Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement

Friday, January 30th, 2009

headerlogoYesterday Mayor Cockrel signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Act.  He joins a growing list of other Metro Detroit signees that have done the same, including:

  • John Hieftje (Ann Arbor)
  • Marilyn Stephan (Berkley)
  • Daniel Paletko (Dearborn Heights)
  • Robert Porter (Ferndale)
  • James Ellison (Royal Oak)
  • Gretchen Driskell (Saline)
  • Brenda Lawrence (Southfield)
  • Norma Wurmlinger (Southgate)
  • Cameron Priebe (Taylor)
  • David Flaisher (Township of West Bloomfield)
  • Mark Steenbergh (Warren)
  • Paul Schreiber (Ypsilanti)

Part of this agreement includes the following:

We will strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions in our own operations and communities such as:

2. Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities;
3. Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit;

There’s no surprise that many of these Michigan cities have taken the lead on bicycle facility development.  Some have not.  For those communities that have not seen the light — or made the commitment to improve biking — this may be another justification to help push them along.

More Bike Racks coming to New Center

Friday, January 9th, 2009
An improvised bike rack in the New Center

An improvised bike rack in the New Center

The Detroit Free Press has a brief article noting the new bike racks and other streetscaping that’s coming to New Center.

Woodward will see new trees, decorative light fixtures, trash containers, benches and bike racks between I-94 and Baltimore and between West Grand Boulevard and Euclid. The Michigan Department of Transportation is partnering with the city of Detroit and the New Center Council on the nearly $2-million project, aimed at making the area more pedestrian-oriented.

These racks will certainly complement SMART’s bus bike racks and DDOT’s new bus bike rack program.  Woodward is the busiest bus transit corridor in Michigan.

Duh! Obesity and Transportation are Linked

Monday, January 5th, 2009
by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm

by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm

A recent study by the University of Tennessee’s Obesity Research Center documents the relationship between obesity rates and active transportation (i.e. biking, walking, and public transit.)

The study’s lead author, David Bassett, co-director of the Obesity Research Center and professor in the Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies, said more people are thinking about transportation issues to save gas and money. On top of that, Americans are obsessed with losing weight, and the latest statistics show about one in three U.S. adults are obese.

“Many people blame this on things like technology, TV, Internet and sedentary jobs, but what we found was that there are other industrialized nations who have similar, high standards of living, who do not suffer from obesity to nearly the same extent that the U.S. does,” he said. “I truly believe that the transportation modes in various countries are important in explaining international differences in obesity rates.”

This study’s results are just another justification for building more biking and walking infrastructure in Metro Detroit.

And it also supports the Safe Routes to School concept, especially given the amount of childhood obesity in Michigan.  In 2007, 12% of children in Michigan were obese (>20% overweight.)

Unfortunately many of those responsible for transportation decisions have little experience or background in health.  Improving community health is not on their radar.  But one thing road engineers are good are is understanding numbers — and this study provides them.

  • In 2000, Europeans walked an average of 239 miles per person per year.  Americans walked 88 miles. And while Europeans biked 118 miles per year on average, Americans rode only 25 miles.
  • In Atlanta, every hour per day spent driving was associated with a 6 percent increase in the likelihood of being obese.

One caveat is the results do not prove causality.  However, the authors note the results “suggest that active transportation could be one of the factors that explain international differences in obesity rates.”

The Potential Downside to the Economic Stimulus

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

There’s been a big push by many groups to get Green projects in the Obama economic stimulus package.  We’ve already mentioned the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s push.  The DNR Parks division has submitted about a quarter-million in infrastructure projects.  The Detroit Greenways Coalition has their trails submitted as well.

That’s all the good news.

The fear however is this stimulus package will also fund a significant amount of road expansion.

From Bloomberg.com:

While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit.

“It’s a lot of more of the same,” said Robert Puentes, a metropolitan growth and development expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington who is tracking the legislation. “You build a lot of new highways, continue to decentralize” urban and suburban communities and “pull resources away from transit.”

And decentralizing/sprawl also hurts bikability and walkability.

Some local concerns involve planned expressway expansion, notably I-75 in Oakland County and I-94 in Detroit.  Neither project made financial sense long before the recent declines in vehicle miles traveled.  Now they make less sense.

And they’re certainly not green, but they might get in the stimulus package.

The I-94 project is especially bad in that it would remove nine bridges over the expressways — permanently blocking bicycle routes within Detroit’s non-motorized transportation master plan.

And because the highway expansion was planned before the non-motorized plan, MDOT is ignoring the latter.  However, reading their Final Environmental Impact Statement only shows that MDOT wasn’t going to let non-motorized priorities get in the way of an expressway expansion.

That said, there’s not too much we can do until MDOT’s economic stimulus list becomes public and we see what’s on the list.

An Update on Cheap Oil and Biking

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

High oil prices prompted Americans use their bike more than their car.  Last month we wrote about the falling price of oil and how people were still biking more.

Since then the prices of oil has dropped even more.

Still, the October driving numbers are down according to the Federal Highway Administration:

Americans drove more than 100 billion fewer miles between November 2007 and October 2008 than the same period a year earlier, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, making it the largest continuous decline in American driving in history.

The Secretary noted that Americans drove 3.5 percent less, or 8.9 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT), in October 2008 than October 2007, making it the sharpest decline of any October since 1971.

Of course during this downturn, bike commuting and public transit ridership have increased.

And, these changes are not just due to high oil prices.  (more…)