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News & Notes

miami-station

Proposed Florida Station in Miami.

→ Gizmodo: 5 Rail Stations From America’s New Golden Age of Train Travel

With a high-speed rail network slowly making its way towards reality, cities are commissioning grand stations for the 21st century to accommodate this new mode of transit. Here are five stations on the horizon that are bringing the drama and glamour back to train travel, while positioning it for a high-tech, high-speed future.


→ City Journal: Aaron Renn: The Bluest State

“Rhode Island is in the midst of an especially grim economic meltdown,” a 2009 New York Times story began, “and no one can pinpoint exactly why.” Five years later, the state continues to suffer from most of the same problems the Times story described: high unemployment, a crippling tax structure, dangerously underfunded state pension systems. But contrary to the Times’s claims, Rhode Island’s predicament is easy to explain. With no special economic advantages, the state has maintained an entitlement mentality inherited from an age of colonial and industrial grandeur. Rhode Island was once one of America’s most prosperous states, and its rate of higher-education attainment remains better than the national average. But the state’s key industries collapsed long ago, and its political leadership has refused to make adjustments to its high-cost, high-regulation governance system.

The result: a state with “the costs of Minnesota and the quality of Mississippi,” as Rob Atkinson, former executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, told WPRI-TV. Indeed, Rhode Island is arguably America’s basket case, overlooked only because it is small enough to escape most national scrutiny. Its ruination is a striking corrective to the argument that states can tax, spend, and regulate their way to prosperity.


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News & Notes

→ Streetsblog: Obama to Propose Four-Year Transpo Bill Funded By “Business Tax Reform”

obama-official-portrait-vertA fact sheet from the administration indicates the proposal would increase dedicated funding for transit more than funding for highways.

The proposal would represent a 38 percent spending increase over the current $109 billion, 2-year law, known as MAP-21, and is the most concrete long-term transportation bill proposed by the Obama administration, which has never put forward a funding stream until now.

See also: → Whitehouse.gov: FACT SHEET: President Obama Lays Out Vision for 21st Century Transportation Infrastructure


→ The New York Times: When Pedestrians Get Mixed Signals

But the indication to walk never came. I was contemplating a four-lane dash when a man appeared who told me I had to press the “Walk” button. I did, and at the next signal change for cars, my signal appeared as well.

At first, I applauded this municipal beneficence, which I encountered during a visit while researching my book. Los Angeles is looking after its pedestrians! In New York City, by contrast, the once-functioning “Walk” buttons were left to go dormant, then largely removed. But in my subsequent visits to Los Angeles, my feelings have shifted.

The reason the buttons were rendered obsolete in New York is that there was no need for them. There were always pedestrians waiting to cross. In Los Angeles, the working button came to seem a rare and feeble plea: May I please cross the street?

In Providence I’m all the time seeing people push the wrong walk button. People press the one closest to them, but that is not the button for the street they are hoping to cross.

But the article is really about the misguided crack-down on “jaywalking” in some cities.

If tough love will not make pedestrians safer, what will? The answer is: better walking infrastructure, slower car speeds and more pedestrians. But it’s easier to write off the problem as one of jaywalkers.

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News & Notes

→ The Washington Post: Delaware is bailing out its casinos. Wait, what?

Earlier this week, Delaware’s casinos got a surprise windfall. Just days after saying no to tax breaks, Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed that $8 million of the state’s budget surplus be distributed amongst its three struggling establishments, to forestall the layoffs that at least one of them had threatened.

That would seem to defeat the purpose of casinos: Generating revenue for states. The problem is, for the past decade, almost every state in the nation has tried to cash in–and gamblers aren’t keeping up. Twenty-three states have now legalized commercial casinos, and revenues are back to 2007 levels after taking a dip during the recession.

