Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Citizens' jump start on feasibility studies

You may have heard the phrase "You can't ride a study" before. However, whenever a public agency pours money into conducting such research, the results often provide critical planning data for The Transit Coalition and the public. We look at such research, ensure any political spin is out, and use this information toward our positions. More often than not, these research-and-development projects come with a high price tag which can creep into the six figure mark.

As transit studies are vital to us, public entities and regulators need to realize that highly useful fact-based transportation data is already available to support such government transportation research. They just need to spend some time to certify existing published facts and common knowledge for contractors tasked to do studies. Reducing redundancy can save taxpayers thousands of dollars per study as the focus would be spotting and addressing red flags on the original ideas. 

Las Vegas Intercity Corridor - Transit Station "Feasbility Study"

Let's suppose an agency needs to research possible intercity transit stops in and out of Las Vegas. Here's a clever piece of data that's out there in cyberspace: A combination of recent time lapse videos showing a transcontinential drive from LAX to Orlando through Las Vegas.

Yes, you heard that right. Courtesy of a YouTube user, we have a cross country time lapse of video imagery of from cost to coast, through Las Vegas, available to watch:
 A video-savvy researcher can take a look at the video and adjust its playback speed to match real time travel speeds. There it is. Some useful ideas of where to place station stops and rest areas would be available on the spot. The actual government study can then focus on the specifics and finding issues.

As mentioned before, government agencies should review the massive library of current and recent data that is out there to be researched and used for intelligence-driven studies. Agencies should have the power to be able to certify relevant facts and current common knowledge for transportation planning so it doesn't have to be researched a second time all in the name of legal fine print. Even a few hours worth of research at hand can improve research productivity and save big bucks in taxpayer money on studies.

"Feasibility Study" for dual high occupancy carpool/toll lanes on I-15

Want another example? Let's look at the possibility of extending San Diego County's robust and award-winning I-15 Express Lane facility all the way to Victorville. San Diego County is exploring the Escondido-Temecula segment, Riverside County has looked at the segment between Lake Elsinore to Ontario, and San Bernardino County has been studying Ontario-Victorville link since 2008. With the obvious fact of Temecula's big plans to redevelop its western side of the of the city, why not close the Temecula-Lake Elsinore gap? Here's another time lapse of the I-15 between San Diego and Vegas. Could you draw any suggestions of where the direct access ramps to existing transit stations should go? How about the intermediate access points?

Having a set of two high occupancy express lanes in each direction where 2+ or 3+ carpools can travel for free without a transponder and solo drivers have the option to buy their way into the carpool lane works. Link the lanes with direct access ramps for seamless connections to transit centers and park & ride lots. Offer a fast and friendly rapid express bus network with timed connections with the local routes to get up and down the corridor quickly. There's plenty of data out there to build up an impartial case that would support such an expansion. Conducting a real feasibility study for such a robust facility would involve checking for red flags on the initial ideas conceived and providing fact-based solutions to those problems.

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