Monday, December 29, 2008
Arnold wants to waive CEQA to pass the budget. I like that for transit, not so much for roads.
Tom Friedman writes gas tax and Oberstar talks about it on NPR.
A Portland Architect talks about how GM should be the catalyst for a nationwide streetcar revival.
Four subway lines opened this year. Just not in this country.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
This leads to all sorts of idiotic consequences. Back when I lived in California, one of the few ways of raising taxes available to cities and towns was to increase the sales tax by some fraction of a percent. Result? Cities and towns did this, and then tried desperately to induce people to set up car dealerships and other places where people sell big, expensive things. Did it make sense to have so many car dealerships? Who cares! It's revenue!
Likewise, people in California don't always sell their houses when it would normally make sense to do so, because as long as they stay in their existing house, the assessment will not rise much and their taxes will stay low, whereas if they buy a new house, it will be assessed at its purchase price, and their taxes will go up.
"Free markets", indeed.
The Tram that serves OHSU in Portland did an amazing job keeping people working there linked to the city during the snow storm.
The tram, which extends from a streetcar stop in South Waterfront up to OHSU, helped the hospital keep running through the worst of the snow. With buses unable to make the trip up to Marquam Hill, OHSU kept the tram running until midnight so that patients and staff could get up to the hospital and back down the hill again.~~~
Light Rail is now open in Phoenix!
California HSR could get $20B from the stimulus. That would be a great contribution to the future of California, just like the aqueduct was many years previous. Personally, I'd like to see us hire Dutch engineers for New Orleans and California's Levee problems. I know its off topic, but its something that needs serious attention too and will benefit for many years to come.
More on the big push from Congressman Oberstar.
Oberstar said, "We're going to rewrite the whole book on this thing." The stimulus package is the prologue to a broader effort to show that mass transit is not just a good idea; it's a vehicle America can ride into the future.This makes me think there needs to be a name for our movement. Something simple. The Big Push? Any suggestions?
This seems a bit much to me. $668 million for a crossover track between Walnut Creek and Concord on BART?? Isn't there a better use for that money? Anyone know anything about this?
And finally, Dan shows us how to man up in the snow.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," Steven Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told the Wall Street Journal in September.From the Wall Street Journal Article:
In a sign of one major internal difference, Mr. Chu has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work.At least someone in the administration gets it. Apparently Obama does not, at least publicly.
But Mr. Obama has dismissed the idea of boosting the federal gasoline tax, a move energy experts say could be the single most effective step to promote alternative energies and temper demand. Mr. Obama said Sunday that a heightened gas tax would be a "mistake" because it would put "additional burdens on American families right now."
What is the history of this tram ring that allows the circulation of this signature street? Initially the ring was the city fortifications. However Franz Joseph, the King of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire decided that it wasn’t needed anymore and wanted to create a signature street. And create a meaningful place he did. The street is very wide and accommodates automobiles, streetcars, as well as a wide tree lined pedestrian and bike space.
The most interesting piece related to transit is not really the loop itself, although its an important part of both Vienna and Budapest transport, but rather the multimodal connections that are made at certain nodes along the Ringstrasse. At one node, there are four tram stops on the surface, a tram turnaround just beneath the surface and a connection to the M2 Metro which follows its own ring around half of the downtown. In the photos below you can kind of see how this works.
In another node, there are loops for trams, buses and the Metro connected by tunnels which allow citizens to not cross the Ringstrasse on the surface. Underneath the surface its like a mini-mall with eateries and the infamous Tabak shops where you can buy cigarettes and your metro pass.
So why do these systems work? Well first off they are the circulators for all modal connections with in the central city. Their operation is dependent on the interface of faster Metro lines and slower tram and bus connections (the photo below is a tram and bus stop). In Vienna specifically the buses sometimes are even using the tram right of way and stops of the trams. They also all connect to the intercity trains on the edges of town allowing anyone living in town to get around effortlessly without a car.
This means that its incredible affordable to live in the old parts of Vienna. I was told that inside the ring is expensive, but just outside of the ring you can get a nice flat for $600 per month. I will warn folks that there are lots of good restaurants there so food could get expensive.
And if you're worried about the environment, there are people there to remind you.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
"I'm sick of people whining about a lousy 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline! I think its time has come, and I call on all non-wussy politicians to stand with me, because our country needs us."Amen.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
By local folks I hope he means local planning officials and residents, not people like Tom Delay.
