Adopting Multimodal Transportation: Giving roads back to the users
A good road diet and complete, smart and livable streets are governed by smart growth. The main principle of smart growth is to achieve a sense of community and place. The concept of Multimodal Level of Service (MMLOS) plays a big role in this. A detailed report.
Urban and Rural transportation planning is primarily carried out by the local agencies in majority of the Cities or States (Provinces). In the past 50 years, much experience has been gained in the planning and evaluation of urban and rural transportation systems. With the way the world economy is shrinking, it is necessary to recognise that funding has been dwindling for the transportation sector. The only way left is to make the existing system more efficient to accommodate all modes of transportation for all users.
For example, heavy road traffic congestion in Delhi which has a population of approximately 16 million, has become an economic liability. With more motor vehicles than Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined, overcrowding and pollution is threatening the capital’s ability to reach its potential in the rapidly expanding Indian economy. That means new transit routes need to be introduced to access the train stations. This leads to the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Now, Delhi has a few BRT routes and new routes are planned to be implemented. It is a continuous process of improving and innovating ways to make the system efficient for all users.
Current Legislation (USA)
As against this, USA has a specific legislation in its existing policy which is based on various sections in the United States Code (U.S.C.), and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) on Highways, Transportation, and The Public Health & Welfare. The “purpose of policy” is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide – including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life – transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.
Accordingly, transportation agencies should plan, fund, and implement improvements to their walking and bicycling networks, including linkages to transit. In addition, transportation programmes and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.
Multimodal Level of Service (MMLOS)
Currently majority of the roads are designed for only one type of mode, that is automobiles. The designs are “auto-centric” in nature. It is essential to design the roads for all users; the neglected modes are pedestrians, bicyclists and transit (public transportation). There is ‘no equity’ for all road users the way roads are designed. We have to keep in mind though that we did not have a means to measure the level of service for the three neglected modes so far. Several studies have shown that the increase in “obesity” and “un-healthiness” in the general population could be attributed to the lack of amenities for the use of transit, pedestrians and bicycles, particularly in urban areas.
To date we have only the level of service (LOS) for automobiles (cars); but the use of multimodal level of service (MMLOS) is expected to assist in improving the existing roadway system to accommodate other neglected modes and make walking, biking and transit usage more predominate among users. MMLOS provides a letter grade to each mode of transportation in the system. Once the MMLOS is known, the next step is to determine the changes to the MMLOS by implementing feasible road diets on selected road segments to accommodate automobiles, pedestrians, bicycles and transit along the study segments.
In general, a “road diet” is to make changes in the number of existing travel lanes along a roadway, removal of existing parking facilities, improvements to the intersections, improvements to sidewalk and in other elements of the roadway. For example, the reduction in a lane in either direction of the road is often done as a road diet to accommodate bicycle lanes within the same right-of-way that is available. The result could be improved safety and reduced traffic volumes for all users.
In Table 1, the LOS is defined using letters A to F, where F denotes the worst level of service and A, the best. The LOS is arrived using complex mathematical and empirical formulae using field data collected for this purpose; the simple grade letter is representative of the quality of service in the field.
The interpretation of the MMLOS numerical value varies with the four modes (automobiles, transit, bikes and pedestrians) analysed. For example, the numerical value in Table 1 for automobiles has to be higher to have better LOS whereas the numerical value obtained from the model should be lower for the other three modes, namely pedestrians, bicycle and transit. The summary MMLOS provides both the letter grade and the numerical value.
The Complete Streets LOS software is authored and distributed by Dowling Associates, Incorporated. This software was created to assist planners and engineers in designing urban streets that meet the needs of all users of the streets, namely pedestrians, automobiles, bicycles and transit. The software assesses how well an existing or proposed street diet will meet the needs of the travelling community and reports a level of service letter grade (A-F) for each mode analysed and also provides numerical value for assessment.
The software can be used to assess multimodal LOS for existing and proposed conditions. It can also be used to predict and test how changes in the street design or future demand conditions will affect the level of service for each mode of travel in the corridor.