Monday, December 28, 2009

Park More and Drive Less

As a parking and transportation planner, I often have to explain how paid parking is a tool that encourages good behavior. This is especially true with on-street parking, where a fee encourages people to park more and drive less. By that I mean paid parking causes greater turnover of the spaces, resulting in an increase in the availability of spaces and the reduction of congestion-causing cruising.
Dr. Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, has written extensively about this in the "The High Cost of Free Parking," and eloquently illustrated the point during an interview with Mark Gorton of the Open Planning Project on Streetfilms. Although they use NYC as the backdrop, I believe the thesis holds true for large and small communities alike.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The electric car is coming!

Over the past year or so, I have heard a lot of talk about the next coming of electric cars. Automakers are rolling them out at car shows, and cities are building the infrastructure to support them. But I have yet to see a single electric car on the road. What is the deal? Are electric cars coming? From what I have heard and read, it appears as though they are coming, but slowly (see Electric Cars are Coming! and Top 10 electric cars coming to US in 2009/2010).

Every time you bring up the issue of electric cars, someone is bound to point out that plug-in electric cars are not the environmental solution that everyone thinks they are. This is true. For example, what do we do with dead batteries, and what about the power that will be needed when 50,000 of these are rolling on the streets? (see Plug-In Hybrids Could Require 160 New Power Plants By 2030 (Or None At All and Plug-In Hybrids Use Over 17 Times More Water Than Regular Cars, Researchers Say). Since such a large portion of US power generation comes from coal, the increasing use of plug-in hybrid and electric cars will require serious consideration of other energy sources (for an example, see How Solar Panels Could Power 90% of US Transportation).

My recommendation: Get yourself a plug-in hybrid as soon as they become available, and then put solar panels on your roof.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

House of Cars:Innovation and the Parking Garage

When you think about the architecture of parking garages, the term "eyesore" often comes to mind. It has not always been this way, and it certainly does not always have to be.

A new exhibit House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. takes a closer look at parking structures past and future with a focus on their relationship between parking structures and the built environment.
"As soon as there were cars, there was a parking problem, and cities responded both by finding ways to fit cars into old structures – such as carriage houses – and inventing a new building type made specifically for automobile storage. As the parking garage's building type evolved, innovative engineers explored the best ways to lay out parking places and create structural systems to accommodate both cars and people. "
NPR also did an interesting story about it.

There is also an excellent companion exhibit that focuses on contemporary art in the parking garage. As a result, the exhibition includes a gallery devoted to the parking garage in art and the popular imagination.

Finally, if you can not make it to DC but want to learn more about the history of parking design and its relationship to the urban form check out the book, "The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form" by Shannon Sanders McDonald. It is published by the Urban Land Institute.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dangerous by Design - Where does your city rank?

"Transportation for America," a not-for-profit that promotes sustainable transportation solutions, recently reported that over the past 15 years, 75,000 people in America have been killed while crossing or walking along our city streets. One might blame dangerous drivers or reckless pedestrains, but actually the study pins most of the blame on poor design.
"In fact, however, an overwhelming proportion (of deaths) share a similar factor: They occurred along roadways that were dangerous by design, streets that were engineered for speeding cars and made little or no provision for people on
foot, in wheelchairs or on a bicycle."

The study authors provide several design solutions including traffic calming measures, the "Safe Routes to School" programs and compact development. They also believe that in order to fix the problem, a larger piece of the transportation pie needs to go to pedestrian measures.

Check out the article, Dangerous by Design, and see where your city ranks. An excellent national resource for pedestrain issues includes America Walks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that leads a national coalition of local advocacy groups dedicated to promoting walkable communities.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Introducing Lanier Event and Executive Solutions

I don't toot Lanier's horn often enough on this blog, but it has added some new services
which I think drivers and non-drivers alike can enjoy.

Lanier Parking Solutions now offers valet, shuttle, and luxury transportation to private consumers. These new services are invitations not only to park with Lanier, but to think of Lanier Parking Solutions for all of your transportation logistical needs. For information, see an on-site Lanier manager or call Ben Epstein at 770-880-7681.

