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Updated: 2 days 5 hours ago

In 2022, Boston Planners Once Again Approved More Parking Spaces Than Homes

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 21:55

In spite of new rules aimed at curbing the amount of off-street parking built in the city’s transit-oriented neighborhoods, year-end statistics compiled by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) indicate that developers are still building considerably more parking spaces than homes in the City of Boston.

The BPDA, the City of Boston’s planning agency, approved 91 building proposals over the course of 2022 that could give the city 5,249 new homes*, 8 million square feet of new commercial space, and enough parking to store 8,804 more cars.

More than four-fifths of that new parking – 7,227 spaces – would be built in transit-accessible neighborhoods within a half-mile of an MBTA rapid transit or commuter rail station.

Summary of 2022 BPDA project approvals

“TOD” indicates “transit-oriented development” – projects that are located within a half-mile of an MBTA rapid transit or commuter rail station. This table includes data from “notice of project change” approvals, which are revisions to previously-approved projects. Source: BPDA

Total In TOD % in TOD Number of projects 91 71 78% Total square footage of new buildings 16.2 million SF 13.3 million SF 82% Commercial square footage 8.0 million SF 6.8 million SF 85% Institutional square footage 193,297 SF 97,300 SF 50% Residential square footage 5.1 million SF 4.1 million SF 82% Residential units 5,249 4,081 78% Parking spaces 8,804 7,552 86%

In spite of the city’s pressing housing shortage and ambitious climate goals, which call for fewer cars on Boston’s streets by 2030, the BPDA’s project approvals this year include more parking and less housing compared to last year.

In 2021, planners approved 8,668 new parking spaces – 136 fewer than this year – and considerably more housing (7,887 new apartments). Project approvals in 2022 also included considerably more commercial and lab space compared to 2021.

In 2021, Boston Planners Approved More Parking Spaces Than Homes

Near the end of 2021, under the administration of Mayor Kim Janey, the BPDA adopted new rules that limit the amount of parking that developers will be allowed to build, with stricter limits applying in the city’s most transit-accessible neighborhoods.

But many of the BPDA’s project approvals in 2022 appear were submitted and vetted before those new rules took effect.

25 of the BPDA’s project approvals last year were for “notices of project change” – revisions to projects that the agency had already approved in prior years.

On average, those 25 “notice of project change” approvals would build 0.66 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of work or residential space, while projects that were approved for the first time ever in 2022 include about 0.57 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet (note in the table above that residential projects generally have roughly 1,000 square feet per apartment – this includes hallways and other common areas).

One of the biggest “notice of project change” approvals was for the multi-block “Seaport Square” project, which was originally approved in 2010, and revised again in 2017 and 2019.

Under this year’s revisions, Seaport Square’s developers won approval to replace a previously-approved high-rise apartment building in the center of the neighborhood with another lab and office building, eliminating 700 homes from their proposal. That change, along with similar revisions in other projects, significantly dented the net amount of housing in the city’s construction pipeline.*

But plans for Seaport Square have also trimmed the project’s parking footprint over the past decade. The original 2010 proposal envisioned the construction of  6,575 new parking spaces in the Seaport, but the latest version calls for 5,700 spaces – a 13 percent reduction.

Among the 66 projects that the BPDA approved for the first time this year – many of which were subject to the agency’s new parking limits – developers are generally planning to build less parking than in projects approved in prior years.

Among purely residential projects, the BPDA’s new project approvals averaged about 0.6 parking spaces per apartment. And among 32 new mixed-use projects, the average parking ratio will be 0.4 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail, office, or residential space.

Summary of 2022 BPDA first-time project approvals Excluding “project change” approvals for previously-approved developments

“TOD” indicates “transit-oriented development” – projects that are located within a half-mile of an MBTA rapid transit or commuter rail station. This table excludes data from the BPDA’s 2022 “notice of project change” approvals, which are revisions to previously-approved projects. Source: BPDA

Total In TOD % in TOD Number of projects 66 51 77% Total square footage of new buildings 9.5 million SF 7.3 million SF 77% Commercial square footage 4.5 million SF 3.7 million SF 83% Institutional square footage 105,987 SF 83,500 SF 79% Residential square footage 3.0 million SF 2.1 million SF 71% Residential units 3,225 2,127 66% Parking spaces 4,286 3,139 73%

A small handful of these newly-approved projects will actually result in a net reduction of parking in the city, by replacing existing parking lots with new buildings that don’t have any on-site parking whatsoever.

One of those projects will go up in the Fort Point neighborhood, at 17 Farnsworth Street. There, developers are planning to demolish a 361-space parking garage that was built in 1986, and replace it with a four-story lab and office building with no on-site parking, resulting in a considerable net reduction in the number of vehicles able to park in the Seaport.

And in Chinatown, non-profit developers won approval to build 110 apartments for car-free lower-income households on the site of a BPDA-owned surface parking lot on Hudson Street.

That building (pictured at the top of this article) will also include space for a new Boston Public Library branch to serve the Chinatown neighborhood on its ground floor.

*Note: The “5,249 new homes” reported at the top of this article reflects the gross number of housing units that the BPDA approved in 2022. However, because those approvals included changes to a number of projects, like Seaport Square, that considerably reduced the number of homes relative to their previous approvals, the city’s net gain in housing, relative to what had previously been in the development pipeline, will be just 2,647 homes.

Previously on StreetsblogMASS:

In 2021, Boston Planners Approved More Parking Spaces Than Homes

Boston Planners Approved Over 11,000 New Parking Spaces in 2020

City Data Show Almost All Of Boston’s New Housing Is Being Built For Car Owners

Boston Establishes New Limits on Parking in Large Developments

Gov. Hochul Fills Cash-Strapped MTA’s Fiscal Hole … With Casino Money

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 21:01

ALBANY — Gov. Hochul’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget would keep the MTA from falling over the fiscal cliff, but the search for more transit service and a way to head off a pair of upcoming fare hikes is now up to the state legislature. But the bottom line? It’s all a gamble.

Hochul’s plan calls for a one-shot $300-million check from the state this year and an expected $800 million per year that would come a hike in the payroll mobility tax — a regional 0.34-percent tax on employers in the MTA service area. Hochul’s proposal would increase the tax to 0.5 percent.

The state is also kicking in $150 million per year for “additional MTA safety personnel,” which Hochul’s budget officials said would cover the increased costs for NYPD overtime on the subway and security technology on transit.

Additionally (and somewhat controversially), Hochul is counting on New York City to kick in $500 million per year, covering the costs of paratransit, student MetroCards and entities that are exempt from paying the payroll mobility tax.

Beyond that, Hochul proposes to cut in the MTA on upcoming gambling-related revenue. First, Hochul would give the MTA some of the $1.5 billion the state will raise when it awards three downstate casino licenses. And once the downstate casinos are up and running (and turning desperate and dashed dreams into casino profits and then casino profits into tax money), the MTA will get some of that cash, too. The state estimates the “Let it ride” money will be between $462 million and $826 million per year.

“We’re going to continue to expand our public transit access, affordability, safety,” Hochul said during her budget address. “And for many, many New Yorkers, the MTA is the lifeblood. And if we don’t invest in that, then we will not be looked upon favorably by future generations. So, we must continue to invest in the MTA, invests in transit, invest in railroads.”

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber, who’s spent the last year asking for public transit to be funded like other essential services such as sanitation or fire response, suggested the governor had done just that.

“Gov. Hochul has stepped up for millions of riders using the MTA’s subways, buses, and commuter railroads, preserving the frequent and reliable service that New Yorkers depend on,” he said in a statement. “This is a balanced plan — the MTA has got to be more efficient without service cuts, the city and state are contributing, and the business community would be stepping up to support essential, top tier transit services every day of the week, even though their employees may be commuting less frequently.”

Hochul’s budget proposal keeps buses and trains out of the scrap yard and fills in the fiscal Sarlacc Pit in such a way that the MTA is able to spread its remaining COVID-era federal aid until 2026, which is what the agency has been asking for help with since July of last year.

The MTA’s yearly budget options through 2026, proposed to the MTA Board in November last year. Graphic: MTA

However, the budget doesn’t identify new sources of funding beyond the politically fraught casino licenses and revenue that even the budget summary notes “are not anticipated until 2026 or later.” The budget also does not expand service or help the MTA avoid a proposed 5.5-percent fare hike. Asked why she didn’t use the budget to expand service, which experts have said could increase ridership as much as 15 percent, Hochul seemed to suggest she was constrained in what she could include.

“You have to look at the various parts of funding that are available,” the governor said.

Some advocates saw this as an opening gambit and not an end point.

“This is the first offer,” said Riders Alliance Director of Policy and Communications Danny Pearlstein. “We hope the legislature will do more, but we know that the governor drives the process. So thank you for the first tranche but let’s see what else we can get, because that’s where we get the gains to the other things the governor cars about: a safer city, climate resilience, a more equitable future and more riders. This doesn’t move the needle on ridership in the way that more frequent service does.”

State legislators also expressed some skepticism, with Assembly Member Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope) calling looming fare hikes “disconcerting and unnecessary” and Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens), who’s flogging his own MTA funding fix that would expand service and establish free buses, issuing a lengthy brickbat against the budget.

“Gov. Hochul’s plan for the MTA does not make New York safer, more affordable or livable: it does the opposite,” Mamdani said. “At a time of skyrocketing inflation, the governor’s budget proposal increases the fare to $3, rubber-stamps 10-minute waits and ensures that New York fails to support working people left behind by the rising cost of living. For the 24 percent of low-income New Yorkers who already forego essential activities like healthcare due to the cost of the fare, these policies are a travesty.”

