Friday, January 06, 2006

Metro Can't Keep Up

The D.C. Examiner today has some astonishing data on the increases in the number of passengers at some key stations. Says the paper:

'Metro expects some 344 million riders in fiscal 2007 - 20 million more than used the system in fiscal 2005 - and is working on plans to absorb the growth.

The Gallery Place station, where three lines meet, had the greatest growth with a 161 percent increase ridership since 1995. The King Street station, in a neighborhood with a lot of residential development, grew 104 percent.

The stations were not designed for the number of people the system already handles and will face problems in the future, said Edward Thomas, Metro's assistant general manager of planning and technology.

Metro Board Chair Dana Kauffman, a Fairfax County supervisor, said "more than a shuttle bus" will be needed at the Franconia-Springfield station once a planned nine-acre town center is built and thousands of defense and military jobs move to Fort Belvoir and the Engineering Proving Grounds.

"We are a little bit late in terms of mobilization around station access," admitted Metro CEO Richard White.'

Then White describes what Metro is doing:
'Metro is working to get "a microscopic understanding" of each station and develop a plan to manage even more riders in the future, according to White. The plan will focus on station improvements and pedestrian, bike and bus access to stations - not just parking.'


At 11:43 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

It looks as if the ten-pound sacks are ripping because they are trying to hold more than ten pounds each. So far, no one has determined how large the new sacks must be and the price to purchase those items.

It strikes me that Virginia's political leaders, especially those from NoVA, ought to determine the impact of TOD on Metrorail, the required fixes, the associated costs, and the impacts on rail fares and tax subsidies before they approve any TOD projects.

Unfortunately for all of us, too many of these people are content to sing "I'm just a girl/boy who can't say 'no,'" as if this were a high school production of "Oklahoma." Like it or not, NoVA's infrastructure is cracking and starting its collapse because of over-development.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Here's my question: If the existing Metro system is already overloaded, what impact will the Rail-to-Dulles extension have on it? What will happen when the extension dumps 10,000s of thousands of commuters from Fairfax County into the system? Can Metro handle it?

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

You heard it here first: the DC rail system is not cost effective, doesn't reduce congestion, it's overcrowded, inconvenient, uncomfortable, expensive, and it still doesn't pay its own costs.

Furthermore, it is facing the exact same symptoms and causes of congestion as its non-fixed guideway counterpart.

I'll take that back about not being cost effective: we don't know and don't have the data to find out. It is clear that you can't give it credit for congestion reduction. To decide if it is cost effective you would have to determine wether the costs of Metro are justified by its ability to carry people into and around the city IN ADDITION TO the costs and capacity of the highways.

In other words, what is its marginal value?

The impact of the Dulles extension will be similar to the impact of extending I-66. It makes it possible for more people from farther away to attempt to cram themselves into the same piece of land use at the same time.

I think what we need is BRAC times 20. If those people had some place to go that offered as much (or even slightly less than) DC in terms of jobs, maybe they would go there instead.

It's just like EMR comments on the Nissan Center. Too many people going to the same place at the same time for the same attraction.

What we need is more places.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

'What we need is more places.' Now yer talking. It is the pattern and density of a place that helps or hurts mobility. More jobs, more housing in those places where people already think it's built out.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I'll agree that there are a lot of places people think are built out that aren't.

But the idea of trying to move 3.5 million people into and out of the core area twice a day is patently nuts, shared vehicles or not.

A lot of people want to live in places like Warrenton or Charlottesville, like EMR and Bacon. Charlottesville might be too big and Warrenton too small. That's just personal observation and preference, based on tring to get around (C'ville), and trying to find what you want (Warrenton).

People who have tried to determine optimum size are completely at odds on how to find an answer.

I'm open to objective proof to the contrary, but until I see some I maintain that density is ALWAYS counterproductive to mobility, even if it is trees in the woods.

Density does raise the number of attractions to an area: it raises the probability that there might be something you want or need in the area. The attractiveness of the attactions diminishes when it is too hard to get there. It doesn't matter if it is closer, if it takes longer to get there.

Accessibility is the sum over all the cost functions (or inconvenience factors) from every starting point to every attraction. So if every attraction is in the same place, the cost or inconvenience of getting there goes up, and despite what EMR says, accessibility goes down. Then again, if every attraction is a Starbucks, density doesn't matter.

