‘Connecting Communities’

Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure – Quantifying the Return on Investment

September 26th, 2016 No comments

Sometimes small investments yield large returns. Building sidewalks and bike lanes to Metrorail stations increases safety and pays off two to one.

To close the loop on the last post that described our station area bike/ped project selection and evaluation process, we’ve posted the summary report online for your reading pleasure.   To skip right to the bottom line, though, we’ve been able to tie dollar amounts to certain project benefits and have calculated a total return on investment that’s nothing to sneeze at.   In short, we’ve estimated that a $13 M investment in some of the 394 top pedestrian projects leads to a $24M discounted revenue impact for Metro and its funders of the course of these projects’ useful life, a net positive benefit of $11M.  BAM!

MSIS Report Cover

In addition to the monetary returns, there are a number of other benefits that tend are challenging to quantify financially but have great value to customers and society at large.   For example:

  • New pathways shortens someone’s travel time, making Metro a more attractive option for the trip they are making;
  • New sidewalks may open up the station to an ADA customer who had to rely paratransit before to get to where s/he was going; and
  • New bike lanes provides a separation between both moving and parked cars, and the bicyclist, making her safer.

These projects are valuable indeed and the task before us (the royal ‘us’) is to ensure that they are built, thereby contributing to a more efficient use of the Metro system by maximizing the accessibility of stations.  So, let’s get cracking!

Since we collected projects from planning documents going back a few years, we anticipated that some of them might already have been built or might no longer work in the current context.  Therefore, we asked staff from our local transportation departments and planning agencies to help us “ground-truth” or update project status.  Out of the 394 top projects, we removed 194 that were already completed, no longer under consideration or that have already been funded, leaving 200 to focus on.

Not bad for a day’s work!

The summary report includes maps showing where the most-needed projects are located, as well as a “scorecard” detailing each project’s potential benefits as calculated in the prioritization process.  These include the safety measure defined by frequency of crashes proximate to the project, the potential ridership generated for certain projects, community facilities served, whether or not the project is located in a low income area (and, if so, how much of it falls in that area), the Walkscore, estimated cost, and a number of other useful indicators.

Read more…

Walk This Way – Metro’s Planning Office at APTA’s Rail Conference

July 11th, 2016 No comments

Metro shared its Station Area Investment Plan with the APTA Rail Conference attendees – and met with rave reviews.

I recently had the opportunity to present our Station Area Strategic Investment Plan to the over 1,500 attendees at APTA’s Rail Conference.  Many thanks to APTA’s Sustainability and Urban Design Standards program for footing the bill for this trip to Phoenix. It was 117 degrees there, and tested even my desire for walkable urbanism, but that’s another story entirely.

The presentation highlighted the Office of Planning’s work to quantify the return on investment of station area accessibility improvements, work with local jurisdictions, to prioritize these improvements based on an analytical platform, and identify the appropriate funding mechanisms to get these improvements built.

Read more…

Do You Bike to Metro in Fairfax County? Your input is needed!

April 28th, 2015 No comments

Fairfax County seeks input from bike-and-ride commuters.

Bike FairfaxAs we have discussed previously, safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access is critical to Metro’s success, and WMATA works closely with local jurisdictions to find ways to improve conditions for customers arriving on foot or bike. Compared with the high expense of building more parking garages for park-and-ride customers, investing in better walking and biking infrastructure is an incredibly cost-effective way of attracting Metro customers. On Metro station property, WMATA is making investments such as bike parking and path improvements.  On the public streets beyond, our local and state partners are installing their own new facilities for people walking/biking to the station. Read more…

Walk This Way – Metrorail’s Walkshed Atlas 1.0

March 30th, 2015 15 comments

Station-area walkability is one of the most potent congestion-busting tools in the planner’s bag of tricks. Now we’ve mapped out in detail which stations are living up to their full potential – and where we need to redouble our efforts.

We’ve brought to you information about the power of station area walkability. Not only does better station access give mobility benefits to those who most need it, but it also boosts ridership and revenue and therefore lowers Metrorail’s operating subsidy. That means lower taxes for you and me.

Metro’s Office of Planning is wiring the science of walkability into WMATA’s Key Performance Indicators. We are committed to working with our partner jurisdictions to improving station area access and identifying the near-term and low-cost improvements that have big returns for ridership and revenue. And we have been working diligently to develop a comprehensive geodatabase of walk sheds and the land uses – existing, planned, and proposed – located within them.