UPDATE on TRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENTS in MASSACHUSETTS: From Hope for Better to Concern for Worse….?
Winning isn’t everything; but being last should be embarrassing. The Transportation Enhancement (TE) component of the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) is the major source of federal funding for pedestrian/bicycle facilities and rail-trail conversations. A recent post pointed out Massachusetts’ worst-in-the-nation status in percent of potential-to-actual money spent on TE projects.
The post applauded the (slightly) simplified application process MassDOT was instituting for TE projects as well as the creation of financial incentives for the state’s 13 regional transportation planning groups (MPOs) to approve TE projects. It also approvingly noted the criteria that MassDOT was considering using to evaluate TE project spending, giving priority to projects that would connect high-population areas or close gaps in existing bike routes.Read more
CONTROLLING SEGWAYS, DESIGNING BRIDGE CROSSINGS, FACILITATING BIKE LIGHTS – Keeping Everyone Safely In Their Place
There actually is a common theme running through all three of this week’s seemingly unconnected items: how to deal with the changes in transportation choices that people will make as gas prices continue to rise, urban population expands, and congestion gets worse. Or, as my carpenter brother says about his tools, “the trick is keeping everything in its own place.”
SEGWAY IN THE WAY – Reclaiming Sidewalks for People
CHARLES RIVER BRIDGES – Part of the Path or the Road?
BIKE LIGHTS AT NIGHT – “Fix It” Enforcement
The first one applauds Boston’s effort to plan ahead for the influx of electric and low-powered vehicles – such as scooters, mopeds, electric bikes, and Segways – that people will increasingly use. If you agree, contact your favorite Boston City Councilor and urge a quick, positive vote for the proposal.Read more
Arriving late is every emergency worker’s nightmare. EMTs and firefighters know that new construction materials – plastics and composites – burn fast and release unpredictable clouds of toxic fumes. It is estimated that people have about 3 minutes to escape the heat and smoke once a fire starts, down from nearly 17 minutes forty years ago. Response speed spells life or death not only for the residents but also for the fire fighters, whose ever-larger ladder trucks and pumpers need to fight through traffic congestion and tight intersections. In fact, given our increasing awareness of the potential need for mass evacuations under catastrophic conditions, creating a transportation system that allows emergency movement is a matter of both public safety and national security.
So it’s not surprising that fire chiefs in many communities have fought for wide traffic lanes and intersections – a concern often shared by bus drivers and snow-plow agencies. But this has repeatedly brought them into conflict with the growing public demand to slow traffic and create more livable streets whether under the label of “Complete Streets”, “New Urbanism”, “Traffic Calming and Road Diets”, or “Creating Better Balance Between Car, Bike, and Pedestrian Facilities”.Read more
Transportation for America (T4) is a huge national coalition (including LivableStreets Alliance) focused on getting improvements in the next federal transportation authorization bill – which is already overdue and now mired in Republican demands to reduce government activity and spending no matter the consequences. T4A conducted a lengthy national process of collecting ideas and creating a really good consensus platform.
But the T4A platform is focused on national issues. Those of us who mostly work at the city and state levels need a set of issues and positions that more directly speak to people’s everyday experiences, fears, and hopes – and can serve as a platform for building the broad coalitions needed to successfully push for change.Read more
The worlds of Program Directors and Advocates often intertwine, as the later are often hired to serve as the former. Even though Advocates typically want programs to be expansive, open ended, and systemically transformative while Program Directors can only survive by limiting their span of accountability, both groups have an interest in program success.Read more
This post continues the list of specific suggestions for improving the bikability and walkability of our streets. Some are quick and easy, others more complicated but with more long-term impact. A few are focused on Metro-region municipalities but most require action by MassDOT or DCR. They include suggestions about:
- Including Bicycles on the Rose Kennedy Greenway
- Safeguard Pedestrian Crossings on Congress St.
- Create Better Connections Between the JFK/UMass Red Line station and Mt. Vernon Street
- Create a Metro Greenway Network
- Set Modal Share, Pollution Level, Transit Use, and Single Occupancy Reduction Goals
- Increase the Standard Size of Bike Lanes
- Set Aside the Full 10% Allowance of Highway Funds For Transportation Enhancement (TE) Projects
- Require that any Municipality Receiving Chapter 90 Road Funds Must Have a Volunteer Bike/Ped (or a Bike and a Ped) Citizen Advisory Committee
- Expand the T-station Catchment Areas
- Install Bus Priority Technologies
- Improve the Southwest Corridor Intersections
- Pass a “Safe Zones for Vulnerable Populations” Enabling Act
- Allow Municipalities to Install Red Light Control Cameras
This is my list – please suggest others!Read more
It usually takes me about two or three weeks to develop a post – writing out my first impressions, researching missing facts, checking with knowledgeable people, writing a second draft, then tinkering with it over a couple days as I remember things I left out or think of better ways to express my thoughts. But this very long post on the Transportation Enhancement program has taken over two months. It’s a labyrinth of complexity. (See the Transportation Enhancement Overview at the end of this post.) Despite all I’ve learned – particularly from Craig Della Penna whose years of involvement in rail-trail and path development has made him an encyclopedia of knowledge, I’m sure I’ve still missed key points. So please, if you know something I’ve gotten wrong or left out, leave a comment!Read more
How do we make cycling safer? It will never be perfectly safe – nothing is. And despite all the cultural anxiety about the riskiness of bicycling, there is a lot of evidence that it’s much less dangerous than people think. In any case, the overall health (and environmental) benefits of bicycling so totally outweigh the likely problems that it should be a no brainer choice. Still, safety is always job one. We need to do what we can to make bicycling as safe as reasonably possible. But it turns out that deciding what to do depends on knowing what we want to accomplish – and it turns out that there are several different kinds of safety. The first part of this post explores the different kinds of safety and the types of actions needed to address them. The second explores the open question of the relative safety of riding alone or in a group.Read more
One of LivableStreets Alliance’s first campaigns, soon after the group was founded five years ago, was to push a then-resistant Boston Traffic Department to include improved bike facilities on a redesigned Commonwealth Avenue in the area around the BU Bridge. It was a last-minute effort, and would have gotten nowhere except for the willingness of newly appointed Highway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky’s willingness to stick her neck out and require everyone involved to get into the same room and talk things through. The result wasn’t all that we wanted, but it was a lot better than what would have happened otherwise.
Now, as MassDOT Highway Division Administrator Paiewonsky leaves the state agency, the BU Bridge area is again in the news. The two parts of this post start with headlines from this week’s Boston Globe:
“State Highway Commissioner Paiewonsky resigns” (Boston Globe; 1/14/11)
“BU bridge lane configuration is temporary” (Boston Globe, 1/17/11)Read more
There is never enough money or time to do everything. So decision-makers always have to prioritize where to spend and what to spend on. Other than using some random selection method, this requires having criteria (the more explicit the better) and a transparent process of applying those criteria – both understandable and visible from evaluation through decision-making.
For transportation, in addition to the standard economic development rationale, even as modified by other economic policy goals such as regional fairness and Smart Growth, the 2009 Transportation Reform Act required MassDOT to work towards a more energy-efficient, environmentally protective, and health-supporting system.Read more