Bad News Dept: US city cuts climate change programs

Here is one more of myriad Bad News examples of public officials getting it very very wrong. In this case Montgomery County council staff has recommended cutting the county’s CarShare program in half. (Montgomery County is in state of Maryland, situated just north of Washington, D.C.)

Will they ever learn? No, not unless we all help them. Which of course is why we are here. (Comments as always warmly welcome.)

Montgomery weighs cuts for climate change programs
By: Washington DC Examiner Staff Writer, 04/30/09 *

Montgomery County officials want to scale back some of the county’s ambitious efforts to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to help bridge a budget gap of more than $550 million.

The county set a goal last year of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and has instituted a number of programs to help meet that goal. But with the county deep in the red, officials now propose to switch from biodiesel fuel to low-sulfur diesel, reduce the number of cars available for a county carpool pilot program and cut funds to buy equipment for telecommuting workers.

Council staff recommended cutting almost $100,000 that County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed to spend on laptops, BlackBerry devices and network hardware so that 25 county employees can telecommute as part of a program designed to cut commutes and the greenhouse gases that come with them.

Senior legislative analyst Keith Levchenko wrote in a memo to the council that he was “skeptical” of the value of spending so much money on the program, because most employees already have a computer and phone at home and might only telecommute a few times a week.

“It is not clear that this is the best investment of dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Levchenko wrote.

County council staff has also recommended cutting the county’s “CarShare” program in half. The pilot program started in January, with the county making 28 cars available for county employees to share at a cost to the county of $1,100 per car a month.

Through April 14 the program was only used seven times, for a total of 27.25 hours, according to county council staff. Reducing the number of cars available for the program from 28 to 14 would save the county $184,000 a year, staff said.

The county’s motor pool said it has stopped using biodiesel fuel in some of its vechicles to save money, and because there have been quality issues with the fuel, which is a mix of diesel and discarded vegetable oil. County officials said the low-sulfur fuel they now use instead is on average 8 cents a gallon cheaper, and the switch will save the county $250,000 next fiscal year.

* * * *

It’s not easy being green

Environmental programs being recommended for cuts:

• Biodiesel fuel: County vehicles would return to low-sulfur diesel.

• Telecommuting: Council staff recommends cutting $100,000 for equipment that would allow 25 employees to telecommute.

• CarShare program: Staff recommends cutting this new program in half.
– – –

* Click here for World Streets Fair Use policy

Brainfood: the City of Strasbourg looks at public bikes

Should a city, already a major cycling capital, with more than one hundred thousand bikes out in its streets and a ten percent modal share for bike transport, even bother to look at the possibility of a Pubic Bicycle System? Unnecessary, redundant, counter-productive? Useful, synergistic? World Streets traveled to Strasbourg in the east of France to look around and find out how they feel about it.

To get a feel for their thinking on this I just spent four fascinating days observing and working on the New Mobility Agenda in Strasbourg, an especially attractive city of some 250,000 located in the east of France and nestled right on the border of Germany. In addition to a series of highly informative and challenging interviews and conversations with a fair spectrum of local transportation experts, policymakers and operators, I had a great opportunity to find my way around the city and its surrounding region through an intense combination of walking, cycling, bus, boat, their excellent tramway system, and even taxis on a couple occasions when I got stuck. Watching and talking to people just about nonstop as I made my way around the central area, but also reaching out into the extended metropolitan area were an additional half-million people live in a combination of small clusters and a local version of suburban sprawl.

In transportation terms, Strasbourg is far from being just one more city. It has created a highly innovative alternative transportation system of many layers which can legitimately be considered a model for others. And that was precisely why I was there, to look and to learn. I intend to write up my findings in a series of articles to appear here looking at key points in their strategy and competence, but today is the first step I would like to share with you a few things I learned while I was there about public bicycles from a somewhat unusual perspective.

Strasbourg enjoys a cycling situation that most cities can only dream about. It is the biking capital of France. Which makes it especially interesting to consider what happens when a city, that already has something like 140,000 bikes, more than 500 km of protected cycling provision that there carefully built up over the years, and an impressive 10% modal share for cycling, starts to think about what might be the place of a Public Bicycle System in their city.

The conversations I had with a fair cross-section of people, agencies and groups revealed that this is indeed something at which they are starting to look quite seriously. And while it is not at the absolute top of the list of their 2009 transportation priorities, nonetheless will be giving it attention in the months immediately ahead.

And there is, in my view at least, plenty of room for public bikes even in a city like Strasbourg.

What I was able to observe is that there is a basic cycling pattern in the city, as in many others, in which citizens use their own bikes in very specific ways. There is of course a fair amount of leisure cycling, but most of the usage is result of people hopping on their bike at a specific time, for specific purpose, to go to a specific place. It is by and large “organized transportation”, albeit self-organized. Another characteristic of these trips is that they generally tend to take place along very specific, usually very well-known routes. Again, organized transportation.

But when we step back and consider how public bicycles are used in those several handfuls of cities in which they have become a real transportation alternatives for daily use, we observe a quite different pattern. The trips tend to be less routine, more incidental, last-minute, and even optional. Closer to the way in which many people use their cars in fact, as opposed to public transportation: a two wheeled, low-cost, high-efficiency, zero carbon version of DRT, demand responsive transport. Hard to beat once you think about it like that.

And this to my mind is where we start to see that even in a city as well equipped for cycle as Strasbourg, there are opportunities for public bikes as well. I look forward to being able to share with you their findings and results in the months ahead, because what they learn is going to be valuable for us all. In the meantime I invite your comments here, which I will be pleased to share on a selective basis with the Strasbourg team. But I guess the only way in which you can fully grasp what is going on and what they should be doing along these lines will be for you to spend a few days seeing for yourself.

Stay tuned.

The editor

PS. Here is one thing I learned about Strasbourg that is I think quite striking in the context of World Streets and our shared interests here. Perhaps you did not know this. The name has as you can see two main parts: the first half, “stras” means “street “in the local language. The second half, the “bourg”, “city”. “City of streets”. Nice.

How do you get people riding bikes for daily transportation?

– Henry Cutler. Eyes on the Street in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

There is more to it than just wheels and concrete. It is a systemic challenge, and here for example is one small part.

Continue reading

European Parliament action plan on urban mobility

Polis welcomes adoption by European Parliament of report on action plan on urban mobility

Polis, the European network of cities and regions supporting innovation in local transport, welcomes the vote of the European Parliament report on an action plan on urban mobility.

According to Councillor Francesc Narvaez from Barcelona, the current president of Polis, this report is “an important milestone towards the implementation of a coherent and comprehensive European policy on urban mobility”.

Councillor Narvaez added that under the impulsion of MEP Gilles Savary (PES), and thanks to the cooperation of all parties in the Transport Committee, the European Parliament has delivered a text of high quality. The report adopted last Thursday 23rd of April indicates the next steps for the consolidation of this policy on urban mobility.

The first step should be the adoption by the European Commission of the Action Plan on urban mobility itself. Polis members hope that this will be an opportunity for the European Commission to confirm its commitment to the CIVITAS programme, as stated in the report of the European Parliament, and that new projects will be funded during the second half of FP7.

Councillor Narvaez also expresses his hope that as suggested by the European Parliament, the current policy trend “will pave the way towards the creation of a new European financial instrument for urban mobility in the future financial perspectives”.

The improvement of urban mobility is critical for the achievement of several objectives of the European Union, for instance on climate change and on the competitiveness of our economies, and can contribute significantly the European objectives of economic recovery.

Polis members call for the achievement of the new urban mobility culture and for this purpose also welcome the emphasis of the Parliament’s report on public transport and soft modes.

Polis member Stéphane Coppey, Président of Tisséo (Toulouse) insists that he hopes that the upcoming action plan which is expected to follow the vote of the European Parliament “will support public transport, soft modes such as walking and cycling, and help to improve intermodality”.

European Parlliament page on reporthttp://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A6-2009-0199&language=EN

Report text: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A6-2009-0199+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

More on Polis: http://www.polis-online.org

Print: Reducing Carbon Emissions from Surface Passenger Transport?

What Policies are Effective at Reducing Carbon Emissions from Surface Passenger Transport?

