Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Kos' post also brought me to this post at A Future Oakland that put forward some fun stats that drive me crazy every time the social justice folks bring them up, which they do often. The issue I have is with the use of the National Transit database to compare subsidy across different mode types for the sole purpose of saying that one mode is better for poor or minority folks than others. Why they always want to pick this fight is beyond me and its a symptom of thier not being able to connect the different types of modes and thier function to regional job opportunty expansion for lower income job seekers. Check out this chart from Public Advocates dot org, a law firm devoted to social justice.
You can see that the chart doesn't discuss income levels but rather race, I imagine as a proxy for income levels? I'm also not sure what they mean by subsidy but I'm guessing its Capital funding+operating per rider? And as an issue, these lines all perform different services at different distances which affects the costs. No mention that BART and Caltrain riders pay higher fares than AC Transit riders. No mention that per passenger mile (a standard measure across modes), Caltrain and BART are far more efficient than AC Transit. There are a couple of reasons for this and AC's would be better compared to itself if it didn't include the less productive routes or $40 a trip paratransit but those are necessary services.
I want to believe in the social justice movement but they shoot themselves in the foot with dumb charts like this that don't tell me anything except that they don't understand transit operations or regional connectivity to jobs for lower income workers. If I were arguing on the social justice angle, I would start by saying that funding for road expansions is being wasted on suburbs that are leaching tax base and making people spend more of thier hard earned money on transportation. We also shouldn't be saying that AC is more efficient because thats false based on per passenger mile comparison and its operating type. Comparing AC to Caltrain per rider based on 20 mile trip versus a mile or two mile trip is rediculous and doesn't get us anywhere. Based on the 2007 NTD here are the comparisons for operating costs:
Caltrain is 27 cents per passenger mile.
BART is 34 cents per passenger mile
AC is $1.32 per passenger mile.
If we're going to look at capital and operating per passenger mile, it comes out to this in 2007:
BART: 50.9 cents per passenger mile
Caltrain: 60.3 cents per passenger mile
AC Tranist: $1.57 per passenger mile
Versus a Per Trip operations calculation:
AC Transit is $4.02
BART is $4.21
Caltrain is $7.28
What the argument should be is that expansion funding should stop going to stuff like ebart and expansion freeways and should start going to core expansion of AC Transit, Muni, BART, Caltrain Metro East etc. Put the transit where the riders are and it will be helpful for everyone to connect with job opportunities.
This culture war against rail that takes people to job centers in places like Concord and Walnut Creek needs to stop. Would it be more efficient to run buses? No. First that means more cars on the freeway because less people would be taking transit. It also means that more of downtown Oakland and San Franciso would be parking lots inducing less walking trips overall. But if we didn't look at regional transit systems, we would be allowing the bay area fiefdoms of transit to limit the job opportunities for low income workers. In Portland, the Max lines actually allow workers to reach a greater number of opportunities. This 2006 paper on economic development for the FTA by Strategic Economics shows an interesting chart below. But basically regional connectivity provides more opportunities for jobs that make it possible for upward mobility.
A preliminary analysis of transit ridership by industry and occupation in Portland, Oregon indicates that fixed guideway transit connects to more diverse employment opportunities than local bus. An Entropy Index was used to measure the diversity of incomes for occupations in industries with the highest percentage of transit ridership in the region. Entropy index scores are stated as a decimal and the lower the number, the more concentrated the occupational and income mix within that industry.
As Table 1 shows, industries with high percentages of bus ridership also tend to have low Entropy Index scores for an overall average of 0.54. For the most part, these were industries with a high percentage of low wage jobs. However, industries where workers use fixed guideway transit and/or bus and fixed guideway transit to get to work had a much greater diversity income diversity with an average index score of 0.89. This analysis demonstrates that fixed-guideway transit provides connectivity to jobs with different income opportunities, and possibly greater opportunities for advancement, while bus provides the best connectivity for workers in predominantly low-income industries with little opportunity for advancement.
If anything, the issue of expansion should point to the fact that suburban jurisdictions have too much power in how transportation funds are allocated. If it were equitable towards the core, services such as AC Transit would get more funding for more service, but it wouldn't make them more efficient in moving people. They are still a bus company.
This should tell you that MTC is shafting Oakland and San Francisco by not spending more on more efficient rail and metro type service for trunk lines that would serve hundreds of thousands of people. Compare the expansion of BART to San Jose versus a Geary Subway. A Geary Subway would cost around $3 billion and carry 100,000 riders easy the first day. The BART to San Jose line will not get anywhere close to that ridership number and cost a lot more money. These are the decisions that are being made based on regional politics rather than real expansion needs. The up front costs are more but the efficiency of operations leads to less cuts and better travel times for all riders in the core and connections beyond.
Just because people are poor or of a different race doesn't mean they deserve inferior or just one type of service. A network of service that serves different travel sheds is the best way to get people to thier jobs and open up the region for opportunity for all. The fight against the modes that take people further needs to be better thought out as a regional strategy for improving core service rather than pitting modes against each other, especially operations as efficient as BART or Caltrain. It's not very productive and the way the social justice movement is going now can only fail if they are going to bring data such as the chart above to the game.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Better service would definitely improve the corridor too. It will be interesting to see how it works out. Recent planning and funding put forward by the Patrick administration suggests that this will be done soon but rejoicing should wait until its actually complete. For more information on this corridor, check out the report chapter by Reconnecting America that discusses tools and policies for revitalization. (Warning, 38MB)
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I find it interesting that a small town in Italy is looking to cut greenhouse gases by creating foot buses, groups of kids walking to school together. Seems like a great idea to me. From the New York Times:
They set up a piedibus (literally foot-bus in Italian) — a bus route with a driver but no vehicle. Each morning a mix of paid staff members and parental volunteers in fluorescent yellow vests lead lines of walking students along Lecco’s twisting streets to the schools’ gates, Pied Piper-style, stopping here and there as their flock expands.
