Livability Study Identifies Transportation Mode Choices, Aesthetics and Function

Sustainability is more than a buzzword that invokes thoughts of recycling and buying organic. It means changing the way we live, not just at home, but at work, at play, at school. It means rethinking what we use and how we use it. It means looking beyond the individual to the community, and transportation is a critical component of the sustainability puzzle. In Washington, D.C., KCI planners and engineers are studying how people move from place to place, both within and outside of their neighborhoods, in order to create more livable communities.

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The District of Columbia’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan placed an emphasis on creating greater transportation choices for residents and connecting the city with stronger physical and social links. The city’s investments in sidewalk, street crossing, bicycle and transit facilities have provided more options for reaching neighborhood and citywide destinations.

“Livability in transportation means giving people good access to transportation in terms of where they live and where they desire to go,” said KCI practice leader Angela J. Jones, PE. “Individuals should be able to choose from different modes, be it transit, pedestrian, or bicycle.”

Far-Southeast-II-Feasibility-Study-InfographicAccording to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities—an interagency collaboration between the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—sustainable communities that offer a variety of housing and transportation choices create a variety of benefits, including decreased transportation costs, as well as reduced emissions and stormwater runoff.

KCI conducted a livability study for Far Southeast, a cluster of eight neighborhoods that boasts a solid mix of housing and commercial development. The team used a comprehensive, community-wide approach to improve access to nearby transportation hubs, develop system-wide improvements and enhance safety and traffic calming. The overarching goal of the project was to create a balanced system of transportation options.

Livability in transportation is about using the quality, location, and type of transportation facilities and services available to help achieve broader community goals such as access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safe streets.

USDOT’s Livability in Transportation Guidebook: Planning Approaches that Promote Livability

With input from the community and several government agencies, planners identified potential livability corridors representing a variety of local roadway characteristics and functionality. A screening process was developed to evaluate and determine a prioritized list of six corridors as well as spot improvement locations.

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Planners and engineers identified transportation hubs throughout the study area as well as six livability corridors and spot improvements locations.

The District was looking for out-of-the-box solutions, particularly for pedestrian safety. “Some roads were evaluated to see if the number of lanes was excessive,” said traffic engineer John A. Borkowski, PE, PTOE. “In these cases, we considered a ‘road diet’ approach to reallocate lane width to other uses like bicycle or parking lanes, without affecting the curb-to-curb width.” Other improvements included high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK, signals and rapid flashing beacons as well as traditional traffic calming techniques like median refuge islands and curb extensions.

Recommendations were developed on short-, medium- and long-term timelines, ranging in cost from $125,000 to more than a half million dollars.