The Bacon Stump Speech

Charlottesville Tomorrow has posted a podcast of a speech I delivered Tuesday to the Free Enterprise Forum in Charlottesville. It’s a variant of the stump speech I’ve delivered on several occasions in the past two months, laying out in concise form my view of (a) what’s wrong with transportation in Virgina today, (b) why the current proposals being considered by lawmakers in Richmond won’t cure it, and (c) the deep-rooted institutional changes we need to make.

It’s old-hat material for long-time Rebellion readers, but newcomers to the blog might find it useful — if you’ve got nothing better to do with a half hour of your time — to hear the conceptual framework I use when approaching transportation issues. Yes, believe it or not, the comments I make on this blog are not random, disconnected observations. They all tie together and, ultimately, support one another.

A side note: I really must commend the Charlottesville region for the sophistication of its civic organizations. The Free Enterprise Forum, which hosted my speech, is putting on a year-long series of speeches exploring different facets of the transportation issue from free-market perspectives. The organization has emerged as an important player in the dissemination of information and ideas related to community improvement.

Additionally, Charlottesville Tomorrow does a fantastic job of compiling information related to transportation, land use and community design in the region, making information from obscure and dusty corners of the governmental process readily available to the public, and taking full advantage of digital technology to incorporate photos, graphics, audio and video into the website.

As newspapers continue to suffer erosion of readership and resources to keep tabs on the local governance process, organizations like these two may well represent the future.

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10 responses to “The Bacon Stump Speech”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim: Stony Point has townhomes and apartments and you can easily walk from those dwellings to the Fashion Park. In addition, it has transit stops located around the ring road with sidewalks leading into the mall.

    These two items shows foresight from the City that are not apparent from Short Pump Mall.

    YOu should consider changing your speech to contrast the two instead of lumping them together.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    To a certain extent, your comments relating to synchronizing traffic signals is to the deteriment of pedestrians being able to cross mentioned in the first part of your speech.

    Pedestrians are willing to wait about a minute to cross before they start to get crazy and do really stupid things. When you increase the capacity to the main line by using traffic volume as the sole factor, you increase cycle lengths and cause additional delay to the side street. Some cycle lengths are as high as four minutes in Virginia, which leads people to get into the car to cross the street.

    One way to solve this for both pedestrians and vehicles is to create narrow one way streets in a grid. Pedestrians can cross a narrow street easier and it is much more feasible to lower cycle lengths when one can use time and space more efficiently in a grid pattern. Delays are minimized to all users and it allows transit to function better as well because of the increased pedestrian activity.

    Lastly, the Department of Transportation has been doing many of the things that you advocate for years. It’s just that the funding of these items are not to the level they should be. Historically, VDOT has built new roads on new right-of-way and that has been the focus. The key at this point is to fund more traffic operations and safety and less new roads.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 10:06 and 10:22 (are you the same?), I can’t believe you actually listened to the podcast.

    Regarding Stony Point: Point well taken. The mall *does* have residential next door. Thus, it *is* more functional than Short Pump. But it is not what you’d call pedestrian friendly. Apartment dwellers must cross large expanses of open parking lot to reach the mall. The retail and residential are physically proximate, but they are not truly connected. As for nearby neighborhoods beyond the condos, they aren’t connected at all. On a one to 10 scale, Stony Point rates a three, where Short Pump rates a one.

    As for synchronizing traffic lights, you make a valid point. It depends which street you’re talking about, and what it’s function is. Synchronization is a good idea for heavily trafficked thoroughfares and arterials, not a good idea for streets where you’re trying to create a pedestrian-friendly ambience.

  4. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Washington DC needs to follow this advice and not make all the traffic lights pedestrian friendly.

    Driving a car in DC is a nightmare.

    I would take metro but by the time I drive to metro wait for the train get on the train get off the train and walk to my destination its faster to drive in many cases.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim: Anon from before here… Synchronization should be used to provide the pedestrian time to cross the street. They are the most vunerable and deserve to be protected and granted access.

    I real good indication of how far out of whack our transportation system has gotten (in the dendritic world vs grid) is look at how many places it is now “impractical” to provide the pedestrian with adequate time to cross the street. For instance, a 2 lane road at 12 ft per lane equals 24 feet. A pedestrian travels 4ft per second (unless you are by a nursing home then its 3 fps). The pedestrian requires a clearance interval of 6 seconds.

