Talking Headways: A Streetsblog Podcast
Episode 24: A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings In the Metro

The metro is coming to Loudon County. Eventually.

The Silver Line expansion that opens this summer will only go as far as Reston, but by 2018 it'll be in Loudon, one of the nation's fastest-growing -- and wealthiest -- counties.

As the county continues to add population density -- in large part by growing its communities of color -- will it hit 800 people per square mile, which is the threshold at which places magically turn from Republican to Democrat? And if it does, will it turn Virginia from purple to blue? And with such an important swing state shifting solidly to one camp, does that change the national political balance? And what is it with the number 800 anyway? 

We try to figure it all out on this week's Talking Headways. Plus, Stephen Miller, my colleague from Streetsblog New York, joins us to talk about what is -- and what isn't -- moving forward as part of the city's Vision Zero plan. 

And: Detroit is tearing down more than 20 percent of its housing stock to reduce blight and still splurges on roads. Is that the way to revitalize a city? The comments section awaits your comments.

Don't miss a minute: Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed

And thanks to all who donated during our pledge drive! Your support keeps us going, in more ways than one. 

Direct download: podcast_060614_mixdown_final_3700.mp3
Category:urban -- posted at: 1:33pm EST

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 EST

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

Episode 18: Let Them Drive Cars

Quick quiz: What city is the world leader in highway teardowns? San Francisco? Portland? Madrid?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's Seoul, South Korea, which has removed 15 urban highways -- and is about to remove another. In this week's Talking Headways episode, Jeff and I talk about what can take the place of a freeway in a city and why it's worth it.

We also debunk the argument, made in Atlantic Cities and the Washington Post last week, that promoting car access will benefit people with low incomes. The whole concept is based on a study that basically said that in the 90s you needed a car to get around the suburbs. Not exactly a persuasive justification for automobile subsidies in today's cities.

We wander down Saffron Avenue and Nutmeg Lane to investigate whether it's true that cities are losing their smell -- and whether that's really such a bad thing. Then we accidentally trip into a conversation about pheromones and good-smelling men.

What's your favorite smell in your city? Let us know in the comments.

We're working on getting the podcast available on Stitcher, which apparently is a thing that exists, but for now you can subscribe on iTunes or follow the RSS feed.

Direct download: podcat_mixdown_finalx3_3346_040714.mp3
Category:urban -- posted at: 10:13am EST

Episode 17: Play the Gray Away

Jeff and Tanya had a great time this week, getting all outraged at the short-sighted move by the Tennessee Senate to ban dedicated lanes for transit and high and mighty about cities that devote too much space to surface parking, at the expense of just about everything else. And then we treat ourselves to a fun conversation about the origin of the American playground -- and whether the entire city should be the playground.

We think you'll enjoy this one.

Meanwhile, have you subscribed to the Talking Headways podcast on iTunes yet? Well, why the hell not? And while you're at it, you know we'd love a little bit of listener feedback. Oh, you can also follow the RSS feed. And we love your comments, below.

Direct download: Mixdown_033114_final_3445.mp3
Category:urban -- posted at: 3:39pm EST

It was a dark and stormy day in San Francisco and Jeff Wood stayed dry in Woonerf studios, recording the Talking Headways podcast with co-host Tanya Snyder, who was bitter that days after the spring equinox, Washington, DC, was getting hit with another snowstorm.

But more importantly -- will New York's gangbusters Citi Bike system wobble due to management issues and financial problems? What can Chicago (and, oh, every other American city) do to create more affordable housing in the neighborhoods everyone wants to live in? And is the self-driving car seriously going to become a reality by the end of this decade? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Jeff and Tanya take on all that and more. Or really, pretty much just that.

Enjoy our sweet 16th episode of the Talking Headways podcast, subscribe on iTunes, follow the RSS feed, and talk at us in the comments.

Direct download: Mixdown_final_podcast_032514_3459.mp3
Category:urban -- posted at: 12:43pm 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