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Do We Need More Highways?

Mass Transitfrom Transportation Experts
The U.S. Conference of Mayors will unveil the results of a survey this week showing that the country's mayors are big fans of transit, and perhaps less so of new highways. The survey will show that most mayors want highway expansion to be a low priority when investing in infrastructure. A majority of mayors also oppose a gas tax increase--the preferred revenue-raising option of the transportation and business communities--unless the money from those taxes goes only to support maintenance of existing roads and bridges and expanded transit like rail, buses, and other public transit. They would oppose a gas tax increase if it were directed at highway expansion.

The gas-tax conversation is theoretical right now, with both President Obama and congressional Republicans on record opposing it. But the mayors' perspective speaks to a broader debate that will bubble up when policymakers start crafting a new surface-transportation bill--where should infrastructure investment go? New highway construction is lucrative and sexy, and thus easier to win political support for it. Road maintenance, by contrast, is boring. Public-transit investments can also cause difficulties because they set up disputes between urban and rural areas.

Are the mayors right that the United States doesn't need anymore new highways? If they are wrong, where should new highway construction take place? If they are right, how should infrastructure spending be allotted among public transit projects and road and bridge maintenance? Does it make sense to devote any gas tax funds to public transportation?
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How Smartphones Can Improve Public Transit

Mass TransitFrom Wired's Autopia:

An interesting study of commuters in Boston and San Francisco found people are more willing to ride the bus or train when they have tools to manage their commutes effectively. The study asked 18 people to surrender their cars for one week. The participants found that any autonomy lost by handing over their keys could be regained through apps providing real-time information about transit schedules, delays and shops and services along the routes.

Though the sample size is small, the researchers dug deep into participants’ reactions. The results could have a dramatic effect on public transportation planning, and certainly will catch the attention of planners and programmers alike. By encouraging the development of apps that make commuting easier, transit agencies can drastically, and at little cost, improve the ridership experience and make riding mass transit more attractive.
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Cars are more efficient then trains, ya right.

Mass Transitfrom Streetsblog New York City by Noah Kazis

In the headlines this morning, we linked to a great historical photo of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge on Brownstoner, and it’s taking a closer look at the full implications of the shot. Not for nostalgia’s sake, but to make a cool, calculated appraisal of the efficiency of this piece of transportation infrastructure, as currently configured.

The Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 carried far more people than it does now. Top photo: via Brownstoner. Bottom photo: Google Maps via Brownstoner.

The 1903 image shows the bridge with only one lane in each direction for private vehicles, which at the time were drawn by horses. The rest of the space is given over to tracks for streetcars, elevated railroads, and pedestrians. Now, of course, there’s still a shared bike-ped path through the middle of the bridge, but the rest of it is all for cars, with three lanes of automobile traffic running on either side. No buses or trucks run over the bridge.

If the job of the Brooklyn Bridge is to move people between the two boroughs, the reallocation of space from transit to cars has been disastrous. In 1902, one year before the photograph was taken, the Brooklyn Bridge moved roughly 341,000 people a day across all its modes, according to the Federal Highway Administration. It hit its peak capacity a few years later, with 426,000 people using it each day in 1907.

Today, 125,000 motor vehicles cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day [PDF], as do roughly 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 cyclists. For the bridge to carry as many people as it did at its peak, each of those cars would need to carry more than three people, but they do not. In 1989, when the city counted around 132,000 motor vehicles crossing, the FHWA estimated that 178,000 people crossed the bridge daily.

More than a century has passed since this photo was taken, and the Brooklyn Bridge’s capacity has declined by an enormous amount, thanks to the elimination of transit across it. You just can’t fit enough bulky and mostly empty cars on the bridge for it to add up.

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What's wrong with this picture?

