Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A product in search of a problem: getting the right mobility product for the right market segment (The failure of the Slide mobility service and the introduction of Zipbike bike sharing at colleges)

WBJ reports ("D.C.-based ride-sharing service Split ends operations") that the equivalent of a "shared taxi," Split, which operates in the core of DC is shutting down its service.

I've written about it a few times, just as I write about shared taxi/taxi collectif services, mostly the examples I use are from Montreal, or the recent FRED service that has been introduced in Downtown San Diego.

Like how I believe that e-bikes are mostly mis-marketed to core inner city residents when they are best for longer distance trips ("(Still) tired of mis-understanding of the potential for e-bikes," 2015), shared taxi services tend to work at the ends of transit systems, not in the core, or in areas underserved by transit ("Underserved in transit, Mattapan wants a lift," Boston Globe).  (The FRED service in Downtown San Diego is subtly different, a service for people unfamiliar with or slightly fearful of the inner city core.)

In the core, people can walk, bike, use transit, or take one-way car share.  Destinations are close and close to transit obviating the "need" to drive.

Split CEO Ario Keshani and strategy and biz dev director Dan Winston. Photo from Bisnow.

Therefore, I am not surprised that the Split service is shutting down.

Shared taxis often need subsidy in part to operate because of relatively low passenger loads.  The reason to provide the subsidy is to meet public policy goals concerning the breadth and reach of the transit network.

Some transit services are working with ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft to provide so called "last mile" services from and to transit stops at the edge of transit service areas. That's the market segment Split should have focused on, but it isn't nearly as visible as a service is in the center city and negotiating subsidies from public agencies for a new service is very very difficult.

Zipbike.  Last week, Zipcar and Zagster announced a new bike sharing system they'll be marketing to colleges and universities ("Zipcar and Zagster Launch Zipbike, the First National, Sponsored Bike-Share Program for Universities," press release). From the release:
Zagster, which operates 140 bike-share programs across North America — including nearly two dozen on college campuses — will manage the Zipbike systems at all participating universities. Zipcar, which is the largest and most longstanding campus car sharing provider with operations on more than 500 college and university campuses, will launch at participating Zipbike campuses if they don't already have Zipcar programs.

"We know that today's mobile-first, app-centric students value on-demand access over ownership," said David Piperno, vice president of finance and strategy at Zipcar. "Zipcar programs on campuses improve the quality of life for students, faculty and staff alike by making it easy to access a car only when they need one, and our partnership with Zagster will allow us to offer that same access to bikes."
To me, this is another example of the wrong product being offered to colleges and universities.
Bicycle racks at the University of California, Davis, 1963, by Ansel Adams
Bicycle racks at the University of California, Davis, 2963.  Photo by Ansel Adams.  When the UCD campus was constructed, it prioritized walking and biking, and didn't include roads within the campus.

What colleges should want is to prioritize and reify "sustainable mobility." Rather than doing it fractionally, they need to encourage as many students as possible to use bikes, all the time. And it's much easier and cheaper "to give them a bike" rather than to buy a limited number of bikes and have them be shared, but to be used only occasionally.

Universities like UCLA have "bike rental" programs (some call this a "bike fleet" or ""bike library,"  I call it "bike provision") where students get a bike for full-time use for an entire semester, along with a lock and helmet, and access to a bike repair shop on campus.

Some charge a small fee (UCLA seems to have doubled their fee since I last was looking--to the point where it's probably best to just buy a bike), while other colleges, like North Central College, recognizing this is a transportation demand management initiative, don't charge anything.

The other type of program is giving students free bicycles to own, in return for an agreement to not bring a car to campus and/or other responsibilities.  Ripon College is one of the pioneers of such programs, and they did it because they realized that land is too valuable to use it all up for parking instead of buildings (Ripon College gives freshmen free bikes for no-car pledges," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Other colleges offering similar programs include the University of Dayton, the University of New England, and the University of Louisville ("UofL forges path to change how students commute," Louisville Courier-Journal; "With Free Bikes, Challenging Car Culture on Campus," New York Times).

Technology heavy fractional use bike sharing programs make sense when people only occasionally use bike.  By contrast, on a residential-based college campus, where students can conduct upwards of 90% of their typical trips by walking and biking--augmented by transit and car sharing, bike provision programs are the cheapest and easiest to administer and get much greater return on investment, ,

Note that UCLA also has a free bike program for staff and faculty.  In return for giving up their parking permit they get a $400 credit towards buying a bike at a local bike shop.

Depending on the length of the typical commute trip, the university should consider adding e-bikes to the mix and providing more funds towards the program, or doing a payroll deduction program to assist with the purchase.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Updating the post The "soft side" of commercial district revitalization

This post was originally published on April 24th, 2006. I CAN'T BELIEVE I NEGLECTED TO INCLUDE PUBLIC SAFETY AS AN ELEMENT TO ADDRESS. (It was assumed and I think it's present indirectly in the list, but it needs to be called out.)

"F.G. Lindsay store front, Anacostia, 2215 Nichols AvenueVisual merchandising back in the day.  F.G. Lindsay store front, Anacostia, 2215 Nichols Avenue.  National Photo Company, LC.

Not that people read the backfile of this blog, although they should.  Someone recounted a conversation they had with a DC boutique owner operating a retail business in a transitioning commercial district which touched on many of the issues that I wrote about in the piece below.

They discussed the issue of vagrancy and loitering in a commercial district and street corridors, litter, dealing with "legacy" store owners who are car-centric but also will sell what they can sell in order to make money and this can be counter-productive (e.g., "Authorities close store in Southeast D.C. for selling synthetic drugs," Washington Post), how business owners are unaccustomed to thinking in terms of a commercial district as a whole rather than their own business, they aren't interested in coming to meetings and organizing and contributing to necessary change, etc.

(It reminded me that while I like to do commercial district revitalization planning, it is usually no fun working with legacy merchants and property owners.)

Imagine Your Business Name Here, Martin Luther King Ave. SE, Washington, DCThis comes up in the Eastern Market district, where people are organizing a "Main Street" commercial district revitalization effort even though the area is a couple blocks from a Main Street program on 8th Street SE called Barracks Row.

It'd be easier to imagine my business at this location if the property was maintained....

It reaffirms my belief that DC needs a much more nuanced approach to promoting and developing the city's various commercial districts, one element as I said in the previous entry on World Tourism Day, has to do with providing marketing and other support to those areas that have the potential to serve segments of the tourism market.  Main Street is the one size fits all approach pushed forward by the city, but it's not the right model in many places.