A small state surrounded by other states with lots of people and better casinos…



→ Next City: Loving My City Enough to Fight For It

These days, the zeitgeist has changed. If before, you were a happy but passive contrarian, enjoying the “lifestyle” that cost-of-living, accessibility, great culture, and tight-knit neighborhoods afforded — now there is a bit more at stake. The mood in Cleveland (speaking from my white, liberal, professional vantage) is more proactive. No longer can you just sip your wine and chat about how nice it is here. The ethos has shifted to an activist one: you have to help out, pitch in, you have to do something. There is an emergent sense of civic obligation.

Why this shift? Why this pressure to help the city’s economic, educational, political and cultural life? Not because things are worse but because they are better.

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News & Notes

OneFund-2 Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. To contribute to The One Fund Boston, go to theonefundboston.org.

→ The Atlantic Cities: How President Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Affect Cities

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, released [last week], focuses on economic growth and a strong middle class. Better urban development isn’t the first item on that agenda, but it’s an important part of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

Three agencies in particular are at the core of that work, with offices dedicated to making sure community development contributes to regional and national economic growth. The president’s 2014 budget would change how each of these agencies invest in community development.


→ The Atlantic Cities: New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First

[I]n the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful. This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

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News & Notes

→ USA Today: New tax hikes eyed for roads, transit

States are scrambling to find taxes to pay for highway repairs and their public transit systems, including payroll and sales taxes, and raising taxes paid by gasoline stations.

The proposals, being kicked around in at least 13 states as governors lay out their legislative agendas for the year, come as states find revenue from stagnant federal and state gasoline taxes isn’t keeping up with highways, bridges and urban transit systems that increasingly are falling into disrepair.


→ Next City: For Obama, A Renewed Focus on Urbancentric Topics

One should never expect to glean much policy insight from inauguration speeches, but President Obama indicated today that his administration will seek to take action on climate change and immigration as it moves into its second term. And as always, cities will be the proving grounds for how future policies affecting these issues play out.

During this morning’s inauguration ceremony, Obama touched upon several domestic topics — including investments into sustainable industries — that should have urbanists and urban dwellers perking up their ears.

Though light on specifics, the issues spotlighted today will likely set at least part of the executive agenda for the next four years.


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First bike lane inaugural parade

Streetfilms points out one of the many first that was overlooked during yesterday’s inaugural:

The networks were busy tripping over themselves trying to point out all the numerous “firsts” during today’s Presidential Inauguration. But when President Obama and his wife Michelle stepped out of the presidential motorcade to greet well wishers on Pennsylvania Avenue they missed a huge one in the livable streets community: he’s the first U.S. president to walk down a bike lane during his Inauguration.

The unique center-median, two-way bicycle lane down Pennsylvania was instituted by DDOT back in Summer 2010, so this is the first Inauguration in which the Avenue featured the new look. Check out this clip from ABC News that shows when the President steps out of his limousine, he commences his walk almost right on top of a bike stencil!

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News & Notes

→ DC Streetsblog: Obama Takes Another Swing at $50 Billion in Infrastructure Spending

President Obama is pressing for infrastructure investment again as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The president kicked off talks calling for an end to the debt ceiling, the extension of middle-class tax cuts, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending — a proposal that first arose last year as part of his ultimately unsuccessful American Jobs Act.

The Wall Street Journal called the President’s proposals “a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list” and “a potential starting point for negotiations.”

See also: Our favorite Obama quote from 2009


→ The Atlantic Cities: 10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

In Jeff Speck’s excellent new book, Walkable City, he suggests that there are ten keys to creating walkability. Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. I don’t necessarily agree with every detail, and my own list might differ in some ways that reflect my own experience and values. But it’s a heck of a good menu to get city leaders and thinkers started in making their communities more hospitable to walkers.


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→ Transportation Issues Daily: President Proposes $50 Billion for Infrastructure

President Obama has resurrected his proposal to invest $50 billion in infrastructure and wants it included in the fiscal cliff deal. Republicans were immediately critical of the proposal.

Details were not released, but it is assumed that the proposal is similar to those previously announced by President Obama in 2010 and 2011. Those proposals have not passed the Democratic Senate or the Republican House. It’s debatable how hard the White House has pushed Congress to pass the proposal.

