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Just Why?

why

ht: reddit CrappyDesign forum

wordThey keep calling it “Transit-Oriented Development” — but I don’t think they know what it means:

Could the purchase of a 2.2-acre strip transform the city’s downtown into a more commuter- and shopper-friendly place? Mayor Benjamin Blake thinks so, which is why he’s excited about the expected approval soon by the State Bond Commission of nearly $5 million to pay for the first phase of a parking plan that would allow the city to buy the the former A&P Supermarket site, plus two other parcels along the north side of the Metro-North Railroad station.

Although still in its formative stages, the purchase would lead to the creation of about 350 parking spaces, much of which would be in two-level parking structures. City officials said that there are about 750 people on the waiting list for a parking spot near the Metro-North station, with some having been on the list for more than two years. “Fifty spaces will be added immediately, while we wait for funding sources for Phase II,” Blake said.

“Over the last four years, we have worked with municipal partners to advance transit-oriented development projects in order to lay the foundation for long-term sustainable economic growth in towns across the state and ensure these are livable, walkable communities for employees and employers alike,” said Malloy in his news release

They are going to spend $5 million to purchase the land, plus interest costs (because it is a bond), plus the cost of a 2-level parking garage — all for the benefit of a few hundred train commuters!

If they really wanted to “transform” downtown, the city could have put in downtown housing, providing customers for the defunct supermarket. Instead, they will hollow out downtown for a parking lot.

Leaderless

There are now 5 transportation agencies within the Federal government that are being run by acting administrators:

  • The FTA: Therese McMillan’s is acting administrator while her nomination is pending in the Senate.
  • NHTSA, where David Friedman has been acting administrator since the resignation of David Strickland (over the GM ignition switch scandal).
  • The FRA, which is losing Joe Szabo (thank God!).
  • NTSB: Deborah Hersman resigned as Chair earlier this year. Christopher Hart has been Acting Chair.
  • FHWA: Gregory Nadeau is acting Administrator.

Other than McMillan, the Obama Administration has yet to make a nomination for these agencies. It is one of those rare opportunities where the Obama Administration could dramatically support transit, bikes, and livability goals. Well, that is if the Administration were really interested in doing that.

Just imagine: an NTSB that focuses on road safety, instead of hot-air balloons and rocketships. An NHTSA that implements regulations for truck sideguards. An FRA that doesn’t regulate passenger trains out of existence. An FHWA that isn’t blindly promoting highway expansion.

Did Planet Mongo cost James Fang the election?

flash_gordon

rocket_ship

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.

sideguard1

They blocked the bike lane to get their photo of the new BMW electric car. One single photo that sums up the Sierra Club approach to transport policy.

bmw_sierra_club

Transportation planning is heavily biased in favor of cars, at the expense of other road users. That is the not-very-shocking conclusion of a new UC Denver study:

America’s streets are designed and evaluated with a an inherent bias toward the needs of motor vehicles, ignoring those of bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit users, according to a new study co-authored by Wesley Marshall of the University of Colorado Denver.

“The most common way to measure transportation performance is with the level-of-service standard,” said Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of civil engineering at the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, the premier public research university in Denver. “But that measure only tells us about the convenience of driving a car.”

Marshall co-wrote the study with Eric Dumbaugh, PhD, associate professor at Florida Atlantic University and director of Transportation and Livability for the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and Jeffrey Tumlin, owner and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco.

According to Dumbaugh, many people assume roads are designed with all users in mind when in fact they are dedicated almost entirely to the needs of motor vehicles.

“Transit, bikes, and pedestrians are seen as worthwhile only by how much they reduce delays or increase speeds for motor vehicles,” he said. “Regardless of how efficient they may be in moving people.”

Planners try to eliminate automobile congestion to increase economic competitiveness. But as Dumbaugh points out, that may be counter-productive:

In fact, a previous study by Dumbaugh revealed that as per capita traffic delay went up, so did per capita Gross Domestic Product. Every 10 percent increase in traffic delay per person was associated with a 3.4 percent increase in per capita GDP. That’s because traffic congestion is usually a byproduct of a vibrant, economically productive city, the study said.

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