As Bike Lanes And Riders Increase, So Does The Controversy

Philadelphia has been installing bike lanes for over a decade. They’re a big draw for its young residents.

You can’t drive through any major U.S. city now without spotting a bike lane. Separate spaces for bikes have surged in popularity, prompting cities across the country to widen their roads, and in some cases reduce car lanes, to accommodate for cyclists.

Bike lanes are typically five feet wide. They run adjacent to car lanes, generally traveling in the same direction as cars.  They can next to the car lanes, separated by either by a parking lane or other barriers, and are most often in addition to sidewalks.

Based on data from seven major U.S. cities, the number of bike lane miles has increased about 50 percent from between 2006 and 2013, and cycling has increased about 100 percent, according to the National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO).

Bike lanes also decrease risk for bicyclists. The same NACTO survey showed that an increase in bike lanes was correlated with a decrease in risk, which diminished by about 50 percent between 2006 and 2013.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of commuters who rode their bicycles to work rose by 60 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of bicycle commuters rose from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012.

Despite the positive impact of bike lanes in the U.S., a number of factors are causing bike lane backlash, making some people weary of them and their implementation. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, Driving, urban planning

The Auto Industry Prepares For A Big Change In Direction

Which direction will the auto industry take?

If you follow auto sales, you know two things about how they’ve been doing recently. They boomed the past couple of years, but they’ve started to trail off this year.

That’s no surprise. The auto industry is a cyclical business. But, there’s a growing awareness that the automotive landscape is changing, and even people who produce cars for a living may not realize what is heading their way.

That’s a conclusion from a new report by AlixPartners, the strategic planning and consulting firm used by major companies worldwide. Some of AlixPartners’ experts were involved in advising the Obama Administration about the  bailout of the auto industry, back in 2009, so it’s a prestigious name.

There’s an all-new automotive ecosystem developing, and I fear that many players really aren’t prepared for it,” says John Hoffecker, global vice chairman at AlixPartners. “The changes coming are the biggest since the internal-combustion engine pushed aside horses and buggies.”

But, Hoffecker also says the changes are as unpredictable as “trying to guess which app is going to be most popular on next year’s smartphones.”

I spent some time reading the report this past week, and these things jumped out at me.

New ideas and competition

Five years ago, Tesla was a curiosity, a billionaire’s pet project promising to produce ultra-luxury electric cars. Now, Tesla is one of the most valuable brands in the automobile industry and it just built the first Model 3, the moderately priced electric car it wants to sell to the masses.

Tesla’s rise shows just how fast things are moving in the industry and the influence that an outsider can have. To give it some perspective, five years is the length of a car company’s production cycle, the number of years that a model is generally on the market before a major change.

AlixPartners says there are now 50 companies competing to produce autonomous vehicle systems. It’s a “wild west” atmosphere that the industry hasn’t seen in more than a century, when there were dozens of car companies in the U.S. and around the world. Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cars, cities, Driving, economy, ride sharing

My Transportation Diet: Getting Around By Bus And Bike In Des Moines

This week, Curbing Cars inaugurates a new feature called My Transportation Diet. We’re asking our audience to tell us how they get around where they live and work.

First up is Michael Leland, who is the News Director of Iowa Public Radio. He lives in Des Moines.

“My transportation habits are a little of several things.  I live about a half-mile from my office in Des Moines, so it takes me about 10 minutes to walk to work.  I’ve mostly walked to work for the last two jobs I’ve had over the last 10 years.

I drive if I need to do something after work, like grocery shop.

I live a couple of blocks from a commercial district, so a coffee shop, my bank, and several restaurants and bars are all within a 15 minute walk from my home.

I live close enough to downtown (20-25 minutes) to walk to things like the library, barber, farmer’s market, church, etc., though sometimes I take a free circulator bus into downtown from the office, and then walk home.

I mostly use my car for errands like grocery shopping and other weekend needs.  Sadly, the downtown area in Des Moines doesn’t have stores like Target, PetsMart, and other major retailers, so I need my car for those.

I do some errands by bike,  but Des Moines is sort of behind the curve in developing a good system of bike routes and lanes.  I would do more if that was the case.”

We’d love to feature you in My Transportation Diet. Send us your story at curbingcars@gmail.com. We’d welcome your photos and video, too.

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, My Transportation Diet, public transportation

Subways Everywhere Are Falling Apart, But Some Cities Want To Build New Ones. Why?

The local 1 Train in Manhattan. Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP

 

Subways seem like they are are falling apart across the United States. And still, people want them, even though cost is a barrier. The ones that work seem to be safe and reliable.

