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The Economic Perspective 11/10/2023

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

The Latest Trending Economic, Environmental and Demographic News Curated for You By The Balmoral Group

The Balmoral Group provides practical, professional and precise Economics, Data Analytics, and Engineering Consulting services and is part of a globally integrated team.

Happy Friday!

This week The Balmoral Group undertook our first “Get to Work Without a Car” challenge day. Staff in both our Winter Park and satellite offices were tasked to commute to the office without using a car. The purpose of the day was to offer perspective on the realities faced by members of our communities who rely on public transportation as their only method of travel. While many of us at TBG are involved with the various aspects of roadway projects, it is less often we interact with the non-car related elements in our daily lives such as bus stops and transit stations, bike lanes and sidewalks.

In keeping with this theme, the Economic Perspective this week focuses on topics regarding transit and safety, particularly pedestrian safety given the increase in traffic related fatalities for pedestrians year after year. The data visualization of the week is the results of the No-Car Challenge day, which compares staff members normal commute via car to the office with their challenge day travel time and method(s) of commuting. Hope you enjoy the read and let us know what you think! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested. If you'd like to view previous editions please click here, or to subscribe please click here!

Have a great weekend!

Right Turn on Red? With Pedestrian Deaths Rising, US Cities Are Considering Bans

With over 7,500 pedestrians killed by automobiles in 2022, some US cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Denver have been considering bans to the right on red policy in downtown areas. Bans have already been passed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, New York City and Washington DC. Right on red has been a default practice since the 1970’s, however, many are now calling it into question as vehicles become larger and deadlier. Critics to the bans argue ending the policy would be inefficient for motorists, transit and delivery services. Read more on both positions here.

Reconnecting Communities Pilot Project for Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues

Funded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a pilot project to disrupt historical redlining practices in Kalamazoo, Michigan began earlier this year. A one-way street, varying from four to five lanes, running through the Central Business District in downtown Kalamazoo will be converted to a two-way, single lane street to improve safety and walkability in the area. Traffic calming measures are prioritized in the roadway redevelopment to discourage the high speeds and traffic volumes typically seen in the area. Bike lanes, on-street parking, bus stops and pedestrian safety measures will also be included in the redesign. The linked article summarizes a variety of cascading impacts that are anticipated from this project, ranging from racial equity and climate initiatives to the estimated $22.5 million in economic benefit that is expected from a revitalized downtown area. Read about the project summary and expected benefits here

How Street Design Shapes the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Fatalities

An analysis by Smart Growth America details the influence roadway design has on pedestrian deaths. Their study focused on arterial highways, which are found to be the deadliest type of roadway for pedestrians. While typical highways are often classified as limited-access, which do not allow non-vehicular traffic, arterial highways mix high speeds with users not in vehicles, posing a much higher safety risk. Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee is used as the study street, and design elements such as infrequent intersections, obstructed sidewalks and the long distances between crosswalks are analyzed for their contribution to unsafe conditions. Read the entire analysis here

USDOT Grants $82.6 Million for Road Safety in 46 States

President Biden’s Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) Program was kicked off earlier this year, with $82.6 Million in road safety funding being awarded by USDOT to 46 states. Grants are awarded to communities to develop safety action plans and implement safety features such as separated bus and bicycle lanes. Safety in regards to freight traffic was also acknowledged in the grant distribution; with communities like Rushville, Indiana and Pasco County, Florida receiving funding to address heavy commercial traffic on local and county roads. Additional funding for the program is set to be announced in December. Read more here.

Analysis of 7,000 King County Bus Stops Shows Where Highest Ridership Remains

During the pandemic many bus stops in King County saw dramatic decline in usage, however certain areas saw their usage drop less and return faster. These areas were primarily areas of low-middle income and areas of a higher population of people of color. Stops around the University of Washington and other schools began seeing greater use as in-person classes returned. These changes gave urgency to Metro’s long-term plan to provide greater weekend service as well as service outside of rush-hour traffic. In 2022 rush hour rides made up only 50% of daily bus ridership, which is down from 60% in 2019, showing many communities rely on busing for not just their work commute but their transportation to buy groceries, run errands, go to the doctor, etc. Metro hopes to expand service by 70% by 2050 by spending $28 billion on expanding light-rail lines to communities all over the Seattle area. Read the entire study here

Tampa Brightline Station Will Be Built in Ybor City Area, Mayor Says

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced this week that the proposed Brightline station in Tampa will be located in the Ybor City area, which is approximately 9 miles east of Tampa International Airport. An exact location has not been decided yet, however, officials are intending to build it in close proximity to TECO Streetcar service lines to provide greater transit connectivity for riders. The Orlando Airport Brightline station recently began providing service in September and Castor says she is hopefully service between Tampa and Orlando will start begin in 4-5 years. Read the full article here

Data Visualization of the Week

Staff rose to the occasion for TBG’s “Get to Work Without a Car” challenge and made it to the office in a variety of ways by using the SunRail, Lynx Buses (Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority), Washington State Department of Transportation Ferry, Kitsap Transit, biking and walking. The below graphs compare staff’s one-way travel time normally with their challenge day time and method(s). While two staff members regularly travel to the office without using a car, the majority at TBG do, and as shown below, found commuting without one to greatly increased their travel time.

Our most creative (and longest) transit option came from TBG’s Seattle office, where staff elected to utilize the WSDOT Ferry system as part of their commute. For the Winter Park office, a special shout out to the seven staff members who chose to bike their entire routes, with the longest distance being almost 13 miles taking 1.5 hours.

Observations along from the challenge yielded similar themes to the ones discussed in the articles above. Notable ones include unease where bike lanes were either not available or too close to vehicular traffic for comfort, how lack of sidewalks increased the difficulty of routes for some and universally, how eye opening both the lack of transit options and infrequency of service in Central Florida is.


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