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Old 03-13-2014, 02:23 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,171 posts, read 29,686,954 times
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Over on the Strong Towns blog, there is a critique of transit planning in Minneapolis (apparently they are in the create shiny new rail to nowhere camp)

Why do you keep asking us to change to get this Transit*Line? - Strong Towns Blog - Strong Towns

Quote:
If Metro Transit actually had some operations dollars to not only operate our current system more frequently, but also TEST new transit corridors before we spend billions and hope our projections didn't suck…It would be a lot easier to show empirically where our investments will have high ROI if we had ridership numbers and not just study projections.
.........
Here is where I transition back and call out another elephant in the room in the MSP region. A great number of the people planning, designing, building new capital transit expenditures - and those holding offices to approve all those actions - don't use transit.
And then he talks about the rail bias (for people who don't use transit often)
Quote:
What comes out of that when proposing something new and unpredictable often sounds like this at public workshops:

I want things to stay the same, except for adding this transit line, and we have to make sure we mitigate all the bad things that line will bring, even though I think the line will ultimately be a good thing for our town.

Heavily guarded optimism. The longer we've been around, the more likely it is we've been burned by the big project. Think about the highways that sliced into our urban fabric. The monolithic, ugly, high rises that replaced fine grained housing and interesting streetscape. The once shiny and new shopping complex that is now a hollow shell of former itself. The era of the Suburban Experiment scarred our collective psyche of what is likely to happen when we paint big, brush strokes our landscape.

.....

But go back to those three original statements about building typology, parking and right of way at the top. Inside those sentences, you'll see that people might be willing to let you do something different if they can also keep what they know works. And whatever shiny new thing you do, it better be REALLY GOOD.

Define really good? In one word: Rail.


Now, I know that the official regional planning documents say that mode has not been determined for future transit corridors yet. But other than a few BRT lines down freeways, anytime you speak with your neighbors or friends about future transit, the conversation always ends up at rail. To the general public, rail is sexy.
And the public process mostly focuses on compromise not logic...

Quote:
"Phew, glad that public process is over"

...The projects that keep coming out of those processes are expensive, take the alignment path of least political resistance, and have huge variations in the types of land uses around the proposed stations (some awesome walkable places, others cornfields and swamps surrounded by stroads). How well that line serves people and connects system wide destinations gets a little fuzzy along the way.
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Old 03-13-2014, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Mt. Airy
5,311 posts, read 5,335,456 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
Let's be clear that things like bike lanes, dog parks and streetcars just didn't "happen." It's not like tyrannical councilmembers and aldermen imposed these things on the urban gentry: "They forced these things down our throats. Honest! It just so happens we like all of the things they've forced down our throats." A lot of urbanists put these things front and center, and when public money is needed to fund their pet projects, tensions naturally flare.

As I see it, if so-called urbanists are really concerned about the environment and social justice, then they'd start putting projects front and center that directly impact the lives of the people they claim to be advocating for. And I'm talking about real transportation solutions, not BS trickle-down urbanism where the masses supposedly benefit from a bunch of liberal arts-degree holding yuppies surfing from one bar to the next on the latest technology from Prague.
So much disdain, so little time

I wasn't saying that "urbanists" don't put those things forward. However, politicians have their fair share of greasing the palms of developers/businesses just the same. It's not always the scheming evil urbanists who are yanking the chairs out from under the poor urban school children to fund what they want.

Last edited by AJNEOA; 03-13-2014 at 02:53 PM..
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Old 03-13-2014, 04:51 PM
 
Location: Jamestown, NY
7,841 posts, read 7,334,770 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
Yes and no. I'm in favor of expanding mass transit, but I'm usually not in favor of the way some people want to do it.

A lot of urbanists lobby hard for rail projects in cities that can't really support them. If the region's primary CBD only has about 4% of all employment in the region, then rail is not going to be very effective. Yet people will lobby for rail because "that's the way Europe does it." This is not Europe and we have a completely different urban landacape. I think people get frustrated with urbanists because they propose transit projects they think will shape the city of their dreams (50 or 100 years down the road) instead of lobbying for projects that will help the most people right now.