This report by the UK Energy Research Centre examines the merits of a range of different policies that offer the prospect of CO2 emissions reduction from road transport. The report has the following objectives:

• Review the evidence for CO2 emission reduction potential and cost-effectiveness across policies that target car technology/choice and those that target wider travel choices
• Identify the key issues and problems associated with each policy type
• Identify whether and where policies are complementary or synergistic
• Identify evidence gaps and highlight future research needs
• Draw conclusions relevant to current UK policy

The report does not undertake new modelling or empirical research; rather it provides a thorough review of the current state of knowledge on the subject, guided by experts and in consultation with a range of stakeholders.

The project team undertook a systematic search for every report and paper related to the assessment question. Experts and stakeholders were invited to comment and contribute through an expert group. A team of expert consultants was commissioned to categorise, review and distil the evidence. This tightly specified search revealed over 500 reports and papers on the subject, each of which was categorised and assessed for relevance.

The evidence on each policy is reviewed against the following criteria:

• Potential emissions saving; in absolute and percent terms where the evidence permits.
• Key issues and problems; including reasons for effectiveness, evidence gaps, obstacles to policy implementation, interactions with other policies and potential rebound effects.
• Costs; where possible we provide evidence of costs in £/tonne carbon terms. Where this is not available in the literature we provide a discussion of what evidence does exist.

This report represents one output from this process of review, evaluation and synthesis.

The other main output is a set of detailed evidence tables which are published on the UKERC website alongside this report.

Exuctive Summary – http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/Downloads/PDF/09/0904TransportES.pdf

Full report: http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/Downloads/PDF/T/TPA_transport_final.pdf

Kind thanks to World Streets Sentinel in the UK Richard Peace for the heads-up.

Envisioning the Future: 21 Ways to InflateTraffic Forecasts

This is the first article in a series to which we here at World Streets give great importance: the many different ways we have of envisioning the future, hopefully a very different future. These many ways span a variety of techniques: guessing, reckoning, projecting, forecasting, scenarios, estimating, predicting, modeling, and variously describing that different future using various media: physical models, drawings, simulations, films, interactive gaming, and even imagining, wishing, hoping, storytelling, and at times even lying. The idea in all cases being somehow to “show”, to render credible, even desirable (or the opposite) that different future. However if past performance is any guide we have not always been particularly good at this. To get the ball rolling in this series let’s have a look at a new book by Robert Bain Toll Road Traffic & Revenue Forecasts which is scheduled for publication next month, and in which he looks at one part of this, for which the track record is, you will see, a bit spotty.

Big Numbers Win Prizes

21 Ways to Inflate Toll Road Traffic & Revenue Forecasts

A number of high profile investor-financed toll roads around the world are currently failing to meet expectations. Robert Bain suggests that this has less to do with the present economic climate and more to do with a market readiness to be seduced by hopelessly optimistic traffic and revenue projections; lenders relying too heavily on elaborate transaction structuring for protection. The time is right for a paradigm shift, he maintains, with a renewed emphasis placed on understanding the demand fundamentals and less willingness to accept forecasts at face value – especially those that resemble statements of advocacy rather than unbiased predictions.

The evaluation criteria used to award many of today’s toll road concessions focus on maximising income – or minimising expenditure – for promoters. These criteria establish the rules of the game. Bidders are incentivised to develop strategies which best respond to the criteria – framing their bids in a positive light and maximising their chance of winning the competition. Under such circumstances, traffic and revenue forecasts are bound to attract considerable attention.

Bidding strategy success and the ability to raise significant quantities of debt often rely on strong projections of demand; even beyond credibility in situations where the short-term benefits of winning overshadow any possible longer-term costs. This is true in cases where profits are front-loaded or where, for practical or reputational reasons, procuring agencies may be open to subsequent contractual renegotiation. In short, the procurement process in general – and bid evaluation criteria specifically – reward high traffic and revenue forecasts, not accurate ones. This places asymmetric pressure on traffic advisers in terms of the outputs from their forecasting models. In this context, the following article summarises 21 ways in which toll road traffic and revenue projections can be inflated – tricks for investors to watch out for.

1. Flatter the Asset

The representation of a toll road in a traffic model may be flattered in various ways. An incomplete treatment of the delays that drivers experience at toll collection stations or upon leaving the toll road (and re-joining a congested toll-free network) makes the toll road more attractive to potential users. So does exaggerating the capacity per lane. Traffic modellers commonly employ assumptions about how the capacity of a toll facility will increase in future years despite its geometry and configuration remaining unchanged! This is supposed to reflect that fact that driver behaviour adapts over time such that the ‘effective’ capacity of a road will increase. Naturally, this improves the attractiveness of the asset. Evidence should be provided by traffic advisers to support such assumptions if they are to be incorporated in base case traffic models.

An alternative approach is to impair the competitive landscape. The competitive position of a toll road will appear to be strong in circumstances where the alternative facilities offer particularly poor levels of service to users. This can be achieved by degrading a competing route’s capacity through the use of punitive speed/flow relationships or speed limits, or by over-emphasising delays (such as those experienced at signalised intersections). It can also be achieved by over-simplifying the competitive context – ignoring important rat-runs in an urban network or by neglecting the potential for competition from other roads or transportation modes in the future.

2. Cherry-Pick your Planning Variables

The future-year socio-demographic and planning variables that are used by traffic models are commonly presented as ranges. Consistent selection of values from the upper ends of these ranges will place upward pressure on the traffic numbers. This is one of the reasons why all of a model’s input assumptions should be tabulated on a single sheet and justified – with supporting evidence being provided by the traffic adviser.

A variation on this theme is the use of planning variables designed to achieve particular political objectives. A recent report reviewed talked of “planning targets”. These seemingly independent and unbiased variables – such as projections of population – may be the basis upon which the state allocates funds to regional government. There are incentives for the producers of these planning forecasts to inflate their own projections which, in turn, can be used to pump-up the traffic numbers. Understanding the source(s) of these ‘independent’ socio-demographic and planning variables can help to mitigate this risk. Presenting alternative planning forecasts from different public and private sector sources also provides some comfort to investors.

3. Judiciously ‘Identify’ the Historical Trend

With a time series of data – such as traffic or toll revenue – it is often possible to isolate different trends by carefully selecting the period to be analysed. Figure 1 shows the time series of revenue miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From opening year (1941) to 2006 the compound annual growth rate was 5%. From 1952 to 2006 the rate was only 3%. However, in terms of supporting high traffic forecasts, from 1943 to 2006 the rate was a very useful 7%. These different growth rates are all derived from the same historical data set – just different parts of it.

4. Selectively Apply or Report Growth Factors

Traffic and revenue study reports commonly provide area-wide statistics in support of their forecasts. A report might state that, across the study area from 2010 to 2030, average population growth of 1.2% per annum is predicted. This appears reasonable – possibly even conservative. But what about the distribution of this growth? If the model is specified such that most of the population growth takes place in zones adjacent to or that feed the toll road, it would be no surprise to find high traffic growth rates resulting on the asset itself – usually considerably higher than 1.2% per annum!

5. The Future Will Look Exactly Like the Past

Some toll road forecasts are made against a backdrop of strong historical traffic growth trends. Why should such trends continue unabated for the next 25-30 years or beyond? And what about historical relationships – such as the elasticity between GDP growth and traffic growth? Why should this relationship remain constant throughout the forecasting horizon? These are for the traffic forecaster to justify – particularly if senior debt accretes or debt amortisation schedules are back-ended. In the absence of solid justification, base case forecasts should be adjusted accordingly to reflect the increasing uncertainty associated with long-range projections and sensitivity tests should be used to evaluate the impact of key relationships which could change in the future.

6. The Future Will Look Nothing Like the Past

A recent traffic and revenue study reviewed by the author demonstrated clearly that historical traffic growth across the study area had neither been strong nor consistent. Along some key corridors traffic volumes had been declining. Yet the future, according to the traffic forecasts, was one of strong, sustained growth. No explanation was provided for this dramatic disconnect between the past and the future. At best this hints of model-blindness. The traffic adviser has been engrossed in the mechanics of model building to the extent that they become blind to the credibility of the model outputs. Other symptoms of possible model blindness recently noted include low growth scenarios that resulted in traffic and revenue projections above the base case and severe downside sensitivity tests that had little impact on project revenues. Just because the model reports certain results does not mean that they have to be assumed to be credible.

