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    Ah, I see. Here in Montreal buses have the right of way when pulling out — even though other drivers of course don’t always respect that.


    Scott Sanderson

    Chicago buses would really benefit from #1. I recently took a ride on Ashland Ave, and the bus made 22 stops in 23 minutes. I think half of them could be removed.



    I think the pre-board pay is far the biggest improvement.

    Cities like minneapolis encourage this. With a pre-pay card you put money on the card. (keep the card for life)



    What @valar84:disqus said.

    Also, improving bus service does mean faster trip times, reduced fuel use, and even labor savings if a bus whole round trip can be made faster. Capital intensive isn’t always bad.



    5 can be capital-intensive, you’re right.

    6 can be considered capital-intensive… except that most agencies change their buses every 10-15 years anyway, so they’re likely alway buying new buses. They just have to make sure that they’re proper models and not the usual high-floor models.

    8 is not capital intensive. You don’t need to build new roads from scratch, it’s just a bit of paint on the pavement, it can be done in one night. The biggest problem is opposition from car drivers.



    I fail to see how number 5, 6, and 8 could be considered “simple ways to speed up your city’s buses”. These are all capital intensive solutions with long lead-times.



    They work in airports, but I’m not so sure how well they’d work with the general public.

    I like the idea of a person on a train who keeps it safe, clean and free of graffiti.

    …I actually would like to see operators taking a little more responsibility for the last 2 items… at least in San Francisco.



    I agree, I don’t think it makes sense to have people walking through the train taking tickets, though I’m sure it is old-tymey, 19th century hipster fun…

    I’m just saying I still think it’s important to have at least one person on a train who has the ability to communicate with the people controlling the electricity and the switching, etc, etc.

    … and this discussion has centered on trains, which get most people halfway to their destination. Eliminating drivers from busses is much farther into the future, I would think.



    I’m not saying a human needs to actually drive the train, I’m saying a human really needs to still be there, in case of emergencies as you said.

    Even though train transit is far more safe for passengers than car transit, a single train accident has such a high media profile, it paradoxically pushes more people into less sustainable and more dangerous transportation.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to take that risk by removing humans from trains completely.



    It’s easier to pull back into traffic on the far side. A line of cars queued at a light can interrupt re-entering the traffic flow. On the far side, there is a guaranteed opportunity to re-enter when the light is red on the near side.

    Not sure it matters in a place, like Philadelphia, where buses simply stop in their lane, and make traffic behind wait.



    “Many agencies moved stops to far side of intersections at stoplights,”

    How does that speed things up? Doesn’t that mean that in the worst case the bus has to stop at the light, only to stop again once it has made it through the intersection. If the stop is before the light, in worst case the bus will sit a little longer while waiting for the light to turn, in turn offering additional time for people to board. What am I overlooking?


    Kevin Love

    The number 1 cause of bus delays is car drivers getting in their way. The solution is simple: do not allow cars to obstruct traffic.



    Yes, BART has an operator in every train. The NYC subway has an operator and a conductor in every train.

    The subway is paying 2 people to do the job of 1, particularly on lines with modern signals where the operator doesnt need to actually drive the train (the L train, and soon the 7 train).

    The commuter rails services such as LIRR are much worse, with ~3-5 employees on each train last I heard when 1 would do (with either faregates or random fare inspections as are common abroad, and used on Caltrain within the US for instance).

    For fully automated services theres generally (if not always) platform edge doors that keep people from jumping in front of the train.



    The BRT thing is nuts. The teabaggers and neo-cons are deliberately passing shitloads of odious laws that are going to be hurting Americans for decades. Is there a loophole that allows a streetcar in an exclusive lane?

    Faster Upstate NY service seems like it would make a lot of sense, and would be cost-effective even if it costs “billions.” However, it’s probably not going to be HSR. They could start by making the damn thing faster than cars.


    Ambrose Santiago

    To learn more about Medellin the heart of Colombia.



    Nothing weird about it. The transit unions are full of drivers. The Sierra Club is full of NIMBY greenwasher types who, well, drive. Neither is that concerned about the working class or the environment.

    If anything, it’s the archetypal liberal-conservative alliance. Ritzy suburban liberals in the Sierra Club and blue collar union workers who both got theirs.



    I agree about cars, but ZPTO trains have been pretty safe and feasible for decades now, however.



    BART is automated, though maybe an operator handles doors. He is otherwise an expensive sentry for emergencies.

    But BBnet3000 is absolutely right. Our optimal strategy would be to maximize transit investment and minimize operating costs. It may well be that adding more personnel buys a little more safety, but you buy the most safety by maximally reducing automobile use and maximizing transit use.



    I’d like to see the same chart with %African American population instead of %walking/biking. Some of the outliers make me think that this might be as much about race as place.



