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Will Young Republicans Change the Narrative About Conservatives and Cities?

Republicans under 30 like cities more than Democrats over 30. Is the urban/rural divide becoming less politicized? Image by Tony Dutzik using data from ##http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/ideal-community-type/##Pew Research Center##

Republicans under 30 like cities more than Democrats over 30. Is the urban/rural divide becoming less politicized? Image by Tony Dutzik using data from Pew Research Center

Last week, the Pew Research Center came out with a massive poll on political polarization in the United States. As Angie reported here, one of the main conclusions was that there is a stark divide between liberals and conservatives when it comes to the type of community in which they want to live. Conservative Americans, by and large, prefer living in spread-out rural areas and small towns, while liberals tend to prefer cities.

None of that is too surprising. But the Pew data tell another story, too: young Americans — both Democrat and Republican — are far more likely to express a desire to live in cities than older Americans.

When asked, “If you could live anywhere in the United States that you wanted to, would you prefer a city, a suburban area, a small town or a rural area?”, 38 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they preferred to live in a city, as opposed to just 23 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and even smaller proportions of older Americans.

The difference in preference for city living by age group is especially vivid among young Republicans. About one third of 18- to 29-year-old Republicans and Republican “leaners” expressed the desire to live in a city, as opposed to no more than 13 percent of any other Republican age group. In fact, Republicans under 30 are more likely to want to live in a city than Democrats over the age of 30.

There has, of course, been a lot of talk about the degree to which the transportation and housing preferences of the Millennial generation diverge from those of older Americans. We already know that they drive less than previous generations and have expressed a strong willingness to seek out communities with a variety of transportation options.

While there’s a limited amount that we can learn from the Pew survey about changes in trends among young people, given the lack of comparable survey data from previous years, the data do raise some intriguing possibilities.

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More Mayoral Results: Minneapolis, Houston, Boston

This week’s mayoral elections yielded good news for transit and safe streets in both Houston and Minneapolis. In Boston, meanwhile, the results are less straightforward.

Annise Parker, right, won her third term as Houston's mayor this week. She has been a proponent of safer streets. Image: Houston Tomorrow via Culture Map Houston

Transportation reformers in Minneapolis are generally pleased about the election of City Council member Betsy Hodges (runoff votes are still being counted, but the second-place contender has conceded). Hodges is a strong smart growth proponent and a supporter of the city’s streetcar plans. Some transit advocates are concerned her strong support for rail will mean less investment in buses. But she definitely speaks the livable streets language.

“In my vision of Minneapolis,” she told Streets.mn this fall, “our streets are for all residents of Minneapolis regardless of the mode of travel they choose. Our neighborhood commercial corridors should not be [our] raceways out of town, but vital destinations — in and of themselves.”

In addition, Minneapolis City Council candidates with strong transit bona fides also knocked off a few incumbents. Sam Newberg wrote today in Streets.mn that “now is the time to make some very real and meaningful changes to the development of our city.”

Meanwhile, Houston incumbent Mayor Annise Parker fought off two relatively conservative challengers to win her third term in the nation’s fourth-largest city. Parker, one of the country’s first openly gay mayors, recently instituted a complete streets policy in Houston by executive order. She has also helped move forward the city’s light rail system, building a diverse coalition around transit. Parker has been ranked as one of the country’s top 10 “green mayors.” She has promised to help make cycling safer in the city and joined in on some group rides.

In Boston, labor leader and state lawmaker Martin Walsh scored a surprise upset over City Councilor John Connolly in the race for mayor. Advocates in Beantown report that Connolly was clearly the more progressive choice on transportation. Connolly’s campaign featured bike rides around the city to highlight his complete streets plans; Walsh’s campaign focused more on bread-and-butter economic issues. Only three of the 12 mayoral candidates skipped a forum on transportation held by the nonprofit group Livable Streets in the run-up to the election, according to Boston Streets. Walsh was one of them.

While he’s not expected to be a visionary leader on transportation issues, there’s reason to think he’ll move the city in the right direction. He has stood for lower speed limits in urban areas. In his transportation plan, Walsh said his priorities include dedicated bus lanes in underserved areas and making neighborhoods more livable by improving conditions for walking and biking.

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Setbacks and Victories For Urbanism in Yesterday’s Mayoral Races

Mayoral elections broke both ways for livability in American cities yesterday: The results of some may slow progress on transit and street safety, while one-midsized city elected an executive who campaigned strongly on light rail expansion and bikeability.

