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Well, this is not good:

President Joe Biden has nominated Jennifer Homendy to be chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for a term of three years. If approved by the U.S. Senate, Homendy will succeed Robert Sumwalt III. She has served as an NTSB member since August 2018. Homendy has more than 25 years of experience in transportation safety, including nearly two decades supporting the critical safety mission of the NTSB, according to a White House press release.

Homendy wants a nationwide all-ages bike helmet mandate, and was responsible for the helmet focus in the NTSB’s recent bike safety study.

The VTA is still defending its decision to build the phase-2 San Jose BART extension with a deep bore tunnel. They are being roasted on social media for the design of the stations, which would be as much as 90′ underground. VTA is pushing back, saying this is no big deal:

[VTA spokeswoman] Alaniz contends the deep stations won’t be a hindrance. Riders will have the option of taking escalators, multiple high-speed elevators or stairs at each stop. VTA estimates that even at the peak of rush hour it will take riders “less than a minute” to get from the platform to street level by taking the elevators, Alaniz said, while escalators will take between a minute and 90 seconds depending on whether the rider walks or stands. “A minute, to me, just seems extremely nominal when I think about a typical commute,” Alaniz said.

It is not clear where Alaniz obtained the 90 second figure, as it is significantly lower than what has been publicly discussed. A study of the downtown SJ station using simulation software showed it could take as long as 3.55 minutes to exit the platform, and 12 minutes to exit the station.

The simulation was done in the context of an evacuation. While one might argue routine rush-hour traffic is not quite the same as an evacuation, note that the simulation assumes the faregates and emergency exits are opened. In fact, Alaniz does not indicate whether the 90-second figure includes wait-time at the faregates.

The reason for the lengthy travel time is due not so much to the depth of the station, but the lack of exits. In a conventional downtown cut/cover station, there are exits heading off in multiple directions. These deep-bore stations funnel passengers through a single narrow chokepoint, which can easily back up.

During the 1976-1977 drought, an emergency pipeline was put on the RSR bridge to transport water from the East Bay to Marin county. This year’s drought is even worse, and Marin is having discussions with Caltrans about possibly bringing the pipeline back. There is now a bike/ped path where the pipeline used to be:

The Marin water district is beginning to lay the groundwork for future discussions about the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge with Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority. The Transportation Authority of Marin, which manages traffic congestion projects and funding, has been in preliminary conversations with the district about this, said executive director Anne Richman.

As to where the pipeline would fit on the bridge — especially with the recent addition of the new bicycle and pedestrian path on the top deck — what traffic impacts could result from the construction and where the pipeline would be located in Marin, Richman said, “All those questions remain ahead of us.”

This seems an important historical moment:

The Kansas City Star coined the term in 1905 to ridicule pedestrians who failed to stay to the right and yield to others on crowded sidewalks. It was a takeoff on “the jay driver,” an exasperated way to refer to the operators of horse-drawn carriages or early motor cars who traveled on the wrong side of the street. At the time, “jay” was a pejorative word to refer to a person believed to be dimwitted.

In time, of course, jaywalker became a more universal name for people who cross streets in places other than designated intersections. And, in Kansas City and other places, jaywalking became an ordinance violation—and a way for police to subjectively stop people and perhaps issue a ticket, even if the street crossing caused no one any harm.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council voted to remove its prohibition against jaywalking. It also got rid of two offenses related to bicycling. The council acted quickly after Jane Brown, the mayor’s general legal counsel, reported on Wednesday that, of 123 jaywalking tickets issued in Kansas City over the last three years, 65% were handed out to Black pedestrians. Blacks make up only 30% of Kansas City’s overall population.

You just can’t win. When activists campaign for closing streets to cars, merchants complain that it would cost them business. And then there’s Breckenridge, which has cancelled “Walkable Main” because it was too successful:

“Something that I am really concerned about is … if a restaurant that is in the closure is able to be not just at 100% capacity but then even above 100% capacity, we already have an employment issue in this town,” Owens said. “We know lots and lots of people are trying to hire and are understaffed, and I guess I would just really hate to see some people that are at 120% capacity getting full staff, and then somebody north of town or south of town not able to get full employees because there’s just additional pressure on the employee situation.”

Council member Dennis Kuhn added that residents on neighboring streets like Park Avenue and French Street did not enjoy the increase in traffic that they experienced while Walkable Main was in place last summer. Council member Dick Carleton said he was torn on the issue and said he had concerns about safety.

Obviously the best way to improve safety is to drive lots of multi-ton vehicles down the main drag.

Perth Amboy is the NJ town where police officers swarmed a group of black teen bicyclists, arresting one and confiscating bikes. The NAACP has criticized police actions, and the encounter is being investigated by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office.

