Via MPR news, It’s one thing to get your ticket punched a response by LRT Muggee Chuck Laszewski.
From Finance and Commerce Cities reconsider options as concrete-asphalt cost gap narrows. MARQ/2 Project in Minneapolis (busway and road reconstruction) will go with concrete.
Bus schedules are public data, aren’t they?
Apple kills Routesy app, my iPhone gets less useful
Apparently, predictions of bus arrival times are not necessarily public data (this is disputed), so NextBus Information Systems (now separate from NextBus) has had the Routesy application for the iPhone killed.
Discussion here and here. (and a response here
Too bad it has come to this, NextBus had a nice thing going in Emeryville in the late 1990s.
I noticed two people have been killed by garbage trucks in Minnesota in the past few weeks, and did a google search for the phrase “killed by garbage truck”, it is not as uncommon as it may seem, or as it should be. A sampling from the first few pages of the Google search below:
- St. Paul artist killed by garbage truck 6/26/09
- 5-year-old killed by garbage truck in Brooklyn Center (Minnesota) (6/4/09)
- Man killed by garbage truck (Sydney) 4/10/09
- Downtown Worker Killed By Garbage Truck (Des Moines) 11/7/08
- Woman Killed by Garbage Truck in Dupont (bike) (Washington) 7/8/08
- Pedestrian on Farmingdale campus killed by garbage truck (New York) (5/26/08)
- NSW: Sydney Dance Company director killed by garbage truck (8/17/07)
- San Rafael man struck, killed by garbage truck in Sausalito 6/4/07
- Child Hit, Killed by Garbage Truck (Las Vegas) 1/27/07. From the article some more evidence:
In December of 2004, 19-year-old Ashley Ipock was hit and killed when a Republic truck driver slammed into the back of Ashley’s mother’s SUV.
In October of 2006, 3-year-old girl Ditavea Hankston was critically injured when a Republic Services track slammed into the car she was in that was stopped at a red light, crushing the back seat. Police say the driver was not paying attention and couldn’t stop in time. They cited him with five traffic violations, including failure to use due care.
The child was in the hospital for two months. When she came home she could not speak, or move on her own.
- Toddler Killed By Garbage Truck (Denver) 11/28/05
- Mount Pleasant bicyclist hit, killed by garbage truck. (Charleston) (12/23/03)
I could not find a systematic database of these (which is not to say no one is tracking this, I just don’t know). So the question is, are these random tragedies, or is there a systematic problem (lack of safety equipment on trucks, poor driver training, poor pedestrian/bicyclist training)?
On June 24th, MnDOT held a “Long-Range Funding Solutions Symposium” to examine issues associated with the long-term funding of transportation. I was asked to be a discussant. These are my comments in extended form.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss the topics raised today.
First, MnDOT has identified $50 Billion of unfunded “needs” for additional resources of which 86% are for the purpose of “mobility” over the next 20 years. I am not clear as to how these needs were identified, but several points should be kept in mind. First, this is a slow-growing region (and outside the Metro a declining state). It has 5 million people now, and at best is growing at about 1 percent per year. Second, per-capita Vehicle Miles Traveled has been flat for almost a decade, and overall VMT growth has been flat for about half a decade. There are several reasons for this, most recently recession and high gas prices, but I think the most important is market saturation. if speeds are not growing (because we have maxed out the network given current technologies and face diminishing marginal returns to new road construction), and people have finite time, they choose not to devote additional time to travel (and thus distance). Fortunately, since the I-35W Bridge Collapse, MnDOT has adopted a “fix it first” approach, so that system preservation, operations, and maintenance get the largest share of the existing budget, and comprise the first funded element of needs.
We cannot know what “needs” for mobility are if we have an unpriced (or underpriced) transportation system. People will always over-consume if they are subsidized, and people do not presently pay for the congestion externality they impose on others. Once we have something like marginal cost pricing (or a second-best version thereof), we can determine which links generate more revenue than they cost to operate and maintain, and that will signal where capacity should be added, where the benefits of added capacity outweigh the costs.
Another way of thinking about what $50 billion means is that Minnesota is a state of 5 million people, so that amounts to $10000 of new construction for each resident of Minnesota (because this is above and beyond the funded part which takes care of preservation (we hope)). Over 20 years, $10000 per capita is $500 per year, or about $0.50 per trip. But that $0.50 per trip is not to pay for existing infrastructure, that is to pay for new infrastructure those travelers may or may not use; or if we were to charge users, we would be looking at 10 to 100 times as much per trip, as the new capacity built for $50 billion will serve only 10% to 1% of trips, most trips will continue to use pre-existing infrastructure.
We could also talk about mobility vs. accessibility, and why is it important to enhance mobility, but that is another long discussion, and the reader is referred to the Access to Destinations study for details.
Attention is a scarce resource, spending time on non-starters like $50 Billion in “mobility” needs detracts from real problems with existing infrastructure.
In short, the $50 Billion suggested comprises Wants not Needs. (as Jim Erkel calls it the Rolling Stones theory of transportation finance … You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need).
Second, we need to re-examine the institutional structure of transportation funding and administration. We should consider a public utility model where a transportation authority or utility with independence from the legislation and executive branch of government determines how much is required to maintain (and as necessary expand) the transportation system, with oversight from a Public Utility Commission or similar. This would resemble how Natural Gas and Electricity and Water and Sewer in many places are currently delivered. Like those, transportation is a utility that has costs that users should bear as directly as possible. The user fee notion would be embedded into the governance structure of such a transportation authority. The British might call this a Transportation Trust. We could consider how this is organized at different levels of government (keeping state and local separate or bringing them together?)
Third, Value Capture has not been fairly characterized in the presentation made today. If we do not have road user fees, transportation creates value for land-owners. (If we do have marginal cost user fees, a closed system, and invest the revenue in transportation, making some simplifying assumptions, we would not have additional land value associated with investment (in the absence of agglomeration economies)). Since we do not have road user fees, value is created. Several of the methods proposed by the value capture study hold promise for financing transportation systematically, not just at the project level.
Fourth, in the short-term (next decade or so), gas taxes, indexed and adjusted appropriately should be used to fund transportation, as they are administratively much more efficient than road user charges. They have several advantages: foremost they are cheaper to collect than most of the proposed VMT charges. An annual odometer reading is certainly a similar alternative, but that does not have the environmental benefits of discouraging motor fuel consumption and encouraging better mileage. Ultimately as the fleet becomes electrified, the gas tax becomes a better and better incentive to move in that direction. If today 100% of the drivers use gas and pay for 100% of roads (which I recognize is not strictly the case at the state level, but is simply illustrative), and next year only 50% of drivers used gasoline, the remaining 50% would pay for all of the roads by doubling the gas tax. That provides a somewhat stronger incentive to switch to electricity. If the following year another 25% switch to electricity, than 75% use electric and 25% use fuel and pay the motor fuel tax, which is now 4 times as high. Eventually this becomes unsustainable as the last drive of a gasoline-powered car could not possibly afford 100% of the road system’s costs, but in the meantime the incentive works in the right direction for the environment, and since government is always a lagging indicator, retaining the gas tax for as long as tenable should be considered the near term solution, with continuing research into road pricing, additional demonstration, and deployment of select strategies like High Occupancy Toll lanes. See Beyond the gas tax for a further discussion.
At any rate, as I have learned today, in Minnesota transit funding depends on the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax, so I will do my part to help fund transit and buy a car.
I just found out that professor Paul Wright, who taught me the Introduction to Transportation Engineering course at Georgia Tech, passed away.
The transportation professoriate has a lost a number of giants in the past two years:
- David Forkenbrock of Iowa,
- Ed Sullivan of Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo,
- Ryuichi Kitamura of Kyoto and Davis,
- Reg Golledge of UCSB,
- Charles Lave of Irvine, and
- Tom Maze of Iowa State.
(updated 6/23 w. Reg Golledge, 6/24 w/Charlie Lave)
From Strib: Ex-transit reporter mugged at light-rail stop
Chuck Laszewski and a friend where attacked at the Lake Street stop as they bought tickets to head downtown.
(at 12:45 pm (PM!, broad daylight) on Sunday afternoon, strangely enough, just about the time I was on the Hiawatha line going the other direction)
From Washington City Paper, Old Questions About Crashworthiness of Metro Cars
Following the terrible crash on the Washington Metrorail Red Line (which I have taken many times) some blame game begins:
UPDATE, 6/23, 8:15 A.M.: NTSB’s Debbie Hersman this morning confirms that the the striking train was a 1000-series car and that the struck train was a mix of 3000- and 5000-series. She notes that the NTSB has “long been on record” about the crashworthiness of the 1000 series. “We recommended to WMATA to either retrofit those cars or phase them out of service,” she says. “Those concerns were not addressed.”
Perhaps we need to apply the environmental movement’s Fix It First logic to public transport systems as well as roads and bridges.
We let our politicians get away with ribbon cuttings while core infrastructure fails.