In the article, Zipper talks about using transit access as a performance measure. My graf below:
The idea of transit access isn’t new, but our ability to put a useful number on it is. David Levinson, a professor at the University of Sydney who has written numerous books about transportation access, says that quantitative breakthroughs now allow planners to make far more precise calculations than before. “We’ve got better data now through the General Transit Feed Specification and GPS, as well as from Census Bureau datasets. For each person, the data tells which block they live in and which block they work in. This didn’t exist at that detailed a level until the mid-2000s.”
Obviously I like access, which measures how many valued destinations people can reach in a given amount of time. But in the end, ridership is the raison d’être for transit shops. For all the access in the world, if a bus doesn’t actually serve any actual people, it has failed.
When the ridership is unknown (e.g. for planning a change in service or new construction, where at best we can make an informed guess about a future number of riders, a guess buried in a lot of modeling obscurantism), then access has to date been an excellent performance metric because access is correlated with ridership. The more places people can reach by public transport, the more places they will go.
Ridership fluctuates for many reasons, pandemic among them. Access will be more stable as an indicator. In the absence of other information, I would argue that increases in person-weighted access most per dollar spent will be the most useful for society. When we find that post-pandemic demand for offices (especially CBD offices) falls, jobs that are nominally at a site, but not really (because of 2, 3, 4, or 5-day per week work from home, or work elsewhere, e.g.) will imply more access than they really create. It will be years before the data properly accounts for this. In a perhaps idealised world in which decisions are made based on analysis, the use of access without controlling for this problem will distort our conclusions about where transit services should run. We will favour serving offices where people don’t actually work 5-days a week over sites like schools and hospitals and factories where they do.
Where is a job, which was a crystal clear number (not really, but we imagined it was) in the days when people worked 9-5 jobs in offices and factories, no longer has the same kind of meaning, and our accessibility metrics will somehow need to account for this. We may need to fractionalize jobs in our access calculations.
The resulting designs for transit systems will have to catch up with these changes in work patterns.
I got my copies, you should too … Now available for order: Metropolitan Transport and Land Use.
As cities across the globe respond to rapid technological changes and political pressures, coordinated transport and land use planning is targeted as a solution and is the subject of increased interest.
Metropolitan Transport and Land Use, the second edition of Planning for Place and Plexus, provides unique and updated perspectives on metropolitan transport networks and land use planning, challenging current planning strategies, offering frameworks to understand and evaluate policy, and suggesting alternative solutions.
The book includes current and cutting edge theory, findings, and recommendations which are cleverly illustrated throughout using international examples. This revised work continues to serve as a valuable resource for students, researchers, practitioners, and policy advisors working across transport, land use, and planning.
About the Authors
David M. Levinson is Professor of Transport at the University of Sydney School of Civil Engineering, Australia. From 1999 to 2016 he taught and served as Chair of Transportation at the University of Minnesota, USA, where this book was first crafted. He serves as the editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use and is the author or editor of a dozen books.
Kevin J. Krizek is Professor of Environmental Design and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is Director in Environmental Design and serves as a Visiting Professor of “Cycling in Changing Urban Regions” at the Institute of Management Research at Radboud University, the Netherlands.
Access: The Fundamental Force
Getting Beyond “Stuckness”
Reviews of the First Edition
‘A lively, engaging book…which uses neoclassical economic principles…in a digestible format. The authors go so far as to draw from the film “Thelma and Louise” to show how game theory can be applied in predicting whether someone will drive or take public transit. This provocative, highly relevant book deserves to be on the bookshelf of everyone concerned with urban planning and transportation.’
Robert Cervero, Professor and Chair
Department of City and Regional Planning
University of California, Berkeley
Nothing in cities makes sense except in the light of accessibility.
