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Apr 25 / Andy

Using space efficiently

Lots of cities in the US and world are installing bike sharing systems, often placing bike share stations at transit stations are. These compliment bus, light rail, streetcar, etc. systems quite well because transit users wouldn’t have to buy a bike and take it on the bus/streetcar/whatever with them.

While you may not want lots of people in a small residential neighborhood, you do want them in downtowns and commercial areas. Biking and riding transit allows you to have more people in these spaces beacause they use the space more efficiently. Take a look at this picture that shows how many people can “fit” when using cars vs buses vs bikes:

Here’s an interesting article from Streetsblog that directs attention to some of the growing pains the Capital Bikeshare system in Washgtion, DC is experiencing. In an attempt to expand the system, they are meeting opposition in Arlington, VA. The bikeshare system needs to occupy 3 parking spaces in order to install a bike station, and the local government is concerned that, since no one will be able to park there, the overall amount of people in the commercial area will go down.

Apr 24 / Andy

Who pays for roads and do bicyclists pay taxes?


While this site is mainly aimed towards advancing the streetcar project, a lot of the benefits and arguments are closely related to concepts such as multimodal tranport, new urbanist city planning, and more. What good is a light rail (especially at the beginning when there are only a few lines), when it doesn’t take you to within walking distance to your destination? Bicycling helps bridge that gap, often increasing the usable area around a streetcar station to several miles (vs. about 1 mile only walking). So, here’s an article on biking and their right to be on the roads.

I was talking with a freind recently about bicycling and we were talking about benefits and costs of building seperate bike paths beside roads where bike traffic was heavy and cars travel fast (there are quite a few areas like this in Northern Nevada). He mentioned that a problem with the current situation is that “bicyclists don’t pay taxes”. This actually isn’t true.

Bicyclists pay only a few taxes specifically related to their bicycle – pretty much sales tax on the purchase of equipment bought within the state. Other than that, there aren’t any registration fees, license fees, fuel taxes, etc. Motorists on the other hand pay a good amount of taxes related specifically to driving a car – fuel tax, registration fees, and tolls are some of them.

So what am I getting at?

If you look at who funds the roads bicyclists and cars are sharing, you’ll see that they are not paid for only with money raised by “user fees”, but also a signficant portion is funded by general funds money.

Interstate highways are paid for with a large portion of the cost (if not the whole amount) paid for by the federal government. Bikes typically are not on these roads. However, many state, county, and municipal roads are paid for with large portions paid for by general fund money. Considering that fuel taxes are typically exempt from local sales taxes, bicycle owners pay an equal proportion of taxes to general funds as car owners do.

So the main idea here is that, roads don’t pay for themselves. There isn’t a free market working here – our governments have chosen to advance a particular mode of transportation and this is evidenced in that fact that roads do not pay for themselves solely with user fees.

Furthermore, if you’re going to choose a mode of transportation to advance, choose anything but cars! Their are many many external costs that aren’t factored into what I said above – I was just indicating the cost of construction and maintenance! Consider health effects of driving vs. walking or bicycling and the environmental effects of thousands of cars running their engines each day. Biking and transit is advantageous over both of those and its pretty transparent to see why.

Our economy is tuned for cars. The entire thing! But, 100 years ago it wasn’t. Its hard to think about fixing the system when there is so much to do, but continuing down the same path isn’t a very smart option either.

I’ll leave you with a few resources to check out to see whose paying for roads in your area.

Happy cycling!

Mar 25 / Andy

Townhouses are super

Townhouses are awesome, especially mixed use ones! They cut out some of the unnecessary & wasteful stuff that detached homes have and add some stuff that they’re inherently incapable of having. Townhouses are multi-story buildings that sit right next to the building on either side. Often, they have backyards (or rooftop patios) and garages. If they are mixed use, they have retail or office space on the ground floor. They represent a great compromise between single family detached homes and residential high rises.

What they get rid of:

Townhouses get rid of wasted space. They get rid of the space beside detached houses that often have no windows and function for little more purpose than to transport the garbage can from the backyard to the front of the house once a week.

What they add:

Townhouses have some features that detached homes just can’t emulate. They can fit into smaller spaces, so they can be a part of more varied neighborhood without breaking it apart. They add density and provide boundaries to a street.

Jan 29 / Andy

Article: Measuring the Global Health Impact of Transportation Reform

Check out this article on the health benefits of active transportation.

