Skip to content

Posts from the Streetsblog.net Category

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Scott Walker’s Bid to Strip Street Safety From Wisconsin Road Projects

Scott Walker is putting the kibosh on complete streets in Wisconsin. Photo: Wikimedia

Scott Walker is putting the kibosh on complete streets in Wisconsin. Photo: Wikimedia

There’s really no argument: GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker has been an absolute disaster for transportation progress in Wisconsin. As governor, he’s slashed funding for transit, isolating urban workers in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, he’s increased funding for all sorts of wasteful highway projects, like the billion-dollar widening of I-94 in Milwaukee, pilfering funds for local roads in the process.

Now, writes James Rowen at the Political Environment, Walker’s budget would strip out Wisconsin’s complete streets provision, which requires sidewalks and bike lanes on road projects that use state or federal funds, where feasible. Rowen explains:

Current law already exempts the inclusion or sidewalks or paved shoulders for biking if the cost were prohibitive; Walker’s budget eliminates the requirement altogether, and since people will still bike or walk – – either by choice or necessity – – our roads will instantly become less safe and certainly less attractive for tourists.

Remember — not everyone owns a car, or uses it on every trip, or is a legally-licensed driver.

And also remember Walker is routinely hostile to transit.

Under Walker-the-Harley showboat, and Walker-the-chauffered-around politician, concrete is only for driving lanes, transportation means autos-only and more and more people are left out of public service provision with their own tax dollars.

Keep in mind that Walker is currently polling second in the Republican presidential primary race.

Elsewhere on the Network today: ATL Urbanist explains how bad urban design deadens a new public space. Rust Wire reports that Michiganders are really responding to recent investments in the state’s intercity rail system. And City Notes discusses Chicago’s less-than-ideal options for rail transit expansion.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Connecticut’s New BRT Line Smashes Ridership Expectations

March 30 marked the launch of CTfastrak, the 10-mile busway running between Hartford and New Britain that has all the ingredients of real bus rapid transit: exclusive lanes, off-board fare collection, level boarding, and multiple routes using the BRT infrastructure.

Medium called Connecticut's CTfastrak the longest and best implemented bus rapid transit system in the U.S. Chart: Medium

Connecticut’s CTfastrak has all the ingredients of high-quality BRT. Chart: TransitApp

Five weeks later, the line is living up to the hype. Students from the Central Connecticut State University are jamming the buses, the Hartford Courant reports, lifting ridership well above expectations. Joseph Cutrufo at Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog has more:

CTfastrak saw an average of 10,344 daily riders during its first week of service in April. Since then, ridership has grown to a point where it is averaging about 14,000 rides per day. Roughly half of those rides are on routes that operate solely on the Hartford-to-New Britain busway, while the other half are on routes that include, but extend beyond, the busway. According to Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker, ConnDOT had projected a minimum of 11,200 daily rides during first year of service.

One segment of the population that has helped boost ridership beyond projected figures is the students at Central Connecticut State University, who use CTfastrak to get between campus and the nightlife in downtown Hartford.

Although CTfastrak won’t see many students riding this summer, there’s reason to suspect ridership to continue to increase in the next few months — studies have shown that transit use tends to rise with the temperature — and in the coming years as transit-oriented development projects proliferate around station areas.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transportation for America reports that as the clock ticks down on the Highway Trust Fund, Congress hasn’t made much progress on a long-term transportation bill or a short-term extension. Biking Toronto shares some bad news — post-Rob Ford Toronto is still removing bike lanes. And Seattle Transit Blog explains why that city’s parking reform measures are exactly what’s needed.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

The Real Danger to Children Is Cars, Not Strangers

Elementary schools in unwalkable locations goes to show how low a priority place on children's mobility and safety. Image: Streets.mn via Google Maps

Elementary schools in unwalkable locations constrain children’s freedom to walk on their own. Image: Streets.mn via Google Maps

Free-range parenting is having a moment in the national media, after neighbors in Silver Spring, Maryland, called the police to report that two children of the Meitiv family were frequently seen — gasp! — walking home from the park. Whether children need to be supervised all the time or should have the freedom to navigate their community is a surprisingly polarizing topic.

The case for letting kids roam is often framed by putting “stranger danger” in perspective — abductions and the like are are extremely rare. But even if parents aren’t susceptible to irrational fears, writes Julie Kosbab at Streets.mn, they’re faced with the very real threat that children will be hit by drivers. The blame for limiting children’s freedom lies mostly with the way we’ve designed cities and towns, she says:

 Here are some hard facts:

  • Child kidnapping: In 1999 — the most recent year for which I can find coherent statistics – the number of children kidnapped in stereotypical “stranger danger” situations totaled 115, of a population of over 50 million US children. Most kids on milk boxes are the victims of parental abductions. Hell, kids are more likely to be killed by a parent than kidnapped by a stranger, per 3 decades of FBI data.
  • Child pedestrian deaths: In 1999, 449 children under age 13 were killed in pedestrian or bicycle deaths, per the IIHS. In 2013, that number was 207, of a total population of 52,723,720 children in that age group.
  • Child motor vehicle deaths: In 2013, 2,136 children under age 15 died in automobile crashes. Per the NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old, killing 6 children every day.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Abandoning Maryland’s Purple and Red Lines Would Cost a Lot

Since his election in November, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been threatening to kill two major transit projects that are nearly ready to begin construction. Both the Purple Line and the Red Line are among the most significant transit expansions in the country right now.

Cranes rise over the new Reston station on Virginia's newly opened Silver Line, as they do over almost every stop. Photo: Angie Schmitt

Cranes rise over the new Reston station on Virginia’s newly opened Silver Line. Photo: Angie Schmitt

The Purple Line would extend D.C.’s Metro rail service into Montgomery County, likely reshaping development to a major extent, as has been the case near the recently-opened Silver Line in Virginia. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s Red Line represents a major expansion of that city’s transit system and has been carefully planned to benefit some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where atrocious social inequality has been thrown into sharp relief by the police killing of Freddie Gray and the protests that followed.

A new report by Transportation for America lays out what’s at stake here, and the organization shared its findings in a blog post yesterday. While Hogan has couched his objections in concerns about the pricetag of these projects, T4A points out that abandoning them would be a far costlier decision:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

A Fix for Parking Craters Gains Momentum in Providence

Like many American cities, Providence has a downtown parking crater problem. About 70 acres of prime land in the central business district is occupied by surface parking.

Surface parking lots are a plague on downtown Providence. Image: Greater City Providence

Surface parking lots are a plague on downtown Providence. Image: Greater City Providence

James Kennedy, a local advocate who blogs at Transport Providence, is on a mission to fix the problem. Inspired by a similar policy in Pittsburgh, he wants the city to tax surface parking lots and use the revenue to reward the owners of walkable urban buildings.

Kennedy’s idea is starting to gain notice, with Mayor Jorge Elorza recently weighing in. Elorza is hesitant to support the idea, but Kennedy thinks he can be won over.

Here’s how Kennedy makes his case:

The 40% tax set by Pittsburgh — the highest in the country, although theirs was at one time set at 50% — collects more revenue for the city of Pittsburgh than the income tax in that city. Providence should do the same, but give all the money directly into lower property taxes on actual buildings. You may resent paying high parking rates, but if your taxes are cheap on a beautiful, centrally-located building, guess what? You’ll adjust. Buildings will be taken care of better and new buildings added because of the corrective force on land prices.

It’s not just that you’re taking away the competitiveness of parking, which sounds anti-market. What’s actually happening is that parking is competitive for government-created reasons, and you’re putting the land parcels back into a natural market such as would exist in any gradually developing city.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Will Midwest Governors Drain the Great Lakes to Foster Sprawl?

A story with major implications for development patterns in the U.S. is playing out right now in greater Milwaukee.

A sprawling suburb just a few miles from shore is the first community to seek an exemption from the Great Lakes Compact. Photo: Purple Slog via Flickr

A sprawling suburb just a few miles from shore is the first community to seek an exemption from the Great Lakes Compact. Photo: Purple Slog via Flickr

The growing suburb of Waukesha has devastated its once-famous water resources through unchecked sprawl and poor planning. Now, despite being located in one of the most water-rich parts of the United States, Waukesha is running dry.

So Waukesha is trying to set a terrible precedent in water politics: It’s applying to receive the first exemption to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, a multi-state agreement that forbid the draining of the Great Lakes. This legally-binding compact was mainly fueled by concerns about water-starved regions far to the south, in the Sun Belt, pleading for resources. But Waukesha has proven that even towns just a few dozen miles from the world’s greatest body of fresh water can beggar themselves.

James Rowen at the Political Environment reports that after years of political tussling with its neighbors, Waukesha has completed its application for Great Lakes water, and now the approval process is moving forward:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Bipartisan Bill Proposes National Complete Streets Policy

California Democrat Doris Matsui and Ohio Republican David Joyce are co-sponsors of the Safe Streets Act of 2015. Image: Smart Growth America

California Democrat Doris Matsui and Ohio Republican David Joyce are co-sponsors of the Safe Streets Act of 2015. Image: Smart Growth America

Streets that safely accommodate everyone, from motorists to cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users — complete streets — have become policy for many American communities, having been implemented in more than 700 local jurisdictions and states around the country. A new bill in Washington attempts, again, to make complete streets the federal standard as well.

Maybe the time has come. Jeri Mintzer at Smart Growth America explains:

Late yesterday, Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2015 (HR 2071), a bill which would require all new federally-funded transportation projects to use a Complete Streets approach to planning, designing, and building roads.

Joining them is an impressive bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors, including Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), David Valadao (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Israel (D-NY), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Dina Titus (D-NV), John Lewis (D-GA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Smart Growth America urges readers who don’t see their representative on that list to take action:

In the coming weeks Congress will debate this and several other transportation issues as the May 31 deadline for new transportation funding draws near. Your representative needs to hear from you that this is an issue you care about and support.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn says trail users shouldn’t be forced to stop at every intersection on some of Minneapolis’s most widely ridden commuter cycling routes. ATL Urbanist wonders what it would take to really make a dent in the share of American commuters who drive to work. And Transportation for America details the extent of Minnesota’s deficient bridge problem.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Will Private Transit Startups Help or Hurt Public Transit?

