Smart Mobility Inc. Comments on Mountain View Corridor Sequencing Analysis

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  • February 09, 2007

February 9, 2007 | The MVC Sequencing Analysis conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff fails to meet

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To: Marc Heileson, Sierra Club, and Roger Borgenicht, Utahns for Better Transportation
From: Lucinda E. Gibson, P.E. and Norman L. Marshall
Date: 9 February 2007
Re: Comments on Mountain View Sequencing Analysis

The MVC Sequencing Analysis conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff fails to meet the basic purpose of exploring the longer term effects on future land use patterns of alternate transportation investment strategies.

The basic purpose of the sequencing analysis is aptly described in the Mountain View Corridor Voluntary

Agreement, excerpt as follows:

4. Balanced Transportation

We desire a balanced transportation system for our future that will involve more transportation choices. The phasing and implementation of transportation investments over the next decade will affect the land use development patterns and therefore affect future travel needs and the availability and effectiveness of other viable transportation choices. The sequencing of transportation investments needs to be studied to recommend the most effective and cost efficient way to meet future travel needs, reduce the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled, improve air quality through a better balance between auto, transit, walk and bike trips, and to recommend the best way to encourage the types of land uses throughout the corridor that will support these improvements.

The excerpt above from the MVC Voluntary Agreement suggests that the investments made over the next decade will affect land use development patterns, which in turn affect vehicle-miles-traveled. However, land use effects are not limited to the next decade, but will unfold over a much longer time period. Further, the goals of reducing vehicle miles, improving air quality, etc., are not just goals for the next 10 years; they are long range goals. People in the MVC area don’t want cleaner air and lower transportation costs just for the next ten years; they want these for their children and grandchildren. The sequencing analysis should therefore have a horizon year well beyond 2015, such as 2030 or 2040.

Apparently, the consultants are reluctant to alter the future land use assumptions from the Mountain View Vision scenario, claiming that the horizon year land use patterns are fixed and cannot be varied. This claim is not supported by the Voluntary Agreement, which states that the proposed land use and transportation assumptions in the Growth Choices vision may well vary from the actual land use:

What the Map Is and Is Not

The Map delineates transportation preferences that are feasible, but may or may not represent the eventual transportation decisions from the Mountain View Corridor EIS. The EIS process incorporates additional technical and cost/benefit analysis which might alter the transportation elements in the Vision Map.

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Smart Mobility, Inc. page 2

The Map delineates the approximate location and type of pedestrian-oriented mixed use centers

endorsed by the signatories of the Vision. The actual location, size, land uses, and densities that are

implemented by individual jurisdictions may vary from the map.

The land use forecasts used in the EIS represent “feasible preferences”. Actual land use patterns will vary

substantially based on a complex variety of factors, including the sequencing of transportation investments.

The influence of transportation investments on land use patterns is now widely accepted by the planning and

engineering community, and can no longer be considered speculative. Numerous EIS and other planning

studies include alternative land use forecasts for alternative scenarios, including EIS processes in Illinois, New

Hampshire, and other locations. The EIS is not using the “official” WFRC land use forecasts, nor are they

bound by any regulation or accepted practice to use only a single land use forecast for future scenarios with

different investment sequencing.

It is no longer speculation that transportation investments profoundly affect the location and form of land

development. The Dallas region provides an excellent case study of how their new light rail system has

spurred many highly successful transit-oriented developments in the suburban areas. The following excerpts

from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit – TOD website describes the phenomena:

A TOD “sea change” has occurred in the first-generation suburbs of Richardson, Plano, and Addison,

where committed local officials have worked with savvy developers to proactively plan and develop

station areas. Whereas DART initially led the TOD charge, now local cities are.

The TOD leadership in this property-rights-friendly state, where government and planning have

historically had relatively limited roles, has come from suburban communities and the region’s transit


TOD is helping to create unique downtowns to attract growth that would otherwise go to the

sprawling fringe of the region.