So the question is, if something like Warrenton/C'ville is the goal, how many of them would you have to build to replace DC/Arlington/Alexandria, and where would you put them? You could of course replace some of what is already built and tear down more to put in the appropriate amount of open space.

You would still need a lot more places. And you would need the roads to connect them.

Even so, some people will prefer to live in the countryside and others in more Georgetown type settings, so you'd have to accomodate them, too. Then you have some businesses, Like Dulles Airport, or the coal burning power plants, that have no business being near anything residential.

If someone knows the algorithm to solve that, I'd like to see it. Right now, the collective opinion of people that build models to do this is that we barely understand a few of the parameters. We simply can't say what the interaction is between pattern and mobility.

No one knows.

I think rail to Dulles is a mistake except that it creates a multi transit hub. Like Vienna Metro, it will be a concentrator and draw auto traffic from all around, so it doesn't reduce traffic but concentrates it. God knows what parking will be like.

My suggestion would be a non-stop, no-station solution from Dulles to Union Station. That way you would eliminate the station elevation problem with the current plan, and all the new development associated with the stations.

Dulles would be an entirely new industrial city center, with its own ring of Edge Cities (Reston, Leesburg, Middleburg, Manassas). these would need their own new Hub and Spoke rail system to feed Dulles, call it Rural Express.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Hey, that's the point - nobody's talking about moving 3.5 million peeps into and out of the core area daily. The idea is to move them in and around the core area daily, nightly, weekends too.
And rejecting the benefit that higher densities and mixed-uses can have on mobility is just not credible. Go on, ask anyone who lives near a corner store - you know, the one that has no parking lot....

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Thank you, Bob. Now we are having a conversation instead of an argument. Let's keep it up.

I buy mixed use, no problem.

No one has ever proved that it results in less driving, and there is at least some evidence to the contrary, I'll quote it if you like.

In my adult life, I've lived in small, walkable villages, Georetown Townhouse environments, near suburbs, and far rural environments. I've lived within a mile of my office and 50 miles from my office. I have my auto expense records dating back to 1975, and my driving habits are independent of where I live or work.

So, when I see evidence that suggests other people are not so different, I tend to believe it.

But I'll say it again, density ALWAYS limits mobility. Travel speeds downtown are lower than in the suburbs and lower than in rural areas.

The question is at what point does the density/opportunity vs distance/mobility vs power/pollution curves cross?

When I lived in Vineyard Haven, an eminently walkable community, I was within walking distance of two grocery stores, roughly a mile away. Here on the farm I'm within driving distance of two grocery stores six miles away. Either way, it's ten or fifteen minutes to the store.

But in Vineyard Haven, I'd have to carry the stuff back. And due to summer ferry traffic, you didn't have the (realistic) choice to drive, unless you did it off peak. the trip to Marshall is almost peakless.

I'm not convinced. I'd like to believe you, but I don't.Sorry, show me the data.

Is it possible to live without driving? Of course. Is it possible for everyone? Of course not.

I can't remember when was the last time I saw a store with no parking lot. Maybe some marina stores, but they had parking for boats. Even the Georgetown Safeway has a parking lot.

I have said before, that my local IGA is withing walking distance of all of Marshall. I have never seen anyone walk there.

But in the dim past I think I can remember what you mean. When we lived in the Methodist Campmeeting Association grounds in Oak Bluffs, Mass it was a very dense and quaint community of tiny cottages, with walking paths and cars (mostly) prohibited. Adjacent to the campgrounds was such a store, where you could get most little things for the house. Hot dogs, fly swatters, mayo, fireworks, chips, mousetraps, Wonder Bread, flip flops, beer.

It long since went out of business.

I guess the point I'm trying to get to, is that if you rely on walk-ins for business, the radius you can draw from is small. Even if it is dense, you don't have enough customers to stay in business. They have to be able to walk away with their purchase, so your options are limited, you can't sell cinderblocks or horsefeed.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Three factors not discussed are: families where both spouses work, families with children and career mobility. Each create a strong demand for driving.

I'd suspect that the odds of both spouses living within walking distance of work are long. Someone is likely to drive. Children means involvement in sports, after-school activities, etc. Those activities simply are not walkable. Unless TOD does not attract these types of families, there will be a strong need to drive at least one and probably, at times, two cars.

