Talking Headways: A Streetsblog Podcast (transportation)
Episode 33: Jeff's Milkshake

Forgive us for the unacceptable two-week gap between podcast episodes but this one is totally worth the wait. Your transit geekery will feast on our in-depth exploration of three transit lines (in order of fantasy to reality): Las VegasMinneapolis, and Salt Lake City.

Despite having population density that rivals Manhattan, the Las Vegas strip doesn't have high-quality transit running along its full length, but that might be about to change. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, a light rail line is inching closer to reality but its route stops just short of the densest parts of the region, making it far less useful than it could be. And in Salt Lake City, a line that fails on many metrics is still being hailed as a great success.

And, do I still even need to say it? The comments. The RSS feedStitcheriTunes. That is all.

Direct download: Talking_Headways_9_3_14.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:37am EDT

Episode 28: Good Riddance, "Level of Service"

All the buzz is about Arlington, Virginia, these days -- the Washington, DC suburb has seen its population rise and its car traffic drop at the same time. How did they do it? It could be a lesson for Palo Alto, California, which is considering various growth proposals, including one that would invite greater density as long as it comes with no additional driving, carbon emissions, or water use. 

Denser, more transit-oriented development would be a big win for Palo Alto, but ironically, California's environmental law has long penalized projects like that for diminishing "level of service" for vehicle traffic. A new basketball stadium came to the rescue, however, and the state has dumped level of service as a metric for judging development projects. That change could potentially slow down highways like "level of service" used to slow down smart growth and transit projects. It's a whole new world.

Check it all out on Talking Headways. Talk at us in the comments, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or sign up for our RSS feed.

Direct download: podcast_mixdown_final_3359_071014_2.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT

Episode 26: Helmet Hair

Did you wear your helmet when you biked to work this morning? Whether you did or you didn't, it's up to you. So why are there so many people shrieking about it? On one side, the 85-percenters, overstating the protection helmets offer against head injuries. On the other side, the 3-footers, claiming that it's actually safer to go helmetless because drivers give you more space and a host of other reasons. Some recent hysteria around bike-share and head injuries fueled this fire. Jeff and Tanya may not have put that fire out with our discussion, but they at least tried to make some sense of it. 

Speaking of fiery discussions, did you see the back-and-forth between Colin Dabkowski, a Buffalo News journalist, and walkability guru Jeff Speck after the most recent Congress for the New Urbanism? Jeff and Tanya clear up once and for all some misconceptions about how New Urbanism's winners-and-losers strategy does and doesn't address social equity. 

And in between, they take a moment to celebrate a small victory in San Francisco, where a community pushed back against the fire department's push to widen streets

Subscribe to the Talking Headways Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for the RSS feed

Direct download: podcast_mixdown_061914_3641_final_2.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 3:15pm EDT

Episode 25: Rondo Revisited

Finally, there is a light rail line connecting the Twin Cities. The Green Line, running 11 miles from Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, cost $957 million and several decades to build. The process of choosing stations was contentious but eventually embraced the proposals of the low-income communities that wanted stations, and the line is already being looked at as a model. It's not the fastest way between the two downtowns, but it might be the best way. Jeff and Tanya discuss.

Then we sink our teeth into the Sightline Institute's proposal to change the property tax structure in order to incentivize better uses of downtown space. That might help some cities with their parking crater problem.

And finally, we rejoice at Calgary's decision to tear down a whole mess of parking outside one of its light rail stations, and we discuss the balancing act between preserving broad access to transit and creating walkable, compact communities where they belong: near transit. 

We can't wait to read your thoughts in the comments.

PS: Get us on iTunesStitcher or the RSS feed

Direct download: 061314_podcast_final_misdown_2822.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:32pm EDT

Episode 23: Les Rues Are Made for Walking

This week, Smart Growth America brought us the bad news: More than 47,000 people died while walking between 2003 and 2012. Most are killed on high-speed arterial roads. A disproportionate number are elderly or racial minorities.

Paris brought us the antidote: The city is lowering its default speed limit to 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles, per hour. Speeds are already set at that level in about a third of the city's streets. That's good policy, and one cities around the world should be following.

Meanwhile, the New York Times informed us that while housing is crawling out from the rock it's been hiding under since the bust, the new construction boom is almost entirely made up of multi-family housing -- a major shift from the single-family rut we've been stuck in for decades.

In this episode, Jeff and I process all of that and more. Find holes in our analysis in the comments. And don't miss an episode: Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed.

And lastly, our spring pledge drive ends on Sunday and we haven't yet hit our goal of reaching 400 donors. Donate today! We're grateful for your support!

Direct download: mixdown_052314_2930.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:26am EDT

Welcome to a super-long extra-bonus episode of Talking Headways! We only took on two topics this week, but we got so gonzo excited about them both we just couldn’t shut up.

First, we talked to Christof Spieler, a member of Houston Metro, about the “blank-sheet” bus overhaul he helped design. Instead of trying to tweak the current system around its edges, Metro decided to start again from scratch, planning a system of routes and service that makes sense for the way the city is now. They thought the upside would outweigh the downside, but they weren’t prepared for this: There was almost no downside. By eliminating  redundant and inefficient service, they could optimize their routes without eliminating low-ridership routes that people depend on. And to hear Christof tell it, what they’re accomplishing is pretty amazing:

What we’re really doing is focusing on frequent service. We’re basically doubling the number of routes that offer frequent service, and we’re extending that frequent service to seven days a week. So: every 15 minutes, seven days a week, network of about 20 routes.

