Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dogfooding: Why Transit Employees and Managers Should Use Transit

The term “dogfooding”, derived from “eating your own dog food”, is popular in the tech sector, and implies that a company should use its own products wherever it can. Thus, in general, Apple employees should have Macs on their desks rather than Windows machines, and Google employees should use Gmail. The advantages of this are several. Most importantly, bugs can be quickly identified by employees using the system on a daily basis, and feedback can be channeled quickly through the organization. Secondarily, missing features can be quickly identified similarly. Employees will get better empathy for the experience of paying customers.

There are of course limits to this process. You would not expect Boeing Defense employees to take a helicopter home with them, or even operate one on a regular basis. However, for most consumer products companies, this is a highly useful practice.

Applying this to the transportation sector implies employees (including senior management) of highway agencies should use roads to get to work (I am sure this is true for the vast majority of even “multi-modal” DOT or highway agency employees).

Similarly employees, and management, and directors or council-members of transit agencies should ride transit to work.

Update 8/31/14: St. Paul Traffic Engineers should ride the every day until the signal timings are fixed.

Now of course, no-one can systematically use the entire system, everyone is spatially constrained in where they travel. Further, the bus drivers on the first ride of the morning (or the last in the evening) cannot practically ride transit to work in a system that does not operate 24/7, since there is no bus to get the bus driver there, or take her home.

Still, there are many opportunities for many employees, and more importantly, directors and Board members, of transit agencies to use transit, and I think increasing this number would improve service.

I have not seen a local survey in the Twin Cities, but this has been done in other cities.

In fact the travel passes (and especially travel passes for family members) are controversial.

  • New York City: From 2008 but with this gem “Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?”: MTA Revokes Travel Perks for Board Members
  • Washington DC: Washington Post survey of the WMATA Board found “Few ride the bus regularly.” (Though they do get a free pass).
  • San Francisco region:

    “In 1993, a grass-roots citizens group founded by Brown collected thousands of petition signatures and put a measure on the San Francisco ballot requiring the mayor, supervisors, and top city officials to ride Muni or other public transit to work at least twice every week.

    In the voter information pamphlet, Brown wrote: “Government is getting out of touch because too many officeholders and city workers act like potentates, not public servants. Send them a message! VOTE YES on AA to get them back to reality by riding the Muni twice a week.”

    San Francisco voters overwhelmingly agreed, with 65 percent voting to make this official city policy.

    So when was the last time you saw Mayor Ed Lee on your Muni bus?”

  • updated 2014-08-27: Houston, Texas, Metro execs to drive less, ride transit more

    About a dozen of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s senior managers will be required to ride public transit 40 times per month, and some will be giving up their staff cars or car allowances.

    “I know of no business where you can be successful without using your own product and believing in it,” George Greanias, Metro’s president and chief executive officer, said after announcing the changes during a public hearing today on the agency’s 2011 budget.

    Frequent use of buses or light rail will give Metro executives a better understanding of what the agency’s customers experience, Greanias said, while sending a message that Metro is committed to public transportation.

    David King notes that perhaps not coincidentally Houston is redesigning its network now.

  • updated 2014-09-10 Salt Lake City  Most UTA trustees ignore challenge to use own systemTransit » Just three of 16 accept a challenge to use bus and rail exclusively for seven days.
    (One of those who accepted, Keith Bartholomew, is a faculty member at Utah)
  • New Zealand, Auckland Transport’s Staff Shuttle connects between offices, rather than having staff use public transport, which is a bit slower. The post from TransportBlog.co.nz quotes Radio NZ (source article no longer online):

    “Staff at the agency which runs public transport in Auckland are being offered a shuttle service for business trips between offices, because buses and trains are too slow.

    Auckland Transport (AT) is spending more than $122,000 over six months, trialling the shuttle between its downtown offices and its headquarters in Henderson.

    Public transport advocates say staff travelling between the Henderson and downtown locations should be using the bus and rail services at the door of both offices.

    AT wants to reduce its car fleet by 20 vehicles, and is encouraging staff to cut car use.

    “We’re providing options for staff, to have a tele-conference, to catch public transport using business AT HOP cards, and we’re also providing a shuttle between Henderson and Britomart,” AT community transport manager Matthew Rednall said.”

Thanks to the Twitter community for coming up with these examples of transit agency staff dogfooding (or being raked over the coals for free transit passes to encourage dogfooding). If you have other examples, leave them in the comments.

Cars and Civilization

Jesse Ausubel sends along a link to his recent article: Cars and Civilization (pdf).

Rising incomes mean rising speed at all social levels. The rich, of course, accelerate more than
the poor. While poor means slow, even the slow today speed when compared with Queen Victoria.
In industrial countries, a poor man has a car and mobility superior to an ancient nobleman and at least equal to the Great Gatsby. When new travel modes are introduced, such as supersonic Concorde planes or maglevs, they will first be the province of the rich.

Worth reading if you like S-curves, travel time budgets, and other Macro-transportation topics. (Which of course, I do.)

Maturity of Bike Share Systems

Bike Sharing Takes Off by Statista
Bike Sharing Takes Off by Statista

I recently saw the above info graphic with an article in US News: The Exploding Growth of Bike Sharing

But if you look at the number of systems, the rate of growth is actually slowing

Cumulative Number Added

2002

7

7

2003

11

4

2004

13

2

2005

17

4

2006

25

8

2007

62

37

2008

128

66

2009

209

81

2010

328

119

2011

431

103

2012

497

66

This is a good thing in many respects. At some point we need to stop adding systems and start making them bigger, inter-connecting and inter-operating, and even merging them. Ideally I should have one subscription that can be used on any system in the world (I have said similar for transit passes, see Club Transit), and bikes could be borrowed and deposited anywhere. Very few people will of course take a bikeshare bike from Minneapolis to Chicago, but Minneapolitans should automatically be able to use the Chicago system (and vice versa). And like the electric inter-urban users of yore (one could take an electric inter-urban (trolley) from Elkhart Lake Wisconsin to Oneonta, New York, it was said), one should be able to bike share between major places, even if transferring bikes periodically. So while the chart does not represent what it purports to represent, the number of bike share users (and bike share bicycles) may still be growing at an increasing rate, i.e. we may still be on the left side of the S-Curve for the technology, even if the number of systems, like the number of cities (and railroads and airports) is not growing as much or at all.

Call for Host 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research

The World Society for Transport and Land Use Research (WSTLUR) invites all interested parties to propose hosting the 2017 World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research. WSLTUR is an international professional organization that promotes the understanding and analysis of the interdisciplinary interactions of transport and land use, offers a forum for debate, and provides a mechanism for the dissemination of information. The main vehicle for this promotion is the triennial symposium, which aims to bring together the leading researchers in the field to present scholarly papers on the broad set of topics falling within this enterprise. The Journal of Transport and Land Use (JTLU) is the official journal of WSTLUR and will publish select papers from the symposium. More information about WSLTUR and past and current symposia can be found at http://wstlur.org.

The second symposium in this triennial series will be held on June 22-27, 2014 in Delft, the Netherlands, hosted by Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente. We are planning for approximately 140 attendees and 100 paper presentations This follows the inaugural conference held in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada in July of 2013, which was a great success – with 80 participants and 60 paper submissions. For the 2017 symposium, we expect the numbers of attendees and presentations to grow at a modest pace from the 2014 conference.

Entities interested in hosting the conference should submit a full application including the following information:

  1. Name of the city (or town) where the conference will be held. The symposium can be held in remote areas, but a clear transport plan will be needed, regarding how participants will arrive at the conference location.
  2. A brief description about the suggested venue (stating what makes the venue (and/or its near surroundings) an interesting place to visit, seen from the perspective of transport and land use research).
  3. The strengths and profile of the host institution(s) in terms of research within land use and transport field.
  4. A detailed budget, including:
    • Total expected budget for the entire conference,
    • Expected registration fees, and
    • Number of meals included in the registration fees.
  5. Details of tours that the local host can accommodate in the conference city or nearby venues.
  6. Special agreements with local hotels in providing group rates for conference attendees.

WSLTUR will be responsible of all printable materials, conference proceedings, and gifts to attendees. All proposals should be received by email to Ahmed El Geneidy before May 1, 2014, and an announcement will be made regarding the host location during the conference in Delft in June. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

– Kelly Clifton and Ahmed El Geneidy

Overshoot and the Selective Pruning – WalkableDFW

Walkable DFW makes a nice distinction between inter-city and intra-city highways. They are nominally same technology, but placed in the wrong context they can have adverse unintended consequences.

That’s why we must understand that there are two types of highways:  Inter-city and Intra-city.  Inter-city highways are those necessary for linking regional economies, such as Houston to DFW.  They are necessary, provided they’re also competing with overlapping regional linkages by air and rail.  Intra-city highways are inner-city highways.  These disrupt and disconnect more than they actually connect.

You can’t have a conversation about improved and optimized cities and public infrastructure without understanding the two types of highways and which is appropriate and beneficial.

The reason is the point of any highway is free flow.  Anything that interrupts free flow thereby diminishes the efficacy of the infrastructure.  The closer you get to an urban core, the more friction there will be due to the more interchanges, exits, intersections, and crosswalks (as these frictional elements decrease in scale closer to the core).

Free flow and friction cannot coexist.  They are antagonists. Thus in Lewis Mumford’s terms, they are anti-city and city.  Therefore, bodies politic must prioritize, which is more important:  free flow or the friction of economic vibrancy.  Otherwise, free flow will erode the friction until there is none.  We must also remember what that free flow is in service towards, economic activity.  If it is killing economic activity that it is supposed to be supporting, we have indeed entered a cancerous stage of infrastructure and in turn city building.