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Roads


495 and 95 toll prices were very high on Tuesday. That isn't as crazy as it seems.

The 495 Express Lanes on Virginia's side of the Beltway offer those a choice of avoiding congestion for a price, which normally ranges between $8 to $18 depending on traffic and time. For those commuting on Tuesday December 6 this went to new levels.


The Tysons Express Lanes signs. Photo by Melissa Grinnell.

495's toll lanes stretch from north of the Dulles Toll Road and run to Springfield. The cost of the lanes heading south peaked on December 6th at $31.30. For drivers going from Tysons, which houses many of Northern Virginia's office buildings, to Springfield the cost peaked at $29.55.

Where the lanes end on the south side in Springfield drivers can pick up the 95 Express Lanes, which run south about 25 miles to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The cost of the 95 Express Lane peaked yesterday at $33.80. For drivers running the full route that entered into the lanes at 5:45 pm the cost was $64.35 for the one way commute from northern Virginia to the last toll road exit in Stafford.


A screenshot of Tuesday night's toll prices. Image from Transurban.

Disgruntled commuters should understand this is not a form of price gouging. When the express lanes back up, prices rise in order to limit traffic entering the lanes. When the lanes exceed the normal pricing that we've been accustomed too often this is an indication that there was an incident in the express lanes. Last night was one of these cases, as a car crash blocked the left lane of the express lanes, driving up the cost to the higher rates.

For those commuters that find themselves in a situation like last night where the express lanes failed to live up to expectations, there is a way to get reimbursed. Transurbran, which operates the lanes, evaluates refunds on a case by case basis and can be reached through their website. On the website they point out "Toll-paying customers will not choose to pay to use express lanes if they cannot consistently depend on a faster more reliable trip."

The express lanes continue to offer an alternative for commuters that want to avoid sitting in congestion, but when commuters see the prices jump above the norms they are used to they should be aware of what potentially lies on the road ahead.

Links


National links: There are downsides to letting the Rust Belt shrink

An economist puts forward a strong argument on why it doesn't make sense to say that we should just let middle-of-the-country places that are struggling economically die off, Donald Trump has named a Secretary of Transportation, and Volvo just finished building the world's longest bus. Read about this, and more, from world of transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Bob Jagendorf on Flickr.

Leaving places behind doesn't pay: When it comes to places that are struggling economically, like Rust Belt cities, most economists would tell you that the solution is to let them shrink and for the people there to go somewhere else where they're more likely to thrive. Some would argue, however, that this is problematic both because it ignores the people who stay in struggling places and because there are wide-ranging benefits of keeping these places alive. (Vox)

The DOT goes back to the future: Donald Trump will nominate Elaine Chao to be the next Secretary of Transportation. She was the DOT's deputy secretary in 1990, and while working in the George W. Bush administration (as the Secretary of Labor), she praised public transit and said we don't necessarily need more highways, though she also fought raising the transit subsidy for Labor Department employees. There's reason to think she'll be pro-ridesharing services (for better or for worse) and pro-coal. (Slate, GovEx, Americans for Tax Reform, Lexington Herald Leader)

A really, really big bus: Volvo has built the world's largest bus. According to the company, the bi-articulated vehicle can carry 300 people and has a length of 98 feet. It was built in Brazil for bus rapid transit projects in the country. (Economic Times Auto)

Amazon is the new Walmart: One of every two dollars spent online goes through Amazon.com, meaning the company has an even bigger effect on the economy than we might have thought. At the local level, Amazon's expansion has meant the extraction of $613 million in subsidies for building new facilities around the country, but those haven't exactly added up to jobs for local economies, as 149,000 retail jobs have been lost in the last 11 years. (Institute for Local Self Reliance)

"Mega regions" in the US: Using data about how we commute, researchers have created new maps of US "mega regions." Mega regions have become a major topic of discussion as separate cities in close proximity to each other become more economically and physically connected. With census tracks and commute data, an algorithm was created to show how the United States has 50 of these regions. (National Geographic)

Quote of the Week

"Here's the hard message for Portland and Seattle and every other city growing like this. If the next 200,000 people come here, and we're planning for us to be a city of 850,000 people ... they're not going to be able to bring their cars and live like we did 20 years ago. In fact, most of us are going to have to drive a lot less. The streets aren't going to get any bigger. They are going to be walking, they are going to be riding their bikes, they are going to be riding the transit system."

