Research

An Appreciation of Popularity

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The correlation between popularity and quality is tenuous at best. How often have excellent products died in the marketplace, while competing products of lesser quality have succeeded (I’m thinking BetamaxKodak, and TiVo, to name a few)? How often, too, have movie stars achieved enormous popular success despite possessing little in the way of acting ability (my apologies to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone)?

Popularity isn’t just a poor analog for quality, but as a goal it is notoriously difficult to achieve. Striving for it is a fool’s errand, as the public’s approval has as much to do with luck as any other factor. Better to strive for excellence, and let The Universe figure the rest out.

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American Cities’ Biggest Transportation Innovation is Decidedly Low-Tech

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Long Island Bike Lane

American cities are adding bus and bike lanes, implementing bikeshare systems, and creating public plazas and miniature parks at a rapid pace.

Urban streets, long the domain of automobiles, are increasingly being reclaimed by and for the people, a change that amounts to the biggest transportation innovation in recent years, according to a new report by TransitCenter.

“A People’s History of Recent Transportation Innovation” details how strong alignment among local civic organizations, city leadership, and transportation agencies has yielded enduring changes in regional transportation systems.

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Transit’s Surprising Advantage is Sitting Right in Your Pocket

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab. Edited for this site.]

Metra Commuters

With public-transit use riding a 58-year high of 10.8 billion trips last year, it only makes sense to ask: why? Technology may be partially responsible for public transit’s record ridership, but probably not in the way you think.

As smartphones and other electronic devices have skyrocketed in popularity, more people are becoming dependent on them (much to the chagrin of some psychologists). These technology-dependent commuters want to to remain engaged with their devices at all times, and more of them are choosing public transit for the ease at which they can do so while riding the bus or train.

A new study by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development finds that the most avid users of mobile devices may be boosting Chicago’s transit ridership numbers, and there is reason to believe this trend is occurring in other metropolitan areas. Apple, Google, and Amazon aren’t just changing the way we work, communicate, and socialize, but are also influencing our transportation choices as well.

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New Research Reveals the Cost of Sprawl to Municipal Coffers

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

A suburban development

Ever since the Roman Empire, local governments have had great control over land use. Today, this control is exerted through zoning regulations, tax policies, and infrastructure-investment decisions. Municipalities can choose to develop in an unconnected, low-density, suburban-style manner, or they can consider more compact, connected urban land uses.

These decisions have enormous implications for a municipality’s finances, according to a new report from non-profit Smart Growth America and real-estate advisory firm RCLCO.

The report, The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns, is authored by Smart Growth America’s Chris Zimmerman and RCLCO’s Lee Sobel. They analyze the dollar costs to municipalities of different land-use patterns, concluding that, overall, dispersed, car-dependent land use patterns result in higher costs to municipalities than dense, urban development. Choosing sprawl over density, the authors state, could have multimillion-dollar consequences.

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Businesses are Moving Back Downtown

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Ann Arbor, Michigan

The deciding factor in Panasonic’s move of its North American headquarters from Secaucus, New Jersey to Newark was public transportation, according to Jim Reilly, vice president of corporate communications.

The company relocated from a large corporate campus with lots of green space to an amenity-rich downtown location. Reilly said his company’s relocation has been “transformative” and has created a more collaborative company culture.

After years of locating in car-dependent, suburban office parks, large numbers of companies like Panasonic are now moving back downtown.

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The Good and the Bad of the Capital Bikeshare Member Survey

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Capital Bikeshare

Capital Bikeshare’s 2014 Member Survey indicates that even as Washington D.C.’s bikeshare service has grown by leaps and bounds, its users have become older, whiter, and wealthier.

Most company executives would be happy enough with these demographics. Wealthy customers? Yes please.

Washington’s business community, in fact, was a tough sell on this new transit option. Many businesses were initially leery of bikeshare stations located near their retail establishments. Their fears were: What kind of customers — if any — would bikeshare provide? Would they scare away my “real customers,” who drive cars?

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Gridlock: Not Just for Washington D.C. Politics

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

DC traffic

File this one under “lists you don’t want to appear on.”

Consumer finance website NerdWallet has released a list of the top 10 Worst Cities for Car Drivers. Washington D.C., number two on the list, proves once again that the term “gridlock” doesn’t just apply to the city’s politics.

NerdWallet gave Washington poor scores because, compared with other major cities, “Washington, D.C. drivers waste the most time in delays: 67 hours each year.” NerdWallet also cited hefty car-insurance premiums and tourists who are “often lost on the city’s confusing traffic circles and one-way streets.”

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