The rise of private transit operators like Bridj, Leap, and Uberpool has raised questions about equity in places including the Bay Area, where such services are fast replicating. A related issue is the impact they will have on traditional public transit systems.

Private transit vehicles have been described as “like a lounge on wheels,” with amenities like leather seats, refreshments, and Wi-Fi for those who are willing and able to pay.

Will private transit startups help or hurt public transit? Photo: Bridj

To be a force for good in cities, private transit startups must play by the same rules as public transit, says Jarrett Walker. Photo: Bridj

Jarrett Walker, a transit consultant who blogs at Human Transit, says he thinks the ultimate impact — good or bad — depends on a few factors.

If microtransit co-ordinates with conventional big-vehicle transit, we get (a) lower overall Vehicle Miles Traveled, emissions, and congestion, and (b) stronger cases for transit-oriented land use and thus (c) better, more humane and inclusive cities. If they compete with it, drawing away customers from big vehicles into smaller ones, we get the opposite.

If it turns out to be a fight, the playing field would have to be leveled in terms of the overwhelming public sector cost drivers such as workforce compensation and Federal regulatory burden before we have a fair fight.  (And I mean leveled upward, toward fair wages and policies that respect the civil rights agenda encoded in Federal transit regulations.)

If it were a fair fight, high-volume urban transit (not just rapid transit but also high-volume frequent local bus lines) would continue to prevail where it’s the best use of both labor and scarce urban space. My fear is that it’s going to be an unfair fight, one that’s only made worse when the media frame it as ‘little enterprising’ upstarts vs ‘big, old’ agencies. In such an unfair fight, the upstarts can too easily win through means that are destructive to justice and the environment (low wage “contractors”, replacing space-efficient big vehicles with smaller ones) rather than through finding the most efficient equilibrium for all the transport needs of a city.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Wash Cycle pushes back against the notion that rides per bike is the best way to measure the success of bike-share systems. Bike Walk Lee reports that while no one is paying attention, southwest Florida is making big strides on sustainable transportation. And Streets.mn critiques Minnesota’s habit of removing crosswalks.

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

House Bill Proposes to Slash TIGER Funding

Federal lawmakers are running out of time to come up with a long-term transportation funding solution by May 31, when the current bill expires. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee has released a budget for FY 2016, which begins in October, that proposes to drastically reduce funds for projects that promote walking and biking.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one of hundreds funded by TIGER. Image: Visit Indy

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one of hundreds funded by TIGER. Image: Visit Indy

The budget proposal calls for keeping transit and highway funding about the same as this year. It also calls for big cuts to the enormously popular TIGER program, which has helped fund projects like Tampa’s Riverwalk and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

The proposal would cut TIGER funding from $500 million to $100 million. The bill calls for reducing the size of individual grants from a minimum of $10 million to $2 million, and from a maximum of $200 million to $15 million. The bill would also increase the required local match from 40 to 50 percent.

Fortunately, this proposal will have to be hammered out with the Senate, which is likely to be more friendly to TIGER, says Transportation for America’s David Goldberg.

“We know that there’s pretty solid support for TIGER in the Senate,” Goldberg said. “We expect their number to be higher … but we’ll see if we can get it up to what it was this year.”

On the bright side, Goldberg said, this year’s appropriations bill doesn’t call for limiting TIGER funding to road, bridge, and port projects, like early proposals did last year.

The appropriations bill also proposes cuts to the New Starts program, which provides federal funds for major new transit projects. Under the House proposal, New Starts would receive $200 million less in total funding, for a total of $1.92 billion. All projects that already have a full funding agreement with the federal government would receive their money. The bill would leave an additional $250 million for other projects.

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

NACTO: If You Want Bike-Share to Succeed, Put Stations Close Together

There's a strong correlation between bike share station density and how many people use the system. Image: NACTO

There’s a strong correlation between how closely spaced bike-share stations are and how frequently they are used. Image: NACTO

A new study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF] adds credence to the theory that station density is a key factor in whether a bike-share system will flourish or flop.

More stations per mile, more ridership per bike. Chart: NACTO

More stations per mile, more ridership per bike. Chart: NACTO

In its analysis of bike-share systems across the U.S., NACTO found that stations that are close to other stations see more use. In addition, bike-share systems with higher overall density — New York and Paris are leaders — tend to have higher ridership than more dispersed systems like Minneapolis’s Nice Ride.

Riders from systems around the U.S. report the primary reason they use bike-share is because it is easier or more convenient than available alternatives. But users don’t want to have to travel a long distance searching for a place to pick up or return a bike. So the accessibility of bike stations — and, crucially, accessibility by walking — is a primary determinant of their usefulness.

“Research on transit users finds that most people will walk no more than a 1/2 mile to get to commuter rail, with a large drop-off beyond a 1/4 mile,” the report says. “The distance someone will walk to use a bike appears to be much smaller — about 1,000 feet or 5 minutes walking.”

Furthermore, placing stations close together across a contiguous area offers “exponentially” more destinations than those that are isolated.

Read more…