Ah, spring! The song of the robin and the filling of the pothole

MinnPost – on the terrible state of Minneapolis City Streets

Ah, spring! The song of the robin and the filling of the pothole: “”

For two decades Minneapolis has been cutting back on street maintenance to the point that hundreds of roads are now in critical condition. Especially over the last decade, as it has absorbed $297 million in local government aid cuts from the state, the city has been forced to choose, essentially, between funding police or streets. And so, the streets have steadily deteriorated, their budget increases lagging those of other departments by roughly 20 percent.

It’s really pretty simple, as Kotke explained it. Like any maintenance issue, you can patch up the problems for only so long before the underlying structure begins to fail.

The city spends about $7.5 million a year from its general fund on street maintenance, Kotke said, but needs to spend triple that amount just to keep streets in their current deplorable state. It would take four or five times that amount — at least $30 million a year — to make actual improvement, he said. That’s because filling potholes and doing patchwork is relatively inexpensive, but rebuilding a street from the bottom up is extremely costly. That’s what needs to happen here in a lot of older American cities, he said.

“We’re not alone in facing this problem,” Kotke said. “Like a lot of cities, we just don’t have the money.”

Last week, in response to complaints, the City Council found an extra $1 million in a rainy-day fund and earmarked it for extra pothole-filling crews. But again, patching isn’t the long-term solution. The freeze-thaw cycle will create another urban moonscape next spring, and the next. With the Republican-led Legislature plotting yet another raid on the city budget, Minneapolis (and St. Paul, too, which has its own impressive collection of street craters) seems have only two options remaining: Pray for a permanent end to winter, or go back to gravel.

See also:
Rybak fires back at GOP lawmaker over ‘wasteful spending’ charge
$30 million per year spread over 380,000 people is $78 per year per resident, which is $0.21 per day per resident, which is as they say, pocket change. If only there were some mechanism by which drivers could pay in proportion to their use of transportation facilities, say, something proportional to how much fuel were consumed. Then maybe we could solve problems like this. The problem is governance. Roads should be re-conceived as a public utility, not a department of government.

Will London’s New Wayfinding System Get More People Walking?


Will London’s New Wayfinding System Get More People Walking?: “”

Changing Londoners mental maps
The thinking behind the new system is to encourage more people to walk around London instead of driving or using already overcrowded public transport. By catching people at key decision points – such as tube stations – and providing them with the right information on walking times and local attractions, it is hoped that they will choose to walk.
According to TfL, information really is key in achieving modal shift. Research found that most Londoners mental map of London is based on the tube map which is geographically distorted and can be very misleading. For instance there are over 100 connections on the underground where its quicker to walk than take the tube! Legible London maps will often show users that their destination is closer and more walkable than they think.

(Via Kelly Clifton.)

Cities are more profound at night.

Cities are more profound at night. Pictures of cities lit at night make them seem much more important places than those same cities in the light of day.
At night, colors are muted, it is not quite black and white, but the garishness is avoided. Perhaps this is why I prefer London to New York, Black Cabs are just cooler than Yellow Taxis.
See e.g. this video of New York by James Ogle (via Infrastructurist)

new york city. from James Ogle on Vimeo.

Why are we so afraid of terrorists?

From AP US parents say airport security agent frisked their 6-year-old daughter

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A couple in Kentucky said Wednesday that they want the Transportation Security Administration to change how it screens children after their 6-year-old daughter was frisked at the New Orleans airport.

Selena Drexel told ABC television that the family was returning home from a vacation earlier this month when their daughter Anna was selected for a pat-down.

The couple posted a video of the search on YouTube. It shows a TSA agent patting down the child and explaining the procedure to the girl and her parents. The screener says that she will use the back of her hands on sensitive areas and will “put my hand in the waistband.”

Martin Macpherson, the director of the London-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, said he is not aware of instances when terrorists have used children as young as six in an attack.

Why are we so afraid of terrorists we succumb to this? 9/11 will not be successfully repeated, we continue to fight the last war.