Mass TransitSeriously, we can't even imagine people actually walking to a Metro station?
From Greater Greater Washington [Photo credit Cheryl Cort]
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A Call to Plan Cities for Tomorrow, While Bracing for Transit Cuts Today

Mass Transitfrom Streetsblog Capitol Hill by Alice Ollstein

“Are we doing right by the next generation?” Porcari asked. “We know we’re not.”
Title VI protects everyone, including non-citizens, and it applies to transit agencies that receive federal funding. If individuals or groups have been discriminated against by local transit policies, they can file administrative complaints with the Federal Transit Administration which must be investigated. Thanks to the Bush Administration FTA, there’s a massive backlog of such cases. “Civil rights wasn’t exactly a priority under Bush,” said Brenman.
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Putting the Masses Behind Mass Transit

Mass TransitBy Bill Worthen

It's no secret that Americans are in love with the automobile. Yet, this heavy reliance on autos is taking a toll on the country's flawed transportation system. Fluctuating gas prices, rising everyday living costs, environmental concerns and an aging infrastructure further tax our transportation system and suggest that it's time to reconsider this long-standing love affair with cars.

We're reaching the limits of our capacity and density regarding transportation. Anyone who commutes to work via automobile is likely well-versed in the frustrations caused by traffic, highway degradation and other problems. Yet across the nation we see a real resistance to mass transit.
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Fares are just taxes by another name

Mass Transit[B' Spokes: in light of Assembly pushes for higher MTA fares the following seems appropriate.]
via Google Maps Bike There

Fares are just taxes by another name

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 03:09 AM PDT

So says Noam Chomsky in his book Class Warfare (pdf). This means that an increase in fares is an increase in taxes. We should oppose these tax increases, which are very regressive, aimed at everyone but the rich — because, generally speaking, rich folks don’t take public transit.

And now that bike-sharing schemes are increasingly falling under the umbrella of ‘public transit’, it is likely their fares and fees will be raised, too — for example, up to 70% for Paris’ Velib system (hat tip: World City Bike).

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a socialist to be against raising taxes against those who can least afford it — even relatively conservative/capitalist institutions like the Editorial Board of the New Jersey Star-Ledger understand that raising public transit fares is tax that is going to make it even more difficult for working families to get by. Even avowed individual capitalists understand that class war is being waged by the rich against everyone else, and the rich are winning.

There may be reasons why we may decide that having non-rich folks pay more in taxes for public transportation is required or desirable, but for me, I’d rather we have rich folks start paying some taxesand corporations, too.

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The animated history of Metrorail.

Mass TransitHow the rail system in DC expanded. It would be nice if Baltimore's rail system eventually expand in a similar manner.

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NE Corridor Needs High-Speed Rail

Mass TransitBy Jack Kinstlinger
Chairman Emeritus, KCI Technologies,Inc.

The Northeast Corridor is the seond most dense in terms of population in the world, second only to the Tokyo-Osaka corridor that has been blessed with superior fatality free Tokaido-Shinkansen high speed rail service operated profitably for over 40 years by the for profit Central Japan Rail Corporation.It is the only corridor in the US that resembles much of Western Europe with a major downtown every 50 mile or so.Clearly, frequent, reliable high speed rail service-over 200 MPH - in the Northeast over dedicated right of way separate from the current Amtrak operation will be profitable and decongest highways and importantly, decongest critically congested East Coast airports by diverting short haul air passengers to rail.The prospects are so attractive that significant private capital will be attracted , a public private partnersghip should lead the effort which may or may not involve Amtrak.
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We Need to Make Alternatives Attractive

Mass TransitBy Patrick J. Natale, P.E.
P.E., Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers

The price of gas is irrelevant. Fluctuating gasoline prices are not the problem, but they do serve to intensify the challenges we face after decades of under-investing in surface transportation. If the price of gas goes up, drivers start using other modes that cannot handle the volume. If it goes down, we still have a massive congestion problem and current revenues from gas taxes are not sufficient.
The cynical person might interpret that trend as a clear sign that Americans prefer driving over other modes of transportation. That may well be, but it could also be an indication that we have not done a good enough job making the alternatives attractive.

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