to believe that the automobile pays its own way; when, in fact, the infrastructure required for the automobile is paid for by all of us, not by the automobile users. Planning for future transportation corridors needs to focus on the reality of publicly oriented transportation rather than publicly subsidized automobile traffic.

It is a myth that if fewer streets are made available for automobiles then traffic sill increase on other arteries. The reality is that when the true costs of automobile travel (time included) increase, people begin to choose other less costly public transportation systems and traffic decreases! The idea is that if road space is reduced, traffic will be reduced. The change needs to be made in the cultural and social patterns; we can no longer rely on technology to come up with quick fixes.

Forty per cent of our current energy consumption is transportation related. Sixty percent of our smog and eighty to ninety percent of the carbon monoxide comes from automobiles. In order to reduce our automobile related energy consumption, a study of five Bay Area communities was conducted. The driving habits of this communities were studied, as related to the density of the urban environment. The following chart lists the areas and pertinent data from reliable odometer readings taken during California auto emissions inspections.

[preliminary results from an NRDC study]

Urban Area        Housing Units/Acre   Miles Traveled/Capita/Year

Danville/San Ramon               4                10,000
Nob Hill                       117                 2,670
San Francisco                   32                 5,000
Rockridge                       14                 7,000
Walnut Creek                     7                 7,500

In general, doubling residential or population density reduced the annual auto mileage per capita 25-30 percent and the annual auto mileage per household around 30 percent. If the population of an area doubled wholly by infill, its auto mileage would increase only 40-50 percent, rather than the 100 percent or more if the increase occurred in its present form (sprawl) [this estimate does not take into account improved mass transportation facilities]. Land is also conserved when growth occurs as increased population density, leaving open space for recreation and wildlife habitat.

--Based on presentations by: Tom Mattoff (Manager, Sacramento Regional Transit District), John Holtzclaw (Chair, Sierra Club Transportation Committee), Paul Downton (lecturer in architecture, South Australia Institute of Technology); Ecocity Conference 1990 Report of the First International Ecocity Conference, Edited by Christopher Canfield. Published by Urban Ecology, POB 10144, Berkeley, CA 94709. Tel. 415/549-1724

We have all heard statements such as "Americans love their cars too much to use public transportation," or "Americans are wedded to their cars." The implication of such statements is that it is futile to make any effort to reduce auto use or increase the market share of alternatives to the auto. The record seems to bear this assertion out and most decision makers, including transit managers, buy into this premise. Of course if you don't believe something is possible, you don't make any effort to make it happen -- it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But before we give up on reducing auto use by increased use of alternatives, to go to the opposite extreme and advocate implementing outright limitations on driving, let's look at some overlooked aspects of why people choose to travel. People love mobility. The automobile offers the ultimate in mobility - - the ability to go anyplace, anytime, via any route. Is it the car that people love or is it the mobility it offers? For some it is bicycle the car but for most it is the mobility. In every survey I have seen, the vast majority -- 75 or 80 percent -- will state a deficiency with transit rather than a preference for their car as to the reason they drive.

But there is more tilling evidence -- actual behavior. Canadians, Japanese and Western Europeans love mobility, or if your prefer, love their cars as much as Americans. yet they don't use them as much. There are a whole host of reasons why, many of which will be discussed in this presentation. But I want to dispense with the factors that aren't the reason. First, culture. Culture plays little or no role in travel mode choice. One could argue, for example, that extensive bicycle use is part of the Dutch culture. But in this context culture is the result, not the cause, of bicycle prominence. Affluence is another non-factor since the countries I am thinking of are all affluent.

The challenge I would like to address is how to reduce the share of urban trips made by auto, increase the share made on transit, foot and bicycle and do so in a manner that does not in any way inhibit mobility or discourage socialization. I propose seven basic areas of action to address this challenge:

First, we need to change the orientation of traffic engineering from concern with moving vehicles t concern with moving people. For example, many curbside bus stops force buses to pull out of ongoing traffic and then wait for a gap to bull back in. Eliminating these would force those in cars to wait behind the bus -- giving priority to the people in the bus rather than the car.

Second, we need to change the orientation of transit management from viewing transit as a social service to viewing transit as a viable alternative to the auto. If transit isn't good enough for those who drive, then it isn't food enough for transit dependents. It's time to go after the premium drivers and convince them that transit is really a desirable alternative.

Third, we need to change the image of transit primarily serving the have-nots to serving all sectors of the population. For too long, our society has had a negative image of transit.

Fourth, we need to change basic transit design, moving from a radial to a multi-destinational orientation, and from a peak to all hours orientation. About 75 percent of trips are non-work, though transit is largely oriented toward work trips.