Hochul’s idea to get New York City to kick in more money for the MTA is also facing an initial eyebrow raise from City Hall, though we haven’t made it to the level of full-scale war that happened the last two times a governor asked a mayor to kick in more money for MTA.

“The city annually contributes approximately $2 billion to the MTA in direct and in-kind contributions and, while we recognize the significant fiscal challenges the MTA faces, we are concerned that this increased commitment could further strain our already-limited resources,” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Hochul’s proposal.

City Comptroller Brad Lander also joined Adams in questioning why the city was shouldering a half-a-billion-dollar burden to shore up a regional transit system with tentacles to distant Orange and New Haven counties.

“Just as the shift to remote and hybrid work hit the MTA’s farebox revenues, so too it hit the city’s commercial property tax revenues and redistributed them to the rest of the region,” Lander said in a statement. “Rather than fare hikes, an increased share of payroll taxes, revenue from new casinos, and the implementation of congestion pricing are the right ways to replace farebox revenue and make long-overdue upgrades to ancient signal technology and repairs. The state should not stick the city with the bill to sustain our regional public transit system.”

Friday’s Headlines Are Listening to Pete

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 21:00

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called traffic deaths “a preventable crisis” in an interview with Fast Company about the Biden administration’s recent $800 million in grants to communities for safer streets, plus another upcoming $1.1 billion.
  • Nine recently announced infrastructure “mega-grants” include projects in New York, Philadelphia, Tulsa, the Gulf Coast, Chicago and Santa Cruz. Some are for rail or safer streets, but others will go toward increasing car capacity on freeways. (Route Fifty)
  • City planners are starting to question the conventional wisdom that businesses will suffer without ample parking. (The Conversation)
  • North Carolina’s top transit official says that, since the rise of working from home, transit agencies need to shift resources away from catering to commuters and more toward “lifestyle rail,” or better all-day service for remaining users. (Forbes)
  • California has a plan to subsidize e-bikes for low-income families. (Los Angeles Times)
  • A bill in the Nebraska legislature could kill Omaha’s proposed streetcar by outlawing its funding mechanism. (Examiner)
  • Charlotte’s transit board voted to move a new bus station underground to facilitate a mixed-use development above, even though some question whether that’s best for CATS riders. (WFAE)
  • A national nonprofit will audit Milwaukee’s practices for building bike and pedestrian infrastructure and recommend improvements. (Urban Milwaukee)
  • The L.A. Metro is offering free bus, rail and bike rides on Transit Equity Day this Saturday. (The Source)
  • Transit rides will be free for Super Bowl revelers in Phoenix (12 News), and Valley Metro has extended hours until 2 a.m. for Feb. 9-12 (KTAR)

Talking Headways Podcast: Get on the Fast Bus!

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 06:12

This week, Colin Parent, executive director of Circulate San Diego, comes on the program to talk about his new report, “Fast Bus! How San Diego Can Make Progress by Speeding Up the Bus.” That title should say it all!

You can listen to the conversation below or wherever your favorite podcasts are sold. Or you could read the full, unedited transcript by clicking here. Another option? Check out the edited transcript below. In any event, get on the bus!

Jeff Wood: A key frame you use in the report is the amount of time it takes to get to a destination on transit versus driving. Why is that really important to talk about when you’re talking about the bus?

Colin Parent: For a couple of reasons: one is that people choose to ride transit, whether it’s the bus or the trolley or the subway or what have you, largely based on how long it takes to get from where they are to where they want to go. And I’m not just saying like, “That’s how people ought to make decisions.” This is what a lot of survey data says. We were able to point to survey data that TransitCenter put out. They do a survey every year or so. And very consistently, the speed of travel is what riders or potential riders consistently say is the most important factor for them about choosing whether or not to ride transit. And additionally, MTS the local transit agency in San Diego, has done some similar surveys and they find basically the same thing: it’s really just the amount of time that it takes to get from where they are to where they’re going that’s really important.

And so if we really want to take into account both the interests and the desires and the preferences of riders, which I think we ought to just from an equity perspective, we ought to listen to people who are riders. But in addition to that, if we have climate goals or revenue goals, ridership goals, all those other things, speed of the trip has to be one of the top priorities for how we make decisions about where we invest in public transit.

Jeff Wood: And so you can parlay that kind of into the discussion about frequency as well. Basically if you want more speed, you also want more frequency, so you’re not waiting at a stop, I imagine.

Colin Parent: That’s exactly right. And so there’s a lot of different ways to make the bus go faster, right? We call the report “Fast Bus,” because that’s very simple and easy to understand. But the goal isn’t necessarily to put like rocket engines on the back of the bus.

Jeff Wood: That’s what I think when I saw the report title. And then some reference to Ricky Bobby as well.

Colin Parent: Well, I guess, you know, if someone wants to invent the rocket bus, you know, I’m all ears.

But the core idea is that a regular bus can go pretty fast. The barriers to travel for someone’s commute time is not science or design of the bus, right? It’s all these other things: It’s how much traffic they’re stuck in, or, as you say, frequency. It’s how much time people have to wait. If someone has to wait for 20 minutes to get to their bus, but the bus ride is only 15 minutes, they’re not thinking of it as a 15-minute ride. They’re thinking of it as a 35-minute trip. So frequency is about reducing the amount of wait time so that their overall trip is lowered.

And same thing with a “bus only” lane. That lets the bus go faster, not because it suddenly has rockets on it, but because it can travel as fast as it’s actually designed to travel as opposed to being stuck in in traffic behind a bunch of other vehicles.

Half of Americans Will Get Vision Zero Plans in New Federal Grant

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 05:38

More than half of the U.S. population will live in cities or counties with a Safe Streets action plan in place, thanks to a wave of new funding from Washington — but advocates say it will take sustained community pressure (plus a lot more money) to ensure those plans are realized.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the first-ever recipients of the new “Safe Streets and Roads For All” grant program, which will provide $5 billion across five years to help U.S. communities end traffic violence their roads.

The first $800 million will be distributed to a staggering 510 communities across America, with the vast majority of them (473) receiving grants to create or augment their local “action plans” to reduce or eliminate car crash deaths. Only 37 grantees received money to actually build the life-saving infrastructure for which action plans typically call, but those projects tended towards the large and transformative, and will receive 60 percent of the total funding.

Moreover, 80 percent of the implementation dollars will explicitly benefit bicyclists, and a whopping 90 percent benefit walkers.

Street safety advocates applauded the news, even as they acknowledged that the program makes up less than 1 percent of the funding authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, and far more needs to be done to stem the rising tide of national road deaths. Car crash fatalities reached a 16-year high in 2021, and pedestrians, bicyclists and people of color experienced a disproportionate share of the violence.

“This amount of money isn’t going to be enough to change everything, but this is an encouraging start — and hopefully, will highlight a different way of doing things and really make the case for a Safe System approach,” said Leah Shahum, founder and director of the Vision Zero network.

A map of all grant recipients, excluding Alaska. Visit USDOT for a complete interactive version. Editor’s note; 97 counties in Iowa received a joint award, lead by Winneshiek County.

Shahum is particularly encouraged by the sheer number of U.S. communities that received funding to develop new safety strategies, many of which are explicitly called Vision Zero plans in reference to the famous Swedish safety model that aims to achieve zero traffic fatalities through systemic interventions. An alarming number of U.S. cities have been slow to embrace the model, or else have struggled to find the resources to comprehensively analyze where their car crashes most often happen — never mind actually taking steps to slow drivers down to safe speeds with hard infrastructure.

“I think we’re seeing a shift more broadly,” Shahum said. “People aren’t as afraid as they used to be to talk about slowing cars down; ‘slow’ isn’t a bad word anymore. We tended to say, ‘Yes, we want safety, but we also want to solve congestion and move things as fast as possible at the same time.’ But we can’t.”

Even the best-laid plans, though, don’t always lead to real safety results — and Shahum fears that when push comes to shove, some communities may not be willing to make the bold decisions necessary to turn every road project into a safety project, as Secretary Buttigieg urged elected leaders to do at the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“Vision Zero is not just a sexy new program name you can slap on your existing work,” Shahum added. “We’re talking about fundamental change, and we must be willing to slow down and prioritize people’s movement above the speed that cars travel. Is there a potential for [grant recipients] to just talk the talk and not walk the walk? Yeah, that’s a certainly a risk. … I think everybody has a role to play in keeping the pressure on and ensuring that there’s accountability.”

Atlanta is getting $30 million for safe streets projects.

$20 million for street trees, raised medians, other good stuff on 122nd Ave. — one of Portland's most dangerous streets@USDOT is like "you get safety funding, you get safety funding…" You love to see it.

— Families For Safe Streets (@NYC_SafeStreets) February 1, 2023

Moreover, Shahum points out that even the most dedicated Vision Zero cities may still face challenges from state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organization that don’t share their point of view, as well as from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration itself, which she says has been “asleep at the wheel” on regulating the large, heavy vehicles that experts say are accelerating America’s pedestrian death crisis, even after the roads they drive on have been redesigned for safety.

Still, she and her fellow advocates are cautiously optimistic that the new program will make a difference — if only by providing a blueprint for future initiatives.

“The unconscionably high and widely inequitable traffic death toll demands a new approach to how we plan, fund, and build transportation infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of NACTO, in a release. “Safe Streets and Roads for All provides a model for how to align transportation investments to the safety, equity, and climate crises on our roads. By making walking, biking, and taking transit safer for the millions of Americans who do so every day, we can make the U.S. healthier, more prosperous, and resilient.”