A2D Talk, April 14 @ Noon

I will be talking about Access to Destinations at the Minnesota Chapter American Planning AssociationBrown Bag Lunch on April 14
Brown Bag Lunch
Access to Destinations Study
Presented by Dr. David Levinson
When: April 14th 12:00 – 1:30
Where: University of Minnesota
Room 1130 of the Mechanical Engineering Building
About the Access to Destinations Project:
Access to Destinations is an interdisciplinary research and outreach effort coordinated by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, with support from sponsors including the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, and the McKnight Foundation.
The Access to Destinations Study takes a new approach to understanding how people use the transportation system, and how transportation and land use interact. At the heart of this approach is the concept of accessibility: the ability of people to reach the destinations that they need to visit in order to meet their needs. By focusing on accessibility – rather than simple congestion measures – the Access to Destinations Study aims to produce a more complete and meaningful picture of transportation and its role in our lives.
This presentation will discuss the research and results of this five year study, along with a newly created online mapping tool to help those who make transportation and land-use decisions in the Twin Cities region capture variations in accessibility to different types of destinations for travelers who drive, bike, walk, or use transit.
To learn more about accessibility and its role in the Access to Destinations Study, visit www.cts.umn.edu/access-study.
Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch to this event. Please RSVP to Matthew Parent at matthew.parent@co.anoka.mn.us by Tuesday, April 12th .”

Should there be a National Transit System?

NationalHighwaySystemThere is a National Highway System in the US, which identifies priority roads for federal investment. The NHS includes approximately 160,000 miles of roadway— principally the interstate highway system—as well as other roads that are important to the nation’s economy, defense, and mobility.
Should there be a similar National Transit System? The American Public Transportation Association has advocated in its strategic plan to “Work to define elements of a national transit system that complement the existing national highway system, including those elements of public transportation systems that are of national and regional significance.”, but otherwise there seems to be no national policy discussion of this.

This of course has a lot to do with history. The appropriate federal role in transit, even in interstate passenger service, remains a long standing question.  Danielson (1965), discussing the funding crisis facing the then private commuter railroads in the late 1950s and early 1960s, writes “Support from outside the government for [the position that there was no federal role for mass transportation] came in 1959, when, in an authoritative study on railroad policies for the influential Brookings Institution, James Nelson concluded that support of  [commuter trains] was a local matter.”[1]

President-elect Kennedy supported a $100 million mass transportation loan program proposed by New Jersey Senator Harrison Williams. This eventually passed as a $50 million loan, and $25 million demonstration-grants (not for long-term capital improvements), as well as a small planning program, but Danielson (p.158) writes “While loans might be more palatable to Congress, Budget officials pointed out that they would offer little incentive to communities which had reached their debt limit or which could float municipal tax-exempt bonds at a lower interest rate than federal loans. They also emphasized that the only criteria in the Williams bill for setting the magnitude of federal financial participation had been how much Congress  might be persuaded to accept.” Loans were nevertheless endorsed by the urban coalition of metropolitan areas and the private railroads. Authorization was subsequently cut from $75 million to $42.5 million by the House, which was less sensitive to urban issues at the time than the Senate.

Mass transit was then housed in the Housing and Home Finance Agency (later the Department of Housing and Urban Development). This positioning of transit and housing together is echoed today by the Obama Administration’s Livability Initiatives cutting across DOT and HUD. The concern of locating mass transit within the Department of Commerce was the influence of the Bureau of Public Roads.

In 1964, a $375 million urban transportation program was passed and signed by President Johnson. However this program took the form of grants rather than loans, which were by their very nature more favored by states and metropolitan areas.

In the post-Interstate era, there has been less new construction, highway expansion has slowed. More federal funds go to transit (about 25 percent of federal surface transportation capital funds go to transit), and the match requirement for states has increased.

Metropolitan areas are not generally connected by urban public transit in the US, though they are connected by Amtrak and by the Aviation sector (which is certainly mass transit, if not public transit), both of which are already seen as national systems. There are other aspects. Highways are infrastructure, but not carriers. Transit services are carriers, and sometimes infrastructure and carriers. Occasionally the services are interstate (in multi-state metros), but none are really national.

There is the issue of equity. People who live in urban areas are more likely to take transit (and less likely to take highway). If funds for transportation came from general revenue, there would be a strong equity case for treating the modes equally (and thus for a federally supported NTS). However, since most funds at the federal level come from highway user fees, it has less salience as an argument, since if urban areas have less highway travel per capita, they have less highway needs per capita and they generate fewer user fees per capita. The rationale for spending highway user fees on transit is in the end quite weak. …

[1] Danielson, M.N. (1965) Federal-metropolitan politics and the commuter crisis. Columbia University Press. P. 40;

Nelson, J.C. (1959) Railroad transportation and public policy. The Brookings Institution.