Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I keep thinking about how the Automobile is driving america mad. It seems to me like it's the epitome of personal choice and Conservatism vs. Liberalism or Progressivism or whatever you want to call either of the two. But to me American is to Car like Kid is to Candy Bar. How does that work out you ask? Well when we are younger we are taught the food pyrimid. And we are also taught about the food groups of which you have to have portions of each to make up a balanced meal. Well in order to have a balanced city we have to have all the transportation types and like food groups, too much of one thing could be bad. Enter the car. We have so much car that eventually cities are going to have heart attacks. The congestion will be so great and there will be little people can do to fix it. Thats why we need to go on a diet now. I don't really believe in diets, mostly cause i ran in college and know that most people are really lazy and i'll admit i'm an elitist in that respect. But in order to get fit you need to change lifestyle, not just not eat for a few days then binge. But everyone knows that to lose weight you have to take in less calories than you expend during the day. That means excercise and for cities, they have to stop building roads and work out a little. Build up the infrastructure like you would your body. Too many roads is akin to getting fat and not putting in the transit infrastructure is like saying your going to the gym but you're not. They are just wasting your time while you watch TV. I guess traffic is like TV. Staring into space wasting money and brain cells. Don't get me wrong though, i love TV and I love sugar based candy bars. And when I was little I surely thought that life would be grand if i could have them for every meal. But a few Halloween's later we all learn that too much candy can lead to bad bad things. O'Toole, Cox and road only folks are basically telling everyone to get on Atkins. Sure you can eat bacon for every meal but you're heart might explode in the process. Buses, Trains, Bikes, Walking, Cars...they are all part of a healthy city.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Richard Layman over at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space discusses the interesting comments from the Washington Post editorial board on reducing congestion. Fred Hiatt of the Post states wrongly of course that we can build our way out of congestion and that we can never fix it is a myth. But the real myth Layman says is: "anyone who wants to can drive a car whenever they want and that the roads to accommodate them can be easily provided." He's right. We shouldn't be building to accommodate free flow whenever people need to use the roads. There are certain times a day when of course everyone is going from one place to another.
Mr. Layman also brings about the following Private Mobility Myth from Bacon's Rebellion Blog
Regardless of where they live, work, seek services and participate in leisure activities, citizens believe that it is physically possible for the government to build a roadway system that allows them to drive wherever they want to, whenever they want to go there and arrive in a timely and safe manner.
The Private-Vehicle Mobility Myth helps parents convince themselves that the house with the “big yard” may be a long way from where the jobs, services, recreation and amenities are now, but that will change. Politicians reinforce the myth by continuing to promise that “soon” they will improve the roads and the big yard owners will be able to get to wherever quickly.
Monday, February 26, 2007
This'll be a stunning statement here, he said, accurately. "I want to have a system that serves the needs of people who are dependent on mass transit. But ideally, I'd like to build an economy in this county and this city that means that fewer people are dependent on mass transit."In other words, transit is welfare, which government provides for the poor souls who lack cars. Transit's also a zero-sum game, in which the middle class benefits only at the expense of the needy. Transit wasn't always welfare. The middle class and the poor rode the streetcars of yore shoulder to shoulder. In other cities - Minneapolis-St. Paul being a recent example - light rail has proved to be one way to return to those days.Just fighting the good fight. Props to the Journal Sentinel for figuring it out.
To make matters worse, the 1952 rollover legislation actually curtailed the ability of urban projects to qualify for federal aid. In these circumstances, just as before World War II, the states responded by borrowing for streets, roads and highways. Between 1952 and 1955, the total amount of such debt exploded, from $5.8 billion in 1952 to $10.1 billion by the end of 1955 (about $75 billion in today dollars).
Any road warriors want to talk about free markets still? I could go on all year with this stuff. 20th Century Sprawl
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
In another section of the report, MacDonald acknowledged with surprising candor that the urban components of the system were not designed to alleviate urban congestion, except to the extent that they would provide relieve to those motorists for whom the city was an inconvenient obstruction.That's how people think of the city today as well. While Rick Perry in Texas believes that the TransTexas Corridor will alleviate congestion, that is not his want at all. He just wants the political support from urban areas.
So even the King of Roads acknowledged that the Interstate Highway System was not built to alleviate urban congestion, so why do we continue to listen to people who want to build more and more and more roads to solve congestion? They just want to avoid the city all together. We also know that because of Highway Federalism that most of the money collected from gas taxes in Urban Areas does not go into urban projects. It's redistributed around the state in which that region is a part. This is the problem with our funding system, so why don't we hear more about it?
