Monthly Archives: March 2013

Education Works When the Conditions are Right

By Dom Nozzi

I’ve always believed that because quality urban design is essential to quality of life, local elected officials tend to be strongly in need of a lot of education in urban design. As a city planner in Florida, I strove to provide officials with as much urban design education as I could when I wrote plans and staff reports for them to read, as well as when I gave presentations at meetings. I arranged to regularly have my city run a series of nine urban design videos on public access TV for citizens. In addition, I worked to have several urban design stars – such as Victor Dover, Andres Duany, and Walter Kulash – be hired on projects that required outside consultants. Each of them is spectacular as an educator on the design practices I advocate. Each has taught me essential urban design lessons. In sum, I think the need for urban design education is always important on an on-going basis for commissioners and citizens. But as my writings and speeches point out, the most effective education is based on our environment and our economy. We can “educate” till we are blue in the face, but we will accomplish little unless economic price signals (such as the increasingly intolerable cost of gas, the cost of road widening, the cost of sprawl homes, the cost of parking, etc.) are providing proper price signal education. As for the environment, in my experience, a community usually does not engage in quality urban design until inconveniences and other difficulties of day-to-day life induces the political will that DEMANDS needed change. For example, consider a community experiencing high levels of road and parking lot congestion. Study after study has confirmed that conventional “solutions” (road widening and the provision of more free parking) are counterproductive and utterly unable to solve congestion problems. What to do? It seems obvious that given the studies, road widening and more free parking should NOT be used as a solution. Yet nearly all communities stubbornly disregard these studies and end up wasting millions and billions of public dollars to “solve” congestion with road widening and more free parking. Fortunately, some communities (mostly bigger cities) eventually come to realize (after much pain, suffering, wasted time, and wasted public dollars) that the conventional tactics are failing to eliminate their congestion. And at that point, even the most pro-car, anti-transit citizens are often forced to conclude that their only hope for addressing congestion is pricing roads and parking, providing better transit, and creating alternatives (such as closer-in housing) so that people can avoid the congestion.ROADRAGE1 Given this, it was not education from books or speeches or videos that was the key to convincing the community that better urban design (or better transit) is needed. No, it was clearly the aggravation felt from the congestion that drove the needed change toward effective tactics. Education alone is not a painless shortcut to doing the right thing, unfortunately. Yes, books and speeches and videos are important education tools, but such information needs to be in the right place at the right time to have an impact. Words and data can be a call-to-arms catalyst if conditions are right. Take Leonardo da Vinci. In the 15th Century, he described the design of a helicopter. Over one hundred years ago, a number of far-sighted folks spoke eloquently about women’s rights. Yet such ideas generally fell on deaf ears because the conditions were not right. My hope is that the urban design and transportation ideas I support can be in the right place when conditions are right so that the revolution can occur more quickly and less painfully. _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Politics, Road Diet, Urban Design

