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    The construction at this intersection has already been complete for over a week now, before this article was posted. It’s a noticeable improvement, as turns for drivers are more controlled and predictable, but the intersection is still unsafe. Crossings are still too long for both pedestrians and cyclists. Also, the shortest crossing distance, from corners across the Acme and CVS parking lots, does not have a crosswalk, even though it is naturally where pedestrians cross. Instead there are two crosswalks across Passyunk and 10th, which no one crossing both streets at once will use.


    Dennis Grzezinski

    Of course, the elephant in the room is that the road-builders’ campaign contributions must be repaid 10,000-fold, regardless of whether more new highway lanes are actually needed.



    “DOT’s do not create gridlock; they provide the infrastructure to get us from one place to another.”

    No, they don’t anymore.

    Look at your state’s TIP and your regional MPO’s long range transportation plan. Where’s all the money going? We have the best road network on the planet, yet it is unreliable and can’t handle peak hour commuting. Something as simple as a flat tire change on the side of the road can cause massive traffic jams. Neither incidents nor driver behavior can be controlled through highway design.Yet, we keep building more of the same inefficient and ineffective solutions.

    Incremental capacity expansions and construction of new highways to serve outlandish projections of future need constitute highway robbery – yeah, highway robbery.

    We don’t need more lane miles of concrete and asphalt, we need improved and expanded transit. We need safe bike facilities. We need affordable, reliable, and efficient transit alternatives now, not more worthless projects that preserve future ROW for transit.

    We need to make smarter decisions with the scarce resources we have available.



    We build an awful lot of road projects that are designed to “accommodate future [transit] expansions.”

    When are we building the “future” transit expansions? The future is now yet we are continuing to build-out yesteryear.



    The federal government DOES provide a major “backdoor” (hidden) capital subsidy to Northeast commuter railroads.

    The vast majority of Northeast Corridor trains are commuter, not Amtrak, trains, yet Washington treats all (or almost all) of the federal NEC capital subsidy as “Amtrak” subsidies.

    Those commuter lines can operate at very high speed (over 100 mph in NJ, for example) thanks to this “Amtrak subsidy”. If the commuter trains did not use the NEC, the NEC capital needs would be much lower (because 2 of the 4 tracks would be unneeded if the NEC were used only by Amtrak). At the very least, this additional subsidy (the cost difference between 2 and 4 tracks) is truly a commuter rail subsidy that is hidden because it is entirely recorded as “Amtrak subsidy”.

    Yes, the northeast is special in this regard, because this is the only place where commuter rail capital subsidies are treated as subsidy for Amtrak.


    Angie Schmitt

    I’m from Columbus and I’ve driven it many times. My family used to stop at the Rocky Boot Factory. I’ve actually driven it since too. I still have my doubts. Did you know the money spent on that single project is 25 times the state’s total annual support for urban transit. Ohio’s cities, the centers of the metro area’s the drive the state’s economies, are suffering. Now they want to bypass Portsmouth. Few hundred million? No problem. I guess if you look exclusively at highway projects designed to move trucks, it is pretty awesome. Or if your a Columbusite who makes the trek to OU a lot. Or if you’re a trucker that passes through SE Ohio. Anyway, kudos to ODOT for making Ohio and awesome place to speed through in a truck. That strategy doesn’t seem to be ushering in the kind of prosperity its premised on, IMO.


    Central Ohio

    If you’ve ever driven between Columbus Ohio (Major US metro area) and Athens Ohio (Large College Town in Ohio) you would realize that bypassing Nelsonville was actually a good thing.



    “In most places you can get along just fine without a car, even in medium sized metros.”

    Nonsense. I live in the Northeast — a notoriously public-transportation-friendly region of the country — and even up here, outside of the Boston/New York metropolitan areas, you’re SCREWED if you don’t have a car. Everything is either too rural for public transportation to be viable, or you’ll be forced to ride delapodated buses with Puerto Ricans, Blacks, and other jealous subhuman filth who will pickpocket you, mug you, or assault you for being white (and thus an “easy target” in the dog-like minds of these ghetto animals).