Friday, February 23, 2007
When Culberson said that "97 percent of residents on or near Richmond oppose" a light rail line there, the audience of about 200 erupted in "boos" and catcalls.That's what happens when you lie straight to people's faces about things. Hiding behind people with familiar viewpoints in public settings and writing op-eds that make sense to no one but yourself make one believe that they are always right. However we learned last night that folks who live on Richmond that want the rail are fed up with Culbertson's crap, and showed it. Way to go!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Another interesting thing is the waste of money that came up is the Harford Busway. They could have built light rail for less and more of it. $50 million a mile for grade separated BRT is ridiculous. They are going to prove that if you're going to build BRT, you might as well build LRT because you'll get more out of it and at a lower operating cost.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
UPDATE: Not a few hours after I go to bed an article was released on how Phoenix planners decide they are going to ask for $1.7 billion dollars worth of Light Rail extensions to the original plan! Welcome to the Space Race.
Empire Builder - Mason Jennings
All day, everyday
I swing my hammer to the metal on the northern railway
Always a movie playing in my head
A million movies starring you and me
Moonshine every night
Eating supper by the fire out in the clear moonlight
Ankles crossed, hands behind my head
Telling stories, singing songs about the west
I'm always thinking of you
Staring off down the railroad line
One sweet day i will see you
But i'll swing the hammer until
The empire builder brings me home
For two months and two odd weeks
Sometimes days go by in which nobody speaks
From Illinois to Washington
There ain't nothing but the hammer to the rail
One day when this track runs through
I'm gonna buy a new suit and come looking for you
Care free, you and me
We'll take the empire builder to the sea
And i'm always thinking of you
Staring off down the railroad line
One sweet day i will see you
But i'll swing the hammer until
The empire builder brings me home
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
No matter how hard they try to push bus rapid transit, people just don't want it. In Connecticut, the Hartford Busway which will be a true BRT is costing $50 million per mile. Thats a lot of cash for a bus. And it's also more than the cost of building a rapid streetcar line on the same right of way. What is the point in that? Are they going to prove that it's just as cheap and useful as Curitiba that way? That model was based on easily changeable land use policy (NIMBY doesn't exist in South America) and cheap labor (easy in South America as well).
But that won't change what people on the Southeast Corridor want in Charlotte. They see the BRT as a lowly gesture in their direction. Why are the other corridors getting light rail and we are stuck with the BRT? Why aren't we going to be treated the same? This happened in Atlanta with MARTA. The rest of the system into the poor areas was to be built out as bus lines and that smacked of racism. Is the current trend towards BRT just a way to give poor citizens second class transit? Is it a way to keep transit only for the poor instead of providing rapid transit options for everyone? Well I have a feeling that the people who push BRT believe in these things. They aren't doing it for the betterment of cities but rather to keep transit down.
There are some good places where BRT might be the best option, but I feel like most BRT fanatics just don't like rail. They don't like that people ride it, they feel like it takes money from roads and they don't understand why not everyone wants to live in the Suburbs and drive to work everyday. To them i say, I don't understand you either, but perhaps we should work something out so that we stop wasting money on something that people just don't want. It's been voiced over and over again in public statements. Statements from Charlotte below.
Here are some of comments made by people at the Southeast Corridor public meetings:
"I want equity. Do not give us buses because we are poorer and have more minorities."
"Matthews-Bus Rapid Transit makes one feel cut off from Charlotte."
"I prefer commuter rail in the Southeast Corridor."
"Light rail benefits the Southeast Corridor."
"SE residents will not ride bus rapid transit! Light rail transit is the only viable alternative!"
The comments go on and on. Interestingly, nobody stood up at any of these meetings and said anything like "I like the busway" or "Busways are a good idea."
Seems like they should get what they want, they are the ones paying for it.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Barrett envisions a city where trains, buses, streetcars, parking facilities and pedestrian corridors would work together in a "comprehensive and affordable" way to provide improved transit for workers and city visitors. But the plan sparked conflict with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who called it "really just a Trojan horse for light rail" and "a drain on the limited resources we have available to support the bus system."Barrett shot back by pointing to Walker's six years of cutting Milwaukee County Transit System service and raising fares, saying, "It sounds to me like his mission is to kill Milwaukee County transit," not protect it.
The comments from Walker are more bs straight from the O'Toole and Cox camp. If you don't have resources, then create them. People can't just keep getting away with everything for free, including roads. But perhaps we should even the playing field before arguing that free market forces are at work when we can see from the previous post that they most certainly won't. I would be glad to see this be a trojan horse for light rail and other modes. The trojan horse against rail was let loose years ago, why not fight back?
Update from the Comments...More on this Topic from Brewcityzen.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Between 1921 and 1932 American Governments spent $21 Billion dollars on streets and highways and collected only $5 billion from motor vehicle users. This meant that motorists were directly contributing less than 1/4 of the direct costs of adapting use of the automobile.
But of course freeways have always been paid for by user fees, never subsidized right??? But who subsidized the streets for cars and trucks without being allowed to raise their rates? Streetcar Companies
As a private company operating under a public franchise, large portions of DTCs (Denver Tramway Company) cost structure was governed by its franchise agreement, as were fares. For example, one of the oldest provisions of the contract required the company to pay half the maintenance and repair costs on streets with two way operation...As more and more streets were paved and improved and subjected to the pounding wear-and-tear of thousands of automobiles and trucks, which were much heavier than the horse drawn vehicles in use when DTC had made this financial commitment, the company had to contribute more and more money to street projects....However, the franchise agreement also capped fares at 5 cents and in 1917 despite record ridership levels, DTC was unable to pay a dividend and reported an annual loss of half a million dollars.
A change to a 7 cent fare led to the 1920 tramway strikes because people have never wanted to pay the full cost of transportation, whether it be roads or transit. They expect it to be subsidized for their autos, so why is everyone complaining about subsidizing transit, especially when initially transit helped build and maintain those roads that allowed autos to become dominant.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
North College Park residents concerned that six planned buildings at the Greenbelt Metro will not mesh with existing neighborhoods will get a chance to see just how high the buildings would be. Six balloons — outlining the height and width of the proposed structures — will be raised by developer Petrie Ross Ventures from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, giving residents a visual of what the buildings’ sizes.
I wonder if this will catch on.
ROAD TO THE FUTURE
A group of business and civic leaders is fine-tuning a $1 billion recommendation to transform the Peachtree corridor, including a streetcar line and other improvements.
How would the money be spent?
Streetcar lines: $450 million
Land / right of way: $160 million
Streetcapes: $100 million
Burying utility lines: $75 million
Parks / green space: $70 million
Road improvements: $70 million
Where would the money come from?
Special tax district: $450-$650 million
Southside tax allocation district: $100-$150 million
Federal grants: $100-$150 million
Parking tax: $50 million
City of Atlanta: $25 million-$50 million
Private donations: $15 million-$20 million
That's a lot of cash. More info on the project can be found at AtlantaStreetcar.com
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Here is a quote that relates from Molly Ivins, who recently passed away....
"It's hard to argue against cynics -- they always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
For a suburban home in somewhere like Oakley California or Spring Texas it costs $8,500 per housing unit to provide water and sewer infrastructure. Compare that to in a neighborhood like West University in Houston or Berkeley California where that same house only costs $6,540 to hook up to the water and sewer if it were single family detached.
Now if it were attached in West U or Berkeley it would cost $5050. And if it were a multi-family unit it would cost a measly $3,800. So perhaps someone can elaborate on why a 500 home subdivision that includes roads in the suburbs (not included in the above numbers) is market driven while the 500 unit building downtown is subsidized. According to the research, that apartment complex downtown just saved $2,350,000 in water and sewer alone. That doesn't even count roads and the negative externalities of driving or detached housing and energy use etc etc etc.
Data from Sprawl Costs by Robert Burchill et al. from Island Press.
Monday, February 12, 2007
More from the Sacramento Bee
Sunday, February 11, 2007
It's easier to read if you click on it. Enjoy!
Saturday, February 10, 2007
It is disappointing that the national transit agency, which is supposedly interested in providing funding for high-quality transportation projects, has such trouble seeing through its foggy glasses and cannot recognize the advantages of a subway. It is heartening, though, that local businessmen and activists may be able to turn the situation around and convince Virginia's politicians that only a subway makes sense.
Friday, February 9, 2007
A recent article in the Gwinnet Daily Post claims other cities are leapfrogging Atlanta for transit supremacy in the Southeast.
While Atlanta’s inner core has been served for decades by the MARTA rail system, efforts to connect the city with its more distant suburbs via commuter rail service have languished. As a result, smaller Southeastern cities like Nashville and Charlotte, N.C. — which now features light rail — have moved ahead of Atlanta in offering commuters an alternative to driving on clogged highways. "They’re beginning to outstrip the transportation hub of the Southeast,’’ said Emory McClinton of Atlanta, a member of the State Transportation Board and longtime proponent of commuter rail.
