This is a Guest Post by Kent Lundberg. It originally appeared here and has been reproduced with Kent’s kind permission. Quality Guest Posts are always welcome.
One reason I go on about bikes here is that I see them being an incredible opportunity to leverage our existing urban form and provide one of the tools to deal with our current resource realities. I have written a few things about Auckland’s inherently interconnected streetcar suburbs (the City’s DNA), and the potential they embody. This potential is based on the fact that the streetcar suburbs were originally designed, at least in part, to incorporate walking. By first recognising this value and secondly to find ways to exploit it, we have incredible opportunities to provide gains in mobility, health, and quality of life.
One such way to leverage the physical form of the streetcar suburbs is the use of the bicycle. While the streetcar suburbs are now mostly well covered by bus service, the soon-to-be electrified fixed rail system would benefit from maximum ridership. With the advent of rail electrification and the possibility of the City Rail Link it’s not hard to imagine the rail system becoming a true city-wide metro service.
We have been working with the software Urban Network Analysis to analyse spatial integration throughout Auckland. Spatial integration basically describes the connectivity of places to other places via streets. One particularly relevant application of the software is to quickly analyse a particular place’s reach. Reach quantifies the number of places/people that can be reached given a certain distance query.
Typically this process would be conducted by hand or oversimplified with simple radius searches using GIS. But by using the Urban Network Analysis software we can quickly create legitimate distance searches based upon the existing street, trail, and path networks.
In order to test the software we have developed a sample scenario to test each Auckland’s suburban train station’s potential for increased ridership by attracting bicyclists. (Bicyclists could be encouraged through infrastructure such as long term parking, better on or off-street facilities or other incentive programs.)
The first test identified the number of households within 400m of the station, this is considered the pedestrian catchment. And if we consider a comfortable cycling range to be closer to 800m we can determine the additional extent for potential cyclists. Here is an example of the results of the Mt Albert train station.By simply considering cyclists as viable tranist users this train station can increase its ridership catchment by over 350%. Not coincidentally this is a good example of the area that is gained by doubling the radius of a circle. This reveals the consistency of the neighbourhood under study and demonstrates the network efficiency of traditional, walkable streetcar suburbs (and frankly makes me feel a little thick for employing high tech software to deduce something so plainly obvious).
But the results are different when testing another station. By comparison here are the results from the Sturges station. The numbers illustrate several important geometric principles related to urban form and connectivity. For one, regular, gridded streets provide efficient and resilient movement patterns that are more easily leveraged for transit and bike infrastructure. There are also several micro scale design considerations that are revealed that we will discuss in the next post. Ultimately however, this is leading me to believe that it’s not “all about the bike” but instead it’s much more “about the neighbourhood” and this in turn has important implications about future development opportunities and land use and transport decisions.