Tag: 2020-05-nn-feature

TDM in a post-pandemic world

TDM in a post-pandemic world

By Audrey Shiramizu, April 17, 2020

MANY OF US ARE THINK­ING of CO­VID-19’s im­pact on of­fice com­muters, dur­ing and post-pandemic. And, if you are like us, you might be re-think­ing your TDM (trans­porta­tion de­mand manage­ment) strategies in the upcoming months.

Many of these strategies are familiar — subsidized transit, pre-tax benefits, and carpool matching. More recently, universities and tech companies have led the way in TDM, offering employees teleworking, flexible hours, shuttles, and on-site amenities. Non-tech and more traditional companies lag, often dismissing (or unequipped to provide) teleworking as an option, and relying on employees to proactively use incentives offered.

With the pandemic forcing many of us to shelter in place, we now know that working from home is possible for many office workers, and not just for tech and universities. This is a unique opportunity to observe and learn firsthand the impacts of mass teleworking on our transportation systems, work productivity, and commuting behavior.

Arup has spent years researching, designing, and consulting on TDM strategies for major entities around the world, including tech and educational campuses. Many of you have witnessed both devastating and incredible changes in how we move, commute, and work.

What we have observed

The pandemic has affected all forms of transportation and how we work, for better and for worse.

  • Transit ridership, already in decline pre-pandemic, continues to plummet with service cuts daily. Many agencies are running essential services only, cutting more than 50 percent of their service. San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) ridership has declined more than 90 percent. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has seen subway and bus ridership down 90 percent and 80 percent respectively.
  • Biking, meanwhile, has surged. Essential workers and those making necessary trips are switching to biking because of reduced transit service or to limit exposure to others on transit. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to improve cycling infrastructure in response to increased bicycling.
  • Working from home, for the most part, seems to work. Zoom’s share price nearly doubled between February and March, and Microsoft Teams saw a 500 percent increase in the number of meetings, calls, and conferences in China since January.

What we anticipate will have an impact on you, your business, and employees

When the pandemic slows down, employers will want to return to business as usual, likely including regular office hours and some physical office attendance. We anticipate three key things that will impact employers and business:

  • Return to work, and planning for that, will offer opportunities to influence behavior. We must start planning now for what will happen when people begin returning to work en masse; tolerance for behavior change is high when new habits and routines are being formed.
  • The potential for behavioral change is an opportunity and a risk — parking demand and car usage may increase as people remain concerned about using mass transit, but with the right incentives, people may be more willing to try transit.
  • Resiliency, especially in public health, will become central in policymaking. We must capitalize on policies that prioritize the safe expansion of transit, biking, and walking trips to support healthier active lifestyles.

Potential opportunities

The pandemic has shown that behaviors and conventional practices, such as working from home, can flip in mere days or weeks. Other TDM policies that were previously difficult to implement such as flexible work hours or days, or designated work shifts (e.g., allowing employees to choose the specific workdays they would be in the office) could gain momentum post-pandemic. Some level of working from home, perhaps tailored to individuals or groups (parents, caretakers, students, etc.), will continue in the long term. We have seen hopeful examples of these strategies at Arup offices in China.

While devastated and anxious about the pandemic’s impact, we planners should be optimistic that learning and sharing what works will help us emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Audrey Shiramizu is a transportation planner at Arup, where she has worked since 2015. She holds a master of urban planning (transportation and land use) from San Jose State University and a BS in environmental policy, analysis, and planning from UC Davis. You can reach her at audrey.shiramizu@gmail.com.
COVID-19 reveals how micromobility can build resilient cities

COVID-19 reveals how micromobility can build resilient cities

By Michal Naka, Next City, April 6, 2020

Republished with permission

IN A MATTER OF DAYS, our lives have dramatically changed. Schools, bars and restaurants have closed. Events and gatherings are canceled. As cities across the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, people are limiting their travel and public transit ridership has decreased dramatically.

However, our communities still rely on essential employees like health-care and grocery-store workers — and they still need to get to work safely. In this moment, micromobility options like e-scooters and bikeshare are a lifeline for people with few other travel options, and over the long term, they can be a crucial element of cities’ resilience and preparedness for public health crises and natural disasters. Encouraging deployment of these versatile vehicles will allow our transportation system to more easily adapt, evolve, and support those most in need.