Streetcar!

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News & Notes

→ The Atlantic Cities: 8 Urban Policy Ideas for Obama’s 2nd Term

If you look at any electoral map, it is clear that Democrats dominate in urban, walkable places. Republicans dominate in the countryside and do well in the suburbs — especially in the South, the corn belt, and the Rocky Mountain states.

The problem for Republicans is that the electorate is increasingly urban. Young people want to live in walkable, urban places, and they see elected officials ignoring their concerns. Millennials are aligning themselves with growing urban minorites — African Americans, hispanics, and Asian-Americans — who identify strongly with the Democratic Party.


→ Better Cities & Towns: The electorate becomes urban — will the Republican Party adapt?

If you look at any electoral map, it is clear that Democrats dominate in urban, walkable places. Republicans dominate in the countryside and do well in the suburbs — especially in the South, the corn belt, and the Rocky Mountain states.

The problem for Republicans is that the electorate is increasingly urban. Young people want to live in walkable, urban places, and they see elected officials ignoring their concerns. Millennials are aligning themselves with growing urban minorites — African Americans, hispanics, and Asian-Americans — who identify strongly with the Democratic Party.


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News & Notes

→ Governing: Tree Population Falling in Cities

Trees have a tough life in cities. They face heavy stress from storms, insects, air pollution, road salt, low-quality soil and even reckless drivers. Yet the benefits of a healthy tree population are vast, from the numerous environmental qualities to the aesthetic value that comes with a green canopy in a city park or along a busy street.

There’s also the economic value of trees. Real estate experts say trees on residential and commercial properties can increase the value by as much as 23 percent. They can also cut the cost of cooling a home or building, and their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide makes them a great investment. According to the U.S. Forest Service, that value can average $2,500 per tree in urban areas.


→ Hartford Courant: After 2nd Wave Of Layoffs in 2 Years, Mohegans Look Beyond Gaming For Future Growth In State “We’re Going To Have To Seek The Appropriate Size For The Gaming Floor”

In the gaming industry, it’s always about the next big thing.

But this week’s layoffs at the Mohegan Sun casino — the second wave in two years — are about something else: the permanent downsizing of gambling operations in Connecticut, as major casinos face intensifying competition in neighboring states.

Mitchell G. Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said Friday that the tribe’s future growth in Connecticut is likely to come from other attractions such as dining, shopping, lodging and entertainment.


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Link

Fast Lane: Obama Administration says “We Can’t Wait,” tells states to use idle earmarks to improve transportation and put people to work

At DOT, we know that America’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention, while construction workers across the country remain eager to get back on the job repairing, replacing, and modernizing our roads, rails, and runways.

Over the last decade, Congress has set aside $473 million in transportation funds that were never spent. These idle earmarks have sat on the shelf as our infrastructure continues to age and fall into disrepair, and hundreds of thousands of construction workers look for work. That ends today.

I’m excited to announce that this Administration is freeing up this unspent money and giving it right back to the states so that they can spend it on the infrastructure projects they need most.

As President Obama said today, “My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work. We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”

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Politico: Obama offers states $470M for roads, bridges

The Obama administration is making nearly half a billion dollars in unspent highway funds available to states that promise to use the money to create jobs and improve transportation.

A White House official says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will announce Friday that more than $470 million will be made immediately available for projects such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been publicly announced.

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News & Notes

→ USDOT Fast Lane Blog: President Obama to House: Pass bipartisan transportation bill

In his Weekly Address, President Obama called on the House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan transportation bill that would repair crumbling roads and bridges and support construction jobs in communities all across America. According to a new report, 90 percent of these construction jobs are middle class jobs. The Senate passed the bill with the support of Democrats and Republicans because–if the bill stalls in Congress–then constructions sites will go idle, workers will have to go home, and our economy will take a hit.


→ USA Today: Few U.S. cities are ready for aging Baby Boomer population

Few communities have started to think long term about how to plan and redesign services for aging Baby Boomers as they move out of the workforce and into retirement.