Today, the United States is seeing a boom in mass transit. Since 1995, mass transit ridership is up 34 percent while vehicle miles traveled by individual drivers has risen 33 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Yet, every day brings more stories of stranded passengers, crumbling systems and even derailments. Let’s look at what’s happen with the subways.

Broken Subways

In 2016, ridership of the New York City subway system, supervised by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, hit over 1.7 billion riders, according to the  MTA. However, that ridership does not help the system turn a profit.  In 2017, the MTA’s projected operating expense is $12.7 billion, while operating revenue is projected to be only $8.5 billion. That means there will be more than a $4 billion shortfall.

Faced with continuous headaches, New York Gov.Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the New York City subway system. The action followed the derailment of a car in Harlem which injured 34 people.

The derailment delayed cars on the rail for hours, just the latest in a series of delays that have become more and more common for the New York City subway. In the past five years, the number of subway delays has tripled, according to USA Today.

There are plans to make repairs and improve the system. In announcing the  state of emergency, he pledged $1 billion to the MTA capital plan. But, that’s only one-quarter of the expected shortfall just in operating expenses, not long term improvements.

Starting July 1, the M train, which runs in Manhattan, was shut down for two months in order to demolish and replace a section of its tracks, according to Metro. In 2019, there are plans to shut down the L line, which runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn, to make improvements. Many Brooklynites are already beginning to panic, fearing they won’t be able to travel easily into the city. Continue reading

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning

What’s Your Transportation Diet?

Summer is underway, and we’d like to hear from you. What is your transportation diet these days?

How would you describe your mix of personal transportation? Do you primarily drive, walk, or use public transportation? How often do you bike, use a skateboard or even get around by boat or plane?

Perhaps things change depending on your schedule. For instance, you drive in one or two days a week, and share a ride the rest of the time. Or, you’ll only drive if you have an early meeting. Let us know.

Knowing how you get around will help us frame our future coverage. We want to know whether our audience is relying on cars, buses, streetcars, their two feet, etc.

We’ll publish your responses and we’d love it if you’d include a photo of a video of your commute or leisure travel.

Please tell us your name (not a screen name, please) where you live, and if there are any roads you regularly take (for instance, Interstate 96, Milwaukee Avenue, Canal Street, and so on) or transportation systems that you regularly use, like the New York subway, the Boston T or rapid bus lines.

Send comments, photos and videos to curbingcars@gmail.com.

Thanks!

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, Travel, walking

Does This Place Come With Parking? Increasingly, The Answer Is “No”

A proposed apartment without parking in Portland, Oregon. Via Oregon Live; Courtesy of the Boise Neighborhood Association

 

Mass transit and millennials are feeding one of the biggest trends in real estate development: apartments without a parking space included in the purchase price or rent.

Of course, city buildings constructed through World War II rarely had much parking. But starting in 1950, the number of parking spots built by home builders rose steadily for more than six decades, according to a study by real estate analysis firm Redfin.

Since 2012, however, the number of parking spots built per bedroom has declined. That’s causing some discussion over whether a lack of parking is good for the environment or bad for the neighborhood.

The issue is front and center in a number of American cities. Here’s a round-up of what’s going on where.

Last week, transportation officials in Portland, Oregon announced that they are looking into the possibility of building a subway system, according to Next City. That could increase demand for buildings without parking spaces.

In 2013, Portland officials decided that buildings with 30 units or more should have a minimum number of spaces, responding to neighbors’ complaints about crowded nearby streets. But in 2016, officials decided not to impose the minimums in a Northwest Portland neighborhood, reopening the debate.

In Denver, plans for an apartment building without onsite parking were approved in Denver last year, but were met with resistance from neighbors shortly afterwards, according to 9 News. The city has since stopped issuing similar permits for space-less buildings.

Continue reading

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Filed under cities, urban planning

Bike-sharing Is Booming. Will You Find Your Next Ride In A Tree?

Bike sharing programs are booming across the United States, like the Arbor Bike Share system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Micheline Maynard)

Seven years ago, if you wanted to ride a bicycle in a U.S. city, you probably had to own it. Now, bike-sharing programs are spreading across the United States, expanding — and transforming — transportation options.

Bike-sharing allows riders to pick up a bike in one location, typically at a station, and ride it to another location with a station. Riders can either be members of the program, or one-time users, and can keep the bike as long as they want, paying for the time it is in use.

There are now nearly 1,000 bike-sharing systems in use around the world, and 88 million trips have been taken by U.S. bike-sharing users since 2010.

