Michael Baker International develops new interactive transport planning tool

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Leading engineering and planning consultancy Michael Baker International, is helping residents and city officials in Richmond, Virginia, rethink the design of the Greater Richmond Transit Company’s (GRTC) bus system, and establish a more connected transit network through the innovative use of technology.

To assist the community in visualizing various transit options and to identify a more effective system, Michael Baker’s planning experts have developed a unique Geographic Information System (GIS) tool; an interactive isochrones map of the city’s transit system. Isochrones are a line on a map to connect points relating to the same time or equal times, and are used on this type of map to depict transit travel times within a given area.

Traditionally, the map is developed as a static image, but Michael Baker’s interactive version allows users to enter a specific address or use the tool’s ‘Click a Place’ feature to calculate travel times and see how each concept affects transit access from home, work, shops or any other point within the city. Michael Baker partnered with the City of Richmond and Jarrett Walker + Associates to engage in a collaborative effort with city leaders and daily commuters to assess several concepts for redesigning bus system operations. The team presented three options for a new transit program: a familiar model, a high-ridership model and a high-coverage model, and laid them out within the interactive isochrones map.

The project began with phase one in January 2016, with phase two running from June to mid-September. The final phase of the project began with drafting the proposal in mid-October and seeking support from City Council on the implementation of the plan in early 2017. Michael Baker has also been contracted by the City of Richmond for the design of the new Pulse Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which is expected to start running in autumn 2017. Residents can now use the isochrones map, participate in in-person meetings, and vote on the concepts via an online or paper survey. The results of the survey will directly impact the implementation plan and proposal to be developed by the Michael Baker team as phase three of the project.

“This tool is the first-of-its-kind in the industry and will be a major asset to the project overall,” said Scudder Wagg, project manager and senior planner at Michael Baker. “Our team needed a unique way to visually demonstrate the potential transit options to the community so they would be empowered to make an informed decision on the direction of the plan. We developed the tool to allow residents and city leaders to personalize the transit options to their everyday activities; an approach that ensures the future system will meet the needs of the community, keeping people and places connected. This project is a great opportunity for the community and city leaders to work together on an important initiative. Keeping residents engaged and giving them an active voice throughout the process truly demonstrates our commitment to the community and that ‘We Make a Difference’ with our work.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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