Beyond Traffic.
February 8, 2015 10:17 AM   Subscribe

 
I'm going to hazard a guess: A lot of it is more along these lines, plus self-driving cars. Now to see if I'm right...
posted by limeonaire at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2015


You wanna highlight this bad boy up for us? I already have two crosswords ahead of me.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let me guess, it's a cross between Mad Max and Waterworld? (That seems reasonable, considering climate change and oil depletion...)
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll wait for the movie.
posted by jonmc at 10:26 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, I know! Vastly expanded mass transit focusing particularly on traditionally underserved populations most in need, as well as improved bicycle and footpaths in both urban and suburban HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH no fuck you more cars
posted by leotrotsky at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2015 [72 favorites]


Needs an 'infrastructure' tag ;)
posted by carter at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2015


I know it's long, but y'all need to open it up, if to only to see the cover page graphics and that it's formatted in landscape.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:45 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


"As we have evolved and understood more about our transportation system, we know it to be an
interdependent system of systems that shapes and is shaped by all it touches."

Holy shit these sentences.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:46 AM on February 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ahhhh, and six whole pages on the maritime industry. Gotta' love DOT.

"In light of the increasing need for ports infrastructure to keep pace with demand, MARAD’s Strong Ports Program is also helping ports modernize their infrastructure by providing planning expertise and assistance to U.S. port authorities. However, this program does not yet include a dedicated funding vehicle."

"Over the past decade, these receipts have outpaced spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, leaving the HMTF with a surplus balance of $8.5 billion. Spending can only be authorized by Congress and, in recent years, Congress has preferred to preserve the surplus in order to count it toward deficit reduction figure."
posted by Seeba at 10:48 AM on February 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the 1992 movie Singles, Steve has a grand vision of a “supertrain” for Seattle — it will cut down on traffic and be good for the environment. Good coffee, good music. They will park and ride.

He explains the idea to his friend, who nods in approval, then hesitantly replies, “But I love my car.”
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:48 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


He explains the idea to his friend, who nods in approval, then hesitantly replies, “But I love my car.”

I am unashamed to say that Singles is one of my favorite films, but looking to an early nineties rom-com for public policy wisdom seems fraught with peril.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you believe people's feelings about cars have changed in the intervening years, I have news for you.

By the way, Seattle's biggest infrastructure project right now is a giant car tunnel.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:00 AM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


For the tl;dr crowd:

CNet: DoT's Foxx outlines future traffic problems at Google

Popular Science: Department Of Transportation Says The Future Of Transit Looks Pretty Bleak

The Stack: U.S. Department of Transport warns of dystopian future for transport

Also, Melissa Harris-Perry had several segments on her program yesterday (1, 2, 3) covering how transit policy is failing in America, including an interview with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx discussing the DoT report.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:00 AM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


And gasoline is two bucks a gallon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:01 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Steve has a grand vision of a “supertrain” for Seattle

Unless it's nuclear powered and has a disco and a pool, it ain't Supertrain.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: If you believe people's feelings about cars have changed in the intervening years, I have news for you.

Time to Rethink Roads: Millennials Lead Change in Transportation Trends

Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?

Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving
posted by tonycpsu at 11:05 AM on February 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?

It's an interesting trend and I hope it continues, but it isn't quite at the level of needing to change all of the roads to bike paths just yet.

At the same time, I get a very strong sense of a disconnect, where transportation policy and investment decisions are being made by people one or two generations older and who are fully in a car-centric mode, while as described millennials are using public transit and living in dense areas at much higher rates, though still predominately car-centric.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


transportation policy and investment decisions are being made by people one or two generations older and who are fully in a car-centric mode

This is the case pretty much everywhere in the US I have any experience with. The decision-makers aren't necessarily hostile, though, and there's a great deal to be gained by being a voice for other methods of transportation during any and all public comment periods.