For example, the $462 million Charlotte spent on a 9-mile light rail line could have been used to expand bus service to lots of areas that didn't have it. Before the light rail, the city had 16,000 transit riders. A few years after, it has 17,000 transit riders. Even if ridership doubles, it wasn't worth the price. But if you give most urbanists the choice between practical transit and cool transit, the latter will win nearly each and every time. Sure, the people who can afford to buy or rent near the fancy new light rail line come out on top, but the poor people who need transit the most often come out as the losers, as more resources are diverted from bus routes to buoy rail.
This is exactly the case in Buffalo, NY. In the 1970s, the COB had a choice between LLRT that would have used an existing city-owned ROW that encircled the city and connected most residential neighbborhoods with downtown or a subway system that would run beneath Main Street between downtown and the city line. The LLRT was much less costly, but of course Buffalo politicians had to have the subway to compete with Toronto because we all "know" that the only reason Toronto has grown into Canada's largest and most prosperous city is because of its subway system.

Fast forward 40 years and Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in the US, has lost about a third of its 1970 population, and heavily subsidizes the subway and its declining ridership. NONE of the great benefits the subway advocates predicted came true, but the intellectual descendents of those advocates constantly whine about how the suburbs "sank" the subway by NOT allowing it to expand beyond the city and drool over the prospect of a rail line between downtown and the airport. Meanwhile, the NFTA continuously cuts service and raises fares.
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:05 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,014 posts, read 102,634,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schermerhorn View Post
BINGO. I just started reading this thread and am only on page four, so apologies if praise has already been heaped on Jade for this valuable point, but this is the crux of the issue right here.

In today's USA, automobile drivers are favored in every possible way, with every post-WWII development designed around car ownership. Consequently, American society has turned a number of people into de facto second class citizens, without any acknowledgement of the fact. Despite the admirable progress of the civil rights movement, for the non-driver things have been going steadily backwards.

If you can't drive, but think you're OK because you can walk to your workplace a mile away, and your employer transfers you to another location that has no transit, not only will you have to quit, but the situation will be seen as somehow your fault. "Take a cab," the over-entitled car owner will say, forgetting that unless you're making a very high income, hiring a taxi to commute to work will cost you so many hours' wages that you might as well just stay home.

Imagine a company that transferred an employee in a wheelchair from her accessible first-floor office to another building where she has to work on the fourth floor and there's no elevator. She can't get up there, and the boss says, "Can't you hire a home health aide to carry you up there?" The news would be all over that! Arnold Diaz would be saying, "Shame on you!"

But do the equivalent with automobiles, and nobody cares.

Once you see it, you can never unsee it. Ubiquitous free parking, which is often written into city codes. The positions of street signs (optimized for visibility from the driver's seat of a car). The thicknesses of the plastic bags that your groceries are put in (which are designed around a 2-minute walk to the parking lot and not a 30-minute walk to your house). "Free" roads and interstate highways that your taxes pay for even if you're forbidden to use them yourself. The length of red and green on traffic lights. Whether or not employers and schools will declare a "snow day" (you never hear about "rainstorm days" because even in the heaviest rain everyone is expected to get to work, by car, and on a snowy day when the car owners can't make it, you won't get credit for being able to pull on your snow boots and trudge to work, because work will close) -- all of this assumes that everyone drives and does not walk.

The average driver never thinks about all these little things -- s/he just notices, unconsciously, that things seem a lot easier and more natural with a car. And so in the suburbs even people who might enjoy taking the train never do. Seniors who would be a lot safer on a train cling to their cars. And just about everyone born with epilepsy, impaired eyesight, or any other condition that prevents them from driving, finds that the vast majority of American towns are closed off to them and that the average person has no sympathy at all.

In the more hard-nosed 19th century I could imagine "progress" leaving a segment of society in the dust like this. Bit int he supposedly more-sensitive late 20th? How did we let this happen?
Oh, Lord! Every stereotype in the book!
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:12 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,014 posts, read 102,634,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I see a good deal of coverage on BRT, it is hip to take a field trip to Bogota or Curtibia. I wouldn't have four out about BRT otherwise.

Some "urbanists" have a rail bias, many people don't. Human Transit posts about BRT all the time.
This is from a couple of weeks ago: Why More U.S. Cities Need to Embrace Bus-Rapid Transit - Yonah Freemark - The Atlantic Cities

Our BRT project got significantly downgraded when progressive Berkeley decided they didn't want BRT because of parking concerns.