7. Using Seasonality to Your Advantage.

Traffic surveys should be conducted on neutral days and during neutral months of the year. These are ones which are typical in terms of trip-making patterns and traffic conditions. This is not always possible, but failure to take proper account of factors such as seasonal variations can lead to erroneous modelling results.

Figure 2 shows the impact of seasonality on roads in Cornwall – a popular tourist destination in the south west of England – and compares traffic patterns there with the UK average.

Whereas the national trend demonstrates some seasonality, it is mild in comparison with that recorded in Cornwall. Traffic in Cornwall in August is 35% higher than the annual average. Figure 2 shows just how atypical certain months of the year can be. Days of the week can demonstrate similar variability. Compare market-day traffic with that from an average weekday. Without appropriate adjustment, surveys conducted on atypically busy days or during atypically busy months will overstate the amount of trip-making in an area and will lead to higher projections of traffic.

8. Remove Inconvenient Truths

This is best illustrated by example. Take a journey time survey involving five separate runs along a toll-free alternative to a proposed toll road. The run times are shown in Table 1.

The run time average is 12 minutes (top line). However, Run 4 was quicker than the others by some margin. If this is treated as an outlier – and is discarded – the average run time becomes 13.5 minutes (bottom line). This is useful as it degrades the attractiveness of the alternative facility and boosts the competitive standing of the toll road.

The difference between 12 and 13.5 minutes may appear insignificant, however some demand estimation techniques are very sensitive to small changes in the characteristics of competing alternatives. These small changes can have a disproportionate impact on the percentage of traffic projected to use the toll road. Traffic advisers should report how stable their estimates of market capture are to small changes in the competitive landscape – but seldom do.

9. Design Surveys to Return the Required Results

Transport researchers acknowledge that it is possible to achieve specific results from some survey types through judicious design and administration. Similarly, it is possible to bias the results through poor design and administration. This is particularly true in the case of Stated Preference surveys where respondents’ choices between alternative travel options are influenced by factors such as how those options are portrayed, the range of attribute levels presented and the absence of any opt-out choice (forcing an outcome on respondents).

This is not to suggest that Stated Preference techniques are inherently flawed. Good practitioners are alert to these issues and should be able to minimise such influences. However investors should look for some comfort in this regard – ensuring the use of experienced firms in this field – alert to the fact that it remains possible to affect survey output through the judicious contexting, selection and definition of the questions being asked to interviewees.

10. The Magic of Expansion/Annualisation Factors

Traffic models focus on critical times such as weekday AM peak periods – in part, for convenience. Expansion factors are then used to gross-up the results to annual estimates (toll revenue per year, for example). The smaller the modelled time period, the more emphasis is placed on expansion factors – and small changes to the factors can have a significant impact on the final revenue calculations.

Say that a traffic model suggests that, during a weekday AM peak hour, 1,600 vehicles use a toll road paying an average of $1.50. Two alternative sets of expansion factors are presented in Table 2 (Scenario A and B).

The expansion factors under Scenario A result in an annual revenue estimate of $4.8m. Using the alternative – yet still plausible – factors under Scenario B, the revenue is $6.6m (40% higher). This significant difference has nothing to do with the traffic model. It results from the use of different expansion factors. Traffic advisers should explain their choice of values used and should conduct and report the results from sensitivity tests if revenue projections appear to be particularly factor-dependent. Unlike the simple example presented here, the expansion process behind some forecasts can be complex. It is important that investors understand this process particularly well.

11. Assume that Consumers Act Rationally

It is easy to underestimate the reluctance of some (sometimes many) drivers to paying tolls. Even in circumstances where the time savings appear attractive, it is possible to observe drivers sitting in heavily congested traffic conditions just to avoid paying a relatively modest charge. This may appear to defy logic – and be contrary to what a traffic models suggests – but it can be observed nevertheless. For this reason, investors should pay particular attention to any revealed preference data (from comparable facilities) presented in support of toll road projections – or the absence thereof.

12. Assume that Consumers Make the Same Choice Every Time

An urban toll bridge in San Juan, Puerto Rico illustrates this issue well. It caters mainly for commuter traffic heading for the capital’s downtown business district. The tariff is $1.50 (cars) and the traffic model over-estimated demand by 46% in the first year of operations. Subsequent analysis of travel patterns on the bridge revealed that commuters were not using the bridge in each direction, nor were they using it every day. Commuters were using the bridge selectively. They were more inclined to pay to hurry home than they were to pay to hurry to work – and this effect became more pronounced towards the end of the week.

The cost proposition in the traffic model was a one-off payment of $1.50 (for x minutes of time saving). However if commuters used the bridge twice a day, five days a week, the cost proposition was $15/week. Although not captured by the model, this was the cost that drivers faced and responded to. Hence their selective use of the asset. Models which fail to capture such behaviour will produce inflated projections of traffic and revenue.

13. Hypothetical Bias: A Helping Hand?

Stated Preference (SP) surveys are widely used in transport studies because they are one of the few techniques that can measure the market and non-market values associated with consumer products such as toll roads. The technique remains somewhat controversial. Investors cannot be certain of the accuracy of the SP value estimates since SP surveys are hypothetical in both the payment for and the provision of the service in question. Most research suggests that people overestimate the amount they would pay for a service when they do not have to back-up that choice with a real commitment (hard cash). This is called hypothetical bias and is well documented in both laboratory and field settings. Researchers suggest that mean hypothetical values could be 2.5 to 3 times greater than actual cash payments would be.

There are some limited contradictory findings which suggests that SP underestimates the amount that people would be willing to pay in real life. Notwithstanding, investors should be aware that there are professional concerns about SP and hypothetical bias – particularly when interviewees remain uncertain about their responses. The majority view is that, when present, hypothetical bias is likely to overstate (inflate) the consumer response. This is another reason why revealed preference data – hard evidence – should be provided alongside SP survey results whenever possible.

14. Grow Your Value of Travel Time Savings

The value of travel time savings (VTTS) is a central concept in toll road demand studies. It is a large topic in itself. Here we concentrate on just three aspects. The first is the concept of growth in the VTTS as it is common for traffic consultants to use growth assumptions about the VTTS in toll road forecasting models. The underlying theory suggests that disposable income will grow – in real terms – in the future and hence the value attributed to time savings should also grow in the future. Forecasts of GDP are often used as a proxy for the growth in disposable income, although the growth factor applied to VTTS may be higher (eg. 1.2x disposable income growth).

Increasing the value of time savings boosts toll road usage in future years. There may be arguments in support of such an approach – and these should be articulated – however the impact of this growth is commonly material, and should be isolated and understood by funders who may feel that, in some situations, it has the scent of equity upside.

There is a second issue regarding time savings that is pertinent to mention here. It concerns small time savings. The conventional approach is to say that the driver who values a time saving of one hour at $20 automatically values a saving of three minutes at $1. This is known as the constant value approach and it has attracted a vocal body of critical opinion. Researchers suggest that small amounts of saved time are inherently less useful than large amounts – particularly if you cannot do anything with the time saved – and that small time savings may go unnoticed (hence unvalued) by travellers. Assumptions about small time savings have a particular relevance in the context of short tolled sections of road, bridges or tunnels. The recent revenue underperformance of some urban toll tunnels in Australia, for example, may, in part, be attributed to overestimating the price consumers are willing to pay to save relatively small amounts of travel time.

There is also the issue of VTTS in congested traffic conditions. Some traffic advisers maintain that the VTTS varies according to congestion levels and values over 1.5x the base value have been noted. Traffic advisers draw parallels with the value of waiting time in public transport models (which is typically higher than the value of travel time – reflecting the perception of time passing slowly while waiting). The impact is for more trips in the model to assign via the tolled facility and the effect – helpfully – compounds in the future as congestion intensifies across the network.

15. Overstating the Toll Road Premium

Some traffic models incorporate the use of a toll road premium or bonus to capture the inherent attractiveness of toll roads. This suggests that if a toll road and its toll-free competitor are matched, taking account of the toll paid and the time saved, instead of traffic assigning on a 50:50 basis, proportionately more traffic will use the toll road. The premium is supposed to encapsulate those characteristics of the road not fully estimated in the model (softer attributes that are more difficult to quantify like ride quality or perceived safety). The impact of this premium is replicated in models that, alternatively, penalise links that compete with the toll road.

