Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Build roads, repair roads or fund transit?

There's plenty of chatter about whether federal economic stimulus money should go for transit, for road-building, for repairs or building new. But there's also a big push to target the about-to-be-written federal transportation bill. A coalition group called Transportation for America is warning: ''Now is not the time to squander money on projects or plans that do not help save Americans money, free us from oil dependence and create long-term jobs.'' Here's a link to a blog item on it from Smart Growth Online. It quotes an Associated Press article:

''Now is not the time to squander money on projects or plans that do not help save Americans money, free us from oil dependence and create long-term jobs,'' warns a diverse Transportation for America coalition of environmental, urban design, housing and other groups, launching a campaign to make sure the 2009 federal transportation bill allocates a fair share for mass transit and infrastructure repair instead of funding mostly new roads, reports Associated Press writer Sarah Karush. The effort [has been] joined by Pennsylvania and Virginia Democratic Governors Ed Rendell and Timothy M. Kaine, and former Maryland Democratic Governor Parris N. Glendening, now the Smart Growth Leadership Institute president.

''That's always difficult politically,'' said Governor Rendell about his state's fix-it-first approach, but recalling the deadly August 2007 collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, he asked, ''How many more Minnesotas do we have to have as a country?''

Governor Kaine cited a decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and an increase in transit demand, telling the writer, ''The key is to provide choices, so you invest in everything.'' And Governor Glendening said, ''Make sure that infrastructure really builds for the future. That's about transit, that's about walkability, that's about 'fix it first.' "


James Willamor said...

As architect Arrol Gellner recently wrote, “Cars in their present form are no more a permanent fixture of our built environment than were the oxcart, the chariot, or the horse and buggy. We happen to live in the historical apogee of the internal-combustion automobile, but even the smallest degree of historical perspective makes plain that it's merely a temporary visitor -- and an increasingly troublesome one -- on planet Earth.” “We shouldn't regard our cars -- not to speak of the oil they run on -- as the be-all and end-all of American society. We should also recognize that history has a way of casually demolishing institutions that seem impregnable, and the internal combustion automobile is surely one of these. Something better, simpler and kinder to the earth is no doubt on the way, assuming that we're smart enough to welcome it.”

The future is in building sustainable, dense, urban environments which promote the ability to walk, bicycle, and use mass transit to move about, not car-worshiping, smog belching, sprawling wastelands we currently call "communities" and "suburbs." The future of our city, our nation, and the world depends on it.

Anonymous said...

For all of those people who say dump all or most of the money in public transportation, I would look at the rail line. They have exceeded expectations and ridership is up. With double (or close to it) ridership, they are still having financial issues. It cannot survive on it's own.

Roads will get a better bang for the buck. To James, the internal combustion engine was not around in Roman Times, what was one of their greatest achievements, ROADS. Building up the roads will cure lots of pain.

I don't see public transportation curing the trucking issues.

I don't think forcing people to live in a small geographical area so they can ride a bus is the way to go. Last time I checked, we are free. People want to live away from cities because of the crime, bad schools, crude people, and over bearing governments taxing people to death (see New York City and Chicago as prime examples)

I agree, oil is not the long term answer, but who is to say, the next answer is not going to be a wheel based mode of transportation where we will need a road to get someone from their home to a doctor / museum / family member / or where ever they wish to go, when they want to go.

Ask people who live in the burbs where they rather be. They want piece and quite, lower taxes, safer streets, a better quality of life.

I also love the fact that it was just published that there is as much global sea ice as there was in 1979 (Per the UIUC's Arctic Center). Man Made Global Warming is a myth.

Anonymous said...

James' ideal world is obviously a eusociality where human beings are reduced to ants or naked mole rats, allowed only to go where the society says we can go and to do only what the society says we can do.

Rick said...

Here's a link from the NewsandObserver that lists out all of the NC cities' requests for BOBs (Barack Obama Bucks). It's organized by City.

Looks like once again, Charlotte's priorities are on Transit projects used by a miniscule percentage of the population while the vast majority of us that use roads once again are second class citizens.

Charlotte's Requests as of 12/19/2008.

Category Amt
Energy $ 16,000,000
Streets/Roads $131,000,000
Transit $230,000,000
Water $ 74,800,000
Grand Total $451,800,000

(Sorry about the link format. You have to copy and paste each line to get the whole url.)

Anonymous said...

While I am no fan of welfare programs I would like to point out to all the car = liberty posters that the freedom associated with automobiles is only available to those who can afford to pay for them and those who are physically able to drive them (thus excluding the old and young). This freedom also diminishes rapidly as the price of fuel increases. Do you really want to have your independence determined by OPEC and Exxon?

Rick said...

Do I really want my freedom determined by CATS's schedule and routes?


Anonymous said...

Buggies, oxcarts etc- all allowed people to travel off of a fixed path. What replaces cars will be another form of individual transport. Probably with a cleaner fuel- not fixed route transit.

