Native Angeleno who has worked in public, academic and special libraries, as well as museums and college instruction. I am responsible for maintaining the Metro Transportation Library website, all of our social media properties, and digitization efforts to bring more of our resources to our users whenever they need them. For more information, visit The Metro Library website.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New And Notable: All Roads Lead To Congress, Green Metropolis & Innovating For Sustainability

We wanted to take a few moments to again discuss some of our more interesting recent acquisitions here at the Metro Transportation Library.

The legislative process can seem mechanical and dry While learning procedures like the markup or cloture. What students of the political process hunger for, and greatly benefit from, is seeing lawmaking from the inside the backroom politics that makes the process so fascinating, so real, so compelling.

All Roads Lead To Congress: The $300 Billion Fight Over Highway Funding drives students through one piece of legislation: The Surface Transportation Bill. The book explains the maneuvering and negotiating that go on amongst members of Congress and their staffers as they haggle over a huge pot of money.

The Bill provides an example of both sides of the domestic legislative coin, as members of Congress formulating the bill fight over both policy issues (mostly along party lines) and money (mostly along regional lines).

While working on the Hill, authors Costas Panagopoulos and Joshua Schank were able to follow the path of this legislation from inception to law, observing firsthand the twists and turns of its journey. While filled with details and dialogue reminiscent of a good novel, All Roads Lead To Congress is sure to explain the various rules that structure legislation, the leadership styles and strategies at play, the tensions among levels of government, and the impact of the executive.

New York City is a model of sustainability: its extreme density and compactness — and horrifically congested traffic — encourage a car-free lifestyle centered on walking and public transit. Its massive apartment buildings use the heat escaping from one dwelling to warm the ones adjoining it. As a result, New Yorkers' per capita greenhouse gas emissions are less than a third of the average American's.

In Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, And Driving Less Are The Keys To Sustainability, author David Owen attacks the powerful anti-urban bias of American environmentalists like Michael Pollan and Amory Lovins, whose rurally situated, auto-dependent Rocky Mountain Institute he paints as an ecological disaster area.

The environmental movement's disdain for cities and fetishization of open space, backyard compost heaps, locavorism and high-tech gadgetry like solar panels and triple-paned windows is, he warns, a formula for wasteful sprawl and green-washed consumerism. Owen's lucid, biting prose crackles with striking facts that yield paradigm-shifting insights. The result is a compelling analysis of the world's environmental predicament that upends orthodox opinion and points the way to practical solutions.

One of the challenges met by green entrepreneurs and product developers who have tried to develop more sustainable products is that efforts to have better products in environmental terms do not always translate into effective business cases.

Innovating For Sustainability: Green Entrepreneurship In Personal Mobility strives for a better understanding of the implications of environmental issues in new product development.

Through an empirical study in the human powered vehicle sector, author Luca Berchicci examines how and to what extent the environmental ambition of product developers and managers influences the way new products and services are developed. The understanding of this phenomenon is particularly important since managers are encouraged and/or motivated to undertake environmental new product development projects.

From the descriptions and analyses of the two cases study Luca Berchicci suggests that a high level of environmental ambition increases the complexity of the product innovation process. Moreover, a high level of environmental ambition may hamper a product innovation process because it may lead the developers away from the market that their product is to serve. Accordingly, this book attempts to explain and predict how environmental ambition influences new product development processes. This claim provides a theoretical contribution to existing research in both product innovation and green product innovation. Moreover, this book (part of the Routledge Studies in Innovation, Organization, and Technology series) provides an original and deep insight on the diverse facets of greening.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Research Roundup: Benefits Of California HSR, The ARC Effect, BRT Studies & Evaluating Rail Criticism

The Institute Of Transportation Studies' Center For Urban Infrastructure at UC Irvine released its Thinking Ahead: High-Speed Rail In Southern California (31p. PDF) report last week. It attempts to quantify some of the regional economic and other benefits likely to come about once California's high-speed rail system is in place.

For example, during its construction phase (2012-2020), the California High-Speed Rail project will contribute a regional income benefit of $701 million to Southern California workers who would have otherwise been unemployed. Together with design/engineering work for Phase II of the system, it will provide the equivalent of over 57,000 full-time, one-year jobs (or multi-year employment for approximately 15,200 workers). Construction of the Anaheim Regional Intermodal Transportation Center (ARTIC) will create an additional 3,500 to 5,000 jobs in Orange County based upon estimated project costs of $179 million.

