Uber in Montreal

One of our Montreal correspondents writes:

Just tried [Uber] today for a small round trip … going in went fine, coming back I was stopped by the Montreal Taxi Police. They were online monitoring cars moving on the Uber page and when we moved to a certain corner they stopped us.

They took my info and gave me the steps to get the money back. The Police Officer was guiding me on the app actually. Told me the driver will stay with them for a while and asked me to leave and find a different service or use Uber taxi which they showed me on the app. Got my money back in less than an hour though.

The driver received a big fine which uber will pick as I understand. So these guys operate illegally in areas till this area changes its laws and the pick heavy fines for the sake of market penetration. A very weird model but interesting.

Thoughts on Transit and Urban Form

Hypothesis: Regular frequent transit service remains feasible even in single family homes in neighborhoods with a modicum of density.

The Land Use

Consider the 1 mile grid landscape that is common in the post-Revolutionary United States due to the Northwest Ordinance and the ease of development. The is roughly the streetcar era land use design.

While there are a variety of ways this grid can be carved up, one common way is to have

• 10 cross-streets per mile of grid long direction (520′ )
• 20 cross-streets per mile of grid in short direction (260′ )

This arrangement produces 200 blocks per square mile. The size of each block is:

• 520′ x 260′ block (center line – center line)
• 480′ x 240′ block (edge to edge), allowing space for roads.

If houses have a 40’ frontage with 110′ depth ( allowing 20′ for alley?) = 4,400 sq. ft. (~1/10 acre)

Note there are  640 acres per square mile and 43,560 square feet acre per acre.

This spacing gives 12 houses per block face long direction, or 24 houses per block. In this configuration, no houses face the short direction. Obviously this can be adjusted.

If there were only housing, this would give 4,800 houses per square mile

At 2 persons per household (which is definitely on the low side for single family homes, this gives us 9,600 PPSM in single family homes at typical built density. At 5 persons per household, this leads to 24,000 PPSM.

At 5 persons per household, we could increase lot size to 1/4 acre (neglecting roads) and still can get 2,560 houses per square mile  or 12,800 PPSM.

While some space is devoted to schools, parks, retail, commercial, and industrial activity, among other uses, I hope this is persuasive that 10,000 PPSM is feasible over large areas without being Manhattan-like high density. The City of Minneapolis for instance according to the 2010 Census has a density of 7,417 PPSM. At its peak population, it had over 10,000 PPSM.

The Transit

The target density for successful transit is often given as 10,000 persons per square mile (PPSM), as per Zupan and Pushkarev (also discussed here).

If we assume that every person originates lots of short trips (which can be dealt with by walking or biking) and one long trip per day (say going to work), the 10,000 PPSM would generate 10,000 transit trips per square mile. So we have 10,000 Boardings. This is roughly streetcar era demand in cities.

If we space transit routes on the 1/2 mile routes (as was typical of streetcars) both east-west and north-south, with stops where transit routes crossed and half-way between (i.e. 1/4 mile spacing between stops), the area is served by 21 stops. The four stops at the outer corners are shared with 4 other areas, and the 8 non-corner stops at the perimeter are shared with 2 other areas, while 5 stops are internal to the 1 mile square, gives us 12 equivalent dedicated stops for the area.

With 10,000 PPSM and 12 stops, each stop serves 833 people per day. If transit vehicles carry 50 people each, that is 17 full transit vehicles per day. Of course transit vehicles do not generally fill up at one transit stop, and over a 17 hour day, this would be 1 transit vehicle every hour. If instead we wanted service at 10 minute headways, but full vehicles, we would expect each vehicle to fill up 1/6 of its load at each stop (or about 8 passengers per stop). That would be a much higher load factor than generally observed.

The maximum walking distance to a transit stop would be (by Pythagoras SQRT of 0.25^2 + 0.25^2 =) 0.35 miles.

The Car

So what guarantees people will make 1 transit trip per day? If there is no good alternative, this is an easy choice. Today, this depends. The argument for using transit is that in our idealized grid-like city with a grid-like transit system, the transit system is as direct as every other mode, so there is no lost distance due to circuity. The only lost time is the schedule delay (which is a maximum on average of 5 minutes, less if people can time their wait to match the transit vehicle), and the time when the vehicle is stopped (and accelerating and decelerating) boarding and alighting passengers, which we know can be faster if people pre-pay, and the transfer time between vehicles (with a maximum of one transfer in the idealized grid, again with a maximum on average of 5 minutes, less if the routes are timed well). Finally with any transit advantages (e.g. signal timing priority, exclusive lane or stopping in lane, as opposed to weaving into stops) transit can recover some of the time lost vis-a-vis the automobile.

