City In Grim Transportation News
posted by December 28 at 15:08 PMon
1) Seattle cabs get 12 miles per gallon, the Sightline Institute points out—not news, exactly (it’s been out there for a while) but a depressing reminder that even those of us who think we’re doing good by taking cabs instead of owning cars (because so much of the environmental impact of cars is in their manufacture) aren’t doing nearly as much as we could. Prius taxis, now, please!
2) Portland is having trouble expanding its beloved streetcar line around the city, thanks to federal rules that favor buses over rail. The new rules deemphasize increased density, reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and improved land use and focus instead on per-rider cost-effectiveness, a measure that strongly favors buses (because, duh, putting buses on the street is cheaper per rider than building rail lines, even though rail lines have other benefits). According to the Oregonian,
The transit administration has published rules that would make cost-effectiveness the key test of whether a project should be funded. Zoning for high density and saving miles driven in cars would be combined with congestion relief under an effectiveness test. Together those would count for half the benefits allowed [a reduction in their impact on benefits].
“If you build 5,000 units of housing along that line and people walked from those units of housing and get on the streetcar, they would not count under their criteria,” [US Rep. Peter] DeFazio said.
The only riders that count are the ones that transfer from a bus or other transit to get to the streetcar line, he said.
“It’s totally misanthropic,” DeFazio said. “It’s set up to make streetcar never pencil out.”
Immediately at stake is $200 million in federal money for streetcar projects around the country. In the long term, though, the feds’ philosophical shift toward buses could jeopardize funding for rail projects around the country, including Sound Transit’s light rail and streetcar expansion in Seattle.