• La – Robin – Hood is Out

    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday he will not be sticking around for President Barack Obama’s second term, according to Roll Call.  Many of us first got to know LaHood when George Will wrote that this mediocre legislator had been transformed: “I think we can change people’s behavior.”

    LaHood was talking about getting people out of their cars and onto rail transit.  However, he was not talking about people voluntarily leaving the road.  His determination was to coerce people out of their cars.  Since then he has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to wasteful projects in pursuit of the Portlandification of America.  Good riddance!

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  • Busting the Downtown Transit Myth

    A lot of cities are spending a lot of money trying to revive their downtowns.  To the extent public officials should want all places in a city to experience economic prosperity, it’s good to root for downtown revivals.  For Smart Growthers and central planners, however, the primary motivation in revitalizing central business districts (CBDs) is to service transit.  Where once we viewed public transportation as a means to an end (mobility for those without private automobiles), we now see transit as the end itself.

    A new report from Florida State University should help squash this myth of the importance of CBDs to transit ridership.  The study looked at all 82 U.S. metropolitan areas with at least half a million people” and found that there was “no relationship between the strength of the CBD and transit ridership.”  What matters more is 1) service frequency, 2) service coverage, 3) car ownership, and 4) unemployment.

    Eric Jaffe, writing in Atlantic Cities, sees a bus half full: “some ridership factors will always fall outside a transit agency’s control, but the ones that fall squarely inside it are powerful too.”

    Yes, it is within the ability to control for transit agencies to reallocate monies to improving service frequency headways and re-orienting routes to dispersed job centers.  But to get there, transit boosters will first need to challenge their assumptions that city cores are the key to success and expensive gaudy rail systems will “lure” commuters out of their cars.

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  • Maryland’s Transportation Plans Go Off the Tracks

    The Washington Post editorializes about getting Maryland moving again.  It seems that northern Virginia has become an attractive destination for Marylanders who can no longer take the high cost of living in the high tax state.  So perhaps improving its transportation system will make things better.  This would be true if the State Assembly spent revenues on transportation projects that work, namely roads and bridges.

    Instead, the Post exhorts Smart Growth Governor Martin O’Malley to “take the lead” on an initiative to increase the tax on gas an additional 15 cents per gallon, and the scheme would divert money increasingly to transit projects: “the Red Line in Baltimore” … “the Purple Line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties” … “the Corridor Cities Transitway.”  Sure, some money will also trickle down to roads and bridges.

    Transportation policy in this Smart Growth State has already been heading in the wrong direction, and Gov. O’Malley’s “leadership” only makes matters worse.  The Post earlier reported on Montgomery County’s plan “to give more of the road to buses,” which simply doubles down on the earlier idea to push “car-free living.”

    The reason why so many people have become anti-tax over the year is only partially explained by the high tax burden many people face.  It’s also due to the distrust with politicians on how they spend tax money.  A scheme like this only deepens that skepticism.

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  • Challenging the Anti-Car Consensus

    When Smart Growthers say “Less is More,” they are usually talking about reducing capacity on major roadways. This fad has developed it’s on catchphrases and buzzwords like Road Diets and Complete Streets. In my town of Gainesville, the political establishment has long championed the effort to reduce lanes on two major arterials cutting through the heart of downtown.

    Last week, the editorial editor commented on this with the typical Either/Or Fallacy. This week, the paper published my response.

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  • Faster, Please

    Your Smartphone Will Replace Your Car Keys by 2015, according to Wired magazine.

    “According to the Korean automaker [Hyundai], the driver can swipe their phone across an embedded NFC chip to unlock the car, and once inside, the place the phone in the center console, allowing the car to start, while an inductive charging plate keeps the juice flowing without needing to plug in.”

    Once in the console, your Smartphone will link to a 7-inch touchscreen mounted in the dash and be able to automatically import contacts, navigation destinations, streaming audio and other apps.  The future of mobility looks very bright.

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  • The EV Market is a Tough Sell

    PJ Media says it best: Plug-In Cars Don’t Resell – Because They Don’t Sell

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  • Driving Toward Stronger Social Cohesion

    City Journal California offers an interesting take on how municipalities are using Smart Parking Meters.  Using ground-sensor technology, Smart parking meters use ground-sensor technology to sense when a parking spot is occupied, send text messages to notify drivers that their time is running out, prevent drivers from adding money over permitted time limits, change parking rates based on congestion, “and—the main source of controversy—reset any remaining time when a car leaves the parking spot.”

    “The issue is not that the City of San Francisco will get more, but that an unknown someone will end up with less. Unless we somehow reverse a century of urbanization—moving back to small towns where everyone knows everyone else—finding these points of connection, these interactions that facilitate empathy with fellow citizens, will continue to be invaluable.”

    In other words, even if motorists travel independently they share a sense of community with other motorists expressed by the frustration that have with local governments that cheat others out of meter money.  Smart growthers say the automobile contributed to social isolation, but that’s always been a stretch.  This makes more sense to me.

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  • More Tolling of Roads to Meet Demand

    With many states struggling in this weak economy, we’re seeing toll roads proliferate to compensate for state financing shortfalls.  My view is that tolling should be the first choice when considering ways to build new capacity.  I also think it should be considered on roadways with terrible congestion where variable tolling on select lanes can be used to improve traffic flow.  I have more difficulty with converting existing freeways into tolled roadways since motorists have already paid for them.

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  • Red Light Cameras & Traffic Accidents

    Installed at dangerous intersections to hopefully reduce the frequency and severity of car crashes, red-light cameras contribute to an increase in accidents, according to a new study in New Jersey.

    “Rear-end collisions at the intersections were up by 20 percent, from 286 the year before the cameras were installed to 343 the year after, according to the report made public yesterday. Overall, accidents increased from 577 crashes the year before the cameras were installed to 582 the year after. The “crash severity cost” — which takes into account vehicle and property damage, emergency response and medical care — increased by nearly $1.2 million after the cameras were installed.”

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  • Point – Counterpoint

    Can We Please Stop Pretending Cars Are Greener Than Transit?

    leads to …

    Can We Drop the Fantasy That Transit Is Green?

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