But here's another idea. CATS laid tracks on Elizabeth Avenue that aren't being used. Why couldn't CATS install more streetcar track in phases but not operate it until it has a line long enough to span across uptown?There's another thing I don't think McCrory gets. He says there was not enough stimulus money for roads. I think there was too much for roads. If more money was allocated for transit, they could have done both of these projects.
The researchers say that the fact that transit trips by bus and train often involve walking to and from stops increases the likelihood that people will meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week.
According to them, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'm kind of torn on these shuttles. On one hand, it's a really huge freakin bus running up a residential street. But it is getting people that would likely be driving down 101 into more fuel efficienct ways. I don't have the same problem as others seem to have, complaining that affluent people have come to live in the neighborhood.
On the other hand, it's very stupid and un-environmental for these companies to locate such large office clusters away from conventional transit hubs. For all this talk of being green and forward thinking, companies like Google prove with their locational decisions that they don't understand how much transportation and land use plays into greenhouse gas emissions. But most of silicon valley is like that. Worst. Employment. Sprawl. Evah.
Because so many people want to live in a place that is walkable like San Francisco, you would think that businesses in the South Bay would look harder at trying to make more places like that instead of allowing even more junk down there. Facebook has actually caused a price spike in Palo Alto for helping thier workers live closer to work. I think this is a better solution than the shuttle buses but these companies are also skewing the local housing markets.
For "campuses" like Google, it seems that they could have built an office building downtown (they do have some offices in San Francisco) and saved more of thier employees money by allowing them to easily take transit to work. Instead they get more free parking which I would say if there is free parking at work, it is even more incentive to not live a location efficient lifestyle. Especially if you think you're special because you have solar panels over the parking. I wonder how much more Greenhouse Gases each of their employees emits because they drive a lot versus the amount of greenhouse gases those solar panels save.
The main reason the measure is so politically fraught is that it seeks to take metro-area transit authority away from the powerful and long-entrenched Metropolitan Council. Hausman says the present concentration of transit dollars and planning power in the Met Council and the Counties Transit Improved Board (CTIB) creates inefficiencies and unwisely forces the whole state to hew to a long-range rail transit policy dictated by a handful of metro entities--particularly Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis.Why would you take the transit authority away from the regional planning agency? This makes absolutely no sense unless you want to steal funding for "other" transportation priorities. One of the problems in the Twin Cities is that the current righty Governor appoints members of the Metro Council which controls regional policy. Somehow fix that first.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It would mean that the Millbrae-to-San Francisco route would have three separate electrified options for riders. Isn't that more than a bit redundant? Rail planners don't seem to be bothered one whit by the concept at this point. They are forging ahead.How many roads go to San Francisco?
I hadn't thought of it that way but it seems like an interesting proposition to me. Reconstruction always seems to cause problems, and if they built new lines, that would open up the capacity on the old ones for later rehabilitation.
Building from scratch, he said, would not carry this cost, and it was "by no means clear that ostensibly lower-priced upgrades are always better value than new lines including new high-speed lines".
Additionally, he said the government had to take account of "the true cost of the disruption to passengers in services cancelled or diverted year after year".
He continued: "For the future, we need to assess the relative merits, including disruption saved, of building new lines rather than highly disruptive and expensive major upgrades of existing lines."
Monday, March 23, 2009
It should always be so easy to just hop on the train. In the last few weeks I've been able to not drive a car since I left Chicago. I took the Orange line to the airport, flew to San Francisco, took BART home. Today I walked down to BART, flew to Minneapolis and rode light rail to downtown. It's second nature now I guess, looking for the easy accessible transit. During those rides I was able to chill and not worry about whether I was going to be late. I was able to check email or listen to a podcast. I didn't need to worry about parking my car. I just needed to be. Is that so hard to understand for folks so opposed?
This comes at the same time when Texas wants to use other stimulus funding for another sprawl road. Again, how would this ever match a cost-effectiveness measure?
As county leaders press forward with Grand Parkway plans, Metro leaders are looking for a Plan B for two rail lines they had planned to use federal economic stimulus money to help fund. Metro’s pitch to fund the North and Southeast lines with stimulus funds fell short of the feds’ scheduling mandate.
Metro proposed to “get the ball rolling,” within 90 days, according to its brochure requesting $410 million in stimulus dollars. The transit agency also said $70 million could be used to convert 83 miles of high-occupancy vehicle lanes into high-occupancy toll lanes. Last week, Metro leaders said they learned that federal transit authorities preferred the $92 million it will receive in stimulus funds be used primarily on the HOV conversion.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I sometimes skip long posts, but this one is certainly worth the time spent reading. All inserted links are my doing in order to try and give greater background and some edits have been made for capital letters and spacing.
Guest Post 2: Scott Bernstein
Here are some further thoughts.
The definitive history of the interurbans is The Electric Interurban Railways in America by George W. Hilton and John F. Due, Stanford U. Press 1960; 463 pages, very thorough analysis and directory of operating companies and maps, indexed; still in reprint but not hard to find a used copy.
