Connected/Automated vehicles and infrastructure in Boston

JeffDowntown

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"Zero impact"? Really??

Cellphone app order-on-demand pod service which will eliminate on-street parking, parking garages, individual driving techniques, etc. will have "zero impact"? Interesting........

Just think of the benefit of 100% street utilization for flow, instead of the current 50-70% utilization due to on-street parking. Given the effects throughout the system from the current 30-50% area utilization of the windy streets downtown and you can imagine the downstream benefits.

Stents that clear arteries make stronger, more effective hearts. Individually owned and cared-for vehicles that clog the sides of the streets are the plaque.

I'm not saying there won't be times of slower mobility with 2+ million living in Boston, but "zero impact" is a clearly hyperbole.
Unless you break American's marriage to SOV, all you are describing is replacing Taxis and TNC with self driving services.

And if you have the same number of SOVs on the road at rush hour, nothing about the traffic situation has changed. Number of vehicles is what matters, not who owns them. And on demand TNC has been shown to make traffic worse, not better, by shifting demand away from mass transit.
 

George_Apley

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Unless you break American's marriage to SOV, all you are describing is replacing Taxis and TNC with self driving services.

And if you have the same number of SOVs on the road at rush hour, nothing about the traffic situation has changed. Number of vehicles is what matters, not who owns them. And on demand TNC has been shown to make traffic worse, not better, by shifting demand away from mass transit.
Right. There's not any evidence that AVs will get commuters out of their cars, which means that street-parking and garages aren't going anywhere. TNC drivers are the ones who get boxed out by AVs, not the average driver into the city. Short of a radical reframing of state govt's willingness to force people out of their SOVs on the city periphery and transferring to an AV to complete their trip it's not going to happen.

All the AV-utopia talk reminds me of the expectations for the future people had in the early- and mid-20th Century. Radical change is easy when the government is able and willing to blow up (literally and/or figuratively) the existing paradigm to build something new (or let private industry do it themselves). We are not in the civic space to do that in 2020, and I highly doubt we will be in 2030. I'd be happy to find myself wrong in a decade, though.
 

ra84970

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Just think of the benefit of 100% street utilization for flow, instead of the current 50-70% utilization due to on-street parking. Given the effects throughout the system from the current 30-50% area utilization of the windy streets downtown and you can imagine the downstream benefits.
What studies (not videos of theoretical capacities of urban streets) actually show that AVs would actually allow an urban street in a downtown or close-to-downtown area to get to 100% street capacity? I haven't seen *any* that accommodate for a human-centered street. The "studies", i.e. theoretical, mental gymnastics, usually with cool graphics produce by a media lab like institution, are all seemingly faulty and erase what makes cities work.
 

shmessy

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What studies (not videos of theoretical capacities of urban streets) actually show that AVs would actually allow an urban street in a downtown or close-to-downtown area to get to 100% street capacity? I haven't seen *any* that accommodate for a human-centered street. The "studies", i.e. theoretical, mental gymnastics, usually with cool graphics produce by a media lab like institution, are all seemingly faulty and erase what makes cities work.
I can assure you that on-street parking is not something that “makes cities work”. So no need to be fearful about “erasing” it.

i never used the word “capacity”. I used the word “utilization”. Right now, with on-street parking (which can be very easily outlawed - it already is in certain places) 30-50% of many streets is unable to accommodate flow. Waste of space for non-productive activity. The street should be only utilized for flow, not for immobile storage.

You seem to be arguing that we are not there now. You are right. I keep repeating 2035. 2035 is not now. Whether Boston gets to that by 2035 is an open question. Several global cities will. It is up to Boston whether or not it is in that group.
 
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ra84970

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2035 is 15 years away. It took us about that long to go from the Washington St. bus lanes to a growing hopskotch of bus lanes. and those are almost all "simple" street changes that only change operations, and, your word, "utilization".

On the "utilization" front - cities are clearly re-thinking all street space given what we've seen in the pandemic. I know that outdoor dining has made many local businesses rethink what that parking space could be used for, and even in some places, the travel lanes too. I think many many people with the means to lobby their city councillors, town selectsboard, or at town meeting are looking at those square feet on the street and see a lot of non-transportation space that could enhance their business. It makes the "utilization" of streets tip toward space people, business, and public goods not moving vehicles. Especially in the inner core and even the town centers of the burbs or Western MA.

I'm going to challenge AV boosters to have something more to bring to the table than some Medium posts that vaguely reaffirm some of their statements.
 

Balerion

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I can assure you that on-street parking is not something that “makes cities work”. So no need to be fearful about “erasing” it.

i never used the word “capacity”. I used the word “utilization”. Right now, with on-street parking (which can be very easily outlawed - it already is in certain places) 30-50% of many streets is unable to accommodate flow. Waste of space for non-productive activity. The street should be only for flow, not for immobile storage.

You seem to be arguing that we are not there now. You are right. I keep repeating 2035. 2035 is not now. Whether Boston gets to that by 2035 is an open question. Several global cities will. It is up to Boston whether or not it is in that group.
I question the assumption that — even in an ideal AV-only world that probably won't exist — parking lanes could be converted to travel lanes.

One thing that I notice AV boosters rarely contend with is curb space. In an AV world, cars need to stop at the curb to let people out or take people on board. They might even have to wait a minute or two if a person is running late after calling an AV or if they were on the wrong side of the street.

At major nodes, you can imagine how this might create congestion due to the "dwell time" effect. It would add up quickly because cars take up a lot of space and don't move very many people, and AVs don't change that.
 

shmessy

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I question the assumption that — even in an ideal AV-only world that probably won't exist — parking lanes could be converted to travel lanes.

One thing that I notice AV boosters rarely contend with is curb space. In an AV world, cars need to stop at the curb to let people out or take people on board. They might even have to wait a minute or two if a person is running late after calling an AV or if they were on the wrong side of the street.

At major nodes, you can imagine how this might create congestion due to the "dwell time" effect. It would add up quickly because cars take up a lot of space and don't move very many people, and AVs don't change that.
Excellent point. To mitigate that, it can be possible for curb stopping to be limited to one area per every 2-3 blocks, dedicated carve in to the sidewalk area not like today’s everywhere with everywhere parking. Let’s face it, car pick up activity is perhaps 1/10th the space of empty car parking. Even downtown, there isn’t a T entrance on every corner.

Space-wise, these wouldn’t be true size of today’s cars/suvs. These would be pods. No needed space for combustion engines, etc. some would be single person pods, some would be multi person and some would be for folks with luggage. The cell phone app would require the customer to specify type when ordering. This would siginificantly cut down on wasted/unused vehicle capacity.
 
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real_EthanHunt

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'self driving' is not where the efficiencies in utilization will occur. communication amongst the vehicles is how the utilization will improve.
The vehicles talking to each other will allow for much better responses among a group of vehicles than the current individual system we have now where reaction time and different acceleration rates result in a LOT of inefficiency.
Just watch an intersection and observe the amount of lost 'start up' time there is at intersections. Vehicles communicating with each other (and as importantly, the traffic signals themselves) so the vehicles move as 1 unit will certainly be more efficient.

and yes this is an over simplification (different size/weight vehicles will always operate differently, peds will still be human, etc) but there is definitely efficiency gains that would be made without the need to change to more travel lanes.
 

stefal

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To the point of it having "zero impact" on commuting habits and if there would be a shift from SOV to AV's and public transit, while I don't have a study in mind, I imagine there would be an increased draw to use AV's to get to public transit stops. Right now, a hypothetical/ideal AV user has to drive to a station, park (and pay), and then board their train. Humans are conditioned for ease and convenience, leading to the SOV gridlock we saw nightly until 9 months ago. With an AV, you order a ride, and it picks you up and drops you off with no added worries of parking/cost of parking, etc. That could be huge for public transit if its done right.

This is an area where policy could step in to really help. Incentivize trips with origins or destinations at public transit stops, and price the trips within the central core to the point where very few would consider it.

Rather than having two competing modes, they could work together, with AV's getting the last-mile intricacies public transit and busses can't currently get, and public transit moving the volumes in and out that AV's/SOV's do really poorly.
 

Balerion

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'self driving' is not where the efficiencies in utilization will occur. communication amongst the vehicles is how the utilization will improve.
The vehicles talking to each other will allow for much better responses among a group of vehicles than the current individual system we have now where reaction time and different acceleration rates result in a LOT of inefficiency.
Just watch an intersection and observe the amount of lost 'start up' time there is at intersections. Vehicles communicating with each other (and as importantly, the traffic signals themselves) so the vehicles move as 1 unit will certainly be more efficient.

and yes this is an over simplification (different size/weight vehicles will always operate differently, peds will still be human, etc) but there is definitely efficiency gains that would be made without the need to change to more travel lanes.
This doesn't seem that realistic to me. First of all, how much of these intersection efficiency gains would increase the capacity of the system, and how much would just push the bottleneck to the next intersection where there's, say, a pedestrian signal? How much of these capacity gains are lost when everything slows down because a parent is pushing a stroller down a crosswalk? What happens when a cyclist needs to take a left turn? What happens when a delivery truck is idling in a lane?

