Not just speed and land use: considering directness of travel

By Eric Sundquist

Improving access to destinations means raising travel speed or reducing travel distance. Because of siloing within government, transportation agencies have traditionally worried about speed while leaving distances to land use authorities (though that is beginning to change with initiatives like Virginia’s H.B. 2, with accessibility and land use criteria for transportation funding).

However, one aspect of distance that transportation agencies can affect without breaking any silos is directness or circuity of travel. An example of this is examined in a new paper by Jie Huang and David M. Levinson of the University of Minnesota. They find that circuity of transit trips in U.S. cities ranges widely but is always higher than for car trips, especially for shorter trips. Reducing circuity of trips was one of the driving factors behind Houston’s recent radical redesign of its route system.

SSTI is working with DOTs in Colorado and Virginia to examine circuity of auto trips, with an eye toward finding ways to shorten trips, perhaps converting some of them to non-auto. We also hope to begin examining circuity of bike and pedestrian trip making soon.

Watch this space.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director of SSTI.