Moreover, it is my impression that there is much more movement between jobs and even careers among post-baby boomers. It seems quite likely that the walk-to-work job may well be gone in three years. Do people need to move when they change jobs? It's a lot easier to drive to work than to sell the condo and buy something else.

TOD is not likely the silver bullet for NoVA that many hope it is. It could well be a workable option for many people, but it will not turn Fairfax County into a livable community again. The inescapable fact is that Fairfax County has grown well beyond its infrastructure. TOD won't fix that.

Ray Hyde may well be right; we need more places. That does not mean a larger Metro D.C. It means not every new business needs to be in Fairfax County, Hampton Roads or Richmond. Perhaps, the correct model is Iowa. There are a significant number of mid-sized cities scattered around the state: Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Davenport/Bettendorf, Dubuque.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

I can see we're way into anecdotal stuff here, so let me share a couple as well. Back in the mid-1980s, I shared a house with some friends right at the Falls Church/Arlington line, on Washington Blvd. I worked in Rossyln. Here were my transit options:
-ride my bicycle along the W&OD Trail
-drive in on Washington Blvd
-drive in on I-66
-take the newly opened Orange Line Metro

Oh, it was the good life. One thing I remember was that Washington Blvd was lightly traveled - used mostly by local traffic, while commuters used I-66.

Fifteen years ago, I moved to Fredericksburg. I commuted to work for nine years by bicycle, or by walking. About a mile each way. So my point is, these are not options that existed only in the distant past. I have many many friends here in Fred'burg who today walk to work or walk to the VRE station.

This is a telling comment: "But I'll say it again, density ALWAYS limits mobility. Travel speeds downtown are lower than in the suburbs and lower than in rural areas."

'Mobility' is not just about auto travel. I can walk just as fast downtown as I can in the country. And, I would suggest that you would find traffic along Washington Blvd during rush hour to be a lot better than I-66 around Manassas.

One more thing: we've still got corner stores here with no parking lots. They're grandfathered in, of course, but the neighborhoods love them.

At 1:53 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I know what you mean. For nine years I lived within a mile of my office. It was a luxury. I rebuilt a boat in the afternoons when others were driving home. It used to drive me crazy that I had to drive to work, but the street was narrow and had no sidewalks. Also I frequently needed the car while I was at work.

Then my company moved 35 miles away. I searched and decided it wasn't economical to move. Best decision I ever made, because the house is worth plenty now.

Later I took a job fifty miles away. This time I could have easily moved, but my wife refused.

TMT is right: there are too many variables at work to say that patterns of development can make a difference. Some of the ones he mentions are the reason work commuting only accounts for 20% of travel. Yet we know that work commuting accounts for most of our congestion (I know there are weekend problems too). So it's pretty clear to me that too much of our work is in one place.

You were lucky or able to plan well for your short commutes, but not everyone can do that. I gather that is not your condition now. Everyone's luck runs out.


In the transportation world mobility has a specific meaning: the ability to cover distance. Just because you can in some cases walk to your destination doesn't mean you have mobility. Your walking mobility in the snow or mountains is lower than your sidewalk mobility, your skateboard mobility, horse, car, and plane mobility in that order, normally. Under extreme conditions your walking mobility may be temporarily higher than your driving mobility.

Accessability combines the concept of the ability to get to where you want to go, and the cost to do it (including time). It always includes the walking portions of your journey. A bike path offers no accessability to a truck, stairs offer no accessability to the handicapped. Freeways offer no accessability to pedestrians.

Technically accessability is defined as the sum of the distance from every every possible starting point to every possible destination, divided by the costs. That means you have to have a boundary, like one square mile and you compare the overall accessability of one area to another.

I can walk anywhere on the farm in a half hour or so. If I'm worth $50/hr then any trip costs less than $25. Problem is there are no locations: one part of the fields is about like any other. For locations, I've got the mailbox, two barns, a workshop, and two ponds: five destinations, and only one starting point. Considering the relative distances of the destinations the accessability of the farm is 1/2.

But I can also drive to each of those locations. If it costs me less than $50.00 an hour to drive, and if I can drive faster than walk, then the accessability goes up, to near 2.