I urge anyone who cares about this issue to keep an eye on what their states, counties, and cities are doing, and pipe up to ask, "Are you considering ways to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access in this project?" You don't need to be an expert, and you don't need credentials beyond what you already have by being someone who lives or works in the communities affected. Sometimes the answers I get to this kind of question are delightfully specific, and sometimes they're a bit vague, but they've always been positive. It's important to remind everyone involved in making changes to our infrastructure that creating "complete streets" can be legitimately useful to people in their own communities, and isn't just some arbitrary, irrelevant requirement.

My state often has things like telephone-based "town hall meetings" before large projects, and it's an easy way to make sure your opinions are heard. They'll even read your emails into the meeting record if you can't stick around to listen to the whole thing.

The USDOT wants to hear what you think about this enormous PDF, too.
posted by asperity at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?
Today unemployment rates are
approaching pre-recession levels. People
are working again and buying housing and
cars again. But, they are not driving more.
I find it amazing that this is the way discussions of policy in the US go.

Question: why aren't young people driving as much as they used to?

Answer: Well, it's unpossible that the reason why they aren't consuming like they used to is because the median income for 25-34 year olds is barely larger than it was in 1996... I mean, they have jobs right? It's not like you can get a car with a super-shady loan. It's not as if 25-34 year olds hold, on average, more debt than the same age group held in 1996...

So, hmmm.... why aren't younger Americans driving any more? I know, It must be some totally new cultural trend.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:00 PM on February 8, 2015 [21 favorites]


If anyone wants a quick summary of what the USDOT is trying to address with this report, they've got a shorter PDF for us. Looks like a lot of the same infographics in it are used in the full report.
posted by asperity at 12:06 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


     It is perhaps the greatest testament to our forbearers
     and their dedication to us [...]


Forbearers?

     [...] that we enjoy this system in relative complacency.
     They built the transcontinental railroad.


The "iron horse" that carries us o'er the plains!

     They built the Panama Canal.

Not actually in the USA.

     They carved an inland waterway of locks and dams.

The canals that bring glass and cast iron from the foundries of Detroit!

      They broke the sound barrier and put men on the moon.

I'm not sure that enormously dangerous and expensive single-use vehicles are an appropriate precedent for mass transport.

     It is because they envisioned a better future and endured
     sacrifices to achieve it that we even are in a position to
     choose which future we want now.


I'm guessing the choice is ... highways?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Time to Rethink Roads: Millennials Lead Change in Transportation Trends
Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?
Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving


As much as I'd like to believe this has to do a small percentage of millennials making unconstrained free choices to abandon driving I suspect it is mostly driven by the harshly constrained economic realities of new college graduates. They have to move to urban centers to find work and after rent, food and student loan payments it is pretty hard to come up with the average $11,000 per year cost of urban car ownership. They are driving less because they are being priced out of driving. Which I consider a positive result of a bad thing. I gave up driving twenty years and consider my life much better for it but when I did it it was my considered choice rather than my only option.

It is kind of interesting to see how City, State and Federal departments of transport in the United States have conflicting goals. At least in Chicago the city DOT often has to push back against state DOT and the state actually has full authority over a lot of city roads which seriously complicates attempts at urban planning (never mind the Chicago Tribune's perspective that the city is just something for their surburban readers and editorial writers drive through at Deathrace 2000 speeds).
posted by srboisvert at 1:39 PM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Would y'all actually get to the recommendation before pessimistically concluding it is cars?
maybe it even is cars, but please at least give things a chance to not be shitty before haughtily dismissing them.
posted by tiaz at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there much in there for people walking or people riding bikes?
posted by Joe Chip at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the map at page 56, what's at the end of that huge rail line in northeast Wyoming? Is it a pipeline terminal coming from North Dakota?
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 2:44 PM on February 8, 2015


That's the Powder River Basin, supplying a significant fraction of the US's coal. If you live near any of the rail lines going that way, you'll see coal trains going away from it, and empty cars going back, pretty much every day.
posted by asperity at 3:35 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Flying cars will fix everything, right?
posted by spitbull at 3:45 PM on February 8, 2015


"Seventy-five percent of the population will live in "megaregions," creating Los Angeles-type traffic congestion in places like Omaha."

