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Bike-Share Open Data Standard Clears the Way for Better Trip Planning Apps

It’s about to get easier to plan trips that include bike-share.


It’s about to get easier for developers of apps like Citymapper to incorporate bike-share data.

Yesterday, the North American Bikeshare Association, a trade group representing transportation agencies and private firms involved in operating bike-share systems, announced that it is adopting an open data standard. NABSA includes Motivate, the company that operates Citi Bike, Divvy, Bay Area Bike Share, and several other systems in American cities.

The policy means that data about station locations and bike and dock availability will be much easier for software developers to incorporate into trip planning apps. Bike-share data will be released in the same format that transit agencies use, known as the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

Previously, variations between systems made the use of bike-share data a cumbersome, one-city-at-time process for developers. Motivate spokesperson Dani Simons said in an email that the open data platform clears the way for rapid integration of bike-share information by companies with huge user bases, like Google and Apple.

“Transit provides a standard data feed already,” she said, “which makes it easier for these bigger players to provide transit information to customers, which in turn makes it easier for an individual to decide to take the MTA or the Tokyo Metro or the Portland Max, even if they’re new to taking transit in New York, Tokyo or Portland. We want that same level of seamlessness and ease for bike share customers as well.”

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It’s Time to Stop Pretending That Roads Pay for Themselves

If nothing else, the current round of federal transportation legislating should end the myth that highways are a uniquely self-sufficient form of infrastructure paid for by “user fees,” a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls.

Highways have been massively subsidized for many years, but now it’s going to be harder to ignore. Graph: U.S. PIRG

With all the general tax revenue that goes toward roads in America, car infrastructure has benefited from hefty subsidies for many years. But at the federal level, the road gang could always argue that the gas tax paid for the Highway Trust Fund. Not anymore.

The gas tax has stagnated at the same rate since 1993, and the Highway Trust Fund has been bailed out so many times over the last decade, it’s hard to keep count. A long-term transportation bill was supposed to fix that. Instead, the six-year bill on its way to passage right now in Washington may finally bury the idea that American highways are wholly paid for by the gas tax.

Despite gas prices plummeting to barely more than $2 a gallon, and despite pressure from interest groups on both the right and left, Congress has never seriously considered raising the gas tax to cover the cost of the federal transportation program. That means roads are in line for way more subsidies.

It’s unclear exactly how much subsidy the final bill will contain, since the House and Senate bills have yet to be reconciled. But it looks like about $85 billion will be needed to fill the gap over six years. Part of that figures to come from raiding the Federal Reserve and part from a gimmicky one-shot tax on “repatriated” overseas corporate profits. Either way, we’re not talking about “user fees.”

In the House bill, the combined subsidy would account for a quarter of the $322 billion in transportation spending over six years. The subsidy will only get larger in future bills as the purchasing power of the gas tax continues to erode, unless Congress can overcome its aversion to asking drivers to pay for roads.

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Bill Bratton Has the Perfect Response to a “Bike-Yield” Law for NYC

Yesterday Council Member Antonio Reynoso introduced a resolution calling for state traffic laws that recognize the differences between bikes and cars. The idea is that people on bikes should be able to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs, proceeding after they check for crossing pedestrians and motor vehicles and the coast is clear.

Well, the Post got the perfect response from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton:

“The city is going to great pains put bicycle lanes in, and to exclude the bicyclists from the traffic rules that everybody else, pedestrians and vehicles are supposed to follow, I would not be supportive of that under any circumstances.”

Solid thinking here. Can you believe these ingrates, the bicyclists? It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, biking, or driving a 55-foot tractor-trailer — we all have to follow the same rules.

When I know I’m going to be walking, I never forget my front and rear lights before I leave my apartment. Out on the sidewalk, I always come to a full stop at stop signs, and I use hand signals whenever I turn or change lanes. I know not everyone is as scrupulous as I am, but if we excluded pedestrians from the traffic rules that everybody else, bicycles and vehicles are supposed to follow, the social order would collapse and there would be riots in the streets.
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How Traffic Growth Projections Become a Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

Transportation planners in Austin are in the beginning stages of a pattern just about every community in the U.S. is familiar with.