In the city, it's just the opposite: you'd walk a long way before you take the car out of the garage and drive to the next building. In the same area as the farm instead of 5 destinations you've got fifty, but a lot of them are farther away than the mailbox and there are obstacles like crosswalks. Some of the destinations are more valuable than others. Maybe you've got a thirty minute average walk and the weighted usefulness of the 50 destinations is only 25. The accessability is then 1, so its better than the farm, but you've lost the opportunity of driving, and you have no way to improve.

For transportation purposes, analysts figure that if you are walking, your accessibilty is limited to opportunites within about a mile. In that case, your mobility in the country is the same, but your accessabilty is not, because you won't have as many opportunities in a mile. In either case, adding a car will increase both your mobility and your accessability (you can reach far more places, so you have changed the areas of comparison) but you'll eventually have to walk part way, and the cost will be higher.

If you take the cost of a car and operation and divide it by the number of places it takes you over ten years, it is dirt cheap. Especially if you compare it to the cost of walking to all the same places.


I'll admit, you've got me on the Washington Blvd vs I-66 Manassas argument. I-66 offers more mobility, but it is after all a limited Access highway. WB beats it hands down in that category.

WB is what, five miles long? Take five miles of I-66 and compare the VMT for an equal number of lanes, over 24 hours or a week, and I think we'll find I-66 offers more mobility.

I think I can safely say it again, density ALWAYS limits mobility. Your example just shows that it is not the only thing that limits mobility.

Shared vehicles limit accessability because they travel fixed routes and they are slower. Except in special circumstances they also cost more.

I'll concede this much about patterns. Mobility and accessability are both related to density, but in opposite directions. It would seem that this implies there is a maximum effective density, as far as commerce is concerned. TMT thinks Fairfax is past that point, EMR thinks its not even close.

But there are a lot of kinds of accessability, and a lot of constraints on location. Theoretically some patterns must be better than others, practically speaking, we don't know what they are, how to achieve them if we did, or how much it would cost.

People have tried to estimate the maximum practical density on a theoretical basis, but the answer has not yet been found.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Let me post one challenge to the assumption that work variables prevent many people from changing their mode of commuting. I'd guess that is true for many. I also think there are many people who insist on driving alone in their car to and from work. I don't blame them. I just don't want to subsidize that choice.

I just think that one of the factors that should be on the table is people changing their behaviors. 'Hypermobility' is not a sustainable behavior.

I realize that many trips are not commuting trips; they're errands, etc. Again, density and mixed-use. You know the argument..

Also, you raise the issue of cost. I'd say in a general sense that for many commuters, financial cost isn't the way they'd frame the problem. They don't like the cost in lost personal time, and the uncertainty - and when HOT lanes are available I'm sure they'll throw their dollars at it. Liveability is what they're after.

I confess that my trip to work now is shorter than ever - a home office with a wireless laptop. My commuting options: shoes or slippers.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

I too telecommute often. Reduction of the number of commuters (road or train) can be an important tool for managing the transportation mess. Here's an excerpt from a 2004 article in the Washington Post.

"Traffic delays drop 10 percent for every 3 percent of commuters who work from home on any given day, said Laurie Schintler, a George Mason University assistant professor who researched the potential of telecommuting in the Washington region.

"That's the equivalent of the lighter traffic drivers now enjoy on Friday mornings, when many people work from home or start their weekends early. For motorists with a one-hour round-trip commute, the time savings would add up to an extra half-hour each week.

"About 15 percent of employees in the Washington area worked from home at least one day a month last year, with most averaging 1 1/2 days a week, according to a COG survey." [Council of Governments]

Not everyone can telework, but it can make a measurable difference in the D.C. area. There should be a way to bring market forces into this arena, similar to the way businesses can trade pollution credits.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"I just don't want to subsidize that choice."

I agree. Same goes for Metro Riders. And when I say cost, the cost of time is implicit. I used to take VRE, but if I missed the train I would drive, rather than wait for the next train. I always arrived before the train I missed.

Winston and Shirley at Brookings institute studied this and (according to their model) if we took the subsidies away and everbody paid full cost for their choices, transit use would drop around 5% and would be limited to only the most profitable routes. Under a full payment scheme auto use would increase about 2 to 3%.

