chris.hamby + transportation   51

Long Review of Bayonne Bridge Project Is Assailed -
“Environmental review has evolved into an academic exercise like a game of who can find the most complications,” said Philip K. Howard, a lawyer who cites the Bayonne Bridge in his forthcoming book, “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government.” “The Balkanization of authority among different agencies and levels of government creates a dynamic of buck-passing.”
nyc  thesis  environmental  review  planning  transportation  government  regulation 
january 2014 by Chris.Hamby
NYSAMPO | New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
The New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NYSAMPOs) is a coalition of the thirteen MPOs in New York State, which have committed to work together toward common goals. We are a diverse group of organizations, representing very large, urban areas like New York City as well as small, urban areas like Elmira. Nevertheless, we have common interests and believe that working together on planning and research initiatives can help our organizations provide high quality transportation planning expertise to the public throughout the State.
thesis  planning  transportation  newyork  dot 
september 2012 by Chris.Hamby
Pedro Ortiz Online
Pedro Ortiz is currently a Senior Urban Planner at the World Bank, Washington DC. Previously, he was Deputy Director of the Council of Architects of Madrid and Director of the Institute for Urban Renewal, a joint venture between the public and private sectors in Madrid.
development  transportation  infrastructure  architecture  thesis  world  bank  planning  from delicious
march 2012 by Chris.Hamby
Floating Utopias -- In These Times
The degraded imagination of the libertarian seasteaders<br />
By China Mieville
architecture  politics  cities  transportation  from delicious
august 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Grid Chicago
Grid Chicago is a new blog by John Greenfield and Steven Vance about sustainable transportation in Chicago and Illinois. We'll write about issues and culture.
chicago  transportation  sustainability  from delicious
june 2011 by Chris.Hamby | Memorabilia and Collectibles
In addition to Transit's regular monthly sales offerings, we are pleased to announce a sales program designed for buyers interested in acquiring a bit of NYC Transit's History.
nyc  history  transportation  from delicious
june 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Bruised Feelings and Skinned Knees Litter Suburban Sidewalk Politics -
ELMHURST, Ill.—Halfway down Gladys Avenue in this Chicago suburb is where the sidewalk ends...
transportation  streets  elmhurst  from delicious
march 2011 by Chris.Hamby
George Will Makes The Case For Heavy Automobile Subsidies
(cc photo by richardmasoner)

Sarah Goodyear marvels over George Will’s allegation that high speed rail is actually a mind control plot:

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Taken logically, this doesn’t make very much sense. Intercity passenger rail is primarily an alternative to airplanes, and to intercity buses not to cars. If Amtrak disappeared tomorrow, people still wouldn’t want to drive from Boston to Manhattan and end up paying through the nose for parking.

But I do think this is a good look into the psychology of conservatives. Maybe high-speed rail is a waste of money and maybe it isn’t. I think it’s plausible to say we should just spend the cash on better regular mass transit or whatever. But I’ve long struggled to explain the right-wing’s affection for status quo American policies that amount to massive subsidization of the automobile. A small slice of that is spending on roads. A much larger amount is minimum lot size rules, parking mandates, the whole shebang. It’s a bit odd, and my instinct had been to say that this just goes to show that conservatism has nothing to do with free markets and everything to do with the identity politics of middle aged white suburban conformists. But Will offers another explanation here. Automobile use is not a sign of the free market, but an actual cause of it. Driving inculcates habits of freedom, and thus coercive pro-car regulations are, in a way, freedom-promoting.
transportation  from google
march 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Parking As Externality
(cc photo by markjms)

Kevin Drum stands up for minimum parking regulations:

Requirements in cities and suburbs vary, but here in the burbs the general idea behind parking regulations is to make businesses pay for their own externalities instead of fobbing them off on other people. If I provide parking for my customers, and someone opens up next door and decides not to bother, then his customers will take up all my spots. If neither one of us provides enough parking because there’s a neighborhood nearby, then our customers will take up street parking that owners of existing houses have paid for and are accustomed to using. In both cases, there are people who would like to regulate parking in order to make life more convenient and prevent free riding.