WORST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS.

asperity: "I urge anyone who cares about this issue to keep an eye on what their states, counties, and cities are doing, and pipe up to ask, "Are you considering ways to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access in this project?" You don't need to be an expert, and you don't need credentials beyond what you already have by being someone who lives or works in the communities affected."

So much this -- and maybe plan on hanging around commenting on transit for ten years, but here in Peoria we've had a group of citizens in a shifting group of organizations and clubs (most now organized on Facebook) advocating for complete streets, bike infrastructure, new urbanist zoning, etc., and they just kept going to meetings and writing to city council members and asking questions at election forums and by continuing to show up and raise the questions, they made it a major local issue, and now it's just ASSUMED that pedestrian and bike transit will be part of the discussion on all projects, and we've had one of the busiest downtown streets reduced to one lane in each direction with, several busy intersections converted to "complete" intersections, a rails-to-trails project with connecting paths that now runs the entire long axis of the city from the suburbs to the downtown, complete with bike overpass for the busiest road crossing, new urbanist zoning approved on redevelopments of strip-mall type things so people can live over the stores, and it's all due to ... nerds who like bikes, and laymen who read about transit on the web.

srboisvert: "As much as I'd like to believe this has to do a small percentage of millennials making unconstrained free choices to abandon driving I suspect it is mostly driven by the harshly constrained economic realities of new college graduates."

I think it's a combination, and I think some of it is that with the internet, millennials (even in the burbs) didn't have to GO somewhere to socialize in private with their peers. A lot of millennials I know just ... aren't excited about driving, not the way older generations viewed turning 16 as a ticket to freedom. So they don't get their licenses right away, or they do but don't drive a lot, and they don't really get in the driving habit, and they find out-of-the-norm driving situations stressful (freeways, or urban density), and they look for ways to avoid it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:52 PM on February 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


The bicycle/pedestrian recommendations, btw, are:
  • Incentivizing improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and mixed - use development in and around multimodal transit hubs to promote car-free travel;
  • Designing and retrofitting of roads to allow for safe, harmonious passage of vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, including individuals who use assisted mobility devices
  • Educating drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on their legal responsibilities and sound practices to safely share public streets; and,
  • Promoting policies that advance safe and independent mobility for people with disabilities and older adults.
  • posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I suspect it is mostly driven by the harshly constrained economic realities of new college graduates."

    Yep. In 1992 when I was 16 you could buy a vw bug or an older Toyota for $700-2000 and they got amazing gas mileage. One of my friends still has his late 80s Civic wagon and it gets 42+ mpg. Gas cost under a buck and minimum wage was around $4-5 /he, although many of us earned more. Bagging groceries was a union job and paid $9 in my town. We were completely unfettered by economics when it came to driving places. I spent less time thinking about the cost of gas than I do now as an adult with a real job and I drove far more.
    posted by fshgrl at 4:52 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


    I shall forecast the next 30 year infrastructure (puts ratty looking envelope against his towel wrapped head)
    I see, I see, I see no infrastructure and a new American pastime watching roads crumble and betting on the next bridge to collapse due to lack of funding.
    I love this game!
    posted by evilDoug at 5:37 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I guess it used to be that your parents would buy you a $500 beater on your 16th birthday and help you get started with the whole driving thing.

    Now that's impossible for most middle class families, which makes it way harder for the kids. You have to learn to drive and get credit and get a car loan and figure out how to pay that massive first insurance bill, all presumably after getting a job and an apartment, which have to be transit accessible since you don't have a car yet. The barrier to entry is far higher. I didn't have reliable transportation until I was 27 or so and I don't think that's too unusual.
    posted by miyabo at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


    As much as I'd like to believe this has to do a small percentage of millennials making unconstrained free choices to abandon driving

    Anecdata: "millenial" here. I just kind of...never got a driving license. I learned to drive at 15/16, but I haven't driven at all as an adult, and the desire to preserve this state of affairs factors into all kinds of decisions (including fairly major ones and, in particular, decisions that entail a bigger hassle than relearning to drive and getting a license -- I'm emigrating in a few months rather than learning to drive [among many other reasons]).

