Strategy Screening and Selection
The previous sections described how the Collaborative "charted the course" to a sustainable transportation system by linking goals & objectives, problems and causes and performance measures to form an strategy determination and evaluation framework. It was then time to "set sail" and begin the process of screening and selecting a set of strategies applicable to the Route 1 Collaboratives corridor.
The building of the initial strategy set actually began early on during the corridor selection process, when the Collaborative "core group" determined key characteristics and potential strategies to help decide on which corridor to choose. From there, other likely candidates fell into place as a result of: the review of municipal master plans and other documents (e.g.; The NJDOT Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Master Plan, which identified several ITS strategies for Route 1); stakeholder interviews, the telephone survey, information searches of experiences across the country; the setting of goals & objectives and the determination of problems and causes.
From all of this, the consultant team assembled a comprehensive list of thirty-six potential strategies for consideration, grouped by strategy type: Road and Traffic Improvements; Transit Improvements; Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements; Transportation Demand Management; and, Community Development and Design.
Following development of the list of thirty-six, the consultant team, working with the Transportation and Land Use subcommittees constructed a screening process and rating system to further refine the strategy mix. In all, seven "screens" were identified and applied to the thirty-six strategies.
The results of the screening process were then put in matrix form for presentation to a joint Transportation/Land Use subcommittee meeting. For each strategy, a total score was shown, equal to the sum of the cost rating and the cost effectiveness rating. Those with the highest ranking (a 5 or 6) were indicated. The subcommittees also did a subjective ranking of the top ten strategies that were most important to them.
Subsequently the matrix was reviewed by the Expert Review Panel, who suggested a number of changes -- drop some, aggregate some, redefine some. The end result was a final package of sixteen strategies that was assembled, presented to and ultimately agreed upon by the Collaboratives Steering Committee (it should be noted that selection was not solely based on the scores as they are only cost indicators). Brief summaries of the final sixteen are presented below:
1. Adding Roadway Lanes
A direct method of dealing with congestion is to add additional travel lanes, as is to be done for the four-lane portions of Route 1 in the corridor in the 7L Project. This will alleviate current congestion and accommodate growth for several years into the future.
It will also relieve parallel routes such as Route 27 which also exhibits peak period congestion in some segments. Additional roadway capacity might also be provided along cross streets where the number of lanes is inadequate.
2. Improving Intersection Capacity
East-west streets, such as Green Street, Plainfield Avenue, and Parsonage Road experience congestion at intersections with Route 1 and 27. The addition of intersection capacity to streets crossing the corridor by provision of turning lanes, jughandles and intersection channelization can reduce delay on these streets.
3. Coordination of Signals
Advanced signal control systems, which sense traffic volumes and adjust signal timing accordingly, provide additional capacity without added lanes. Plainfield Avenue is scheduled to be studied for such a system. There is potential for application of such systems on state, county, municipal routes in the corridor.
4. Intelligent Transportation System
It is estimated that half of all urban highway delay is attributable to incidents such as accidents and vehicle breakdowns. NJDOT is planning to initiate a program of Emergency Service Patrols along Route 1 in the corridor to quickly identify and remove incidents from the traffic stream. Other Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) improvements focus on providing real-time information, on the basis of which travelers can make appropriate mode and route choices.
5. Access Management
As property is developed along the highway, the proliferation of driveways and driveway signals will seriously degrade its capacity. Access control policies are not corrective; they cannot remove many of the existing driveway access points along Route 1, but they can, if implemented cooperatively by state and municipal authorities, avoid significant future deterioration of roadway capacity.
6. Transit Service Improvements
Local bus service in the corridor is offered at relatively long headways in the peak period: hourly, 30 minutes and, on a few routes, 20 minutes. At headways of 12-15 minutes, transit becomes much more convenient; schedules no longer have to be consultant as a bus can always be expected in a short time. This should stimulate more bus usage, although whether the increase will be sufficient to justify the increased cost must be examined closely. One variant of this strategy is the implicit or explicit promotion of jitney service along transit routes.
A complement to increased transit service is improved coordination of schedules, as in "timed transfer" programs. If the various specialized or social service transit operators are included, transit access is vastly improved.
7. Commuter Options
The mandatory Employee Trip Reduction Program (ETRP) was estimated to reduce peak period trips on Route 1 by about six to seven percent. A strategy of intensive promotion by municipalities and other agencies for increased participation in a voluntary program should be tested. It would involve increased effort by the Transportation Management Association, Keep Middlesex Moving to promote increased carpool and vanpool incentives; transit coordination and financial assistance, work hour changes, such as flex hours, staggered hours and compressed work week; and telecommuting.
8. Transit and Carpool/Vanpool Park-and-Ride Lots
Many existing transit park-and-ride lots are filled to capacity and have waiting lists. Additional lots and spaces will encourage transit use and reduce traffic. This strategy also includes carpool and vanpool lots along major highways to intercept commuters with corridor destinations before they enter the corridor.