Even more troubling, dwindling budgets in a tight economy have pushed communities to cut spending on delivering meals to the homebound and shuttling folks who can no longer drive to grocery stores and doctor’s offices.

These cuts, advocates for older Americans say, are coming when the services are needed more than ever. And those needs will grow tremendously over the next two decades.


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News & Notes

→ The Hill: Obama urges House GOP to ‘follow the Senate’s lead’ on $109B highway bill

The White House on Monday continued to pressure the House to accept the $109 billion transportation bill that was passed last week by the Senate, saying that President Obama was ready to sign the measure into law.

The administration has long signaled it supported the Senate’s version of the federal highway bill over the five-year, $260 billion that had been under consideration in the House. The pressure has been amplified since the Senate approved its version of the measure with 74 votes.


→ Next American City: Can the Arts Save Struggling Cities?

Advocates of creative placemaking are careful not to present their work as a panacea. But they firmly believe that art has a central role in reviving urban economies and communities. As examples, Coletta offers the Design District in Miami; the ArtPrize festival in Grand Rapids, Mich.; WaterFire, which lights up the rivers in downtown Providence, R.I., with dozens of bonfires; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is credited with helping to fuel the resurgence there.


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News & Notes

Texting while walking, via Transportation Nation.


→ Planetizen: The Smart Math of Mixed-Use Development

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.


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News & Notes

→ Spokane: A very clear network map [Human Transit]

Human Transit looks at Spokane, Washington’s new system maps. The combined lines to create frequent service sectors would be apropo for RIPTA for places such as Elmwood Avenue and Charles Street.


→ In bicycle friendly D.C., going car-free is increasingly common [The Washington Post]

In urban areas nationwide, drivers younger than 24 drove six fewer miles a day in 2009 than in 1990. Drivers 25 to 34 drove almost 2.5 fewer miles a day.

“You don’t have to keep a car,” said Carroll, who takes Metro to work most days but walks the 2.4 miles occasionally on a nice day. “I love that the city is becoming more pedestrian-friendly and more bicycle-friendly. I can rent a bike and ride downhill all the way from work. I haven’t yet, but I’m going to.”

And Zipcar? She’s a longtime member who has never used a Zipcar.

“I have kept up my membership because you never know,” she said. “I might have a visitor who wants to take a trip to Middleburg or someplace. I think it’s a very valuable option.”

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News & Notes

→ A Crusade to Walk Every Street in Lansing [City Saunter]

Lansing, Michigan native, Ariniko O’Meara has decided to walk every street in her city (400+ miles) and document the experience on her blog.

→ The Steel Yard announces their spring/summer courses [the Steel Yard]

→ City Is Looking at Sewage Treatment as a Source of Energy [The New York Times]

New York City’s sewage presents a daunting and costly challenge: it creates foul odors and often contaminates waterways.

But the city is now casting its sewage treatment plants and the vast amounts of sludge, methane gas and other byproducts of the wastewater produced by New Yorkers, as an asset — specifically, as potential sources of renewable energy.

→ Transportation Reformers Applaud Obama’s Six-Year Transpo Plan [Streetsblog]

A fix-it-first policy for roads. More support for livability programs. Additional transit investment. Competitive infrastructure grants. In his new six-year, $556 billion surface transportation proposal, President Obama is hitting all the right notes with transportation reform advocates.

As part of his 2012 budget proposal – released yesterday – the President put forward a plan that would double investment in transit, give a boost to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and generally chip away at policies that have led to billions going to waste on highways to nowhere.

→ Get Out of My Way, You Jerk! Researchers Study ‘Sidewalk Rage,’ Seeking Insights on Anger’s Origins and Coping Techniques [The Wall Street Journal]

You don’t need a car to get road rage.

For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them.

Researchers say the concept of “sidewalk rage” is real. One scientist has even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map out how people express their fury. At its most extreme, sidewalk rage can signal a psychiatric condition known as “intermittent explosive disorder,” researchers say. On Facebook, there’s a group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head” that boasts nearly 15,000 members.

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