Coastal Sense


Bikes Belong by drewwade
June 17, 2008, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Energy, National Politics, transportation

This post was written by Drew Wade.

We’ll see if this materializes, but the Senator from Illinois has been doing a lot of talking about bicycles. A far cry from what some in the other party have said in the last year, Obama seems to get it about bikes. In fact, he has already met with the board of Bikes Belong, the major industry group for bicycle promotion, promising increased funding for bike and pedestrian projects if elected. What’s more impressive, in the recent picture of him riding a bike with kids in tow, he wears a helmet despite knowing that it makes him look like Urkel.

These recent developments remind me of this May cartoon when the other candidates were talking about a gas tax holiday, which as I mentioned here before, every economist and most of America saw through as a foolish waste of money which would actually be counterproductive.

Not only that, but he has suggested making rail transportation a priority, suggesting a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank and thus sounding like someone who understands that fixing our transportation issues is going to take a lot more than asphalt. Time will tell if America cares, and if so, if he can follow through.



Loosen your belt, America! by drewwade
May 1, 2008, 10:55 am
Filed under: Energy, National Politics, transportation

This post was written by Drew Wade.

Well, it was inevitable. The campaign that would never end stretches on and politicians are eager to offer soundbite solutions. The topic du jour, of course, is the soaring price of oil and gas.

McCain and Clinton, of course, have it exactly wrong as also pointed out much more eloquently in this NY Times editorial. Our country is facing economically trying times, partly brought on by outrageous loan practices (followed by a corporate welfare style government bailout, likely with more to come) and partly by decades of woefully inept mismanagement of land use, transportation, and automobile production policies.

The solution should be long term — dropping the federal gas tax only increases the demand and puts money in Exxon’s pocket. Better funding for transit, improved MPG standards, and making roads safe for bicycles and pedestrians would make a real long term dent in the problem. Stopping the gas tax for the summer would increase the deficit, provide indirect corporate welfare, and give minimal if any real benefit to the consumer.

It’s all too telling of our current policies. When faced with adversity, we say, make it easier! Traffic got you down? Widen the road! Economy tanking? Lower interest rates! Getting fat? Loosen your belt! Trying to fix the economy and our current oil dependence in this way would be like handing out cocaine to fix the healthcare system.

UPDATE:  No credible economist thinks the gas tax holiday makes sense.  In fact,

Henry Aaron from Brookings, managed to very quickly whip up a list of 150 economists opposed to the gas tax holiday. And there are some pretty impressive folks on the list, from across the political spectrum.



TLOST in the Senate by drewwade
February 20, 2008, 4:56 pm
Filed under: City Politics, County Politics, Local Politics, State Legislature, transportation

This post was written by Drew Wade.

So, the penny transportation local option sales tax (TLOST) has passed the State Senate overwhelmingly, still moving through the House. What I like about it is the optional part.  It certainly does not presume the needs of a particular region, and funds generated there (disproportionately from tourists here in the coast) go to transportation projects we decide on.

I am pleased to see that the group which has been the primary impetus behind TLOST, Get Georgia Moving, has alternative modes (transit and the Beltline in Atlanta) as a part of its recommendations. Now we need to demand inclusion of a provision on Complete Streets.



We need justice by drewwade
January 11, 2008, 5:45 pm
Filed under: City Politics, County Politics, Crime, Energy, Life, Local Politics, transportation

This post by Drew Wade

Horrible.

The only way to describe what happened yesterday to a cyclist. A hit and run driver running a stop sign hit a cyclist at Wayne and Lincoln. According to the Savannah Morning News, the cyclist is in serious condition at Memorial. As noted in Sustainable Savannah,

Police are asking for help finding the driver, a white female in her 20s, who sped away in a white passenger car after hitting the cyclist. Anyone for more information should call 652-6650 or call CrimeStoppers at 234-2020.

It was not mentioned in the article, but of course the cyclist was doing everything right: riding north (the direction of traffic — it’s one way) in the bike lane on Lincoln in the middle of the day. Of course, a cyclist has every right to be on the roadway even without a bike lane. Though we expect drivers would be looking for cyclists when there is a bike lane in place, a painted stripe is false reassurance for a cyclist.

What should we do, then?

  1. Demand enforcement. Bring this person to justice. If you’re on your bike and an car runs you off the road, hold them accountable — get their tag, call the police, and demand action. Fortunately, it seems the police are responding appropriately to this incident.
  2. Advocate for better facilities. The Lincoln bike lane is all we have in that part of town, and it is often littered with debris or parked cars. Other bike lanes like the one on Habersham start and stop. Signage is inconsistent. No change will be made unless we make noise about it repeatedly.
  3. Keep riding. The more people are out on bikes, the safer they are. It is counterintuitive, I suppose, but we know this from German and Dutch data when compared to our own American experience as in this linked article. The German and Dutch cycling infrastructure is of course much more developed than ours, leading us back to #2.

