More Turnpike lanes won’t relieve congestion (top left); Upgrade delays threaten MTA system (bottom left); Move That Bus! to reduce emissions & increase ridership (right)
Article of the Week
MASSACHUSETTS—State Finalizes Multifamily Housing Rules for MBTA Communities
Colin A. Young, The Lowell Sun, August 12, 2022
About half of all municipalities in Massachusetts will soon have to meet newly released multifamily zoning rules should they want access to certain state funding. The new guidance specifies rules stemming from an economic development measure signed in January 2021 and applies to 175 cities and towns with MBTA facilities. It calls for the “MBTA communities” to have at least one zoning district near a transit station where multifamily housing is allowed as a right. Districts must have a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre; be no more than half a mile from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station; have no age restrictions; and be suitable for families with children.
CALIFORNIA—California’s Public Bus and Urban Transit Workers Have Caught COVID at a Rate More Than 5 Times Higher Than All Other Industries, CDC Report Says
Michael Goodman, Business Insider, August 25, 2022
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released last week found that essential workers, particularly those employed in public-facing transportation positions contracted COVID-19 at much higher rates than other workers. The study looked specifically at workers in California and found that those operating public buses and other urban transportation contracted COVID-19 at a rate 5.2 times higher than all other industries in the state, and that workers in air transportation contracted the disease at a rate 3.6 times higher. The study concluded that such workers should be prioritized for prevention strategies and enhanced workplace protection measures.
Intercity Bus Lines See Encouraging Signs as Riders Return
Dan Zukowski, Smart Cities Dive, August 24, 2022
Increasingly, travelers opt to ride intercity and interstate buses, though ridership is still below pre-pandemic levels. Projections for 2022 suggest that ridership should reach 65-70 percent. Demand in some markets, such as along the Northeast Corridor, may exceed this level, but shortages of drivers and mechanics continue to limit service. In 2020, ridership stood at just 45 percent. In that year, nearly a fifth of motor coach companies went out of business according to the American Bus Association.
CANADA—TTC to Resume Ticketing, Fining Fare Evaders This Fall After Pandemic Pause, Equity Complaints
CBC News, August 23, 2022
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is rescinding its pandemic-era hiatus on ticketing and fining fare evaders. Equity advocates question the effectiveness and justness of the decision, citing reform for more lenient fare policing elsewhere on the continent (including the United States) as a better way forward. They point to demographic and economic marginalization of fare evaders and decreased ridership spurred on by COVID-19 as reasons to reconsider fare policing and recommend more government investment in transit services instead.
NEW YORK—MTA Upgrades Delayed by COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens to Let Mass Transit Fall into Disrepair: Report
Kevin Duggan, AmNY, August 23, 2022
Delayed by COVID-19 from effecting repairs, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) faces a critical tension between maintenance and modernization. COVID-19 prompted an 18-month pause in repairs and capital funding projects that the MTA now aims to counterbalance with a $9.5 billion, 13-month capital project blitz. However, with COVID-19 era federal support expected to end by 2024 and the complications that often occur when advancing several projects in a narrow time window, the MTA may find itself in a tight spot in the short-term.
HOBOKEN—A New Jersey City Achieved 0 Traffic Deaths in 4 Years with Quick, High Impact Ideas
Megan Lim, NPR, August 25, 2022
Responding to rising national traffic fatalities, Hoboken sought to eliminate traffic deaths from their streets. The City adopted quick and effective infrastructure designs to minimize fatality risks for pedestrians. Hoboken cited political will as the key factor needed to implement the interventions. Public officials and community leaders supported changes, which occurred quickly. Such measures frequently languish due to politics.
PARAMUS—You Will Soon Be Able to Live at This N.J. Mall
Allison Pries, NJ.com, August 25, 2022
Developer partners, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Mill Creek Residential, plan work to transform the Garden State Plaza Mall from a commercial hub to a mixed-use complex. In the first phase of the new development, Westfield Garden State Plaza will add 550 apartment units, a one-acre town green, and a walkable “main street” outdoor district offering restaurants, gardens, and services. The project is scheduled to break ground in 2024 and will feature upgraded transit connectivity options for residents and visitors.
