Tag Archives: stimulus bill

What Does Our Stimulus Agenda Need to Be To Build a Better Future?

By Dom Nozzi

There is much talk these days about taking advantage of the 2020 pandemic to achieve important societal objectives that have not been achieved despite their importance and despite there being known as problems for decades. The old Chinese adage that pertains to this is that from crisis comes opportunity.

What are some of the most important transportation and land use objectives that we should consider moving forward with, now that there is heightened political will to make important changes?

I would suggest the following.

  1. Reform Parking. American cities have far too much free parking. We need to remove a massive amount of free parking (perhaps in part by converting it to housing), a  much higher proportion must be priced, and required minimum parking must be either converted to maximum parking or eliminated entirely.
  2. Reform Taxation. Nearly all American cities strongly discourage compact, mixed use, infill development with their tax structure. Instead of strongly discouraging infill (and encouraging surface parking for land speculation) by taxing improvements to land (renovations, infill, etc.), we should be taxing the land. This has been done in Pittsburgh. It is known as a “land value tax” (or “single tax”).
  3. Slow Streets. American cities have far too many streets that were built with an excessive design speed (often because the design vehicle was the oversized worst-case-scenario vehicle). While we certainly need to ensure that NEW streets use lower design speeds, new streets are very rare in most cities. The major task for us is to retrofit EXISTING streets for lower speed design. This is crucial for progress in traffic safety, promoting quality compact development, and promoting active transportation. I love the world-wide movement for “slow cities,” by the way, as cities thrive when speeds are slower.
  4. Return to the Human Scale. American cities have spent much of the 20th Century creating over-sized spacing (roads, building setbacks, parking lots). This loss of human scale destroys the ability to create a sense of place. This is an important reason why so many of us love historic old towns around the world.
  5. Restore Passenger Rail. If we are to soon see a massive transportation infrastructure stimulus in response to the pandemic, that stimulus needs to include a big expansion in American passenger rail. For the coming decades, the emphasis should be getting the most bang (mileage) for the buck by emphasizing slow-speed rail. High-speed rail is sexy and exciting, but it buys us very little rail mileage because the cost is enormous. Some of that slow-speed rail can later become, incrementally, high-speed.
  6. Emphasize Transportation User Fees. We all know that gas tax revenue is not keeping up with needs. Note that I agree with Chuck Marohn that it is fortunate that we have inadequate transportation funding these days because our society continues to emphasize counterproductive car-based infrastructure when we find dollars. But there will come a time when we finally “get it” with regard to how to spend transport dollars. Important, equitable ways to find new funding, besides ramping up parking revenue, is a lot more road tolling or VMT fees (or similar user-based fees). Sales, income, and property taxes are a terribly unfair (and socially undesirable) way to raise transportation dollars.

Let us not squander the opportunity that this pandemic crisis offers to us to dramatically improve our communities.

The time for bold action is now.

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Filed under Politics, Transportation, Urban Design

Stimulating Roads

By Dom Nozzi

In December 2008, I read an otherwise admirable essay by E.J. Dionne [“Obama’s Manna”, op-ed, Dec. 5]. He informed us that there is “nothing wrong with spending on roads…” when it comes to a possible Federal stimulus package that the Obama administration was crafting at the time.

Really?

There is certainly nothing wrong with repairing roads. And yes, it is appropriate that stimulus spending be forward-thinking, rather than backward-looking, investments.

Why, then, after several decades of ruinous failure in trying to build our way out of congestion, would anyone even consider widening roads?Carmageddon highway

It is now abundantly clear that road widening powerfully induces more sprawl, more car travel, more gasoline consumption, more traffic congestion, more loss of environmental quality, more governmental financial woe, more loss of quality of life, and more destruction of downtowns.

Given this colossal squandering of countless trillions of public dollars to worsen our communities, is there anything worse than spending stimulus dollars on road widening?

In an age of growing concern about Peak Oil, long-term sustainability, and global warming, the absolute last thing we should be doing is building bigger roads.

While transportation needs in America are so enormous that Federal stimulus is highly appropriate, dollars must be properly targeted. For starters, that means the stimulus should be directed to restoring the woeful national passenger rail system. And ending car welfare program by huge motorist subsidies for free use of roads and parking. We can also stimulate long-term sustainability and quality of life by correcting our 20th Century widening binge. Namely, by engaging in a nation-wide road narrowing (“road dieting”) program.

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Filed under Peak Oil, Transportation

Suggestions for Obama to Encourage More Bicycling

By Dom Nozzi
 
 

 

 

A number of people seem to believe that the Obama administration should put “stimulus” dollars into such bicycle facilities as bike paths, bike parking and bike lanes.

But despite being a lifelong bicycle commuter, being an enthusiastic supporter of having government do a lot more to promote more bicycling, and having written a master’s thesis on bicycle transportation, I am not one of them.

I believe that more bike facilities, while an important symbolic gesture to show that government respects and promotes bicycling, will not be effective in creating large numbers of new bicyclists. Our communities are too dispersed and low-density. We have way too much free parking for cars. And gas prices are way too cheap.

