From the Chair
North Texas Today
Vehicle Techonology Initiatives
Planes, Trains and Buses
Moving Goods Across the Region
Thank you for reading Progress North Texas 2016. This year, we are examining how innovation will help planners meet the transportation needs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area as it continues to grow. There are few things in transportation more exciting than automated vehicles, smart traffic signals and guaranteed travel speeds. This past year, the North Central Texas Council of Governments established a new program area to study these topics.
And while there is tremendous momentum behind vehicle automation, there are many more examples of how we are using technology to reshape the future. The work to bring high-speed rail to Texas is moving ahead, and NCTCOG is involved in efforts to connect local residents to other cities in Texas and beyond. Texas has embraced its role as a leader in transportation technology, and we are excited our region is playing a part in helping move these concepts to reality.
The transportation industry has relied on innovation for a number of years to ensure adequate funding for roads, rail and bicycle-pedestrian trails. Those efforts continue, as does the use of technology to help make travel easier. For some, that means mobile apps, while others may benefit more by increased reliability on specific roadway corridors. We will cover these and other topics in this year's annual report, which we hope informs and inspires you to become involved in the transportation planning process.
As chair of the Regional Transportation Council, I am fortunate to lead some of the brightest transportation policymakers and planners in the nation. Together, we are working to continue developing a comprehensive transportation system that meets the diverse needs of our residents. In a region of 7 million-plus residents, this is not a job
that can be accomplished with a few people.
The best system is developed after consultation with the people who use it every day. You have many opportunities to shape the debate, and we are examining how we operate, with the goal of continued transparency so you can more easily communicate with us. I invite you to read this report and discuss it with your family, friends and
colleagues. Please become part of the process. With your assistance, we can continue building a transportation system that is safer and more reliable, providing choices of how to move throughout the region and State.
County Judge, Parker County Chair
Regional Transportation Council
After years of strong growth, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has reached a significant population milestone. More than 7 million people live in the 16-county region. The region continues to add more than 1 million new residents per decade. The region has grown approximately 10 percent since 2010 and is out pacing the growth in the rest of the state and doubling the growth rate in the rest of the nation. Employment growth is a significant factor in the population increase.
The region is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies and represents 30 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. The employment growth of the region is 3 percent a year with approximately 600,000 new employees since 2010. The Regional Transportation Council, in its capacity as the policy-making body of the metropolitan planning organization, sets transportation policy for 12 counties, known as the metropolitan planning area. By 2040, the population of the MPA is projected to climb to 10.7 million. The workforce is anticipated to expand by 46 percent.
The addition of commuters will continue to challenge transportation planners to maintain a safe, healthy, reliable and accessible system. According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 5.3 million vehicles registered in North Texas in 2015, an increase of 750,000 since 2010. With a population of 7 million, hat means there is almost one vehicle per person in the 16-county area. Daily vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, have increased significantly since 2000.
VMT per person has declined over that same period, from 28.8 in 2000 to 24.65 in 2014. But, for the first time since 2005, there was an increase in the VMT per person between 2013 and 2014.
In anticipation of continued growth, the ewly adopted Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Mobility 2040, allows the North Central Texas Council of Governments to continue improvements to roadway safety and expansion of the growing rail and bicycle-pedestrian networks in the metropolitan planning area over the next 24 years.
In addition to the capacity, efficiency and safety considerations inherent in the planning and management of the transportation system, NCTCOG and the RTC need to consider the impact of pollution from those systems on air quality and the public welfare. Ten counties in North Texas violate the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for ozone. These standards are designed to protect human and environmental health. Clinical studies indicate prolonged exposure to elevated levels of ground-level ozone may reduce lung function, increase the frequency of asthma episodes and reduce the body's ability to resist respiratory infections.
The RTC is responsible for ensuring transportation improvements, such as those outlined in Mobility 2040, can be made without negatively affecting air quality. The RTC takes an active role in improving air quality, including assisting with technical planning and strategy implementation at the local level to enhance federal and state efforts. Numerous other stakeholders throughout the region, including local governments and business coalitions, also support this process and facilitate implementation.
To meet the federal ozone standard, it is necessary to address major contributing factors. To help better understand how different activities impact air quality, and to guide decision making, NCTCOG and the RTC have developed Air Quality Emphasis Areas.
NCTCOG strives to implement programs to improve each of these areas with a comprehensive strategy to address the air quality problem.