Modernizing Transit in Monmouth County
Effective Transit Alliance, August 23, 2022
The Effective Transit Alliance (ETA), a transit advocacy group in the New York metropolitan area, released an analysis on how NJ TRANSIT might substantially improve the North Jersey Coast Line to better serve riders. These improvements include increasing bus frequency and completing electrification to Bay Head. The ETA suggests that these steps could substantially reduce commuting times to New York and increase transit services to the densest municipalities in Monmouth County.
NYC’s Congestion Pricing Plan Could Boost NJ Transit Rail, Bus Ridership
David Matthau, NJ 101.5, August 22, 2022
As New York City moves forward with its congestion pricing plan, NJ TRANSIT stands to benefit due to comparative advantages that riding transit provides to commuters. Kevin Corbett, President and CEO of NJ TRANSIT, stated that the service already provides good value compared to commuting to New York City by car, especially when accounting for parking, gas, and tolls. Drivers entering the congestion pricing zone in midtown Manhattan will be charged $23 a day.
JERSEY CITY—More Lanes on the Turnpike Won’t Solve Congestion | Opinion
Kelcie Ralph and Nicholas Klein, NJ.com, August 22, 2022
As the New Jersey governor pushes for widening the NJ Turnpike, experts and local city officials continue to push back against the proposed $4.5 billion project. Citing a wealth of evidence, they counter the claim that such an extension could reduce congestion—pointing out, that widening lanes encourages more drivers to fill them. Academics from Rutgers University and Cornell University suggest redirecting the money to NJ TRANSIT and bicycle infrastructure, given the empirical advantages that public transportation and active transportation have over automobile travel in urban settings.
People of Color Have Been Left Out of Nature. Equitable Transit Can Help.
Ahad Shahid, The Wilderness Society, August 23, 2022
Calling attention to an amenity-focused dimension of transit equity, social justice advocates highlight how communities of color have significantly more limited access to natural settings than their white peers–about 74 percent of communities of color in the contiguous United States live in nature-deprived areas, versus 23 percent of white communities. Research shows that access to nature has direct physiological and psychological health implications. Proposed legislation such as the Transit to Trails Act has the potential to improve the lives of marginalized Americans in urban communities.
How Federal Infrastructure Funds Can Build More Accessible Transit Systems
Aline Frantzen, Route Fifty, August 22, 2022
Millions of Americans with disabilities face legal and physical struggles when navigating US transit systems, which warrants further attention regarding the allocation of federal infrastructure funds. Previous federal efforts—such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act—introduced ramps and curb cuts into built environments around the nation, but the application of universal design to transportation systems still lags. Experts and advocates look to the bipartisan infrastructure law funding to provide much needed quality of life improvements such as elevators and wayfinding stations— improvements needed by travelers with disabilities and amenities appreciated by all users.
Study Seeks to Get Cops to Write Better Crash Reports
Kea Wilson, Streetblogs, August 22, 2022
As US drivers pose an increasingly lethal risk to pedestrians, researchers reexamined how the news media and police communicate incidents of vehicular manslaughter and vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-bicycle crashes. Professors Kelcie Ralph (Rutgers University) and Tara Goddard (Texas A&M University) examined factors contributing to a tendency to “victim-blame” when reporting crashes, including the use of passive language in police reports on vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-bicycle crashes. Such language partially absolves drivers of culpability for their actions behind the wheel. The researchers shared findings with study participants, NJ police officers.
2 College Towns Leading the Way on Land-Use Reform
Daniel Herriges, Strong Towns, August 25, 2022
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, most U.S. cities adopted land use regulations that embraced suburban standards and limited incremental housing development. Over the last several years, however, a number of cities—including Gainesville, Florida, Ann Arbor, Michigan and a growing number of college towns—have begun to roll back such measures. Ann Arbor voted to eliminate parking requirements citywide, and Gainesville eliminated single family zoning. College towns may represent a bellwether for these kinds of changes, by adapting to meet the demands and housing needs of students and capitalizing upon some of the nation’s best examples of walkable urbanism.
MARYLAND—Pittsburgh Regional Transit Looking to Add Stations to East Busway
Luz Lazo, The Washington Post, August 25, 2022
A $47 million transit-oriented development project received support this week, a $20.5 million federal grant. The New Carrollton, Maryland project should result in a new train hall, pedestrian and cyclist amenities, and seamless connections to the existing transit features in a bid to “ensure that New Carrollton becomes the premier transit hub on the eastern seaboard.” Prince George County officials and developers have also made strides to build in-fill development on parking lots. One station-area property will convert 40 acres of parking into more than 1,500 residential units, a hotel, and additional commercial and office space. Note: Access may require sign in to a courtesy account.