Transport cannot be understood without reference to the location of activities (land use), and vice versa. To understand one requires understanding the other. However, for a variety of historical reasons, transport and land use are quite divorced in practice. Typical transport engineers only touch land use planning courses once at most, and only then if they attend graduate school. Land use planners understand transport the way everyone does, from the perspective of the traveler, not of the system, and are seldom exposed to transport aside from, at best, a lone course in graduate school. This text aims to bridge the chasm, helping engineers understand the elements of access that are associated not only with traffic, but also with human behavior and activity location, and helping planners understand the technology underlying transport engineering, the processes, equations, and logic that make up the transport half of the accessibility measure. It aims to help both communicate accessibility to the public.
I have been hearing and reading a lot about the Greater Sydney Commission’s (GSC) Our Greater Sydney 2056: A metropolis of three cities – connecting peoplePlan for Sydney.
As the title says, the core idea trifurcates Greater Sydney into three “cities” *
Eastern City/ Sydney/Harbour City,
Central City/Parramatta/River City,
Western City/Aerotropolis/Parkland City.
In one very important sense, these are all Greater Metropolitan Sydney. In another legal sense, the “City of Sydney” is a legally-defined ‘local government area’ including the most famous bits and surrounding areas. There are many legally-defined cities (local government areas) in greater Sydney, and these get periodically redefined by the state government to which they genuflect.
Now I am sure in part the use of the word “City” is a rhetorical device, to find some way to combine the vast area of the West into a coherent thing. But absconding with the word “City” to mean neither the integrated metropolitan Sydney nor the local government areas does violence to the language and creates confusion where clarity is desired. The word “region” is overused and indeterminate, but surely there is another word here. I like “Quarter” but that implies 4 parts, at least to the purists, or “Borough”, but someone can figure this out. New York and London have ‘boroughs,’ perhaps that is what makes a world-class city.
The idea of three “cities” (or even “boroughs”) may seem innocuous, but if not carefully unpacked and dismembered, it risks becoming like the lines on the map of transport plans decades ago which inevitably get realised, and eventually find itself as yet one more layer of government, or a replacement for existing local government areas and increasing the remoteness of the ever less-local local government.
While there are maps showing these regions, it is unclear what actually differentiates them along the continuum of urban development. Arguably, a park-belt separates the West from the Center, and that would seem an almost natural boundary, but if you look closely at the map, it splits the western city from itself. The only thing that differentiates the East and the Center is orientation to a primary node of activity (Parramatta or Sydney), and that is so overlapping as to be not very meaningful. Nor is orientation systematically defined, and even if it were, it is subject to change with the economic fortunes of each core. Moreover, there are many activity centers located throughout each of the “cities”.
While the eastern and central cities of Sydney and Parramatta have core central cities, in addition to numerous local activity clusters, the West is a core-less cluster of cities.
Planners imply the void will be filled in the west will by the planned Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek (on which a lot seems to hang), and the surrounding Aerotropolis of rental car vendors, cheap hotels, sex shops, establishments serving quickly prepared food, and warehouses. An airport is a decidedly non-urban land use, even if the terminal is city-like in perverse ways. The airport is shown looming large on the map, larger than the existing Sydney Airport, which in all but area it will be smaller and less important than for decades to come.
The West, with an airport smack dab in the middle seems a network or cluster of activity centers more than a single coherent thing deserving the label “city”.
The definitional argument is intimately related to the idea of the “30-minute city” wherein a majority of people (say 70%) have commutes less than 30 minutes. Ensuring people can reach more things in less time is the correct planning goal of accessibility. And today, most people in Sydney have a 30 minute or less one way commute (be careful of means vs. medians here, there is a long tail), but as the city grows, this becomes harder and harder to achieve as people seek out better matching opportunities farther away, and there is more growth away from the center. All else equal, entropy dictates commutes will on average get longer not shorter as metropolitan areas grow. People will adjust their homes and jobs.
For Sydney to remain a 30-minute city, and more importantly, for Western Sydney to achieve this, many more jobs must relocate westward, or be created in the western region. (Or people just stop commuting as much, or transport connections become much faster.) This is one of the points of the plan. If the plan is successful, and jobs do materialise in the west, most Western Sydney residents would not need to commute east for jobs.
