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Today’s Headlines for Monday, August 29

  • Jessie Rosales, 45, Fatally Struck by Hit-and-Run Driver in North Lawndale (Sun-Times)
  • Denise Cavada, 49, Fatally Struck in Her Car by Driver Who Fled the Scene (ABC)
  • John Weighs in on New Law Clarifying Bicyclists’ Equal Rights on the Road (DNA)
  • CDOT Official Convicted in RedFlex Scandal May Get 10-30 Years Today (Tribune)
  • Tribune Looks at How Ventra Negatively Impacts Social Service Providers
  • Crain’s to Lawmakers: Jumpstart Negotiations Over Western Access Road to O’Hare
  • 47th Ward Will Use Menu Money for Pedestrian Countdown Signals (DNA)
  • Curbed Asks: What Are the Best Public Plazas in Chicago?
  • Will The New Bike Shop in the “High Fidelity” Storefront Make Your Top 5 List? (DNA)
  • It’s Getting Real in the Metra Quiet Car (Chicago Magazine)
  • What Did You Do on Your Bike This Summer? Share Your Epic Story on The Chainlink
  • National Shared Use Mobility Summit Takes Place October 17-19 in Chicago (SUMC)

Streetsblog USA is on vacation this week

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Engineers to U.S. DOT: Transportation Is About More Than Moving Cars

A trade group representing the transportation engineering profession thinks it’s high time for American policy makers to stop focusing so much on moving single-occupancy vehicles.

Should roads like this be considered a "success?" ITE doesn't think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

Should roads like this be considered a success? ITE doesn’t think so. Photo: Smart Growth America

U.S. DOT is currently deciding how it will assess the performance of state DOTs. Will it continue business as usual and equate success with moving huge numbers of cars? That’s what state transportation officials want, but just about everyone else disagrees — including professional transportation engineers.

In its comments to the Federal Highway Administration about how to measure performance, the Institute of Transportation Engineers — a trade group representing 13,000 professionals — said that, in short, the system should not focus so heavily on cars [PDF].

Here’s a key excerpt:

Throughout the current proposed rulemaking on NHS performance, traffic congestion, freight mobility, and air quality, an underlying theme is apparent: these measures speak largely to the experience of those in single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). While such a focus is understandable in the short-term, owing largely to the current availability of data from the NPMRDS and other national sources, ITE and its membership feel that FHWA should move quickly within the framework of the existing performance management legislation to begin developing performance measures that cater to multimodal transportation systems.

Read more…

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Portland Wants to Rethink Speed Limits By Factoring in Walkers and Bikers

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weilder Street from 35 to 25. Photo: Google Maps

Portland wants to change the speed limit on North Weidler Street from 35 to 25 mph. Photo: Google Maps

For cities trying to get a handle on traffic fatalities, dangerous motor vehicle speeds are an enormous problem. Once drivers exceed 20 mph, the chances that someone outside the vehicle will survive a collision plummet.

But even on city streets where many people walk and bike, streets with 35 or 40 mph traffic are common. Cities looking to reduce lethal vehicle speeds face a number of obstacles — including restrictions on how they can set speed limits.

State statutes usually limit how cities set speed limits. In Boston, for example, the City Councilhas voted numerous times to reduce the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, but state law won’t allow it.

Now Portland is taking on this problem. A pilot program expected to be approved by the Oregon Department of Transportation proposes a new way to evaluate what speeds are appropriate for urban areas.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines for Thursday, August 25

  • Active Trans‘ Clear the Way Campaign Encourages Reporting Sidewalk & Bikeway Obstructions
  • There Will Be a Parade Tonight at 5 PM on Argyle to Mark Opening of Shared Street (DNA)
  • Driver Fatally Struck Boeing VP Pamela French, 55, While She Biked in Hinsdale (Tribune)
  • Prosecutors: Teen Intentionally Ran Over Father 3 Times With Car, Killing Him (DNA)
  • Search for Car Theft Suspect Shuts Down Yellow Line (ABC)
  • Police Wrongly Ticketed Injured Cyclist But Jury Decided in His Favor (Kevenides)
  • Metra Adding Free Wi-Fi to 50 More Cars (Tribune)
  • Parking Lot Near Western Brown Line Stop to Be Replaced by TOD (Curbed)
  • New Law Would Make It Easier to Remove Problematic Pokemon Go Stops (DNA)
  • Ghost Bike Installation Planned for Fallen Cyclist Lisa Kuivinen 9/3 3PM at the Crash Site

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Earth to U.S. DOT: Streets Succeed When They Do More Than Move Cars

Will U.S. DOT encourage projects like the one on the left or the one on the right? Image: Transportation for America

Will U.S. DOT encourage urban streets like the one on the right to be designed like highways like the one on the left? Image: Transportation for America

What makes a street successful?

