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Hancock Wants an Infrastructure Bond in 2017. What Would It Pay For?

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According to Denver’s capital improvement plan, these walking, transit, and biking projects are top priorities right now, but it remains to be seen what the new bond measure would fund. Image: City and County of Denver

Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council will ask voters to finance a package of projects through a bond in 2017, but it’s unclear how much money will go toward safe, sustainable transportation.

The bond would cover “overdue and upcoming capital asset and infrastructure needs,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. That could include money for protected bike lanes, filling gaps in the sidewalk network, and redesigning streets to boost transit. In all, the city’s high-priority transit, walking, and biking projects will cost upwards of $100 million, according to the capital improvement plan.

Improving parks, municipal buildings, and cultural facilities are also high priorities for the ballot measure, according to the mayor’s office.

While the capital improvement plan will prioritize where the money goes to some extent, residents will also have some say.

“Denver is faced with a great opportunity to make critical investments in our growing city with the upcoming 2017 [general obligation] bond,” Hancock said in a statement. “A key part of this process is to hear from you — our residents, businesses and neighborhoods — about your ideas and priorities.”

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Tesla’s Vision for the Future of Autonomous Cars Should Scare Us

What impact will self-driving cars have on cities?

Will self-driving cars be part of shared fleets or have the old individual ownership model? The answer will be important to the health of cities. Photo: Flickr/David van der Mark

Will self-driving cars also bring about shared fleets or will they operate in the old individual ownership model? Photo: Flickr/David van der Mark

The range of potential outcomes is enormous. In the best-case scenario, private car ownership gives way to shared fleets of autonomous cars, freeing up vast amounts of land that used to be devoted to vehicle storage.

Then there’s the scenario promoted by Tesla, in which everyone owns their personal autonomous vehicle. The consequences would be frightening, says Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic:

Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar, has laid out an intuitive way of understanding this issue using a binary “heaven or hell” construction (note: I’ve interviewed her in the past on how autonomous cars will impact the transit system). According to this formulation, we could have “heaven” if we had fleets of shared, electric, driverless cars powered by renewable energy, plus a redistributive economy that ensures that people who once had jobs in the transportation sector have access to a minimum income. On the other hand, we could have “hell” if everyone owns his or her own driverless car that does our errands, parks our cars, and circles the neighborhood waiting for us to need it again.

Tesla seems to be resolving this issue for us.

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Today’s Headlines

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Meet RTD District E Candidate Claudia Folska, a Transit Rider for Life

Even people who use Denver’s transit system daily might be surprised to find out that a publicly elected board of directors oversees the Regional Transportation District. It’s true.

The 15-member RTD Board of Directors reps constituents from all over the map, literally, and makes decisions that affect Coloradans — in some ways more directly than the president. Eight seats are up for grabs this November 8.

Streetsblog wants you to be informed when you decide who fills those seats, so we’ll publish interviews with candidates leading up to Election Day. (Hat tip to Transit Alliance for the footage from a closed candidate forum last month.)

Next up: Claudia Folska. Folska is the incumbent representing District E, which covers parts of Denver south of East Colfax Avenue, parts of Aurora, and parts of Centennial. Her opponent is JM (Maria J) Fay.

  • Most used RTD route: E, F, and H lines and the 27 bus
  • Day job: Owner, Virtual Vanguard production company
  • Lives in: Southmoor
  • Website

Why are you running for reelection?

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Center City Philadelphia Commuters Increasingly Arriving by Bike

Where bicyclists were once a trickle in Philadelphia, they are now a steady stream.

Bike commuting in central Philadelphia is on the rise, according to a recent report by the Center City District, which found about 1,400 cyclists entering the center city from the south during the peak rush hour.

Thousands of cyclists pour into Center City Philadelphia daily, largely on two buffered bike lanes. Graph: Center City District

Thousands of cyclists pour into Center City Philadelphia daily, largely on two buffered bike lanes. Graph: Center City District

Randy LoBasso at the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia explains the increase is happening even though the infrastructure is less than ideal:

In their new report, “Bicycle Commuting,” Center City District reports that cyclists entering Center City on northbound streets during rush hour (8am-9am) “was up 22 percent over the … last count in 2014” and up 79 percent since 2010.

According to CCD’s bike counts, cyclists are using Center City lanes specifically engineered for high bike rates — like Spruce Street and 13th Street, which have wide, buffered bike lanes.

And Center City residents and commuters agree that motor vehicles parking in those bike lanes is especially annoying for Philadelphia road users. A Transportation Priorities Survey, also released by Center City District, found that the most important issues hindering mobility are vehicles blocking lanes, lack of enforcement and poor street conditions.

Cyclists are well aware of the problem of people in motor vehicles thinking they can pull over into a bike lane without fear of being ticketed, and without care for the other road users who can get injured when they do so.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Kills 43-Year-Old Bicyclist in Hellish Arvada Intersection (9News)
  • Delay on I-70 Widening Gives Pause to Consider Consequences (Confluence)
  • Downtown Parking Rates Pale in Comparison to Other Cities (Denverite)
  • About 200 Affordable Apartments to Replace Trailer Park in Westwood (DenPo)
  • Denver’s Food Deserts Hurt Low-Income Neighborhoods Most — What’s Being Done? (Denverite)
  • Will Aurora Ever Have a “True Downtown”? (Sentinel)
  • A-Line Horns to Continue Until Feds Deem Crossings Safe (Front Porch)
  • Someone May Have Taken Down Hilltop Signs Restricting Parking (DenPo)
  • CDOT Is Step Closer to Widening I-25 in Northern Colorado (Fox31)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


Volkswagen Lied, So CO Could Get $61 Million to Electrify Transit and Roads

Coloradans could be seeing a lot more electric buses like, the new MallRide shuttles, around the state. Image: RTD

Coloradans could be seeing a lot more electric buses, like these new 16th Mall shuttles, around the state. Image: RTD

Remember that time Volkswagen cheated American consumers’ wallets and lungs by rigging its “clean diesel” cars to falsify emissions data? Now Colorado will probably get $61 million from the car company in a settlement.

A federal judge is “strongly inclined” to approve the settlement, according to Reuters. About $10 billion will go to fleeced consumers, while the rest is earmarked for states to reduce emissions.

Colorado’s chunk would be best used by electrifying buses and installing charging stations along the state’s highway network, according to the Southwestern Energy Efficiency Project and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group.

“We have to make sure that whatever penalty money we’re getting is invested in the smartest way possible to have the biggest impact on that air pollution,” said CoPIRG Director Danny Katz. “Investing in electric buses and electric vehicle charging stations  — not only does that have a significant reduction in pollution now, but it starts to transform our transportation system and move us in that zero emissions direction, which is ultimately where we need to be.”

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Transit Vote 2016: With Historic Decision, Detroit Could Heal Old Divides

The highlight of metro Detroit's $4.6 billion transit plan is four bus rapid transit routes connecting the city to suburban job centers. Map: Michigan RTA. Click to enlarge.

The highlight of metro Detroit’s $4.6 billion transit plan is four bus rapid transit routes connecting the city to suburban job centers. Map: Michigan RTA. Click to enlarge.

The four-county transit ballot measure before voters in Southeast Michigan this November is truly historic.

It took 40 years and 23 failed attempts for Detroit and its suburbs to establish a regional transit agency. They finally won state support to establish the RTA in 2012. At the time, Detroit was on the verge of bankruptcy, and its general-revenue-supported transit system was in dire condition.

Transit service in the region is fragmented and unreliable, even though a quarter of city residents don’t own cars. The severity of the problem was encapsulated by the story of James Robertson, whose commute to a factory job in the suburbs required taking two buses and walking 21 miles.

The Detroit region is the largest U.S. metro area without a unified regional transit system. This photo shows a suburban "Smart" bus. Photo: Michigan RTA

The Detroit region is the largest U.S. metro area without a unified transit system. This photo shows a suburban “Smart” bus. Photo: Michigan RTA

The RTA can’t deliver a better transit system without funding, and that’s where the vote in November comes into play.

The Detroit region has put together a $4.6 billion, four-county plan to improve transit. The centerpiece is a network of bus rapid transit lines extending out from downtown. Funded by a 20-year property tax increase, the measure would cost the average homeowner in the region about $95 a year.

Megan Owens, director of the advocacy group Transit Riders United, says the measure is important for a few reasons. Right now, urban and suburban transit services are poorly integrated. That’s what messed up James Robertson’s commute — the suburb he worked in opted out of the suburban transit system. The lack of coherent transit connections makes the region’s notorious job sprawl an even bigger problem.

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When People Aren’t Afraid to Walk in the Street With Cars

Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz wasn't design to be a shared space where pedestrians have priority, but Richard Masoner says that's how it functions on weekends. Photo: Cyclelicious

Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz wasn’t designed to be a “shared space” where pedestrians have priority, but Richard Masoner says that’s how it functions on weekends. Photo: Cyclelicious

“Shared spaces” are streets where driving is allowed but walking and biking take priority. They are designed without curbs, signage, and other typical markers that separate cars from people on foot. The design cues are subtler. Everyone mixes together in the same space, and drivers travel slowly enough that they can make eye contact with pedestrians.

Can you have an “accidental” shared space — a street with curbs where people are still comfortable walking in the road? Richard Masoner at Network blog Cyclelicious says Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz functions as a shared space on weekends even though it wasn’t planned as one:

Most of those driving — even tourists with out-of-state license plates — take care to watch for people meandering into the street from arbitrary locations.

This kind of slow traffic naturally improves safety for people on bikes. I’ve talked to people who strongly dislike riding with traffic, but feel perfectly fine biking through downtown.

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Today’s Headlines

  • As Traffic Crashes and Deaths Rise, Denver PD Lets Drivers Off the Hook More (Denverite)
  • Driver Seriously Injures Person Walking at 6th and Sheridan (ABC7)
  • Driver Seriously Injures Person Riding Bike at 7th and Washington (DPD)
  • Driver Seriously Injures Person Riding Bike at 52nd and Wadsworth (Fox31)
  • RTD’s G-Line Delayed Until A-Line Glitches Are Fixed (DBJ)
  • News Flash: Cities That Invest in Active Transportation Have Happier Residents (DBJ)
  • Denver Joins “Smart City Collaborative” to Discuss Transportation Stuff (DenPo)
  • A RiNo Development Near 38th and Blake Station Will Have 437 Parking Spaces (DenverInfill)
  • Will App-Based Ride-Hailing Services Put Taxis Out of Business? (DenPo)
  • “Denver’s Average Apartment Rent Just Fell for the First Time in Years” (Denverite)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA