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Applied Research

Accessibility and Millennial Transit Habits

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Accessibility and Millennial Transit Habits

A new study for the Transportation Research Board looks at how changes and trends -- in demographics, geographic trends, employment, transportation options, etc. – could affect public transportation ridership.  Renaissance Planning just completed our portion of the background research that went into the study. There are some very interesting findings turning up that we thought worthy of sharing.

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2014 APA Florida Conference Presenters to Include Whit Blanton and Frank Kalpakis

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2014 APA Florida Conference Presenters to Include Whit Blanton and Frank Kalpakis

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This year’s conference in Jacksonville, Florida will feature Renaissance’s Whit Blanton and Frank Kalpakis, presenting on topics within their areas of practice, as well as specific project experience in Florida. Whit will be hosting a break-out session: “Starting Out for Start-Ups- Setting the Framework for as High-tech Economy” on Thursday, September 4th. During this session he will explore approaches to successful economic growth, using the Mount Dora & Lake County Employment Center Master Plan – branded as the Wolf Branch Innovation District -as a prime example, and then comparing it to ongoing work to develop a vision and new redevelopment plan for Downtown Orlando. This talk will examine the need for creating great places with multimodal transportation accessibility as a prerequisite for start-up communities and the responsibility of planners to address changes in demographic and economic patterns accordingly.

In addition to this session, Whit will be joining others discussing Florida’s iconic great places by participating in an 8-minute Pecha Kucha (a fast-paced presentation) on some noteworthy public spaces titled: “Placemaking Express: Great Places in Florida,” where he will be discussing how 130 years of planning and development has shaped Park Avenue in Winter Park.  This event kicks off APA Florida’s “Great Places in Florida” recognition program.

Frank Kalpakis will be contributing to a session on Friday, September 5th:“Freight, Florida, & the Future – What is the Value Proposition for Our State?” This topic will explore the value of the freight industry in the state of Florida and how it can be further propelled and integrated as an economic asset. Applying his extensive experience with FDOT, Frank will be presenting an overview of some of the key freight planning initiatives for FDOT District Seven including the Tampa Bay Regional Strategic Freight Plan, Comprehensive Freight Improvement Database, and Freight Roadway Design Considerations.

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 The 2014 APA Florida Annual Conference Brochure is available here.

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TRB Publishes Renaissance Report on Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook

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TRB Publishes Renaissance Report on Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook

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Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has recently published Renaissance’s NCHRP Report 770: Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook.  The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) is a division of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Science, which sponsors peer-reviewed research on critical transportation planning and policy issues. This report represents a major step toward fulfilling a long-standing need for analytic methods that can effectively represent non-motorized transportation modes in the transportation and land use planning process. The guidebook provides a menu of best-practice methods that can be used by practitioners to estimate bicycle and pedestrian demand at various scales (regional, corridor, activity center, or project level) and to accommodate different analytic needs, skills and resources. Rich Kuzmyak of Renaissance was the project manager and principal author of the new guidebook.

The project team, which was led by Renaissance and included several recognized specialists in travel behavior and modelling from private consulting firms and a university. The resultant guidebook provides a menu of tools, including several pre-existing methods with particular value, plus three new tools developed by the NCHRP project team. These include an advanced tour-based mode choice procedure developed in Seattle, a strategically enhanced four-step modelling approach, and an innovative accessibility-based approach that relied almost exclusively on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and tools. Renaissance was directly responsible for this third tool, through the efforts of Chris Sinclair, Alex Bell, and Nick Lepp, using data for Arlington County obtained from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Each of the new tools relies heavily on accessibility relationships to convey the key elements of the travel setting by jointly considering the prevailing land use along with the capability of the travel networks to provide access to those opportunities.  Through such a structure, it is possible to identify the relative importance of the built environment (density, mix, design) independently of the connecting infrastructure.  Thus, planners can identify the most cost-effective measures (land use and/or transportation) that will impact mode choice, vehicle trips, VMT and congestion.  The tools should offer much needed support for planning smart growth communities, transit and transit-oriented development, and cost-effective non-motorized transportation network improvements.

Renaissance is currently testing application of the GIS accessibility approach in a complex, multi-modal corridor for a state department of transportation. The Department of Transportation (DOT) sees value in the approach for reviewing transportation plans and proposals in relation to local land use plans, project prioritization, and engaging local jurisdictions and other stakeholders in the planning and decision-making process.

TRB is hosting a webinar on this research on August 18th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, in which Renaissance's Rich Kuzmyak, Alex Bell, along with Mark Bradley (Resource Systems Group, Inc.) and Kara Kockelman (University of Texas at Austin) will be introducing the guidebook and describing some of the methods and models.