    Angie: Thank you for publishing this piece. I live in Cincinnati.

    Over the weekend, our job now is to write the Cincinnati City Council members and testify at the Council committee meeting on Monday April 21 to advance this project for protected on-street bike lanes on Central Parkway. I’m confident that we can find the five votes (out of nine, and perhaps more than nine) among Cincinati City Council members to keep this project on track.

    It’s ironic that this on-street bicycle infrastructure project for Central Parkway — which, if built, will be the first built in Ohio — is so very cheap to build. As you have so effectively written about on Streetsblog, oftentimes local politicians push for much more expensive projects such as the proposed Medical Corridor freeway in Cleveland and the $600 million Oasis Line commuter rail line here in Cincinnati, and then turn around and oppose much cheaper projects like this one that have so much more value.

    So much for their fiscal prudence. Sometimes cheap — restriping existing streets rather than building expensive new ones — is good. Because these types of restriping projects are cheap, therefore the value of the engineering/construction contracts for those projects are not as great. And, course, this means that the financial payoffs to the contractors, lobbyists and favor-seekers who surround the politicians is not as lucrative as is the case with the big projects.

    Ya’ reckon that might be the reason that so many pols like the expensive, unneeded projects over the more effective, cheap projects? LOL

    I think we know the answer to that questino. Have a great weekend. And thanks!



    I really don’t think fully automated trains are a good idea just yet. What if someone jumps in front?

    … and BART has an operator in every train. What are you talking about?



    There are trains with single operators as well as fully automated trains all over the world, as well as in other cities in the United States. BART, DC Metro, LA Metro, Paris Metro, and so on.



    How many people do you think it takes to run a bus or a train?

    Are you suggesting these things should be run without drivers?

    I think the self-driving Google cars are cool, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they’re ready for prime time just yet…


    Karen Lynn Allen

    Good news! We can lower our nation’s outrageous health care costs (% of GDP and per capita highest in the world) by investing teensy amounts in making walking and biking safer, more convenient, and more pleasant. Many, many studies show that though not sufficient in and of itself, at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day is necessary for rudimentary health.



    1) NYC, DC, and Boston seem too low on the walking/biking rates. This doesn’t include transit trips with walking/biking from origin and/or to destination? Other older, colder cities with transit would also have higher walking rates, and a stronger correlation.
    2) Comments below seem to confirm that there is also a negative correlation between walking/biking+sprawl+hot days.



    More transit employees on vehicles, not more passengers.



    Why would air quality suffer if more people switched from less efficient cars to more efficient public transit?


    Jesse Garboden

    No discounts for drivers! None!


    Jesse Garboden

    People who can’t do something or are not free to do it are 3rd class citizens.


    Jesse Garboden

    Highways can’t be the only transportation option. There needs to be a multi-modular means for all people to get around. So you are saying “all” transit riders are the “n” word! What is the vulgar slang for transit riders? You’re saying we should do your bidding and not have freedom like you? To shop work, play shop as we want? Huh…


    Jesse Garboden

    I say it as it is! Bluntly!


    Lewis Lehe

    this isn’t true in the way you mean it. in moving from an uncongested state with low flow to a congested state with high flow, density rises and speed falls. but slowing cars down more than they would otherwise does not raise traffic flow; it lowers it.

    here’s an analogy. reducing the supply of oil (or whatever else) raises its price, because a higher price reduces demand to the level of supply. but lowering the price of oil–by some price control or a reduction in demand–will not raise the supply of oil back to its original level; it will lower it even further.



    I haven’t heard the phrase cycle tracks before. But you’re right. The trails would have to truly be multipurpose in order to appeal to commuters. Although they could also be used for recreation, they would have to be built w/ commuters in mind. Washington D.C. has a pretty good trail infrastructure that works well for both commuters and recreational riders.
    Denver would also have a nice trail infrastructure with just a few tweaks and more communication w/ the local cycling community.
    In general, we’ve already got a pretty good base of trails in many major metropolitan areas, but most people don’t even know about it. Once people discovered how easy it is to commute by bicycle, I think the trails would get more support & funding.



    I understand that tax rebates for biofuels and EVs is about the only politically viable things that could have some impact on emissions. But from a environmental, health, and quality of life perspective a punitive tax on carbon emissions would be much more effective. People who drive large trucks would pay more than people who drive small cars who in turn pay more than EV owners who in turn pay more more than transit riders. Cyclists and pedestrians would pay the least taxes. (in essence this acts as a tax break for poorer carless households). A benefit is that the Gov wouldn’t support any particular technology but only support results of lower emissions. while punitive taxes are the most unpopular they have been shown to be much more effective at changing behavior that tax rebates. People will try harder to avoid a penalty then they would to receive a benefit.



    Youre all right, they arent controlling for the built form, but thats kind of the point isnt it? The built form can get people to walk and bike, even if its cold out sometimes.



    I disagree with incentives to purchase bikes since most people would likely just use them for recreation. I would rather see a credit to incentive bike commuting, or incentives to use a bike where you might have otherwise used a car.



    I’m not sure more that trails are the answer. Maybe if they were purpose-built cycletracks like in Europe, but they’re often built primarily for recreation here.



    How much of the money spent on roads, actually goes to the roads? Not just a sweetheart deal for contractors to pave 20 miles of road, with 20 mexicans and 2 white guys, for $40 million? Much of the overspending comes from what I like to call “welfare for road workers”. This happens all over the country.

    When I lived in New York the bridge projects were endless. IE: the Tap-N-Zee bridge project was going on for my entire 5 years of residence. They might still be going? The local tv news did an undercover piece on the project. It was blizzarding but 30 guys were still there just walking around. They showed one guy doing an oil change on his vehicle. Two others sitting in the supply box playing cards. One guy sleeping in his car. Numerous people just walking back and forth along the project. They did this all day long. The union salary for the average road construction worker $35 per hour. The goal for these guys is to drag the projects out as long as they can. Shutting down lanes cost’s the taxpayers for that bridge, $100,000 per hour.

    The entire government wastes more money than we will ever know. They spend billions on court cases hiring lawyers, against people that can barely afford lawyers. Ironically the people forced to fight in court pay taxes and still have to pay for lawyers to defend themselves, against the very people that are supposed to be working them.

    I wish we could just start over with our government.



    They might want to control for walkability before they jump to conclusions. Northern cities tend to be much more walkable to begin with so it seems logical that more people walk there.


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    Like it or not, taxes are here to stay. So rather than debating how we are being taxed, let’s discuss the way that tax money is being used. Currently (and I believe this is the point of the article) the money is being used to promote driving, polluting, gas consumption and a sedentary lifestyle.

    So, if we take just 10% of the current transportation funding and allocate it toward trails (bike paths, commuter paths, multi-purpose paths, etc.) instead of roads, we’d kill a whole flock of birds w/ one stone. We’d promote exercise, encourage alternative transportation, decrease pollution, decrease traffic, decrease petroleum consumption, improve bike/pedestrian safety and foster a healthier lifestyle. Trails/paths are much less expensive to build & maintain than roads and promote a much safer and healthier style of transportation.



    Improvement is good, and we can get better. Two of the most important steps we can take to increase bicycle commuting are:

    1. Add more trails. Road riding is okay for the 1% of hardcore bicyclists (immortals), but if we want to encourage the other 99% of folks to commute via bicycle, we’ve got to dramatically improve & increase our trail infrastructure.

    2. We have to encourage rather than discourage electric bicycles. Pedal assist bikes are great for commuting, recreation & exercise. Currently, we’ve got a completely disjointed system of laws regarding electric bikes, especially on paths. Pedal assist bikes, by their nature, are not one bit more dangerous than regular bikes, but much more appealing to commuters who don’t want to wear special biking clothes to work or arrive at work sweaty. Electric bikes allow them to take it easy on the way to work and get their exercise on the way back. Hills are less of a problem also.

    To see an excellent discussion on this issue, visit



    Not sure how DOT benefits my projecting higher VMTs since they are facing problems with the highway trust fund going broke. Not everything is a conspiracy theory.



    Elections are an illusion.

    Income taxes* are serfdom.

    *on wages especially.



    These figures paint a pretty dismal picture for me.

    The mode share distribution approaches the opposite of what would be resource appropriate for the age we’re living in.

    Investing in untenable ways of life is how societies collapse.


    Khal Spencer

    I agree with the writer—seems DOT has a lot of self serving interest in projecting high VMT growth.



    Was the built form of the cities taken into account. There’s been a general movement from the colder northern cities to warmer southern cities over the past 50 years, at the same time that city-building practices have changed to privilege the car versus other modes. So newer cities are going to have less walking and bicycling regardless of climate.


    Dave Raines

    That’s a straw man argument. Five fatal collisions in a year on the way to the same corner market five blocks away is not the same as five fatal collisions commuting 50 miles through Los Angeles twice daily, when the object of exercise is to gauge driving safety. The first says that something is dreadfully wrong with drivers or roads between here and the market. The second is just as tragic to the families, but not indicative of something dreadfully wrong with Los Angeles drivers or roads. Equal per capita, but vastly different per mile driven.


    Matt Denker

    So yeah. This will be interesting, but two big things.

    One, as I’ve been outed as an unabashed Rochester supporter, I think it’s important that I express my disappointment with our Master Bike Plan not being included in the other resources.

    Second, I find it odd that in a 268 page report on Bicyclists and Pedestrians that they manage to not once reference NHTSA’s National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior.