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From Pennsylvania, a Preview of How Trump & Co. Might Bully Cities

How much will cities be threatened by the impending Trump presidency? An early front in this confrontation concerns immigration.

The money that supports revitalization programs in cities like Philadelphia is being held up for punitive cuts by a Pennsylvania lawmaker. Here Philadelphia's North Fifth Street Revitalization Project leaders participate in a community cleanup day. Photo: Plan Philly

Withholding Community Development Block Grants from from sanctuary cities would devastate organizations like Philadelphia’s North Fifth Street Revitalization Project. Photo: Plan Philly

Trump has threatened to revoke federal funds from hundreds of “sanctuary cities” that do not report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.

Jake Blumgart at Plan Philly reports that Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has already embraced the spirit of Trump’s proposal, calling for the feds to withhold Philadelphia’s Community Development Block Grants because of its sanctuary city policies:

The CDBG program is a flexible financial assistance program for economically distressed jurisdictions. In Philadelphia, it supports a diverse array of more than 20 programs, from financial counseling to help families access Earned Income Tax Credits to security deposit assistance for homeless families..

A quarter of the funding supports economic development initiatives like those that [Philip] Green’s North 5th Street organization utilizes. For commercial corridor support organizations in neighborhoods like Olney, and for community development corporations more broadly, CDBG are an essential source of support.

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Seattle Transit Agencies Move Toward Mobile Ticketing

This graphic shows how a Sound Transit transit fare purchased on a ell phone will appear. Image via Seattle Transit Blog

Sound Transit will launch mobile ticketing next week. Image via Seattle Transit Blog

We have the technology to make transit fare payment faster and more convenient. Agencies around the world are making progress on fare collection innovations that improve riders’ experience — with benefits like shorter trip times, getting more transit trips for your buck, and demystifying the process of buying a fare for new riders.

Two Seattle agencies are about to adopt a new method of fare collection. Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog reports that Sound Transit and King County Metro are rolling out a mobile payment option:

On Thursday, King County Metro and Sound Transit will announce Puget Sound’s first mobile ticketing app, called TransitGoTicket. The app will allow Metro and (some) Sound Transit riders to purchase tickets and day passes on their phones without having to buy or use an ORCA card. The iOS app is already live, with Android and Windows to follow Thursday.

The 6-month pilot project is funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). After 6 months, Metro and Sound Transit will likely conduct a Title VI analysis before deciding on a 6-month extension. If deemed successful after 1 year, the program would become permanent. Ongoing costs include 1.5% of mobile fare revenue to ByteMark and a $126,000 annual fee once in full production (after the pilot ends). New agencies could join for $45,000.

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Getting On-Street Parking Tech Right

Getting the price of on-street parking right is important for commercial areas in cities. Setting prices to ensure that about one space per block remains open reduces double-parking, cuts down on unnecessary traffic, and can speed up buses as a result.

You're going to change for parking? Good! What's the right equipment? Photo: Wikipedia

You’re going to change for parking? Good! What’s the right equipment? Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Putting the right price on parking isn’t always popular, but by choosing good systems and technology to manage curbside spaces, cities can make it easier for motorists. Paul Barter at Reinventing Parking has written a handy guide to 18 different types of on-street parking management, from very low-tech cash payment to state-of-the-art GPS-based systems.

He concludes that the best systems are digital and track payment via license plates or vehicle registration numbers, as opposed to the physical space the car occupies. Of those, he highlights these four options as the best for cities today — read the whole post for a detailed look at how these systems work:

The digital pay-by-plate options seem to do best to maximize parking-management effectiveness and minimize the pain.

They score highly on most of the key criteria mentioned earlier, especially high convenience for users, easy price adjustment, data stream, low-cost integration with enforcement, low transaction costs, suitability for motorcycles, and ability to integrate with permits and special discounts.

This means that any city tackling this issue afresh today should probably focus on these options (in pay-by-plate mode): 
12: Smart (digital) multi-space meters with Pay-by-License-Plate
15: Pay-by-smart-phone-app
16: In-vehicle meters, or
17: Global Positioning System (GPS)-based in-vehicle meters
or some combination of 2 or more of these (including all of them together).

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Old Places Built for Driving Are Failing New Residents Who Don’t Own Cars

Langley Park, a low-income suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But now its residents rely a lot on walking, and the environment puts them at risk. Photo via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park, a suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But many current residents rely on walking, and the street environment puts them at risk. Google Street View via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park in Prince George’s County, outside Washington, D.C., took on its current form when World War II vets moved there in large numbers, aspiring to the suburban lifestyle: a single-family house with a yard.

The area was built around cars. But as in many other suburban areas, the population has changed over time. Now, reports Carolyn Gallagher at Greater Greater Washington, Langley Park is largely Latino, lower income, and home to many recent immigrants. Many current residents get around by walking and transit, even though the area wasn’t built for walking. Gallagher writes that officials aren’t doing enough to make the streets safe for people on foot:

People aren’t just going to and from their cars; they’re walking, hanging out in front of stores, or sitting on retaining walls and shooting the breeze. One strip mall even has a semi-regular street preacher. Armed with a megaphone and boundless conviction, he exhorts and cajoles passersby in equal measure.

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Kansas City Doesn’t Need New Roads — It Needs Sidewalks

Only one side of this one-way traffic funnel in Kansas City has sidewalks. Photo: Brent Hugh

Kansas City is considering an $800 million bond to repair infrastructure. Before any shovels get in the ground, the advocacy group BikeWalkKC wants to lay down some ground rules to ensure the investment is well-spent.

Rather than waste the money building new roads, BikeWalkKC’s Eric Bunch says the city should fix what it has:

The promise of new development can make a compelling case for new infrastructure investment. Each new house or apartment building is a new source of property tax. If the new development spurs population growth it could bring more sales tax revenue thanks to increased demand for goods and services. And more residents in KCMO means more e-tax revenue.

The economics of this is shaky. There is strong evidence that infrastructure spending as a development tool is poor economic policy, particularly when it comes to constructing overbuilt roads to lure low-density suburban development.

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What Seattle’s Doing to Help Poor Residents Afford Transit

Transit is an incredibly affordable way to get around, but for people struggling to make ends meet, fares are still difficult to pay for.

Members of the group Transit Riders United pose before a King County Council meeting. They were demanding cheaper fares for very poor and homeless people. Photo: TRU

Members of Seattle’s Transit Riders United at a King County Council meeting where they called for expanding the city’s discount transit fare program. Photo: TRU

If local governments decide to provide discounted or free fares to people in need, however, they need to budget for that expense. Otherwise they risk cuts to transit service — and harming the people who count on it — or providing temporary fare relief that won’t last very long.

Milwaukee’s underfunded transit agency is facing this very problem. Milwaukee County voted last year to make fares free for seniors and disabled people. But the county underestimated ridership and didn’t budget adequate funds, and now the discount fare program is running a $3.3 million deficit and in danger of elimination.

One city that’s building what looks to be a more sustainable model is Seattle. Katie Wilson at Seattle Transit Blog reports that King County officials are expanding the discount fare program to meet overwhelming demand:

Back in 1991, SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) was spending most of their budget buying bus tickets so people could travel from their South Lake Union shelter to an overflow church on Capitol Hill. Nearly broke, they began meeting at the King County Administration Building before making the trek on foot. After weeks of this public demonstration of need the Metro Council relented: SHARE and other service providers could purchase tickets at a discount. The program has expanded steadily for twenty-five years, and last year 138 service providers distributed over 1.4 million tickets to homeless people, seniors, youth, students, veterans, refugees, and victims of domestic violence.

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Signs That the Car-Share Industry Is Losing Steam

Car-share usage declined in 2015. What's going on? Graph: Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen via Transportationist

Car-share usage declined in 2015. What’s going on? Graph: Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen via Transportationist

Back in 2013, when Avis purchased Zipcar, car-share seemed like the wave of the future.

