Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less


Pedaling the Emerald City

By Old Folks on Spokes on the West Coast

I’ve taken bike tours in a variety of cities, including New Orleans, Baltimore and Boston, but was somewhat intimidated by the terrain of the Emerald City, better known as Seattle, Washington.  Seattle is often referred to as a mini-version of San Francisco for good reason – the hills!  This wasn’t my first visit to Seattle; during that sojourn I walked a great deal of the city and was very familiar with the geography including a nice long climb up from Puget Sound on the west side of the city.  A bike excursion seemed like it would be quite the work out.

Enter stage left, Craig Scheak, owner of the Seattle Cycle Tours.  Craig’s been leading bike tours in Seattle since 2007.  In fact, Seattle Cycle Tours enthusiastically states “We ‘iron out the hills.’ So don’t worry.”  I thought – bring on the iron!

I am a huge advocate for seeing a city by bicycle.  You cover way more area in a shorter timeframe than walking.  With a knowledgeable guide, like Craig, you get to see and hear great stories along the way and you get a glimpse into what makes a city tick.  

All of the guides I have encountered have been incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and Craig is no exception.  Our tour took us through some of the most popular neighborhoods in the downtown core: Pioneer Square, The Metropolitan Tract, International/Chinatown, Waterfront, Seattle Center, and South Lake Union (Amazonia) Neighborhoods…all in one three hour ride around the city.  That is an exceptional amount of territory to cover, particularly knowing Seattle’s terrain.

Seattle is a bike friendly city.  Our tour was conducted almost entirely on bike lanes, some of which (2nd Avenue) are grade separated with bike-oriented signalization.  The city is contemplating converting more car lanes to dedicated bike lanes, a phenomenon that we are seeing in cities across the country – and in our own backyard in D.C. (see companion @livemore article on DC’s bike friendly award).

Craig’s knowledge of the city and its history are deep, but he is also very familiar with mobility issues as well, having worked as a consultant with King County Metro.  Starting a bike tour company was a life-long passion, so when transit consulting funding was on the wane in the mid-2000, he decided to start Seattle Cycle Tours.  Today Craig offers a wide variety of tours outside of the central city tour that my wife and I rode.  You can see Bainbridge Island (half day) or tour some of Seattle’s neighborhoods such as Ballard, Freemont, Georgetown and Duwamish.  

Obviously I am sold on the bike tour industry, and when you are riding you never know what you might come upon.  Craig mentioned that a couple weeks ago, while taking a bride-to-be and her six bridesmaids on a tour, they ran across Paul McCartney and his entourage in Pioneer Square.  That must have been a sight – Band on the Run, Bride on a Bike!  So get out of your car on your next visit to a city and take a bike tour and learn how to Live More and Commute Less!


The Average Toll Price on I-66 in 2018

Since December 4, solo commuters traveling along I-66 have been charged a toll for eastbound travel from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and westbound travel from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. The toll amounts are dynamically based on the volume of cars on the road. This method of tolling increases the average commute speed and aims to reduce congestion on the interstate by moving more people in fewer cars through the corridor. 

If you’re planning to use I-66 for your daily commute, you can expect an average round-trip price of $12.37 ($8.07 eastbound, $4.30 westbound) if driving alone. Although the conversation has centered on the high toll amounts commuters pay to access the express lanes, only 0.1% of the 594,381 total trips in January paid a toll of $40 or more. More importantly, VDOT’s January 2018 Performance Report shows that 43% of all vehicles were carpools traveling with an E-ZPass Flex, resulting in a free commute.

VDOT’s numbers also showed that the I-66 Express Lanes are faster for a daily commute when compared to alternate routes in the I-66 corridor. The average travel speed on I-66 during January was 57.5 mph compared to 47.2 mph the previous year. Travel times decreased for both the morning commute (3.7 minutes shorter) and the afternoon commute (2.8 minutes shorter), as compared to January 2017. 

Take advantage of the I-66 Express Lanes and enjoy a faster commute–all drivers need an E-ZPass to access the lanes during active toll hours. If you plan to carpool– and save money–you will need an E-ZPass Flex. 

Visit to learn more and sign up for the newsletter to stay up-to-date on current and upcoming changes to I-66.


Industry Insights: 20 or More Ideas to Make Mobility Extraordinary For All

By Paul Mackie

When people are stuck in traffic, they have a lot of time to go over in their minds how they want to complain about being stuck in traffic.

And they usually have plenty of source material, noted Motivate’s Jay Walder in his keynote speech at this week’s National Shared Mobility Summit in Chicago.

After all, we still have the same streets that were designed for horses and buggies. “As cities are becoming busier and more dense, this is becoming a bigger problem,” Walder said. “In Chicago, they added trains above and in New York, they added trains below. Then we’ve added in sidewalks and bike lanes.”

Fellow keynoter Jarrett Walker, a transit planner, also talked about the importance of space. A city is, if nothing else, a place where each person has a small bit of space to share with others, he said. And “technology will change a lot of things, but it will never change geometry.”

Fair enough, but the problem with focusing on space so much is that regular Joes don’t start their day in the city by asking themselves how much space they have to work with on their way to the office. For them, it’s not a matter of geometry or academics. Perhaps it should be, but it’s mostly a practical matter.

People know they’ve got a set amount of time to get somewhere. And they’re going to fit their alarm clocks and their morning routines into that allotted time. Planners need to figure out more pleasant ways – ideally accepting a little more help than they traditionally have from other professionals, like communicators, hackers, and entrepreneurs – to make transportation options fit better into those timetables.

Joshua Schank speaks at all these mobility conferences, and he’s doing exactly this – as head of Los Angeles Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation. Read that again: Office of Extraordinary Innovation. I like it!

That department is releasing its next strategic plan in a few weeks. And why do I get the sense this won’t be the last strategic plan from LA Metro for the next 40 years? This is a very good baby step. Strategic plans need to be refreshed and re-released all the time! A pathetic amount of transit agencies have long-range plans that account for Uber, Lyft, and autonomous vehicles. In most plans, there might be more accounting for horses and buggies.

Further, Schank said, “Part of that plan is that we’re taking demand management seriously as an agency.” He added that LA Metro asked for and received many dozens of private-sector proposals on how to price options beyond transit fares, congestion pricing, and regulating Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing options.

Schank said the hope is that there will be a Metro-branded microtransit service. To help make sure this is a strong direction, he is overseeing a “first-mile” pilot to three transit stations to determine whether they can increase the number of people riding transit.

Moving things along faster than the old ways things have always been done seems to be entirely what Schank is about. And the same can certainly be said about transportation entrepreneur Gabe Klein. He pointed out that a transit station can actually be built in less than nine hours, as happened in January in Eastern China.

Once these infrastructure-related improvements and advancements can happen, real TDM – like helping educate the public about how great their options may be – can truly begin to show massive returns on investment.

Then we can start to see major positive sociological change. Some great ideas were sprinkled throughout the Shared-Use Summit. Many are related to this idea of making the time-saving benefits more obvious to people and can help serve as some of the guidelines as places make the badly-needed updates to their planning strategies, such as:

Jay Walder

E-bikes will roll out in a few weeks in San Francisco, and they present a huge opportunity.

Don’t use the words “alternative” and “niche” for these services anymore.


Gabe Klein

Between 2010 and 2012, 88 percent of new households in Washington D.C. were car-free.

Leaders always tell Klein that you just can’t do things out of the blue. But he used the nearby Chicago City Walk along the river as an example of something Chicago officials told him made no sense. The development is “now spinning a profit.”

We should have 50 percent modeshare for active transportation and 50 percent for shared use in our cities.

