Thursday, July 31, 2008
Also, Streetsblog LA has a link to the latest BRU screed. I know Damien is trying to give equal time, but these guys had an excellent chance to prove their point with the consent decree and got little new ridership from it. BRU, go away.
While the special master has ordered a one-third increase in the size of the bus fleet, “the actual number of people we carry on the bus has remained flat,” said MTA CEO Roger Snoble. (The BRU says bus ridership has increased about 1 percent per year.) “We’re not taking cars off the street. In fact, we’re adding buses to the streets, which is causing more traffic jams,” said Snoble. Since it costs about $200,000 per year to operate a bus, and most buses are only about 30 percent full, something isn’t working. Unconcerned, and despite $1 billion spent to comply with the consent decree, the BRU continues to push for even more bus purchases, doubling the size of the fleet to 4,000 buses, and a ban on all rail construction.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
“That competition is very hard,” says Paulo Schmidt, the president of URBS, the rapid-bus system. During peak hours, buses on the main routes are already arriving at almost 30-second intervals; any more buses, and they would back up. While acknowledging his iconoclasm in questioning the sufficiency of Curitiba’s trademark bus network, Schmidt nevertheless says a light-rail system is needed to complement it.What?!?! Light Rail to compliment the mighty BRT of Curitiba??? This is going to do two things. 1. This will drive folks like Bill Vincent crazy and perhaps they'll start slamming Mr. Schmidt like Bush slams former allies Karl Rove style which will show that they are super fanatics that will do anything to promote the BRT sham. 2. The pro-BRT folks aren't going to like this very much because it shows that even the BRT needs help from rail. For years they have been trying to resist rail in Curitiba believing that it would be a big blow to their efforts to get BRT in the United States. Seems like this might be one of those watershed moments when hopefully we see the beginning of the end of "The bus that looks like a train" argument.
But what does this say about the overall consumer culture and our debt? Given that the median balance on the American credit card is $1,900, and 43% of Americans spend more than they earn, does this mean we are slaves to our cars?
According to this MSN Money article, the debt of America outside of our Mortgage is largely tied to non-revolving loans like the ones available for people to buy cars. That's just the capital cost for the car. Now what about operating the thing and roads? In 2005, the average American spends 18% of their income on transportation. Recent research suggests that this fluctuates between the exurbs and transit rich urban core with a difference of up to 16% between the extremes of 25% and 9% respectively.
In my own experience, I drive my car once a week and fill up the tank once a month. I probably wouldn't drive at all if my grandmother didn't live so far from BART. Otherwise I take Muni, BART, or walk. I would say that I'm around the 9% in transportation costs which allows me to pay a bit more in rent than I normally would be able to afford. But I'm also able to save up some money.
So in a consumer based, auto oriented society, we are largely tied to our cars, figuratively and sometimes literally. Over the last 60 years we've been so tied down that even personal finance software doesn't give us a transit choice but to enter it in ourselves. But as we've found out from parking, when given the choice for someone to unbundle, a lot of people will choose the alternative because there is one to choose. Someone gave an analogy recently, and forgive me for stealing it if you're reading but if there is a shelf full of only Pepsi how can you say that no one wanted to buy Coke? The choice wasn't there.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
"We have taken the retrofit off the table," said Dave Dye, deputy secretary for the Washington State Department of Transportation, "but we will do one more piece of due diligence."Why is this only being reported by the West Seattle Herald?
But we find out that contrary to the noise, a big majority supports the mayor in his handling of the transit situation. It's a pretty safe bet that they are just tired of the noise and are glad someone is taking leadership on the issue.
There are people that say the poll proves the mayor is losing speed such as his opponent. However it seems like they are grasping at straws.
As reported yesterday, the Star-Bulletin/KITV poll found that 60 percent of the respondents wanted the city to continue with its rail development plan, while 24 percent wanted it stopped, and the remainder either were not sure or refused to answer.
"I am finding more people from East Honolulu and from the Windward side (two areas that have not strongly supported rail) who are starting to get behind rail," Hannemann said. "They are seeing that this is about the entire island eventually being connected."
Monday, July 28, 2008
If you think about the lifestyle of ordinary Americans living on the fringe of Houston or Dallas, for example, compared to what their lifestyle would be in an older European city -- living in a walk-up apartment there compared to a 2,500-square-foot house here they bought for $130,000 with a 24-minute commute -- it's extraordinary in the low-cost areas of this country what a $60,000 family income gets you.Obviously I would take the walk-up in downtown or a European suburb anytime. I feel like analysts and newspaper writers don't get it. They don't understand that big house does not equal better lifestyle for everyone. Sure there is a segment of the market that wants that. But again, there is a reason why its more expensive to live in San Francisco than other places, it provides a certain type of lifestyle you can't get in the outskirts of Dallas. How many people in Plano can walk down the street to their grocery store or the local park where a movie plays with hundreds of people watching every Wednesday?
