Online bike count data clearinghouse aims to better inform transportation decisions
March 13, 2014
The Bike Count Data Clearinghouse project aims to compile and standardize the collection of bicycle and pedestrian data to improve multimodal transportation planning across multiple jurisdictions in Los Angeles County and surrounding areas. Hosted by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, the clearinghouse is an interactive web portal—a “one-stop repository”—accessible by transportation planners, engineers, and others that compiles existing data and makes it available for download. The clearinghouse went live last fall, and new data is updated as it is collected.
Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the clearinghouse project was funded with a federal grant through the California Department of Transportation. The project was predicated on the idea that accurate data, collected through consistent counting methodologies, will assist in forecasting the demand for bicycle and pedestrian facilities across political jurisdictions.
Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI), which served as a sub-consultant on the project to Ryan Snyder Associates, helped to spearhead two components: a manual that provides guidance on conducting bicycle and pedestrian counts, and a white paper focused on modeling to forecast counts mainly for bicycle trips but also for pedestrian travel.
As the manual notes, 20 percent of trips in Los Angeles County are made on foot or by bike, but these modes historically have not been included in traffic counts, resulting in an incomplete picture of the region’s transportation system. A more robust understanding of volumes and behavior is needed to quantify costs and benefits of these modes.
Kamala Parks, a senior planner with KAI, says the clearinghouse project builds on the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project in that it aims to encourage non-motorized count data by providing count guidance and a repository of shared information. This SCAG project goes further by delving into existing automated counting technologies and providing guidance on conducting automated and manual counts. The SCAG clearinghouse also asks agencies to identify factors in the built environment that explain count numbers, such as being near a major transit facility, in the central business district, or in a rural area.
Among the reasons KAI was selected to collaborate on the clearinghouse project is its close fit with the firm’s ongoing research for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to prepare a report and guidebook for NCHRP 07-19, Methods and Technologies for Collecting Pedestrian and Bicycle Volume Data, which is now in its final stage of development.
“It gave us a pretty important head start,” Kamala says.
Alan Thompson, active transportation coordinator at SCAG, says the idea behind the clearinghouse is to empower local jurisdictions in the region to upload and use count data—in some cases data that otherwise would simply sit on a shelf—for more informed regional planning. For example, bicycle and pedestrian count data is often collected for traffic warrants and environmental impact studies, but may not be forwarded to active transportation planners.
Alan says, “We want to develop regional bikeway networks by collaborating with cities to help bicyclists get where they want to go safely. This is an example of where having uniform data, available for sharing, will help us.”
SCAG, Alan adds, is strongly encouraging local agencies to collect bike and pedestrian count data as part of developing active transportation plans.
As it stands, the majority of the count data in the clearinghouse relates to bike trips, but a second phase will expand pedestrian count data.
The clearinghouse “is something we’re very proud of and has the potential to serve as a groundbreaking way to bring local data to bear for regional and state planning uses,” Alan says.