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Avoid Bikelash By Building More Bike Lanes

Market Street, San Francisco.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here’s one reason the modern biking boom is great for everyone: more bicycle trips mean fewer car trips, which can mean less congestion for people in cars and buses.

But there’s a catch. A recent study shows that when bicycle use rises but cities don’t add bike lanes to put the new bikers in, traffic congestion actually gets worse.

In some situations, it gets a lot worse.

A study measured travel delay on a street with bikes but no bike lanes

NE 47th Avenue, Portland.

HOOOONK.

It’s happened to most regular bike users; it happened to me last week. Biking to meet friends at a restaurant, I had to pedal two blocks uphill on a street without bike lanes. As I started to push up the slope, a man zoomed his car around me, straddling the two lanes and laying on his horn as if I’d done something wrong.

I’d love to be out of your way too, I wanted to tell him. But this parking lane would have to go.

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StreetFilms
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Bike-Share Comes to Philly With the Launch of Indego

On Thursday, Philadelphia’s long wait for a bike-share system came to an end with the launch of the 60-station, 600-bike Indego system, which is set to expand in the near future. At the kickoff, volunteers and officials — including Mayor Michael Nutter — rode about half of those bikes to their docking stations.

I got to talk to most of the movers and shakers who helped come to fruition. Even more fun, I got to ride with Mayor Nutter’s platoon of Indego-ers to a station near City Hall.

The pricing system of Indego is what sets it apart. Instead of a yearly fee with trips capped at 30 or 45 minutes before extra fees kick in, which is the most popular subscription option offered by most other systems, Indego is going with a fee of $15 per month for unlimited one-hour per trips. This allows people to avoid the larger upfront cost of an annual fee, and subscribers who, say, only want to ride during warmer weather can also save some money. Another option is IndegoFlex, which provides a year of access to the system for a base fee of $10, with a per-trip fee of $4 for rides up to one hour long.

Indego is the largest bike-share system in the country that uses BCycle bikes and stations. It’s going to be a great addition to Philly, which has the largest bike commute mode share of any American city with more than 1 million people.

Streetsblog.net
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Texas DOT Is Planning to Tear Down a Highway — Seriously

The Pierce Elevated Freeway, near downtown Houston, has been proposed for removal. Photo: TexasFreeway.com

The Pierce Elevated Freeway, near downtown Houston, has been proposed for removal by Texas DOT. Photo: TexasFreeway.com

This may be the best evidence yet that attitudes about transportation are beginning to change in Texas’s major cities. As part of a plan to redesign and reroute Interstate 45 in the heart of Houston, TxDOT — that’s right, the Texas Department of Transportation — is proposing to tear down a short segment of the Pierce Elevated Freeway near downtown.

Over in Dallas, Patrick Kennedy at Street Smart is feeling a bit jealous. He thinks there’s a lot to like about this plan:

Looking at the details, the removed Pierce Elevated doesn’t unlock a lot of land, but it does reposition a TON of underdeveloped sites along both sides of it. It doesn’t do a lot to reconnect the grid underneath it where the grid is already well connected between downtown and Midtown. Everything between is an absolute gold mine for infill where they can harnass their growth and focus it inward towards a more sustainable future.

Along the west side of town, they’re boulevarding, parkway-ing if  you will, the segment between the Buffalo Bayou and downtown. This will probably have a more significant impact from a grid interconnectivity standpoint.

