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Today’s Headlines

  • A Divided House Passes $8B Amtrak Funding Bill (The Hill)
  • Bill Could Boost the Northeast and Allow for High-Speed NYC-Boston Train (CBS, Mirror)
  • Ferguson Police Routinely Stopped Black Residents for the Crime of Walking (Grist)
  • Rift in DC Metro Board Delays Search for New Chief (WaPo)
  • What Data Can Reveal About Detroit’s Transit System (Detroit News)
  • Is America’s Urban Comeback Getting Too Much Hype? (The Week)
  • And Does the Renaissance of Cities Have to Push Out the 99 Percent? (HuffPo)
  • What Not to Miss at the National Bike Summit Next Week (Alliance for Biking and Walking)
  • California Cities Lead the Pack in Density and Population Growth (Sac Bee)
  • Plans Evolve for Light Rail to Miami Beach (Miami Today)
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Survey: 100 Million Americans Bike Each Year, But Few Make It a Habit

Many Americans have bikes at their disposal and go for a spin at least once a year, though few bike regularly for transportation, according to a survey [PDF] conducted by Breakaway Research Group for People for Bikes, the industry-backed advocacy organization. While most Americans want to bike more, 54 percent said that fear of getting hit by a car or truck holds them back.

The findings are important because solid information about Americans’ bicycling habits is hard to come by. The Census tracks only bike commuting — and commute trips are a relatively small share of total trips. The more detailed National Household Transportation Survey is conducted infrequently and has its own set of limitations.

The results of the People for Bikes survey echo Census data in some ways and reveal similar attitudes as local surveys (Portland famously found that 60 percent of residents are “interested but concerned” about biking in traffic), but the data is unusually broad and deep, and it includes some surprises.

The responses come from an online survey of 16,000 American adults, which was then weighted to correspond to national demographics. The respondents also answered questions about the biking habits of 9,000 children ages 3 to 18 who live in the same households. The survey controlled for positive response bias by eliminating participants who said they have visited a fictional website.

Here are the big findings.

About 100 million Americans bike each year, but only about 14 million bike at least twice a week

The study found that about 34 percent of Americans over the age of three rode a bike at least once in the last year. For adults over 18, the share was a slightly smaller 29 percent. But of everyone who bikes, less than half ride more than twice a month, and just 14 percent bike at least twice a week.

Slightly more than half the people who bike made only recreational trips. About 15 percent of Americans — or 45 million people — made at least one bicycle trip for transportation in the last year.

The biggest obstacles to riding 

There’s a good deal of interest in biking among Americans, even from people who haven’t logged a trip in the past year. Of everyone surveyed, 53 percent said they would like to ride more often.

Read more…

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Seattle Mayor: “More Choices Means Fewer Cars on Our Streets”

Move Seattle calls for putting almost every resident of Seattle within frequent transit. Image: City of Seattle

Move Seattle calls for expanding frequent transit service to reach more of the city. Image: City of Seattle

On Monday, Mayor Ed Murray unveiled “Move Seattle” — a 10-year vision for transportation that synthesizes planning for street safety, transit, and bicycling.

“More choices means fewer cars on our streets,” Murray said when announcing the plan. “That means, when you do need to drive, you’ll be up against less traffic. And with roads less clogged, freight deliveries can make it to their destination on-time, supporting jobs and growing our economy.”

Streetsblog Network members in the region are giving it pretty rave reviews. Martin Duke at Seattle Transit Blog says the projects in the plan line up very closely with his “wish list” for the city. Seattle Bike Blog‘s Tom Fucoloro says the bike routing isn’t perfect but believes “there’s a lot to like in this plan.” And at The Urbanist, Stephen Fesler is enthusiastic too:

The plan is focused around five central pillars: safety, interconnectedness, vibrancy, affordability, and innovation. The Mayor wants the transportation department (SDOT) to use every tool in their arsenal to deliver comprehensive projects that put the City’s public right-of-ways to their best use. That doesn’t mean that every street will meet every modal need. Instead, in the spirit of Complete Streets, SDOT will look at corridors as whole systems — something the agency has been doing for a long time — to provide for all modes in city projects. Ultimately, the city will rapidly see a change from one primary mode to a wide variety of modes to drive equity and balance needs.