Here are some of the notable implementation grants that received funding this year: 

  • $20 million for a slate of pedestrian improvements across Tampa, plus another $19 million across the Hillsborough county at large
  • $30 million to transform a key section that connects the south side of Atlanta with its downtown, adding bike lanes, configuring roads, and more
  • $30 million to improve two major streets in underserved communities in Philadelphia
  • $28.7 million to improve crossings and intersections along the Bissonnet Corridor in Houston
  • $27.2 million to augment the urban trail network in Providence
  • $25.6 million for a “vast array of safety treatments to address pedestrian collisions” in Seattle
  • $24.8 million to address traffic violence along Detroit’s High Injury Network
  • $22.8 million for a citywide lighting study, roundabouts, and much more in Austin
  • $21.4 million to redesign the notoriously dangerous Delancey Street in New York City
  • $20 million for a redesign project in Portland, Ore., which the city is calling “a model for humanizing arterial streets”
  • $17.6 million for a range of safe streets projects in the low-income Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco (Editor’s note: learn about the rest of California’s grants at Streetsblog Cal)
  • $15 million in walking and biking improvements in Springfield, Mass.
  • $9 million in Complete Streets projects throughout the city of Boston
  • $9 million to rehabilitate pedestrian facilities along LaBrea avenue in Los Angeles

Thursday’s Headlines Are Ridin’ With Biden

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 21:24

  • President Biden is touting infrastructure funding for Baltimore and Hudson River train tunnels in the runup to his state of the union address next week. (CNN)
  • The U.S. DOT is awarding $800 million in grants to 500 communities with the highest rates of traffic deaths, and launching new tools to help those communities pinpoint where to spend it. (Washington Post)
  • Electric vehicles are too big and too expensive, and they ought to be taxed by weight. (Slate)
  • A recent study found that charging a mid-priced EV is more expensive than filling up the tank of an equivalent internal combustion car. (Jalopnik)
  • Working from home has reduced commute times by an average of two hours a week. (World Economic Forum)
  • Protected bike infrastructure is especially important for women, who are actually more likely to be hit by cars because they’re more likely than men to follow traffic laws. (Harvard Gazette)
  • Driverless cars are causing chaos in San Francisco, but the city is powerless to stop them because they’re regulated by the state. (Standard)
  • The new police chief at Denver’s transit agency is cracking down on violence and harassment, and will no longer let people ride trains indefinitely. (CBS News)
  • I-277 tore apart Black neighborhoods in Charlotte and should be removed or turned into a surface road. (UNC Charlotte Urban Institute)
  • Charlotte is considering building roads first and pushing back transit projects to win approval from Republican state lawmakers for a $13.5 billion transportation tax. (WFAE)
  • The Oregon DOT is finally recognizing e-bikes in planning for charging infrastructure. (Bike Portland)
  • Columbus, Ohio is considering lowering downtown speed limits to 25 miles per hour. (ABC 6)
  • Entitled drivers have been whining about parking for 100 years. (Streetsblog NYC)

California Grants Billions for Transit Projects

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 13:16

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Billions of dollars were awarded to big transit capital projects in California yesterday. $2.54 billion, to be precise, for projects in the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) that need ongoing funding to remain eligible for federal assistance.

These grants are for large long-term capital projects that expand or improve “transformative” transit. This first round of grants will go to projects that have already received some TIRCP funding, and another $1.14 billion in grants will be announced in April for “new projects and high priority grade crossing improvement and separation projects.”

Applications for those grants are due on February 10. They will include:

  • $522 million for new projects and major project development in Southern California (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties)
  • $270 million for new projects and major project development in the rest of the state
  • $350 million for high priority grade crossing improvements and separation projects statewide

TIRCP is funded by Senate Bill 1 (the gas tax) and the California Climate Investments (cap-and-trade). In addition, money was added to the TIRCP budget from last year’s General Fund surplus.

This year’s budget promises to be tighter, and Governor Newsom has proposed pulling back $2 billion from the TIRCP’s future rounds of funding. This would not affect these 2023 allocations, however. Also note that the proposed cuts have not been adopted, and may not take place if the General Fund has enough money in 2024 to keep last year’s promise (that is, $15 billion over several years for infrastructure improvements).

Even if the $2 billion in cuts do take effect, the TIRCP would still have a budget of at least $6 billion just from the General Fund over the next three years.

The sixteen projects that were awarded grants yesterday are listed below. All of them are ongoing projects, and this TIRCP funding will help ensure they meet matching fund obligations for other grants, including federal and state programs.

Some of the Southern California projects are detailed here, and also see Streetsblog LA’s coverage of LA Metro’s expectations for the program.

  • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)’s Transbay Corridor Core Capacity Program: $250 million. This project will add capacity and frequency to BART service.
  • Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s Sacramento to Roseville Third Track Project: $30 million. The project which will increase the number of roundtrips on this segment from one to three per day.
  • City of Inglewood’s Inglewood Transit Connector: $407 million.
  • LA Metro’s East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor: $600 million. This project will build a 6.7-mile initial segment between the Orange Line and San Fernando.
  • LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency (Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor), corridor hardening project: $6.6 million for repairs to the Ventura County Rincon Point slope and $10.4 million for repairs near Santa Barbara County Hollister Ranch and piers project.
  • LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, Central Coast Layover Facility: $14 million. Once complete in 2026, the project will increase total overnight storage and maintenance capacity in San Luis Obispo to allow for service growth on the Central Coast both north and south of SLO.
  • Orange County Transportation Authority’s OC Streetcar: $150 million. This project is adding 4.15 route miles of new rail transit in Orange County in Santa Ana and Garden Grove.
  • Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board’s Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project: $367 million. This will help fully fund the project to electrify Caltrain rail service and acquire new electric multiple unit trains for improved and more frequent service.
  • San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s project to convert to zero-emission engines on the Redlands Passenger Rail Project: $15.7 million.
  • San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s and Omnitrans’ West Valley Connector Bus Rapid Transit Phase 1 and Zero-Emission Bus Initiative: $18.7 million. This project will connect Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario Airport, Ontario, Montclair and Pomona with a nineteen-mile BRT system.
  • San Diego Association of Governments’ University Bikeway Project: $4.2 million. Active transportation and bus corridor improvements in San Diego’s urban core, including the communities of City Heights, Eastern San Diego, and La Mesa.
  • San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission’s Valley Rail project: $142 million. Components of the project include Natomas and Elk Grove stations in the Sacramento region, the Stockton Diamond grade separation, North Lathrop Transfer Station, Manteca, Modesto, Ceres, and Madera station projects, and ten-car ACE platform extensions at Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, and Pleasanton stations.
  • Santa Barbara County Association of Governments’ Goleta Train Depot improvements: $5.5 million. Upgrading to a modern multi-modal station with improved customer amenities and better active transportation and transit access
  • Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension Project: $375 million. Will bring BART service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.
  • Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), Larkspur to Windsor Corridor: $34 million. Completion of Sonoma County Airport-to-Windsor construction and preparation for construction to Healdsburg.
  • Metrolink’s El Monte station improvements, Fullerton Junction reconfiguration and new track, and Simi Valley double track: $106 million. These three critical project components will provide key capacity and safety improvements in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

City of Springfield Wins $15 Million to Improve Street Safety Citywide

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 12:58

A new federal grant program that was created under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will award $15 million to the City of Springfield to improve safety on 10 high-traffic streets and at 15 intersections across the city.

The funding will come from the new federal Safe Streets and Roads for All discretionary grant program, which was established with $5 billion in funding over a 5-year period in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In a press statement celebrating the new program, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) wrote that “Safe Streets and Roads for All unlocks federal dollars to fund some of the most effective safety interventions on streets – small-scale investments deployed at scale – that were previously inaccessible to communities without strong local funding sources.”

This year, for its first round of grants, the program is primarily funding “action plans” to help local and regional governments plan and prioritize safety improvements.

Those action plans are a prerequisite for local governments to be eligible for the program’s implementation grants, which would fund actual construction on street safety improvements.

A map of Springfield highlighting the major streets that will be targeted for safety improvements with the $15 million in funding the city received from the new Safe Streets for All program. Courtesy of USDOT.

Betsy Johnson, a safety advocate and volunteer with WalkBikeSpringfield, credits MassDOT for helping the city jump ahead of other applicants by fast-tracking an action plan before the grant application deadline.

“Springfield was going to put in for money to do the road safety plan, which is the first step,” Johnson told StreetsblogMASS in a phone conversation on Wednesday. “But MassDOT said ‘No, Springfield, you need this money now, you’ve got an over-the-top crash rate. We’ll hire the consultant who will in 30 days come up with a road safety plan for you, so you can go ahead and apply for the implementation money.’”

Vigil for Crash Victims Amplifies Need for Safer Streets in Springfield


Johnson is hopeful that the federal funding can fast-track projects that the city has already identified as priorities in its complete streets plan.

According to a grant award announcement released today from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Springfield’s grant funding “will implement systemic safety countermeasures at approximately 15 intersections and 10 corridors in the City of Springfield that have a disproportionately high number of fatal and serious injury crashes. These systemic interventions include intersection and signal improvements, pedestrian and cyclist enhancements—such as crosswalk improvements, sidewalk upgrades, lighting, and ADA improvements—roadway conspicuity treatments, and intersection/corridor speed management treatments.“

As we’ve reported here previously, Springfield is one of the Commonwealth’s most dangerous cities for traffic violence, according to statewide crash statistics.

The City of Boston also won a $9 million Safe Streets and Roads for All grant to “improve safety at approximately nine intersections in five distinct neighborhoods, the majority of which are underserved communities where residents face high safety risks on local streets.”