    The only places up here (and in most of the U.S.) where public transportation is a viable option, are so GOD-DAMNED EXPENSIVE, that in order to afford to live there your average 20-something will be forced to either live with their parents, or to live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 7 roommates like a fu?king Mexican. This country is absolutely fu?ked. There’s no saving it.


    R.A. Stewart

    Haven’t you gotten the memo? Only for transit projects do you need to make a financial case. “Make a financial case” meaning, of course, “prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the project, as a whole and in each of its parts, will completely pay for itself through fares from day one, and also not let riffraff get to nice neighborhoods where they don’t belong.” Whereas roadbuilding is always good no matter what the numbers look like. Because, roads.



    False! I am from there and have lived there for over 20 years. Barcelona has plenty of pedestrian only streets and areas where you can walk around and/or sit and relax without any cars, traffic, or fumes close-by. Obviously, just like if you walk around ANY city, you will walk by traffic and fumes… the thing is you may not see that in Atlanta because you don’t/can’t actually walk, but instead need to drive everywhere, even if you are going from one store to another that is only on the other side of the street!



    Wow. I’m a former Austinite (born and raised). I opened up this article and was excited that Austin got a new high quality bicycle facility. Then I made the mistake of reading the comments. Austin is NOT Davis. Davis is a town, and Austin is a city of 800,000 people. Davis is also an enclave of progressive bike culture that exceeds most of this country. I won’t argue that this it the most important bike facility that Austin needs, because that’s not the point. The point is that streets, all streets, should serve people: biking, walking, taking the bus, driving a car, whatever. It’s public space! Texas is still car country and the value of a project like this is that it says, “hey! this street — it’s not just for cars!” It says, if it’s successful, that bike infrastructure is a worthy investment.

    I’m appalled that there’s complaining about being forced onto a low traffic street because there are too many 8 year-olds in the way.

    And re: helmets. Maybe they’re wearing helmets because they are school children and their parents want them to be safe. Getting hit by a car is not the only way to hit your head while riding a bicycle. It’s a precaution like wearing a seatbelt. I’m an adult and a competent and comfortable VC, and I wear a helmet and have also hit my head hard. Some of you are comfortable without them, and that’s FINE. Some of us like the safety net though.

    I’m with Cali_ExPat — good job Austin.


    Andy B from Jersey

    Pretty pitiful that much of this project had to be outsourced to another country because the US didn’t have the capability to construct much of the projects parts! Shameful!


    Andy B from Jersey

    This type of reasoning was also the basis for spending the very limited bike and pedestrian aid for one state DOT. That never even asked the question if the project would actually solve anything.


    Steven Larson

    And narcissistic.


    Steven Larson

    Most Americans have already decided that America’s cities are no place to raise children. In fact, they decided it in the late 1950s. Thanks for playing along.


    Steven Larson

    Tis a shame you don’t have the best public schools in the nation. BTW, I’ve lived in 7 states and they had the best schools in the nation in all seven of those states. The nicest people, too. They kept telling me.


    Steven Larson

    Perhaps we should just ask Europe what happens when young people become so self-absorbed that they forget to create the next generation. Who’s going to look after all these pampered, spoiled brats when they start wetting themeselves and need their senior citizen diapers changed? Oh, yeah, Washington will decide when it’s your time to go, too. Be careful what you wish for, young people. You just might get it.


    Jay Blazek Crossley

    Hi Jerry,

    I’ve worked for almost a decade myself to oppose the Grand Parkway.

    I agree that there should be alternatives. We work much more on the transit, Complete Streets, and building code issues that would actually address the issues that road expansions pretend to address.

    In this case that road is wholly unnecessary and everyone knows it. According to TXDOT staff the purpose of the Grand Porkway is to “open up lands for development.”

    Now that the $350 million (ish) segment E is running it is carrying somewhere between 10 and 15,000 mostly SOV vehicles a day. What a terrible waste of funds, wetlands, prime farmland, and Houstonians’ time living in a wasteful, stressful lifestyle imposed by Representative Culberson and the TTC.



