Thursday, March 26

Transportation in Virginia is on the the right track

There have been some very good decisions coming out of Richmond lately, and it's worth stopping to give some credit where credit is due.

From: flickr user Roger Carr
First, the Washington Post reported today that Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board has just agreed to fund intercity rail for the first time ever. There will be a daily line from Washington to Lynchburg (stopping in Charlottesville!) and another from Washington to Richmond. Getting this legislation passed has been a long saga, and it looked pretty harrowing at one time. Governor Tim Kaine speaks as if this move is part of a larger philosophy,
"We've been in a situation with some conflict between Congress and the future of rail, but I think that has changed," he said. "This administration is a real believer in passenger rail."
Why is rail so good for cities? It's mostly about the stations. A rail passenger can be transported directly into the heart of the city. Once she arrives she can walk to many of the locations that naturally cluster around the transportation hub, or she can connect to an auxiliary transit system and access the rest of the city. Airports, on the other hand, by necessity drop passengers off miles away from the city, requiring a cab or rental car to get anywhere. They repel, even forbid, development from coming too close.

Secondly, the Washington Post also reports that VDOT's new requirements for street connectivity have passed, and I know that state agents have started meeting with local officials to give some implementation guidance. The state will no longer allow public money to be used for semi-private roads, such as cul-de-sacs and otherwise disconnected suburban subdivisions. I've written on this more thoroughly here, and with more bluster here. This is a subtle, but powerful change.

The Congress for New Urbanism has been working hard to pass something like this at the federal level. This really great graphic from the CNU site explains it well:

From: CNU

Streetsblog recently spoke with John Norquist, the long-time mayor of Milwaukee who went on to become president of CNU. Norquist sees of the need for a metric for road connectivity to ensure that any codes would be understandable and enforceable.

"The metrics would be intersection density, block size -- you would reward intersection density. And the feds can do that, they can say that states could draw federal money and add to the density of a street network, creating more mobility that way. And the metric we use is 150 intersections per square mile."

From Commonwealth Transportation Board
VDOT has decided to use the term link-to-node ratio which is pretty elegant. A node is an intersection or a dead end, and a link is any segment of roadway between nodes. The lower the ratio of links to nodes (1 is a prefect grid), the more connected the street is. The state has set up a three-tiered system of separate requirements for rural, suburban, and urban roads.

Of course, these are for new roads only, but it will be interesting to see how these rules change the shape of our landscape. Maybe Virginia could be a model for the rest of the country.


CarFree Stupidity said...

Sounds like Virginia is taking a lot of steps in the right dirrection. Much more so than many other states.

Your talk of links and nodes gets me all excited. I've been working on research in TransCad for the last few months and I'm tired of working with the street networks.

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