Talking Headways: A Streetsblog Podcast (transportation)

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

What a week! Transit numbers skyrocketed (ahem, by 1.1 percent) to levels not seen since 1956 (depending how you look at it). And Radio Shack is shutting down 20 percent of its stores. And there's a new video game for transit nerds to stay up all night obsessing over!

And we tackle the fundamental question of how to make a real change in how people get around. Will it happen just by improving transit and other modes -- or do you need to make driving less appealing, as Emily Badger suggests in Atlantic Cities? 

Tell us what you think in the comments. And remember, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Direct download: podcast_final_mixdown_031214_3557.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 11:58am EST

This week, more than 700 bicycling advocates converged in Washington -- despite a snowstorm that closed down the federal government on Monday and thousands of cancelled flights -- to learn from each other and compare notes from the past year in bicycling advocacy.

Tuesday, as the summit wound down and participants started gearing up for Wednesday's Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, hosts Jeff and Tanya were joined by Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke, Suepinda Keith of Triangle Bikeworks in Chapel Hill, and Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland for this very special Bike Summit episode of the podcast.

The Women's Forum is in its third year. The League's Equity Advisory Council came into being just before last year's summit. These voices, historically not at the center of the national conversation about bicycling, are coming to the fore.

The five of us talk in this, our lucky 13th episode, about how effectively the movement is transitioning to a more inclusive approach, and we share some of the highlights of the summit, including some truly incredible work happening everywhere from Memphis to LA to Afghanistan.

Tell us in the comments about your personal highlights from the Summit. Subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

 

Direct download: Mixdown_bike_summit_podcast_4612_final.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 3:04pm EST

So, Bertha is stuck underneath Seattle. Jeff Wood and I ask the essential question: Does it matter?

Traffic has collapsed around Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct. Image: Sightline
Traffic has collapsed around Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct. Image: Sightline

Does Seattle really need that new traffic sewer, when traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct has been plummeting? Or is Seattle's $2.8 billion road project destined to be a Freeway without a Future?

We highlight this week's public conversation over CNU's big report calling out highways just begging to be drowned in the bathtub. After all, 2013 was the ninth year in a row that saw Americans driving less. States are beginning to reverse their old assumptions that vehicle miles traveled will grow with abandon.

We talk about all this and more on this, the 12th episode of Talking Headways podcast.

And remember, you can subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes — and please give us a listener review while you’re at it. Join the conversation in the comments section.

Direct download: Mixdown_podcast_022414_3430.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 1:46pm EST

Hosts Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire (now working with NRDC's crack transportation team) and Streetsblog's Tanya Snyder talk to Randy Simes in this week's podcast about the dazzling success of the pro-streetcar movement in Cincinnati -- and how they finally grabbed the long-elusive gold ring.

Then Randy stayed with us to discuss the false choice between transit that's useful and transit that's fun and beautiful. And we analyze an architect's proposal to expand BART's capacity by building a second tube under the San Francisco Bay.

You can subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes — and please give us a listener review while you’re at it.

Direct download: Mixdown_4242_021914_podcast_randy_simes.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 4:16pm EST

Jeff Wood and Tanya Snyder are back with episode 8 of the Talking Headways podcast. We talk about the Los Angeles Metro's decision not to extend light rail all the way to LAX (and what they're doing instead), plus some analysis of what rail can really do in a city as spread-out as LA. Then we head east to Princeton, New Jersey, where we debunk the thesis that low sales of luxury condos somehow equates to a rejection of walkability. And finally, back west to Seattle, which finds itself with a similar problem to LA: how to bring more density to settled single-family areas?

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes -- and please give us a listener review while you're at it.

Direct download: podcast_mixdown_012714_3602.mp3
Category:transportation -- posted at: 4:01pm EST