It's impossible to fully describe what happened to the street railway systems without some description of the relationship they had to the electric power industry.
The divestiture you and I guess Andy refer to came as a result of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, aka, PUCHA, which left it to the newly minted SEC to implement via regulation. SEC was created, strictly speaking, to create and implement accounting standards, the lack of which were widely believed to be at the heart of the stock market crash and subsequent Depression. Hilton and Due state this clearly as follows:"...the SEC interpreted the provisions concerning the elimination of holding-company systems to require that the power companies divest themselves of their electric railway affiliates and dissolve the pyramided holding company structures. As a consequence, the interurbans that were elements in the holding company systems were separated, usually by public sale of the stock...Most interurbans had been abandoned before the act became effective."Hilton in particular believed that the interurbans represented a flawed interlude in the development of mass transportation, and he quite strongly and almost angrily stated this opinion when Congress revisited the Snell accusations and the GM-NCL case in hearings held April 4-11 1974 (Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly of the Committee on the Judiciary, US Senate, 93d Cong. 2d Session on S. 1167, part 4, Ground Transportation industries). In this testimony and subsequent committee discussion, he offers interesting opinions on why certain streetcar systems survived both the early wave of abandonments and the divestiture rulings, and most of these have to do with urban form, density, and the availability of special right of way (note--he's an economic historian, not a physical planner or urban historian).
In the 1960 work, Hilton and Due acknowledge that other means were used to extend the life of these systems-- State and sometimes municipal investment and support, conversion or merger into publicly owned systems, and inter-line cooperation of marketing and fare-media (which probably extended the life of the excellent interurban networks in Ohio and Indiana, among the best in the nation), among other methods. This testimony, in my opinion, actually makes a strong case that abandonment wasn't inevitable, rather, it was result of failure to grasp the networked nature of the tangible (infrastructure networks) and intangible economic networks) that are essential to successful places.
The PUCHA passage bears some further examination.
No small part of the political impetus to pass PUCHA came from enmity between two people--Samuel Insull, founder of the American electric utility industry, former secretary to Thomas Edison and head of the Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison empire and affiliates; and Harold Ickes, confidant to FDR, Secretary of the Interior (where many of today's separate domestic cabinet agencies were formerly housed), and civic leader in Chicago and the North Shore suburb of Winnetka. Simply put, they despised each other; Insull's business model required demonizing the concept of public ownership and Ickes' view requiring that it be embraced.
At the time that PUCHA was being conceived, Insull controlled not only the remainder of the former traction empire controlled by Charles Yerkes (who interestingly went on after having been pushed out of Chicago to help lead the construction of the London Underground) but also much of the midwest electric transmission system, the main midwestern interstate pipeline system and the local natural gas utility, plus Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. too. Insull wrote the first check to the Commercial Club of Chicago for underwriting what became the Burnham/Bennett Plan of Chicago, but did not play a role in its development or in its subsequent marketing (as far as I could tell, Dennis I know has studied these matters too and may have a different opinion). Insull, while vilified for his monopoly, helped buy much public goodwill in playing both sides of the smoke abatement campaigns in Chicago for decades--electric utilities were powered by very inefficient coal-burning power plants, but so were railroad locomotives. He was able to sell railroad electrification as a civic and public health virtue, and simultaneously to sell natural gas as a "smokeless fuel for a smoke-free town." (To convert from the use of so-called manufactured gas to "natural" gas required tuning, retrofitting and/or conversion of all gas-fired appliances in Chicago, which was amazingly accomplished in 1 year, 1931; also, one of the themes of the 1933 Century of Progress Chicago World's Fair was that it was billed as the first "smokestack free fair.")
Nonetheless, Ickes and others were able to paint Insull as the prototypical villain at a time when heads needed to roll, and was convicted of securities fraud (reversed in 1934 but he spent his remaining years a broken man). To be fair, Ickes presided over much of his era's "recovery" investments through the Public Works Administration, and on the transportation side, the majority of the PWA's investments were in highways not in regional mass transit systems (an important exception was PWA investment in Chicago's subway, but Ickes refused to support building east-west tunnels for Chicago's streetcar lines, an action that bears further examination).
The divestiture and subsequent efforts to keep these systems viable, both the urban and interurban street railways, took a number of bizarre turns. In Chicago alone, a simple listing of the changes in policy, court rulings on bankruptcy proceedings and re-organizational changes along with maps runs over 400 pages (Weber, Outline History of Chicago Traction 1936, and it gets even more complex after that). The influences that needed juggling were truly vast, not half-vast; Frank Gruber's point about the iconic importance of the nickel fare posted yesterday is a good example, there were similar examples almost everywhere.
PUCHA seemed to be passed without regard for the potential urban damage that divestiture would likely cause. Around 1920, a federal commission on the future of electric railways failed to come to any firm recommendations for future federal interest, and as far as I can tell, that was the last time that a serious national examination of this essentially urban form of mass transportation occurred. But it was made clear at those hearings, in industry publications, in discussions held at various local governmental trade associations, that these private corporations were playing an essential public service (sound familiar?) role.
By divesting, public transportation lost a more or less guaranteed source of revenue for capital investment, whether it was made directly, through rate-basing of these costs, or indirectly, by using the backstop credit facilities of their holding companies.
And this occurred at more or less the same time that the fascination with modern road building and the idea of "limited ways" (later "superhighways" and "limited access highways") was taking hold (in the 1920s, Insull similarly promoted "super" transmission lines and pipelines).
