Skip to Content
Streetsblog Chicago home
Streetsblog Chicago home
Log In
Bicycling

How Can Cities Move More People Without Wider Streets? Hint: Not With Cars

NACTO_transit_lanes
Here's how many people a single traffic lane can carry "with normal operations," according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
false

How can cities make more efficient use of street space, so more people can get where they want to go?

This graphic from the new NACTO Transit Street Design Guide provides a great visual answer. (Hat tip to Sandy Johnston for plucking it out.) It shows how the capacity of a single lane of traffic varies according to the mode of travel it's designed for.

Dedicating street space to transit, cycling, or walking is almost always a tenacious fight, opposed by people who insist that streets are for cars. But unless cities make room for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders, there's no room for them to grow beyond a certain point.

NACTO writes:

While street performance is conventionally measured based on vehicle traffic throughput and speed, measuring the number of people moved on a street -- its person throughput and capacity -- presents a more complete picture of how a city’s residents and visitors get around. Whether making daily commutes or discretionary trips, city residents will choose the mode that is reliable, convenient, and comfortable.

Transit has the highest capacity for moving people in a constrained space. Where a single travel lane of private vehicle traffic on an urban street might move 600 to 1,600 people per hour (assuming one to two passengers per vehicle and 600 to 800 vehicles per hour), a dedicated bus lane can carry up to 8,000 passengers per hour. A transitway lane can serve up to 25,000 people per hour per travel direction.

Of course, it usually takes more than changing a single street to fully realize these benefits. A bike lane won't reach its potential if it's not part of cohesive network of safe streets for biking, and a transit lane won't be useful to many people if it doesn't connect them to walkable destinations.

But this graphic is a useful tool to communicate how sidewalks, bike lanes, and transitways are essential for growing cities looking to move more people on their streets without the costs and dangers inherent in widening roads.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Chicago

Western Avenue alders revived Chicago’s BRT dream. How can we stop NIMBYs from killing it again?

We've been down this road before. But the chief of staff for Ald. Matt Martin (47th), a leader of the new campaign, says times have changed since the Ashland BRT proposal was shelved.

May 23, 2024

While the resolution to ditch Dorval got banished to the Rules committee, Ald. Vasquez thinks he can rescue it

At today's Council meeting Vasquez got signatures from 26 alders calling for the resolution to be resuscitated.

May 22, 2024

As Metra seeks input on long-term service improvements, the long-awaited Peterson/Ridge station opens

The railroad recently launched a survey to get a better sense of how riders use the system post-pandemic.

May 22, 2024
See all posts