I don’t genuinely care if suburbs want to have mandated minimum parking since I don’t think it’s a big deal in that case, but I think this is an abuse of the concept of an “externality.”

Suppose Kevin buys some land. Then he decides to allocate some of the land to his store, and some of the land to a large parking lot next to his store. Now Kevin owns two things of value, he owns a store and he owns a large parking lot. Then suppose I buy the land next to Kevin’s lot and I choose to allocate the vast majority of the land to my own store, and only provide a tiny amount of parking. Now like Kevin, I also own two things of value—I own a store and I own a small parking lot. Now further suppose that my store is incredibly popular, and so many people want to park there that tons of my customers want to park in Kevin’s lot. Is this really a “negative externality” that I’ve imposed on him? It doesn’t seem that way to me. I’ve increased demand for space in Kevin’s parking lot and Kevin, as the owner of the parking lot, is well-positioned to capture 100 percent of the value of that increased demand for space. More generally, if you imagine whole towns or counties without parking mandates what you would expect is that many entrepreneurs would operate parking lots and parking garages for profit taking advantage of the demand for parking being created by other people’s business activities.

What regulations are achieving isn’t really to “internalize” an “externality” it’s to make parking free. But in places where land is expensive (not just cities, but also many suburbs and small town downtowns), regulations that mandate free parking are mandating a very economically and ecologically inefficient use of precious space.
transportation  from google
january 2011 by Chris.Hamby
Mapnificent New York - Dynamic Public Transport Travel Time Maps for New York
how far you can go based on the amount of time you specify, works for other cities as well
nyc  mapping  gis  transportation 
november 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Coercing People Out of Their Cars | The Weekly Standard
The road to hell is paved with bike paths.

-- just a lovely piece from Fred Barnes
cycling  politics  planning  transportation 
november 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Architizer – Empowering Architecture – Blog » Blog Archive » Bicycle City
Following up on last week’s incredible story of a pedestrian and cycling community based on Zermatt, Switzerland (but located in South Carolina!), we’ve gotten the inside scoop on the appropriately named Bicycle City.
architecture  planning  cycling  sustainability  transportation 
august 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Wired 12.12: Roads Gone Wild
No street signs. No crosswalks. No accidents. Surprise: Making driving seem more dangerous could make it safer.
traffic  design  planning  psychology  urban  cars  transportation  architecture  article  roads  driving 
august 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Help Stop Metra From Destroying Part of Chicago’s Transit Infrastructure
“Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” – United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (Bruntland Commission)

I am going to make a rare foray into direct advocacy because of something very important to Chicago’s transit future. Others may also be interested as some element are not uncommon.

As incredible as it sounds, Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail agency, is planning to spend part the region’s precious transit capital funds for the benefit of road users – and do it in a way that permanently destroys a piece of Chicago’s transit infrastructure. If this sounds as crazy to you as it does to me, read on.

If you are in the Chicagoland area I’m asking for your help. Please read at least the first part of this post, then write to Metra using the links I’ve supplied and tell them to stop and re-evaluate this project. Then spread the word to all your friends to do the same.

The project in question is on the Union Pacific North Line. Metra is undertaking a project to replace 22 bridges and rebuild the Ravenswood station at a cost of $185 million and a timeline of eight years (?!). The bridges are 100 years old and there’s no question they need replacement. However, as part of this project, Metra is using transit dollars to raise the grade of the railroad to increase vertical clearance on the streets below it, and permanently destroying fully one third of the transit right of way in the process.

The UP-North line runs on an elevated embankment through the city. The bridges along the route do not meet current standards for vertical clearance. Here’s an example of a 13′ bridge on Belmont Ave that is among the lowest clearances on a major street.