In December, the former king of Road Warriors in Atlanta had this to say in an Op-Ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
How then does Georgia expect to compete for industry and jobs against cities such as Miami, Charlotte, Nashville, Dallas, Denver, and Orlando, whose transportation alternatives are more than a decade ahead of Georgia's? Commuter rail just started operating in Nashville. Denver, Dallas and Portland have light rail in operation, while Charlotte is in the advanced stages of comprehensive regional alternative transportation planning.Hopefully Atlanta wakes up from its congestion creation machine soon. They do have some interesting projects going on including the Beltline, The Brain Train, The Peachtree Streetcar and the embattled Lovejoy Commuter Rail. Those will help but a possible expansion of MARTA along with other improvements would go a long way.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Why you ask? Well after further reading he compares the proposed LRT route to Austin which in fact it is much like Austin in that it doesn't really hit the main traffic corridor and does not go all the way into downtown. But Jacksonville has an amazing opportunity that isn't even being looked at to the South. On a main arterial to the South there are large grass medians to put LRT and once through downtown, arterial LRT could take travelers to the Major Regional Hospital and further north to a dead mall.
The arterials are where the opportunities lie. Not where things are cheaper such as with BRT or most rail rights of way. The reason is that this is where people drive and its also where the TOD redevelopment opportunities are because believe it or not, strip malls are not where the money is at anymore. Finally, in the google map from the link above, you can see major opportunities west of the downtown for redevelopment. A good catalyst might be...a streetcar? There is a peoplemover out there...but it just doesn't do enough.
Monday, February 5, 2007
The only possible fix is the third rail technology that has been used in Bordeaux France. This system, pioneered and owned by Alstom is rumored to not be available and the word on the street is that it won't be available in the United States any time soon. According to Werner Uttinger, the safety certification process in the United States is too much to overcome to bring this technology to the United States so for now it seems that DC will have to invent its own power system or keep dreaming.
UPDATE: In the comments Christof has this to say...
The "no overhead wire" law predated DC's streetcars. As a result, the city used conduit streetcars, with the electrical supply buried in a slot in the street (resembling a cable car slot). As proved by more than 70 years of operation, it was a workable system, but expensive to build and labor-intensive to maintain. Pictures here. If you ever wondered what streamliner cable cars might have looked like: Click Here
Apparently also, since it was so expensive to have the underground conduit, there were pits on the outskirts of town to switch to overhead wires. This is a similar situation to Bordeaux where the Alstom trainsets change to overhead wires outside the historic downtown. Thanks for the Links Christof.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
If anyone saw Mo Rocca on Letterman he slammed Indianapolis players for the city taking out their streetcars. If you're a transit nerd it was pretty funny. But I can't find a youtube clip. So if anyone finds it let me know.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Transit Miami did it for Miami, M1ek did it for Austin, Christof did it for Houston, and the Transit Coalition has lots of maps on possible LA scenarios so I thought maybe i would throw my hat in the ring.
Above is my dream map of San Francisco. Black lines are existing and colors are not. The northern most green line would be an extension of the F line. It would also serve as a piece of the Van Ness blue line subway. The reason it wouldn't be a surface line is that that street is way too busy as it is and being the main 101 freeway route to the Golden Gate the line should be underground.
The red elbow is the central subway thats under planning right now. However it should be extended to the orange line into the Marina district. The indigo line goes north south to connect lines and the Richmond district with the San Francisco State. And finally the bottom red line connector would meet up the Geneva rail yards with the end of the 3rd street light rail that just opened up. These are my dream routes to expand an already pretty good rail transit system. I hope they do the blue, yellow and orange lines first because those are the ones i would use the most! Anyone else have dreams?
Thursday, February 1, 2007
One light rail extension is planned to go to the airport. This will put Dallas among the few mutltimodal transit/airport hubs in the United States. Operation on the Orange Line is planned to start in 2011 and connect Dallas with Los Colinas also. The other extension is the Green Line. It will go from Pleasant Grove in the southeast through the hip neighborhoods of Deep Ellum, through downtown and north to Carrolton. At some point it will probably be extended to Denton.
In addition the Mckinney avenue trolley is being expanded. Bonds for an expansion were passed in November of 2006 and this key part of the Dallas rail system will finally form a real connection between Cityplace station and the downtown transit mall via the rapidly developing uptown district. Finally is the move by the region to petition the state to allow them to raise another half cent for commuter rail operations. This push has been bubbling all last year but it remains to be seen whether the state house in Austin who has often been hostile.
These expansions will keep Dallas at the top of the Texas transit food chain and hopefully someone in Austin will take notice of the way it could have been while Houston and Dallas kick their butts.