Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Back in Port Arthur, track had kept Charles focused. It had given him something to do during football offseason, when cousins found trouble .Now I often defend athletics because I was an athlete who benefited from competing for a division one school. But there were times when I had to fight my guidance councilor to take harder classes. At times she would try to give me easy classes because of catering to the lowest common denominator in the program. People who just needed classes to stay eligible to play.
Speaking for myself, I chafed at the idea of not being able to take classes like Military History to 1900 because others said they would be hard. (One of the most fascinating courses I took in Undergrad outside of my major classes) But this also speaks to the fact that colleges don't see football players as part of the student body. In fact it is evidenced every time we get a good athlete who wants to run track and play football. Usually football wins out:
Charles says he was told that if he wanted to maintain his place as the Longhorns' starting running back, he'd have to abandon track and make football a year-round commitment.There were many guys who liked to run who were told they couldn't. I don't doubt that studying more tape helps. But Football isn't the center of the universe. If they are enrolled in school, let them take the classes they want. And if they want to play another sport that helps their football playing in the offseason why not let them?
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Census shows slow in sunbelt burst.
Holland looks at per KM pricing.
Intercity trains in Germany beating the pants off of planes.
I WISH buses all had 5 minute headways.
Is China building HSR too fast? Like Robert, I feel like someone is trying to affect the US debate.
Friday, December 18, 2009
“Downs-Thomson paradox, also referred to as the Pigou-Knight-Downs paradox, states that the equilibrium speed of car traffic on the road network is determined by the average door-to-door speed of equivalent journeys by (rail-based or otherwise segregated) public transport. It follows that increasing road capacity can actually make overall congestion on the road worse."Sounds like some sort of variation of induced demand.
Council Member Sheryl Cole sits with Leffingwell on the Transit Working Group; she had heard Allen say there he believed pressure to meet a November 2004 rail referendum deadline had shortchanged the design and engineering work on the Red Line. In Allen's assessment, inadequate early planning, design, and engineering work, combined with a failure to engage sufficient outside expertise, had led to an unrealistic budget and schedule.I wrote about the quick switch from LRT to Commuter Rail in my Master's report. Capital Metro had only been working on the Red Line plan for a few months before they made the decision to put it before voters in the summer. They had been talking about LRT up until January of 2004. Contacts at UT had mentioned that Capital Metro had stopped talking to them cold turkey to pursue this other plan. From my Masters report (Thesis)
According to John Rishling, Vice President for Campus Planning at the University of Texas, light rail planning continued until January of 2004 when talks with John Almond, the lead engineer for the rail project, all of the sudden stopped. Rishling stated that the Pickle Research Center in North Austin between the red line and the Union Pacific line is being planned as a residential campus for students of the University of Texas and transit was needed to connect it to the main campus. Maps in Rishling’s office suggest light rail be built down San Jacinto Street but even by August he had not heard anything from the transit agency except for what he read in the news...In March of 2004 Capital Metro announced their proposed system.From Doug Allen's account it seems as if they didn't have enough time to think this plan through before the election. More than likely they devised the plan for the Red Line in two months based on years of putting the alternatives against each other. In other words it smells of bad push politics from people like Mike Krusee, which we knew all along was spinning away from light rail and pushing for rail towards his district, not in Capital Metro's service area.
But even more hidden gold from interim CEO Doug Allen:
In October's meeting, Allen said the cost of the Red Line commuter rail system "probably could and should have" been $300 million (to build it out properly, with double tracking) to serve the transit ridership potential in that corridor – still a good price for a 32-mile system.I don't think this should be hard for everyone to understand. 38,000 riders for LRT in 2000 versus 2,000 riders for Commuter rail in 2004. It's not rocket science. The politics was messy and Capital Metro allowed themselves to get pushed into it. This didn't start with the current contractor, this started back before 2000 with Krusee who was head of the House Transportation Committee. Again from my Masters Report:
Representative Krusee proposed a starter red line replacing the 1998 consultant’s green line light rail in 2000. Consultants in 1998 believed that the green line was a better route for ridership production however it was turned down by the voters in 2000. It seemed that commuter rail was on Senator Krusee’s mind even before the 2000 election. In a 2000 Austin American Statesman article, he was quoted, “I wish they would be more open-minded to alternatives to light rail”.His fixation on that freight line led to a poorly planned line and here we are seeing the results in 2009. Thanks Mike, glad you had your revelations after you lost your power to do anything about it.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
After visiting Turin, it's quite astonishing to think that it once had so many issues. Everywhere my parents and I went was fairly exciting from the large public market to the Egyptian Museum second only to Egypt itself. From a superficial perspective it didn't seem any different from Milan which is the largest economic generator in Italy, ahead of Rome. But it seemed as if there was more for the Piedmont region to work with. It wasn't far from the alps for skiing and wasn't far from wine country either. With this in mind I feel as if Detroit has a lot more work to do than Turin might have had. And while some of the lessons such as using the skills you have to reinvent yourself are part of the toolbox, I feel there are a lot more tools that need to be built from scratch.
