The War on Cars in Cincinnati

My pal Cam, from the Better Bus Coalition in Cincinnati showed up on the most recent episode of the War on Cars podcast:

What if you could get around quickly and reliably in a state-of-the-art vehicle that you didn’t have to drive, park, fuel, or insure? No, it’s not an Uber or a self-driving car… it’s the bus! In this episode, we talk to Cam Hardy of the Better Bus Coalition in Cincinnati, Ohio, about why buses are chronically unloved and underfunded.

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck

I’m going to be thinking about Feed by M.T. Anderson for a long time. It’s mostly a not-too-far-off description of the logical conclusion of social media and capitalism, and was written in 2001 (before social media existed!?) but feels terribly present-day. It’s a horrible prophecy that we should have all heard and then used to repent of our ways immediately.

Outside of predicting the exact circumstances around the demise of American society, I really enjoyed Anderson’s pictures of popularity:

It turned out that my upcar was not the kind of upcar my friends rode in. I don’t know why. It had enough room, but for some reason people didn’t think of it that way. Sometimes that made me feel kind of tired. It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me, and I could never exactly catch up to it. I felt like I’d been running toward it for a long time.

And death:

It was weird to be in the room with her. It was like being in the room with her if she was wood. It didn’t feel like you were in the room with anyone. You could stand there and you would feel completely alone, like you were just in a room with a prop. You could watch the prop, and not feel anything, or remember anything about how the prop used to joke with you, and how you wanted to kiss it and feel it up. I had thought it would feel like a tragedy, but it didn’t feel like anything at all.

Throughout the book—although some of it is written in Clockwork Orange-style slang—I was really struck by how accurately private feelings, the ones we’re ashamed to admit we have, are described.

To ruin your week, read Feed and watch American Meme on Netflix.

If you build it, they will totally come

Induced demand is the most bananas thing. Via City Observatory:

But what appears to have happened is that the wider I-5 just funneled more peak hour traffic, more quickly into the bridge area. The result is that the roadway jams up more quickly, and that backups occur earlier and last longer, with the result that the freeway actually carries fewer cars than it could if traffic volumes we effectively metered more evenly by a somewhat lower capacity upstream of the bridge.

Photo Challenge, Week 8: Trees

Trees! So easy! So omnipresent! But guess what? In the deep of February, in the midst of a million straight days of rain, trees are…not that awesome looking. Just a buncha black, severe, dead-looking things hanging out in tree wells across the City. Anyway, here’s what I came up with for week eight (one is kind of NSFW??):

Waiting for the bus

Here’s a chronological set of pictures taken while waiting for the bus in various parts of town—Northside, Fulton, and Downtown. I’m definitely going back to Fulton at some point to get a better shot of that house on the terraced hill. My bus was coming down the hill, and that’s the best I could do!

Thinking about equity in transportation planning…

Mariia Zimmerman, a transit-oriented development expert, writes this two-part introspective about her own journey towards racial equity in transportation planning:

We wrote a lot about the potential economic development impact of [Transit-Oriented Development], and that of streetcars in particular. Not surprisingly, we found that once the idea caught on and development began, much of it was designed for affluent households. TOD was rarely built for those already in the community or who relied upon transit. The processes were never designed to optimize racial equity, but rather to create a market for those not currently living in these communities. Income and race were large factors ignored, undervalued, or devalued. Little attention, if any, was given to historic spatial injustice, redlining and the lack of community leadership in early TOD planning and projects. We are working to correct these oversights in our work today on equitable TOD.

Big, new transit should come with big, new equitable housing policy (assuming you don’t already have it) to keep/create places to live nearby for folks who aren’t making several times the area median income. Richmond attempted to do this by pairing our new BRT with the Pulse Corridor Plan, which upzones some things, discourages surface-level parking, and allows for some density bonuses with the inclusion of affordable housing. But—due to a lot of things, including state laws—I wouldn’t call it “big, new housing policy.” We’ve got a lot of work to do at both the state and city levels to make progress toward equitable development—transit-oriented and otherwise.

But a focus on equity shouldn’t be limited to newly-built rapid transit, either, but should be a priority when making any kind of transit service improvements (or reductions). Earlier this year, frequent, 15-minute service in Richmond’s Fulton neighborhood was cut back to 30-minute service with low ridership cited as the reason. If ever there was a Richmond neighborhood that has consistently been on the losing end of historic spatial injustice and redlining, it’s Fulton. In the face of decades-long injustice, is ridership the only metric we’re willing to look at when deciding an appropriate level of transit service for a neighborhood? How does that conversation change (if at all?) when your transit agency is incredibly strapped for cash and chronically underfunded? I have a lot of questions that I don’t know the answers to, but they are questions worth asking and conversation worth having. I’m grateful we have folks like Zimmerman leading the way.

Slow hobbies

Daniel Warshaw on cooking and family and practicing those things:

So I’m practicing – literally practicing without an occasion – a particular type of cake. Once I’m comfortable with the cake, I’ll work on frosting. I already know how to make decent buttermilk biscuits, but I’d like to get proficient at making Japanese-style milk bread (for sandwiches, dinner rolls, etc.)…Most weeks I’m lucky if I can make something more interesting than a variation on pasta with sauce half the time. But I’m working on it! Little by little I’m finding ways to have fun in the kitchen again, and I’ll take what I can get.

This year, one of my goals is to do fewer hobbies but in deeper ways. This works out great for cooking—especially making or baking simple dishes. I’ve got all the time left allotted to me to figure out how to make great bread or good meatloaf. I can take my time, and that’s nice.

From In an Unequal America, Getting to Work Can Be Hell:

“A lot of these workers in low-wage jobs—they either have to [move] to Prince George’s County, Maryland, or Alexandria, Virginia, and the transportation network has not changed to meet the changing demands,” says Yesim Sayin Taylor, an economist and founding executive director of the DC Policy Center, a think tank focusing on Washington’s economic and social issues. “Even though transportation is costly, it’s less costly than living in the city.”

Sub out Prince George’s and Alexandria for Chesterfield and Henrico and you‘ve got an accurate picture of what’s going on in Central Virginia. Last week, I talked with a woman who lives in the East End and drives for Lyft, and she didn’t flinch at $7 rides (one-way!) to Mechanicsville for groceries and employment. A $14 commute is one heckuva wage reduction.