At the end of his brief remarks, LaHood made a comment sure to endear him to every mayor and county leader who's complained about unfunded mandates and dictates from D.C.
"It's the local folks who know best their transportation needs," he said.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Congressman Oberstar has our back. He wants to spend more on transit, and if the highway junkies don't like it, tough.
Ahem. Advocates are not split Boston Globe. We want transit, walking, and biking projects. There is no dichotomy of we have to build roads because they will create jobs and the other projects won't. That is complete and utter bs.
Tunnel lovers just won't give up (I wish there was a tunnel). Shouldn't this project have been built years ago? Get it started already!
The Cinci NAACP is opposing a streetcar project complaining about potholes in neighborhoods. Seems to me like they should be opposing all those suburban road projects. This is exactly how the Madison streetcar died, except that time, it was police coverage. The trade off shouldn't be transit or streets or police.
We have a task before us to rebuild America. As a nation, we need to continue to be the world leader in infrastructure development, Amtrak, mass transit, light rail, air travel, and our roads and bridges all play a vital role in our economy and our well-being as a nation.What no HSR, Walking, Biking and (insert forgotten mode here)?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Baltimore City Red Line coordinator Danyell Diggs also blamed federal officials for the loss of funds."This is just one final anti-transit action by the Bush administration on its way out the door," said Diggs in an e-mail.
"We are looking forward to January 20 and a president who values transit as a means of strengthening communities." Milkulski spokesman Cassie Harvey said FTA officials decided to redistribute the funds outside Maryland after Congress failed to re-authorize New Starts, a federal program that funds mass transit projects nationwide.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Yonah covers in detail (as usual) a few of his past transportation details. He covers some Amtrak in LaHood's home town, making a rail ROW into a trail instead of preserving it for future service, and funding for a local road project.
Modemocrat at DailyKos has a bit of background on LaHood from a bit of a political angle for the pick. He discusses why this might be a savvy political move and how his ability to work with republicans could possibly be a boon for big infrastructure projects due to his knowledge of the appropriations process.
In the same vein at the Prospect, Dana Goldstien makes the argument that this appointment could possibly neutralize transit as an urban snob issue.
In my opinion, his appropriations knowledge and closeness to congress might be a strike against him as he is too familiar with the process and could be slow to change it (we know it needs to get deep sixed), or understand the changes that need to be made in say the New Starts program. There are a lot of little details that need changing. Will he know as Robert notes, "...the FRA's weight rules? Does he support 80/20 funding for mass transit?" Things of that nature.
Austin Bike Blog notes that LaHood is a member of the congressional bike caucus. It's quite the long list but he was supportive of Congressman Blumenaur's commuter benefits package. Looking through some back news, he was one of two Republicans that voted in committee to keep funding for bike improvements in the 2003 transportation appropriations bill. It was initially ripped out by Rep. Istook of OK. LaHood even testified on the house floor for the bike and ped enhancements.
He's not without his bad connections as well. He tried along with Rep Culbertson of Houston (who was the target of one of my first posts ever) to keep Rep Chris Bell from filing ethics complaints against Tom Delay. He also praised a member of his constituency on the floor in 1997 who was appointed VP to the Petroleum Marketers Association of America. Though he was in the Pig Book for earmarking green building tech, his environmental record is pretty shoddy.
He also supported (H/T AK) an Interstate connection to Chicago but later pulled back on that, working to fund local freeways instead.
The largest employer in his district is Caterpillar, a heavy machinery company that makes earthmovers and backhoes. He's also earmarked funds for CAT. Yes CAT machinery is used to build roads. Perhaps they should start into the rail machinery now.
A few of the related bills good or bad that he has co-sponsored recently (with a lot of other people):
Commuter Act of 2008 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow employers a refundable credit against income tax for 50 percent of the employer's cost of providing tax-free transit passes to employees.
Recognizing Importance of Bicycling as Transportation and Recreation Res
Bicycle Fringe Benefit - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters.
As for regular transit, after his Amtrak talk and possible anti-HSR stance, there is nothing about buses or light rail anywhere, at least that I could find. I'll keep looking for more information tomorrow.
I'll be deep in the Googles later tonight looking for dirt, good or bad. I'll post what I find.
Newly elected U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D) noted, "Every year they make the same proposal and some of it is just ideological.... It strikes me that we should make a greater investment in upgrading our rail system rather than eliminating the subsidies that already exist. "If you look at the amount of subsidies that we provide the highways relative to the subsidies that we provide rail transportation, it pales in comparison." Obama echoed a comment many Amtrak supporters have made for years saying, "We're the only developing country in the world that doesn't make a significant commitment to our rail transportation system."
U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, also rejected the Bush rail plan. He said he favors maintaining the current Amtrak system but didn't rule out small changes to make the railroad more efficient. "We've got a good Amtrak system in illinois and I don't think we want to destroy it by talking about privatization," LaHood said in a telephone interview with the Peoria Journal Star. "The subsidies need to continue. These subsidies are the lifeblood of Amtrak continuing the kind of service they have to the college towns and the small communities in illinois and around the country. I don't see us really tinkering with that."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I hadn't heard much about Lancaster before the Streetcar issues that have been going on there with the FTA but the little interaction I've had is with Google Earth. The first thing you notice (if you're a nerd like me) is that the major freeways stay relatively far away from the center of town, there is a grided street pattern throughout the city, making walking, biking and transit more likely, and the Amtrak station actually serves fairly frequent trains to Philadelphia.
Eisenhower was freaked out by the idea of freeways going through our cities. It was pushed through anyways as the people who took over the Interstate program showed no mercy in cities. Perhaps this is a case study of what happens when we keep them out.
The shocker last night wasn't so much that a local toll-road official will take over as chairman of VIA Metropolitan Transit.This might be the first shot in a long Texas war that would attempt to combine these recently created mobility authorities with local transit agencies. Not something that is unfamiliar so close to the Alamo. My fear is a region wide transportation authority focused on toll roads will give suburban jurisdictions too much clout over all transportation and leave the more urban areas hanging out to dry. Specifically, Austin's outside pols have been trying to take away Capital Metro's sales tax for as long as anyone can remember. We'll have to watch and see what happens, but color me skeptical.
It had more to do with a revelation that behind-the-scene talks have drifted toward the possibility of merging the toll and bus agencies into a super agency. The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which is banking on toll-road plans but can pretty much do any type of transportation project, recently outlined an idea to create an overarching Multi-Modal Transportation Finance System.
With it, VIA and the RMA would combine to maximize financing capacity while allowing each agency to operate independently, says the RMA document, which was prepared for a city-county transportation task force.
Monday, December 15, 2008
"Why do the buses get the privilege?" asks Mary Rheaume, who lives a few blocks from Cedar Avenue and is unimpressed with the new signal. "Why can't they take the loop like everybody else?"
Who knew he was going to come back on that earlier decision? Well perhaps everyone who's ever encountered one of his writings. He did state that he felt buses were a better option, such as he usually does as long as it doesn't have its own ROW. The quote of the story:
A new study by a libertarian think tank claims the projected economic benefits of a proposed Milwaukee-to-Kenosha commuter rail line have been inflated and questions its ridership estimates.
But a business leader noted that the author of the study, Los Angeles-based transit consultant Tom Rubin, took a far more positive view of the $200 million project in June, when pro-transit business leaders were pushing the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority to hire him as the authority's consultant. And a regional planner said the commuter rail projections were sound.
H/T Political Environment
Pete Beitzel, a vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, suggested Rubin's opinions depended on who was paying him. "The think tank guys got real mad at him when he said it (the KRM line) was a good idea," Beitzel said. "Apparently, they hired him to change his mind."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Spending on upkeep of transit systems in older centralized cities such as New York, Washington and Chicago also seems logical. But with few exceptions -- the heavily traveled corridor between downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center, for instance -- ridership on most new rail systems outside the traditional cities has remained paltry, accounting for barely 1 or 2 percent of all commuters.This 2% bullshit needs to stop. Stop comparing a single transit corridor or a poorly funded transit network to all roads in a region. Let's compare a single road project to the whole region next time. The next interchange, i'm going to be all about comparing the number of trips. Heck the big dig only takes 2% of trips. Stop it. Wendell Cox or Robert Poole say all the time we should spend money depending on existing trip percentages. That doesn't do us any good and only enforces the current shares. We should be spending more money on livability infrastructure.