I agree that mixed use might eliminate some travel, and as TMT notes you don't have to eliminate very much to make a big difference. If workday congestion is our biggest problem, it also suggests that we wouldn't have to relocate many jobs to make a big difference.

Conceptually, I don't have an issue, and there is no reason mixed use shouldn't be allowed. Where I have a problem is that no one has a model that shows it will work, and there are a number of studies that cast doubt on the idea.

I don't think we should make policy based on an unproven theory. In particular we can't REQUIRE mixed use or compact development if that is not what people want. The immediate response is, OK but I don't want to subsidize it.

We don't know what the response to paying full price would be, but my suggestion is, see the above. The results might not be what you expect.

In Manassas a builder is stepping up to the plate and he is willing to rebuild the I-66 interchange and a new rail station and add the cost to the price of 6900 homes. Maybe his offer isn't enough, but I submit that the homes will sell.

Suppose we agree on what paying full price is, and a builder steps up. How are you then going to turn him down? Doesn't this mean you lose control completely?

What happens to a guy like TMT, if under free market somebody wants to put an apartment building next door? He complains that it is devaluing his property and ruining his lifestyle. But where is his argument if the apartment bulding and land is actually worth more than his home?

The problem with thinking that mixed use will reduce traffic is that it assumes all opportunities are equal. If the local pizza is Dominoes, I'd prefer to drive someplace else. Even if there is a local barber, I might have a favorite someplace else. There are just too many variables for this to be believable, but if someone comes up with a model that can be validated, I'm willing to change my mind.

Some people say under a free market, full price scheme, density would increase. OK. I've got enough land to build 20 houses, but I am forcibly prevented from doing so. Under a full price, free market argument, I'm pretty sure density would increase here, too.

The reason I'm forcibly prevented is that people think open space is valuable. OK, so do I. I don't want to see it developed anyway. So under a free market- full price basis, I'd be willing to offer preservationists first choice. That is exactly the offer Montgomery County makes. Then they can own it and maintain it, and as a non-profit or public land, the land would come off the tax rolls.

Even if I have no intention of developing, placing me in the position of forcibly not developing means that you owe me money. Either the land is held in abeyance for county planning purposes, or it represents a savings in infrastructure to them, at my expense: they are borrowing money from me at no cost to themselves. If they want to pay me the interest on what they claim I'm saving them, OK.

On the other hand, if I'm allowed to develop and don't, then I can't complain.

The way things arre now, the market says people are willing to pay more for a bedroom than they are for an open field. Which do you think we will have?

I don't think you really want to make that full price argument.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

I am stuck with the idea that most of these questions involved conflicts between property rights. If A owns a parcel of land and can make money developing it, A will likely do so. However, if A's neighbor B sees the impact of A's development as increased traffic, longer commutes, crowded schools, rising real estate taxes, etc., B would likely oppose A as hard as B can.

In my example, both A & B are acting rationally. A sees a loss if he/she cannot develop. B sees a loss if A does develop. In order to avoid gun battles and the like, we have some system of laws to determine the substantive and procedural rules under which A is permitted or not permitted to develop and, if so, under what conditions.

The existing law may well permit A to develop the land. But if B still sees that he/she will bear significant costs when A develops the land, B will not be happy. On the other hand, if A cannot develop the land, A is likely to feel angry and betrayed by the law.

Our current situation, at least in urban/suburban/exurban Virginia, probably has A with the upper hand vis a vis the law in most situations, but there are many more Bs than As and an awful lot of the Bs are very angry.

C represents both A & B in the General Assembly. What will C do this year?

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Interesting thread! I'd like to address comments that Ray has made to the effect that "density limits mobility." Translated into more concrete terms, density in urban areas reduces travel speeds compared to that of suburban areas, with the result that travel times are not appreciably shorter. I sort of see what Ray is saying: Urban areas have more stop lights, more stop signs, lower speed limits, etc. The average travel speed is certainly lower.

Does lower average travel speed translate into a comparable amount of time sitting in a car? Not in my experience. When I worked downtown for 16 years and lived in City of Richmond neighborhoods, my daily commute was typically 10 to 12 minutes one way. A typical commute from my new neighborhood in inner Henrico County is 20 minutes.