This isn’t ideal, but isn’t terrible either. Virtually all trucks can navigate even Belmont Ave. without issue, though a couple times a year a truck does get stuck there. I don’t philosophically object to raising the grade, but doing so dramatically increases the cost and complexity of the project. Metra is paying for that exclusively out of transit capital funds. One hundred percent of the value of raising the rail grade is for trucks. It has nothing at all to do with transit. Yet trucking and road funds aren’t even chipping in one cent.

I’m all in favor of an integrated transportation system without all these funding stovepipes but this is ridiculous. It should be a fundamental principle of planning that transit dollars should be for transit, and that transit projects undertaken for the exclusive benefit of roadway users should be paid for with highway funds. Greg Hinz over at Crains documented how Illinois had a record highway construction season while transit hadn’t gotten a dime from the state’s capital plan. After this was exposed, the state coughed up $500 million for transit, but it is still underfunded versus roads. Yet here we see a project that de facto siphons off transit funds for the benefit of road users and trucking subsidies.

If it were just a matter of money, I could probably forget about it, particularly since this type of thing is all too common. The real problem is how this grade raising is being accomplished. The UP-North Line embankment originally had three tracks, though only two are in service today. Here’s a photo showing the right of way:

Metra’s redesigned bridges will consume the entire right of way for just two tracks. So the third track of right of way will be permanently destroyed. Why is this important? The north side is the city’s strongest growing area, particularly among the middle and upper class professionals the city has worked hard to attract. This population explosion of people who work in the Loop put a ton of pressure on transit. The Brown Line L, which runs in the vicinity of the UP-N line, was so overcrowded, the CTA implemented a $550 million project to lengthen platforms to enable longer trains. But now the Brown Line is maxed out. There is no further way to increase L capacity if ridership increases even more.

But the UP-North Line runs through the area too. This provides the only real option left for expanding rail transit service in that area of the city. As the city grows in the future, and demand warrants, the city could build a number of new stations on the UP-North Line, add the third track back, and run high frequency shuttle service, at least at rush hour, while allowing suburban trains to run express. This is conceptually similar to the “Gray Line” idea on the South Side.

Also, the UP-North line terminates at Northwestern Station in the West Loop. The area from Wacker Dr. west is what has seen the most office tower construction and most of the vacant land for new development is there. The center of gravity of the Loop employment base is clearly going to shift west over time as this area fills in. The UP-N actually serves this area much better than the L does. And there’s a multi-billion plan to build a consolidated West Loop Transportation Center that would dovetail with this perfectly.

Will we ever need this line? I don’t know. I certainly hope the city keeps growing so that it does. I do know that if Metra does their project, if we do need it down the line, it won’t be physically possible except at ruinous expense. Thus it does not meet the definition of sustainability above, because it takes away the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.

It should be another fundamental principle of planning that the city will not permanently impair an irreplaceable piece of transit infrastructure unless there is no feasible alternative. Even then, it’s a decision that should be, like the Jackson Park L removal, made at the highest political levels and after extensive public consultation. That didn’t happen here.

I raised my concerns at the highest levels at Metra. They say that nothing can be done. It is very clear their project team does not believe preservation of the third track right of way is important. What’s more, they say doing so would be very expensive because, due to the nature of raising the grade for trucks, it would require extensive retaining wall work, and they don’t have any money. Also, they say that the right of way is too narrow to work with.

Having spent many years dealing with transportation agencies, let me put together a translation table:

We Don’t Want to Do It = There’s No Money, or It’s Impossible for X, Y, and Z Reasons
We Do Want to Do It = Money Is Available, and It Has to Be Done Exactly Per Our Current Plan

In this case, Metra clearly went out and found the money to pay for raising the grade for trucks, a part of the project with no technical requirement. Also, Metra’s new Ravenswood station is a Taj Mahal palace that far exceeds the standards of almost any existing commuter station. They found money for that.