The report goes on to say that by 2035, high-speed rail will attract over 127,000 permanent jobs to Southern California that would not have otherwise been created, thanks to the region’s increased livability and enhanced transportation network. It also claims that the emission of nearly half a billion pounds (220,000 metric tons) of CO2 would be prevented annually by 2035, based on the number of intraregional auto trips diverted to high-speed rail.

We wanted to take a closer look at The ARC Effect: How Better Transit Boosts Home Values & Local Economies (12p. PDF), put out by the Regional Plan Association.

ARC - "Access To The Region's Core," a new commuter rail tunnel to Midtown Manhattan - could add a cumulative $18 billion to home values within two miles of NJ TRANSIT and Metro-North Port Jervis and Pascack Valley train stations. The Report outlines several other benefits, including an overall increase in the region's economy, new jobs on both sides of the Hudson River, higher personal incomes, higher commercial property values, and reductions in driving and air pollution. Home values could go up by an average of $19,000 and up to $29,000 within one-half mile of the stations.

The Mineta Transportation Institute has published From Buses To BRT: Case Studies Of Incremental BRT Projects In North America (110p. PDF).

This study examines five approaches to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems as implemented by public transit agencies in California, Oregon, and Ontario. The resulting lines and network of lines vary widely, ranging from small changes in a local bus route, to a completely new line in a new mode.

On one end of the spectrum, the San José area has frequent arterial bus services with traffic signal priority. On the other end, the report describes the case of a transit-only, grade-separated busway in Los Angeles County with full-featured stations and special buses that look like no others in the agency. The authors also describe three variations more in the middle of the range of BRT possibility.

The case studies as a group show that BRT, as applied in North America, is a discretionary combination of elements that can be assembled in many different combinations over time. Transit agencies have wide latitude to determine which combination of elements best serves their needs, given their specific circumstances. Every element incrementally adds to the quality or attractiveness of the service.

Finally, we wanted to dig deeper into the Victoria Transport Policy Institute's recently published guide to Evaluating Rail Transit Criticism (74p. PDF).

It examines how to evaluate whether building or expanding rail transit systems is wasteful. The report states that high quality rail transit is more than just a type of vehicle; it is an integrated system that includes relatively fast and frequent transit service on major corridors with comfortable and attractive vehicles and stations, transit-oriented development around station areas with good walking and cycling access, efficient bus feeder service, and various support policies such as integrated fares and efficient parking management.

This combination of features tends to attract a large portion of discretionary passengers (people who would otherwise drive, also called choice riders). As a result, people who live or work in areas with high quality rail transit tend to own fewer cars, drive less and rely more on alternative modes than in automobile-dependent areas. If implemented in appropriate situations with supportive policies, rail transit can provide significant benefits to users and society.

However, there has been considerable debate over the merits of rail transit. Critics argue that rail transit is outdated, ineffective at solving transportation problems, and wasteful, but their analysis is based on various omissions, errors and misrepresentations. Many current demographic and economic trends are increasing demand for alternative modes and increasing the benefits tosociety from traffic reductions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

50th Anniversary Of L.A.'s "Metro Rail"...Say Whaaat?!: Celebrating The 1960 Birth Of Our Modern Rail System

In July, Metro and Los Angeles celebrated 20 years of Metro Rail.

To commemorate the anniversary last month, we took a look back at both the history of service between Los Angeles and Long Beach (1902-1961) as well as the launch of Metro Rail with Blue Line service in 1990 and its ongoing success as Metro's first rail project.

However, this week marks an important milestone in local transit history: it is actually the 50th anniversary of "Metro" "Rail" in Los Angeles County!

On August 26, 1960, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority released its Rapid Transit Program: A Comparative Analysis Of Rapid Transit System And Routes (137p. PDF). On this date, and in this report, was the very first reference to a "Metro System" for Los Angeles.

The "Major Findings And Recommendations" of the report state:

We recommend to the Authority for main line rapid transit service a system of supported transit vehicles running on rubber tires on concrete tracks. For convenience, we have referred to this equipment as the "Metro" system.