But even if we accept Ray's point that urban dwellers take just as long to reach their destination as suburban dwellers do, there's another critical point: Urban areas, though denser, require fewer lane miles of roadway per motorist to provide a comparable level of connectivity. Fewer lane miles translates into lower maintenance costs. Secondly, urban areas don't have as many choke points as the arterial-collector system in the 'burbs. Consequently, there is little need to add new capacity. I would hypothesize that road systems in urbanized areas cost less per motorist to support than road systems than in regions dominated by scattered, disconnected, low-density development.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Interesting points here. Let me add this: I can't accept the premise that mixed-use, higher density development is "unproven theory." I mean, gimme a break. It's the most proven theory out there.

But the "theory" of development of the past half-century, of auto-dependent development - now THAT was an unproven theory, and we tested it, and it failed. Big time, as Dick Cheney would say.

Plus: on the question of subsidizing transit, or subsidizing asphalt commuters. All you free-marketeers out there will like this one: the reason they launched the VRE back in the early '90s was because there was a market demand. And why was there a demand? Because highway capacity was inadequate. If we try endlessly to meet the demand of apshalt based commuters.... well that's going to be a lot of lanes.

So people bought houses here and rode the VRE. They buy a ticket. The asphalt commuters get up just as early, but don't buy a ticket. They buy their gas at Costco or Wal-Mart, and hit the road.

I'm not an experts on the economics of it all. But I can tell you that here in Fred'burg, they're breaking ground on a new residential development right next to the downtown VRE station. Households there won't need a second car for commuting. Is it worth it? The people who will be buying homes there vote yes.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Since this item has become very eclectic, I'll toss out another issue. Notice that most of the local governments involved in WMATA have opted to substitute their own bus systems (with much lower cost structures) for Metrobus. While I'm not sure that a similar action could take place with Metrorail, these actions speak very loudly to me -- local government realizes that Metro's cost structure, including employee compensation, greatly exceeds the market or what is reasonable.

Query: under these circumstances, why are Virginia's elected officials -- federal, state and local -- pushing for a major expansion of Metrorail without addressing the operating cost structure? But for the captive taxpayers, isn't this similar to the problems faced by the major airlines? Putting aside the wisdom of extending Metrorail, does it make sense to pour admittedly scare transportation tax dollars into an operation that has excess labor costs for the market?

At 2:30 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

The travel time thing is well studied. We all have anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Some of the differences are local, some have to do with peak hour travel, some has to do with averages.

If you are in Marshall at the IGA you might drive to the bank or hardware, directly across the street. You would never do that in town, because you would have to climb down four flights of stairs in the parking garage, drive up three flights of ramps, pay the attendant... you see the point.

There is a trade off between accessability and mobility. So in town, you have a problem. You've just come out of the IGA and you need to go to the hardware. What do you do with the groceries? Schlep them down four flights in the parking garage to lock in the car, or carry them to the hardware?

If you actually go out and measure, you find out that because of their load factors, buses and trains actually use more energy than cars, per person, in the city. You also find out that the frequency (passenger miles per route mile) for autos is at least an order of magnitude higher than transit. And the travel time is faster.

Because it is faster, more frequent and cheaper (even than walking, mostly because your time counts) anything that cuts down on mobility reduces accessability unless the density of opportunities is very high indeed.

So OK, you have less lane miles, thats exactly like saying you have more congestion. Density does reduce auto use, for the reasons I described above: it is inconvenient. But the reduction in use is less than the increase in density, so you have slightly less miles per person, but a lot more persons and more miles per square mile, more miles per lane mile, = more congestion. It does cost less to maintain less roads, but you get less product, more pollution and fewer sales.

Because the car is so good at what it does, congestion reduces mobility and access. You have less opportunities available and this costs money. You could have spent the money on roads instead of pollution and wasted time.

What it boils down to is that we can waste time, fuel, and money, and create more pollution, essentially standing in line to use the same land, or we can use more land.

Now, you can drive across Wyoming at a hundred miles an hour and not find a single opportunity, or you can creep along in the city and pass dozens of opportunities that lack a parking space. Or you can go to the Marshall IGA.

Somewhere there is an optimum. Aha, there must be a pattern we can duplicate so patterns reduce congestion.