What we need is an independent analysis. I am calling for Metra’s board to put the project on hold until an outside review can be performed. This review should be chartered with finding a cost-effective way to save the third track right of way, and re-examining the necessity, scope, and funding structure related to raising the grade for trucks. This will require the Board to politically engage with outside stakeholders, particularly around the funding issue. This review needs to report directly to the Board, not management, and should be conducted by someone independent who does not have future consulting dollars at risk if they give the “wrong” answer. If anything, the consultants should have a financial incentive to find a way to save the third track and either take cost out or find non-transit funding sources. And there should be a public involvement process.

When I spoke to Metra they said, “Don’t you trust us?” Trust has nothing to do with it. In fact, I do trust that Metra’s management undertook the project in good faith and have made the decisions they legitimately believe are correct. I also understand that they operate in a world of many constraints and pressures.

However, I trust my doctor too. But if he tells me we’ve got to amputate, you can believe I’m going to go out and get a second opinion from someone totally independent before I get anything lopped off. That’s not mistrust. That’s simple common sense. You’d be crazy not to.

Similarly, Metra is proposing to amputate one third of the ROW and spend precious transit funds on trucking subsidies. That might be the right answer. But it deserves a second opinion.

Other Reasons for an Outside Review
Even if you don’t believe me or share my concerns, there are clearly other reasons why this project should get an independent review. Among them:

1. Phil Pagano, Metra’s executive director for the last two decades, killed himself earlier this year after it was revealed he paid himself an improper bonus. Other similar types of matters then came to light. Reports commissioned by Metra’s Board subsequent to this found various controls and procedure issues and a number of reforms were made. While perhaps not related to any projects or transit operations, these items certainly do give reason for pause. The review I’m suggesting is very similar to what Metra did on more purely administrative matters, and I think it is entirely appropriate given the circumstances.

2. While Metra is justly famed and should be praised for its operational reliability – as they say, you can set your watch to Metra – it is also an agency also justly famous for its resistance to change and innovation. Metra only started accepting credit cards last year, and then only after being forced to by the threat of legislative action. Megabus might have wi-fi on its coaches, but Metra doesn’t and says it has no plan to install it. Heck, even Amtrak is rolling out wi-fi. Metra conductors still punch paper tickets the way they did back when those bridges were first … [more]
Chicago  Transportation  from google
august 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Varieties of Suburban Experience
To continue a theme from yesterday, not only does public policy shape the available choices between suburban and urban places but it absolutely defines how people travel from suburban locales to central cities. If you connect a suburb to a main city via a wide highway and don’t build a train link, then obviously people will “choose” to go via the highway. Alternatively, if you do what they did outside of Copenhagen and build relatively narrow roads and heavy rail lines then more people will choose the train.

I was thinking about this this morning since at the gym I was listening to Robyn’s “Cry When You Get Older”:

The song features the line “Back in suburbia kids get high and make out on the train / Then endless incomprehensible boredom takes a hold again.” This of course doesn’t make much sense in the American context where there generally is no train in suburbia (and “train” and “again” don’t rhyme). Here in suburbia kids get high and make out in the Taco Bell parking lot. But Robyn’s from Sweden where they have an extensive commuter rail network and suddenly teen culture clichés look different.
Music  transportation  from google
july 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Chuck Banas: Putting Parking In Its Proper Place
A recent article in The Buffalo News, citing a study of downtown parking, offers some interesting blog fodder. The Desman Associates study asserts that the parking situation in Buffalo is a mess, and requires better management.

The report recommends hiring a “parking czar” at $140,000 salary to consolidate parking management. As I recall, Desman previously produced studies in 2001 and 2006 which basically said the same thing, minus the “parking czar” baloney. The Buffalo News’ take on the Desman study does get it generally right, however: “The dominant theme in the report is that too many entities are involved in city parking, creating ’shortsighted’ and disjointed management.”

This much is true. But one quote in particular stands out: “‘Downtown can’t begin to compete with suburban office parks without convenient and affordable parking,’ said Schmand, whose nonprofit agency represents the interests of downtown stakeholders and residents.”

To the uninitiated, this may sound reasonable, except for one thing. Downtown can never compete with suburban office parks on the basis of convenient and affordable parking. To compete successfully on that basis would mean the destruction of all of downtown’s remaining (and emerging) value. 

By definition, downtown can never out-compete the suburbs on suburban, automobile-based terms. By necessity, parking takes up a tremendous amount of land, creating lots of dead, open space, which the suburbs have plenty of. In fact, that’s the suburbs’ main asset: lots of open space. A city’s main amenity is not open land, but density, walkability, a diverse mix of uses, and the quality of the streets and other public spaces. These are the areas in which the suburbs cannot out-compete downtown. These are things cities like Buffalo need to focus on to be successful.

So, if it is evident that an urban environment can never offer as good a “suburban product” as the suburbs can, then why do we continue to play that game? Clearly, the prevailing value system is upside-down. The city’s current strategy is irreconcilable with what downtown currently is, and what the community wants it to become. We’ve got to find a way to break out of this vicious cycle and change this self-defeating paradigm. This requires leadership.

If anything, this simply demonstrates how shortsighted and incoherent our public discussion has become on such issues. If city leaders think that parking is the main asset—and don’t recognize the many natural urban advantages downtown has over the suburbs—then the whole exercise is guaranteed to fail. This strategy will simply end-up undermining the value of the city, leading to a dead downtown like the one we’ve got. Like many other mangled cities, we’ve been trying this strategy for decades and failing, as the condition of our downtown attests. We can’t keep playing this self-defeating game. Who has the guts to finally stand up and stop this nonsense?

Also, there’s my old saying, which I’ve oft repeated: Like all cities, we really have one essential choice; we can have a vibrant downtown where everyone complains about parking, or we can have a dead downtown where everyone complains about parking. If you think about it, that’s the only choice. Really.

For years, I’ve been involved with The New Millennium Group, a local community activist organization dedicated to progressive planning, economic development, and revitalization. In 2003, NMG did a downtown parking survey that showed over 50% of the land area of downtown Buffalo dedicated to surface parking.

In the six years since, the city situation regarding parking, planning, and transportation hasn’t really changed. So to repeat NMG’s original take on the issue: Buffalo doesn’t have a parking problem, it has a parking management problem. (In truth, it’s a transportation management problem, but that’s a topic for another post.)

The fresh angle is this: the city doesn’t need to add another high-priced manager and yet another layer of bureaucracy. We can get much better management of downtown transportation/parking assets if we better utilize the resources we’ve already got. Private companies routinely reorganize management structures to adapt to changing conditions, so why can’t the city? We’ve already got a planning department that studies and understands these issues (and the many related issues, too) and has the expertise to effectively manage parking by putting it in its proper context—which is the problem to begin with.

Chuck Banas is an urban planning consultant and community activist in Buffalo, New York, and chairs the SmartCode Committee at the New Millennium Group of Western New York.

This post originally appeared at Joe the Planner. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Buffalo  Chuck_Banas  Economic_Development  Public_Policy  Strategic_Planning  Sustainability  Transportation  from google
june 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Streetcars for Brooklyn: A New Life? « The Transport Politic
If New York City wanted to build a streetcar network in its most populous borough, where would the tracks go?
brooklyn  nyc  transit  transportation  maps  planning 
may 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Subway Sparklines
Graphs shows the yearly ridership at each station, with the shaded grey area spanning 1952 (same overall ridership level as today) to 1977 (nadir system-wide). Station names appear as map is zoomed in (eg: midtown, wall street, south bronx, williamsburg, park slope).
design  nyc  history  maps  transportation  newyork  city  mapping  visualization  graphic  gis  transit  statistics  data  infographics  subway  sparklines  great  geo  cartography  ny  information_design 
march 2010 by Chris.Hamby
Progressive Urbanism: Stuff White People Like?
Aaron Renn has a slightly odd piece in New Geography in which he argues that, basically, the most-cited models of progressive urbanism don’t have enough black people in them:

The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.

