Search"equity"

HOT lanes and equity

The following is extracted from a paper I wrote about I-15 Express Lanes (first phase in 1998) and Managed Lanes (second phase, still under construction). Read the paper, Implementing value pricing on a highway in Southern California.

Equity

Political support is necessary for any value pricing application. Mayor Jan Goldsmith’s story of political maneuverings gave that indication. Implementing value pricing is politically difficult to implement because of the high opposition from the public. This is because of the costs borne by the user. In the case of I-15 Express lanes, all users have the opportunity to use the express lanes if they ride the bus, a motorcycle, ride with a friend or coworker, or drive an exempt low-emission vehicle. There are several tollways around the United States and the world which don’t have a free alternative.

Weinstein and Sciara (2006) suggest that we should avoid defining whether or not the HOT lane concept is equitable, but instead how to address perceived equity issues. The pair have written two reports for planners who will potentially work on value pricing projects. Both reports are cited in this section.

It has been found in the I-15 Express lanes application that users who never use the express lanes, and only use the main lanes (free lanes) occasionally benefit from the lane shift of users to the Express lanes. (Supernak, et al. 1998)

Another concern is that low-income drivers, who cannot afford to pay for the express lanes, will disproportionately benefit high-income drivers (Weinstein and Sciara 2006, 179). This debate between rich and poor drivers has emerged under the title of “Lexus lanes”, but the arguments calling HOT lanes a fast lane for the wealthy are unfounded:

a. Users from all income groups use the express lanes on I-15 and find it fair. The final report’s (Supernak 1999) attitudinal survey found that within all income groups, a majority of respondents approved of the FasTrak tolling of solo drivers in the I-15 HOV lanes.

b. As a mitigation measure to this perception, the Express lanes operation is paid for entirely by toll revenue, which also pays for increased express bus service. Oddly, though, Calfee and Winston (1996) found that the way toll revenues are used does not affect commuters’ willingness to pay (WTP), suggesting that these two mitigation measures do not affect public perception.

Works Cited

Calfee, John, and Clifford Winston. “The value of automobile travel time: implications for congestion policy.” Journal of Public Economics 69 (1998): 83-102.

Supernak, Janusz, Jacqueline M Golob, Kim Kawada, and Thomas F Golob. “San Diego’s I-15 Congestion Pricing Project: Preliminary Findings.” Institute of Traffic Studies, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, 1998.

Weinstein, Asha, and Gian-Claudia Sciara. “Unraveling Equity in HOT Lane Planning: A View from Practice.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 26 (2006): 174-184.

Igniting the discussion on equity

I want to have more conversations about transportation equity

My master’s project is all about it. You might have read me talking about it a little here two weeks ago. A then I shot off a post with some key quotes I’m using about the topic in my project.

The purpose of the map is to show the difference in distribution between 2008 and 2009.

This post, though, is all about the graphic above. A lengthy conversation has begun in the comments on the Flickr page. I want more people to get talking about why 2008 might look the way it does, and why 2009 looks the way it does. Perhaps you need a little background on 2009: I made sure to visit the most underserved Wards you see in 2008 and ensure they receive new bike racks in 2009.

A big question is why people in those areas aren’t asking for bike racks. Does no one there ride a bike to the store? Or maybe they do but don’t know how to request a bike rack or know the purpose of one? Maybe they got a bike stolen and need some tips on proper locking.

Those are all questions I want my project to answer – and I’m working hard 20 hours per week to answer them! But I want more questions. I want ideas that point me to look in new directions. If you don’t like my response, tell me.

Bike parking is almost always mentioned in nationwide bike plans as a necessary way to complete the urban bicycling network. Mia Birk, “famous” bicycle planner, and principal at Alta Planning and Design in Portland, Oregon, says that bike parking is part of “the tool kit for successful 
bicycle infrastructure in cities.” Another Portland entity is aware of equity: BikePortland.org.

What’s going on here? Photo by Eric Rogers.

Quotes about transportation equity

My master’s project involves a discussion about equity. Equity of bike parking distribution is the main focus of my project.

I picked up some great books at my school’s library. Here are some selected quotes (many of which I’ll use in the project’s paper).

  • “Transportation improvements distribute nonuniformly over space, implying that they affect diverse populations disproportionately” (Berechman).
  • “Geography defines the contours of the equity analysis in two important ways. First, since investment in transportation infrastructure is geographically specific, there is inherent competition and conflict between places” (Hodge).
  • The “costs and benefits of transportation policies may take place in different time periods” (Bae and Mayeres). For example, “mega projects are often built with excess capacity aimed at satisfying future needs. Such a pattern imposes inequitable intergenerational transfers, favoring the future rather than the present generations” (Berechman).
  • “Indirect benefits…represent real impacts that probably benefit some people more than others. It is exceedingly difficult, however, to trace through the benefit stream of these broad impacts” (Hodge).

