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DC Streetsblog: Oregon Takes the Next Step in Moving Beyond the Gas Tax

Rep. Earl Blumenauer likes to say that Oregon was the first state to adopt a gas tax and it will be the first state to get rid of it. In 2006-2007, the state conducted a pilot study of alternative revenue collection methods, with an eye toward moving to a better system. This fall, they’ll do another pilot, fine-tuning their process for replacing the gas tax with a vehicle-miles-traveled fee.


The Guardian: Paris to return Seine to the people with car-free riverside plan

The pedestrianisation of one of Europe’s most picturesque urban riversides means the death knell for the Seine’s non-stop riverside expressways. These were the pride of Georges Pompidou in the 60s when France’s love affair with the car was at its height. Opened in 1967 by him, under the slogan “Paris must adapt to the car”, the dual carriageway with perhaps the best view in France allowed a speedy crossing of Paris from west to east. But environmentalists have long complained it was a dreadful, polluting waste of architectural heritage.


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News & Notes

Highway

Photo (cc) Count Rushmore

News & Notes Will pay-per-mile be a buzzkill for American road trips? [CNN]

During the next 20 years, projections show average vehicle fuel efficiency nearly doubling.

Revenues from the fuel tax will be slashed by half, according to the Iowa study.

Meanwhile, the cost of safe roads, bridges and transit systems will skyrocket. By 2020, says the American Society of Engineers, the price tag could be as high as $1.7 trillion.

Bottom line: two cents per mile would be enough to pay for the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. That’s according to a 2009 nonpartisan commission headed by two former U.S. transportation secretaries.


Bring Back the Rooming House? [CitiWire]

Is it time to restore the old-fashioned rooming house – or something akin to it – in America’s cities?

Candidate strategies for more compact urban housing units abound. Smith suggests, for example, basement or attic flats that use the “excess” space in larger homes in which an aging homeowner wants to remain but has rooms that are idle and chores that need to be done. “A bargain can be struck,” he suggests, with a younger tenant who pays reduced rent in exchange for upkeep and light maintenance. The net result: “to turn an over-housed, under-maintained single-family dwelling into a multi-household home that benefits both parties.”


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News & Notes

Chicago Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Mannequin on Chicago’s Wacker Drive part of that city’s pedestrian safety campaign. Photo from CDOT’s Facebook page.

News & Notes Mannequins stand up for safety along Wacker Drive [The Chicago Tribune]

Mannequins representing dead pedestrians were placed along Wacker Drive downtown on Tuesday to focus public attention on fatal crashes in Chicago involving vehicles and people on foot, officials said.

“You’ll notice that some of it is sort of hard-hitting, some of it may even be a little bit shocking,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you are frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives we are talking about here. Please take that into consideration when you are driving, when you are riding your bike and when you are walking to look out for those around you.”


What works in cities: Why placemaking requires passion even more than big budgets [YongeStreet]

Before Detroit’s Campus Martius Park opened in 2004, many of the historic buildings around it had emptied. Major department stores were vacant or torn down.

To turn it around, the mayor’s office established a task force that studied the best public spaces in the world and quizzed the locals on how they would use a new park. After a $20-million investment, the park started buzzing year-round with music, a bistro, and ice skating under colourful lights and a giant Christmas tree. The park has since attracted several new corporate headquarters, new condos and a whopping one million park visitors each year.


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News & Notes

A Preservationist’s Dilemma [Old Urbanist]

The use of historic preservation to preserve not only architecture, but the urban form itself, is not a new development. The National Register of Historic Places and municipal organizations have been listing and protecting entire neighborhoods, many of them consisting of low-density single-family detached residential homes, for decades now, the only change being that the National Register’s 50-year rolling cutoff for historic eligibility has lately encompassed the equally low-density but less architecturally noteworthy suburbs of the 1950s and early 1960s.


Philadelphia Takes a Revolutionary Approach to Stormwater [This Big City]

The current water system combines stormwater storage and sewerage. During periods of heavy rainfall it overflows, causing sewerage to flow through streets and into the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The project will replace as much as one-third of the city’s existing impervious cover – about 4,000 acres – with natural or porous surfaces that can intercept stormwater, store it, and then release it at a controlled rate.


