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5 Ways to Help Traffic

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Source: CNN

In the midst of Tropical Storm Harvey, our hearts and thoughts go out to the families whom are affected by this storm. Due to its flat topography, Houston is well-known for its susceptibility for flooding. Many people woke up to find they were trapped inside their flooded homes and waited to be rescued. We wish the affected families the best of luck in their journey to recovery.
 
I have never been to Houston, but I have heard many stories about Houston’s traffic and planning. In this blog, I will share what I have learned from my perspective and my extended knowledge of transportation.
 
Houston is known for its sprawl. People tend to complain about the traffic because they drive to most of their destinations. The traffic is usually at a standstill.
 
Here is a video talking about the Houston’s freeway system.
 


 
American Highway Users Alliance published a statement that the Katy freeway in Houston was the second most congested road in America. Drivers spend a combined 25.4 million hours every year sitting in traffic on that road (which is 36 lifetimes worth). That is why the government decided to spend $2.8 billion to expand the road to 28 lanes, making it the widest highway in the world. Many people thought that this extra capacity would surely solve the problem. However, between 2011 and 2014, travel time on Katy freeway went up 55% (Meaning that driving between downtown Houston and Katyland, a 28-minute drive without traffic, takes an average of 64 mins during afternoon rush hour.)

Katy freeway (I-10) in Houston, Tx

Sounds unbelievable, right?

The video explains that the road expanding solution violated the fundamental law of roads: MORE LANES=MORE TRAFFIC. When the road got extended, more people used it, causing it to reach capacity again.

Here are some solutions for traffic as discussed in the video:
 

  1. Take public transit

This is always the long-term way to solve traffic. Taking the bus and light rail can definitely reduce the daily amount of traffic and is also environmentally friendly.

METRO_Light_Rail3

Source: http://www.abrahamwatkins.com/blog/images/METRO_Light_Rail3.jpg

  1. Ramp meters

Meters on entrance and exit ramps can control the amount flow of traffic entering the highway. It slows down the number of cars merging onto the highway, ensuring traffic stays at its most efficient speed.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 3.40.10 PM

Source: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop14020/sec1.htm

  1. Tolls

Tolls are a direct way to reduce traffic. In New York, which has high roadway tolls, people often prefer to take the train or subway into Manhattan instead of driving.

These fees can increase the overall cost of driving to a level where some people will decide the benefits of driving are not high enough and will choose alternative means of transportation.2005-03-13_15-53-32

  1. Roundabouts

Roundabouts decrease some of the worst type of collisions and still carry the same amount of traffic, according to study. Traffic tends to be smooth and consistent, albeit having a slower flow.

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     Source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/XcK8sjzTlWI/maxresdefault.jpg

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 4.08.05 PM

Source: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Safety/roundabouts/benefits.htm

  1. Diverging diamond interchange (DDI), also called double crossover diamond interchange (DCD)
  • Fewer conflict points (14 for DDI, 26 for conventional)
  • Conflict points spread out throughout interchange
  • Better sight distance at turns
  • Virtually no driver confusion (FHWA study and new DDI observations in Springfield, MO)
  • Traffic calming features when desired
  • Wrong way entry to ramps extremely difficult
  • Shorter pedestrian crossings

chapt1pic4Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 4.15.25 PM

Source: http://www.divergingdiamond.com/trafficmovements.html

In the DC metro area, commuters also face heavy traffic during the rush hours, especially in downtown DC, I-66, I-495, and I-395. After all, traffic is an issue for every major metropolitan area. We all contribute to solve this problem. I highly recommend everyone to take public transit like Metrorail, Metrobus, or the Capital Bikeshare.

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

Home_LEED

A Little LEED Strategy for buying home

Home_LEED

Recently I’ve been studying for LEED Green Associate exam and the word “density” has been hanging in my mind, this is because “density” this word throughout the whole book. The very beginning of a project is ‘Location and Transportation’. This is a new category that was added to the LEED rating system. This category put more emphasis and attention on reducing one of the main contributors to global warming: transportation. It is clarified through the ideas of reducing the cost, pollution, and depletion of resources related to the daily transportation of people and goods to and from a destination. After reading Veronica’s post last week, it got me thinking about sustainability and how it applies to our daily lives, especially in choosing where to live. I think that LEED principles can be applied to a housing search.

The book divided Location and Transportation (LT) category into 4 points: Location, Transportation, Site Development, and Health and Livability. These points are often similar to what people consider when looking for a house or place to live.

Location:

Locate within a LEED-Certified Neighborhood Development

A LEED-Certified Neighborhood usually is a sustainable site. This is because the neighborhood has to meet the qualification of LEED requirements such as walkability, green infrastructure, floodplain avoidance, etc.

LEEDBeach011

http://www.keenanconstructioncompany.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/LEEDBeach011.jpg

Located within proximity of surrounding density and diverse uses

“Density” is an important word in LEED. The reason behind this is to cut the distance shorter for people to travel to work or visit the building. Also, if the building is within walking distance (0.5 mile), people will not need to drive. Both ways would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and will help reduce global warming.

 

Transportation:

Limit available parking

LEED-Certified buildings usually have limited parking, because this can encourage people to carpool or use alternative ways of travel.

DCLab6401A LEED Platinum Science Building in DC

http://www.hok.com/about/news/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/DCLab6401.jpg

Develop in areas that have multimodal transportation access

This could also inspire people to take public transportation modes like bus or rail.

A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station, Sunday, March 25, 2001. It's not nearly as old as some of the models housed in the Museum of American History, but Washington's subway system is about to turn 25. Amid the celebration, however, is concern about equipment and funds for a system that ranks only behind New York City's in ridership.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station, Sunday, March 25, 2001. It’s not nearly as old as some of the models housed in the Museum of American History, but Washington’s subway system is about to turn 25. Amid the celebration, however, is concern about equipment and funds for a system that ranks only behind New York City’s in ridership.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

dc_circulator

http://urbanbohemian.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/df08152005e.jpg

 

Site development 

(This point is more for a someone building a home and their location selection)

Avoid developing on environmentally-sensitive land

This is for the sustainability environment. Considering the local bioregion, watershed, and community can help a project team minimize the sustainable features of the surrounding environment and to climate change. In LT category, sensitive land defines as farmland, floodplains, threatened or endangered species habitats, water bodies, and wetlands.

Locate the project on a pre-developed site

It would be an ideal area, because of the preexisting infrastructure is already in place. Pre-developed location can reduce the cost of installing new roads, sewer, and power lines.

pre_developedhttps://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/AAEAAQAAAAAAAAdAAAAAJDM2ZDA2NDYwLTFhN2UtNDExZi1hOTdkLTUyNTQ3MjYwMGU4NA.jpg

Locate the project on a high-priority site such as a brownfield

A brownfield is a property that has the presence of hazardous materials, pollutants, or contaminant that may affect by redevelopment if the property. Remediation and development of brownfield can avoid land waste and reduce urban sprawl.

 

Health and livability

Develop in areas that promote walkability

Sidewalk and shelter for pedestrians should be provided, these make it easy for people to walk to and from the building for basic needs and routine functions.

Provide bicycle storage facilities, shower room, and bicycle networks in close proximity to diverse uses

This encourages the use of non-motorized modes of transportation.

Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C.

Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Capital_Bikeshare_DC_2010_10_544.JPG

Provide a bicycle maintenance program for employees or bicycle route assistance for employees and customers.

This could encourage people to ride bikes, walk, or run errands during the day. This can also decrease greenhouse emission caused by vehicle use and increase the health and welfare if building occupants.

 

Other factors recommended that contribute to this field that speak to “density” are the following:

Provide pedestrian amenities

Promote connectivity

Create a diverse community

Promote access to sustainable food

Provide access to grocery stores.

 

All of these factors would reduce a number of people who use their cars in their everyday lives. This will help contributing less greenhouse emission, at the same time, provide human more options to work out and revitalized neighborhoods.

Hope these points can help you, and Veronica, with your home location selection.

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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Interesting Rail Fact in Chongqing, China

For those who don’t know, I had my undergraduate studies at a mountainous city called Chongqing. It is one of the municipalities city in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing), meaning the city is directly controlled by the Chinese government. Metro Chongqing has a large population of 18.4 million people.[i] Chongqing is located at the Midwest of China, four major parallel mountains across the whole province, and 2 major rivers (Yangtze River and Jialing River) run through the area.

Above is just a little background of Chongqing, the city’s topography is a typical mountainous city in China. Like other metropolitans, Chongqing has many modern skyscraper, and modern public transportation is convenient to get around each of the districts. Monorail is one of the most used way to get around in the city. Remember that the city is built on the mountainous topography, which means the rail can’t always run underground, it kind of look like the trains run from tunnel to tunnel.

 

Picture1

City Skyline

(Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/SkylineOfChongqing.jpg/842px-SkylineOfChongqing.jpg)

I would like to share some interesting stories when I lived in this city.

  1. Underground construction going on everywhere. Our campus in located in the middle of downtown. Same as regular campus, we have football field, library and classroom buildings. Regardless what’s on the surface, the underground level is all retails stores. Basically, the whole underground of the campus was under construction. The first year when I was there, my classmates and I could hear the “bomb” sounds when they were building the underground railway.
  2. The only flat area in this city is used for the airport.

Picture2

The Picture above shows the typical traditional mountainous building in Chongqing (Daytime view)

(Source: http://www.chineescapade.com/Admin_Manager/uponepic/guide-touristique/images/20141/ancienne-Chongqing-article.jpg)

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The complicated topography makes the night view really stunning. (Night time view)

(Source: http://www.echinacities.com/userfiles/2010-Year/10-Month/9-Day/image004(2).jpg)

Picture4

(Source: http://travel.chinesecio.com/en/image/attachement/jpg/site3/20091010/00235aa6948a0c3a34081b.jpg)

         3. The only flat area in this city is used for the airport.

Picture5

Staircase everywhere (Apple store plaza)

(Source: http://cdn.iphonehacks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/apple-jiefangbei-store.jpg)

        4. When you get off the monorail, you will be surprised to find that you are at the 8th floor.

Picture6

Highest overpass between buildings

(Source: https://i2.wp.com/china-underground.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Highest_overpass.jpg?fit=1000%2C750)

        5. The most astonishing fact is that the rail goes through core of residential flats in the middle.  

Picture7

(Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/03/20/JS123737351_Visual-China-Group_Light-Railway-Passes-Through-Residential-Building-In-Chongqing-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqr1-IQesdsNm9WbsCncdC0h-6hHT5d1My5NPMLxxGU0U.jpg)

        6. Complicated transportation.

Picture9

(Source: http://icaa15.cqu.edu.cn/common/images/night_view2.jpg)

The city still charming to me, it is so special. I love Chongqing, includes the scenery, the people and the Sichuan cuisine.

[i] http://countrydigest.org/chongqing-population/

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.





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