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Podcast 51.2: Free Transit follow-up with listener feedback (Fixed Missing Audio)

Here is some listener feedback on free transit. First I chat with transportation activist Eli Damon from Northampton, MA, who wrote in about free transit and also shares some insight into the transit environment in Western Massachusetts. Then I read a listener email.

UPDATE: Corrected version. The previous file was missing the interview due to an editing error. If you downloaded the show in the first few days, try this one instead. Hopefully the repost will make it appear in iTunes again. Thanks to listener Dan for pointing out the error.

Podcast 48: Jeff Wood from The Overhead Wire & The Direct Transfer

Expanding our focus beyond Boston, we speak with Jeff Wood, a San Francisco-based consultant (The Overhead Wire) and operator of The Direct Transfer, a daily news source on transit, cities and urban design. Jeff also hosts Talking Headways, a weekly transportation podcast, and his work includes media, cartography, data analysis and research on transit modes and land use strategies. He also contributed to a new TCRP report on transit and land use connections (PDF).

Some topics include finding and pursuing a vision for transit, urban politics, gentrification and displacement, big project management, and achieving better bus service. Are private transit and taxis good for cities? Is there a transit space race? And an update on San Francisco's implementation of off-board fare payment on trains and buses.

Check out the Transit Matters podcast for more transportation news, analysis and interviews. We're working to build a more reliable and effective transit network in Boston. Visit Transit Matters to learn about our mission and our vision for transit, become a member and get involved.

Follow me @CriticalTransit for more frequent info and thoughts. Share this podcast: tell your friends and colleagues, and subscribe to the RSS feed to be notified of new posts and episodes.

Transit Tip 14: Beware of useless bike lanes

There's a tendency among bike advocates to champion the delineation of a "bike space" even without any actual space being created. You know, "if there's room for a bike lane" without changing anything else on the street. At best you get no benefit, and at worst you're given a "safe space" that isn't safe at all. This bike lane is almost entirely in the door zone, which is why these users are staying to the far left. But cars will pass too closely (up against the line) so they really should be riding outside the bike lane for safety, but then motorists become arrogant and hostile as they think you're being a jerk.

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That's when cars are parked flush against the curb. Even in the summer they often intrude into the bike lane. But in the winter the lane is completely taken away for car parking. Bike lanes in Boston are only open 1/3 of the year. And it's always the bikers and pedestrians who lose out; car drivers get plowed streets and the same ability to park their personal property: who cares if anyone else has trouble getting around?

You can see the city's priorities. They claim to be a "world-class bicycling city" where "the car is no longer king" but what this street design really does is appease some bicycle advocates while maintaining a car dominant streetscape. Fail.

This major business district is also a major transportation corridor. The 39 bus seen here is one of the highest ridership MBTA lines, yet all winter it struggles to pass arrogantly parked cars, often waiting for opposing traffic before it can cross the centerline. Buses often can't pass each other.

In a fairer city, cars that park outside the designated space would be ticketed and towed immediately. Better yet, restrict parking in certain spaces that can be used to store the snow that the city should be removing from sidewalks.

Episode 43: Traffic signals with Matt Steele

A new year, a new challenge to the deity of traffic engineering: the traffic light.  Streets.mn contributor and recent Minneapolis City Council candidate Matt Steele says we have too many traffic signals and explains why that's a big problem for everyone. Choosing alternative measures of traffic control offers significant benefits to pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks, and even help transit run more reliably.

Links include Strong Towns, the relation between speed and death, roundabouts and a very successful shared space project at a busy junction in Poynton, England.

Today's news selection features a fantastic Bikeyface comic on what snow says about our cities' priorities, another cyclist hit without accountability, and another oil train derailment and explosion near Fargo, North Dakota. We recap the horror that is fracking (natural gas drilling) and play two songs about fracking ("We'll Be There" & "My Water's on Fire").

A listener suggests that automation in transit operations may actually decrease safety as the humans involved become less alert. The same has happened with private cars as they've become safer for the people inside. Very interesting stuff.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the book I couldn't remember the name of, about the phenomenon of drivers being less attentive given increasing automation: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.

May 2014 be the year in which we finally take traffic violence seriously and focus our attention and investments on sustainable transportation modes: walking, cycling, skating and especially public transit.  Help support this show and my other work by sharing it widely and by making a donation to my Transit Tour Fund if you are able to.  I am headed to the northeast very soon; please get in touch if we might connect.

Episode 38: Americans for Transit & debunking the small/electric car delusion

Andrew Austin stops by from Americans for Transit (twitter: @A4Transit) to share some impacts of the government shutdown and how it fits in with the ongoing austerity culture. We learn about transit diversity, labor issues and the BART strike, and review why it's critical for transit agencies to support their employees and maintain a positive work environment. That means listening to employees and riders, such as by hosting town hall meetings on buses. Later, why smaller cars, electric cars, self-driving cars, personal rapid transit and other pretend solutions fail to move us forward. The real solution is to dismantle car culture but these things promote it and leave us further from the sustainable places we so desperately need.

Check out my latest Streets.mn article critiquing the backwards transit planning process that has led Minneapolis to consider building an expensive rail line in a low-density corridor instead of improving mobility where actual needs exist.

Moreover, what are we trying to accomplish here? That’s the first question a transit planner or advocate should be asking of any proposal. I’m afraid we’re doing it all backwards. ... From the very start we have asked not “How can we improve our transit network?” but “Where should we put our next rail line?”  That makes no sense.

See some facts on Metro Transit. I also mentioned two existing routes that are due for capacity upgrades: TranksLink 99 B Line bus rapid transit, Vancouver, BC. (episode 23 and/or capacity post); MBTA Green Line light rail, Boston

Why good health care depends on transit, courtesy of previous guest Scott Bogren (CTAA). Daniel shares his thoughts on a new bus route making its only stop at a major university in the largest North American city without any public transit.

Enjoy the show? Please share this show around, follow me on Facebook on Twitter, leave reviews, tell your friends and consider making a donation to support this work.

Episode 37: Community Transportation with CTAA, another BART strike, and the government shutdown.

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Scott Bogren of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) joins us to discuss their work supporting and advocating for the growing number of small urban, suburban and rural transportation services. He interviews transit operators on his own CT Podcast and spends a lot of time on Twitter.

The second transit strike in just a few months has halted Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway service in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, with no progress made since the last time. We hear what union members are asking for, and over the weekend a runaway BART maintenance train killed two employees.

Meanwhile the social service sector of the US government has reopened without an agreement (or apology from Republicans). As an added bonus we'll be right back in the same place in three months.

Share your comments, suggestions, ideas for show topics and/or guests by emailing feedback@criticaltransit.com or contact me this way.  Read my work on Streets.mn, follow the show on facebook and twitter, subscribe in iTunes (rss feed) and never miss a show. Tell your friends and colleagues, write reviews or make a donation of any amount to help support the show.  I have several interviews in the pipeline, an updated and redesigned web site, and lots of material from the places I visited on my big tour.

Episode 34: Transit News, Listener Feedback, Lessons from Pittsburgh

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Finally a new episode with your feedback as well as some thoughts on recurring transit strikes and worsening climate change. I share some lessons from my experience riding buses and trains in Pittsburgh, including what kinds of information is important to visitors, new residents and seasoned transit users.

Links to people, places and systems mentioned on this episode:

San Francisco BART transit strike; flooding in Calgary and Toronto; train explosion in Quebec; good news for wildfires; Progressive Podcast Australia; Bikes on Metra commuter rail (The Chainlink forum); riding Divvy bike share (Chicago); Port Authority of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh bus/rail operator); Bike PGH; struggling city of Braddock; ("mini-Detroit"); Stockholm congestion pricing; Bill Lindeke, GaryRidesBikes, Copenhagenize, StrongTowns, walking_boston, bostonrailfan, TheTAdventure.

UPDATE: Walking Bostonian (@walking_boston) wrote a great summary of the transit situation in Pittsburgh.

Please contribute to the growing conversation about sustainable transportation and spread the word by sharing my work on your favorite social media outlets.  Send in your feedback by emailing feedback@criticaltransit.com or using the contact form at criticaltransit.com.

Episode 32: La Crosse, Wisconsin: small city and rural transit

We look first at the small radial bus system transit run by the La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility, which I rode on Fare Free Day.  Service Rep/Dispatcher Sonna Severson explains the system, then Director Keith Carlson explains some of the issues and what they've been working on. I toured the MTU service area, rode one of their brand new hybrid buses and enjoyed the two-year-old Grand River Station, a beautiful indoor/outdoor transit center which functions as a pulse point hub for ten fixed routes and Jefferson Lines intercity buses.

When I accidentally discovered the very new Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit, I had to take a ride. I share some audio from the trip as bus driver Carrie tells us about the service and who is using it.  Regional Transportation Planner (MRRPC) Peter Fletcher explains the process of starting a new transit service in Wisconsin, the complex public-private partnership that funds SMRT, and how it's going so far. The service is operated by Running Inc., which also operates a regional shared-ride taxi company.  Some publicity and coordination with MTU schedules, and a spot in Grand River Station, would help the ridership grow.

I biked from La Crosse north along the Mississippi River to Winona, Minnesota, my next stop, in the dark on country roads without my regular dynamo taillight. I blame Brompton for selling me an inferior halogen headlight which caused my inferior rear light to burn out, but thanks to the great folks at Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis for replacing it and getting me on my way. [UPDATE: Eventually I replaced these with a good Busch & Muller LED light set that's been flawless.]

