Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Urban News Vol. 62

Quick hits today as the RIT research continues. Look for expansion through acquisition in the next installment.

by James Haggerty, Scranton Times-Tribune

Article Key Points:
  • Project to include 89 rental units and 3 floors of retail/office space
  • Planned to open in October
  • 6 retail tenants on ground floor along N. Washington Ave.
  • 13 lofts, 56 one bedrooms, 20 two-bedroom units
  • Last funding hurdles cleared via state grants, $5.5M loan, and $3M federal tax credit

Not a whole lot to say here except that it is obviously good news for that stately structure. Amid the good development news, such as the 500 Block of Lackawanna (which I still need to profile as an alternative to Rochester's defunct Renaissance Square project), Scranton is running the risk of creating a pod-like downtown where surface lots and parking garages begin to outnumber the buildings. The loss of the Community Bake Shop, Quint's, and the former Pub Charles building cannot be understated. The preservation of the Connell Building is a triumph for urbanism. Too bad a parking garage had to be built as a condition to greenlight such a project. This will change.

Obama Bicycle Policy Wins Love From Cyclists, Scorn From Trucking Industry
by Joan Lowy, Associated Press

Article Key Point:

  • Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says new government transporation policy is to give bicycling and walking the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money

As would be expected from a dying inefficient, pollutant, and wasteful industry, the response from the trucking industry and right-wing politicos was defensive and childish. CSX shares rose today after profits were way up from the year before, beating forecasts. This is not an accident.

While more bicycling for transportation is a positive for the American people in many ways, I'm left to wonder why transit doesn't garner the same zeal from the administration. I suppose I should reserve judgement for a time on the 'livability initiative,' as both can and should be promoted not just as alternatives to personal motoring, but as the priority program if we are serious about reducing energy consumption, improving efficiency, and strengthening core neighborhoods.

Since time immemorial, federal transportation expenditures have shoveled preposterous amounts of dollars into the highway system. We now have a complex infrastructure that will prove impossible to maintain, undercuts the viability of other agencies (Eg. the Post Office) due to its inefficiency, and promotes unhealthy and sometimes violent behavior by the citizenry.

Unable to fight the urge to bring engineering into everything I do, I come armed with just the facts of the FY11 Federal DOT Budget Authority.

  • 20.8% of the $79.176 BILLION budget will go to the Federal Aviation Administration
  • 13.3% will go to the Federal Transit Administration
  • 3.6% will go to the Federal Railroad Administration which includes monies appropriated to Amtrak
  • A whopping 55.8% of the FY11 transportation budget is slated to go to some combination of highway agencies

It is 2010. We supposedly have a more progressive attitude toward rail travel. Many regions are taking a lot of flak from their respective screaming eagles on upgrading rail infrastructure, but really the contributions are peanuts.

I want to end with one last statement on the rail-to-trail concept. These are almost always not more direct routes than riding on existing streets, they are for pleasure cruising. The real bicycling as transportation does and will take place on our non-highway roads. I just hope that these conversions are an effective form of land banking if nothing else. I truly believe these routes have strategic importance and will be needed to carry freight by rail in a future dominated by increasing energy concerns. We simply can't afford to be wasteful anymore.

Actually, I'll end by appropriately saying that the next Rochester Critical Mass bicycle ride will be April 30th. Meet at the Liberty Pole at 6PM to see the city at something approaching human speed in the company and safety-in-numbers of other bicyclists.

1 comment:

Jay Partyka said...

I always thought that the automobile was the abusive boyfriend America didn't know how to dump. The outright scorn and ridicule heaped on Secretary LaHood doesn't exactly prove me wrong.