A shift in how we get around

As communities adapt to their new realities, we are noticing rapid changes in how people are choosing to make essential trips.

In early March, bikeshare ridership saw an initial surge in cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and others as wary riders avoid mass transit. We can expect ridership to fluctuate as governments issue stricter guidance to keep people safe at home as much as possible.

Cities are likely to see another wave of changes as they recover from the pandemic. In China, where restrictions on daily life have been lifted, bikeshare in Beijing saw rides increase 187 percent. This bounce in ridership shows us how micromobility can be a critical resource for communities recovering from the pandemic. Though riders may continue to be reluctant to use public transportation, e-scooters and bikes can help individuals ease back into public life.

The role of micromobility in pandemic response

Even at a time when continuing operations has become increasingly difficult for micromobility companies, we are seeing some using creative solutions to provide essential support for their customers.

These people were photographed in 2018, but they are doing a great job staying six feet apart anyway. (Photo by Portland Bureau of Transportation/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In San Jose and Oakland, Gruv is providing free e-scooter rides to those on the front lines of pandemic response, including health-care and grocery-store workers. Lyft is providing free bikeshare access for people who work in health care, public transportation, or as first responders in Boston, Chicago, and New York City while Spin is doing the same with e-scooters in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Portland, and other cities. Hardware maker Brooklyness is loaning free scooters directly to health care providers in New York City. Nonprofit bikeshare systems in Kansas City and Detroit are going a step further, offering free bike and scooter rides to everyone. Wheels has paused its shared bike service in several cities, but is now making its pedal-less e-bikes with self-cleaning handlebars available to essential workers.

Wherever they are operating, mobility companies are stepping up efforts to clean and sanitize vehicles and keep workers safe. Spin has started attaching hand sanitizer to each scooter in San Francisco and other companies are sanitizing their vehicles more regularly and providing their field service staff with protective gloves.

City governments are also thinking outside of the box to keep essential services, goods and workers moving. With an influx of pickups and deliveries due to restaurant closures, cities like Toronto and Seattle are relaxing freight rules and providing dedicated curb space for delivery drivers. New York City has closed several streets to car traffic to encourage walking and biking while social distancing, and advocates in Denver, Boston and Philadelphia are pushing their city leaders to do the same. New Orleans, San Francisco and Philadelphia have all deemed bike shops as essential businesses so they can remain open and make repairs while most workplaces are on lockdown. On the federal level, a recent Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency memorandum indicated that bicycle maintenance should be considered essential.

In making these changes, cities across the globe are demonstrating how micromobility can play a critical role in helping cities build resilience in times of crisis. The challenge we face today is COVID-19, but in the future, it may be an earthquake, flooding, or severe weather brought on by climate change. In all of these scenarios, flexible and human-scale transportation options are necessary to preserve mobility and access to needed services and goods when cars or mass transit systems are inaccessible.

Michal Naka is Head of Partner Products at Ride Report, which works with city governments to provide them with the data they need to monitor and regulate new mobility services.

Meet a local planner: C.J. Gabbe, AICP, PhD

Meet a local planner: C.J. Gabbe, AICP, PhD

By Catarina Kidd, AICP

C.J. Gabbe, AICP, PhD, is an urban planner and assistant professor in Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University, where his research and courses focus on environmental sustainability and housing affordability. 

What was your path to planning?

I first became interested in planning as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. Through my classes, I surveyed different aspects of urban planning, policy, and government. The first work I did was bike and pedestrian planning in Eugene, Oregon. Over the years, I worked for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and the Portland Development Commission. I then enrolled in a master of urban planning program at the University of Washington, where I explored real estate, neighborhood planning, and public participation. After graduating, I worked in planning consulting for six years, focusing on regional plans, comprehensive plans, and downtown plans for jurisdictions around the country. I wanted to do more evidence-based work, so I pursued a PhD in urban planning from UCLA. 

You left a full-time job to pursue a PhD. How did you make that decision?

It was a leap of faith, as it would have been safer to stick with a mid-career job. But I was confident that a PhD could benefit my career  either in academia or a research-based approach to consulting. 

What would you say to those thinking about an advanced degree?

I highly recommend planning master’s programs. In terms of PhD programs, it’s important to be open about what that education can do for you and if you would you be willing to do it even if an academic career path does not work out. It’s important to be realistic about the academic job market; it’s very competitive. But a PhD can open doors to “alt-ac” careers with think tanks, non-profit organizations, consulting, and public agencies. Luckily, planning is an applied field, where PhD graduates with some experience can be competitive for public and private sector roles.