Identity: West vs. East
Planning doyenne and the Chief Commissioner of the GSC, Lucy Hughes Turnbull, said Wednesday November 15 at an Industry Briefing: Planning the future of transport and land use in Greater Sydney and Regional NSW, that the Western city comprises “Campbelltown, Liverpool, Penrith, et cetera”.
I would be unsurprised to find those who live in the town of “Et Cetera” view it differently.
To my outsider eyes, the West really seems to me to be a collection of disparate areas that might eventually conurbate into a continuum of suburbia with traditional existing centers as nodes of activity. But is the “West” really the identity people will have? Won’t they say I am from Blacktown, or I am from Sydney instead of I am from Western Sydney (Western City/Aerotropolis/Parkland City) or whatever name wins out? I suspect they will go for local (Blacktown) or global (Sydney) recognition rather than I am from Aerotropolis, or the Western City, or the Parkland City or any other sub-metropolitan, supra-municipal objectifier.
For instance, in American Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Angels/California Angels/Anaheim Angels eventually became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Not the Orange County Angels, nor the Eastern LA Angels. (And Los Angeles c. 1955 is probably the best American analogy to Sydney, the populations and geographies are similar, with San Francisco c. 1980 next best.) The “Greater Western Sydney” Giants, an Australian-Rules sportsball team, plays in Spotless Stadium at the Olympic Park, which is East of Parramatta. Will they eventually be renamed the Parramatta Giants, or the Sydney Giants of Greater Parramatta/Olympic Park?
Identity matters. As can be seen from the results of the Gay Marriage Plebiscite, people of Western Sydney have, on average, different political opinions and social values from the East, or most of Australia. But these political preferences don’t align cleanly with the Western/Central/Eastern City.
Other Matters: West vs. East
Addressing local needs matters. Housing is less expensive out west, but travel costs are higher since commutes are longer.
Building connectivity matters. The west is much more auto-reliant than the east, and will remain so largely independent of public policy. That’s what the land use dictates. The land use won’t change much, as that’s what the transport system enables. This is largely locked in through a decades long process of mutual co-evolution. Even as they rise with population growth, the densities of the west will remain lower than the east.
The first figure shows three transport hubs (presumably transit hubs, though out west this might not be the case in an important way), that are anchors of an interlocking hub-and-spoke system. These three hubs are identified as the centers of the cities. Well Central Station, is not, despite it’s name, Central to Sydney CBD, it is at the edge. This may evolve over time as the CBD marches south. Parramatta station similarly is at the southern end of the local business district. And I can’t imagine too many people walking around Aerotropolis after exiting the station there. It’s early days at Badgerys Creek, but this is little better than a crayon drawing, and building transit to serve the vast wasteland of an unbuilt airport is likely to be a hard sell when there remain so many existing real needs and areas of much higher transit potential in the eastern parts of Sydney.
Encouraging economic development out west, at the expense of losing some economies of agglomeration in the east, is important for spatial equity and transport, if not efficiency, reasons.
E Pluribus Unum
Arbitrarily dividing Sydney into three (or more) cities doesn’t seem especially helpful, even as a framing device, and results from the kind of remote thinking to persuade distant decision-makers rather than an organic expression of how people self-associate. It’s how marketing and economic development officials think.
Instead the job of a Greater Sydney Commission is not to exacerbate the already existing divisions, and keep the westerners out of the east, but to unify, to forge One City, One Sydney.
So a ‘city’ is a community, a place where people settle. It is also larger than a town. The actual dictionary definitions are vague, as are the way people use the words. In the US, a city generally is a legally-defined municipality which is large and has more legal authority than the surrounding unincorporated area, and more than smaller towns or townships. So the more appropriate term might be ‘urban’ area. `Urbs’ is just a Latin word for city:
The US Census, which needs to operationalize these things says:
The Census Bureau first defined urban places in reports following the 1880 and 1890 censuses. At that time, the Census Bureau identified as urban any incorporated place that had a minimum population of either 4,000 or 8,000, depending on the report. The Census Bureau adopted the current minimum population threshold of 2,500 for the 1910 Census; any incorporated place that contained at least 2,500 people within its boundaries was considered urban. All territory outside urban places, regardless of population density, was considered rural.