A map accompanying the project description highlights the intersections of Stuart and Tremont Streets and Kneeland and Washington Streets in downtown Boston (two adjacent intersections in the theater district), Dorchester Ave. and Boston Street in Andrew Square, two intersections on Blue Hill Avenue, at American Legion Highway and at Columbia Road, and Bennington and Saratoga Streets in East Boston, among others.

15 local and regional governments in Massachusetts – including the cities of Worcester, Somerville, and Salem, and regional planning commissions for the Boston region, the Merrimack Valley, Berkshire County, and Cape Cod – also won funding to prepare their own action plans to be eligible for construction funds from the program in future years.

MassDOT has a similar state-level program to plan and implement street safety projects – the Complete Streets funding program. MassDOT will spread about $12 million for 31 small-scale safety and accessibility projects across the entire Commonwealth this year.



Kids’ Psychology Affects How They Behave Around Cars — And Regulators Should Take Note

Tue, 01/31/2023 - 21:43

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken steps to understand how a wider range of bodies are likely to fare when they’re involved in a car crash. But as regulators finally begin to look outside the car, some researchers think it’s time they start thinking about our brains, too — particularly when it comes to kids.

Jodie Plumert. Photo: University of Iowa

Those questions have long been a fascination for Jodie Plumert, a University of Iowa professor who’s made a career out of studying the psychology of how pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users behave on the road, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable ones of all: children with still-developing brains.

“What is it about being an immature organism that puts you at risk for injury?” Plumert said in an interview with Streetsblog. “[Is it] perceptual motor skills, cognitive skills, decision-making skills, even social skills? [What are] the factors, and how do they contribute to why people get killed and injured [in car crashes]?”

In recent years, that interest has taken her into the world of virtual reality. Along with her colleague, computer science professor Joe Kearney, she has asked kids and teenagers to cross countless simulated roads, and found that children consistently struggle not just to decide when it’s safe to enter the street, but to actually get their little bodies moving.

“If you watch adults cross the road, they’ll often cross very closely behind the forward vehicle — but kids don’t,” Plumert adds.”It just takes them longer. The younger the child is, the more they tend delay the initiation of that crossing, and they end up with more close calls, and even getting hit more by virtual cars.”

A simulator from one of Plumert’s studies. Photo: Research Gate

Those findings may seem intuitive to anyone who’s ever struggled to get a toddler to stop looking at a cloud and hustle already, but they’re largely under-discussed among the people who design the U.S. transportation system. While the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices acknowledges that some people take longer than the industry-recommended 3.5 seconds to cross a 10-foot travel lane in a crosswalk, it doesn’t explicitly acknowledge that many kids take longer than that, or that they deserve a big buffer even outside of school zones where they’re most regularly walking.

Needless to say, speed-focused design standards also aren’t very forgiving of children who might attempt to cross outside of a crosswalk and might struggle to negotiate an even more complex roadway environment — or a kid who might go chasing after a ball and not pause to look both ways before they attempt to retrieve it.

When it comes to vehicle safety, Plumert wonders whether regulators should be doing more to acknowledge the unique psychology of children, too — especially as automated driving technology becomes more and more prevalent. Robocars, after all, might not be able to recognize the sometimes erratic ways that kids sometimes move through the world, unless we take the time to teach them.

“AVs, essentially, use deep learning algorithms to detect what’s an obstacle and what’s not, and to do that, we feed [the system] all these examples into it so it can learn,” Plumert adds. “And one thing we definitely need to feed into it is lots of images of short individuals running out behind or in front of a car quickly.”

In America’s driveways, though, children are often endangered even when they’re sitting still — because their parents’ and caregivers’ cars are so big that they can’t see a small body in their path. That problem has become even more pronounced since SUVs began dominating U.S. roads in the 2010’s, many of which have such massive blind spots both behind and in front of the car that TV journalists have taken to lining up classrooms full of preschoolers in front of them to demonstrate their safety hazards. Plumert says, though, that the problem isn’t just that kids aren’t visible from the driver’s seat of a Hummer, but that kids might not always move as quickly as an adult when they see a car coming at them — and if that vehicle isn’t equipped with an effective automatic emergency braking system, that could spell tragedy.

“Should these warning systems account for the size of the person behind the car?” she wonders. “Should they, perhaps, give an extra warning if that person is small?”

Graphic: Kids and Cars

Plumert acknowledges that education can fill some of the gaps in children’s struggles to stays safe on the road, and she’s done some promising research that demonstrates that parents can have a big impact on crossing behaviors in particular. At the end of the day, though, it’s up to the adults in the room to design streets and vehicles that won’t kill a child if they make a mistake, whether because they’re being egged on by peers, because they struggle with hyperactivity or inattention disorders, or simply because they’re kids who are still learning how to navigate a car-dominated world.

“We design buildings so that they’re ADA compliant and accessible, and we know that when you do that, it makes buildings safer for everyone,” Plumert adds. “If we can figure out more ways to make road crossing safer for kids, we can make it safer for everyone, too — including people who are really good at interacting with traffic.”

Ain’t No Wednesday’s Headlines Wide Enough

Tue, 01/31/2023 - 21:00

  • The best new bike lanes are in New Jersey, Providence, Portland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, suburban D.C. and even South Carolina and Indiana. (People for Bikes)
  • Micromobility vehicles like scooters and e-bikes deserve more attention in conversations around climate change. (Smart Cities Dive)
  • This Associated Press story frames the Biden administration’s fix-it-first policy as a blow to put-upon “advocates for road construction” like suburban mayors, even when that “road construction” comes at the expense of transit projects.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to fast-track 20 road-widening projects at a cost of $7 billion. (WPTV)
  • In addition to gas tax revenue and federal infrastructure funds, Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons is proposing $859 million for highway widening. (Next STL)
  • Washington, D.C. is now the largest U.S. city with fare-free buses after the city council approved a zero-fare policy without Mayor Muriel Bowser’s approval. (CNBC)
  • San Francisco’s bike plan will focus on neighborhoods that historically feel left out of transportation decisions. (The Frisc)
  • The Boston Chamber of Commerce is backing a Massachusetts bill to study congestion pricing. (Herald)
  • Salt Lake City has plans to replace a mountain highway with gondolas to cut down on crashes and emissions. (Electrek)
  • Now that Portland has taken over 82nd Avenue from the state, planning starts in earnest to provide better bus service. (Bike Portland)
  • Charlotte will soon decide on a route for the Silver Line. (Axios)
  • The Denver city council voted to decriminalize jaywalking. (Denverite)
  • People all over the world are starting “bike buses” so their kids can all ride to school together. Here’s how to start yours. (Wired)

“Entitled” Bike Lane Lady Speaks Out

Tue, 01/31/2023 - 16:32

On a rainy December 29, advocate Stacey Randecker was out riding on 7th Street just north of Townsend when she came across the fifth motorist parked in the bike lane during her half-mile ride. It was an ambulance–which was not responding to an obvious emergency–blocking a protected bike lane.

The bike lane’s plastic “protection” failed to keep this motorist out, but, when the lane is blocked, it does force cyclists to either dismount and walk around the lane-markers or risk a crash trying to ride over them. Randecker was at the end of her proverbial rope after encountering so many drivers in the bike lane, and really let the driver know it. The driver did move the ambulance, and Randecker posted video about the incident, which got picked up by right-wing media outlets.

They dubbed her an ‘entitled cyclist of San Francisco’ (for the record, a cyclist actually is entitled to use bike lanes. A motorist is not).

Randecker decided to bring the matter to the fire commission, the board that’s supposed to oversee the fire department, during public comment at its January 11 regular meeting.

Streetsblog watched the meeting. Randecker was the only person to address the commission during public comment. And she brought a perfectly legitimate complaint about 1) a city employee who put the public at risk and 2) a fire department public information officer who lied, claiming that the EMTs in question were dealing with an emergency when they were not.

In Streetsblog’s experience, to the extent that it’s possible, most city councils, county supervisors, and local commissions try to address public complaints and comments during these oversight meetings, even if it’s sometimes perfunctory. But the fire commission ignored Randecker’s testimony.

The fire commission is kind of an obscure board that doesn’t get as much attention as other governmental bodies such as the SFMTA board. That’s why Streetsblog thought it in the interest of readers–especially lawmakers–to hear about this incident, because it’s illustrative of a city department that seems to have decided that the law doesn’t apply to them.

Here is a trimmed version of Randecker’s comments to the commissioners about the incident:

I was biking to a meeting (~11:30am) when I came across SFFD ambulance 50 parked in the bike lane on 7th Street. This was the FIFTH vehicle blocking the bike lane in just FIVE minutes of riding. I was incensed at the constant obstructions and their obvious lack of concern.

Randecker gave the only public comment during the commission’s regular meeting on Jan. 11. Image from GovTV

I could not “just bike around them,” as I had the previous offenders, due to the delineators SFMTA used. Those delineators have sent people to the hospital riding over them in dry weather. No sane San Francisco bike rider would tackle them in rain, which means you must get off your bike–which we all do during an emergency, which this was not.

They could have parked in:

  • the empty motorcycle parking
  • the nearly empty Room & Board parking lot
  • any one of THREE main travel lanes
  • or on the opposite side of the street as they did after I demanded they move.

No. They chose to block the bike lane.

I filmed this encounter because I have had enough of SFFD vetoing all manner of traffic calming measures. It’s been almost nine years since this city committed to Vision Zero. The SFFD begrudgingly signed on, but their veto power shows deaths from traffic violence have RISEN by one-third since 2013. The death count is FOUR times what it should be if we were on track to eliminate traffic deaths.