What is a day like in the life of a professor?

Day to day, there is a mix of research, teaching, and different aspects of serving the university, such as committee work. I like to focus on research and writing in the mornings and teaching and service in the afternoons. 

In the morning, I work on one or more research projects with teams of other faculty and students. This involves teamwork sessions, data collection, data analysis, writing, and revising. In the afternoon, I prepare  for and teach my classes, advise students, and participate in university committee meetings. I typically teach two days a week, two courses per quarter; for example, this quarter I’m teaching Sustainable Urban Planning and Environmental Politics and Policy.

What was the best advice you received, and from whom?

Some great advice came from my PhD advisor, Professor Emeritus Randy Crane at UCLA. He advised me to ground my research in big questions that are being debated. For example, understanding how regulations work and are enacted. (There’s no shortage of debates about zoning and land use regulations in Northern California!) The late John Fregonese, my mentor at Fregonese Associates, also gave me great advice by constantly emphasizing the need to start plans with a shared vision and figure out the details from there. The most effective way of starting lasting (and implementable) change is with a vision that resonates with people.

What skills did you find most valuable in consulting, in the public sector, and in academia?

Communications skills are crucial in every sector of planning. Planners often focus on technical skills — which are certainly important — but I think it’s also crucial to develop strong writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills. 

What hot topics have your interest?

I’m particularly interested in growth and densification (including around transit), re-thinking how we regulate parking, and adapting to climate change. There are great opportunities to reverse auto-oriented urban development patterns, but there are also political challenges to doing so.

How do you view upzoning near transit to increase housing production?

I’ve generally favored these efforts. My research has shown that California cities tend to do little upzoning on their own, and this is necessary in many areas given our housing shortage and affordability crisis. That said, it’s crucial that discussions about upzoning are coupled with the preservation and production of affordable units, and protecting the interests of lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. 

How would you advise new planners or mid-career planners?

Don’t be afraid to try new things early in your career or even mid-career. There are lots of opportunities to explore. Find the aspect of planning you care about. Sometimes I hear students or young planners ask, “Is it too late?” It’s never too late to try something new or change paths. Don’t feel like you have to decide anything immediately. I encourage everyone to volunteer, get involved in advocacy, try new areas, and see what resonates. Every time you push yourself, it will be really rewarding. 

What’s your advice to students? 

Local agencies often are experienced with graduate school students, but there are lots of strong and talented undergraduates who can connect with local governments. My undergrad students recently worked with the City of Santa Clara and a consulting team led by WRT. The students did a fantastic job of reaching out to the university community and got over 760 survey responses to help shape the city’s downtown plan. Involving students creates opportunities to expand public participation and to raise up a new generation of planning leaders. 

Where can readers find any papers you have written?

All of my papers are linked through my website, http://www.cjgabbe.com (I’m happy to share copies of work that is behind a paywall.) 

Two short articles might be of interest: The Hidden Cost of Bundled Parking,” and Where Residential Density Is Allowed – and Isn’t – in Los Angeles: A Fresh Look at Zoning Changes” (opens as a PDF).

 

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is senior development manager at FivePoint and a guest writer for Northern News. Final editing by associate editor Andrea Mardesich.    

The world as I see it

The world as I see it

By Marlene Stevenson, March 24, 2020

IT IS A LONG TIME since I was Northern Section Director. However, once a City Planner, always a city planner. Whether I am at home in the Bay Area or traveling around the world, I look at how cities function. Where do people live? Where do they work? How do they get around? How long does it take? And what do they do when they aren’t working?

Many years ago, I worked in London as a “temp.” I would work two weeks here and three weeks there. No car, you take the tube and carry a paper map. Before cell phones you spent your time looking at people and places. Then I moved to Geneva and worked several places there. Same story, but you took the bus or walked. I did buy a motor scooter — not for work, but to travel around Europe.

As we know, European cities were built before cars were invented. In Geneva I lived in a six-story building without an elevator. That might be going too far. Once you made it upstairs you stayed put. If you forgot something when you went out, you got along without it. Have you ever walked up six floors with a suitcase? (Good thing I was young.) Residential buildings were mixed in with the commercial. I loved it. Even had a farmers market.

