Fri, 19 December 2014
Stuck in Seattle or Stuck in Sherman Oaks. There are so many places to get stuck these days and so many clowns and jokers making it worse.
First, poor Bertha, stuck 100 feet under Seattle. All the tunnel boring machine wanted to do was drill a 1.7-mile tunnel for a highway that won't even access downtown and is projected to cause more congestion at a higher price than a parallel surface/transit option -- and it got stuck just 1,000 feet in. Last December. Now the rescue plan is making downtown sink. It's not going well. And to be honest, it was always destined to not go well, but it was a crappy plan to begin with. Luckily, there is a rescue plan for the rescue plan, if anyone cares to carry it out. It starts with some accountability and ends -- spoiler alert! -- with pulling the damn plug.
But if the new tunnel to replace Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is likely to cause traffic tie-ups, it's nothing compared to the perennial jam on LA's I-405. The popular navigation app Waze has started directing drivers off the freeway and into the residential neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, infuriating the people who live there. Their solution: Try to convince Waze there are traffic jams in Sherman Oaks too. Our solution: Build a better transportation system.
And that's it! This is our last podcast until the New Year. You can catch up on anything you missed on iTunes or Stitcher, and if you follow our RSS feed (or our Twitter feeds) you'll be the first to know when a new episode is out.
Happy Holidays, and Happy Trails!
Fri, 12 December 2014
Whether you’re building an office tower or a new transit line in California, you’re going to run up against the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law determines how much environmental analysis you need to do for new projects. But sadly, it’s better at supporting auto oriented development than it is at determining environmental impacts.
That’s because instead of looking at a project’s impact on the environment, it looks mostly at its impact on traffic. And the measures CEQA uses to determine traffic impact focus on individual intersections, instead of the region as a whole. As a result, they end up penalizing urban infill development and transit projects while promoting sprawl and road expansion.
Here’s the good news: This traffic measure, known as Level of Service (LOS), is set to be overhauled in California. Last year, Governor Brown signed into law SB743. Mostly what that bill does is allow the Sacramento Kings to build a new stadium. But the other thing it does is allow for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to come up with a new measure to replace LOS. We’ve discussed this on Streetsblog before, and this week’s Talking Headways is a special podcast episode all about how LOS works against sustainable development patterns and what is being done to change it.
Jeff produced this podcast for the NRDC Urban Solutions Program. Guests include Jeff Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard, Amanda Eaken of NRDC, and Chris Ganson of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. Hope you enjoy it.
Thu, 20 November 2014
Do you ever think about the ecology of the city you live in? Not just the parks and the smog. Scientists are starting to examine urban ecosystems more holistically: the trees and the concrete, natural gas lines and soil, water pipes and rivers. The natural and the synthetic feed off each other in surprising ways. We're not scientists, but we found it interesting.
Then we move from the ecosystem to the highway system -- specifically, the argument made by Evan Jenkins in The Week to abolish the National Highway System. Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns thinks it's a good idea (which should be a surprise to nobody). Jeff and I aren't so sure. Could rail really pick up the slack? Would states make better decisions? What funding source would replace the federal gas tax?
Thu, 13 November 2014
Has the stupor worn off yet? Election Day was last Tuesday, and we'll be living with the results for years. But Beth Osborne, a former Hill staffer and U.S. DOT official now at Transportation for America, says the changes on the Hill are no big deal: Nothing was getting done anyway.
So Beth, Jeff, and I examine the prospects for a new transportation bill. One is due in May, and it's a Republican House and a Republican Senate that will preside over it. Will lawmakers raise the specter of devolution of transportation funding to the states? Will they suggest that the Highway Trust Fund should just be used for highways? Of course they will! But the conversation won't end there.
Even the short-term extensions aren't as easy as they used to be, and that could make the politics of a long-term bill a little easier to manage. Some people blame the end of earmarks for the difficulty passing a bill, but Beth makes the point that you can't very well turn a transportation bill into a Christmas tree for every member of Congress when there's absolutely no money.
We don't have a crystal ball, but here's everything you need to know to make an educated guess about how the next six months will play out -- this, and our coverage of the ballot initiatives, governors' races, Senate leadership shakeup, and the new top transportation Democrat in the House.
Direct download: podcast_final_mix_beth_osborne_post_elex_110714.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:12am EST
Tue, 11 November 2014
Uber is celebrating. DC passed an Uber-legalization law that Uber thinks cities the world over should follow. The problem is, most cities have much more tightly regulated taxi industries than DC, with a far higher cost of entry. In those cases, letting Uber get away with providing taxi services while complying with none of the rules is unfair. The taxi companies have been screaming about this for a while now. Uber's response is something like, "Catch me if you can, old geezer." DC's contribution to that conversation strengthens Uber's position.