Anonymous said...

"Do I really want my freedom determined by CATS's schedule and routes?"

how much imagination does it take for you to see that more transit riders = cheaper gas to fuel your freedom?

Even limited mass transit schedules and routes increase the freedom of folks who are unable to drive.

barkomomma said...

Use the BOBs to buy everyone a horse!

Anonymous said...

No need to worry about it in Charlotte. The new governor will probably be in charge and we will get zilch while Raleigh gets a ring around the ring that is around the ring.

Anonymous said...

Expanding transit is an obvious choice. The only new highway should be finishing the rest of 485 since it is pretty much complete. The link between 77 and 85 is important and nobody can deny that. Other new roads should be small connecter roads that improve traffic flow (such as moving Mallard Creek Rd to align with Graham Street or extending roads to create a grid pattern). We need to repair and update old roads (such as widen 485, 85, and 77). Even though those roads will fill up with traffic eventually after they are widened, they need to be updated to urban standards. Rural highways don't work in an urban area. Even in the most transit friendly cities around the world their roads and highways are updated to urban standards. They don't ignore their roads. You can't invest in transit and ignore roads. You need a good balance between modern, urban roads and a good transit system. They work together and roads are just as important as transit. I'm tired of this either or argument. You just can't ignore roads. Cars aren't going away - they may not run on gas in the future, but they aren't going anywhere.

save_a_horse said...

While we're at it, let's widen 77 from Huntersville to Statesville and turn 21 and 115 into 4-lanes as well.

Anonymous said...

"While we're at it, let's widen 77 from Huntersville to Statesville and turn 21 and 115 into 4-lanes as well."

Why? So they can become congested again?

Anonymous said...

You gave us three choices, here is the answer: repair the roads that are in dire need - safety is number one; pot holes the size to bury grandpa in need to be fixed, as does the bridges that have chunks falling off them. Then build some new roads, expand what we have from 1 or 2 lanes to five or six (one for HOV), forget the four lanes, that is a thing of the past. Americans are buying big cars, suvs, vans again, hybirds will be a secondary thought, so we need roads for real cars. If a big suv is good enough for Dole and Edwards, it is good enough for us. And, get quality contractors, as we have found out, cheap, if that is what they called 485, is not good and we need roads built quickly - put a clause in a contract that every day beyond the dead line (save for another 9/11) causes the contractor to loose great sums of money. It is easy if you don't take bribes, junkets, Cuban cigars, let me do it for you.

Bob said...

There is no freedom in gridlock

Anonymous said...

Where is the money going to come from? Federal, state, local and household debts are all at all-time highs.


Anonymous said...

"Why? So they can become congested again?"

No, because they are no longer rural roads. There are shopping centers, homes, and schools located on 115 and 21. They should be 4 lanes (2 in each direction) with curb and sidewalk. They are also alternatives to 77. They might become congested, but they will still move traffic better than in their current condition. It is about modernizing roads from rural to urban. It isn't a hard concept to understand.

Anonymous said...

Let's also not forget that trains can become congested. The first time someone can't get on a train because it's full of people already and they end up having to wait 15 or 20 minutes for the next train, that train line is officially "congested".

And by that definition, our train lines are already congested. And despite the huuuuuuge numbers that CATS likes to boast about, they are still losing money hand-over-fist.

Anonymous said...

"While I am no fan of welfare programs I would like to point out to all the car = liberty posters that the freedom associated with automobiles is only available to those who can afford to pay for them and those who are physically able to drive them (thus excluding the old and young)."

What kind of hare-brained logic is this? By this reasoning, we should not have airplanes because only wealthy people can afford to pay for them and to hire pilots to fly them. Yes, you have the freedom to do things; whether you can afford to is another matter, but lack of ability does not mean the option should be removed from the table.

It sounds like this person is advocating that we must all sink down to the lowest common denominator and give up trying to be successful.

barkomomma said...

"...we must all sink down to the lowest common denominator..."

Can you say "No Child Left Behind?"

Uncle Dennis said...

For all those sunk cost advocates out there who think that roads are cheaper than transit, just calculate how much land is taken off the tax role. My guess is that a freeway is about 100 yards wide times the length. Rail is probably 25 yards wide in the right of way.
It seems like most people do not want to live near interchanges, yet they do want to live near transit stops.

Has anyone calculated all the costs involved for lets say I 77 from its inception? All the maintenance, all the widenings, etc?

When you figure cost per mile of transit vs roads, also calculate in the individual cost of the vehicles, the lifetime repair, the insurance costs along with the gas costs.

Cars are not the devil, they are useful at times. That is what car rentals are for. The daily ownership of an auto is not essential.

Anonymous said...

"lack of ability does not mean the option should be removed from the table."

huh? When did anyone say anything about getting rid of cars and roads? I was merely suggesting that automobiles only represent freedom for a shrinking subset of Americans.

