Category Archives: land use

Does BRT have Economic Development Effects?

In a recent post on Streets.MN, I asked if Streetcars had economic development effects, and concluded we have no evidence to date.

In contrast, for Bus Rapid Transit systems, there is lots of peer-reviewed evidence, though not as much as we might like.

First, obviously the nature of the impacts depends on what kind of BRT you are talking about. Broadly, in the Twin Cities we divide systems into freeway-based BRT systems with stations, and arterial-based BRT systems with stops. The differences are that stations are more elaborate than stops, and less frequent. Worldwide, systems are hybrids.

A 2008 review: Bus rapid transit systems: a comparative assessment by David Hensher and Tom Golob found wide variations in the types of BRT across many dimensions (speed, construction costs, ridership, subsidies, etc.) with some systems offering a peak headway of well better than 1 bus per minute, while others were at 10 minutes between buses.

BRT thus has many distinguishing characteristics, ITDP recently developed a ranking system, the BRT standard. The categories for which points are awarded in BRT Basics are:

  • Busway alignment: 7 points
  • Dedicated right-of-way: 7 points
  • Off-board fare collection: 7 points
  • Intersection treatments: 6 points
  • Platform-level boarding: 6 points

The standard scorecard is more complicated, and includes many other factors as well. The best systems are rated Gold, and so on. I don’t agree with all of the points or categories, but this is a good place to start. The US and Canadian systems (Los Angeles, Eugene, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Ottawa) tend to fall into the Bronze Category, though Cleveland’s Health Line makes Silver (appropriate given the color of the buses and its former name “The Silver Line).

[I have not scored the University of Minnesota Transitway (which may or may not be considered BRT (I would, wikipedia is mixed on the matter)), or the Red Line, which were not ranked (but would make a good term paper for a transportation class).]

As many people worry, something can be pitched as a high-quality service, and then whittled down by the time of deployment, or afterwards to save costs. Frankly, this can happen with any technology, just look at what has happened to service frequencies on the Phoenix LRT, which are since 2010 12 minutes, but were 10 minutes at opening in 2008). Clearly as BRT is developed and deployed, this needs to be monitored. But this is true for any service with net ongoing operating costs that can be reduced over time.

Some findings from the peer-reviewed literature are below (sadly some of the papers are behind paywalls, let me know if you wants). Most, but not all of the evidence is favorable to measurable economic development impacts, clearly every system is unique:

