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The "Gas Station Preservation Act" of DC actually isn't law yet.

In mid-March I reported on a bill that was introduced that would, among other things, create extra hoops for any gas station that wanted to convert into something else like a condo or office building. Then at the end of March, the Post reported that this was already law. 

You'll be happy to know that I was probably right and they were most likely wrong. It looks like the bill they cited (Bill 20-71 for those of you keeping track at home) died in chamber (which might explain the "little fanfare"). So, that should put everyone at ease.

But, if you oppose such a law, because it's stupid, then you should be worried that the same language was re-introduced this year (Bill 21-46). The upside is that there is still time to kill it - I suppose. 

The gas station advisory board, actually dates back to 1976, when full service stations were being converted into self-service. The concern was that auto owners would be unable to find places to have their car serviced. I don't know if anyone has challenged the city's ability to do this from a property rights standpoint, but if so, then I guess it has stood up.

I heard a rumor that this expansion of the law came from Jack Evans, who was concerned that his gas station of choice (on Wisconsin Avenue, I think) was going to be converted into a condo and he was unhappy about that, so he wanted to be able to stop that. Prior to that, they were actually going to kill the Gas Station Advisory Board which has had no members since 2006.  

One more thing, the bill doesn't apply to all gas stations. I don't know if this is a mistake or what, but the current change to the language would only mean that a full-service station couldn't be turned into a condo. But it doesn't appear to apply to nonfull service station.

Below is the current law with the additions in bold. The underlined part is emphasis I added. 

No retail service station which is operated as a full service retail service station on or after April 19, 1977, may be discontinued, nor may be structurally altered, modified, or otherwise converted, irrespective of the type or magnitude of the alteration, modification, or conversion, including, but not limited to, any alteration, modification, or conversion which has the effect of merely obstructing access to an existing garage, service bay, work area, or similar enclosed area by any motor vehicle which was previously accommodated, into a nonfull service facility or to any other use.

So this may very well be targeted at harming a Georgetown service station conversion, but it's neither law nor currently targeting all gas stations.

It's still stupid, and they should just follow the recommendations of the Office of Boards and Commissions and kill this particular board. That is all, now back to bike stuff. 

Rock Creek Trail Construction to start this fall

Now people can finally stop asking me about it all the time. Sheesh.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will rebuild the trail along Beach Drive.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will finish the trail work in late 2016/early 2017. For a community that has been waiting for over a decade, construction on the trail will be a welcomed sight.

I think we all know what Joe Biden would say about this. This is not just a rehab project, when finished the trail will be better than ever  - wider, safer and with a section in the tunnel. But wait, there's more.

The trail will be reconstructed in conjunction with a complete rebuild of  Beach Drive from the Rock Creek Parkway to the Maryland border. 

During construction, FHWA will close both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. But WABA is working to ensure reasonable detours. 

The full 3.7 mile trail rehabilitation will not be complete when FHWA finishes their work next summer. DDOT is responsible for all trail sections across the creek from Beach Drive and along Rock Creek Parkway (south from Beach Drive), along with the new spur trail along Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT intends to complete design phase for their trail sections by August 2016 and begin construction in the fall of 2016. The agency plans to finish the entire trail reconstruction in 2017.

DGS now mowing the Palisades Trail

The Palisades Citizens Association Trails committee would like to announce that the DC Department of General Services has begun to mow the whole Palisades Trolley Trail from Galena PL to Foxhall RD.
DGS goal is to mow the trail 8 times during the season which began as of Thursday, April 23rd.

There is likely no single ideal density for bikeshare success and equity

NACTO has a "Practitioner Paper" out arguing that the ideal density for bikeshare stations is 28 per square mile. They argue that such a density will create the most successful and equitable system. But there are several problems with the analysis, starting with the definition of success and including a confusion of the terms "convenient" and "equitable", as well as the odd decisions to ignore population density and selectively ignore the impact of multi-jurisdictional systems.

How do we define success for bikeshare?

NACTO uses the metric "trips per bike per day" as the sole definition of success. I've used the term but I by no means think this is a way to measure success. It's useful for seeing how a system's use is growing, but that's about it. No city leader was saying that they would fund bike share "but only if bikes are used many times every day." 

The reasons for adding bike share are related to use, but a high number of trips per bike is not the goal. And how something achieves its goals should be the primary measure of success. A good place to look at how DC area leaders saw the goals of bikeshare is the region's 2010 Tiger II application for bikeshare expansion funding. 

