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Why it's Unfair to Only Plan for Rush Hour

Determining whether to widen a street solely based on rush hour traffic ignores how the street is used and who uses it the rest of the day.
December 21, 2015, 9am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Writing in, Bill Lindeke challenges current practices in planning that place too much emphasis on Level of Service (LOS) and rush hour traffic in determining how we build out our roads. Using examples from Saint Paul, Lindeke notes that the increase in vehicle movement through intersection is great for the few hours of rush hour traffic, and barely noticeable at all other times of the day. And that newly widened road really isn’t doing any favors for moving pedestrians around.

If you combine the two “peak hours” (giving them 2-hour time slots), you end up with 4 hours of the 24-hour day. That leaves 20-hours of the day that are “off peak”, times when the road will be “overbuilt” for the amount of traffic that it has.

Basically, transportation planners are always faced with a choice here: Do you give design priority to the people using the street for those 4 hours of the day at the expense of the people that “use” the street for the other 20 hours?

Lindeke suggests a move toward using a multi-modal LOS "that balanced LOS for cars against LOS for other modes of mobility" (i.e., pedestrians, cars, bicycles, buses). Another option would be to simply expand the hours by which we measure LOS to get a better understanding of how the roadway is used throughout the day, and planning for all users, rather than just the few that clog the intersections during rush hour.

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Published on Thursday, December 10, 2015 in Streets.MN
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