Anonymous said...

"The daily ownership of an auto is not essential."

To you, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

The light-rail, however successful to the bankers, is nothing more than a glorified Disney ride.

Any person that actually has lived in Charlotte for 20+ years would not have voted to put a rail there. It was only a matter of convenience, the easy way out and to spend the federal funds. The country, state, county and city will get now where making Band-Aids. You should make leaps and bounds. The light rail is simply the 2000's version of the early 90's 485 (that is still a problem from 74/Pineville).

Charlotte needs a elevated train down the center of 74 from uptown to 485 in Matthews. The light rail is nothing more than pacifying the elitist bankers who want to pad their bank accounts more while putting us in this mess. The ACTUAL artery of Charlotte is 74, 77 South (Not North in priority), 85 North and then 77N/85S. Put money where people need it. You don't alleviate a heart attack by working on the veins... Work on the arteries.
A elevated train down 74 to Matthews with a bus/light rail connection leading out Albemarle road to 485 that carries those people to the L-train. Also a bus route leading up and down fairview/idlewild. Not to mention Wilkinson Blvd and the rest of the working class areas of Charlotte.

There are railroad tracks that are already there and sandwiched between Monroe Rd & Independence but they're still used and can't be another easy way out for Charlotte to mismanage Obama's new stream of federal funds.

Again, make leaps and bounds. Take a look at Seattle's new L-trains... great work there but late. We can make a difference moving the working class people around Charlotte and the surrounding counties if they actually try...

Christopher said...

I am a Native Charlottean, one of the few. I am 26 years old and have seen Charlotte grow exponentially over my life time. I have also lived abroad in Europe off an on for the last 4 years. I currently have lived in Madrid, Spain for the last year. It makes me happy that Charlotte is finally waking up to the fact that a "world class" city as it wants to be, needs to have a viable, efficient, and dependable public transit system. Those who do not see the need to expand the light rail system are in my opinion narrow minded. I am proud to tell my friends that Charlotte has a light rail system and while now it may not be able to support itself, it is an essential step in building a strong future for Charlotte. When the superhighway system was built during and following the great depression, many thought that it was a waste of money and not necessary. It put people to work and built the necessary infrastructure to support our nation. A light rail system will do the same for Charlotte. If Charlotte grows at a rate equal to that over my lifetime (last 26 years), its roads will be bursting at the seams. Do NOT choose urban sprawl and roads that lead to nowhere over a quality light rail system. The best part about living in Europe is that I don't own a car. I can get anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. I never have to wait more that 5 minutes for a train and don't have to deal with parking, or traffic, not to mention that it is more environmentally friendly. Its about time that we as Americans start thinking more about the quality of life of the group rather than why I have to drive my SUV 100 miles a day so that I don't have to get off my fat ass and walk 5 minutes to pick up a train or bus. Just think, you'd probably loose a few pounds and live longer, and help the environment out a bit at the same time. Win Win situation!!!

Anonymous said...

Christopher, I wish more native Charlotteans thought like you. There are still a lot of narrow-minded people here.

Rick said...

Wow Chris, I didn't know Madrid Spain was a smaller city than Charlotte! It takes 25 minutes to ride our LYNX from one end to the other. It's great that you could get anywhere in little ol' Madrid in only 20 minutes on mass transit.

Or were you just exagerating and manipulating the truth a bit to make your point? Same goes for all those 100 mi/day SUV drivers. Working Uptown for the past several years, I think I've only known one person who might have commuted that far. He carpooled.

Remember, just because you repeat something over and over again, doesn't mean it's true. Just like saying "the half cent transit tax will pay for our transit plan, the half cent transit tax will pay for our transit plan, the half cent transit tax will pay for our transit plan."

James Willamor said...

I completely agree with Christopher. There is NO world class city that does not have mass transit. NONE. I've studied and used mass transit in cities like Tokyo, Toronto, and Hong Kong. You can get anywhere in the city of Tokyo on mass transit in about a half hour or less. If you want Charlotte to digress to a small, backwoods town with little hope for the future, that's fine; you're welcome to that opinion. But don't go around saying you favor modernizing and growing Charlotte while throwing around the need for roads and porely planned sprawl (Ballen-hell, for example). Roads and sprawl do not equal progress - usually just the opposite. When the oil runs out in a decade or two, wouldn't we want to have alternative means of transportation available?

Rick said...

Just finished watching Obama's speech. Unless I missed it, no mention of mass transit in there when talking about infrastructure spending.

Rodger Lentz said...

Don't forget Bike/Ped.

I think we should fix roads and modify so that they are more context sensitive. Add bike lanes, sidewalks, landscaped medians, and even **gasp** remove some lanes in some locations. At the same time invest in transit and add fiber optics to link traffic lights to make our signal systems more efficient. We should even remove signals where feasible and install traffic circles which reduce accident severity and are better for air quality and allow more free flowing traffic patterns.