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Streetsblog USA

Will US DOT’s Self-Driving Car Rules Make Streets Safe for Walking and Biking?

This week, U.S. DOT released guidelines for self-driving cars, a significant step as regulators prepare for companies to bring this new technology to market. Autonomous vehicles raise all sorts of questions about urban transportation systems. It’s up to advocates to ensure that the technology helps accomplish broader goals like safer streets and more efficient use of urban space, instead of letting private companies dictate the terms.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The rules that the feds put out will be revised over time, and the public can weigh in during that process. With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing the guidelines and talking to experts about their implications for city streets — and especially for pedestrian and cyclist safety. Here are a few key things to consider as regulations for self-driving cars get fleshed out.

Fully autonomous cars can’t break traffic laws.

The feds say self-driving cars should adhere to all traffic laws. In practice, this means they’ll have to do things like obey the speed limit and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Following the rules may be a pretty low bar to clear, but it’s more than most human drivers can say for themselves.

Transit advocate Ben Ross points out, however, that this standard will only apply to “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs). Cars that are lower down on the autonomy spectrum — where a person is deemed the driver, not a machine — wouldn’t need to have features that override human error.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Advocates for the Blind Sue for Equal Access to Ride-Hail Services (Statesman)
  • Driver Kills Pedestrian Crossing Mile Stretch of Vista Del Sol Drive That Has No Crosswalk (KVIA)
  • Significant Disagreements Remain on How to Make SATomorrow Plan a Real Thing (Express News)
  • Proposed Dallas Streets Budget Would Just Barely Keep Up With Maintenance (Observer)
  • TXDOT Says Private Toll Road Builder Will Construct Controversial Med Center Flyover (Drive288)
  • Suburban Rail Mayors Claim DFW Will Grow to 14M — 3.3M More Than NCTCOG Forecasts (Morning News)
  • CTRMA Board Members Thinking of “Expanding Our Horizons Beyond Just Roads” to Gondolas (KUT)
  • Bus Stop Standards Will Be Added to Houston Infrastructure Design Manual (HPM)
  • Houston Metro Planning to Open an Office of Innovation (HPM)
  • Austin Nonprofit Housing Coop Needs Letters of SupportSupport at Hearing to Avoid Parking Minimums

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

via The Urban Edge

Can Public Transit and Ride-Share Companies Get Along?

Image via flickr/BeyondDC.

In Centennial, Colorado and Altamonte Springs, Florida, residents and visitors can now get a free ride to the nearest train station. The ride is paid for by the local public transit agency, but it’s not a public bus that makes the trip. Rather, it’s a car driven by someone working for ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.

There are potential public benefits — the hope of increased ridership, better service for hard-to-serve areas and cost and equipment efficiencies. Competition could push sometimes slow-moving transit agencies to innovate and improve.

There are also risks. Ride-sharing companies have devastated the private taxi market, effectively undercutting the entire industry in some cities. Mobility rights advocates and transit employees fear the same thing could happen to public transit, remaking, under private ownership, the way millions of Americans get around every day.

To maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks, we need to know how ride-share companies will affect public transportation. Might public transit agencies come to regret entering into agreements with private-sector competitors? Can the new arrangements improve service for customers, save agencies money and make a profit for the companies?

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Today’s Headlines

  • Houston Metro Set to Okay $1B Budget, With Lower Sales Tax Projections (Houston Chron, HPM)
  • Proposed Capital Metro Budget: More for Inefficient Suburban Services (Monitor)
  • …Julio Gonzales Asks Capital Metro to Fund Success Instead (Keep Austin Wonky)
  • Austin Chamber Report: Better Land Use, More Options, TDM, Not Roads (Impact, BizJournals)
  • Video: Dr. Stephen Klineberg on Future of Houston, Which Is America’s Future (Click2Houston)
  • Former DART Board Member Hired for TOD Job Created for Him (Morning News)
  • Main Entrance to San Antonio City Hall Is Not Accessible to All San Antonio Citizens (Rivard)
  • Unclear If Sandra Bland Settlement Will Mean System-Wide Retraining on Traffic Stops (Tribune)
  • CAMPO Board Member and Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain: There Is “NO Plan for Western Travis County to Improve Congestion in the 40 Year Plan” (Statesman)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Today’s Headlines

  • Bicycling Magazine Calls Fort Worth’s Betsy Price “America’s Most Bike-Crazy Mayor”
  • TXDOT I-35 Open House Comment Form for Reconnect-Austin-Or-Not Decision Now Works
  • San Antonio Siclovia Celebrating 5th Anniversary This Sunday — 72,000 Came to Last One (Rivard)
  • Pool – Whose Property Value Will Increase from Proposed Urbanism – Not Yet Recused (Monitor)
  • Austin Chamber of Commerce Calls Sprawl the “Original Sin” of Mobility Problems (Monitor)
  • Shell Moving Out of Downtown Houston to Urbanizing West Side (Houston Chron)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA

How Transit Agencies Can Offer Better Paratransit Service at Lower Costs

Paratransit costs are rising fast for transit agencies and riders aren't particularly satisfied. Graph: Rudin Center

Paratransit costs are rising fast. Graph: Brookings via Rudin Center

Paratransit service for people with disabilities is a big part of what modern transit agencies do, and it’s getting bigger all the time. As the population ages and more people rely on paratransit to get around, agencies need to get smart about how they provide the service — or else rising costs will eat into their capacity to run buses and trains.

A new report from the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU lays out how to provide quality paratransit service without breaking the bank.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act required cities to provide paratransit service for residents with disabilities but provided no operating funds. Nationally, paratransit now accounts about 12 percent of transit budgets, according to the report. It typically costs far more to operate than bus or train service — the national average is $29 per paratransit trip, compared to a little more than $8 per trip for fixed-route services.

The Rudin Center report explores how transit agencies can reduce costs while simultaneously improving service for paratransit users. Here are the four main recommendations.

1. Partner with ride-hailing services

Contracting with taxi services or ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft could benefit both transit agencies and paratransit riders.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Public Comment Period for TXDOT’s I-35 Project in Downtown Austin Open Thru October 4 (KXAN)
  • …TXDOT Has to Respond to Questions Asked at Meeting Today or Made Online During This Period
  • …So Far This Morning, the Virtual Open House Page Gives an Unauthorized Error
  • Official Comment Page Still Does Not Allow People to Comment on Downtown Austin Section
  • Is It Time to Finally Kill the Trinity Toll Road – on Its 9th Iteration – and Build the Park? (Observer)
  • San Antonio and Austin Had the Highest Growth in GDP Among U.S. Major Metros Last Year (BEA)
  • That Corpus Christi Bridge Is Displacing Public Housing, Some Can’t Find New Homes (Tribune)
  • Texas Transportation, Urban Planning Failed Boy Who Died Walking Across I-10 (News4SA)
  • DART Committing to Taxi Vouchers for Sub-Urban, Car-Dependent Collin County (DART)
  • Something About Houston’s Lack of Zoning = More Households Near Polluters (Houston Chron)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Today’s Headlines

  • San Antonio, Austin Mayors Want Better Regional Transportation Planning (BizJournals)
  • …With Many Ready to Declare Lone Star Rail Dead (My San Antonio)
  • …and the SH130 Toll Road a Tremendous Failure (Express News)
  • City of Houston Slowly Replacing “Share” Signs With “Bikes May Use Full Lane”(BikeHouston)
  • TXDOT Publishes Bicycle Fatality Stats — City Street Crashes Less Lethal Than Others
  • TTI Finishing Up Statewide Transportation Opinion Poll, Updating 2014 Survey (TTI)
  • City of Round Rock Updating Transportation Master Plan; Survey Refers to “Accidents”
  • Austin Wins US DOT “Ladders of Opportunity” Award for Low-Income Walking Efforts (Mayor Adler)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA

Talking Headways Podcast: A Different Look at Transportation

Our guest this week is Rob Puentes of the Eno Center for Transportation, an organization that has focused on better transportation outcomes for 95 years. Rob touches on a number of topics that we don’t usually explore in-depth, like aviation, freight, and coordinating automated vehicle policy. With November 8 less than two months away, we also discuss the presidential election. Enjoy.
Streetsblog USA

Where Car Commuting Is Shrinking — And Where It’s Not

Where are Americans making the shift away from driving to work?

Crunching newly-released Census data, Yonah Freemark looked at how commute travel is changing in different cities and regions. In general, car commuting in major metro areas declined between 2005 and 2015, but the shift was greater than a couple of percentage points in only a few cities.

Keep in mind that commuting accounts for less than 20 percent of all trips, so these numbers may not reflect trends in other kinds of trips. Annual Census estimates also have fairly high margins of error, so any shifts that aren’t very significant in size should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here are the tables that Freemark compiled.

The share of people driving to work dropped in most major metro areas

Chart: Yonah Freemark

Chart: Yonah Freemark

The standouts here are greater Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. Meanwhile, the share of car commuters increased in greater Houston, L.A., and Charlotte. It’s worth nothing that both Houston and L.A. made significant investments in rail infrastructure over the last decade. But apparently that wasn’t enough on its own to shift commuting patterns.

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