Furthermore, it's very weak on support and development of new retail business concepts, and local governments need different methods.  In fact, I've been thinking about this too, in terms of posts I had written about ten years ago on the Historic Downtown Los Angeles Retail Project--now defunct--which was specifically created to foster the development of retail businesses in Downtown LA, which at the time had many vacant properties and underrepresented retail categories.

A more current example is the Vital'Quartier initiative in Paris where the SEMAEST community development corporation has been charged by the city to buy and hold real estate and rent it to desired retailers at sub-market prices. According to Next Paris ("Opération Vital'Quartier: pour le commerce de proximité à Paris!") so far the initiative has supported 372 businesses in more than 500,000 s.f. of space.

Late Friday, I wrote some email on the Main Street list in response to a query about cleaning services in neighborhood commercial districts. The following is a cobbling together of three emails...

When is the last time you went to a dirty, filthy shopping mall? Why do Main Street merchants believe that the expectations of the customers are any different when they are considering shopping in neighborhood or downtown commercial districts?

I am a firm believer in Donald Shoup's (professor at UCLA) statement that public help should go to those who've already begun helping themselves. I know that Main Street merchants aren't the ones dirtying their street, but why are they so cavalier about the impact of unkempt sidewalks upon their ability to attract customers?

I do understand why merchants think that way--they are not the ones dirtying the streets. The disconnect concerns the perceptions that customers and potential customers have about the commercial district and the businesses located there, as well as the condition of the area around the business. People dirty the streets around the merchants' businesses, and if the problems aren't corrected, other people's carelessness costs the merchants money...

3500 block west side, 12th Street NE, Brookland
3500 block west side, 12th Street NE, Brookland. Recognize that I already had picked up a fair amount of trash from this sidewalk on my way to the drug store, before I came back with my camera.

Right now, people in the neighborhood are talking about this particular restaurant and how great the new owner is, etc., but that ignores the condition of the exterior of the building.

Ohio Restaurant, 1300 block H Street NE, Washington, DC
Ohio Restaurant, 1300 block H Street NE, Washington, DC. Photo by Elise Bernard.  For various reasons, this property has been vacant for about 10 years.

Few people are going to patronize the business except as a reflection of "community support" or having no other options. (The issue is to work to get the facade improved... not to discourage the business from improving, but in the current condition this business is unlikely to generate "catalytic" improvement benefits that contribute to the commercial district as a whole.)

One of the theories of commercial district development is called the Reilly Law of Retail Gravitation. The way I describe it is thusly: people choose to shop in the commercial district that has more and better stores that is also (more) convenient to get to.

But the Reilly Law is more than just the number of type of stores.  This is why I talk about "soft aspects" in relation to it, in terms of external and "internal" factors.  External factors concern the commercial district as a whole.  Internal factors the store.  I wrote a more expansive piece on this topic in September 2007 ("Analyzing retail store failure," although the post was originally titled, "Why ask why? Because").

(1) the quality and condition of the buildings;
(2) the cleanliness of the street and sidewalks in the district;
(3) public safety in the commercial district*
(4) transportation convenience (walking, biking, and transit as well as driving; this is captured by the Reilly equations, but is worth calling out, yes this includes parking but doesn't mean providing scads of it as much as it means addressing the issue, including parking wayfinding, also see "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part two, Takoma DC/Takoma Park Maryland" from 2015)*
(5) the condition of the street furniture, treeboxes, roadways and other aspects of the physical environment;

Old Takoma business district map
Old Takoma parking map

(6) the signage and windows of the businesses (this also has external characteristics);
(7) the quality and organization of the store interiors.

* added to the original list

Each influences whether or not people will choose to shop in your commercial district, or if they will merely continue to shop elsewhere because you provide no compelling reason for them to change their minds, attitudes, habits, and comfortability.

Treebox, 3500 block west side, 12th Street NE, Brookland
Treebox, Brookland commercial district.

These factors plus the number and quality of stores and the issue of how to get there are the primary considerations influencing people's decisions about where to shop, eat, or play...

People compare our neighborhood and downtown commercial districts to shopping centers or to the best-in-class traditional commercial districts in your region. So to be equally competitive, we have to do many of the same things the shopping centers do, and primary is providing a clean environment.

In the DC region, the best-in-class independent commercial district is Georgetown. Where do you think people would rather shop?
In Georgetown. Photo (resized), by Dan Malouff.

721-727 H Street NE, Washington, DC
or on H Street NE? (Photo by Elise Bernard)  Note that things have changed some in the 10 years since this post was written.

Beautiful Window and Beautiful Window Dressing...
Dwellings, Brookland Commercial District, 12th Street NE (defunct--it was a nice store but  at the time needed to be located in a commercial district with more foot traffic).

I think Brookland has potential, but it needs more businesses that look like this--bright, cheery, with quality and interesting products, helpful staff, and a building in good condition. Fortunately, it has many business proprietors who do understand the direction that the commercial district needs to move toward.

On Saturday, It occurred to me that the best way that Brookland can make a case for commercial district cleaning services is to do a litter survey at different times of the day, to begin to develop a priority list and a strong case for funding additional services:

-- identify which areas are consistently dirty;
-- which areas need regular cleaning but less often
-- we can do X with such and such amount
-- and X + Y with additional resources

etc. This data can be used with merchants, as well as perhaps creating a kind of "Visual Preference Survey" showing them other commercial districts that their customers might patronize. And how they compare.

This is why I joke about Main Street principles #9 and #10 (there are officially only 8 principles)--knowing what you have (or not) and being honest about it; and making the hard choices you need to make in order to improve.

As long as a particular urban commercial district is deficient compared to nearby shopping alternatives, it won't be able to attract new customers, until it starts providing some decent options. You can put any kind of sugar coating on it that you want, but it's those seven factors that must be addressed.

Until you do so, your commercial district will languish because as long as your commercial district suffers on perception indicators, you will continue to have difficulties filling your vacancies and attracting higher quality and a greater variety of businesses.

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The Polly Sue resale shop in Takoma Park, Maryland always does a great job merchandising their storefront windows

One of the problems of visual merchandising for storefronts is that if people aren't walking, then they can't see the window, because even 25mph is too fast for someone in a car to be able to see it.

The little one block commercial district on the 6200 block of 3rd Street NW has three women's apparel related stores (hats, boutique, consignment shop) and they all do a great job of visual merchandising, but because most people in the immediate neighborhood drive, it goes for naught.