Sunday, July 27, 2008
MTA officials denied that they lowballed Orange Line ridership predictions but conceded that their forecasts might be more art than science. "We didn't put it into a computer model," said Rod Goldman, the MTA's deputy executive officer for service development. "A lot of it was our educated guesswork based on our experience."Charlotte's mixed use market is doing better than single family homes. Seems to me like this might be from lack of supply over the years. Complaints of expense just prove this point. From the Charlotte Observer:
“There's an immediate crisis feeling about the price of gas, but there's also a different living preference now,” said Laura Harmon, economic development program manager for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. “Those of us who might be baby boomers didn't have those options. But now the millennials and so forth are wanting to live differently.”As noted in the guest post by J.M. it will be interesting to see how Norfolk's light rail line comes out. But while they were pushing forward, their sister city rejected the idea. Now the local paper thinks its time to get back on the train.
Finally comes a blog post from Bill Fulton's blog. Seems that Starbucks has bucked the trend of picking the 100% corner and instead is concentrating more on auto orientation in Redding. Really? Seems a bit strange to me at this time that they would want someone to get in their car making them think about gas to go buy an expensive cup of coffee. But the poster makes a good point that its partly the citizens that are to blame.
The Starbucks with a drive-through window at the edge of downtown? That one stays. So does the Starbucks at the other end of downtown inside of Safeway. But the coffee house at the most visible corner in downtown? The store that was supposed to anchor a cornerstone redevelopment project? It’s closing.
Ultimate responsibility, though, lies with the community. Redding is a town where people rush to the newest franchise restaurant. Earlier this year, they lined up overnight for the opening of a Chipotle in a rebuilt strip center. Seriously. It’s a town where Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Home Depot have big boxes within walking distance of each other – although you’d take your life in your hands trying to make the trip on foot.
In other words, most people who live in Redding don’t care about having a vibrant downtown full of local flavor. And no one – including an urban planning journalist who thinks he knows better – can make them care.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The United Nations predicts that half the world’s population will live in urban areas by the end of 2008 and about 70% will be city dwellers by 2050. There are expected to be more than 27 ‘mega-cities’ - each with more than 10 million people - by 2050.
More crowded cities means more fumes, more noise and more smog. So what to do?
At Shell, we believe the solution is a combination of cleaner fuels, cleaner engines, better public transport and better urban planning. We are doing our best with fuel improvements.
You can find the full text here at the Shell site.
(Full disclosure: My dad worked for shell for over 30 years before retiring.)
There's a high-end computer outside of Washington, D.C., that takes all night to calculate a single fraction. Each morning, it e-mails the result of its toils -- a number rounded to the nearest hundredth -- to Mark Fuhrmann and his staff in St. Paul. And in that e-mail lies the fate of the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis.
But perhaps a way to break down the silo is to combine the two organizations. A possible model for such a relationship can be seen in Charlotte. Unlike most other cities around the country, the county and city are the same entity and the transit agency is under their umbrella with city planning, housing etc. In many other cities, the transit agency is outside of the umbrella of all other organizations which makes agency coordination much harder. The rezoning. development, and construction of the south corridor light rail line shows the power of coordination It also helps that Mecklenburg County is so big that it encompasses a great portion of the region.
Another issue is kind of the elephant in the room called DOT. The FHWA builds highways and doesn't really coordinate land use, which is unfortunate because they are likely the largest driver of new housing placement with their locational building decisions. A way to address this could be to pull the DOT and HUD along with other related agencies into an Urbanism or livability working group. Or even more strength would be achieved through a cabinet position of Urbanism that dealt with transportation, land use, poverty and other related issues.
It's a thought but we really need to start considering how to get agencies that work against each other in policy decisions to work together to aid in the greater affordability of living in the United States. Location efficiency such as is available in major cities and downtowns shouldn't be limited because transportation options aren't available just like programs like hope IV shouldn't negate gains in affordablity by locating somewhere auto dependent.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The cool part will be that it'll be a streetcar in its own ROW with a hike and bike trail along side. Below are pictures of the corridor.
My only question is whether they will allow the streetcars to run on the TRAX ROW towards West Valley or up to downtown Salt Lake. They should be able to operate them that way, but we'll see what happens. If I were a TOD developer, I would hop on that junction where the three lines meet.
In other Salt Lake news, an article in the Tribune has an interesting take on how the government can help the New West prosper. I think the New West is already taking steps to do remarkable things, but the following was interesting.