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on the need to put together a new zoning code that allows more people to live in the city. (My Northwest)

Pedestrians


DC is telling us more about blocked sidewalks and car crashes, and that should mean safer streets

DC has created a map that shows where it has issued permits to block sidewalks and bike lanes for construction projects, and soon, the city will begin releasing more detailed data about where vehicle collisions have happened. Both will tell us more about where in the city pedestrians and bicyclists are at risk, which will make it easier to make those areas safer.


A closed sidewalk. Photo by Jacob Mason.

The map went up in August and is updated daily based on public space permits that DDOT issues.


Map from DDOT.

On the map, the green squares are where a utility company has a permit to block the sidewalk or bike lane, and the yellow triangles are where one has applied for a permit. The red triangles represent permits for DDOT contractors to work in the right of way, taking away parking for a temporary span of time. Orange squares mean there's a permit for a block party, purple squares are for mobile cranes, and red squares are for special events.

Jonathan Rogers, a policy analyst who reports to DDOT director Leif Dormsjo, said, "Obviously, DDOT can't be everywhere inspecting work zones, so to the extent residents are checking the public traffic control plan... we can work together make sure developers are keeping the streets and sidewalks safe."

We'll soon know more about car crashes around the District, too

DDOT will also soon begin publishing monthly reports with information about vehicle collisions, including the ward, block or intersection, the type of vehicle involved, the Police Service Area where the crash occured, the number of people killed or injured, and why it happened.

Some of this data, like the date and time of crashes and the geographic X/Y coordinates for the location, is available now in an open format, but it's much more sparse than what's on the way.

"This open data is a matter of transparency," Rogers said. "People have a right to know where traffic injuries and fatalities are occurring in their city. If residents do nothing more than discover the safety trends for their own neighborhood, that is part of good, open governance."

Rogers also points to how the data can be crunched in a variety of ways that DDOT may not have thought of.

"We want to tap into the expertise among the many data scientists out there, the civic hackers, coders, etc. and see what kind of correlations they may discover. Perhaps they can identify locations in need of urgent improvements that DDOT may not have detected."

Before DDOT starts issuing those reports, however, it has to be sure that they do it in a way that doesn't disclose personal information about victims that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) doesn't allow.

"We'll continue to publish the crash and violation data in the open data format in the meantime," said Rogers.

Pedestrians


Maryland shouldn't outlaw this type of pedestrian crossing signal, says a Montgomery County Councilmember

Proponents of a new type of walk signal that's gaining popularity in DC and Virginia say that the technology makes walking safer. In Maryland, though, the State Highway Authority (SHA) prohibits their use. That shouldn't be the case, according to Montgomery County Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Berliner.


A HAWK signal in DC's Cleveland Park. Photo by Eric Fischer on Flickr.

HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) signals tell drivers to stop at pedestrian crossings that are in the middle of a block or where there isn't a traditional traffic light. People who want to cross press a button, which activates a yellow light that tells drivers to slow down and then a double red light telling them to stop.

One reason engineers like HAWK signals is that they have a low "warrant threshold," meaning there are generally fewer barriers to putting them up than a normal traffic light. Another is that they allow drivers to proceed after the people who pushed the button have crossed.

But while HAWK signals can be an effective means of improving safety at crosswalks, they aren't without criticism. They don't look or light up like normal traffic lights, which can confuse drivers. And because they remain completely dark until activated by a pedestrian, some drivers may think the HAWK signal is not working and treat the intersection as a stop sign.

The fact that HAWK signals stay dark until activated is the primary reason Maryland's SHA does not permit their use on state or local roads. Under the Maryland Motor Vehicle Code, a dark signal should be treated as a stop sign. It appears SHA has determined that HAWK signals are applicable to this section of the code.


