Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What did you expect?: Federal transportation bill sucks for biking and walking

Left:  15th Street NW Cycletrack, DC, mid-evening during the rush hour commute.  This cycletrack shows that the presence of high quality separated bicycle infrastructure, in places with the right spatial conditions and density significantly increases take up of bicycling as transportation.

In another edition of "who gets elected really does matter," the failure of the Obama Administration to pass a federal transportation bill reauthorization in 2009-2010 finally rears its ugly head in the version of the bill that will be passed this week (see "Congress reaches deal on transportation bill, the first since 2005‎" and "Federal oversight coming for Metro safety‎" from the Washington Post).

The bill eviscerates funding for walking, biking, and livability (streetscape) enhancements, including Safe Routes to School, both reducing funding and also eliminating minimum requirements for spending on these categories, giving states the authority to not spend money on these categories.

Update: analysis by America Bikes of the 42% to 70% decrease in transportation enhancement funding in the new federal transportation bill

Granted, there are lots of problems with how transportation infrastructure is funded.

The federal gasoline excise tax used to provide the bulk of federal monies for transportation spending, but it hasn't been raised in almost 20 years, and between (1) the amount not being enough to begin with; (2) inflation reducing the power of the penny; and (3) increased fuel efficiency overall reduces the amount of gas purchased; (4) plus decreases in gasoline purchases as prices rise; there isn't enough money, and there is no will in Congress to raise the amount, even though the quality of the nation's transportation infrastructure is seriously declining.

Right: I see more examples of parents riding with young children on the city's streets, not just the sidewalks (technically, this is in Takoma Park Maryland, but about one block from the DC border), albeit in neighborhood settings--especially Capitol Hill--on local streets mostly, and going to and coming back from school.

Some people argue that walking and biking and safe routes to schools initiatives should be funded locally/at the state level, that they aren't part of the national transportation network.  (This is especially the case for walk to school initiatives, what is more local than school decision making?)

That is not an unreasonable argument.

However, you can and should make the argument that federal roads should also be complete streets, fully accommodating walking and biking (which makes up about 15% of total trips nationally) and transit (which makes up only 4% of trips nationally, but in urban areas with high quality transit systems, mode share for transit can be from 25% to 50%, demonstrating transit's efficacy given the right conditions of density, spatial form, and land value), at least in those areas, urban areas especially, where so many walking, biking, and transit-based trips are made.

In places, mostly major cities, where there is a refocusing of attention on sustainable transportation, biking and walking and streetscape improvements and transit will withstand the cuts, somehow, as demand is increasing for both sustainable transportation as well as urban living ("Cities Outpace Suburbs in Growth" from the Wall Street Journal).
Left: Girl Scouts and supporters in DC to attend their special event on the National Mall, celebrating the organization's 100th anniversary.

But in other places, either where accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users is seen as a social service for poor people, in states where rural road development dominates the local agenda, these cutbacks are really bad, or in communities experiencing financial exigency ("Stockton bankruptcy: Other California cities concerned" from the Los Angeles Times and "Once proud Detroit on brink of bankruptcy" from the Toronto Star), this is a really bad development that is only withstandable on the two-year time frame of the bill.
bus stops and "legibility"
The poor quality of this bus stop communicates the low value put on transit by that community.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home