Brookings suggests that the federal government can help by providing better data and modeling on climate change, water and energy issues. We agree. Increased federal investment in public transportation would help, too. So would a national energy policy that reduces vehicle emissions.Much like other types of research, the government can help lead the way on sustainability efforts.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Let's put aside for a second the fact that congress wants to spend more infrastructure money on roads instead of putting it towards sustainable transportation or alternative energy or railway electrification. The Decider's hooligans made me laugh then shake my head in embarrassment for this country when they made the following statements in the Wall Street Journal:
The White House called the bill "a gimmick and a dangerous precedent that shifts costs from users to taxpayers at large."Since when did users pay for freeways anyway? I'm lost, isn't the usual argument for taking money from other pots to pay for roads that all taxpayers are users of the system in some form or fashion. But lets not take from taxpayers to help users when we could instead...
The administration has proposed covering the trust fund shortfall by shifting money out of a mass transit account.Yeah, that's a great idea. In a time of great pressure on transit systems due to high gas prices, let's expand roads using transit funds! That will totally help us cut our dependence on foreign oil and to lower gas prices, lets increase demand for driving! I'm sorry, but what a bunch of *^&@*%$$ morons! Really?! And what's a good transportation article without saying that really tolls aren't taxes and the Republicans don't want to raise taxes:
But the administration and many Republicans oppose tax increases, instead favoring greater tolling and a heavier emphasis on private-sector investment.Isn't relying on tolling still making people pay more money. Not that I'm against tolling in certain instances, but its still a tax. I wish someone would call them out on that. I wish someone would call them out on all of this.
The text is just as interesting:
The hub around which the wheel of prosperity turns in city life is the transportation system.Perhaps we should remember that. Transit systems are often over analyzed in terms of cost and under analyzed in terms of benefits. We can use streetcars and interurbans to build the cities of tomorrow, while remembering that they built some of the best neighborhoods of today.
Houston has grown very rapidly - to become one of the nation's leading cities, the streetcar, bus, and interurban transportation in a large way made possible the Houston of today.
They help to build new residential sections, they carry customers to the merchant, patrons to the theater and are the means by which the great army of wage earners go to and from their place of employment.
Their value to a city cannot be measured in dollars and cents. (emphasis added)
While I wonder about building an elevated rail line instead of a subway under major arterials, why do people still think that building a huge structure to carry limited capacity vehicles is still a good idea these days. I don't get it!? What am I missing? Why do people think that more operators is a good idea when labor costs are the largest part of the operating budget and you have a ridiculously dense city with a need for a high capacity transit spine? And for good measure make it diesel or some other fuel that puts carbon in the air next to your outdoor cafe. I'm getting cynical.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Listen to a short story from Marketplace on the Olympic Air Cleaning.
I'd like to add that again, we don't need any more carbon in our air or oil dependence.
Encouragingly, Congress has begun to hear their constituents' calls for help. The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly for the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, authorizing $1.7 billion over two years to help transit agencies stave off fare increases and keep pace with ballooning ridership.
But while critically important and timely, this measure is only a minor down-payment on what is required to meet the growing demands on our transportation network. Still needed, urgently, is relief for residents of small cities and rural areas. And longer term, we have to keep pace with demands for public transportation, and give this country a reason to be proud of its high-speed trains, light-rail lines, and both rapid and conventional bus transportation options.
We need to make more of our streets safe and convenient for walking and biking to work, school, shops and public transportation stops. We have to create incentives for developers to invest in our close-in suburbs and urban centers, to meet the huge demand for affordable homes in convenient locations. Americans are not dumb: given the real choice, we would much rather invest in well-located real estate than in gasoline.
Having served four years in the United States Army, I can assure all of you that I find most military bases damn near impossible to get to and get around without a car. Absolutely horrible. Why do think so many bases are surrounded by car dealerships? Every soldier needs a car. And every base at which I've been stationed, sergeants and petty officers warn their troops about getting ripped off by said car salesmen. I was once in a battalion where I was required to attend a briefing specific to this matter!
Monday, July 21, 2008
James Harris loves public buses so much, he stole one from a Miami-Dade depot last month and, wearing a genuine uniform, chauffeured unsuspecting fare-paying passengers around South Beach for hours, police and government officials said Thursday.Via Planetizen
I would like to comment on the sad state of affairs that exists in this country re: the time it takes to get things done. There was a time when we could rebuild a battered and bloodied aircraft carrier in a matter of days and send it back into battle. Now, with the light rail "industry" generally we seem to be falling farther and farther behind other nations when it comes to constructing anything to do with rail transit.
Couple of examples right now:
Phoenix, Valley Metro light rail. The line running north on 19th Av. is to be extended an additional 3 1/2 miles with 3 new stations. This is less than 20,000 feet of wire and rail and maybe a substation. How long to do it? From mid '08 to sometime in '12 or as much as 4 1/2 years!
Salt Lake City, UTA Trax light rail. Just announced the start of construction on the 5 mile line to West Valley City with 4 stations. This is less than 30,000 feet in length. How long? This is maybe a joke from John Inglish, the top guy, but would you believe he actually says by '15? That's 7 1/2 years, depending on how far into '15 they go with it.
I would seriously consider applying for a job as timekeeper on both of these projects. Almost any other country could do either in less than 2 years, using the standards now applicable in the trade. The problem in public transit today is not just the knuckleheads in the FTA but rather the lack of funding and slow construction timelines in cities that already have plans for expansion. China is building heavy rail subways all over the place while India is doing the same as a close second to them. Any doubt as to where the wave of the future is now?
This really is something both the "industry" and the nation should feel frightened about. In an area where the feds -with their total overview of things-( as well as having the moneybags as leverage) really should be demanding and setting some standards, nothing is being done about absurd costs and time spans. Again and again you hear the refrain "local conditions" and "prevailing supply and demand." Have you ever heard of any US project taking a look offshore to see how others do some of these things that we are so slow with? Hell no. We just laugh at "the French" and ignore any and all innovations others have made and used successfully.
Take the proposed extension of Charlotte's new light rail line. Won't be ready until 2014 or even later (the date keeps changing) but it is at least 5-6 years away. 300 miles to the northeast in Norfolk, one of the very few bright spots in the current light rail scene, they are building a new line that- while a bit shorter than Charlotte's- is very similar to it in many ways and will even use the same S70 LRVs. Scheduled to be completed in 2010 at a cost only about a quarter of the Charlotte's Line.
If the FTA had any brains at all they would be waving this one around and demanding that it become a kind of standard for other systems. Norfolk shows it can be done quickly and right and some of these other buffoons should pay attention and maybe pay a visit.
PT: Seems to me that we should be allowed to put light rail and streetcar lines back into streets that had them before. Why we need all these crazy huge environmental impact statements to put streetcars back in the streets many of them created is beyond me.
Thanks again J.M.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Then I went to the BTS and found the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) charts and put the totals together. A word of caution from the last chart I put up. Correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, but I thought this was interesting and more relative. If anything I hope it starts some discussion on how this oil dependence is related to our auto dependence.
Perhaps its also related to this: Spending on highways over transit from PIRG.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that our transportation policy has led us to this predicament. I believe we all knew this, but its always good to have charts right? Thoughts?
The new links, built at a total cost of 22.3 billion yuan ($3.2 billion), increased the number of metro lines in the Chinese capital to eight and the total length of track to 200 kilometers from the current 142 km.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation (NAST) and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed the suit because CalTrans’ analysis of the project’s air pollution and climate change impacts was inadequate, and the project did not consider options that did not involve widening the freeway.Some key points:
1. Did not complete a Vehicle Miles Traveled count and associated air quality impacts from increased VMT
2. Did not look at a range of alternatives including a transit alternative to meet their goals.
3. Did not adequately address ghg emissions as a result of the freeway widening.
This is interesting because it might make Caltrans think twice before just pushing through with freeway expansion. It's been a push through since the 1950's that the only alternative was road widening. I'd be interested to see how this affects other projects around the state if at all.
Someone who signed his name as Stephan Louis replied, "Good points throughout your piece. With me sitting on pivotal boards, rail won't likely happen here for some time, but not necessarily. In either event, the city of Cinn. is unlikely to remain in the top 25 metros by 2010."If you read the article, he denies what he said, but its all on the internets. Can't hide from that.
Money Pundits are shocked when told that oil isn't in a bubble.
Al Gore has the answer... Alternative energy in 10 years.
I've been hoping someone would make this challenge. Less carbon, fresh air, better transit options and WE CAN KEEP OUR MONEY!
Part of the problem is Toronto uses a wider gauge. One of the rumors is that using standard gauge would have allowed locomotives into the city center but they would not have been able to negotiate the curves that caused the failure of Bombardier to comply with the technical standards.
Bombardier, the presumed front-runner to supply new low-floor streetcars for Toronto, has failed to prove its vehicles can handle some of the tight turns on the city’s narrow tracks, the Toronto Transit Commission announced late yesterday.As a result, the Montreal-based company’s proposal for the $1.25-billion project has been rejected and the bid process to find a company to build an accessible fleet of new streetcars has collapsed.
Steve Munroe will have more.
This is another case showing that most of the time, no one cares about transit or transportation from any political party. Sure democrats talk all nice about transit but this is super dumb. A few years ago when Al Gore won an Oscar for an inconvenient truth, the subway stop below the venue was closed because of the Oscars event. Say what?! All those stars that are now touting their green cred but where were they then. And it's happening again.
Now for the democratic convention in Denver, they are going to close the light rail stops at the Pepsi Center and Union Station. Visitors will have to walk from the mile high stop. It's not that half a mile is that far, but people should at least see the trains and how they transport people. And the best visibility is from the outside of the arena.
Security. Why? I don't get it at all. People that get off the train are just as dangerous as people walking from Union Station if people are dangerous at all. Isn't this why they screen people at the doors. I mean if we're this worried about the station, we shouldn't ever leave our houses.
Anyone else want to pound the DNC over the head for this? A lot of talk and no action, even symbolic ones.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Ed Glaeser says its a middle class paradise when it comes to costs. What do you think? I feel like there is something missing. Isn't giving up something a cost? Isn't there a cost in a primarily car oriented lifestyle which seems to cause Houston to have somewhat of an obesity problem? I know there are a lot of people in New York or even here in San Francisco who would rather be lower on the totem pole than rich in Houston. Would San Francisco be the same place if we reduced regulations? Probably not. I don't know the overall answer to any of this, I just know that pitting one city against another is hard to do because they are such different places. So many different variables.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
His number-crunching suggests a permanent $1 increase in gasoline prices could cut the obesity rate by 10 percent within seven years. The number of Americans who are overweight, but not obese, could fall by 7 percent in that time, he says, as people shun cars in favor of walking, biking or taking mass transit.The Christian Science Monitor covers the way Europeans are dealing with gas at $8.50 a gallon. It's certainly much better than we would.
Granted, you don't burn many calories sitting on the bus, but you burn quite a few walking to and from the bus stop, he says. People also tend to eat out less frequently, opting instead to cook their own meals. "These results suggest that the recent spike in gas prices may have the 'silver lining' of reducing obesity in the coming years," he writes in the paper.
Gasoline prices in Europe are even higher, roughly 1.5 euros per liter for regular in the French countryside last month or about $8.50 a gallon. But petrol, as it's called, has always cost a lot more in Europe, in large part because of much higher taxes at the pump.
And even as protest strikes rippled across Spain and edged into France, Europeans had taken conservation measures that in the long haul leave them better-prepared than Americans to deal with the energy crunch ahead.
With a veto override attempt coming up next week on a sales tax referendum, a recent state audit is echoing calls to boost funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System.
The independent audit, required by state law, depicts the bus system as a cost-effective operation with declining service. Auditors recommended more state and local funding, in the form of a dedicated revenue stream.
Monday, July 14, 2008
It seems to me that the world trade organization shouldn't have jurisdiction over local planning processes such as design standards, zoning, or building regulation. However if what these folks say is true, a large corporation could challenge any building restrictions and regulations. This means that if a a Wal Mart wanted to move into a light rail station area and challenged the regulations that go along with it, they might get away with their usual junk.
The proposed WTO restrictions will apply to “measures relating to” licensing and qualification requirements and procedures and technical standards. Therefore, not only are the actual requirements and standards covered but as well any government measure related to requirements and standards. Thus, Council decisions around the issuance of contracts, the licensing of businesses (in general, as well as specific licenses for taxi’s, food vendors, and other specialized services) and more is at stake. But more dramatic still is the possibility that licensing could also include all aspects of the development process. The US delegation has expressed concern that such a broad definition of licenses could cover “permits related to construction [and] the operation or use of facilities…”
The development of standards and guidelines are the hallmark of much innovative municipal policy. Yet under the proposed disciplines, the notion of standard is so broad as to include everything from zoning bylaws (a form of land-use standard relating to the permitted uses and characteristics of development on a given site), sustainable and “green” building standards, design guidelines and more.
As an antidote to the current level of open-endedness, GATS negotiators could work to protect municipal regulatory authority to limit the definitions of what the disciplines cover. So far, this hasn’t happened. Another way could be to make an exception for zoning and hours of operation regulations, as one GATS proponent has recommended. Again, this sort of amendment has yet to appear.
It might also mean the end to local only store preference in places like San Francisco that keep out chains:
Municipal regulations or procedures that “discriminate” against foreign companies by either directly or indirectly favouring local business (e.g. through a local procurement, or economic development policy) can already be challenged under the GATS. Now, however, the proposed disciplines would create grounds for challenge to the much broader category of “non-discriminatory” regulations, which includes the majority of the tools of city government. Non-discriminatory regulations include things like zoning and building-related bylaws, sewage bylaws, health bylaws and regulations that set development charges. For municipalities, this will be the first time that their most elementary forms of regulations and procedures could be disciplined in an enforceable way by an international institution.Kind of scary that they would have this kind of power and regulatory authority over local government.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
This is a mural on some plywood on my street. This house has been under construction for about 2 years and the neighbors got tired of it. They told me that when the house is done, they are going to use these as their back fence. It's kind of sad because no one will get to see them. I kind of enjoy seeing something new on them each day I come home from work. It's a very cool evolution.
Over at the East Portal of the Muni Sunset Tunnel, made famous by numerous cars that drive in there thinking its a throughway even though its clearly for rail cars, purple flowers grow between the tracks.
Fixes for the entrance for the Market Street Subway for the N and J tracks are much needed. I hear they are coming soon. But here's the condition now. This is why speeds of 5 mph are used in this section of track.
This was a look at the Bay towards the Golden Gate bridge from Fillmore street on the 4th of July. It's quite a regular occurrence to have this much fog on the 4th. It's bad because it blocks out the fireworks show.
Here's golden gate park on the 4th. San Francisco fog style.
I've been seeing a lot more of these as well...
And while this might look ugly to some, it's music to my lungs. I would take visual pollution over air pollution any day. Usually you don't even notice, but it hurts more to breathe diesel exhaust than it does to see these.
As plans rolled forward, the city's charter was being revised to allow for a subway to run parallel to a street, an action prohibited at the time by the charter in place. By August, PE was on board, provided the additional capital could be located, to have the station built under the Olive side of Pershing Square, in the hopes that the subway would one day extend further to travel beneath Olive ("Subway Extension"). So it was underground at Pershing versus at-ground level at Hill Street, with citizens registering agreement and disagreement on all sides. By mid-August 1924 action on either plan was delayed until September while all concerned parties weighed their options. (To those of us looking back from where we stand now with transit expansion, the delays seem all too familiar.)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
It's getting bad out there. And by out there I mean around the world. There are options...
A computer engineer in Beijing, who goes by the surname Zhu, is one of them. He said he recently gave up driving and switched to taking the subway to escape from the fuel price increases. He estimated he would have to pay about 200 yuan more at the pump if he continued to drive.
He has also found it's very convenient for him to commute between home and work through the north-south subway Line 5.
Apparently a stripper in Chile has taken it upon herself to protest the lack of tolerance in South America's most conservative country. Rueters has a news article, and below is their report.
The professional pole dancer worked quickly all week to avoid arrest, getting on at one station, finding a subway car with no children on it and stripping in time to exit at the next station.
Chilean media dubbed her "La Diosa del Metro" or Subway Goddess. She called her performances "happy minutes."
"Chile is still a pretty timid country," said her manager Gustavo Pradenas. "People aren't very extroverted and we want to take aim at that and make Chile a happier country."
H/T KF and RTRider
So this continues the trend in which the FTA has massively underestimated ridership recently on new lines. Cases in point.
Minneapolis - 24,000 Projected 2020 26,000 Q108
Houston - 39,000 Projected 2020 40,000 Q108
Denver - 38,100 Projected 2020 36,000 10.07
In other ridership news, Gold Line ridership in LA is up 31.8%. From bottleneck blog:
Seems to me that it's easier to ride and more convenient than other busways that only increased by 4% in a corridor that has greater population. Also, we got a comment from a reliable anti-rail buddy Tom Rubin in the last Orange Line post. He's most recently been trying to work in Milwaukee for the Reason Foundation but was shutdown by Len Brandrup of Kenosha Transit. I thought his joke at the end of his comment on the last Orange Line post was quite funny. What do you all think?
"OK, now I'll say something nice about BRT in this alignment -- it wasn't nearly as dumb as LRT would have been."
Friday, July 11, 2008
Pepy, SNCF chairman and chief executive (PDG) since February, says that, unlike his predecessors who had to manage a railway recession, he is presiding over an accelerating boom. The state-owned SNCF delivered a net €1.1bn (£875m) profit last year and first-half figures, due next week, are said to be sparkling. Pepy envisages up to 80m extra passenger trips this year or an increase of around 8%.I think we need to look ourselves in the mirror and think hard about what we're in for, although the folks that need a reality check most, probably like what they already see.
"This change will speed up because we are facing a twin energy and environment crisis," he says, pointing to surging fuel costs and growing personal worries about carbon footprints. "People want sustainable mobility and, in France, more trains and more SNCF."
Most of the time we talk about the American dream of owning a house in the suburbs. That is starting to change to a location efficient home close to good transit and amenities such as grocery stores. But when thinking about that, I think about guys like Jorge Torres who's parents came to the United States for a better life, and along the way their children become more American than many of those that talk more than act. I highly recommend watching this video. It's quite inspiring and a testament to what hard work can accomplish.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The critique is drawn from EPA's review of the Columbia River Crossing's 5,000-page environmental impact statement, and it extends to other areas as well. Among those are whether doubling the congested I-5 bridge from six to 12 lanes will promote suburban sprawl; whether the combination of air toxics, noise and other pollution will punish North Portland communities living close to the I-5; and whether massive pile-driving efforts will stir up toxic sediments, compromising federally protected migrating salmon.In other environmental news from the bay area, BRT booster Charles Siegel writes a fairly scathing critique of Berkeley residents which has become a city of regressive progressives r.