The fire department uses the bogeyman of “your house burning down” as a reason to block safer streets, but structure fires are down 56 percent over the past twenty years. They used to be nearly 1/5 of emergency calls. Today they represent just six percent of calls. What portion is the response to car crashes? How much could that go down if we had safer streets?

I complain about how unsafe it is to bike our streets often. I had no reason to think this would get any attention. But it did, because @SFFD PIO Jonathan Baxter retweeted my video of the incident with this:

There was no emergency at that location.

Their prior call was 35 minutes earlier to an address a quarter mile away and that person declined medical transport.

Jonathan Baxter could have said nothing. Instead he lied and essentially said, “we can block a bike lane for any reason. Deal with it.” He has since deleted the tweet.

This is systemic. Discredit, deny, dismiss–and we’ll park wherever we damn well please. I am thankful for our first responders. They have difficult jobs. But their job is to help people, not endanger them.


For readers unfamiliar with the history of San Francisco’s fire department and its behind-the-scenes fight against Vision Zero, check out this Q&A from 2018.

‘It’s So Hard to Park’: Entitled Drivers Have Been Whining for 100 Years!

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 21:01

Like death and taxes, New Yorkers complain about parking. And the media has long been their enablers.

These days, the local press likes to trot out random car drivers complaining that they can’t find parking because ___________ (insert any city program that has attempted to minutely tip the scales from drivers to everyone else such as open restaurants, open streets, wider sidewalks for pedestrians or a nascent effort to put garbage bags in the curbside lane and trim New York’s notorious 5 o’clock shadow).

“Sometimes I wait for hours to find a spot,” Luis Carrero of Kingsbridge Heights recently told the Daily News, claiming, “Years ago, it was easy.”

No, Luis, it wasn’t. Sure, there are tens of thousands more cars in the city now than before the pandemic, with car ownership increasing 12 percent, according to the NY Post, and, yes a few thousand spots were repurposed during the pandemic for the public instead of for private car storage, but Luis and his ilk are just flat-out wrong: It was never easy to park in New York City. Complaints from car owners are as long standing a tradition in New York as booing the mayor on opening day at Yankee Stadium.

Calvin Trillin’s 2001 book.

How do we know? We asked the ultimate expert.

“Parking has been difficult for decades,” author Calvin Trillin told Streetsblog the other day. And he ought to know; in 2001, Trillin published the seminal, “Tepper Isn’t Going Out,” an entire novel about parking that was born from the author’s own years searching for a spot in Greenwich Village.

The problem he said is decades old and began “as soon as there were so many cars that if you put them in the end they would measure more than the parking spots.”

Trillin said that drivers should put today’s parking problems in context. Finding a spot will always be difficult “unless people just don’t have that many cars.”

Nonetheless, the car-owning minority of New York feels that free parking is it inalienable right. A safety improvement that might save the life of a kid or a neighbor are still met with outrage from drivers — and the media plays along, hyping how hard it is to park. But some reporters get it.

“New York has been synonymous with endless traffic jams, total gridlock, impossible parking and hours-long spot-hunting for decades. And it is nothing short of bizarre revisionism to even imply otherwise,” Aaron Gordon recently wrote in VICE.

Revisionism is the perfect word for today’s laments. We did a deep dive into the parking issue and here are some highlights:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 17, 1917

As early as 1917, car owners started asserting their entitlement to simply swipe the public curbside space. As detailed by the Brooklyn Eagle, the practice of storing a car in the public right of way was so bizarre that the police commissioner ordered a crackdown.

“Instructions were given that special attention should be paid to conditions in the vicinity of Borough Hall in Brooklyn,” the article said (wait, is this article from 2023?!).

The irony is that at the time, local merchants complained that car drivers who parked against the curb were deterring customers (the opposite complaint is made today).

At the time, street parking was a luxury allowed only to doctors who needed to rush to take care of a patient. So how come house calls disappeared, but theft of public space didn’t?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 22, 1921

As the popularity of the automobile continued to rise, parking became more of a crisis … for entitled drivers demanding space.

As this 1921 article shows, all kinds of solutions were pitched, including an intricate car parking system underneath parks, with 30,000 spaces created under Central Park and another 4,000 under Bryant Park.

“Parked cars today cause congestion, loss of life and injuries,” Deputy Police Commissioner Harriss was quoted as saying before describing his elaborate system that seems right out of an Elon Musk fever dream: “When a passenger would leave his car to enter a store or a theater for a considerable space of time, the car should be immediately sent to Central or Bryant park, subject to recall by an electronic flashlight system probably requiring six telephone operators in each parking tunnel.”

Harriss claimed, “Practically all of the large department stores have been studying the suggestion and are enthusiastic about it.”

Brooklyn Borough President Riegelmann was on board with efforts to ameliorate the parking “problem,” saying that “the parked car was rapidly becoming one of the biggest of the city’s transportation problems,” the Eagle reported.

This was back in the days when parking one’s car overnight on a street was simply prohibited.

“In those days, people thought that the streets should not be used to store automobiles,” the legendary parking expert Donald Shoup of UCLA, told Streetsblog the other day. The shift, he said, “was that drivers kept insisting, ‘Here’s all this wonderful space that you prohibit us from using.’”

The New York Times, Dec. 6, 1923

In the 1920s, truckers were the canaries in the coal mine of New York City parking, what with their work constantly impeded by cars. In 1923, the Merchant Truckmen’s Bureau of New York declared that the only way to really improve traffic issues was to ban car parking in busy areas of the city.

The police department provided limited off street parking, but people didn’t use them “because the car owners have to walk three or four blocks back from the place they parked the car, to their business.” Aww, baby.

The New York Times, April 22, 1945

As more and more soldiers returned home from World War II and vacant lots were converted to buildings, the city faced a flood of new traffic and fewer off-street parking spaces.

At the time, the auto lobby acknowledged that parked cars were the problem — but the car industry’s solution was hardly to deter driving and parking, but to encourage it!

George Conrad Diehl, of the Automobile Old Timers, demanded that the city cut “at least” four new crosstown boulevards for cars, with parking spaces installed underneath. He claimed “these broad arteries would more than pay for themselves … through the economic service they rendered.” He was wrong — roadways have been widened, but congestion still cripples the city and hampers economic development.

‘The Odd Couple,’ Oct. 19, 1973

As the decades went on, New York streets did magically add parking spaces, yet New Yorkers kept trying to squeeze more cars into them. In the 1970s, the prospect that a New Yorker would buy a car was still played for laughs — because, how ridiculous it would be for someone who lives in the heart of Manhattan to think owning a car would make his life easier!

Episode six of the fourth season of the iconic New York comedy, “The Odd Couple,” makes this abundantly clear.

After Oscar wins a car on a game show, he and Felix increasingly realize how difficult it is to find parking. First, they seek an off-street spot at a garage, but the garage manager (played perfectly by John Byner) claims he doesn’t have space for them (watch the seminal scene here). Failing to bribe a garage owner  (“What will this get us,” Felix says, showing the $10 bill, to which the garage owner says, “Two fives?”), Felix and Oscar decide they’ll try to park on the street.

“Yeah, yeah, try it on the street for a while,” says the garage owner. “You’se’ll be back!”

Later, Oscar has had enough, and tries to hire a thief to steal the car.

“I’m sick of cars! I’m sick of parking! No argument, we’re getting rid of the car!” Oscar screams.

Felix persuades Oscar that his plan is morally bankrupt and that, “The Lord will never forgive you.”

“If he owned a car in New York he would,” Oscar retorts. (Watch the scene where they decide to get rid of the car here.)

In they end, “la Forza del destino” intervenes and they are forced to sell the car for $56:

The vandalized car. Texas Monthly, February 1976

A 1976 article in Texas Monthly described the difference between Texans and New Yorkers’ relationship to their cars. Naturally, the topic turned to parking, which the magazine described as so difficult that it has “caused a lot of city divorces.”

‘Seinfeld,’ April 22, 1992 The fight begins.

There are few pieces of pop culture that captured the experience of being a New Yorker like the show about nothing. In “The Parking Space” (S3 E22), an iconic “Seinfeld” episode, George is backing into a parking space when someone else tries to drive into the space front ways (which even we acknowledge is anti-social behavior). The resulting argument over who should get to park there lasts the entire episode, and both George and the other man are stubborn enough to wait until their rival leaves.

“People kill for a parking space in this city,” Elaine tells George when he decides he’s going to challenge the other driver.

(Watch the scene where the argument begins here.)

The New York Times, June 13, 1999

This 1999 Times article, headlined “The Space Race; Why Is It So Hard To Find a Parking Space In Manhattan?” shows how far the car invasion had come from 1917, when street parking was a crime.

New York car owners had accepted the right to street parking as a fundamental truth, and the focus of news articles shifted to the apparent injustice of not being able to find a parking space.

“New York is a crowded place, with two million vehicles registered in the five boroughs, and many millions more coming in daily from the suburbs and beyond,” the article states. “There just isn’t room for all of them on the streets. Demand for parking exceeds supply. Simple as that.”

At the time, car interests were pushing the city to require developers to build more off-street parking in their projects — the dreaded mandatory minimum parking rules that the city has been struggling to undo for decades. Not everyone was buying it, though.

Then-Soho Council Member Kathryn Freed said she didn’t like the idea of adding more parking, even off-street.

”I know people who live in the city need places to park,” she said. ”But we are so congested that the idea of allowing more parking in the center of the city is insane.” (Where have you gone, Kathryn Freed — a city turns its lonely eyes to you.)