We know that there are a zillion edge cases that programmers have to account for. How will they ever account for enough of them for really tight spacing, or how can they account for enough of them to ensure that self-driving cars can travel through intersections at speed without incident?

I'm just a skeptic that these theories play out cleanly in a chaotic real-world environment.
 

real_EthanHunt

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all of those things happen now. The question is whether computers in constant contact with each other would be able to respond more efficiently than humans operating mostly independent of each other.
 

George_Apley

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Given advanced enough programming, of course computers would perform better. But I don't see it advancing much beyond assisted driving (especially in cities) anytime soon. As some have said, the easiest driving to convert to AI is highway driving. City driving is the most difficult.
 

Charlie_mta

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Excellent point. To mitigate that, it can be possible for curb stopping to be limited to one area per every 2-3 blocks, dedicated carve in to the sidewalk area not like today’s everywhere with everywhere parking. Let’s face it, car pick up activity is perhaps 1/10th the space of empty car parking. Even downtown, there isn’t a T entrance on every corner.

Space-wise, these wouldn’t be true size of today’s cars/suvs. These would be pods. No needed space for combustion engines, etc. some would be single person pods, some would be multi person and some would be for folks with luggage. The cell phone app would require the customer to specify type when ordering. This would siginificantly cut down on wasted/unused vehicle capacity.
That's assuming people want to give up personal ownership of their own vehicle, which I don't see happening. Also, drop-off curb space will be needed every block for ever increasing on-line shopping and delivery, unless somehow drones completely take over that function which, again, I don't see happening for a very long time.
 

shmessy

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That's assuming people want to give up personal ownership of their own vehicle, which I don't see happening. Also, drop-off curb space will be needed every block for ever increasing on-line shopping and delivery, unless somehow drones completely take over that function which, again, I don't see happening for a very long time.
Once again, this is only about inner cities.

The suburbs/rurals will never give up their cars. Not expected to.

Personal ownership of automobiles is simply not a guns and bible issue for inner city residents. In fact, cities that adopt to an all AV system will be a far bigger draw to the type of demographic that choose to live in cities. Cities that don't adopt eventually, will suffer from a distinct marketing disadvantage.
 

George_Apley

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Once again, this is only about inner cities.

The suburbs/rurals will never give up their cars. Not expected to.

Personal ownership of automobiles is simply not a guns and bible issue for inner city residents. In fact, cities that adopt to an all AV system will be a far bigger draw to the type of demographic that choose to live in cities. Cities that don't adopt eventually, will suffer from a distinct marketing disadvantage.
It's not about people who live in the inner-cities. As long as people from the suburbs frequently travel into the inner-cities there will be SOVs in inner-cities. An American city will never ban SOVs from its streets. Regulate with price-controls? Sure. Require commuters to switch modes (to RT or AV)? No.
 

ra84970

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'self driving' is not where the efficiencies in utilization will occur. communication amongst the vehicles is how the utilization will improve.
The vehicles talking to each other will allow for much better responses among a group of vehicles than the current individual system we have now where reaction time and different acceleration rates result in a LOT of inefficiency.
Just watch an intersection and observe the amount of lost 'start up' time there is at intersections. Vehicles communicating with each other (and as importantly, the traffic signals themselves) so the vehicles move as 1 unit will certainly be more efficient.

and yes this is an over simplification (different size/weight vehicles will always operate differently, peds will still be human, etc) but there is definitely efficiency gains that would be made without the need to change to more travel lanes.
I could see this being the case on city-to-city travel between urban areas, but, really difficult to see this working in the central area of greater Boston. What we know from street design is the livelier a street is, the more pedestrians it draws, and in the end, the shorter pedestrian crossings and shorter intersection cycle times that we want at urban center intersections. I mean in some places they just outright ban personal/private vehicles in certain shopping/business districts either 24/7 or for a majority of the day. I just don't see anything about connected vehicles (and automated vehicles) resolving the geometric problems on city streets because the operations aren't the problem. So much is not about a techno problem but a political problem or a design problem.

This is an area where policy could step in to really help. Incentivize trips with origins or destinations at public transit stops, and price the trips within the central core to the point where very few would consider it.

Rather than having two competing modes, they could work together, with AV's getting the last-mile intricacies public transit and busses can't currently get, and public transit moving the volumes in and out that AV's/SOV's do really poorly.
The CV/AV proposal to step into the first/last mile space seems suspect without the policy of pricing travel to the core. The results of that are seen in uber/lyft/TNCs crawling over the urban core, but not really helping anyone with first/last mile trips. However, I think pricing travel to the core as a worthy goal regardless of CV/AV tech. CV/AV tech is replacable (if it comes to fruition) with a plain ole bus, better suburban bicycle infrastructure, discounted parking or parking infrastructure, and so many other existing strageies for first/last mile travel in a policy world where you price travel to the core.

