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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 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.

Streetsblog.net
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Portland Will Connect Streets Over a Highway With a Car-Free Bridge

Portland's newest car-free bridge will complete a key bike route. Image via Bike Portland

Portland’s newest car-free bridge will complete a key bike route. Image via Bike Portland

Here’s one way to heal some of the damage created by urban interstates.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that the city has won a $2.6 million state grant to help it complete a key bike route. To fill in the missing segment, Portland has to create a path across a big sunken highway. So the city will use the grant, combined with some local funds, to build a bike and pedestrian bridge over I-405.

Maus explains why this is such a smart investment:

Portland leaders have been working for over a decade to close this gap. Former mayor Sam Adams first proposed the idea of a new bridge over Flanders in 2006 when he was PBOT Commissioner. He continued to work on the project until his run for mayor in 2008 but was not able to make it happen.

According to the city’s grant application, the bridge would likely average about 3,000 crossings as soon as it opens as people shift their routes from the busy and high-stress crossings at Everett, Glisan and Couch. Once greenway elements like speed bumps, signage, and diverters are added to the street, it’s estimated that the new bridge would see 9,100 trips per day. That’s more than the amount of daily bike trips over the Hawthorne Bridge.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • City Hall Will Seek Council Approval for Commercial Waste Carting Reforms (Crain’s)
  • Cuomo’s State DOT in No Hurry to Tackle Climate Change (MTR)
  • Port Authority Has Quietly Scaled Back Frequency of JFK AirTrain (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Motorcyclist Killed on East Tremont Ave Passing Double-Parked Tow Truck (News)
  • Motorcyclist Injures Pedestrian on Sterling Place in Park Slope (Gothamist)
  • The Trains With the Most Hot Cars Were Built With No Back-Up A/C Compressor (NYT)
  • DOT Installs Sidewalk So SI Seniors Can Safely Walk to Buy Groceries on Veterans West Road (DNA)
  • The Times Checks in With PATH Commuters Dealing With Weekend Maintenance Disruptions
  • Queens Activists Protest NYPD Fare Arrests By Giving Away Fares (DNA)
  • Protesting a BoltBus Stop Because “It’s So Congested” (DNA)
  • Work Begins on Downtown Brooklyn’s 700-Car Garage With a Park on Top (YIMBY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Citi Bike Expands South of Atlantic Avenue

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

Yesterday, Citi Bike began installing stations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue and west of Prospect Park. A few stations are already operating, according to the Citi Bike station map, with a total of 73 set to go live in the area in the coming weeks.

All told there are 139 new bike-share stations coming online this year, with another batch in the pipeline for 2017.

The initial expansion map for this part of Brooklyn called for 20 stations per square mile, spreading them farther apart than the 23 per square mile in the initial Citi Bike service area. This was a problem, since longer walking distances between stations make the system less useful.

In May, DOT proposed 11 more station locations [PDF], bringing the station density in line with the rest of the system (but still short of the 28 per square mile recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials).

The eleven "infill" stations added by DOT after the initial station map was approved are marked in black. Image: DOT

The 11 black stations are “infill” added to the initial station map. Image: DOT

Here’s a look at a few more of the new stations that have gone in since yesterday:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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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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Private Trash Hauler Critically Injures Cyclist in Flatbush

A private trash carter struck and critically injured a cyclist at this intersection last night. Photo: Google Maps

A private trash carter struck and critically injured a cyclist at this intersection last night. Photo: Google Maps

A private garbage truck driver struck and critically injured a 44-year-old cyclist at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Lefferts Avenue in Flatbush last night, highlighting the pervasive public safety risks in the commercial waste carting industry.

The victim, whom police did not name, remains in critical condition today, according to NYPD’s public information office. The driver, Steveson Thanus, received “multiple summonses,” though the police spokesperson could not specify the violations.

Police arrived at 11:23 p.m. last night to find the victim “laying in the roadway” with “severe head trauma,” the spokesperson said.

According to NYPD, the cyclist was riding south on the east sidewalk of Albany Avenue last night when he entered the intersection. The spokesperson said the driver was “going westbound on Lefferts approaching Albany” at the moment of impact, and the victim “collided with the right rear tire area of [the truck].”

The garbage hauler was driving a white Mack dump truck registered to La Vega Carting Corporation, located on Highland Boulevard in Cypress Hills, NYPD said.