The danger here lies in overestimating the premium – overstating the inherent attractiveness of the asset. This inflates revenues. Any toll road premium employed by traffic consultants should be made explicit and should be justified – to the extent of re-running the model in its absence to determine the contribution to revenues made by assumptions about the premium alone.

16. Overstating the Yield

Yield refers to average revenue/vehicle. As most toll roads are dominated by private car use, the yield generally lies close to the car tariff. Because of the proportionately higher tariffs, the greater the contribution of trucks and buses to the traffic mix, the higher will be the yield. Overestimating the number of trucks using a toll road will disproportionately inflate aggregate revenues. This is a particular concern as truck usage of toll roads is notoriously challenging to predict and has often been overestimated.

Yield calculations can also be overstated if unrealistic assumptions are made about the take-up of discount programmes. Similarly, unrealistic estimates of toll avoidance and/or exemptions will overstate yield. Investors need to understand not only what revenues are forecasted, but the composition of these revenues and any (and all) assumptions underpinning them.

17. Reliance on Speculative Development

Future land use plans are a key traffic modelling input – however there may be questions about how committed some development proposals actually are. The reliance that can be placed on land use plans is a challenging issue in economies experiencing rapid growth – especially under less-regulated planning regimes – however it is also an issue in many developed countries.

Purely speculative developments should be omitted from base case traffic forecasts. Similarly, developments expected to result from the building of new tolled facilities should be treated cautiously in terms of their contribution to traffic. Speculative and generated developments in toll road demand models simply serve to inflate the traffic and revenue projections.

18. The Joy of Induced Demand

Building new highway infrastructure generates traffic however the relationship is far from clear or consistent. Often toll road traffic forecasters make an assumption about generated (induced) traffic and add this to their forecasts. An upwards adjustment of 10% is not uncommon – however it is seldom supported with evidence.

Investors should identify if such an adjustment has been made to the traffic figures they are reviewing and then consider the evidence. In some circumstances the contribution from induced traffic has been removed from base case forecasts reflecting the fact that considerable uncertainty surrounds this revenue contribution. As before, induced traffic helpfully serves to inflate project revenues.

19. Introduce Your Own Toll Discount

There is some evidence to suggest that, in terms of toll road usage, drivers respond differently to different toll road payment media – particularly non-cash options. By using electronic toll collection (ETC) technologies, drivers do not have to pay the toll at the time/point of use. The charge is made to their credit card account and they are billed, in arrears, on a monthly basis. It is suggested that this encourages toll road usage above and beyond what would be expected from a cash-only operation. To capture this effect, traffic modellers talk about a ‘perceived ETC discount’ – the discount reflecting users’ misperceptions of the price paid due to electronic tolling and the payment deferral. This is entirely separate from (and in addition to) any real discount enjoyed by ETC scheme patrons.

In a recent study, the perceived ETC discount was set at 15% and tariffs were accordingly reduced to 0.85x their face value. Reducing the price encourages toll road use and inflates the traffic figures. Investors should look for evidence in support of perceived ETC discounts in traffic studies if they are to accept the use of artificially reduced tolls in base case projections.

20. Assume Quick Ramp-Up

Ramp-up is the period upon the opening of a tolled facility when drivers experiment with new routes. It is a period often characterised by strong growth (from a low base) and it ends when trip-making patterns stabilise and evolve into more mature trends. It is notoriously difficult to predict in terms of its depth and duration. Traffic consultants often assume a ramp-up profile based on instinct or weak evidence with questionable transferability.

The use of instant or short ramp-up assumptions runs the danger of inflating early-year revenue forecasts. Ramp-up assumptions should be challenged to understand their underpinning rationale. It may be sensible to run sensitivity tests using alternative assumptions to ensure that the financing remains robust during the early years of project operations and throughout the remaining term of the concession.

21. Ignore Physical (or Operational) Capacity Constraints

It may seem incredible that some forecasts have actually exceeded the physical capacity of their road (in terms of volume/lane/hour) but it has been noted – particularly when these forecasts result, not directly from traffic models, but from traffic model figures extrapolated into the future. Typically no mention is made of widening or the costs (and disruption) involved in capacity expansion. Turning from volume/hour to volume/day, another phenomenon observed has been the fact that some forecasts of daily traffic (AADT) would required roads to operate at peak-hour congestion levels for over 12 (sometimes over 18) hours/day. These highly uncharacteristic flow profiles should certainly raise investor questions.

The recent development of managed lanes with dynamic pricing – particularly in the US – introduces concerns about how forecasts may exceed a highway’s operational capacity. On some managed lanes, the tariff is adjusted based on the volume of traffic using the facility. As usage goes up, the toll goes up – with a view to constraining demand such that a certain level of service can be offered to drivers. Traffic forecasts recently reviewed from one project, however, were so high that they would have degraded the level of service to below that required contractually of the concessionaire. High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and HOV/toll (HOT) lanes – and other initiatives that fall under the ‘managed lane’ concept – are relatively new and present particular methodological challenges to traffic modellers. They are commonly crudely or incompletely represented within the model – although this fact is seldom highlighted. Investors reviewing these more innovative tolling applications need to ensure that, in terms of modelling, traffic advisers explain clearly what has been achieved, how and – importantly – the limits of these achievements.

Commentary

The list of 21 ways in which toll road traffic and revenue forecasts can be inflated is not exhaustive. It is purely indicative. There are others – some of which are highly technical and would require forensic work to uncover (such as the careful positioning of centroid connectors). Other techniques are more general and rely upon clouding detail – such as obscuring daily traffic volumes (which people understand) by reporting vehicle kilometres/year (which no one can). Or obscuring the relationship between traffic and revenue by simply reporting project revenues. This way, the recipient of the forecast has no idea how much traffic is supposed to be paying how much toll. The results cannot be sense-checked or compared with the findings from other studies.

Good traffic consultants know how to fine-tune their models. That is what model calibration is all about. In an environment where prizes are commonly awarded to the bidding team with the highest numbers, fine-tuning may be open to abuse. The purpose of the list is not to alarm investors. It simply demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to inflate the numbers for clients who want inflated numbers, and highlights some key issues to watch out for.

To knowingly inflate traffic and revenue projections is an act of deception – but it is not alone in that regard. Investors reviewing toll road studies should remain alert to two other potential acts of deceit. The first concerns sensitivity tests. Suspicions should arise when sensitivity tests have limited adverse impact on project traffic or revenues. Under certain circumstances this is possible, but it is not the norm. Good explanations should be provided in support of such results.

The second act of deceit concerns the use of pseudo-science to infer a precision of foresight that is simply not supported by empirical evidence. Favoured ploys include the presentation of narrow confidence intervals around base case forecasts and the abuse of exceedance probabilities. Traffic advisers sometimes talk in terms of P95 values – inferring that there is only a 5% probability of that particular number (traffic volume or revenue) not being achieved. However these exceedance probabilities are unlike those associated with scientifically-measurable natural phenomena such as the measurement of wind to determine energy yield predictions for wind farm financings. At best, they result from consultants attempting to re-cast their traffic model in a simple probabilistic framework. At worst, they are simply guesstimates.

Proper analysis of any traffic or toll revenue projections presented as probabilities requires a sound understanding of the probabilistic model construction, the probabilistic variables and their distributions and the correlations among the probabilistic variables. No comfort should ever be taken from P95 figures alone. If there really was as little uncertainty in the forecasts as some sensitivity tests, confidence intervals and P95s have suggested, traffic advisers could remove the legal disclaimers from their reports and could cancel their professional indemnity insurance. These trends have not been observed to date.

Robert Bain runs his own consultancy providing technical support services to investors, insurers and infrastructure funds. This article is an abridged extract from his forthcoming book ‘Toll Road Traffic & Revenue Forecasts: An Interpreter’s Guide’. Further details are available from Rob at info@robbain.com.

Honk! Making Streets Safer for Seniors

Transportation Alternatives‘ Safe Routes for Seniors campaign started in 2003 to encourage senior citizens to walk more by improving their pedestrian environment. Funded by the New York State Department of Health’s Healthy Heart program, this was the first program of its kind to address the needs of elderly pedestrians.

Click here for Elizabeth Press’s StreetFilms video.

