The 2017 Streetsies: Best and Worst of the Year

Toronto resident Dave Meslin and his neighbors used chalk and leaves to show how a local intersection would be right-sized. Photo:  Dave Meslin/Twitter
Toronto resident Dave Meslin and his neighbors used chalk and leaves to show how a local intersection would be right-sized. Photo: Dave Meslin/Twitter

We asked. You voted. Enjoy the Streetsie Awards for the best and worst of 2017.

Biggest Villains

Elon Musk

Photo: JD Lasica/Flickr/CC
Photo: JD Lasica/Flickr/CC
Musk’s brilliant congestion cure is to build tunnels for what he calls car “skates” and, supposedly, high-speed HyperLoop pods that will shoot around at lighting speed.

Did we mention that he thinks transit “sucks” because you have to share space with strangers? And that when he got called out by transit expert Jarrett Walker for promoting unworkable transportation solutions for cities, Musk had no response other than calling Walker an “idiot“? Meanwhile, Tesla can’t even manage the parking problems at its own headquarters.

Can we stop pretending this guy is going to solve all our problems?

GOP state lawmakers who wanted to go soft on vehicular assault against protesters

When neo-Nazi Alex Fields, Jr. rammed a crowd of anti-racism activists in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer, he wasn’t acting in isolation. The idea of ramming into protesters with a car had become a violent fantasy among a certain cohort, egged on by state lawmakers around the country who introduced bills that would essentially make it legal.

Pat Fallon in Texas, George Gainer in Florida, Justin Burr in North Carolina, and several other state legislators had drafted bills offering legal protections to people who hit protesters with a car. After Heyer was killed, they whined that they weren’t getting a fair shake in the press — their bills wouldn’t have applied to Fields, they said, because he acted with murderous intent. But we can only guess what would have happened if they hadn’t played into the violent fantasies of people like Fields in the first place.

Donald Trump

Too obvious? Maybe, but it’s worth revisiting a few of the ways Trump has been awful for transit and city transportation systems.

Despite endless hype about Trump’s infrastructure plan, his actual budget called for slashing transit funds. Meanwhile, his apparatchiks have been trying to snuff out climate progress at U.S. DOT. And the Trumpnik war against science and facts was terrible news for the data collection that transportation researchers and planners depend on.

Biggest Boondoggle: Shreveport’s I-49 Connector

Shreveport’s plan to bulldoze part of a black neighborhood to build a $700 million highway spur is really a testament to magical thinking. Some city leaders have been convinced by slick consultants that the highway, which will only carry 3,600 vehicles a day, will somehow save the local economy.

This retrograde plan was the runaway favorite for 2017’s biggest boondoggle, besting Kentucky and Indiana’s $1 billion highway bridge over the Ohio River.

Best Tactical Urbanism Demonstration: Toronto’s “Leafy Neckdown”

Toronto’s “leafy neckdown,” created by Dave Meslin, used leaves and chalk to illustrate all the extraneous asphalt at this intersection. The neckdown went viral in Toronto and beyond, showing how easy it can be to reimagine a street for pedestrian safety.

This project bested plunger-protected bike lanes, people-protected bike lanes, and Boston’s orange-cone bus lane in our reader’s choice poll.

Best Traffic Reduction Policy: Columbus’s Free Bus Passes

Downtown workers in Columbus may be able to ride the bus for free starting next year. Photo: Sam Howzit/Flickr
Downtown workers in Columbus may be able to ride the bus for free starting next year. Photo: Sam Howzit/Flickr

When downtown Columbus ran out of parking spaces, business leaders decided they didn’t want the city to subsidize the construction of a parking garage. Instead they embarked on an experiment in transportation demand management by offering some downtown workers free bus passes in a pilot program.

This year, encouraged by the early results, Columbus went bigger. Now all downtown workers are eligible for free bus passes. Still to be revealed is the size of the impact on ridership.

Columbus beat out Hartford and Buffalo, which eliminated minimum parking requirements, and Pittsburgh, which began offering free bike-share to everyone who purchased a transit pass, for this honor.

  • lindsaybanks

    This must be a typo…maybe “bus” instead of “parking”?
    “This year, encouraged by the early results, Columbus went bigger. Now all downtown workers are eligible for free parking passes.”

  • Thanks! Boy, Freudian.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    More slanted fluff from SB that ignores context. You take one piece of Musk’s comments on transit when in fact most people share his opinion. His main assertion is that public transit is generally inconvenient. His actual comment was “I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time.” I hear it from transit users all the time; it takes two hours to make a trip that can be made by car in 20 minutes, if the bus is even running when you need it.

    Certainly you can take issue with him not championing improving transit, but in most cities, that is an accurate summation. You also ignore that Tesla started paying employees to bike to work. I’m no Musk fanboy, but your obsession with him cast as villain is wearing thin.

    As for the laws that allow people to use their cars to ram or kill protesters; reading is fundamental. I haven’t read all of them, but most aim to allow someone to exercise due care to get through or out of a protest that has illegally blocked the streets. We had a BLM protest here that shut down the interstate. There were families with kids that were terrified, not knowing whether the protesters were going to take things farther. It created chaos, blocked access to a hospital trauma center, and was illegal and dangerous for protesters and motorists. Other protests have devolved into violence with people attacking cars. The laws specifically don’t protect anyone that acts with malice or intent to harm. If someone had to get to the hospital and slowly pressed through the protesters because of an emergency (or because they themselves are a doctor), and someone got hurt due to the protesters actions it would absolve the driver. But I guess if SJWs are involved then they get to rule the day, even if acting illegally.

  • neroden

    Well, so you support murdering pedestrians by shoving multi-ton blocks of steel at them. We know what sort of person you are.

    In real cities, people know enough to get out of their cars and walk. In an emergency, creating more trauma victims by running them over is *never* correct.


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