Thursday, January 23, 2014

MWCOG Regional Transportation Plan - Expand Bicycle Infrastructure

On January 15 the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan was approved by the Transportation Planning Board (TPB). The TPB, part of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, conducts transportation planning for the DC Metro area as a requirement for jurisdictions to receive Federal transportation funding. A major recommendation of the plan is to Expand Bicycle Infrastructure.

Biking is mentioned throughout the Plan (pdf) as one option among many for solving our transportation problems. To reduce congestion and accommodate future growth the Plan recommends the following overall strategies, which is a major shift, from building more and bigger roads, to having an integrated,  multimodal, smart growth approach:
A mix of supply-and demand-side strategies. Expanding roadway and transit capacity goes a long way in alleviating congestion on the existing transportation system, but doing so can often be more expensive and less cost-effective than efforts to manage demand.

A multimodal approach. Offering a wider variety of travel modes, and focusing attention on modes that can move more people at lower cost, is key to moving more people more efficiently. Making such options available to more people also takes pressure off currently crowded systems, especially the roadway network and the core of the transit system, and alleviates demand for expensive new infrastructure. Providing travelers with more options also results in an increase in quality of life, as they are more likely to be able to choose a mode that best suits their individual needs. Not all projects with a given mode deserve equal attention, however; some investments or projects support more regional goals and offer greater benefit relative to their costs than others.

A focus on concentrating future growth in mixed-use Activity Centers. Land-use is a critical component in more effectively managing demand on our region’s transportation system. Concentrating growth in mixed-use Activity Centers can help make more effective use of existing facilities, and can improve socioeconomic imbalance in the region by supporting job growth and commercial activity in areas that currently lack it. These land-use principles are central tenets of Region Forward and the TPB Vision.
These recommendations "represent a shift in focus away from large-scale supply-side investments of the past to smarter, more strategic approaches to alleviating congestion and crowding, and to accommodating future growth."

One of the primary near-term strategies for accomplishing the above involves bicycling:

Expand Bicycle infrastructure (NT6)

What we should do: Make bicycling a viable transportation choice for more people in more places by making it safer, easier, and more convenient.
  • Invest in more bike lanes and bike paths
  • Expand bike-sharing systems like Capital Bikeshare 
  • Provide more bicycle parking 
  • Increase workplace amenities for bicyclists, such as showers and changing rooms 
How much it will cost$$$$$ - Tens of millions of dollars

Why we should do it: Responds to rising demand

Bicycling is booming in the Washington region—not just as way to get healthy and have fun, but as a practical mode of transportation. Because of this rising demand, we need to expand bicycling infrastructure to make it safer and easier for more people.

Between 2000 and 2011, the District of Columbia saw the share of its residents who bicycle to work double, from 1.4 percent of residents to 3.5 percent. Regionally, the share is still below 1 percent, but growing. Some higher- density, mixed-use communities outside the regional core have higher shares of people commuting to work by bike, like the area near the East and West Falls Church Metrorail stations, which saw 3.6 percent of commuters traveling by bike.

Interest in and support for bicycling is also growing across the region. Suburban jurisdictions are increasingly seeing that bicycling can provide a viable transportation option in locations where it was previously considered unrealistic. Fairfax and Montgomery counties, for example, are both pursuing the expansion of Capital Bikeshare into communities there. Bike to Work Day 2013 had a record 14,500 total participants, with individuals from every jurisdiction in the region pledging to commute to work by bike as part of the event.

Encourages greater use at a small price

The more bicycle infrastructure that is available, the more people are likely to ride. For example, since the year 2000, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has designated 56 miles of marked bike lanes, installed 2,300 bicycle parking racks, and launched Capital Bikeshare. Most of the increases in bicycle use observed over the last decade have occurred in the neighborhoods near downtown Washington, which has the highest concentration of new bike lanes, cycle tracks, and Capital Bikeshare stations. Capital Bikeshare has been particularly effective in increasing bicycling trips: in 2013, Capital Bikeshare provided an average of [X] trips per month.

Bicycling infrastructure is also relatively inexpensive to install. Bike lanes cost about $15,000 per mile and costs can be much lower if the striping is done as part of planned resurfacings or larger streetscape projects. Protected cycle tracks are more expensive to install, at approximately $200,000 per mile, but they also facilitate more bicycling than can normal lanes.

Supports activity centers and builds community

Bicycling infrastructure is a key element in community design. The TPB’s Complete Streets Policy, adopted in 2012, called upon the region’s local and state governments to adopt policies to promote street design policies and standards to make alternative modes of transportation—including bicycling and walking—safer and more comfortable. Today, nearly all the region’s jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets approaches and are finding ways to make a range of transportation options available to more residents. Jurisdictions in all corners of the region are seeking their own ways to promote mixed-use activity centers and bicycle infrastructure to expand the number of destinations that can be reached without a car.

As we seek to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve public health, bicycling provides the freedom to get where you need to go quickly and efficiently. Even for people who do not often bike, it represents an expansion of our options for travel. And transportation choice is a key element in our region’s vision for the future.

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  Bike to Work Day 2015 at Wiehle Station

  Transportation choices

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