Image: Carfree Austin

The way to break the traffic projection prophecy is to avoid catering to it in the first place. Image: Carfree Austin

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) says traffic on a local highway — South MoPac — is going to grow a lot. And if Austin doesn’t spend $400 million building new managed lanes, they say, the result will be gridlock.

But Network blog Car-Free Austin says in the past, similar doomsday traffic projections haven’t come to pass. When Austin Public Works wanted to expand the Lamar Bridge in the 1990s, the justification was an impending 28 percent increase in traffic. But the project was rejected, and since then traffic on the bridges has actually declined 27 percent.

If the bridge had been widened, though, the traffic forecast might have been accurate, Car-Free Austin explains:

1.  If you build it, they will come.

Because of a well-established phenomenon known as induced demand, every new lane that gets built will fill up within 5-10 years and congestion will return to its bumper-to-bumper equilibrium.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Bratton on Reynoso Bike-Yield Bill: NYC Has Done Enough for Cyclists (Post)
  • Will de Blasio Alter Affordable Housing Plan to Appease Parking-Obsessed CBs? (Gotham Gazette)
  • De Blasio Seeks Horse Carriage Compromise; No Mention of Fake Old-Timey Electric Cars (NYT)
  • Avella Backs CityTicket Expansion With Vague Pledge That Albany Would Cover Hit to MTA (News)
  • Motorist Space Hogs and Queens Courier Bullish on “Battle” Against Woodhaven Boulevard SBS
  • Downtown Alliance Plans Permanent Ped Upgrades, But No Bike Lane, for Water Street (Tribeca Trib)
  • Treyger Bills Would Codify Tree-Pruning Protocols After Death of Cyclist Jin Liu (Gothamist)
  • City Settles Suit With Pedestrian Who Claimed Short Walk Signal Contributed to Serious Crash (News)
  • Robert Moses Devotee Joe Borelli Has Some Ideas for Staten Island Road Improvements (Advance)
  • Pass the Vegan Stuffing: Tri-State Counts Its Blessings

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


CB 5 Committee to DOT: You Oughta Take a Traffic Lane Outta Sixth Avenue

The DOT proposal for Sixth Avenue adds a protected bike lane but doesn’t remove any motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

Like their counterparts at Community Board 4, members of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee think DOT’s proposed redesign of Sixth Avenue isn’t bold enough. Unlike CB 4, the committee voted for the plan anyway in a unanimous decision last night.

The proposal would add a protected bike lane from 14th Street to 33rd Street, narrowing the avenue’s four motor vehicle lanes without eliminating any [PDF]. Committee members were concerned that the plan won’t slow traffic and lacks various treatments that would better protect pedestrians, like wider sidewalks and raised concrete islands.

“This seems to me to prioritize traffic over pedestrians,” said committee chair Alan Miles.

DOT’s Ted Wright said other community boards are not as eager for more drastic changes. “I wish more community boards were asking for radical things,” he said.

“We ask every time you come here,” Miles quipped. “You’re always concerned about parking spaces.”

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Antonio Reynoso: Let’s Talk About Bike Laws That Make Sense for NYC Streets

Get one thing straight: Council Member Antonio Reynoso doesn’t want to allow bicyclists to blow through red lights. What Reynoso does want are traffic laws that acknowledge the considerable differences between cars and bikes, and set expectations accordingly.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Photo via City Council

In a resolution Reynoso will introduce this afternoon, which got some withering coverage in the Post, the North Brooklyn rep calls for state traffic law to enable cyclists in New York City to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. (The version viewable on Legistar, which calls for both stop lights and stop signs to be treated as yield signs, is outdated, Reynoso said.)

In the absence of such a rule, NYPD’s periodic “bike blitzes” tend to consist of pointless stings at locations like T-intersections, where cyclists routinely break the letter of the law without jeopardizing anyone. The effect is to deter cycling in general, not the type of aggressive red light running that actually poses a risk to people.