The benefits they foresaw were user cost savings, user travel time savings, increased access, congestion reduction, emissions reduction, healthcare cost savings and accident reduction. They also saw benefits in getting users to purchase and use their own bikes - something that just doesn't show up in tpbpd. 

Considering these benefits, not every trip is equal. In systems with identical tpbpd which is more successful, a system that replaces mostly walking and other biking trips or one that replaces mostly driving and taxi trips? Certainly it's not unreasonable to think that a tightly packed system replaces more walking trips than a more sprawling system. 

There probably isn't one metric for measuring success. In fact tpbpd isn't even necessarily the best metric for defining use. I'd argue that miles per bike per day is - it has the added benefit of giving a direct relationship to health benefits too. But use is only one part of the equation. To measure success we'd also need to know trip replacement, initial cost, subsidy per unit of use, emissions reduction, trips where users would have stayed home instead, how much it encouraged users to bike with their own bikes, increase/decrease in transit use, reduced VMT, etc...

This analysis ignores the nuances of the other benefits. In fact by their definition, CaBi is less successful than Divvy and Citi-bike, despite Citi-bike's funding issues and Divvy's smaller use. By this logic, CaBi would be more successful if it took the stations east of the river - which have low ridership - and dumped them into the Anacostia. That should raise red flags. 

In contrast to NACTO, I would argue that any city maximizing tpbpd is leaving money on the table.

If each trip has an average benefit value to the city of, for example, $1 and each bike has a subsidy of $0.99 day, than the goal should be to maximize trips while adding stations that average at least 1 tpbpd. That means expanding the system more and more into lower use areas until all of the benefit has been captured. The benefit above cost is the "profit", and the goal is to maximize "profit".

Convenient does not mean Equitable

On the subject of an equitable system, NACTO states that

Like everyone, low-income people want convenient travel options that work for the trips they are trying to make. Bike share systems can provide this if they maintain a high station density (approximately 28 stations per square mile) across all neighborhoods in the service area, including low-income areas.

No doubt higher station density in low-income areas would be better for low-income people. But we live in a world of limited resources. Adding stations to one area to create high station density would mean removing them from somewhere else. Likely an effort to create 28-station-per-square-mile density would mean removing the worst performing stations - those in poorer neighborhoods - to create high density elsewhere. Would that be more equitable? According to NACTO, yes.

Station density and service is often worse in low-income areas. New York’s Citi Bike is an exception: while Citi Bike does not cover the whole city, the areas that are served are evenly covered with stations. As a result, bike share in New York is equally convenient throughout the program.

So, having high density in wealthy parts of the city (see the map of NYC on page 4) - lower Manhattan and Brooklyn - and none in low-income neighborhoods like Harlem, Queens and Staten Island is more equitable than spreading them out. Got it.

Conflating convenience with equity misses the point that the two are actually in conflict. Something they concede elsewhere.

systems that have lower station density in low-income neighborhoods often exacerbate equity issues as stations are too far apart to provide a real transportation option for low-income riders. Such systems attempt to achieve nominally or geographically equitable bike share coverage at the expense of service quality and utility

Right. For a given cost you can increase equity and coverage, but that comes at the expense of lower use. Or you can increase use, but that means covering a smaller service area. I find it hard to believe that the poor are better off with no bikeshare stations where they live than with only 9 per square mile.

In an ideal world, cities would have the money to add as many stations as an area needs, but they don't. Choices have to be made. Trade-offs have to be accepted. The reason that NYC's system looks different is that it is a privately-owned business, and businesses don't seek to create equity, or mitigate congestion, or improve public health, or reduce pollution. Businesses look to make money. And making money means maximizing tpbpd. Publicly-run systems have different goals and will look and operate differently as a result. In NYC, positive exteranlities are a side effect. In DC, they're the main point. So it's odd to hold NYC up as a symbol of equity.

The way to improve equity is to spend more money to add stations to low-income areas while finding ways to help low-income customers to use the system without credit cards or large upfront costs.

Station density follows population and activity density, which is likely the larger driver of use

The NACTO paper shows plots from each city showing rides per day per dock plotted against station density at each station. That certainly seems to hold up the premise that higher station density leads to higher utility. But there are two errors with this.

Cabi plot

First of all, station density is driven by population/activity density (the old "correlation does not equal causation"). Designers place stations where there are a lot of people and activity centers, and these are exactly the places where we'd expect to have the most use. Dupont Circle gets a lot of users because a lot of people want to go there or leave there; not because there are so many stations nearby. We could bump Rock Creek park up to 28 stations per square mile, but it probably wouldn't increase use that much. I suspect that if we redid these plots, but replaced station density with population density, they would look extraordinarily similar.