Lanier Event Solutions delivers access to metro Atlanta’s best valet teams and special event parking management. Our valet teams bring a customized, personable and professional approach to events at private homes, restaurants, or special events.

The event valet team is a self-contained, value added program that can assist in achieving an all-star quality to any event.

Lanier Event Shuttle transportation can be customized for many event scenarios. Lanier provides group transportation as a low cost alternative to multiple cars. It is ideal for events such as broker tours and corporate golf outings. Lanier shuttles can even be wrapped with an event or sponsorship advertisement. An on-board concierge can assist with attending to your guests' needs such as after event dining reservations, promotional giveaways, and information about the entertainment opportunities near the departure/arrival site.

Lanier has partnered with Atlanta Luxe transportation to provide luxury transportation for the executive in all of us. With one call, you can arrange for airport transportation, valet for your wedding or event, and shuttles for that class reunion golf outing. Atlanta Luxe offers a fleet of vehicles ranging from the traditional Lincoln Town Car to a 2008 Rolls Royce Phantom. This fleet is maintained beyond state industry standards, and all drivers are the best trained chauffer professionals in the business. Lanier’s partnership with Atlanta Luxe also gives our guests the ability to arrange transportation in five major U.S. cities.

These new services are yet another reminder of why Lanier is Beyond Parking.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Economics of Transportation

Last Thursday, I saw Kenneth A. Small, Research Professor and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of California, Irvine and Author of "The Economics of Urban Transportation" speak at the Public Affairs Forum hosted by the Federal Reserve of Atlanta. Mr. Small spoke about how congestion is imposing a heavy cost on urban economies and how the economic solution of congestion pricing will be the most effective in solving the problem.
Congestion pricing is a simple theory that puts a price on congestion paid by the people who contribute to it. Congestion pricing uses off-peak toll discounts and relatively higher peak tolls to encourage drivers to drive during less congested hours, carpool, vanpool or use public transportation. Mr. Small spoke of other ways of trying to deal with congestion, such as building new roads, regulating parking, or subsidizing public transportation, which he emphasized all play a role, but none on its own will have the same impact as congestion pricing.
He went on to talk about how Singapore and London implemented very successful congestion pricing programs and how the United States is starting to take notice. In London the impact of the scheme exceeded expectations. In the first year of the charge, traffic delays in London dropped 30 percent, journey time reliability increased by 30 percent and average speeds rose 17 percent.
Recently the United States created a federal program called Value Pricing Program to study the feasibility and to support pilot tests of variable tolls throughout the nation. New York City, under Mayor Bloomberg's administration, went as far as trying to institute the same program as London but was rebuffed by state legislators.
There was a lot of discussion about the politics of congestion pricing. Critical political and institutional issues include public opposition to any new taxes or fees, geographic and economic equality concerns, lack of regional transportation coordination and the lack of alternatives to driving alone during peak periods. Mr. Small’s did offer some advice to communities considering such a solution. He indicated that congestion pricing will require strong leaders as well as competent administration and tight enforcement. He also strongly recommended putting some if not all the money back into public transportation improvements. If this is done the benefits of congestion pricing will be felt across the spectrum.
I do believe that as we search for additional ways to pay for our transportation systems, these economic solutions to transportation will start to have more acceptance. If you want to read more about congestion pricing, check out these sources:

Alternative approaches to congestion pricing. Website of the Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free
Congestion Pricing: A Primer. FHWA. December 2006
Congestion Pricing: A smart solution for reducing traffic in urban centers and busy corridors. Website of the Environmental Defense Fund
Congestion Pricing-Paying Your Way in Communication Networks
Congestion Reduction Demonstration-USDOT Electronic Tolling/Congestion Pricing
Equity and Congestion Pricing-RAND Corporation 2009
Income-Based Equity Impacts of Congestion Pricing: A Primer. FHWA. December 2008
Policy Corner-USDOT Online TDM Encyclopedia: Road Pricing - Congestion Pricing, Value Pricing, Toll Roads and HOT Lanes-Victoria Transport Policy Institute Online TDM Encyclopedia: Vehicle Restrictions-Limiting Automobile Travel At Certain Times and Places Alternatives to congestion pricing
Road User Charging Schemes Worldwide. U.K. Commission for Integrated Transport
Transportation Research Board Committee on Congestion Pricing - US National Academies of Sciences, Transportation Research Board
Urban Partnerships-USDOT
Using Pricing to Reduce Traffic Congestion-US Congressional Budget Office. March 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Online game lets you solve traffic gridlock