In fact, not one of these “progressive” cities even reaches the national average for African American percentage population in its core county. Perhaps not progressiveness but whiteness is the defining characteristic of the group.

This strikes me as largely an adventure in definitional games. Why would you take an accounting of American cities that leaves out the three largest cities? Should we really list Travis County, TX (i.e., Austin) as part of a phenomenon called “The White City” when its proportion of non-Hispanic whites—51.8%—is dramatically below the national average? Austin is a bit less black than the country as a whole, in other words, but it’s also less white. Rather than an disproportionately white city, it’s a disproportionately Hispanic and Asian city.

But to take what I think is the ray of truth here, if you take a place that’s under-invested for decades in walkable urbanism and then create a bit of walkable urbanism the tendency is for that bit to become very expensive. And since African-American households have lower incomes and substantially less wealth than white households, the tendency is for the walkable urban places to become white. But to raise this as an objection to building walkable urbanism is like saying that we shouldn’t try to have great public schools, because poor people might not be able to afford to live near them. That’s totally backwards—the inability of poor people to afford to live in good school districts highlights the need for more good educational opportunities not fewer. By the same token, if investments in walkable urbanism cause prices to shoot up and price people out of the area that shows that we need more walkable urbanism.

Meanwhile, a number of “uncool” sunbelt cities are working to change their policies. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is pushing for bicycles, there are newish light rail systems in Houston and Dallas and Phoenix, etc. And I’m not sure why majority-black Washington DC—home of by far the biggest and most successful example of postwar urban rail investment in America—doesn’t count as an example of progressive transportation policy.
Race  transportation  from google
october 2009 by Chris.Hamby
The Four Day Work Week
(cc photo by Ed Yourdon)

The traditional 40-hour workweek is composed of five eight-hour days instead of four ten-hour days. But the historical reasons for that are fairly arbitrary, and trying to get firms to switch to a four-day workweek has long struck me as a relatively painless way to reduce gasoline consumption. Brad Plumer lets us know that the state of Utah actually tried this and had state employees take Friday off and work longer hours the other four days of the week. According to Scientific American the results were impressive:

For those workplaces, there’s no longer a need to turn on the lights, elevators or computers on Fridays—nor do janitors need to clean vacant buildings. Electric bills have dropped even further during the summer, thanks to less air-conditioning: Friday’s midday hours have been replaced by cooler mornings and evenings on Monday through Thursday. As of May, the state had saved $1.8 million. …

An interim report released by the Utah state government in February projected a drop of at least 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually from Friday building shutdowns. If reductions in greenhouse gases from commuting are included, the state would check the generation of at least 12,000 metric tons of CO2—the equivalent of taking about 2,300 cars off the road for one year.

Another variant of this, discussed by Aaron Newton, would be staggered four-day workweeks that could substantially cut down on traffic congestion (a smaller proportion of the population commuting on any given day) at the expense of reducing the gains in building energy efficiency.
Energy  transportation  from google
july 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Good Bike Lanes are Good for Everyone
Vancouver recently tried an experiment where they shut down one lane of traffic on a crowded bridge to create dedicated space for bicycle commuters. This led to predictions of traffic chaos but it’s actually working out nicely as pedestrians and cyclists can now commute safely and cars aren’t frustrated by slower-moving bicycles trying to weave around them. And thus far we’re only looking at the very short-term effect. Improving the safety and quality of experience for cyclists and pedestrians might tempt more people into traveling in those ways, and thus reduce the number of cars trying to share the road.

