Transportation planning is heavily biased in favor of cars, at the expense of other road users. That is the not-very-shocking conclusion of a new UC Denver study:
America’s streets are designed and evaluated with a an inherent bias toward the needs of motor vehicles, ignoring those of bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit users, according to a new study co-authored by Wesley Marshall of the University of Colorado Denver.
“The most common way to measure transportation performance is with the level-of-service standard,” said Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of civil engineering at the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, the premier public research university in Denver. “But that measure only tells us about the convenience of driving a car.”
Marshall co-wrote the study with Eric Dumbaugh, PhD, associate professor at Florida Atlantic University and director of Transportation and Livability for the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and Jeffrey Tumlin, owner and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco.
According to Dumbaugh, many people assume roads are designed with all users in mind when in fact they are dedicated almost entirely to the needs of motor vehicles.
“Transit, bikes, and pedestrians are seen as worthwhile only by how much they reduce delays or increase speeds for motor vehicles,” he said. “Regardless of how efficient they may be in moving people.”
Planners try to eliminate automobile congestion to increase economic competitiveness. But as Dumbaugh points out, that may be counter-productive:
In fact, a previous study by Dumbaugh revealed that as per capita traffic delay went up, so did per capita Gross Domestic Product. Every 10 percent increase in traffic delay per person was associated with a 3.4 percent increase in per capita GDP. That’s because traffic congestion is usually a byproduct of a vibrant, economically productive city, the study said.