Talking Headways: A Streetsblog Podcast (transportation)
Episode 36: OMG Enough About Millennials Already

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.

And hang out with us by subscribing to Talking Headways on our RSS feedStitcher or iTunes.

The comments section awaits your contribution to our witty repartee.

Direct download: Talking_Headways_10.2.14_final_3613.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

Episode 35: The Real News About America’s Driving Habits (Short)

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:

Above, the change in total vehicle miles traveled, and below, the change in per capita vehicle miles traveled.
Above, the change in total vehicle miles traveled, and below, the change in per capita vehicle miles traveled.

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.

You'll be the first to know when that happens if you subscribe to Talking Headways on our RSS feedStitcher or iTunes.

Direct download: shorts_podcast_1335_FHWA_090514_final.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 5:17pm EDT

Episode 34: Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Redux

After a week at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place Conference in Pittsburgh, it was all I could talk about -- and luckily, Jeff was an eager audience. 

In this podcast, Jeff and I talk about the relative utility of a character like Isabella, the new fictional spokesperson of People for Bikes and the movement for safe, low-stress bikeways. We dig into the announcement that U.S. DOT is going to take on bike and pedestrian safety as one of its top issues. And we debate the pros and cons of holding the next Pro-Walk Pro-Bike in Vancouver.

There were hundreds of workshops, panels, presentations, and tours -- not to mention countless side conversations, power lunches, and informal caucuses that were probably at least as energizing as the formal sessions -- so my impressions are just one tiny slice of the pie. We'd love to hear your thoughts of the conference, the host city, and your experience in the comments.

Keep up with us (if you can) at our RSS feed or subscribe on Stitcher or iTunes

Direct download: podcast_final_091214_PWPB_3258.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 2:27pm EDT

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