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News & Notes

→ Transportation for America: Newly approved transportation bill is a clear step backwards

Unfortunately, this final bill moves closer to the House’s disastrous HR7, which was too contentious and unpopular to garner enough votes to pass. This final negotiated bill has been called a “compromise,” but it’s really a substantial capitulation in the face of threats by the House to include provisions with no relevance to the transportation bill — the Keystone XL pipeline, regulation of coal ash and others.

As a result of this “compromise,” the bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community.

Despite record demand for public transportation service, this deal cut the emergency provisions to preserve existing transit service, does little to expand that service and actually removed the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking.

→ See also: Bike Portland: Why advocates are distraught over new transportation bill


→ Next American City: France Commits to Tramways, A Possible Model for the Future of Urban Rail

The appeal of tramways is easy to understand. The electric vehicles are silent, modern-looking and entirely flat-floor. Their tracks can be nestled in a lawn, creating a grass median through which trains run; if done right, they can be used as a tool to restore the beauty of an urban boulevard, rather than deface it, as do some light rail lines traveling on grade-separated track. In some cities, like Nice, Bordeaux and Orléans, vehicles have been designed with batteries that allow them to travel some distance (such as across a historic square) without the need for overhead messenger wire. In virtually every case, tramways in France have been specifically located on major bus corridors in order to replace overcrowded routes with higher capacity services.


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News & Notes

Bike Lane

Bike lane in Cambridge, Massachusetts

→ Shareable Cities: The Boom in Biking Benefits Everyone, Not Just Bicyclists

The core of their message is plain common sense: All Americans are better off because biking and walking foster improved public health (and savings in health care expenditures for households, businesses and government), stronger communities and local economies, less congestion, safer streets, lower energy use and a cleaner, safer environment.

While Congressional critics belittle bicyclists as a marginal, almost silly special interest group, others herald them as self-reliant citizens who get around without the need of imported oil and mega-highway projects that cost taxpayers billions. Instead of a boondoggle, continued funding to improve biking and walking conditions in the U.S. represents a sound investment that saves taxpayers money now and in the future.


→ Grist: Gallery walls: Cities embrace street art as a ticket to success

Launched this month and running through the end of May, Open Walls Baltimore is the city’s first officially sanctioned street art exhibition. Twenty walls throughout the Station North Arts and Entertainment District will serve as backdrops for murals that will be created over the course of several weeks. The walls to be painted are a mix of both private homes and commercial buildings, and represent both occupied and vacant structures. “It’s a museum for street art,” says the artist Gaia, who is curating the event.


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News & Notes

→ Transportation for America: The Fix We’re In: The State of Rhode Island’s Bridgespdf

America’s infrastructure is beginning to show its age. Our nation’s roads, highways and bridges have increasingly received failing scores on maintenance and upkeep. The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated our country’s overall infrastructure a “D” and our bridges a “C.” For roads and highways, this manifests itself in rutted roadways, cracked pavement and abundant potholes, creating significant costs for drivers and businesses due to increased wear and tear on their vehicles. For the nation’s bridges, lack of maintenance can result in the sudden closure of a critical transportation link or, far worse, a collapse that results in lost lives and a significant loss in regional economic productivity.


→ The Providence Journal: R.I. Governor Chafee: ‘Fix the DMV’

Good luck with that.


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News & Notes

→ Downtown need a makeover? More cities are razing urban highways [The Christian Science Monitor]

Removing roadways presents an opportunity for wiser, gentler redevelopment that can – if all goes well – add vibrancy and livability to areas around city centers.

That possibility has planners from Providence, R.I., and Baltimore to New Orleans and Seattle rethinking decisions to run highways through the hearts of cities.

Two things are driving these extreme make-overs. One is the simple fact that many highways built in the postwar years are nearing the end of their useful lives, says Joseph DiMento, a professor of planning and law at the University of California, Irvine, who is at work on a book about urban highways. The other, he says, is a growing faith that urban centers, including some that have been long neglected, have development potential.


→ Is Generational Turnover Necessary for the Return of Cities? [Streetsblog]

How many times have you heard this line: Young people prefer urban living.

Of course, everyone acknowledges, this isn’t a universal preference. But a clear generational shift away from suburban lifestyles is the phenomena on which many of our discussions about urbanism are premised.

However, while young people may be a driving force in demanding vibrant urban environments, they aren’t necessarily in the driver’s seat when it comes to the important policy decisions that continue to shape metro areas, often at the expense of cities.


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Be counted

Seriously people, if we don’t all get our forms in, Worcester might get more forms in than us. We can’t let Worcester be the second biggest city in New England, that would be a disaster!*

The Mayor has a lot of other reasons for filling out the form besides being better than Worcester:

If your form is sitting on your counter, unfilled out, fill it out and mail it in. It takes literally 10 minutes, less if you can count fast. Or get your form at City Hall or a community center or call the numbers above.

* Not that there’s anything wrong with Worcester

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