Bene hat shop, 6200 block of 3rd Street NW, Manor Park neighborhood
Bene hat shop, 6200 block of 3rd Street NW

While Takoma Park is car centric, the Old Takoma commercial district is a walking district.  Many patrons may drive, but once they park they walk around.  Because there are restaurants there, more people patronize the district than if it were retail only.  Polly Sue's has been there a long time.
Polly Sue resale shop in Takoma Park, Maryland always does a great job merchandising their storefront windows


A DC government example of "branded communications"

The city's sanitation trucks have added the DC flag to the sides of the truck.  I've argued for years that the city should use sanitation trucks as rolling billboards to communicate environmental messages.

I don't think the flag+the word trash was what I had in mind.  (The city government has a ways to go before one could say it understands "social marketing," "graphic communications," "the design method," and branding.)

2016-09-17 15.01.09

From an old blog entry:

Repositioning municipal solid waste functions

It's probably better as a separate entry, but municipal solid waste operations ought to reposition how they operate.  The "Every Litter Bit Hurts" entry discusses how the City of Johannesburg did this with their "Pikitup" solid waste collection outfit (which is another illustration of the "action planning" approach I tout, in large part to extend the life of their landfills).

Baltimore City garbage truck with anti-litter adBaltimore has a good social marketing program (see the webpage from the agency, Planit, that produced the campaign) with regard to litter, and they use some of their garbage trucks as rolling billboards--I wonder why more cities don't do this?

Action planning

It extends my interpretation of best practice transformational planning, which I had previously discussed in this entry, "Social Marketing the Arlington (and Tower Hamlets and Baltimore) way," into an integrated framework that I am now calling "Action Planning."

Action planning takes the ideas of advocacy planning and marries to it the concept of action research to transform planning more towards being concerned about implementation and making things happen.

In a slide in the presentation (below) entitled "Action Planning as systems integration" I argue that Action Planning is a framework with five inter-connected components:

1. Design Method rather than Rational Planning
2. Social Marketing
3. Integrated Program Delivery System
4. Packaged through Branding & Identity Systems
5. Civic Engagement & Democracy at the foundation = citizen at the center

Another way to think about municipal solid waste programming is in terms of what is called the "product-service system" or platforms

The United Nations Environmental Program has pushed this concept with regard to sustainability and waste reduction.  See for example the report, Product-Service Systems and Sustainability.

The concept of platforms and the product-service system is the foundation for "collaborative sharing" systems like car sharing.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Today is World Tourism Day

Each year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization designates World Tourism Day, usually with a specific theme. This year it's "universal accessibility."

My interests are more narrow, more focused on urban tourism as an element of city economies and the need for visitor information coordination across a metropolitan area, especially linking airports, train stations, inter-city bus stations, etc., into a more seamless network.

In "the old days" DC's business community paid more attention to visitor mobility and information services.

I think about it a lot, since DC's "Destination Marketing Organization" isn't focused on supporting and funding what I call "sub-city district marketing" such as for Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown, three areas of the city with distinct neighborhoods identities and "brands."  (Also see the 2012 entry "(DC) Neighborhoods and commercial districts as brands.")  Instead they focus on marketing the convention center.

The 2014 World Tourism Day theme was "Tourism and Community Development," and this blog entry discusses that in terms of "city break tourism" and heritage areas.

The 2013 theme was on "Tourism and Water," which I didn't discuss, but instead "urban tourism" and the "visitability concept" developed by Destination Melbourne, as well as the need to do a better job delivering tourism information at the Baltimore-Washington region's airports.

Five key factors were identified as having a significant impact on an outstanding visitor experience and journey. We focus on these pillars to help guide businesses in their delivery and development of positive and valuable visitor experiences.

Sense of Welcome

Sense of Welcome is the first impression a visitor gets of a destination, service or product, including your website. Visitability is about ensuring your visitors feel highly valued, and the connection at each stage is warm, friendly, and – where possible – personalised.

Digital Connectivity

Visitors worldwide increasingly rely on modern technology to plan, book, travel to and share their holiday experiences. Ensuring businesses are visible online, and are using up to date technology, is critical to Melbourne’s relevance and ongoing success as a destination. For example, providing free, reliable WiFi is widely expected by today’s traveller.

Integrated Messaging

Integrated messaging, or the integrated provision of visitor services, aims to ensure that visitors receive consistent messaging and information from all aspects of their visit to provide a seamless experience. This factor is focused on three elements in particular; signage and way finding, printed and online products and key messaging.

Public Transport

The role of Visitability is to advocate for public transport systems to keep visitors' needs top of mind when delivering products and services, ensure that networks are easy and safe to navigate and that route and fare information can be easily found.


As well as providing socially responsible visitor services, an aging population and the importance of inclusiveness provides us with a compelling business case for making Victoria’s visitor industry more accessible and inclusive to all travellers.

VISITABILITY CASE STUDIES. Find out why these businesses and organisations are Melbourne's leaders when it comes to the pillars behind Visitability.
Integrated identity and branding systems.  Michigan ("Pure Michigan") and Utah ("Life Elevated") stand out for developing strong branding and extending that identity across tourism and economic development activities at both the local and state scales.

DC has the "We are DC" logo, which is slapped on all the DC Government communications, but it's not a substantive branding mechanism.

NoMA business improvement district visitor information cartA system of visitor centers within a locality.  Arguably, DC doesn't even have a main visitor center, let alone visitor centers across the city.  Note that in DC some business improvement districts do provide some of this kind of service, but it tends to be focused on office workers who generally aren't DC residents.

There is an information desk in the Convention Center and it is staffed by helpful people.  But it only serves the convention segment of the tourism market, which is but one element of the tens of millions of people visiting the city each year.  It's not positioned as the city-wide visitor center.  (Which I think should be at Union Station.)

By contrast to DC, Miami-Dade County has a very active program in supporting the creation and maintenance of welcome centers across the city and county ("Why Miami-Dade has more visitor centers than any city in the U.S.," Miami Herald).  And cities like Montreal and New York City have both main visitor centers as well as welcome centers in high profile neighborhoods such as the Fashion District in Manhattan or Mont Royal-Plateau in Montreal. Every state in the US has a network of visitor centers involving state and local agencies and groups.

From the article:
Due in large part to the Miami area’s cultural diversity, the metro area has more visitor centers than any other in the U.S., said Christine Sarkis, senior editor at travel advice website SmarterTravel. New York City, which also has cultural neighborhoods, only has four. San Francisco has two. Chicago has one.

Kamila E. Pritchett, operations and programing manager for the visitor center in Overtown. Miami Herald photo.

“While one or two central visitor centers is a great idea, it doesn’t necessarily reach visitors where they are, especially in a city like Miami, which isn’t as centralized as a place like New York City,” Sarkis said in an email. “This difference among cities is often just variation in strategy, funding and city layout — but we’re big fans of the neighborhood-based visitor centers approach. It puts useful information (and often great discounts) within reach of more visitors; and each visitor center can set itself up as a place for people who happen to pass by rather than an office that visitors have to make a special trip to reach.”

In Miami-Dade, the model has proved so popular that it has been growing. Through an initiative by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which partners with local organizations to open the centers, five new welcome centers — including the space in Little Havana — have opened in the past two years alone. Others, such as a full-fledged gift shop and visitor center in Florida City, have been around for decades.

All are tucked under an investment from the tourism bureau to promote Miami’s diverse neighborhoods. ... And for some of the new neighborhoods on the visitor center roster, such as Overtown and Coconut Grove Village West, hosting a center means injecting the community with a sense of organization and purpose. For many of these centers, the purpose is a chance to change perceptions and lure travelers for a wholly local experience.

“Our return is definitely more of a qualitative return,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the bureau. “We are engaging more parts of the community. I’m bringing more customers there, which means I’m bringing economic development. That means other merchants in that immediate area are benefiting more and more from the tourism dollars that flow into this community.”
Miami supports the visitor center program with a broad marketing campaign under the tagline "It's so Miami."  And the ad program supports the city and county generally as well as specific districts, such as shown in the image of the ad for the Overton neighborhood, a traditionally African-American community in the city.

Supporting visitor centers across the metropolitan area.  If you talk to people running visitor centers elsewhere in the region, they tell you (depending on where they are located) that as many as 90% of the people who stop in are interested in DC, yet there isn't a systematic program for providing those centers with a set of DC information and brochures.

DestinationDC doesn't have a delivery system to provide guides and brochures to area visitor centers, instead charging them for shipping--of information that promotes DC(!).
Washington DC section of attraction brochures, City of Fairfax Visitor Center
The visitor center in Fairfax City has gone out of their way to develop relationships with DC attractions to put together a set of information marketing DC, which they have organized into one section (pictured above).  Also see the 2015 entry, "Area tourism development."

AAA tourism resources for DC.  c. 1960.

Developing DC's tourism assets at the neighborhood scale.  Many years ago, Kathy Smith of the organization that became CulturalTourism DC (best known for the creation of history trails across the city, and support of annual tour events and an event with embassies) published a book called Capital Assets, which assessed neighborhoods in terms of their readiness to attract visitors from "off the National Mall," as a way to promote cultural heritage tourism and economic development benefits within "Local Washington" as opposed to "the Federal City."

There's a need to revisit and update this study as well as to create a system for implementation which never really happened. Heritage trails aren't enough.

"A Capital Assets Framework for Appraising and Building Capacity for Tourism Development in Aboriginal Protected Area Gateway Communities," Tourism Management, 33: 4 (2012). (while not related to the Kathy Smith work, the framework presented is equally applicable)

National resources.  Destination Marketing Association International, the leading internationally-focused trade group, has an initiative called "Destination Next" focused on helping DMOs stay relevant and future focused in developing, managing, and marketing their places.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

6Ps and cultural planning and the failure to create a network of African American historic sites across the DMV

(6Ps = prior planning prevents p*** poor performance)

Image from "The Smithsonian's NMAAHC Takes Shape on the National Mall," Architect Magazine.

This piece is in response to the Washington Business Journal story, "What the new African-American Museum means for its small peers," and the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture ("Historic bell will ring for 'justice' at opening of new African American History Museum," USA Today).

When I was working with some people in Cambridge, Maryland, in response to a point about better harvesting of African American cultural history as part of cultural heritage tourism, I said that African-American history would be better marketed if the area's tourism departments created a multi-state African-American heritage site network.

The model would be how a multi-state "Civil War Trail" has been created by joint efforts by the states of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In advance of the opening of the new Museum, it's a shame that the area's tourism authorities didn't come together and create a comparable heritage interpretation system, as a way to co-market their museums and sites and complement the national museum.

-- African American Heritage and Ethnography, National Park Service, Park Ethnography Program

The many hundreds if not thousands of sites in such a trail network could include those mentioned in the WBJ article including the Alexandria Black History Museum, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Carter G. Woodson House in Shaw, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial near the National Mall, the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum and the Howard Theatre, in the U Street Historic District, and Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.

... as well as many other sites and facilities throughout the multi-state region including examples of segregated schools, Howard University, the Reginald F. Lewis African American Museum in Baltimore, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Dorchester County, Maryland and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway, as well as the sites on the DC African American Heritage Trail and the Richmond Slave Trail in Virginia.

That way, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture contributes more broadly to heritage interpretation and the number of people visiting these sites, rather than diverting people from those sites to the Museum.

Ad published in the Express, by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, congratulating the NMAAHC on its opening, and calling attention to a work in its collection, a portrait of Marion Anderson by Beauford Delaney.

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Transportation network service interruptions part 3: corridor/commute shed management for Northwest DC and Montgomery County, Maryland

The original piece covered what to do concerning "Beach Drive" and "I-270" both north-south commuter routes connecting Northwest DC and Montgomery County, Maryland.

I started writing a third section in the piece, on the Metrorail Red Line in association with the various SafeTrack maintenance service interruptions--for example, will be closed for 23 days between Fort Totten and NoMA Stations--but I excised the section because I didn't feels as confident about recommendations for the western leg of the Red Line.

But for the most part, as a suite of recommendations, because the commuter shed of Beach Drive, I-270, and the Metrorail Red Line overlap and intersect, we can probably come up with one suite of broad recommendations, where some pertain more to certain elements of the transportation system than others.

Tom Quinn countered with some other recommendations than those in the original post, and pointed out some key omissions.  Additions are italicized.

Note that in the section on I-270 in the previous entry, I neglected to mention the Corridor Cities Transitway project, a proposed enhanced transit service for Upper Montgomery County.  But it wasn't particularly relevant as the proposed service will be an intra-county service, while the entry focused on dealing with "through" traffic between DC and Montgomery and Frederick Counties.

Here is a revised/combined list, relevant to Beach Drive and Red Line Metrorail closures.

1.  The city could institute HOV-2 on 16th Street NW, Connecticut Avenue NW (and maybe Georgia Avenue) as an interim measure.

DC has not yet instituted HOV-2 on any surface street arterials.  In the metropolitan area, perhaps the only jurisdiction that has is Alexandria.  DC could work with the State Highway Administration and Montgomery County for parallel actions on Maryland arterials.

2.  Create temporary bus only lanes on 16th Street, Connecticut Avenue, and Georgia Avenue. (and other streets as determined).  Such lanes are being developed for 16th Street anyway.  This would be facilitated by the addition of rush hour parking restrictions so that a dedicated bus lane could be provided.