Another interesting thing about Kotkin's screed is that he praises Houston's light rail line, which he and his followers bashed in the past. So what's it going to be Joel? There's a whole lot more wrong with his ideas on the stimulus, but I'll leave that to others.
Transportation officials say a new study shows a surprising trend: As New York City's population and job base grew during the recent boom, traffic didn't.
Instead, a report due for release Monday finds the transit system absorbed the influx of residents and commuters between 2003 and 2007.
City deputy transportation commissioner Bruce Schaller says that's a first for at least the years since World War II. Schaller wrote the study. He says improvements to the subway, bus and commuter rail network helped it handle the demand from 130,000 new residents and 200,000 more jobs.
Patrick Condon in the Globe and Mail
"What we got out of that (the citywide workshops) is a pretty different view of Tulsa than the forecast we've seen for Tulsa," Fregonese said. "In fact, what was put on the maps is in many cases illegal; in fact, most of it is illegal, most of it is not permitted, let alone not planned for and not anticipated and not desired."As Ryan mentions, in order to optimize these changes people want, we need to make the institutional changes to the zoning codes and planning that backs up our infrastructure spending.
If you've seen one of these overlays somewhere, shoot a link in the comments and I'll append them to this post.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Sources say former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk is one of two supposed finalists for the Transportation Secretary job along with Steve Heminger from the Bay Area MTC. The article says nothing about what Kirk has done on transportation issues and only that he was an early supporter and friend to Obama. Who wants cronies! Anyone have any more info on this person? I will note that he was in Office when light rail started running in Dallas.
Heminger on the other hand took any mention of electric transit out of the report for the recent Revenue Policy Study. It was put back, but he's also famous around the Bay Area by progressive transport nerds for his stance on promoting HOT lanes as the only way short term to cut congestion and pollution.
Rep Peter Defazio is certain that an Obama administration will fund the East Side Streetcar project in Portland. This could bode well for other projects.
This is heartening, but I'd really like to hear more about it than this.
While details have not been finalized, the bill is expected to include tens of billions of dollars for highway, mass transit, airport, and intercity passenger and freight rail improvements.
Bush's transportation philosophy "seemed to be, 'This is what the federal government should be responsible for and nothing else.' And the 'nothing else' category was public transportation," said William Millar, executive director of the American Public Transportation Association, whose members include transit agencies.
Obama, on the other hand, has described himself as a strong advocate of mass transit.
While Bush proposed what some lawmakers described as "starvation budgets" for Amtrak, Obama has pledged support for the passenger rail carrier and for developing a national network of high-speed passenger trains.
The BRT - Light Rail saga continues on the Purple Line. A bad frame was used at a recent meeting. David Alpert fixes it.
It's too bad Gonzalez is thinking about the project using this analogy. A Lamborghini and a VW both get you from point A to point B, and except in a drag race, in pretty much the same amount of time. Not so with the bus versus light rail option. The light rail is faster, carries more people, and would use its own right of way for big chunks of the route, avoiding a lot of traffic. A better analogy would be, if the County builds a new school, should they buy big yellow buses or little golf carts to transport kids to school? Even if they're much slower and hold fewer students, they cost less, so why not?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
For San Francisco, here's the link. Definitely needed things including a new control room and midlife overhauls for buses and the Bredas. I wonder if they have pong on their current control room computers.
And the city that sees this as an opportunity to do big things, Salt Lake City. Asking $403 million for five different light rail projects.
Another quirky thing, Austin asks for $80 million to update the current commuter rail line ($220 in rail asks). Does this mean electrification? Double tracking? Is that possible? What does urban rail vehicle purchases mean. Soooo confused!
If you find something interesting, let us know in the comments.
Update 12.11.08: The Boston Globe is reporting that the Silver Line is getting down-rated to a Medium Low in the next New Starts report coming in February. This means that it would not be able to get funding because a medium rating is required. It's primarily due to the debt load of over $8 billion that the MBTA is carrying. Bill also mentions the atrocious ridership of the existing Waterfront Silver Line segment, half of which is going to be cut. It costs $9.16 per boarding in subsidy versus the Washington Street Section which is 48 cents. Amazing.