This post is also another opportunity to share pictures...
One of the original malls
Turin from the needle
The largest outdoor market i've ever seen
IGuido car sharing
Buses and Arches
South of Turin is Wine and Food Country
This is the town of Barolo for you wine lovers
A drive thru in Portland apologizes after an employee refuses service to a cyclist, discusses possible cycle through lanes.
GE is going to get some business in Africa for its locomotives
GHG emissions in China are a quarter of the US emissions per capita.
It's kind of annoying when cities that weren't paying into the regional transit agency want in when there is commuter rail. Cities in Texas seem to like to do this.
But most Denton County cities, including Lake Dallas, rejected membership and the sales tax requirement. When DCTA offered those cities a second chance at membership in 2006, only Shady Shores and Corinth talked seriously about buying in.~~~
Does the Northeast Corridor need an EIS to get ARRA funds?
Monday, December 14, 2009
McCrory is credited with pushing through a transportation plan that, with the help of a $200 million federal grant for light rail, revitalized blighted Charlotte neighborhoods. On Friday, he visited with about 200 advocates of returning electric trolleys to the Fort Worth streets.
Now that light rail is on the ground in Charlotte, he said, "our bus ridership is not just people who have to have it but people who want to ride it. Bus ridership is all races and classes. The bus system is unbelievable now."
What happened in Charlotte was not only the construction of light rail and the planning for a rapid transit network, but most of the half cent sales tax went into improving bus service. This is what the referendum focused on back in 2007. If passed, it would have severely hampered the bus system as well as the LRT expansion. But as a reward for the investment, Charlotte has had substantial gains in ridership directly related to the upgraded network and improved service.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The interesting thing about this amendment is that it would allow the Woodward Ave LRT to be constructed much faster than it would have otherwise under the usual new starts process. The general wait time for funding is 10 years and many cities find that such a time commitment increases costs and stretches political will. But there is a catch, the amendment doesn't say anything about the NEPA environmental process which could hamper the project. The amendment reads as follows:
SEC. 173. Hereafter, for interstate multi-modal projects which are in Interstate highway corridors, the Secretary shall base the rating under section 5309(d) of title 49, United States Code, of the non-New Starts share of the public transportation element of the project on the percentage of non-New Starts funds in the unified finance plan for the multi-modal project: Provided, That the Secretary shall base the accounting of local matching funds on the total amount of all local funds incorporated in the unified finance plan for the multi-modal project for the purposes of funding under chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code and title 23, United States Code: Provided further, That the Secretary shall evaluate the justification for the project under section 5309(d) of title 49, United States Code, including cost effectiveness, on the public transportation costs and public transportation benefits.But the reason why the amendment had to be created is because federal funding has lots of strings and these matches are quite tricky. And while many cities would like to skip the new starts process initially by building the first line themselves, the NEPA rules are not structured to allow this. Several different cities have tried successfully and unsuccessfully to do something similar with their match process however the key sticking point is always the NEPA process and following the environmental rules.
Initially Houston looked into using the Main Street Line as a match for the next projects but that idea smoldered. Metro did however get an investment "credit" in the form of an Earmark for future fixed guideway construction. What happened to this money is unknown, though it seems as if it was just put into the pot for the five line expansion.
In 2005 Kay Bailey Hutchinson sought to fund 100% of two lines in Houston through the same mechanism while the city saved up for three others. This was blocked by Tom Delay and John Culbertson (who is still blocking the University Line) because they didn't feel it was following the law. Of course this was just a good excuse to block light rail for those two jokers. Houston eventually put the lines into the New Starts process and is seeking 49% of two out of five lines. Because they weren't able to use the first two lines as a match, they are likely leaving $270M on the table because they are not going for funding on two they are building on their own.
Salt Lake City looked to build their five lines faster by creating a memorandum of understanding whereby 20% of the total projects cost was funded by the FTA. This would fund the Mid Jordan Line at 78% federal and the remainder of the Draper line while UTA built the others as a match. However the office of management and budget rescinded this deal in 2008 when they felt that it was in violation of NEPA. It is believed that the feds decided that this wasn't legal because when the MOU was signed all of the lines entered into the contract with the federal government. Because not all the lines went through the NEPA process, it was thought that they would be constructed outside of the rules set forth by the federal government for environmental process. The FTA is said to still be honoring the deal, even if it is outside of the MOU document.
