Want to Improve Traffic Safety? Let People Get Around Without Driving

This ad is being aired across Missouri to convince voters to OK a three-quarter-cent sales tax that would raise $5.4 billion for transportation projects — mostly highways — over 10 years. The spots have been airing heavily in the run-up to the August 5 election, supported by millions of dollars from construction companies that hope to cash in.

It was smart of the construction lobby to zero in on the issue of safety, says Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns. But will spending billions on highway expansion make anyone safer? Marohn doesn’t think so:

We can have a lot of conversation about what makes a transportation system safe — and we have had that conversation here in multiple ways — but few people ever talk about the safest option: reducing the amount people are forced to drive.

I mentioned this a couple years ago when talking about car seats. We obsess about whether a kid is buckled up properly but nobody bothers to ask the simpler question: what are you doing driving your kids around so much? We don’t question it because it is a given, the casualty rate that comes from that an accepted level of attrition.

Proposition 7 in Missouri is accompanied by a long list of projects that would be funded if it passes. Lots of road widenings and expansions. Yes, let’s improve safety — and if we were really serious about it, there are some fairly straightforward ways to do so — but let’s primarily focus on reducing the amount that people are FORCED to drive.

Then there will be a lot fewer horrible accidents for these police officers to get called to.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Delaware shares shots of Philadelphia’s new protected bike lane. The Urbanist opines on the significance of Seattle’s plan to build a downtown streetcar with a dedicated center lane. And Baltimore Spokes reports from the trial of a negligent driver who killed a cyclist.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Fred Barnes: Americans Mainly Want to Stay in Their Cars

|
After yesterday’s electoral drubbing, the Obama administration will have to deal with a starkly different Congress when they make their expected push for a multi-year transportation bill early next year. We know that some influential House Republicans, like John Mica, don’t necessarily believe that bigger highways will solve America’s transportation problems. And we know that […]

Wisconsin Over-Invests in New Roads Destined for Underuse

|
Scott Walker, maybe we would respect your decision to pull the plug on high-speed rail in your state a little more if you weren’t such a hypocrite about transportation spending. The Wisconsin governor refused to pony up an estimated $4.7 million a year to provide 21st century intercity rail service to his constituents. But he’s only […]

The Fuzzy Math in the Road Lobby’s Memo to Congress

|
Don’t know what to make of the news that U.S. driving rates have dropped for the ninth year in a row? Looking for guidance about whether your state or city should be wantonly expanding roads or investing in transit, biking, and walking? The road lobby thinks you should turn to them for independent, unbiased analysis […]

How MAP-21 Pushed Transit to the Edge of Its Own Fiscal Cliff

|
Congress has seven weeks to come to some sort of agreement on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” with two of those weeks devoted to photo ops and turkey dinners. The consequences are real: Transportation programs paid out of general fund transfers to the Highway Trust Fund, rather than gas tax receipts, are not exempt from the automatic spending […]

Lawmakers Fret About Impact of Budget Cuts on Transit

|
“In 2014, federal investment in surface transportation — which is currently about $50 billion per year — will drop to $6 billion or $7 billion. In one year.” Those were the dire words spoken by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) at the start of this morning’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearing on MAP-21. What he meant […]