This equipment is found to be the most adaptable to the alignments and conditions developed in our engineering investigations. This system would be the first use of rubber-tired rapid transit vehicles in the United States and would be truly unique in its ability to provide large numbers of transit patrons a fast, comfortable, quiet and convenient ride.

The "Major Findings and Recommendations" go on to explain that:

Cars would comfortably seat 54 people with ample room for standees and could be coupled together to make up trains of two to six cars or operational speeds which would reach 80 miles per hour.

The report looked at three different types of rapid transit equipment: two monorail systems (suspended and supported) and the supported "Metro" system. The "Metro" system was assessed to be the least expensive for the recommended alignments, 35% of which allowed for operation at grade. The report noted the greater flexibility of this system as opposed to monorail.

The "Metro" system could not only operate at grade, but underground and above ground, and with its auxiliary steel wheels, it was capable of running on standard gauge steel rail lines. While Los Angeles' monorail history is deserving of a much more in-depth review in the future, we wanted to take a deeper look at the report that first laid out plans for "Metro" in Los Angeles.

Where Should The Rapid Transit System Be Built?

Coverdale & Colpitts (Consulting Engineers for traffic studies) recommended four broad transit corridors to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The report recommended building on rights of way to serve the following four corridors from Los Angeles: eastbound to Covina, southbound to Long Beach, westbound to Santa Monica and northbound to Reseda. A second phase would serve Pasadena, Santa Ana, Inglewood and San Fernando (via Glendale and Burbank).

The initial system would run 74.9 miles, consisting of 51 miles of overhead track, 21.6 miles at-grade along Pacific Electric and other rights-of-way, and 2.3 miles of tunnel under private property. A selling point for this proposal was that the "Metro" would serve passengers during peak hours with average speeds of 35-40 miles per hour as compared to rush hour freeway speeds of 25 miles per hour at that time. This compared even more favorably to the U.S. Mass Transit average speed in 1960 of 18 miles per hour.

Subway construction was noted as costing "from two to three times more than overhead facilities which provide the same service."

How Much Would The Rapid Transit System Cost?

The initial price of the 74.9 mile four-corridor transit system was pegged at $529.7 million. The second phase would bring the total system size to 150 miles of track, and it was projected that the eight-corridor system would be needed "within twenty years" in order to keep pace with the projected growth of Los Angeles County.

So what happened?

Today's Metro system (79.1 miles in service, and counting) has also evolved into a network of corridors linked to downtown Los Angeles. It has taken twenty years to build just about the same number of miles as the 1960 proposal, at a cost of approximately $8 billion (not adjusted for inflation between 1990 and present).

Obviously, it would have been much less expensive to have built a comparable system beginning in 1960. However, we would have been stuck with a system consisting primarily of overhead tracks running throughout Los Angeles County, as depicted below in a rendering of monorail tracks and station at Wilshire Blvd. & Fairfax Avenue taken from the 2009 Westside Extension Transit Corridor Study Final Alternatives Analysis Report (554p. PDF).

A regional transit system comprised of elevated tracks may have seemed modern or even futuristic at the time, but it would no doubt be considered aesthetically unpleasing today. Furthermore, the system would likely have been built with dubious earthquake reinforcements and would end up costing much more post-construction to bring it up to current seismic retrofit specifications.

But above all else, no dedicated state or local revenues were available in 1960 to cover capital costs.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy called for a program of federal capital assistance for mass transportation and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 two years later.

Monorail tracks and station as they would appear if built today, Wilshire Blvd. at Fairfax Ave.

Federal funding for new mass transit construction didn't get underway until around 1968, and even then required a local match. Los Angeles didn't have any such local funding mechanisms in place until passage of the passage of Proposition A in 1980.

While we celebrate a signifcant 20-year milestone this year, we also mark an important 50th anniversary this week. However, Los Angeles would have to wait another 30 years for Metro Rail to become a reality.

Secondary Passenger Distribution within downtown Central Business District (Click to enlarge)

1960 Long Range Development Plan: Monorail Proposed Routes Map (Click to enlarge)

The entire report is fascinating to read, includes numerous vintage illustrations and maps (several of which have been reproduced here), and helps inform the historical foundation of how we got to where we are today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SurveyLA: What Is It And Why Does It Matter?