  • Bus rapid transit impacts on land uses and land values in Seoul, Korea by Robert Cervero and Chang Deok Kang. “Multilevel models reveal BRT improvements prompted property owners to convert single-family residences to higher density apartments and condominiums. Land price premiums of up to 10% were estimated for residences within 300 m of BRT stops and more than 25% for retail and other non-residential uses over a smaller impact zone of 150 m.”
  • Redistributive effects of bus rapid transit (BRT) on development patterns and property values in Seoul, Korea by Myung-Jin Jin. This study uses simulation, rather than empirical evidence, so keep that in mind. “First, Seoul’s BRT contributes to increased development density in urban centers, acting as a centripetal force to attract firms from the suburbs into urban cores and supporting arguments for Smart Growth proponents. Second, unlike its redistributive effects on nonresidential activities, the BRT has a limited effect on the redistribution of residential activities, implying that residential locations are less sensitive to accessibility improvements made by the BRT than are nonresidential locations. Third, reflecting the transferred space demands from the suburbs to the urban cores, the CBD reaps the highest property value gains, while all of the outer ring zones suffer from reduced property values.”
  • The impact of Bus Rapid Transit on location choice of creative industries and employment density in Seoul, Korea by Chang Deok Kang. “[T]he BRT system is the favorable component for the location of creative industries and service sectors within 500 meters of BRT-bus stops. In addition, the BRT operation increases the employment density within the same distance to the bus stops by 54%.”
  • The Impact of Bus Rapid Transit on Land Development: A Case Study of Beijing, China by
    Taotao Deng and John D. Nelson. “The statistical analysis suggests that accessibility advantage conferred by BRT is capitalized into higher property price. The average price of apartments adjacent to a BRT station has gained a relatively faster increase than those not served by the BRT system. The capitalization effect mostly occurs after the full operation of BRT, and is more evident over time and particularly observed in areas which previously lack alternative mobility opportunity.”
  • Value of accessibility to Bogota’s bus rapid transit system by Daniel Rodriguez and Felipe Targa. “Results suggest that for every 5 min of additional walking time to a BRT station, the rental price of a property decreases by between 6.8 and 9.3%, after controlling for structural characteristics, neighbourhood attributes and proximity to the BRT corridor. “
  • Capitalization of BRT network expansions effects into prices of non-expansion areas by Daniel Rodriguez and Carlos Mojica. “Properties [in Bogota] offered during the year the extension was inaugurated and in subsequent years have asking prices that are between 13% and 14% higher than prices for properties in the control area, after adjusting for structural, neigh- borhood and regional accessibility characteristics of each property. “
  • Walking accessibility to bus rapid transit: Does it affect property values? The case of Bogota ́, Colombia by Ramon Munoz-Raskin . “The main results showed that, with respect to the value of properties in relation to proximity, the housing market places value premiums on the properties in the immediate walking proximity of feeder lines. The analysis by socio-economic strata showed that middle-income properties were valued more if they fell closer to the system, while there were opposite results for low-income housing. Finally, analysis across time reflects slight average annual increases in property values correlated with the implementation of the system in two specific areas analyzed.”
  • Recent developments in bus rapid transit: a review of the literature by Taotao Deng and John D. Nelson. ” In common with other forms of mass transit, a full‐featured BRT has the potential to offer significant effects on land development; the literature review also indicates that more work is needed to investigate this.” (The general cry of the academic – more research is necessary).

All of this is consistent with general observations and what theory would predict about accessibility improvements. A transportation system that adds to accessibility in a significant way warrants a premium in the prices people are willing to pay to take advantage of it.

Three Seeds for Vital Streets

Now at streets.mn Five Rules for Vital Streets: “There are three seeds:

  • A concentration of people (customers, though they need not be spending money, that helps)
  • A concentration of stuff (suppliers, who need not be selling)
  • An environment that encourages people to spend time doing stuff (marketplace)”

Updated from a Transportationist post: July 12, 2007.

Land Developability

landdevelopability

Guangqing Chi has a new website devoted to Land Developability:

“Land developability is a measure of land availability for future conversion and development in a geographic entity, such as a state, a county, a city, a census tract, or other geographically aggregated units. The land developability index is generated using spatial overlay methods based on data layers of surface water, wetland, federal/state-owned land, Indian reservation, built-up land, and steep slope, which are all seen as undevelopable. The land developability index can be used for regression modeling when land use and development is a consideration of an analysis, for detecting potentials for land conversion and development, and for predicting the direction of future land use and development.”

This looks like a very useful piece of research data infrastructure.

Markov Chain Model of Land Use Change in the Twin Cities (working paper)

Actual2005_10c_sm
Michael Iacono, David Levinson, Ahmed El-Geneidy, and Rania Wasfi (2012) Markov Chain Model of Land Use Change in the Twin Cities. (Working Paper)

The set of models available to predict land use change in urban regions has become increasingly complex in recent years. Despite their complexity, the predictive power of these models remains relatively weak. This paper presents an example of an alternative modeling framework based on the concept of a Markov chain. The model assumes that land use at any given time, which is viewed as a discrete state, can be considered a function of only its previous state. The probability of transition between each pair of states is recorded as an element of a transition probability matrix. Assuming that this matrix is stationary over time, it can be used to predict future land use distributions from current data. To illustrate this process, a Markov chain model is estimated for the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, USA (Twin Cities) metropolitan region. Using a unique set of historical land use data covering several years between 1958 and 2005, the model is tested using historical data to predict recent conditions, and is then used to forecast the future distribution of land use decades into the future. We also use the cell-level data set to estimate the fraction of regional land use devoted to transportation facilities, including major highways, airports, and railways. The paper concludes with some comments on the strengths and weaknesses of Markov chains as a land use modeling framework, and suggests some possible extensions of the model.

Directions for Research in Transport and Land Use

Below I posit some directions for research in transport and land use. Comments welcome.
1. We need more panels and time series and fewer cross-sectional analyses. If we want to establish causation, we need to look across time, otherwise, we are stuck simply with correlations. [And as we know, correlation is not causation]. We need data that examines the evolution and dynamics of transport and land use systems. I have not quite come to the conclusion that all analyses must be temporal (that is rejecting any atemporal analysis), but I am really tempted to do so as a reviewer.
2. We need to improve the scientific rigor of our research. The discipline is ripe for continuing meta-analysis to establish the magnitude of effects, and to reduce the range of estimates (and explain the range that exists through different underlying causal factors).
3. We need to more systematically consider network structure when looking at explanations of travel behavior. This includes measures of topology, morphology, and hierarchy. The measures that have historically been used have been relatively easy to estimate, but don’t get at the gestalt of the network as an integrated system.
4. We need to systematically look at the difference between travelers perceptions of how systems operate and how long are travel times, and what we analysts measure. The differences can be systematically explained, at least in part, and people of course make decisions based on how they think the world works, not on how we think it does. We could then examine why perceptions differ from measurements, how much is simply differences in linguistic interpretation (when a trip begins and ends is somewhat ambiguous, e.g.), and how much is differences in time perception, and how much is “rounding” error, and how much is strategic to either impress with the length of the commute (which brings to mind the Four Yorkshiremen sketch) or to exaggerate in order to get sympathy or a policy response.
5. We need to increase the inter-disciplinarity in the study of transport and land use research, with planners, geographers, engineers, economists, and others working together looking at these problems.
6. We need more international and historical cases in the field to build towards a general truth. Reasoning is both inductive and deductive, but so much of what we are doing is complex, one often cannot simply derive from theory whether a change will lead to more or less travel, it depends on parameters, for instance. the fixed costs of engaging in a trip vs. the variable (and non-linear) costs of travel.

Linklist: March 19, 2012

Steven Johnson Why The Bay Area Needs The Bay Lights [Transportation as art]

Created with over 25,000 energy efficient, white LED lights, it is 1½ miles wide and 500 feet high… The Bay Lights is a monumental tour de force seven times the scale of the Eiffel Tower’s 100th Anniversary lighting.

Pioneer Press Planning for [Sprawl in the] South Concord Corridor is in the works:

“A key part of the plan is building a frontage road for I-494 that connects the Hardman Avenue and Concord Street interchanges.

“This convenient frontage road access will open the area up to the market forces generated by the traffic on I-494 and will provide an improved environment for fostering retail, including restaurants,” the study reads.”

Via SR, Pretty cool use of US census data. From Hairycow

Atlantic Cities: Saving Detroit’s Public Transit By Privatizing It [A foot in the door to privatization.]

Authenticated electricity: Sony power outlets will charge you for charging:

“Sony is building a new kind of power outlet that raises a not entirely pleasant prospect—in the future, plugging a phone into a public wall socket might require authentication and take a chunk out of your bank account. But the technology will have many important uses, Sony says, from managing payments for recharging electrical vehicles to avoiding blackouts by intelligently regulating the use of power.”

MasterCard is pitching: Leave the Hassle at Home: Commuting can be Easier with ONE Card for ALL Stops:

“The vast majority of commuters we surveyed think so.  In fact, 72% of respondents in U.S., 85% in Singapore and 86% in South Korea told us they wish there was one card for use across all local mass transit systems. They also estimated that with one payment card they could save close to one hour (55 minutes!) per work week. Well, the capability already exists in MasterCard PayPass and for many, it’s already in your wallet.”

[Yes, I agree, though the time savings is probably exaggerated.].

Baruch Feigenbaum @ Reason says: I-85 Managed Lanes are A Success. [They may or may not be, these data do not prove one way or another yet, since total flows dropped and speeds rose. More people faster would be conclusive (from a transportation perspective, environmentalists would disagree). Fewer people faster is ambiguous, and depends on Value of Time. In percentage terms, speeds rose (3.2% in the GP lanes, 4.6% in the managed lane) more than flows dropped (1.7%)].

Peak Drive-Thru

Cross-posted at streets.mn and transportationist.org.

Drive-thru Wells Fargo at Emerald and University Ave SE, Minneapolis
Drive-thru Wells Fargo at Emerald and University Ave SE, Minneapolis

Wells Fargo Bank has shuttered the drive-thru bank part of its branch at University and Emerald in Minneapolis (on the St. Paul City Line). [Google Street View image shown.]
This may be for several reasons, the branch is immediately across the street from a Central Corridor LRT station (under construction), its road access has consequently been constricted. It would make a nice redevelopment opportunity, so this may simply be a real estate transaction. But perhaps there are other reasons. We have achieved peak travel in the US, and internet and electronic banking has replaced much drive-thru business.
I, like many pedestrians and bicyclists, am annoyed with the hostility the drive-thru gives to non-auto modes. I was reprimanded for walking up to a drive-thru ATM at a Maryland National Bank in Columbia (after many acquisitions, now part of Bank of America) … of course there was no walk-up ATM there, or I would have used that. If I don’t want to or can’t deal with a person, I still have to walk-up to the drive-thru ATM at my Credit Union on University Avenue, which still does not have a walk-up (and their machine looks circa 1980). The annoying part is not just the wrong height of the ATM and the poor User Interface, it is the cross-subsidy non-driving customers give to the driving customers, who pay no extra for the larger building and infrastructure they require.
Drive-thru businesses have a long history in the US, dating at least from 1930 in the banking sector. Obviously gas stations were drive-thru, and I suppose it expanded from there. I had a fascination with these types of businesses as a child, both because of their (at least banks) use of pneumatic tubes, and just because of the futuristic feeling one had doing business from a car. I was impressed when I visited my aunt who went to a drive-thru dairy store in the Philadelphia suburbs. In the planned community of Columbia, Maryland, we did not have these, though drive-thru banks were allowed in the Village Centers, at first drive-thru restaurants were not, and certainly not drive-thru groceries. We eventually got a Fotomat knock-off, and I was fascinated by the miniaturization of retail.
Visiting some southern town (I’m guessing Tallahassee, but it was a couple of decades ago) when I was in college, there was the drive-thru liquor and gun store (like this one, but different), everything for good-ole-boys to have a really good time on a Friday night. There is also a drive-thru romance store in Alabama, which seems less awful and gives a different meaning to the term ‘quickie’.
Of course there are drive-thru ‘quick-serve’ restaurants, and even Starbucks, which was once aiming to be a third space, in addition to these other oddball collections. Tom Vanderbilt in a Slate article on the subject notes McDonald’s gets 65 percent of US sales from drive-thru.
An hour of Googling does not give me a solid number of drive-thrus in the US, but Rheitt Allain estimates about 100,000.
There is better data on all restaurants, apparently the number of restaurants in the US is dropping about 2 percent according to Nation’s Restaurant News to 574,050 in 2011. One assumes drive-thrus are dropping as well, though independents are experiencing most of the fall. Overall, spending for food away from home has been dropping the past few years as a function of the recession and high gas prices.
The total number of bank branches seems to have peaked in 2009 (i.e. it was down in 2010, whether this is short term or permanent is of course unclear), while the number of institutions is way off the peak due to consolidation and merger.
All of this portends that the US may have saturated the drive-thru market, and the direction is moving down. It is still speculative, and future data will be required to confirm this, but if so, we may be facing a more walk-up America.