Bill reports that the folks at Boston Common don't like the Silver Lie BRT tunnel. Why would you tear up an existing usable tunnel that held rail vehicles for a poorly thought out bus tunnel? It just doesn't make any sense. But alas I'm sure it will continue to go through its approvals...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
At Rail~Volution I saw a presentation by Tina Hodges at the FTA that had some cool charts and comparisons of modes. The one I've seen before is the increase in VMT versus what CAFE standards will do. Now we've seen that there is a bit of a drop recently due to the economy but with gas prices as they are and no change in habits, I still believe this will happen.
Then here is the difference between current occupancies vs. all of the vehicles full and over the lifecycle of the vehicle in the second chart. These are based on a UC Berkeley study by Mikhail Chester that considered vehicle construction, guidway construction etc. The list of items lifecycled are at the link. Apparently buses off peak are the worst and peak are the best, even better than rail lines. Yet rail lasts longer and attracts more passengers overall so on average is better. I didn't really have time to read the 332 page tome, but if you're interested go for it.
But the most interesting in the presentation to me was the difference between the Heavy Rail modes. BART is the most efficient while Cleveland is almost as bad as a single occupancy vehicle. The relative inefficiency of the EL was surprising to me as well.
Thought this would be of interest to folks. I have to say again that its necessary to not just measure the lifecycle and modes but rather the land uses and transportation, but its interesting to learn that this work is being done.
The first run of the Savannah Streetcar.
If the auto bailout passes, it looks like there will be help for transit agencies involved in those leaseback deals. While these deals might not have been a great idea, it just shows how underfunded our transit agencies are compared to the road complex.
Some leaders in Milwaukie, Oregon are a bit skeptical about the MAX line that is proposed to come to town.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Speaking of Louisville, its an interesting case. It's not a city I hear much about but Broken Sidewalk has brought it to life. The only other contact I've come in with Louisville was when I was looking over thier long range transit plan a few months ago. They have a robust plan, but thats all it is. A plan on a shelf. In fact, they must have taken out the maps that show the transit corridors because I can't find them now. "Waiting until funding is available." Here is another place that needs a bit of a push. If offered funding for a complete system through a better federal match, perhaps that would get the wheels rolling. Some places need a bigger push than others.
Monday, December 8, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama's call for sweeping infrastructure investments to put 2.5 million people to work has experts debating just what and how much government should do.
One problem, for some, is that toll roads and privatization could get left behind.
Oh noes! We wouldn't want that. I mean the whole idea of toll roads and privatization is getting money from the government right?
‘Is there power?’ ”Yes, there is, said Robert A. Caro, who called his epic biography of Robert Moses “The Power Broker.” Mr. Ravitch’s challenge, he said, was to persuade gutsy public officials to exercise power on behalf of an agenda that Moses, who championed highways over mass transit, rejected.This is a common theme in many cities. The lack of political will for transit. But many cities aren't New York with such a high transit constituency and many in the growth machine that is any city government don't see or don't want to see that it would actually benefit them to grow inward with transit instead of outward with roads. It's been too easy to keep going the way they know, rather than the way they should go.
“It’s not a lack of power,” Mr. Caro said in an interview. “It’s a lack of vision — of a vast metropolitan area as a single whole and what is necessary to tie that area together in a way that makes every segment of the population one. There are public officials with plenty of power. That power is just never thrown behind mass transit in the way it should be.”
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Heavy Rail Numbers
Commuter Rail Numbers
Large Agency Bus Numbers
Find Your Agency Totals
Saturday, December 6, 2008
First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.Yes it will put people to work and is needed, but long term we need to think bigger. My point is one made by Beyond DC very eloquently when talking about the LEED architecture program which designates green buildings:
LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using hybrid-powered bulldozers - it just sort of misses the point.But there is a whole other level to what we talk about. I think the more holistic approach to sustainability pushed by firms like Mithun is a way to go and when coupled the themes of urbanism and sustainable transport. This would lead to wholesale change in terms of energy efficiency which is a major part of sustainability. Here's a bit from Mithun's sustainable urban design plan for the Lloyd District in Portland.
The Sustainable Design Plan, in contrast, rests on a functional concept of “Pre-development Metrics” developed by the team. These measures embody a theoretical baseline representing the ecological profile of the site before there was a human presence on it. This framework was then used to create a plan that would be even more ambitious than the “beyond-platinum” goals specified in the RFP.Now I know this is a bit too heady for basic stimulus issues and needs to be developed further, but this is the type of thing that will lead to true sustainability. If we put our brightest minds to work to figure out how to implement strategies like those mentioned by Mithun above, we'll be a whole lot better off. We need to stop looking at things in silos and start looking more at systems in transportation, land use, habitat, and water systems.