    Huh? The feds don’t pay for commuter service. They sometimes pay for capital investments for agencies,* but they never pay to operate it. That once fell to ConRail,but now falls to VRE, MARC, NJT, SEPTA, MTA (MNRR/LIRR), MBTA, etc.. These agencies, in turn, sometimes buy/sell track access from/to Amtrak. Some may even contract with Amtrak to run their commuter services (I think VRE does this).

    I suppose you may have a kinda point about regional/long distance Amtrak service. The Feds do pay for at least some of that, perhaps in a less-than-balanced way. Hardly a less balanced way than highway funds though, since the money at least goes to the places that rationally need it.

    * No, the northeast is not special in this regard.



    Folks, I support limited growth and think we should have a reasonable plan for future growth and expansion. Because it will happen. Instead of complaining, what are you proposing?

    I worked on the Grand Parkway for TxDOT and I attended many public and private meetings regarding why the project was a “good” and “bad” idea but no one really provided other options. Other than complain about roadway gridlock and why “not in my back yard.”

    Lets be real, none of our congressional leaders have the courage to stop the syphoning of the gas tax, which happens in a huge way, nor do they have the courage to increase the gas tax for much needed improvements not to mention maintaining what we have. We need to start addressing this issue before we get on the bandwagon of why a project is a bad idea.

    I believe in protecting our environment, I practice it in my personal life and educate my children to do the same but I will be the first person ready and willing to pay a toll to bypass gridlock that “WE” created. DOT’s do not create gridlock; they provide the infrastructure to get us from one place to another. Through public meetings and hearings, we should be voicing our thoughts on the type of improvements we need. If 2-lanes are proposed and we know we need 4-lanes, let’s say so. Even if acquisition of real estate is required.

    We are part of the solution; we just do not act like it.


    Bill Davis

    She claims the CA wants to make her an “example during an election year.”
    Truth- The current County Attorney is running unopposed.
    She claims that everyone harasses and bullies her.
    Truth- She bullies and harasses motorists and there is video she recorded showing this.
    She claimed that she had to commute to work. Now that she is no longer working thanks to her GoFundMe account, she claims she is going to school.
    Truth- She is using the GoFundMe account for her own personal expenses. Her Defense Attorneys worked pro-bono, meaning that they would only be paid if she won. Guess what people, she lost and you’re still donating money.
    Local cyclists do not condone the way she has gone about this.This is because local cyclists know her and know the other legal issues she has had outside of the cycling world. Out of town cyclists have made her their poster child for injustice not realizing that they have a con-woman for a representative. Congrats on giving away your hard earned money. She has said repeatedly that she could care less about you supporters. This is about her and only her. She cares about noone but herself.
    Jessamine County is a great place to live. She has stated this herself and she has stated that her children love it here. Get a clue out of state people! There is more to the story than what you see in her smoke and screens, but you are too biased to understand that so keep on sending the money. As long as you do that, she won’t have to work. The only reason she is not one of the motorists that you cyclists hate, is because her license is suspended and she cannot get it back.


    Kevin Love

    A lot of off-peak service is temporal network building. In other words, if the service doesn’t work for them all the time, many people will buy a car and launch lethal cancer poison attacks against their fellow citizens.


    Alex Brideau III

    I guess the $64,000 question is how do we determine when there is “demand” for off-peak rail service? When localities increase late-night and other off-peak transit service, ridership counts don’t always skyrocket, but that travel mode is generally viewed as a more viable option for those who might otherwise drive. I think the key here is getting the word out. If Amtrak increased the frequency of the thrice-weekly Sunset Limited to daily, but didn’t advertise it, it would probably take much longer for ridership to increase along that route.

    And speaking of transit, it’s worthwhile to note that (depending on the time of day) not all train riders drive to the station. Those living in urban areas are more likely to take local mass transit to a train station, while those near suburban stations are indeed more likely to drive.



    It might be time for Streetsblog to team up with NACTO for a
    Transportation Improvement award that concentrates more on how it
    improves safety and mobility instead of on how efficiently it allows contractors to syphon off government funds.



    I agree with that point. I’m saying that it’s not necessarily best for the environment to expand off-peak service if there isn’t the demand for it. Most trains are ridden by people who already own cars (and drive to the station), so it’s not going to do a lot to decrease car ownership either.