Perhaps someone on the list can comment on this, but in reviewing the Burnham/Bennett Plan, and associated documents from the resulting Chicago Plan Commission, the transportation focus, outside of the central area, was on inter-city travel, not on internal circulation or accessibility. (this is also the point expressed in the late Paul Barrett's excellent The Automobile and Urban Transit: The Formation of Urban Policy in Chicago-1983) I suspect this was largely the case in city planning in the era that followed. In framing the issue in this way, and leaving it to the private sector to sink or swim w/ regard to mass transportation, a powerful force for decentralization emerged. Similarly, Burnham and contemporaries did not grasp the notion of the networked city, and in re-reading, that era's fascination with the promise of regional highway networks and what promised to be a viable airline industry evokes Henry Ford's comment that "we shall solve the problems of the city by leaving it."
So why go over all this?
Because it is all potentially reversible.
And because it is essential that we figure out how to make it so.
As we've discussed on this list, only by switching from liquid fuels to non-motorized and electric transportation can we meet any of our energy independence or climate goals.
And only by reducing dependence on individual vehicles to a greater reliance on mass transportation can we transition to a nation of great cities and regions.
Here are some tools to think about in framing methods of getting there--
1. Local electric distribution utilities never lost the legal right to power electric transportation; all 50 states have a common method of enabling electric distribution utility financing of all or part of the necessary systems, which is a rate filing to help finance these systems. This offers opportunities for cities, transit operators, developers, metropolitan planning organizations and states to build new kinds of financing mechanisms to more systematically support local and regional surface transportation infrastructure. A similar case can be made for local governments and special service districts (which own and operate almost all of the nation's airports outside of NJ, MD, Alaska and HI) to partner with the electric utility industry to support the infrastructure necessary for inter-city high speed rail.
2. Deregulation of the electric utility industry has been a mixed bag, but in over a dozen states a fait accompli. So in a sense this is an opening to partner with contemporary holding companies too. These companies need to re-certify their "market-based" rate making authority every three years with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, another opening for the new administration to address potential urban consequences of energy and climate policies.
3. PUCHA was repealed in the 2005 Energy Policy Act ( one outcome has been at least 100 municipalization efforts, 20 successful, most recently Winter Park Fl, but the repeal also opens up the potential for other kinds of ownership too)
4. A national debate on the future shape and location and purposes of the electrical grid has started and needs an urban voice, no less than does the analogous debate about transportation infrastructure.
5. A push by leaders in the public accounting profession and in the investment community for more transparency in State and municipal accounting led to the creation of the Government Accounting Standards Board in 1984, and their rules on accounting for infrastructure investment, aka Statement 34, implemented from 1999 to present, lay a first-time basis for disclosure of the life-cycle costs associated with different types and patterns of major capital investments. More recently, a push for better state and local disclosure in the waning days of the Bush administration, has been taken up in the Senate and House Banking committees. This is a real opportunity to show well how the hidden assets of cities and urban places perform.
"We subsidize our highways and airports more than we subsidize Amtrak," said Vice President Joe Biden. "So lets get something straight here - Amtrak has not been 'at the trough.' Amtrak has been left out much too long."H/T ASD
Brazil's Paraná state capital Curitiba is planning to build a subway line and highway concessionaire Triunfo Participações e Investimentos (TPI) (Bovespa: TPIS3) is seriously studying the project, TPI president Carlo Bottarelli told BNamericas.It also shows you the costing differences between Brazil and the United States. 13.75 miles of Subway is costing $72 million a mile. That's pretty cheap. If we could do that here, I think we'd have more Subway lines.
The subway initiative would be a first for the city and a first for the highway concessionaire. The city is planning to build a US$1bn, 22km system that will cross the city from south to north, Curitiba business relations secretary Luiz de Carvalho told BNamericas.
Friday, March 20, 2009
As a background, some on the list where I took this from were arguing about the NCL affair. It's not complete but I hope at some point Scott writes a book about this stuff.
Guest Post: Scott Bernstein, CNT.
"Do you think Fiorello LaGuardia insisted on removal of New York's streetcars because he was in the pocket of GM or NCL?" Clearly not, however, I would urge members of this list interested in the issue to read Zach Schrag's excellent article on the topic,"The Bus Is Young and Honest": Transportation Politics, Technical Choice, and the Motorization of Manhattan Surface Transit, 1919-1936" published in Technology and Culture, Volume 41, No. 1, 2000, pp. 51-79; La Guardia clearly inherited what this eminent scholar called "Mayor Hylan's war against transit." NY Mayor Hylan went so far as to support a phony advocacy group that became famous for the eponymous title of their pamphlet, prompting Schrag to comment that the bus may have been young and honest, but nothing about the case for streetcar removal or anything else in the pamphlet was.Having read some of the Congressional testimony on the NCL case including George Hilton's, the transport economist who argued most eloquently for the theory that the companies were on the way out in any event, I'd have to say that none of this is dispositive.
From 1885 to 1902, the US went from one electric street railway system (Richmond) to one in every city of 5,000 or more. The rapid growth was due, I believe to two factors.
First, network economies or economies of scope that occurred because of standardization and inter-connectivity (i.e. when Bell invented the telephone it was useless until he made a second one and had someone to talk with, and it kept getting better economically, with each additional
user). In a network economy, economies of scale arise precisely because of the economy of scope, as opposed to an economy that occurs because of returns to scale. The same can be said about electric, water, sewer, natural gas, road, fax, email and Internet networks, among others.
