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  1. #1
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    Level of Service Bug-a-boo going Bye-Bye?

    The bane of people who attempt to make our roads work for things that aren't cars, like bikes, buses and pedestrians (and scooters) is the Level of Service traffic engineering standard. Whether you are trying to get a stop sign for a small roadway where it crosses a bike path or put in a bus rapid transit line, this thing gets in the way every time. Here's a little article that offers up some hope for its banishment to the depths of darkness where it belongs.

    Level of service was a child of the Interstate Highway era. The LOS concept was introduced in the 1965 Highway Capacity Manual, at the very moment in American history when concrete ribbons were being tied across the country, and quickly accepted as the standard measure of roadway performance. LOS is expressed as a letter grade, A through F, based on how much delay vehicles experience; a slow intersection scores worse on LOS than one where traffic zips through. Planners and traffic engineers use the metric as a barometer of congestion all over the United States.

    In California, LOS has an especially high-profile. As the primary arbiter of traffic impacts under CEQA[CA Environmental Quality Act]—adopted in 1970 by Governor Ronald Reagan—the metric not only determines the fate of many transportation and development projects, but has the awkward role of promoting car use within a law designed to protect the environment. "We have one section of CEQA saying we've got to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says transportation consultant Jeffrey Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard, "and another section of CEQA saying we need to accommodate unlimited driving."

    Transit Projects Are About to Get Much, Much Easier in California - CityLab

    If this doesn't float Roody's boat then I don't know what will.

  2. #2
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this interesting and important article. Sometimes it's important to pay attention to "boring" policy issues because they have a great impact on your daily life.

    For example,, I do care deeply about whether we bomb Syria. It's an important issue for the country and the world. But the outcome won't really change the way I live my life. OTOH, a new buffered bike lane on the highway that goes from my house to the mall will make my life better every day. A BRT route that makes the crosstown trip to my favorite Thai restaurant 25 minutes faster will also make me very happy.

    If you're carfree or carlight, you should be a little upset that it is prohibitively difficult and expensive to install bus lanes (or bike lanes) if they will--to the slightest degree--slow down the progress of automobiles on a roadway. This is due to the level of service standards that transportation engineers and city planners are required to follow. Even when the new bike lane or bus lane will improve transportation for most of the people using the road, it will be denied unless an environmental impact study study is done. That study might cost millions of dollars and take many years to complete.

    While waiting for the study, important non-motor projects are often cancelled due to lack of funds or waning interest. Michigan just got its first BRT route after Grand Rapids hung tough through the lengthy approval process. BRT here in Lansing and light rail in Detroit is currently hung up in the impact study process. My region has so far been unable to install bike lanes along the busiest roads because of the level of service issue--even though there is considerable support for the bike lanes from citizens and businesses, and the local governments are gung-ho to put them in.

    I think it's very positive that California has adopted a new standard for evaluating highway projects that will make it easier for bike and bus lanes to get off the ground. In the past, California has often led the way in changing regulations to benefit the environment and safety issues. Usually, if California has success with a new regulation, the federal government ends up adopting it and the other states scramble to catch up. Thank you California!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  3. #3
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    What I want is for the bike paths to be swept weekly in the summer and any time there is a snow fall in the winter. I've called the streets department about this and they won't do it more than a couple of times in winter and summer. They say they don't have the money for it in the budget.

    When the snow plows are operating they just push the snow into the bicycle lanes. It just stays piled up there for months. They just don't believe people ride bicycle in the winter or don't care.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  4. #4
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    What I want is for the bike paths to be swept weekly in the summer and any time there is a snow fall in the winter. I've called the streets department about this and they won't do it more than a couple of times in winter and summer. They say they don't have the money for it in the budget.

    When the snow plows are operating they just push the snow into the bicycle lanes. It just stays piled up there for months. They just don't believe people ride bicycle in the winter or don't care.
    Interesting. What was your take on the actual topic of this thread? I would be interested to know...


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  5. #5
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Interesting. What was your take on the actual topic of this thread? I would be interested to know...
    I was using a different meaning for level of service. I described the services I would like to have from the transportation department here.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Spld cyclist's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting. That's an inspirational article.

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    It would be nice if 'Level of Service' metrics would be used for bike infrastructure and transit performance. There are many good bike routes but connectivity could be improved. Same with bus lines; there are plenty but it still takes a long time to get around from place to place within an efficient time frame.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    It would be nice if 'Level of Service' metrics would be used for bike infrastructure and transit performance. There are many good bike routes but connectivity could be improved. Same with bus lines; there are plenty but it still takes a long time to get around from place to place within an efficient time frame.
    +1. No need to abolish Level of Service. Broaden the definition.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    +1. No need to abolish Level of Service. Broaden the definition.
    The problem is that speeding up service through cities stimulates sprawl, which is in and of itself problematic. Level of service could be improved for cycling and transit per unit distance but at the same time, distances could be growing because planners and businesses are locating within a broader range of travel. E.g. you might be able to travel 15mph with less stops as a cyclist but if distances between destinations are growing, your effective level of service is diminishing.

    We need to be preventing and reducing sprawl, not encouraging it by streamlining automotive traffic.

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    +1. No need to abolish Level of Service. Broaden the definition.
    How are you going to make that happen?