In 2016 alone, American riders took over 28 million trips, on par with the annual passenger levels of the entire Amtrak system, and higher than the number of people visiting Walt Disney World each year, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Continue reading

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Filed under bike sharing, public transportation

Texas 2, Elon Musk 0. Why Tesla Can’t Get A Break In The Lone Star State

Texas is the country’s second-largest state in terms of population, with an estimated 27.4 million people. It ranks only behind California. And, it has long been known as a place where entrepreneurs are celebrated.

So, why is there so much bad blood between Texas and Tesla founder Elon Musk?

This past week, Texas brought back a $2,500 tax incentive for the purchase of an electric vehicle. That means Texans can receive up to $10,000 in tax breaks, including federal incentives, for purchasing a car that plugs in rather than runs solely on gasoline.

But, Texans will have to purchase something other than the country’s most famous electric vehicles. The incentive only applies to vehicles purchased from car dealers in Texas, and Tesla only sells online.

It’s tried twice to get the Texas Legislature to give it permission to operate the Tesla way, but it simply can’t get a break. Just a few weeks back, a Tesla-backed proposal to allow any automaker to sell to consumers failed to move forward..

To be sure, Texas has showrooms in Texas, as well as a service center, and there are Teslas on the road. But to own a Tesla in Texas, owners have to go through a multi-step process that includes buying the car online, paying state sales tax to Texas, registering the vehicle in Texas, and arranging financing if the owner isn’t paying upfront.

On the surface, the decision by Texas to keep out Elon Musk’s company makes no sense. He’s one of the world’s most notable figures, just the kind of go-getter that Texans admire.  If the legislature wants to give people a break to buy electric vehicles, why wouldn’t it allow Texans to buy the buzziest ones?

I talked about this last week on Texas Standard, the public radio magazine program heard on stations across Texas. Listen to my interview here. Continue reading

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Filed under economy, mobility, Technology

Analysis: “We’ll Never Have Paris,” Trump Declares. What That Means For Transportation

Boston City Hall was lit green on Thursday night.

President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was not a surprise. He talked about it many times during the 2016 election campaign.

But the outraged reaction to it from every corner of the world showed that the move was a shock.

Rather than join the global effort to address climate change, the U.S. now will be on the outside looking in. Before the U.S. withdrew, 196 countries agreed to abide by a deal in the making since 2009.

The implications couldn’t be greater for the future of transportation. Here’s why.

Unpredictability. Under the Paris Agreement, car makers, transit providers and commuters all knew what to expect: efforts to reduce global warming by 1.5 degrees centigrade. One of the simplest ways to do that is  to raise fuel economy standards. By using less fuel, cars emit less carbon dioxide pollution.

However, any companies that think Trump’s decision lets them off the hook would be misinformed. On Thursday, 187 mayors from around the U.S. pledged to “adopt, honor and uphold” the Paris Agreement, and it’s likely that more will be joining the group in coming days

These mayors represent 32 million people in the country’s biggest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Austin, Des Moines, and many more. Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, responded by lighting Boston City Hall in Green (see the photo above).

“We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy,” the mayors declared.

Presumably, this puts companies in an unpredictable position. Cars whose emissions comply with federal standards might not meet those embraced by the Climate Mayors. Some mayors may adopt stricter rules than others. An exception to the group: Detroit.

No one knows for sure what those mayors could enact, and uncertainty upsets shareholders, employees and consumers. Car companies and others could find themselves darting from one end of the country to the other in order to negotiate standards. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, economy

The Curbing Cars Podcast, Episode Two: How Do Millennials See The Future Of Transportation?

This week, the Curbing Cars Podcast returns, co-hosted by Executive Editor Micheline Maynard and our intern, Colin Beresford.

In this episode, Micki and Colin discuss the big change at Ford Motor Company and Colin talks about his ride on Detroit’s QLine. We also hear how millennials view car ownership, now that they have all kinds of transportation options.

We also talk about the mess in public transportation and the problems faced by Uber.

Curbing Cars plans to make its podcast a monthly feature. Find it here, on SoundCloud and on iTunes.

CO-HOSTS: Micki Maynard and Colin Beresford

PRODUCER: Colin Beresford

MUSIC: John Goodell

Thanks to our Kickstarter backers who made this week’s episode possible. If you’re interested in underwriting future podcast episodes, get in touch with us at CurbingCars@gmail.com. We’ll mention you at the end of every show.

 

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Filed under Curbing Cars, podcast, public transportation