North Texas offers a high quality of life that attracts residents and development, while simultaneously signaling the need for responsible planning for the safe, healthy and efficient functioning of the region's transportation system. This document highlights many programs NCTCOG and its partners are implementing toward that goal and achievements attained in 2015.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments and its partner agencies are committed to improving transportation system safety for all users by reducing fatalities and serious injuries. Because safety planning is a multidisciplinary effort and behavior is a major factor in traffic safety,improvements that reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries include a diverse set of activities implemented by transportation professionals, enforcement agencies, educators and emergency responders. NCTCOG works with each of these areas to improve safety.
The Four "E's" of Transportation Safety: Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Response, continue to be integral to improving safety across all modes.
- Engineering: Design, traffic, maintenance, operations and planning professionals
- Enforcement: State and local law enforcement agencies
- Education: Prevention specialists, communication professionals, educators and advocacy groups
- Emergency Response: First responders
In 2015, the 12-county metropolitan planning area experienced 116,332 crashes,
17,444 of which involved serious injuries. There were 560 fatal crashes, an increase of 17 over 2014. Nearly 70 percent of crashes occurred in Dallas and Tarrant counties. One way North Texas is addressing safety is with roundabouts, which have shown to reduce serious and fatal crashes by up to 90 percent compared to traditional intersections. The region has completed dozens of roundabouts, with more planned.
Wrong-Way Driving Priority Projects
Wrong-way driving crashes occur less frequently than other types of incidents, but the effects can be devastating, often resulting in multiple serious injuries and fatalities. NCTCOG and its partner agencies continue to work together to implement projects that will reduce the likelihood of these crashes.
In 2014, NCTCOG, TxDOT and nine Dallas County cities initiated Phase I of the Wrong-Way Driving Pilot Project in Dallas County. This focused on preventing wrong-way crashes through replacement of conflicting lane and arrow markings, signal enhancements and other improvements at 350 diamond interchanges throughout the county. In 2015, work continued on the project. In eight cities (Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Mesquite, Richardson and Rowlett) work is complete.
Dallas has 194 interchanges that are currently in the design phase. In 2015, planning efforts for Phase II of the project were initiated. This portion of the project will focus on 54.2 miles of seven freeway corridors in Tarrant County. Recommended improvements for Phase II will concentrate on limited-access facilities and will include installation of wrong-way pavement markings in the travel lanes, enhanced signage with active-detection units, modified sign placement and use of technology for wrong-way driving incident notifications.
Capital/Operations Asset Management
A new approach to transportation planning that involves the application of business principles is helping the region make strategic improvements in key corridors. Capital/Operations Asset Management, or Cap-Main, relies on a data management system to track and analyze performance information such as infrastructure conditions, traffic patterns, geometric design and other characteristics. The goal of this approach to infrastructure improvement is to identify lower-cost techniques that can be implemented in heavily traveled corridors more quickly and cost effectively than major construction projects. In 2015, two such projects on Interstate Highway 35E in Ellis County – which would add one lane in each direction (bringing the corridor to six total lanes) – were funded at a fraction of the cost to rebuild the corridor.
The improvements will occur along 11 miles of the corridor through Waxahachie ($138 million) as well as the adjacent 18-mile section terminating near the Hill County line ($48 million). In addition, the Regional Transportation Council approved approximately $91 million in Proposition 1 funding for multiple Cap-Main improvements along IH 20 and IH 30 in western Tarrant and eastern Parker counties.
Transportation planners will continue to rely on Cap-Main to complement the major construction projects undertaken across the region.
State Highway 161 Improvements
State Highway 161 Improvements One example of a lower-cost improvement to the transportation system began to pay dividends for motorists immediately upon its September 2015 implementation, ensuring safer, more reliable commutes. NCTCOG partnered with TxDOT, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the city of Irving and a local tow truck company to introduce a peak period shoulder-use lane pilot project along a three-mile stretch of State Highway 161 just east of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
The project, the first of its kind in Texas, is an interim solution to help mitigate traffic congestion and air quality concerns. The shoulders of the road are open to traffic from 6-10 am and 2-7 pm weekdays, providing drivers three lanes of traffic in each direction. Data indicates speeds have increased during peak periods from an average of 37 mph to 56 mph, a 50 percent improvement. The project will continue to operate until a permanent solution is identified and constructed, which is anticipated to occur in three to five years.
