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Engineers to U.S. DOT: Transportation Is About More Than Moving Cars

A trade group representing the transportation engineering profession thinks it’s high time for American policy makers to stop focusing so much on moving single-occupancy vehicles.

Should roads like this be considered a "success?" ITE doesn't think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

Should roads like this be considered a success? ITE doesn’t think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

U.S. DOT is currently deciding how it will assess the performance of state DOTs. Will it continue business as usual and equate success with moving huge numbers of cars? That’s what state transportation officials want, but just about everyone else disagrees — including professional transportation engineers.

In its comments to the Federal Highway Administration about how to measure performance, the Institute of Transportation Engineers — a trade group representing 13,000 professionals — said that, in short, the system should not focus so heavily on cars [PDF].

Here’s a key excerpt:

Throughout the current proposed rulemaking on NHS performance, traffic congestion, freight mobility, and air quality, an underlying theme is apparent: these measures speak largely to the experience of those in single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). While such a focus is understandable in the short-term, owing largely to the current availability of data from the NPMRDS and other national sources, ITE and its membership feel that FHWA should move quickly within the framework of the existing performance management legislation to begin developing performance measures that cater to multimodal transportation systems.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Houston’s First Mixed-Use, Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development Leads the Way (Offcite)
  • H-GAC Head Guy Not Sure If UTP Means $3 Billion, $4 Billion, or $5 Billion for Houston Roads (Houston Public Media)
  • Four Years Into Imagine Austin, City Continues Haphazard, Parochial Planning by Pitchfork (Monitor)
  • “Liberty Caucus” Believes 476 Texans Should Die Every Year for Freedom to Drive While Txting (Texomas)
  • House Transportation Chair Joe Pickett Lovingly Speaks of Freeway: “We Have a Beautiful Lane” (KVIA)
  • State Auditor Finds TXDOT’s Oversight Not Adequate for $8B of Design-Build Roads (Houston Chron)
  • TXDOT Believes We Should Put the Burden for Street Safety on Parents and Children (TXDOT)
  • What Could Go Wrong Investing Billions in Roads That Require Wasteful Lifestyles to See Return? (ENR)
  • Denton and Fort Worth Investing Half a Million a Year in 90-Minute Intercity Express Bus (DentonRC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA

Rethinking Speed Limits By Factoring in Walkers and Bikers

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weilder Street from 35 to 25. Photo: Google Maps

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weidler Street from 35 to 25 mph. Photo: Google Maps

For cities trying to get a handle on traffic fatalities, dangerous motor vehicle speeds are an enormous problem. Once drivers exceed 20 mph, the chances that someone outside the vehicle will survive a collision plummet. But even on city streets where many people walk and bike, streets with 35 or 40 mph traffic are common. Cities looking to reduce lethal vehicle speeds face a number of obstacles — including restrictions on how they can set speed limits. State statutes usually limit how cities set speed limits. In Boston, for example, the City Councilhas voted numerous times to reduce the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, but state law won’t allow it. Now Portland is taking on this problem. A pilot program expected to be approved by the Oregon Department of Transportation proposes a new way to evaluate what speeds are appropriate for urban areas. Read more...
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Today’s Headlines

  • All Eight Austin Ride Hailing Services Meet Fingerprinting Requirements By Deadline (Statesman)
  • Sprawl Counties Propose Making CAMPO Technical Advisory Committee Even More Inequitable (Monitor)
  • TXDOT Believes One Webinar and One Meeting Is “Extensive Public Input” for $70 Billion UTP (TXDOT)
  • Segregationist Austin Zoning & Planning Commission Keeps Opposing Imagine Austin, Urbanism (Monitor)
  • HISD Opens Second New Campus in Transit-Accessible, Walkable Downtown Location (BizJournals)
  • Historically Black Main Street Named After Confederate Soldier Changed to Emancipation Ave (Swamplot)
  • Apple Maps Now Has Transit in Austin, SA, DFW, Not Houston (Morning News)
  • Someone Took Out an Austin BCycle Station With a Car (Austin Bcycle)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

via The Urban Edge

I Moved to Houston From 9,000 Miles Away — What I Saw Surprised Me

Image via flickr/Björn Ognibeni.

Image via flickr/Björn Ognibeni.

The following is a guest blog post. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research or its staff.

When people ask if I like Houston, I always have the same answer: “It’s growing on me.” And so, after almost two years of living here, I chuckle when I catch myself sometimes calling it home.

The city, like this country, is overwhelming to first-time visitors by account of its sheer size. “Everything is big in Texas” we were told after my husband accepted a research position with a much desired lab at Rice University. At the very first instance, we got a taste of it: A big taxi drove us on a big freeway to take us to a big house where we had rented a room for our first month in town.