La Vega is a small company with three employees. Co-owner Edwin Rosario told Streetsblog the truck had a broken rear light at the time of the crash. It’s not clear if this contributed to the collision, but if Thanus was backing up, the equipment failure could have been a factor.

Read more…

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An American Take on the “Bus Stop of the Future”

College Park, Maryland's "Bus Stop of the Future." Image: Beyond DC/Flickr

College Park’s “bus stop of the future.” Image: Beyond DC/Flickr

Four years ago, the regional transit agency in Paris, RATP, set out to create the “bus stop of the future.” This bus stop would be designed to give riders and even passersby a comfortable place to relax. In addition to a sleek shelter, it featured a bike-share station, a library, and snacks and coffee.

Inspired by that example, College Park, Maryland, recently created its own version of the “bus stop of the future.” Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington says it includes many of the elements of the Parisian bus stop, but at a price that’s a lot more reasonable:

They started with a normal bus stop sign and shelter, then added a standard mBike bikeshare station. To help with maintenance, the city chained a bike tire pump to the station sign.

For the library, they staked to the ground a Little Free Library, a pre-fab wood box for people to take and give away free books. There’s no librarian and no library cards; it runs on the honor system, and relies on people donating as many books as they take.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Woodhaven SBS Is in the Federal Funding Pipeline But Won’t Get Money Next Year (QChron)
  • Garbage Truck Driver Critically Injures Cyclist in Crown Heights; Daily News: Was He Wearing a Helmet?
  • Remembering Antonio Flores, Struck By Driver While Biking on Broadway in Jackson Heights (QChron)
  • Why NY and NJ Need to Get Moving on the Gateway Project (MTR)
  • De Blasio to Speak Firmly With Council Members About Housing Development (Politico, Crain’s)
  • Bike-Share Expansion South of Atlantic Avenue Kicked Off Yesterday (@CitiBikeNYC)
  • The Post Dreams of Driverless Ubers With “Empty Front Seats” Cruising Around NYC
  • More Coverage of the Town Hall Where de Blasio and Vacca Stood Up for E Tremont Road Diet (BxTimes)
  • Two NJTransit Bus Drivers Collided in Newark, Killing One (PIX, ABC7)
  • Port Authority Offers Weekend Bus Service to Make Up for Closed PATH Stations in Manhattan (News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Judge Bars Woman Who Killed Cyclist From Driving in NY, No Thanks to NYPD

When Caitlin Venedam struck and killed Matthew Brenner on Sands Street on July 6, 2014, NYPD blamed Brenner and let Venedam off without so much as a ticket. Now, thanks to evidence that police failed to collect, an administrative law judge with the Department of Motor Vehicles has barred Venedam from driving in New York state, according to DNAinfo.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman

Venedam, 25 at the time, struck Brenner, 29, as she turned from eastbound Sands onto the ramp for the northbound BQE at 9:35 p.m. Police said Brenner was biking against traffic trying to cross the ramp when Venedam struck him, an explanation that his friends and family found unlikely.

Video evidence later contradicted NYPD’s account, showing Brenner was not on the roadway, DNA reports, fitting a recurring pattern of police erroneously blaming the victims of fatal crashes.

As recently as last November, DMV had informed Brenner’s family that it would not hold a hearing to review Venedam’s driving privileges. DMV is supposed to hold hearings for every fatal crash but doesn’t adhere to the policy in practice.

Thanks to a civil suit filed by the family, information surfaced that NYPD never collected in its crash investigation. In her deposition, Venedam said she had gotten off the highway to call a friend and check her location on Google Maps, which remained open in her passenger seat as she merged back onto the highway.

The lawyer for Brenner’s estate, Daniel Flanzig, told DNA that this information was critical to Judge Regina Rinaldi’s decision and blasted NYPD for its “completely insufficient” investigation.

Venedam, an actress who appeared in the TV series “Gossip Girl,” is still allowed to drive elsewhere, including New Jersey, where she is licensed. She was cited four times between 2006 and 2012 for unsafe driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and blocking traffic, according to NJ Motor Vehicle Commission records obtained by DNA.

Streetsblog USA
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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 [PDF], AASHTO said it doesn’t believe the feds have the “legislative authority” make state DOTs track carbon emissions.

Read more…