Friday, January 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.

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