The Census Bureau began identifying densely populated urbanized areas of 50,000 or more population with the 1950 Census, taking into account the increased presence of densely settled suburban development in the vicinity of large cities. Outside urbanized areas, the Census Bureau continued to identify as urban any incorporated place or census designated place of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people.
Urbanized areas and urban clusters form the urban cores of metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, respectively. Each metropolitan statistical area will contain at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more people; each micropolitan statistical area will contain at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 and less than 50,000 people. Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas represent the county-based functional regions associated with urban centers (hence, the generic term “core based statistical areas”).
Other statistical agencies undoubtedly have similar definitions.
Since I am under contract to neither organization, I am free to give a review of the documents. I have comments prepared on the idea of the Three-City plan (dislike) and have something in the hopper on the 30-minute city (like), but am not clear whether it realisable.
The Draft Greater Sydney Region Plan is a gorgeous document, it is well-laid out, and pleasing to read. The Transport for NSW plan is much draftier, and appears to have been rushed. On the assumption that this is not staff’s fault, but rather that it was grabbed from their reluctant hands by political higher-ups who wanted a joint release, and who correctly assume that no one (i.e. only internationally-originating transport planning professors) actually reads plans, I will not pick on them for their unreadiness. The Sunday release is perhaps a tell in this regard.
My first blush comments about some remaining aspects of the Greater Sydney Region 40-year Plan are below (with the caveats that I have read the document once, have not read the previous documents, and am new to the country).
It is great to see the coordination between the agencies, and at least the idea that the transport and land use planning should be in sync.
The plan writes “Importantly, infrastructure will be sequenced to support growth and delivered concurrently with new homes and jobs.” This is good planning practice, and it is important that timing as well as end-state is considered. Whether this is well-executed remains another matter. As they say, time will tell.
In general, most of the GSC plans seems reasonable and hard to disagree with, if somewhat vague in many cases. For instance. “Strategy 8.1 consider cultural diversity in strategic planning and engagement.” OK, I’ve considered it, now what should I do with it?
It is a 40-year plan (Well a “40-year vision and 20-year plan”). Infrastructure lasts a long time, we want to make sure we take sound, long-term decisions. Now I like the future and all, and even think visioning is a good idea, as is preserving options, but 40 years is a long time, even in something as slow moving as transport networks.
The Chronologically-Aware might note that it is already 2017, not 2016, and it is a 40 year plan for 2056. Let us not be bound by petty calendars, this is planning time. Also since it is already 2017, and it won’t be adopted for at least some time, it might wind up being a 38-year plan.
Think back to 1976, it was before the internet or mobile telephony (or even wireless phones), before widespread Cable TV or the VCR, before Personal Computers even (it was the year Apple was founded). How much of a 1976 plan’s prediction of life today would be correct?
I’d suggest very little of the difference between 1976 and the present would have been accurately estimated by most people, or even most planners, or futurists, in 1976. Certainly we imagine that road projects that were funded in 1976 were realised soon thereafter. And much hasn’t changed.
To borrow from Sting (1983, i.e. 34 years ago): People still face a
‘… shouting above the din of their Rice Krispies,’ living their lives of quiet desperation. Other aspects are far different. Far fewer factories ‘belch filth into the sky’ as least in the developed countries. Far fewer workplaces are ‘hindered by picket lines,’ as the power of labour has withered. Far fewer businessmen have their own secretaries. We don’t have flying cars. We do have 280 characters.