The New Yorker, Aug. 23, 2012

Arriving closer to the present day, we see that very little has changed. This New Yorker article by Thomas Beller, aptly titled “Parking: The Agonies and the Ecstasies,” is a story of the pain of hunting for parking, and the pure “joy” of finding a great spot. You know the parking situation is dire when finding a spot causes the kind of emotional outpouring that used to be reserved for weddings, adventures or the smile of a dog.

Of course, not every car owner has a rosy-eyed view of the past.

“Parking here has always been a clusterf–k!” Astoria resident and bartender Joey Izzo told the Post last year. A few spots lost to outdoor dining “hasn’t changed” anything, he added.

How Mayors Can Lead The Way to a Sustainable Transportation Future (Hint: Listen to John Bauters)

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 21:01

Not enough U.S. mayors make sustainable transportation a priority, and even the ones that do don't always get much done. On today's episode of The Brake, though, we spoke with one elected official who's making massive progress to make streets safer, greener and more equitable in his small town — and sharing lessons in leadership that can scale to even the biggest cities.


In this extended conversation with Mayor John Bauters of Emeryville, Calif., we learn more about his successful effort to put a seat at every bus stop in his town, which Streetsblog covered last month, and what it takes to get humble yet ambitious mobility projects like this done. And along the way, we chat about why he thinks climate change is a losing campaign issue even though it's the most important issue of our time, why elected officials should get outside more, and why he thinks that you — yes, you — should run for office.

Tune in below, on Apple Podcasts, or anywhere else you listen.

[protected-iframe id="fcf048294eae5be50abb73dbcf6f2b29" height="200" width="700" /]

Tuesday’s Headlines Have Their Heads in the Sand

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 21:00

  • At a recent transportation conference attended by many engineers, planners, businesspeople and policymakers, most presenters refused to acknowledge the reality that a system where 90 percent of people driving personal vehicles will never be efficient or clean. (Transportation for America)
  • Transit agencies should better serve women, but referring to them as “vulnerable users” still centers the male experience. (Eltis)
  • Still suffering from high vacancy rates at downtown office buildings, Bay Area Rapid Transit is counting on a future ballot measure to provide funding and avoid drastic service cuts once federal pandemic dollars run out. (CBS News)
  • The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s CEO dashed hopes for a Roosevelt Boulevard subway line, saying it’s just too expensive. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • A Hillsborough County, Florida, transportation board nixed the idea of even studying whether to tear down part of I-275. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • The details have yet to be worked out, but Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers in both parties say they want to push forward traffic safety legislation. (The Chronicle)
  • The Cincinnati city council approved phase two of the Central Parkway protected bike lane project. (WCPO)
  • Bus rapid transit is a better option for the circular Atlanta Beltline than light rail, opines a Georgia Tech professor. (Saporta Report)
  • Syracuse’s mayor belatedly announced a Vision Zero initiative, four years after one council member first proposed it. (Post-Standard)
  • Omaha launched a new website with information about a proposed downtown streetcar. (Nebraska Examiner)
  • Snowplows piled up a mountain of snow on a St. Paul sidewalk, so these folks dug a tunnel. (Star Tribune)

Monday’s Headlines Are Priced Out

Sun, 01/29/2023 - 21:00

  • Rising real estate prices in walkable neighborhoods are a sign that people want to live there, but they also make it harder for most people to afford to live there. (Smart Cities Dive)
  • To meet the Paris Accord’s climate goals, cities need to double the pace at which they’re shifting people from cars to walking, biking and transit. (Green Biz)
  • E-bike subsidies are more effective than subsidies for electric cars when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • The U.S. DOT announced that $1.7 billion in grants are available for low- and no-emissions buses.
  • The difficulty of walking and biking and lack of access to transit are making Americans lonelier, which carries physical as well as emotional health risks. (Streetsblog USA)
  • An Arizona Apache tribe is fighting a copper mine on land they consider sacred. More copper is needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles. (New York Times)
  • San Francisco can move forward with a 2018 tolling measure that will raise billions of dollars for transit, the California Supreme Court ruled. (Chronicle)
  • Cincinnati’s streetcar ridership rose throughout 2022 and hit an all-time annual high. (WCPO)
  • Oregon transit officials want the state legislature to stiffen penalties for attacking a transit worker or rider. (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
  • Suspending Nevada’s gas tax for a year is a political gimmick that will only save drivers a few bucks a month. (Current)
  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams is requiring Uber and Lyft to go 100 percent electric by 2030. (The Verge)
  • The Houston Metro will give struggling bike-share B-Cycle a $500,000 infusion, then decide in six to months whether to take over the program. (Houston Public Media)
  • The D.C. Metro will boost train frequency during peak hours next month as it continues to recover from the pandemic. (Washington Post)
  • Minnesota lawmakers want to crack down on fare dodging. (Star Tribune)
  • A man who plowed a truck into a New York City bike lane and killed eight people was found guilty of murder and terrorism. (Gothamist)
  • MMA fighter Conor McGregor escaped injury but got a good scare when a driver hit him while biking in his native Ireland. (ESPN)
  • Pickup trucks are now just taller, heavier, more dangerous minivans in everything but name. (Jalopnik)

The End of ‘Criminal Mischief’? A Reflection on Three Months of Field Work

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 21:01

It’s time to hang up the paint pen and screwdriver.

I’ve been biking around town for about three months fixing intentionally defaced license plates, peeling off tape that’s obscuring a number or letter, and removing illegal covers — and garnered lots of media attention for my (apparently) life-threatening exploits: Gothamist, NY1, the New York Times and even the vaunted New Yorker have found my campaign to rein in reckless drivers worthy of attention.

Yet from City Hall and at 1 Police Plaza? Crickets.

And that’s embarrassing — for the mayor and the police commissioner. Since my first “criminal mischief” video on Nov. 15, I’ve now caught 59 police officers, firefighters and other law enforcement personnel doctoring their plate to avoid speed or toll cameras (here’s a list of all the miscreants with links to my videos). The NYPD has long said it disciplines officers who misuse their department-issued placard or deface their plates, but the agency declined to comment when I sent it a list of defaced plates I caught (I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for the disciplinary records — see FOIL-2023-056-01709 — so we’ll see what happens).

I also reached out to City Hall — which, frankly, should be issuing me a proclamation — but didn’t hear back yet.

Perhaps everyone in Officialdom hopes this issue will just go back under the carpet.

The hit song. Click to hear.

But I couldn’t let it. At Streetsblog, we’ve obviously been covering vehicular malfeasance by public officials for years, but it wasn’t until lawyer Adam White was arrested (and charged with “criminal mischief”) for repairing an intentionally damaged plate that our movement for safety merged with social media to create a made-for-Twitter juggernaut (plus, the catchy theme song I wrote for Jimmy and the Jaywalkers didn’t hurt, either).

Like all great ideas, this one started with something dumb: I figured if Adam White could get arrested and charged with “criminal mischief” for literally doing the opposite of causing damage to someone’s property, I should probably fan out all over town and try to get arrested, too! And maybe more people would do it, and then, as Arlo Guthrie said, we’d have a movement. (It’s ultimately unclear if White and I have committed any crimes — I was never arrested and his case was dropped by the Brooklyn District Attorney. But Streetsblog freelancer Joseph Tedeschi, who is a lawyer, did some research and found plenty of legal eagles who think it is a crime to take matters into one’s own hands, even though license plates are definitely state property, not the car owner’s property.)

My earliest posts tagged the local precinct where I was committing the alleged crime, in hopes that someone would either arrest me or, better still, come out and do my job for me:

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF doesn’t take a weekend off. The @NYPD78Pct needs to arrest this mischief maker on Prospect Park West — and fast, before he mischiefs again! (Context:

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) November 26, 2022

This hearse was one of my favorites (and includes a rare aural appearance by Jimmy):

Hey ?@NYPD72Pct? we have some CRIMINAL MISCHIEF going on on Fourth Ave! Arrest?

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) November 19, 2022

We all know what happened next, though perhaps only Elon Musk’s algorithm writer can explain why the public started lapping up videos of an old man biking around with a paint pen and a screwdriver meting out justice that the city’s law enforcement officials didn’t care about (and likely never will, given how many of them are committing the crime!).

After that came the big fishes: the many many people in law enforcement whom I’ve caught defacing their plates. There was that time I caught a former NYPD hostage negotiator (now working for the Manhattan District Attorney) who had used tape to turn a letter “E” into a letter “F”:

One last INCREDIBLE episode of CRIMINAL MISCHIEF today, featuring an ex- @NYPDDetectives negotiator now working for (and getting a placard from!) @ManhattanDA Alvin Bragg. This guy SO DISCRETELY covered his plate that you almost want to tip your hat (except that he’s a perp).

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) January 7, 2023

That guy ended up being fired!

Then there was the time I used my screwdriver to remove illegal covers from a supposed Sanitation Department employee’s car and from a court officer’s car:

Today I spotted a guy with BOTH plates covered, plus an NYPD sticker and an EXPIRED (and probably fake) @NYCSanitation placard AND an expired inspection sticker — so I did what anyone would do: commit CRIMINAL MISCHIEF!

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) December 31, 2022

Let’s close out the day with some serious CRIMINAL MISCHIEF on Schermerhorn St. in @NYPD84Pct, where today we found a @NYSCourtsNews officer who stopped getting tickets a year ago — perhaps when he installed this illegal plate cover? Well, I helped him out, big time.

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) January 6, 2023

And who could forget the fun I had just repainting the defaced digits from this Fifth Precinct cop’s car?

Before we kick off the week, how about some awesome CRIMINAL MISCHIEF against a cop from @NYPD5Pct who should be enforcing the law not breaking it. Well, now he’s safe because I repainted his plate for him. You’re welcome, @nypdpc Sewell — now there’s 1 less cop to discipline.

