Streetsie Awards: The Results, Part One
Happy New Year, everybody! Before we start fresh with a bright new year in which we will undoubtedly avoid all the mistakes we made this year (and every year before that), let’s take a look back at some highs and lows of 2014. The votes have been counted, and it’s time to reveal the first batch of Streetsies. Tune in tomorrow for part two.
Best Street Transformation
After a roller coaster of a voting process in which different street transformations took turns in the top slot, in the end E Street in San Bernardino, California, ran away with the prize with 848 votes — 48 percent of the total in a field of five candidates. (San Bernardino partisans know how to turn out their people.)
The new sbX BRT line makes E Street a deserving winner. With center-running bus lanes, platform-level boarding, and traffic signals that stay green for transit, sbX is “the first high-quality transit system to be built in Southern California’s Inland Empire in more than 50 years,” according to San Bernardinan Matt Korner. In coordination with the transit line, the city reduced parking requirements for cars and implemented new ones for bikes, and walkable, development is popping up all along the corridor.
And now for some shaming…
Worst Highway Boondoggle
Seattle’s deep-bore highway tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct blew away the competition for this Streetsie. The news keeps getting worse as the effort to “rescue” the tunnel boring machine, stuck for a whole year already, is now wreaking havoc on the buildings above. The city has no plan B, and the prospect of going billions of dollars over budget on an underground highway that should never have gotten the green light is frighteningly real. So no offense, Milwaukee and Dallas, your highway boondoggles just aren’t egregious enough this year. Try again in 2015! (I’m sure you will.)
But even the miserable news out of Seattle can’t keep us from gratefully appreciating the Best News of the Year — which is the same best news as the past nine years:
Americans are driving less. Per capita driving has dropped 9.3 percent since the 2005 peak, and total driving continues to hover at about the same level . Meanwhile, transit ridership is still making impressive gains practically every quarter.
Meanwhile, the Best Thing on the Internet this year was:
#ReplaceBikeWithCar. Twitter had a moment of unadulterated awesome this year with the #ReplaceBikeWithCar meme, revealing the absurdity of car-centric views about bike transportation. In a mirror image, Robert Prinz replaced “car” with “bike” in his hilariously doctored news headlines: “Bike Crashes into El Camino Apartment Building,” “Suspected Drunk Cyclist Leaves Path of Destruction on El Cerrito Street,” etc.
Finishing a close second in this category: the mysterious author of the All-Powerful @BicycleLobby account, who fooled a few major news outlets into thinking that black-masked bike advocates had replaced the American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with white flags of surrender.
Speaking of the All-Powerful Bike Lobby, we took the following as Proof of Its Omnipotence and Influence at All Levels of Government:
California decided to stop using vehicle Level of Service to evaluate new transit and development projects. That means projects can no longer get on the fast track to implementation by making driving more convenient. Instead, decisions will be based on criteria that are actually consistent with California’s public policy goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, promoting infill development, and developing a multi-modal transportation network. Good work, California.
U.S. DOT gets an honorable mention in this category for publishing new guides to innovative biking and walking infrastructure and green-lighting street designs that the stodgy engineering establishment has long shunned.
And while we’re talking about the Obama administration, let’s also give credit where it’s due for good ideas. The Best Legislation That Died an Untimely Death in 2014 is:
The GROW AMERICA Act. Yes, Obama’s transportation proposal leans on a funding mechanism — business tax reform — that hasn’t attracted much enthusiasm, but the bill would markedly increase transit investment, enable the tolling of existing interstates, and help regions make smarter transportation and land use decisions. At the very least, the mere fact that the administration submitted a bill to Congress boosted the profile of the issue and laid out the White House’s ideas for reform. So, of all the bills that went nowhere in 2014 — and there were many — this was one worth shedding a tear for.
That wasn’t the only big disappointment in 2014.
Biggest Attitude Shift
Uber started off the year riding a high of shared-economy buzz-speak, with “innovators” touting the “ride-sharing” company for transforming transportation, the internet, the economy, and life as we know it. By the end of the year, the sheen was off. More and more people were beginning to talk about Uber as just another taxi service with a better app but PR problems up the wazoo. The company’s inflated talk about its own background checks was exposed after a series of sexual assaults and reports of harassment. Uber’s “woman problem” (and everything problem) escalated when BuzzFeed broke the story that the company was strategizing ways to retaliate against journalists for unfavorable coverage by “digging up dirt” on them. By then, Uber’s dirty tricks to sabotage its competitors, or its lobbying against handicapped access regulations, were hardly a blip on the negative-image front. Deleting your Uber account became a new shortcut to social media likes. In the end, Uber had almost as bad a year as Bertha.
Best Outcome of Election 2014
Four years after Clayton County, Georgia, closed down its bare-bones bus service for lack of money, leaving the low-income Atlanta suburb with no transit at all, the county’s residents voted for a one-cent sales tax enabling membership in MARTA, the regional transit agency. That will pay for a new commuter rail line linked to the MARTA system, plus 10 county bus lines that will begin operation in just a few months.
More Streetsie Awards, tomorrow!