    I could afford a car more easily than many people who rely on them for survival, but the idea of spending ~USD 5000/year to own and run a car is really unappetizing, even though the public transport is not very good where I live and there are a couple of months each year where weather makes it unsafe to cycle in any kind of serious way. I'm lucky enough not to have the kind of debt that is sort of the scourge of my age-cohort; doing something with that five grand other than sticking it in a savings account, given the opportunity, strikes me as an insult to those less lucky folks.

    Here are some other downsides of driving: dealing with the hassle of maintenance (I can maintain my bike with a few hours and a couple hundred dollars per year at the very outside); bearing the risk of killing someone in the course of one's mundane daily activities; environmental considerations (I fly often enough that any carbon-footprint smugness resulting from my vehicular abstinence is unjustified, though); missed opportunities to get some exercise; increased risk of interaction with the 5-0; inflammation of my paranoid, impatient, uncharitable tendencies; boredom (you can get work done on a Greyhound bus, but not so much in a car); etc.

    I cannot imagine anyone feeling like my freedom is enhanced, or whatever, by driving. To me, it seems like an unfortunate compromise into which people are forced by circumstance. Among most of the people my age I know who drive regularly, it's viewed as something one has to do. The specific reasons why I didn't really start driving are idiosyncratic, but the reasons why I continue to not drive are hopefully increasingly standard. I'd say I'm making a lightly constrained free choice to avoid driving.
    posted by busted_crayons at 10:11 PM on February 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


    I love this game!

    Aw, I don't. What this Beyond Transit thing looks like to me is the USDOT doing something pretty cheap (a PDF and some YouTube videos) to try to encourage more investment in our infrastructure. And they're actually addressing most of our MeFi transportation thread talking points in there -- the various explanations for younger people not driving so much are discussed, including the financial one, for example. I'm finding it both realistic (it's honest about where we are and what will happen if we don't fix our shit) and optimistic (it suggests we could fix our shit).

    I'm really pleased to have the pointer to this document, but I do wish it had been framed in a way that wasn't quite so off-putting to potential readers. Maybe the table of contents could have been included under the fold?
    posted by asperity at 10:11 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Not quite a millenial (very tail end of late Gen X, actually) either, but - my wife's parents averaged 20 vehicle miles a day in their commute. My own parents averaged about 50.

    They've all since retired, but my wife and I average 4. We're in our cars about 88% less than our parents were.

    Why?

    We're not condo-dwellers or even metro-riders, we just moved to an older house with a smaller yard (and bad plumbing issues), that was a lot closer to our respective jobs in the middle of town.

    And, sooner or later, the parents stop fussing at you for sending your kids to majority-black public schools, and everything works out okay.
    posted by The Giant Squid at 6:01 AM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


    In 1992 when I was 16 you could buy a vw bug or an older Toyota for $700-2000 and they got amazing gas mileage. One of my friends still has his late 80s Civic wagon and it gets 42+ mpg. Gas cost under a buck and minimum wage was around $4-5 /he, although many of us earned more. Bagging groceries was a union job and paid $9 in my town. We were completely unfettered by economics when it came to driving places. I spent less time thinking about the cost of gas than I do now as an adult with a real job and I drove far more.

    When used cars cost more (because of lingering effects from Cash for Clunkers and because people are keeping their cars longer), gas costs more (until the last couple of months), and wages are stagnant, I'm not surprised some people "choose" to not drive. I do think it is deeper than that, though, in that I have a number of friends with kids who are just not bothering to even get a license, despite having families able and willing to provide a car. That would have been much more unusual when I was that age.
    posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on February 9, 2015


    Dip Flash: It's an interesting trend and I hope it continues, but it isn't quite at the level of needing to change all of the roads to bike paths just yet.