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Today’s Headlines

  • U.S. Justice Department to Investigate Tampa’s Unequal Bike Ticketing (Gulf Live)
  • Thrillist Lists “World’s Worst Designed Cities”
  • Some Establishment Conservatives Want to Accept Climate Science (Grist)
  • More Families Going Car-free (NYT)
  • TxDOT Planning Elevated Freeway Teardown in Houston (Houston Public Media)
  • Philadelphia Launches Nation’s Fifth Largest Bike-Share System (NBC Philadelphia)
  • Across the U.S., 90 Transportation Funding Bills Awaiting Passage (Equipment World)
  • Baton Rouge Taking Steps Toward a Streetcar (The Advocate)
  • Are Cities for People or Cars? (The American Conservative)
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Talking Headways Podcast: Those Roads Won’t Pay for Themselves

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This week we’re joined by Kevin DeGood of the Center for American Progress, who along with Andrew Schwartz recently wrote a report called Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions. Sound too wonky? I call it the “Roads Don’t Pay for Themselves Report.”

When approximately 5.5 percent of roads carry 55 percent of the traffic, you would expect them to support themselves. But even with conservative accounting, this report shows that’s just not true, especially in urban areas with larger maintenance costs.

We also get into the concept of “user fees,” national transportation politics, and the prospect of “devolving” transportation funding to the states, which is a hot topic these days.

Take a listen to this week’s pod and please think multi-modally! And if you enjoy the show, give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, where you can subscribe to get each week’s episode automatically.

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Chris Christie Keeps Trying to Balance NJ’s Books on Backs of Transit Riders

Graph: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

That blue line is about to take another steep jump, but not the green one. Graph: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Governor Chris Christie has really made a mess of New Jersey’s transportation finances. Since 2011, the governor’s “flipping the couch cushions” strategy has resulted in the state amassing an additional $5.2 billion in debt.

New Jersey’s gas tax has not increased since the 1980s and is the second lowest in the nation. Without new revenue, predictably enough the state can’t balance the books. This budget session, New Jersey Transit is facing a $60 million shortfall, and transit riders will soon be paying more for less. The state has proposed a 9 percent fare increase on top of service reductions.

The refusal to raise the gas tax is a hallmark of Christie’s political strategy. A 2012 report from the federal Government Accountability Office concluded that Christie killed the ARC transit tunnel across the Hudson because he wanted to siphon the money off for highways without hiking the state’s gas tax.

While the gas tax hasn’t budged since 1988, New Jersey transit riders got stuck with a 25 percent bus fare hike and a 10 percent rail fare hike in 2010.

A recent poll of New Jersey voters found 50 percent favor raising the gas tax. But that hasn’t convinced Christie to face reality.

Without new revenue, the state may be forced to cancel previously authorized projects, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign warns. And soon, New Jersey won’t even be able to pay the bill on existing debts. Something’s got to give — raising fares and cutting service can’t paper over Christie’s transportation budget mistakes much longer.

Streetsblog.net
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The “Backward Incentives” That Subsidize Job Sprawl

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Seattle Transit Blog over the region’s policies toward suburban job growth.

A "regional growth center" in Silverdale, Washington. Image: Seattle Transit Blog

A “regional growth center” in Silverdale, Washington. Image: Seattle Transit Blog

Currently, Seattle region planners designate “regional growth centers,” with special rules designed to concentrate new jobs and housing in these areas. Regional growth centers also have an easier time capturing government infrastructure funds.

Seattle Transit Blog’s Matthew Johnson pointed out last week that the vast majority of them are in the suburbs — not the city of Seattle. And Matt Gangemi weighed in this week about public policy that promotes dispersed employment growth:

I argue that this is a backward incentive. Job growth outside of the core is fundamentally poorly served by transit in our hub-and-spoke system (just try to get to Ballard from the East side, or the islands, or even from some places north on transit). But what’s worse is that job growth outside the core helps build sprawl. People choose housing based on a combination of lifestyle, cost, and transportation ease. Make it easier and cheaper to live further from the city, and builders will build further from the city. Every job added to a suburb, even a Regional Growth Center style suburb, potentially adds a home further out into sprawl.

King County should remove this job-based requirement, and let growth centers be centers of residential growth.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region offers some striking examples of the absurd lengths our car addiction has taken us to. In honor of Earth Day, Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist explains why being an environmentalist, to him, means living in the city. And Strong Towns says that at the end of the day, planners and advocates should be guided by a conscious effort to create “lovable” places.