But is the industry already peaking? David Levinson, a transportation engineering professor who has been bullish about car-sharing in the past, notes at Transportist that Car2Go is pulling out of Minneapolis. Is this a sign of wider problems with the car-share business model or an isolated event due to unique circumstances? He says the situation is still murky:

The company complains about taxing, and I am sure that is also an element. Clearly carsharing should not be taxed a the same rate as rental cars, which are aimed to extract money from out-of-towners (taxing foreigners living abroad) who don’t vote locally, this is a case of public policy not catching up with changing technology.

There is also the rise of ridehailing apps like Uber and Lyft, which are only slightly more expensive and loads more convenient than carsharing for many trips. That they are only slightly more expensive is due to tremendous Venture Capital subsidies, which are great to exploit as customers, while they last. This also did not help carsharing.

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The Silent Epidemic: Families of Traffic Violence Victims Speak Out

Kristi Finney, whose son Dustin was killed when he was hit from behind by a truck while biking in 2011, stands before 421 pears of shoes, which symbolize those killed by traffic in Oregon so far this year. The average person is indifferent to this until it happens to them," she told Bike Portland.

Kristi Finney, who lost her son Dustin when  a truck driver hit him from behind while biking, stands before 421 pairs of shoes symbolizing each person killed in traffic in Oregon so far this year. “The average person is indifferent to this until it happens to them,” she told Bike Portland.

Sunday was the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Violence, which memorializes people killed in traffic.

In 2016, traffic deaths in America have continued an alarming upward trend, and are expected to reach about 35,000 by the end of the year. we are seeing an alarming spike in deaths. But statistics alone can numb us to the staggering human suffering they represent.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland was out Sunday at Portland’s remembrance event, and he had a chance to talk to some people who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. He reports:

David Sale recalled the death of his 22-year-old daughter Danielle in 2010 with vivid details. Danielle was one of two people killed in 2010 when TriMet bus operator Sandi Day made an illegal and dangerous left turn and ran them over in a crosswalk on NW Broadway. “These are not accidents,” he said as he fought back tears.

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Advocates of Color Are Elevating a Different Perspective on Safe Streets

Photo via Better Bike Share Blog

Photo courtesy of Argenis Apolinario

Last week, advocates convened in Atlanta for the Untokening, a gathering for people who’ve felt isolated or tokenized within the safe streets movement, and an opportunity to put their perspectives front and center.

Stefani Cox, who attended, posted this report on the Better Bike Share Blog:

According to one attendee, about two-thirds of the Untokening participants were people of color, and the event had over 100 estimated attendees.

A Streetsblog article published before the event underscored the importance of the Untokening in a professional world where discussions on biking, walking, and transit in low-income communities of color are often derailed or misunderstood. Even well-meaning colleagues can sometimes fail to give equity conversations the space and time needed to be meaningful.

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America’s Electoral Systems Are Stacked Against Cities. What Comes Next?

The 2016 election, more than any in recent history, divided Americans by geography. Hillary Clinton is expected to finish with around 2 million more votes than Donald Trump. But her base was concentrated along the coasts and in urban areas, a distribution of votes that could not deliver the Electoral College.

We just had a huge culture war and cities lost. Photo: Twin City Sidewalks

People who live in cities won the popular vote but lost the election. Photo: Twin City Sidewalks

Rural states and the Midwest delivered a enormous blow to the ascendant politics of major urban areas. Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks, says the outcome has to be understood in terms of laws and institutions that are systemically biased against the people who live in cities:

Both the Senate and the Electoral College are weighted against urban areas, as are many state governments such as, most famously, New York. State gerrymandering is relentless in its minimization of urban influence. And the dismantling of the Voter Rights Act of 1964 means that it is again open season for restrictive voting laws, reducing the voices of people of color and the young, in particular, and amplifying the votes of older rural America in the most callous possible way. None of these democratic structures are easy to reform, and when it comes to voter turnout, especially for congressional elections, the United States lies at the bottom of the list of Global North nations.

Lindeke tries to imagine how a federal government that owes its ascendance almost entirely to rural and suburban people will shape urban policy. He envisions a scenario where cities are stripped of federal resources like community development block grants, university funding, and transit support.

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