Fifth, we need to introduce pricing schemes increasing transit revenues and the cost of driving. Automobiles are heavily subsidized to the tune of about $300 billion per year. It's time to put an end to auto subsidies and increase tolls and taxes on the car to pay for transit. A pollution tax should be introduced at the state level so that people are d\charged a tax based on the number of miles driven. Parking prices should also be increased. Employers need to start charging employees for parking and offering transit allowances so that employees are making an economic choice between driving alone and using transit.

Sixth, we need to establish performance-based standards funding to assure that transit subsidies are wisely invested. In this way, we can get a meaningful measure of how well transit is doing.

Seventh, we need [to] develop a better orientation toward pedestrians through high-density structures and other walking and bicycling friendly urban forms. After all, transit users are pedestrians.

--Based on a presentation by Ron Kilcoyne (Planning Manager, A.C. [Almeda County?] Transit); Ecocity Conference 1990 Report of the First International Ecocity Conference, Edited by Christopher Canfield. Published by Urban Ecology, POB 10144, Berkeley, CA 94709. Tel. 415/549-1724

Forced parking laws

Laws force the providing of parking based on floor area, number of bedrooms (for apartment complexes) and tables (for restaurants). These laws not only force respective consumers to pay higher prices to subsidize one form of transportation (the one that pollutes), but encourage greater car usage. Studies have shown that transit usage would as much as triple by eliminating laws that force the providing of parking.

Low density zoning

Most low density zoning is established solely for traffic mitigation purposes. For example, all low density zoning in Silicon Valley is for traffic mitigation only, with the industrial area density at .35 FAR (Floor Area Ratio). This means that a 6 story building is required to sit on land that is 18 times greater than that required for the building it self. The excess land can be legally used for parking lots and landscaping. It eliminates efficient compact development. It makes the area extremely difficult for transit to serve, increases distances (making it much harder for bicyclists and pedestrians), and takes up open space land. Considering the price of land, the excess land is also very expensive for the landowner to waste.

Another example of low density zoning is the prohibition of "granny" homes (the case for San Jose). This law was probably made to minimize on-street parking. However, it damages transit and brings greater pressure to use open land. It also exacerbates the severe housing shortage.

Assessment districts for "traffic mitigation"

These are counter-productive because they encourage greater automobile usage. They are also unfair to non-car users, who must subsidize lane construction, interchanges, parking lots, etc.

Developer fees for roads

These are very damaging to transit because:

The potential transit user is not given he free market choice of either using this increase in cost to pay for automobile transportation, or to pay for transit. These costs are passed on to the development residents through higher rents (or purchase prices); and to employees working at the development through reduced wages from what the companies could pay if their facility costs were lower. Even if they prefer to use money for transit, they still are forced to provide for automobiles, which compete with transit.

The potential transit user may never use transit to/from such development (either residential or industrial) because:

(a) the money he/she has earmarked for transit fares has instead gone to pay for the freeway, local rods and parking lots.

(b) the competing automobile facilities are already in place. For example, the freeway's usage cost appears to be zero because he/she already paid for it (albeit against his/her free will).

(c) any transit service in such an area will be infrequent (more waiting) and spread thin (more walking). Moreover, because transit farebox revenue is proportional to the number of people taking transit, [higher fares and] more subsidy will be required.

--From Free Market for Transportation Plan, March 22, 1990. Published by the Modern Transit Society, POB 5582, San Jose, CA 95150. 916/443-1529

[A condensation of policies called for in the report to reduce pollution]

1. Controlling Stationary Source Emissions

2. Reducing Vehicular Emissions

"Transportation activities are the single largest source of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide."...

"Programs that would cut the total number of vehicle miles traveled and improve traffic flow would reduce transportation emissions further. Promising measures include greater use of public transit; preferred parking spaces for car-and van-pools; removal of subsidies for parking spaces except for car-and van-pools; provisions to encourage high-occupancy and non-motorized vehicles (bicycles) in all plans for new road construction; and the installation of dedicated lanes for high-occupancy vehicles on urban roadways." [improving traffic flow increases speeds, and will therefore increase total driving. there should be no new road construction, the provisions for hov's and bicycles should be on existing roads, especially in urban areas]

3. Planning for the Long Term

Over the short term, national policies should emphasize reductions in the number of vehicle miles traveled and more highly efficient, less polluting vehicles. At the same time, the long-term development of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles needs to be accelerated.

4. Improving Our Knowledge and Capabilities.

--James MacKenzie and Mohamed El-Ashry, "Ill Winds: Airborne Pollution's Toll on Trees and Crops," WRI Publications Brief, Sept., 1988. World Resources Institute, 1750 New York Av, NW., Washington, DC, 20006

See Also: Auto reduction, transit


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Last updated: 7 April 1999