Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, November 12, 2015

America’s Top Transit Systems Face a $102 Billion Repair Backlog

Rising ridership plus aging infrastructure minus federal funding is a formula for crisis.

 http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/11/americas-top-transit-systems-face-a-102-billion-repair-backlog/415590/

By Eric Jaffe, November 12, 2015


America’s highway are in terrible shape, but when it comes to this maintenance crisis its aging transit systems can give U.S. roads a run for their money. A run worth about $102 billion, to be precise. That’s the estimated repair backlog facing nine of the country’s largest (and oldest) transit providers, according to a new report by the Regional Plan Association.

RPA’s analysis considered rail and bus systems in nine major metro areas (below) that altogether account for 27 percent of the country’s GDP and 21 percent of its population on just 2 percent of its land. Transit ridership has grown steadily in these areas for years. Together they now capture more than three-quarters of all U.S. transit rail trips, in particular.
RPA
But even as usage for these systems has soared, investment in them has lagged. All told their maintenance backlog for capital transit assets—things like tracks, storage yards, power systems, stations, and vehicles—comes to $102 billion by RPA’s calculations, plus another $13 billion a year for “normal replacement needs.” (Since these figures don’t include New Jersey Transit, the true totals are actually much higher.)
That’s a huge problem for the future; here’s RPA:
Decades, and in some cases more than a century, of heavy use
has caused significant wear-and-tear, in addition to the impact of natural elements and other weather events. … Many of their assets are now beyond their useful life and the agencies are approaching a tipping point at which unfunded capital needs will overwhelm their ability and capacity to operate high-quality transit service.
The prospects for righting the situation are equally bleak. In 2013, for instance, the transit agencies represented in RPA’s analysis only received about $7.3 billion in funding for capital expenditures, with just $6 billion of it going to system preservation instead of expansion. That’s just a fifth of the $30 million a year that RPA thinks these systems need to get back on track (so to speak), assuming a six-year funding bill.
RPA
Neither long-term surface transport plan being considered in Congress right now comes anywhere close to this figure. The House bill calls for $55 billion in transit funding over six years; the Senate bill does slightly better, escalating toward $12 billion a year. (Not that there’s money to pay for such legislation.) RPA concludes with a reminder of what’s at stake:
Inadequate levels of federal funding for transit state of good repair needs has significant consequences in terms of achieving our national transportation, economic development and sustainability goals. It also has negative impacts on the metropolitan regions where a large proportion of U.S. companies do business, and residents and workers live, including some of the most disadvantaged populations.

California's DOT Admits That More Roads Mean More Traffic

Take it from Caltrans: If you build highways, drivers will come.

 http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/11/californias-dot-admits-that-more-roads-mean-more-traffic/415245/

By Eric Jaffe, November 11, 2015


 Image Jeff Turner / Flickr





Whenever a road project gets announced, the first thing officials talk about is how it’s going to reduce traffic. Just last month, for instance, the Connecticut DOT reported that it would be widening Interstates 95 and 84, a project that would result in major economic benefits from “easing congestion”:
The analysis found that adding a lane in each direction border-to-border will save I-95 travelers well over 14 million hours of delays by the year 2040. Likewise, the widening of I-84 will save travelers over 4.7 million hours of delays during the same period.
Never mind that it’s unclear whether major highway projects actually provide an economic boost (many of the supposed new benefits are simply a relocation of existing business activity). Congestion relief itself is a dubious claim when it comes to road expansions. Transportation experts have repeatedly found that building new roads inevitably encourages more people to drive, which in turn negates any congestion savings—a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

So it’s refreshing—and rare—to see the California DOT (aka Caltrans) link to a policy brief outlining key research findings from years of study into induced demand. The brief, titled “Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion,” was compiled by UC-Davis scholar Susan Handy.
Here are the highlights:

  • There’s high-quality evidence for induced demand. All the studies reviewed by Handy used time-series data, “sophisticated econometric techniques,” and controlled for outside variables such as population growth and transit service.
  • More roads means more traffic in both the short- and long-term. Adding 10 percent more road capacity leads to 3-6 percent more vehicle miles in the near term and 6-10 percent more over many years.
  • Much of the traffic is brand new. Some of the cars on a new highway lane have simply relocated from a slower alternative route. But many are entirely new. They reflect leisure trips that often go unmade in bad traffic, or drivers who once used transit or carpooled, or shifting development patterns, and so on.
What’s significant about the Caltrans acknowledgement is that induced demand creates something of a mission crisis for transportation agencies that spend most of their money on building new roads. (The same can be said for peak driving.) A 2014 assessment of Caltrans, conducted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative, specifically cited induced demand as a research finding that had yet to filter down “into the department’s thinking and decision making”:
For example, despite a rich literature on induced demand, internal interviewees frequently dismissed the phenomenon.
Ronald Milam of the transportation consultancy Fehr & Peers tells CityLab that Caltrans has recognized the shortcomings of traditional traffic models and tried to improve its analyses to better account for induced demand. In response to new state laws designed to reduce vehicle miles traveled and thus climate emissions—namely, Senate bills 375 and 743—the agency is updating and broadening that effort. New guidelines are currently in the works.

Eric Sundquist of SSTI said via email that it’s “notable” to see Caltrans link to the policy brief, but adds that some DOTs have started to address induced demand whether they call it that or not. The big question, he says, is what policies get put in place to deal with its effects. Pennsylvania’s DOT during the Ed Rendell administration, for instance, “basically stopped building new highways and diverted resources to upkeep and non-car modes,” Sundquist says.

That culture change isn’t so easy. Connecticut officials also seem to understand that expanding roads won’t resolve the state’s traffic problems. “You can’t build your way out of congestion,” Tom Maziarz, chief of planning at the state DOT, recently told the Connecticut Post. And yet the interstate widening project moves forward.