Once again, this is only about inner cities.

The suburbs/rurals will never give up their cars. Not expected to.

Personal ownership of automobiles is simply not a guns and bible issue for inner city residents. In fact, cities that adopt to an all AV system will be a far bigger draw to the type of demographic that choose to live in cities. Cities that don't adopt eventually, will suffer from a distinct marketing disadvantage.
There's a lot of good reason to think that ceteris paribus, CV/AVs will not change the ownership model of private vehicle travel. All that we saw with "on-demand" services like Uber/Lyft/Fasten/Juno/etc., was that they flooded out the taxi market. Very little changed when it came to vehicle ownership in the core of greater Boston that can be linked to TNCs. On the other hand, we can see that parking policy does make a difference in travel behavior! Kendall Square as a good example and the Seaport as a less good one and Alewife as a pretty medicore one.
 

shmessy

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It's not about people who live in the inner-cities. As long as people from the suburbs frequently travel into the inner-cities there will be SOVs in inner-cities. An American city will never ban SOVs from its streets. Regulate with price-controls? Sure. Require commuters to switch modes (to RT or AV)? No.

Why not? There are many cities all over the world (and in the U.S.) that ban already ALL vehicles from certain inner core districts. We've had Downtown Crossing for decades.

You seem to have a very deep certitude about how constant the future will be. But car banning from certain inner city districts is already here and is proliferating.

https://boston.curbed.com/2019/11/15/20961871/boston-ban-cars-downtown
 
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ra84970

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Why not? There are many cities all over the world (and in the U.S.) that ban already ALL vehicles from certain inner core districts. We've had Downtown Crossing for decades.

You seem to have a very deep certitude about how constant the future will be. But car banning from certain inner city districts is already here and is proliferating.

https://boston.curbed.com/2019/11/15/20961871/boston-ban-cars-downtown
----

It has to actually happen to "proilferate".

NYC has walked back their timeline for congestion pricing. (Though, they're still keeping 14 ST busway and all the covid-response busways)

SF has undone the "carfree" part of their carfree Market Street.

Ummm....any other new "carfree" districts in North America?
 

George_Apley

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Why not? There are many cities all over the world (and in the U.S.) that ban already ALL vehicles from certain inner core districts. We've had Downtown Crossing for decades.

You seem to have a very deep certitude about how constant the future will be. But car banning from certain inner city districts is already here and is proliferating.

https://boston.curbed.com/2019/11/15/20961871/boston-ban-cars-downtown
I promise I have no deep certitude of a constant future, I’m just much more realistic about the kinds of change happening that you seem to think is just around the bend.

That Curbed article is a think piece. Nothing about actual policy. I do believe that congestion-pricing can happen here. I do believe that car-free pedestrian zones can happen here. I don’t see a lot of evidence that there is (or will be) any political will to restrict SOVs in favor of AVs by law. If there’s going to be a movement in that direction in any US cities, it’s much further off than 2035. You keep saying this is just about the inner-city of Boston. Okay. But Boston doesn’t have that kind of jurisdictional control. The state does.

For better or worse, we aren’t living in the late-19th Century when private industry could fairly easily remake the transportation environment with a light govt hand. Nor are we living in the mid-20th Century when government had the power and will to radically restructure the transportation environment. We’re living in a contradictory political era, where government/society is trying to preserve the old paradigm, often to its own detriment.
 

shmessy

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I promise I have no deep certitude of a constant future, I’m just much more realistic about the kinds of change happening that you seem to think is just around the bend.

That Curbed article is a think piece. Nothing about actual policy. I do believe that congestion-pricing can happen here. I do believe that car-free pedestrian zones can happen here. I don’t see a lot of evidence that there is (or will be) any political will to restrict SOVs in favor of AVs by law. If there’s going to be a movement in that direction in any US cities, it’s much further off than 2035. You keep saying this is just about the inner-city of Boston. Okay. But Boston doesn’t have that kind of jurisdictional control. The state does.

For better or worse, we aren’t living in the late-19th Century when private industry could fairly easily remake the transportation environment with a light govt hand. Nor are we living in the mid-20th Century when government had the power and will to radically restructure the transportation environment. We’re living in a contradictory political era, where government/society is trying to preserve the old paradigm, often to its own detriment.
Interesting that you used the word “era”.

You DO understand that the definition of “era” connotes IMPERMANENCE?

All along, I have said it very well may NOT happen in Boston by 2035. But it will have been implemented in several global cities by then and the decision would be up to Boston whether or not it wanted to be in that group. Simple as that.
 
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