— Gersh Kuntzman (@GershKuntzman) January 9, 2023

No one video tells the full story, but taken together, the videos reveal a pattern of low-level corruption that continues simply because so little is done to stop it.

In 2021, the NYPD issued just 7,781 tickets between Jan. 1 and Oct. 30 for covering, defacing or sullying a plate so that it could not be read. Last year over the same period, that number dropped to 6,209 tickets, or a 20-percent decline. That decline is especially alarming given that the number of people defacing plates seems to be on the rise.

According to a seminal report by Reuven Blau in The City, Department of Transportation speed cameras typically could not read about 1 percent of the license plates that passed them by. But starting in late 2019 — when the number of speed camera systems expanded for the first time — and again in mid-2020 when the number of camera systems reached 750, the number of plates that were unreadable jumped to nearly 5 percent. (The City’s numbers were complete through the end of 2021; the Department of Transportation has not provided Streetsblog with the updated numbers, despite numerous requests.)

If 5 percent of vehicles cannot be caught on school-zone speed cameras, that’s a pretty serious safety threat — especially considering that the cameras only issue a ticket if a driver exceeds the speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more.

It’s also a lot of lost revenue: From Aug. 1 to the end of 2022, the city issued 3,088,171 speed camera tickets. If just 4 percent of offenders’ plates can’t be read, that would mean another 123,500 tickets were not issued. At $50 a pop, the city lost close to $6.2 million, just over those five months. For the whole year, it’s nearly 230,000 unable-to-be-issued tickets, or $11.5 million.

Like the DOT, the MTA said that about 1 percent of its toll transactions were foiled by unreadable plates in the past. As Streetsblog reported, a Freedom of Information request by journalist Steven Bodzin revealed that cameras failed to pick up 118,464 license plates out of 9,286,640 toll transactions between March and September 2018 because they were either unintentionally or intentionally obscured.

But if the MTA has experienced the same increase in unreadable plates as the DOT has, the agency is losing even more than the scores of millions of dollars in toll revenue it was losing back then. That’s revenue that maintains the transit system.

So, yes, I repaint or uncover unreadable plates. I do it unapologetically.

Is this how you become an influencer these days?

And everything was going fairly well. Until this week, when right-wing influencer and QAnon adherent Lauren Witzke posted on Telegram that I was a dweeb (guilty as charged) who should be bullied for what I’m doing (wait, wut now?).

And so began the fairly typical right-wing pile-on featuring thousands of people who have probably never once engaged with the topic of street safety, car harms, road violence or Vision Zero deciding that a guy trying to present drivers from racing through speed zones is just another lib they need to own.

The irony, of course is that “criminal mischief” post to which Witzke linked was the one where I’d hoped to begin a pivot to simply highlighting scofflaws without actually committing “criminal mischief” against their sacred cars.

Clearly, Witzke has a classy audience:

i’d kick you so hard in the balls they’d finally start working if you did this to my car

— TayTayLorenz (@JessieKaaaaaaa) January 24, 2023

And how about this one:

Oh if I seen you doing this to my car I would shove that screwdriver up your balloon knot.

— . (@DerockTheGod) January 24, 2023

The tweet above was mild. Other threats that can be printed in a family website included, “Show us on the doll where the rabbi touched you,” “the Austrian painter was right” and “You should get a Glasgow smile.”

Really? Because I try to prevent people from speeding through school zones?

On social media, of course, people are quick to threaten violence … and issue other threats that make no sense or were outright contradictory. But the cognitive dissonance on the Right still amazes: Some accused me of being a Nazi, while others openly hoped that the Nazis would take me out (images include jackboot lollipops and nooses). Everyone, apparently, is for law and order … unless a Jewish liberal from New York is trying to bust the lawbreakers.

Click to enlarge. Source: Transportation Alternatives

Believe me, when you have a name that sounds like a Muppet in a porno movie, and you’ve had a career of taking controversial positions for as long as I have, you get used to (and, indeed, bored by) online mockery. But even the trolls make a good point (not that they’re aware of it): there is a very large constituency of people who are offended when their criminal behavior is pointed out and corrected.

Still, it’s a bad sad that people want to beat up a guy on a mission is to reduce the likelihood that people will speed through school zones with impunity, perhaps hitting someone else’s kid. (Reminder: a person struck by a driver going 20 miles per hour has a 90-percent chance of surviving, a figure that drops to just 20 percent if the person is struck by a driver going 40.)

So that’s why it’s time for this campaign to move from the active pen-and-screwdriver phase to the next step: the political elite and law enforcement apparatus of this city actually getting involved and doing something rather than merely be embarrassed day in and day out by an old man taunting our car-driving overlords.

I’ve done my part; my exploits have earned me the ultimate honor of the non-profit journalism world: Council Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers has publicly announced on Twitter that “there will be a hearing on obscured plates,” though she hasn’t set a date and has declined to talk to me about it, despite several requests.

Hi Carla, responding from my Council Twitter handle. Please use this handle for Council related matters. There will be a hearing on obscured plates. Date has not been confirmed yet. Hope you are available to testify.

— CMSelvenaBrooksPowers (@CMBrooksPowers) January 18, 2023

After the Council hearing, perhaps City Hall will actually crack down on scofflaws in their midst. Perhaps the NYPD’s 77 precincts will issue more than one defaced plate ticket every five days on average. Or maybe the Council will expand Lincoln Restler’s Intro 501 — which seeks to allow the public to report illegal parking and other driver misconduct via 311 and get a portion of the resulting ticket revenue — to include instances of covered or defaced plates. Such a move would go a long way towards holding drivers accountable yet not forcing members of the public to risk personal injury by actually repairing or re-uncovering defaced plates.

Because as Twitter is telling me, I’m too old for this shit. (Besides, I’m singing a whole new song now.)

Gersh Kuntzman is editor of Streetsblog. His prior “Cycle of Rage” columns are archived here.

Are You Lonely? It’s Not You, It’s the Way We’ve Built our Nation

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 21:01

If you’re feeling lonely, you’re not alone. Loneliness is an increasingly common experience, and it can have severe consequences. People who feel lonely are at higher risk of serious health issues, including heart disease, immune deficiency and depression.

Traditionally, loneliness has been viewed as an individual problem requiring individual solutions, such as psychological therapy or medication. Yet loneliness is caused by feeling disconnected from society. It therefore makes sense that treatments for loneliness should focus on the things that help us make these broader connections.

The places where we live, work and play, for example, can promote meaningful social interactions and help us build a sense of connection. Careful planning and management of these places can create population-wide improvements in loneliness.

Our research team is investigating how the way we design and plan our cities impacts loneliness. We have just published a systematic review of research from around the world. Overall, we found many aspects of the built environment affect loneliness.

However, no single design attribute can protect everyone against loneliness. Places can provide opportunities for social interactions, or present barriers to them. Yet every individual responds differently to these opportunities and barriers.

What did the review look at?

Our review involved screening over 7,000 published studies covering fields such as psychology, public health and urban planning. We included 57 studies that directly examined the relationship between loneliness and the built environment. These studies covered wide-ranging aspects from neighbourhood design, housing conditions and public spaces to transport infrastructure and natural spaces.

The research shows built environments can present people with options to do the things we know help reduce loneliness. Examples include chatting to the people in your street or neighborhood or attending a community event.

However, the link between the built environment and loneliness is complex. Our review found possibilities for social interaction depend on both structural and individual factors. In other words, individual outcomes depend on what the design of a space enables a person to do as well as on whether, and how, that person takes advantage of that design.

Specifically, we identified some key aspects of the built environment that can help people make connections. These include housing design, transport systems and the distribution and design of open and natural spaces.

What are we talking about?

[caption id="attachment_181402" align="aligncenter" width="726"] Photo: Transportation for America/Flickr[/caption]

Living in small apartments, for example can increase loneliness. For some people, this is because the smaller space reduces their ability to have people over for dinner. Others who live in poorly maintained housing report similar experiences.

More universally, living in areas with good access to community centers and natural spaces helps people make social connections. These spaces allow for both planned and unexpected social interactions.

Living in environments with good access to destinations and transport options also protects against loneliness. In particular, it benefits individuals who are able to use active transport (walking and cycling) and high-quality public transport.

This finding should make sense to anyone who walks or takes the bus. We are then more likely to interact in some way with those around us than when locked away in the privacy of a car.

Similarly, built environments designed to be safe — from crime, traffic and pollution — also enable people to explore their neighborhoods easily on foot. Once again, that gives them more opportunities for social interactions that can, potentially, reduce loneliness.

Environments where people are able to express themselves were also found to protect against loneliness. For example, residents of housing they could personalise and “make home” reported feeling less lonely. So too did those who felt able to “fit in,” or identify with the people living close by.

Other key factors aren't obvious

These factors are fairly well defined, but we also found less tangible conditions could be significant. For example, studies consistently showed the importance of socio-economic status. The interplay between economic inequalities and the built environment can deny many the right to live a life without loneliness.

For example, housing tenure can be important because people who rent are less able to personalise their homes. People with lower incomes can’t always afford to live close to friends or in a neighbourhood where they feel accepted. Lower-income areas are also notoriously under-serviced with reliable public transport, well-maintained natural spaces and well-designed public spaces.

Our review reveals several aspects of the built environment that can enhance social interactions and minimise loneliness. Our key finding, though, is that there is no single built environment that is universally “good” or “bad” for loneliness.

Yes, we can plan and build our cities to help us meet our innate need for social connection. But context matters, and different individuals will interpret built environments differently.