SurveyLA – the Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey – is Los Angeles’ first-ever comprehensive program to identify significant historic resources throughout our city.

The survey marks a coming-of-age for Los Angeles’ historic preservation movement, and will serve as a centerpiece for the City’s first truly comprehensive preservation program.

Los Angeles is taking a significant step to identify and protect its rich heritage by identifying and documenting historic resources representing significant themes in the city's history.

While Los Angeles has over 900 Historic-Cultural Monuments (local landmarks) and 25 Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (Historic Districts, or HPOZs), to date only 15% of the city has been surveyed. This leaves important resources at risk and developers and property owners frequently surprised or exasperated by eleventh-hour preservation efforts. SurveyLA will provide valuable information to City officials, homeowners, neighborhood associations, and preservation groups, and much greater up-front certainty for developers and property owners.

What does Historic-Cultural Monument Status mean?

It recognizes the building, structure, site, or plant life as important to the history of the city, state, or nation;

It provides eligibility for the Mills Act Program, providing a historical property contract that can result in a property tax reduction

It permits use of the California Historical Building Code

It allows property owners to purchase and display a plaque showing that the property has Historic-Cultural Monument status

It requires Cultural Heritage Commission review for proposed exterior and interior alterations in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, the nationally accepted criteria for evaluating change to historic properties

It fosters civic pride in neighborhoods and business districts, helping develop a sense of place and time, as well as many other benefits as outlined here.

SurveyLA is partially funded by a $2.5 million grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust. Additionally, the Getty Conservation Institute, which has played a crucial leadership role in preparing detailed studies outlining the purpose, benefits, and best practices of a citywide survey, is providing significant technical and advisory support to the project. The project is coordinated by the Department of City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources.

SurveyLA marks a coming-of-age for historic preservation in Los Angeles. In the coming months, as the project progresses, you will be hearing more about the survey and ways to become involved. The Office of Historic Resources looks forward to collaborating with all segments of the Los Angeles community in building creative partnerships that will take full advantage of this exciting opportunity.

How will the survey be conducted?

The survey will cover the period from approximately 1865 to 1980 and include individual resources such as buildings, structures, objects, natural features and cultural landscapes as well as areas and districts (archaeological resources will be included in a future survey phase). Significant resources will reflect important themes in the city's growth and development in various areas including architecture, city planning, social history, ethnic heritage, politics, industry, transportation, commerce, entertainment, and others.

SurveyLA is organized in two phases to be completed over an approximate six-year period -- the two-year Initiation Phase (2006 to 2009) and the three-year Implementation Phase (2010 to 2013). During the Initiation Phase all survey tools and methods were developed and tested. During the Implementation Phase, launching this year, the field survey work will be conducted.

While the survey is proceeding on a very aggressive schedule, the Office of Historic Resources is counseling patience throughout the process. A comprehensive survey in a city the size of Los Angeles cannot be completed overnight. Los Angeles comprises 466 square miles and 880,000 separate legal parcels - an area larger than eight of the nation's largest cities combined.

Resource List:

SurveyLA Website (part of the City of Los Angeles' Department of City Planning's Office of Historic Resources)

Information Regarding Historic-Cultural Monuments and the Cultural Heritage Commission

Historic Cultural Monuments Image Gallery

City of Los Angeles Historic Preservation Overlay Zones and Image Galleries

SurveyLA on Twitter

The Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey Report: A Framework For A Citywide Historic Resource Survey (120p. PDF, Getty Conservation Institute, 2008)

Images, from top:
432 N. Avenue 66 in Garvanza (HCM #107)
Capitol Tower And Rooftop Sign in Hollywood (HCM #857)
Lederer Residence in Canoga Park (HCM #204)
Grand Canal in Venice (HCM #270)
Lady Effie's Tea Parlor in South Los Angeles (HCM #764)
Weatherwolde Castle in Tujunga (HCM #841)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Research Roundup: Transit Benefits & Costs, Highway Funding, Bus & Rail Transit, Security & Procurements

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute has just published a new guidebook describing how to create a comprehensive framework for evaluating the full impacts (benefits and costs) of a particular transit service or improvement.