Where transit is better (faster, cheaper) than alternatives, and frequent enough, people will use it in large numbers. This is observed daily in large cities. Thus it must be feasible to obtain such faster, cheaper, frequent enough service levels. In most places in the US, the transit service and ridership is not there. Let’s work through an example.

For a five mile trip, there will be about 20 stops at 1/4 mile stop spacing. If each stop results in 30 seconds lost time (2-3 seconds per boarding plus acceleration/deceleration), that is 10 minutes of time lost there.  This will generally be slower than an automobile, even with  stop signs or red lights every 1/4 mile, as the time spent stop at the stop will be less than for transit, even with pre-payment. (Unless the auto is stuck behind a transit vehicle and cannot pass).

Initial schedule delay is 5 minutes assuming random arrivals.

Walk access time of (let’s say 1/2 of 0.35 miles or 0.18 miles at 3 miles per hour) is about 4 minutes. This is obviously farther than from the front door to a parked car at the home end. Destination walk egress time is probably similar  for most people. For transit to downtown, lower for transit (and higher for the parked car).

Transfer time is also non-trivial, and can be as high as another 5 minutes if it is effectively uncoordinated.

So now even with our idealized transit system we have lost something like 10+5+4+5+4 minutes or 28 minutes compared with the car for a 5 mile trip. At a value of time of \$15/hour (\$0.25/minute) this is the equivalent of \$7. If the transit fare is \$2, and the cost of gas (at \$5/gallon and 25 miles per gallon) is \$1 (not even considering carpooling), net additional out-of-pocket cost for transit is now the equivalent of \$8. Of course, vehicle ownership (\$10-\$20/day) can be avoided, as can parking charges. We are not considering externalities, and other costs of vehicles that are not internalized.

The Express

We can make transit faster with express routes on limited access rights-of-way. If demand is high enough, we can make transit go faster, or have an even higher frequency, and stop less often. One disadvantage of express routes is a longer access/egress time (they can’t be spaced as close together if they are to achieve economies of scale, so they are on the mile instead of 1/2 mile spacing at best (as per London)). If that access and/or egress is by transit itself, that imposes additional scheduling time penalties. We can compensate because now our land use changes to take advantage of the express services. At express stations, densities rise. Apartments replace single-family homes. We can also give transit a higher frequency. Express buses and commuter trains often have low frequencies, while modern or modernized subways may have one train every 2 minutes or better. So if we increase the highest distance to a station for 1 mile spacing between stations and 1 mile between routes (so every station is a transfer), the walk access time is 1/2 of the maximum time of SQRT (0.5^2+0.5^2) = 0.71 or 0.35 miles. At 3 mph this is a walk time of  7.1 minutes on each end.

For a 5 mile trip with transfer Our lost time is 2.5 (30 seconds [per stop * 5 stops]) + 1 (schedule delay) + 7 (access) + 1 (transfer delay) + 7 (egress time) = 18.5 minutes. This is less than the local transit service above, and can be reduced for people who live closer to the station rather than spread out uniformly across the landscape. If we have higher travel speeds than auto (let’s say averaging 45 mph while in motion on exclusive right-of-way instead of 30 on surface streets), for a 5 mile trip the express transit time is 6.67 minutes instead of 10 minutes. But this 3.33 minute savings does not outweigh the lost delays due to access and waiting costs. This does not even begin to consider the additional costs of operating express vs. local services, or revenues from the service.

To reduce transportation costs with transit-like services, we can arrange cities linearly, thereby eliminating transfers and reducing access costs. This wastes accessibility for non-transit modes. So optimal urban form depends on the technology you are optimizing for. In a city where driving is perceived to cost \$1/trip, and it saves between 18 and 28 minutes per trip, it is no wonder the automobile is the dominant mode for long distance trips even in historically transit advantageous places. Changing that requires changing the perceived (and real) cost of driving for drivers, as there is little that can be done on the transit supply side which will make a significant difference in the absence of that for most markets.

In dense areas, the market takes care of that, with expensive parking. In low density areas, there is enough room for everyone’s car without charging.

I believe systematically re-arranging existing cities for transit (or any mode) is putting the cart before the horse. Transportation should serve activities, and while transportation and land use co-evolve, that co-evolution is slow (over decades) and should be adaptable to alternatives.