Second, rapid growth of streetcars served a second purpose that's very important to this list--it helped accelerate investment in urban street networks. Then as now, transportation funding was a conundrum. By deeding public right of way to transportation operators, a shared funding arrangement could be created, and almost always was. In exchange for franchises, street railway operators were required to share in the cost of paving and maintaining the streets they operated on, sometimes with the municipality, other times with the municipality and the adjacent property owners.
So then why were these two factors compelling enough to keep the street railways in business?
I'd suggest expanding the list of reasons and this discussion to include the following--
1. Street railway franchises were regulated by local city councils who were not sufficiently independent or accountable. Accounting systems were primitive, and once special assessment districts and public benefit districts started generating sufficient funds, they too often looked the other way when the railways starting deferring mandatory system renewal and maintenance. I can provide a slide showing that anywhere from 3 to 16 percent of municipal revenues came from such districts. (New York, by the way, was at the low end of the scale and Los Angeles at the high end).
2. Cities got somewhat greedy. Automobile registration, licensing, sales taxes on fuel, cars and rubber (for tires) provided tremendous additional revenue. Then as now, these taxes on throughput of transportation and energy, put states and cities in a conflict of interest when efforts are made to minimize such throughput, whether by direct regulation or incentive. (Ad valorem energy taxes are among the top 3 or 4 revenue sources for municipalities, along with property, sales and income taxes where they exist, almost everywhere in the US; one of the big behind-the-scenes brakes on rates of energy and location efficiency is the concern by local financial officials over potential lost revenue). With an apparent major new source of revenue coming in and powerful interests emerging around motorized vehicles, it became difficult to implement common sense regulations on traffic and parking
3. The street railway companies responded rationally. Yes, the histories show the obvious ones were controlled by rapacious money-grubbing traction barons; however, with cities being willing to allow unlimited growth in street use by motor vehicles, their basic business model was compromised. This was a real problem for cities, as improving rather than destroying mass transit was the key to successful and sustainable urbanization. Several excellent books and papers by Joel Tarr at Carnegie Mellon and Clay McShane at Northeastern University show clearly that this kind of hostile, cross-modal competition between bus and rail originated in fights between 1840 and 1890 between the early "omnibus" operators (from which we get the rubric of a "bus") and the early horse-drawn street railway companies.
The early street railway franchises were street-by-street entitlements, which were eventually consolidated into area-wide agreements, the argument for which was again urban value creation and value capture. And these were joint value creation agreements--once a city had acted to undercut the market by failure to limit the use of streets by motor traffic, the companies could state with impunity that the deal had been abrogated. (this theme is touched on by me all too briefly in the history chapter I contributed to Street Smart: Streetcars & Cities in the 21st Century by Reconnecting America)
4. Bad accounting again. As joint service agreements, the intended result was that the streets would come with the means of (mass) transportation, permanently. While the formal testimony in New York and elsewhere clearly showed not only the superior traffic handling capacity of street railways over both buses and individual automobiles, it also showed awareness of the relatively shorter life expectancy of buses when compared to fixed guideway vehicles. Making the decision in favor of the shorter-lived vehicle is the equivalent of deciding in favor of siting residential districts in single use trailers, another disposable commodity.
BART Board will decide how to raise parking fees. I have another idea for them to think about, how about banning people that clip their nails on BART. Yeah you guy sitting across from me the other day.
Salt Lake City is employing some interesting construction methods for the West Valley LRT. They are using foam blocks as the subsurface for an embankment.
Photo from KSL.
The GAO has released a report on HSR. I expect Robert and crew to get to the details. Thanks to the anon poster who linked in the comments.
Don't rely too much on modeling. Sky is blue today.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Now that is all besides the point. They shouldn't rename streets after living people. I personally think that in of itself is gross. It's Third Street.
In a surprising turnabout, General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said Tuesday that increasing the federal gasoline tax to guarantee a minimum price of $4 a gallon is an idea "worthy of consideration."Obviously this would help them sell more Volts. But it would also get people to think about their decisions and the true cost of gasoline.
A GM spokesman acknowledged that the automaker is thinking about the price of gasoline as an incentive to buy hybrids. "Everybody talks about $4 a gallon because, until gas prices hit $4, nobody saw any shift in consumer behavior," said Greg Martin, GM's Washington, D.C., spokesman. "Only then did people put fuel efficiency front and center."
But i'm intrigued with how he came to the idea that every million people in population needs at least half a dozen regionally significant walkable urban places*
Leinberger said his study of metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Atlanta suggests that a city should have no more than a half-dozen walkable urban places per million people. Some of these will be downtown, some in inner-ring neighborhoods, and some in the suburbs, But what they have in common is their location at rail-transit stops, not on highways.
By his math, Raleigh should attempt to create two or three such places, in addition to downtown, by 2030, when the comprehensive plan anticipates the city will be home to 600,000 people.
These places should be on the rail or a streetcar corridor, which, he said, are permanent and attract investors, developers and upscale buyers. "I have never seen a dollar of real estate investment generated by a bus stop," Leinberger said.
If this is based off of DC, we need to start building a lot more monocentric rapid transit in our regions. This creates the ability to connect places that have different niches for the needs of the population. Not every walkable district is going to have everything you need, so they need to be connected with accessible transit. In Sacramento, there's more than enough room to build these significant places, but they need more transit.
According to Brookings Institution research, there should be eight to 12 regionally significant, walkable urban, transit-oriented places in the region. Today there are only three: downtown, midtown and Old Sacramento. The opportunity for locating and building five to nine additional walkable urban, transit-oriented places and building far more development in the existing three would be worth billions of dollars and would represent a more sustainable way of living.*I wish he would define this more precisely.
