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Thursday, September 21 2017 @ 03:23 AM UTC

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Zombie Highways

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Blueprint America — with The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer — in a story on how America’s highways are built and funded — often times at the expense of mass-transit development. Correspondent Rick Karr reports from Birmingham, Alabama.

What’s a Zombie Highway?
Rick Karr, Blueprint America correspondent

Let me answer that question with a hypothetical: Let’s pretend that the federal government has a program to help you improve your house or apartment. Lawmakers in Washington promise that for every dollar that you put up for construction, they’ll give you four dollars. It doesn’t matter how expensive the project turns out to be –- you’ll get four bucks in subsidies for every dollar that comes out of your own pocket. Until the project is finished.

In that case, would you ever have an incentive to finish your home improvement project? Or would the project keep shambling forward, like an extra in a George Romero film?
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An apt response to congestion or outmoded idea that will create more of it?

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(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox / July 23, 2009)

Battle lines form over $4.6 billion I-270 expansion proposal I-270. Business, environmental concerns set to clash over a proposed $4.6 billion widening of I-270
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Mass Transit and Smart Growth Save Time, $ and the Environment

Mass TransitOne of the primary assumptions of the so-called "Smart Growth" movement has long been that smart growth, combined with expenditures on mass transit (especially transit such as light rail or streetcar that encourage "choice" riders who might otherwise drive) save everyone time and money and protect the environment. The latest statistics from the Texas Transportation Institute show this to be the case. This diary will briefly describe Oregon's land use system as it applies to Smart Growth and our investments in public transportation, along with their impacts.
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Public Transit Loses to Polluters in Climate Bill Subsidies

Mass TransitAs Senate lawmakers launch new efforts to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, some key members have joined local transportation officials and environmentalists to ask a seemingly relevant question: Where’s the commitment to public transit?
...
“Transportation accounts for nearly one-third of our emissions, and yet it does not appear to be on Congress’s radar screen as one third of the solution,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee’s subpanel on transportation, said during a hearing on the topic Tuesday. A failure to provide more funding for clean transit, Menendez added, would represent a failure to tackle climate change adequately.
...
Michael Replogle, founder of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, told lawmakers Tuesday that, even as cars have become more efficient and fuels cleaner in recent decades, greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation have grown steadily over the same span.

“Our current policy framework guiding the development of surface transportation infrastructure in the U.S. is not designed to take into account [greenhouse gas] emissions,” Replogle said.
...
Ignoring mass transit solutions, according to many experts, is an oversight that could vastly limit the emission-reducing capabilities of whatever proposal eventually comes out of Boxer’s committee.
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BWC: The Auto Club That Doesn't Want You To Drive

Mass TransitBetter World Offers a 10% Discount to New Members Who Use Public Transportation! (And a 5% Discount Each Year They Renew!)

As if offering the nation's only bicycle roadside assistance wasn't weird enough, Better World Club continues to challenge the very definition of "auto club" by offering a 10% discount to new members who use public transportation.

Mass transit is a much greener option to single-occupant automobiles, so we want to encourage it's use as much as possible.
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San Francisco unveils first solar-powered bus shelter/wireless hot spot

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The first of 1,100 planned solar-powered bus shelters has been unveiled in San Francisco. The other 1,099 will be installed across the city over the next four years.

The roof of the bus shelter is made up of thin-film solar panels embedded in a 40 percent post-industrial recycled polycarbonate material in a rolling wave shape. The structure of the shelter is made of recycled steel and other materials.

The solar roof powers an intercom, LED lighting and wireless routers, so that the bus shelters will become wireless hot spots around the city. The shelters will feed any excess energy generated by the solar panels to the city grid.

While solar-powered bus shelters are not a new concept, it's cool to see an American city deploying them, especially using them to spread wi-fi throughout the city. San Francisco is once again setting a great example.
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Curitiba’s BRT: Inspired Bus Rapid Transit Around the World

Mass TransitCuritiba, Brazil first adopted its Master Plan in 1968. Since then, it has become a city well known for inventive urban planning and affordable (to the user and the city) public transportation.

Curitiba's Bus Rapid Transit system is the source of inspiration for many other cities including the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia; Metrovia in Guayaquil, Ecuador; as well as the Orange Line of Los Angeles.

This video illustrates how Curitiba's public transportation system operates and the urban planning and land use principles on which it is based, including an interview with the former Mayor and architect Jaime Lerner. Current city employees also discuss the improvements that are being made to the system to keep it up to date and functioning at the capacity of a typical subway system. Curitiba is currently experimenting with adding bypassing lanes on the dedicated BRT routes and smart traffic lights to prioritize buses. They are even constructing a new line which will have a linear park and 18km of bike lane that parallels the bus transit route.
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Downtown Circulator

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A brand-new transportation system is coming to the downtown area late this summer 2009. To better connect Baltimore residents, workers, businesses, and visitors, twenty-one hybrid EcoSaver IV buses will circulate on three downtown routes, seven days a week—with no fare or boarding fee. The circulator routes will run south to north from the Inner Harbor Visitor Center to Penn Station, and east to west from Harbor East to the B&O Railroad Museum. With buses arriving approximately every ten minutes, the circulator system is planned to connect with Amtrak, MARC, Light Rail, Metro Subway, MTA bus lines, two water connectors (Maritime Park to Tide Point and Canton Waterfront Park to Tide Point), and parking garages located on the fringes of downtown.
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Include Public Transit in House Climate Bill; Contact House Members Immediately

Mass TransitThe draft “American Clean Energy Security Act” (ACESA), H.R. 2454, released May 15 by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provides for no investment in public transportation. The legislation retains language that would establish emission reductions goals for the transportation sector—in Section 222, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Through Transportation Efficiency—but no funding is made available from the bill’s proposed cap-and-trade system to finance transportation investments that reduce emissions.

The Committee began markup of the bill on May 18, and as Passenger Transport went to press, expected to complete consideration before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess during the week beginning May 25.

“One of the most powerful tools individuals may have to reduce their daily carbon dioxide emissions—the use of public transportation—is not part of the new climate change legislation,” stated APTA President William Millar. “Despite the facts that show providing greater access to public transportation may be the most effective weapon for combating climate change, there are no allowances from the cap-and-trade program for public transportation in the current climate legislation.”
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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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