Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting out of Cars

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

AASHTO reports record-breaking Amtrak ridership, 8 percent overall over last year, with some lines having increases over 30 percent.
Virginia's Newport News line to Washington grew 43% year over year, while the Lynchburg-to-Washington route was up 40%.

"Virginia is very proud of the success of this train," Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Thelma Drake said in a statement. "This success shows that there is demand for intercity passenger rail service in Virginia, and by serving major population centers, we are able to remove thousands of cars from the highways."

What Will Get People out of Their Cars?

This is a question I will pose in terms of urban areas right now due to a recent report, Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System, which synthesizes the recommendations of 18 people who went on one-week car-free diets in Boston and San Fransisco. The report is useful in determining what will reduce car usage in places that already have convenient and multiple alternatives to the automobile, such as transit, bike sharing, carsharing, taxis and walkable streets. It also provides food for thought for investment options in places that do not have all of those alternatives.

For the participants, the benefit of a car was not ownership, but autonomy. The benefits of being car free were feeling a part of a community and feeling that one was contributing to the environment. Now, from the recommendations, it seems like a particular type of person was included in the study. The primary recommendations is all-tech, all personally available, and easily accessible.

The participants want to see all information - transit, car sharing, taxis, bike sharing, etc - available in one place so that they can make cost, route and time decisions. The preference was for apps. Signage and telephone information were not even mentioned, as if they were so quaintly 20th century. They want mobility options and easy ways to make last-minute determinations about the options to select. The change in habits that participants noticed was adjustment to shopping routines. While they could see going car free, there was also the opinion that reducing car usage does not have to be all or nothing.

Creativity for Transit

Danville, Va., a city in the central part of the state, is offering two sites for "new creative bus stop shelters." According to the WLS10 business news article:
the Young Professionals Committee of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce "would like 'creative and aesthetically pleasing' bus stop shelters not only to increase ridership, but also to serve as focal points for the city’s central business district, according to a news release. So, the young professionals are sponsoring a design competition with $1,000, $500, and $250 prizes to be awarded for first, second and third places.

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