And my favorite: “Transportation is an unusual public service in that it is not consumed for its own sake but, rather, as a means to another end. Thus, the value of the service depends primarily on how well it provides access to other places” (Hodge).

My professor last semester said the same thing, actually, and then we had a huge discussion trying figure out situations where this isn’t true. The only thing our class (well, the professor himself) could come up with was joyriding (driving aimlessly in a car). But is joyriding really transportation? The trip origin and destination are the same and the trip has no purpose.

I thought of the transportation system at Walt Disney World, but I eventually withdrew my support – although the goal of that system is to make it easy for guests to spend more money, the system has a legitimate role in giving access to places inside and outside the “pay area.”

Sources

Bae, Chang-Hee Christine and Inge Mayeres. “Transportation and Equity.” Donaghy, Kieran P, Stefan Poppelreuter and George Rudinger. Social Dimensions of Sustainable Transport: Transatlantic Perspectives. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005. 164-192.

Berechman, Joseph. The Evaluation of Transportation Investment Projects. New York City: Routledge, 2009.

Hodge, David C. “My Fair Share: Equity Issues In Urban Transportation.” The Geography of Urban Transportation. Ed. Susan Hanson. Second. New York City: Guilford Press, 1995.

Damn, Metra is expensive

tl;dr: Metra costs nearly twice as much for the same trip

I went to Pullman today for a preservation organization’s task force meeting hosted by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. Their office is in this weird US Bank office high-rise surrounded by open space, a golf course, warehouses, and an interstate.

There are many ways to get there. Some people drove their own cars from nearby neighborhoods, others shared a ride hail car, and I and at least one other person rode Metra, the region’s commuter rail service.

The Metra Electric District line has fast service between its downtown terminal at Millennium Station and 111th Street (Pullman), scheduled for a 36 minute run. The MED is Metra’s most regional rail-like service, with several electric train services per hour during some hours.

I rode a Divvy shared bike from the station nearest my office (300 feet away) to Millennium Station – in order to get to the station faster – and boarded the Metra about five minutes before it departed.

Us Bank tower in Pullman

Taking CTA, a separate transit operator in Chicagoland, is also an option. I could have taken CTA from my office at Madison/Wells to CNI’s office in the high-rise with less than 3/5th of a mile walking. Google Maps predicts that this trip would have taken 1:06 (one hour and six minutes). It would have cost $2.75 ($2.50+25 cents transfer)

Metra, on the other hand, excluding the marginal cost of my Divvy ride because I have a $99 annual membership that nets me unlimited free rides of up to 45 minutes, took 56 minutes (5 on bike, 36 on train, 15 on foot) and cost $5.25.

A 14 percent shorter trip via Metra cost me 90 percent more. If I wanted to have saved the 15 minute walking trip and taken a CTA bus, that would have been an extra $2.25. CTA and Metra do not have integrated fares ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Government is trying to do something about the price differential, and reduce the prices on the faster (and more comfortable) Metra rides. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is blocking it. Go figure.

Use Turf to perform GIS functions in a web browser

Turf's merge function joins invisible buffers around each Divvy station into a single, super buffer.

Turf’s merge function joins invisible buffers around each Divvy station into a single, super buffer –all client-side, in your web browser.

I’m leading the development of a website for Slow Roll Chicago that shows the distribution of bike lane infrastructure in Chicago relative to key and specific demographics to demonstrate if the investment has been equitable.

We’re using GitHub to store code, publish meeting notes, and host discussions with the issues tracker. Communication is done almost entirely in GitHub issues. I chose GitHub over Slack and Google Groups because:

  1. All of our research and code should be public and open source so it’s clear how we made our assumptions and came to our conclusions (“show your work”).
  2. Using git, GitHub, and version control is a desirable skill and more people should learn it; this project will help people apply that skill.
  3. There are no emails involved. I deplore using email for group communication.*

The website focuses on using empirical research, maps, geographic analysis to tell the story of bike lane distribution and requires processing this data using GIS functions. Normally the data would be transformed in a desktop GIS software like QGIS and then converted to a format that can be used in Leaflet, an open source web mapping library.

Relying on desktop software, though, slows down development of new ways to slice and dice geographic data, which, in our map, includes bike lanes, wards, Census tracts, Divvy stations, and grocery stores (so far). One would have to generate a new dataset if our goals or needs changed .