    Alex Brideau III

    Unless I mis-read the article, there’s no specific empty-train example given. But as a fairly frequent Amtrak rider, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an empty train (which I guess would technically be impossible if I was riding on it, but anyway…). And, FWIW, Amtrak’s not really similar to Caltrain in that Amtrak runs both regional and national trains, and Caltrain only runs the former.

    But most notably the Slate article does make it very clear that “as long as those [off-peak] buses and trains are kept running, it’s better—environmentally speaking—to take public transportation, since the marginal impact of your trip will be very low.” I would say the Slate article actually argues against your point.


    Alex Brideau III

    Well, being a fairly frequent rider of the Coast Starlight, I think it’s quite a stretch to call it “hopeless”. Perhaps “almost useless for most commuters” would be more accurate. But worth noting is that long-distance routes are generally intended for long-distance use.


    Alex Brideau III

    I’m 100% with you here. Urban and suburban density (is the latter an oxymoron?) is key to getting shops within reach of residents. In Downtown Los Angeles, Kroger built a Ralphs Fresh Fare market on the ground floor of a new condo complex. That market is always *packed* and has proven to be a great location for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to conduct their cookie and (the uninventively named) “fall product” sales.



    Fire engines, emergency vehicles, trucks?


    Alex Brideau III

    “People who really care about fuel efficiency choose a Prius, which beats the socks off the any transit system out there.” A Prius wouldn’t “beat the socks off any transit system” as its five-person capacity is nowhere near the capacity of most transit systems. If you instead meant “any private vehicle”, then I’d agree with you … with the exception of all-electric vehicles and certain plug-in hybrids(?) and alternative-fuel vehicles.

    “Once you’ve blown a couple tons of carbon on going 1000 miles or more, what difference does a local car trip make.” As with most conservation issues, every little bit counts.

    “most airports have frequent bus service to nearby destinations, if not rail.” In many (but not all) cases this is true, but I prefer to travel direct from city center to city center, as do a good number of my fellow passengers. Of course this is a travel choice, but one we’re fortunate to have the option of making. Having a choice of travel modes is another reason not to give up on Amtrak’s national network routes.

    “(I don’t know where Amtrak got its airline numbers from, they are suspiciously inefficient).” If you read the emissions report, the source data for Amtrak’s numbers are cited.

    “And how is [polluting the stratosphere] any better or worse [than ground-level, or troposphere, pollution]?” I’m just a layman, but in short, the stratosphere is much more sensitive to these pollutants than the troposphere. This is pretty well documented on the Interwebs.



    Energy Efficiency Data Source: U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory Data on Fuel Efficiency – Transportation Energy Data Book (Edition 30), Table 2.12

    It said so in your link.



    “Fourteen percent may not be important by your standards, but 14% is still significant. All things being equal, if I were choosing between buying a 30mpg and 34 mpg car, I think most folks would choose the latter.”

    Actually, most people seem to choose something worse than the former. People who really care about fuel efficiency choose a Prius, which beats the socks off the any transit system out there.

    “Except that a plane trip is more likely to include mandatory car trips at either end of the journey.”

    Once you’ve blown a couple tons of carbon on going 1000 miles or more, what difference does a local car trip make. Not that this is relevant anyway, since most airports have frequent bus service to nearby destinations, if not rail.

    “Since I can’t and wouldn’t want to drive non-stop, replacing my rail travel with long road trips will require additional hotel stays.”

    That is why most people fly. Plus, the airlines are about twice as efficient as your car. (I don’t know where Amtrak got its airline numbers from, they are suspiciously inefficient).

    “whereas airplanes emit their CO2, NOx, sulfates, and particulate matter directly into the stratosphere, compounding the pollutants’ negative impact upon the atmosphere.”

    And how is this any better or worse? Sulfates emitted into the atmosphere actually work against climate change.



    i guess i belong to those metro mom & dad category. although my commute has probably everybody beat. i drive, bus, train, run, citibike and take a ferry all in one commute cycle.

    short of an airplane, i think i covered every form of transportation.


    Alex Brideau III

    [sigh] Where to begin?

