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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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