I’ve built maps for images and the web that way enough in the past and I wanted to move away from that method for this project and we’re using Turf.js to replicate many GIS functions – but in the browser.

Yep, Turf makes it possible to merge, buffer, contain, calculate distance, transform, dissolve, and perform dozens of other functions all within the browser, “on the fly”, without any software.

After dilly-dallying in Turf for several weeks, our group started making progress this month. We have now pushed to our in-progress website a map with three features made possible by Turf:

  1. Buffer and dissolving buffers to show the Divvy station walk shed, the distance a reasonable person would walk from their home or office to check out a Divvy station. A buffer of 0.25 miles (two Chicago blocks) is created around each of the 300 Divvy stations, hidden from display, and then merged (dissolved in traditional GIS parlance) into a single buffer. The single buffer –called a “super buffer” in our source code – is used for another feature. Currently the projection is messed up and you see ellipsoid shapes instead of circles.
  2. Counting grocery stores in the Divvy station walk shed. We use the “feature collection” function to convert the super buffer into an object that the “within” function can use to compare to a GeoJSON object of grocery stores. This process is similar to the “select by location” function in GIS software. Right now this number is printed only to the console as we look for the best way to display stats like this to the user. A future version of the map could allow the user to change the 0.25 miles distance to an arbitrary distance they prefer.
  3. Find the nearest Divvy station from any place on the map. Using Turf’s “nearest” function and the Context Menu plugin for Leaflet, the user can right-click anywhere on the map and choose “Find nearby Divvy stations”. The “nearest” function compares the place where the user clicked against the GeoJSON object of Divvy stations to select the nearest one. The problem of locating 2+ nearby Divvy stations remains. The original issue asked to find the number of Divvy stations near the point; we’ll likely accomplish this by drawing an invisible, temporary buffer around the point and then using “within” to count the number of stations inside that buffer and then destroy the buffer.

Right-click the map and select "Find nearby Divvy stations" and Turf will locate the nearest Divvy station.

Right-click the map and select “Find nearby Divvy stations” and Turf will locate the nearest Divvy station.

* I send one email to new people who join us at Open Gov Hack Night on Tuesdays at the Mart to send them a link to our GitHub repository, and to invite them to a Dropbox folder to share large files for those who don’t learn to use git for file management.

“My” new bike racks have appeared at CTA and Metra stations

I received some exciting news last week in the form of a photo a friend posted to Twitter. He took it at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Loyola Red Line station and it features a double deck bike rack from Dero.

Photo by Erik Swedlund.

Erik didn’t know this, but that bike rack was installed there because of a project I worked on at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 2009. The working title was something like “bike parking RTA ICE grant”. That means an Innovation, Coordination, and Enhancement grant from the Regional Transportation Authority. It was also known as round 2 of transit bike parking. You might know round 1 as the project that put hard-to-use double deck bike racks at four CTA stations: Midway Orange (well used), Sox-35th Red (mostly well used), Damen Blue (not used), and Jefferson Park Blue (mostly well used) – all opened in 2008. Round 1 was paid for by CMAQ funding CDOT received in 2003.

The scope of my involvement was limited to finding stations “at which sheltered, high-capacity bike parking will be used most effectively”. Looking back, that should probably have said, “will be most used”. What does “used most effectively” even mean? The scope did not include deciding what the bike parking area would look like, or how many spaces there would be. That was up to an engineer who was managing the overall grant and project – I just recommended stations.

Summary of my methodology

I developed my own method (after researching the method for round 1 selections, and other methods) to select several train stations geographically distributed around the city where bike parking would be most used. I developed a spreadsheet and inputted the station attributes my method required. The formula then ranked the stations. The outcome I wanted was essentially a number that represented the likelihood of people cycling to that station. I tweaked the formula many times based on what rankings it came up with and whether or not the top ranked stations fit expectations I came up with for a station that would have a lot of people cycling there (access mode data didn’t exist at all for CTA stations, and was old for most Metra stations).

For example, if my formula ranked Pulaski Orange very high, did that station fit the expectations of a station that attracted a lot of CTA passengers to arrive by bicycle?

After coming up with a “top 30” of geographically diverse CTA and Metra stations, my boss and I rented an I-GO car to visit 15 of them to record measurements of physically available space, take photographs, and discuss things like how people might access the station with their bicycles (it wasn’t always clear, and many stations turned out to have sufficient bike parking for the amount of people who cycled there).

To make this project respect geography, and to do it as simply as possible, I divided the stations into north and south categories, separated by Madison Street. Stations in the south category were compared only with fellow south stations. I don’t know if this was an appropriate to consider geographic equity, but I had limited time and resources to develop a method and complete this project. In other words, I did the best I could and I think I did a pretty good job. Hopefully time will tell and I can learn from successes and mistakes with this project. That it’s actually being constructed makes me very happy.

Considering the stations

Lots of u-racks at the 55th-56th-57th Metra station in Hyde Park. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

I recommended that bike racks for the 55th-56th-57th Street station be installed at 57th Street because it has more space than the other entrances. Here’s what else I said about the space:

North side of 57th St, east of station house

This space is very large like Space C, but it’s extremely grungy and dank. The restaurant in the station house is currently storing its garbage bins here. The space receives natural light all day because of a gap in the viaduct. There’s an attendant at this station house on weekdays from 6 AM to 2:30 PM, but this person has NO view of the space. 57th St is one-way east of Lake Park Ave, and two-way west of Lake Park Ave.

Sheltered, except for gap in the viaduct roof.

I’m happy to report that the situation has been improved over the description in my “station profile”: the sidewalk concrete was replaced, and the walls and pylons were cleaned and painted white. The restaurant’s garbage bins were moved east in the open air (not under the viaduct). Another change was at Loyola Red Line station: I recommended they be installed in one of two outdoor locations but the bike racks were installed inside the station house.

The other tier 1 locations in my recommendation were Western Orange Line and 95th Red Line (both CTA). Howard Red Line was a tier 2 station (and is built), along with Ravenswood Metra and Logan Square Blue Line. I found out later that the Howard Red Line station also received some double deck racks. Ravenswood station is being completely replaced soon so I understand why that didn’t get any new bike parking as part of this project. I don’t know why Logan Square Blue Line didn’t receive any, if Howard did. It might be that there wasn’t enough money in the $375,000 grant, or that someone has other plans for the CTA station.

A sixth station was part of the project, but not part of my recommendations. The Clybourn Metra station (2001 N Ashland, serving both the UP-North and UP-Northwest lines) was already in planning and design phases and was included in the RTA ICE grant round 2 project to complete the funding arrangement. The bike parking area at Clybourn was to be paid for by Chicago TIF funds; combining the TIF funds with the RTA ICE grant would provide the local match the RTA ICE grant needed (requiring a local match is typical).

See more photos and information on Grid Chicago.

Road pricing is more fair than other funding schemes

I’ve written several papers on congestion and road pricing*. The most common type seen in the United States is HOT (high occupancy tolling) lanes. This is where drivers can pay to use uncongested lanes; drivers who carpool may use the lane for free or at a discount. Transit buses can always use the lane for free.

From the University of California Transportation Center comes new research on paying for roads with congestion versus paying for roads with sales taxes and their respective burden on poor residents.

Will research show that more people will benefit from paying sales tax to support a transit system than from paying (all kinds of) taxes to support a highway?

Their finding is that funding transportation with sales tax is less fair than funding with congestion pricing. In the latest issue of Access, Lisa Schweitzer and Brian Taylor write:

This analysis has focused on one side of the ledger: the question of who pays. But transportation systems have both costs and benefits. Indeed, the access benefits of travel are transportation’s raison d’être. So while regressivity can be viewed as a cost of road pricing (and of most other ways of paying for roads), pricing confers transportation benefits that other transportation finance mechanisms do not. Tolls and taxes can both pay to build a road. But congestion pricing can also reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, and vehicle emissions, often to a surprising degree. Sales tax finance for transportation, by comparison, does none of these things.

I think the appropriate direction of this research should next discuss and examine the fairness of using sales taxes to provide operational and capital funding for transit. In Chicagoland, the Regional Transportation Authority is partially supported by a local sales tax. While sales tax financing for road building may not reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, or vehicle emissions, supporting a reliable, robust and expansive transit network can do all of those things by reducing the number of single occupant vehicles on the road.

*Here’s one I’ve written: Implementing value pricing on a highway in Southern California, which I excerpted in HOT lanes and equity.

I’ve graduated

Say hello to Chicago’s newest planner. ME!

Instead of walking at my school’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2010, I was busy at work making sure bike parking in Chicago is equitably distributed, visiting the Pacific Northwest, and generally having fun.

Me having fun riding a Volae recumbent bicycle at the Rapid Transit Cycleshop grand opening in University Village at UIC’s South Campus.

Did I say something about bike parking equity? Oh, yeah, I’ve only blogged about it here a couple of times before and it comprised my entire master’s project (which thankfully was approved and deemed “satisfactory” by my wonderful adviser, Vonu). You can read the entire project on my website. I wrote my project in a wiki called DokuWiki – it’s a text-based, lightweight application that encourages writing and doesn’t stand in the way of a creative masterpiece (like Microsoft Word does).