Their "Evaluating Public Transit Benefits And Costs: Best Practices Guidebook" (120p. PDF) discusses best practices for transit evaluation and identifies common errors that distort results. It discusses the travel impacts of various types of transit system changes and incentives, and describes ways to optimize transit benefits by increasing system efficiency, increasing ridership and creating more transit-oriented land use patterns. The guidebook also compares automobile and transit costs, and the advantages and disadvantages of bus and rail transit. It includes examples of transit evaluation and provides extensive references, while may of the techniques includes can be used to evaluate other modes, such as ridesharing, cycling and walking. (Image via Flickr)

A new report (34p. PDF) from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that nearly all states received more funding than they contributed in highway taxes since 2005. This was possible because more funding was authorized and apportioned than was collected from the states and the needed to be augmented with general revenues.

Federal funding for highways is provided to the states mostly through a series of grant programs collectively known as the Federal-Aid Highway Program. Periodically, Congress enacts multi-year legislation that authorizes the nation's surface transportation programs. in 2005, Congress enacted the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU), which authorized $197.5 billion for the Federal-Aid Highway Program from fiscal years 2005 through 2009.

The Highway Trust Fund was instituted by Congress in 1956 to construct the Interstate Highway System, which is currently 47,000 miles in length.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB) last week published "Bus And rail Transit Preferential Treatments In Mixed Traffic: A Synthesis Of Transit Practice" (212p. PDF).

This synthesis is offered as a primer on the topic area for use by transit agencies, as well as state, local, and metropolitan transportation, traffic, and planning agency staffs. This synthesis is based on the results from a survey of transit and traffic agencies related to transit preferential treatments on urban streets. Survey results were supplemented by a literature review of 23 documents and in-depth case studies of preferential treatments in four cities—San Francisco, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and Denver. Eighty urban area transit agencies and traffic engineering jurisdictions in the United States and Canada were contacted for survey information and 64 (80%) responded. One hundred and ninety-seven individual preferential treatments were reported on survey forms. In addition, San Francisco Muni identified 400 treatments just in its jurisdiction.

Also last week, TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) released "Reconciling Security, Disclosure, And Record-Retention Requirement In Transit Procurements" (80p. PDF) as part of its Legal Research Digests series. The following statement from the publication's introduction sums up the scope of this document as follows:

Part of public transit agencies’ security efforts must include taking steps to ensure that information that would facilitate such attacks does not become readily available. At the same time, there is also a clear, well-established public interest in ensuring that publicly-funded projects are transparent and that information to provide oversight is publicly available.

This tension plays out in the area of procurement and contract management. Material in bid solicitations, responses, and contracts that contains potentially harmful information not otherwise available must be kept secure, while safeguarding the public interest in open government. Accordingly, public transit agencies must balance the competing legal and public policy interests manifested by requirements for full disclosure of the public’s business on the one hand and security concernson the other.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Demand-Based "Smart Parking": Watch How It Works

SFpark Overview from SFpark on Vimeo.

You may have heard recent stories about San Francisco's bold experiment with demand-based parking, a two-year pilot project that launched two weeks ago (see links to stories at end of this post).

This new project collects and distributes real-time information about where parking is available so drivers can quickly find open spaces and get off the road. It also introduces "demand-responsive" pricing to encourage drivers to park in underused areas and 15 City-owned garages, thus reducing demand in overused areas. The video link above shows you exactly how it works, and here are some other features:

  • New parking meters will accept credit cards
  • You will be able to look for an open parking space via computer or smart phone
  • Data on parking availability will also be available via 511, text messaging, signs, and new electronic display signs at high-volume spots throughout San Francisco

While parking rates may increase in high-demand areas and at high-demand times, they are expected to decrease where and when demand is low. As for price fluctuation, prices will never change more than 50-cents at a time, and never more than once a month.

According to SFpark, circling for parking accounts for approximately 30% of city driving, and reducing that traffic by helping drivers find parking benefits everyone on the street. While some cities have already implemented some elements of demand-based parking, San Francisco is the first city to deploy comprehensive technologies and policies. (Seattle is rolling out real-time parking information and guidance around Labor Day).

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Urban Partnership Program is funding 80% ($19.8 million) of the pilot project. The other 20% comes from San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SF Muni).

