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The Future of Bike-Share: An Interview with NABSA’s Matt Martin

Matt Martin

Matt Martin

Matt Martin is the Project Manager for the North American Bikeshare Association and the Director of Rosewood Bikes, a nonprofit program bringing bike resources to a poorly served area of Portland, Oregon. Prior to NABSA, Matt led the Community Bike Project Omaha, an Omaha nonprofit focused on transportation equity issues, where he helped bring bike-share to Omaha and served as Omaha B-cycle’s bike-share Managing Director. 

The interview took place over email earlier this month.

Streetsblog L.A.: Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to the North American Bike Share Association?

I got into focusing on transportation policy expanding opportunities for bicycling in 2008, after a career of working in international security issues, as the perspective of my interests turned from global to local. While directing the Community Bike Project Omaha, I teamed together with a local health advocacy organization to create Omaha B-cycle and bring bike-sharing to Omaha. As a result of that, I met more of the national bike-share community. When NABSA reached out to me in 2015, I was happy to come aboard.

What is the North American Bikeshare Association? What do you do?

The North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) exists to further bike-share and to support its members in North America and beyond. We host an annual conference that brings together bike-share system operators, local officials, vendors, and people seeking to learn about bike-sharing to share best practices, learn about new innovations, and gain insights on international trends.

We provide a range of services for our members – including expert webinars; a repository of guides, RFPs, contracts, and other documents; an internal discussion group; and daily support for the immediate questions and issues that can arise when planning or operating a bike-share system.

What is exciting about bike-shake? Explain some examples of the benefits that bike-share cities are seeing.

Whatever your usual way of getting around, bike-share can offer a convenient, green, inexpensive, and healthy option. Bike-share provides an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles and the problems they create for both the user and the city—cost, parking, and congestion. We’ve also seen them act as an alternative to public transit—when trains are offline for maintenance, those users can and do switch to bike-share.

Bike-share is often a “last mile” solution, used as part of a mix with other transportation modes. Users drive or ride transit in from the suburbs and use bike-share to complete their journey from the parking garage or bus stop. Even bicyclists can benefit, as bike-sharing eliminates the concerns over private bike maintenance and theft, when leaving a personal bike locked up outside.

Beyond these direct benefits, cities have enjoyed other urban planning benefits as well. As cities redesign their urban landscapes to encourage bike-share and active transportation, we have seen a virtual explosion of new pedestrian plazas, greenways, and urban renewal that has not only made our cities more efficient, but more beautiful as well.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Engineers to U.S. DOT: Transportation Is About More Than Moving Cars

A trade group representing the transportation engineering profession thinks it’s high time for American policy makers to stop focusing so much on moving single-occupancy vehicles.

Should roads like this be considered a "success?" ITE doesn't think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

Should roads like this be considered a success? ITE doesn’t think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

U.S. DOT is currently deciding how it will assess the performance of state DOTs. Will it continue business as usual and equate success with moving huge numbers of cars? That’s what state transportation officials want, but just about everyone else disagrees — including professional transportation engineers.

In its comments to the Federal Highway Administration about how to measure performance, the Institute of Transportation Engineers — a trade group representing 13,000 professionals — said that, in short, the system should not focus so heavily on cars [PDF].

Here’s a key excerpt:

Throughout the current proposed rulemaking on NHS performance, traffic congestion, freight mobility, and air quality, an underlying theme is apparent: these measures speak largely to the experience of those in single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). While such a focus is understandable in the short-term, owing largely to the current availability of data from the NPMRDS and other national sources, ITE and its membership feel that FHWA should move quickly within the framework of the existing performance management legislation to begin developing performance measures that cater to multimodal transportation systems.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Revisiting the Peak Car Debate

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group.

I’ve never liked the term “peak car.”

First, it was always unclear exactly what was supposed to be peaking – total vehicle travel, per-capita travel, car ownership, or all of the above? Second, like peak oil before it, “peak car” applies a catchy name to a collection of concepts that are important to understand – taking a useful perspective and turning it into a parlor game or prediction contest.