It’s a huge project (there are over 35 webpages that come out to 139 printed pages). I realize that most people won’t read it, but in the course of preparing for a short presentation I recently gave to some staff members at Active Transportation Alliance, I created a short summary to aid me.

Read my project, Bike Parking Equity, or the summary.

A photo of my cheaply printed project. I printed to PDF each and every webpage in the project and then combined them all, using the Mac’s built-in functionality and Preview application.

Benefits of bike parking

I’m working on my master’s project about bike parking distribution and equity in Chicago and while working on a section in the paper, I decided to get some help from readers. Many transportation projects are measured on predicted changes like trip travel time savings or trip cost savings (I give two examples below the photo).

My question is this: What are a bike parking installation’s measurable benefits to a traveler or a community?

Photo: Portland has installed 40 on-street bike parking “corrals” since 2004. What does a traveler or community gain from this bike rack installation? Photo by Kyle Gradinger.

To figure equity (fairness) for these project types, you measure these impacts for different groups (often high, medium, and low income), either in the alternatives analysis, or project selection phases. So, converting a lane on a highway to charge tolls for the lane’s users will have a certain benefit for many trips: a lower trip time. A new bus route may be convenient enough for some travelers to switch from driving to taking the bus, possibly reducing their trip cost.

About Steven can plan

“Steven can plan” is a personal blog I started for my class at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC): UPP202, Planning Great Cities, in 2007. The semester ended and my blog kind of fell to the wayside. This blog is about urban planning, cities, and transportation.

About me

I’m Steven Vance from Chicago, Illinois. This is my objective: “Obtain a transportation planning position with an organization that recognizes the importance of accommodating and providing service for all transportation system users, including transit, motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and freight.”

Matt on the back

My sites

  • stevevance.net – My personal homepage (personally mine since 2001)
  • Nishiki Bicycle History – A wiki about Japanese Nishiki bicycles.
  • Odd and ends – Posts that don’t belong here. I collect my webdesign tips on this blog. If you want to know how I design “Steven can plan,” visit Odds and ends.
  • Bridgeport – Promoting local businesses in my neighborhood.
  • Wiki – A wiki is great for free-form and inform writing and record keeping. I record details of my hobbies and DIY projects.

Web applications

Social networking

All content is my own except where otherwise noted. The views and opinions I express on my blog are my own and do not represent those of my employers, past or present.

I use Google Reader (and the compatible Mac client NetNewsWire) to read other blogs. You can see the biking bundle, a collection of all the bicycling-related blogs and news I read.

My issues

  • HOV and HOT lanes, tolls and equity, toll revenue distribution
  • Access to airports, alternatives to SOV driving there
  • Bicycling: Separated infrastructure, bike parking

Consulting

I consult on a variety of technology, bicycle, and geographic information systems topics. I’ve consulted on search engine optimization, Google Earth, geocoding, incorporating APIs, and data analysis with QGIS.

Why I have ads

I embed advertisements on my websites quite simply to help pay for my hobbies. I have a lot of them – if you look at my wiki you’ll see I spend a lot of time, money, and energy on my hobbies. I consider blogging a hobby, as well as learning to fix my own bicycles, and building neat things like cat litter bucket panniers, or bicycle-mounted speaker systems.

Contact me

If you need help, have a question, or desire a professional consultant, please use the form below or email me.

*Note: If your message relates to topics I write about, I may use your question or comment in an article, but I will never personally identify you unless I need to credit your wonderful idea.

So happy to be getting a ride home

Plugins I use

  • Twitter Widget Pro – Grabs my Twitter statuses.
  • Clean Links SV – Modification of built-in Links widget I created.
  • FlickrTag – Automatically inserts photos into Posts and Pages using simple code and syntax.
  • flickrRSS – Displays my Flickr photos in a widget. I specify that it only grabs photos from a certain Set.
  • Related Posts (YARPP) – Browses through your posts to pick ones that are related.
  • ShareThis – Gives visitors quick links to share the blog post on social networks.
  • Tweet Old Post – Based on an algorithm you help define, posts old tweets to your Twitter to keep your site always on your followers’ feeds.
  • WP-Cache – Caches the homepage and posts for faster loading.
  • WP Widget Cache – Caches the sidebar widgets for faster loading.
  • WP -> Twitter – Sends a tweet to Twitter with a link to your newest blog post.
  • WP Thread Comment – Allows visitors to reply to others’ comments
  • XML Sitemap – Creates a Sitemap for search engine crawlers.
  • Simply Exclude – I use this plugin to exclude from the homepage posts tagged “page2.”

Disclaimer

Views and opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employers, past, present, and future.

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