    “Amtrak is only 14% more efficient per passenger mile than the airline industry.” Fourteen percent may not be important by your standards, but 14% is still significant. All things being equal, if I were choosing between buying a 30mpg and 34 mpg car, I think most folks would choose the latter.

    “But the airlines are getting more efficient all the time.” Well, most/all fossil fuel-powered vehicle manufacturers are constantly striving to be more fuel efficient than their competitors (including both plane and train manufacturers), so I’d say this is a wash. Except that a plane trip is more likely to include mandatory car trips at either end of the journey. Rail and bus travel typically allow passengers to travel between city centers, where the highest concentrations of lodging are.

    “(after all, who road trips alone?)” Most of my 1,000+ mile road trips have been taken alone, as are most of my long-distance Amtrak trips. Since I can’t and wouldn’t want to drive non-stop, replacing my rail travel with long road trips will require additional hotel stays. And, since road travel is one of the most dangerous travel modes, there’s also increased risk. (Air and rail travel are far safer, though I feel the latter is more stress-free and comfortable.)

    “If you REALLY care about saving energy, you’ll be buying a Prius.” Well, if we’re going down that road, if one “REALLY” cares about saving energy, one would not own a car at all, and instead rent a hybrid when a car trip is unavoidable. That said, my household is not car-free yet. We already have a hybrid and I hardly think buying a second one would help with efficiency. Despite my wife’s willingness to bike to work on occasion, I’m not sure she would take kindly to me monopolizing the car for extended periods of time. :-)

    “The most fuel-efficient way to travel long distances is intercity bus.” That’s great, but Greyhound doesn’t go everywhere. Neither does Amtrak, for that matter. The two modes complement each other. But I think Amtrak is a far more comfortable way to travel.

    “By sustainable, maybe you didn’t mean ‘fuel efficient’…” Well, fuel efficiency is an element of sustainability, but I was primarily referring to pollution. Most transportation modes create some pollution, but ground-based transportation (and fossil fuel-based power plants that power our electric grid) emit their pollution on or near ground level, whereas airplanes emit their CO2, NOx, sulfates, and particulate matter directly into the stratosphere, compounding the pollutants’ negative impact upon the atmosphere.

    NOTE: Of course, air travel is all but mandatory for some journeys. For those actually still reading this post, purchasing carbon offsets while not a cure-all, can help somewhat.


    Joe Linton

    great pic of Pittsburgh’s mayor!



    I’m not sure if the Bay Bridge East Span is the exception that proves the rule, or disproves it.

    It was hugely over budget, late, is still not finished due to broken bolts (in a completely inaccessible place), and traffic speeds (even without congestion) are less than expected. It also was a completely necessary replacement.

    I’ve never heard light rail mentioned for it, and it hasn’t been designed for it. No idea where AASHTO gets that, but in another couple years it will connect San Francisco’s Yerba Buena island and Treasure Island to non motored (pedestrian and bicycle) transportation for the first time!

    Of course it will be a connection to Oakland, not to San Francisco.

    It’s good to know that AASHTO isn’t so focussed on budget and schedule that they won’t include a project which failed massively in both of those criteria.



    There are a few trains per day between New Haven and New London on “Shore Line East”. MBTA provides hourly service between Boston and Providence. So, like Perryville to Newark, there’s gap of about thirty miles between existing commuter services.

    One can ride a Northeast Regional between Providence and New London for about $12. On the Washington-New York trip one has to use NER between Wilmington and Baltimore since there are no Amtrak stops between them.

    There is no law saying that the individual states have to subsidize every one of your train journeys.



    SH99/Grand Parkway is a truly terrible plan, thank you for calling more attention to it. In a time when even other Texas cities are beginning to see the wisdom of stopping sprawl from robbing them of population and wealth, Houston blindly cheers on the same stupid model over and over again, as if the flow of immigrants and supply of land is unlimited.


    Erica F

    Read Bikenomics.


    AMECO Solar

    Agreed! We should try focusing more on making our existing infrastructure more efficient.



    It would be useful, but not likely in the near future. The question on the ACS form is designed to capture the data needed to answer specific funding and legislation needs. Also, there are budget pressures and a background of popular resistance to giving the government your personal data that make expanding or changing the survey a very contentious process.
    In short, until there is an actual policy that needs to collect mixed mode commuting there will be no motive to change the question to capture the data.


    Lewis Fernrock

    I biked through here yesterday (coming west on Reed en route to Acme) and yeah, felt as bad as ever. There is still that giant triangle of asphalt in the middle where you can’t tell which street/lane/whatever you’re in



    pedestrian crossing lights are welcome, but there isn’t much point to the rest of it



    In short: No.

    The construction is done now, and the only noticeable change is a slight bumpout on the northwestern corner, and new traffic lights and ped crossing signals. No ped refuge. No other bumpouts. And I think the crossing time is actually *shorter* than it used to be.

    Half a million dollars later, and it’s just as bad as it was before.



    Interesting that people almost uniformly prefer living near shops and businesses, vs. living in a residential-only area. Only problem is… shops and businesses require a concentration of people, and only a portion of people can live near them. It is never realistic to expect a large fraction of people to live in suburban locations near shops and businesses. Even in a hi-rise environment, some people (those on upper floors) live further away from shops and businesses than others (those on lower floors). And the more downscale the neighborhood is, the less money people spend around, which leads to even fewer shops and businesses.

    I do think it makes sense to develop small “downtowns” with concentrated housing, shops and businesses, surrounded by less-dense residential areas. This will allow the maximum number of people to live close to these amenities. But I suppose that’s what New Urbanists have already figured out.

    One thing would be interesting to see, is how many people value being close to big box shopping. Actually, two categories: big box supermarkets (frequented weekly or more frequently), and big box other (frequented less often). Although it doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal as a corner grocer, I have always valued living near to a full-service supermarket.



    The tunnels that would have dead ended in a deep cavern like ESA? It was a bad plan that would have served zero Amtrak trains. If they want to run more trains just take back a couple slots from njtransit. If nj commuters don’t like it then they can complain to their governor, get a new tunnel built for them.



    According to Amtrak’s own figures, Amtrak is only 14% more efficient per passenger mile than the airline industry. That is not a big difference, it’s like the difference between 30mpg an 34mpg. But the airlines are getting more efficient all the time. Currently, they do about 60-100 passenger miles per gallon.

    More interesting is their comparison with automobiles. They used an “average” automobile with “average” occupancy of 1.1 people per vehicle. But it is well-known that long-distance automobile occupancy is significantly higher (after all, who road trips alone?) Which brings automobiles in line with energy efficiency of plans and Amtrak, if not better, for long-distance travel.

    If you REALLY care about saving energy, you’ll be buying a Prius. Which uses about 2400 BTU / mile. That means that even if you drive it alone, you will be about as efficient as Amtrak and far more efficient than the average automobile on US streets. And if you take a buddy alone on your road trip, you will find it is more fuel-efficient than Amtrak or the airlines.

    Sorry, Amtrak. Not the most sustainable. At least not without major improvements in fuel economy (which are possible, but would require serious changes and capital improvements).

    PS: The most fuel-efficient way to travel long distances is intercity bus. It does about 150 passenger-miles per gallon with real-life load factors, blowing away everything except a fully-loaded Prius.

    By sustainable, maybe you didn’t mean “fuel efficient,” maybe you were talking about running out of the liquid fuel needed to power jets. I don’t think this will be a big problem in the future. Air travel is growing, but it will always be just a small fraction of the transportation energy pie. I don’t think will have a problem figuring out ways to make those quantities of liquid fuel in a sustainable way.



    Agreed, but that’s all CSX infrastructure. It still boggles my mind that NEC trains have to switch locomotives at Union Station if they are travelling to Richmond and beyond.



    They make sense for trucking and that’s about it, why the Feds believe that truckers need a huge subsidy is beyond me, though.


    Brad Kort

    Most interesting to me was that this bill would open a $14B loan fund to Amtrak. That would be fantastic as it would enable Amtrak to invest in the infrastructure needed to rebuild ancient infrastructure and pay for much needed equipment. I hope it comes to fruition.