When we addressed the issue of long-term trends in vehicle travel in our 2013 report, A New Direction, we argued that America had reached the end of what we called the “Driving Boom.” We chose our words carefully, and what we meant by them was this: America had experienced a historical period from the end of World War II until sometime in the early 2000s in which an array of big societal forces had aligned to drive consistent, rapid increases in vehicle travel. That historical period, we argued, was over. What was going to come next was uncertain.

But we suspected that, whatever came next, vehicle travel over the long-term was unlikely, under then-foreseeable conditions, to exceed the level of per-capita vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) that prevailed in the peak year of 2004.

Fast forward to 2016, and we now find ourselves at the end of a second year of blistering growth in VMT, even by the standards of the “Driving Boom” era. (A good summary of recent trends is available from Doug Short here.)

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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New Transportation Funding Plan: A Hot Mess, With Some Active Transp $

Senator Jim Beall, new co-chair of the Transportation Infrastructure Conference Committee

Senator Jim Beall, co-chair of the Transportation Infrastructure Conference Committee, at a recent hearing

After several weeks of rumors, legislative leaders of the Special Session on Transportation and Infrastructure have released their proposal for a funding plan that shows how much compromise it can take to get an agreement.

The bill, S.B. X1-1, is co-authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell) and Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), the “two Jims” who head up their separate houses’ special session transportation committees. It contains the gas tax increases that Beall believes are necessary to continue funding transportation, and it applies some funding to the freight corridor improvements that Frazier has made his focus.

It also contains provisions that echo Republican demands for both more independence and more oversight of transportation departments, depending on the department.

Because it’s part of the Special Session, S.B. X1-1 is not subject to the normal legislative deadlines, so although the regular session officially ends on August 31, the bill can keep chugging along until the end of November. However, legislators’ attention will be on their re-election campaigns in the fall, and it’s not clear whether calling them back to a post-election session would be fruitful.

It’s also not clear what kind of support the proposal will find among the rest of the legislators. Because it requires a two-thirds majority to pass, it will need the votes of all the Democrats and at least some Republicans in both the Assembly and the Senate to move forward. Which may be why it’s a very large bill that covers a lot of ground.

Among its $7.4 billion in allocations, it includes an $80 million bump for the oversubscribed and underfunded Active Transportation Program (ATP). This is less than the $100 million proposed in an earlier version of the bill. But the bill also includes a separate allocation of “up to $70 million” for the ATP from “savings achieved through efficiencies implemented” at Caltrans.

What those “savings” and “efficiencies” are, how they are valued, and what would give Caltrans the incentive to make them and report them so they can be allocated to the ATP is unclear.

But if all that funding came through, it could effectively double the size of the ATP. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Assembly Taxicab Bill AB 650 Is A Regulatory Race To the Bottom

Taxis xxx

Will A.B. 650 create a more level playing field for taxis? The city of L.A. doesn’t think so. Photo by Boris Dzhingarov via Wikimedia

It is no secret that taxis and ride-hail companies (Uber, Lyft) are in need of a more even playing field. California’s taxi industry is regulated tightly by local municipalities, generally cities. Ride-hail, also called TNCs (Transportation Network Companies), are regulated relatively laxly by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC). But proposed state legislation that would theoretically put the taxi industry on a more even footing is ruffling some feathers, especially in southern California, where the city of Los Angeles this week voted to formally oppose the legislation.

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) is the author of A.B. 650, called the Taxicab Transportation Services Act. The bill is working its way through the legislative process, currently awaiting approval of the Senate Rules Committee, and expected to be voted on by the Senate soon. If approved by the Senate, the bill will then have to go to the Assembly where it would need to be approved before Wednesday.

A.B. 650 would remove local control of taxis, shifting responsibility to the PUC.

