Sep 19, 2009

Shout about your frequent-service routes!

Does your city have any public transport routes that guarantee high-frequency throughout the day? Are they metro/subway routes? Are some on buses?

If any of those services are bus routes, are they highlighted as special, or do they seem like any other bus service?

The Human Transit blog highlights the importance of being very clear which routes have high-quality, frequent service (regardless of technology):
Berlin, for example, presents its system this way:
  • Rapid transit, consisting of U-bahn and S-bahn. (These have numbers starting with U or S. Both are fully grade separated rail transit. ... )
  • Frequent local-stop transit, called the "Metro-Netz." Metro-Netz service is identified by a route number starting with M, and this supposedly guarantees service every 10 minutes or better for 20 hours a day. Metro-Netz service can be either streetcar or bus.
  • Less-frequent local-stop transit, which is identified by a route number without an initial letter.
Obviously the important point here is the Metro-Netz definition, which focuses on the quantity and type of service -- promising local-stop service that runs very frequently all day and evening. Both buses and streetcars/trams can provide this service, and they encourage you to focus on the service, not the technology.
Human Transit calls Berlin's Metro-Nezt a Frequent Network brand.

Sep 2, 2009

Digging into Parking in Asia

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?  

Ground floor living-room parking in Hanoi.

I am busy starting up a very quick 13-city/country study of urban parking policy and outcomes around Asia.

Maybe you can help?

It is an exploratory study aiming to find out what parking issues are important in each place (so that follow-up research can dig deeper). The focus is mainly cars, but other vehicles are relevant too, especially motorcycles. I want to know about off-street parking AND off-street. I am keen to hear about residential parking AND work-based parking AND short-term parking at other places, like shops. A bit ambitious perhaps but I want it all.

The study is also aimed at finding out if any of the major parking policy debates in Western cities are at all relevant anywhere in Asia. Can other places learn from how parking is done in any Asian cities?

So, if you have a view on parking and how it works then please drop a comment below! If you know of great studies or information sources then likewise, please do tell!

I am especially keen to hear tip-offs for parking policy or parking debate or parking phenomena in cities in the following places (since certain cities in each of these places are the case-studies for the project):
  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Mainland China
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Vietnam, and
  • Singapore (where I am based).

Jun 7, 2009

Slow spaces for a Public Space Dividend in the Streets

Shared space street design is a fantastic innovation. But most excitement about shared space (or “naked streets”) seems to focus on the counter-intuitive phenomenon of “safety through uncertainty”.

I think another important lesson from shared space has been neglected. A key benefit of shared space is that it expands the urban public realm. And this is done with little or no loss of transport utility. This point was emphasized by shared-space pioneer, Hans Monderman, but is often forgotten or under-emphasised.

This "public space dividend" is also relevant to many more streets than shared space itself will ever be applied to. Many street-design innovations can yield such a dividend if they create spaces where speeds stay below about 30 km/h. This would allow a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space to become part of the low-speed public realm.

How? I try to explain in an article, "Earning a Public Space Dividend in the Streets" (pdf), just out in "Journeys" (the magazine of Singapore's LTA Academy), Issue 2, 2009.

In my article, I argue that all of the following street innovations can offer us a public space dividend:
  • various kinds of Traffic Calming
  • shared space (also called 'naked streets' or second generation traffic calming)
  • 'Tempo 30' zones (or 'Twenty's Plenty' zones)
  • multi-way boulevards, as described in the Boulevard Book
  • slow-streets dedicated to vulnerable modes (such as 'bicycle streets' or 'fahrradstrasse' or Bicycle Boulevards and similar ideas)
  • some kinds of 'road diets'

CIMG0085
A multiway boulevard section in Vienna. The access-way (left) and the median are slow-spaces and are part of the public realm. The higher-speed traffic lanes are just visible to the right. They are 'traffic space'.

"These innovations shift the boundary between public realm and traffic space, so that a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space becomes part of the low-speed public realm. In shared spaces and in other slow zones, such as Tempo 30 zones and bicycle boulevards, whole streets and intersections are converted to forms of public space. In multi-way boulevards, public realm includes everything from the building line to the outer edge of the central, high-speed traffic lanes. This newly expanded public realm serves local motor vehicle access, slow-mode movement, public space roles and sometimes some through-traffic (with low priority and at low speed). Only the high-speed traffic movement is excluded and kept within traffic space." (pp. 33-34)

I also suggest that this space dividend should be especially welcome in dense cities that are congested and short of public space. Such street designs should be well suited to Asian cities where a lack of space seems to make it difficult to create safe places for walking, cycling and for pleasant urban places.