A HAWK signal in Pentagon City. Image from Google Maps.

In a letter to the Montgomery County Delegation to the 2017 General Assembly, Roger Berliner questioned the logic of Maryland's restrictive amendments on "pedestrian hybrid beacons," especially in light of what he sees as clear federal guidelines on how to install and use them. He asked the delegation to consider introducing legislation that would allow HAWK signals in Maryland:

"The reasons for this change from the federal guidelines are not clear to me. What is clear to me, however, is that HAWK signals can improve pedestrian safety on SHA-administered roads. I am asking that you give serious consideration to introducing legislation during the 2017 General Assembly that would require the state to adopt either 1) the Federal Highway Administration Manual or 2) the specific language of Chapter 4F in the Federal Highway Administration Manual."
Noting that multiple Federal Highway Administration studies have shown that HAWK signals improve safety and compliance at pedestrian crossings, Berliner continued:
"I was the lead sponsor of legislation requiring Montgomery County to establish a framework and deadline for a Vision Zero campaign to achieve zero traffic deaths. The work of the County's Vision Zero Working Group is ongoing, with a recommended action plan expected early next year. We have already seen too many tragedies occur in crosswalks, making improved crosswalk safety critical in the Vision Zero effort. HAWK signals are a proven solution in this regard that I believe we must embrace."
Read the whole letter here.

Transit


Under Donald Trump, federal funding for transit projects is likely to dwindle

We're almost a week into the transition to a new presidential administration, and there's still a lot we don't know—for example, President-elect Trump has not selected a transportation secretary. But if you look at statements he made during and after his campaign, there's reason to think the coming years may bring more money for roads in our region and less for public transit.


We could be in for much more of what's on the left and a lot less of what's on the right. Images by and Mega Anorak on Flickr, respectively.

One program likely to be be affected is the one giving federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. Created in 2009 to invest in regional transit projects around the country, TIGER grants have helped fund a number of projects in our region.

For example, $58 million in TIGER money went toward bus improvements in the region in 2010, including $8.5 million for the Metroway BRT in Alexandria and Arlington; $20 million went toward HOT lanes in Virginia in 2011; $10 million helped extend the Anacostia Riverwalk in 2012. The most recent beneficiary was Montgomery County, which received $10 million to build BRT from Silver Spring to Burtonsville.

This is what TIGER grants have gone to around the country in that same timeframe:


Image from the USDOT.

Under Trump, transportation is likely to mean "cars"

The TIGER program has been under fire ever since it was created. In 2013, House Republicans put forth a budget bill that would have eliminated TIGER completely (as well as cut 21% of Amtrak's funding); In 2014, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, tried to steer TIGER toward only funding roads and freight rail; in 2015, Republicans proposed extreme funding cuts to TIGER that would have made the program nearly useless.

Trump's administration, with the support of a Republican-controlled House and Senate, could finally drive a nail in the coffin. Here are a few quotes from Trump's stated infrastructure plan, along with thoughts on what they might actually mean:

  • "Leverage new revenues and work with financing authorities, public-private partnerships, and other prudent funding opportunities."

    On the face of it, this isn't bad. Public-private partnerships are regular government practice. But with Trump's business focus, this could give more leverage to private companies over government, especially if implementing his plan would require hiring more government workers, which could prove to be unpopular with members of Congress.

  • "Harness market forces to help attract new private infrastructure investments through a deficit-neutral system of infrastructure tax credits."

    Deficit-neutral is a popular phrase with Republicans and Democrats. In this case, Trump intends to make up the cost of infrastructure with tax revenue from the companies that build the infrastructure and the workers who would be employed to do the work. But this assumes that he's creating jobs rather than just giving the work to construction workers who have already been paying taxes, and it also assumes that people will use the roads to the level necessary to raise enough revenue to offset the cost.

  • "Implement a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed the interstate highway system."

    More airports could definitely be a positive, and bridges do need to be repaired. But the "tradition of Eisenhower" is the highway system and single occupancy vehicles and not public transit, which would be able to move people around for cheaper and reduce gas consumption.

