Thursday, April 30, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Robert Puentes is a Senior Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institute. He is an expert on transportation and infrastructure, urban planning, growth management, suburban issues and housing. His research focuses on the broad array of policies and issues related to metropolitan growth and development. He was recently a guest speaker at Boise State University.
In December 2008, along with co-author Adie Tomar, he published a report of U.S. driving patterns titled: ‘The Road…Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S.' as part of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative Seriespublications from the Brookings Institute. According to the authors:
While all transportation modes have received their fair share of media attention, this report focuses on the VMT trends in detail. VMT is a pervasive measure used in transportation revenue, for both funding allocation formulas and planning and finance. With driving on the decline, the overall travel patterns will have profound impacts on how this nation pays for transportation and plans for future infrastructure needs. Furthermore, how much, where, and what we drive affects our energy consumption, carbon emissions, and land use patterns. Thus, VMT patterns inform the potential solutions to our national environmental and energy challenges.
This brief employs the latest federal data to construct a thorough picture of VMT patterns across the country, including roadway, vehicle, state, and metropolitan comparisons. It is intended to provide policymakers with a better understanding of American drivers’ behavior—what roadways they use, what vehicles they use, and where they travel the most.
This report presents an interesting analysis of American driving behavior and how it is evolving over time. Click here to download the full report.
Why are motorcycles allowed in some HOV lanes?
Motorcycles are permitted by federal law to use HOV lanes, even though they typically carry only one passenger. The explanation for the federal law is that allowing motorcycles to use HOV lanes keeps them moving, and it is considered safer to keep two-wheel vehicles moving than it is to have them traveling in start-and-stop traffic conditions. The individual states can choose to override this provision of federal law, if they determine that there is an inherent safety risk by allowing motorcycles to use HOV lanes. In the State of California, motorcycles are permitted to use HOV facilities unless a traffic control device specifically prohibits them.
According to US DOT Federal Highway Program's website, the "primary purpose of an HOV lane is to increase the total number of people moved through a congested corridor ", and they are also an "environmentally friendly option" .
However, here's an interesting fact: Contrary to what a lot of us believe, regular motorcycles are not more environmentally-friendly than cars.
California's Air Resources Board has recently imposed standards  that cut emissions of motorcycles closer to car emission standards. Indeed, without these standards, "motorcycles now produce up to 15 times the emissions per mile as the average new car or light-duty truck" (also in ), despite getting better mileage. Some motorcycles have catalytic converters and other features which would vastly reduce emissions below car level, but they are not required. The EPA has followed suit in 2005 with similar NOx and HC restrictions  starting in 2006 and lowering again in 2010.
In related news, the state of California is the only state to allow motorcycles to lane-split, that is, motorcycles to pass between the lanes of congested traffic.
With the signing of the federal transportation bill by Pres. George Bush in Aug. 2005, states were allowed to issue stickers to owners of hybrid vehicles, allowing them to drive solo in HOV lanes.
Arizona, California, Colorado,Florida, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia allow hybrids in HOV lanes.
Several of these states regret issuing the thousands of tags to hybrid cars as HOV lanes are getting over-crowded.
 US DOT Federal Highway Program, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/operations/hovguide01.htm
 California Air Resources Board, http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/motcycle/onrdmc.htm?PF=Y
 EPA, here
Monday, April 20, 2009
For the first time since the Chicago-to-Seattle train ended 12 years ago, there's hope for the return of the Pioneer. Amtrak has seen six continuous years of passenger growth, and with high gasoline prices and a decline in airline service to mid- and smaller-sized cities, there's renewed interest in passenger train service in rural America, including southern Idaho.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
From article published in USA Today on April 7, 2009:
Nashville took its time getting around to the concept of an urban lifestyle catering to active single professionals and younger couples who want to live and play close to where they work.
For years, the liveliest part of town has been Music Row, a stretch of hundreds of businesses related to country, gospel and contemporary Christian music. In the 1970s, the city saw the start of restoration projects of some old buildings. But laws limited the creation of apartments downtown, in part because of lingering worries the units would become flophouses.
As a result, there is practically no housing in the central business district, says Phil Ryan, executive director of the city's Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.
"It was anemic," he says. "There were just a few condominiums and a scattering of mid-rise apartments."
Ten years ago, Nashville entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Turner, whose family founded the discount stores Dollar General, and a group of developers began buying land in the Gulch. They wanted to create something new for Nashville — a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use, mixed-income project — and were appointed by the city to make it happen in the 60-acre spot.
The development plan emphasized easy access to bus rides, more than 6,000 jobs within a half-mile walk and abundant bike and walking paths. Nashville, the nation's 21st-largest city with 650,000 people, anted up $7 million for new streets, landscaping and utilities. Construction cranes have dotted the landscape since 2001, and by the end of 2009, The Gulch will have one-quarter of the housing stock in downtown Nashville, the city says.
"It's a remarkable achievement," Mayor Karl Dean says. "As a city we needed to focus more on our environmental priorities and making the city a place where people would want to live."
Read full article here.