Resource File – A Collection of Articles on Transportation Issues

As I come across articles that I think address an issue particularly well, I’ll add them to this resource file. I’m going to try to organize these topically, although I suspect many will overlap. There’s a directory at top with links to each subject area.

Jump to a Subject Area

Multi-Modal Shift Away from Car-Centricity
The Present Model of Car Use Is Unsustainable
Tax Dollars and Infrastructure Costs
Infrastructure – terminology and ideas
Crash Data – Vision Zero – Safe Streets
Parking / Car Storage
Transportation and Equity Issues
The Economic Benefits of a Multimodal Community
Sprawl — and Its Many Ramifications
Density/Height — Positives and Negatives
Transportation Effects on Health
The intersection of Historic Preservation and Multi-modalism

Multi-Modal Shift Away from Car-Centricity

The Real Reason American Public Transportation Is Such a Disasterby Stromberg, Joseph. Vox. (10 August 2015) The American understanding of public transportation is intimately tied to the belief that only those on welfare use it.

The Bike Wars Are Over, and the Bikes Won,” by Janette Sadik-Khan in New York Magazine. (8 March 2016) Janette details the drama and turmoil as miles and miles of bike lanes were added in New York City with the final realization that it had only been a small, vocal group that was against them. For the most part, New Yorkers are in favor of the changes.

Putting Our Towns on the Path Towards Good Public Transit,” by Rachel Quednau in Strong Towns. (3 November 2016) As housing and travel expenses increase yet wages remain stagnant, strong public transportation systems are going to become increasingly important. And oftentimes Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is going to make a lot more sense than light rail.

The Present Model of Car Use Is Unsustainable

The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life: Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, is the car’s dominance a little insane?” by Edward Humes on the CityLab website. (12 April 2016) The number of deaths by automobile each year is staggering. And yet we continue to drive.

The Growth Ponzi Scheme,” by Charles Marohn on StrongTowns.com. (17 June 2011 – 13 June 2011. … I don’t understand how the dates go backwards, but there it is.)

Tax Dollars and Infrastructure Costs

New study finds positive economic development benefits associated with bus rapid transit projects,” by Stephen Lee Davis on Transportation for America. (12 Jan 2016) “Today T4America unveiled the findings of a new peer-reviewed study that examined existing bus rapid transit (BRT) lines and found strong evidence that BRT systems in the U.S. can indeed generate economic development, attract jobs, retail and affordable housing — at a cost that’s well within reach for many mid-size American cities.”

The Free Rider Myth – Who Really Pays for the Roads? The idea that people riding bikes don’t pay for the roads is pervasive, and completely untrue.” by Elly Blue in Momentum Mag. Quote: “What if I told you that by driving a car you become a freeloader, a drain on the economy? That people who bicycle instead are subsidizing a road system that they are largely not welcome on? In order to break even on the cost of roads and pay for every driver who uses them each year, we would need 54% of commuters using a bicycle as their sole means of transportation.” and “by the most conservative estimate, the cost to keep each car on the road is 30 times the cost of each bicycle.”

Infrastructure Terminology and Ideas

Safety Effects of Marked Versus Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations Final Report and Recommended Guidelines” a Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology report. This report covers the legal explanation of what a crosswalk is and how it affects right of way. Guidelines are given on how crosswalks should be created. And there is information regarding crash studies.

Want Safer Streets? Take Design Cues From the Snow, by Laura Bliss with a video by Clarence Eckerson Jr. on Citylab. (17 Mar 2017) Some nice footage of before and after turns on a New York City street. Cars move faster when there’s no snow and take turns slowly and carefully when the street has been naturally constricted with mounds of snow.

‘Guerrilla Bike Lanes’ Prove a Reluctant City Wrong: Officials in Latvia’s capital keep saying there’s no room for dedicated lanes. Cycling activists just showed them how it’s done.” By Feargus O’Sullivan on CityLab by The Atlantic. Sometimes you have to physically show City officials that a project will work before they’ll agree to it.

