MOVING BEYOND CAR LEVEL OF SERVICE (LOS): Measurable and Meaningful Criteria for Transportation Investments, Project Designs, and Development Mitigation (revised)
Scaled from A to F like an elementary school report card, automobile Level of Service (LOS) metrics are easy to measure and easy to understand. LOS is, essentially, the average amount of delay compared to a “free-flowing” road where everyone is moving at full design-speed – congestion! It is a powerful indicator: it has a direct relationship to the quality of the user experience (the amount of congestion and “lost time”), the environmental impact (longer passage time equals more emissions), and the road infrastructure’s adequacy (the relationship of traffic volume to road capacity) – with the car-industry-pleasing implication that the key to improving LOS is increasing capacity.
It’s bad enough that rain-water run-off from our streets takes oil-derived toxins, metal and synthetic dust into our soil then into our groundwater and rivers. But it also turns out that human-injected poisons seep up from below our roads, destroying plant life, killing soil, and creating explosive danger on the surface as well. The volatile poison is natural gas. And local groups are just beginning to measure its unwanted presence.
So long as it stays in the mind-bogglingly large network of gas pipelines running down almost all our streets to business and residential locations, natural gas is a much better fuel than coal or oil or gasoline. But it’s a dangerous amendment to the soil and the air above it if it leaks out. And it is leaking – a lot, as we’re just beginning to discover. There are more than 3,300 natural gas leaks in Boston and at least 20,000 across the state, releasing between eight and twelve billion cubic feet of natural gas each year.Read more
Boston Public Health Commissioner, Barbara Ferrer, says that while Boston has many Public Health needs, the three biggest challenges facing the city are reducing violence, making a positive health impact an explicit goal of every policy in every department, and using the new provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to get hospitals and other health-care providers to do more about prevention.Read more
The importance of the two Circle The City events this summer – July 14 on Huntington Ave. (“Avenue of the Arts”) and September 29 on Blue Hill Ave – go beyond the ability to walk, bike, roll, dance, play, eat, and hang out on car-free streets. It’s more than the zumba, street games, yoga classes, vendors, music and participatory arts activities, and multiple miles of safe space for family-friendly cycling, strolling, and hanging out.Read more
Genie’s are, by mythological definition, very powerful. They can open cave walls, turn dirt into gold, and make carpets fly. They are also devious, granting wishes in ways that turn benefits into burdens – an autonomous force from whom, in exchange for letting them out of the lamp, we can demand short-term assistance but whose ultimate actions and effect are beyond our control.Read more
NON-MOTORIZED HIGHWAYS: A Regional Green Routes System To Connect Municipal Bike Networks, Sidewalks, and Parks
Transportation is responsible for 36% of Massachusetts’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In order to meet the reductions required by our state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, MassDOT has committed itself to significantly improving its internal operational energy efficiency (GreenDOT) and tripling the share of travel done using transit, bicycle, and foot over the next 18 years. Mandating higher mile-per-gallon vehicles and less polluting fuels will also help achieve the GHG reduction goals. However, assuming a reasonable rate of population and economic growth between now and 2030, there will be a corresponding increase in transportation activity. To reach the Mode Shift goals, MassDOT will have to find ways to channel almost all of it into the target modes rather than Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOV).
In response to the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which sets deadlines for reducing Green House Gas emissions, MassDOT has recently announced plans to triple the share of travel done using transit, bicycle, and foot by 2030 — 18 years from now. (The Act was also the impetus for MassDOT’s exemplary GreenDOT program.) Since both our population and economy are likely to grow over that time, in order to reach that mode share goal almost none of the inevitable increase in transportation activity can happen in Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs). The entire rise in travel will have to use train, trolley, bus, multi-person cars, bikes, or feet.
MassDOT has announced a goal of tripling the mode share of transit, walking, and bicycling over the next 18 years while also making the roads safer and more efficient for car travel. No matter how it is eventually measured (trips, vehicle or person miles traveled, or some combination), the Mode Shift policy is visionary and ambitious. If implemented, it will transform both the state’s transportation system and the Transportation Department. It will make Massachusetts a national leader in environmental and climate protection, in primary prevention and public health, in “main street” business revival and sustainable economic development, and much more. The real issue is not if a more sustainable transportation system is needed, the one we have is increasingly dysfunctional as well as unaffordable, but if such a transformative goal will be fully adopted and implemented.
One part of the problem is that cyclists are a visible and prominent part of the coalitions fighting for a better, safer, healthier transportation system. In fact, many car drivers see the entire new agenda as primarily about serving the needs of the 1% or 2% of the population who bikes. And that’s a not good: bicycling, and walking, are not how the majority of people get around. State leaders need to support and integrate bicyclists demands for better facilities, in both urban and suburban-town-center areas as well as along the regional Rail-Trail networks. But expanding bicycle facilities can’t be presented as the core reason for the new programs.
As with so many other proposals to create a stronger foundation for future growth – dealing with public health, environmental protection, and the built environment, among others – advocates and state leaders needs to find ways to frame the discussion so that a majority of citizens see how the costs and potential short-term disruption will relatively quickly lead to benefits for themselves and their communitiesRead more
GREEN ROUTES TO THE FUTURE: Combining Regional Vision and Local Initiative to Revitalize Urban Transportation and Well-Being
Walking and bicycling are part of the solution to problems from traffic congestion to public health, from pollution to economic development. Creating a seamless network of safe, family-friendly, aesthetically inviting walking and bicycling facilities is key to convincing a meaningful proportion of the population that they don’t need a car to get to work, run errands, visit friends, or have fun. To have this impact, the network needs to be composed of overlapping “lines and loops” within and between neighborhoods and cities, suitable for both functional travel and recreational pleasure. It needs to feel comfortable for all users: slow walkers and fast cyclists, slow baby-carriage pushers and fast runners. And it should foster the expansion of our green spaces – parks, greenways, river banks, gardens, open space, and tree-lined boulevards.
Eastern Massachusetts needs this as much as anyplace. Creating a Green Routes system requires connecting two currently separate strategies: Adding better sidewalks and bike facilities to our streets and turning old railroad beds into off-road rail-trails. To be successful, the two approaches need to be united within an “Emerald Network” vision of off-road paths, tree-lined streets, and clearly signed connections – a re-invigoration of the historic Olmsted-Eliot vision of regional parks and innovative parkways along our rivers and between our hills.Read more