The other is that the curve they chose seems to imply that further density will lead to even more rides per dock per day, with growth being exponential. So if we moved the entire CaBi system into a circle with 1/4 mile radius, ridership would go up to several thousand a day - which is ridiculous. Even if we moved the DC system to the ideal 28 stations per square mile (an ideal which these plots appear to undermine, I'll add), it's unclear that this would increase ridership, since utility has two parts - how easy is it to get a bike and return it and where can you go. Densifying the system would cause one of these to go up and the other to go down. 

CaBi, like San Francisco, isn't really one system

One thing that lowers CaBi's tpbpd is the fact that the core is surrounded by lower use "pods" in Montgomery County, east DC, and in Arlington and Alexandria. Again, that the system serves these areas is not a sign of failure. If we look at just DC by itself, the tpbpd goes up to 6.1, which would place DC at the top of the heap. If we looked at the part of CaBi just in the L'Enfant city, it would likely be even higher.

For the paper, NACTO only looked at the San Francisco portion of the Bay Area Bike Share, a similar consideration for CaBi seems appropriate, especially since each jurisdiction is responsible for placing it's own stations. There is no CaBi overlord looking to maximize tpbpd over the whole system and Montgomery County is uninterested in moving one of its stations to Arlington even if it would increase the system's average utility. But this is irrelevant since the rest of the premise is flawed anyway. 

28 stations for square mile is BS

I've been pushing back on this notion that there is one ideal station density that has to be replicated world-wide ever since people started holding up Paris' station density as the ideal.

The 28 stations every square mile "industry standard" comes from a study done by APUR, the Paris Urban Planning Agency in 2006. In that they set the guideline for station placement at one every 300 meters, which several people have translated as 28 per square mile. (ITDP places it at 36 per square mile, but i'll leave that math to someone else). Regardless, that guideline was created before Velib started operation in 2007.

Now I'm sure there are some extraordinarily smart people in APUR, but the idea that the guideline they designed before they'd installed even one bike share station, and based on no comparable experience from anywhere else, is the ideal one is a bit hard to swallow. I can't believe that with the benefit of nearly 8 years experience in multiple cities, NACTO can't do better.  The original guideline was a guestimate, for a very different city starting with a much larger system. Would 320 meters have worked better? 230? Has anyone bothered to find out? And does what work for Paris - which has a unique urban design - work for New York City with it's skyscrapers, or DC with its much lower population density? Some planners are very good, but rarely does anyone hit the bulls-eye on the first try. And rarely does someone find not only their ideal solution but everyone else's - despite different inputs. Is Paris even still using this number?

DC has two large rivers and a lot of off-limit federal land. It will never be able to achieve the station density of lower Manhattan or of Paris. Nor should it try to. The ideal station density is different for CaBi than it is for Chicago, different for DC than it is for Arlington and different for Ward 1 than it is for Ward 5.

Shane Farthing is leaving WABA

As of an alert today

Today, it is with a great sense of pride in our accomplishments and in recognition of the need for new priorities and new challenges—both for WABA, and for me—that I write to tell you that at the end of June I will be stepping down as WABA’s Executive Director. There is only so long one’s transportation, recreation, and occupation can overlap so significantly before one’s mind starts to look outside for new things to learn, new challenges to address, and new ways to contribute.

What a DC bridge to Roosevelt Island could look like

Via Washingtonian

image from www.washingtonian.com

C Street NE Mulitimodal Corridor Study

The first public meeting for the C Street NE Mulitimodal Corridor Study will be held at Rosedale Recreation Center on April 30, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. Open house begins at 6:00, followed by a presentation at 6:30. Click here for details.

The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) is conducting a multimodal corridor study of C Street NE between 16th Street NE and 21st Street NE (study area map). Building on the hard work from the previous C Street study in 2010, DDOT is conducting this study to evaluate the current and future multimodal transportation conditions along the corridor, and to refine previous recommendations and concepts for improving mobility and safety for all users. The concepts developed for the previous study (located here) identified a range of measures to improve conditions for non-auto users, expand streetcaping and “green” infrastructure, and balance the needs of passenger and freight vehicles. Much has changed in the area since 2010, including completed construction projects on Benning Road and the 11th Street Bridge. These completed projects have substantially affected how C Street NE is being used by motorists today. As a result, this study will be relying on a range of new data and analysis to better understand how the previous concepts, including potentially revised concepts, affect how we will use the corridor in the future. While the specific extents of the study include C Street NE between 16th Street NE and 21st Street NE, DDOT will also be working to understand any impacts these potential changes may have on users and residents of adjacent streets in the study area.