Located 4 miles north of downtown Dallas (a 15-minute train ride), Mockingbird Station is a mixeduse,

urban “chic” village linked directly to a light-rail station (after which it is named) via a welcoming

pedestrian bridge. The assemblage of offices, shops, restaurants, and lofts near the station cost

around $145 million to build, a substantial sum given that such a “product” had absolutely no track

record in automobile-friendly Texas.


Alternative Land Use Forecast Methodologies

There are a number of techniques that can be used to develop alternative land use scenarios that will reflect

the effects of transportation investments.


One tool is UrbanSim, which has been the focus of a significant effort of the Wasatch Front Regional

Council to develop as a planning tool. WFRC staff has been directed to use UrbanSim for a variety of uses,

including NEPA projects.

Mr. Chappell briefly reported the Council’s UrbanSim guidance. He noted that he has directed the staff

to use UrbanSim in the following applications:

• Analysis for and by public agencies (WFRC and MAG) and,

• Analysis on a regional (4 county) scale vs. for sub-regional planning project analysis (i.e. NEPA), and

• For analysis and comparison studies within the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), through 2006, and

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Smart Mobility, Inc. page 3

• Only as a tool to the RTP process and not as the official projections input to the transportation

demand models.

August 25, 2005 minutes, WFRC meeting,

While UrbanSim results are not to be used as “official projections”, the MVC EIS process is not using the

official projections anyway. The MVC EIS modelers have substantial flexibility in using alternative land use

forecasts, since they are not preparing an “official” RTP model run, but rather are conducting “what if”

scenarios, with different configurations of the MVC. The fact that WFRC is spending substantial effort to

refine UrbanSim to make it useful for regional planning emphasizes the need for and utility of tools to

evaluate the land use implications of transportation investments.

Expert Panel (Delphi)

If UrbanSim is not ready for use in this type of analysis, another option for the MVC consultants is the use of

an Expert Panel, or the Delphi process. In the Delphi process, a panel of experts are provided information

about the area and its potential for development, and asked to identify potential effects of the MVC

alternatives on the area’s growth and development. The panel members are then given feedback about the

responses of others, and afforded an opportunity to revise their estimates. The Delphi process is an accepted

technique for evaluating different transportation scenarios. A report done for the American Association of

State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in 2002 described the I-93 Delphi process and five

other similar processes elsewhere in the U.S. (Seskin, Samuel N., Katherine Gray Still, John Boroski, all of

Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., “The Use of Expert Panels in Analyzing Transportation and

Land Use Alternatives”, completed as part of National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)

Project 8-36, April 2002). The report concludes (p.24):

Our research, the case studies, and the resulting guidelines, have shown that expert panels can

be used for a variety of applications and be conducted using a broad range of techniques.

Expert panels can be used as a primary analysis method or in conjunction with other tools, and

is a cost-effective technique that can produce reliable results. Expert panels combine an

understanding of the theory of urban development, empirical knowledge of transportation/land

use relationships, and detailed understanding of local conditions.

Given that the authors of this document are employed at the same consulting firm that is conducting the

MVC EIS, there should be at least some degree of awareness of these published methods for determining

how land use patterns are influenced by transportation investments.

Need for Travel Demand Improvements for Transit

The Wasatch Front Regional Travel Demand Model, typical of modeling techniques that were largely

developed for planning of highway capacity, is not sufficient for modeling transit ridership without substantial

adjustments. Some of these were implemented in the Legacy Highway sequencing analysis as postprocessing,

but still were not sufficient to accurately show the potential for transit and transit-oriented development to

reduce the need for highway capacity.

In our review of the Legacy Parkway modeling (done in collaboration with Robert Cervero)1 we identified a

large number of modeling deficiencies, including:

1 DSEIS Legacy Parkway Comments and Citizens Smart Growth Alternative, March 2005.

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Smart Mobility, Inc. page 4

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