Americans don't like buses. Politicians don't get it:
Why mass transit is doomed in America: Politicians donít know people who use it - Salon.com
How the U.S.'s obsession with cars is hurting the middle class - The Week

We can't even have funding equity for drivers and transit users for commuter tax breaks. Transit users get half as much as the drivers.
Commuter Tax Break Set To Plummet For 2014 - Forbes

This onion article sums it up quite perfectly: Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others | The Onion - America's Finest News Source



Usually practical means stuff in the operating budget and not the capital budget unfortunately. And no one wants to fund capital anything, maintaining infrastructure or operations isn't really a funding priority whether it is transit or roads.

I don't agree this is a "urbanist" problem, this is par for the course for all infrastructure and policy decisions in the US. We only notice the issues when the white people* come in and complain. It is the modus operandi for american cities. If we as a nation cared about poor people, cutting WIC, unemployment and other social benefits wouldn't be up for debate every 10 minutes. Most urbanists are like typical Americans, they don't know any people who rely on transit.

*Don't take this as prejudice or an inflammatory comment about white people
(One of the latest articles)
You never heard of BRT in the US? Gosh, they're building it here!
U.S. 36 contract approved Wednesday between CDOT, HPTE & Plenary Roads amid protests - 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
Most American cities are sprawl. The average American city does not look like San Francisco. Add up the populations of SF, Seattle, Oakland, DC, Chicago, Philly and Boston and you come away with a small percentage of people that live in cities across the country. Most American cities do not have a large concentration of jobs or amenities in a small area (2-3 sq. miles) that can support mass transit. Not only do you need employment density, you also need "structural" density to discourage people from driving. Most cities have neither.

So the question becomes whether you want to spend $462 million, as Charlotte did, to move an extra 1,500 people per day. I don't think that's a good investment.
Actually, SF is this little nucleus surrounded by 8 million people living in urban/suburban areas of various densities, mostly somewhat low.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
The question is what is on you road map for the next 10-20 years of growth/congestion/etc and what is the best option.

Not sure what the number is, or what Charlotte's plans are, but if they are matching this light rail with denser business/residential/commerical development and reigning in the city limits, then it could work out eventually.

LA is pretty sprawl too, yet they are investing in transit and it is working. And people are switching their travel plans. But LA transit looks like it goes to where people already want/need to go. It sounds like Charlotte needs to build destinations.
My crystal ball is broken.
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:20 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,014 posts, read 102,634,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
But they can't afford the ongoing cost.

Transportation represents 20% of a working class person's overall budget

How The Poor, The Middle Class And The Rich Spend Their Money : Planet Money : NPR

Between housing and transportation, 50% of the budget is gone. And what happens when the working class person can't afford the car repair, or insurance premiums go up or.....
According to that article, those earning >$150K spend 43% of their income on housing and transportation; those earning $50K to $69,999 spend 48% of theirs on same, and those earning $15K to $19,999 spend 49.6% of theirs on same. The difference between the richest and poorest is not that large, and the difference between the middle class and poor is practically negligible. The middle class actually spend less on housing than either the poor or the wealthy.

Percent of transportation for all three "classes": Poorest: 20.4%, Middle: 21.3% (more than the poor); Richest: 15.5%.
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:25 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,990 posts, read 41,998,698 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post

Actually, SF is this little nucleus surrounded by 8 million people living in urban/suburban areas of various densities, mostly somewhat low.
broken.
you could say something rather similar about dc, Philly and Boston, though not with the exact numbers. Doesn't change what San Francisco itself is though.

Last edited by nei; 03-13-2014 at 06:35 PM..
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:25 PM
 
924 posts, read 1,173,016 times
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I don't because the system goes basically nowhere where I live and the few places it goes it is just as cheap and quicker for me to drive and park. If I lived in Manhattan it might be different.
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:28 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post

My crystal ball is broken.
that's a large part of what a planning dept does, predict to plan for future needs
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Old 03-13-2014, 06:51 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,014 posts, read 102,634,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
you could say something rather similar about Philly and Boston, though not with the exact numbers. Doesn't change what San Francisco itself is though.
Philly, maybe. Boston, not so much. SF's population is 1/10 that entire area. Boston is about 1/7 of the metro population.
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