JTLU 4(3)

We are pleased to announce the publication of Vol. 4, Issue 3 of the Journal of Transport and Land Use, available at https://www.jtlu.org/index.php/jtlu

Table of Contents

Journal of Transport and Land Use, Vol. 4, Issue 3 

Introducing the World Society for Transport and Land Use Research  
Kevin J. Krizek, University of Colorado 
Kelly J. Clifton, Portland State University

The impact of the residential built environment on work at home adoption
frequency: An example from Northern California 
Wei (Laura) Tang, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, and Susan L. Handy, University of
California, Davis

Mobile phones and telecommuting: Effects on trips and tours of Londoners 
Grace Uayan Padayhag, Tokyo Institute of Technology 
Jan-Dirk Schmöcker, Kyoto University 
Daisuke Fukuda, Tokyo Institute of Technology 

The attributes of residence/workplace areas and transit commuting 
Bumsoo Lee, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 
Peter Gordon, University of Southern California 
James E. Moore II, University of Southern California 
Harry W. Richardson, University of Southern California 

The impact of residential growth patterns on vehicle travel and pollutant
emissions 
Deb Niemeier, Song Bai, and Susan L. Handy, University of California, Davis

Divergence of potential state-level performance measures to assess
transportation and land use coordination 
John S Miller and Linda D Evans, Virginia Transportation Research Council 

Using multi-criteria decision making to highlight stakeholders’ values in
the corridor planning process 
Bethany Stich, Mississippi State University
Joseph H. Holland, University of Mississippi 
Rodrigo A. A. Nobrega, Mississippi State University
Charles G. O’Hara, Mississippi State University

The Journal of Transport and Land Use is an open-access, peer-reviewed
online journal publishing original interdisciplinary papers on the
interaction of transport and land use. Domains include: engineering,
planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science,
sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems. 

Thank you for the continuing interest in our work,

David M Levinson
University of Minnesota

 

Height limits produce a positive externality

I see lots of complaints about height limits (especially in DC) in the Blogosphere: e.g. Avent, Yglesias, Market Urbanism, Freemark.
I am in DC and have walked around again. The density feels right for a city, much like Tokyo, London and Paris (all notable for a lack of overly tall buildings). In DC, the buildings are not too tall and canyon like, and there are few vacant lots in the core.
What do height limits do? The restrict buildings over X stories. Thus more buildings less than or equal to X stories are built over a greater footprint if demand is fixed. In other words height limits reallocates development. The consequence is that a larger area is urbanized at a higher density (at or near X stories). In DC, there is a much larger urban sphere than, say, height-limit-less Minneapolis, where high-rises in downtown are surrounded by many low-rise and surface parking lots.
Instead of having 10 blocks of 50 story buildings, DC has 50 blocks of 10 story buildings. Is this a really worrisome outcome?
This additional urbanized space is a positive externality in a number of ways. Better urban form (more sidewalks are walkable), less congestion (traffic is spread out over more space), less pollution intake (“the solution to pollution is dilution”, the bad stuff is spread over more area), less crime (more eyes near street level), more serendipitous random meetings on the street (which supposedly create greater productivity) and so on.
At one limit, we could have a height limit of 1 story, and spread everything out, at the other, we could have no limit, and buildings would be as concentrated as the market and structural engineering could support. Clearly the first is extreme, but so is the second, so long as we have unpriced externalities. We live in an imperfect (second-best) world with many unpriced externalities (congestion and pollution among them), which have no clear property rights. Regulating heights is one of many second-best solutions to this problem.
Do the height limits imply more suburban development? Sure, someone who really really wants a high rise for some reason will have to locate in the suburbs.
I can’t think of a good reason except ego for needing a high rise, while I see many inefficiencies associated with tall buildings: greater distance to the ground floor and thus to people in other buildings (in the absence of skyways on the 50th floor), limited interactions on the upper stories, so much floor space devoted to elevators, higher building costs, etc.)
Otherwise suburban development is not for lack of space in DC, but rather due to a preference for the suburbs. Cities without height limits get their share of suburban development for all the usual reasons (lower land costs, easier access for workers, etc.) when day-to-day inter-firm accessibility is not particularly valuable in their sector, and intra-firm accessibility still matters.