As we often do, we wanted to delve into our Archive to see how age-old issues were treated long ago. We've previously written about Los Angeles' growing pains stemming from more and more people coming into downtown as the outlying areas expanded due to annexation and population growth. Parking problems grew in tandem alongside congestion and frustration: As noted earlier, vehicle registration in Los Angeles County quadrupled between 1914 and 1922 alone.

By the mid-1940s, two in-depth parking studies were conducted for downtown Los Angeles. In 1944, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission issued a report titled Business Districts (36p. PDF). It includes several interesting findings, including the result of a survey of 222,000 industrial workers in 1942 which revealed only 8% of them used "public or mass transportation" in going to and from work.

This document compares the Los Angeles Central Business District with the business districts of Long Beach, Pomona, and Westwood Village in detail to provide a frame of reference when measuring movement of vehicles and pedestrians. Some great maps are included, showing block-by-block the types of businesses in the downtown areas as well as pedestrian traffic in downtown Los Angeles (click to enlarge).

The following year, the Downtown Business Men's Association published the Downtown Los Angeles Parking Study of 1945 (47p. PDF). It delineates "Downtown" as that area bounded by Sunset and Pico Boulevards to the north and south, and by Figueroa and Los Angeles Streets to the west and east. This study shows downtown "types of buildings" (e.g. brick, concrete, wood frame) and the number of gas stations in downtown Los Angeles in 1944 is quite an eye-opener.

The study proposed that 6,750,000 square feet of "properly located ground" should be provide adequate parking to avoid choice parking areas being gradually absorbed for other purposes. For more immediate action, the Executive Committee of the Association recommended that a corporation (which they would control) be formed which would have the authority to rent, lease or otherwise acquire to operate parking facilities for the benefit of the District.

City leaders in 1945 Los Angeles obviously didn't mention anything remotely similar to San Francisco's pilot project. Their focus was on supply meeting demand, not supply priced for demand.

Resource list:

High-Tech Parking Meters Premiere In S.F. (San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2010

San Francisco: A Free Market In Parking Begins (Human Transit, August 11, 2010)

San Francisco Rolls Out Supply-And-Demand Pricing For Parking Meters (GOOD, August 6, 2010)

San Francisco Spends $25 Million To Test "Goldilocks" Parking (NPR, July 27, 2010)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dude, Where's My Flying Car?: Understanding Peak Years And Paradigm Shifts In Transportation Modes

Who doesn't love a great infographic? We were looking through a recent work titled The Geography Of Transport Systems (New York: Routledge, 2009 ed.) by Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Claude Comtois and Brian Slack, and came across this thought-provoking chart (p. 65) depicting the growth of transportation systems in the United States from the 19th to 21st centuries. (Click image to enlarge)

A section discussing past trends and uncertain futures asks "Where are the flying cars? Where are the supersonic passenger jets?" and goes on to demonstrate that transportation modes experience related life-cycles consisting of peak years and paradigm shifts:

The growth of transport systems, as the case of the United States exemplifies, went through a series of waves of introduction, growth, maturity and decline as massive investments in infrastructures and development of the system took place.

Each time there is a substitution from one mode to another, moving to a higher level of speed (and sometimes efficiency). A paradigm shift represents an event that marks the prominence of transport systems, often characterized by the completion of a significant infrastructure project which starts to impact economic and spatial systems. A peak year is when the system is about to reach maturity and experience a slowdown in its growth.
As you examine the chart here, it shows that the U.S. canal system took off around 1825 upon completion of the Erie Canal, and hit its peak in 1836 as the rail system was beginning to be built. The authors have noted that rail was a more flexible and efficient inland transport system, thus contributing to its advent as a preferred transportation mode.

But by the 1850s, rail traffic was already growing at such a fast rate that it surpassed canal traffic as a primary transportation mode with the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869. By the late 19th century, most of the U.S was serviced by rail, which grew steadily until it peaked in 1891.

Rail was replaced as a preferred or most efficient means of transportation due to the advent of a national road system, especially after the introduction of the Ford Model T, marking another paradigm shift toward roads in 1913. That "tipping point" year is delineated as the paradigm shift. Roads ruled until their peak in 1946, when the advent of air travel continued the pattern, reaching a paradigm shift in 1969 until its own peak in 2001.

So many new technologies may play a part in future transportation modes, it is difficult to predict what will come next (such as Maglev, which the chart puts forth as a mode of future growth).