It’s Not About Adding Bike Lanes. It’s About Taking Away from the Car

By Dom Nozzi

For most all bicycling advocates, there is a single-minded tactic for increasing the number of bicyclists: Provide bike lanes, bike paths and bike parking. However, in my career as a transportation planner, I have come to realize that to meaningfully increase the number of bicyclists, adding new facilities for bicycling (or for pedestrians or transit users, for that matter), the community must make driving and parking cars significantly more inconvenient and costly.bike lane in suburbs How is this done? Here are some excellent tools: * Road diets (where road travel lanes are removed – going from four lanes to three is the most common diet). * Employing low-speed street design (such as on-street parking, bulb-outs, tight turning radii, and other “traffic calming” tactics). * Mixing homes with retail and jobs. * Providing more in-town housing (such as “granny flats”). * Shrinking the size of parking lots. * Increasing the gas tax. * Installing more on-street car parking. * Charging market-based prices for the use of roads and parking. * Eliminating “minimum parking requirements” in the zoning code (ie, regulations that require the installation of at least “X” amount of car parking for particular developments – parking MAXIMUMS are far preferable). * Requiring buildings to be pulled up to the street so that there is no car parking between the front of the building and the street. Without taking steps such as these, installing bike lanes, off-street bike paths, bike parking, showers at work, etc., will have very little impact on recruiting new bicyclists. Without these tools, distances are too excessive for convenient bicycle travel, costs are too low for driving a car, and there is too much of a difference in speed between cars and bicyclists. With regard to convenience, because cars consume so much more space (on average, about 17 times more space is needed for a person in a car than a person in a chair), motorists need to feel inconvenienced by street and parking dimensions if we are designing a community for the pleasure of humans rather than cars. Urban designers call this pleasant, relatively intimate spacing as “human scale” design. I should note that one of the most effective ways to recruit new bicyclists is to create the conditions that deliver large numbers of bicyclists in the community. This is because when a lot of community residents are bicycling, many non-bicyclists are inspired to try bicycling. With a lot of people bicycling, it seems much more hip, enjoyably sociable, and safe to ride a bicycle. And as has been shown in studies, bicycling safety dramatically improves due to safety in numbers. The more bicyclists are bicycling, the safer bicycling becomes. Given this, once a threshold is reached with regard to the number of bicyclists, community bicycling can reach a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle where the existence of a large number of bicyclists recruits even more bicyclists. We too often recommend the bike lanes, paths, and bike parking when asked how to induce lots of new bicyclists. When very few new bicyclists are then recruited (due to the enormous obstacles I describe above), the Sprawl Lobby will disparagingly point out how wasteful it was to install bike facilities, and insist that we “get real” by getting back to the program of car-happy road widening. I think many of us know there are more effective tactics, such as those I mention above, but when we only have a hammer, all our problems look like nails. It is time to start finding ways to introduce the effective tools to grow the number of bicyclists. _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607 My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

The Economic Merits of Road Diets

By Dom Nozzi

“Road diets” are instances where a street is shrunk in size by removing travel lanes. Most commonly in America, this occurs when a four- or five-lane street is reduced to a three-lane street.

A common concern associated with a road diet is that such a road modification will be harmful to the economic health of the street, primarily because of the concern that the “diet” will reduce traffic volumes on the street.chicago road diet

Proponents of road diets point out, however, that such road modifications tend to be highly beneficial for economic, land use and safety reasons. Proponents note, for example, that reducing the number of travel lanes makes the street more of a “drive-to” destination (where motorists drive more slowly and attentively) rather than a “drive-through” corridor (where motorists drive faster and less attentively).

The “drive-to” nature of the road diet is based on the tendency of the lane reduction to create a calmer, slower, safer and more attractive venue – a “park once” place where the motorist is more likely to want to park, walk around, hang out, and enjoy the setting (this sort of newly-created environment also tends to make the street more inviting to residences, and makes the street safer).

The following studies and reports provide a sampling of information showing the economic (and other) merits of road diets.

Dan Gallagher, the Charlotte, North Carolina Transportation Planning Manager, led a study that looked at the “before” and “after” property values along a street in Charlotte which had undergone a road diet.

Gallagher’s staff evaluated property value information for the East Boulevard road diet in Charlotte in March 2013. Phase 1 of the diet occurred in 2006. Phase 2 occurred in 2010. The county property tax assessment re-evaluation was done in 2003 and then again in 2011. The non-residential tax value of properties fronting East Boulevard was $90 million in 2003. The non-residential tax values of properties fronting East Boulevard was $133 million in 2011 – a 47 percent increase. This increase occurred despite the 2008 “great recession” that affected Charlotte and the nation.Road-Diet

The corridor was pretty much “built out” before the road diet, which largely means that the value increased for properties that were not developed or redeveloped. The increase, in other words, cannot be attributed to value realized due to new construction.

The following is a bibliography on the economic (and other) merits of road diets

  York Blvd: Economics of a Road Diet. http://la.streetsblog.org/wp-content/pdf/york_blvd_final_report_compress.pdf

Going on a Road Diet.  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/11septoct/05.cfm

Economic Merits of a Road Diet, by Dom Nozzi http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2003/08/17/economic-merits-of-road-diets-and-traffic-calming/

El Cajon’s Road Diet. http://www.walkinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=3967

Safety and Economic Benefits of a Road Diet.  http://www.slideshare.net/choyle75/safety-and-economic-benefits-of-road-diets-5-10

Road Diets.  http://www.planetizen.com/node/44645

Franklin Ave Road Diet. http://www.thelinemedia.com/features/franklinaveexperiment102412.aspx

Orlando Road Diet. http://rickgellerforcc.blogspot.mx/2011/09/road-diets-economic-revitalization.html

“To Smooth Your Drive, Slow It Down, He Says”, by Keith Schneider. 10/27/04 New York Times.

“Guidelines for the Conversion of Urban 4-lane Undivided Roadways to 3-lane Two-Way Left-Turn Lane Facilities”, by the Iowa Department of Transportation. April 2001.

“Narrowing Federal in Delray a dream”, by Meghan Meyer, Palm Beach Post (Florida), 3/6/03.

“Pedestrian-friendly downtown works for Delray”, by Leon Fooksman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/6/03.

“Road Diets: Fixing the Big Roads”, by Dan Burden & Peter Lagerway, 1999.

“Traffic Calming: Some Urban Planners Say Downtowns Need a Lot More Congestion”, by Mitchell Pacelle, Wall Street Journal, 8/7/96.

“Automobile Dependency and Economic Development”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1999.

“The Costs of Automobile Dependency”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1999.

“TDM and Economic Development”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2001.

“Sustainable Community Transportation”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1991.

“Lake Worth: Reclaiming a Small Downtown”, by Cynthia Pollock Shea, Florida Sustainable Communities Network, 10/28/98.

“Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities”, by the Local Government Commission. Center for Livable Communities.

“Traffic Calming Reference Materials”, by Ian Lockwood and Timothy Stillings, West Palm Beach FL. October 1998.

“Taking Back Main Street”, by Engineering News Record. January 1998.

“Vital Signs: Circulation in the Heart of the City — An Overview of Downtown Traffic”, by Gerald Forbes. 1998.

“Do New Roads Cause Congestion?” by Jill Kruse. Surface Transportation Policy Project, March 1998.

Stuck in Traffic (book), by Anthony Downs.

“Widening Roads Worsens Traffic Congestion”, by Tanya Albert. The Cincinnati Enquirer. 1/13/00.

“Evaluation of Lane Reduction ‘Road Diet’ Measures on Crashes and Injuries” by Herman Huang, Richard Stewart, Charles Zegeer. University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. July 2001.

“The 3rd Motor Age”, by Walter Kulash. Places. Winter 1996.

“Emergency Response: Traffic Calming and Traditional Neighborhood Streets” by Dan Burden & Paul Zykofsky. Local Government Commission. Center for Livable Communities. December 2000.

“Take Back Your Streets”, by Conservation Law Foundation. May 1995.

“Traffic Calming”, by Cynthia Hoyle. American Planning Association. Planners Advisory Service Report #456. 1995.

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

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Filed under Economics, Road Diet, Urban Design, Walking

Motorists Do Not Pay Their Fair Share

By Dom Nozzi

The point is made over and over again. Motorists pay their own way in the costs they impose on society (road construction and maintenance, air and water pollution, “oil wars,” injuries and deaths, etc.) because they pay gas taxes.

Those making this point are wrong.

Over the years, I have done quite a bit of research on this topic, and have learned a number of little-known facts.suburbia-reburbia-image

A Harvard study found that motorists pay only 25 to 40 percent of the cost of their transportation. The remaining costs are borne by employers (through such amenities as free parking), by other travelers (due to increased congestion, reduced safety, etc.), and by governments and taxpayers who pay for the expansion and maintenance of roads.

Several additional studies have found large subsidies for autos.

Gas taxes and user fees pay for only 60 percent of the $35.4 billion spent by governments in 1990 to build, modify, and repair roads. The remaining money came from taxpayers and other sources (mostly sales taxes and property taxes, which non-motorists pay). For example, motorists in the greater Boston and Portland (ME) areas pay — through user fees such as gas taxes — only 24 to 53 percent of government outlays for driving.

Taxpayers pay a $2.4 billion annual subsidy to provide road infrastructure through property taxes. Over 80 percent of local government spending for auto infrastructure is raised through general fund taxes.

The costs not directly paid by motorists each year include $13.3 billion for highway construction and repair, $7.9 billion for highway maintenance, $68 billion for highway services (police, fire, etc.), and $85 billion for free parking.

In Minneapolis, less than half the $90 million the City spends on driving-related projects comes from transportation user charges (such as gas taxes) and nearly a quarter of all city residents do not own a car, yet all residents pay for road construction and maintenance through property taxes.

The social costs of driving that are not paid by the driver amount to a $300 billion subsidy each year. The EPA (Lowe, 1988) found that if employees were directly handed this subsidy, transit and bicycle use would go up and auto traffic would go down by 25 percent. A Seattle study found that society pays a $792 subsidy to each motorist each year (excluding a $1,920 annual free parking subsidy). In New York City, the metro area loses $55 billion each year in hidden auto costs associated with safety and environmental damage. More than 90 percent of all commuters park for free at work.

The market demand for dispersed, auto-dependent residential property is artificially high due to the heavy income tax subsidies for owner-occupied homes, federally-funded wastewater systems, provision of police and fire services, provision of postal and garbage services, as well as the road and parking subsidies.

When new developments are built in areas remote from water plants, wastewater plants, and schools, it creates higher incremental (or “marginal”) costs for adding new capacity to these services. By contrast, the marginal cost of new development near such services is lower. However, because costs are evenly distributed among all citizens by average-cost pricing, those who live in remote locations pay proportionately less. As a result, citizens living in remote locations enjoy an enormous price subsidy courtesy of citizens living closer to the services. And because new homes in remote locations tend to be only affordable for high-income buyers, the inequity results in poorer citizens subsidizing richer citizens.

In Tallahassee, capital costs for sewer hookups in central city neighborhoods are about $4,450, compared to $11,450 in remote, low-density neighborhoods, yet everyone pays the same hookup cost regardless of their location. “The poor families living near the sewer plant not only have to endure its odor, but also have to pay far more for their sewer hookup than it actually costs government to serve them. Meanwhile, the affluent lobbyists and politicians, who typically reside in distant suburbs on the north end of town, escape both the odors and the full bill for their waste treatment.”

Dispersed, auto-dependent development in Loudoun County, Virginia, is a net loss to the tax base of $700 to $2,200 per dwelling unit. In San Jose, California, planners determined that such development would create annual deficits of $4.5 million compared to a $2 million surplus if future development is compact.

In a case study in Lexington, Kentucky, a new development in a remote, auto-dependent area increased private and public costs by $272,534 per year. Some of these costs were borne by residents of the development in the form of higher travel costs (they presumably paid less for land and housing than they would have at a more accessible location). The remaining costs, however, were borne by other consumers and taxpayers in the area, who ended up subsidizing the remote development. Note also that the social costs of auto use were not factored into the calculation, even though such costs are comparable in magnitude to the direct costs of the auto use.

The Natural Resources Council (1993) notes that as long as gasoline is cheaper than bottled water, it is easy to use too much of it. The real cost of gas, if all of the social, financial, and environmental costs were factored in, has been estimated to be over $3 per gallon. Another study puts the cost at $2.50 to $5.00 per gallon.

If motorists had to pay the full cost of driving, transit would require less (possibly no) subsidy to operate efficiently.

An important reason why so many citizens are attracted to remote sprawl subdivisions is that hidden subsidies generally make such residential areas less costly for households, even though this choice is more costly for the community overall. “If some government is going to wave a lot of money in my face to move someplace, I’ll go…People want to live in low-density environments only if they can shift the costs on to someone else.”

Free parking is anything but free. As Donald Shoup points out, for example, free parking provided by retailers results in the price of goods and services inside the stores where free parking is located to be higher. The price of goods and services are higher to allow the retailer to pay for the land and maintenance costs of the “free” parking. If the parking was properly priced – in other words, charging a fair user fee for parking – the price of goods and services inside the stores would be lower.

In sum, American motorists are among the most heavily subsidized people on earth. Motorists pay nowhere near the costs they impose on society. Such a “distorted price signal” induces a great many Americans to own cars and drive cars a lot more than they otherwise would. Starting to eliminate such motorist welfare would substantially reduce driving, significantly increase bicycling, walking and transit use, reduce air and water pollution, reduce sprawl, increase affordability, improve household and government financial health, improve civic pride, and create more physically healthy communities.

Isn’t it time to take motorists off welfare?

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Economics, Politics, Urban Design, Walking