Congestion in the fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth are is a significant financial burden. According to Mobility 2040, it will cost the region $10.7 billion in 2017 and $25.3 billion annually by 204. To improve the reliability of the system for the next 24 years, transportation decision-makers will rely on a combination of management and innovation, include vehicle technology initiatives.
Traffic Incident Management
Management of traffic crashes and roadway incidents is essential to the reliability of and mobility on the region’s transportation system.
The Traffic Incident Management Training Program was developed to improve transportation system reliability, while making roads safer for first responders and the driving public.
The program helps increase awareness of safety issues, improve multi-agency coordination, reduce response and clearance times for traffic incidents, and build partnerships.
What does that mean to the driving public? Agencies better prepared for the challenges posed by traffic incidents are able to open affected roads more quickly.
Resolving traffic incidents more efficiently results in fewer secondary crashes in the traffic backup and allows drivers to get to and from work more easily, improving productivity and quality of life.
Since the TIM Training Program’s inception in 2003, about 3,400 emergency responders and executives have completed the training. In 2015, 298 executives and first responders participated.
The Mobility Assistance Patrol Program, or Courtesy Patrol, is operated by the Dallas and Tarrant County Sheriff's Offices along 464 miles of congested freeways in Dallas County, Tarrant County, and portions of Collin and Denton counties. The program assists stranded motorists by helping to clear highways of disabled vehicles at no charge. This includes flat-tire repairs, jump starts and help with minor mechanical problems.
In 2015, the program assisted 92,961 motorists, slightly more than 2014. NTTA helped 24,535 motorists on its network of roads in 2015, while North Tarrant Express and LBJ Express assisted 3,479 and 3,928, respectively.
Travel Demand Management
The Regional Vanpool Program plays an integral role in reducing congestion, improving air quality and making participants’ work commutes less stressful. Operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and Denton County Transportation Authority, the program’s 349 vans included 3,158 average monthly participants at the end of 2015. This user-friendly alternative to driving alone reduced monthly travel by an average of 4.66 million vehiclemiles. In 2014, the program led to a reduction of 4.55 million vehicle miles per month. The table on the next page provides 2015 vanpool data from each transit agency involved with the program.
TEXpress Lanes allow drivers the choice to pay to bypass congestion in adjacent lanes, making their trips faster and, in many cases, safer. The LBJ Express Project was completed in 2015, providing travelers a rebuilt corridor with general-purpose freeway lanes, continuous frontage roads and TEXpress Lanes. TEXpress Lanes are also in operation along the North Tarrant Express and DFW Connector corridors.
Data shows TEXpress Lanes are succeeding in improving efficiency. In 2015, vehicles traveled an average of 5 mph faster on the LBJ TEXpress Lanes than the general-purpose lanes. On the North Tarrant Express, the difference was 9 mph. During peak times, speeds were 10 to 15 mph higher in the TEXpress Lanes. Planners will continue to pursue TEXpress Lanes where appropriate, balancing congestion-relief with the need to be sensitive to the wishes of the traveling public.
Propositions 1 and 7
In the past two legislative sessions, additional money has been directed to transportation. Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014, resulted in an initial infusion of $368 million to Dallas-Fort Worth. On the western side of the region, about $210 million in Proposition 1 funds will be spent on the freeway interchange at IH 30 and SH 360. The region is contributing $25 million to the project, which is expected to be completed by 2020. On the eastern side of the region, the funds will help expansion of IH 35E in Dallas and Ellis counties. For a closer look at each project, visit NCTCOG.org/Prop1. Proposition 1 allows a portion of the oil and gas severance taxes previously directed exclusively to the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be used for non-tolled highway projects. Proposition 1 will continue to play a significant role in highway construction in 2016 and beyond. Proposition 7, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2015, will also assist the region with roadway funding needs. It also stipulates recipient projects be non-tolled.
As the region moves toward the future, it is important to be prepared for anticipated growth. A new program intended to improve traffic flow through the state’s major metropolitan areas will expedite several major DFW projects. Governor Greg Abbott has created an urban congestion-relief fund and distributed $1.3 billion to Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Locally, that translates to an additional $527.8 million for projects throughout the region. The funding became available when the Texas Legislature decided to end gas-tax diversions to other non-transportation programs.
