Friday, December 12, 2008

Advice for Cities & Towns on Green Transport

I sometimes get asked for the quick hits that a local government can undertake that is within their jurisdiction. Here is what I send them:

1. Parking maximums for buildings (all kinds) rather than parking minimums. If the developer is ready to build without parking, their ear is closest to the market, let them do so. This will reduce the cost of housing by as much as 25%, increasing affordable housing within the city. Every parking space built is a magnet for a car, which will then be driving on city streets, increasing our congestion problems. Yes, I know all about residents desire to protect the existing free on-street parking for themselves. See number 2 below.

2. Make residential parking permit rates much higher, and consider monthly fees rather than annual ones. This will make more parking available for those residents that need to park, by getting off the road cars that are rarely used (this is why we need this to happen monthly, so there is incentive to get rid of your car quickly when you no longer use it often.) In northern climates, it is easy to see the enormous number of vehicles that are little used by walking down a street one week after a snowfall and seeing the number of cars that haven't moved in a week.

3. Charge residents for curb cuts just like on-street parking. Their individual curb cut is removing a space available for others on the street. Curb cuts shouldn't be free for residents or businesses.

4. Give a rebate to residents who don't own cars -- they cost the city less money! less demand for ploughing, road maintenance, police and traffic enforcement, reduced emissions, etc.

5. Do bicycle traffic education for every middle school student (and in driver's ed).

6. Offer $200 rebate to kids on their 16th birthday, good only toward a bike purchase (and registration with the local police).

7. Improve bike and pedestrian connections everywhere. Start with routes to school, around the public library, and convenience/food stores.

8. Paint bicycle lanes on as many oversized roads as you can simply by giving the minimum width to cars (usually 10 ft) and allocate remaining space to bikes. Stop your lines short of the intersections and just do the straight-aways. This lets you get 80% of the job done quickly and cheaply, without fiddling with the complex part.

9. Require that businesses that offer parking to employees to "register their commutes" so that there is a database for potential commute ridematching. You can't require agreeing to share a ride, but you can require registration.

10. Consider building municipal parking lots, and make parking in those lots cheaper for residents than on-street parking permits. [This makes parking less convenient, and people will be more likely to leave their house to bike, walk, or T for short errands rather than hop in their car.]

11. Remove on-street parking for every space created in municipal lots. Do better things with those spaces -- bus priority lanes, bike lanes, wider sidewalks.

12. Consider making play streets in some neighborhoods, by closing them to through traffic with wooden barriers (that are signed with relevant times) during afterschool hours. In New York City I saw this in practice with neighbors opening and closing the street.

13. Consider closing scenic roadways on Sundays when there is reduced traffic (and alternate routes) and making them accessible only to people and non-motorized vehicles.

Thirteen is purportedly an unlucky number. Please add your low cost ideas to the comments.



Kai Carver said...

Lower speed limits, especially in residential neighborhoods. Add speed bumps or other ways to slow traffic. This makes the neighborhood safer for pedestrians, bicycles, and other "soft" transportation, reduces value of having a powerful vehicle, and has little effect on overall commute times in areas with a lot of red lights or stop signs or intersections.

Warning: I suspect such measures may be unpopular with a certain category of the driving public. Maybe if you increase the speed limit in other, less residential areas, you can argue the overall speed limits haven't changed.

Roy Russell said...

Combining some of these might make them easier to adopt and more powerful together. For example, use number 2 to fund numbers 4,6, and 7 = combining dis-incentive for car ownership with incentives for other modes of transit. Easier to raise those fees if there is a specific targeted and logical use for them.

Roy Russell said...

How about a buyback program for cars (clunkers). Purchase cars from town residents using the funds from increased resident parking fees. If the same residence registers another car within 2 years then they should be required to repay the price.