But it seems the city will be unresponsive to any investigations, as the Mayor has already put out a statement defending this city’s police force:

Caba said that the bicyclists rode through the city in an “unsafe and reckless manner” causing motorists to stop or swerve away from the group. Police stopped the group and an auxiliary police supervisor asked them to ride safely. He reminded them of the local law requiring bicycles to be registered and to display a tag.

The videos depict the interaction as professional and cordial,” Caba said. “The supervisor clearly stated he only wished to speak with the riders and police had no intentions of confiscating bikes from the riders. His actions were commendable and de-escalated any tensions that existed during the traffic stop.”

In 2015, Professors Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti published a landmark paper on the economic costs of zoning over-regulation. The study got a lot of attention because it calculated housing restrictions cost the economy some $1.6 trillion.

However, the paper made some major blunders in the calculations. The actual number is in fact far higher: $3.39 trillion!!:

Critics may rush to accuse HM of motivated reasoning, but the shoe does not fit.  Their reported figures for the effect of housing deregulation on total GDP and the wage bill turn out to be gross understatements.  The reasonable interpretation, rather, is that authors and referees alike focused so intently on the advanced mathematics that they glossed over some elementary yet crucial errors.  And this is roughly what Hsieh told me: The referees requested some changes to the text (not the tables, which look fine), but these were inconsistently implemented.

Congressional earmarks, the notorious funding method for wasteful highways, are back. Here is how Solano County is proposing to spend their funding:

The [project] list will go to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to be included among the 10 projects each can request for the earmark dollars. The first transportation project is for the Highway 37 and Fairgrounds Drive interchange project, which is viewed as critical for the Solano360 project as well as a general economic benefit to that part of Vallejo. The second is for the Vaca Valley Parkway and Interstate 505 Multimodal Improvement Project.

[…]

In the case of the fifth project – the $228.7 million Rio Vista Flood Risk Reduction Project – the request is for $150 million. The project is designed to provide 200-year flood protection to the city by “raising levees and constructing cutoff walls on several levees protecting the eastern and northern flanks of the city along (the) Sacramento River and raising vulnerable structures above (the) 200-year flood elevation within the flood zone.”

It takes a special lack of self-awareness to widen highways, while requesting funds to mitigate flooding from climate change.

Ok, but the highway projects include a bike/ped component, right? Because that is required under the Caltrans Complete Streets policy. Here is what EIR has to say about that:

The [Solano County] Bicycle Plan proposes construction of a Class I bike path along Fairgrounds Drive, from Marine World Parkway to Redwood Street. Under the Build Alternative, this bike path would be reduced to a Class II bike lane facility. Although the Build Alternative does not propose the construction of a separated bike path, such as the one proposed in the Bicycle Plan, the proposed improvements would establish the bicycle network connectivity the Bicycle Plan intended to establish along Fairgrounds Drive. As such, the proposed Build Alternative is not considered to be in conflict with the Bicycle Plan.

The Biden Administration has released an outline of its $2 trillion infrastructure plan. It is important to note that this amount would be spent over a period of 8 years, i.e. $250 billion annually. Over that 8-year period, the plan would spend $300 billion on transportation projects, including:

  • $95 billion on roads and highways
  • $20 billion bike/ped projects
  • $20 billion fixing neighborhoods destroyed by highways
  • $80 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects
  • $85 billion for public transit

Normally, these types of projects would be funded by the Federal gas tax. But the gas tax was last raised in 1992, and inflation has reduced revenues by half. If the gas tax had kept pace with inflation, the Highway Trust Fund would have an additional $37.5 billion to spend annually. If you do the math, $37.5 over 8 years is exactly $300 billion.

Even worse, the Biden Administration would finance all of this through deficit spending.

The Biden Administration is developing a $3 trillion infrastructure plan, and every city wants in. That perhaps is the explanation for Dallas proceeding on a proposed downtown subway, because it certainly has no value-added for riders.

DART has 4 lines converging on a short segment running through a downtown transit mall. Two of those lines would be shifted a few blocks south to a new $2.7 billion subway. The plan does not provide any increase in service, except for the Red line which would see some additional peak-hour trains. DART concedes the project does not enhance service much. Indeed, the Build Alternative would see a net loss in transit ridership:

The main point of the project, according to DART, is to improve reliability and capacity. DART at one point looked at running trains on the branching lines with 10-minute headways, meaning 24 trains per hour through the downtown segment. That’s not exactly pushing the envelope; there are plenty of streetcar systems which achieve much higher throughputs. It is also curious that a subway is needed to improve capacity when DART runs just 2-car trains.

Computer simulation of subway stations. I lost count of the number of mezzanine and concourse levels at the Commerce station.