UC Berkeley Transportation Studio has just released a study of shopping and travel patterns in the Temescal District of North Oakland and it turns on its head conventional assumptions about how shoppers travel, where they come from and how much they spend. The take away: most Temescal shoppers are local, two-thirds are active shoppers—they walk, bike & take transit—and these active shoppers spend more money overall than shoppers who drive, and Telegraph merchants believe a majority of their paying customers drive. The data in this report is consistent with numerous other studies about economic activity and travel mode, from Portland, New York, Toronto and San Francisco. It underscores yet again that people shop, not cars, and debunks the belief held by many merchants that their bread and butter is delivered on four wheels.
The Usual Mode chart to the right shows mode shares of shoppers coming to the Temescal District, which is defined from 37th St to 51st St, essentially encompassing the Temescal shopping district and the area around MacArthur BART. 232 responses in a one-page survey were received to the question ‘how do you usually arrive?’ Most shoppers walk from adjacent neighborhoods and only 32% of shoppers drove.
For some perspective, traffic counts show about 15,000 cars per day use Telegraph, about ____ pedestrians, about 1200 bicyclists ride the street, and about 7,000-8,000 AC Transit bus riders are on the 1 and 1R buses. The difference between shopper mode share and traffic counts shows that many drivers and bus riders are cutting through the Temescal neighborhood and not stopping to shop.
The Average Monthly Spending by Travel Mode chart below was developed from the shopper intercept survey, asking customers how they usually travel to the study area, how much they typically spend per visit, and how often they come. By multiplying the usual spending amount by the frequency of visits you get the monthly spending totals, which are comparable to spending levels from similar studies done in Toronto, Portland, and San Francisco. Even a recent Safe Routes to Transit study of the MacArthur BART area found that people walking, bicycling, and taking transit to MacArthur BART spent more money on food and drink on their way to BART than people who drove to BART.
A separate survey of merchants asked them how they thought their customers usually arrive. 34 local businesses responded to the survey, about 44% of them retail, 36% service businesses, and 20% restaurant/bar. In general, merchants are dissatisfied with parking for their customers and think that a majority of their customers drive to shop. Merchants are also optimistic that the new MacArthur BART transit village will help their business.
Active Transportation Is Where the Bucks Are
If you combine travel mode of shoppers with their monthly spending habits, shoppers who drive account for only 20% of the buying power in the Temescal, while shoppers who walk, bike, and use transit account for 80% of the money spent in the district. Here are the monthly spending amounts by travel mode:
What Could Protected Bikeways Do for Temescal?
A study from Portland State University, Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S., showed that bicycling increased anywhere from 21% to 171% on streets where protected bike lanes were built. The study looked at eight study projects in five cities across the US, and found that the average increase in biking after the protected lanes went in was 75%. And by a margin of 2-1 roadway users agreed that streets with protected bike lanes work better for all users. In New York, their own DOT studies have shown bicycling increases as high as 177% on streets after new bikeways are installed.
Telegraph currently has no bike facilities, but 10% of the traffic on the street is bikes. If Oakland built protected bike lanes on Telegraph Ave and bicycling increased by the average amount seen in other cities with protected bike lanes–75%, the buying power of bicyclists would rise to 21%, surpassing that of drivers on Telegraph. Imagine that!
Shoppers Are Local
While this recent UC Berkeley study found that 32% of shoppers come by car, either drive alone or with others, merchants responding to the survey said that they believe a majority of their customers drive. This same disconnect happens among merchants in other cities in the US and in Europe. In The Netherlands and Copenhagen, it is still common for merchants to clamor for more car parking, even though their customers walk, bike, and take transit in numbers greater than in the Temescal. The reality is that 2/3 of Telegraph shoppers come by BART, bus, walk, and bike, and 59% of shoppers are local—they come from the 94609 zip code, or one of the adjoining zip codes within walking and bicycling distance.
While overall 10% of shoppers rode a bike to the Temescal District, the study broke out shoppers in the heart of the Temescal (48th St-52nd St) and found that here 13% of shoppers rode a bike, while 42% come by car. Compare these numbers to traffic counts from Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Plan, where for the 4-block stretch of Telegraph from 48th St to 52nd St, 10% of on-street traffic is people bicycling, and 90% is cars. Much of the car traffic is cut-through traffic, with people driving through on their way elsewhere. Taken together, the UC Study and the city traffic data support conclusions from similar studies that people bicycling stop more often to shop than drivers. Look more closely at the numbers: the ratio of car traffic to bike traffic is 9-1 in the heart of the Temescal (maybe 8-1 if you factor out trucks), but the ratio of car shoppers to bike shoppers is only 3-1. You can’t window shop from behind a steering wheel or make a quick stop to pick up something, particularly if you are just cutting through, but you can from the saddle of a bike–and bike shoppers do.
The potential to encourage even more shopping by bike from local residents is significant. Nearby residents bicycle for 15% of their trips of all types, and 77% have a bike, according to the UC study. Businesses will earn more money if they increase marketing to nearby residents because their shoppers are local, own a bike, spend more money when they bike than when they drive, and are already bicycling in higher numbers overall then shoppers bicycling to the Temescal District to shop. The bicycling shopper is a low-hanging fruit for the Temescal District.
Bicycle-Friendly Business District
Many business districts in Long Beach understand this, and have formed ‘bicycle-friendly business districts.’ They offer discounts to shoppers who come by bike, provide bike valet for regular bike-themed events and promotions, make cargo bikes available to local businesses for their hauling needs, and support better on-street bike facilities for the safety of the customers. Bike East Bay has already approached the Koreatown Northgate business district about becoming a bicycle-friendly district and we plan to talk with the Temescal District as well. It’s a partnership that can lead to broader support for better bike facilities when Oakland looks at Phase 2 of the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Plan.
When Oakland further studies bike lanes in the Temescal as part of Phase 2, the discussion is likely to boil down to a choice between repurposing either a travel lane or a parking lane. At public open houses in September 2014, Oakland asked attendees which of these options they would prefer to repurpose, and most said repurpose ‘parking.’ Merchants, as previously mentioned, are concerned about the lack of parking for customers. Any repurposing of parking for bikeways would have to be carefully managed to assure merchants that their customers who need to drive can readily find a spot. There are two good options worth exploring.
The UC study surveyed employees who work in the Temescal District and learned that 51% of them drive to work. Of these who drive, 39% park on the street, most of them in free spaces, taking valuable spaces from shoppers who need to drive. Ten blocks of Telegraph in the Temescal has free, unregulated parking, allowing parking all day if desired. The perception of 59% of merchants who are dissatisfied with the availability of parking for their customers is in many ways due to their own staff taking up valuable on-street parking for their customers.
A good solution given this data is to offer employees free transit passes on BART and AC Transit and to install smart meters on Telegraph Ave, which adjust the price of parking based on demand. Berkeley and San Francisco have implemented similar schemes. Employee transit passes could free up as many as fifty to sixty on-street parking spaces, and new smart meter management will always ensure that, of the metered spaces, 15% are vacant, so drivers can always find a space quickly.