The bottom line: we need justice. Not only justice for this crime, but just and equitable transportation and enforcement policies. Let’s start by getting one dangerous motorist off the road.



A New Perspective on Dr. Abraham and DOT by clintmurphy
January 8, 2008, 11:51 am
Filed under: transportation

By Clint Murphy

It goes without saying that there has been much in the air about the DOT selection of Dr. Gena Abraham as the new DOT Commissioner.  As the Commissioner, Dr. Abraham runs the day to day business of the department.   

Dr. Abraham brings to this position a reputation of someone who is a problem solver.  This is very much needed in the very bureaucratic DOT.  Not to penalize or speak ill of those who work there, but DOT was way past needing an overhaul and Dr. Abraham brings the right level of experience, determination, and know how to make the necessary changes.

DOT must move beyond the Department of Roads and Bridges and realize that in this modern age, transportation means moving people, not just automobiles.  As oil prices soar, and oil is an ingredient in asphalt, the costs of these much hyped roads will increase to an unsustainable cost.  Ideas such as “Complete Streets”(a policy adopted by both Florida and South Carolina), Context Sensitive Design, and public transit must be part of the new dialogue at DOT.  

Those DOT Board Members who voted for Abraham should be commended for making a change for progress, innovation, and ensuring that DOT is a more results oriented government agency.  For some legislators to threaten retribution for votes for Abraham suggests a short sightedness that is very troubling to me and others who follow happenings such as this.    

Legislators would be wise to abandon these ginned up threats of retaliation against the Board Members who voted for Abraham.  The vote for her embodies the real creed of reform that is the true essence of the Republican Party.  To oppose such an effort would surely open some to accusations of hypocrisy. 

As someone familiar with transportation issues on a local level as a member of a Metropolitan Planning Organization and very well versed in some of the positives and negatives of dealing with our DOT, it goes without saying that the agency is in need of an overhaul and not more of the same. 

On some levels, DOT is the last bastion of the old way of doing business in Georgia, both in terms of the projects and process.  Georgians turned the state over to the GOP to ensure reform and we all know that reform is not easy.  Changing bureaucracies is a fight that takes time and a sustained effort.    

If some of those opposed to Abraham would stop and analyze this further than their own somewhat parochial interests, they would realize that Abraham’s election is consistent with their own beliefs for accountability, efficiency, and reform. 

Efforts to undermine the progress made by the selection of Dr. Abraham will, in my humble opinion, make a mockery of what some of in the Republican Party have labored so long to build. 

Finally, thank you to Governor Perdue and Lt. Governor Cagle for putting forth and supporting Dr. Abraham.   



Is I-3 Necessary? by clintmurphy
January 2, 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: transportation

With news today that the proposed route for Interstate 3 is being discussed, it made me think back to the highway when it was originally proposed by Congressman Max Burns in 2002. 

I believe that there can be a case made for a Savannah River Parkway connecting Savannah and Augusta, and perhaps a connector to Athens and perhaps a tie in to I-85 too, but much past there and it would appear to be a diminishing return on investment.

With oil prices as high as they are and transportation funds scarce as they appear to be, there is going to have to be a needs based formula in determining what gets funded and what does not. 



Growth can slow you down by drewwade

Now the single biggest threat to our economic livelihood is transportation, and we’ve got 20 years of catching up to do.

So said Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams in this recent Georgia Trend article. The tremendous economic growth of Atlanta in the last 20 years has left it, in the absence of sound regional planning, with one of the worst records for traffic in America today (ranks fourth in annual traffic delays per commuter, averaging 60 hours of time and 44 gallons of fuel wasted).

Gridlock signMany of us here in the coast, including me, are here to avoid the headaches of that way of living. But with growth here in the coast, how can we prevent our own gridlock?

1. Do not follow their (i.e. Atlanta’s) lead. Building more lanes for growth invites congestion. Increasing capacity for more and more motorized vehicles is really operating in the absence of a plan.
2. Promote transit. Fund it well and patrol the system, make it efficient with express buses and ferries. Provided that they feel safe, people will use it because it saves them time, expense and effort.
3. Complete the streets. This strategy, codified in state law in Florida and South Carolina, requires pedestrian and bicycle facilities for all new road projects. The reason so few people use their own power on short trips in many cases is that they don’t feel safe doing it on our cars-only road designs.