These hard-core anti-environmentalists seem to believe that they are fighting to protect Berkeley’s character against growth. They don’t realize that Berkeley’s early character as a walkable streetcar suburb was disrupted by auto-oriented development. Transit corridors were filled with drive-in uses, and they ended up being more like strip malls than like walkable Main Streets. Even in downtown, there were surface parking lots, tire stores, a strip mall, a car wash, and other drive-in uses that made it less pleasant to walk.Obviously I'm not a fan of BRT in these corridors that used to be Key System lines, especially when its not electrified but the grounds on which this proposal is being opposed is a bit silly. It makes Berkeley residents look bad. Eric covers the worst of it.
Meanwhile, one quite confused speaker claimed that giving buses a dedicated lane would cause them to “get stuck,” and that what we really needed was “flexibility.” She suggested that with “flexibility,” AC Transit could run buses every three minutes, while implying that three-minute headways would be impossible with a dedicated bus lane. Just incredible.It's at this point when you kind of just have to throw up your hands and say uncle. These people are never going to get it. And its sad, because even though BRT is a small step up in service, it represents a giant shift in priorities (people over cars) and better service than what exists now.
And Green News from BART, all of their peripheral systems are going solar. Pretty cool.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
"What is wrong with us? Are we a third world country?"This is what we have been talking about for the last year and a half. The measurements for cost effectiveness are all messed up and doesn't track the true benefits of rail construction. The federal formulas were created to compare transit to roads, and we know its apples and oranges. I'm glad that Sheriff Oberstar is on our side.
But the Dulles rail proponents are hitting a similar wall with rail to Dulles Airport and beyond. Oberstar said negotiations over the project – when it appeared as if the federal government might pull its funding – made it clear that the Bush administration was not supportive of the project.
As with light rail in Minneapolis, the federal administration has not used the appropriate criteria to measure and rate the project. He said they deliberately threw out factors like energy consumption and cost to the commuters when evaluating Dulles rail and other projects.
If those benefits could have been left in the financial analysis of the project, the cost effectiveness of the Dulles rail project – which has been criticized for its "medium low" rating – could be higher, said Oberstar.
Additional factors that should have been part of the Dulles rail project analysis may also have lead the federal government to conclude that tunnel option was cost effective. Currently, the federal, state and local governments are pursuing an "above ground" option because the tunnel option was deemed too expensive and would stall the project significantly.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Well Urban Milwaukee has the story and the lowdown on the local politics of transit. It might be similar to the situation in your city. Also if you're interested, check out James Rowen's Political Environment which covers a lot of transit, growth and development issues in the region as well. Great writing going on up there, just wish they could win a few political battles.
What would the benefits of electrification and a shift of freight to electric rail be? Well Alan says a 6.3% reduction in fuel usage in the United States. With more electric transit and biking incentives it could possibly be even better.Mumbai: In one of the largest deals of its kind, India will buy 660 electric railway engines worth an estimated €3.5 billion (about Rs23,835 crore)....
The engines would be deployed on the dedicated rail freight corrridors India is building, besides hauling cargo on the common rail network. India’s 2,700km-long dedicated freight corridor project was conceived in 2005 as a way to ease traffic on some of the country’s busiest freight routes running through 12 states. The corridor will connect New Delhi in the north to Mumbai in the west and Kolkata in the east. These routes account for 60% of the freight transported by the railways, which had initially estimated the project to cost around Rs28,000 crore.
Monday, July 7, 2008
While folks like the Reason Foundation will ask for more roads, it seems to me that they are much more expensive than the transit solutions we are proposing and get to a worse end. Well here is the answer straight from the road kings at the Texas DOT...
The decision to build a road is a permanent commitment to the traveling public. Not only will a road be built, but it must also be routinely maintained and reconstructed when necessary, meaning no road is ever truly “paid for.” Until recently, when TxDOT built or expanded a road, no methodology existed to determine the extent to which this work would be paid off through revenues.Did you read that like I read that? $2.22 per gallon of subsidization for the road. And this isn't from some liberal think tank or a transit fanatic saying it, it's the organization that builds and collects taxes for them. And this is just the subsidy for the road, not the oil itself! So when simplistic folks from the Reason foundation propose building roads to relieve all congestion, you ask them who is going to be paying for that, or you shut them down with some good research on how much it will really cost versus your transit alternative. It seems to me that even more so now, rail looks even better than ever when it comes to cost effectiveness.
The Asset Value Index, was developed to compare the full 40-year life-cycle costs to the revenues attributable to a given road corridor or section. The shorthand version calculates how much gasoline is consumed on a roadway and how much gas tax revenue that generates.
The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be “paid for” only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs.
Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon.
