The 2012 Capitol Hill Streetsies, Part 2

Yesterday, we took a look at the best and worst aspects of the current transportation bill, handed an aspirational Streetsie award to incoming House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster and issued a couple of lifetime achievement awards to Reps. Steve Latourette and Russ Carnahan. We tipped our helmets to LeBron James for making bike commuting look awesome and mapped out Mitt Romney’s future as a smart growth guru.

What’s left for today? There are still some Streetsies left in our big black bag.

Best Sustainable Solution for Transportation Funding: Federal transportation policy will continue to be tied up in knots until Washington can agree on some sensible way to raise more revenue. Rather than a simple hike in the gas tax rate — even a big one — readers would like to see the gas tax indexed to inflation so that the country won’t be stuck with a revenue source that loses power over time. And the gas tax has the added benefit of incentivizing the use of fuel-efficient vehicles, which a vehicle-miles-traveled fee wouldn’t do.

We're driving less and walking more. Photo: DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call

Most Likely Reason People Are Driving Less: Who can deny it? Young people just aren’t that hot for hot wheels anymore. With more people wanting an urban lifestyle in a walkable community, driving miles and miles to work or the grocery store just doesn’t sound so great anymore.

Most Impressive Innovation Coming Out of State DOTs: We’re looking at you, Massachusetts. And we hope a lot of other people are looking at you too – especially other DOT officials. The Bay State’s “mode shift” campaign aims to triple the share of trips taken by bicycle, foot, and transit. And if there’s anyone left dreaming up a new Big Dig for the state, they can put those dreams to bed: Transportation Secretary Richard Davey has made a “no new superhighways” pledge. Other states would be smart to follow suit. It’s a prescription to cure the funding headaches a lot of states are suffering from these days – as well as their household economic woes, growing waistlines, and more.

Top Reason State DOTs Still Can’t Be Trusted to Do the Right Thing: Whatever their written plans may say, states extravagantly overspend on road construction while starving their maintenance needs. According to Smart Growth America, between 2004 and 2008, states spent 57 percent of their road funds on widening and new construction, which accounts for just 1.3 percent of roads, while 43 percent of the funds went to preservation of existing roads, which make up 98.7 percent of the system. And according to Streetsblog readers, that’s pretty whack.

Worst Solution For Bike Safety: In a poorly thought-out attempt to prevent more cyclist fatalities, the South Carolina DOT banned bicycles from one of the few routes onto the peninsula where Charleston is located. Alburquerque also considered making a similarly bad move in January. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed: Neither ban survived.

Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide after her four-year-old son was killed as they tried to cross a poorly designed road in metro Atlanta. Image from the Today Show.

The City That Never Learns: More than a year after Raquel Nelson was prosecuted for trying to cross the street with her kids, metro Atlanta keeps treating pedestrians like criminals, blaming them for their own injuries when they’re hit by cars. Rather than make urgently needed changes to street design and provide better transit service, the region prefers to issue citations to pedestrians in their hospital beds. Massive fail.

Best Reminders of the Power of the Bicycle: After Superstorm Sandy, with the subway out of service, the roads gridlocked, and huge crowds lining up to board shuttle buses, commuters took to two wheels en masse. And in Greece, a different kind of storm – more economic than meteorological – nudged people to ditch their money-guzzling cars for the quiet, healthy efficiency of a bicycle.

Most Stunning Transformation in 2012: Chicago. The city has a new goal of zero pedestrian deaths, and with the visionary infrastructure overhaul it’s got planned, it may well get close. The city just got its first protected bike lane straight through downtown, and it’s well on its way to building the 100 miles of such lanes Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising. Chicago is getting ready to launch a new bike-share system in the spring. And, as icing on the cake, the city is on a quietly improving passenger rail line that’s bringing higher speeds to the Midwest. With a year like this under its belt, 2013 should be exciting to watch.

That’s it for the 2012 Streetsies. Thanks for voting! We’ll be back with regular content after the New Year.