Air quality is vital to North Texans' health and overall quality of life, as well as an important measure of the general safety of the region. Forty four percent of ozone-forming pollution (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area comes from on-road vehicles like passenger cars, buses and trucks.
The impacts of polluted air can more adversely affect sensitive populations such as children and the elderly. For example, the recent Community-Wide Children's Health Assessment and Planning Survey by Cook Children's Hospital found that 18.1 percent of children, approximately 110,000, had asthma. The survey profiled children up to 14 years of age in six North Texas counties. Children 6 to 15 had a higher percentage of asthma than the state and national averages. In addition to threatening human health, high ozone concentrations pose a risk to the environment, wildlife and agriculture, and can degrade buildings in the region.
Initiatives are underway to begin pilot testing of advanced vehicle technologies. This includes vehicles communicating with each other and with the transportation infrastructure.
NCTCOG administers programs and makes policy recommendations, participates in partnerships, and provides support to other stakeholders who have implemented their own emission reducing activities. These activities have included numerous funding programs over the years, providing financial support to increase the presence of a range of advanced vehicle technologies on North Texas roads. Between 2006 and 2014, $48.7 million was awarded to local fleets through competitive funding programs. Among the largest recipients were heavy-duty vehicles ($11.29 million) and locomotives ($9.11 million).
Improvements in air quality have been helped by increasingly stringent federal requirements for engine manufacturers. However, it can take years for older or high- emitting vehicles to be removed from the roads, and the vehicles continue to impact air quality. For instance, according to the National Academy Press, less than 10 percent of vehicles emit approximately 50 percent of VOC emissions. NCTCOG identifies these vehicles – and others that account for more than their "fair share" of NOX emissions – through programs aimed at accelerating their repair or retirement.
Some examples are:
AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program – Offers financial aid for repair or replacement to owners whose vehicles fail the emissions portion of the state inspection or are over ten years old.
Regional Smoking Vehicle Program – Informs owners their vehicles may be creating excessive smoke, thus emitting pollutants that are harmful to health and the environment.
Regional Emissions Enforcement Program – Identifies high-emitting vehicles with fraudulent inspections and/or registrations.
NCTCOG also implements proactive initiatives to encourage the adoption of new vehicle technologies.
For example, NCTCOG houses the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition. This US Department of Energy program facilitates locally based partnerships between public agencies, private companies and concerned individuals to reduce gasoline and diesel fuel consumption. This is done primarily through alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. DFWCC comprises alternative fuel subcommittees including propane, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol and electric vehicles.
Whether working with mass transit or planning for new freeways, NCTCOG programs ultimately affect air quality. Although NCTCOG's primary air quality goal is to bring ozone concentration into compliance with the federal standards, many of these efforts also help reduce emissions of particulate matter and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, thus supporting efforts to improve air quality in a more comprehensive way.
North Texas' aviation industry continues its rapid expansion, aided in part by the opportunities opened at Dallas Love Field following the October 2014 expiration of flight restrictions imposed by the Wright Amendment. In 2015, Love Field served 14,497,498 passengers, an increase of 54 percent. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport saw its traffic increase by more than 650,000 passengers (1 percent).
Despite the increasing traffic, the skies in North Texas are projected to have enough capacity with the region's two commercial airports for decades to come. But passenger aircraft are being joined with increasing frequency by an emerging technology. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is helping develop guidelines to ensure safe skies around airports and the region's largest military installation, Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Joint Reserve Base.
Unmanned aircraft are growing more popular for both hobbyists and agencies interested in using their video capabilities for planning and rescue operations. No longer are these aircraft limited to military operations. The costs have come down, opening unmanned aircraft to a variety of new uses. NCTCOG is working with the public, first responders and the aviation industry to encourage safe operation of all types of aircraft, including unmanned aircraft. NCTCOG compiled a report in 2015 detailing recommendations to promote safe use of unmanned aircraft and address privacy concerns. With two major commercial, 11 reliever and 56 general aviation airports in the region, smooth integration of this technology is a priority.
High Speed Rail
High speed rail could one day relieve pressure on the region's commercial airports. A private sector initiative, from Dallas to Houston, has identified two potential station locations in downtown Dallas. Public sector initiatives for the Dallas-to-Fort Worth section have identified two potential alignments for further study.
Keeping Transit Moving
Buses provide safe and reliable transportation for residents relying on public transportation. To ensure vehicles are dependable, fleets are regularly replaced with newer, more efficient vehicles. In 2015, NCTCOG procured 47 buses used by local transit providers throughout the region. These new vehicles are safer and more reliable for those who depend on them every day.
Stay mobile to live a full, rich life. This vision summarizes the goal for My Ride Tarrant and My Ride Dallas, emphasizing that even if someone lacks adequate transportation, he or she does not need to become homebound or miss out on the necessary and rewarding aspects of daily living. My Ride Dallas and My Ride Tarrant connect residents to transportation providers so they can access necessary medical appointments, the grocery store or work. There is no fee to contact this service to learn about transportation options. This one-stop access for people with disabilities and older adults promotes independence through education and appropriate referrals to service.
The region's rail network continues to expand, opening new possibilities for commuters. DART welcomed 98,597 weekday riders in 2015 on what has become the longest light-rail network in North America. The Orange Line has opened new opportunities for people who may not have thought of light rail in the past. The DFW Airport Station, for example, allows employees and travelers to access the airport without having to fight traffic or find a parking spot when pressed for time. Weekday ridership at the station increased by 7 percent in 2015.
DCTA's A-train is experiencing growth, as well, with a 35 percent ridership boost between fiscal years 2012 and 2015. The A-train has provided commuters more reliability during construction of the 35 Express Project in Dallas and Denton counties.
DART introduced its new streetcar in 2015, which is helping improve access to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and other points of interest.
Not only has light-rail transit ridership grown; so has the use of technology to increase the efficiency of transit usage. Instead of reading a paper bus schedule, technology now allows riders to reach for their phones before planning trips. Transit technology includes Lyft and Uber, which help riders access personal transportation effectively while aligning with more traditional transit options. DART partners with both companies to help provide last-mile connections to transit stations. The regional GoPass app has an integrated link that opens either Lyft or Uber. Helping the rider get to and from a bus or rail stop leads to a more efficient commute and improves safety where bikepedestrian options are still being developed.
Living in a region with several of the fastest growing cities in the nation has led to more commuters on the road. Keeping on top of traffic conditions can help drivers avoid congestion and accidents. For example, 511DFW is a free service that provides real-time traffic information throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area via the web and phone. Information in the 511DFW system comes from many transportation agencies in the metropolitan area.
Looking to the near future, the region will benefit from a new transit option. The TEX Rail commuter line is on track to transport passengers by late 2018. In 2015, FWTA celebrated significant progress toward the successful launch of this commuter rail system, which will carry passengers between Fort Worth and DFW Airport. Progress included a five-party agreement, and permission to move forward with engineering. The following were part of the agreement:
- Amtrak's Southwest Region
- Fort Worth and Western Railroad
- Union Pacific Railroad
Once completed, this 27-mile commuter rail project will transport passengers within Tarrant County and to Dallas County. They can easily access work and recreation through connections to the Trinity Railway Express, Amtrak and FWTA's downtown bus transfer center. They may even use TEX Rail to connect to DFW Airport and catch a flight or take light rail to destinations in Dallas County.
The Regional Freight Network
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to one of the nation's major North American Free Trade Agreement corridors, which provides the freight industry access to a variety of modes of transportation for moving goods. Coordinating highway, rail and air system safety will allow shipments to be delivered in a timely and efficient manner, reducing costs and increasing savings for shippers throughout the region.
As the freight movement in the region grows, it is important to understand the different elements of the network. From airports to truck routing on the region's freeways, and railroad movements, the freight network is a large and complex system that cities, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the state are committed to making safe and efficient.
Aviation is often seen as primarily a passenger-driven business. However, most large airports have operations for air cargo as well. North Texas has three air cargo facilities: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field Airport and Alliance Airport. DFW and Alliance airports have access to foreign trade zones. Air cargo typically consists of high value and/or high-priority items. The facilities showed growth in the tonnage transported in 2015. DFW grew from 700,186 metric tons in 2014 to 737,812 in 2015. Alliance saw an increase of more than 9,000 tons to 119,444 tons. At Love Field, 80,438 tons of cargo were processed.
Another element in the region's safe freight network is truck lane restrictions. These restrictions prohibit freight traffic from traveling in the left lane except to pass other vehicles. The restrictions, in place for about 10 years, have been shown to reduce accidents. Most of the truck lane restrictions are in Dallas and Tarrant counties, but they have also been implemented in parts of Collin, Ellis, Parker and Rockwall counties. They will eventually extend to Denton County. Combined, they are expected to improve highway safety, mobility and air throughout the region.
