Thursday, 28 of August of 2014

Category » Transit

Another Example of Vibrant Urbanism

Some things you just can’t make up … like this: NYC Subway Elevator Inoperable After Being Urinated In Too Much.

I’ve heard of “vertical sprawl” before, but now we’ll have to add a new term to the lexicon: “vertical urinal problem.”

“An elevator at a Long Island Rail Road station was number one when it came to being inoperable last month. And number one had a lot to do with it.  The elevator at Woodside Station in Queens was only in operation 58 percent of the time.  That is because it has been urinated on so much, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have said urine has actually rusted the floor and gotten into some of inner workings of the lift, causing problems.”

Yet another reason why people do not embrace the transit-oriented vision of Smart Growthers.


Unintentionally Hilarious Headline of the Week

From the Silicon Valley Mercury News: “Happy 25th birthday of light rail, VTA: Now let’s make it work!”

Analogous to the parents who say to their kid living in the basement, “Honey, you’ve hit 25 … think you can look for a job now?


So Much for Letting the People Decide

For two years citizen-activists have been gathering signatures to force the Vancouver City Council to put on the ballot a public vote on light rail.  The proposed rail line would extend TriMet’s MAX line from Portland to Vancouver.  They apparently had the signatures, turning in a certified petition with the names of 5,479 city residents, seven more than were required.

But the county’s supervisor of elections, Tim Likness, has invalidated the petition “because of a technicality, according to the Vancouver Columbian.  Apparently, 94 signatures were set aside because they didn’t have a tally total at the bottom of the page.

This is obviously an example to the wedge rail transit creates in a community … not between blacks and whites or the haves and the have-nots or any other division we typically see on political matters.  This division is between those with elite visions of transforming our communities and those who foot the bills in the communities we already have and kind of like the communities as they are.  And the elites must not allow the little people to vote on their extravagant visions!


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.


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.


Congestion Costs in the UK

The Daily Mail reports that gridlock on Britain’s roads is costing families £500 a year in wasted time and fuel.  $800 U.S. dollars.  This represents a more comprehensive way to assessing costs than from previous studies, for it includes indirect costs from businesses passing along the costs to end-users.  From the INRIX summary: “These costs are a result of the direct impact of traffic on drivers in terms of wasted time and fuel as well as indirect costs to U.K. households resulting from businesses passing these same costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

Sounds like the Brits need to abandon their sprawling car-centric ways and adopt Smart Growth, right?  Well, as ADC friend Phil Hayward says: “The UK under its Town and Country Planning system, after 60 years, has attained several targets that urban planning fads aim for. It has the highest urban densities of any western nations. It has the most compact urban form. It has very high petrol taxes and massive subsidies of commuter rail and subway systems.”

In other words, it exemplifies Smart Growth.  Consequently, Great Britain also has the West’s “least affordable housing, in spite of the lowest land consumption per person; the west’s greatest social exclusion, particularly from home ownership, the west’s worst traffic congestion delays, the west’s longest trip-to-work times, and the west’s worst local air pollution.”  (By contrast, the U.S. with much lower densities has the most affordable housing and much shorter trip-to-work times.


What’s Going On On New York Subways?

Yesterday brought us news of a second fatal shoving incident in front of an oncoming New York subway in less than a month.  On December 3, another innocent bystander was shoved onto the tracks as a subway came speeding in.

Of course, there have been many tragedies over the years of people accidentally falling onto tracks and being crushed by rail cars, and this method of demise has also been picked up by people committing suicide.  But this ghastly behavior of shoving seems to be a new development.  Was this a copycat killing?  The report says the woman was mentally ill.  If so, why was she unsupervised?

More importantly, what action should New York take to prevent further tragedies.  They cannot ban subways (to borrow the logic of the gun control crowd).  Can the move the waiting area, say, eight feet back from the edge of the platform?  I’m not sure, but I’m afraid to say I don’t believe we’re seeing the last of these “murder by transit” episodes.


Vibrant Urbanism – Christmas Edition

Just the other day, I was telling someone that it is noticeable that you see far more lawn ornaments in the lower density, suburban ring around cities than you do in the central city.  This is due, in part, to the migration of families to the suburbs.  Not many moms and dads want to raise kids in a tiny apartment above a Starbucks.

It’s also due to urban crime.  The person I spoke to responded that she had once lived near Gainesville’s downtown and remembers having her Christmas decorations stolen.  She has since moved to the rural outskirts of town.  In St. Louis, police are warning homeowners that the presence of Christmas lawn ornaments makes them a target for crime.

In Chicago, thugs are choosing a different way to get into the holiday spirit.  On Chicago’s rail transit Blue Line, a woman was assaulted by a man who had a stocking filled with … goodies … er, no, … coal … er, no, … how about poop?  Yes, feces.  A man attacked a woman with a sock full of feces.

“It was like the biggest degradation I’ve ever [experienced]. I wish he had just hit me,” the victim said.


The Federal Push for Smart Growth

With Obama re-elected, we can expect an even stronger push for Smart Growth from the feds.  The U.S. Department of Transportation says there will be no slowing on sustainable communities.  This will come primarily through the Livable Communities Act, which I previewed here.  In short, this is a preference for mandates over markets and central planning over property rights.  Spend lots of money on transit and, oh yeah, push much higher densities … all represented in clever soundbites and catchphrases … but also bringing the very things we don’t want.


Rail Transit Divides Community

For those who believe rail transit can bring communities together by creating vibrant, livable cities, this New York Times article should give you pause: Rail Plan Stirs Distrust Among Black Angelenos