2.0 Literature Review

Also see: Bibliography

2.1 Urban Realm and Transit Ridership

2.1.1 Proximity to Transit

There are many urban realm factors that affect transit ridership; many of which relate to the trip that connects one's home to the transit stop, which is often by walking or cycling. Studies have shown that greatest predictor of transit use is proximity (Cervero, 2002; Gutierrez & Garcia-Palomares, 2008). The closer one lives to a transit stop, the more likely one will take transit (Hoehner, Brennan Ramirez, Elliott, Handy, & Brownson, 2005). The typical catchment for a bus stop is contained within a 400 metre radius around the stop and can be larger for faster forms of transit (Gutierrez, Cardozo, & Garcia-Palomares, 2011).

2.1.2 Physical Environment Quality

More recent studies show that this catchment area is not static. The quality of the walking and cycling environment around the stop can greatly affect how far people are willing to travel to reach the transit stop (Taylor & Fink, 2011). These findings make intuitive sense because significant portions of transit trips, unlike private automobile trips, are spent outside of the vehicle. As a result, well designed outdoor environments can encourage walking to transit (Martens, 2004), where as inadequate outdoor environments can be a barrier to riding transit (Hess, 2012). Walkable environments are often identified as areas that have more pedestrian traffic, environmental and social safety, pleasing aesthetics, natural features, pedestrian amenities, and land use diversity (Brown, Werner, Amburgey, & Szalay, 2007). Less walk able environments are often the result of auto-centric planning, using organizing structure of a city (Lillebye, 1996). This effect of the physical environment on people's decisions to take transit varies on an individual basis. While improvements in station surroundings have little effect on dependent riders, they are an effective way of attracting infrequent or choice riders (Reconnecting America, 2011). Therefore, providing high-quality and comfortable service is key in improving the public image of transit and increasing customer satisfaction (Jenks, 1998).

2.2 Urban Realm and Active Transportation

2.2.1 General Effect

Active transportation refers to human-powered forms of travel, such as walking, cycling, skating, and manual wheelchairs (Litman, 2003). Because most transit trips start and end with walking trips, it is important to determine how active transportation is affected by the physical environment. In general, living in a highly walkable neighbourhood is associated with more walking for transportation purposes (Van Dyck et al., 2009). More specifically, traffic calming measures increase the proportion of walking trips (Susilo, Williams, Lindsay, & Dair, 2012) In addition, studies show that walkable environments can also induce casual walking among local residents (Cao, Mokhtarian, & Handy, 2009; Hoehner et al., 2005).

2.2.2 Demographic Differences

Improvements to pedestrian and cycling networks such as new routes and lighting improvements to existing paths around a transit stop can have positive effects for the entire neighbourhood. However the magnitude of the effect varies with different segments of the population. Urban realm improvements encourage more children to walk and bike to school, if parents also have low levels of perceived risk (Gallimore, Brown, & Werner, 2011). Increased accessibility of the outdoors mean that older adults who previously found the urban environment to be a barrier are also more likely to enjoy public spaces (Hess, 2012). Women are also found to be more sensitive to the physical environment when choosing travel modes as compared to men (Humpel, Owen, Iverson, Leslie, & Bauman, 2004). Research also shows that those with less positive attitudes towards walking and cycling are more affected by such enhancements (Van Dyck et al., 2009).

2.3 Physical Activity and Health

Several studies provide evidence that as a person engages in more low to moderate physical activity on a daily basis, the associated health benefits become larger (Morris, Clayton, Everitt, Semmence, & Burgess, 1990; Paffenbarger, Hyde, Wing, & Hsieh, 1986; Sandvik et al., 1993). Walking and biking to transit stops can easily fulfill this requirement due to the trips' short duration, regularity, and moderate level of effort (Hoehner et al., 2005). In fact, brisk walking alone has been identified as protective of physical health, independent of the benefits of more vigorous activity (Saelens, Sallis, & Frank, 2003). Although the level of exertion may be minor, the impacts are significant. Studies observe the most major increases in physical and mental health occur between individuals that do not exercise and those that engage in some physical activity for 16-48 minutes (Leon, Connett, Jacobs, & Rauramaa, 1987). The marginal benefit of daily exercise beyond 48 minutes decreases (Leon et al., 1987). However, If combined with other intense forms of exercise on a weekly basis, active transportation can significantly improve overall health of an individual (Rodriguez, Khattak, & Evenson, 2006). These health benefits have been quantified to a savings of $400 to $4000 in medical costs per person (Boarnet, Greenwald, & McMillan, 2008).

2.4 Commuter's Value of Time

For urban realm improvements to be successful, one must understand the transit user market (Buys & Miller, 2011). One of these factors is the rider's valuation of time. A commuter's value of travel time is a combination of the opportunity cost of the entire time spent travelling and the cumulative disutility of walking, waiting, and travelling (Wardman, 2004). The disutility of walking stems mostly from the physical effort required and possible negative perceptions of the route (Wardman, 2004). The disutility of waiting results from the uncertainty of arrival times and the inability to use the waiting time productively. While the amount of disutility of transit times vary from person to person (Taylor et al., 2009), a review of past studies suggests that most riders value out-of-vehicle travel time at 2 to 3 times the value of in-vehicle travel time (Daly & Zachary, 1975; Davies & Rogers, 1973). This factor is found to be higher for women (+26%) when compared to men, and for people over the age of 50 (+23%) (Wardman, 2001). However, new research shows that with the steady improvement of transit stop design such as having real-time information displays and wireless internet connectivity, and with advancement in mobile technology such as smart phones and laptops, the time waiting compared to riding time factor is reported much lower at 1.6 (Wardman, 2004).