3.  Develop more nuanced commuter bus services to DC, Bethesda, and Silver Spring, as needed.  Consider developing these routes more permanently.  For various reasons adding commuter bus may be justifiable regardless of the existence of Metrorail and regional Metrobus service.

Note the gaps in coverage in the Maryland MTA Commuter Bus program as it relates to Bethesda and Silver Spring specifically.
Maryland MTA Commuter Bus Map

4.  Create better cross-jurisdictional connections by extending regional Metrobus lines that currently stop at the DC-Montgomery County border, such as extending the 30s bus line to Bethesda from its end point at Western Avenue.

Consider extending the 70s/S lines from Silver Spring Station up Colesville Avenue, Georgia Avenue, and 16th Street.

Consider creating a through bus service on Connecticut Avenue serving both DC and Montgomery County.

The 30s line buses stop in Friendship Heights (in the older days there used to be more regional service up and down Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue) a couple miles short of Bethesda, a major destination.  By contrast, the "DC bus routes for 16th St. and Georgia Ave. do not stop at Eastern Avenue but are continued to the Silver Spring Transit Center.

I've written about some of this before, especially between Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

Just as Metrorail desires to cut back on night time transit service should be used to facilitate the development of an integrated overnight transit network, the various transportation infrastructure interruptions should be used to tweak, improve, and extend the "regional" Metrobus network where gaps are particularly evident.

Note that Metrorail has limited slack bus capacity which constrains the ability to exercise such service changes and increases in the short term.

5.  Further develop ride-matching/car pooling programs and support, for both individuals and van pool programs like vRide.

6.  Support where useful "microtransit" services like Bridg.  Microtransit services can be an essential addition to suburban bus hubs, as discussed in Part 2 of this series, with the Airport Corridor Transportation Association in suburban Allegheny County, Pennsylvania being a particular good model.

7.  Support long distance bicycle commuting through focused initiatives, especially with e-bikes. The Urban Cycle Loan program of the London Cycling Campaign in a number of London communities is a model for trying out biking.

This needs to be paired with greater general promotion of longer distance bike commuting.  With e-bikes, a 10 mile bike commute is realizable when most people would not consider riding such distances every day without an e-assist.

There is a decent trail network between Northwest DC and Montgomery County, but it has room for improvement.

8. Expand MARC passenger rail service on the Brunswick Line, in both directions throughout the day. The MARC Brunswick Line provides service to stations in Montgomery County, including major destinations in Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Silver Spring.

But the service is designed to move people only from north to south in the morning and south to north in the evening, making "reverse commuting" impossible.

By contrast the MARC Penn Line supports travel in both directions from early in the morning til late at night, while the Camden Line provides a limited set of bi-directional service during morning and evening rush periods.
Gaithersburg MARC Station
MARC Station in Gaithersburg.  Flickr Photo by John G. Harvey.

Note that MARC has limited slack railroad passenger car capacity which constrains the ability to exercise such service changes and increases in the short term.  But organizing Metrorail closures in a manner that can be accommodated by MARC and CSX through changes and expansion in service should be explored.  SEPTA proved it is possible to "borrow" cars from NJ Transit.  That could be an option here.

9.  Market rail passenger service integrated with Metrorail comparable to the London Overground program (past blog entry, "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example").

10.  Add an in-city railroad station on the Brunswick Line at Fort Totten as a way to provide redundancy and more connections to the subway network outside of Union Station--as well as serving the Red Line, as does Union Station, Fort Totten is a transfer station for the Green and Yellow Lines, which would provide alternative routings thereby reducing some demand on Union Station as a transfer point, as well as redundancy to the network if Union Station were not operative for any reason.

11.  Make sure long term that Montgomery County BRT planning considers extension of service across the DC-Maryland border as appropriate.  Bethesda to Friendship Heights, New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten, etc.

12.  MARC service to Bethesda and Northwest DC?.  The MARC Brunswick Line runs on the Metropolitan Branch, and its routing follows the western leg of the Red Line between White Flint and Shady Grove, and the eastern leg of the Red Line towards Silver Spring and between there and Union Station.

An option would be to create a MARC branch that would split after the Metropolitan Branch Station and could run south along I-270 to Bethesda (and ideally eventually, underground through DC to Union Station and could maybe even provide my underground RER line to Northern Virginia, see below).

It might be that present services to Rockville and eventually to White Flint on the MARC line would be enough, using the current configuration, augmented by bi-directional service would be enough, because people can transfer from the railroad to the Red Line from those locations and continue to Bethesda or Downtown DC.

But Bethesda is a major destination in the metropolitan transportation network as is West Northwest DC and this might be a way to provide additional railroad passenger service and build a more robust high capacity transit network.

13.  It's been suggested that the western leg of the Metrorail should be extended to Gaithersburg and Germantown.  See the ACT webpage, "A Transit Vision for the I-270 Corridor."  That would obviate a large part of the need for MARC service to Bethesda and further into Northwest DC.

=====From the blog entry, "New State Rail Planning Initiative in DC"

Potential for an RER/Crossrail type railroad line to Arlington County and westward including a new Downtown rail station for DC.  RER is a suburban commuter railroad system in Greater Paris. Inside the city, the lines are almost completely underground.  Similarly, London's Crossrail will add new rail service to the city via underground tunnels and stations in Central London.

A few years ago, Dan Malouff, a transportation planner and writer/webmaster of the BeyondDC website, suggested in an offhand written comment the need to create another major railroad station in the core of the region (within the Beltway) to ease capacity demands on Union Station.

Alexandria Union Station with Metrorail in the back to the left.  Wikipedia photo by Choster.

Alexandria and Crystal City are the two train stations in Northern Virginia serving closer in destinations, focused on serving South Arlington and Alexandria (Alexandria is also an Amtrak stop).

The need for a station and service as hypothesized would be in North Arlington and points west (Tysons Corner), but there isn't existing railroad right of way on the surface which would facilitate the creation of such service.  (Perhaps the Washington & Old Dominion Trail could be returned to rail service in the modern era, but the railroad shut down long before the rise of Northern Virginia as a business and residential powerhouse)

Using the RER and Crossrail as a model, a way to provide new railroad passenger service in a northwesterly direction would be to create an underground railroad line from DC Union Station northwest into Arlington County, which could be extended further into Fairfax County and beyond.

At the same time, at least two additional stations should be constructed between Union Station and Arlington Station, one in DC and one in Rosslyn.

Exterior lit, with train, Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center stationNew Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).  A train station in the West End of DC and in Arlington could be built on the lower floors/in the sub-basement levels of an otherwise mixed use building, with office and other uses above. Photo by Allan Schaben, Los Angeles Times.

