Skip to content

2 Comments

U.S. Traffic Fatalities Rising Fast — Especially Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths

Traffic fatalities in America hit a seven-year high in 2015, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for a disproportionate share of the alarming increase, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last year, 35,200 people were killed in traffic — a 7.7 percent increase over 2014 and the worst death toll since 2008. The number of people killed while walking or biking is rising even faster.

Traffic deaths increased 7.7 percent last year and pedestrians and cyclists saw the biggest increase. Graph: NHTSA

Last year pedestrian and cyclist deaths increased more than overall traffic deaths. Graph: NHTSA

Pedestrian deaths shot up 10 percent last year and bicyclist deaths 13 percent — more than other types of victims, according to NHTSA. The agency did not break down these categories by number.

Driving increased in 2015 too, but by 3.5 percent — not enough to explain the rising death toll.

People walking or biking have accounted for a growing share of total traffic deaths since 2007, and there is little agreement about the underlying causes. In addition to the usual rush to blame victims by invoking “distracted walking,” theories include increases in biking and walking overall, driver distraction, and low gas prices promoting more “marginal” drivers like teenagers, who are more crash prone. (The NHTSA report says crashes involving young drivers — ages 15 to 20 — increased 10 percent in 2015.)

One thing is clear, however: The United States is falling further behind other nations that have sustained impressive reductions in traffic fatalities. While countries like the UK, Japan, and Germany achieve rapid improvements in street safety, America has failed to keep people safe on the streets.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

New Jersey Runs Out of Transportation Money, Christie Halts All Projects

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered all transportation construction in the state to be halted today after the state’s Transportation Trust Fund went bankrupt last night. Despite Christie’s attempts to point fingers, he really has no one to blame but himself.

After the State Senate shot down a belated effort to raise New Jersey’s gas tax last night, Christie blamed Democrats pandering to “unions.” But this crisis has been brewing for years. In 2010, Christie killed the ARC Tunnel, denying desperately needed transit capacity between Jersey and New York City, in large part to avoid raising the gas tax.

Recently Christie came around on the gas tax, reports Janna Chernetz at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog, but only under conditions that might undermine transit:

In October, Christie announced that he would consider a gas tax increase if only it were coupled with so-called “tax fairness.” (Fast-forward to this morning, when the governor appeared on NJ101.5 to defend — yes, defend — raising the gas tax.)

How did we get here? After an Olympic-caliber game of political hot potato, bi-partisan legislation to replenish the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund was introduced last week and passed by the Assembly and Senate Budget committees. The bills (A10, A11, S2411, S2412) were poised for vote by both houses this past Monday so that a bill could be presented to the governor before Friday. But by Monday evening, the vote was off.

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • As Feds Investigate First Driverless Car Fatality, NTSB Chief Speaks on Industry’s Challenges (WaPo)
  • Chicago Mayor Gets More Power with Transit TIF Districts (Streetsblog Chicago)
  • GovTech Talks With the Man in Charge of Transportation Innovation in L.A.
  • For the First Time, Oakland Will Have Its Own DOT (Next City)
  • Foxx Expresses Greater Confidence in DC Metro Safety Efforts (WaPo)
  • Boston Transit Authority Moves to Privatize Warehouse Operations (Boston Globe)
  • Trulia Offers New “Rent Near Transit” Filter (The Next Web)
  • Portland Suburb Could Make or Break Light Rail Plans (Oregonian)
  • Final Relief Funds Released for Hurricane Sandy Repairs (Progressive Railroading)
3 Comments

The Hilarious 1960s Vision for the Underbelly of a Houston Highway

Dapper guys in suits hanging out under a Houston highway. This is what the Houston Arts Commission envisioned for the Pierce Elevated Freeway in the 1960s. Imag via Kinder Institute

Dapper guys in suits and mod ladies hang out under a Houston highway in this concept the Houston Arts Commission envisioned for the Pierce Elevated Freeway in the 1960s. Image by Houston Arts Commission via Kinder Institute

Ah, the best laid plans. As Texas DOT considers tearing down the Pierce Elevated Freeway on the east side of downtown Houston, it’s instructive to look back at what people were thinking when they made this eyesore.