In 2008, the City of New York launched its own Safe Streets for Seniors initiative based on TAs Safe Routes for Seniors. Focusing on 25 areas with high senior pedestrian fatalities, this program is paving new ground. Yet, some including seniors not in these zones are asking, is it enough? Stats released by Transportation Alternatives show that:

* People aged 65 years and older make up 12% of the population, yet they comprised 39% of New York City’s pedestrian fatalities between 2002 and 2006.

* The fatality rate of senior pedestrians is 40 times greater than that of child pedestrians in Manhattan.

This video is an overview of what Transportation Alternatives, New York State Department of Health, NYC DOT, community groups, and elected officials are doing to promote safe streets for seniors.

Some references:

Toolkit: International TDM practices under review

From the Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP): Training document on Transportation Demand Management.


Cities across the globe need innovative and effective solutions to solve their transportation problems in the short, medium and long term. Increased economic growth, coupled with a resulting increase in motorisation in recent years, has created greater congestion than has ever been seen in the world. Solutions to these problems are possible through improvement of conditions of public transport and conditions for pedestrians and bicycle users, and also in the implementation of measures which promote a rational use of the automobile.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) aims to maximize the efficiency of the urban transport system using a wide range of measures, including Congestion Pricing, Public Transport Improvement, Promoting Non-motorised Transport, Fuel Taxation and Parking Management. This document presents an overview on international practices, approaches and supports the design of a TDM strategy.

To download click here. (Unregistered visitors can register (at no cost) and then proceed to download.)

This report covers the following key issues:

1. Challenging traffic growth in developing countries
2. Developing a comprehensive TDM strategy
3. Improving mobility options
4. Economic measures
5. Smart growth and land use policies

Authored by Andrea Broaddus, Todd Litman and Gopinath Menon, this GTZ training document advocates that a three-pronged approach, utilizing 1) Improve Mobility Options, 2) Economic Measures, and 3) Smart Growth and Land Use Management is the most effective way to manage demand and create a resilient and efficient transport system. The document contains 118 fully illustrated pages, 27 tables, 51 boxes and 92 figures.

About SUTP: The Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) is a global partnership which aims to help developing world cities achieve their sustainable transport goals, through the dissemination of information about international experience and targeted work with particular cities. SUTP developed the publication “Sustainable Transport: A Sourcebook for Policy-makers in developing cities” consisting of more than 26 modules. The sourcebook addresses the key areas of a sustainable transport policy framework for a developing city. It is also complemented by a series of training documents and other material. More on www.sutp.org

Honk: The Story of Sprawl

New Video Series Tells the Story of Sprawl

– Brad Aaron in Streetsblog on April 21, 2009

As livable streets advocates work to make headway in breaking the cycle of American auto dependence, the folks at Planetizen have put together a video narrative that explains how we got here. “The Story of Sprawl,” a double DVD set produced by Managing Editor Tim Halbur, is a compilation of historical films dating from 1939 to 1965, documenting the confluence of factors that fostered the quintessential land use motif of the 20th century: far-flung, low-density, driving-intensive residential and commercial development. The discs include commentary from planning notables including Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, John Norquist, Neal Peirce, James Howard Kunstler and Robert Cervero. Continue reading

Brainfood: Transforming Times Square

Gordon Price, a Canadian urban planner and politician (and Eyes on the Street in Vancouver Canada), has taken his camera and toolkit to Times Square to observe what is going on in New York to convert what is now overwhelmingly car space into a vibrant urban space for people.
Click here to view Price Tags 107 – NYC1: Times Square.

He writes from Vancouver this morning:

Astonishing things are happening in New York City, most especially at ‘the centre of the world’ – Times Square. Inspired political leadership is ‘copenhagenizing’ some of most car-congested streets in one of the most pedestrian-crowded places on the continent. In this issue of Price Tags, see what they’ve already done, and what to expect in the coming months.

More on Gordon Price and his work:

Gordon Price is the Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. (www.sfu.ca/city). In 2002, he finished his sixth term as a City Councillor in Vancouver, BC. He has written several extensive essays on Vancouver and transportation issues (The Deceptive City, Local Politician’s Guide to Urban Transportation (www.vtpi.org/localpol.htm). He also publishes an electronic magazine on urban issues, with a focus on Vancouver, called “Price Tags” (www.pricetags.ca). In 2009, he was appointed by the Mayor of Vancouver as a member of the “Greenest City Action Team.” He sits on the Boards of the Sightline Institute and the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, and the executive committees of local chapters of the Urban Land Institute and Lambda Alpha.

World Streets Sentinels – Eyes on the Street (A wide-open world-wide peer observatory)

 Sentinel n. – “A person or animal that watches over, guards a place or group from unwanted surprises.”

We live in a world and work in a sector in which not quite reliable information and rather too easy thinking often abound. Thus while the main objective of World Streets is to provide reliable access to what is going on at the leading edge of thinking, policy, and practice in the field of sustainable transportation worldwide, we also at the same time have an obligation not to lure our readers into thinking too simply about these issues and falling for what they may at first glance think to be “solutions” to their problems and aspirations. The challenge to sustainable transportation reform is already tough enough, without being encumbered by half-baked ideas and wishful thinking. We can do better than that.

*  8 March 2011. This page to be updated in the weeks ahead. In the meantime . . .

Continue reading

Op-Ed: Jeff Kenworthy on Cars, cities and paradigm change: – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

Cars and cities: Time for a paradigm change

The current economic meltdown in the USA was triggered by the toxic loans now held by banks all over the country. These toxic loans are focussed in the highly car-dependent parts of US cities and were partly triggered by the extraordinary prices for oil experienced in mid-2008, which made such locations simply unsustainable from every perspective, especially the financial one. It highlighted the extreme fragility of the US urban development pattern characterised by urban sprawl and excessive dependence on cars.

More deeply it began to show that the current long wave business cycle or 5th Kondratiev wave has reached an end. The end of the four such previous long wave business cycles dating back to the 18th century was characterised by an economic recession and depression. At the moment we see some of the death throes of this current cycle in the deep crises within the global auto-manufacturing industries and a general crisis of confidence in the whole financial world that underpins the current long wave business cycle. The temptation is to support the old “paradigm” in the form of bailouts, to extend the life of such a cycle. But did the age of steam and railroads survive the age of electricity and the internal combustion engine? It did not and no one today would conclude that it would have been sensible to try to forestall the new era.

A more effective response and better use of such precious funds is to embrace the new long wave business cycle or new dawn that is waiting to break over a world desperately in need of social, economic and environmental restoration. What is this new long wave business cycle waiting in the wings? It is the age of sustainability. Cities are inevitably a focal point for the dawn of this age and there are new imperatives that need to be embraced, which offer the basis for a whole new economy. Not only do they promise a new economic boom, as happens with each new business cycle, but they hold within themselves the seeds of a whole new healthier way of living, which can also restore the local, regional and global commons.

There are ten critical dimensions in urban development and transportation that can be embraced to bring forward this new era of sustainability.

(1) The city has a compact, mixed-use urban form that uses land efficiently and protects the natural environment, biodiversity and food producing areas.

(2) The natural environment permeates the city’s spaces and embraces the city, while the city and its hinterland provide a major proportion of its food needs.

(3) Freeway and road infrastructure are de-emphasised in favour of transit, walking and cycling infrastructure, with a special emphasis on rail. Car and motorcycle use are minimised.

(4) There is extensive use of environmental technologies for water, energy and waste management – the city’s life support systems become closed loop systems.

(5) The central city and sub-centres within the city are human centres that emphasise non-auto access and circulation and absorb a high proportion of employment and residential growth.

(6) The city has a high quality public realm throughout that expresses a
public culture, community, equity and good governance. The public
realm includes the entire transit system and all the environments
associated with it.

(7) The physical structure and urban design of the city, especially its public environments are highly legible, permeable, robust, varied, rich, visually appropriate and personalised for human needs.

(8) The economic performance of the city and employment creation are maximised through innovation, creativity and the uniqueness of the local environment, culture and history, as well as the high environmental and social quality of the city’s public environments.

(9) Planning for the future of the city is a visionary ‘debate and decide’ process, not a ‘predict and provide’, computer-driven process that just produces more and more traffic growth.