Once upon a time, industry in the U.S. was dirty and smoky. Zoning made sense. Today, not so much. Could we see our future in Europe? Mix it up.

They really do ride bikes in The Netherlands. You better look before you cross a street in Amsterdam. And buses are all over town. In Europe, trains take you from city to city and country to country. No reason to fly. Remember those hydrocarbons. That’s a plus.

I’ve lived in several places in the Bay Area. Housing tracts, older parts of town, two-story condos, a five-story building and a 20-story building. My favorite was probably the 20-story building in San Francisco. I took BART. I took the bus. Only used the car to drive south. It’s possible.

Yet today, I still see new housing tracts. The houses are frequently two-story, narrow and repetitious, with small backyards. Even with a two-car garage, there are cars parked up and down the streets. Garage for storage? Own four cars? Maybe a house makes sense if you have children, but in today’s world, children have homework and scheduled activities. They don’t go out to play and come home at bedtime as they did in 1950. Maybe houses aren’t the best places to live after all. A growing number of teenagers are even deciding they don’t want to drive. And there you are in suburbia, having to get in a car to go anywhere. Even if there is a bus, you’re lucky if it runs every half-hour most of the day.

So some people, especially planners, are beginning to see density once again as a good thing, even a necessity. Why spend an hour or two driving to work, not to mention home from work. We are beginning to see something like BART and Caltrain as a good thing. We see company buses taking workers to work. The public bus service is usually few and far between, and you may not be able to get where you want to go. Plus the traffic is slow or stalled for cars and buses.

People live farther and farther from where they work because of the cost of housing. Why not mix housing with offices? Make them both tall.

Have commercial on the bottom floors. Mix in public facilities for children. Why not?

Alas we still have people living in small and not so small cities who don’t want change They want time to stand still. They want the good life from the 1950s without thinking about the future for their children. What kind of work are their children going to do? Where will they be working? They are the new companies and workers.

We need density. We need a mix of uses. We need public transportation. We need a future because we can’t live in the past.

Marlene Stevenson was Northern Section Director from July 1987 through December 1989, during which time she was a senior planner in the Neighborhood Preservation Department at the City of San Jose. She worked in Gilroy before that. Stevenson began her service on the Northern Section Board as South Bay Liaison, then Secretary (1985-1987). She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in urban planning, both from San Jose State University. Her favorite memory is sitting around her dining room table with the planning committee for the California Chapter Pacific Rim Conference, held in San Jose, September 1989.
The New World Order, from a consultant’s point of view

The New World Order, from a consultant’s point of view

By Darcy Kremin, AICP, April 14, 2020  

I AM AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT, and I’ve worked in the private sector for more than 18 years. This pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on private businesses, and that includes consulting firms working on planning and development projects. Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, most consulting firms were extremely busy. Few firms were bidding on new projects because they didn’t have the staff to prepare proposals nor could they staff those efforts if their proposals were acceptedAfter California’s Shelter-in-Place (SIP) order was issued on March 19all consulting firms, big and small, reacted quickly and decisively to keep their businesses running.  

As a first stepconsulting firms switched to working from home. This switch was not without difficulties, thoughFortunately for me, my firm had remote access to the servers where all project files are stored. The problem we faced was accessing specialized software for our technical studies and modeling. With the help of our Information Technology department, we were able to work around this issue. For staff who primarily do field work (biologists, archeologists, etc.), the switch was not as easy. In fact, for most consulting firms, field staff who could not easily transfer to desk work were furloughed or laid off entirely. One consulting firm furloughed up to 20 percent of its workforce within two weeks of the SIP order. 

Other measures firms took to reduce labor costs included asking executives, principals, and other senior staff to take pay cuts, reduce work hours by 20 to 40 percent, and limit “non-bill” time to the extent possible. However, making sure staff time is directly billable to a project is only half of the equation; getting paid for that work is the other half. Consulting firms “float” the cost of staff time (salaries) for between 30 and 90 days depending on when invoices are paid, which makes the cost of doing business quite expensive. So consulting firms started reaching out to clients to receive payment for past work and to ensure that future invoices will be paid quickly. 