Safety is an important part of moving freight within the region. Three Dallas-Fort Worth area highways are designated Hazardous Materials Routes. Hazardous freight must move along Interstate Highways 20, 820 and 635 as they make their way to customers in DFW and throughout the nation. In 2016, NCTCOG will begin a new study on hazardous material routing to develop the best routes for the region. With improvements to Airport Freeway, including State Highway 121 and 183, a new evaluation will be performed to minimize the impact of hazardous material accidents.
Railroads are located all around the region, moving large amounts of freight to and from North Texas. When railroad tracks intersect a roadway, it is called an at-grade crossing. There are over 2,900 at-grade railroad crossings in the region, and it is important for residents to follow safety precautions around them. Trains cannot stop quickly and it could take over a mile for one to come to a complete stop. To help reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at roadway-rail grade crossings, drivers and pedestrians should heed safety signals and warnings. This will make it safer for everyone at crossings and improve mobility for both people and freight.
Texas Freight Plan
Earlier this year, TxDOT finalized the Texas Freight Mobility Plan. The TFMP sets freight goals, policies and priorities for the state and provides an assessment of freight congestion and infrastructure. The state plan will be used to help guide freight solutions that will identify areas in need of safety and mobility improvements that not only benefit North Texas, but the state as a whole. It will also help identify federal funding sources for state and regional freight projects. The plan can be found at: DOT.state.tx.us/Move-Texas- Freight/Freight_Plan.htm.
Commercial Vehicle Enforcement
North Texas represents one of the largest inland ports in the nation where freight is moved, transferred and distributed to destinations across the state and around the world. In addition to the movement of commercial products and goods, the region continues to experience significant truck traffic associated with the natural gas industry. As a result of increasing truck traffic in the region, safety has been identified as one of five truck transportation focus areas. To assist in addressing these safety concerns, in 2015, NCTCOG hosted a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement operations workshop for enforcement agencies to discuss CVE needs and interests. The workshop resulted in the formation of a CVE Working Group, which will assist NCTCOG in developing various training programs. Future training programs will include a Commercial Motor Vehicle Violations Training for judges and prosecutors and a CVE equipment and training program.
Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Network
The region's active transportation network provides an opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to walk and bicycle daily for a variety of purposes. Some may bicycle to work, while others walk or bicycle to school. And in other cases, sidewalks and bicycle-pedestrian facilities are used to connect transit riders to their destinations.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments continues to work with local governments to ensure safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities within the region. The number of existing, funded and planned trails and on-street bicycle facilities in the region grows each year. As more facilities are constructed, a greater percentage of the population gains access to the network. Bicycle facility maps are available at www.nctcog.org/trans/sustdev/bikeped/bikeweb.
While access is increasing, it is important to understand how people are using these facilities. The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Traffic Count Program is recording data with equipment installed at 26 locations on trails throughout the region. In 2015, approximately 4.3 million bicyclists and pedestrians were counted passing these sites along the trails. Performance measures drive transportation decisions, and in this program, information is focused on:
- Collecting baseline data from which NCTCOG can track bicycle and pedestrian usage over time
- Evaluating monthly, weekly and daily patterns and trends
- Determining the impact of specific projects (before and after) and studying the relationship of the surrounding land use to the recorded bicycle and pedestrian traffic volumes.
Data collected at the count stations is reflected in the 2015 annual report available at NCTCOG.org/BikePedCountData.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Routes to Rail Stations
Understanding access by active transportation around each rail station is the first step to creating safe connections. NCTCOG's Routes to Rail Stations study is a tool that will help close gaps in the system and ensure safer, more efficient trips for users. The study identified existing and planned sidewalks, trails and bikeways around 74 of the region's light rail and commuter rail stations operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the Trinity Railway Express and the Denton County Transportation Authority. While there are more than 2,500 miles of existing sidewalks within a half-mile radius of rail stations, an estimated 300 miles of sidewalks need to be constructed to improve pedestrian access to the region's rail stations. Maps and additional information can be found at Nctcog.org/routestorail.