Instead, the Obama administration should target other tactics to successfully promote more bicycling. For example…

·        Establish federal rules and assistance to substantially reduce free car parking, and assist local governments in establishing car parking cash-out programs.

·        Assist local governments in increasing their residential densities in appropriate locations.

·        Increasing the gas tax could also help, although the new dollars would need to be kept away from counter-productive road widenings.

·        And lets not forget the pressing, nation-wide need to re-design our car-happy urban streets so that they are Complete Streets accommodating all users—not just cars (in other words, correcting the mistakes we’ve made for so many decades). Primarily, we do that by narrowing them (mostly by road dieting them), and slowing down motor vehicle speeds.

Now more than ever, we need a Plan B for our transportation system. Cars are rapidly becoming dysfunctional.

It is important to target the most effective ways to encourage bicycle, transit and pedestrian commuting. Otherwise, we squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our transportation.

 

_________________________________________________

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

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Filed under Bicycling, Urban Design

Squandering the Transformative Moment

By Dom Nozzi

 

The Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Washington Post reports that there is some congressional disappointment that Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill has only a “small amount devoted to long-lasting infrastructure investments in favor of spending on a long list of government programs…[these government programs] fall far short of the transformative New Deal-like vision many of them had entertained…Obama, with a public mandate to do something big, is missing a rare opportunity to rebuild the country.”

 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) stated that “every penny of the $825 billion is borrowed against the future of our kids and grandkids, and so the question is: What benefit are we providing them?…It’s the difference between real investment that will serve the nation for 30, 50 years and tax cuts, and that’s a very poor tradeoff.” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said that the money proposed for infrastructure is “almost miniscule” and expressed regret that Obama was not proposing a transformative project such as building high-speed rail in 11 corridors high-speed-railaround the nation (which Mica says would cost $165 billion).

 

“They keep comparing this to Eisenhower, but he proposed a $500 billion highway system, and they’re going to put $30 billion” in roads and bridges, said Mica. “How farcical can you be? Give me a break.”

 

According to some in the House, “…Obama may never again have as good a chance as this to act boldly.”

 

Frankly, I am deeply disappointed. Obama has perhaps more political capital than he will ever have in his term as president, and might have the most political capital of any president in recent history (or in the future). Given the fact that America has no “Plan B” in transportation to face the inevitable, exponential increase in gasoline prices, it is a breath-taking squandering of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform America’s transportation system towards one that is sustainable (not to mention the fact that a healthy rail system powerfully supports healthy city agglomeration and strongly discourages costly sprawl).

 

I urge the Senate and the Obama administration to delay approval of this historic bill until it contains a visionary, long-term, sustainable, transformative plan. Creating high-speed rail, as Mica points out, is a fantastic way to start on that desperately needed path.

 

I would also add to Mica’s vision. Some of our stimulus billions should be dedicated to restoring our roads and highways to sustainability. Countless numbers of them need to be transformed into “Complete Streets” through “road diets” (removal of travel lanes) and other traffic taming, livable tactics for road and highway modification.

 

American may never have this chance again.

 

_________________________________________________

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, Peak Oil, Politics, Urban Design

Stimulating Roads

In an otherwise admirable essay, E.J. Dionne [“Obama’s Manna”, Washington Post op-ed, Dec. 5] informs us that there is “nothing wrong with spending on roads…” when it comes to a possible Federal stimulus package by the Obama administration.

 

Really?

 

There is certainly nothing wrong with repairing roads. And yes, it is appropriate that stimulus spending be forward-thinking, and bring long-term payoffs, rather than backward-looking investments.

 

Why, then, after several decades of ruinous failure in trying to build our way out of congestion, would anyone even consider widening roads? Is there anything more backward-thinking and counter-productive?

 

It is now abundantly clear that road widening powerfully induces more suburban sprawl, more car travel, more gasoline consumption, more traffic congestion, more loss of environmental quality, more governmental financial woe, more loss of quality of life, and more destruction of downtowns. traffic-jam-on-huge-hwy

 

Given this colossal squandering of countless trillions of public dollars to worsen our communities for so many decades, is there anything worse than spending Federal stimulus dollars on than road widening?

 

In an age of growing concern about Peak Oil, long-term sustainability, and global warming, the absolute last thing we should be doing is building bigger roads.

 

While transportation needs in America are so enormous that Federal stimulus is highly appropriate, dollars must be properly targeted on what Mr. Dionne calls long-term payoff. For starters, that means a large portion of stimulus should be directed to restoring the woeful, limping national passenger rail system in America. And ending the car welfare program caused by huge motorist subsidies for free use of roads and parking. We can also stimulate long-term sustainability and quality of life by correcting our 20th Century widening binge. Namely, by engaging in a nation-wide road narrowing (“road dieting”) program.

 

In these perilous times, we must be looking forward, not harkening back to failed programs. Otherwise, we have learned nothing.

 

_________________________________________________

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 Peak Oil, Politics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design