Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walking and the Life of the City Symposium

Here is the abstract to my paper I'm presenting at tomorrow's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University "Walking and the Life of the City Symposium." Details here.

Planning for Pedestrians within Multi-modalism: A Normative Framework

            It is well known aphorism that all transit riders are also pedestrians. Transit stations are planned and built with this truth in mind, though with varying degrees of success for increasing ridership and pedestrian activities.  Though all transit riders are pedestrians is a matter of fact, addressing the pedestrian environment subsequent to transit suggests a casualty that may not be appropriate. A more accurate explanation of the transit rider-pedestrian relationship is that many pedestrians are also transit riders. By focusing on planning and creating walkable communities first demand for transit can guide new transit services and offer true mobility enhancements to pedestrians.
            In this research I examine “chicken and egg” problems with transit investment, specifically with regard to the development of walkable communities. In this I argue that planners should not confuse a premium for walkable communities with a concurrent premium for transit oriented communities. There are multiple reasons for rethinking the relationship between walking and transit investment. Transit is well suited to managing commute trips, and depending on the vehicle technology either short or long commutes. Though transit mode share is quite low as a share of overall travel, as a share of commute trips into and out of the Central Business Districts transit does quite well in cities across the country. Where transit does especially poorly is for non-work trips, which comprise nearly 80 percent of total travel in the United States. It is these non-work trips that also offer the greatest opportunities for increasing walking and non-motorized travel.
            I argue that the largest problem facing pedestrian planning and investment is in financing any investments.  However, the main problem of finance is not one of inadequate resources (though this can be a problem) but one of decoupled revenue generation from expenditure. As pedestrian investment improves local property values property taxes and assessments should be used to finance any improvements. This is not simply for economic efficiency but if pedestrian improvements are financed by gas taxes then officials also have strong incentives and requirements to also improve automobility.
            This research also examines policy approaches to re-orient transport planning to give pedestrians priority over other modes. Local policies that dramatically affect the pedestrian environment include the supply and location of off-street parking, street widths and classifications and sidewalk maintenance. Additionally, efforts to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to improve pedestrian access for all are evaluated. The paper concludes with policy recommendations—some practical and some radical—based on a normative approach to pedestrian planning and multi-modalism.

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