That puts a million people within walking distance of those routes; it puts a million jobs within walking distance of those routes. It is going to be one of the largest coverage areas of high frequency transit in the United States. And that is a huge deal for our existing riders, because currently only about 25 percent of our boardings are at stops that have all-week frequent service. This will take that up to 73 percent.

Once we tear ourselves away from Christof and his beautiful vision of the future of transit, we do a debrief on what’s going on with the transportation bill in Congress. The Senate bill isn’t all it could be, but in Congress nothing is ever all it could be, and this one at least stands a chance of passage — or it would, anyway, if there were an actual, realistic funding stream attached to it. No such luck. Tune in for all the gory details.

Side note: Big thanks to all who have donated during Streetsblog’s spring pledge drive, especially those of you who specifically mentioned the podcast as why you’re giving. We appreciate you! There’s still time to get in on the fun: Please donate today!

As always, Talking Headways is available on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed, and this right here is where you leave your snappy comments. We welcome your backtalk and your sassy mouth. 

Direct download: mixdown_christophe_051614_4918.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:35am EDT

We were so excited about the Census' first-ever report exclusively focused on biking and walking that we devoted this entire episode of the Talking Headways podcast to an interview with its author, Brian McKenzie. 

Bike commuting is up 60 percent since 2000, the Census data shows, and people with low incomes are by far the biggest proportion of the riding public. 

People who bike and walk are hungry for reliable data. While government-sanctioned statistics on vehicle-miles-traveled are easy enough to come by, where would you go for foot-miles-walked or bicycle-miles-ridden? Strava? No. The Census.

Not that the Census data doesn't have its limitations, and Brian talks candidly about those. But the data gives us a glimpse of who's walking and biking for transportation, and where, and why they stop.

Dive deep with us. Here is a full half-hour just for you bike-ped dataheads. Enjoy. And talk at us in the comments. 

PS: Talking Headways is available on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed

PPS: Many thanks to those of you who have already donated -- especially those who specifically mentioned that you enjoy the podcast. Keep it coming!

Direct download: Mixdown_McKenzie_census_050814_3315.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 1:39pm EDT

Welcome to our all-California, all-the-time episode of the Talking Headways podcast.

We start with a statewide debate over whether $60,000+ Teslas should qualify for tax breaks -- or whether any electric vehicles should get tax breaks. Then on to the conversation about how California's cap-and-trade dollars should be spent. One proposal, from the State Senate leader, would spend it on affordable housing, sustainable communities, transit, and high-speed rail. And then we zoom in on Fresno, where one blogger wonders why the demise of BRT didn't get as much attention as it did in Nashville.

We missed the podcast after a long-ish break and are glad to be back! We hope you filled the gaping hole in your life from by our long headways by listening to back episodes of Talking Headways goodness and subscribing to us on iTunes or Stitcher or signing up for the RSS feed.

And, side note: The giveaway for our spring pledge drive has changed since we recorded this podcast. Now, you'll be entered into a drawing to win a package of zines and books by feminist bike activist and writer Elly Blue. Thanks for your donation!

Direct download: podcast_mixdown_042814_3429ish.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 2:46pm EDT

Episode 19: Escobar's Escalators

Did you go to the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia last week? Neither did your hosts Jeff Wood and Tanya Snyder, but we sure found a lot to say about it anyway -- or at least, about the remarkable urban transformation that Medellín made, in the midst of war, to make the city's transportation infrastructure more equitable. 

But first, we talked to our very own Angie Schmitt about the Parking Madness tournament. Did she know Rochester was a winner from the moment she laid eyes on that remarkable parking crater? You'll have to listen to find out. 

And finally we turn to Dallas, where local activists are pressuring officials to tear down a 1.4-mile stretch of I-345 in downtown to make room for 245 acres of new development. If it happens, it would be a tremendous win for smart urban development over Eisenhower-era car-centrism. 

And the other big news this week is that Talking Headways podcast is now available on Stitcher! So if you're not an iTunes person, you've still got a way to subscribe. But if you are an iTunes person, by all means! Or you can follow the RSS feed. And as always, the comments section is wide open for all the witty comments we should have made but didn't think to.

Direct download: mixdown_041414_final.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 12:03am EDT

You think the conflict between Uber and regular taxi drivers -- and cities like Seattle -- is bad? Check out how new taxi apps in China are upending the transportation system and central economic planning. Meanwhile, in Houston, a flea market has brought revitalization without gentrification to a depressed area near the airport, and now an urban design firm is bringing in pop-up infrastructure. And Californians are proving that the culture shift away from the automobile and toward other modes of transportation is happening -- maybe even faster than we'd thought.

And for a real downer, check out U.S. DOT's big idea about how to hold states accountable for better safety outcomes -- by not holding them accountable at all.

Enjoy this week's podcast, subscribe on iTunes, follow the RSS feed, and talk at us in the comments. 

Direct download: Mixdown_final_podcast_031714_3453.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 2:55pm EDT