In effect, the remarkable notion at the heart of the plan is that intense urban redevelopment can be used to reverse existing environmental impacts, and return many of the ecological qualities of the site to those of a 54-acre, mature, mixed-conifer forest. Wildlife habitat, water and usage quality, and energy consumption are three areas where the plan establishes specific performance goals.
In terms of habitat, the pre-development metric was 90 percent tree cover, supporting a diverse range of species. In comparison, the plan attempts to reestablish 25-30 percent tree cover—an “abstraction” of a mixed-conifer forest, involving native “forest patches,” green streets, rooftop gardens, and habitat corridors. Meanwhile, provisions are also proposed for off-site habitat restoration.
Update 10:00 pm PT: continued quote left out earlier...
In terms of water, the plan estimates the study area receives 64 million gallons of rainwater a year, and it proposes treating much of this runoff on-site. It also proposes reducing potable water consumption by 62 percent, and providing on-site sources for 100 percent of nonpotable water demand through rainwater harvesting and wastewater reuse. Energy metrics involve a number of concerns. According to the plan, the neighborhood receives 161 million kilowatt hours per year of solar energy. The plan aims to exceed the level of utilization of this energy that would be typical of a mature forest.
Among the plan’s other goals are to reduce on-site carbon dioxide emissions to predevelopment levels and create an overall carbon-neutral strategy. Since the construction industry consumes 40 percent of the global economy’s raw materials, the latter would involve giving preference to materials that employ renewable resources, that are from within 300 to 500 miles of the site, have low embodied energy, and that receive a positive Life Cycle Assessment.
ROADS AND BRIDGES: “[W]e will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”No wonder we're so far behind the rest of the world. If your smart leaders don't understand and articulate the real problems, then how are we supposed to fix them? Commenters on liberal blogs such as Daily Kos this morning echoed my thoughts:
Roads and bridges, roads and bridges, roads and bridges...as if that's all we need and everything will be alright. Yes, I know Obama has mentioned rail and I hear it more frequently now, but how about saying "rail, transit, roads and bridges" for once?And on America Blog:
Rehabbing the infrastructure and the highway system is an excellent idea. I would like to see nation-wide pubic transportation on that list as well but . . . somehow, sensible bus and train and even plane connections are beyond us.In fact there was a sentiment throughout the whole comment thread of this post that there has been little mention of transit. I didn't even see any mention of bike or pedestrian improvements which is a part of this as well. Yes I understand this is for immediate job creation, but there is a lot more that can be done if transit agencies would get their act together and ask for it, prove they need those funds. They are always complaining about being underfunded, I know there is a case to be made. It seems like politicians are afraid but like others have said, its a time to be bold. These are not times for the timid.
Friday, December 5, 2008
So what's the solution to this "too wide" problem? Dan Bertolet suggests a new line of buildings on the east side of the plaza, which I think is a good idea.What would be great is a new line of buildings, perhaps a true boulevard that creates streetscapes for diners, and restaurants and general activity that isn't only tourists. All of this instead of crazy huge open plazas. That and allowing buildings could create value for the space and creating transit and bikeways will encourage alternative transport. Don't need another huge open space.
Legislators have begun to wonder, not irrationally, if a rail connection might be the better alternative.Ughh. You mean isn't much different since light rail is transit too? I agree with Richard.
When well-executed, bus rapid transit isn't much different from light rail. It is a transit vehicle — an articulated bus — running on a fixed path, a roadway instead of rails.
The advantage of rail is that it feels more permanent. But good busways also feel like they'll be there for a long time.