To participate in the TRB Webinar, register here!

Click here for the full report!

 

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A Tale of Two Retail Districts

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A Tale of Two Retail Districts

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As a planner whose professional experience has been focused on market analysis and real estate, I have a healthy appreciation for how the market influences the outcomes of even our best-laid plans in all sorts of ways. I often find myself needing to balance my enthusiasm for a planning vision with what my gut tells me is the market reality. For this reason I’ve been interested in the dynamics surrounding two business districts here in Orlando. The Baldwin Park Village Center is a prime example of a walkable, mixed-use town center developed as part of a very successful New Urbanist community that replaced the former Orlando Naval Training Center. The homes in Baldwin Park fetch high prices, the town center boasts lakefront views, and the neighborhood as a whole has a “just right” feeling about it that has led some here at Renaissance to call it Pleasantville. It’s a very nice place to be.

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But all is not happy in the Village Center. It has struggled to find and keep retail tenants from its start in the early 2000s, and was repossessed by the bank just a few years ago. Both local real estate experts and residents alike have weighed in on how it could be turned around but it still is trying to find sustained success. While the real estate crash and recession certainly didn’t help things, the Village Center suffers from being kind of buried back in the neighborhood away from major roads, and probably has too much retail space to fill for its location and the trade area it is trying to serve.

But one thing that Baldwin Park did succeed in was bringing a lot of new affluent and well-educated households to this part of Orlando. Check out this map of the percentage change from 2000-2012 in adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher. It’s shaded by census block group, with the darker purple shades meaning higher numbers and the tan shades meaning lower or negative numbers.

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The big dark purple area in the upper right is Baldwin Park proper. But the smaller dark purple area roughly in the center of the map is part of the established Audubon Park neighborhood. The east-west street that forms the northern edge of the dark purple block group is Corrine Drive, and along this stretch of road are two strip malls that form the heart of what is called the Audubon Park Garden District. This small business district has blossomed over the past several years and has been officially designated a Main Street in the City of Orlando’s program that follows the structure and process laid out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While the marketing, programming, and organization provided by the Main Street approach has obviously contributed to the district’s growth, I think that the course of its revitalization has been fairly remarkable given the physical environment. We planners have gotten used to thinking that you need to have quaint walkable streets and attractive mixed-use buildings to create a successful shopping alternative to conventional auto-oriented retail. But that’s not the case here in Audubon Park.

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The two strip malls were built in the 1950s and while they’re in decent shape, they’re not going to win any architectural awards. Parking is all in the front and landscaping is minimal if not totally absent. Corrine Drive is wide, traffic moves pretty fast, and the sidewalks are marginal at best if they even exist. But this area is one of the most vibrant retail districts in Orlando. The street view photo above shows Red Light Red Light, a widely known bar with an epic craft brew selection (and a favorite haunt of noted Renaissance blogger Whit Blanton). Other distinctive businesses in this two-block stretch include Orlando Outfitters, Park Avenue CDs, Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux, and Bluebird Bake Shop. People come from miles around to shop at these unique businesses, along with others in the district like Stardust Video & Coffee and the recently opened East End Market. But it’s not all hip retail here: there are two gas stations flanking the intersection with Winter Park Road, as well as a 7-Eleven, auto repair shop, real estate office, and animal hospital among other businesses.

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So what we have here is a vibrant mix of businesses that any town center would kill for, located in a decidedly non-town center environment. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the Audubon Park Garden District has essentially become the place that the Baldwin Park Village Center wants to be, at least from a shopping perspective. Baldwin Park has the beautiful buildings, walkable streets, and lakefront views that make it a high quality place, but you can bet that higher lease rates come with that. Audubon Park offers cheaper space, better visibility, and an engaged business community (through the Main Street program) in an emerging district that still has a ways to go in terms of its quality of place. One district’s challenge is the other’s strength, and vice versa.

There are a lot of lessons to take from a case study like this and I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of the history and dynamics that shaped both of these districts. But one that stands out for me is that if the demand for the “stuff” that occupies the buildings (i.e. unique local retailers) exists, then it will naturally find places where it can thrive. And those places might not necessarily be in the well-planned town center where you want the demand to go. Baldwin Park helped bring in the target customer base for specialty shopping, but the Audubon Park Garden District is reaping most of the rewards so far.

–Dave Stamm, Cities That Work Blog

[For regular news and updates, be sure to follow Renaissance on Twitter @CitiesThatWork]

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