Does a street succeed when it’s economically productive, when it helps reduce carbon emissions, and when people can conveniently and safely get around using a variety of transportation modes, regardless of age, ability, or social status? Or does success boil down to moving as many cars as fast as possible?

The way public agencies answer these questions goes a long way toward determining what sort of streets our cities end up with. And that’s what’s at stake as U.S. DOT grapples with the question of how American transportation agencies should measure their performance. Unfortunately, the feds released a draft rule a few months ago that still emphasized the movement of cars above all.

Today Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports that local agencies and advocates from around the country have demanded a better standard from U.S. DOT — one that won’t subordinate people and cities to the movement of cars:

To develop a stronger alternative measure to submit to USDOT, SGA convened a working group of more than 30 local elected officials, state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and transit agencies, and national and state trade groups and advocacy organizations.

This work was supported by numerous state DOTs, MPOs, transit agencies and advocacy organizations; Oregon Metro (Portland) and Indy MPO; Trimet; Metro Atlanta Chamber and Indy Chamber; and the Transportation Equity Caucus, League of American Bicyclists, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, People for Bikes, PolicyLink, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center for Neighborhood Technology and many others.

Read more…

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Stark Divisions Between Dems and GOP on Climate Impacts of Transportation

How polarized are the two political parties on key questions about transportation policy and climate change? As you can imagine, the answer is “very.”

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), ranking member of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Wikipedia

California Senator Barbara Boxer. Photo: Wikipedia

The senior Democrat and Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — California’s Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, respectively — each wrote an opinion this week for the Eno Center for Transportation about a proposed federal rule to require state DOTs to measure their impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Boxer is the ranking Democratic member of the committee. Her column applauds the move to measure the climate impacts of state and regional transportation policy:

Establishment of a performance measure for carbon pollution is critically needed now. Since 1970, carbon emissions produced by the transportation sector have more than doubled, increasing at a faster rate than any other end-use sector. By requiring transportation agencies to track carbon emissions, we can evaluate whether transportation investments are effective in meeting the goal of protecting the environment.

Senator Jim Inhofe (OK) is chair of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Inhofe challenged the legitimacy of the rule:

The goal of the laws I co-authored is to improve the safety and advance the modernization of our roads and bridges. FHWA’s proposed GHG regulation would divert the limited time and resources of States and local governments away from this goal to pursue instead the administration’s unlawful and overzealous climate agenda.

Yes, the “overzealous agenda” of transparently documenting how much carbon pollution is caused by billions of dollars of spending on transportation.

FHWA regulators will be wading through these kinds and many other comments in the coming months as they produce a rule that may or may not require states and regional planning agencies to finally measure their impact on the climate.

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Today’s Headlines for Monday, August 22

  • Driver Crashes Into Restaurant at NW Corner of Fullerton/Kimball, Injuring 9 (Tribune)
  • Driver Seriously Injured Bike Rider in Chicago Ridge Saturday Night (CBS)
  • Dance Studio Held a Benefit for the Family of Cyclist Lisa Kuivinen Last Thursday (ABC)
  • Thoughts on Recent Fatal Crashes From Active Trans’ Jim Merrell
  • Police Activity on Southwest Side Causes Orange Line Delays (NBC)
  • The Latest Buzz on Jana Kinsman’s Bike-Powered Beekeeping Business (Tribune)
  • Frustrated by the Flatlands? Check Out These Local Mountain Biking Spots (CBS)
  • Chainlink’s Yasmeen Schuller & John Discuss Bike Safety Today at 9 a.m. on WBEZ 91.5 FM
  • Former City Hall Watchdog Faisal Khan Speaks at Chi Hack Night Tuesday at 6
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Carless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use

Many residents of American cities can’t escape the high cost of parking, even if they don’t own cars. Thanks to policies like mandatory parking requirements and the practice of “bundling” parking with housing, carless renters pay $440 million each year for parking they don’t use, according to a new study by C.J. Gabbe and Gregory Pierce in the journal Housing Policy Debate.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The financial burden works out to an average of $621 annually per household, or a 13 percent rent premium — and it is concentrated among households that can least afford it. “Minimum parking standards create a major equity problem for carless households,” said Gabbe. “71 percent of renters without a car live in housing with at least one parking space included in their rent.”

Parking is typically bundled with rent, making the cost of residential parking opaque. So Gabbe and Pierce set out to estimate how much people are actually paying for the parking that comes with their apartments.

Crunching Census data from a representative sample of more than 38,000 rental units in American urban areas, they isolated the relationship between parking provision and housing prices. They determined that on average, a garaged parking space adds about $1,700 per year in rent — a 17 percent premium.

Looking only at carless households, the average cost is $621 per year and the premium is 13 percent. On average these households earn about $24,000 annually, compared to $44,000 for the whole sample, and they get no value whatsoever out of the parking spaces bundled with their rent.

Gabbe and Pierce estimate that nationwide there are 708,000 households without a car renting an apartment with a garaged parking space, for a total cost burden of about $440 million per year due to unused parking.

So how can parking policy create fairer housing prices?

Gabbe and Pierce say cities should eliminate minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable. Cities can also help by allowing and encouraging landlords to “unbundle” the cost of parking from the cost of rent — so people who don’t have cars aren’t forced to pay for parking spaces they don’t use.

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State DOTs to Feds: We Don’t Want to Reveal Our Impact on Climate Change

State DOTs don’t want to report on how their spending decisions affect greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Andrew Boone

Every year state DOTs receive tens of billions of dollars in transportation funds from the federal government. By and large, they can do whatever they want with the money, which in most states means wasting enormous sums on pork-laden highway projects. Now that U.S. DOT might impose some measure of accountability on how states use these funds, of course the states are fighting to keep their spending habits as opaque as possible.

At issue are proposed “performance measures” that U.S. DOT will establish to track whether states make progress on goals like reducing traffic injuries or cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. For the first time, state DOTs will have to set targets and measure their progress toward achieving them. It is strictly a transparency initiative — there are no penalties for failure to meet the targets.

Nevertheless, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), doesn’t want to expose the effect of state transportation policies to public scrutiny. AASHTO has released a 110-page comment [PDF] on U.S. DOT’s proposed performance measures, rattling off a litany of objections.

Here are a few highlights:

AASHTO doesn’t want to measure greenhouse gas emissions

In a meeting with federal officials in May [PDF], AASHTO leaders opposed a rule that would require state DOTs to measure their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists and even some state DOTs support this rule (there is some diversity of opinion within AASHTO). But the AASHTO leadership really dislikes it. In its comments, AASHTO said it doesn’t believe the feds have the “legislative authority” make state DOTs track carbon emissions.

Read more…

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Toledo Neighbors Fight Back Against City’s Plan to Widen Their Road

Roseanne Martinez has lived at the corner of Secor and Bancroft Roads, just over the border from Toledo, for almost 30 years.

The Martinez house is one of 13 that might be leveled to make way for a wider road in the Toledo area. Photo via Dana Dunbar

The Martinez house is one more than a dozen that might be leveled to make way for a wider road in the Toledo area. Photo via Dana Dunbar

She and her husband were married in the backyard. They raised four kids there. Every Sunday, they walk right across the street to attend church at Hope Lutheran.

But Martinez found out recently she might lose her home — or at the very least, a big part of her yard — to a road widening project. The City of Toledo and the neighboring upscale suburb of Ottawa Hills are planning to widen the residential stretch of Secor Road, adding roundabouts, 12-foot lanes and maybe even a turn lane. Martinez’s house and about 13 others are in the crosshairs.

“I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us,” Martinez said of learning about the project. A roundabout would bring traffic almost up to her front door. Now she’s not sure she can sell, and if she stays, and the house isn’t demolished, her quality of life might be ruined.

“We’re long-time members of the community,” she said. “We were really blindsided. ”

This $12 million widening project isn’t all bad. Replacing a couple high-crash intersections with roundabouts would be a legitimate win for safety. And the plan calls for adding a sidewalk on the east side of the road.

But the lack of concern for surrounding residents and intense focus on providing wide lanes for car traffic is troubling residents like Dana Dunbar, an Ottawa Hills resident who has also lived in Toledo’s Old Orchard neighborhood. Dunbar says she thinks the city is missing a big opportunity, potentially undermining one of the healthiest residential and commercial areas in the region.

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