However, there are some people today - well intentioned people I might add, but misguided I believe - who would have you believe that the county's combined tax rate is out of control and too high. I respectfully disagree with this "Chicken Little" (the sky is falling) attitude...I suggest reading the whole statement in its entirety.
...If our taxes were reduced, could we maintain the quality of life we have enjoyed in the past? The answer is, "Yes, we could - for a while." But I believe that there is something worse than paying a few dollars in taxes - and that something is sticking our collective heads in the sand and not properly planning for the future. Growth will gridlock us in the future (and therefore cost us more tomorrow) if we don't deal with it today...
... I wish we lived in a dream world where things were free, but that just isn't facing reality. These folks abhorrence to paying taxes for the convenience of being able to move around freely has tainted their thinking.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Mark Scott has a nice piece in BusinessWeek on Amsterdam's plan to become one of the world's premier green cities—and fast. Scarily fast. The city is hitching up with utilities and private companies to plunk down $1 billion over the next three years to do stuff like creating a citywide smart grid that better juggles electricity demand, replacing old garbage trucks with electric vehicles, powering bus stops with solar panels, improving the efficiency of homes, putting meters in homes to let people better monitor their own energy use, and so on… All told, Amsterdam hopes to cut its carbon emissions 40 percent by 2025.This also got me to thinking, a billion dollars over three years is not a lot if you're going to do something extraordinary. Especially when what you're doing is lowering everyone's costs. I would think this would be the same for expanding the subway network here in San Francisco. Sure it might be a bit of an up front cost, but the more people that we can get to leave their cars, the more they will save. Huge benefits to collective investment.
Beware of the train! It's so dangerous that if you drive in front of it, you'll get hit!! Or if you were paying attention, you wouldn't.
BREAKING: Crash between light rail and car in central Phoenix
Valley Metro tells 3TV a driver reportedly turned in front of the train and hit the light rail car on Central and Highland, just north of Campbell.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Automakers envision electric cars as a solution to gas price jumps. Environmentalists see bluer skies. And electric utilities? They could be the biggest winners of all.Seems to me electric utilities could be even bigger winners if they built electric transit networks. Then we wouldn't be sending our money to companies that provide diesel but rather the local power company, which hopefully has a smart grid linked to alternative energy. But its better than breathing the diesel fumes even now.
In places like Oakland, Berkeley and Sunnyvale, the high-crime neighborhoods tend to scare people away from using nearby transit services, the study found. Folks had a tendency to walk less in those neighborhoods, choosing to drive instead, according to a new study from the Mineta Transportation Institute.Seems to me that this has nothing to do with crime but rather to do with transit service levels & income levels & self selection. What am I missing?
“In [San Francisco] neighborhoods where there was more crime, people were most likely to use transit,” said Dr. Christopher Ferrell, one of the study’s principal authors.
He added that The City’s transit services tend to be located in high-density areas, which invariably attract crime.
As expected, those who chose to live in suburban areas were more inclined to avoid walking in high-crime areas and using transit hubs within those areas. But even in a dense urban city such as Oakland, folks had a propensity to avoid public-transit hubs in high-crime neighborhoods.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Federal Highway Administration reported that motorists drove 108 billion fewer miles last year, a 3.6 percent drop from 2007 levels. While significant, this reduction — which has an impact on gasoline tax revenues — is far less severe than the reduction in travel experienced by toll roads across the country. The continued drop in toll road use on well regarded facilities like Orange County, California’s 91 Express Lanes brings into question the long-term sustainability of tolling as a form of revenue collection compared to the more modern gasoline excise tax.
What a great idea: incentivize ( I hate the 'word,' but it's descriptive) consumers to install wind and solar power equipment by paying them a premium for the power generated.It got me to thinking, what if the FTA incentivized cleaner transit such as trolley buses making the replacement cost to transit agencies lower if they or the utility build the infrastructure. It seems to me that allowing transit agencies just to replace with diesel buses because they are a bit cheaper is looking only at the short term benefits instead of the long term. Anyways, just thoughts.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Noting that the bike tourists bring cash to the city, the Sausalito business
community expressed concern about making the experience unfriendly for tourists.
"We love the cyclists and tourists that come into town," said Cheryl Popp, Chamber of Commerce president. "Bikes are good for the economy and they are green and clean."
McGinn began by reminding us that voters rejected a roads and transit measure 2007, only to approve a transit-only package a year later; and also that in March 2007, 70% of Seattle voted against replacing the viaduct with a tunnel. He went on to point out that apparently the State has an extra $2 billion lying around to build a tunnel, and then finished by stating, “I’d start there.”
The muffled oohs and groans that erupted from the audience were an indication of what McGinn certainly already knew — that most of the people in the room were supporters of the deep-bore tunnel, or if not, they at least understood that disparaging the tunnel is a risky political position to take.
The South Corridor in Charlotte is a good example of using the existing ROW because it runs a close parallel to the main south arterial street. However lines such as the Baltimore light rail line are really poor applications of existing ROW. The line there completely misses the downtown of Towson which is a major regional destination. BART is a huge example of rail transit designed for the auto age. Why didn't they run the Pittsburgh BayPoint Line under Broadway in Oakland instead of along the freeway median to Rockridge?
I think we need to think about how we can move away from focusing solely on the Interstate system that is built out as well as believing that since the interstates are there, they are the best routes for transit. They are the worst routes for Urbanism as freeways are not urban.