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Too much of a good thing: the need to focus special attention instead of spreading it out and DC's Art all Night

Art all Night/Nuit Blanche is an overnight arts event held in various cities, pioneered in Nantes, France in the mid-1980s.

Usually held in a city's central district, it melds museums, galleries, arts organizations, and events/programming, mostly with free admission.

Over the past few years, DC has adopted the event, which this year is on Saturday September 24th, from 7 pm to 3 am on Sunday September 25th.

That's 8 hours.

But it's being held in 7 different neighborhoods:
  • Congress Heights
  • Dupont Circle
  • H Street
  • North Capitol
  • Shaw
  • Tenleytown
  • Van Ness
IMO, the way DC is doing this is too diffuse and spread out, making it difficult to go to more than one district, and maybe people don't even want to go to more than one.

And all the people who won't go to a particular district because they've gone to another one.

But think of all the planning and other efforts--social, community, and organizational capital--that is required to successfully organize and present a slate of events in each of the participating districts.

Organizing is wasted if it doesn't reach an audience.

Toronto as a counter example.  Saturday October 1st is Nuit Blanche Toronto.  Most of the events are located in two concentrated sections, either within about a 3 square mile area downtown, or along Bloor Street East. The subway system will even offer all-night service on a section of their system to support the event.

-- map

Toronto Nuit Blanche events map, 2016, screen shot

It's too much of a good thing.  For example, years ago I suggested to a group that rather than have a weekly flea and arts and crafts market, do it once/month.  That way it is special and can be marketed that way, rather than it being regular and rote and easy to blow off any one week because "I can always go next week."

Similarly, Takoma Park is selective with how they schedule their Grant Street Market, which operates 3 days/year, in the Spring and Fall, rather than to offer a weekly event that becomes underpowered because of frequency and overexposure.

Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, 2013.

Alternatively, focus and concentrate.  IMO it's way better to make Art all Night a rotating event, maybe most but not every month (e.g., no to December, probably November, and January for sure) monthly, like various "First Friday", "Second Thursday," "Third Saturday," Monthly Arts Walk type activities held in various arts and entertainment districts across the globe.

Ths would allow each neighborhood group to organize its Nuit Blanche event over a longer period of time, but also increases the likelihood of more media attention in advance of the event, as well as getting a much greater audience than they would when competing against six other places for the same audience.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yet another example of failures in metropolitan transportation planning: no transportation demand management requirements for casinos in Maryland

Washington Post photo.

The MGM National Harbor Casino will be opening soon in Prince George's County.

According to the Washington Post ("MGM National Harbor could more than double traffic in southern Prince George's"):
Vehicle traffic to National Harbor could more than double when MGM National Harbor opens later this year, according to projections, exacerbating a growing congestion problem in southern Prince George’s County where new development has added thousands of commuters in recent years.

If projections hold true and up to 20,000 daily visitors frequent the gaming resort, there could be backups in the local and regional road network with heavier volumes on Interstate 95 around the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Maryland-Virginia border. ...

As many as 90,000 vehicles enter National Harbor during an average week, according to the developer, and that number could rise to 180,000 when the $1.4 billion gaming resort opens in December, Digby said. Traffic during the weeks following the opening is likely to be especially heavy, officials say. ...

Besides daily commuters, National Harbor, which has become a top entertainment hub, already attracts thousands of visitors every week, and special events there have created miles-long backups. Residents and community leaders fear that the additional casino traffic could overwhelm the road system.
The article also reports that some "bare minimum" road improvements to the tune of $10 million, will be delivered as the project opens.

The Massachusetts counter-example

Traffic study requirements in Springfield.  By comparison, the casino projects in Massachusetts had to submit transportation studies as part of their initial bid, and the winners at each site are required to develop and execute a wide ranging transportation demand management plan.

-- Traffic Impact and Access Study MGM Springfield, City of Springfield

Monies for transit improvements in addition to road improvements in Boston.  For the casino in Everett on Boston Harbor and across the water from Boston, the Wynn Resorts firm has to invest a minimum of $36 million in improvements to Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue, which will be the major entryway across the Mystic River to the casino ("The lowdown on Sullivan Square," Commonwealth Magazine).

This was required because it is expected that 60% of traffic to and from the casino will go through Sullivan Square. Interestingly, the plan also has a penalty per car when the plan's traffic levels are exceeded. From the article:
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is requiring the Las Vegas developer to spend $10.9 million on projects addressing the immediate traffic impact of the casino and to set aside $25 million for long-term improvements. The company also has to pay a fee of $20,000 for every car coming to the casino via Sullivan Square that exceeds agreed-upon levels, with a maximum penalty of $2 million a year.
Boston Globe coverage discusses the commitments to transit improvements.  According to "State transportation officials drop objections to Wynn casino", the casino developers have:
agreed to contribute nearly $7.5 million over 15 years to Orange Line subsidies, to increase the frequency of the trains.
As well as ("Wynn Resorts offer to bolster Orange Line"):
... shuttle buses to pick people up at the Malden Center and Wellington stations and rely on existing MBTA buses to connect with the Sullivan Square station.

There’s also the possibility of a pedestrian bridge over the Mystic [River] linked to the new Assembly Square T stop: Wynn has agreed to spend up to $250,000 to help study the bridge’s feasibility.

The footbridge could be built over the Amelia Earhart dam, alongside a railroad bridge that crosses the Mystic, or as a standalone structure.

Wynn is also proposing to help pay for changes to improve the flow of MBTA buses at the Sullivan Square T stop, but it’s the plan to help pay for operating costs that makes Wynn’s plan so unusual.

Wynn’s operating subsidies would be aimed at mitigating the clog caused by extra passengers on Orange Line trains once the casino opens, and at providing more general late-night service during the week.
Most developers will only do what is required of them by law and regulation.  It's interesting that MGM will do a transportation demand management plan when it is required, and won't when it isn't. It's pretty common for developers to not commit to best practice as a matter of course, not building best practice into their SOP/standard operating project when they build projects, because the SOP is merely to respond to what's required, and only in extraordinary circumstances might they go beyond the bare minimum of what is required.

States should require TDM in their casino licensing RFP response and award process.  The lack of transportation demand management requirements for the National Harbor development has been an ongoing problem ("Transportation demand management requirements for large developments and the MGM National Harbor Casino as an example of why this is absolutely necessary;" "Eight years and one casino later, a bus line from Alexandria to National Harbor," Post). For example, it means that transit service to and from the site is inadequate, and the site developer has little interest in making extranormal investments for transit.

