21 September 2012

A “road diet” for urban areas: an opportunity for Bus Rapid Transportation, and pedestrian/transit oriented development (draft)

(This image was found  as part of a wonderful collection of artwork on Curitiba, Curitiba Ilustrada. The site is worth visiting to see the other works by the artist, Cesar Lobo.  The webpage contains illustrations for a book, Curitiba Ilustrada   Unfortunately, I could not find a good link for those interested in purchasing it.)

I recently saw an intriguing question about “road diet” on the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Linkedin discussion group. For those not accustomed to transportation planning lingo, a ‘road diet’ is the reduction of lanes on an arterial , the substitution of turn lanes at intersections and other transportation engineering improvements. Intersections are usually where congestion is often caused, so 'road diet' in some cases does not reduce the capacity of the corridor.  This is interesting for the transportation planners and traffic engineers, but probably of little interest to others outside these professions. But, it more.. keep reading.....

The concept of reducing road construction instead of building more, has been around in various forms
for at least 30 years.  The concept of Transportation System Management is essentially the anti-thesis or ‘antidote’ to the vicious cycle-which is the endless construction of roads to alleviate traffic congestion. A road diet is new concept in the ‘grab bag’ of techniques to better manage vehicular traffic. However, as with all transportation ‘fixes’ they must be considered in combination with other strategies and if they are appropriate for particular corridors. However, coupled with other concepts, it becomes much more than it would seem seem on the surface.

Instead of mere reduction of lanes,  the additional lanes  could be used for an exclusive transit lanez for a Bus Rapid Transit route.  This again is not a new concept, but should be ‘put on the table’ when considering reduction of lanes on arterials.  The exclusive bus lanes could be in the inside or outside of the road way.  If they,  the are inside lanes, one could retrofit roads for Bus Rapid Transit mimicking BRT found  in Curitiba, Brazil.  As in Curitiba, this could also be the opportunity to consider increasing of housing density along corridors to  ‘create’ the demand for the BRT line. 

In addition, the reduction in lanes could be used to create more walkable neighborhoods. The additional lanes could be used for bike lanes, sidewalks, bus turn-outs, and landscaping (trees, scrubs, berms etc.)

In conclusion, from the mundane aspect of reduction in lanes and substitution with additional turn lanes and signaling at intersection, this issue can be transformed to one supporting public transportation, transit- and pedestrian oriented development and sustainability.  This is another opportunity for the urban planner to act as a shaman/trickster (see an earlier blog entry, The role of urban planner as a metaphorical shaman (draft))

Here are several links related to this topic:
Road Diet" (Roadway Reconfiguration)
Informative web page from the FHWA with a good selection of other links about this subject

Road diets used as tool for reclaiming neighborhoods in San Francisco
An article from the San Francisco Examiner about ‘road diet’ in San Francisco as means to creat
more walkable or pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods.

Curitiba's Bus System is a Model for Rapid Transit
If you don’t know about Curitiba, Brazil, this will be an introduction to not only its
unique BRT System, but other aspects about its quest for sustainability.

No comments: