Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

Apparently, Democrats learned nothing from their recent election debacle. They are still promoting the idea of allowing large multinationals to avoid paying their taxes. Former Michigan Senator Carl Levin has joined Republicans in calling for a “tax holiday” on offshore corporate profits, and using the windfall to fund infrastructure projects:

As divided as our country may be, one issue where there appears to be strong bipartisan agreement is the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Democrats have supported this for years, and President Trump has made it one of the centerpieces of his domestic program. The question is how we’re going to pay for it. Many are eyeing the huge pot of money — $2 trillion to $3 trillion — sitting offshore courtesy of U.S. corporations who have stashed it there, because they don’t want to pay taxes on it.

With the infrastructure proposal looming large, that pot of money has become an attractive answer. But the big questions are what tax rate reduction would be a sufficient incentive for corporations to finally pay the tax owed on their offshore profits.

Hilary Clinton made a similar proposal during the campaign, as have other Democrats in Congress. This policy would be a mistake for many obvious reasons. First, it rewards bad behavior on the part of large multinationals. The law is clear on the amount of tax owed, and corporations should pay it just like everyone else has to. The second problem is that these infrastructure projects would be almost entirely for roads and highways; i.e. don’t expect it to pay for subways or high-speed rail. And finally, this tax windfall would be just a one-time event. It does nothing to address the long-term decline in gas-tax revenues, which is the root cause of the infrastructure deficit.


Apple CEO Tim Cook testifying before Congress on his company’s tax avoidance

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Mexican standoff

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Just another day of vehicular carnage in San Francisco:

Three pedestrians are recovering Thursday, after they were struck by motorists on San Francisco streets yesterday.

In the first such case from Wednesday, two pedestrians were rushed to San Francisco General Hospital at 11:02 a.m. after a driver hit them. According to the San Francisco Police Department, the victims were struck at the intersection of Hyde Street and Golden Gate Avenue when the 36-year-old male driver of a white sedan who was headed down Hyde “suddenly placed [the] vehicle into reverse.”

The vehicle “sped backwards,” police say, striking the pedestrians “who were waiting at a crosswalk.” Citing the ongoing investigation, police said that it was still “unclear” if the driver would face charges in the collision.

Two pedestrians at a crosswalk struck by a driver speeding in reverse — and it is unclear if charges will be filed?

Then later in the day:

A 72-year-old man was listed in life-threatening condition after being struck by a vehicle Wednesday near Balboa Park in San Francisco, police said. The pedestrian was crossing the street in the area of Ocean and Delano avenues when a car hit him at 6:19 p.m., officials said. Although the pedestrian was apparently in a crosswalk, whether he had the right of way wasn’t immediately clear, Manfredi said.

This intersection is unsignalized with clearly marked crosswalks. It is unambiguous as to who had right of way.



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Bank of KDOT

Gov. Sam Brownback is now having to use KDOT highway funds to keep Kansas solvent:

In order to keep funding its government despite dramatically decreased tax revenue, the Legislature has flipped all its piggy banks. One of them is the Kansas Department of Transportation—or what sarcastic Kansans now call “the Bank of KDOT,” for the stupendous quantity of money that has been diverted from its coffers to the Kansas general fund and state agencies.

Kneecapping the agency that builds roads isn’t just a great metaphor for Gov. Sam Brownback’s tenure. Like the cut to the state’s university funding, this damage will be most keenly felt years from now, when deferred maintenance and high debt loads take their toll. An ex-head of the Kansas Turnpike Authority said in December that the practice had created a “long-term disaster for our state highways.”

On Wednesday, Brownback announced that Mike King, the secretary of KDOT, would be resigning this month. King, who was appointed in 2012, has presided over a rather unusual period in Topeka finance.

Since 2011, according to the Kansas City Star, the state has diverted more than $1 billion in “extraordinary” transfers from KDOT. If you include “routine” transfers, from 2011 through the 2017 budget year the total diversion from the Bank of KDOT will amount to more than $2 billion.

There may be a silver lining to this fiasco if it stimulates debate over how much road infrastructure Kansas requires. Kansas, I was stunned to learn, has the nation’s 4th largest road network! Hopefully, Brownback will be successful in permanently cutting back the KDOT budget.

