Leveling the Playing Field for Sustainable Transportation

On September 18, 2014, Michelle DeRobertis spoke at the  SF Bay Area ITE Lunch Meeting whose theme was “ Future Framework for Transportation in California”.  Michelle was asked to speak about future of Traffic / Transportation Studies.  The talk, titled Leveling the Playing Field for Sustainable Transportation, began by framing bad transportation choices to those of unhealthy food choices.  If your refrigerator and cupboards are only full of junk food, your family does not have any healthy food options and has no choice but to eat junk food. Similarly if the major streets in a community only accommodate automobiles, then citizens have no healthy transportation choices and are forced to drive (or  in the case of children and the elderly, be driven).  Her talk then touched on the theme of her ITE Journal article about the adverse consequences of the singular focus on auto LOS and the double standard it creates.  (See May 2, 2014 News & Updates).  She then explained the motivation behind establishing the ITE Committee on Transit and Traffic Impact Studies (TIS): if the only thing being measured is auto flow, auto delay, and auto capacity, the only improvements recommended are to improve auto flow, auto delay and auto capacity.  Michelle suggested two potential metrics for evaluating transit in TIS: transit capacity and transit travel times. She invited interested persons to join the ITE Committee to study the state of the practice and then  develop a recommended practice.

The 21st Century way of approaching traffic studies should be:

1. System is not “failing” when there is auto congestion.

2. Congestion indicates that more & better public transit is needed as well as more & better bikeways/walkways.

3. Studies must measure transit, bike and pedestrians as seriously as automobiles.

4. We can start by assessing – with the aim of improving – transit travel times and capacity to project sites.

Michelle concluded with a photo of a new roadway in Turin Italy that was made possible by undergrounding the rail lines; it was built with only four throughput lanes.

  • We need to be smarter about allocation of public street ROW.
  • Roadways at capacity means there is a need for better transit & bikeways
  • Need to make transit, bike and walking viable choices for (some/most) people.
  • Project mitigation measures and Traffic Impact Fees need to focus on making transit biking and walking better, and no longer on auto-capacity-increasing projects.

    The city had a blank slate to design this roadway after the rail was undergrounded, and chose a four-lane road.

    The City of Turin had a blank slate to design this roadway after the rail was under-grounded, and chose a four-lane road and a wide median.