Britain’s Forgotten Bike Highways: In the 1930s, the U.K. built a massive network of state-of-the-art bike trails. Now the challenge is to revive them.” By Feargus O’Sullivan on CityLab by The Atlantic. (22 May 2017) Some bike lanes were built long ago and simply need to be found and restored.

Crash Data – Vision Zero – Safe Streets

The morbid and mortal toll of sprawl: The ‘elephant in the living room’ of rising and preventable US traffic deaths and injuries is government-funded roads in drive-only places,” by Robert Steuteville in Public Square, a CNU (Congress for New Urbanism) Journal. (26 August 2016) Crash statistics are stunning, but we’ve been putting the blame in the wrong places. We focus on driver inattention, carelessness, etc, when we should be changing how our streets are designed.

Safer Streets: Design is Better Than Enforcement,” by Alon Levy in Pedestrian Observations. (28 September 2016) This article concludes that there are two main programs that should be followed in American cities in order to reduce injuries and fatalities: 1) Road redesign — making streets skinnier and more interesting to drive on and improving pedestrian spaces while bringing buildings closer to the street and increasing building heights along arterials, and 2) Speed limit reduction — reducing speeds should be enforced through camera usage with fairly steep fines.

Why America’s roads are so much more dangerous than Europe’s,” by Norman Garrick, Carol Atkinson-Palombo, and Hamed Ahangari on Vox. (30 Nov 2016) “Over the past 45 years, we have virtually stood still while our peers have zoomed ahead in the realm of traffic safety. Many of these countries have taken the long view and have tackled the hard, ingrained cultural, political and engineering issues that must be addressed to bring about sustained reductions in traffic fatalities. As a result, we now have traffic fatality rates per person that are three to four times greater than those in the best-performing peer countries — including Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands.”

Parking / Car Storage

Why Drivers Should Pay to Park on Residential Streets: New Yorkers say they’re willing to pay $400 a year for curb parking, so why does the city give it away for free?” by Eric Jaffe in Citylab. (15 October 2013) When there’s a strong demand for parking, it makes sense to charge what the market will bear.

No Parking Here: You’ve heard about how robocars are going to upend the economy. But have you thought about what they’ll do to urban space?” by Clive Thompson on Mother Jones. (January/February 2016 Issue) Self-driving cars may mean a huge decrease in the need for parking lots, which could directly influence future urban design and how we make use of space.

How not to create traffic jams, pollution and urban sprawl: Don’t let people park for free“, in The Economist. (No author was listed. I find that very odd.) (8 April 2017) The author gives a general overview of the disadvantages of free parking, the advantages of setting market rates for parking, and a sampling of the various policies used by cities throughout the world.

Does That Parking Space Come with Fries?” by Sarah Kobos on her website, Accidental Urbanist. Using a helpful metaphor, Sarah explains why filling cities with free parking does more harm than good.

The not-so-secret trick to cutting solo car commutes: Charge for parking by the day” by David Gutman in the Seattle Times. (10 August 2017) When people pay for parking by the month, then they’re more likely to drive every day since they’ve already paid for parking. Charging by the day makes it easier for people to choose other options more frequently.

Transportation and Equity Issues

Highways gutted American cities. So why did they build them?” by Joseph Stromberg on Vox. (18 March 2016)

A crusade to defeat the legacy of highways rammed through poor neighborhoods” by By Ashley Halsey III. Wall Street Journal. (29 March 2016)

The Curb-Cut Effect,” by Angela Glover Blackwell. Stanford Social Innovation Review. (Winter 2017) “Laws and programs designed to benefit vulnerable groups, such as the disabled or people of color, often end up benefiting all of society.”

The Economic Benefits of a Multimodal Community

The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes,” by Eric Jaffe on CityLab.com. (13 March 2015) Whenever there’s a movement toward removing on street car parking in order to provide bicycle lanes or bike parking, local business owners often call for a study to be done — assuming that the results will be that business goes down. But study has found the exact opposite. Business either remains level or even improves.

The Prophecies of Jane Jacobs,” by Nathaniel Rich in the Atlantic Monthly (November 2016). Healthy communities are ones in which there is a diversity of transportation options, a diversity of uses, and a diversity of building styles (including preserved and reused older buildings).

Urban designer Jeff Speck on walkable cities and economic development,” by Rudolph Bell in Upstate Business Journal | UBJ (20 April 2017). When a City focuses on place-making, talent will want to live there and bring jobs with them. Planning department and economic development departments need to work together to make this happen.

Sprawl — and Its Many Ramifications

Sprawl Is Still Sprawl, Even If It’s ‘Green’ by Kaid Benfield on Citylab. (3 September 2013). No matter how “Green” new construction is, if it’s not located in a walkable community, then it’s not very green overall.

Book Excerpt: Suburban Bailout, by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns. (6 October 2016). Not all roads serve a public purpose. When a city takes over a private road, it gets no benefit, only additional costs that are then levied against those who will likely never use that road.

Why American And European Cities Are Dramatically Different From One Another, by Wendover Productions. The way we build our cities affects us — it affects our health, how we spend our time, and the safety of our communities.

Suburban Sprawl Stole Your Kids’ Sleep, by Mimi Kirk on Citylab. (23 Mar 2017) As cities spread out, schools are no longer within walking distance. Busing is expensive and fleets must be used multiple times in a day, requiring staggered school start times. So instead of all schools starting at around 9, some start at 7, some at 8, some at 9.

Density/Height — Positives and Negatives

The Dangers of Building Too Tall,” by Steven Snell in Planetizen. (9 August 2014) There’s a point when buildings get so tall that they lead to isolation among residents; they create heat islands; they block solar access, and so on. We need to aim for a sweet spot between sprawl and a city of towers.

The Relationship Between Skyscrapers and Great Cities: Tall buildings can add a great deal, but they also have their limits,” by Richard Florida in CityLab. (28 January 2016) “‘The virtue is in the middle,” in the mix of great neighborhoods and not-too-tall skyscrapers.” We need to avoid “a type of vertical sprawl that suppresses the innovation that comes from street-level interaction.”

The torture of Tokyo rush hour, up close and impersonal: One hell of a commute,” by Cian Traynor on Huck. (1 April 2017) As the world population increases, density is a given. This article is a reminder that there are negatives to living in overly dense areas.

The Mall Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Changing: Hong Kong figured out how to make shopping malls a sensible part of the urban fabric. Can this model go global?” by Stefan Al in the Atlantic’s CityLab. Part of making transit work is surrounding each stop with increased density. China has taken that to the extreme by building shopping malls around transit stops. “…developers even coined a term for it: “HOPSCA,” an abbreviation of Hotel, Offices, Parking, Shopping, Convention center and Apartments.”

Transportation Effects on Health

Health Effects of Transport-Related Air Pollution. Edited by Michal Krzyzanowski,
Birgit Kuna-Dibbert and Jürgen Schneider and published by the World Health Organization. (2005)

How Does Transportation Affect Public Health?” by Eloisa Raynault and Ed Christopher. Published on the USDOT Federal Highway Administration website. (May/June 2013)

The polluted brain,” by Emily Underwood. Science Magazine. (27 January 2017) “The link between air pollution and dementia remains controversial—even its proponents warn that more research is needed to confirm a causal connection and work out just how the particles might enter the brain and make mischief there. But a growing number of epidemiological studies from around the world, new findings from animal models and human brain imaging studies, and increasingly sophisticated techniques for modeling PM2.5 exposures have raised alarms.”

The stress of sitting in traffic can lead to more crime,” on The Conversation. (8 Feb 2017) A study found an increase in domestic violence after times of unexpected increases in traffic times. This reflects the mental health strain drivers undergo during times of extreme traffic.

The intersection of Historic Preservation and Multi-modalism

Preservation and urbanism go hand in hand.” Historic buildings create the kind of character and vitality that makes older communities perform well economically, socially, and environmentally—and that is the central thesis of a new book. Interview conducted by Robert Steuteville in Public Square, a CNU Journal. (27 October 2016)

The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation Is Reviving America’s Communities. (Especially the introduction and chapters 1 and 2.) By Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy. (2016)