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News & Notes

The war on trains [History Eraser Button]

What the hell is going on? Opposition to trains is not some kind of Tea Party platform. You aren’t hearing anybody talk about it on Fox News or AM radio. There’s little if any populist rage against trains. Rail improvements have bipartisan support at the federal level. Trains make sense and have a proven record of helping boost local economies; they’re pork projects in the best sense of the word. [New Jersey Governor Chris] Christie, especially, serves a constituency in New Jersey that depends on trains to get around every day. Additionally, in my experience, state politicians are deeply reluctant to kill projects that divert federal funds to local construction companies. And even if trains aren’t your favorite thing, and even if you think they require too much taxpayer money, they’re certainly cheaper than highways.

Miles Not Gallons Could Be Key to Road Upkeep [Miller-McCune]

“Tying the funding of our transportation system to a tax levied on a commodity, the consumption of which we’re trying to discourage, is probably not the best way to go,” said [Jeff] Shane, a partner at the Hogan Lovells law firm in Washington and a former undersecretary for policy at the Department of Transportation.

Select Bus Service Debuts on Manhattan’s Busiest Bus Route [StreetsBlog]

Transit Mode Share Trends Looking Steady; Rail Appears to Encourage Non-Automobile Commutes [The TransportPolitic]

As Suburban Poverty Grows, U.S. Fails to Respond Adequately [Next American City]

Over the last ten years, more than two-thirds of poverty growth in the nation’s metro areas occurred in the suburbs, and there are now 1.6 million more poor people living in the suburbs than in center cities. Since 2000, there has been a general increase in the nation’s poverty rate, but it has been far worse in the suburbs than in the cities—a 37.4% increase versus 16.7%. Though the poverty rate remains higher in central cities, the number of poor suburbanites is growing quickly.

Transit providers have been hit hard, too, but the fact is that the suburbs are not ready for the spread of the poor to the suburbs. That’s because areas of lower density are difficult to serve by buses and trains without expenses going through the roof and low ridership. Many new construction projects are for big expansions of the rail network downtown, where efficiencies of scale ensure actual use of these lines. In big metropolitan areas, the lack of fast transit has increased travel to work times significantly, making life harder for those who live far from their jobs—a frequent issue for those who live in the suburbs. Because for these people there frequently is no choice but to rely on the car, this means that there is no option but to reduce the number of trips taken, which is apparently what is happening to many households. But that is equivalent to less mobility for the people who arguably need it the most!

The High Cost of Electric Cars [Next American City]

“Am I the only one who sees GoogleCars as an improved means to an unimproved, even catastrophic end? Ice caps are melting: have a robot car!” So wrote Alex Steffen of Worldchanging on Twitter earlier this week. To reply: Alex, you’re not the only one.

I sent a similar Tweet from the Better World by Design conference when the keynote featured a slide about “Sustainable Urbanism” that showed a single family detached McMansion with an electric car in the garage. Neither sustainable nor urban in my opinion. The next speaker, from Better Place then went on about the virtues of electric cars and smart grids.

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News & Notes

FooFest – August 14th: Over 20 art installations and creative activities. [FooFest]

Maker Faire Rhode Island – August 28th: Celebrate New England D.I.Y! Featuring hands-on making, building & hacking, culinary crafting, garage technology, arts and creativity for sale, and robots, culminating with a Waterfire in the Creative Capital, Providence, RI. [Maker Faire Rhode Island]

(Ohio) Mileage tax suggested to replace gasoline tax [The Columbus Dispatch]
The Coalition for Transportation Choices has urged the Rhode Island Assembly to consider a similar measure. The proposed bill did not pass the House this year.

Senate Committee approves forward-looking Livable Communities Act [Transportation For America]

The Mark of a Great City Is in How It Treats Its Ordinary Spaces, Not Its Special Ones [The Urbanophile]

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News & Notes

Washington, DC expands bike sharing program [Good]

U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood turned transportation policy on its head with a declaration that pedestrians and cyclists should be treated as equals with drivers. That means federal dollars for more projects geared toward walking and cycling. [NPR]

Emergency transit funding bill introduced by Senator Jack Reed and others [Transportation For America]

R.I. Senate takes a new look at miles-driven tax [ProJo]

How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development [StreetsBlog]

One in five licensed drivers — some 38 million Americans — lack the knowledge necessary to pass a written driving test, and even more are distracted while driving, according to a survey released Thursday. [CNNMoney]

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