How many times have you sat in traffic and thought, "If they just synchronized the traffic lights, all this congestion would go away."
Well, a new game called "Gridlock Busters" from the University of Minnesota, Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, allows players to do just that.

You can test your mettle in processing vehicular traffic through a network of intersections. As you begin at the bottom rungs of a city traffic department, you're encouraged and coached by a senior traffic group member to take on more challenging conditions as you climb the bureaucratic ladder.

If on your watch honking cars max out the so-called frustration meter, you lose your tenure in the city's traffic group, and it's back to the mailroom for you. Enjoy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Where Do All the "Clunkers" Go

With all the discussion about Cash for Clunkers, I was wondering if anyone stopped to think about where all those "Clunkers" go once traded in to the dealers. No one would buy them to drive.
As it turns out, auto wreckers, junkyards and recyclers are getting a badly needed injection from the stimulus plan.
Check out this recent article from the LA Times.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We should ask our grandparents how to address our traffic problems

The longer I work in urban design and transportation planning, the more I realize how much the past has to teach us about how to reduce congestion and improve our quality of life today. New Urbanism is not really new at all, since it takes urban design principles from a hundred or so years ago and brings them back to life. These principles have lead us back to more walkable communities and successful businesses.

The modern day Streetcar is certainly not a new idea but one that reaches back some 50 years to move people in a cleaner and more efficient fashion. Streetcars are now being constructed or discussed in more than 50 cities nationwide.

Freeways, which are a relatively modern phenomenon (post WWII), are actually being torn down ("Highway Teardowns Benefit Traffic Flow and City Life"), leading to additional green space.

Finally, roundabouts, which date back to 1903, are replacing antiquated signalized intersections, leading to reduced congestion and accidents ("From One-Way Rotary System to Modern Day Roundabout").

My only question is why does it take so long to figure out what we already know?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Amid rising costs, how do subways fare?

The local transit agency in Atlanta (MARTA) recently voted to raise fares from $1.75 to $2.00 starting in 2010. That is likely to cause howls since the economy is already hitting riders hard. But how does the new fare compare with other systems around the country? And how well in general does the Atlanta subway, well, fare?

To start, Atlanta is one of only eleven cities in the United States that has heavy rail service, which is admirable. Of course the trend in the last decade has been toward light rail. As for the number of stations and lines, it does not even compare to San Francisco's BART and DC's Metro - two systems that were established in the 1970's similar to MARTA.

As for the comparison to the fares of other subway systems in the "developed" world, Atlanta falls near the middle of the pack, which is good news for Atlanta riders.
Here are a couple of interesting websites about subway systems from around the world.

First is a ranking of the "top 11 underground transit systems from around the world," and the second is a devoted to the fact that "subway systems need not be boring or dreary."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Traffic Unwrapped

The Atlanta TDM community worked to create a photo sequence of the impact that commute options could have on traffic. These images have proven to be a powerful visual tool.
Here’s the link to a multimedia file (with audio) on the Clean Air Campaign website: “Traffic Unwrapped

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Savannah Streetcar makes headlines, so why not Atlanta?

As you may remember in 2004, Lanier Parking Solutions launched an effort to return electric streetcars to Atlanta's Peachtree Street. Lanier led an effort to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform a feasibility study, which found a Peachtree streetcar would reduce traffic congestion and spur high quality development in the corridor. In 2006, Lanier handed off the project to the Atlanta mayor's Peachtree Corridor Task Force (later the Peachtree Corridor Partnership), which made the streetcar the centerpiece of an overall transformation of Peachtree. Now we just need the funding.

While we were waiting, Savannah, Georgia found out first hand just what that study predicted.

A story published by the Georgia Online News Service reports Savannah is running a restored 1925 streetcar along its riverfront, linking tourists with hotels, attractions, and connections to downtown. They're already talking about expanding to new routes.

“Areas along streetcar routes thrive,” said Jay Self, director of
Savannah’s tourism and film services department. “I don’t know anyone who thinks
the streetcar is a bad idea now that they’ve seen it run.”

The story quotes me, too. Check it out here.

Charlotte, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas all have streetcars, and Miami passed a straw poll to fund one as well. Our hopes were high that Atlanta would be the first city in Georgia to have a streetcar. I hope we're not the last to get on board.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hug and a Helmet

Check out this video where Danish police officers stop cyclists en route who are not wearing the proper safety gear to offer a hug and a helmet.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Parking Deck Blows in the Wind

I saw Ned Kahn speak at SCAD last night and was totally blown away (pardon the pun) by his work. Ned is an environmental artist and sculptor from Northern California who has completed ambitious public artworks for private and public organizations, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with architects and engineers across the U.S. and Europe.
Kahn won a MacArthur Foundation "genius award" in 2003 and the National Design Award for environmental design in 2005. Below is a video of a piece Ned did in Charlotte, NC where he covered the facade of a parking garage with 80,000 small aluminum panels that are hinged to move freely in the wind.

Wind Veil (Video)

Viewed from the outside, the entire wall of the building appears to move in the wind and creates the impression of waves in a field of metallic grass. Inside the building, intricate patterns of light and shadows, similar to the way light filters through the leaves of trees, are projected onto the walls and floor as sunlight passes through this kinetic membrane.
In addition to revealing the ever-changing patterns of the invisible wind, the artwork was designed to provide ventilation and shade for the interior of the parking garage. The piece was commissioned by Bank of America and completed in August 2000.
To see more of Ned's work check out his website at

Monday, March 9, 2009

Carpooling in the 21st Century

I was recently thinking about carpooling and how it has evolved over the past decade or two. Carpooling used to be something you could only do in person. You had to know someone (co-worker, neighborhood or family member) who happen to be going in the same direction.
Then came ridematch databases that matched people within a certain employer or area. Sure, you did not know the person, but you could take comfort in that they were like-minded and employed.
Today, you can arrange carpooling online at and These services allow for all types of trips (e.g. employee, special events, grocery store) in real time using your Internet phone. The online carpooling is just in the infancy stage, but you can imagine in 20-30 years when 15% of an urban area is looking for a ride. One thing all of this traditional carpooling has in common is that it involves prearrangement through some mechanism, such as online or work-based matching. Still, the future seems to hold the prospect of a system designed around carpooling without prearrangement (two types of carpooling without prearrangement have been going on for some time in Washington D.C. and San Fransisco). This is called fexible carpooling. Learn more about it here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Transit oriented developments may create fewer car trips than thought

Opponents of high-density, transit-oriented developments (TODs), often claim they create more of a traffic problem than they solve. But new research shows the number of trips they create is often exaggerated by as much as 50%.

First, a little background. Transportation planners struggle with how to reliably predict the number of net vehicle and person trips generated by new or infill mixed-use development such as TODs. Since the old model has relied primarily on single-use, free-standing sites, it is very difficult to make predictions with any certainty. Add to the mix internal capture rates, and the level of uncertainty rises.

The Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) is the only one to suggest a framework for establishing a data collection procedure for estimating multi-use trip generation to include internal capture rates. However, this framework is based on even more limited information than the old model. Currently, " little information is available about internal capture rates that traffic impact studies for mixed-use developments become little more than exercises in speculation." (Ewing, R., M. Deanna, and S.C. Li, Transportation Research Record 1518, pp. 1-6).

New research recently completed for the Transit Cooperative Program seems to confirm the disconnect between the modeling and the actual demand. The research confirms that the ITE trip generation and parking generation rates over estimates automobile trips for TOD developments by as much as 50%.

