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Today’s Headlines

  • Gabe Klein: Fix Urban Transportation with “Sticks and Carrots” (Atlantic Cities)
  • Would It Really Be That Crazy To Tear Down Dallas Freeway? (Dallas Observer)
  • Mayors Take Action on Climate Change While Congress Dozes (E&E)
  • How One Group Has Twisted Notion of “American Dream” to Encourage Sprawl (My San Antonio)
  • Cincy Mayor Boosts Some Cycling Projects, But Not Central Parkway Protected Lane (700WLW, City Beat)
  • Salt Lake Tribune: If Utah Continues as Top Baby-Maker, It Has to Control Growth
  • Philly Pushes Back Bike-Share Until Next Spring (Inquirer
  • Planned Light Rail Extension Drives Real Estate Decisions in Seattle (Puget Sound Biz Journal)
  • Montgomery County, MD, Has Increased Population, But Not Driving (GGW)
  • Atlanta’s Small Towns Embrace New Urbanism (Saporta Report)
  • UC Davis Wins Grant for Sustainable Transpo Center (Sac Bee)
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Survey: Millennials Willing to Relocate for Better Transportation Options

Photo: Flickr Gareth Williams

Young people around the country express a preference for places that are walkable and provide access to transit. Photo: Gareth Williams/Flickr

Young people want to live in cities that give them a variety of transportation options and make it easy to get around without a car. That’s the key finding from a new survey of more than 700 young adults by the Global Strategy Group. The survey was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America.

Researchers surveyed people aged 18 to 34 across 10 metro regions with varying levels of transit service. From Chicago to Tampa to Los Angeles, young people reported a preference for places that are walkable and transit-friendly.

Four in five respondents reported they would like to live in a city where they could get around without a car. And almost three in four said neighborhoods without transit access were less appealing places to live.

A strong majority — 66 percent — said that access to high-quality transportation is one of the top three criteria for choosing a place to live. And 54 percent even said they would consider moving to a city with better transportation options.

Even when considering cities and neighborhoods to visit, young people don’t want to be forced to drive — 65 percent called it a “major inconvenience” to visit an area where transit connections are poor.

“These findings confirm what we have heard from the business and elected leaders we work with across the country,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “The talented young workforce that every region is trying to recruit expects to live in places where they can find walkable neighborhoods with convenient access to public transportation.”

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State Interference in Nashville BRT Could Have National Implications

Annie Weinstock is the regional director for the U.S. and Africa at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Nashville's BRT project, the Amp, would devote a small amount of this asphalt to transit. Photo: ITDP

Nashville’s BRT project, the Amp, would devote a small amount of this asphalt to transit. Photo: Wikimedia

Last week saw the quiet death of the misguided, Koch brothers-funded Tennessee Senate Bill 2243, which would have effectively banned real bus rapid transit in Tennessee. The Senate’s outrageous overreach, attempting to prohibit transit from using dedicated lanes, was conferenced with a far milder House bill, and the compromise allows the use of separate lanes — including the center-running transit lanes the Amp BRT project intends to use. However, the bill requires such projects to get approval from the state legislature, even if they don’t use any state funding.

The compromise deal still spells trouble for the 7.1-mile Amp BRT line, but it sets a far less dangerous precedent than the Senate bill. The Senate’s version, one of the most anti-mass transit pieces of legislation in recent memory, would have hurt Nashville and other Tennessee cities environmentally, socially, and economically.

-Cleveland’s HealthLine BRT, a median-aligned silver-standard corridor on Euclid Avenue, has leveraged 5.8 billion in development, while the city’s contribution to the project was only 200 million. Photo: ITDP

Cleveland’s HealthLine BRT, a median-aligned silver-standard corridor on Euclid Avenue, has leveraged $5.8 billion in development, while the total cost of the project was only $200 million. Photo: ITDP

But even though the Senate bill did not fully succeed, this coordinated attack on high quality transit could still have national implications. When the Tennessee Senate first took up the bill, it raised eyebrows nationally for its unusually specific prohibition on “any bus rapid transit system using a separate lane, or other separate right-of-way, dedicated solely to the use of such bus rapid transit system.” Such a direct attack on BRT from a state authority is unprecedented, and is a clear threat to the ability of one of Tennessee’s major cities to remain competitive.

The U.S. is still woefully behind European, Asian, and Latin American cities in building modern and efficient transport innovations such as BRT and bike-share. In the past decade, U.S. cities have finally been waking up to the fact that in order to be modern and economically competitive, they have to make their transportation systems cleaner, more attractive, and more efficient. With much of the electorate opposed to increased taxation, cost-effective BRT represents one of the few areas where the U.S. has made progress.

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Big Cuts in Store for Seattle Transit After Voters Reject Ballot Measure

It looks like Seattle’s Prop 1, the ballot measure that could have fended off major cuts for Seattle transit, did not win a majority of the votes in yesterday’s election.