The relationship between active transportation and public health can seem so plainly obvious that we tend to take it for granted. Who could question that air pollution, obesity, and road fatalities are major public health concerns that have a direct connection to the availability of safe and convenient travel options other than driving?

Also, if you don’t frequently read Streetsblog, check them out. They have great articles every day on anything to do with transit, biking, making streets better, urban planning, etc.

Source: http://streetsblog.net/2011/01/28/measuring-the-global-health-impact-of-transportation-reform/

Jan 29 / Andy

Complete cost of roads (preview)

MoneyI want to give you a preview of the next article, whose topic will be one of the core topics this website focuses on: the complete cost of roads and driving.

As I said in the last post, roads come nowhere near paying for themselves. Only a small percentage of their construction, operation, and maintenance is paid for by user fees (for example tolls, car registration, gas tax, and other fees only paid by drivers). The rest is paid for by general funds. This is really okay! Lots and lots of other things our government pays for are not based on how much money they generate… like parks (surely parking fees don’t cover their expenses) or a police force or our education systems. This is okay. It is a decision that we have made. We’ve decided that we want to pay for these services, not because they are revenue makers, but because they are something we want 0ur society to enjoy.

One of the main arguments against transit, however, is that it doesn’t pay for itself. I argue, and like I said this will be a core topic of this blog, that it is unfair to hold mass transit to a different standard than that to which we hold personal cars and everything that comes with them. If you are going to include every direct, indirect, and other expense in the estimation of the financial performance of mass transit, do not fail to recognize all of the costs, wherever they are incurred, of pervasive personal auto ownership (including gas, registration, environmental, cost of trade, political, health, etc.).

One of the main goals of this blog will be to compare the costs and benefits of all of our myriad options for mobility and shaping our community. Think about some of the costs associated with driving that we don’t usually recognize. A few are: health costs from sitting in your car instead of walking or biking, environmental costs of pollution from using fossil fuels, economic/political costs of importing oil from countries that don’t really like us. The list goes on. And to be fair, it goes on for mass transit too!

I want to emphasize that if we are going to analyze these two methods fairly, we must include all of the costs. Still, transit will become evident as the preferred alternative. It is the least costly and has more benefits. I’ll delve into some of these in the next post and I invite you to participate in the comments section. Thanks!

Jan 24 / Andy

Reno is primed for fantastic transit

People enjoying the Reno River Walk

There is so much to think about when talking about the prospect of a streetcar in Reno. The most important, in my opinion, is the role of the streetcar in shaping the community. Shaping the way we move around in it, the way we shop and get entertained, the way we get to work, and the places in which we live.

This article highlights some global trends encouraged by economics, class consciousness, energy use, marketing, and more.

Throughout the world, as countries’ citizens become wealthier, their demand for cars explodes. We in the United States have led this trend, starting in the early 1900s. The personal car is a symbol of freedom held very dearly in our country, and the widespread access to cars in the US is envied the world over.

However, there are many benefits of using alternative methods of transit. Its cheaper by many measures. Roads and highways are funded predominately by general funds, not user fees (i.e. they don’t pay for themselves); while critics of mass transit explain that it isn’t viable because it doesn’t pay for itself with fares alone. Mass transit systems encourage compact cities where many amenities are clustered within walking distance. Percent of miles driven by 20 year oldsThis increases accessibility to more of the things that make up a city and it increases the range of customers for a given store or restaurant. Compact cities encourage using multiple methods of getting around (e.g. riding a bus then walking a few blocks). This allows multitasking while commuting and makes us get off our butts to walk a few blocks, passing by neighbors and getting a some fresh air before work.

These are just a few of the many benefits that a streetcar could bring to Reno. In fact our city is primed for it. Areas already experiencing revitalization like the ballpark/Freight House district and South Virginia to Plumb are aiming to bring in younger professionals and new grads to live there… people who want mass transit and want walkable neighborhoods with many amenities close by. Also downtown Reno is surrounded on its east and west sides by areas prime for redevelopment. Compare the areas from Sierra to Keystone or Virginia to Wells and beyond to the Pearl District in Portland, OR. And finally Reno has some unique and significant features which will continue to lure great companies and talented workers here. These are the University of Nevada and our location next to world-class outdoors. The people drawn by these want a city shaped with great transit and planning.