Theoretically the bill would apply to the entire taxi industry statewide, but there is a carve out so it does not apply to San Francisco. San Francisco’s taxis operate on a medallion system, which serves as a sort of retirement benefit, so upending that system could constitute a “taking.” City of L.A. taxis operate under a franchise system, which does not feature a similar retirement benefit for drivers.

One big issue in Los Angeles’ opposition to A.B. 650 is the city’s bottom line. The city currently charges a fee of $30 per month per taxicab, totaling $360 per year. Under A.B. 650, cities’ or counties’ taxi permit fees may not exceed $50 per year per taxicab. L.A. uses the current funding stream to enforce restrictions against taxi’s other competition: “bandit” or unlicensed cabs. Bandit cabs are not subject to consumer protections including approved fare structures and disabled access.

L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds is critical of A.B. 650 because the city would lose the ability of ensuring taxis serve Los Angeles’s transportation, labor, equity, and environmental goals. Reynolds stated,

Local control matters because of what’s coming next–our ability to regulate an increasingly autonomous fleet of rides for hire. For the present, we lose the ability to require lifeline services for people with disabilities, equitable service to every neighborhood in the city, and a green taxi fleet. For the future, we lose the ability to encourage ridesharing through pricing and to prohibit things like empty taxis circling the street. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Portland Wants to Rethink Speed Limits By Factoring in Walkers and Bikers

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weilder Street from 35 to 25. Photo: Google Maps

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weidler Street from 35 to 25 mph. Photo: Google Maps

For cities trying to get a handle on traffic fatalities, dangerous motor vehicle speeds are an enormous problem. Once drivers exceed 20 mph, the chances that someone outside the vehicle will survive a collision plummet.

But even on city streets where many people walk and bike, streets with 35 or 40 mph traffic are common. Cities looking to reduce lethal vehicle speeds face a number of obstacles — including restrictions on how they can set speed limits.

State statutes usually limit how cities set speed limits. In Boston, for example, the City Councilhas voted numerous times to reduce the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, but state law won’t allow it.

Now Portland is taking on this problem. A pilot program expected to be approved by the Oregon Department of Transportation proposes a new way to evaluate what speeds are appropriate for urban areas.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Assembly Passes Bills to Extend Greenhouse Gas Targets to 2030

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.

Today, the California Assembly passed A.B. 197, the companion bill to the Senate’s greenhouse gas reduction target bill, S.B. 32, which it passed yesterday. A.B. 197 will now go the Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law, and he has said he is eager to do so. S.B. 32, which extends greenhouse gas reduction targets out until 2030, will go back to the Senate for a vote on Assembly amendments, perhaps as early as this afternoon before it too goes to the governor.

Proponents hail the passage of the bill as a historic moment, continuing and expanding California’s precedent-setting climate change efforts. Senator Fran Pavley’s S.B. 32 extends her original 2006 bill, A.B. 32, which called for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The new bill sets new targets of 40 percent below those 1990 levels by 2030.

S.B. 32 leaves it up to the California Air Resources Board to adopt rules and regulations “in an open public process” to “achieve the maximum, technologically feasible, and cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

The passage of S.B. 32, which did not look like a sure thing a year ago, was surely helped by being connected to its companion bill, A.B. 197 from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). That bill gives the legislature oversight stronger oversight over the Air Resources Board, something that critics of A.B. 32 and its resulting rules about cap and trade have complained is needed.

Oversight is provided through the addition of two members of the legislature to the Board as well as by creating a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, to include at least three Senators and three Assemblymembers. The bill also requires the ARB to make its emissions data available to the public, and to report on each method and alternative methods it considers for reducing greenhouse gases.

Garcia, presenting his bill to the Assembly today, addressed charges that the two bills do not “go far enough.” But “doing nothing keeps us in the same position, with our hands tied behind our back, continuing to complain about ARB being out of control and losing our ability as a legislature to do anything about climate change,” he said. “I feel confident about the oversight this will bring.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Legislative Update: Climate Change, Cap and Trade, Fare Evasion

bikeatCapitollabel2GREENHOUSE GAS TARGETS

The Senate’s signature climate change bill, S.B. 32, cleared a hurdle this morning when it was approved by the Assembly on a vote of 42 to 29.  The bill sets targets for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, when the current Global Warming Solutions Act will expire.