Community Schools and Transportation Program
There were approximately 1.3 million school-age children living in the DFW area in 2014, and that number continues to rise. NCTCOG is working with local school districts to encourage more of these students to choose active transportation options. Nationally, the percentage of children walking and bicycling to school has declined since the late 1960s, falling from 48 percent in 1969 to 13 percent in 2009. Two critical barriers to increasing the number of children who walk or bicycle to school are the lack of safe connections and the distance between schools and homes.
The Community Schools and Transportation Program, developed last year through funding from a federal TIGER planning grant, provides a holistic approach to addressing these issues. The program focuses on coordination between school districts and city governments, long term planning for school siting, and pilot projects to improve safety and multi-modal connections to schools. NCTCOG has conducted a Regional School Coordination Task Force meeting and a policy workshop and plans to conduct additional meetings and training events on school siting, safety and alternative transportation connections in 2016. For more information, visit NCTCOG.org/Schools.
Look Out Texans
NCTCOG and its transportation partners have allocated significant resources to make bicycling and walking safer across the region through education. Look Out Texans, launched in 2015, encourages North Texans to watch for one another and offers specific tips to bike, walk and drive safely together. Between 2010 and 2014, North Texas reported more than 8,200 bicycle and pedestrian crashes involving motor vehicles, resulting in over 500 fatalities, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Increasing awareness of how people can bike, walk and drive safely can help reduce accidents. NCTCOG developed a series of 21 tips to share with the region in an effort to enhance safety on the streets of Dallas-Fort Worth. Students, parents, neighbors and co-workers from across North Texas have been profiled as part of the effort to help people understand that safe transportation is important to everyone. To see all 21 safety tips that are highlighted around the region and learn more about the www.lookouttexans.org.
While cooperation among agencies is important for the continued development of a safe, efficient transportation system, the North Central Texas Council of Governments also relies on the public to help drive the process. An engaged and empowered region is a key ingredient to a world-class transportation system, whether residents are participating in the planning process through public meetings or spreading the word about specific campaigns to their friends and family.
One example of how residents help NCTCOG educate the region is through social media. The Transportation Department uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to provide updates to its audience and involve it in the education effort. Twitter and Facebook grew substantially in 2015, expanding by 30 percent and 25 percent respectively. The department posts a variety of information, from industry-related news to content created by staff, including graphics and updates on programs and projects that affect the region. The NCTCOG Transportation Department coordinated with TxDOT in 2015 to spread the word about a campaign to make the roads safer.
Since November 7, 2000, at least one person had died on the state's roadways each day, and TxDOT asked its partners to encourage the public to #EndTheStreakTX. NCTCOG produced several graphics related to the campaign and posted them on social media. The result was some of the most engagement of the year.
Not everyone is able to travel to meetings due to time commitments or transportation limitations. A new law approved by the Legislature in 2015 required NCTCOG to stream Regional Transportation Council meetings live on line. NCTCOG had made recordings of RTC and other meetings available online for several years. The new requirement covers RTC business meetings. Since the streaming began, residents have been able to watch from home or work, wherever they have access to a computer or mobile device. In the first four months of live streaming, viewership peaked in November. NCTCOG will continue to track and report this data.
Innovations such as social media and live streaming expand opportunities in the planning process. They allow those who do not have time to attend meetings to participate where and when they choose. The department also records public meetings and provides opportunities to comment online.
However, there is still a place for traditional communication methods. NCTCOG regularly conducts public meetings to discuss important topics and also participates in various community events throughout the year. In 2015, NCTCOG staff attended 20 events, not including public meetings, with a total audience of 154,000 people. Staff members directly communicated with more than 8,000 North Texans at these events, answering questions and distributing materials to help them understand transportation and become more involved. The department reached more people at fewer events in 2015, interacting with over 1,000 more than in 2014.
Air North Texas
Being involved also means actively participating in the process by making small commitments to improve air quality. Air North Texas is allowing that, empowering residents to make the region a better place to live by selecting alternatives to driving alone and other clean air choices. Individuals and employers have become part of the solution to the region's air quality problem by adopting small changes in their daily routines. Partner organizations are recognized each year for their efforts to make Dallas-Fort Worth a cleaner region. Its signature event, Clean Air Action Day, experienced significant growth in 2015.
Twenty-eight percent more residents participated in last year's event, held June 26, and commitments increased by 27 percent.
NCTCOG's communications teams are using various strategies to efficiently direct resources to areas of greatest impact. The department will continue using all forms of public involvement, putting the greatest emphasis on those areas that most effectively lead to a more involved public.