When the Status Quo Doesn’t Cut It

1148711700_df81593cb6.jpgPhoto by Russ Morris via Flickr.

Today on the Streetsblog Network, people are questioning the status quo.  Sustainable Savannah writes that the faltering economy provides yet another good argument — along with slowing traffic and making streets safer — for converting one-way streets to two-way.

Elsewhere around the country, talk continues to be about stimulus spending on transportation. And it’s not happy talk. Christof Spieler at the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition in Houston, TX, laments the lack of vision in the stimulus proposals coming out of his state and others:

Picking up a list of already designed projects also perpetuates the
status quo in transportation planning, a status quo that has increased
how much we drive, decreased access to alternative forms of
transportation, and increased dependence on oil. We are overdue for
reevaluating transportation priorities; pulling projects off the shelf
doesn’t do that.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation lets the numbers tell the story of the stimulus requests in that state: 94.4 percent for roads (47.1 percent of that for expansion), 3 percent for transit, and how much for bicycles? Zero.

Also coming out of the network’s discussion list this morning is a call for action in Seattle, where after years of debate and community activism, the fate of the city’s waterfront–where the Alaskan Way Viaduct has blocked access for generations — will be decided before the end of the year. The People’s Waterfront Coalition is asking this week for a last push for support for the surface/transit/I-5 option for the viaduct’s replacement, rather than the construction of another elevated highway.

You can find out more about the complicated history of the viaduct replacement on network member blog Orphan Road.

  • “Picking up a list of already designed projects also perpetuates the status quo in transportation planning…”

    Transportation activists are not going to have any influence if they show that they are out of touch with reality. The economic reality is that we need immediate stimulus to the economy, which means funding for already designed projects.

    I worked on a plan to convert one-way streets to two way, and it required a year-long traffic-engineering studies before anything could be built. That is exactly the sort of thing that we cannot do as part of the stimulus package but that we would be able to do if federal transportation funding were more flexible.

    Stop focusing on the stimulus package, where there cannot possibly be a significant change of direction, and start focusing on the reauthorization of federal transporation funding in September, where there can be a significant change of direction and where Obama will probably be on our side (if we don’t poison the well by criticizing the stimulus package in ways that convince him that we are total flakes).

  • Rhywun

    I’m having a hard time believing that 94.4% of all projects that are “ready to go” are road projects in any but the most rural states. Where is this assumption that road projects are easier or faster to approve coming from?

    PS. Like it matters. If the way Albany has long treated NYC is any indication, the fact that the *states* are getting the money means it will be greatly skewed towards cars anyway.

  • It is not that road projects are easier and faster to approve. It is that most of the funding has gone to road projects in the past, and therefore, most of the projects that are already ready to go are road projects.

    It is easy to continue the status quo and speed it up a bit. It takes longer to do the planning needed to change direction.

  • You can vote in a newspaper poll about removing Seattle’s Alaska Way freeway at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008499817_viaduct12m.html.

    so far, the vote is:
    The “surface and transit” plan 54% (966 votes)
    The elevated bypass highway 46% (821 votes)



Gabe Klein Talks About Getting Sh*t Done in His New Book, “Start-Up City”

Streets can be tough to change. Between institutional inertia, tight budgets, bureaucratic red tape, and the political risks of upsetting the status quo, even relatively simple improvements for walking, biking, or transit can take years to pull off — if they ever get implemented at all. But a new generation of transportation officials have shown that it doesn’t have […]

Stimulus Package on Track to Perpetuate Transpo Status Quo

Will stimulus cash help implement New York’s five BRT pilot routes? Image: Gotham Gazette. A front page story in yesterday’s Washington Post has the most thorough analysis to date of how infrastructure spending may be divvied up in an Obama stimulus package. Nothing is set in stone, but the dividing lines are increasingly clear: States […]

The Stimulus Bill: Time to Start Following the Money

Now that the president has signed the stimulus bill, members of the Streetsblog Network have thrown themselves into the task of trying to figure out where all that money is going. To that end, we’re featuring Transportation for America‘s "Full Summary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009", a handy roundup of the […]

From Minnesota to Mississippi, Telling Congress to Save Bike-Ped Programs

For more than 20 years, federal funding for bike and pedestrian safety has enabled American cities and towns to invest in transportation projects that state DOTs would otherwise have overlooked. Thanks to these programs, communities have helped main streets thrive, provided kids with safer routes to school, and made biking an attractive transportation option. The […]