Today’s Headlines

  • D.C. Launches Bike-Share Network (WaPo)
  • More Than 40 U.S. Cities Exploring Streetcar Systems for Their Downtowns (NYT)
  • Observer Interviews Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant
  • Simcha Felder Introduces Three Bills About On-Street Parking in City Council (Sun, Metro)
  • Bloomberg: Council Members Don’t Need Reserved Parking Spots (Daily Politics, News)
  • Queens Man Ran Private Parking Lot on City Property for 13 Years (NYT, Post)
  • D.A. Investigating Cop’s Critical Mass Takedown (Chelsea Now)
  • Developers Want Permission to Build $10B Tunnel Under L.I. Sound (AMNY)
  • Madison Square Extension Almost Finished (Curbed)
  • Biking Beijing With an Olympic Cyclist (NYT)
  • This quote from the streetcar article says a lot:

    Cincinnati’s city manager, Milton Dohoney, said “Today, young, educated workers move to cities with a sense of place. And if businesses see us laying rail down on a street, they’ll know that’s a permanent route that will have people passing by seven days a week.”

    This is the best criticism of the whole BRT effort. Laying down rail makes a statement of more heavy investment and commitment. Bus routes can change, but once you’ve sunk in the cost of installing the rail, you better use it as much as possible. Livable streets ideas like street cars are in many ways just common sense ways to build a more permanent sense of place.

  • The Times story reveals how the opposition to streetcars will take shape — as regional envy:

    Critics, including Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization in Washington, and an expert on urban growth and transportation issues, counter that growth along streetcar lines is dependent on public subsidy and of little use.

    “It looks like it’s going to take you somewhere, but it’s only designed to support downtown residents,” he said. “If officials fall for the hype and don’t ask the hard questions, voters should vote them out.”

    Therefore these systems have to be interregional. Either extend the streetcars to the inner suburbs or connect them to another form of transit. And of course, when the subsidy argument comes up, point out that all forms of transportation are subsidized, and if you want options, spread the subsidies around.

  • Uh, yeah, growth around highways is dependent on public subsidy too.

    I read the article about the guy who ran the parking lot, and I’ve gotta admire the cojones that must’ve taken.

  • For more on Randal O’Toole:
    “10 ways he gets it wrong”

  • Re: “Biking Beijing With an Olympic Cyclist”

    I’m really sad to read about the demise of utility cycling in Beijing such that a once bicycle-centric city has become with 20 years yet another traffic-snarled, polluted nightmare.

    Contrast this NYT article written in 1988, “Seeing Beijing from a Bicycle”:

    “China’s statisticians say there are 225 million bicycles in this nation of 1.06 billion people. That represents a 38-fold increase in the number of bicycles in the last three decades. In Beijing alone, which has about 10 million people, there are 5.6 million bicycles. In a sprawling city with mediocre public transportation, bicycles save the day, says an expatriate urban planner. Nearly everyone commutes to work and runs errands on bicycles. By one Government count, 76 percent of road space in Beijing is occupied by bicyclists.

    “…[T]here are no special bike paths in Beijing, because every street is a bicycle path. Bicycles are how everyone travels in China. Bicycle factories exist in every part of China except Tibet, and more than 32 million are manufactured each year.”

    with this NYT article written ten years later in 1998 (“Beijing Journal: Tide of Traffic Turns Against the Sea of Bicycles”):

    “Although sturdy bicycles remain the primary transportation for the vast majority of Beijingers, their powerful gas-guzzling cousins have been multiplying rapidly, literally edging cyclists off the road.

    “The thousands of cyclists who once dominated the streets have long since been corralled into bike lanes, where they move like slow-flowing rivers beside every road.

    “But even these reserved lanes are not sacred anymore, their flow constantly interrupted by impatient drivers darting in to avoid the city’s endless traffic jams, scattering cyclists to and fro. At traffic circles and when crossing streets, the once-reigning cyclists haplessly pick their way across four lanes of buses and cars.

    “Still, it seemed jarring last week when the inevitable occurred: to improve traffic flow, the Beijing city government for the first time declared a street to be a ‘no-bike’ zone, claiming its bike lanes for cars.”

    and today’s NYT article:

    “Bicycles are no longer the primary means of transportation in Beijing, a city where rising incomes have meant many commuters can afford to upgrade to cars. Some estimate that as many as 1,000 new cars join the streets every day.”

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Both BRT and Light Rail have the potential of displacing private vehicles spatially from city streets. Since rails represent more capital investment they represent a longer term commitment of that space. Historically though, street cars on rail ran with auto traffic and that was one of the things that killed it. As there became more driver-voters more pressure developed to eliminate streets cars. And as more street cars were bogged down in the traffic jams they became less attractive and more people bought cars. Once they bought the cars the tendency to drive them was increased. When an accident occurred, and they inevitably do, the press spent weeks covering the accident with the street car and minutes covering the accident with the automobile. A lot like the coverage the Daily News and New York 1 give to MTA inefficiencies and safety relative to their coverage of the automobile-highway systems inefficiencies and safety. Thats one big reason why 40,000 per year die in highway “accidents”.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Critical Mass Beijing?

  • “Bicycles are no longer the primary means of transportation in Beijing…”

    I wondered when I read that, though, if the claim was based on a study or if the NYT committed the usual error of assuming the mode of transportation that is the most prominent visually and audibly to be the “primary” one. Visitors are always making the same wrong assumption about New York, when of course it is the subway that moves the most people here. Could it still be the bicycle in Beijing, despite everything working against it?

  • Sam

    Ergh that CATO guy quoted in the NYT streetcar article is infuriating.

    Unrelated question:

    Can anyone make a recommendation on a comprehensive book about the history of the NYC Transit System? (if such a book and/or books exists)