MPOs ought to be on the lookout for casinos.  Although it is incredible that this most basic requirement isn't in the Prince George's County planning and building regulation framework.  Metropolitan transportation planning organizations, in the DC area the Transportation Policy Board, and in Greater Baltimore the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, should have recommended to the state and local jurisdictions that TDM requirements be included in the casino licensing and development process.

Note on the Baltimore City Horseshoe Casino. While I don't think that extranormal transportation planning was required for this casino, it is located near I-95 and a light rail stop, and because it is in the city, it's served by regular MTA bus lines.  But the information on transportation options for the casino on its website is nonexistent.

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Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making

Yesterday's Post mentions the IndieGoGo crowdfunding initiative to help fund a locally-produced documentary on a Washington-area music legend, "Late D.C. guitar legend Danny Gatton is the subject of an upcoming documentary."

It made me realize this is yet another area to consider under the "media, communications, and broadcasting" element that I have been thinking about in terms of yet another element that should be included in a more wide-ranging framework for culture master planning processes (e.g., see "Should community culture plans include elements on higher education?").

I have been thinking about the "media" element because in today's entertainment-dominated media world, for profit television and radio do very little "public affairs programming."  It's been left to public television and radio, such as WAMU-FM, the area NPR affiliate, which like many NPR and PBS stations, does a lot of local news and other programming.

By contrast to our NPR affiliate, DC and Northern Virginia are somewhat underserved by "public television" because we have two stations, plus the Maryland Public Television network is a third, and none of the stations do much in the way of truly local programming.

WETA doesn't do as much as they could, because they are nationally-focused, but they have done good programs on recent history, such as "Washington in the 60's" (70s; 80s) on the social history of the area by decade, and shown various documentaries on Marion Barry and others.

WHUT doesn't because of their HBCU related mission.  I mentioned this in a recent blog post on civic knowledge and voting in a section on "newspapers and media."

MPT does programs related to Maryland, such as the "State Circle" state politics program, "Maryland Outdoors and Farming," and "Chesapeake Collectibles," a locally-oriented version of "Antiques Roadshow."

WETA also presents short programs on area neighborhoods, but the programs vary considerably in their quality (at least IMO). I didn't mention the latest one, even though it had some bright spots, like with Eastern Market and Archibald's Walk alley, because overall I wasn't impressed.

There is also the Megahertz public television stations in Northern Virginia, but they are pretty grassroots, and more oriented to rebroadcast of foreign television news and entertainment programming and are nationally distributed.

Communities ought to consider developing funding programs to support the production of documentaries on local topics.  Otherwise, stories aren't cataloged and preserved, and knowledge is lost.

Aerial of the mall maybe dating to the 1980s.

Tonight, PBS SoCal is premiering a documentary ("HENRY T. SEGERSTROM: IMAGINING THE FUTURE" )on Henry Segerstrom.  His family farmed in Orange County, and with the rise of suburban development ("sprawl") he shifted the lands to real estate development, including South Coast Plaza shopping center, which is supposed to be the most successful retail shopping malls in the nation, with annual sales approaching $2 billion(!).

Mr. Segerstrom, in part because of his interest, but also because of how it helped Orange County and his projects, was a major funder of arts programs in Orange County, including the creation of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (pictured right), a multi-building facility in Costa Mesa.

How many people in Orange County know that story?
A photo taken of the groundbreaking ceremony for South Coast Plaza.

Besides programs on the area's music history, and fortunately some have already been produced ("Salad Days | A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90);" "Punk the Capital"), the DC area could benefit from focused creation of objective documentaries on a wide variety of topics, including the history of local land use development, featuring people like Til Hazel and the Lerner family, the Smith family in Crystal City, the Carrs and other members of the Growth Machine, like Bud Doggett (a parking magnate) active in the DC real estate market.  Douglas Jemal.  Meanwhile, like Henry Segerstrom, the earlier generation has already died off.

Having a general funding stream for such programs makes it easier to produce them.  While there are various national funding programs for documentary film development, I don't think there are many such funds for locally-focused documentaries.  They are needed.

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Transportation network interruptions as an opportunity: Part 2

I was rushed writing yesterday's piece ("Transportation infrastructure interruptions as a missed opportunity for improving transportation demand management programming"), because I had a bunch of meetings, and so the piece as published wasn't as complete as I'd have liked.

I intended to augment the piece and republish it with today's date, but instead there are two follow up pieces.  This one is more about some general planning points I failed to include.  Tom Quinn's comments on the previous piece provides additional and specific solutions for Montgomery County-DC transportation network interruptions, which will be addressed in the third piece on specifics.

Corridor management as a strategy.  The biggest omission was the failure to talk in general terms about the concept of "corridor management and planning," which is a big emphasis of the Federal Highway Administration.  There's a lot of good work, published reports, etc., on the concept.

From the FHWA report, Integrated Corridor Management: Implementation Guide and Lessons Learned:
Integrated Corridor Management is the operational coordination of multiple transportation networks and cross network connections comprising a corridor and the institutional coordination of those agencies and entities responsible for corridor mobility. It will transform the manner in which transportation networks are managed within a corridor, enabling agencies to see the overall impact of multimodal transportation network management decisions and to optimize the movement of people and goods within the corridor instead of just on individual networks.
The crisis generated by the rolling Metrorail closures is an opportunity for jurisdictions to apply corridor management approaches to more sections of the metropolitan area.

Virginia DOT (VDOT) has already adopted this approach to freeways as can be seen with the addition of HOT lanes as a capacity expansion and roadway management strategy for I-95/I-395 ("Virginia to extend I-95/395 HOT lanes north to D.C. line," Washington Post) and new plans and programs for I-66 ("Virginia launches its latest HOT lanes project "on I-66," Post), which they have branded the Transform 66 program with separate initiatives for "Outside the Beltway" and "Inside the Beltway."

The previous entry mentioned Virginia's desire to extend HOT lanes to Maryland in part to deal with future needed upgrades to the American Legion Memorial Bridge.  We can criticize this proposal, but the integrated approach it represents is worthy of consideration.

I can't claim to be an expert on roadway planning in Maryland, and the State has announced an initiative for I-270, but I think it's fair to say that there isn't the same level of an integrated approach on the Maryland side.  I-270 and I-495 as freeways need to be managed as an integrated system, but the I-270 and I-495 corridors need to be managed as part of the the broader transportation network, and corridor management planning needs to be based on transportation demand management principles and the incorporation of transit as part of the toolbox of solutions.

Roadway expansion often comes at the expense of investments in sustainable mobility.  Like the tension in Northern Virginia between support of automobility versus sustainable mobility exemplified by Arlington's original opposition to HOT lanes ("Officials to consider road widening, HOT lanes through Arlington," Post) because rightly, such infrastructure promotes more single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips, which are not prioritized in the County's Transportation Plan, this kind of transportation system management strategy has its downsides.