Leah Treat, director of the Portland (Ore.) Bureau of Transportation

Portland has the nation’s first Adaptive Bikeshare program for adults and children with different riding needs.

Transportation videos and advertising don’t have to be awful. Moshow, the cat rapper, promotes Portland’s Parking Kitty parking app with high production values that can lead to real changed perspectives.


Andrew Glass Hastings,
director of transit and mobility for the Seattle DOT

Twenty percent of Amazon’s 45,000 downtown employees walk to work.


Kevin Webb
of SharedStreets, a new non-profit collaborating with the National Association of City Transportation Officials and the World Resources Institute

We need a shared data language for the streets. We can’t do autonomous street data well if we don’t even have addresses or street-condition information for emergency responders to use on 911 calls.

The U.S. Census is an important source for people who study transportation data and there are currently political threats that could diminish its quality, which would be “a national crisis.”


Matt Caywood
of TransitScreen

The annual value of time lost waiting for transit is $60 billion, so how can we recover some of that by providing better information?


Regina Clewlow
of Populus

Cities are operating in the dark with data. They pretend shuttles and Ubers and Lyfts don’t exist in their 30-year plans.

We don’t know who is using shared-mobility services and how it impacts their transit use.

It’s really challenging for cities to plan around safety when the transportation landscape is more chaotic than ever before with all these options.


Elliot Dam
of Teralytics

Using telecom data is the best way to analyze the ways people move, partly because cell-tower data doesn’t lie.


Stephanie Dock
of the District Department of Transportation

Introducing sidewalk robots in Washington D.C. (that deliver orders from Postmates) gave DDOT a chance to set guidelines from the start of a program, requiring the company to operate in a defined zone and share its data.


Dianne Schwager
of the National Academiesí Transportation Research Board

Planners come up with too many data points. You can’t win when you try to overwhelm people with too much data.


Maybe if only one data point should be used, it should be this one:  that there should be an effort to get all the top CEOs to better understand the lingo being so eloquently espoused by the 600 or so people at the Shared Mobility Summit, then it can trickle down over time.

But seriously, it’s inspiring to know that so many important people have so many great ideas. Those ideas can’t possibly keep being buried.

And those afore-mentioned average Joes won’t even notice the many positive changes underway within their mobility landscapes, at least not until they realize they’re extraordinarily getting to work on time a lot more frequently.  

Paul is the director of research and communications for Mobility Lab. He specializes in transportation storytelling and organizational strategy.


Armenian and Catalan Food and Craft Highlighted at 2018 Folklife Festival

From a Smithsonian Press Release

Photo by Sossi Madzounian, Smithsonian Institution.

Visitors to the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will have a unique opportunity to experience the cultural
heritage of Armenia, a small country nestled at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. The 2018 Festival, which runs from June 27 to July 1 and July 4 to 8, will feature hundreds of artisans, designers, musicians, and cooks from Armenia, Catalonia, and other locations to highlight the importance of cultural heritage enterprise in the face of change.

Presented through ten days of workshops, demonstrations, participatory experiences, and discussion sessions, the Armenia: Creating Home program on gastronomic and artisan craft traditions will allow visitors to learn about how Armenian communities have integrated heritage into their own strategies for economic and cultural sustainability.

“The exuberant hospitality of Armenian cooking, eating, and drinking is a source of cultural pride,” said Halle Butvin, one of the program’s curators. “We hope to convey how its deep history, a tradition of feasting, and innovations in technique are energizing Armenia’s food scene.”

Visitors will learn to make the staples of an Armenian feast: breads, cheeses, and barbecued meats (khorovats). While tasting and toasting with Armenian wines, visitors will learn about the recent discovery of a 6,100-year-old winery in a cave in Armenia, and how winemakers in that same region are reinvigorating the industry through their production, from cultivating ancient varietals and aging wine in traditional clay pots (karas) to a winery incubator model encouraging the growth of small labels.

Participants will share their experiences with traditional Armenian recipes and the ways in which
food-and-wine-related enterprises have shaped Armenia’s cultural identity and created a pathway
for exchange—both within the country’s boundaries and through its many diasporas.

Photo by Narek Harutyunyan, Smithsonian Institution.

Continuing the Festival’s ongoing exploration of creativity, change, and resilience, a participatory program highlighting the revitalization of Armenian craft will showcase the intersection of technology and handmade traditions. Visual artists and artisans will work together to build interactive installations juxtaposing tradition and innovation. Visitors will engage with Armenian designers and artisans – learning, observing, and trying their hand at weaving, embroidery, and carving. Discussion sessions will explore the function of craft, not only its utilitarian and economic value, but as a continually evolving cultural expression—a way to make meaning.

“Throughout Armenia’s history, and especially in periods of marked change, these traditions are a life-affirming testament to the longstanding power of social and cultural life,” Butvin said. “Memory and experience are interwoven into Armenian food and craft, and we invite visitors to explore this firsthand this summer on the National Mall.”  

Armenia program partners include the Department of Contemporary Anthropological Studies at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, the My Armenia Cultural Heritage Tourism Program, funded by USAID and implemented by the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and the Embassy of Armenia to the United States of America.


Biking for Gold

Whether a novice, a weekend warrior, or an everyday bike commuter, you have probably noticed the plethora of new biking facilities being established in the DC region.  In Fairfax, almost every new paving project includes bike lane striping; in Alexandria and Arlington, bike connections to employment centers and other transit hubs have been a priority for years.  The District has been creating new bike lanes and trail facilities on what seems like a daily basis.  

Bikeshare, bike friendly buses and a host of new bike oriented facilities are transforming this region, and the hard work is now paying off.  In early March, the League of American Bicyclists awarded the District a Gold rating for bicycle friendliness.  This is rarified territory, as only 30 other communities have been designated Gold, and DC represents the first metro area on the East coast to receive such a designation.

In a recent Washington Post article, it was noted that:

Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said the District moved up  from Silver status by showing commitment to adding miles of bike lanes and offering bicycling education, including ensuring that every second-grader in the city gets bicycling classes, and by  integrating bike-sharing and working to making biking accessible in every neighborhood.

The last State of the Commute Survey (2016) found that bicycle commuters account for almost 5% of all commuters in DC.  This level of bike commuting ranks DC as the second highest in the US, following only  Portland, Oregon. 

According to the Washington Post article:

“The growth in the number of people biking is a reflection of ‘the bicycling culture’ in the city,” said Nesper, who presented the District’s Bicycle Friendly Community award at the annual National Bike Summit…in March.  

The next level of achievement, which only Portland currently merits, is Platinum.  

Highlighting the progress that has occurred, the Post article mentions: 

Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation, said reaching Gold status recognizes the city’s transformation into a bike community in the past decade. From 2008 to 2018, he said:

The number of people biking to work more than doubled from 7,000 to 17,000.

The city’s SmartBike DC system, the first municipal bike-share system in the country with 10 stations and 100 bikes, became Capital Bikeshare, with 270 stations in the District alone, 400 stations throughout the region and 4,000 bikes. And, there are hundreds more bikes through the dockless bike systems.

The bike lane network grew from 30 miles to more than 80 miles, including eight miles of protected lanes.

New bike racks in downtown went from 700 to more than 3,500.

And this year, he said, plans are to add more protected bike lanes in multiple locations, including Virginia Avenue SE and in Georgetown.

“In 2008, we were number six in the country for biking to work by city residents. Now we are number 2,” Marootian said.  “That’s really just the beginning. We are not even close to done.”

All of these achievements and indices are positive signs that our region is embracing the DATA mantra that we all need to Live More and Commute Less!  Give it a try this May 18 and participate in Bike to Work Day – you may find it is a lot easier to do than you think.