THE FUTURE OF RAILROADS: Why Rail-To-Trail Conversion Is The Key To Both Eventual Rail Restoration and Current Off-Road Networks
The CapeFlyer Railroad service has been a huge success. Well over 10,000 people have bought tickets so far this summer, generating more than enough revenue to cover the relatively puny $165,000 annual cost of running the train. The high cost of gasoline, the desire to avoid multi-hour Cape-traffic traffic jams, the new bus service from RR stations to all 15 Cape Cod towns, the availability of rental cars and bicycles – all these have contributed to the high demand. And it also turns out to be fun!Read more
There are situations where the danger is so great, the potential damage so devastating, the outrage to decency so powerful that you feel that immediate, radical change becomes an emotional and moral imperative. And you do everything you can to advocate, to make the world take notice, to make people in power take action. Right now.
But, with few exceptions, change happens slowly. Creating change requires getting decision-makers to act, attracting the support of powerful interests, or mobilizing important enough segments of the media and/or the public – none of which usually happens quickly. And then implementing significant change requires transforming systems, which almost always have enormous inertial drag towards the status quo. And having an impact requires the changed processes and outcomes to replace current conditions, which can be incremental and uncertain.Read more
The importance of the two Circle The City events this summer – July 14 on Huntington Ave. (“Avenue of the Arts”) and September 29 on Blue Hill Ave – go beyond the ability to walk, bike, roll, dance, play, eat, and hang out on car-free streets. It’s more than the zumba, street games, yoga classes, vendors, music and participatory arts activities, and multiple miles of safe space for family-friendly cycling, strolling, and hanging out.Read more
In recent years, bicycling has increased nationwide. However, the growing numbers are most visible in urban areas where car congestion and mixed-use density make cycling particularly useful, which also gives bicyclists the political clout to push for improved safety facilities.
Enthusiastic support for Public-Private Partnerships (P3) seems to extend across the entire political spectrum. The P3 label is a huge umbrella, providing space for small-government conservatives who think business can do things better, pragmatic liberals who want to harness the resources and energy of the private sector during a time of government fiscal constraint, and innovation progressives looking for strategies to extend the public sector’s positive influence.Read more
“It’s not the vehicles,” points out MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott, “it’s the people and places.” She’s right – transportation is not ultimately about moving things from one place to another, not about the roads or rails, but about the world that grows up around the travel routes. The value of transportation comes from the ways it improves the health, prosperity, and well-being of the lives around it. That is why LivableStreets Alliance chose its name. And that is why it is so inexplicable that the Massachusetts’ Legislature has once again “kicked the can down the road” by drastically underfunding our transportation needs.Read more
Bills submitted by the Governor, by Legislative Leadership, or in response to a media-enflamed crises can go from idea to law very quickly. The many thousands of other proposals have to wind their way through a very complicated and multi-stage process. Almost every proposal has to go through several different committees and at least one public hearing. Committee chairs have to decide which of the submissions to prioritize, balancing demands from leadership, other committee members, and their own constituency. Opponents have to be negotiated with and compromises reached. The vast majority of bills are either “sent to study” or simply never reported out of Committee and therefore never receive an up/down vote by the full House or Senate membership. Even for those bills that pass the crucial “get out of committee with a positive recommendation” milestone, very little gets settled until a deadline hits or until the two-year session comes to an end, at which point a proposal either is voted up or down or has to start all over again from the very beginning in the next two-year Legislative session. It’s slow, seldom fully transparent, and often quixotic.Read more
NON-MOTORIZED HIGHWAYS: A Regional Green Routes System To Connect Municipal Bike Networks, Sidewalks, and Parks
Transportation is responsible for 36% of Massachusetts’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In order to meet the reductions required by our state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, MassDOT has committed itself to significantly improving its internal operational energy efficiency (GreenDOT) and tripling the share of travel done using transit, bicycle, and foot over the next 18 years. Mandating higher mile-per-gallon vehicles and less polluting fuels will also help achieve the GHG reduction goals. However, assuming a reasonable rate of population and economic growth between now and 2030, there will be a corresponding increase in transportation activity. To reach the Mode Shift goals, MassDOT will have to find ways to channel almost all of it into the target modes rather than Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOV).
It’s important to know that the huge increase in bicycling in Boston has been accompanied by a much small increase in bike-car collisions, meaning that the accident rate has gone down. It’s yet another validation of the “Safety In Numbers” principle. It’s not that the new cyclists are more skilled than the previous ones, or that a higher percentage of them are wearing helmets. It’s simply that the more people on bikes the more that drivers become aware and accepting of their presence, leading to a lower rate of collisions and injuries. But that doesn’t make it any less upsetting to learn that yet another bicyclist has been killed by a motor vehicle. The fifth this year. Yet another ghost haunting our streets. The police haven’t issued a final report on this latest tragedy, so the following is based on what has been available in the newspapers and on-line. But here is my best guess of what happened, and some suggestions about how to make it less likely to happen again.Read more
IMPROVING LIVABILITY, CONTROLING DISPLACEMENT: Can You Upgrade a Neighborhood Without Destroying it’s Community?
A new effort has begun to bring improved transit and bicycle facilities to Roxbury, the base of Boston’s African-American community. (Full disclosure: On behalf of LivableStreets Alliance, I’m involved.) While most local people welcome the idea of more efficient bus routes, more comfortable bus stops, and protected bike lanes there has also been some opposition based on the fear that this invites gentrification. It is similar to concerns about the larger impact of any improvement in a low-income area, from better parks to better food in local stores to better schools.
It feels like a no-win situation. Public sector, taxpayer-funded investment is an essential foundation for livability in every neighborhood. As much as anyone else, low-income people deserve good parks, lighting, schools, transit, roads, sidewalks, bicycle accommodations, and other public amenities. But any significant improvements in a low-income neighborhood’s facilities, or investment in Smart Growth initiatives and Transit Oriented Design development, make the place more attractive to higher-income “pioneers” and then even higher-income “settlers.” Rents and home prices increase. The retail mix gets hipper and moves up-scale. Even before any facility upgrading, the process may start with an influx of “transitional populations” – students, artists, gays – but it’s the public investment that preps the area for sale. And then gentrification pushes out long-time families: think Jamaica Plain, Davis Square, Cambridge’s Area IV.Read more