What's all this mean for our region?

An administration that prefers road infrastructure projects over rail and bus projects could pose big challenges for the region for several reasons.

If the administration gave private companies more power to build and maintain roads and bridges, it would create even more roadways with costly, controlled access—HOT lanes, HOV fees, toll roads, you name it. Expensive projects like these would most likely go up in areas where most people can afford to pay more for access. But for those who can't, and who still need to travel in these places, there could be real problems.

Also, if Republicans also take TIGER funds away from transit projects, local jurisdictions may find it harder to improve public transportation for residents to compensate for the new, more expensive roads.

Finally, any projects to conserve lands for walking or jogging will very likely be off the table, and it would be harder to build new bikeshare stations or bike lanes.

Links


Worldwide links: Is the future in Finland?

The future of urban transportation may live in Finland, Berlin is taking cars off of its most famous street, and light rail won't run from Norfolk to Virginia Beach. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Raimo Papper on Flickr.

"Mobility" has a new meaning Is Helsinki, Finland the home of the future of transportation? The city is testing self-driving buses on increasingly difficult routes and is at the forefront of the "mobility as a service" movement, which essentially would make buying your mobility like buying a phone plan: you'd pay by the month (rather than by the call) for a spectrum of options. (New York Times)

Pedestrians coming soon: Berlin will be taking cars off of its most famous street, Unter Den Linden, which used to be the city's major parade route and is its current museum strip. The move away from automobiles began with the construction of a new subway segment under the street. The route once carried 30,000 cars a day but is now down to 8,000, and it's likely to be one of the first pieces of the car-free central city that leaders envision happening by 2019. (CityLab)

Stop that train: A measure to build a light rail extension in Virginia Beach failed Tuesday evening, leading the state's transportation secretary to ask local transit planners to stop working on the project. The $155 million already set aside for the project will be redistributed to projects based on the state's new transportation investment scoring system. (Virginian-Pilot)

Building more earth: Humans are constantly shifting the earth below them, both as they build and destroy. For example, after WWII, 75 million tons of rubble from bombed out buildings in Berlin was collected and taken to a dumping site that now forms a not-insignificant hill called Teufelsberg. Anthropologists are studying these man-made base levels of cities, referring to them as an earth layer called the Archaeosphere which, in Sweden's case, can mean extracting raw materials left behind. (Places Journal)

Direct route delayed: A rail tunnel linking the current Caltrain terminus to the new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco will not be complete until 2026. Lawsuits related to the Millennium Tower in San Francisco, which has started to lean, are holding up money for new tunnels. The tunnels are expected to be used by Caltrain and High Speed Rail once they're finished. (SFist)

Quote of the Day

"Regionalism is a Trojan Horse term right out of the lexicon of the 1970s. So-called regionalism was never a compromise. It was always a stealth tactic, an abandonment of the city, which was considered half dead anyway by the city's own leadership. Regionalism was always a ruse to shift resources to the suburbs."

- Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze discussing whether the city's long term health is better off building more suburban transit, or focusing on the core with a new subway line. (Dallas Observer)

Pedestrians


Three examples of great street design in France

On a recent trip to France, I had my eyes open for smart design. Three cities in particular were full of examples of how to make streets for people rather than cars. Here's what I noticed.


Rue de Trois Cailloux, a pedestrian street in Amiens, France. All photos by the author.

First, a small bit of context: the cities I visited were Amiens, Rouen, and Chartres, three regional capitals in northern France. Amiens and Rouen each have a little over 100,000 people, while Chartres has about 40,000. Here's where they are in relation to the rest of the country:


Image from Google Maps.

1. Amiens

Amiens is a small city known for its soaring Gothic cathedral, which is the tallest completed cathedral in France. The cathedral was built to house a relic—a piece of John the Baptist's skulland was built at such a grand scale to accommodate pilgrims who would come to see it. In Amiens, a large pedestrian street (Rue de Cailloux) cuts through the heart of the city, taking you through rows of trees and water features and past stores, bakeries, banks, and more.