Counting will likely go on for a while now, but early returns show Prop 1 failing by about 10 points. Passage would have prevented Seattle Metro from cutting 17 percent of its service, secured through an additional annual $40 car registration fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax hike.

As Martin Duke at Seattle Transit Blog put it, “The impact will be most severe on the transit-dependent, but commuters of all modes, businesses in dense areas, clean air and water, and public health are all losers.”

Shane Phillips at Better Institutions says state leaders are at fault for deliberately structuring the tax to undermine transit:

The ultimate blame for this failure lies with the state legislature, with it’s Republican-led house, which denied the County the right to adopt more progressive (and more popular) revenue measures. As a result of their failure of leadership, King County had no choice but to propose a regressive, unpopular car tab fee paired with a sales tax increase, and here we are.

Meanwhile, Duke says public officials have to make the most of a bad hand:

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Today’s Headlines

  • Obama Team Drawing Up a Specific Transportation Bill Proposal (The Hill)
  • EPA Chief on the Road This Week to Promote Climate Action Plan (EHS Today)
  • WaPo: What Price Will Riders Pay for Metro’s Mess?
  • Beth Osborne: Focus Transpo Resources on Local Communities (Atlantic Cities)
  • Across the Country, Transit Agencies Shift Away from Diesel (Governing)
  • How to Calculate “Right Size Parking” (GCN)
  • Vox Explains the Deal With Streetcars
  • Local Sales Tax Might Fund BRT in Georgia (Marietta Daily Journal)
  • Bike League Names Bike-Friendly Businesses
  • How the Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory Is Holding Back Cities (NRDC Switchboard)
  • Is Vegas on Its Way to Controlling Sprawl? (Vegas Seven)
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Earth Day Resolution: Stop Building Projects Like the Zoo Interchange

zoo

Leading up to Earth Day, the New York Times ran an editorial, “Time Is Running Out,” lamenting the lack of urgency in the United States to prevent a very urgent problem: catastrophic climate change. Today, Brad Plumer at Vox explained why it may be too late to keep average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — the threshold that climate scientists have been warning about.

There are many steps we’ll have to take to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But one of them is most definitely this: America has to stop spending billions on projects like Wisconsin’s Zoo Interchange and start getting serious about building places where people can get around by walking, biking, and taking transit.

The Zoo Interchange embodies America’s broken transportation spending system, which former US DOT official Beth Osborne described on Atlantic Cities today as “an entitlement for state departments of transportation to allocate for their own priorities.”

This single highway interchange, aimed at reducing delays for suburban car commuters in the nation’s 30th largest city, costs more than total federal spending on walking and biking annually.

The Zoo Interchange carries 300,000 cars per day. It is “Wisconsin’s oldest and busiest interchange,” according to the state. A big part of Wisconsin DOT’s justification for the Milwaukee interchange is “safety.” According to WisDOT, there were an average of 2.5 collisions a day on the interchange between 2000 and 2005, and nine were fatal.

By comparison, according to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, Americans make about 112 million walking trips daily. About 4,000 pedestrians are killed annually on American roads.

And yet, Wisconsin will spend more on this one sprawl-inducing highway project than the feds spend each year on all walking and biking projects combined.

Clearly, our priorities are out of whack — way out of whack.

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Book Excerpt: “Dead End,” a Look at Sprawl and the Rebirth of Urbanism

Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism” is a new book by Ben Ross, longtime president of Maryland’s Action Committee for Transit and a frequent contributor to Greater Greater Washington. This excerpt is preceded by a section describing the post-war expansion into the suburbs and the surrender of public space to automobile traffic. Highways proliferated, congestion worsened, children’s play was prohibited in the street and often in the sidewalk, and pedestrians were engineered out of the roadway. 

There was a subtle but profound alteration in the way street corners are built. Curbs no longer meet at right angles; they swing around in broad curves. It became standard even in cities for the curb to start bending back 25 feet from the cross street. On busy suburban roads, the bend begins even farther from the corner. Those on foot must choose between dangerous crossings of broad asphalt expanses and annoying zigzags to where the road narrows. Cars round the turn at highway speed. The simple act of walking down the street is so perilous that pedestrians are sometimes warned to wear reflective clothing, as if they were in the woods during hunting season.

As cars and highways proliferated far outside the city limits,  the roads became increasingly hostile to pedestrians -- especially children playing. Photo: ##http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2009/Aug/27/after-long-span-footbridge/##U-T San Diego##

As cars and highways proliferated far outside the city limits, the roads became increasingly hostile to pedestrians — especially children playing. Photo: U-T San Diego

These changes were no mere whim of car-loving traffic engineers. Behind them stood the lobbying might of the trucking industry.