The author, Sukhada Tatke.

The author, Sukhada Tatke.

If I had kept a journal during my initial days, or even months in Houston, the entries would have reeked of vexations about feeling immobile without a car, being a lone walker in a sea of whirring cars, or the other routine angst-ridden sentiments that follow a big move (a car had never been a part of my lifestyle in Mumbai, nor my husband’s in his native France, and we thought we would be fine without one here). But the move to Houston was different.

My first footsteps in Houston — and the confusion that accompanied them — are steps many others have taken before me. The region has a massive — and quickly growing — foreign-born population. Nearly a quarter of the Houston area’s 6 million residents were born outside of the U.S. I’m one of the 70,000 Greater Houston residents originally from South Asia.

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Today’s Headlines

  • More Than 200 People Show Up at DART Meeting in Support of D2 Subway (Morning News)
  • …DART Might Make Dallas Choose Between Streetcar Expansion and Subway (Morning News)
  • Jarrett Walker: Falling Oil Prices, Sputtering Economy Kept Houston Bus Ridership Down
  • Officer James Combs, Who Killed Brian Manring Driving Drunk, Finally Arrested Four Days Later (PINAC)
  • Somebody Started a Petition Asking TXDOT to Sink and Cap I-35 Through Urban Austin (?)
  • Deadline to Apply to Join City of Austin Bicycle Advisory Council Is August 28
  • Capital Metro Claims PRT Is Future of Transit, Wants to Present on Robocars at SXSW Eco
  • San Antonio Budget Proposal Has $1 Million Each for Safe Routes to Schools and Vision Zero (mySA)
  • San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor Indicates Vision Zero Is Just About Pedestrians on Morning TV (Fox29)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA

When Cities Force Developers to Widen Roads, Everyone Loses

vermont_wilshire

At L.A.’s Vermont-Wilshire Towers, the city made the developer cede land and pay for 6,000 square feet of road widening. Photo: Google Maps

It’s a common practice for cities to make developers widen a street when they put up a new building. The thinking is that development creates car trips that must be accommodated with more asphalt. But new research suggests these policies don’t help anyone. The main effect is to increase the cost of building, making housing less affordable. “As traffic management exercises, many widenings appear unnecessary,” concludes UCLA researcher Michael Manville in a paper published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use [PDF]. Manville looked at how this policy is carried out in Los Angeles. In L.A., all multifamily housing projects (and some other types of construction) are assessed by city traffic engineers to determine whether the developer should widen nearby streets. This is like “blaming Disneyland for increased air travel, and forcing the theme park to expand runways whenever it adds attractions,” he argues. Manville spoke to developers compelled by the city to pay for various road widenings. The costs varied. In one case, the street widening added an estimated $11,000 to the cost per unit of a multifamily housing development. In another case the figure was $50,000. In another, just $65 per unit. Where the costs of street widenings are substantial, the policy drives up costs for renters and buyers. Read more...
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Today’s Headlines

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Streetsblog USA

Talking Headways Podcast: Putting Dallas Back Together Again

Patrick Kennedy comes on the podcast this week to talk about what’s going on in Dallas. We discuss the highway removal campaign known as A New Dallas and the recent Texas DOT CityMap Plan to re-imagine the freeways and roads in the city’s downtown. We also discuss downtown subways, urban politics, why existing walkable neighborhoods matter to new walkable neighborhoods, and what’s going on with plans for the Trinity River.
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Today’s Headlines

  • Austin Budget Proposal Would Increase Fees to Fund Street and Sidewalk Maintenance (Monitor)
  • Hour-Long High-Speed Police Chase Ends in Suspect Crashing Into Vehicle Carrying Family With Kids (ABC13)
  • Petition Begs City of Houston Not to Widen 4-Lane Urban Street — Hillcroft — Into 6-Lane Stroad
  • TXDOT Strategic Planning Staff: Texas Will Not Be Able to Build Its Way Out of Congestion (Philip Haigh)
  • The Prairies of Houston Are Paved with MUDs — a Fiscal Conservative & Environmental Conservation Nightmare (Houston Chron)
  • Lack of City Planning Capabilities, Growth, Acre Lots, Farms, and Artists Meet in Historic Black Neighborhood (Houston Chron)
  • Connections 2025 Presentation, Vision Zero Pledge at Capital Metro Meeting Today
  • Houston Area Students Can Get Half Price Transit Pass (Metro)
  • Travis County Will Have Its Own Transportation Bond Process for 2017 (Monitor)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA