Tag: Active Transport

Sunday Train: Reflections on a visit to the East Coast

Cross-posted from The Sunday Train ~ apologies for the jet-lag induced cross-posting delays

Your intrepid sustainable energy and transport reporter was recently required to engage in some official business with an overseas consulate located in New York city, and in order to be able to afford to sit and wait as the wheels of bureaucracy as long as might have been required, obtained lodgings in a relatively cheap motel in New Brunswick and took the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train back and forth. This week’s Sunday Train is a collection of scattered observations made along the way.

Sunday Train: What Future for America’s Deadly Cul-de-Sacs?

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 triggered the Depression that we appear to be exiting this summer. And it was triggered by the collapse of the Great Turn of the Century Suburban Housing Bubble.

In coming out of the recent Depression, one driver of residential property values, the Cul de Sac, seems to be in conflict with a new driver: walkability. In October 2013, the Realtor(R) Magazine Online, of the National Association of Realtors, wrote, in Neighborhoods: More Walkable, More Desirable that:

Neighborhoods that boast greater walkability tend to have higher resale values in both residential and commercial properties, finds a recent study published in Real Estate Economics. In fact, a 2009 report by CEOs for Cities found that just a one-point increase in a city’s walk score could potentially increase homes’ values by $700 to $3,000.

And Ken Harney, writing for NewHomeSource.com, observes in that:

The core concept – connecting people with where they want to work, play and own a home by creating attractive neighborhood environments that make maximum use of existing transit infrastructure – fits many post-recession households’ needs, regardless of age. Older owners of suburban homes are downsizing into townhouses and condo units close to or in the central city, often in locations near transit lines. Younger buyers, fed up with long commutes to work, want to move to places where they can jump onto mass transit and get off the road.

Many of these buyers also have an eye on economics. For example, Bill Locke, a federal contracts consultant in northern Virginia, said that although owning a LEED-certified townhome near a Metro transit stop “is a really big deal” for himself and his wife, he sees the unit they recently purchased in the Old Town Commons development in Alexandria, Va., as a long-term investment that will grow in value “because it makes so much more sense” than competing, traditional subdivisions farther out from the city.

So, what does this mean for the sustainable transport and for the future of the deadly American Suburban Cul de Sac? Let’s have a chat about it, below the fold.

Sunday Train: GOP Transport Bill proposes to Cut That TIGER

I guess Sunday Train did not cover the White House transport proposal, which put forward a $302b 4-year surface transportation authorization, more than $20b per year higher than current levels. With respect to rail funding, it proposed reorganizing intercity passenger rail funding into Current Rail Service and Rail Service Improvement programs, merging the Amtrak funding which was authorized in FY 2013 and 2014 with the Higher Speed / High Performance rail program which was zeroed out in the funding that passed Congress.

For the 2015 budget year, it proposed:

  • for Federal-Aid Highways an additional $7.1b (+18%);
  • for Transit-Formula grants, an additional $5.3b (+62%);
  • for Transit New Starts, an additional $370m (+15%);
  • for TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), an additional $650m, (+108%));
  • for “Current Rail Service”, an additional $1.1b (+43% compared to previous Amtrak authorization);
  • for the new “Rail Service Improvement Programs”, $2.3b;
  • for the new Freight Program, $1b;
  • for the new Critical Immediate Investments stimulus spending (aka “Fix It First” projects), $4.85b;
  • for the new Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation (FAST), $1b;
  • for the new Rapid Growth Area Transit Program, $500m.

But the President proposes budgets, the Congress authorizes spending and appropriates the funds within (and sometimes well under) those authorized levels, and with the current Republican House Majority, any White House transportation budget is largely a work of fiction. It is, at most, a set of ambit claims for the complex three-way negotiations over budgeting between the House, the Senate, and the White House.

However, now the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee has released its Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, so now that three-way negotiation process can get started. The tl;dr version of the House proposal is, “If you like our current collapsing infrastructure, boy do we have a budget for you!”

Sunday Train: A Nation of Cycleways vs Level of Service

Sacramento Kings fans rejoice! The California State Legislature has passed and Governor Brown has signed a measure paving the way for a new downtown Sacramento Arena, potentially keeping the Kings from high-tailing it to Seattle!

What does this have to do with sustainable transport? More than someone would think who only read the headlines. The bill as passed involves several changes to the evaluation of projects that will benefit sustainable transport projects, including:

Provisions of SB 743 will:


–Remove parking and aesthetics standards as grounds for legal challenges against developments in urban infill areas near transit stops.


–Modernize the statewide measurements against which traffic impacts are assessed and resolved, allowing developers to offset the impacts by building near mass transit stations.


–Expand an exemption from CEQA litigation for mixed residential/commercial projects located within transit priority areas where a full environmental impact review has already been completed.