The idea of aligning the rules of the road with how most people bike isn’t new. (Idaho enacted bike-specific rules in the 1980s, hence the shorthand “Idaho stop.”) But in New York City, it didn’t enjoy the legitimacy conferred by a real elected official making a real policy proposal until now.

Reynoso bikes regularly, and he thinks the time is right to get serious about changing the rules. “My experience on the road is that traffic policies in the city are not necessarily informed or practical,” he told Streetsblog. “This black and white, ‘vehicles and bikes are the same thing,’ doesn’t make any sense.”

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Tell Cornell — and Electeds — How You Want to Fix NYC Congestion

Want to tell elected officials what you think should be done about New York City traffic? Here’s a way to pool your policy suggestions with other New Yorkers and reach elected officials beyond your district.


Image via SmartParticipation

The Cornell eRulemaking Initiative, or CeRI, hosts a moderated forum called “SmartParticipation,” developed to make it easier for people to weigh in on obscure federal rules. Now researchers want to see if the platform can help shape broader public policy initiatives, and the first issue they decided to tackle is “how to solve NY’s congestion problem.”

The hook is a little off-putting — the experts have had their say, now let’s hear from real New Yorkers! — but the discussion so far is largely on-point. The moderators respond to individual commenters with facts and data, and the site features a good bit of background info, including a Move NY video explainer.

Cornell’s Joshua Brooks told WNBC the comments will be collected in a report and sent “to every lawmaker in New York.” With the window of opportunity still open for Move NY as Governor Cuomo searches for ways to make good on his MTA funding pledge, it wouldn’t hurt for Streetsblog readers to get in a word or two.

You can comment on the site through December 1.
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Austin’s Emerging Bipartisan Coalition for Walkable Housing

Kathleen Hunker from the conservative think thank Texas Public Policy Foundation supported the "granny flats" legislation, as did some of the most liberal members of Austin's City Council. Photo via Austin on Your Feet

“Granny flats” legislation sponsored by liberal Council Member Greg Casar was also endorsed by Kathleen Hunker (above) from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. Photo via Austin on Your Feet

Last week, the Austin City Council voted to allow “granny flats” — small accessory dwellings — in some areas zoned for single-family housing, and to reduce parking requirements along transit corridors. These types of reforms make housing more affordable and make neighborhoods more walkable and transit-friendly.

Dan Keshet at Austin on Your Feet said the vote highlights new political dynamics in the city. For one, it didn’t break down along party lines:

The granny flat resolution was introduced by Greg Casar, whose main claim to fame before City Council was as a labor rights activist. It was supported by the Republicans on City Council: Zimmerman and Troxclair, as well as Sheri Gallo (who has previously run as a Republican) [edit: I previously listed CM Gallo as a Republican, but now I’m not so sure] and three other Democrats: Adler, Rentería, and Garza. The four democrats who supported are definitely not “conservative” democrats in any meaningful sense. To understand land use politics, it’s best to set aside party labels.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Riders Alliance: Making the Q70 to LaGuardia Free Would Be Worth It (2AS, News, DNA, Gothamist)
  • Antonio Reynoso’s Bill to Give Cyclists Discretion at Red Lights Makes Too Much Sense for the Post
  • Turning MTA Bus Driver Seriously Injures Man in LES Crosswalk, No Charges (Gothamist)
  • Schumer, Donovan Promise to Restore Full Funding for Big City Transit in Final Transpo Bill (Advance)
  • 109th Precinct Commander: Flushing “Safety” Campaign Not About Jaywalking Tickets (Times Ledger)
  • Cuomo Signs Bill to Get More Drunk Drivers to Install Ignition Interlocks (News)
  • Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo Is Resigning (Politico)
  • Daily News to TLC: Get Tough on Cabbies Who Refuse Black Passengers
  • Tell Cornell How You Want to Fix Congestion in NYC, and Cornell Will Tell Electeds (NBC)
  • How to Get Through Thanksgiving in NYC: Don’t Drive (AMNY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA