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LaHood to Streetsblog: No, I’m Not Changing the Name of My Blog

Mass Transit...
* Though you don't really get the sense that LaHood lives and breathes transportation policy like, say, New York City's Janette Sadik-Khan, a lot of the right words are coming out of his mouth these days. Yesterday's talk wasn't limited to roads, bridges and zillion dollar mega-projects. The Obama Administration, he said, is committed to a transportation policy that will "enhance mobility, support a cleaner environment and help make our communities more livable." LaHood is clearly making the connection between transportation policy and urban development. He said (and I'm condensing this a little bit): "What we’re trying to do is take some of the resources we have on the transit side and connect them with what Secretary Donovan wants to do. We want to create livable communities. Portland is really the model for it. We want to create housing opportunities so that people can walk out their front doors and go wherever they want to go without getting into an automobile. That’s really the goal."

Amen, Secretary.

After the talk I introduced myself and Streetsblog to LaHood and told him that we'd like to sit down with him for a Q&A in Washington D.C. some time soon. LaHood said that he had his own blog too, The Fast Lane. Had I seen it?

"Of course," I said. "Streetsblog readers are big fans. But what do you think about changing the name of your blog to The Fast Track?"

Someone in the background, I think one of his staffers, laughed. LaHood stopped walking and gave me what I took to be a who-is-this-insane-person kind of look.

"We think Fast Lane works pretty well," he said, and headed off to a medal ceremony for the ferry crew members who rescued US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last winter.

All I'm saying is think about it, Ray. Think about it.
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Capturing the Value of Transit

Mass Transit[Baltimore Spokes: What's wrong with this picture? Where's the congestion, air pollution? This can't be a vibrant city ... or can it?] image
A recent Denver Post story noted property values had increased 4 percent along the Southeast light rail line – the Post called it “the money train” – while declining by 7.5 percent regionwide. Portland’s Pearl District has seen property values increase more than 1,000 percent along its streetcar line since 2001, while Tampa has seen increases of up to 400 percent. Another recent study found property values along the light rail system in Dallas increased 50 percent from 2005 to 2007, noting that existing and planned development near stations would bring in an additional $127 million in tax revenues a year.
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MTA To Introduce Smart Cards In Baltimore Region

Mass TransitBALTIMORE -- The Maryland Transit Administration is aiming to introduce an automated fare card system by October.

But MTA will wait on its goal of making the service interchangeable with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's SmarTrip cards.

MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the two agencies weren't able to negotiate a revenue sharing agreement. She said the cards for Baltimore-area transit are compatible with the Washington cards and could be integrated in the future.

The cards store credits for fares on an embedded microchip. They will be accepted on MTA's core services: buses, light rail and the Metro subway, but not on MARC trains or commuter buses.

MTA customers would pay an upfront charge for a card and would add value to it by depositing cash at MTA machines around the region.
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Baltimore's transit 15 minute frequency of service map

Mass TransitAll Baltimore transit lines with sub-15 minute headways throughout most of the day.

<a href=";hl=en&amp;msa=0&amp;msid=106427532364582407228.000469332a9f785119d44&amp;ll=39.336953,-76.629467&amp;spn=0.083644,0.164623&amp;z=13&amp;mid=1241616694">;hl=en&amp;msa=0&amp;msid=106427532364582407228.000469332a9f785119d44&amp;ll=39.336953,-76.629467&amp;spn=0.083644,0.164623&amp;z=13&amp;mid=1241616694</a>;
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Poverty, health and transit riders

Mass TransitA number of recent studies do show that high quality public transit service can improve public health by:
* Reducing per capita traffic fatalities (residents of cities with high quality public transit have about a quarter of the per-capita traffic fatality rates as residents of more automobile-dependent communities)
* Increasing physical activity (people who use public transit on a particular are about 3 times more likely to achieve the basic amount of walking required for public health as people who drive and do not use public transit)
* Increased affordability and therefore less stress and more money left in the household budget for healthy food and other necessities (residents of cities with high quality public transportation spend about 20% small portion of household budgets on transportation, and this effect is probably larger for lower-income households)
* Improved accessibility for non-drivers, and therefore less difficulty reaching medical services and healthy food. These factors cannot overcome other demographic and economic factors that reduce poor people's health, but it does suggest that everybody, particularly poor people, are much better off in a transit oriented community than in an automobile-dependent community.
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Downtown Circulator

Mass TransitThe Baltimore City Department of Transportation today announced the launch of the first leg of a coordinated land and water downtown circulator cost free service featuring a cross-harbor water taxi for commuters, residents, and tourists.

The “Water Taxi Harbor Connector” will begin service on Monday, May 4th between the water taxi dock at Frederick Douglass-Isaac-Myers Maritime Museum (Maritime Park) in Fells Point and the Tide Point Pier in South Baltimore. This fare free service will operate approximately every fifteen minutes from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

The Water Taxi Harbor Connector will operate on a “ping-pong” basis with no intermediate stops. A second “Water Taxi Harbor Connector” route is planned to begin operations in late summer providing service, between Canton Water Front Park and Tide Point.
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Public Transit Users Three Times More Likely To Meet Fitness Guidelines

Mass Transit...
The study, published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, finds that people who take public transit are three times more likely than those who don't to meet the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada's suggested daily minimum of physical activity.
According to the study, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity.

&quot;The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception,&quot; says Frank, the J. Armand Bombardier Chairholder in Sustainable Transportation and a researcher at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. &quot;These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity. Unfortunately, we've engineered this activity out of our daily lives.&quot;
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Medical benefit of public transit

Mass Transit-&gt; &quot;Use of public transit is associated with more walking, by about 8.3 extra minutes per day. This is not enough walking to halt the spread of obesity, but it could substantially reduce it. The present value of medical expenditure savings per person could be $5500, while the value of reduced disability could be even greater.&quot;
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Mikulski Fiddles with Car Tax Credits While Transit Burns

Mass Transitimage Photo by Voxefx via Flickr
Maryland state lawmakers re-added a $10 million tax break for car purchases at the final stage of their budget negotiations. Legislators had previously decided to remove the credit to help shore up Maryland’s finances until Senator Barbara Mikulski pushed to reinstate it. Mikulski inserted a similar provision into the federal stimulus bill earlier this year.

What could Maryland do with $10 million besides further incentivize people to buy new cars that most of them don’t need? With just half that money, they could restore transit cuts in the DC region. Those cuts threaten to cut off vital service to many residents who don’t have alternatives, or will drive many Marylanders to commute by car instead of transit, increasing traffic, pollution and parking problems. DC and most Virginia jurisdictions came up with extra money to stave off most of their proposed cuts to Metro service, but Maryland remains $4.8 million behind. The other half of the $10 million could restore previous cuts or improve service in Baltimore.
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Follow the Money -- A New Direction for Transportation in Maryland

Mass TransitPanelists:
Secretary John Porcari, Maryland Department of Transportation
Michael Burke, Projects Director for U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin
Ilana Preuss, Outreach and Field Director, Transportation For America
Klaus Philipsen, ArchPlan Inc.

When Thursday, April 02, 2009
4 PM - 6 PM

Where Pier 5 Hotel
711 Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21202

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