CategoryCalifornia

Voting on bikeways in San Luis Obispo County

Session summary: A staffer at San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) wants to learn about ways to have residents learn about proposed bikeways in the jurisdiction, their costs, and possibly vote or rank them to prioritize installation. SLOCOG is also considering a referendum for a sales tax that would fund transportation improvements to pay for road maintenance, transit service, and bikeways. This tool could be used to decide how the sales tax revenue is spent.

UNEDITED

SLOCOG – what a funny name
250-300k population for the county.
slow-growth county, not affordable

GIS, web interface – routes of bikeways, identified by color
$30m over 25 years
bike plan
Oh, you want that class 1 to the beach? That’s $15m
survey of unmet bike needs

This is what we want to do, this is the money we have.
This is where 10k people want a bike lane.

passenger car sales tax (I missed how the sales tax would work)? county sales tax increase to fund transportation
quadruples range of options.

Adriel Hampton: Bright Idea – ideation, vote them up and down
Lot of marketing, moderation, outreach
Just cuz you build it, people don’t come
You have to market it hard.

Me: Will there be a soft side to this? In-person charrettes? No, but will consider.
Have the potential bikeways already been identified and have all had their costs estimated?
Yes, bikeways identified.
Costs will be estimated soon based on past construction projects.

Starting with bikeways, then complete streets modules, streetscapes.

Jeff Wood:
Phily Planning Organization, web interface – click on the projects you want
Portland
Sacramento – Willingess to pay game?

Matt: How do they frame sales tax? This is the touchiest subject for us.

OpenPlans GeoExt application.

Adriel: I think scenarios is better than open.
Matt: We’ve made the plan, have the network. We need the people to justify the funding decisions we make.
mottmann@gmail.com

Leah: TechSoup – let county-wide bike coalition get grants to pay for software/application.
Google StreetView – have the trike feature your best bike route.
LA Times, if you do this in the budget, then this happens. Generated a lot of buzz.

Sean Hedgpeth: Capital and operating budgets.
I added about federal funding not paying for maintenance.

Matt: rideshare.org
Richard: 66% votes needed to approve the sales tax.
Sean: Have to sell sales tax with potholes.
Matt: Cycling will get 7% of sales tax.

What’s the county’s policy on open data? It’s not that it’s hidden, it’s just that the organization and outreach is not there.

SidewalkChalk (?, url)

Adriel: SeeClickFix – civic points – put a gaming aspect on things. participation rates are so low.
1-9-90 model. Create, read, do nothing to web content.
Look at
Adding some goofy elements to project.
So anti-Farmville until I found out about their special corn that would help Haiti

Who wants to give up high-speed rail

UPDATED: 11/16/10 and 11/19/10 to include new reports from Journal-Sentinel about Walker’s campaign contributions and to reorder the timeline (now in chronological order) and news about North Carolina.

The Governors-elect of Wisconsin (Scott Walker) and Ohio (John Kasich) made it clear during their campaigns that they would put an end to current or upcoming high-speed rail construction paid for mostly by competitive grants from the Department of Transportation.

Illinois was the first state to start high-speed rail construction using federal stimulus money. Photo taken just outside of Springfield, right before IDOT announced the first phase of track construction (from Alton to Springfield) is complete and phase two should have begun yesterday, Monday (from Springfield to Lincoln).

Because of their stance, and because Secretary Ray LaHood has made it clear that Wisconsin’s $810 million and Ohio’s $400 can only be used for high-speed rail, the news changes daily. Here’s the latest in the chronology that’s happened in the past two weeks:

LaHood is laying on the pressure that high-speed rail will happen, but perhaps not in Wisconsin, if Walker has his way.

*3C stands for Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Two Amtrak trains waiting to depart Chicago Union Station (CUS) in May 2010. Photo by Eric Pancer.

HOT lanes and equity

The following is extracted from a paper I wrote about I-15 Express Lanes (first phase in 1998) and Managed Lanes (second phase, still under construction). Read the paper, Implementing value pricing on a highway in Southern California.

Equity

Political support is necessary for any value pricing application. Mayor Jan Goldsmith’s story of political maneuverings gave that indication. Implementing value pricing is politically difficult to implement because of the high opposition from the public. This is because of the costs borne by the user. In the case of I-15 Express lanes, all users have the opportunity to use the express lanes if they ride the bus, a motorcycle, ride with a friend or coworker, or drive an exempt low-emission vehicle. There are several tollways around the United States and the world which don’t have a free alternative.

Weinstein and Sciara (2006) suggest that we should avoid defining whether or not the HOT lane concept is equitable, but instead how to address perceived equity issues. The pair have written two reports for planners who will potentially work on value pricing projects. Both reports are cited in this section.

It has been found in the I-15 Express lanes application that users who never use the express lanes, and only use the main lanes (free lanes) occasionally benefit from the lane shift of users to the Express lanes. (Supernak, et al. 1998)

Another concern is that low-income drivers, who cannot afford to pay for the express lanes, will disproportionately benefit high-income drivers (Weinstein and Sciara 2006, 179). This debate between rich and poor drivers has emerged under the title of “Lexus lanes”, but the arguments calling HOT lanes a fast lane for the wealthy are unfounded:

a. Users from all income groups use the express lanes on I-15 and find it fair. The final report’s (Supernak 1999) attitudinal survey found that within all income groups, a majority of respondents approved of the FasTrak tolling of solo drivers in the I-15 HOV lanes.

b. As a mitigation measure to this perception, the Express lanes operation is paid for entirely by toll revenue, which also pays for increased express bus service. Oddly, though, Calfee and Winston (1996) found that the way toll revenues are used does not affect commuters’ willingness to pay (WTP), suggesting that these two mitigation measures do not affect public perception.

Works Cited

Calfee, John, and Clifford Winston. “The value of automobile travel time: implications for congestion policy.” Journal of Public Economics 69 (1998): 83-102.

Supernak, Janusz, Jacqueline M Golob, Kim Kawada, and Thomas F Golob. “San Diego’s I-15 Congestion Pricing Project: Preliminary Findings.” Institute of Traffic Studies, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, 1998.

Weinstein, Asha, and Gian-Claudia Sciara. “Unraveling Equity in HOT Lane Planning: A View from Practice.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 26 (2006): 174-184.

High-speed rail under construction in Illinois

UPDATE: The City of Carlinville Facebook page provides consistent and timely updates on the railroad crossing closures while the Union Pacific track is upgraded. The City posted photos, too.

If you weren’t specifically seeking out information on high-speed rail (HSR) construction, and you weren’t searching for “track renewal train” and other obscure keywords, you wouldn’t actually know about the status of HSR.

But that’s why you follow my blog – I’ll keep you updated.

Right now, crews are working 10 hour days, working 10 days on, and 5 days off* in Carlinville, Plainview (photo), and Alton, Illinois, to remove existing track and wooden ties and replacing them with concrete ties and continuously welded rail (CWR).

The proof is in the videos, taken only four days ago in Carlinville (map) on October 1, 2010. Watch more videos from PSQLead.

The Harsco Track Technologies Track Renewal Train 909 (TRT-909) does the following:

  • Picks up and carries out of the way old rail
  • Removes old wooden ties with a robot arm
  • Digs up ballast
  • Places new concrete ties
  • Drops in new rail and heats it so it can be “continuously welded”
  • Clamps new rail to new ties

What the beast looks like from afar. Photo of Union Pacific’s TRT-909 in Aldine, Texas, by Matthew Holman.

Thankfully Illinois doesn’t have a growing anti-rail political force like Ohio, California, Florida, or Wisconsin. All of these states have Republican candidates running for governor who say they will stop the train in its tracks. Read more about this unfortunate situation in The New York Times.

*This information comes from a secondary source. I hope to get in touch with someone who knows more about the work.

Road pricing is more fair than other funding schemes

I’ve written several papers on congestion and road pricing*. The most common type seen in the United States is HOT (high occupancy tolling) lanes. This is where drivers can pay to use uncongested lanes; drivers who carpool may use the lane for free or at a discount. Transit buses can always use the lane for free.

From the University of California Transportation Center comes new research on paying for roads with congestion versus paying for roads with sales taxes and their respective burden on poor residents.

Will research show that more people will benefit from paying sales tax to support a transit system than from paying (all kinds of) taxes to support a highway?

Their finding is that funding transportation with sales tax is less fair than funding with congestion pricing. In the latest issue of Access, Lisa Schweitzer and Brian Taylor write:

This analysis has focused on one side of the ledger: the question of who pays. But transportation systems have both costs and benefits. Indeed, the access benefits of travel are transportation’s raison d’être. So while regressivity can be viewed as a cost of road pricing (and of most other ways of paying for roads), pricing confers transportation benefits that other transportation finance mechanisms do not. Tolls and taxes can both pay to build a road. But congestion pricing can also reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, and vehicle emissions, often to a surprising degree. Sales tax finance for transportation, by comparison, does none of these things.

I think the appropriate direction of this research should next discuss and examine the fairness of using sales taxes to provide operational and capital funding for transit. In Chicagoland, the Regional Transportation Authority is partially supported by a local sales tax. While sales tax financing for road building may not reduce traffic delays, fuel consumption, or vehicle emissions, supporting a reliable, robust and expansive transit network can do all of those things by reducing the number of single occupant vehicles on the road.

*Here’s one I’ve written: Implementing value pricing on a highway in Southern California, which I excerpted in HOT lanes and equity.

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