Walking & Biking: High tech understanding of low tech solutions

By Frank Teng

Frank Teng is a current MBA in Sustainable Management student at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and is on the board of Sustainable Silicon Valley. He works with Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services firm, to manage global energy and sustainability programs for corporate clients in the technology and financial services sectors. Please note: Frank's views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.

Sometimes smart cities have simple solutions at their disposal – if they just view their data slightly differently. Walk Score recently released their updated rankings of bikeable, walkable, and transit-oriented cities:

  • 10 most bikeable large U.S. & Canadian cities (>200,000 people). The data on bike lanes, hilliness, and connectivity are all easily shown with elegant “heat maps”. An interesting inclusion in their scoring methodology is a “bicycle mode share” metric, which tries to capture the social network effect of biking. Rather than relying only on data about the built environment, the metric also attempts to measure actual cycling activity, often showing that there are “hot spots” in certain neighborhoods of cities aside from where the bike lane networks are.
  • 50 most walkable largest U.S cities, as well as Canada and Australia. This ranking relies on an algorithm that gives higher weighting to proximity to amenities within .25 miles and zero weighting to amenities further than one mile. This metric is used by the real estate industry in promoting walkable, livable neighborhoods.
  • 25 top-ranked public transit systems in the largest U.S. cities, measured based on “usefulness” of routes nearby, such as distance to the nearest stop, frequency, and type. Unlike the bike score, they don’t take into consideration riders’ satisfaction or effectiveness of the transit.

It’s hard to argue with Walk Score’s main conclusions on the benefits of walkability: residents average 6-10 pounds lighter in a walkable neighborhood, property values can be $600-$3,000 higher with each Walk Score point (and reduce the second largest household expense, your car), as well as the study that for every 10 minutes spent in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10%. You can now even search hotels by proximity and travel time to the locations you’re planning on visiting.

Walk Score data is even being used now in urban planning using such metrics as average block length and intersection density. This is probably an improvement considering that the Project for Public Spaces calculated the Walkscore for every state’s Department of Transportation headquarters, and came up with an average 67 on a scale of 0-100. See the PDF list here.

Another clever use of data is the City of Hoboken, NJ, announcing a combined bike rental-and-sharing program that will greatly reduce costs of operating the system. Social Bicycles puts a lock and GPS on the bike so it can be locked to traditional bike racks and while serving to track where bikes travel at what time, thus gathering large amounts of data data to help guide investments in improving effectiveness and safety of the system. Now they just need an integrated payment system like the transit pass proposed in Sao Paulo’s 150,000 bike-sharing system.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

How to Move More People with Fewer Vehicles

How to Move More People with Fewer Vehicles

Accenture analysts recently released a report calling for cities to take the lead in creating coordinated, “orchestrated” mobility ecosystems. Limiting shared services to routes that connect people with mass transit would be one way to deploy human-driven services now and to prepare for driverless service in the future. Services and schedules can be linked at the backend, and operators can, for example, automatically send more shared vehicles to a train station when the train has more passengers than usual, or tell the shared vehicles to wait for a train that is running late.

Managing urban congestion and mobility comes down to the matter of managing space. Cities are characterized by defined and restricted residential, commercial, and transportation spaces. Private autos are the most inefficient use of transportation space, and mass transit represents the most efficient use of transportation space. Getting more people out of private cars, and into shared feeder routes to and from mass transit modes is the most promising way to reduce auto traffic. Computer models show that it can be done, and we don’t need autonomous vehicles to realize the benefits of shared mobility.

Planning for Arts and Culture in San Diego

Planning for Arts and Culture in San Diego

The role of government, and the planning community, is perhaps to facilitate these kinds of partnerships and make it easier for serendipity to occur. While many cities mandate a portion of the development budget toward art, this will not necessarily result in an ongoing benefit to the arts community as in most cases the budget is used for public art projects versus creating opportunities for cultural programming.  

Rather than relying solely on this mandate, planners might want to consider educating developers with examples and case studies about the myriad ways that artists can participate in the development process. Likewise, outreach and education for the arts community about what role they can play in projects may stimulate a dialogue that can yield great results. In this sense, the planning community can be an invaluable translator in helping all parties to discover a richer, more inspiring, common language.

Sustainable Cities Need Smart Investment and Policies

Sustainable Cities Need Smart Investment and Policies

While the outlook for the environment may often seem bleak, there are many proven methods already available for cities to make their energy systems and other infrastructure not only more sustainable, but cheaper and more resilient at the same time. This confluence of benefits will drive investments in clean, efficient energy, transportation, and water infrastructure that will enable cities to realize their sustainability goals.

Given that many of the policy mechanisms that impact cities’ ability to boost sustainability are implemented at the state or federal level, municipalities should look to their own operations to implement change. Cities can lead as a major market player, for example, by converting their own fleets to zero emission electric vehicles, investing in more robust and efficient water facilities, procuring clean power, and requiring municipal buildings to be LEED certified.

Share This