9. Free Transit Shuttle
Transit shuttles have already operated in the corridor with free buses connecting an office park with a shopping center during the holiday season. The potential of expanded shuttles, accessing both the Metropark and Woodbridge Stations and both the Menlo Park and Woodbridge Shopping Centers will be tested in this strategy. Financial support from one or more of the shopping centers, the office park employers and/or developers and the transit operator would be necessary (Note: This strategy was developed from the Early Action Initiatives Work - see next section).
10. New Transit Routes
This strategy is aimed at new or extended bus service. While several bus routes utilize portions of Route 1, there is no bus route on Route 1 connecting the major generators located along it. Such a bus route could provide a needed service. Extension of the Rutgers University bus routes into Edison has also been suggested (the extension of Rutgers Service was developed from the Early Action Initiatives Work - see next section).
11. Employer Cash-Out of Parking
Under this arrangement employees are charged the full cost of parking, normally absorbed by the employer. The total payments are returned to all employees as cash; they then decide individually whether to go by transit, carpool, walk or bike, keeping all or part of the cash payment, or continue to drive, park and pay. This is most likely a strategy that would have to be implemented on a regional basis, but the effect on corridor trip generation of implementing it within the corridor can be estimated.
12. Improvements for Pedestrian Street Crossings
This strategy involves improvements to intersections to make pedestrian crossing safer and easier. The addition of islands at corners and in the median of wide intersections, and of pedestrian signals and adequate pedestrian phases is included.
13. Assuring Sidewalk Continuity
Adding sidewalks between bus stops, intersections and activity centers will expand safe walking opportunities. It also involves filling the many gaps in the existing sidewalk network.
14. Bicycle Network Connectivity and Facilities
The addition of bicycle storage facilities at employment, shopping and other activity centers, of bike paths, lanes and designated routes, and more generally, of shoulders that can safety accommodate bicycles, is a strategy to reduce dependence on and use of vehicles for short trips.
15. Higher Density and Mixed Use Development
This strategy involves changes to local zoning to encourage concentrated development at significantly higher densities and with mixed uses, and would include redevelopment, infill and new development. Telecommuting and home employment would be encouraged. The strategy also includes reduced building setbacks in new development. Better street connectivity would be achieved by avoiding long blocks, dead ends and cul-de-sacs. In some cases existing barriers between residential areas and shopping and other activities can be removed. All of these will reduce traffic generation by facilitating walking, bicycling and greater transit service and use.
16. Truck Traffic Reduction
This strategy would include various ways to encourage diversion of truck traffic from Route 1 to the Turnpike. Efforts such as toll restructuring, or economic incentives (e.g.; discounts on the Turnpike for fuel and food to truckers) could significantly reduce "through" truck traffic on Route 1.
As discussed previously, the Collaborative Work Program called for the development of potential early action initiatives. Specifically, these initiatives were to be specific projects that: were implementable within 12 to 18 months; relatively low cost; and, would have a minimum of public or political opposition. The intent was to provide some "quick hits" to congestion, maintain a "high profile" for the Collaborative (that is, partnering works) and build momentum for implementing other strategies. During the strategy solicitation process, the consultant team, working primarily with the Steering Committee and using the stakeholder interviews, background research and site investigations uncovered several promising directions for early action projects.
Similar to the strategy selection process described previously, the early action initiatives underwent a refinement process (follow up, fatal flaw analysis, Expert Review Panel review) that resulted in two specific initiatives that the Collaborative agreed to pursue further (Note: some of the other early action initiatives were integrated with the other sixteen strategies).
With the definition of sixteen short, mid and long-term strategies, the Collaborative was ready to enter into the most difficult and complex phase of the study - modeling, prototype land uses and strategy specifications.
Strategy Evaluation Process
Traditionally, the use of models in transportation planning have been singly focused -- to evaluate roadways, to evaluate transit and so on. It was clear early on in the study process that to evaluate an all-encompassing set of strategies, the Collaborative would require a modeling protocol unprecedented in the State of New Jersey. And so, the tying together of five different models: the North Jersey Regional Transportation Model (NJRTM) model; the Federal Highway Administrations Travel Demand Management (TDM) model; the Environmental Defense Funds PROximity MOde Choice (PROMO) model; the NJ Transit model; and, the FHWAs state-of-the-art Surface Transportation Efficiency Analysis Model (STEAM) model became by far the most daunting task of the entire study.
To help ensure that a logical, accurate (and doable) modeling protocol was developed, a special Modeling Task Force was assembled from expertise within the Collaborative membership; including representatives from the NJDOT (and their modeling consultants), NJT, NJTPA, RELC, Middlesex County and the Route 1 Collaborative consultant team. Through the Task Forces vast experience and knowledge, the consultant team and the Transportation and Lands Use subcommittees were able to: thoroughly understand model capabilities and limitations; compensate for any model shortcomings; better integrate model function (e.g.; outputs of one model would be inputs to another); and, more accurately interpret the analysis results to ensure that the results were within reason and made sense.
