When is the U.S. going to take a serious look at how misguided our blind allegiance to the automobile has been for the last hundred years? We don’t need to be anti-car, but we do need to be much more car-conscious. You’d think with our current issues of obesity, global warming, wars over oil, skyrocketing highway costs, etc… that the feds might just be a bit more open to new ideas.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Well they can if they figure out a way to take some of the increased value from the landowners that got lucky enough to have a public investment near their property. I'm not talking about TIF, but rather some sort of a transfer tax. The idea is that as soon as a city knows that they are going to make a value changing investment, they should create a selling district like a TIF. They take an inventory of the district around each rail station and its land value as well as sample areas in the region that aren't around rail stations. If a property is sold between announcement of the rail station placement and the opening of the line (perhaps another time after opening) then the sales price is measured against the control group for the region and the increase over the regional average is taxed at a certain amount at sales time. This extra capital could be used on future capital improvement projects or an affordable housing fund for the station area. Just another idea...
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
How About some Tram Blogging? This yellow Siemens Combino Supra is from Budapest. It's reportedly one of the longest trams in the world with 6 modules and 54 meters long(177 Feet). That's almost 3 articulated buses. Very Cool. This picture was taken by Marcus Tschaut.
Most of it is going to be paid for by the landowners taxing themselves. Paul Allen, former Microsoft exec, and the other owners plan to change the neighborhood with high rise apartments and biomedical research facilities. It will be an impressive transformation and they are relying on the streetcar pretty heavily. The idea was conceived based on the success of Portland, so hopefully they will match the experience there.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
But Wasatch Front Regional Council staffers, who are updating the agency's long-range transportation plan, only evaluated which mode of transportation - vehicle or transit - would get people to their destinations the quickest, said council executive director Chuck Chappell. That means streetcars or BRT wouldn't be cost-effective, he said.Wouldn't be cost effective? What does the cost effectiveness of a reservation for future transit and smart transportation planning have to do with planning for a freeway? Well it does have to do with cars and auto-centricity that seems to be prolific around the country. At least the press is smart enough to pick up on the highway good ole boy network that still persists at regional and state DOTs. Perhaps because of the heads up it will change during the meetings and final planning.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is disappointed that, in his State of the Union address, President Bush did not recognize public transportation usage as one of the ways Americans can reduce their dependence on foreign oil. We urge Congress and the Administration to increase investment to make public transit services available to more Americans and to include incentives that will encourage greater transit use in the energy legislation that will be developed. The millions of Americans who use public transportation each day know it saves gasoline. APTA commissioned a study entitled "Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.: Reducing Dependence on Oil" so that the President, Congress and our citizens can have the right facts before them to make informed decisions about how to solve our country's energy issues.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Bush wants 20%? I think we can do better than that. Alan Drake already says 10% can be done easily through transport electrification. Changing vehicle standards can add even more and incentives for workers to use transit instead of their cars would push consumption down even further. Bush will talk about congestion pricing but what about
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Brian at Cincinnati Blog says the region shouldn't be involved in a city streetcar project.
The Gentleman Agitator discusses midwestern cities reluctance to embrace progress that doesn't include a bus.
The Cincinnati Post asks leaders to get their head out of the sand.
An article from earlier in the week.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
At some point streets downtown need to be reconstructed anyway so why not build light rail when already replacing the street if its in the cities future? Generally costs for reconstruction of the street and utility relocation are blamed on the transit authority and lumped in with the cost of the project which allows project opposition to cite high costs as a reason not to make the capital investment in rail infrastructure. But with this method we go back to the way it when streetcars were first built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, where they were the reason the street was built and paid for at all.
This forward thinking is going on in Charlotte. Even though they aren't running streetcars until 2019, they are going to build the line into the street when they replace Elizabeth Avenue downtown.
Last year, Grubb helped persuade the Charlotte Area Transit System to redirect the streetcar through a proposed development off Hawthorne Lane. He was aware of the city's $277,000 purchase of steel streetcar rails. They will be laid during an estimated $10 million remake of Elizabeth Avenue that includes sidewalks, streetlights, sewer lines and underground utilities. The all-in-one construction effort could start by summer.