I think it's fine to explore BRT, but at the same time, let's not argue that it can do the job as well as fixed-rail transit.Let's get real and stop trying to think that these buses act like trains. There is a reason we don't call buses trains. Just because you have an articulation doesn't mean you can couple. Anyway, we shouldn't have to keep repeating how rail is better than bus on the necessary rail corridors. It's annoying this even has to be discussed anymore.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
State representatives from the western side of the Metroplex lined up Wednesday in support of Rail North Texas — a proposal to create new taxes, with voter approval, and build a regionwide web of commuter trains.But this morning there was some other interesting news. Kay Bailey Hutchinson is looking to run up against Rick Perry for Governor in 2010. If she won, this would be a shift in transportation policy from the Trans Texas Corridor of clear cutting to perhaps a more balanced approach that could be friendly to rail. I'm not sure where KBH stands on livable community stuff like biking and walking (though she was a mindless supporter of drill baby drill), but her support for rail would bode well for the Texas High Speed Rail project (she's written bills before with Joe Biden) and local light rail lines. She's worked hard to get funding for DART and even helped Houston some when Tom Delay and John Culbertson snubbed their nose at Houston's future.
But the lawmakers warned elected leaders from Tarrant, Johnson and Denton counties that their chance of success in the legislative session that begins in January is a long shot at best. Attempts to win approval for commuter rail failed in 2005 and 2007.
We'll see what happens, but past work on behalf of transit on the hill has been fairly good, and amazing if you compare her to the current Mr. 39% (Rick Perry, not GWB).
Morgan said new mixed-use transit-oriented development has sprung up along the line. There’s numerous anecdotes about lifestyle changes, he said, including downtown workers living in condos or apartments near rail stations who have sold their cars and avoided insurance, gas and other costs while getting transit subsidies from their employers.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
At the same time, many environmental groups, labor unions, consultants, and construction companies are urging the federal government to redirect federal transportation policy toward 19th century transportation options by shifting federal resources from highways and autos to transit and trains, as well as hiking and biking, in the belief that these latter modes--while slower and more costly--are more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. With an opportunity to receive greater subsidies, the transit and train lobbies have moved aggressively to influence Congress and the media, and many in Congress are already promising to push for these changes.In other words, watch out for BIG RAIL and SUPERTRAINS! Turns out, Obama doesn't listen to these dudes. We're looking at transit stimulus rather than Iran War Games at Heritage. The rest of the Heritage article is the usual shpiel about ridership share and all the other BS you come to expect from the sprawlistas.
This brings up another issue that Yglesias talked about today as well. With the auto industry, these guys (Cox and Utt) have been pushing hard in parrallel with the auto industry for standards that deny many people a lifestyle they would like to have and independence from an expensive habit.
The auto industry has provided a decent living to a large number of Americans for many decades. But it’s also been a very pernicious force on our public policy. If car companies expect progressives to deliver them a financial rescue, then it only seems fair to me that progressives will want the companies to stop blocking key elements of the progressive political agenda. That means dropping lawsuits like the one aimed at forcing California to lower its fuel efficiency standards, it means stopping involvement in whatever anti-green climate change front groups these firms are involved with, it means seeing members of congress from Michigan and other rust belt areas offering assurances to colleagues that they won’t stand in the way of serious climate legislation, etc.If only we could stop junk planning theory as well.
These firms will be okay. Giving federal subsidies that are then used to lobby for pro-pollution public policy is not okay.
By his count, some 30 to 50 percent of residents in U.S. metropolitan areas want to live in a walkable urban environment—a trend fueled by the growing number of single and childless couples, who will constitute 88 percent of household growth through 2040. Trouble is, he estimates there are currently only enough walkable neighborhoods to satisfy about 5 to 10 percent of metro residents, which is why rents in transit-accessible areas are so exorbitant.The other side of this as both blog posts noted above is the issue of land use and zoning. I'm going to throw another wrench in and say there has to be a market. There have been a few rail projects that hope the build it and they will come system will work but there needs to be a concerted effort and existing market to make it work precisely because of the problems with our zoning code. An example of this is Cascade Station in Portland. On the way to the airport, the Bechtel company traded building the line for the land at the station. Unfortunately 911 hit a few days close to the opening of the line and the market dropped out from under the developers.
There's also the synergy issue. Places like the Pearl District and the South End in Charlotte were the next places to grow and close to the downtown urban market. I would say the transit was able to shape the development intensity. Further down the South Corridor has been a bit slower to take off. Over time as the prime properties are expanded, I expect the development to move further south along the line.