In fact, Asian cities are full of "accidental shared space".
"The informal emergence of shared space street dynamics can be seen when pedestrians and/or slow vehicles dominate a street space, leaving motorists little choice but to proceed on a negotiated and cautious basis. This is common in inner urban streets of many developing countries (see Figure). It can be seen also on the narrow streets of Singapore’s Little India area. Such “chaos” is of course widely lamented, with pedestrians and other road users blamed for indiscipline. Moreover, at times of low pedestrian activity, traffic speeds do rise and crash risk and severity can become very high. However, the imposition of traffic-focused design in such places would often be a mistake. A better option for these streets might be shared space by design rather than by accident." (p.37)

An example of “accidental shared space" in Nanjing, China

May 10, 2009

Thoughtful new public transport ideas blog

If you are interested in public transport excellence please check out the new Human Transit blog.

It is written by long-time transit planner Jarrett Walker.

He has shone in his first 2 weeks of blogging so far. Here are a few highlights:

Apr 4, 2009

Playing around with streets

Fun, art and gleeful spontaneity in the streets feature in this delightful and inspiring 20 min talk. The playfulness here is not just in the streets but with the streets.


Ted Dewan at euroGel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

The potential highlighted here for life in streets is in total and utter contrast with the automobile dependent landscapes in my post below.

Ted Dewan is the pioneer of 'road witching'. Towards the end of the video he makes some connections with David Engwicht's 'mental speed bumps'. David also promotes safety through intrigue and uncertainty. Ted's talk also mentions the emerging possibilities of Shared Space. All of this is about reclaiming at least some of our street space as public realm again. It is about treating streets as places not highways.

Do you think these ideas are relevant in the rest of the world, outside rich western cities? I think so.

Hat tip to the wonderful How We Drive blog.

Mar 5, 2009

Automobile dependent landscapes

If you haven't visited North America or Australia or New Zealand maybe you are puzzled about "automobile dependence" and wonder what the fuss is about. Here are a few GoogleMaps images that might help.

You can drag or zoom if you want to see the wider context or take a closer look.



The Henry Farm or Yorkland Boulevard area north of Toronto. Yes, even Canada has sprawl. And yes, most of what you see in the top half of the image is open-lot parking.



The eastern edge of downtown Atlanta. Giving cars easy accesss to the city centre requires this kind of thing.



In the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. It's the local shopping centre but do you think many would walk to it?

Mar 3, 2009

The high cost of cheap on-street parking - a vivid illustration

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?  
Try Reinventing Parking.]

So you think on-street parking is public property and should be free? Do you think local governments that charge for on-street parking are uncaring and money grabbing? Maybe you doubt that cheap on-street parking causes any problems?

Then please take a look at Bern Grush's vivid description of the "cruising for parking" in one specific trip and all the problems it causes.


The trip should have been 5km but searching for parking by driving in circles at the end made the journey 8.25km! And that is the least of the problems that Grush describes.

The image above is from the post at the Grush Hour blog and shows just that last part of the journey.

You couldn't ask for a better explanation of the need for performance-based pricing for on-street parking.

Feb 26, 2009

It's not BRT if it's not on the map

TransJakarta Corridor 1 station and bus

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has a 'branding problem'!

Bus improvements of many kinds are being called BRT. This is muddying debate over BRT in many places. Bogota clearly has superb BRT. More and more cities do. But is Delhi's 'first BRT corridor' really BRT? Are Taipei's median bus priority lanes BRT? How about Jakarta's busways?

Walter Hook of ITDP has an interesting answer: It's not BRT if it's not on the map!

Here is the relevant quote from an interview with Walter on Streetsblog NYC:
A rule of thumb should be whether or not a map company would include the BRT system in a map of New York City. If it doesn't appear on any map other than as a standard bus route, then it has failed to enter the public consciousness as something above and beyond normal bus services.

I knew TransJakarta had succeeded when I bought a 2007 tourist map and it included a map of TransJakarta and its stations. The Orange Line in LA is on the ‘Mass Transit Map’ which includes the subway and light rail lines, and it's packed, so I think it's a success.