(10) All decision-making is sustainability-based integrating social, economic, environmental and cultural considerations, as well as compact, transit-oriented urban form principles. Such decision-making processes are democratic, inclusive, empowering and engendering of hope.

Capitalising on the business opportunities inherent in the above urban agenda will put nations in a much more competitive economic position that rides the crest of the new economic wave that must inevitably come.

Jeff Kenworthy, J.Kenworthy@curtin.edu.au
CUSP Institute (Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See www.messages.newmobility.org for latest version of this report of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda.

 

Transport Realities in South Africa: Slow, but maybe a start

By Gail Jennings, editor: MOBILITY

Transport planning and practice in South Africa has done little to enable people to become full citizens of our country, and access the economic and social opportunities available to us since 1994. Poor households spend between 20 and 30% of their household incomes on trying to get from A to B.

Mobility is central to our human rights, and access to economic opportunities, health care and education, friends and family, goods and services. Our mobility is still impaired by spatial segregation, under-investment in infrastructure and public transport, and the assumption that we are all current or future car-drivers. Many resources remain inaccessible to the people who need them most. In addition, rapid urbanisation and a growth in the size of the middle-class has seen more private cars on the roads, with declining air quality and increased congestion.

Yet in 2008, the transport budget was five times higher than that of 2003… What happened?

The Soccer

The long-overdue process of fixing South Africa’s public – and non-motorised – transport needed some sort of impetus, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup has provided just that. Increased mobility choices and improved motorised and non-motorised transport (NMT) infrastructure will be lasting legacy of the football tournament.

Spatial planning

South African cities – and Cape Town in particular – are recognising that transport is a ‘land-use issue’, not a ‘roads issue’ – and are talking about establishing integrated grid-based movement systems, densification, and consolidating and intensifing development on the accessibility grid.

‘We need movement systems that provide convenient and affordable access to a city’s resources and amenities for everyone,’ says Catherine Stone, Catherine Stone, Director: Spatial Planning & Urban Design, City of Cape Town.

‘A movement system must be structured to create a public transport orientated, equitable pattern of access so that all people can reach a broadly similar range of opportunities and facilities in the city.’

Non-motorised transport (NMT)

Many of the poor, and unemployed, cannot afford public transport, let alone private cars – and bicycles offer flexible, door-to-door low-cost mobility.

However, a lack of bicycle-friendly infrastructure, startlingly aggressive driver attitudes, cultural taboos, and an appalling road-safety record (as many people are killed on the roads each year as are victims of violent crime – about 18 000) deter many commuter cyclists.

Nevertheless, faced with the undisputable evidence that bicycles are a highly efficient, desirable and affordable mode of transport – and the prospect of football fans from countries that regard bicycle transport as the norm – policy makers are changing gear.

In 2008 the national government issued an NMT policy, and some provincial and local governments have done the same.

‘We want to promote modal choice’, says Ngwako Makaepea, National Department of Transport, Director: Transport Policy. ‘Bicycles are a realistic mode of transport, and they are vital for our anti-poverty strategies.’

Already, national government-sponsored initiative Shova Kalula (‘pedal easy’) provides bicycles to rural and peri-urban learners, farm workers and health workers, and cities such as Cape Town, Tshwane and George are implementing city-wide connected bicycle lanes. NMT activists in Cape Town are having some success as ‘watchdogs’ over the City’s transport planning department, conducting informal NMT audits on roads and infrastructure plans and advising on improvements.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

South Africa has looked to other developing countries for lower-cost, high-quality public transport, and has seen that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is replicable here.

BRT vehicles run along dedicated lanes, and offer commuters a safe, convenient and reliable service with a regular, all day and evening time table.

Construction of BRT stations are well underway in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and although the systems are about far more than 2010, their first phases need to be operational by then.

‘Rea Vaya [Joburg’s BRT] is not so much a transport intervention as a quality of life intervention, says Cllr Rehana Moosajee, City of Joburg Mayoral Committee member for Transport.

There will be place for current bus operators in the system, although mini-bus taxis will be excluded from the trunk routes.

The BRT, however, hailed as the solution to many of our transport ills, is seen as the bringer of financial ruin by many in the mini-bus taxi industry. As providers of flexible, affordable, customer-driven transport for decades – when government failed to do so – many in the taxi industry regard public transport as ‘their’ territory. They’ve threatened – and implemented – strikes, violence, and ‘war’ if the BRT goes ahead.

Currently, the minibus-taxi industry moves about two-thirds of public transport passengers in South Africa, says Herrie Schalekamp, Centre for Transport Studies, UCT. ‘Consequently, interventions in the public transport market require substantial interaction with this industry if they are to succeed.’

Cape Town and Joburg have been in continuous negotiations with the taxi industry, and various memoranda of agreements have been signed…

The mini-bus taxi industry


‘However, considering this sector’s continuous opposition to change, a poor relationship between public authorities and minibus-taxi organisations, and evidence from international cases of similar interventions, the successful implementation of BRT and concurrent corporatisation of the minibus-taxi industry is not a foregone conclusion,’ notes Schalekamp ruefully.

Rail gets ready

Early 2009 saw the launch of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA), which combines the assets and employees of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation and Metrorail, with long-distance rail and intercity bus companies (which previously fell under Transnet). PRASA will invest R25 billion over the next three years to improve its service offering and restore of rail as vital component, focusing on passengers and reducing the over-reliance on road-based transport. Also on the horizon is greater integration between buses, taxis and rail, with a single ticket system across modes and municipalities/provinces.

Already Metrorail has offered hugely successful luxury express services, from Khayelitsha and Gordon’s Bay to Cape Town, and Tshwane and Soweto to Johannesburg. While good, safe and reliable service, and clean facilities might be the norm to our readers abroad, this is a relatively new ‘concept’ to South African public transport users. The service cuts travel time by about 30%!

‘Never in the history of Soweto have commuters been treated with such dignity and respect, says Sophie Mathabane, a private clinic nurse to takes the Express in Johannesburg. For many women, safety is the deciding factor in making this modal choice.

And then there’s Gautrain…

Gautrain Rapid Rail Link – with a maximum speed of 160 km per hour – will take a mere 15 minutes to travel between OR Tambo [Johannesburg] International Airport and Sandton Station…

“Gautrain is set to change the commuting habits of residents as well as their lifestyle choices such as where to live, work and play,’ says Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency. ‘It’s a catalyst for a new form of urban development where existing suburbs are becoming people-friendly high-density, economic cores and inner cities are being rejuvenated.’

The Link will inckude ten stations on an 80km route, between 5-8km apart. Trains will run every 12 minutes during peak hour. Passengers can transfer easily to other modes, such as BRT, taxis and trains.

The excitement we South Africans feel about Gautrain, the various BRT routes, and bicycle lanes, is bittersweet. We long to no longer feature as one a country with the world’s worst road crash statistics. We want safe, reliable, affordable, accessible, sustainable, shared transport choices – and why shouldn’t we?

As Schalekamp puts it, transformation of public transport in this country may yet be driven not by the public sector, or policy, or minibus-taxi operators, but by public demand for improved services.

On major city landmarks and numerous websites, the countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup kick-off ticks by the second… But for many South Africans, that countdown represents the arrival of one of basic human rights: access.

Gail Jennings is editor of MOBILITY in Capetown, South Africa.

Honk! Don Carleone wants into Carsharing

Paris, France. Friday, April 17, 2009

The phone rattled, and this time it was a voice that I knew all too well. “It’s me,” the voice rasped, “Don Carleone” (as if I could forget that voice!).

“How’s things going, Rico?” (Rico??)

And without waiting for an answer, he said, “Never mind. There’s a limo outside waiting to bring you here — so just leave off whatever it is you are doing and get over here. I gotta talk to you about some of those carsharing guys you told me about last time.”

I had almost forgotten that the Don had shown so much interest in carsharing, but I knew that he was into diversification these days. Ever since Bernie dropped out he has been looking around for big numbers.

I’ll never forget the first time I mentioned the word “carsharing” to him and saw that he was frowning. It was more than a year ago.

He asked me what it meant, and I tried to explain. (I told him this: Carsharing is what you get when people stop using their own cars and instead use a shared vehicle whenever they need one. Think of it as a very handy short-term rent-a-car that is right around the corner and costs a lot less than owning your own car. It works best if you live in a city that has decent public transport. There are more than a thousand cities around the world today where you can join a carshare club. (See http://www.carshare.newmobility.org/ for details.)