Even as the world changed, some consulting services are still required. For example, public agencies don’t typically have the in-house specialized knowledge needed for air quality/greenhouse gas emissions and noise analyses. Other consulting services have already been reduced or eliminated, such as contract planning. Some projects may have been put on hold or stopped altogether. Housing is still being constructed, which is a good sign. Big infrastructure projects seem to be moving forward, but time will tell if those budgets are reallocated to health care projects. I am hopeful that long-range planning projects will continue since we need to keep shaping the future of our communities. 

Consulting firms are going to struggle as we reset to a new normal. You may see more firms bidding on fewer projects. You may find that some firms no longer provide certain expertise or will not want to work on a specific type of project. Some firms may go away entirely. It’s hard to predict what will happen, but we know our world will not look the way it did on March 19 

I am incredibly grateful to the men and women who continue to provide essential services to help us shelterinplace, and to stay safe and healthy. And to those who are struggling or who have lost their jobs, I can only hope that this period of adversity will soon end. 

Darcy Kremin, AICPis Environmental Planning Practice Leader in the Oakland office of Rincon Consultants, Inc. She was Northern Section Director in 2009-2010. Kremin was profiled in “Meet a local planner” in the June 2015 issue of Northern News. She holds an MA in urban and environmental policy from Tufts University and a BA in geography/environmental studies and political science from UCLA. 
Local planner responds to news article on “Green gentrification”

Local planner responds to news article on “Green gentrification”

By Avery Livengood, AICP

I WAS DISAPPOINTED BY AN ARTICLE in the latest Planning news roundup which implies that cities’ investments in green infrastructure are causing gentrification and displacement (“Cities fighting climate woes hasten ‘green gentrification’ ”). The article lacks a critical lens, and does a disservice to planners throughout the Bay Area who are looking for best practices and precedents to help implement the new Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit.

The news summary highlights a study in Urban Climate (and described in the referenced WIRED article) that identified spatial relationships between green infrastructure projects in the city of Philadelphia and displacement of lower-income and minority households. I worked on Philadelphia’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Program for four years, so perhaps the shortcomings of the analysis are more apparent to me than to other readers.

The referenced study did not distinguish between infrastructure that was funded by the City and the far greater volume of green infrastructure installed to meet strict regulatory standards on new development.

It should not surprise anyone that neighborhoods with more development projects are correlated with gentrification and displacement. The green infrastructure, in this case, is incidental to development. Indeed, the study authors note that … gentrification may not occur subsequently to [green resilient infrastructure] siting … but in conjunction with it.” Unfortunately, this caveat is lost in both the WIRED article and the Planning news roundup synopsis.

This is not to say that public investments in greening do not contribute to gentrification; I do not have evidence to support or refute that relationship. My concern is that the article points to a single, biased study to characterize Philadelphia’s green infrastructure program as a detriment to the City’s vulnerable communities. Philadelphia has undertaken its green infrastructure program with great thought and consideration to balancing affordability for ratepayers, the cost-savings associated with greening private spaces, the costs and benefits of greening public spaces, and the feedback of residents who will be impacted. I organized a session at APA’s 2018 National Planning Conference on this very topic, to share lessons-learned and solicit ideas from planners facing similar challenges (see Aligning Consent Orders and Community Needs).

Planners who are doing this work need tools to better understand and communicate the trade-offs involved in designing and implementing green infrastructure programs. I hope this article spurs a more nuanced conversation on this topic, and does not turn Bay Area planners away from a great precedent out east.

Avery Livengood, AICP, CFM, is a senior environmental planner at the Delta Stewardship Council, Sacramento, where she works on updating the agency’s plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem. Previously, Avery worked as an environmental planner supporting implementation of Green City, Clean Waters, the Philadelphia Water Department’s long-range plan to improve water quality using green stormwater infrastructure. She holds a master of city and regional planning from UNC Chapel Hill, a master of environmental management from Duke University, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.

The editors respond: Ms. Livengood makes a valuable point about the difference between city-led and developer-led green infrastructure. The Wired article points to a scholarly opinion piece with 10 co-authors in PNAS that establishes the tension between gentrification and green infrastructure. In turn, that article — with East Boston as a case study — cites many supporting articles on green gentrification in Brooklyn, New York City, New Orleans, and Sapelo Island, Georgia. The PNAS article notes: “We applaud efforts to mitigate the risks from impending climate change and to build climate-resilient cities. But our research reveals problematic and unintended risks and impacts associated with green infrastructure — especially private sector projects that neither prioritize nor address vulnerable communities.”