Ten Ways To Transform Transportation — Part III

People are free to choose the way they get around.  But the context shapes their likely choices.  This is Part III of a three-part series suggesting high-leverage actions that would shift the context from one that makes getting into a car the default option to one where walking or cycling would be equally – and in some situations more – easy to do.  Because mass transit is such a huge topic, I will deal with it separately in a later series of posts.


The ideas discussed in Part III include:


Ideas 1-3 are discussed in Part I and ideas 4-7 in Part II.  However, this is my list of the top ten ways to transform transportation.   I’m sure readers have others.  Please comment and add your own.


Allow the cost of a parking space to rise or fall according to demand based on location and time, so that there are always a few available spaces;  Limit the number of parking spaces required under zoning;  Separate the cost of parking from the sale or rental prices of housing.

+ Studies show that a significant percentage of down-town driving time is taken up by the search for a free or low-cost on-street parking space.  Market-based parking pricing encourages drivers to use scarce (and therefore more expensive) spaces right in front of stores and other desirable locations for quick stops, which leads to higher turnover and increased access for potential customers.  It also encourages employees and people seeking long term parking to use further away (therefore cheaper) spaces – with the caveat that well-controlled “handicapped” parking spaces stay in effect for those who can’t walk.  This approach would also allow cities to capture some of the true value of the road space consumed by a stationary vehicle.

+ Most zoning regulations result in developers building more parking than is needed.  Because constructing parking space can cost about $15,000 per car for surface lots and up to $75,000 for underground garages, requiring more than is absolutely necessary raises the cost of ownership and rents.  And once they’ve moved in, the “free parking space” encourages residents to get a car, which then leads to increased traffic congestion and down-town parking demand.

+ Zoning should require that parking be priced separately from the unit (unbundled parking), so that tenant/ owners can benefit from not using (and paying for) a parking space.  Instead, cities should encourage, or create, public parking that can be efficiently shared by many residents.  If there’s a large, inexpensive, and under-utilized garage nearby, a developer may not need to build any parking at all.  And zoning, or other regulations should require larger developments to include shared car services, such as Zipcar or others, to further reduce the need for residents to own their own.

+ In urban areas, the emphasis should be on facilitating use of mass transit, shared cars, walking, and cycling.  The aggregated amount of private parking spots should be calibrated to street capacity, not residential density.  Sustainable parking policies will set parking maximums rather than minimums.

+ After safety, the second-most common reason bicyclists give for not commuting by bike is lack of a place to park or wash up and change their clothes at work.  Government should model best practice by installing bicycle parking and changing facilities in all public buildings, including both at outdoor (preferably covered) sites near well-lit main entrances for short-term use as well as indoor (secure) sites, and showers/locker space for employee use.  In addition, state zoning standards should require that all commercial developments over a certain size include the same, and that all residential developments over a certain size include space for both long-term bike storage and temporary visitor parking.  Installing these facilities has a cost, even if relatively small, and developers are unlikely to include them unless it is required of everyone.

+ If appropriate bike facilities are in place, many people will probably want to cycle to work in their work clothes at a more leisurely pace.

+ The presence of lockers or wash-up and changing areas would also make it easier for all employees to run, walk or exercise during lunch time or before/after work.


Make the person driving the vehicle more capable of causing damage presumptively responsible for any interaction with others. 

+The heavier and more powerful the vehicle the greater should be the driver’s responsibility.  Car drivers should have presumptive responsibility for all interactions with scooters/moped, bicyclists, and pedestrians; scooter/moped drivers for all interactions with bicyclists, and pedestrians; cyclists for all interactions with pedestrians.  In addition, car drivers are required to carry insurance:  smart social policy assigns greater responsibility to those who are most protected from the consequences of liability.

+ While violating a traffic law can help prove that a driver’s breach of responsible care led to an accident, it would make more sense to hold that the driver of any vehicle going above the speed limit or violating a traffic control signal is presumed liable for any impact with others – including car drivers, bicyclists, or jaywalkers.

+ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that 80 percent of all car accidents and 65 percent of near-misses are due to “inattentive driving.”  About 18 percent of those accidents were caused by use of wireless devices – both talking and texting.  As has happened in Maine, the Massachusetts’ Registry of Motor Vehicles should be charged with compiling a list, subject to legislative approval, of activities – not limited to texting – about which significant evidence has been compiled proving its distracting impact on driver’s attention.  Those activities would be illegal to do while driving and, if an accident occurs while doing one of them, the perpetrator would be presumed responsible.

+ Repeat drunk drivers and hit-and-run drivers need to be taken off the road entirely through long-term license suspensions.


Create high level goals for how the state’s transportation system should improve our quality of life; Regularly measure and announce progress towards those goals.

+ Most transportation projects are measured in terms of dollars spent, months overdue, miles of road built of repaired.  These are useful metrics, but they aren’t the reason we invest in travel infrastructure.  The ultimate purpose of moving around is to help us live better lives in a better world.  That may be an abstract vision, but it can be concretized.

+ We need to evaluate progress in reducing the amount of particulates and gasses emitted in the transportation sector and the number of people most dangerously exposed to those pollutants; the amount of noise created and the number of people who have to hear it; the amount of surface toxins deposited and the amount of soil and water that is degraded; the percentage shift from single occupancy vehicles to mass transit or bicycles or walking; the absolute and relative number of accidents and fatalities; the average commute time; the percentage of the median-income families resources that goes to non-vacation transportation; the percentage of the population that has access to healthy and affordable food; the percentage of the population that gets the recommended amounts of physical activity, the number of injuries per hour traveled using each mode, and similar dimensions of daily life.

+ Most of these metrics are already being measured – we just have to connect them to their transportation system drivers.


The New Mass Bike Safety Law:


New Rights for Cyclists

1. Safer Signaling: Bicyclists are not required to signal when you need both hands on the handlebars, such as when operating the brakes, shifters, or steering. 


2. Riding Two Abreast Permitted: You can now ride two abreast (two bicycles, side-by-side), except that you still have to stay in single file when cars need to get by! On multi-lane roads, you can ride two abreast, but all the cyclists in your group must stay in one lane (which will usually be the right-hand lane unless you are making a left turn). 


Required Changes in Motorist Behavior 

3. Don’t “Door” Bicyclists : Motorists (and their passengers) can now be ticketed by police and fined up to $100 for opening car or truck doors into the path of any other traffic, including bicycles and pedestrians. 


4. Don’t Cut Off Bicyclists After Passing: Motorists used to be required only to stay a safe distance to the left of a bicyclist (or any other vehicle) when passing; now, motorists are also prohibited from returning to the right until safety clear of the bicyclist. 


5. Don’t Squeeze Bicyclists in Narrow Lanes : If the lane is too narrow for a motorist to pass a bicycle (or any other vehicle) at a safe distance while staying in the lane, the motorist must use another lane to pass, or, if that is also unsafe, the motorist must wait until it is safe to pass. 


6. Don’t “Right-Hook” Bicyclists: A “right-hook” is when a motorist makes an abrupt right turn too close to a bicyclist, causing the cyclist to crash or make an emergency maneuver to avoid crashing. Motorists are now prohibited from making abrupt right turns at intersections and driveways after passing a cyclist. 


7. Yield to All Bicycles Before Turning Left: Motorists are already required to yield to oncoming vehicles (including bicycles) before turning left. The law now expressly includes yielding to bicyclists riding to the right of other traffic (e.g., on the shoulder), where they are legally permitted but may be more difficult for motorists to see. 


8. Watch out for Bicyclists Riding on the Right: Bicycles, unlike other vehicles, are permitted to ride to the right of other traffic (e.g., on the shoulder), and motorists are not permitted to use this fact as a legal defense for causing a crash with a bicyclist. 


Required Changes in Police Training and Enforcement 

10. Police Training: Police recruits are now required to receive training on the bicycle-related laws


12. Bicycle Registration Repealed: The bicycle registration law permitted any city or town to require residents to register their bicycles, to require bicycle rental businesses to register their bicycle fleets, and to require bicycle shops to file reports identifying the purchaser of every bicycle. The registration law was not being used or enforced anywhere in the state.

–>for a PDF file with the compiled material of Parts I, II, and III, please send an email to [email protected]

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