Then I remember I jabbered a lot about carsharing being such a great idea because it represents a terrific first step toward “decoupling” the desire to use a car and the actual ownership of the car — an important change toward a more sustainable transportation system. And on and on.

Now, the Don is not exactly what you would call “into sustainability,” but he did stop me to ask if any of these guys, the thousand (or whatever it was) carshare operations in cities around the world, made any money at what they did. I said that some did and some didn’t, but that the operations are starting to become more profitable as they gain more experience.

The Don seemed to like what he was hearing, which was not surprising because he always had liked international opportunities. After a long pause, he said, “Tell me something, Rico. How many cars do you figure there are in the world? And how much do you think those stiffs pay to keep them on the road?”

Of course, I don’t like giving the Don answers on anything like that without being able to check it out first by computer, but I took the risk and gave him some ballpark figures. I told him there were something like 800 million motor vehicles on the world’s roads, that the annual growth rate of new cars ran anywhere from five to ten percent a year, and that it cost something like $7,000 of a bit more per year to cover all the costs for owning one, at least in the wealthier parts of the world.

The Don is fast. Without losing a minute, he said, “Hey Rico! Have you ever multiplied those numbers together? ‘Cause if you do, you are looking at a $5 trillion-plus price tag. That’s a lot of zeros And the whole pile is growing at 5/10 percent a year? With that kind of potential I am not even going to miss Bernie.”

“But I need to know another thing, too. What part of the world market do you think those carshare guys could eventually corner if they got their act together?”

I had never thought about that before. Let’s see. Studies suggest that carsharing becomes a serious economic option for city dwellers who drive less than 5/6,000 miles in one year. Other statistics suggest that, with wide regional variations, this also happens to be the average figure for annual car travel in many places. Putting these two together would suggest that perhaps in good time as much as one-half of the entire world of car owner/drivers might be candidates for carsharing.

I could tell I had the Don’s attention and I could see him juggling those numbers and smiling broadly at the same time. A happy man.

He wheezed, “Rico, you’ve given me a pretty good idea here. I’m even starting to like you. The way I see it, if you think of carsharing as a whole new business, it could account for up to half of all the money that people spend in the world car market — not only for the cars themselves but also for the insurance, parking (and we like parking), fuel, and all the rest. Let’s round off. Call it $3 trillion a year. That’s a number, ain’t it? And I, the Don, want a piece of that market. A big piece!”

That was the last time I had seen the Don, until the phone rang last night. And as I was getting into his waiting stretch limo with the armor plating and one-way bullet-proof glass (the motor was running — as I said, the Don is not really into sustainability), I tossed my laptop into the car, just in case he wanted more background on this carsharing stuff. With the Don, it pays to get it right the first time.

When I arrived at the great house and entered between the snarling Dobermans and the usual large gentlemen with the sunglasses, I found the Don waiting for me with a glass of wine. That was nice, but I still was wondering what he had in mind.

“Rico,” he said, “My boys tell me that you are doing a thing called World Streets or something like that. Is that right?”

What could I say but, “Right, Don.”

“And I hear that you are asking all those carsharing guys to get together at some point this summer, maybe one of your lousy Car Free Days, and organize open houses all over the world to invite the public in, and in general cooperate with the big guys in their cities to make sure that the Day works out for you. I got that right?”

I replied, “Right again, Don.”

Then he said, “So here’s my question, little guy: How many of these guys have already signed on to do this? My boys tell me that things are going a little slowly over there.”

“Well Don,” I whined, “this sort of thing takes time. We have just recently asked them to get involved, and they have a lot of other things to do to keep their businesses running. But the first groups have already come in, and I am sure that we will have a number of others join in by the time we have actually set the date.”

I have rarely seen the Don so mad. “A number of others?” he roared. “Rico, I want all of them. This is a trillion dollar business and we need to get moving on it. Tell them that the Don wants them in. Or else.”

He was really angry, and I think that if you are running a carshare operation anywhere in the world, you would do well to listen to the Don. He is famous for his long arms and short temper. And you can’t say that I didn’t warn you.

* Note on the above photo of the Don. You probably know that he does not like to have his picture taken for public exposure, but he let me snap this one on the grounds that I would keep working with him on this. You know how it is.

Reminder: Road Diets (Plenty of fat left)

There are hundreds of things, known by thousands of names, that you can do with a little careful preparation and technical competence to move your city and its streets in a few months toward greater sustainability, without having to wait for good news and great gobs of taxpayer money from the capital. And they are not all brand new innovations just out of someone’s high priced laboratory (or still stuck inside).

One of these is an approach known in many places as “road diets”, also referred to variously and with variations as lane diets, street narrowing, road space reallocation, and eventually merging into broader approaches including complete streets, traffic calming, livable streets, etc.

A road diet is commonly defined as: a studied reduction of a roadway’s width or lanes, intended to change traffic patterns while improving safety and livability. If you get it right — and that is both a technical and a communications task — it brings local economic and even real estate value advantages along with the rest.

Ten years ago, March 1999, Dan Burden and Peter Lagerwey of the Walkable Communities project collaborated on a short (17 page) illustrated report under the title Road Diets: Losing width and gaining respect in which the authors ask: “Can our nation’s roads gain efficiency, mode share and safety by getting leaner? Many are doing just that”.

That was a full decade ago. In the meantime . . .

Back in 1999 Burden and Lagerwey explained to us that:

“Roadway conversions discussed here may be just the ticket to start remaking unhealthy, unsafe city neighborhoods or commercial districts and turn them into more robust, vital, economically sound places. Road conversion may be undertaken to create safer, more efficient ways to provide access and mobility for pedestrians, bicycle riders and transit users, as well as motorists. They improve livability and quality of life for residents and shoppers. Just as with human diets, road diets without doctors’ (transportation planners and engineers) analyses and prescriptions, might be foolhardy.”

If it sounds like a nice idea but one destined to go nowhere fast, have a look at the following from the US:

First step the latest Wikipedia entry on road diets right here to get a running jump

“There are perhaps over 20,000 road diets in the United States, with another 500-1,000 being conducted each year. The city in North America with the greatest number of road diets (29) is San Francisco. The city with the greatest number of road diets, per capita, is Hartford, Connecticut (12). One or two new road diets are added to each of these cities annually. Retail merchants in Seattle are now some of the strongest proponents for these projects, since reduced travel speeds allow for easier and safer parking, improve store access and boost overall walking and livability conditions in neighborhoods … all of which leads to improved commerce.”

A nice presentation by Jennifer A. Rosales, under the title Road Diet Handbook (February 2008) provides a good summary of the state of the art in the United States.

You might also want to check out(and possibly contribute) the Livable Streets Network StreetsWiki entry on road diets.

Next steps here: Three options. You are invited to comment just below. Alternatively, we can rewrite the entry together. Or best yet, crank up a road diet project in your city or neighborhood. Let us know.

The Editor

Toolbox: Potential fit between World Streets and Twitter?

We have long believed that a good question can be a lot more useful as a spur for excellence than most of what are often passed off as answers. So in this spirit, and as part of our unending search for new tools for sustainability, let me draw your attention to the small reader poll you will see just to your left and invite you to share your views there. Another option is to weigh in just below as a Comment.

Here is some first background on Twitter. And here, in case you missed it, on World Streets.

And then if the results and subsequent research proves this worth pursuing further, well we will syrely pursue it. Either ourselves or through the contributions of friends, partners and collaborators who are invited to weigh on what I suspect is a non-trivial question.

Now, your turn to make your voice heard.

The Editor

* Image from http://www.briansolis.com/2009_02_01_archive.html – See Fair use

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX | #fekbritton | https://twitter.com/ericbritton | and | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbritton/ Contact: climate@newmobility.org) | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

View complete profile

 

Transit-Oriented Development – Tokyo-style

Tokyo-style Transit-Oriented Development, a Lesson in Variety and Interconnectivity

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Tokyo resembles the streetcar suburbs of the US from the turn of the 20th century; private transit operators build high density suburbs along their transit lines to boost ridership. In Tokyo, however, each station area supplies access to most daily services by walking.