Here are the major 10-year transit goals in the plan, via Seattle Transit Blog:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • House Vote on Amtrak Bill Expected Today, After Bump Back (The Hill)
  • D.C. Faces Continued Logjam of Local Transit Projects (WaPo)
  • Phoenix Voters Will Decide on Tax Hike for Transpo (AZ Central)
  • Highlights of the New “Move Seattle” 1o-Year Plan (Seattle Transit Blog)
  • Boston-Area Transit May Need $6.7B in Upgrades (Boston Globe)
  • California High-Speed Rail Construction Off to an Unglamorous Start (Fresno Bee)
  • Maryland’s Transpo Chief Nominee Moves a Step Forward (WaPo)
  • What Are the Class Dynamics Behind Seattle’s New Income-Based Transit Discounts? (Forbes)
  • The Science Behind Pedestrian Behavior (CityLab)
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Parking Madness 2015: Can Your Parking Crater Compete?

This is the image that made Rochester last year's winner.

Rochester won last year’s Parking Madness bracket with this downtown catastrophe where a real neighborhood once stood.

March is a special month on Streetsblog. It’s the time when the nation’s worst downtown parking scars face off head-to-head for the shame of winning the “golden crater” — and the local publicity bonanza that comes with it. For the third year running, we’re asking you to help seed the bracket in our Parking Madness tournament by sending in photos of the sorriest wastes of urban space you can find.

What makes for a good entry? We’re looking for downtown parking craters — expanses of urban land where there’s no longer space for people, just a sea of car storage — in North American cities. Craters that have already competed in Parking Madness tournaments are ineligible — please check the brackets from 2013 and 2014 before submitting.

To enter, send us a photo of the crater and a link to an aerial map (not just the link, please), as well as a description of why your crater deserves to win. You can submit your entry in the comments or email angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Thanks for participating — looking forward to a new round of spectacular eyesores!

Tulsa, our 2013 winner.

Downtown Tulsa dominated the competition in 2013.

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The Terrible 60-Year-Old Parking Advice That’s Still Haunting America

Views like this aren't an accident, but a product of old sensibilities that have proved highly destructive. Photo: aGuyonClematis via Twitter

Where did we go wrong? Photo: @aGuyonClematis via Twitter

Scenes like the one above — enormous pieces of land devoted to half-empty parking lots — are ubiquitous throughout the United States. And that’s no accident.

Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns was looking over some 1954 guidance from the American Planning Association. Today, most planners would recognize it as terribly destructive, but it still holds sway to a remarkable degree.

Here is Marohn’s take on the 60-year-old advice that made so much of America a car-dependent mess:

It’s clear already by 1954 that planners know more than developers and must righteously defend the public good.

The shopper wants a space he can find easily, with a minimum of difficulty in moving around the parking area, and one that is located near the store or store group in which he is going to shop. The fault is sometimes with the developers who have underestimated the need for parking space or found the land too valuable to be devoted to parking.

Those greedy developers! How terrible of them to think of things like the value of land. It’s so sad that, even then, planners seemed to think that convenient parking and not land values would determine the future prosperity of a place.

Can you have too much parking?

We know of no existing center that has too much parking. Some parking spaces it is true are not economically used, due to their distant location from the stores. The poorly located spaces would be used more frequently if they were more conveniently located.

Most planners I meet today get how messed up our approach to parking is and are working to change it in their cities. Most zoners I meet would read this technical paper and seek to apply its findings in rote form to their community, not realizing (or perhaps not caring even if they did) that it is over 60 years old.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region says Connecticut is uniquely positioned to implement congestion pricing on its highways, if leaders will only consider it. Streets.mn reports that Minneapolis is getting its first “woonerf.” And Peninsula Transportation Alternatives critiques the idea that Palo Alto should cap office development to address its parking and congestion problems.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Free-Range Parents Found Guilty of “Unsubstantiated Child Neglect” (WaPo)
  • Oregon Bill Would Fine Cyclists $250 for Not Wearing Reflective Clothing (Oregonian)
  • Robert Bullard: A “Southern Initiative” on Climate Justice Is Needed (OpEdNews)
  • Huntsville, Alabama, Plans $70 Million Mixed-Use Development, Road Diet (Nanaimo Commons)
  • The Atlantic: $350 Million Might Not Be Enough to Revitalize Las Vegas
  • OpEd: New Orleans’ Streetcar Plans Favor the Affluent (Uptown Messenger)
  • Next City: Austin Development Debate Pits Motorist Convenience Against Affordable Housing
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How the Lure of Spending Keeps Dumb Highway Projects Alive

Decades ago, Ohio officials drew a line on a map — the Eastern Corridor, a highway for commuters living in Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs. No matter how much time has passed and how little sense it makes to build that highway today, that line can still seem like destiny.

An image used by the village of Newton to oppose the Ohio Department of Transportation's $1.4 billion Eastern Corridor highway plan. Image: Village of Newton

This is the message from the village of Newtown about the Ohio Department of Transportation’s $1.4 billion Eastern Corridor highway plan. Image: Village of Newtown

The Eastern Corridor began as a 1960s vision for a highway connecting bedroom communities in mostly rural Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, roughly 17 miles away. There is not much appetite for it: As soon as Ohio DOT dusted off its plans and started laying the groundwork to build this $1.4 billion project in 2011, communities along the corridor revolted.

The project lives on anyway. Last week, it seemed like state legislators were poised to reject the highway, but the thought of turning down a big construction project — no matter how wasteful and unwanted — was too much for some lawmakers to bear. The Eastern Corridor remains a looming possibility, a case study in how highway projects can develop a nearly unstoppable political momentum.

The outcry against the Easter Corridor has been growing since the moment ODOT told the public what it wanted to build. Along almost every section of the planned road, residents, neighborhoods, and whole towns tried to stop the project.

The most fiercely opposed sections involve rerouting State Route 32 through Newtown and Mariemont — two small, relatively affluent inner-ring suburbs. The road would cut through the heart of tiny Newtown, where the leadership is adamantly opposed, saying it will destroy the town’s business center. In Mariemont, it would ruin a park referred to as the South 80.

The Eastern Corridor also calls for a poorly-conceived rail line, expected to cost as much as $600 million and draw as few as 3,000 daily riders. The region’s rail advocates oppose it, calling it a waste of money.

Even farther away suburbs are not exactly thrilled about the highway. Andersen Township Trustee Russell Jackson told the Cincinnati Enquirer that “nobody in the local communities really sees this incredible benefit to building this thing.”

There are pockets of support for the project, including rural Clermont County, but overall, public opinion against the Eastern Corridor appears to be strong enough to sink it. Jason Williams at the Enquirer wondered last week if it was “on life support.”

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Segregation Remains Rampant in America’s Transportation System (Slate)
  • All Eyes on Seattle as Low-Income Transit Riders Get a Break (NYT)
  • Congress Is All Talk on Transpo Funding, But Iowa Acts (Transport Topics)
  • “Devolution” to States Seems More and More Unlikely (Fleet Owner)
  • It’s Been a Bad Winter for East Coast Transit (Salon)
  • Seneca, SC, Debuts World’s First All-Electric City Bus Fleet (USA Today)
  • Park Board Relents in Twin Cities Light Rail Dispute (Minn Post)
  • Honolulu Plans to Build Parking at Four of 20 New Rail Stations (Hawaii News Now)
  • Edinburgh Streets Prove the Value of Lower Speed Limits (Next City)
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Safety in Numbers: Biking Is Safest in Nations With the Most People on Bikes

The more people bike in a country generally the safer it is for cycling. This phenomenon is called "safety in numbers." Graph: International Transport Forum via Amsterdamize

Countries with high cycling rates also have low rates of fatalities per distance biked. Graph: International Transport Forum [PDF] via Amsterdamize

The more people get around by bike, the safer it is, according to the “safety in numbers” rule first popularized by researcher Peter Jacobsen.

This chart from the International Transport Forum [PDF] shows how the safety in numbers effect plays out at the national scale. As you can see, biking is safer in the countries where people bike the most.

There was, however, some variation country to country. The report noted that Korea’s cycling fatality rates were greater than what its biking rates would suggest. Researchers speculated that might be due to a rapid recent growth in cycling. Perhaps, they write, “neither cyclists nor other transport participants have had time to assimilate each other’s presence.”

Meanwhile, in some nations with high cycling rates, biking has become even safer over time. That was the case in Denmark, where cycling rates have been high but fairly stable for the last decade, but fatality rates have dropped 40 percent during the same period.

The safety in numbers effect has been observed at the scale of cities too. Recently, for example, bicycle injury rates in Minneapolis have declined as total ridership has risen. The same trend has played out in New York, as cycling has increased while total injuries and fatalities have not.

Do more people on bikes cause cycling to become safer, or does safer infrastructure attract more people to bike? There’s no conclusive evidence either way, but the answer is probably a mix of both. Safer infrastructure entices more people to ride, and more people riding instill greater awareness on the part of motorists and increase the demand for safer infrastructure.