This heartwarming tale comes to us from Greater Greater Washington and Freakonomics. The larger point is that while there are some real conflicts of interest in urban design and transportation issues, it’s generally not a narrow zero-sum enterprise. Poorly designed systems are ultimately harmful to most stakeholders irrespective of the details of their situation.
planning  transportation  from google
july 2009 by Chris.Hamby
The Route to Reform: Blueprint for a 21st Century Federal Transportation Program
100 page pdf from Transportation for America

12 page executive summary well worth reading
transportation  transit  infrastructure  urbanism  stimulus  pdf  planning 
may 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Public Discourse, Why Conservatives Should Care About Transit, by David Schaengold
Explores question of why mass transit vs. autos tends to fall on political lines
urbanism  politics  transportation  transit  gop 
april 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Building Good Roads
One problem in our transportation policy is that funding is unduly weighted to spending money on roads rather than spending money on mass transit. Another problem in our transportation policy is that funding is unduly weighted to building new roads rather than to doing the necessary work to maintain the roads we already have in excellent condition. But yet another problem is that there are roads and then there are roads. There are freeways, and there are boulevards. There are connected networks of streets that can be walked or biked as well as driven, and there impenetrable mazes of cul-de-sacs. See the contrast below:

And there are little things like lane-widths. Wider lanes make driving feel safer, which leads to faster driving and an environment that’s unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists and typically actually less safe for drivers. There are roads with sidewalks and there are roads without sidewalks. And obviously you’re always going to have more roads and streets than metro lines in any given city, so getting this stuff right is important.

Streetsblog has a very interesting interview with John Norquist in which he discusses some of the changes to federal policy that might help encourage better work in this regard. Fundamentally, though, the role of state and local agencies is always going to be important to this kind of decision-making, and things will only improve if people pay more attention to politics at this level.
transportation  from google
march 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Federally Designated High Speed Rail Corridors
Copyright © 2008 Randy Plemel. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. If you're seeing this on a web page instead of in a feed reader, the website is violating copyright law.
maps  transportation  from google
february 2009 by Chris.Hamby
Europe’s Grass-Lined Green Railways = Good Urban Design
Although it’s certainly not a new idea to combine landscaping with public transportation, we love the sight of these European trams gliding along on beds of grass. From Barcelona to the Czech Republic, Frankfurt, St-Etienne and Strasbourg, these public transit greenways are showing the potential of incorporating landscaping into good urban design.
Landscape  TransportationTuesday  Urban_design  transportation  from google
january 2009 by Chris.Hamby
By Request: Winter Biking
Allan wants to know about “bike commuting in winter.”

This is my first winter as a bike commuter. I’d heard bad things about it but I haven’t found it to be a huge problem. The key breakthrough was when I figured out how to make my helmet big enough to wear my hat under it. That and remembering to wear gloves. Normally, I don’t wear gloves outside unless it really gets quite cold — it’s convenient enough to stick ‘em in your coat pockets if they get a little chilly, and keeping the gloves off leaves your hand free to fiddle with your iPod or whatever. But you can’t put your hands in your pocket on a bike, and you don’t need to manipulate any small objects with your fingers — what you need are some gloves to shield your fingers from the wind.

Beyond that, in all things related to bike commuting we need to look to our friends in Europe. The top bike commuting city is Copenhagen, not San Diego. If people can bike to work in Denmark’s winter (I even saw plenty of people biking around Helsinki in December) then it can be done wherever you might be in the USA as well. Unfortunately, American mindspace about bicyling tends to be dominated by the insidious recreational bikers, who’ve gotten it into people’s heads that even on a lovely day for a bike ride the act of pedaling requires intricate performance gear including funny biking outfits. But bike commuting is a whole different ballgame — you’re just trying to get to work, so you should wear what you would wear. If it’s cold, wear a sweater and a scarf under your coat. If you need to give a presentation, bike in a suit and fancy shoes. You’re not going to set world records in a bundled-up-for-winter outfit, but the point is just to get to work. See, e.g., the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog.

But it all starts with a hat and gloves even in weather that you wouldn’t ordinarily consider nippy enough for ‘em.
Bicycles  Fashion  transportation  from google
december 2008 by Chris.Hamby

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