The politics of wishful thinking: American cities and their commitment to the expressway

» If cities want to reduce automobile use and address climate change, the status quo simply isn’t good enough. In Chicago, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the lakeshore could turn into a step backwards.

For American cities, highways are a drug. They’re expensive to acquire. They devastate healthy tissue and arteries, replacing previous modes of nourishment with destructive ones. They force the rest of the body to adapt to their needs, and they inflict pain on those nearby.

After a massive slash-and-burn campaign that forced the demolition of hundreds of already inhabited, central-city neighborhoods from the 1950s through 1970s, few U.S. cities continue to build new expressways within built-up areas (though there are some depressing exceptions to that rule). Less funding from the federal government, combined with active opposition, seems to have done these projects in.

But the difficulties related to drug use don’t stop after the user has begun. Indeed,

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In response to growth, Chinese cities choose metros

» With rail rapid transit construction in virtually every major Chinese city, the country is betting on an urban future focused on transit.

Faced with limited political will for increased infrastructure funding, the debate over transportation planning in the United States has become increasingly dominated by an austerity-driven understanding of how to respond to growth. Unwilling or unable to develop ambitious plans for the future, many cities and their public officials have contented themselves with doing more with less.

Doing more with less is a strange maxim for an incredibly wealthy—and still growing—nation. Nevertheless, it is a pathology that has so altered many American planners’ sense of the acceptable that the mere idea of a master plan of significant investment attracts little more than dismissive scoffs. With blasé planners and uninterested politicians, “doing more” is readily transformed into actually doing very little.

Undoubtedly the overwhelming problems that infect that very core of the American

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A year into the Trump Presidency, federal transit support limps along

Minneapolis Southwest Corridor

» Despite efforts by the administration to eliminate support for new transit projects, they continue to be funded by Congress—and transit agencies are continuing to act as if they’ll see aid far into the future.

Last March, the Trump White House released its budget blueprint, a document designed to articulate the administration’s orientation toward the executive agencies. The blueprint took a radical stance toward the federal government’s involvement in transit: It proposed a wholesale elimination of the capital grant programs, which fund a portion of costs for rail and bus guideway projects around the country. It suggested doing away with the TIGER discretionary grant program, which is frequently used to fund small-scale bus rapid transit and streetcar routes, as well as transit stations.

The budget also offered no remedy for the upcoming depletion of revenues from the federal gas tax, which has not been increased since the early 1990s, thereby

Continue reading A year into the Trump Presidency, federal transit support limps along »

Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2018

» Despite significant hostility from the Trump Administration, cities are pushing ahead with major new transit projects nationwide. Here’s the annual roundup, with dozens of projects on the way with planned openings in 2018.

In 2018, 340 route miles of new fixed-guideway transit projects, representing a total investment of $13.2 billion, are expected to open for riders in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. An additional 366 miles of lines, costing a total of more than $75 billion to build, will be under construction in 2018 but are planned for opening in later years. The continent’s cities, then, continue to be active sites of expansion for relatively high-quality transit improvements.

Projects are described in more detail below. They’re also accessible on the updated Transit Explorer map and database, on which it’s possible to view project routes, stations, and details throughout North America.

This is the 10th year of my compilation of new transit projects

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The case of the missing platform doors

» Platform screen doors could save lives, reduce trash on the tracks, and improve the customer experience. Yet they’ve been repeatedly pushed back as a solution in cities like New York. At fault: A bureaucracy that isn’t able to plan for technological change and is unresponsive even to its own board members.

Charles Moerdler wants to make the New York City Subway better for its passengers, but he keeps getting blown off. His story is parochial in that it is relevant directly to New York, but it is also generalizable—representative in its own way of how American transit agencies respond to the availability of new technologies, even when those new technologies can save lives and improve operations.

Moerdler may be one of the most prominent, if unrecognized (perhaps even by himself), advocates of what are known as platform screen doors. These glass doors, which line the edge of train platforms and prevent people

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

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