At points, Rue de Cailloux intersects streets carrying car traffic, but the roads narrow so much at these intersections that instead of pedestrians waiting for a break in cars to cross, the cars had to wait for a break in the people walking to drive through.


Intersection of Amiens' pedestrian street with traffic.

When my mom and I arrived, we got stuck in a long line of traffic; I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it was because of the significant volume of pedestrians milling across an intersection like the one pictured below.


Cyclists wind down a street in Amiens.

2. Rouen

Rouen is another city known for its beautiful Gothic cathedral, which was painted by Claude Monet. A brief stop in Rouen to see the cathedral also meant stumbling onto a similar street. The Rue de General Leclerc in Rouen runs through the center of town and consists of two designated bus lanes flanked by a lane for pedestrians and cyclists.

Compared to Amiens, this pedestrian- and transit-oriented street wasn't as bustling or green. Tourists seemed confused about where to walk and the few passing bicyclists would swerve into the bus lanes, which are separated by a low gutter rather than a steep curb. But the bus passengers waiting at stops up and down the street showed that the design provides a useful alternative for bus transit compared with the traffic-heavy streets surrounding Rue de General Leclerc.

3. Chartres

Chartres, a suburb about an hour and a half outside of Paris, is a delightful medieval town crowned with yet another awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral at its heart. The cathedral soars above the small medieval town below it, whose buildings are generally only three or fours stories and whose streets are often only just wide enough to accommodate a car.

Ultimately, the grand structure serves to put the human scale of the medieval town center into perspective. And the automated bollard system set up throughout this center limits the presence of cars, meaning you can stroll the streets and ponder that difference of scale in peace.

When cars do appear on the winding, narrow roads of Chartres centre ville, they share the space with pedestrians and cyclists.

Is our region full of towns woven through with small medieval streets? No. But that doesn't mean cities like it can't learn from the scale and prioritization put forth by cities like Amiens, Rouen, and Chartres (plus, Annapolis is pretty close).

Given that the Arlington County Board recently approved pedestrian-only streets, and that such streets in other cities have been reversed due to low pedestrian traffic, these French examples give us good fodder to consider what makes or breaks a street that is not primarily used by cars.

The primary key to a successful pedestrian street, it would seem, is a city that designs streets so that pedestrians feel safe and welcome. As Arlington moves forward with their plan, it will be interesting to see how they implement parallel plans to encourage walking and biking, and therefore the success of their newly approved car-free zones.

Politics


Is our next president going to care about transit and street safety?

What might a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency look like for transportation? Here's a roundup of what we know about their respective takes on getting around, from roads and bridges to bike lanes and sidewalks.


Hillary Clinton at a bike shop in Iowa. Photo by Hillary for America on Flickr.

Broadly speaking, both candidates say that US transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of attention and vow a massive increase in transportation spending. Hillary Clinton says she would increase funding by $275 billion over a five year period, paid for by means of a higher tax on corporations. Donald Trump says he will double that amount by tapping private investment and taking on more debt.

But opening a giant spigot of cash to fix US infrastructure is not necessarily a great idea. State transportation officials are notorious for spending most of their budgets on either new highways or on widening existing ones. Maintenance projects, which lack the visuals of ribbon cuttings beloved by politicians of all stripes, are relegated to a secondary status. As Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog notes:

Doubling federal transportation spending wouldn't solve this problem. Pumping billions of additional dollars into state DOTs without reforming the current system could actually make it worse—giving agencies license to spend lavishly on new projects that serve only to increase their massive maintenance backlogs
Unfortunately, neither candidate addresses this fundamental structural flaw. Both appear to view the main issue to be a lack of federal funding, when the real issue is how lawmakers spend the funding they get.

With Clinton, expect more road widenings

Hillary Clinton's talk in this last month unfortunately sounds like a plan that will focus on widening roads. Her website states that she "will make smart investments to improve our roads, reduce congestion, and slash the 'pothole tax' that drivers silently pay each and every day."

On the subject of transit, she plans to "lower transportation costs and unlock economic opportunity by expanding public transit options" and "encourage local governments to work with low-income communities to ensure unemployed and underemployed Americans are connected to good jobs."


Photo by torbakhopper on Flickr.

Clinton's website makes no mention of efforts to reengineer infrastructure for the safety of those who walk and bike. That's a key component of streets that are safe and promote more environmentally-friendly uses.

To Clinton, transit appears to be considered primarily a means for moving low-income workers around, with greater subsidies being the preferred means for boosting ridership. That attitude towards transit took hold in the 1960s and has held it back ever since.

A transportation outlook that holds roads so far above all other modes will fail, as road expansions in congested urban areas trigger induced demand that actually worsens congestion. This, in turn, triggers a vicious cycle with calls for more road expansions to relieve the new congestion. Even large departments of transportation like California's Caltrans admit this occurs. So, how did Hillary Clinton's campaign staff fail to catch this?

It may be because of who is in her inner circle. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is known to be a close friend of the Clintons, with the Washington Post describing him as being virtually part of the family. McAuliffe's transportation focus is primarily on highway expansions, with particular emphasis on HOT lanes. While he has gotten funding for rail projects, such as a light rail system in Virginia Beach, he has also claimed that HOT lanes can cure congestion. If this pro-road enthusiasm is prevalent in the Clinton camp, it is no shock that her agenda might be tilted towards roads.

Hillary Clinton does appear to be committed to reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. Reinforcing this perception is the commitment by Al Gore, perhaps the world's preeminent figure in the fight against global warming, to campaign on her behalf. However, her campaign site focuses on energy generation and lower emissions from vehicles. Neither transit nor walking and biking in urban areas are called out on her site's climate section. For Clinton, the focus is on tweaking sources to combat pollution, not shifting demand to lessen emissions.

Trump doesn't seem like a bike lane guy

Whereas Hillary Clinton's stance on sustainable transportation may leave something to be desired, Donald Trump's attitude can be downright hostile. In 2015, Trump criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for riding a bike, after a crash in which Kerry injured his leg. Trump vowed, "I swear to you I will never enter a bicycle race if I'm president."

Given the debates over bike lanes in New York City and the pedestrian-friendly changes in Times Square, you might have expected Trump to have said something on the matter. But if he has, the media hasn't picked it up.

However, his campaign manager, Stephen K. Bannon, has had very strong views on the matter of bike lanes. During his tenure at Breitbart News, Bannon ran a story on bike lanes in Chicago with the headline, "Rahm to Spend $91 Million on Bike Lanes for the 1%." Given this level of antagonism towards people who bike from such a close adviser, Donald Trump may not be a friend to cycling.


Donald Trump hosted a bike race in 1989 and 1990, but that's probably the extent of his familiarity with bicycling. Photo by Anders on Flickr.

By contrast, Trump supports improvements to passenger rail systems. The American Conservative's Center for Public Transportation explains this split from the traditionally anti-transit Republican Party as being due to Trump's long exposure to subways and commuter rail in his hometown of New York City.

Trump also admires Chinese intercity rail transportation. Time reported Trump saying during a freewheeling campaign speech, "They have trains that go 300 miles per hour…We have trains that go chug … chug … chug."

But Trump's admiration for rail transport may not reflect a desire for sustainability. Trump has consistently denied the science behind climate change, going so far as to call it a hoax by China. His motives for boosting rail are apparent in his effusive praise of large, new airports in China and Dubai.

As he has said repeatedly, "Our airports are like from a Third World country." As with airports, Trump views US rail systems as a source of embarrassment on the world stage. However, in the case of airports, he overlooked the tendency of modern airport planners to build on a gargantuan scale that makes them unusable, a trend I pointed out in 2012. Throwing cash at rail systems probably won't bring any more efficiency than it does for airports or roads.

Neither is exactly an urbanist, but could they get the right advisors?

Essentially, both candidates had questionable approaches to sustainable transportation, whether they are outdated or simply wasteful of taxpayer dollars. That is something that can be remedied if advisors are retained who are current with best practices in the field.

There is no shortage of these: Gabe Klein, Janette Sadik-Khan, and Chris Hamilton spring to mind as US experts worth consulting. Relying less on governors and website editors whose attitudes are frozen in the mid-20th century would be a sign of wise leadership, crucial for being President of the United States.

As to which candidate is more likely to change their approach, I leave that for others to speculate upon.


Links


National links: Don't shame the transit riders

Uber took down some ads that shamed transit riders, Texas researchers are looking at how race, gender, and development intersect, and a new book explains that cities weren't always bastions for Democrats. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Anthony Easton on Flickr.

Uber's advertising effect: Uber and Lyft often have run ads that belittle transit riders. Transit planner Jarrett Walker recently decided he'd had enough, calling Uber out for an anti-transit stance that he says promotes congestion and social stratification. Soon thereafter, an Uber executive saw to it that the ad came down. If ads like this keep running, Walker says, it signals a tacit agreement that we should starve cities of the transportation options they need and deserve. (Human Transit)

Race, gender, and the built environment: The University of Texas at Austin will launch a first-of-its-kind program to study the intersection of race, gender, city planning, and development. In this interview, Professors Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts discuss why they are keen to expand the definition of planning and preservation and how Austin is a great place to be thinking about these issues. (Metropolis Magazine)

How cities went blue: During the time of the US' founding, pretty much everyone in politics disliked cities, as they were seen as places of corruption and vice. But now, as cities are becoming more and more popular, cities have become a stronghold for Democrats. Read about the history of anti-urbanism and the move toward our current landscape in a review of Steven Conn's Americans Against the City. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

White House vs. parking: Last week's White House paper about why we need more housing and how cities can make it happen was the talk of the urbanism world. A major part was its push for less required parking, as parking drives up housing costs and stresses the transportation network. While the White House's toolkit has no teeth to enact reform, it is refreshing to see ideas like these from the top. (Wired)

Look Mom, no signals: The first Dutch-style unsignalized intersection in the United States just went in near the campus of Texas A&M University. The hope is that moving cyclists in front of car traffic at the intersections and painting the lanes green with solar luminescent paint will make vulnerable road users will be more visible, meaning drivers will be less likely to hit them. (Texas Transportation Institute)

Connecting Boston's 2 halves: Boston's commuter rail network is split in two: a north and a south half. Advocates have long been working to connect the two so the entire system functions more efficiently, but haven't had any luck. Now, there's a greater sense of urgency, as a plan to expand a key station would effectively kill hopes of a north-south rail link. Activists hope that building the connection will take precedent. (Boston Magazine)

A new ride hailing service in town

Since Uber and Lyft left Austin, new companies have filled the void. One of them is RideAustin, which is now one of the leading ride hailing providers in the city. Co-founder Andy Tryba sat down to talk about why they started the company, while Jerry, a driver for RideAustin, discussed the new city fingerprinting requirement. Check out what they had to say on Episode 7 of my show, Transit Trends:

Roads


Does the US highway system have high cholesterol?

Similar to how veins and arteries pump blood to and from our hearts, our infrastructure moves people and materials around the country. In this video, Metrocosm's Max Galka took 24 hours' worth of highway traffic and visualized it to look like the human circulatory system.

Max made the visual using the raw data that the US Department of Transportation used for its July summary of traffic volume trends across the country (it puts one out each month). Here, you're seeing traffic volume counts for every hour of every day at about 4,000 traffic counting stations nationwide, which adds up to about 14 million datapoints in all.

Max noted the following when we emailed about his map:

For the most part, the traffic is concentrated just where you would expect, in the most populous areas: New York, LA, Chicago, Florida, Texas. But if you look at the map, you will notice that there is one spot where many of the major routes converge, which I was surprised to discover is Nashville.

I was also surprised by the pattern of traffic across the day. Rather than spiking at rush hour in the morning and again in the evening, the volume of traffic on the interstate grows steadily throughout the day, peaking at 4pm and falling off from there.

What do you notice when you watch?

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