The Modeling Task Force was also instrumental in providing guidance in the definition and modeling of the Collaboratives prototypical areas -- geographical areas where socioeconomic forecasts were altered to test high-density "neo-traditional" growth patterns.
And finally, the Modeling Task Force (and Expert Review Panel) provided input and opinion on the development of strategy specifications -- the exact locations within the Collaborative Study Area where each strategy would be applied.
These three areas -- the modeling protocol, the prototypical areas and strategy specifications - are discussed in more detail below.
The objective of the modeling effort was to produce a quantitative comparison of the relative effectiveness of proposed strategies on changing travel on the Route 1 Corridor. Consistent with a planning study of a variety of conceptual measures, the modeling is not expected to produce the kind of precise forecasts of traffic conditions that would be required for a design project. The results will be expressed as a comparison to the trend-based forecast of Vehicle Trips (VT), Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT), and Volume to Capacity ratios (V/C) for each strategy or related strategies and for a selected combination of strategies. The analysis will be done for selected strategies in the year 2007 for the weekday peak period -- 3:30-6:00 p.m.
All candidate strategies that could be evaluated via a model were first be modeled individually to determine their relative effectiveness. Those selected for further analysis were then modeled as a combination of measures in the second round.
The final result were a comparison of the 2007 projections in the Subarea Model and conditions with the strategies, reported in terms of VT and VMT for the study area and corridor and V/C for Route 1. In addition, an Economic model (STEAM) was applied to the resulting strategies to estimate the full cost and benefit.
For the purpose of modeling, candidate strategies were divided into three categories, those that affect capacity; Transportation Demand Measures (TDM); and land use, pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Different modeling approaches were used for each category.
Growth Forecast and Allocation to the Prototypical Areas
Strategies for improving transportation in the Route 1 corridor will take different amounts of time to be implemented and for their impacts to be observed. It is important, therefore, that these strategies meet future as well as current transportation needs. Quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of proposed strategies in terms of vehicle trips, congestion and other performance measures required an estimate of future travel demand.
For consistency with other planning efforts in northern New Jersey, this study utilized the same forecasts that are used for regional transportation planning by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and for project planning and design by NJDOT. The future year of 2007 chosen for strategy evaluation is also consistent with that used in NJTPA plans. This interval of 11 years from the base year (1996) was sufficient for most of the strategies to be implemented and effective in addressing transportation problems.
One of the strategies - the High Density/Mixed Land Use Strategy calls for altering the growth from that forecast in the NJRTM. This strategy is intended to test the concept of concentrating development at higher densities and with less separation of different uses than in the current suburban development pattern. This "neo-traditional" pattern is expected to reduce the amount of vehicular travel generated in the corridor.
There were two aspects to evaluating this strategy. First, a significant proportion of study area growth projected from current trends in the NJRTM files was concentrated in the two prototypical areas to represent a higher density of development. Second, the PROMO model, one of the simulation models used in evaluating strategies, made estimates of the reduction in vehicle-trips and travel that are due to increased walking, biking and transit use.
Initially, it was proposed that the growth projected by NJDOT in the North Jersey Regional Transportation Model for the townships of Woodbridge and Edison be concentrated in a prototypical area. After reviewing the characteristics of two prototypical areas - Woodbridge Metropark and Raritan Center, the Steering Committee decided that both should be used. An allocation of population and employment growth to the two areas was prepared, based in part on the Middlesex County Growth Management Strategy, and presented to the Steering Committee. After review by the Steering Committee, a revision of the growth allocation was prepared. The Steering Committee approved this allocation on the basis of its acceptance by Steering Committee representatives of Edison and Woodbridge Townships.
As noted in the Strategy Determination Process section, sixteen strategies were evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing vehicle trips, travel and congestion in the Route 1 corridor. In order to proceed, two steps needed to be taken: 1) Network Changes needed to be made that reflect the completion of other products in the study area with a reasonable likelihood to be built between 1996 and 2007 and 2) the evaluation, particularly where it will be based on simulation modeling, required definition of specific characteristics and locations that make up each strategy. Using all the resources and information to date, the consultant team, steering committee and Transportation and Land Use sub-committees worked together to define the nature and exact location(s) of each strategy.
With the modeling protocol established, the prototypical areas defined and strategies specified, the consultant team proceeded with a systematic evaluation of each of the sixteen strategies, with the constant oversight of the Modeling Task Force and the Transportation and Land Use subcommittees. The results of that evaluation, the selection of the final strategy set (the corridor plan) and the lessons learned from the entire Route 1 Corridor Collaborative exercise are discussed next.
Now came the payoff for the previous thirteen months of hard work and intense coordination -- the creation of an effective corridor plan for Route 1 to carry it into the next millennium. The process of choosing the final set of strategies, creating Strategy Profiles (the first step towards implementation) and capsulizing the entire study effort into some lessons learned is summarized below.
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