The Federal Highway Administration, in cooperation with several national stakeholder groups, would like you to join us for the next Let’s Talk Performance: Performance Measures Beyond the Mainstream. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, October 28, from 2:30PM to 4:00 PM (EDT). This event is open to FHWA staff, State DOTs, MPOs, transit providers, and other stakeholder agencies. This webinar is the second in a series of six webinars focused on transportation performance management implementation activities. During this webinar, presenters will:
• Provide an update on FHWA Rulemaking proceedings;
• Focus on States and MPOs evaluating non-traditional performance measures
Whenever we build a piece of large-scale infrastructure, we should be thinking about the markets it serves today, and the market it serves over its lifetime. We are often building lines that aim to promote development. That is, they are serving non-places in the hope they become places. The evidence on this is mixed. Sometimes lines successfully promote development, sometimes they don’t. If the lines were privately built (as in times of yore), this would be much less of public policy question, as the public is not bearing the monetary risk. That is not to say there are no policy questions, the line-builder wants right-of-way, and that often requires eminent domain powers.
However the lines are now publicly built, so the public is bearing the risk so that the privately owned lands might appreciate in value, and the public might get a small share of that increment. Usually we don’t employ value capture. General tax revenues are not nearly enough to justify the line, since lines are expensive now — all the good lines, the low-hanging fruit, have been built, and most development is a transfer from one place to another.
The risk is the capital outlay will not be recovered from future revenue (from users, or non-users).
In contrast, building lines where people actually are, where demand currently exists, presents much lower risk in revenue projections.
Lines typically last upwards of 60 years with a given technology. We certainly cannot predict 60 years into the future. 60 years ago was before both the Shinkansen and the Interstate Highway System. Predictions from 60 years ago about today were not terribly accurate. Sixty years is longer than a Kondratieff Cycle.
Will today’s places have any activity in 60 years? A good test of that is whether the place had activity 60 years ago. Look at the map of 60 years ago. Where was the activity? Where is it today? The intersection of those two maps show places with proven longevity. There are no guarantees those places will have activity in 60 years of course (“past performance is no guarantee of future results”), but they are more likely to because there is an underlying cause for the stability of the place. That is, there was a cause for that place to develop in the first place (e.g. a useful waterfall, a port, or a junction between intercity rail lines), and the positive feedback structure between transportation, accessibility, and land use actively worked to reinforce the strength of that place.
Applying that to the Twin Cities, the best prediction you can make is that there will be strong demand between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul. We currently serve that corridor with interstate highway and transit.
Applying that again to the Twin Cities, the newest places (if we can call them that) outside the beltway are making claims for long-term investments of resources fixing them into the urban system without the evidence of long-term stability (See e.g. the SW LRT to a park and ride lot on Mitchell Road, or Highway 212, or the Bottineau Line to a cornfield, or Highway 610). It is certainly possible those destinations will become significant demand generators, but it is far from certain. If a private firm wanted to bear the risk of those prospective developments not working out, more power to them. But the public is asked to do this, while perfectly good markets go unserved or underserved for lack of capital.
As noted previously, I was interviewed by the Minnesota Civic Caucus. In addition to the interview, there are responses to the interview now available, from many different folks, including Margaret Donahoe of the MoveMN lobby. Well worth reading to see the various perspectives on transportation.
David Levinson interview of August 7, 2014
Overview: Minnesota does not need new transportation projects in order to be competitive, according to David Levinson of the University of Minnesota. There are some bottlenecks that could be addressed, he says, but the primary problem is that we’ve been spending too much on new capital projects and not enough on operating and maintaining the existing system of federal, state and local highways and roads.
User-fee revenues for highways, mainly gas-tax revenues, have been declining in recent years because of fewer trips, more fuel-efficient cars and political resistance at both the federal and state levels to raising the gas tax, he says. Also, a large share of federal Highway Trust Fund revenues have been diverted to pay for transit capital projects, although transit serves only about two percent of all trips nationally.
Levinson discusses a broad range of actions he believes will successfully address these transportation issues.
“We should ask whether members of the council have sufficient expertise about transit … to be managing a transit system. Do they understand the problems at a deep level?” said University of Minnesota professor David Levinson, who researches transportation systems and has written about the need for transit decisionmakers to commute on their own product.
Levinson, the professor, compared the low transit usage by the Met Council to the board of Apple not using computers. He has frequently criticized the lack of information at most Twin Cities bus stops when compared to other cities, including route numbers, destinations, frequency and maps.
“Having that experience of being lost on the transit system is probably a useful experience for [council members] to have to understand why their system isn’t as attractive as it should be, why it’s not as popular as they hope it would be,” Levinson said.
Prisons and Airports are both among the most secure places we have on earth, protected by guards, so that their residents (inmates, passengers) don’t mix with everyone else.
The core difference is that the prison is isolated so that the bad guys stay in, while the airport is isolated so that the bad guys stay out. To get into the airport, you must demonstrate you are safe, while to get into prison, you must be proven to be unsafe.
In the US prison populations and airport passengers have both increased over the decades, though seem to have leveled off in the past few years, such that we are perhaps at both “peak aviation” and “peak prison”.
The NCITE October Section Meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 22nd at the University of Minnesota – Coffman Memorial Union in the Mississippi Room (3rd Floor). It will be a joint luncheon with the U of M Interdisciplinary Transportation Student Organization (ITSO).
Katie Roth and Christina Morrison from Metro Transit will be speaking on upcoming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects and studies. This meeting is a great opportunity for members and students to meet and build networks, and learn how an emerging network of BRT lines will improve connectivity and mobility throughout the Twin Cities region. Coffman Union is well served by the Green Line and multiple bus routes. Parking garages are also available nearby.
Place: University of Minnesota – Coffman Memorial Union
The Transportation Experience: Policy, Planning, and Deployment
William L. Garrison & David M. Levinson
The Transportation Experience explores the historical evolution of transportation modes and technologies. The book traces how systems are innovated, planned and adapted, deployed and expanded, and reach maturity, where they may either be maintained in a polished obsolesce often propped up by subsidies, be displaced by competitors, or be reorganized and renewed. An array of examples supports the idea that modern policies are built from past experiences. William Garrison and David Levinson assert that the planning (and control) of nonlinear, unstable processes is today’s central transportation problem, and that this is universal and true of all modes. Modes are similar, in that they all have a triad structure of network, vehicles, and operations; but this framework counters conventional wisdom. Most think of each mode as having a unique history and status, and each is regarded as the private playground of experts and agencies holding unique knowledge, operating in isolated silos. However, this book argues that while modes have an appearance of uniqueness, the same patterns repeat: systems policies, structures, and behaviors are a generic design on varying modal cloth. In the end, the illusion of uniqueness proves to be myopic. While it is true that knowledge has accumulated from past experiences, the heavy hand of these experiences places boundaries on current knowledge; especially on the ways professionals define problems and think about processes. The Transportation Experience provides perspective for the collections of models and techniques that are the essence of transportation science, and also expands the boundaries of current knowledge of the field.