Transit agencies and Cities could be more forward thinking in this respect as more rail infrastructure is planned and built. However there needs to be provisions for this type of forward thinking in the new starts process and the NEPA process as well...but lets take it one step at a time.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Americans are spending more on their vehicles than ever before -- more than $8,000 a year on average -- and it's driving some to the breaking point. Credit counselor Bill Thompson of Jacksonville, Fla., estimates that one out of every four clients his agency sees has overspent -- sometimes dramatically -- on a car. "They may be spending 15% to 20% of their (take-home) pay on just the car payment," said Thompson, who supervises credit counseling for the nonprofit Family Foundations, "and that doesn't include insurance, gas, maintenance and all the other costs of owning a vehicle."Quite Amazing, perhaps transit is a part of the affordability solution. To take a look at how to address this issue through transit, check out the Affordability Index.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Today there was an article in the
Also lets think about return on investment and
As noted by Ed Tennyson this money that we are spending on the war didn't likely exist anyway but
As noted by Ed Tennyson this money that we are spending on the war didn't likely exist anyway butwe can always dream…but lets dream of a world where we wouldn't even have to go to coal mines at home instead of oil fields afar to get our energy to move people until of course a better alternative energy source came along.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
But when does this type of kind interaction happen in your automobile? Sure you let people cut in front of you in a traffic jam, or you might let a pedestrian go in front of you but as a personal observation it seems like one never gets to truly interact with people like on transit. Some folks don't want to be bothered by people of different social status' whether higher, lower or even student but i think it allows people to be more able to empathize with life situations and stages. Younger folks learn how to give seats to their elders and older folks might find from looking at the kids that its a great idea to bring an ipod when in transit. Taking transit might be good for the environment and good for your pocketbook but it seems like it also might be good for your conscience.
Monday, January 15, 2007
As a circulator system, streetcars are a great idea. They combine the stop spacing of buses with the economic development potential and ridership bump of semi-metro type light rail to which streetcars are related. They are not meant to go fast but rather act as pedestrian accelerators and meld with the urban environment. In Portland, the streetcar carries almost 9,000 folks a day and has helped to spur $2.8 billion in development. This development was not just because of the streetcar but as a part of the total planning package, the Pearl District and South Waterfront areas are becoming the most European like neighborhoods in the West.
In Madison like their sister city Austin, streetcars should only be part of the transportation solution as circulators connecting major destinations in the downtown. Cities such as Denver, Salt Lake City and Seattle are already way ahead of the game in thinking about transportation in bigger terms than just a single mode. All of them are building light rail, thinking about streetcars, and operate many different types of buses.
In some corridors streetcars work, in others light rail is more apt and in freeways with HOV lanes there might be an opportunity for express bus service but all of the modes are needed to beat dependence on the single occupancy automobile. This is something Madison, Austin and other towns need to be talking about if they want to have a transportation sea change like the previously mentioned members of the transit space race.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
The Seattle system even though not complete is already having cities beg to ask for extensions. The cities that don't get extensions or aren't guaranteed stations are upset. This system should when it opens set a national example. If you want to get something done, you have to just pay up and do it. It's for the good of the community and more cars and lane miles on already congested freeways is not going to help people get from point a to point b.
This is a really huge step to expand a system that hasn't even finished initial construction. It also shows that Seattle wants to be a world class city. The transit space race has many of these cities looking to build out serious systems to make themselves more livable and while it seems like it might be a little expensive, the benefits will be returned to the communities multi-fold. Imagine if the Washington DC Subway was never built. It would have been a travesty but it would have also influenced how that region grew out instead of up along the corridors. Hopefully when democratic leaders go to pick a presidential candidate they can see how Denver is shaping up in its bid to win the Transit Space Race.