The first of these three reforms reduces the opportunity to block a project on the grounds that it does not provide sufficient subsidy to motorists in the form of parking. The third of the three reforms reduces one of the disadvantages that mixed-use Transit-Oriented-Development faces compared to greenfield sprawl development.

But it is the second of the three reforms that is the real lede: within a half mile of a transit service that meets a quality of service threshold, it is no longer necessary to prove that the project maintains the same “Level of Service” to automobiles alone as an aspect of “Environmental Quality”.

Sunday Train: Rapid Rail and Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy (pt 2)

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

Last week, I considered the concept of Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policies: the kind of policies that we will now have to pursue if we become serious about Climate Change, because of the 16+ years we will have wasted since 2000 that would have given us the opportunity to pursue a more gradualist approach. At that time, there was a debate that could be characterized as an argument between “incrementalism” and “purism”. However, at present, and therefore by the time the current administration will be completed, we have passed the point of asking “how fast should we go”, and have passed into “how fast can we go” territory. Hence the Pedal to the Metal approach.

Last week, I did not rehash Micheal Hoexter’s overview of a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy, but rather looked at the leading edge of that policy package, what I dubbed “front-runner” policies, and looked the Steel Interstate as one example of a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy package. This week, I am going to turn from Rapid Freight Rail and consider what kind of Rapid Passenger Rail policy would qualify as a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy.

Sunday Train: Sustainable Real Estate Development is Good for the Economy and Other Growing Things

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

As a member of the WorldWide Transit Cabal (not to be confused with the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal, since of course their membership is secret, though at times my blogging is as active as there’s), I have long argued that development of sustainable transport will be good for the economy as well as other growing things (to paraphrase the National Lampoon).

Recently, a study by Professor Gary Pivo has been released that demonstrates that this is not just a forward looking statement. Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development is presently good for home values and are associated with lower risk of foreclosure. How good? To quote Ped Shed’s summary of the research results:

The second hypothesis was that default risk was reduced by sustainability features (or conversely, risk was increased by unsustainable features). This also turned out to be true. The effect of the variables was substantial:

  1. Commute time: Every 10-minute increase in average commute time increased the risk of default by 45%.
  2. Rail commute: Where at least 30% of the residents took a subway or elevated train to work, the risk of default decreased by 64.4%. New York City was omitted from this calculation because it skewed the results.
  3. Walk commute: Every increase of 5 percentage points in the percent of residents who walk to work decreased the risk of default by 15%.
  4. Retail presence: Where there were at least 16 retail establishments nearby, the risk of default decreased by 34.4%.
  5. Affordability: For properties with some units required to be affordable, the risk of default decreased by 61.9%.
  6. Freeway presence: Where properties were located within 1,000 feet of a freeway, the risk of default increased by 59%.
  7. Park presence: Where properties were located within 1 mile of a protected area, the risk of default decreased by 32.5%.

And this does not seem to be just “fishing for results”: adding these factors to a model used by other researchers, including “characteristics of the loan, property, neighborhood and location, and regional and national economies” improved the accuracy of the model on four measures of goodness of fit.

Sunday Train: 2013 ~ the Year of American Bikeshare

New York City gave me Bikeshare for my birthday (June 2):

Citi Bike officially launched to annual members on Monday, May 27. As of 5 p.m., members had made more than 6,000 bike trips, and traveled over 13,000 miles – greater than half the Earth’s circumference! Visit Citi Bike’s blog for more stats, facts and tips.

Membership opens to daily and weekly users on June 2.

Well, it opened to people taking out an annual membership on May 27, but I don’t live anywhere near New York, so if I get to use it, it will be as a “daily or weekly” user.

Sunday Train: Social Dividends and Carbon Taxation

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

One thing we will likely be hearing soon, once the election is over and attention inside the beltway returns to the regular programming of how to shrink the middle class and ensure that the resulting growing numbers of working poor are as miserable as possible, is the idea of including Carbon Taxes as a revenue raising component of a “Grand Bargain”.

This has been floated already. An “Ayres Law Group” “Policy Alert” from June of 2011 noted that this had been raised by the Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute, and Bipartisan Policy Institute.

A lot of people reading this are likely to suspect something is fishy when a firm that takes on “environmental” cases and has clients including oil companies is alerting their client of something, but alarm bells should really start ringing when the Alert notes:

This conclusion emerges from a series of studies recently funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating public discourse about ways to address the country’s fiscal challenges.

If this notion of including the Carbon Tax as part of a “Grand Bargain” is passed through rather than stonewalled by one of the chief propagandists for the public deficit hysteria bullshit that has become a chronic infection in our mess media, it surely deserves some serious, critical, scrutiny.

tl;dr summary: No. Even more than that, HELL no. Opponents of the climate suicide of our industrial society who fall for this will have been well and truly suckered, as the German Greens supporting neoliberal fantasies and “responsible” fiscal policy were among the enablers of the austerity policies that are ravaging European economies as I write.