March is as good time as any to talk traffic Sarasota - in fact with all the spring-breakers and snowbirds - its the best time. Traffic is always a top concern here on the Sun Coast, so a reasonable question seems to be "What is the opposite of traffic?"
When it comes to reducing traffic and congestion, all sorts of ideas get put on the table - widen lanes, install roundabouts, more transit. But, there is a growing body of work forming around factors that actually subtract traffic from the system - most of which have to do with rejiggering land use. Informally among transportation geeks, they are called the "8 D's." The photo above is from a recent presentation by Jerry Walters of Fehr and Peers in California. He and several other colleagues have gone through hundreds of transit-oriented and walkable projects to judge whether they actually reduce auto trips.
There is no magic equation for weighting the 8 "D's," which will vary greatly by region and transit level (heavy versus local bus). For example, a city that does not have great development scale may be able to make up for this deficiency by having favorable demographics. On the flip side, pressure to keep density low can have costs that play out on the road.
The main questions for a place like Sarasota are:
1) How does this apply to cities where local bus is the highest transit technology?From the slide above, proximity to rail is the example given for distance to transit. But like thousands of other communities, we have bus, but no rail. The studies researchers used included a lot of bus system-linked communities (with plenty of Florida examples). But, it would be nice to subtract out the information from higher transit technology to get a better sense of the investments and development patterns likely to deliver results for us bus-dependant communities. Will Doig of Salon posted an article today on why it is time to love the bus - so let's think about bus TOD while we are at it. Not the fancy bus rapid transit bus, but the workhorse local bus.
2) What does the density need to be? This is ALWAYS the first question here, so let's cut to the chase. What types of building arrangements are we talking about to successfully take car trips off the road with walk, bus, and bike travel.
3) The 9th D - Digital - Information technology can be reasonably included in the 8th D (Demand Management). However, we could do so much more with maps, information and apps that are built around the user and where he or she needs to go (and get back). One of the more immediate benefits of this ninth Digital- D is that it is not dependent on transit oriented development or land use and the slow slog of construction. I am thinking that teasing this out and elevating it as our #1 D is a great bet in the near term. Our transit System (SCAT) recently added NextBus type technology to check when the next bus arrives. This blog post shows the augmented reality in San Fran for fidning bus stops. We love technology.
For more information on the "oppostite of traffic" see these links from Ellen Greenberg, who has a marvelous set of slides on this very topic from presentations in Boise, Idaho. Many thanks and a big hat top to Ellen and her work.