Kyle Shelton at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research shares these hilarious drawings from the late 1960s that depict how happening the space below the highway was supposed to be. The drawings were commissioned, Shelton tells us, in response to a local architect who had written that life under the freeway would be “psychologically intolerable.” (He was, of course, right.)

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Portland Tells Builders: Give Pedestrians and Cyclists Safe Detours

Here's a German example of how a sidewalk-area can be maintained during construction. Portland's new rules recommend a similar approach. Photo: Bernard Finucane

A sidewalk detour in Kassel, Germany. Portland’s new rules recommend a similar approach. Photo via Bernard Finucane

When construction projects occupy sidewalks and bike lanes, many cities don’t do anything to compensate — forcing people to walk and bike in traffic or take long, unrealistic detours. But it’s not that hard to put up safe, convenient alternate routes.

Yesterday, the Portland City Council voted to require better detours for pedestrians and cyclists at construction zones. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland has the details (the bill was passed after he wrote the post):

A proposed policy before the city council Wednesday would withhold city permits from builders that block sidewalks or bike lanes around their work sites without first considering reuse of parking and travel lanes.

The action comes after a months-long social media campaign from Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which evolved out of a years-long behind-the-scenes effort by the BTA.

The city’s draft policy stops short of saying that walking, biking or traveling by mobility device are always higher priorities in work zones than traveling by car. Instead, it says that walking and biking routes should only be blocked if no other option is “practicable.”

Seattle passed a similar law last year, writes Andersen, but without provisions protecting bicyclists.

Elsewhere on the Network today: PubliCola runs a piece by TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt urging Seattle to keep up its rapid progress on transit and safe streets for walking and biking. And Walkable Jenkintown says parking lots are like kryptonite to walkability.

1 Comment

Today’s Headlines

  • Lawsuit Filed to Stop Albuquerque Bus Rapid Transit, Construction Slated to Start August 1 (NextCity)
  • Downtown LA Streetcar to Average Just 6 MPH (LAist)
  • City Observatory: Share Price of Urban Living on the Rise
  • Insurance Industry Alarmingly Clueless About Pedestrian Safety (Claims Journal)
  • Will the People Who Need Transit Most Be Pushed Away in Seattle? (The Stranger)
  • Boulder, Colorado: Another City That Has Created an Affordable Housing Crisis (Forbes)
  • At 60, Interstate Highway System Facing Big Challenges (Wired)
  • CityLab: Don’t Worry, Google Isn’t Going to Take Over Public Transport in Columbus
  • A Mixed-Use Meijer Store in Grand Rapids (Mlive.com)
1 Comment

Houston’s Big Chance to Turn Back the Tide of Car Traffic

TxDOT's $7 billion proposal for downtown Houston highways is not terrible, say advocates, but it could be better. Image: TxDOT via Swamplot

TxDOT’s $7 billion plan for downtown Houston may tear down the Pierce Elevated Freeway while expanding I-45. Some civic leaders question why more resources won’t be devoted to transit. Image: TxDOT via Swamplot

There’s a lot riding on Texas DOT’s $7 billion plan for downtown Houston freeways.

TxDOT has been working for more than a decade on a plan for the three highways that roughly form a circle around the city — I-45, I-10, and U.S. 59. Last April, the agency revealed a draft version of the plan, and another revision is expected to come out as soon as six months from now.

Advocates for a walkable Houston see a lot of promise in TxDOT’s willingness to rethink the city’s freeways, but the plan might still make traffic worse by adding lanes.

On the bright side, TxDOT is proposing to tear down the Pierce Elevated Freeway, which could open up 20 to 50 blocks of downtown for walkable development. The plan also calls for aligning I-45 with U.S. 59 to the east of the city, burying the roads in a trench capped with a park.

“The impacts on walkability and urbanism are real and are a big deal,” said Jay Crossley, former director of the smart growth advocacy group Houston Tomorrow. “If they could only do those parts of the plan it would be an amazing plan.”

But while TxDOT is starting to consider how its highway projects affect urban neighborhoods, said Crossley, it hasn’t quite embraced the “paradigm shift” away from highway widening that Mayor Sylvester Turner has called for.