S.B. 32 will go back to the Senate for another vote on amendments before it goes to Governor Jerry Brown to sign. Brown says he is looking forward to signing both S.B. 32 and its sister bill, A.B. 197, which is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate.

“Yesterday, big oil bought a full-page ad in the capital city’s newspaper of record to halt action on climate,” wrote Brown in a statement. “Today, the Assembly Speaker, most Democrats and one brave Republican passed S.B. 32, rejecting the brazen deception of the oil lobby and their Trump-inspired allies who deny science and fight every reasonable effort to curb global warming.”

Both S.B. 32 and A.B. 197 must be approved for either one to pass. While S.B. 32 sets targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, A.B. 197 creates more oversight and requirements for the Air Resources Board, the agency in charge of defining and regulating emission reduction methods. Attention is now shifting to the second bill as the legislative session winds down, and tense negotiations continue behind closed doors.

CAP AND TRADE

Also today, the Air Resources Board released the results of the most recent cap-and-trade auction. While the amount of money brought in was bad news for people who had hoped the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund would continue growing and supporting emission reduction programs, there were indications that the program is working as it should. More outside entities participated in the auction than have in the past, showing that there is some expectation that allowances will have resale value. Compliance with the cap on emissions remains high, as regulated entities continue to lower their emissions over time. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Stress of Navigating Unwalkable Bus Stops With a Wheelchair

manchester.metrobus03

How is a person who uses a wheelchair supposed to access this bus stop? Photo: Urban Review STL

Pedestrian access to transit is important. A recent study by TransitCenter found that people who use transit most often tend to walk to the bus or train. But as our “Sorriest Bus Stop in America” contest highlighted, there are some very serious challenges on this front in American cities.

The problem of lousy walking access to transit is compounded for riders with disabilities. In a recent post, Steve Patterson at Network blog Urban Review STL offers a personal account of the obstacles he faces navigating the bus system in St. Louis using a power wheelchair:

Part of the implied contract when taking a bus to a destination is when you’re dropped off at your stop, you’ll be able to get to the corresponding stop in the opposite direction for the return trip. Seems simple enough, right? But in many parts of the St. Louis region being able to reach a bus stop in the opposite direction is impossible if you’re disabled. I don’t go looking for them, I run across them just going about my life.

Patterson recently took the bus down Manchester Avenue to a shopping center, only to find himself nearly stranded, trying to reach the stop shown in the above photo. Two and a half decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted, these are the conditions for transit riders using wheelchairs in St. Louis:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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When Cities Force Developers to Widen Roads, Everyone Loses

vermont_wilshire

At L.A.’s Vermont-Wilshire Towers, the city made the developer cede land and pay for 6,000 square feet of road widening. Photo: Google Maps

It’s a common practice for cities to make developers widen a street when they put up a new building. The thinking is that development creates car trips that must be accommodated with more asphalt.

But new research suggests these policies don’t help anyone. The main effect is to increase the cost of building, making housing less affordable.

“As traffic management exercises, many widenings appear unnecessary,” concludes UCLA researcher Michael Manville in a paper published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use [PDF].

Manville looked at how this policy is carried out in Los Angeles. In L.A., all multifamily housing projects (and some other types of construction) are assessed by city traffic engineers to determine whether the developer should widen nearby streets. This is like “blaming Disneyland for increased air travel, and forcing the theme park to expand runways whenever it adds attractions,” he argues.

Manville spoke to developers compelled by the city to pay for various road widenings. The costs varied. In one case, the street widening added an estimated $11,000 to the cost per unit of a multifamily housing development. In another case the figure was $50,000. In another, just $65 per unit. Where the costs of street widenings are substantial, the policy drives up costs for renters and buyers.

Read more…