    In the suburbs, let’s take a 6 lane arterial with double left turns, fairly typical, eh? Now we have 96 ft and 24 seconds for the clearance interval. That does not include the wide curb radii so add 2 more seconds on either end. somewhere around 28 seconds.

    Now if you are in a pedestrian oriented environment and the mainline can receive up to 60 seconds before the pedestrian gets crazy. So you have a maximum 90 second cycle length. 60 seconds for the mainline and 30 seconds for the side street. The further you get from 90-120 second cycle lengths the more auto-oriented and less pedestrian friendly you become. That’s why downtown Richmond and Washington DC with there grids are more pedestrian friendly and less auto focused. That’s why the suburbs with their split phased signals and long cycle lengths are not pedestrian and therefore, not transit friendly.

    By timing for pedestrians, it creates more gaps downstream and assists drivers turning onto the mainline from non-signalized intersections. It also makes transit a viable mode.

    Let me be clear. In all circumstances, it is better to have traffic signals coordinated and “talking” to each other. How they are used depends more on the surrounding land use and if you have dendritic or grid development patterns. In all circumstances, one way pairs can carry more traffic, safer, and with more gaps for the pedestrian and side street traffic than two two-way pairs.

    I agree with you about Stony Point. It’s not perfect, but it does give a nod towards sustainablity. If you look close enough there are dedicated sidewalks from the edge to the center mall area to get through those pesky parking lots.

    BTW We need more roundabouts.

    Have fun!

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 2:13 p.m. Thank you for the lucid explanation. I had intuitively sensed that wider subdivision streets were unfriendly to pedestrians, but I couldn’t have explained it nearly as well as you just did.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Anonymous 2:13 p.m. showed quite clearly that we PRIORITIZE the right of the auto over pedestrians.

    no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    “demand” buttons are not new technology but integration them with traffic signals that “talk to each other” is….

    re: BTW We need more roundabouts.

    yes! I am amazed at how much resistance there is to a very effective traffic metering design that:

    1. – adjusts automatically to varing flows…

    2. – prevents red light “running”

    3. – prevent “T-bone” collisions

    4. – allows peds, safe haven “islands”

    5. – can be also “signalized” to stop all 4 (or even more) radial roads to allow peds to cross.

    6. – are far cheaper than most signals even with increased Right of way.

    7. – operate just fine in power outages

    8. – don’t cost electricty

    9. – don’t require expensive signal light and controller maintenance

    10. don’t require traffic poles and stringing wires every which way but Sunday.

    Even some interstate ramps utilize roundabouts to effectively meter traffic.

    caveat – roundabouts “break down” when traffic counts get to 30K and above but at that point.. you can still “signalize” them….with “smart/adaptive” signals.

    for those so inclined – there’s also a new kind of intersection that is designed to change the way that left turns are made –

    called “continuous flow intersections”.

    check it out.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Here is an idea I haven’t heard of before, and sounds like it might work.

    Lisbon is trying out “intermittent bus lanes”, where traffic lights are keyed to the buses in such a way as to spped bus travel. Lights are timed to allow allow other vehicles to trail behind the buses until another bus enters the lane.

    I’m not sure I can visualize this, but at least it is a new idea. It would speed up bus travel. Then if you are driving a car and you find the fastes way around is to follow a bus, well, why not ride the bus?

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You could do this with the new dedicated lanes that congestion pricing will bring.

    Just get two other folks to join you or pay an extra fee or.. as you say ride the bus itself.

    I know they are talking about ambulances having a device to “green” the lights as they approach…

    you could do something similiar with buses in that when the bus pulls to the curb just before a light, it activates the signal to go green after the bus loads passengers and it “reds” the lights on all other lanes.. then the bus would move quickly through the intersection and the lights would go back to their normal sequence.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Well northrop grumman vita deal. soon to start missing some deadline for performance at chester and lebanon va sites. I have herd from workers at both sites.Well the state has taken money from vdot/ abc stores which make a profit in va dear gov of va. Were will we get next money to give babies at northrop grumman moore money in next year or two. Oh i know lets put a higher tax on condoms. Sense we are getting screwed by gov of va and northrop grumman.

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