Will Automated Driving Lead to More Sprawl?

As technology and automobile companies invest heavily in making driver-less cars a reality the impacts and consequences of this developing technology will be hard to predict. One auto manufacturer, Toyota, is warning that the phenomenon may lead to more fuel usage and sprawl. More from Bloomberg News:

“U.S. history shows that anytime you make driving easier, there seems to be this inexhaustible desire to live further from things,” Laberteaux said. “The pattern we’ve seen for a century is people turn more speed into more travel, rather than maybe saying ‘I’m going to use my reduced travel time by spending more time with my family.’”

Universal Standards for Bike Lanes Move Forward

Bicycle infrastructure improvements have varied greatly across the country however many elements including separated cycle tracks, bike boxes and intersection marking improvements have become standardized. However these elements have not been formally adopted into the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which serves as the universally accepted design book for traffic engineers. Last month a crucial committee gave approval paving the way for bicycle road standards to be included in the manual. More from Streetsblog:

Late last month, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices gave its approval to 11 treatments, including these two bike lane configurations. Committee members also, as anticipated, approved bike boxes and bike signals, which had been considered “experimental,” as well as bike lane markings that continue through intersections.

No, Historic Preservation Does Not Inhibit Urban Growth

While the development boom being experienced in New York City, Paris and London isn’t quite the same in Cincinnati, the Queen City does share in some of these issues surrounding historic preservation. Some believe that protecting and preserving historic structures is a barrier for development.

This has been seen most recently in the easy approval of the updated Lytle Park Historic District boundary, which is now much smaller than it once was. The reason such changes received easy approval at City Hall is because of the promise of new development, but is that the correct way to think about it? More from Next City:

American preservationists, too, have become so accustomed to pushing for the enforcement of preservation laws that they often are stereotyped as gatekeepers of nostalgia. Those who fought New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for upzoning part of Midtown Manhattan were demonized as anti-development. In truth, they were trying to protect the existing development. Polyphonic streetscapes of buildings of varying heights, styles and forms blended with smart new design attract people.

[...]

Preservationists are mediators between cultural heritage and economic demands, and they often don’t win what they want. The rambling mass of buildings joined under La Samaritaine’s walls and the stately mass of Cleveland’s Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist are far from evident in the remaining fragments. Yet what has actually been saved in both cases is invisible: the integrity of preservation laws, the enhanced value of developments that incorporate elements of the past and the continuity of urban character that makes cities continue to be desirable places. Years later, no one will see the battle scars from these fights, but they will see interesting works of contemporary architecture based on historic elements, thanks to preservation activists fighting overbearing design.

3CDC eliminates office space from Mercer Commons plans

Construction of the second phase of Mercer Commons is nearly complete, but the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is changing the plan for the third phase of the development. As 3CDC didn’t receive a New Markets Tax Credit for the project, the office component has been dropped and could be replaced with more residential. Several other 3CDC projects will be moving forward as planned, without the tax credits. More from The Enquirer:

“Our work program still remains incredibly aggressive,” said Stephen Leeper, 3CDC’s president and chief executive. Leeper and other 3CDC officials made the comments last week at an Enquirer editorial board meeting.

3CDC, though, is shelving plans to develop a new office building as part of Mercer Commons’ third phase and a mixed-use project at 15th and Race streets in Over-the-Rhine. [...]

The $18.3 million Mercer Commons plan on 14th Street between Vine and Walnut called for creating 53,000 square feet of office space. Gelter said a company approached 3CDC about developing the building, but the project wasn’t feasible without tax credits. The site could be repositioned as residential.

You can thank Congress for all those tolls that will soon hit the Cincinnati region

This should be a wake-up call for not just the lawmakers who have failed to raise the gas tax since 1993 or peg it to inflation, but also every voter. Locally we hear constantly from the group opposed to the use of tolls to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge or I-75 reconstruction, but the Highway Trust Fund has been bankrupt for many years and surviving on bailouts from Congress year-after-year.

Yes, of course it’s far past time to raise the artificially low gas tax, but it is also time to change the way in which we collect funds to maintain our system and add to its capacity. Instead of a simple tax on gasoline consumption, we should move to a tax that charges people based on how much they use our roadways, not how much they consume gasoline. More from The Hill:

The Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday moved up its projected bankruptcy date for the trust fund that is used to pay for road and transit projects, saying it will now run dry by the end of August. The DOT has warned that the transportation funding shortfall could force state and local governments to cancel infrastructure projects scheduled to begin this summer because federal money will not be able to assist with construction costs.

The Highway Trust Fund is normally filled by revenue collected by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. The gas tax has not be increased since 1993 and infrastructure expenses have outpaced receipts by about $20 billion in recent years as Americans drive less frequently and cars become more fuel efficient. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that lawmakers will have to authorize $100 billion in new spending in addition to the $34 billion that is expected to brought in annually by the gas tax to approve a new six-year transportation bill, which is the length being sought by infrastructure advocates.