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    The problem is that speeding up service through cities stimulates sprawl, which is in and of itself problematic. Level of service could be improved for cycling and transit per unit distance but at the same time, distances could be growing because planners and businesses are locating within a broader range of travel. E.g. you might be able to travel 15mph with less stops as a cyclist but if distances between destinations are growing, your effective level of service is diminishing.

    We need to be preventing and reducing sprawl, not encouraging it by streamlining automotive traffic.
    Good point, as when using LOS you cannot allow redevelopment that would add trips to the roads with poor existing LOS (the standard is usually D or C and existing LOS may be F), most often in a center area or downtown that has all the other great places built in, as well as all the other necessary infrastructure. Soooo, it puts new development further out on roads that can handle the trips (sprawl).

    For those of you interested in getting involved in your local situation you could support a broadened LOS standard that balances other modes of transportation (or eliminate it altogether in corridors that have robust transit and other modes of transportation), in addition to supporting lower LOS standards for downtown areas with transit, and higher LOS standards for other areas. For example, allow a LOS of D or even F for the roads if the other modes are there or can be built. Adopt a B or better for rural areas.

    Lastly, and probably broader would be no support for new toll roads, or new by-passes for the interstate. Toll roads often travel through new areas that have yet to develop. They are subsidized at first because the tolls are not enough to pay for them (remember, they often go where there is little development). Once they provide access to these new areas then development can follow. Usually at first they reduce the drive time to a more urban area to less than 1 hour. Most people will drive less than 1 hour, but don't like to drive more. So they first move out into the "country" on the new toll road because they have a sub hour commute (even though their miles driven may have increased from their closer-in home). Then, as development follows the toll road their commute gets longer and longer in time spent, and we get more sprawl as the new area develops in a low density and intensity manner.

    Basically, they are a tool to allow more sprawl development (in many areas that is - not all).
    Last edited by Ridefreemc; 09-22-14 at 08:53 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Good point, as when using LOS you cannot allow redevelopment that would add trips to the roads with poor existing LOS (the standard is usually D or C and existing LOS may be F), most often in a center area or downtown that has all the other great places built in, as well as all the other necessary infrastructure. Soooo, it puts new development further out on roads that can handle the trips (sprawl).
    Why not redefine driving LOS in terms relative to density so that higher density areas would have a higher LOS based on the time between destinations. E.g. if it takes you five minutes to drive 20mph between destinations, why shouldn't this be an equivalent LOS to driving 5 minutes at 45mph? Either way the trip takes five minutes.

    For those of you interested in getting involved in your local situation you could support a broadened LOS standard that balances other modes of transportation (or eliminate it altogether in corridors that have robust transit and other modes of transportation), in addition to supporting lower LOS standards for downtown areas with transit, and higher LOS standards for other areas. For example, allow a LOS of D or even F for the roads if the other modes are there or can be built. Adopt a B or better for rural areas.
    Rural areas would be harder to rate in terms of density because you'd have to decide what qualifies as relevant destinations. It could take you 10-20 minutes to drive to a grocery store in a rural area at 45-60mph so a denser area where you can drive to a grocery store in 5-10 minutes at 20mph would have higher LOS than the rural area. This isn't to say rural areas might not be worth having lower LOS for the sake of maintaining the rural character of the area.

    Using LOS in this way would also make it easier to harmonize LOS between different modes. E.g. if a supermarket 3 miles away takes 15minutes by bike and 10 minutes by driving, that would be better LOS than, say, if it takes 5 minutes by car and 25 by bike (due to large roads and poor bike-traffic management, or takes 20 minutes by car and 15 by bike due to excessive auto traffic causing congestion and not enough cycling traffic to relieve that congestion.

    Lastly, and probably broader would be no support for new toll roads, or new by-passes for the interstate. Toll roads often travel through new areas that have yet to develop. They are subsidized at first because the tolls are not enough to pay for them (remember, they often go where there is little development). Once they provide access to these new areas then development can follow. Usually at first they reduce the drive time to a more urban area to less than 1 hour. Most people will drive less than 1 hour, but don't like to drive more. So they first move out into the "country" on the new toll road because they have a sub hour commute (even though their miles driven may have increased from their closer-in home). Then, as development follows the toll road their commute gets longer and longer in time spent, and we get more sprawl as the new area develops in a low density and intensity manner.
    Well-put. Sprawl is a temporary LOS fix that reduces/worsens LOS in the long run for everyone in the area.

    Basically, they are a tool to allow more sprawl development (in many areas that is - not all).
    Bicycle and transit LOS could be tools to prevent sprawl development and promote greater multimodal parity.

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Shoulda left the Trolley tracks in place after WW2. but the powers that matter ($$$$) wanted to privatize transportation.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Shoulda left the Trolley tracks in place after WW2. but the powers that matter ($$$$) wanted to privatize transportation.
    You should know better than that since you're in Oregon. Many of our trolley tracks are still in place. However, they have asphalt laid over them in that place. There is some sort of state historic preservation law that requires roads departments to jump through hoops to remove them, so they often choose to just cover them. I ride over a set almost every day along University St. here in Eugene.

  15. #15
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Shoulda left the Trolley tracks in place after WW2. but the powers that matter ($$$$) wanted to privatize transportation.
    In many cases the trolley tracks are still there--just covered by asphalt. I don't know if they would still work.


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