This section of C Street currently has bike lanes. 

Many reports on the CaBi survey focus on the demographic change

This was widely reported and fully covered by mobility lab, so I'm not going to go too deep into it, but CaBi released the results of its 2014 Member Survey earlier this month. As Mobility Lab writes:

This latest survey – issued to Capital Bikeshare’s nearly 28,000 members, completed by 16 percent (4,314) in November 2014, and released publicly today – shows a lot of other interesting trends related to things like: significantly contributing to the region’s economy and business encouraging changes in commuting and general traveling behaviors, and considerably increasing economic savings for members.

The Mobility Lab article is the place to start. Most of the follow-on coverage focused on what Mobility Lab called "most striking increase" which was in the number of users making over $100,000. That went from 39% in 2011 to 50% in 2014. Thanks Obama. And that users are older and whiter.

DCist notes that CaBi riders are older, whiter and richer and City Paper that they're whiter, wealthier and more male. District Source went in the same direction as did DCInno. The Post noted that "Users of the popular program do not reflect the region’s racial and socio-economic diversity." And City Lab heralded the survey results as a sign of bike-share's social equity problem. A major driver in the change of demographics is likely because of where the system has expanded in that time - Northern Virginia and Montgomery County. Bethesda, for example, got several stations in 2013. It's ~86% White with an median income of $117,000. An expansion into PG County would likely have a different effect. With the exception of the City Paper, all of these article failed to mention this. I suspect the addition of the Silver Line will change the demographics of Metrorail users too.

City Paper first compares the CaBi membership demographic to the regional demographic and only later mentions that membership is becoming more suburban due to the expansion. 

I don't think we can say that the demographic change of CaBi members (those who self-report, I'll add) means anything unless we also know the demographic change in the people who live in the areas CaBi now serves. We need to know the change due to new service areas, and the changes in areas that were already served. None of which anyone seems to know. We can't expect it to look like the region unless it serves the whole region. I will say that the expansion probably has nothing to do with the members becoming more male - and I'm not sure what is causing that. 

Though I'll agree that it almost surely skews richer, whiter and more male than the areas it does serve. I'm just less sure that it is actually becoming more skewed over time. Of course it's fair to ask why CaBi is expanding into whiter, wealthier areas, but a large part of that is because Prince George's County has been slow to join in. Another large part is that it works well with transit

I also think calling it a "social equity problem" is a bit hyperbolic. There is a relationship between CaBi use, being unbanked and wealth, but bikeshare is still an incredibly cheap way to get around - if used frequently. And stations are placed in several less affluent neighborhoods, a fact that is a constant source of criticism for some. Because the region benefits from reduced congestion and cleaner air due to CaBi, even people who don't use it benefit from it. Here again though, CaBi should keep looking for ways to make the program available to everyone who wants to use it.

Alternatively, Kate Ryan at WTOP  avoided this sensational emphasis and went with just the facts. 

Studying BTWD attendees who only cycle on BTWD

An analysis of BTWD participants who only bike on that day shows that lack of bike lanes, poor infrastructure connections and long travel time are among the biggest barriers to getting more people to bike commute. 

The relative convenience, security, and ease of bicycling relative to other modes is particularly relevant to prospective cyclists of all types. Safety concerns are not significant for those that at least choose to cycle on BTWD but may be for those who have never tried bicycle commuting. 

Bike lanes around Stanton Park

Back in 2011, DDOT kicked off a process to improve pedestrian safety along Maryland Avenue. Two years later that resulted in a plan and in 2013 a pilot project was implemented at 7th and Maryland NE. Not much has happened with it since, but I'm not sure that I wrote about this then.

One of the things that project included was filling in the gap in the 4th and 6th Street bike lanes along the Park, as well as adding a bike land to C Street south of the Park.

Stanton Park

It would also add sharrows for the length of Maryland Ave from 3rd to 15th Street. No word on when any of this will be done though. 

I bike around Stanton a lot and a bike lane on the south side makes a lot of sense. In fact, I was once yelled at by a driver to get in the bike lane there; so after many years, I will finally be able to comply. 

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