Well, OK, but no on has ever been able to prove it or model it, yet. The theory is frequently repeated, seductively obvious, but when you actually go out and collect travel diaries from several thousand people it doesn't work. Not only that, but it doesn't work differently in different places that ought to be similar.

Jim does have a point about choke points, that Bob brought up, too. Congestion in Manassas when Washington Blvd is free flowing. Some one made the decison to trade access for mobility, based on certain conditions, and later the conditions changed.

That doesn't mean the original decision was wrong, but the combination of that one and later ones was.

That leads us to TMT's argument. B has recognized that the second decision is wrong in the light of the first decision (his own house, or the choke point), so he wants to avoid a future problem, by making sure the choke point doesn't get choked.

The original designer of course is long gone.

What B really wants is more land, or control over it. How is that A's problem? A was told he had ten building rights, had them for years, and saved them for some dark day in the future when the housing bubble was at its peak and he was desperate for retirement money or his next hit of Viagra.

But we got smarter and now we know those ten rights were a mistake, so all the B's who already exercised their rights vote to take away A's rights. What A thought was a housing project for his ten children (Viagra works), turns out to be a public park, more or less.

A loses out, but he sells to Enormous Toll Road developer who has enough money and savvy to lobby C. He fixes the problem by taking B's house by eminent domain to build a new road to fix the choke point.

A buys a new farm farther west.

C's got lots of campaign money now so he runs on a promise to link land use and transportation.


Bob, Bob listen. VRE doesn't pay its own way and never will. The people who buy a ticket buy about one third of a ticket. Where does the other $10.00 come from? Some of it comes from transportation money. Some comes from an additional gas tax, I think.

The demand that was there that created VRE is still there. VRE didn't fix the problem, anymore than another road would have fixed the problem. But the road would work 24 hours a day, and it would be a lot cheaper and more cost effective. People could work off peak.

Trains are a waste of money even more than roads. We found that out a half century ago, and now we've forgot, and we'll learn all over again.

VRE made the land for that develpment a lot more valuable. Is the developer contributing to VRE?

So VRE is going to create a new building in Fburg. Instead of driving all those cars and trains up and down every day, why not go find out where they are going and whatever it is, move it to the new building? Then you only have to move once.

It is equivalent to creating more mixed use in Fburg.

I don't have a problem with VRE, but lets not make it something it isn't. It is a road forty mies long with what, five destinations, and its closed at night.

Start in Fburg and drive an equal distance in every direction available. How many destinations are there? How many oppotunities, how many times a day?

Think man, think.

All VRE does is serve the companies whose employees it brings to work. The whole thing ought to be charged to their overhead. If it was, they would immediately move to that new buiding in Fburg.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

TMT: you are really good.

Elected officials promote transit precisely because it provides good paying jobs, which provide votes. Providing local bus service separate form metro implies that further saving could be gained by taking them private.

The ultimate expression of private transit is the auto. When was the last time auto drivers went on strike?

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"But the "theory" of development of the past half-century, of auto-dependent development - now THAT was an unproven theory, and we tested it, and it failed."

I suggest you read

to get an idea of how much we don't know about land use and transportation interactions.

"...recent empirical and theoretical developments suggest that current
models may need to be either adapted or replaced if realistic
simulations of traveler responses to travel-reduction
strategies are to be forthcoming. Here a difficulty facing
model assessment is the limited information available from
model validation exercises, a process exacerbated by the
extended time frames required to capture the true effects on
travel of the moresignificant land use changes."

" despite the frequently
referenced polycentric nature of urban growth over the course
ofthis century, there has been a failure to come to terms with
the causal mechanisms underlying intraurban, notably suburban,
center growth. The urban economics literature,while extensive,
has so far contributed little in the way of operationally
implementable theories of urban development."

We don't have any models that are validated against real experience, and we don't really know how to make one.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

So, you want me to think, huh? Ok, here's what I think. I think your mythical shopper should go first to the hardware store, and THEN to the grocery store. Nobody goes the grocery store first, unless they want to drip ice cream the whole way home.

There. My work here is done.

Forgive my glib tone, but when I read or hear meandering arguments that weave and wander through this data or that flimsy hypothetical, I am skeptical, and uninteresetd.