To view the actual study go to the TCRP website or check out this synopsis from on Planetizen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

GDOT fantasy threatens to scuttle BeltLine reality

There they go again, flexing their muscle instead of their brains. GDOT has built roads in the same fashion for the past 100 years in Georgia, and now they are bringing the tactic to alternative transportation. It appears GDOT wants to grab a piece of the BeltLine for their commuter rail/high speed rail fantasy with no regard to the City of Atlanta and their plans for the Beltline.

Jay Bookman writes in the AJC that the DOT does not have a good record of following through on its commuter rail plans.

For example, an environmental assessment of a downtown multimodal station was completed back in 1995, the same year DOT completed its so-called “Commuter Rail Plan Final Report.” But nothing has happened to make those plans real.
In fact, an $87 million federal appropriation for commuter rail between Atlanta and Lovejoy has been sitting untouched for more than five years, awaiting matching money from the state that has never come.
If only GDOT's ambitions for alternative transportation were the same as for building roads, hen we might have a world class transportation system in no time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama vows new focus on transit

On this historic day, a reminder of President Obama's stated positions on energy efficient public transportation.
Create Greater Incentives for Public Transit Usage: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama and Biden will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.
Strengthen Metropolitan Planning to Cut Down Traffic Congestion: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars, to walk, bicycle and have access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. As president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.
Require States to Plan for Energy Conservation: Obama and Biden will also reform current law which simply asks governors and their state Departments of Transportation to “consider” energy conservation as a condition of receiving federal transportation dollars. As president, Obama will require governors and local
leaders in our metropolitan areas to make “energy conservation” a required part of their planning for the expenditure of federal transportation funds.

I look forward to exploring each of these in the months to come.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Zipcar chief on CNBC

Zipcar Chief Executive Scott Griffith appeared on CNBC this week to explain why "cars on demand" makes sense for people who live in cities and don't need a car all the time.

He points out that Zipcar is not only for transit-oriented cities like New York. It is exceeding expectations here in Atlanta, where Lanier Parking Solutions is Zipcar's joint-venture partner, having brought the concept to the city in 2006.

You can get a discount on a Zipcar membership by applying through

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stimulus plan must include bike lanes and sidewalks

With President-elect Barack Obama about to take the oath of office, there is a lot of anticipation in the transportation community about his economic stimulus package.
Mr. Obama has clearly indicated that transportation infrastructure will be a critical component of any stimulus plan. Local governments have been sharpening their pencils and putting together their wish lists for quick, easily implemented, "shovel ready" projects. Although roads and bridges are traditionally first on the list, there has been a new emphasis on transit. I strongly suggest taking it even further to consider bike lanes and sidewalks as well. U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is pushing for them, as reported in the New York Times.
For a few million dollars, the entire city of Atlanta could build a comprehensive bike and sidewalk network. If it is left to traditional funding sources, it might never happen.
Think about it, if local leaders include bikes and pedestrians in their request, Atlanta could have a world class biking and pedestrian infrastructure in just a couple years.
If you want to learn more about local efforts to push for sidewalks, contact PEDS.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is the gas tax too high or too low?

In today’s AJC, conservative columnist Jim Wooten suggests phasing out the 18.5-cent federal gas tax and letting states decide which projects to fund.
Taxing authority should be returned to the states. State officials, and not
Congress, should be making decisions about what projects are built where. The
first money should be spent on improving major transportation corridors.

That is the exact opposite of what “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” author Thomas L. Friedman says we need if we are going to tackle our clean energy needs, which are directly tied to how we get around.
Producing new energy, or protecting the environment—in the Energy-Climate era, which is more important? Is it possible to do both? How we are going to do either without a price signal—i.e. gasoline or carbon tax—beats me.
Friedman says until we stop encouraging people to drive large, single-occupancy vehicles in more and more lanes, we will continue to choke our air and enrich petro-dictatorships that send money to people who want to hurt us.

Can we really expect each individual state to come up with a plan to stop this cycle?