    But bikes are generally regulated like slower, less safe cars in that they (mostly) have the right to the road just as much as cars and trucks. Laws differ from state to state, and for a quick overview, The League of American Bicyclists has summarized laws state-by-state. Special bike paths should not be necessary, only to make safer riding routes that parallel high-speed vehicle corridors. #OneRoadForAllUsers #DontForgetHorses
    posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I was at the Google event where this was "unveiled". It was interesting as PR event and seeing the meeting of the tech world and traditional transportation folk (I recognized a lot of government officials, consultants, and academics). This was reflected in the topics Foxx and Schmidt discussed - small UAVs and regulation, NextGen air traffic control, connected and autonomous vehicles, and of course transit. (Schmidt bragged about the Google buses.)

    The last time USDOT had a long-range document like this was Secretary Colemam's National Transportation Trends and Choices (to the Year 2000) which came out in 1977. While we sorely need long range vision and planning for our transport system, it's kind of audacious for Foxx to make this report. I mean, we can't even get long term funding! (I can't wait until this spring when the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money and in September when MAP-21 expires.)

    One of the sound bites Foxx said that I liked was that multimodal means choice for people. That's definitely something I've been seeing with different branches of USDOT of the past few years. Of course, the way current funding is structured and as long as the decision makers stay their course, we're going to be tied to highways for a long while.
    posted by kendrak at 10:26 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Is it too early or late to tie this to land-use planning in general?
    posted by ZeusHumms at 1:26 PM on February 9, 2015


    Today I discovered that six blocks of unplanned sewer main replacement that occurred when the main broke three times in twelve months and involved digging up the whole damn road resulted in the car lanes being narrowed, the speed limit dropped, and bike lanes added for the whole stretch! I thought of this thread.

    (I had to consciously drive very slowly, though, as the 40 has become a 25!)
    posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:58 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Is it too early or late to tie this to land-use planning in general?

    too late? foxx did say that land-use is key to all of this, especially with these mega regions, but of course transportation planners have been saying this for a long time.
    posted by kendrak at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


    sewer main replacement ... resulted in bike lanes

    I am pretty sure I should not be contemplating the merits of a group effort at inappropriate flushing. "Your paper towels, tampons, and 'flushable' wet wipes will get you transportation parity!"
    posted by asperity at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2015


    asperity: "I am pretty sure I should not be contemplating the merits of a group effort at inappropriate flushing. "Your paper towels, tampons, and 'flushable' wet wipes will get you transportation parity!""

    Haha, you have to start with "lead mains over 100 years old such that digging up the entire street to replace them is more economical at this point than trying to repair them."

    But it was just a vivid illustration for me of how successful the bike-and-pedestrian-infrastructure people have been locally, that whenever the city has had to do emergency road repairs lately they've said "Well, since we're digging it all up -- might as well add the bike lanes!" That's actually also how we got our super-great "complete street" intersection at one of the busiest intersections in town --they were scheduled to start some of the work in like 2018ish, maybe, depending on funding -- and then a main collapsed and they were like, "Well, we have to dig up the whole thing anyway, might as well just do the future plan" and they executed it in about six weeks. Keep advocating! Get it in the city plans! Educate local councilmen on federal and state grant money! It was discouraging 10 years ago to have mixed infrastructure in just a few, experimental plans, but it has snowballed surprisingly fast!
    posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:35 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Ahhhh, and six whole pages on the maritime industry. Gotta' love DOT.

    Clearly it was not my area of specialization--although I did leave DOT after more years than I care to recall--but MARAD* was always one of those random agencies that people had heard of but couldn't really tell you anything about. (One DOT! It's not just a mantra, it's an empty mantra!) Also the reshuffling of the Coast Guard out of DOT when DHS was created means there's an always-helpful splitting of partner agencies across multiple Departments.

    *And don't forget SLSDC, which for trivia purposes was always the answer to "Which DOT Agency has the fewest employees (and perhaps the least reason to be an independent unit)?"
    posted by psoas at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I love it when I am in meeting with USDOT folks and I can remind them that pipelines are theirs, too.

    I don't know if it's who I work directly with, but some of the walls between the modes are starting to lower a little.

    (And when I learned that the Coast Guard used to be in DOT, it made sense why we had a complete run of their codes at work. It was easy weeding.)
    posted by kendrak at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2015


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