Jennifer Kent, Senior Research Fellow in Urbanism, University of Sydney; Emily J. Rugel, Honorary Adjunct Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, and Marlee Bower, Research Fellow, Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

I-980 Makes List of Top Freeway Removal Proposals

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 21:01

The Congress of New Urbanism, the Washington-based advocacy group dedicated to illuminating and cultivating best practices in urbanism, has released its 2023 list of the ten-top freeways that need to be ripped out. High on that list is the poster child for urban destruction and racism as expressed in the freeway construction boom of the last century: I-980 in Oakland.

From the CNU’s release:

2023 Freeways Without Futures report from Congress for the New Urbanism will feature ten local campaigns representing communities advocating for equity and reconnection during a time of reckoning for North American urban freeway infrastructure. The ten campaigns offer a roadmap to better health, equity, opportunity, and connectivity in every neighborhood, while reversing decades of decline and disinvestment.

Also from the release:

The ten campaigns and the broader Highways to Boulevards movement offer a path for communities to repair, rebuild, and reknit their urban fabric by replacing oppressive, aging infrastructure with assets like city streets, housing, and green space. These assets become places for people to live, work, and play, with local businesses and sites for public interaction, and improved connections with public transit systems. As end-stage urban freeways and their adjacent corridors offer opportunities for transformation, elected officials and citizens alike can be advocates for change that support socially and economically valuable places.

The organization will be releasing a full report in April. The full list includes:

  • Interstate 787—Albany, NY
  • Interstate 35—Austin, TX
  • US 40 Expressway—Baltimore, MD
  • Interstate 794—Milwaukee, WI
  • State Highway 55/Olson Memorial Highway—Minneapolis, MN
  • Interstate 94—Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN
  • Interstate 980—Oakland, CA
  • State Route 99—Seattle, WA
  • Interstate 244—Tulsa, OK
  • US Route 422—Youngstown, OH

This isn’t the first time I-980 has made the list and report. From CNU’s 2021 report:

Construction on I-980 had started in 1962 but had stalled out several times in the face of lawsuits that cited significant environmental and housing concerns. A portion of the right-of-way had already been cleared, leaving a no man’s land separating parts of West Oakland from the rest of the city. Finally, in 1977, the City of Oakland decided I-980 was crucial to its economic development efforts and the residents of primarily-Black West Oakland realized they had leverage. The partially constructed freeway was already a barrier, so why not get something in exchange for letting the City proceed with its plans? In the end, residents secured new housing and rent protections from the city and some of their houses in the highway’s path were even relocated.

As Streetsblog has covered several times before, I-980 is a proposed new corridor for regional rail, possibly connecting to a second Transbay tube to San Francisco. Since rail can carry the equivalent of the entire freeway in a fraction of the space, it would be possible to cap over the tracks and create a subway with new stations in downtown Oakland while increasing overall mobility around the region. A boulevard plus housing, parks, and other features could then be constructed in the footprint of the freeway.

Chris Sensenig and Jonathan Fearn of ConnectOakland propose putting transit in the trench now occupied by I-980 where it connects to I-880. Image by Nathanael Johnson

Momentum for more freeway removal is growing after the Federal Department of Transportation announced its Reconnecting Communities program. “The 2023 Freeways Without Futures report is the first to coincide with acknowledgment from the federal government of the inequitable and harmful impacts of urban highway construction,” wrote CNU’s Lauren Mayer, in an email to Streetsblog. “A number of campaigns featured in the report are applicants for federal Reconnecting Communities grant financing and our hope is that their feature in this report will help elevate the hard work of these tireless local campaigners. The outcomes of this first round of grant funding will also shape the overall tone and conclusions of our April report.”

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during his visit to Oakland in Sept. 2022. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Not on the list this year is the idea of tearing down 101 and the remains of the Central Freeway in San Francisco, which has gained attention because of the recent commitment of State Senator Scott Wiener. That came too late for the CNU list. “We did our call for nominations in November 2022,” said Mayer. “But believe me it’s on our radar.”

Meanwhile, state and county transportation agencies and some cities in the Bay Area are still in denial about induced demand and the futility of building new freeways and widening roads. For a recent example, the city of Oakley is starting a project to turn two-lane East Cypress Road into a six-lane stroad/surface-level freeway. This is to support new housing developments. This is despite investments in extending BART and improving Amtrak service to the area.

In a few years, when that stroad is traffic-choked again, Oakley will no doubt widen it to ten lanes, and so on and so on. Unfortunately, this is a pattern seen throughout the country, and it’s not letting up. “That is really disappointing,” said Mayer.

Friday’s Headlines Bike to Businesses

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 21:00

  • Small business owners continue to oppose bike lanes, even though research shows they actually lead to increased revenue, because they’re more apt to believe customers’ and fellow business owners’ parking horror stories than data. (Wired)
  • Tier Mobility — which bought bike-share company Spin last month and has used hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital to gobble up other companies — is now laying off another 100 employees. (Tech Crunch)
  • Repealing jaywalking laws allows states to focus on the real culprits for pedestrian deaths — street design. (Transportation for America)
  • If you think you need a three-row pickup truck, just get a minivan already. (Jalopnik)
  • The Congress for New Urbanism’s Public Square offers a sneak peek of its “freeways with no future” in Albany, Austin, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakland, Seattle, Tulsa and Youngstown.
  • Two things the Netherlands are known for are biking and reclaiming land from the ocean. Now Amsterdam has combined the two with a 7,000-space underwater bike parking garage. (City Lab)
  • Atlanta city council members are unhappy that transit agency MARTA is revising an expansion plan its CEO now calls “unrealistic.” (AJC)
  • A new Nashville task force will try to achieve what others could not: slow down drivers and reduce traffic deaths. (Scene)
  • Houston is considering letting developers opt out of a requirement to build sidewalks in exchange for paying a fee that will allow the city to close sidewalk gaps elsewhere. (Chronicle)
  • El Paso wants to cap I-10 with greenspace to stitch neighborhoods back together, but the plan could be contingent on the Texas DOT widening the freeway. (Smart Cities Dive)
  • Colorado’s plan to reduce traffic deaths sounds an awful lot like Vision Zero, even if it’s not called that. (Westword)
  • The Tampa streetcar broke a ridership record in December. (That’s So Tampa)
  • Here’s where to head for a bike-friendly vacation. (Momentum)

Talking Headways Podcast: Policy Transfer in Southeast Asia

Thu, 01/26/2023 - 08:20

This week we’re joined by Dr. Dorina Pojani, associate professor of Urban Planning at the University of Queensland, to talk about her book, “Planning for Sustainable Transport in Southeast Asia: Policy Transfer, Diffusion, and Mobility.” We chat about how four different Southeast Asian cities are taking transportation ideas from other places and trying to deal with congestion and mobility.

If you want to read the interview, click here for an unedited transcript (which may have typos!). If you want a cleaned-up edited version, look below the audio player:


Jeff Wood: It’s interesting, you know, we talk about transferring policies for these types of systems, bus rapid transit, light rail, metro, bike share, all kinds of transportation, safety projects, road building even a lot of the discussion is in Southeast Asia, but I’m curious what people are trying to solve for, and you mentioned at the top of the show you mentioned congestion, right? That’s the big issue. But in order to want somebody else’s policies, you’re trying to solve for something, is it the congestion or is it something else bigger that they’re trying to make better?

Dorina Pojani: It’s the congestion that’s a huge problem. I’ve been to the countries that I’ve studied and congestion does cause a whole lot of stress locally and accessibility as well. And it’s really perverse with transport because in these countries incomes have gone up, and with incomes going up, a lot of things have improved in society. For example, all the countries in Southeast Asia have better education systems and better healthcare now. Some of them are even having the so-called healthcare tourism when people go to Thailand to get cheaper healthcare from the United States even.

But as these other sectors have improved, transport has gotten worse. So that’s the unfortunate reality of transport. So congestion is a problem, and then mobility has increased in these countries and motorization has increased meaning people are able to afford both cars and motorcycles more and more. Yet accessibility seems to have decreased. It takes people longer and longer to get to work or other destinations that they need to reach for leisure or out of necessity. So accessibility is another issue. And then it’s also all the externalities that come with transport, huge amounts of pollution, both air pollution and noise pollution as well, and greenhouse gases. So the climate change issue.

That said, these are big problems that are in search of solutions, but one does see from time to time the situation where there are solutions in search problems, right? So one type of transfer is driven by the so-called technology mongers. So oftentimes western firms or perhaps Japanese firms, they come from Asia itself that try to sell their technologies to other countries. And in the process they act as agents of transfer. Of course.

Jeff Wood: Also in the book, I was kind of surprised by one of the quotes from somebody worried about philanthropic organizations in the United States, like the Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg and others who had come into the country because they believed they were there to create a situation where the United States could sell technology in the country. And I found that really fascinating because that’s never an idea that crossed my mind. But if the technology mongerism is something that is pervasive, that must be something that pops into people’s mind, even when philanthropic or you know, international organizations, you mentioned World Bank a lot and UN and, and a lot of those organizations as well, trying to kind of put their foot in the door so they can sell something, not so they can improve the local, you know, situation with congestion.

Dorina Pojani: Exactly. And locals realized that, and please keep in mind that, like I said before, most countries in this region have suffered through rounds and rounds of colonization. So it’s expected they will be a little bit suspicious, right? There has been also this fatigue with policy transfer efforts driven by these international organizations that you mentioned. So it’s natural that they’ll be a bit suspicious, right? And they’ll feel that any advice that comes from abroad will have some strings attached. So often when they hear someone is coming there to present them new technology or a new idea, they’re like, well, where’s the catch? Are they trying to sell us something? How can we follow the money here to find out what was the ultimate purpose of this presentation that were given.


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