This is a huge win for the City of Milwaukee which has been getting screwed by suburban planning and leadership for too long. This ought to make the crazy talk shows up there go nuts. The walls are going down, keep pushing.
New research from Germany shows that people who had heart attacks were three times more likely than not to have been sitting in traffic an hour before their symptoms began.Step away from the automobile.
Friday, March 13, 2009
The TOD bill is dead in Washington State. I agree with Dan, we deserve what we get.
You're just figuring this out? I wonder if anyone has ever thought to cost what has been exported in terms of tax base to the suburban road complex. For now, we can look at what was exported from Atlanta to Georgia.
In 2004, each man, woman and child in the 10-county metro area funneled an average of $490 to Georgians who live outside the metro area. Put another way, metro Atlanta receives 72.5 cents in state benefits for every dollar it pays in state taxes.~~~
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood names the next transportation bill Clean Tea and changes DOT's stance on bicycles.
A Plano Republican says that they should stop giving money to DART and use it to partake in the retail sales tax war. This is why many of our regions are so messed up. We depend on sales tax and cities are competing with each other instead of building better communities for thier citizens. Canibalization is a better term.
I'm still waiting to see a Ben Wear article where the transit critic is not Jim Skaggs, Gerald Daugherty, or that dude from Texas Monthly. Seriously. I don't really know what to say about the article otherwise. Keep digging that hole?
If you like fantasy maps of tram lines in the United States, you'll love the Dutch blog Infrastruct. The most recent is in English but usually its in Dutch alone.
I'm not sure if ground floor retail should be required. I think it should be flex space that has higher ceilings than the units above and able to be used for residential until the retail demand catches up.
There are a lot of New Urbanists as well as Kunstler who would argue that skyscrapers are not green as Glaeser says they are.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
If only it was always so easy. Well if you have transit close to places you go it makes things easy. This is the case in Arizona as well, where patrons are hopping off light rail to get a drink.
Kelly said light rail's impact on the tavern's crowds has been incredible. Out of nowhere, a crowd will pour into the bar after hopping off the train for a night on Mill. It makes for a nice jolt.
"It's still the fun and exciting thing for us now," Kelly said of light rail. "It's been great for us. I hope it continues." It never hurts to have a university nearby, either.
Sean Donovan, communications director for the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, said Mill's nightlife has been supported during the current economic downturn by light rail, cross promotion among bars, and Arizona State University.
After launching the Transit Sydney iPhone application with Sydney train timetables, its developer received a cease and desist letter saying that the use of the timetables is a breach of copyright. In Australia, this may technically be true, but the developer is considering disputing the claim.Do people really have rights to a schedule? It's a timetable not a copyrighted creative work. And why do you want such bad publicity? They seem to do it a little differently down under:
Anyone who's familiar with US copyright law will think "wait, you can't copyright facts," which is where the twist comes in. Australia has something called "Crown copyright" that essentially says that certain materials published by the government are copyrighted by the government. The CityRail timetables come from Rail Corporation New South Wales (RailCorp), which is owned by the government.Reports now say that the rail system has been ordered to work with the developer. But this should have never been a problem in the first place.
Monday, March 9, 2009
So any chance I get, I'll play this...
As they planned their Saturday wedding, Kristen Myers and Chris Heckman knew they didn't need a toaster or blender. So, true to their urban lifestyles and love for downtown Cincinnati, they suggested their guests give to what they think is a great cause: the streetcar project.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The total is refreshing though. After some dismal time in the mid 90's when gas was sometimes 75 cents a gallon or less, ridership has been steadily increasing again. I'm sure it helped that a lot more resources could be put into transit which shows that what you invest in will be what people will be able to use, other than the other way around that the opponents would like you to think was true. Mainly, no one uses it because everyone likes to drive. But they never tell you how much we weren't inevesting in transit all those years as much as we are now.
In 1995 7.76 billion people took transit. $17.8 billion was spent on operating costs ($23.40 inflation adjusted to 2006). Fast forward to 2006 where we've spent $32.03 Billion on transit operating and accrued 10.01 billion trips. If we look at the changes in spending, 36.8% operations cost adjusted for inflation and 28.9% ridership increase and 31% increase in passenger miles. The greater we invest, the more we'll see people taking the options that work for them.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Dallas officials might stop the future Orange Line short of the airport.
Should cyclists pay a registration fee? Personally I think absolutely not!
The Hawaii Senate wants to take from the rail fund to balance the budget. You know, all this stealing from transit to pay for budgets is not cool. Why not take from the road funding? Too much of a sacred cow for you?
Apparently there is a locomotive buried in Cincinnati. Who knew there were locomotives buried all over the United States like treasure.
There are a lot of high speed rail concern trolls out there. This one in the Boston Globe.
"We have tremendous distances compared with Japan or Europe," said Carlos Schwantes, a professor of transportation studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "We're just much bigger, and in so much of the country it's so low a population density that we'd have to ask the question: Is it worth spending our dollars for the infrastructure in those areas?"How many times do we need to kill this argument. There wasn't enough population density in the Roman Empire for paved roads to the British Isles either.
The Beltline is safe for now.
H/T SF Muni History List
Thursday, March 5, 2009
This is why things are so messed up. It takes so long to get to environmental studies, no wonder nothing has been getting done. This will change because it has to change. No longer can roads that fuel sprawl be built for future capacity. The federal transportation bill allows cities to use flex money for transit projects. However only a few regions take advantage of this and places like Houston need a bit more nudging. The money is out there, we just have our priorities towards an unsustainable method of moving ourselves.