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Pennsylvania DOT didn’t want the pesky pedestrians getting in the way of the cars, so they removed three traffic signals:

Stephanie Foman had just gotten off the bus at her regular stop on Haverford Avenue, looked up, and noticed there was no longer a light at Sherwood Avenue in Overbrook Park. When she tried to cross the street, she said: “I almost got hit. I had to stand in the middle of the road, waving my arms to get the cars to stop.”

The signals were removed as part of a traffic “improvement” plan for Haverford Ave. PennDOT says the “improved” intersections don’t meet warrants for a signal:

“We knew that PennDOT said they wanted to improve the flow of traffic,” town watch president Darryl Day said. “But we didn’t think they were going to take down those traffic lights and replace them with those little yellow blinking lights they call beacons.”

PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick said the traffic project is federally funded and requires all upgraded traffic signals along Haverford be “warranted as part of the design review process.” He said the city Streets Department did an analysis that showed the three intersections did not meet standards for lights.


You have to admire the circular logic. PennDOT says the signals are slowing down traffic too much on the arterial. PennDOT also says there is not enough cross traffic to justify a signal. Both conditions can’t be true.




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Fremont Public Works informs me that there are no plans to remove bike lanes at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection:

The project will extend the bike lanes to the intersection crosswalk lines and install new bike detection loops and bike detection legends at all approaches.

While certainly good news, this does not change the fact that a Safe-Routes-to-School grant was used mainly for an automobile LOS improvement project.

The primary safety issue at the intersection isn’t the right-turn slip lane, but the ludicrously high traffic speeds. Blacow and Grimmer were both designed to encourage dangerous speeding. Just ask Leon and Marilyn Goheen, whose property borders Grimmer Blvd. On eight separate occasions, cars have gone flying off “dead man’s curve” and landed in their back yard.

If you want to make Grimmer Blvd safer for students, bulb-outs aren’t going to cut it. And adding automobile capacity makes it worse.


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You don’t hear about it much, but the Highway Capacity Manual does have a definition for pedestrian LOS:

Pedestrian LOS is determined based on the average delay per pedestrian (i.e., wait time). Pedestrian delay is calculated using two parameters: cycle length and effective green time for pedestrians. The HCM 2000 recommends estimating effective green time for pedestrians by taking the walk interval and adding 4 seconds of the flashing DON’T WALK interval to account for pedestrians who depart the curb after the start of flashing DON’T WALK. The equation for calculating pedestrian delay based on equation 18-5 of the HCM 2000:

The average pedestrian delay, in seconds, equals 0.5 times the square of the difference of cycle length minus effective green time for pedestrians, both in seconds, all divided by the cycle length.
Where: dp = average pedestrian delay (s)
C = cycle length (s)
g = effective green time for pedestrians (s)

Pedestrian LOS thresholds at signalized intersections.


Pedestrian Delay (sec/ped)

Likelihood of Noncompliance


< 10



≥ 10-20



> 20-30



> 30-40



> 40-60



> 60

Very High

Using this metric, one can predict the amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “A” or “B” pedestrian LOS will have a high degree of compliance. Intersections with “C” or “D” LOS will have a moderate amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “E” or “F” LOS, well, can expect to have lots of jaywalking.

Because I don’t have a social life, I spent the better part of last evening with a stopwatch timing the signalized intersections and observing pedestrians in my Berkeley neighborhood. Supposedly, this is a pedestrian-friendly city and yet pedestrian LOS were all within the “C” and “D” range — meaning one can expect a moderate amount of noncompliance. Jaywalking is fairly common, so the pedestrian LOS chart models reality pretty well.

As in most cities, the pedestrian signals in my neighborhood were upgraded to the beg-button type. Pedestrians must press a button, then wait (as long as a full cycle) to get the walk light. What if instead these beg-buttons were Pedestrian Priority buttons? The walk light would come much sooner, and LOS would move into the A” or “B” range. There would be less jaywalking, and a much improved pedestrian experience.


The Claremont/62nd intersection has pedestrian LOS of “E”. Everyone jaywalks here.

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