John Cranley, who campaigned on stopping the under-construction Cincinnati streetcar, defeated Roxanne Qualls in the Cincinnati mayoral race yesterday. Image: Whistleblower-newswire

The biggest story was Cincinnati’s mayoral race, where Queen City voters backed Democrat John Cranley by a wide margin. Cranley campaigned on a platform of tearing out the city’s under-construction streetcar, even though stopping the streetcar at this point could be more expensive for the city than continuing it.

The silver lining is that Cranley doesn’t have the power to stop the streetcar unilaterally — he will need council approval. Hopefully, reason and respect for public finances will prevail in this case.

Cranley defeated former Cincinnati mayor Roxanne Qualls, who was vice mayor to outgoing Mayor Mark Mallory. While Qualls made it this far thanks in part to the political activism of streetcar supporters, her defeat was a blow to their cause.

Meanwhile, a champion of sustainable transportation in Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn, fell to challenger Ed Murray, a state senator best known for crafting the state’s marriage equality law. McGinn came to the office as a political outsider after serving as the statewide chair of the Sierra Club and was known to ride an e-bike to political events. He presided over major zoning and parking reforms in the city, as well as some important street redesigns.

Ed Murray defeated incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn yesterday in Seattle. Will Murray be the "anti-bike lane mayor?" Photo: The Stranger

Murray campaigned on a platform of uniting various political factions and making government work better. Last month, alt-weekly the Stranger wondered if he was also running to be the “anti-bike lane mayor.” Some of Murray’s fundraising came from groups who were upset about a recently-installed protected bike lane, the paper reported. On transit, Murray has stressed the importance of taking a regional approach and building collaborative relationships at the state level, but not necessarily the need for additional funding.

Seattle Bike Blog endorsed McGinn for reelection, as did the Cascade Bicycle Club. Seattle Transit Blog called his land use and transit policies “simply unassailable.”

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Election Results Open Thread

The polls are closed! The results of all the citywide and boroughwide races were never really in doubt, unless Charles Hynes pulls off a shocker in the Brooklyn DA race. Only three out of 51 City Council races were thought to be competitive. This is why you’ve gotta vote in the primary.

We’ll have an election wrap-up tomorrow. For now, share your hopes and fears about the de Blasio era of NYC transportation policy in the comments.

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Election Day Open Thread

What’s on your mind as you vote today? Tell us in the comments.

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De Blasio: “Transportation Determines Opportunity, Livability, Biz Climate”

On WNYC this morning, Brian Lehrer posed the best transportation question of the 2013 mayoral campaign, asking Bill de Blasio, “Have you thought about transportation as one of your tools to fight inequality?”

Here’s what the mayoral frontrunner said:

Transportation determines opportunity, livability, business climate. For many people, the absence of affordable transportation, in outer-borough locations especially, constrains their opportunities.

An encouraging response, but left unsaid by the candidate is that the means of “affordable transportation” are trains, buses, biking, and walking. Most New Yorkers don’t have cars, and many households simply can’t afford the thousands of dollars in annual costs that come attached to car ownership. De Blasio’s policy platform does include ambitious goals to speed up bus service, but on the air he didn’t specifically mention transit as a tool to reduce inequality.

Lehrer moved on to Tuesday’s mayoral debate, saying he was surprised to hear de Blasio self-identify as a motorist when responding to a question about pedestrian plazas. When he asked if de Blasio thought Bloomberg’s policies were “too anti-car,” the candidate responded:

No, I would not say that. A lot of what the mayor’s done is right in this area. Sometimes I think he did it in a way that was less consultative with communities than it could have been.

The core of it I agree with fully. We have to focus on pedestrian safety, we have to focus on bicycle safety. The “Vision Zero” approach which I subscribe to, literally the goal is to have zero fatalities amongst pedestrians and bicyclists. And we have a lot of the tools we need to fundamentally change our approach to safety.I do believe in the bike lanes we have and in expanding them further. I do believe in the traffic calming measures. Pedestrians plazas are part of that.

But on the Times Square and Herald Square plazas specifically, de Blasio was less clear:

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“Vision Zero,” or Zero Vision? De Blasio Says “Jury’s Out” on Midtown Plazas

Bill de Blasio, who adopted an aggressive street safety platform during the Democratic mayoral primary, reverted back to a livable streets skeptic at last night’s mayoral debate. The mayoral frontrunner claimed “the jury’s out” on the city’s popular Midtown pedestrian plazas, which among other benefits have led to dramatic reductions in pedestrian injuries. Republican candidate Joe Lhota was non-committal too, but given the de Blasio campaign’s stated commitment to eliminating traffic deaths, his response was especially jarring.

At the 51-minute mark, moderator Maurice Dubois asked the candidates a question dripping with windshield perspective: ”Would you take out the tables and chairs from Times Square and Herald Square and reopen Broadway?” De Blasio responded:

I have profoundly mixed feelings on this issue. I’m a motorist myself, and I was often frustrated. And then I’ve also seen on the other hand that it does seem to have a positive impact on the tourist industry. So for me, the jury’s out on that particular question. I think it’s worth assessing what the impact has been on traffic, what the impact has been on surrounding businesses. I would keep an open mind.

“He may be the judge but the jury has spoken,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White told Streetsblog this morning. Since the plazas were installed in 2009, they’ve been the subject of numerous polls, traffic studies, and business reports from the city, independent pollsters, and business groups. Given the evidence, de Blasio’s assertion that there needs to be even more review defies credulity.

“The position de Blasio articulated last night is completely inconsistent with Vision Zero,” White added, referring to the candidate’s campaign plank to eliminate traffic deaths within 10 years. “Putting pedestrians first is clearly saving lives and boosting business, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Times Square.”

Two months after the Times Square plazas were first installed, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 58 percent of New Yorkers supported them, with only 35 percent opposed. A Times poll this year showed that 72 percent of New Yorkers, including strong majorities in every demographic, support the citywide plaza program.

Before the plazas were made permanent in 2010, surveys from the Times Square Alliance business improvement district found that the majority of property owners and retail managers supported the program. In 2009, 70 percent of Times Square residents and workers supported the plazas; in 2012, the percentage jumped to 80 percent, the Alliance said. After pedestrianization, Times Square has consistently ranked as one of the most desirable retail destinations on earth.

Citing the plaza’s popularity and safety gains, including dramatic reductions in the number of pedestrians walking in the roadbed and a 35 percent drop in injuries, the Alliance said there’s no reason why the city should halt construction on a permanent plaza. “The current capital project to build a world-class plaza in Times Square — already well underway — makes sense to continue,” the group said in a statement.

The sentiment is similar on 34th Street, where the local BID is looking to come to an agreement with the city that would give it more control over maintaining and programming the plazas. “The pedestrian plazas are a huge success, and must stay,” Dan Biederman, head of the 34th Street Partnership, said in a statement. “They have created great new urban life, raised real estate values, and cut pedestrian injuries.”

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Ignoring Dozens of CB Votes, Lhota Says Bike Lanes Drop From the Sky


When it comes to bicycling, Joe Lhota has a penchant for ignoring facts in favor of opinions. As Hurricane Sandy approached landfall, the then-MTA chief tweeted a photo of a man riding in a shared lane on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, implying that bike lanes are to blame for bike-bus crashes. This May, he said that DOT didn’t coordinate with the fire department on bike-share station siting, when FDNY said that, in fact, DOT vetted the locations with them.

Now, we have another example of the Republican mayoral candidate ignoring reality, captured by YouTube user gifterphotos and tweeted by New York Observer editor Colin Campbell. Lhota was speaking on Sunday at the Flatbush Jewish Community Relations Council when he got to the topic of community consultation: “We now have more and more bike lanes. Let’s not debate whether or not we should have bike lanes,” he said. “But how is it possible that bike lanes go in your street without any community input whatsoever? The community boards don’t know about it. It just happens.”

Has Joe Lhota been to a community board meeting lately? Maybe he missed the bike lane planning and requests led by community boards in Co-Op City, Middle Village, Long Island City, Bay Ridge, Staten Island, and the Upper West Side, to name a few. Maybe he forgot that Local Law 90 requires DOT to give community boards a comment period on significant streetscape changes, including most new bike lanes. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that DOT was already doing this type of outreach before the law passed, and that while community boards are advisory bodies, the agency usually defers to them, even when it means a dangerous street design will remain in place.

Lhota continued: “When was there a speech or a major understanding of what the strategy is about bike lanes in New York? Where do you want to go with it? What is the vision for that? It just happened, and it just keeps being rolled out.” Maybe Lhota wasn’t paying attention during Mayor Bloomberg’s agenda-setting PlaNYC speech in 2007, or didn’t see the documents and updates that followed. Perhaps he didn’t see the city’s street design manual, which lays out which types of streets are fit for particular street safety interventions, including bike lanes.

For someone who once occupied the post of deputy mayor for operations, those are some awfully big blind spots about how the city currently operates.

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StreetsPAC Endorses in Four More City Council Races

StreetsPAC announced general election endorsements in four City Council races today.

StreetsPAC supports incumbent Jimmy Van Bramer for District 26 in Queens, which covers Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Maspeth. “Jimmy Van Bramer has long been a champion for safe and complete streets,” says a StreetsPAC press release. “He has stood with victims’ families when reckless drivers have taken their lives, and has tirelessly advocated for more effective traffic laws.” Van Bramer is a supporter of speed cameras and Citi Bike, StreetsPAC says, and he wants to extend the city’s bike lane network, including the installation of a lane on the Pulaski Bridge. Van Bramer is unopposed, according to the Campaign Finance Board.

In District 5, StreetsPAC likes Ben Kallos to succeed Jessica Lappin as council rep for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. Kallos would like to see bike-share expanded to the district, according to StreetsPAC, and would work to bring crosstown Select Bus Service to the Upper East and Upper West Sides. A “regular cyclist,” Kallos wants traffic calmed near the Queensboro Bridge, and “envisions a true complete-streets treatment for Second Avenue after subway construction ends, with loading zones, performance-based parking, and a protected bicycle path.” Kallos is running against David Garland in the general.

Across Central Park on the Upper West Side, Helen Rosenthal is the StreetsPAC pick to fill the District 6 seat, which will be vacated by term-limited Gale Brewer. Says StreetsPAC: “A lifelong cyclist who looks forward to commuting to City Hall by bicycle, Helen Rosenthal will work to bring Citi Bike to the Upper West Side and, with the inclusion of Central Park in District 6, remove cars once and for all from the park loop.” StreetsPAC cites Rosenthal’s record as chair of Community Board 7, including her support for protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. Rosenthal is also interested in “the eventual completion of an uninterrupted greenway around Manhattan.” Rosenthal is running against Tom Siracuse and Harry DeMell.

StreetsPAC has endorsed John Mancuso in Staten Island’s District 50, to replace term-limited James Oddo. StreetsPAC says Mancuso’s “most urgent” priority is safety improvements for Hylan Boulevard and other crash-prone Staten Island streets. “John Mancuso is a breath of fresh air for Staten Island, which is in dire need of more and better transportation options,” said StreetsPAC board member Glenn McAnanama, via the press release. “John clearly understands that the solution to Staten Island’s traffic problems isn’t just wider roads. He will advocate for rational bridge tolling, and his support for pedestrian and bike access to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge will help make the Harbor Ring a reality.” Mancuso is running against Steven Matteo.

StreetsPAC is NYC’s first livable streets political action committee.

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The Lhota Platform: No Walking, No Biking, No Details on Street Safety

It looks like Joe Lhota didn’t listen to Nicole Gelinas or Transportation Alternatives. Yesterday, Lhota released what his campaign billed as a “comprehensive policy book” [PDF], but New Yorkers interested in safer streets or better bicycling and walking are still awaiting much of any policy from the Republican candidate.

After platitudes about how “an effective transportation system is a key part of New York City’s economy and quality of life,” we get to the meat of Lhota’s plan: A bullet-point list of what he promises to do as mayor.

If you never walk in NYC, you'll love Joe Lhota's transpo platform. Image: Joe Lhota for Mayor

  • Take control of the MTA’s bridges and tunnels to reduce costs to commuters
  • Fight for funding for the MTA’s 5-year capital program
  • Create a feasibility study to expand the New York City subway system
  • Re-establish the Mayor’s Office of Transportation to communicate the city’s transportation needs and priorities to other agencies
  • Ensure the building of four new Metro-North stops in the Bronx with access to Penn Station
  • Encourage park and ride stations at the end of suitable subway lines
  • Ensure that New York City roads are in a good state of repair
  • Synchronize traffic lights to mitigate traffic and enhance mobility
  • Examine the use of “smart” traffic lights
  • Consider the expansion of right on red in certain parts of the city
  • Expand Select Bus Service
  • Support expanded Staten Island Ferry service
  • Make the Rockaway Ferry permanent
  • Support a West Shore Rail Line on Staten Island
  • Ensure the completion of the 2nd Avenue Subway

Of the 15 bullet points, three are just about traffic lights — that’s 20 percent of his platform. In the policy book’s environment section, Lhota repeats his desire to install park-and-ride lots at the end of subway lines and promises Upper East Siders that he will not open 91st Street waste transfer station, which is part of a plan to move some of the city’s trash disposal burden, including truck traffic, from poorer neighborhoods.

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