Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama vows new focus on transit

On this historic day, a reminder of President Obama's stated positions on energy efficient public transportation.
Create Greater Incentives for Public Transit Usage: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama and Biden will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.
Strengthen Metropolitan Planning to Cut Down Traffic Congestion: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars, to walk, bicycle and have access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. As president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.
Require States to Plan for Energy Conservation: Obama and Biden will also reform current law which simply asks governors and their state Departments of Transportation to “consider” energy conservation as a condition of receiving federal transportation dollars. As president, Obama will require governors and local
leaders in our metropolitan areas to make “energy conservation” a required part of their planning for the expenditure of federal transportation funds.

I look forward to exploring each of these in the months to come.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Zipcar chief on CNBC

Zipcar Chief Executive Scott Griffith appeared on CNBC this week to explain why "cars on demand" makes sense for people who live in cities and don't need a car all the time.


He points out that Zipcar is not only for transit-oriented cities like New York. It is exceeding expectations here in Atlanta, where Lanier Parking Solutions is Zipcar's joint-venture partner, having brought the concept to the city in 2006.

You can get a discount on a Zipcar membership by applying through http://www.lanierparking.com/.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stimulus plan must include bike lanes and sidewalks

With President-elect Barack Obama about to take the oath of office, there is a lot of anticipation in the transportation community about his economic stimulus package.
Mr. Obama has clearly indicated that transportation infrastructure will be a critical component of any stimulus plan. Local governments have been sharpening their pencils and putting together their wish lists for quick, easily implemented, "shovel ready" projects. Although roads and bridges are traditionally first on the list, there has been a new emphasis on transit. I strongly suggest taking it even further to consider bike lanes and sidewalks as well. U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is pushing for them, as reported in the New York Times.
For a few million dollars, the entire city of Atlanta could build a comprehensive bike and sidewalk network. If it is left to traditional funding sources, it might never happen.
Think about it, if local leaders include bikes and pedestrians in their request, Atlanta could have a world class biking and pedestrian infrastructure in just a couple years.
If you want to learn more about local efforts to push for sidewalks, contact PEDS.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is the gas tax too high or too low?

In today’s AJC, conservative columnist Jim Wooten suggests phasing out the 18.5-cent federal gas tax and letting states decide which projects to fund.
Taxing authority should be returned to the states. State officials, and not
Congress, should be making decisions about what projects are built where. The
first money should be spent on improving major transportation corridors.

That is the exact opposite of what “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” author Thomas L. Friedman says we need if we are going to tackle our clean energy needs, which are directly tied to how we get around.
Producing new energy, or protecting the environment—in the Energy-Climate era, which is more important? Is it possible to do both? How we are going to do either without a price signal—i.e. gasoline or carbon tax—beats me.
Friedman says until we stop encouraging people to drive large, single-occupancy vehicles in more and more lanes, we will continue to choke our air and enrich petro-dictatorships that send money to people who want to hurt us.

Can we really expect each individual state to come up with a plan to stop this cycle?