Here's the red flag I see again and again on this blog - the assertions that it's too complex, we don't understand it, we can't agree on definitions, the data isn't clear, and so on. Then comes a parade of straw men...

Maybe what we need is to narrow the scope of a blog thread - and talk instead about what specific policy we'd support, and why.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

In his post at 1:53 AM above Ray Hyde
Discussed Mobility and Accessibility. As an engineer, I am not satisfied with the pretty word pictures favored by some. I want the numbers. The definition of mobility is vehicles miles traveled. The easiest approximation for your mobility is to look at the odometer of your car at two different set times. Your mobility is that distance plus the distance of any other trips.

Accessibility is a different concept. It is time based. How many places can you get to within a set time? Forty-five minutes is the usual time used. How many customers can get to you in a set time?

To maximize mobility, VDOT encourages longer trips. One technique is to close streets when they build highways. Another is to set traffic lights to favor the longer trips on the through highway and delay neighborhood trips. A third is to eliminate crosswalks, doubling or tripling walking trips shopping along suburban highways. Since you pay for travel by the distance, maximizing mobility is not a winner.

In discussing density the how many customers can get to you is usually an easier concept to understand. Take a map and draw a 30 minute ring around your proposed store locations. Then count the residences within the ring. Yes a rural ring will be bigger, but the number of houses will be fewer. A transit oriented development ring may be very small, but the number of high rises raises the number of residences. Try it.

Try counting restaurants 30 minutes from your door. Then select another residential location and try it. Then try it for every other trip you make.

Accessibility is why urban residences cost more then rural ones. Environmentalists who believe in a market based economy believe in increasing the supply of the higher value and priced commodity. We oppose state subsidies for housing that has to sell at a discount to find customers. One current subsidy is new schools.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Thank you Jim, that was very well said. Much better than my own explanation.

What I have been arguing is simiilar to your ring idea. At some point in density, congestion is so high, and the ring is so small that accessibility decreases.
Go far enough in the country and accessibility can go to zero. somehwere in between is a happy medium.

To this extent I agree that there is some merit to the patterns argument, we just don't know what it is. For one thing, what is inside those rings changes from time to time. When other people or businesses move in the size of the ring changes.

The reason we can't discuss a specific policy is exactly because the ramifications are so complex. And there won't be one policy, there will be dozens that interact.
And they might be applied at different times. It's really easy to slap on a policy if you are not willing to take the time to consider all the devils in the details. But that is exactly where the policy will affect people's lives.

Accessibility is ONE reason urban homes cost more.

"Environmentalists who believe in a market based economy believe in increasing the supply of the higher value and priced commodity."

We agree it is higher priced, but if it was perceived as higher value the supply would increase naturally to meet demand.
The whole business of transportation and land use involves a trade off beteen the costs. As much as we don't like the result, people do make rational choices about those trade offs.

We can, of course increase the cost of travel, and then people will eventually make other choices. The first choice they will make is to elect someone different.

If you can figure out how to increase the supply of urban homes with yards, then you'd have a market, but you'd probably lose some accessability. The size of those circles keeps changing.

Schools really are a problem. In some areas you have schools going begging at the same time you are building new schools someplace else. But as the population goes up, you will need more schools anyway, so when is it a subsidy and when is it a need?

One approach, if you believe in a free market is to privatize the schools. It probably makes more sense than privatizing the roads. If you did that then parents could relocate to wherever the cost benefit ratio was best for their children.

Try putting that in your transportaion model.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Short confirmation of the comment from Ray Hyde: "Schools really are a problem. In some areas you have schools going begging at the same time you are building new schools someplace else."

Fairfax County Public School's new CIP demonstrates this very fact. There is becoming available capacity in some, but certainly not all, of the schools in the oldest parts of the county. Yet, there is still strong growth in the southern and western parts of Fairfax.

One partial solution being exammined is school boundary changes. Not surprisingly, this presents difficult political issues, but does present some potential for savings. On the other hand, boundary changes that would involve substantial added bus routes and/or lengths might well reduce the amount of potential savings, given the traffic mess.

I suspect that citizens not affected by a boundary change would support the idea and vice versa in most instances.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Yep. Those circles of accessibility keep changing size every time one variable wiggles.

(thanks for the spelling correction, Jim Wamsley)


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