The authors duly note that:

One of the pitfalls in discussing future trends is looking at the future as an extrapolation of the past. It is assumed that the future will involve a technology that already exists, but simply operating on an extended scale beyond what is currently possible. The parameters of such an extrapolation commonly involve a greater speed, mass availability, a higher capacity and/or better accessibility, all of which imply similar or lower cost.
In other words, it is safe to say that some technological developments outside of transportation could inform the next great paradigm shift, such as automated processes and alternatives fuels.

Although people-movers and monorails may be past their prime, we may one day see those flying cars after all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

New And Notable: Traffic & Gridlock, Becoming An Urban Planner, Sustainable Urban Design, Transportation In A Climate-Constrained World

Gridlock: Why We're Stuck In Traffic And What To Do About It by Randal O'Toole (Washington, D.C. : Cato Institute, 2009)

"O'Toole's Gridlock is a brilliant ode to mobility, which he argues is the foundation of our freedom and our prosperity. He blasts those groups in our society which have turned from promoting mobility to restricting it. He punctures the pretensions of congressmen, transport agency bureaucrats, urban planners, `smart growth' advocates and their ilk who want to spend billions promoting trains and rail transit systems that few people want to ride. This book will infuriate some and inspire others by its pointed and data-driven conclusions. But its policy arguments are too urgent and too important to ignore. A must-read book for everyone interested in the future of transportation policy." --James A. Dunn, Jr., Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University, and author of Driving Forces: The Automobile, Its Enemies, and the Politics of Mobility

Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt (New York: Knopf, 2008)

Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic — engagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informative — is one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere. Its subjects are the road and the people who drive it, which is to say Traffic gets about as close to the heart of modern existence as any book could get, yet what's truly astonishing is that no one else has done it, at least not on the scale that Vanderbilt has achieved. We've had road novels (On the Road) and road movies ("Two for the Road") and road songs ("On the Road Again"), but nonfiction studies of "why we drive the way we do and what it says about us" — to borrow Vanderbilt's subtitle -- have been almost entirely limited to dry, impenetrable engineering and psychological treatises. Yet think about it, which Vanderbilt obviously has done at great length and to immensely rewarding effect. "Many of us," he writes at the outset, "myself included, seem to take driving a car fairly lightly, perhaps holding on to some simple myths of independence and power, but it is actually an incredibly complex and demanding task." (Washington Post)

Becoming An Urban Planner by Michael Bayer, Nancy Frank and Jason Valerius (New York: Wiley, 2010)

Are you considering a career in urban planning? Through in-depth interviews with more than eighty urban planners across the United States and Canada, this book gives you a valuable insider's look at your future profession as it is lived and practiced.

Becoming An Urban Planner introduces you to the urban planning profession—its history, what you must know to prepare for a career in planning, and the different types of planning jobs. Beyond the basics, though, it shows you the realities of what it's really like to be a planner today. You'll learn about:

  • The skills you'll need and how to hone them in school and on the job
  • Potential career paths and what people in these positions do
  • Using internships, job shadowing, and other opportunities to break into the field
  • Deciding among planning specialties and moving between public and private sectors
  • How to search for and get your first position
  • Emerging areas in planning, including sustainability and climate change

Each topic is explored through in-depth interviews with both generalists and others who have devoted their careers to a particular aspect of planning. These professionals share their insights and describe how they have arrived at where they are and how beginners like you can learn from their experiences. (From the cover)

Sustainable Urban Design: An Environmental Approach (2nd ed.) edited by Adam Ritchie and Randall Thomas (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2009)

Towns and cities form the backdrop to the lives of a rapidly increasing number of people around the planet. At or around the time you read this, we will, for the first time in history, have reached a milestone when more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. Sustainable Urban Design (2nd ed.) addresses the issues faced by planners and designers in making these areas environmentally sustainable. Design guidance is followed by a number of exemplary case studies which have been designed and developed by leading figures in the U.K. and further afield. Principal topics include: planning, transport, landscape and nature, energy (including renewable energy), water and waste, and materials. (From the cover)

Transportation In A Climate-Constrained World by Andreas Schafer, John B. Heywood, Henry D. Jacoby and Ian A. Waitz (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009)