So while I see there is demand for walkable urbanism as Chris calls it, there are timelines of implementation that should be mentioned as well so that people don't expect overnight change. The Rosslyn Ballston corridor didn't take off over night either. I feel like the synergy point is an important one that gets missed from time to time when people expect TOD everywhere once the line opens. It's a long term investment with long term results. It will be interesting to see what happens in Denver as the opening of the whole transit system almost at once under the Fastracks program. I have heard some state that the push and focus that happened along the Southeast Corridor won't be replicated because the demand will be spread out among all the opening stations. It makes for an interesting test of the synergy idea and whether transit will be able to focus the intensity as it has in other corridors that had all the attention.
On the issue of paying for lines, I think developers will get a major boost from the infrastructure investment and should pitch in, or at least not be able to keep the massive windfalls from the investment that was made by everyone. But its also dependent more on vacant and extremely underutilized property appreciation. More money will be generated through vacant to build out than the appreciation of properties that already exist. Too many people think value capture will always be the answer when sometimes it will not, because the increment is too small to generate the funding needed. These issues and a ton more are discussed in a recent paper on Value Capture by the Center for TOD. We'll discuss that piece another time.
Also, a while ago I covered some key quotes in Chris Leinberger's book, The Option of Urbanism. Here's the series post by post.
The Favored Quarter
The Endless Landscape
Real Development Subsidization
Metro Brings Change
Subsidizing the Rich
I saw a few other poll ideas in the last poll series so I'll bring those up soon. I'll probably wait a few days as tonight is a pretty busy news night.
Yet today they got a little smarter. I said a little because they were just talking about it instead of just doing it. Perhaps they were waiting for BART to San Jose to pass but this would really be a win win for everyone except of course the namesake of Oakland who loses the A's. As reported by SF Chron:
Here's a possible game changer - the Oakland A's will sit down this week with BART officials to discuss moving the team's proposed Fremont ballpark to within walking distance of the planned Warm Springs BART station.Personally I think they should build the stadium on Broadway in Oakland along Auto Row. That whole area is just an explosion of redevelopment waiting to happen. Too many cars and too many parking lots on prime real estate. Anyone have money they can lend my development firm that doesn't exist yet???
Even Fremont Mayor and ballpark booster Bob Wasserman says he and his City Council colleagues "definitely" have to look at the idea, now that the tanking economy has forced the A's to put the rest of their "ballpark village" plan for 3,000 apartment and townhouses on ice.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Insurance, depreciation and financing charges are major costs. "If you have two cars sitting in the garage, you can sell one for eight grand and that will help pay the mortgage,"Who knew transit made money for you? The Washington Post has an article that in tone belays the shock that while gas prices are dropping, people are still taking transit. There are many who have known the benefits for years. It's like finding Narnia or something for those on the outside of urbanism though.
Monday, December 1, 2008
When RTD consultant Julie Skeen started to explain the assumption was simply for purposes of doing the analysis and didn't reflect the RTD staff's position on how the money should be divided, Tauer cut her off.
"Would you please let me finish because we don't trust you," he said. "This is about how we are going to cut up the pie." Denver Public Works Manager Bill Vidal urged the group to focus on finding a way to complete all the corridors. "Every time we talk like this it just ends up dividing us," he said.
It seems crazy that a business like this could be going under right before demand could kick in.
Based on Milwaukee's northwest side, the company makes rail cars for freight railroads and commuter rail systems.
"In the past few months, we have seen dramatic and unprecedented reductions and cancellations of orders by our customers in the freight locomotive, transit and transportation sectors of our business," the company's statement said. "Without substantial new orders, we cannot sustain the employees at the plant beyond the time frame outlined above."
1. Carbon pricing
2. Efficiency standards
3. Carbon-free electricity
4. Smart electrical grid
5. Electric cars
The author, Adam Stein notes there are gaps. Most glaring to me, nothing about land use or transit. Nothing about walking or cycling. These are some of the best ways you can personally reduce your carbon footprint. I personally drive only once a week now to visit my Grandmother. When I lived in Austin I drove three or four times a week even though I lived next to the Number 1 bus, the most frequent in the city. Land use matters. But what happens when everyone gets electric cars. Are the freeways all going to suddenly free up?
But how come no one talks about it? Is it really because its not that sexy as Rachel Maddow thinks it is?
Or is it something more? What is the deep seeded want not to take transit or build denser? Part of it I know is our entrenched non market based land use system. It's not like your ultimate mobility is compromised by driving less and walking/biking more with optimal land use. Why are the livable community groups so separated from the enviros on this? I can't quite make it out.