Still, plans (or visions) can shape growth patterns, even if the forecasts of life are terribly inaccurate. Plans I am most familiar with, the New Town Plan of Columbia, Maryland (where I grew up) and the Wedges and Corridors plan of Montgomery County (where I worked for 5 years) both gave form to, and continue to shape their communities. Columbia was expected to be completed (built out with 100,000 residents) within 15 years (in fact, it was closer to 35 years, and the Town Center area still is not finished, 50 years on).
The Interstate Highway System of course was an important shaper of development patterns across the US, and enabled the rise of just-in-time production, among other things. It was expected to be done in 16 years (1972, from 1956), but wasn’t really essentially done until 1982, and officially done a decade later.
Laying a street network, like the Manhattan Grid, is a largely irreversible process, as evidenced by the lack of change in the street grid even after catastrophic events like the London fire or San Francisco Earthquake.
The expectation of the plan is that Greater Sydney grows to 8 million over 40 years. Demographics are among the easiest things to forecast for long time periods, as people age and migrate slowly. At current rates, I don’t doubt the estimate of 8 million. This however depends on an open immigration policy, which I am not sure traditional Australia will continue to support.
I don’t see any discussion of an intercity High-Speed Rail or Very Fast Train. Yet clearly the transport agencies are considering this and making provision for it. Certainly the notion of HSR remains vague, and the details missing, but this is a 40-year plan.
Aspects of funding made me happy to read, even if they were hedged:
“explore and, where appropriate, trial opportunities to share value created by the planning process and infrastructure investment (such as rail) to assist funding infrastructure” … Land Value Capture ! p. 31
“investigate the potential of further user charging to support infrastructure delivery” … Road Pricing ! (though “charging” users only shows up on 3 pages) p.31
The technological tsunami about to hit surface transport is acknowledged, but not dealt with. The word “autonomous” (as in Autonomous vehicles) shows up on 5 pages. Not enough thought is given to this, given the timeframe.
The Movement and Place framework (p. 39) is good, and highly reminiscent of the Hierarchy of Roads. I like the more detailed and nuanced design from Transport for London better, (TfL’s 9 cells vs. GSC/TfNSW’s 4), but there is an argument for simplicity.
On education, the document says: “The NSW Government will spend $4.2 billion over the next four years on school buildings, which it estimates will create 32,000 more
student places and 1,500 new classrooms.”
This is $131,250 per student! This is $2.8M per classroom. This seems a lot, even for Sydney. (p. 40) I sure hope some of this maintenance, not just capacity expansion.
The term “Accessibility” shows up on 14 pages. This is good, and the word seems to be used correctly. This is consistent with the idea of the 30-minute city.
Under “Directions for Sustainability” (p. 122) It is great they are using metrics. I take issue with some of them …
“An efficient city
Metric: Number of precincts with low carbon initiatives
A resilient city
Metric: Number of local government areas undertaking resilience planning”
Honestly, these specific ones are terrible metrics. Particularly the first one. Just measure (or estimate) the carbon emissions, not the number of “initiatives”. Compare with the tree canopy “Metric: Proportional increase in Greater Sydney covered by urban tree canopy”, which looks at the actual amount of tree coverage. Resilience is admittedly trickier to assess.
Constructing a plan is hard (in a political sense of finding something that enough people will agree to that is more than pablum, writing down a coherent set of strong ideas is actually not that difficult at this stage in history, with so many go ideas to draw from). I applaud the effort, and think it is better than the alternative. But it could be better still, and that is the reason for discussion and comment.
I worked at the Montgomery County, Maryland Planning Department, and over the years, accumulated a number of reports, which were properly public domain, but not available online in any form that I could find. I had them scanned and OCRed and then uploaded them to archive.org, which is a great institution.
While old planning documents may not stir the heart of everyone, this is good collection from an important agency that once did cutting edge work. It is also far from complete. So have at it:
Collection of Annual Growth Policy and Related Reports from Montgomery County Planning Department – Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, Montgomery County Executive, and Montgomery County Council (1973 – 2000).