Furthermore, most TODs offer large numbers of service sector jobs and some professional jobs. This high level of mixed-usage gives each development a rudimentary independence concerning individual lifestyles; but the grouping of TODs interconnected by an efficient rail and bus system makes them successful. TOD stations are also served by feeder buses and the rail lines connect directly with subways, allowing seamless access to the city center.

Along with the built environment of the TODs themselves, the center which they encompass is fully navigable by foot, bus, or subway. As the TOD resident is freed from car use at both ends of their trips, cars, while owned by many, are only used for non-commute and non-daily activity trips. In many cases, the vast rail system allows TOD residents to carry out most leisure activities by mass transit.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) further reinforces a transit oriented lifestyle. Relatively high gas prices, expensive and limited parking, and narrow roads (a capricious measure) further reduce the impulse to drive and make the cheaper mass transit option even more attractive. Along with its density, these measures make mass transit the only viable option for commuting

Although replicating Tokyo’s densities would be beyond imaginable, following its example of providing high service levels that make inter-TOD travel convenient id the primary lesson to take away from its experience. The Tokyo region developed its style of TOD from a near clean slate; but Japan’s allowing of private industry and transit operators to develop denser, mixed-use areas around transit stations is crucial as a means to realize these types of development at this level. This private development has also led to the efficient use of stations, where transit operators provide non-transport related services, such as shopping.

In closing, TOD in Tokyo is more than a type of development, it is a lifestyle. While car use is not precluded by Tokyo’s urban form, cars serve their function in a responsible manner. Furthermore, owning a car is a choice; thus all persons of all levels of ability are able to meet their needs, for which TOD in Tokyo allows millions to meet in a manner that is sustainable and equitable.

Gabriel Banks, PhD Candidate – gbanks@ut.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Professor Nobuaki Ohmori, Lecturer – nobuaki@ut.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp
University of Tokyo Department of Urban Engineering,
Tokyo Japan

Op-Ed: Privatizing Street Parking

There are a lot of good reasons for cities to charge for public parking. It is more efficient and equitable. Urban parking facilities are a valuable resource, costing $10,000 to $50,000 to construct, with a typically annual value of $1,000 to $2,000 in land, construction and operating costs. Many vehicles are worth less than the parking spaces they occupy; underpricing parking forces people who own fewer than average vehicles to subsidize their neighbors who own more than average vehicles.

Currently in North America, most parking is provided free, financed through development costs and municipal governments, and therefore borne through mortgages, rents and taxes. Charging motorists directly of using urban parking facilities typically reduces automobile trips by about 20%; in other words, about 20% of parking facility costs, traffic congestion, accidents, energy consumption and pollution emissions results from the common practice of paying for parking indirectly rather than directly.

That said, it is probably best for municipal governments to maintain tight control over their parking pricing systems. Chicago recently leased its parking meters to a private company for 99 years, simply as a way for the city to collect a short-term windfall (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/transportation/chi-parking-meters-20-mar20,0,871852.story).

Privitization could be fine if designed to maximize user convenience and economic efficiency, but not if the goal is simply to maximize revenue. At a minimum, privitization should require state-of-the-art payment systems, gradual and predictable price changes, performance standards, and a much shorter lease period so future councils can change their policies.

For more information see:

“Parking Pricing” ( http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm26.htm )

Richard Arnott and John Rowse (2007), ‘Downtown parking in auto city’, Boston College Working Paper 665 (http://econpapers.repec.org); at http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/bocbocoec/665.htm.

Marcus Enoch and Stephen Ison (2006), “Levying Charges On Private Parking: Lessons From Existing Practice,” World Transport Policy & Practice, Vol. 12, No. 1 ( http://ecoplan.org/wtpp/general/vol-12-1.pdf), pp. 5-14.

Daniel B. Hess (2001), The Effects of Free Parking on Commuter Mode Choice: Evidence from Travel Diary Data, Lewis Center for Public Policy Studies, UCLA ( http://www.sppsr.ucla.edu/lewis/WorkingPapers.html).

Douglas Kolozsvari and Donald Shoup (2003), “Turning Small Change Into Big Changes,” ACCESS 23, University of California Transportation Center (www.uctc.net), Fall 2003, pp. 2-7.

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management Best Practices, Planners Press (www.planning.org).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org/park_man.pdf ).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Taxes: Evaluating Options and Impacts, VTPI ( http://www.vtpi.org/parking_tax.pdf).

Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management: Innovative Solutions To Vehicle Parking Problems, Planetzen ( http://www.planetizen.com/node/19149).

Gary Roth (2004), An Investigation Into Rational Pricing For Curbside Parking: What Will Be The Effects Of Higher Curbside Parking Prices In Manhattan? Masters Thesis, Columbia University; at http://anti-bob.com/parking/Rational_Pricing_for_Curbside_Parking-GRoth.pdf ).

Tom Rye and Stephen Ison (2005), “Overcoming Barriers to the Implementation of Car Parking Charges at UK Workplaces,” Transport Policy, Vol. 12, No. 1 ( http://www.elsevier.com/locate/transpol), Jan. 2005, pp. 57-64.

Donald Shoup (2002), Curb Parking: An Ideal Source of Public Revenue, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (www.lincolninst.edu), Presented at “Analysis of Land Markets and the Impact of Land Market Regulation,” (Code CP02A01).

Donald Shoup (2005), The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press (www.planning.org). This is a comprehensive and entertaining book of the causes, costs and problems created by free parking, and how to correct these distortions.

Donald Shoup (2006), The Price of Parking On Great Streets, Planetizen ( http://www.planetizen.com/node/19150).

USEPA (2006), Parking Spaces / Community Places: Finding the Balance Through Smart Growth Solutions, Development, Community, and Environment Division (DCED); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/parking.htm).

VTPI (2003), Parking Cost, Pricing And Revenue Calculator, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org/parking.xls).

Todd Litman
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Victoria BC, Canada

Letters: Signal priority for city buses

Dear Editor:

Here is a wonderful and useful document from TfL (Transport for London on “Bus pre-signals”: a technique used to enable buses to move ahead of queues on the approach to signalised junctions and areas where there is insufficient carriageway width to provide physical measures. (TfL is the integrated body responsible for London’s transport system, under the authority of the city’s mayor.)


Whether its prioritising buses on roads that narrow down in to a bottle neck or when one wants buses to pull out from a bus stop in the left lane straight in to the right lane as they need taking a right turn at next junction – An absolute must read.

I pray for the day when something as simple as this hits Indian cities like Mumbai and Pune – hope its sooner than later.

Adhiraj Joglekar
Eyes on the Street correspondent in Mumbai, India

Carsharing on World Streets

World Streets actively supports carsharing as one of the key baseline new mobility modes that have to be brought in as part of the multi-level package needed to manage the transition to sustainable transport in all cities and communities around the world. Note the fact that we say all and not just certain kinds of cities. Stay tuned and you will see how this work.

The New Mobility Agenda created the World Carshare Consortium in 1997 as a free, cooperative, independent communications and collaboration forum in support of carsharing projects and programs, worldwide. World Carshare offers a convenient place on the web to gather and share information and independent views on projects and approaches, past, present and planned future, freely and easily available to all comers.

Through this date World Carshare has has brought together more than 450 members, hosted more than 3000 exchanges of questions and information, organized or participated in several dozen national or international workshops or conferences, generated a number of independent reports, provided policy counsel to both cities and carshare projects, helped draft legislation, and more generally served as a spur to carshare development internationally. (These contributions have been deeply appreciated by leaders in the field, as you can see from the testimonials that are summarized here.)

Here is what the map of visitors for 12 April 2009 looks like. Basically it provides a good resume of where carsharing is being practiced and studies today. We are going to see this map expand steadily in the years immediately ahead.

In a recent world survey (November 2008) we identified more than one thousand cities and communities in the world in which you can pick up a share car this morning. This number has come close to doubling over the last two years, and there is no sign of this rate of growth leveling off.

Why have we over all these years supported a concept that may to some appear to be so off-beat and marginal as carsharing? Simple! We think it’s a great, sustainable, practical mobility idea whose time has come and whose potential impact is quite simply huge. Carsharing: the missing link in your city’s sustainable transport system.

In Spring 2009 Streets will report on carshare development at the leading edge, and will be hosting a series of interviews with leading figures and projects in every country in which it is presently practiced. Stay tuned.