The truckers had fought for decades to put bigger vehicles on the roads, but they were long stymied by the railroads. A major battleground was Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania Railroad held sway over the legislature and limits on trucks were especially strict. A few weeks before the 1950 election, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association divided $76,000 between the chairpersons of the state Democratic and Republican parties. It was, the association’s treasurer later conceded under oath, like betting on both teams at a baseball game, but he countered that “nothing was hidden, it was all out in the open.”

The truckers gained ground in the 1970s as their old antagonists weakened. But they still faced strenuous opposition from local governments and the American Automobile Association. Even highway engineers objected; they worried that bridges weren’t built to carry the weight of big trucks. Just before the 1974 election, the Truck Operators Nonpartisan Committee made last-minute campaign contributions to 117 congressional candidates from both parties. Six weeks later, the House of Representatives reversed an earlier vote, and weight limits were raised on interstate highways.

In December 1982, the truckers won full victory. The Reagan administration agreed to their demands in exchange for the industry’s acceptance of a tax increase that hit trucks harder than autos. Weight limits were raised again, and state limits on the length and width of trucks were overruled. Tractor-trailers could have trailers up to 48 feet long; soon the limit in most places was 53 feet.

A key provision, not fully understood by critics when the law was rushed through a lame-duck Congress, legalized the big trucks on many local roads as well as on the interstates. Road-builders had a new justification for designs that encourage cars to speed; pedestrians, ignored when the issue was under debate, were the victims. Lanes grew wider; curbs were pushed back at intersections so that extra-long vehicles could make the turn. And, because it was written into the statute, the neighbors had no way to object.

*****

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How Cities Should Frame the Way They Think About Mobility

Image: Copenhaganize.com

Image: Copenhaganize.com

The evidence that our transportation systems are producing less-than-optimal results speaks for itself — whether it’s grinding congestion, obscene traffic fatality rates, or the greenhouse gases we’re spewing into the atmosphere at catastrophic rates.

The situation warrants a new take on how cities approach mobility, writes Mikael Colville-Andersen today at Copenhagenize:

For almost a century we have been asking the same question in our cities.

“How many cars can we move down a street?”

It’s time to change the question.

If you ask “How many PEOPLE can we move down a street?”, the answer becomes much more modern and visionary. And simple. Oh, and cheaper.

With urbanisation on the rapid rise, we need to think big. Think modern. We need to travel Back to the Future for the solutions that will serve our growing populations best. Cycle tracks. Trams. Wider sidewalks. It’s all right there for the taking if we dare to take it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Strong Towns explains how Memphis is trying to fix its sprawl problem by increasing street connectivity. Streets.mn goes into the practical limitations of Nice Ride bike-share in the Twin Cities. And The Black Urbanist ponders how “urban” and “suburban” are often misapplied as racial euphemisms.

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Today’s Headlines

  • CBO: President Obama’s $302 Billion Transportation Budget Still $4B Short (LandLine)
  • Outgoing NTSB Chief Deborah Hersman Warns of Complacency (The Hill)
  • Here’s Why We Need to Stop Relying on Alternative Fuels to Save Us From Global Warming (AP)
  • Seattle Votes Today on Measure to Fund Transit (Seattle Transit Blog)
  • Bertha Will Be Back in Business Tunneling Under Seattle… In 11 Months (PI)
  • Public Consultation Is Great, But the Process Over DC’s Zoning Update Is Getting Crazy (GGW)
  • We’re #220! Atlanta’s Saporta Report Examines the Meaning of Smart Growth America’s Sprawl Ranking
  • The New York Times Catches on to Millennials’ Preference for Cities, But Can’t Figure Out Why (Grist)
  • Universities to Measure the “Imagination” of HSR in the US (Phys.org)
  • Want to Enforce the Three-Foot Passing Law? Do It Like This Guy in Houston (Click2Houston)
  • Transportation Jobs Around the World (Gizmodo)
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How Does Your State Stack Up on Funding for Walking and Biking?

state_levels

Click to enlarge. Graphic: Alliance for Biking and Walking

How well does your state fund infrastructure for walking and biking? Or perhaps we should say, how poorly?

The Alliance for Biking and Walking put together this handy chart, showing roughly what proportion of each state’s federal funding goes toward projects for walking and biking.

Obviously, no state is really rolling out the red carpet for active transportation. While walking and biking account for about 11.5 percent of all trips, on average states devote only 2.1 percent of their federal funding to active modes.

But some states are doing better than others, with Delaware, Florida (which has seen big decreases lately in pedestrian fatalities), and Minnesota topping the list. West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Carolina round out the bottom.

The Alliance cautions that the data, which reflects spending between 2009 and 2012, isn’t perfect. For example, if your state builds highways with bike infrastructure on the side, that expenditure might not be included in this total.