I'm not sure how to rank cities in the TSR...but if i had to pick some that are doing the best, Denver and Seattle are front runners. Portland has a head start so i didn't count it in that initial assessment but soon i'll do a comarison between the frontrunners listed in the sidebar. But the others in the race don't seem that far behind either.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
However thinking about it maybe now we should have a parking space tax. For every lane mile of highway that the road warriors propose for moving people by car, they are also promoting sprawl because all of those cars end up somewhere. That somewhere is a space in a parking lot at work. So for every employer who has a parking lot, perhaps they should have to pay some sort of tax for creating the need for more freeways in the form of a transit tax. Just an idea. There has to be some sort of linkage there somewhere, so lets do it.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
"Streetcars have sex appeal, it resonates with folks. Developers don't write checks for buses."So True. But what does this have to do with the transit revolution? Everything. These streetcars are doing more with land use than light rail ever dreamed while promoting a true urbanism. Not that Light Rail can't do it either, but its kind of like showing the older brother up. The land use changes can happen around light rail, but it seems more linear around the streetcar. Hopefully we can learn how to build light rail for the same cost...the fact that they are different escapes me...but i'll write on it later.
So what is the next generation of this phenomenon? The Beltline in Atlanta is a good place to start. It was a scare earlier this year for BRT but the good folks of ATL realized that they didn't want to be jogging and biking next to hybrid fume puffers. Good for them and hopefully the plans will be accelerated, but all we can do now is wait and see.
Three lines are under construction...hopefully they have the same results as previous streetcar starts.
Anacostia - Washington DC
South Lake Union - Seattle
Clinton Library Extension - Little Rock
Monday, January 8, 2007
The next line, the northeast corridor, is planned to run from downtown to the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Leadership from the University President, City Council and Ron Tober of CATS were very helpful in keeping the region on track after some costs for the south corridor were over budget and the community was worried about the long range plan. After some calls to rescind the tax from some libertarians egged on by Wendell Cox and a postponement of BRT to study Light Rail on the southeast corridor, things are looking up again.
So it comes as no surprise that even before the northeast corridor has gone into preliminary engineering in the new starts process, people are building TOD on properties adjacent to the future line as reported today by the Charlotte Observer. This is amazing and shows that new transit lines really have the ability to shape neighborhoods. I'm interested to see what happens to the next few years but as for now, Charlotte is up there with Denver in my book.
"Included are proposals to increase the state's 20-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax by 10 cents, boost registration fees on new vehicles and authorize counties to impose a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation purposes, plus $20-per-vehicle sales taxes and annual wheelage taxes, in some cases subject to voter approval."While the governor still opposes this, i think its a fight worth playing out. It will show if legislators in the state are really serious about funding future transit expansion sooner including the southwest corridor, the downtown streetcar and several commuter rail and BRT lines.
Sunday, January 7, 2007
But in this instance, taking away a lane for buses is A. A bad idea and B. A bad idea. Why? Because making a major road like this go to 4 lanes is like a snowstorm blocking planes at the airport in Denver. No one will get anywhere. If there was a subway, it would have taken me 35 minutes instead of an hour to get where i was going. 25 minutes is a HUGE time savings and worth it to the folks who want to get to the north side of town out of bus traffic. So instead of planning this long term, it should be done now, with the Geary Subway.
But we have no money says MUNI. There is tons of money out there. As referenced in the article above, Don Shoup (king of parking), states that parking in downtown San Francisco is too cheap. I have never driven downtown at any time other than 11pm or Sunday afternoon but the reason is I don't want to have to worry about parking. It's so much easier and faster to just take the train in the subway. But apparently if I did find a space downtown on the street it would be cheap cheap cheap.
While San Francisco has taken steps to make transit friendly and parking harder to come by it comes as no surprise that they still cater to the automobile. It is so entrenched in our society that even the most dense metropolis' can't get away from it. So if we can't get away from it, lets make it as expensive as possible. Another funding source that is being discussed is closing off downtown from anything but Taxi's, buses and rail. This is a great idea and it would raise money for transit, specifically the subways that are in planning but need funding.
Saturday, January 6, 2007
So today i'd like to throw out the first idea. A developer parking in lieu fee. Along major urban corridors in the United States, developers are facing a harsh reality. Parking spaces are required at suburban ratios along corridors that should be served by urban transit. There should be an exchange where parking spaces can be traded for transit money. So what would happen is a parking space costs a developer a certain amount of money, say 20,000 dollars in a very urban area. Usually a certain amount of spaces are required. So what if half of the spaces were required could be traded away for a half price solution. So if 50 spaces are required, then 25 of them could be traded for 50% of the cost meaning the developer builds 25 spaces but then pays $10,000 for each space he doesn't build into a capital fund for transit expansion. This single project would raise $250,000 for transit projects in the city and allow the developer to use the savings to build more housing or make the housing available more affordable. This solution has never been used to my knowledge in this fashion but its about time cities start looking at better ways to fund capital projects that will propel the transit space race forward.
Case in point yesterday's article in the Salt Lake City Tribune. The article, about the Depot TOD to be envisioned around a Trax expansion to the intermodal hub showed that the city is pulling no punches in an effort to show everyone who they think is boss. Van Turner, Chairman of the Salt Lake City Council, had this to say.
Parks would take the place of backyards, and galleries, clubs, grocery stores, coffeehouses, restaurants and other retail would create the kind of neighborhoods cities such as Portland, Ore., have built along with their transit systems. City officials have visited Portland many times for inspiration, Turner said. The Depot District, he said, will someday draw the same kind of attention. "These old railroad yards are where we can build the city we want to be," he said. "Portland may be the model now, but soon we'll be the model."
Portland are you gonna take that? I'm not sure if Salt Lake is going to surpass Portland's transit system though. Portland has 4 operational light rail lines and one that's about to be under construction, a commuter rail line under construction, and an operational streetcar. There are also 3 possible streetcar extensions and another planned light rail expansion...not to mention a possible extension over the bridge into Washington.
Compare this to Salt Lake City which has two Trax Lines and a commuter rail line under construction and a small Trax expansion under construction. They just passed a sales tax for four more Trax expansions (Mid Jordan, West Valley, Airport, Draper) and a commuter rail expansion so they are up and coming. All of this and a planned streetcar could put them up with Portland. It's a very exciting time and I hope they do build a better TOD, perhaps even gloat about it. Because if they do it will just make other cities want to be that much better...which is in the best interest of all of us.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
This one success spurred the legislature to create a dedicated funding source for operating revenue for Metro Transit. Previously they were allocating funding every year, moving with the whim of the political winds. Now that they have an operating funding source, they need a capital funding source to match with Federal New Starts money for expansion projects.
Today Hennepin County realized as did all the other counties that this was necessary to build a real transit network. While the governor opposes the sales tax, he's going to have to get onto the idea quickly. The region can't afford to be left behind in the TSR. It's doing well so far and has a bit of a head start over places like Phoenix, Seattle and Charlotte but it's going to take more than the Hiawatha line to attracts jobs and the creative class.
Even if the governor doesn't agree, the mayor has been looking at a streetcar network.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
The first step of the second subway to the sea is the 3rd Street light rail which opens in the next few months. The next step is the central subway project which leaves a spur going west to link up a future Geary Subway before it turns off to go under Stockton(which by the way should continue past broadway). The decision to build the GS to at least Masonic though is very far off while they wait for more money. But really the line is ready to go.
So the problem with this picture is that while the United States FWHA would put in 90% of the cost for a road that desperately needed to be built, they would do it. This is the top example of what is happening with the new starts program. Funding for major urban rail projects is getting stymied for artery clogging BRT and unneeded roads by folks who don't like to invest in infrastructure needed to make cities work. aka the libertarian movement. Where would they be without the Federal Highway Program in their arguments? Probably arguing for better transit to support the free market.
The point is that projects like Geary are the projects that need to be funded. Folks shouldn't be plastered on the windows bus service is not adequate. This is why the case needs to be made for a major transit infrastructure initiative that rivals that of the Highway expansion of the last century. The first project? Geary Subway to the Sea
Monday, January 1, 2007
As move on into 2007 we'll see more and more news about these pedestrian accelerators. Even today on January 1st we have articles from Minnesota and Ohio discussing what Mayors in Minneapolis and Columbus would like to build into their legacies. They are even thinking of innovative ways to finance them rather than through the FTA. Many other cities are thinking about this as well and perhaps (shameless plug approaching) this book will help move the revolution. It will be an exciting year never the less.
Update from a few days ago: Tampa News Says that Folks There Want in the Space Race. - Hat Tip Tampa Rail Blog