It’s still an open question whether TxDOT’s plan will result in a net increase in highway capacity, pumping more traffic into downtown.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

The More People Live and Work in Central Philly, the Less Parking They Use

Here’s a great example of a “virtuous cycle” in action: Center City Philadelphia has seen the number of parking spaces decline recently as population and jobs continue to rise at a healthy clip.

If everyone who worked in Central City Philadelphia drove to work, it would take 28 Comcast Towers full of parking to accommodate them all. Photo: Wikipedia

If everyone who worked in Central City Philadelphia drove to work, it would take 28 Comcast Towers full of parking to accommodate them all. Photo: Wikipedia

You might expect one result to be a downtown parking crunch, but that’s not the case at all, reports Jim Saksa at Plan Philly:

If everyone drove to work in Center City, how much parking would we need?

According to a new report from the Center City District: 2.6 square miles of surface parking. The size of William Penn’s 1682 plan for the city? 2.2 miles.

Visualize that another way: If you were to build parking garages the size of the Comcast Center, you’d need 28 of them.

If everyone drove to work in Philly, parking spaces would crowd out the actual places of employment. In other words: Transit matters.

That’s the takeaway from Center City District’s latest report, which examined where the region works and how people commute.

Over the past few years, Philadelphia has been growing and Center City has led the way. Jobs in Center City grew 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, and residents increased 7.9 percent. At the same time, though, Center City lost parking: more than 3,000 spaces. Yet, at the same time, parking availability actually increased. The ineluctable conclusion: More Philadelphians are walking, biking and taking transit to work than ever before.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment reports that after an unprecedented $6 billion road expansion binge, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he doesn’t support raising taxes to bring existing roads into good condition. Seattle Transit Blog says the premium people pay for land near light rail stations in Seattle is a sign the city needs to expand transit. And the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia gives an overview of last week’s Better Bike Share conference, which explored “what’s working, what isn’t, and how bike share can be a transportation tool for everyone.”

2 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • NC Legislature’s Revised Light Rail Spending Bill Still Bad for Durham-Orange Rail (Go Triangle)
  • Dallas-to-Fort Worth Commuter Rail Looks Like a Go (Star-Telegram)
  • Will Congress’s THUD Bill Hurt Albuquerque BRT? (KOB4)
  • Uber’s New App Will Begin Tracking Driver Behavior (WSJ)
  • D.C. Council Postpones Vote to Help Injured Cyclists and Pedestrians (GGW)
  • Los Angeles Neighborhood Vigilantes Take on Parking Enforcement (CBS LA)
  • Anaheim Streetcar Cancelled (Voice of OC)
  • Will Lafayette, Louisiana, Remove Bike Lanes? (The Advocate)
  • Streetsblog SF‘s Roger Rudick Confronted a City Employee Parked in the Bike Lane
5 Comments

“Opportunity Score” Shows Best Places to Find a Job Without Owning a Car

This screenshot shows how many jobs are available near the author's house. Addresses at more than 350 cities are searchable and ranked by jobs within a half-hour's trip by walking or transit. Image: Redfin/Opportunity Score

The 30-minute transit shed near the author’s house, overlaid with a heatmap of jobs paying $40,000 or more. Image: Redfin/Opportunity Score

Which places put economic opportunity within reach for residents who don’t own cars?

There’s a new tool to evaluate housing locations according to the accessibility of jobs via transit and walking. Redfin, the company that runs Walk Score, today released “Opportunity Score,” which ranks millions of addresses across 350 cities based on the number of jobs within a 30-minute walk or transit ride.

The above map shows the results of a search near my home in Cleveland. My neighborhood grades out as a “job-seeker’s paradise,” according to Opportunity Score, with 64,000 jobs paying more than $40,000 within a half hour car-free commute. Compare that to the cul-de-sac where I grew up in Hilliard, Ohio — which has an Opportunity Score of 1.

Redfin created the tool in partnership with the White House’s Opportunity Project, which seeks to address inequality “by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders.” Opportunity Score combines jobs data from the feds with Redfin’s software measuring transit and walking travel times. The tool also factors in population, otherwise the biggest cities would all rise to the top (here’s the formula).

Redfin ranked 50 major American cities according to Opportunity Score, and the result was a top ten list with some surprises:

Read more…