2.5 Hierarchy of Elements

Often times, there is limited funding for public realm improvement projects. Therefore, it is important to identify which elements to focus on first. The performance of a public good should not be separated from its costs (Fukahori & Kubota, 2003). A survey of transit user preferences in Los Angeles found that commuters required the stations to be, in order of importance: easy to get around, feel safe during day, easy to find, well lit at night, clean, sheltered, have places to sit, and have food and washrooms nearby (Taylor et al., 2007). A more recent survey of transit riders in Ottawa found that factors that influence ridership are, in order of importance: bus information, on-street service, station safety, customer service, safety en-route, reduced fare, cleanliness, and general attitudes towards transit (Taylor & Fink, 2011). One can see that accessibility and safety top both lists. Another study from Japan looked the relationship between the pedestrian-perceived value gained of an improvement and the cost of installation (Fukahori & Kubota, 2003). The researchers found that paving, lighting, and vegetation had the most perceived benefit per dollar over their life spans.

2.6 Urban Space Design Concepts

2.6.1 Placemaking

Placemaking is a design and planning concept that capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well being (Project for Public Spaces, 2012). Placemaking stresses the value of what already exists in the neighbourhood, ranging from shops and services to community expertise. This strategy for designing urban spaces is strongly influenced by residents (J. Jacobs, 1961). Results of such planning are usually more functional, contextual and inclusive (Project for Public Spaces, 2012). Some physical attributes of spaces that characterize successful places include short blocks, human scaled amenities, and often clever uses of vegetation (A. B. Jacobs, 1995; Whyte, 1980). These spaces tend to generate a greater sense of ownership among the community rather than top-down designs implemented without consultation, which may result in greater use and better maintenance.

2.6.2 Shared Space

Shared space is a design concept for public spaces that promotes removing the separation between modes of transport and mixing them to create more pedestrian friendly environments (Hamilton-Baillie & Jones, 2005). The idea of removing ground markings for traffic, which are painted in the name of safety, seem counter intuitive at first, but the result is more eye contact, slower speeds and heightened awareness. However, implementation of shared spaces to a region that has never had such urban features may be a challenge. The success of such shared space zones is extremely dependent on people's familiarity with these areas (Kaparias, Bell, Miri, Chan, & Mount, 2012). Since the safety of pedestrians in such zones is reliant on drivers' heightened awareness, it is important that adequate driver education exists before shared space is implemented. The study also shows that the more people who are familiar with shared spaces, the more likely they will be in favour of such features. Therefore, the first shared spaces will require considerable work from all parties involved. If there is initial success, subsequent shared spaces may come much easier.

2.6.3 Style

Because public spaces such as transit stops affect the daily lives of many, the styles of these elements are important (Lillebye, 1996). From survey results, it is shown that most people prefer public spaces that are backdrop-like, that blend in with the surroundings and do not seek attention (Gjerde, 2011). The general public likes patterns of conformity and order more than design professionals (Gjerde, 2011). These preferences speak to the desire of people for a more integrated travel experience that benefit from the latest advances in design but also has a relatively conservative look that maintains its attractiveness over time (Fung, 2012; Thomsen, 2011). In addition, it is important to not be carried away by over urbanizing spaces, for there are many factors of lower density developments, such as long views, that are conducive towards active transportation (Susilo et al., 2012). Other principles such as Crime Prevention Trough Environmental Design (CPTED) are also popular in the field of public space design (Alliance Against Crime, 2011; Saraiva & Pinho, 2011), and will be discussed later in the report.

2.7 Public Project Implementation

2.7.1 Collaboration

While there is usually support for public space improvement projects as they are often on city owned land (Giddings, Charlton, & Horne, 2011) and for an environmentally sustainable agenda (Susilo et al., 2012), there are still major road blocks. Common difficulties of public space projects include issues of public versus private realm, constrained roadway width and public property, aligning multiple funding sources and stakeholders, and coordination of utilities, streetscaping and infrastructure (Reconnecting America, 2011). Various design elements may become points of contention. Therefore, it is recommended that the public be involved at all stages of the process (Borst, Miedema, de Vries, Graham, & van Dongen, 2008; J. Jacobs, 1961). Due diligence in this aspect will ensure there is adequate support for the project and that the final design reflects the needs of the neighbourhood and commuters alike (Chrisomallidou, Chrisomallidis, & Theodosiou, 2004). Great designs are often the result of planners, architects, and engineers coming together to realize an integrative urban vision (Kashef, 2008). Other non-design parties that are significant to the process include area businesses, local employers, development professionals, local associations and law enforcement personnel (Reconnecting America, 2011).

2.7.2 Financing

Financing is another important issue in the implementation of transit stop improvements. While cost can vary widely depending on design, studies have found that substantial cost savings can be achieved if stops are designed smartly (Hamilton-Baillie & Jones, 2005). The use of modular structures and passive heating are techniques that can save capital and operational costs. If transit stop enhancements can generate significant pedestrian traffic and are well integrated with adjacent businesses, area business associations may be willing to contribute financially (Zacharias, Zhang, & Nakajima, 2011). In addition, surveys show that if citizens perceive significant amenity improvements arising from public projects, they are more likely to approve the required public spending (Fukahori & Kubota, 2003). Therefore, it is important to employ creative and reliable methods to communicate the benefits of such projects to the general public (Jenks, 1998). Also, it is demonstrated in multiple cities that adjusting parking prices is an efficient way of generating revenue to finance urban realm improvements (Dueker, Strathman, & Bianco, 1998). Finally, because urban realm projects usually add to the desirability of an area and increase surrounding land values, amenities contributions can be negotiated with developers to finance transit stop improvements (Garmendia, de Urena, Ribalaygua, Leal, & Coronado, 2008).

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