Read and contribute to the rural transit resource library of the TROUT in Bancroft, Ontario.  Learn about the Brompton US Championship race which will take place during Open Streets Minneapolis on June 23.

Most of this episode was recorded during the first few days of April.  Please send your questions, comments, ideas for show topics and guests to feedback@criticaltransit.com or using the contact form. Follow me and my work on Twitter @criticaltransit or Facebook.

Episode 29: Madison Metro Transit

The unique geography of Madison, Wisconsin -- built on an isthmus, a narrow strip of land between two lakes -- creates an interesting bus service design. It's not quite narrow enough to put all buses on one street that everyone could walk to for very frequent service, but still there is frequent combined service on three corridors running the length of the isthmus. Like many agencies, Madison Metro Transit is struggling to manage steady growth in ridership. They were recently awarded the Outstanding Public Transportation Award for their efforts to improve and promote their service in innovative ways.  Marketing Director Mick Rusch joins me to discuss their services and some of the operational issues they deal with.

Bus routes and schedules are designed to facilitate connections at a series of transfer points at the edges of the city and downtown around the State Capitol. The most transit friendly city in Wisconsin has installed many transit priority facilities such as bus lanes and most notably a busway for the full length of the busy State Street pedestrian mall. The University of Wisconsin offers unlimited transit passes for their students, faculty and staff.

Metro Transit is struggling to deal with overcrowding and is even considering raising fares in order to increase service frequency. Would changing from a city department to a regional transit authority be the solution? Listen in to learn about bus-bike interaction, winter weather, bus technology and much more.

In the second half a listener shares a video on the structure of Singapore's bus and rail networks and suggests that privatized transit can only work well when heavily regulated. But if a public entity makes all the important decisions, is it still attractive to those who advocate for deregulation?  We also consider whether transit agencies should strive for profit, and suggests a way for the public sector to capture and reinvest some of increasing real estate values that their services facilitate.

Send your comments and suggestions for topics and/or guests by contacting me. Follow the blog at criticaltransit.com, and if this work is useful to you, please support the show to help me continue traveling and reporting.

Episode 24: bike emissions, road costs, segregation and stupid lawmakers

This might be called the idiot episode as take a few state legislators to task for being arrogant idiots: the Florida State Senator who wants buses out of his way at all costs, and the Washington State Representative who believes bicyclists' "increased respiration" causes emissions -- too bad they still have trees in Washington! (thanks Erik).  It should help if I debunk the myth that drivers pay for our roads. Contrary to popular belief, most street funding comes from general revenue sources that everyone pays into. Unfortunately the myth in convenient for drivers who continue to demand more space/resources and push others off the streets. We're always told we have no money for transit and livable streets but the reality is we spend too much money for a broken transportation system that is inefficient and unsafe. Plus, we spend much of our money in the wrong places, like highways, big banks, endless oil wars, propping up foreign dictators, ... We have to change our ways before we completely destroy the planet and everyone on it.  Rather than misguided, childish sequester (austerity) measures, we should be employing people in good jobs to rebuild the infrastructure that works and expand our transit, bike and pedestrian networks to serve everyone who needs to travel.

Minku from the Vegan Pedicab Podcast is back to add his thoughts and discuss an effort in Chicago to raise awareness about dooring. Local lawyer Jim Freeman calls auto safety standards to apply to people outside the vehicle, arguing that dooring could be eliminated by design.

The helmet of justice debuts to create a "black box" inside a bike/skate helmet. It's a shame we live in a society where we need video evidence because the police and courts automatically believe the car driver.

Israel steps back a few decades and introduces segregated buses in the West Bank. How will they enforce that? And haven't Palestinians been through enough hardship?

Atlanta legislators haven't learned the lessons of privatization (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) as they push to privatize parts of MARTA. Georgians for Better Transit organizes to fight back.

Nevada pretends to deal with unsafe streets by banning texting while walking ... or as it's better known, victim blaming.

Residential and commercial parking has many consequences -- listen to episode 14 for my interview with Rachel Weinberger -- including encouraging unnecessary car trips and leaving less space for useful activities such as housing. Parking makes cities more hostile to walking and biking and more difficult to serve with good transit. Cities should stop requiring developers to build car parking. We discuss one developer's legal battle to build 40 housing units without parking in a transit rich Boston neighborhood where half of households are car-free.

Let's stop pouring money into endless highway expansion, endless oil wars and ... the big banks!  Occupy activist Jesse Myerson was interviewed on the Radio Dispatch to explaining the real reason New York's MTA is raising fares more than 10% every two years.

Thanks to the Progressive Podcast Australia for mentioning my work in their latest podcast on sustainable transportation, in which they discuss the links between transport and other political and cultural issues.