Flickr user Atomic Taco (cc).
A light rail train in Seattle.
In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.
After one of the coldest winters on record, the trees and flowers are finally blossoming in Chicago, and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is warming up to an exciting summer season of events. MPC’s Uptown Corridor Development Initiative, which focuses on the potential development of several parcels adjacent to the CTA Wilson Station, has been underway since the beginning of May, with the first two meetings offering neighborhood residents the opportunity to weigh in with their goals for the sites and develop specific site plans. The final event, where proposals will be summarized and reviewed, will occur Thursday, May 29, at 6 p.m.
MPC will also host several events in house, including roundtables on smarter systems and resilient regions on Tuesday, May 20, and another on progress thus far on the implementation of the region’s GO TO 2040 plan on May 29.
This week, California Senator Barbara Boxer unveiled her proposal to reauthorize transportation funding for the next six years. The proposal recommends maintaining federal spending on transportation at levels that were set in 2012 for the MAP-21 transportation bill, making no changes to the current allocation of money to specific modes. The bill Boxer unveiled does not specify where its funding will be sourced (the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for highway and transit projects, will go bankrupt in July), but it does provide additional funding for freight and improve the important TIFIA low-interest loan program.
The Boxer bill, which may or may not prove viable in Congress, is far less ambitious than the Obama Administration’s bill, which would significantly increase funding for transportation, particularly for transit. The Obama bill, which would cover four years and expand the government’s performance-based grant program, TIGER, would also commit the administration to opening up Interstate highways to tolling, news which was first revealed in an interview Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx had with MPC in late April.
Federal funding, of course, will not be enough to ensure that our local transportation systems are as effective as necessary. In Seattle, for example, funding for local transit services faces a steep decline in revenues. As a result, the mayor has announced that he’ll push for an increase in local taxes and automobile fees.
Other cities have chosen to streamline their transportation systems. Houston, for instance, is planning a radical “reimagining” of its public transit network that will radically change the way most people use the system. While current bus routes are mostly focused on downtown, the new system will create a grid of lines and many new frequent services that arrive at least every 15 minutes, including on weekends. 77 percent of trips will be at least five minutes faster than current services and only 6 percent will be more than five minutes slower. The number of people living within a half-mile of frequent services will increase by 111 percent and the number of jobs with access to better services will increase by 55 percent.
Houston’s remade bus network is made possible thanks to straighter bus routes and the elimination of duplicate services. All in all, the city will have to devote no additional funding to transit operations as part of the plan.