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Time is running out to tell USDOT to measure more than just vehicles

These two streets in Nashville, Tennessee are very different and have different functions. Why does the U.S. Department of Transportation want to measure their success the same way? 

Nashville congestion comparison 2

One is intended to move goods and people, largely in vehicles, quickly between two points. The other moves people — in cars, in buses, on bikes, on foot — while also creating a framework to produce lasting value, economic activity, and a sense of place.

It doesn’t make sense to measure the success of these streets the same way. Yet that’s exactly what USDOT is proposing with new rules for how states and metro areas would have to measure and address congestion — prioritizing vehicle speed above almost all other criteria.

The most successful city streets have to use limited space to move people efficiently, whether walking, biking, taking transit or driving. Yet this congestion rule as it is currently written would count only vehicles.

A street that moves a lot of people should never be considered unsuccessful, even if it doesn’t necessarily move a lot of cars.

The proposed rule would make driving fast the ultimate goal of our transportation system, regardless of what type of road or street you’re on. Should driving fast be the highest priority on main streets where people go to shop or sit and eat at an outdoor café? Should moving cars quickly be the top priority in residential neighborhoods where children might be biking or walking?

A street that creates value, economic prosperity and a sense of place should never be considered unsuccessful, even if it doesn’t necessarily move a lot of cars.

We have a chance to change this rule, but time is running out. Public comments on the rule close this week, and now is a crucial time to speak out.

Tell USDOT to improve their proposed rule and send a letter today.

You can view or share examples from a handful of other cities below.

SF congestion comparison 2 Charlotte congestion comparison 2 DC Congestion Comparison 2 Chicago congestion comparison Seattle congestion comparison 2 Portland congestion comparison 2 NYC congestion comparison LA congestion comparison 2 Denver congestion comparison 2 Atlanta congestion comparison



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  2. Donna Morgan

    8 years ago

    Less pollution, less road rage; more community, more exercise and increased safety — these things involve mass transit and walkable communities. I live in a walkable community, so we neighbors know each other. My family who flies in can walk to where they want to go while I’m at work — this is why scheduling a visit is easy. Make the responsible choice for mass transit. Progress, please.

  3. Michaelene Manion

    8 years ago

    I urge U.S. DOT NOT to prioritize vehicle speed above almost all other criteria on all types of roads and streets. Living in greater Puget sound area since 1974, I’ve seen the major thoroughfares become and remain clogged beginning in mid-1980s. Use contemporary public transit to more immediately start reducing the time on the thoroughfares.

  4. Michael Smith

    8 years ago

    A phrase on the website of TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA where it is stated that a street (or roadway) creates value, economic prosperity and a sense of place should not be considered unsuccessful even if it does not necessarily move many cars. I would agree with two (2) a added conditions:
    (1) That where a “complete streets” program has been initiated which reduces a traffic lane, a corresponding level of transit service (bus or rail) shall be implemented;
    (2) That where roadway “value” is created by the addition of toll lanes, funds generated from tolls shall be shared with the appropriate area transit network.

  5. Freeman Anthony

    8 years ago

    Bundling reliability of various modes along a corridor like complete street may be a challenge. How are we going to bundle the measure for bikes, transit, pedestrians, cars , etc.

    · Also measuring the reliability of intermodal trip is challenging, like a home to work trip that involves taking a rural or suburban bus that is infrequent, followed by a reliable long-haul transit on HOV, and again taking a more frequent city bus to work and vice versa. The reliability of the above trip hinges on the weakest link- the feeder bus that is infrequent in rural/suburban areas and any delay at work makes the system unreliable.

    · Autonomous vehicles are going to make an entry into our regular traffic stream and according to CALTRANS the tipping point for their entrance is not too far…expected to enter in 2024. Autonomous vehicles might make congestion meaningless as the same roads could carry more number of cars without problem, reduce private ownership, etc. and we need to see how reliability would change in this new reality.

    I believe it is also critical to balance the performance measures by considering public Transportation modes and even bikes in urban areas. If we implement a policy that makes the transit/bus/bike routes more independent of the vehicular traffic, we will encourage the community to use a more reliable mode to commute, thus helping public to change their old habits. Shifting culture is harder in areas that have not reached the maximum of pressure of over-population yet, such as Seattle. I went to New York a few months ago for the first time and was amazed by the underground and above ground rail system they have. It is an old and no fancy system, but when I realized that it does the job well in moving almost 2 million people a day, 24/7, I was quite impressed with its effectiveness. It takes time to travel by train in New York, but is predictable and reliable and that is why we mostly see taxis on the streets rather than private vehicles (of course, other economical reason as well). This is also my disapproval of what WSDOT did to make the HOV lane available to single-occupant vehicles for a fee!, which is against the key purpose of creating HOV lane!

  6. User-1

    8 years ago

    “Every year state DOTs receive tens of billions of dollars in transportation funds from the federal government. By and large, they can do whatever they want with the money, which in most states means wasting enormous sums on pork-laden highway projects.”

    That right there should be enough to convince anyone that oversight is needed. Just not bad oversight. Work on how things benefits people not cars.

  7. Pingback: Earth to U.S. DOT: Streets Succeed When They Do More Than Move Cars | Streetsblog.net