But since automobility isn't going away anytime soon, ignoring these issues doesn't help anyone either.

Ideally, a corridor management strategy focuses not just on expansion of capacity and management of the movement of motor vehicle traffic, it also focuses on transportation demand management and the complementary deployment of transit and other sustainable mobility initiatives as a capacity management program.

That's what needs to happen with I-270.
I-270, Wikipedia photo.

Inter-county traffic versus intra-county mobility priorities shape the agenda for County BRT.  I think part of the issue with I-270 in terms of transit, at least for Montgomery County, is that because the road is a limited access freeway and under control of the State Highway Administration, it's not on their radar in terms of management because it doesn't have the same kind of impact on the county as do traffic-engorged arterials.

Note that as part of the FHWA development of corridor management planning approaches, I-270 was a test case, with a published report.
Rockville Pike, looking north, which Montgomery planners want to transform into a network of urban villages.
Rockville Pike is one of the corridors where Montgomery County proposes a robust BRT service. Washington Post photo by Bill O'Leary.

While the arterials that make up the bulk of a Maryland county's transportation network are mostly under state control also, because they are surface roads abutted by commercial and residential buildings, they have a much different impact on quality of life and the mobility system within the county, and that's why the County's BRT program is focused on improving transit and reducing automobile trips on these roads and not the freeways.

At the same time, it's not likely that in ordinary circumstances the SHA will be at the forefront of developing sustainable mobility approaches to I-270 improvements, so Montgomery County DOT needs to step in, and Frederick County needs to be in the mix as well.

Freeway-based bus service vs. arterial BRT.  In the US, it's generally understood that freeway-focused bus rapid transit services haven't worked out very well in terms of ridership.
El Monte busway, Los Angeles County, the nation's first busway (but opened to HOV use three years later and to HOT use in 2013) opened in 1973. LA MTA photo.

In large part that's because freeway interchanges typically aren't population centers and make bad locations for gathering and concentrating bus riders.

Other places such as Curitiba, Brazil, Ottawa, Ontario, and various cities in Australia have created dedicated busway networks comparable to freeways, and those systems operate quite successfully.

But as nodes in a regional transit network, complemented by local service, perhaps in some areas, freeway-based bus transit services may deserve reconsideration.

Imagine the impact of freeway-based bus services if there were separated busways within freeway corridors, but in a manner separate from HOV and without fear of encroachment from motor vehicle traffic.

This slide from a TRB conference presentation "Integrating BRT & Freeway Operations: Experience & Lessons from Canada, New Zealand & Australia," showing the rendering for a separated busway in Brisbane, Australia illustrates the point.
Rendering, Brisbane, separated busway as part of freeway corridor.

The problem is that "highway agencies" tend to focus on freeways as infrastructure for cars and trucks, not transit, and don't conceive of freeways as one element, foundational to be sure, of a multi-modal transportation system providing service at multiple scales, and that the freeway element should be capable of and designed to serve transit, not just cars and trucks.

Minneapolis is working to put BRT service on I-35, calling the service the Orange Line.  It already has an operating station at the 46th Street Bridge.
46th Street Bridge BRT Station, Minneapolis

46th Street Bridge BRT station, I-35, Minneapolis
First photo, Metro Transit, Minneapolis.  Second photo, "Metro Transit needs business community supporters to step up," Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In terms of traditional long distance commuter bus service, it's worth considering whether or not we've captured all the opportunities for such service within freeway sheds.  That being said, Maryland has an extensive commuter bus program, as do farther out counties in Northern Virginia.  Commuter Connections produces maps of Park and Ride locations too.

My sense is because of MARC and Metrorail service in the I-270 corridor, at least in its Frederick and Montgomery County sections, there might be fewer MTA Commuter Bus lines than there is the potential.  Each commuter bus run is equal to 50 separate car trips.

Maybe there is more demand than we think, especially for west county destinations like Bethesda which aren't served now from the west.  Similarly, Silver Spring isn't a destination for western commuter bus routes, although it is a destination for routes emanating from Howard County.

Adding microtransit to the service mix for "last mile" service.  Primary transit services, like subway, railroad and commuter bus, are great for long distance travel and high capacity but in few instances take people to their final destination.

To facilitate efficient delivery of the passenger to their final destination, commuter bus stations on a freeway need to be complemented with local transit services.  Traditionally this is done with regular bus line service.

But I don't think that's enough.  Microtransit options including shared taxi services such as in "exurban" Montreal or vans and small buses such as done by Bridg or Chariot would be a good addition to the service mix, adding more support for what I call tertiary or intra-district transit needs.

These types of "flexible transit services" have been around for awhile (Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services, Transit Cooperative Research Program, 2004), but now rebranded "microtransit" since they've been enhanced with more flexible routing and scheduling capabilities enabled by IT and telecommunications (Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding, Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center' New Mobility Discussion Paper, Metrolinx, Toronto).

Suburban intra-district transit service.  The
Airport Corridor Transportation Association in the Robinson District of Allegheny County, outside Pittsburgh provides one example of how to do intra-district transit in suburban settings.

They are in the region's "airport district" but a lot of workers come from the City.

ACTA has created demand-response transit services, service hubs, and other programs to make it easier for people to get to and from work without driving.

(These are the kinds of districts where I think microtransit services should be targeted, although the services tend to be focused on denser urban markets already served by transit.)

Besides the RideACT microtransit service, they have also created a transit hub at a major shopping district, at a transit stop with both regional and local bus service ("Transit Super Stop planned for Robinson," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

From the article:
The Airport Corridor Transportation Association will hold a grand opening Tuesday of what it is calling the region's first Super Stop, a hub that will serve bus passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists, at the corridor's busiest bus stop in front of IKEA in Robinson.

The stop is the transfer point for RideACTA, the free on-demand service that enables riders of Port Authority's 28X Airport Flyer to connect to workplaces within a 1.5-mile radius. Two other authority bus routes also serve the stop. Lynn Manion, ACTA executive director, estimated that 400 riders use the stop on a typical day.

The stop will have two shelters with seating and standing room, and the back walls will have a plastic film with images of IKEA furnishings so that when riders sit on the benches, it will appear as though they are in a living room. The stop will have bike racks, picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles and a bike work station where cyclists can make simple repairs.
ACTA has also published some good work on suburban district transit planning:

-- Rethinking the Suburban Bus Stop, ACTA
-- Moving Around Within A Suburban Commercial Area, ACTA (the concepts pertain to intra-district mobility more generally)

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