Talking Headways Podcast: Good Riddance, “Level of Service”

All the buzz right now is about Arlington, Virginia — the DC suburb has seen its population rise and its car traffic drop since the 1980s. How did they do it? It could be a lesson for Palo Alto, California, which is considering various growth proposals, including one that would invite greater density as long as it comes with no additional driving, carbon emissions, or water use.

Denser, more transit-oriented development would be a big win for Palo Alto, but ironically, California’s environmental law has long penalized projects like that for diminishing “level of service” for vehicle traffic. A new basketball stadium came to the rescue, however, and the state is poised to dump level of service as a metric to evaluate transportation and development projects. That change could potentially slow down highways like “level of service” used to slow down smart growth and transit projects. It’s a whole new world.

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4 thoughts on Talking Headways Podcast: Good Riddance, “Level of Service”

  1. Great podcast guys! I really liked the information about LOS, I didn’t know much about it before.

  2. California’s CEQA law isn’t stopping high density development in Palo Alto. It’s NIMBYism, pure and simple. City residents have filed lawsuits and backed ballot measures to stop every development project in that town, with cynical doublespeak rhetoric about protecting the environment when clearly all they’re concerned about is protecting their perpetually increasing property values.

    Here’s the most prominent example in recent years, but there are plenty of others:

  3. Arlington is technically a suburb, but it really should not be considered one. It is closer to the heart of Washington then many neighborhoods inside the city. It also has a huge employment center. That is why many other suburbs would have huge troubles getting the same results.

  4. It is unfortunate that people still don’t understand the issue with LOS. LOS is a perfectly good proven method for traffic studies. However, it should not be the only metric and that is the problem. Throwing it out of all traffic studies is a huge mistake like getting rid of old fire boxes just because it’s old.

    Traffic studies should have a variety of methods with each showing how the effect on all modes of transportation. Some of the reasons for ridding LOS given by the California Office of Planning and Research are a joke too. The most laughable is “It’s too hard to calculate”. Give. Me. A. Break.

    To sum it up, LOS should continue to be ONE metric, just not THE ONLY metric. Replacing it with an unproven VMT metric is a case of “early adaption” mistake. Using BOTH would give a much clearer picture of the entire traffic impact.

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