More on PPPs and Road Financing

PA Turnpike tilt-shift

Yesterday we talked about Britain's proposed privatization of their transport infrastructre and made an error when we said the Pennsylvania Turnpike was leased to a private company. In 2007 bidding was opened on the Turnpike and in 2008 the highest bid was received from Spanish firm Abertis Infraestructuras, but ultimately the plan failed. Currently the Turnpike is managed by a state-operated commision that "receives no state or federal taxes to operate and maintain its toll road system." The Pew report, Driven by Dollars, outlines several of the problems that were a part of the leasing proposal and calls for a more open process and transparency.

As funding sources dry up, such as the transportation bill now stuck in gridlock on Capitol Hill or depleted state budgets, transportation agencies will have to come up with new methods of financing which has an increasing interest on private money. The 2011 book Road to Renewal examines private investment in transportation projects from around the world, outlining what works and what doesnt for PPPs as well as how to protect public interests. Louise Nelson Dyble has a recently published article "Tolls and Control: The Chicago Skyway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike" which compares the two plans and raises questions about impact on future transportation planning policy.



Parking Minimums: Revisiting an old problem

New York Parking Structure

In today's New York Times, architecture critic Micahel Kimmelman looks at parking requirements for urabn development and he doesn't like how things have been going. 

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Streetsblog wonders what this endorsement for eliminating parking minimums might have on the Department of City Planning

This is not a new topic by any means. Donald Shoup's High Cost of Free Parking is a cornerstone of the field. Researchers from NYU have looked at the enforcement of New York City's minumum parking requirements and how proximity to transit affects the reuirements and the impact on housing affordability. There is also a thought that well-functioning off-street parking markets might be a solution. 

Can California Afford High Speed Rail?

On November 1, the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its Draft 2012 Business Plan  showing a final bill of $98.5 billion, twice the previous estimate. The project timeline also was drastically altered, with completion now targeted for 2033 instead of 2020. With the state mired in fiscal woes and the federal government unlikely to approve more than the previously allocated $3 billion grant, finding the funding for the project will present a huge challenge, and the private sector doesn't appear eager to step forward to fill the gap. Opponents argue that the huge cost increase and the decision to begin with a Fresno-to-Bakersfield section make no financial sense, and at least one state senator plans to introduce legislation to scale back the project.

TOD is big in CA: How SF BART and LA Metro are working with developers in cool ways

Ed Roberts Campus2

Recently the Architects Newspaper published a feature about collaborations between transit agencies and developers. They discuss the approaches used for some of the different projects, listing pros and cons. They also split it regionally by the Los Angeles Metropolitan area and the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the project highlighted include the Del Mar Transit Village in Pasadena, Amstrong Place in San Francisco, and the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley (pictured above).  (via Planetizen.)

19th century cyclists paved modern roads

Cyclists and Pedestrians

From the Guardian's Bike Blog - Who could advocate for flat, paved roads before there was a critical mass of automobiles and moroting associations? In the UK and US, it was cycling organizations!

Many motorists also assume that roads were built for them. In fact, cars are the johnny-come-latelies of highways.

The hard, flat road surfaces we take for granted are relatively new. Asphalt surfaces weren't widespread until the 1930s. So, are motorists to thank for this smoothness?

No. The improvement of roads was first lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations.

Of course, the automobilization of these (and other) countries changed the way planners approached roads, but this is an interesting bit of history nonetheless. 

Complete Streets

 From the Fall 2009 Tech Transfer Newsletter


  • National Complete Streets Coalition
    The National Complete Streets Coalition is comprised of planning organizations, advocacy groups, consultants, and local governments interested in the implementation of the Complete Streets concept nationwide. They provide information and news about Complete Streets initiatives, as well as resources to help people host their own community workshops about Complete Streets. The website also tracks pertinent federal policies including American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) projects and funds.
  • Complete Streets in California
    California Department of Transportation - Division of Transportation Planning
    The main portal for information about Caltrans' Complete Streets projects and guidelines, including implementation of Deputy Directive 64.
  • Complete Streets: Talking Points
    Planning for Healthy Spaces - Public Health Law and Policy
    A brief introduction to the Complete Streets model and how different aspects of the plan can improve the health and safety of different user groups, such as pedestrians or bicyclists.

Reports, Articles and Conference Proceedings

  • Complete Streets: We Can Get There from Here
    John LaPlante and Barbara McCann, ITE Journal, v.78, n.5, May 2008, pp. 24-28
    Provides an introduction and overview of the Complete Streets movement, as well as some points to consider before implementing changes in your location.
  • Retrofitting Urban Arterials into Complete Streets [PDF, 0.3 M]
    John LaPlante, 3rd Urban Street Symposium: Uptown, Downtown, or Small Town: Designing Urban Streets That Work, 2007
    Examines different issues related to retrofitting existing arterials into Complete Streets, addressing the tension inherent between the need for traffic capacity and speed and making streets safe for bicyclists and pedestrians as well.
  • Brave New Nonmotorized World
    Jay Walljasper, Planning, v. 74, n.11, December 2008, pp. 20-23
    Provides an analysis of how bicycling and pedestrian retrofits and improvements in European cities provide case studies and examples for similar projects in American cities.
  • Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America [PDF, 33.2 M]
    Jana Lynot et al., AARP Public Policy Institute, 2009
    Discusses how the Complete Streets agenda impacts and benefits mobility for the aging population. Interdisciplinary research examines how the Complete Streets program will affect older drivers and pedestrians, examining design recommendations to improve safety for travelers of any age.


Here are other organizations that are interested in and working toward implementing Complete Streets nationwide.


"Parklets" taking over San Francisco

How can you add more open space to a city for parks and relaxation? Through their Pavement to Parks program, San Francisco has made "parklets" or little plazas out of parking spaces. You can read about their success in SFGate. Or go visit one:

View San Francisco Parklets in a larger map

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