In other news, a front group for the oil industry is trying to cause panic among California drivers about a "hidden gas tax" that's going to hit come January. What they're really talking about is California's landmark cap-and-trade law to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which will start including transportation fuels at the beginning of the year. Jeff and I called up Melanie Curry of Streetsblog LA to explain to us a campaign that didn't seem to really make any sense and she assured us that we're not crazy; it really doesn't make any sense.
Stay tuned; our election recap edition will be coming out shortly.
We want to hear what you think in the comments.
Thu, 30 October 2014
If you're a Netflix member, you're part of the downfall of the brick-and-mortar video store. There are all kinds of reasons to be sad about that, but we look at its implications for urbanism and transportation. Besides, now where will you find esoteric foreign films to impress your friends? There are reasons to believe a few hardy indie-shop survivors could keep hanging on for a while (and we encourage you to bike to them).
Next, we shift gears to talk about how Vision Zero is unfolding in New York City. Streetsblog has called attention to the need to go beyond grand policy pronouncements and do the dirty work of changing the very culture that surrounds mobility. Specifically, the police need to stop forgiving deadly "errors" by drivers and start taking death by auto as seriously as other preventable deaths.
And then we called it a day because really, that was a lot.
Tell us about your favorite video store, or your least bike-friendly cop, or whatever you feel like telling us, in the comments.
Wed, 22 October 2014
Do people of color and low-income people ride bikes? Not as much as they could be, given all the great benefits biking offers, particularly to people without a lot of disposable cash. But yes, non-white and non-rich people ride bikes -- in many cases, more than rich and white people.
But even if they're equally represented on the roads, people of color and low-income people are largely missing from the bicycle advocacy world. The League of American Bicyclists, along with countless other groups around the country, are out to change that. We covered their report on equity in the bicycling movement last week -- but there was still lots more to talk about.
So Jeff and I called up Adonia Lugo, the League's Equity Initiative Manager. We talked about what groups can do if they want to reach out to new constituencies, whether infrastructure design really needs a multicultural perspective, and how the movement can start "seeing" bicyclists that don't fit the dominant stereotype.
We know you have strong feelings about these issues. Tell us all about 'em in the comments -- after you listen.
Wed, 8 October 2014
Special guest Damien Newton of Streetsblog LA joins Jeff and me on this episode to tell us all about LADOT's new strategic plan, which includes a Vision Zero goal: zero traffic deaths by 2025, a vision all of our cities should get behind. He walks us through the oddities of LA politics and the pitfalls that may await the plan, as well as some really good reasons it could succeed. (Her name is Seleta Reynolds.)
Then Jeff and I move on to Helsinki, Finland, and its even more ambitious goal: Zero private cars by 2025. They have a plan to do it, which includes many elements that are already in place in the United States and that haven't -- yet -- brought us to zero cars. We talk about what Helsinki has in store that could get them to their goal.
And then we research Finnish fauna.
I know you're listening to this podcast on your phone while you're on on your bike or whatever, but when you get to a safe place to stop, shout at us in the comments.
And find us on iTunes and Stitcher and the RSS feed.
Thu, 2 October 2014
Jeff is back from Rail~volution with all the highlights from the sessions he skipped because he was deep in conversation in the hallways. Isn't that what conferences are for? We discuss what we do and don't get out of these big meetings.
We also get into CityLab's examination of the gap between public support for transit spending and actual transit ridership, and we bring in some illuminating survey results from Transit Center [PDF] (and of course, The Onion) to shed light on what the people want from their transit systems. And we agree: While millennials are an important cohort to look at as we examine changing trends in transportation habits, good lord we are sick of talking about them
Stay tuned till the end of the podcast for Jeff's rundown of the conferences you can still attend this season -- there are, according to his count, 50 bajillion more. Pick one and go skip all the sessions and hang out in the hallways like the cool kids.
The comments section awaits your contribution to our witty repartee.
Tue, 23 September 2014
Consider this a bonus track. A deleted scene at the end of your DVD. Extra footage.
Or, consider it what it is: A short podcast episode Jeff and I recorded 2 1/2 weeks ago that never got edited because I went to Pro-Walk Pro-Bike and he went to Rail~Volution and we recorded (and actually posted) a podcast in between and basically, life got in the way.
But better late than never, right? Here is a Talking Headways short in which we discuss the Federal Highway Administration's recent (er, not so recent anymore) announcement that Americans are driving more than anytime since 2008 and so we'd better spend lots more on highways. Here's a quick visual to help you understand just one reason we thought their reasoning was flawed:
You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear the rest. It's a short one; you can listen to the whole thing while you fold the laundry. And there's something extra-adorable in there as a special prize for putting up with our tardiness.
Jeff will be back soon from Rail~volution and then we'll get to hear all about that, and then we'll be back to normal podcasts on, we hope, a more normal schedule.