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The Subduction Zone(ing), or [Tectonic] Platers Gonna Plate

This week we have Talking Headways alum Tanya Snyder back on the podcast to talk about a few things that were in the news over the last few weeks.

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We talk about all the new streets babies that have been born recently which leads to a discussion about living in cities with kids. We also ponder why people are writing articles about leaving cities like London and Los Angeles.

Traveling to the Pacific Northwest we discuss Seattle’s new Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). We talk about single family zoning in the report as well as changes to parking restrictions. We also discuss the recent New Yorker article on the Cascadia Subduction Zone and how wherever you live in the United States you have to deal with natural disasters.

Join us for a fun discussion on Talking Headways.

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With New Rule, Feds Forget Their Own Best Ideas on Street Design

This image is from the FHWA's own ##http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/separated_bikelane_pdg/separatedbikelane_pdg.pdf##Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide## -- but these designs aren't endorsed by the agency's new rules.

This image is from the FHWA’s own Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide — but these designs aren’t endorsed by the agency’s new rules.

Antiquated, car-oriented road design guidance is losing its vise grip on our cities. Other manuals are challenging the dominance of the “design bible” issued by AASHTO, the coalition of state DOTs. But the federal government might be missing an important opportunity to enshrine street safety for all modes.

Over the past few years, the Federal Highway Administration has endorsed other manuals that do include more innovative and multi-modal designs, and has even issued its own guidance for protected bike lanes. The pending Senate transportation bill also sanctions the use of alternative guides issued by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

But the new flexibility at the federal level hasn’t yet made its way into every nook and cranny of the system. In its new revision of design rules for the National Highway System, FHWA doesn’t seem to be including NACTO and ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) manuals, or even its own protected bikeway design guide, as approved engineering guides. This is a serious oversight, especially because the current transportation bill, MAP-21, dumped thousands of miles of new roads into the NHS, including arterials and main streets that aren’t what you think of when you think of highways.

In a letter to U.S. DOT, Smart Growth America expresses concern that the new rule is at odds with other department initiatives to improve bike and pedestrian safety. “The NACTO, ITE, and FHWA guides referenced above help designers create safe streets for everyone,” the letter read. “This mixed message from USDOT will make it more difficult for local and state transportation officials to partner with Secretary Foxx to further our shared priority of improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety across the country.”

Streetsblog.net
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee Preserves Transit and Street Safety Funding

Washington Governor Jay Inslee isn’t taking the pill.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Last week Inslee signaled he would go ahead with a low-carbon fuel standard for the state, which would have triggered a legislative “poison pill” — a concession to Republican lawmakers — to eliminate billions in funds for transit and street safety initiatives.

It was a Faustian bargain that put some transit and safe streets advocates at odds. But Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog reports that Inslee found another way.

Inslee announced Tuesday that he’s going a different direction on reducing carbon emissions. Rather than a clean fuels standard (already in place in Oregon and California), he’s going to develop a regulatory carbon cap. Though it would not be a complete cap-and-trade system (that would take an act of law, not just executive action), it “would force a significant reduction in air pollution,” according to an official statement.

“In talking about the terrible choice the Senate imposed on the people of Washington — clean air or buses and safe sidewalks — I heard broad agreement that we need both clean transportation and clean air,” Inslee said in the press release. “I appreciate the commitment I heard from many to work with me to ensure our state meets its statutory carbon reduction limits.”

Also on the Network today, Greater Greater Washington finds that empty bike-share stations don’t necessarily mean long waits.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Senate Takes Up House’s 3-Month Patch (WaPo, Roll Call)
  • Why Bankers Are Revolting Against Senate Bill (KGOU)
  • Obama Will Sign Extension, McConnell Still Pushing to Finish Senate Bill Before Recess (The Hill)
  • Boehner: We’ll Pass a Multi-Year Bill This Fall But Senate Bill Is “Piece of Sh*t” (The Hill, Politico)
  • Brookings: Suburban White Flight Is a Thing of the Past
  • South Carolina Embraces “Target Zero” (WLTX)
  • Three Years After the Failure of T-SPLOST, the State of Transportation in Metro Atlanta (Peach Pundit)
  • What a San Antonio Council Member Learned After Taking the Bus for a Month (TPR)
  • As Car-Sharing Gains in Popularity, Will Transit Lose Out? (News 1130)
  • Undersung Ped-Friendly Design Elements: Transparency and Imageability (CityLab)
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Congress Set to Pass Yet Another Short-Term Transpo Funding Patch

Who says there's gridlock in Washington? Congress manages to pass a transportation extension every two months, on average. Photo: ##https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gridlock##Wikipedia##

Who says there’s gridlock in Washington? Congress manages to pass a transportation extension every two months, on average. Photo: Wikipedia

The 35th transportation extension in the last six years is about to pass. The House had passed a five-month extension, the Senate insisted on moving forward with its six-year bill, then the House proposed a three-month extension, and somehow that sounded great to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

To win McConnell’s support for the short-term patch, House leaders had to pinky-swear that they would work on a long-term bill just as soon as they get back from August recess. Seven states have already halted construction projects valued at $1.63 billion because of uncertainty at the federal level.

The three-month extension isn’t funded with sales of oil from the nation’s strategic reserve and it doesn’t include an extension of the Export-Import Bank’s authority, both controversial issues that threatened to gum up the works.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer warned he could encourage Democrats to vote no on the three-month bill, but it seems clear lawmakers are going to do what they need to do to avoid a shutdown and then head home for recess. The House is planning to celebrate its success by adjourning a day early.

The patch expires October 29. See you all then — same time, same place, same insufferable paralysis.

Streetsblog.net
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Data-Driven Parking Policy Pays Off in Seattle

Inset of Seattle parking rate map. Image via The Urbanist

Inset of Seattle parking rate map. Image via The Urbanist

Seattle is set to improve upon its successful street parking program by setting meter rates based on demand.

The Seattle Department of Transportation keeps a close watch on curbside parking, reports Stephen Fesler at The Urbanist, with regular audits and adjustments to rates and hours for close to 12,000 spaces. SDOT’s goal is to reduce congestion, noise, and pollution by helping motorists find parking more easily. Increasing turnover also helps businesses by improving access.

It’s a common sense approach that gets results. Writes Fesler:

The paid parking program is managed on the basic principles of supply and demand. With a limited number of available parking spaces and inconsistent demand throughout areas and time, SDOT uses price and time limits to manage how consumers choose to occupy space and smooth out utilization.

With this in mind, SDOT’s primary goal of the paid parking program is to maintain an average of one to two open parking spaces per blockface throughout the day. This typically translates to 70% to 85% parking utilization, a key metric for SDOT.

This year the city will begin to expand variable parking rates, adjusted based on demand at a given time, to the entire system:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • After Rejecting Five-Month Transpo Extension, Senate Takes Up Three-Month Bill (Roll Call)
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve Safe, Ex-Im Bank Dead — For Now (Forbes, Examiner)
  • AP Summarizes Senate Bill, as If It Matters Anymore
  • Philly to Hold a One-Day Lottery for SEPTA Passes for Pope’s Visit (AP)
  • FDOT May Fund Bus, Light Rail Service on New Tampa Area HOT Lanes (TBO)
  • 2015 Has Been an Especially Deadly Year on Tucson’s Roads (AZPM)
  • Emanuel Proposes Expanding Chicago’s TOD Areas (Streetsblog Chicago)
  • Tennessee Gov. Haslam Goes on Tour to Tout Gas Tax Increase (WBIR)
  • North Carolina DOT Chief, Architect of 25-Year Vision Plan, Resigns (WNCT)
  • Another Survey Shows Millennials Love Walking, Not Driving (NAR)
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How Cutting Back on Driving Helps the Economy

Cross-posted from City Observatory

As Americans drive less and spend less on fuel, they have about $150 billion annually to spend in other ways.

There are two kinds of economics: macroeconomics, which deals in big national and global quantities, like gross domestic product, and microeconomics, which focuses on a smaller scale, like how the prices of specific products change. Macroeconomics gets all the attention in the news cycle, as people talk about the unemployment rate, the money supply, inflation, and the monthly payroll reports. Micro-economists usually labor in obscure corners, studying things like commodity prices, wage rates, and industry trends.

The President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) is the nation’s leading group of economists, focused heavily on understanding and explaining big macroeconomic trends.

A new CEA report, “The Surprising Decline in U.S. Petroleum Consumption,” highlights an important decades-in-the-making trend in the U.S. economy: we’re consuming a lot less oil that everyone thought we would. Obviously, oil consumption is a big deal in the macro economy. Oil imports are the biggest factor in the nation’s long running balance of trade deficit (we imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil in 2014, at an average cost of $91), and from the first energy crisis of the early 1970s onward, there’s been a strong recognition of the critical role that oil supplies and oil prices played in shaping global and national economic conditions.

While all of the models constructed by the experts, including the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy, predicted that U.S. petroleum consumption would grow from 18 to 30 million barrels per day between 1970 and 2030, something very different is happening: U.S. oil consumption has leveled off at about 21 million barrels per day. Even though population is increasing, and the economy is still growing, petroleum consumption has been essentially flat.

What’s keeping consumption down? According to the CEA analysis, transportation explains 80-90 percent of the trend. While industrial, commercial, and residential energy use have generally followed predictions, energy use for transportation is far below where it was predicted.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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If Walmart Urbanizes Its Headquarters, What’s Next for Its Stores?

The Washington Post reports that Walmart, the retail behemoth whose name is synonymous with big-box sprawl, is looking to attract young people to work at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. To make that happen, the company is investing in amenities to make its hometown — population 40,000 — more urban.

Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_hot/Flickr via Washington Post

Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_holt/Flickr via Washington Post

To remain competitive, the Post says, Walmart must draw professionals “who might not have a car” away from “large cities that have lots more to offer.”

Robert Steuteville at Better! Cities & Towns believes new development in the Bentonville area will have repercussions across the U.S.:

In the middle of the 20th century, northwest Arkansas consisted of a few sleepy towns on a railroad line. Now it has half a million residents in disconnected subdivisions.

The area must urbanize to move forward economically, and the implications of that necessity will turn suburbs on their heads. The needs of Bentonville and Walmart will reverberate coast to coast.

Walmart, the Walton Foundation, and local leaders are investing heavily in art museums and other cultural attractions, bicycle trails, and mixed-use infill development that brings restaurants and brew pubs.

Nearby Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas) are moving in the same direction. Urban amenities have gained status in the land of Walmart — arguably the largest, most suburban-oriented enterprise in the world.

“In order for us to compete for the type of talent it’s going to take to allow these companies to remain competitive in the global economy, we have to be a place where people want to live, where they can spend their free time doing things they enjoy,” one Bentonville official told the Post.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Family Friendly Cities says Seattle’s proposed residential zoning update won’t lead families with kids to flee the city.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Senate Advances Six-Year Transpo Bill That House Doesn’t Plan to Take Up (The Hill)
  • Boxer Goes Rogue in Pushing for GOP-Backed Measure (Politico)
  • Foxx Hopes to Spur Action on New Hudson River Rail Tunnels (NYT)
  • Year-Old Silver Line Seen as Catalyst in DC, Despite Not Meeting Ridership Projections (WaPo)
  • A Bipartisan Plan to Steer More Transpo Dollars to Local Communities (T4America)
  • Transit Agencies, APTA Mark 25 Years of American With Disabilities Act (Progressive Railroading)
  • Without Olympic Aspirations, How Will Boston Develop? (Boston Globe)
  • From Motor City to Bike City (Detroit Free Press)
  • Miami’s New Transit Chief Dreams of a “Car-Optional” City (Miami New Times)
  • Green Line Spawns Vision for Twin Cities Innovation District (The Line Media)