1973_URBAN GROWTH POLICY POPULATION, HOUSING, AND EMPLOYMENT ISSUES.pdf
1974_COUNTY GROWTH POLICY, DIRECTIONS FOR GROWTH POLICY.pdf
1974_COUNTY GROWTH POLICY.pdf
1974_Final report of the Advisory Committee on County Growth Policy MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANNING BOARD.pdf
Metro benefits are presented in terms of reduced car use (p.10). This is the wrong way of looking at the benefits. The main benefits of Metro are the service to riders (more trips, faster trips, higher quality trips), not the reduction in congestion for non-riders. Who knows how many auto trips there would be instead? If Metro were closed for a day, everyone would work from home. If it were a month, people would carpool. If it were a few years, jobs would relocate. The ridiculous assumption that everyone would drive instead, and need to park in garages filling all of the central area are self-negating.
The region expect to keep growing, to 8.6 million people in 2040 (including an outer ring that includes many of Baltimore’s suburbs). If it continues to grow, it will need more service. Will it continue to grow? I would much prefer a scenarios approach (e.g. high growth/low growth/decline) and consideration of alternative strategies for alternative futures. I bet if we looked at Detroit’s plans from 1950 or 1960 or 1970 or 1980, they anticipated growth too (amusingly Google classifies that link as “fiction”, unfortunately it is not downloadable, so I can only speculate). Maybe DC will become the east coast’s primate city, displacing New York, analogous to London or Paris or Tokyo.
It looks like Fleet expansion solves most problems (Table 4), begging the question of why there needs to be new tunnels. (Not that there need not be tunnels, but high crowding is the price to be paid for dense cities, and Washingtonians should become better acquainted with their neighbors, just like Londoners and Tokyo residents). Further, why can’t more streets just be converted to bus-only transitways to satisfy the demand? This should require some paint and little else at the margin. (And of course can be as expensive as you want to make it).
p. 11 “The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) added 275,000 households and 295,000 jobs between 2004 and 2010. Of that growth, 6.4 percent of new households and 13.8 percent of new jobs located within one-half mile of suburban and one quarter-mile of urban Metro stations. The land area around these Metro stations comprised only 0.5 percent of the MSA land area, which suggests that Metro-adjacent locations are capturing far more than a simple share of growth” (6.4% of HH is only 17,600 HH, or 2514 per year over 7 years. Metro should do better than that. And a half mile is a pretty long area, most people within 1/2 mile in suburban Washington will not be using transit)
p. 12 “The land around Metrorail stations generates $3.1 billion annually in property tax revenues to the jurisdictions. Of these revenues, $224 million of incremental property value is from land near Metrorail stations – extra value that would not exist without Metro. ” $224 million in incremental property value revenues (I assume this means taxes) is great. This should be captured to pay for the system improvements. Over 30 years this is $6.6 billion in additional revenue (assuming no additional development and 0% interest rates). Ballpark, this is oneway of capitalizing the value of the system. A value capture district around all the stations would be a good idea.
Figure 6 shows that Washington has more vehicle-miles per capita of transit service, and it is claimed this means more competitiveness. I am unconvinced of the causality here:Do Agglomerating benefitting industries create density and demand public transit,
Or does transit create population density attracting agglomeration-benefitting industries?
I am all for mutual co-location as a theory and explanation, but there are reasons some industries (government and its courtiers, e.g.) likes to agglomerate, which are independent of transportation. Transportation serves and reinforces (and maybe attracts) that industry of course. A city without government (or finance, or one of the few other strongly agglomerating sectors) would see far less demand for central city development and commensurate transit. Since Washington has this industry, it should have more transit than a fast-growing metropolis without such industries (e.g. Phoenix)
More Vehicle-miles per capita without accompanying mode share indicates an inefficient land use pattern. I would think if people were closer together, fewer vehicle-miles of transit needed to be provided to serve the same trips. (The data I think comes from this 2004 study, which perhaps surprisingly has Minneapolis in third place for Economic Competitiveness, Figure 7, despite its relatively poor public transit showing).