Published May 19, 2009
Volume 17, Number 5

Hexagon Transportation Consultants Find Urban Design Shifting Toward Higher Densities and More Choices

Brett Walinski, left, and Matthew Nelson of Hexagon Transportation Consultants.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Transportation planning and traffic engineering are part of a sophisticated discipline that has flourished with the explosion in computing power over the past few decades. Interestingly, today this futuristic field of study is going back in time for inspiration for some of its current projects. In planning circles, there has been a distinct turning away from the automobile-centric culture of the 1950s, when little thought was given to transit service or walking or biking to work, observes Brett Walinski, Vice President and Principal Associate at Hexagon Transportation Consultants, 5976 W. Las Positas Blvd.

“The movement now is toward pedestrian-scale development, shrinking down streets and building only what is needed,” Walinski continues. “The new urban design concept is based on higher densities and more choices in terms of mode.” In the interest of sustainability, what’s old has become new again.

Hexagon opened an office in Hacienda, its fifth, this past November. Since its founding nine years ago in San Jose, the firm has put down roots in Gilroy, Marina del Rey, Phoenix, and now Pleasanton. This latest expansion is the result of a recent on-call contract for transportation planning Hexagon recently received from the City of Pleasanton. “What creates demand for our services is any flux in development,” explains Walinski. Even with the economic slowdown, there are constant revisions to the local transportation infrastructure--from land use changes and general plan updates to adding a turn pocket or modifying a traffic signal--that demand study, planning, or design.

One of the projects Walinski and his colleagues are working on is a peer review of the already completed Bernal Avenue traffic study assessing the impact of a land use change from offices to a new grocery store. There are often multiple ways to mitigate the effects on traffic, such as adding a left-turn lane or another through-lane to an intersection, and sometimes the best improvement is a subjective decision, Walinski notes. “The outcome of studies like this could involve millions of dollars one way or another, so the developer wants to make sure all potential improvements have been flushed out,” he says.

Probably  the most complex project Walinski has been involved in is the proposed BART to San Jose extension. Hexagon has been engaged in the conceptual and preliminary engineering phases for more than five years now, and several years of additional planning and design remain. The firm’s part of the project includes travel demand forecasting, “predicting ridership with very sophisticated models.” The resulting information will be reviewed by the Federal Transit Administration and used to determine whether there will be federal funding and, if so, how much, Walinski relates. The effort also includes environmental clearance reports, disclosing the impact on roadway and travel patterns to the public.

Design of the six stations planned along the corridor is another part of the project. The firm’s consultants will help determine roadway connectivity, the number of parking spaces, traffic signal design, and “the nuts and bolts of signing and striping,” according to Walinski. 

For more information about the firm and its services, visit www.hextrans.com.


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