Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recently gave a talk at the Harvard Book Store to promote her inspiring new book, Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. While Sadik-Khan was clear that the campaigns were a group effort involving her entire staff and several other departments as well, it’s clear that her leadership made a difference. Despite the gentrifying implications of the Bloomberg Administration’s efforts to revitalize much of the city, transportation reform had city-wide effects that made things better for nearly everyone. Some of the lessons she described: the power of positive and inclusion framing of program innovations, the importance of turning top-down innovations into bottom-up requests, the need to move quickly and cheaply when opportunities arise, and the way that the collection of new types of data can reshape the public debate.Read more
The headlines this winter are all about the Establishment’s loss of control over our political process. But there’s another form of chaos lurking outside. As rising seas jeopardize coastal areas, drought forces rural families to migrate, and severe storms threaten regional destruction, we need to get serious about preventing what we can by reducing emissions and increasing our resiliency for what are already inescapable conditions. It will take both market-wide changes that internalize the cost of greenhouse gas emissions by putting an increasing price on carbon pollution and transportation-specific policies that directly lower vehicular discharge. These are only marginally technical problems. The real struggle is political and unless there is a “bottom-up” movement to demand equitable as well as effective action the price of both the inevitably coming damage and the (hopefully) implemented preventative and mitigatory solutions will fall primarily on those outside the ranks of the rich and powerful.Read more
- moving the focus from streets to networks and systems,
- emphasizing the community-creating and place-making aspects of transportation facilities,
- becoming more explicit about the different types of economic development stimulus a transportation project can provide,
- putting greater emphasis on making up for past neglect of those who were previously underserved.
Instead of internally creating a capital spending plan and then asking for public reaction, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack held a series of public discussions, in-person and on-line, to ask what was on the public’s to-do list. Her invitation has sparked some thoughts about themes that might shape future transportation system spending including:
- Making Safety, not Eliminating Congestion, the Only Rationale for Construction;
- Getting More Value and Better Leverage from Maintenance Work;
- Empowering MassDOT’s District Offices to be Accountable for Complete Street Standards;
- Changing What People Get Rewarded For;
- Bringing In New Ideas and Skills.
The statistics show that each of us is driving less. So why do our roads feel more jammed up? Why does it take longer to get anywhere? And what can we do about it? Some politicians have begun blaming Traffic Calming and bicycle lanes for the backups; saying that Complete Streets and pedestrian bulb-outs are making roads less safe because less accessible for emergency vehicles. Is there any truth to this? More fundamentally, is car congestion a problem to be solved or a solution to a problem?Read more
There can be no question about the transformative power of today’s metropolitan economy. Major cities around the country hope to ride the wave of the growing financial, research-based, and digital business sectors. City leaders are doing what they can to make the place attractive to exploding numbers of higher-income young professionals these firms employ as well as the upper-income suburban baby boomers now seeking the convenience and vitality of urban life. Working within market trends requires skill but has the advantage of moving with the economic current. In contrast, urban leaders who wish to expand the benefits of economic growth to the entire population have a more limited and challenging set of options.Read more
Parking is a problem. When it snows it’s a nightmare. We start looking around, getting frustrated, maybe nasty. There seem to be parking spots everywhere except where we want to go. Parking is the explosive trap door of community transportation meetings – anything that reduces the number of spots anywhere evokes outcry. This winter’s climate craziness has pushed people from frustration into pathology — angry notes, slashed tires, off-road rage. Forgive us, neighbors, we have space saved.
At a recent meeting of the LivableStreets Alliance Advocacy Committee, Board member Charlie Denison led a brainstorming session about how the current parking situation in Boston isn’t really benefiting anyone, especially drivers themselves. The ideas range from snow-related strategies to general management of residential and commercial parking to long-term ways to reduce the overall demand. Just as the snow finally forced state leaders to acknowledge the desperate condition of the MBTA, maybe we can use this crisis to begin addressing the parking problem as well in both residential and commercial areas, by both addressing parking policies and the city-design need for it. Here’s my take on what came up during the brainstorm…Read more
The best and perhaps only argument for holding the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston (and Cambridge) is that the deadlines and international media scrutiny will force us – meaning city, state, and federal governments as well as local universities – to make the infrastructure investments that we already know are needed but that are unlikely to occur given current budget pressures. The promise is that most of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on a “car-free” Olympics will be used for upgraded public transportation and walking/bicycling facilities, for expanded student dormitories around local colleges and family-sized affordable housing, and general landscape improvements.
What if it could be so? (Full disclosure: I’d like to have one of the promised improvements be the Greenway Links project – a seamless network of walking and bicycling corridors for recreation and travel by people of all ages and abilities – that I’ve been working on for the past few years.)Read more