Monday, January 30, 2017

Super Bowl! more MaX lanes, paying for infrastructure, affordability ranking, pension fix, autonomous vehicles vs. rail, Texas Urbanism, and more

Lots of items for Super Bowl week in Houston!
And some non-Super Bowl items:
“To improve transit in the region, auditors called for increasing the number of HOV lanes in the Houston area.”
"If President Trump wants to seriously improve American infrastructure spending, he should champion a new federalism for transportation, in which infrastructure is funded by states, localities and especially the users themselves. Too often, public debates devolve into a simplistic argument of "more" infrastructure versus "less." In many ways, America's infrastructure is woefully deficient, but we have also wasted billions on bridges to nowhere and highways in the middle of nowhere. The right question is how to get better infrastructure.The best decisions are made when decision-makers bear the costs and reap the benefits."
Hear, hear! 
"Houston owes its police, fire, and city workers about $7.8 billion, and it doesn’t exactly have the cash on hand. Their hard-fought solution could serve as a model for the rest of Texas, and the nation."
Finally, "Self-driving cars could spell revolution for Houston--or not" (hat tip to Julia).  I do think they help make the argument that Houston could get rid of parking minimums (like Buffalo recently did) and let the market naturally reduce parking over time as autonomous vehicles ramp up.

In addition, the City's Public Works department may not have too much to consider, but METRO certainly does with their new long-range plan.  If we’re about to make point-to-point vehicle transportation far cheaper, safer, and more convenient, then what’s the impact on transit? I for one would argue that further rail investments will get nowhere near the ridership they expect and are likely to be horrible investments. This month's Surface Transportation Innovations newsletter from Reason concurs:
How Will Autonomous Vehicles Affect Public Transportation?

"A final point for transportation planners and transit managers to consider is the impact of these technologies on long-range planning for infrastructure. Here is the most relevant paragraph: 
"Numerous communities across the country are planning for or evaluating major capital fixed-guideway public transit investments whose success may be impacted by the presence of alternative mobility options. The criticality of reflecting on these issues relates to both the magnitude of the cost of these commitments and the fact that these assets are very long-lived. These fixed-guideway commitments may well have extensive economic life remaining at points in time when new travel options compete with them, potentially cannibalizing their markets and rendering the investments less productive than envisioned in the planning stages."

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