"This book is full of fascinating insights. It is a brilliant dissection of our transportation energy problems and a careful and sophisticated examination of the solutions. As one would expect from such renowned experts, this book is a must read for anyone interested in transportation energy. I've been waiting for this book for years and will immediately adopt it as a text for my course." — Daniel Sperling, Member, California Air Resources Board and Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, Acting Director, Energy Efficiency Center, and Professor of Transportation Engineering and Environmental Policy, University of California, Davis

"Andreas Schäfer and his colleagues provide a clear and concise overview of the role that transportation plays in creating some of the global environmental challenges confronting us and look at the sort of technology that can help us circumvent the dangers of global climatic change. In doing this it brings within a single set of covers a wealth of information, systematically presented, and, importantly, written in a way that can be followed by a non-specialist. It is a very welcome addition to the literature." — Kenneth J. Button, Director, Aerospace Policy and Management Center, School of Public Policy, George Mason University

"The authors deliver a wealth of data, analysis, and insight on the key challenges to achieve sustainable transportation systems—oil dependency, global climate change, the growing global demand for mobility—and the technological and policy solutions that will be required to overcome these challenges. This book provides a unique reference for policymakers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders that will shape the coming transformation of our global transportation systems." — John Moavenzadeh, Senior Director, Head of Sustainable Mobility and Strategy Officer, World Economic Forum

"This book—not surprisingly, given the authors—provides an excellent technical review of the costs and benefits of alternative efficiency technologies and alternative fuels for light vehicles and commercial aircraft. More surprisingly, it contains an unusually insightful discussion of the evolution of travel and a valuable and dispassionate review of the policy options open to government to pursue further technological advancement of the two fleets. I've been doing this work for twenty years and this book showed me that I still have a lot to learn." — Stephen E. Plotkin, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Research Roundup: State Of Repairs, Transit & Demographic Diversity, Flexible Public Transportation Services

Image courtesy of Flickr

The Federal Transit Administration's 2010 National State Of Good Repair Assessment (35p. PDF) is a new study that estimates it would cost $77.7 billion to shore up rail and bus lines in the United States, and another $14.4 billion a year to maintain them. While most of the $77.7 billion would be dedicated to rail, the study notes that 40% of the nation's buses are in poor to marginal condition. The report is a follow-up to the 2009 Rail Modernization Study (60p. PDF) report to Congress.

Following that study, which assessed the level of capital investment required to attain and maintain a state of good repair for the nation’s seven largest public transportation rail systems, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tasked FTA with expanding the scope of the study to assess the level of investment required to bring all of our nation’s public transportation (transit) systems into a state of good repair.

Planning For Demographic Diversity: The Case Of Immigrants And Public Transit (p. 28-50 of 138p. PDF) examines the significant effects of immigration on transit use. Drawing on data from the U.S. Census, the study looks at how the enormous influx of immigrants to California has altered the demographics of transit commuting in the state and contributed importantly to a growth in transit ridership. California immigrants commute by public transit at twice the rate of native-born commuters, comprise nearly 50 percent of all transit commuters in the state, and are responsible for much of the growth in transit commuting in the state.

But over time, immigrants’ reliance on transit declines. Transit managers would be well advised to plan for these inevitable demographic changes by enhancing transit services in neighborhoods that serve as ports to entry for new immigrants, those most likely to rely on public transportation.

Meanwhile, public transportation agencies face increasing demands to serve ever more diverse markets that may require cost-effective, unconventional solutions. Flexible transportation services show great promise in meeting the mobility needs of many individuals nationwide. Flexible transportation service may be especially valuable to those communities that are trying to address ADA requirements and those classified as suburban, small urban, and rural, where mobility markets are often defined by low or irregular demand.

In addition to new flexible services, existing traditional fixed-route and paratransit transit services may be converted into flexible services. In order to answer the questions of whether, and in what circumstances, the introduction of flexible service may be feasible, a broad, comprehensive look at planning and operating flexible transportation services as part of an array of options was needed.

A Guide For Planning And Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services (98p. PDF) describes the types of flexible transportation service strategies appropriate for small,
medium, and large urban and rural transit agencies. This guide includes discussions on
financial and political realities, operational issues, and institutional mechanisms appropriate
for implementing and sustaining flexible transportation services. This guide will be helpful
to public transportation providers, decision-makers, policymakers, planners, and others
interested in considering flexible services.