Previous projections had put a price tag on the 10-mile University line of about $750 million, roughly in line with the $73 million per mile cost Metro estimated for the North, East, Southeast and Uptown lines.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority will look to the Federal Transit Administration for help funding the University line. The FTA has yet to approve Metro’s environmental impact study for the line, a key element in moving the project forward. “I’m feeling the frustration of a lot of people in this organization who are trying to get through this process,” Metro spokesman George Smalley said Thursday.
But the dumbest thing I think I've seen is for a transit agency to do a leaseback deal when many of them have almost lost thier shirts recently because of the AIG collapse. Really guys?
The transit agency also will rely on $150 million in lease-back agreements to help get the first phase of the project under way. The lease agreements allow agencies like Metro to sell railcars, buses and other assets to banks and lease them back at a lower cost. The banks then can claim depreciation of the assets in tax deductions.This seems like a whole lot of bad decision making rolled up into this project. More expensive LRVs and possibly bad bank deals during a time when banking isn't exactly healthy.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
But because such improvements are underfunded in general, cities see FTA funds as a gravy train for getting these important elements done. If we can figure out a way for these pieces of the overall puzzle to be eligible for another funding pot dedicated to pedestrian mobility that would be great. But we shouldn't have to. This is just another reason why the cost effectiveness measure that can kill a project based on a penny over a certain standard is dumb.
The proposal states that 4 FSI will be granted to properties upto 200 meter distance on either sides of the BRTS routes and 500 meters on either sides of the Metro routes.
"Nearly 30.50 km of Metro and 120 km of BRT routes are to be developed in Pune. For these routes to be successful, enough ridership and high-population density is required. Therefore, additional FSI is necessary. The mandatory reforms under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) also calls for densification along the Metro and BRT corridors," the proposal states.
It's good to see the mayor pushing for the connection, but at the same time, why are all these people trying to change the plan after the cake is in the oven. Sure there are design issues to hash out and detail stuff, but trying to open the discussion back up on the route for the first phase just makes it seem like you weren't paying attention. Which in all likelihood they weren't, which possibly goes back to the poor newspaper reporting.
By the way, if you want to see where Interstate bridges are going to crash in your congressional district, DOT has maps.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Board members used words like "shocked" and "astonished" at the report by consultant Bob Peskin, who analyzed sales tax projections through 2036. Once inflation is factored out, his sales tax projections are essentially a flat line.But if true, this comes at the same time as a SPUR report that states suburban job growth imperils emissions reductions due to increased driving. As a practical goal, the region should focus growth in the more urban downtowns and urban areas that aren't office parks.
The city, and other urban areas better served by mass transit than suburban business parks, must adjust policies to attract a greater share of office development and employers, concludes "Recentering Work: The Future of Transit-Oriented Jobs in Downtown San Francisco," released by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.So while the BART extension to downtown San Jose might seem like a good idea, its important to note that the round about way in which BART reaches downtown doesn't connect the areas which hold most of Silicon Valley's jobs but rather takes the path of least resistance (ie: existing ROW).
This is a big problem. The line which was conceived many years ago is a continuation of BART and regional authorities poor planning for rapid transit integration with land use. While it might have been state of the art as an idea decades ago, we've learned so much since then about TOD and how connecting destinations strengthens them. No longer will the suburban to urban model work with parking lots catering to the automobile. We need a better analysis of what to do but unfortunately it seems like nothing will stop this move from going through.
The map below shows job density in the valley (From LEHD 2004). Areas with the darkest green are over 20 jobs per acre. But the new BART line (dark blue) touches only the clusters downtown and extension of the VTA light rail line (light purple) go nowhere near the jobs that would attract transit riders.
The VTA Light Rail line hits a lot of the dense job clusters but underperforms because it is seen as slower. I don't know how many people who live in San Francisco have told me that the killer for thier connection to a job in San Jose is the slow round about light rail. This will be the same excuse for BART to light rail on the other side of the Valley.
When we look into these long term Bay Area projects, we need to push planners to think about where people work and where they want to go. It's really important to think about these long term strategies to connect people with jobs and connect jobs to each other. If we're going to be dependent on a knowledge economy here in the bay area, allowing people easy access through transit to amenities and each other is the best way to facilitate energy and emissions reductions. Even if TOD springs up along the new BART line, it won't be as good as connecting the existing clusters of dense jobs with tons of redevelopable parking spaces (see above photo) that might not be needed with rapid transit easily accessible.
A woman lost her life savings when she forgot 500,000 kronor ($86,206) on a Swedish tram as she was headed to the bank to deposit the money, a newspaper reported on Sunday.That is crushing. It's really sad that no one realized it was someones savings and it's really upsetting that there wasn't some other way for her to securely move her money. Though if I had such a huge sum of money in my possession, it would be tied to me...even stapled to my clothes. Hopefully they can recover the money, but it seems as if it might be a lost cause.
Domestic flights continued to suffer as a result of the high-speed rail. Last year, the number of passengers on domestic flights dropped 22.5 percent from the previous year.
Ministry statistics meanwhile showed an increase in the use of public land transportation systems. The number of passengers taking the high speed rail rose from about 15.56 million in 2007 to 30.58 million last year, close to a 100 percent increase. Despite the impressive passenger growth last year, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp announced on Friday it would reduce the daily train runs from 942 to 816, starting on March 16.