Congestion Reduction

The death of a pedestrian in an Arizona incident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle this week is prompting a renewed examination of autonomous vehicle research and regulation. But it’s far from the only story that finds ride-hailing companies at the center these days. The impacts of services like Uber and Lyft on urban congestion, public transit, the taxi and parking industries, data sharing, access to health care services and trucking are also receiving scrutiny. All of these could have significant implications for policymakers in the years ahead.

Issue: In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in their every-four-years Infrastructure Report Card. Key infrastructure categories, including aviation, dams, drinking water, inland waterways, levees, roads and transit, all received individual grades of D or lower. ASCE said the nation’s infrastructure can be improved and restored but only with “strategic, sustained investment, bold leadership, thoughtful planning, and careful preparation for the needs of the future.” The devastating hurricanes of 2017 brought into stark relief the importance of planning and preparation to ensuring a more resilient infrastructure for the future.

While 2015 may be an off-year for elections in most states, it has the potential to be an important one for transportation in a variety of places. Here’s a roundup of how transportation is factoring into this year’s key state contests and ballot measures.

In case you missed it, I have a new Capitol Research brief out this week on the role of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in transportation planning. That makes it as good a time as any to catch up on a number of recent stories at the intersection of planning and project selection (project selection was one of my Top 5 Issues for 2015, regular readers will recall). I have items on a recent report on congestion and mobility around the nation’s cities, light rail and streetcar projects around the country, the ongoing debate about building new roads versus fixing old ones, how one state is seeking to prioritize transportation projects based on return on investment, and how the preferences of millennials are likely to shape transportation in the years ahead. 

Earlier this year, I named “project selection” one of my top 5 issues in transportation for 2015. From light rail and streetcar projects to efforts to reform planning processes to the costs of highway construction to the potential impacts of such factors as millennial preferences and autonomous vehicles, project selection is being pondered and debated in every state and community around the country. I have updates on what’s been happening this year in 21 states and the District of Columbia as well as links to recent reports on transportation spending limitations, performance measurement, Complete Streets policies, commuter and job growth trends and the future of cars.

The importance of infrastructure to economic development was the focus of remarks by Charlie Howard at the CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon on July20th. Howard is Director of Integrated Planning at the Puget Sound Regional Council, a Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Transportation Planning Organization that helps to develop policies in regional growth management, transportation and economic development in the Seattle area. He told policy academy attendees how the Seattle region’s burgeoning population is informing what his agency does.

The opening dinner of CSG’s Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon included remarks by Jennifer Dill, Ph.D., professor in the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University and Director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium. She introduced the group to the city of Portland and its unique approach to transportation and land use planning in a presentation entitled “Toward Sustainable Urban Mobility: Insights from Portland’s Journey.”

Efforts by states and communities to move forward with infrastructure investment were among the reasons some areas of transportation saw improvement in recent years, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that provides a treasure trove of information for state officials about exactly what the nation faces.

Before I depart for the long holiday weekend, I thought I would pass along some transportation policy-related links you might want to peruse in between turkey sandwiches, Black Friday sales and endless football over the coming days. There are items below about some potential new transportation leaders in Washington, a starter list of states that might address transportation revenue needs next year, and more.

A few items from the last few weeks provide a look at what states are learning about their future infrastructure needs, the harsh fiscal realities they face and how transportation priorities may need to change in the years ahead: The condition of roads in Texas is costing individual motorists as much as $2,000 a year, a new report says. Massachusetts transportation officials say they won’t build any more superhighways and are calling on people to travel by means other than the solo car trip. After the failure of this summer’s transportation sales tax referendum in Georgia, a think tank offers ideas for Plan B. Pennsylvania awaits word from its governor on how to move forward to address that state’s transportation needs. Minnesota officials expect the state’s roads to be in decline over the next two decades as transportation revenues remain flat. Connecticut gets an assessment of how its infrastructure capital program stacks up against other states. And Tennessee re-evaluates its lengthy transportation wish list.

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