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Today’s Headlines

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No, Millennials Aren’t Buying More Cars Than Gen X

Millennials are far less likely to have bought cars over ?. Graph: City Observatory

Millennials are far less likely to have bought cars over the last year than their Gen X counterparts. Graph: City Observatory

Cross-posted from City Observatory

Will somebody teach the Atlantic and Bloomberg how to do long division?

Today, we take down more breathless contrarian reporting about how Millennials are just as suburban and car-obsessed as previous generations. Following several stories drawing questionable inferences from flawed migration data claiming that Millennials are disproportionately choosing the suburbs (they’re not) come two articles in quick succession from Bloomberg and the Atlantic, purporting to show the Millennials’ newfound love of automobiles.

Bloomberg wrote, “Millennials Embrace Cars, Defying Predictions of Sales Implosion.” Hot on its heels came a piece from Derek Thompson at the Atlantic (alternately titled “The Great Millennial Car Comeback” and “Millennials not so cheap after all”) recanting an earlier column that predicted Millennials would be less likely than previous generations to own cars.

The Atlantic and Bloomberg stories are both based on new estimates of auto sales produced by JD Power and Associates. The data for this report were not available on the JD Power website. However, JD Power released a press release making broadly similar claims last summer; we relied on that to better understand their methodology and definitions. (We’ll post a link to the new JD Power report as soon as it becomes available).

The headline finding is that Millennials (the so-called Gen Y) bought about 3.7 million cars, while their older Gen X peers bought only 3.3 million. (We extracted these numbers from the charts in the Atlantic story). Superficially, that seems to be evidence that Millennials are in fact buying more cars.

But there’s a huge problem with this interpretation: There are way, way more people in “Gen Y” than there are in “Gen X.” Part of the reason is that the Gen Y group — also often called the “echo boom” — were born in years when far more children were born in the U.S. The bigger, and less obvious problem is the arbitrary and varying periods used to define “generations.” According to the definitions used by JD Power, Gen Y includes people born from 1977 to 1994 (a 17-year cohort), while Gen X includes those born between 1965 and 1976 — just an 11-year cohort. As a result, these definitions put nearly 78 million people in Gen Y and fewer than 45 million in GenX. There are fully 33 million more Gen Xers than Gen Y.* Hardly surprising, and not at all meaningful, that this much larger group buys about 10 percent more cars than the much smaller group.

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Streetsblog.net
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Study: Drivers Much More Likely to Yield to Pedestrians on 20 MPH Streets

At nine intersections in Boston, drivers were more likely to yield as their speeds were progressively slower. Image: Transportation Research Board

Drivers on slower streets in Boston were more likely to yield to pedestrians at unsignalized crosswalks. Image: Transportation Research Board

On streets where people drive fast, they are much less inclined to yield for pedestrians at unsignalized crosswalks, according to a new study published by the Transportation Research Board.

Chris McCahill at the State Smart Transportation Initiative explains the research:

The study, conducted in Boston, reveals that drivers are nearly four times more likely to yield for pedestrians at travel speeds around 20 miles per hour than at 40 mph.

The researchers observed 100 attempted crossings at each of nine marked crosswalks. All but one of the sites were two-lane streets, most had on-street parking, and most were in residential areas. Three of the streets also had commercial uses.

The sites were divided into three groups based on their 85th-percentile speeds. At 20 mph, roughly 75 percent of drivers slowed enough to let pedestrians cross. That rate dropped to around 40 percent at 30 mph and less than 20 percent as speeds approached 40 mph. The researchers also found that for eight of the sites (excluding the only four-lane street), travel speeds explained 99 percent of the variation in yield rates.

Lead author Tom Bertulis told SSTI the findings bolster the case for creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment by engineering streets for slower speeds, instead of just adding traffic signals or stop signs:

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