HAWAII—Resident Input Sought for Planning of 3.6 Miles of Honoapiʻilani, Lahaina to Kāʻanapali
Maui Now, August 23, 2022
Maui County recently adopted its West Maui Community Plan and now seeks community input on its West Maui Community Corridor Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Action Plan. The TOD Action Plan aims to promote affordable housing, bus travel, bicycling, and walking for current residents and the nearly 33,000 additional residents who are projected to move to the area by 2040. The plan will focus on the busiest roadway in West Maui, the 3.6-miles of Honoapiʻilani Highway that connects Lāhainā to Kā‘anapali.
PENNSYLVANIA—Bus Rapid Transit Between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland Will Have a Significant Art Element
Ed Blazina, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 21, 2022
Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) has committed $150,000 of its $291 million project towards public art as part of its effort to deepen community involvement and the general appeal of a planned expansion of its bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Planning officials have expressed enthusiasm that the art will draw positive attention to the system. The city commits one percent of budgets for significant public projects to public art.
Want to Reduce Emissions and Increase Transit Ridership? NACTO says the Answer is to ‘Move! That! Bus!’
Mischa Wanek-Libman, Mass Transit, August 19, 2022
Exalting the work-horse role of bus service, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) proposes the mode as the answer to American automobile dependence. In an urgent response to the climate crisis, NATCO highlights the immediate sustainability gains to be accrued through increased bus ridership. Noting that roughly only 10 percent of Americans reside within a walkable range of frequent enough transit service to live without a car, NACTO states the “humble city bus” offers the most direct path towards decarbonizing transportation. NACTO recommends increased frequency, improved operations via dedicated lanes and signal priority, and transit-supportive local policies such as zoning for housing and mixed-use development and reduced parking supply.
WASHINGTON—RAISE Grants Move Away from Road Expansion, But Not in Seattle Metro
Ryan Packer, The Urbanist, August 17, 2022
Unlike many regions receiving Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) funds, the Seattle Metro area’s major projects are primarily focused on automobile travel. Two of the largest RAISE-funded projects are a bridge for six new 11-foot automobile lanes, costing $25 million, and a $19 million highway widening effort. No Seattle-Tacoma metro area transit projects—such as applications by King County Metro for bus-service expansions—received 2022 RAISE funds, leading to questions regarding the ability of Seattle and Washington State to actualize the potential transit gains from RAISE.
PAKISTAN—TransKarachi, LUMS, UrbanTech Ink MoU to Promote Gender Equity in Public Transport
Pakistan Observer, August 24, 2022
TransKarachi and UrbanTech Pakistan have signed a memorandum of understanding to promote gender equity in public transportation. These organizations seek to understand and solve challenges faced by women who use transit. The agreement calls for the partners to collaborate on technological interventions, trainings, lectures, seminars, and other capacity building programs and awareness campaigns and to conduct research aimed at addressing and preventing sexual harassment and gender-based violence and gauging the effectiveness of legal remedies and redress mechanisms.
KENYA—ROAM Launches First Electric Mass-transit Bus in Africa
Scooter Doll, Electrek, August 23, 2022
The first all-electric bus from Swedish-Kenyan mobility startup ROAM was unveiled as an addition to public transportation in Nairobi and throughout Africa. According to the company, the ROAM Rapid electric buses can change people’s perceptions of public transit by offering an “inclusive, modern, efficient, and sustainable solution” and providing zero-emission mobility options for nations such as Kenya. To help combat Kenya’s growing unemployment rate, ROAM plans to assemble buses locally.
INDIA—Electrification of Public Transport Earns Pune City Global Recognition
Indian Express, August 19, 2022
Electrification of public bus transport in the Pune Metropolitan Area has earned Pune City a finalist spot in the “United to clean the air we breathe” category of the 2022 C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards. According to authorities, Pune’s public bus system will operate 650 electric buses by 2022, electrifying 25 percent of the public transport fleet two years ahead of schedule. In addition, the Pune Municipal Corporation plans to procure 300 mini-electric buses to provide feeder services to the Pune Metro and to improve the region’s first and last-mile connectivity.