Thanks to Andrew for the link.
This map was created in 2005 and sent by reader J. I thought it was a really cool way to show an eventual network that benefits the whole city.
Sound Transit Maps via Orphan Road.
The Most Recent stuff from Transbay Blog.
Cincinnati maps you can buy on a shirt!
Brian G. adds Atlanta.
Anyone have any others?
As some politicians see it, where you live is now a matter of national energy policy. Places with plenty of mass transit and high rates of bicycle usage have received applause from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on the campaign trail lately. And some on Capitol Hill want to legislate shorter commutes that require less fuel.H/T Commuter Page Blog
Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) recently introduced a bill that would enable home buyers to qualify for lower interest rates on mortgages for homes located near mass transit. Although it isn't expected to get to a floor vote before November elections, it has an ally in powerful House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Leo on Flotrack
“More than half of all flights are connections, and in effect long-haul is where the value is. Short haul is just way for Air France to get passengers to Charles de Gaulle” airport in Paris, Van den Brul said.
Shifting passengers onto trains from planes would result in “significant” cost savings, a particular concern for airlines struggling to cope with record high oil prices.
Energy accounts for about 40 percent of an airline’s total costs, against only around 10-15 percent for rail.
For San Francisco, Eric and others have looked at what a city wide metro would look like. However I thought it would be good to look at it from the standpoint of the sphere I created for the Oakland Map. These aerials are the same dimensions as the Oakland map as are the 5 mile spheres. In the fine grid of San Francisco, you can see that a metro as envisioned below would create a tic tac toe board where getting from destinations all over the densest parts of the city would be fairly easy.
For San Jose though I took a different approach. Instead of using downtown as the center, like Oakland, I thought about how a metro could be used to reconfigure the city and employment districts of Silicon Valley. What came out of it was a more northern sphere centered around west of the airport where there is a lot of land and buildings that could be rebuilt now that their 20-30 year life might be almost over.
It was hard to not try and cover everything instead of focusing on the sphere. These city sphere metro projects could be pretty inexpensive when compared to their resulting benefit which is why its important to think about the area in much smaller terms and corridors.
In San Jose in particular, it grew up in such a spread out pattern, that serving the area, unlike Oakland and San Francisco, would be even more daunting. But its possible to use this metro as a starting point to comprehensive feeder bus and commuter rail system that connects the major cities.
Below is an example of this exercise at build out in Austin at the same scale.
So the point of this exercise isn't to say that these networks should be built with these specific lines, but to show transit density in a core area that would promote the usage of transit in the core while also starting to change the development paradigm. If this type of service were available, walkable neighborhoods would be constructed that have more opportunities to go carless. These networks could also be used as a basis for bike planning.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Tysons' dependence on the automobile, and a place to park it, is dramatic when compared with other areas. With about 120,000 jobs, Tysons features nearly half again as many parking spots in structures, underground and in surface lots. That's more parking, 40 million square feet, than office space, 28 million square feet. Tysons boasts more spaces, 167,000, than downtown Washington, 50,000, which has more than twice as many jobs.More spaces than jobs? Who pays for all of those? And doesn't that number tell you something about the benefit of good transit? Yup.
What happened to drum up the opposition to have such clout? I'm not sure but the media seemed to be deep in it, and of course would bring readers to the Observer site as well as the John Locke Foundation blog which was the major source for the opposition.
Now in Honolulu we're seeing a massive media blitz, seizing on the conflict to setup and epic battle. Even the opposition leader is running for mayor, just like in Charlotte. Obviously he's not going to win on one issue alone, but it seems rather like a ploy to shine more attention on the division, even if there might not even be a real division by the vast majority on the island.
But the opposition has gotten nasty as well, not being able to win on the issues they are going to nasty depths.
It's gotten so bad in fact that the local paper has asked everyone to tone it down, something which they were enablers of and allowed to get out of hand even in their own paper. I have never seen an article on the facts or benefits, just who said what.
In the most recent attack circulated via e-mail last weekend, a satirical illustration and text compared rail advocates to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and the Nazis. Hannemann administration officials said the e-mail "crosses the line."
The e-mail, with the subject line "People in Hawaii Are Too Stupid -- DON'T Let Them Vote on Rail," features a photo of Osama bin Laden with the message, "People of Oahu, you should NOT be allowed to make any big decisions in the ballot box. Only Mufi and his friends should decide."
I think though that the Mayor has done the right thing by fighting back. There is no reason he needs to take a beating like this, especially from folks funded on the mainland by highly ideological anti-rail groups.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This is the reason though that there has to be a strong leader at the front of these things. If not, it will die under the onslaught of a well funded opposition. The one common theme in all cities that have started with rail or have been able to continue is a strong mayor or governor pushing it hard. If you want transit, a leader like the mayor is key.