When I went to Taipei and asked about the BRT system, nobody knew what I was talking about. It wasn't on any map. That is a sign that it has failed. In reality, Taipei only has dedicated lanes for buses, and continues to inefficiently operate the same tired old buses on them. It really cannot be called BRT.

Is this a useful addition to the search for clearer definitions and terminology for BRT? See also Dario Hidalgo's efforts at the City Fix. He suggests the term, "Quickways" for high-end BRT systems.

Feb 24, 2009

Two problems, one solution?

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?  
Try Reinventing Parking.]


Problem 1: Is parking a hellish nightmare for your local business or shopping district? Do drivers complain that they can never find a parking space? Is the roadway clogged with honking vehicles searching for a parking spot?

Problem 2: And are the local public facilities in terrible shape? Are the footways cracked? Drain covers broken? Rubbish uncollected? Are the street plantings (if any) dying?

Does that sound familiar? Donald Shoup suggests a single solution to both of these problems:
Performance-based pricing (would solve Problem 1) with the revenues returned to the local area to be spent on solving Problem 2.

Shoup explains more in an article in the Feb 2009 edition of the Parking Today magazine: The Price of Parking on a Great Street

As I have said before, I suspect this policy would be perfect for many of Asia's cities. Can anyone suggest a city in Asia that might be willing to do a trial?

Here is an excerpt from Shoup's article:
Performance-based prices can balance the varying demand for parking with the fixed supply of curb spaces. We can call this balance between demand and supply the “Goldilocks principle” of parking prices: the price is too high if many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. When a few vacant spaces are available everywhere, the prices are just right. After the city adjusts prices to yield one or two vacant spaces in every block (about 85 percent occupancy), everyone will see that curb parking is readily available. In addition, no one can say that performance parking prices will drive customers away if almost all curb spaces are occupied.

Feb 18, 2009

Suprise! Latin American cities are great at city-centre public realm


Who knew? Many Latin American city cores have wonderful pedestrian zones that rival those of European cities in quality.

A new post by Barbara Knecht at Planetizen Interchange highlights the region's downtown pedestrian zones and its many Ciclovia (car-free Sunday's with certain roads closed to motor vehicles and opened to feet and non-motorised wheels).
In a recent trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile I traveled through Montevideo and Colonia, Uruguay; Rosario, Mendoza, San Juan and Cordoba, Argentina; ViƱa del Mar and Valparaiso, Chile. All ten cities had significant thriving downtown pedestrian zones. The smallest was perhaps 5 blocks in San Juan, the largest 30 blocks in Santiago.
Actually, I did know. The photos with this post are mine, taken in Puebla, Mexico.

Jan 30, 2009

LOS thinking is killing our cities

LOS? Was ist LOS?

The traffic engineering concept of traffic Level of Service (LOS) is used to rate the acceptability of traffic flow on a road, using scores of A, B, C, D, E and F.

Try typing "LOS level of service traffic" and almost ANY country name into your favourite search engine. You will quickly see that LOS is very widely used.

OK but so what?

The problem is, LOS is a disaster when clumsily applied to cities. It is one of the key ways that traffic planners stumble into the habit of making motor vehicle flows their highest priority.

LOS is a key tool that blinds our decision-making processes to the possibility of having smarter goals such as those of the New Mobility Agenda, like accessibility, moving people and goods efficiently not vehicles, or making places great.

The San Francisco StreetsBlog has a wonderful series of articles by Matthew Roth on LOS thinking and its alternatives:
"There's a dirty little secret you should know about San Francisco: It's engineered first and foremost for automobility and will never be able to shed this bias if the traffic engineers are in the driver's seat wielding their traffic analysis tools like bibles. As long as the city continues prioritizing the use of transportation analysis known as Level of Service (LOS), you might as well burn our Transit First policy for warmth."

Image is from the first SF StreetsBlog article

Take a look. I am not sure I agree with everything about the alternatives being proposed. But this is an important debate.

And even though the articles focus on San Francisco, they are relevant to your city no matter where you are.

Jan 19, 2009

Reinventing Paris streets

Four decades ago, French leaders wanted to remake Paris to suit the needs of the car.

But in recent years, Paris has been reclaiming its streets for life's rich pageant, not just motor traffic.

This Streetfilm (from the Livable Streets Network) offers a wonderful visual tour of Paris's traffic-calming efforts. You will need a flash plug-in to see it.



The whole archive of Streetfilms is well worth a good look.