A provocative article about Charles Marohn, a Minnesota transportation planner who soured on his job and left to start Strong Towns. Excerpt:
The gospel according to Marohn is simple enough to put into a few words: We have built too many highways. We have built them in places that didn’t need them. We have built them in places that can’t afford to maintain them. That’s why the federal Transportation Trust Fund is going broke. And if Congress approves a new transportation bill under the old rules, we’ll just build more unneeded roads and force the communities that host them into a further cycle of debt.
Where does transit fit into this? Here’s an excerpt equally provocative blog post from Marohn from earlier this year:
I always tell transit advocates that, if you really want transit, build a place. Successful transit connects successful places (and sorry, Andy Card, but a park-and-ride is not a successful place).
We build a lot of unsuccessful transit in this country because we too often treat transit as a substitute for the automobile. The thinking — and this comes from people who plan transit systems as well as those who fund them — is that transit is synonymous with equity. If you can’t afford a car, well…then we need to provide you with public transit. It is a social justice issue.
And because of this mindset, transit tends to become the exclusive providence of government. Funding mechanisms require that transit projects be huge, involve massive coalitions of public officials and be designed by teams of bureaucrats and consultants, few of which even use transit. The result is a wasteful approach that focuses on corridors and coverage area instead of places and people.
I think where he’s coming from is this: if you build a really good, solid community that avoids the usual suburban sprawl, transit will be a successful byproduct. In other words, the community needs to come first.
That’s a hard point to argue. I think the challenge comes down to the chicken and the egg. In our region, it’s often difficult — if not politically impossible — to build that kind of density without transit coming first. Problem is, sometimes the transit comes and the development doesn’t really follow.
Complicating matters is this: the government agencies that build the transit often don’t have much say in development. Yes, an agency such as Metro may pursue development on a few Metro-owned parcels after transit construction is done. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds more parcels that may be within a short walk, bike or even drive to the station.
In our region, new road construction is usually not an issue — although it certainly comes into play on the SR-710 North Study involving the 710 gap. Most often (and perhaps even with the 710) the road projects involves attempts to improve what’s already here. I think Marohn’s criticisms here tend to come into play more on parking and development policies, which are the kind of things that impact livability and the chance for transit to work in any given place.
Google’s next project: fixing congested cities (Wall Street Journal)
Not much in the way of details but Google says the effort will create technology to help manage issues such as transportation, traffic, energy use and other common urban challenges.
My three cents: I think there’s fortune and glory to be had for the engineer who develops the next generation of traffic light synchronization software that can quickly respond to real-time situations, i.e. making sure north-south and east-west lights are somewhat in synch and dealing with the need to keep transit buses and trains moving.
As some of you have heard me gripe before, the traffic lights in the 91106 remind me of something out of the Stone Ages (see photo). I’m certainly not for turning everyday streets into drag strips, but I also think that stopping cars (and bikes) at every intersection has its own set of deleterious impacts.
Here’s how it works: if you park illegally and a pic of your car is captured twice within five minutes by cameras on two different buses, you get cited. Ha-ha!
Illegal parking has at times been an issue on the peak hour bus lanes on Wilshire, where Metro provides the transit service and the city of L.A. does the enforcement.
Airplanes are thought to account for two percent of global greenhouse emissions. The concern is that any gains to date on the emissions and fuel efficiency front will be wiped out by increasing air travel in the future. It remains to be seen what kind of standards are set by the EPA but it’s worth noting that in 2012 the U.S. balked when the European Union tried to force U.S. airlines into a carbon trading market.
Categories: Transportation Headlines