Using Multiday GPS Data – Webinar

I am participating in an FHWA Webinar tomorrow (July 16) (1pm Central). Mine is An Empirical Study of the Deviation between Actual and Shortest Travel (which will be 2nd up). Details below

Using Multiday GPS Data

TMIP

Date: July 16, 2015

Location: 2-4 PM Eastern

Description: This webinar will include four presentations:

• An Empirical Study of the Deviation between Actual and Shortest Travel Time Paths;
• Multi-day Variation in Time Use and Destination Choice in the Bay Area Using the California Household Travel Survey;
• Using Vehicle GPS Data to Understand Travel Time Reliability; and
• Capturing Personal Modality Styles Using Multiday GPS Data—Findings from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Teleconference Toll Free Number: 1-888-675-2535

Participant Passcode: 8344566

Title: Using Multiday GPS Data

Back to the Calendar.

A sad bike route in Minneapolis | streets.mn

The danger of designating infrastructure is that it requires use and maintenance. Sometimes the infrastructure designated is not particularly useful or used. And lack of use makes it less useful for others, as it leads to entropy. One such piece of infrastructure is a well-signed (though well-hidden) “bike route” in Prospect Park (map). Some is on-street. Some is off-street trail. Some is street-adjacent trail. I don’t know when it was installed, clearly sometime after I-94, and well before I arrived in the neighborhood in 2001. It has the feel of late 1960s design. Note this route is not considered part of the “Existing Bicycle Network” despite the signage, according to the “Draft Protected Bikeway Update to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan” (Figure 6). I wonder how many other such abandoned networks there are. I wonder what will remain in three decades after the current bicycle wave of popularity.  Some pictures below.

Cross-posted at streets.mn.

Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference: August 26-27, Dallas Texas

I am pleased to be speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference, which has a theme of Trucking’s Future Now Conference in Dallas, August 26-27, 2015.

What does the future of the trucking industry look like? That’s what industry experts, analysts and futurists will discuss next month in August in Dallas at the annual Commercial Vehicle Outlook seminar for fleet executives, suppliers and other industry stakeholders.

The two-day event will be held Aug. 26-27 at the Dallas Convention Center in conjunction with the Great American Trucking Show.The conference, sub-themed this year as Trucking’s Future Now, will feature speeches and panel discussions on looming changes to trucking equipment and technology, such as autonomous trucking and platooning systems, along with talks on changing infrastructure, freight patterns and the driver and technician labor market.

Futurist Michio Kaku will give CV-Outlook’s keynote address on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Kaku is one of the most highly recognized futurists in the world, internationally recognized for trying to complete Einstein’s unified field theory and his predictions of trends affecting business, commerce and finance.

Other speakers include Derek Rotz, manager of advanced engineering at Daimler Trucks North America; Stephen Hampson, president and general manager of Meritor WABCO; David Levinson, author and professor at the University of Minnesota; Bill Kahn, principal engineer at Peterbilt Motors;  Paul Menig, CEO at Tech-I-M; Josh Switkes, CEO at Peloton Technology; and Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE.

OUTLOOK AGENDA

Walking along the sidewalks of Minneapolis and St. Paul, every block the pedestrian must undulate, going down to meet the road, walk across (a sometimes marked, sometimes unmarked) cross-walk, and then up a curb, or at best a curb-cut, to meet the level of the sidewalk again.

Why does the pedestrian need to lower themselves to the level of the road? The road should instead rise to meet the pedestrian. This accomplishes several things.

1. It slows down traffic, providing an effective speed-hump for turning and through traffic. (Increasing safety and residential interaction)
2. It reminds vehicle traffic (cars and bikes) there are pedestrians about, and they are the aliens, not the other way around.
3. It increases pedestrian speed, as pedestrians will obviously have the right-of-way at such street crossings, and won’t fearfully cower before the motor.

This kind of design is seen in many places in Minneapolis and St. Paul. But you say “we have no woonerf here”. Yet we do. We call them alleys. When entering an alley, the car rises to the level of the sidewalk (or nearly so). The car goes slower. The driver is more likely to be on the lookout for pedestrians.

I wrote about Rotterdam, though this applies to other cities in the Netherlands:

The sidewalks are often continuous elevation across streets (i.e. there is no cross-walk, there is a cross-drive). This helps remind drivers they are entering a woonerf. Drivers must slow down since they are crossing the pedestrian right-of-way, rather than vice-versa. If there is one thing I could do to American residential neighborhoods, it would be implementing the woonerf. If there is one thing I would build to tell drivers they are in woonerfs, it would be this sidewalk extension across the local street (when it joins a major road) as a way of signaling to drivers they are in a new space. This is far more effective than signs or changes in pavement surfaces alone.

Let’s rethink our residential streets as residential spaces, where cars are permitted but not preferred. We can use the alley as an element of the model, though obviously the wider road requires difference in design.

Cross-posted on streets.mn.

Open Source Trip Generation

We have long known in the transportation planning community that the use of trip generation for local area review, and ITE’s procedure for estimating trip generation is broken in any number of ways. Shoup’s Truth in Transportation Planning is a classic critique of the problems.

While we could (and perhaps should) throw the whole kit and caboodle into recycling, in practice trip generation methods will be with us decades from now (even as traditional work, shopping and driving disappear). So there is a small academic movement to make the methods better. The most recent issue of JTLU 8(1) has a special section on Trip Generation, including several papers about how to adjust and improve ITE’s Trip Generation methods based on better data.

Part of the problem is that ITE is functionally a for-profit organization, and makes bank on selling the Trip Generation Manual and associated software (recognizing the fact that use of ITE Trip Generation rates is ensconced in law and regulation).

What has long been needed is an open source database of trip generation studies so that better fits to actual site conditions can be used in analysis. I recall in my youth some engineers in Montgomery County, Maryland trying to set something up, but this was well before the world wide web made that easy.

Fortunately that day is upon us. Mike Spack and company have set up TripGeneration.org, which is populated with open access trip generation studies (licensed under a Creative Commons license), and for which they hope to grow the data set. This is new, and I assume as it grows the data will get better and better, as will the methods for inputting and extracting data. Kudos to Mike, Nate, and others at Spack Consulting for getting this going. I look forward to seeing where this goes, as Big Data and new sensors make data collection increasingly ubiquitous.

Do Not Wait Here |streets.mn

Recently I found myself seeking refuge where no island granting refuge exists. Probably starting the crossing later than I should have, I crossed University Avenue half-way before my walk signal went to solid red, stranding me between the tracks of the Green Line (I could have illegally run in front of the cars, but one never knows).

I waited an interminable amount of time, for which I could have accepted a gap, playing Frogger. I would have if I had more information about where cars were, but couldn’t see well because of line of sight and cars in the turn lane.

A train approached from the left of me. A train approached from the right of me. I don’t exactly know how much space is between the trains, but not terribly much. The train to the left of me blared its horn (so loud I can hear it from more than 1/2 mile away), afraid I might not see it and become another statistic. I moved slightly forward. It passed (without braking as far as I could tell). The train to the right of me blared its horn. I moved backward. It passed (also without braking).  Fortunately they did not pass simultaneously.

Because of me, MetroTransit has now emblazoned the non-refuge area between the tracks at signalized intersections on the Green Line with a “Do Not Wait Here” marking.

Obviously, pedestrians are flawed for being so fool-hardy as to be pedestrians, or trying to cross a street on the blinking “don’t walk”, or just being slow, or distracted. But I am not the only one.

Clearly there is also a design flaw in the signalized pedestrian crossings failing to understand human actions, which a spray painted template will do little to alleviate. There is a flaw in traffic signals that do not recognize there is a pedestrian in motion.  Such a marking is, literally, the least they could do to address this problem.

The recommended approach seems to be:

Step 0. Don’t cross University Avenue.

Step 1. If you do cross University Avenue, then don’t get stuck in the median of the tracks.

Step 2. If you are stuck in the median at a red light, then pray.

(Actually, you probably would stand where the foot steps are, since that is in the middle, but then it says, do not wait here).

If you do not wait here, where are you supposed to go, in front of the train?

What if there were a lot of people on the island, not just a few. There might not be enough space. Would the train stop then? I am not convinced this has actually been thought through.

Cross-posted at streets.mn.

A Tree Dies in Minneapolis, or ‘One Way to Deal with a Desire Line’ Revisited | streets.mn

In September of 2014, I wrote One Way to Deal With Desire Line describing the University of Minnesota’s attempt to deal with a desire line by planting a tree in the middle and placing concrete curbs to reroute traffic, costing pedestrians several seconds a day each.

Today, we follow up, asking how did that tree do? That tree did badly (Score one for human behavior and the desire to walk in straight lines).

Not only did it do badly, on a path to die of its own accord, the university went and killed it.

And not only did they kill it, they are doing a bunch of construction around those parts again this year. I am not sure why they renovated last year, and again this year, but it is the University.

Cross-posted at streets.mn