This was also worrisome to the FTA because it was seen as a precedent that would set off a wave of deal making which it eventually did with Charlotte. In 2008 Charlotte tried to make a deal that would have funded the Northeast Corridor at 80% while platform extensions for the South Corridor and the Northeast Corridor were constructed with local funds. This deal never came to pass. Finally San Francisco built the T Third line with local funds but went through the NEPA process therefor allowing it to be used as a match legally within the federal process. Nancy Pelosi still had to put an amendment in a spending bill but the line is currently being used as a match for the Central Subway project.
With all these examples, the federal match amendment still doesn't address the NEPA issue that came up in Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Ultimately it would be nice for cities to make big deals so that they can build transit networks faster than they would ultimately be able to under the current rules that keep lines in planning for ten years. So while Detroit might have gotten this match language, I would expect the OMB to jump in at some point and derail it because once the match project is seen as part of the whole deal, it is likely that they will believe the first segment would be subject to the rules of the new starts process including NEPA as well.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Imagine if a transit agency acted like (and had the political and financial resources to do so) ODOT or WDOT. There would be "bus levels of service", ranging from A to F or so, allocated as follows:Similarly, Jarrett made a comment about how if all your favorite restaurants were empty, you'd likely not have a restaurant to eat at anymore. The ensuing comments are likely to be of interest.
Level A: Everyone can sit where they want.
Level B: Passengers have to occasionally say "excuse me" as they walk past other (seated) passengers while boarding or disembarking.
Level C: Someone has to sit next to a stranger, without an intervening empty seat.
Level D: Passengers have to look real hard to find the few empty seats that are remaining; the aisle may occasionally be blocked.
Level E: The bus is SRO.
Level F: The bus is crushloaded.
Any level of service below C would be considered an unacceptable level of service, and would cause planners to add additional buses to the route. But since this is the DOT thinking, they would be adding buses ALL THROUGHOUT THE DAY, not just during the AM and PM rush.
It says a lot, I think, that transit agencies are frequently encouraged to increase usage of existing services (i.e. add congestion), but DOTs are permitted to try and build their way out of it.
If Oklahoma City builds a streetcar before much of the country...
The opposition in Madison wants to pull an Austin by having an election before all the facts are in. This happened in 2000 and things worked out pretty well....right?
Streetcars and traffic are tricky. Yonah is right that these issues should be dealt with but every place is different and will have different solutions.
Salt Lake City residents can have more bars! Put them near transit they say.
"Clustering bars near public transit, they agree, could reel in visitors, reduce drunken driving and send a signal that Utah's capital doesn't shut down after dark. "
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Salt Lake City is looking at Streetcar network plans. Just another arrow in the quiver.
The Houston Chronicle interviewed the outgoing chairman of Metro. From afar, it seems like he's done a good job at moving the network forward. I hope he gets replaced with someone as good. Another interesting thing to note is the opposition from the congressional delegation. Sometimes I have to wonder why cities get represented by the suburbs, which seems to happen a lot, especially in Texas.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I think too often economic development comes in one form when we're talking about transit, which I think might be going down the wrong path. We know that transportation decisions which provide or increase access to a place are likely to increase its value and ability to develop. But what about all the other benefits such as fostering denser employment clusters or connecting workers of all economic levels to regional jobs? Increases in the quality of workers that an employer has access to is another measure of economic development. Allowing workers to save money on transportation in order to spend it elsewhere is local economic development as well.
The related issue is who gains from this economic development. With the building construction based economic development, its easy to assume that developers and the people that buy the new condos are the only ones who benefit. This type of thinking creates a flash-point on which opposition to your project can zero in on to say you're not helping the people that need it the most. It's a valid concern but it's also missing out on the creation of tax base that goes back into the budget for the whole city to use. Denser areas for their part are huge economic engines. Not discussing this larger view of economic development is doing a disservice to the project, especially when you think through how the specific project will or will not help the situation.
If the main reason for a project is economic development, it would be helpful to describe the economic outcomes that you expect to achieve with the project. A streetcar or light rail line is going to provide a mobility benefit, but it is how we talk about those benefits that ultimately allow people to understand what the project is really about. Many projects don't do a good job at this and are maligned by the opposition. Many bad projects get oversold, hoping that "economic development" will save the day. I believe the key is to figure out whether the project is doing what its supposed to be doing, and move forward from there.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
There's been an interesting discussion going on about industry clusters. I wish I had more time to write about them. The interesting thing is that these clusters don't necessarily have to be urban. Rural clusters such as wind farms in Texas and wine making in Sonoma show lots of promise in raising wages while other clusters such as Tech are looking to intensify to provide amenities on par with what urban workers are looking for. I hope others tackle this subject because I'd like to see some opinions on the cluster's effect on urbanism and urbanization in these rural areas.
A pretty cool spread on the future of Denver. via Denver Infill Blog
Happy Birthday Streetsblog.net. Here's to next year!
I've also started tweeting more article links. Follow @theoverheadwire or visit the bottom right of the blog for more links.