Business News Transportation

Data Suggests Peak Vehicle Miles Traveled Was Reached in 2007

Whether it is widening Martin Luther King Drive, adding a new interchange, building a new bridge, or adding additional capacity to existing streets throughout our cities, we always hear of the robust traffic growth that is anticipated. If nothing is done, then our communities would be stuck in gridlock.

But how have these projections actually measured up?

According to data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and cross examined with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the traffic growth projections made by departments of transportation all over the country have been wildly off-base for the past decade.

National VMT (Actual) National Per Capita VMT

Since the 1980s, traffic on our roadways, as measured by vehicle miles traveled (VMT), has increased by approximately 2.5% annually. That is until the early 2000s when that trend changed rather abruptly. Since 2007, actual VMT has decreased approximately .3% annually. Meanwhile, per capita VMT has fallen sharply.

Many analysts have noticed the trends, but have been cautious to make any judgments about them due to the fact that the change took place around the same time as the Great Recession. The common thought was that people without jobs drive less. Even though most economists, however, have noticed a rebounding economy over recent years, both actual and per capita VMT continues to decline.

The persistent trends may in fact be the new normal for America as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials and subsequent generations continue their pivot away from personal automobile use. If this is the case, it appears that the United States hit peak VMT in 2007.

The implications pose serious policy questions. Presently, most departments of transportation spend most of their money annually on new capacity projects, while letting existing infrastructure crumble. Some policy makers and organizations, like Smart Growth America and President Obama (D), who first proposed such a program during his 2013 State of the Union Address, have advocated for a shift in this position to a ‘Fix-It-First’ approach.

Time will only tell what future trends will show. But as of now we are experiencing, for the first time in our nation’s history, a constant period of decline in terms of the amount of driving we are doing.

Development News Transportation

Elm Street Cycle Track Would Provide Critical Link for Region’s Bike Infrastructure

The city will start construction on physically separated bike lanes along Central Parkway, from Downtown to Clifton, this coming spring. Following a community engagement process, a final design was selected in recent weeks, and the large addition to Cincinnati’s bike network is expected to make a significant impact.

Not only will it be one of the most impressive bike facilities installed in the region to-date, but it will also link neighborhoods together that have large percentages of bicyclists. Furthermore, it will link other bike facilities with one another, and come close to linking even more.

Some of the existing facilities include numerous bike lanes and the Mill Creek Greenway, but the Central Parkway bike lanes will come about 12 blocks shy of connecting with the Ohio River Trail, which then links to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

A two-way cycle track should be built in order to connect the new Central Parkway bike lanes with the Ohio River Trail and beyond.

Elm Street Cycle Track

There are two streets that connect from Central Parkway to the Ohio River Trail along Mehring Way without interruption: Main Street and Elm Street. Both of the streets have one-way traffic heading northbound, but Main Street is considerably more congested with cars and buses heading to Government Square.

Elm Street, however, has some of the least congestion of any north/south street in the Central Business District and could easily connect the Central Parkway cycle track with the Ohio River Trail. A reorganization of the street would need to occur however.

Presently Elm Street, from Central Parkway to Mehring Way, lacks consistency in its design with on-street parking located haphazardly along both sides of the street. A reconfiguration of the street could consolidate all on-street parking to the east side of the street, thus eliminating only a nominal number of on-street parking spaces, and maintain 2 to 3 moving traffic lanes (the parking lane could be restricted during rush hours to allow for a third travel lane).

The Elm Street cycle track, meanwhile, would be located along the west side of the street and be buffered from moving traffic by a row of bollards. Such a redesign of Elm Street would be a bit of a road diet, but one that seems reasonable for this stretch of overbuilt roadway.

Planners with the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) said that the idea of an Elm Street cycle track had not come up before, and has not been presented to any formal committees or community councils to-date. Such coordination, they say, would need to take place prior to the idea moving forward.

With future phases of The Banks and the yet-to-be-named residential tower on Fourth Street set to begin construction soon, there seems to be an opportunity to rebuild this roadway along with those projects. This would help offset some of the costs and make for a more seamless transition.

Projects like this are low-hanging fruit for the new mayor and council, should they wish to pursue investments that improve the city’s bike infrastructure. They should work with the bike community and come up with a strategy that provides a clear path forward to make this happen.

An Elm Street cycle track like this would provide a critical link in the region’s bike network, make the street safer, more accommodating to more users and more attractive to those who currently find themselves along the now bleak and desolate stretch of roadway. Let’s get to work.

Up To Speed

America’s infrastructure is spread far and wide, without enough people to pay for it

We Only Notice When the Pipes Burst – Next City.

As readers of UrbanCincy know, America has put off paying its infrastructure bills for some time and now has an increasingly terrible standard of roads, bridges, sewers, pipes, transit and energy. But what can or should communities throughout America do? They have infrastructure spread far and wide to support far-flung suburbs that defined The American Dream through much of the 20th century. While those early generations were able to sit back and enjoy the new suburbs, the bills of replacing this infrastructure are now coming due…and the communities are not densely populated enough to be able to properly fund the maintenance. More from NextCity:

Earlier this year, when the American Society of Civil Engineers released its quadrennial report card on the nation’s infrastructure, it gave a D to drinking water. The report estimated that there are 1 million miles of water mains in the country, some dating back to the mid-19th century and many in dire shape…Unlike bridges, roads or many other types of infrastructure, the pipes that carry our water are underground and out of sight. It’s only when they break — which, according to the ASCE, happens about 240,000 times each year — that people become aware of the problem.

“The top concern is our aging infrastructure and how we’re going to go about ensuring it’ll be around for future generations,” Kail said. “Over the next 25 years, it will cost U.S. communities more than a trillion dollars to repair water infrastructure. And by that I mean pipes in the ground. That’s a challenge for a lot of communities, especially small ones. Rural communities have many miles of pipes and not many people to spread the cost.”

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Ubahn Fest to Bring Two-Day Hip Hop, Electronic Music Festival to Riverfront Transit Center

Cincinnati’s underground transit center will host two nights of hip hop and electronic music this weekend.

Ubahn Fest is a hip hop and electronic dance music festival that will take place November 15 and 16 in downtown Cincinnati’s Riverfront Transit Center. The festival will host 36 national and local hip hop and electronic acts in the half-mile underground tunnel in between Pete Rose Way and Elm Street under Second Street.

Ubahn Fest – named after Germany’s underground metro system – is being produced by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, consumer marketing agency AGAR and music promoter Self Diploma. The festival is not affiliated with last year’s Scion Underground event that also took place in the Riverfront Transit Center.

“There are no other hip hop/electronic festivals like this around the Cincinnati area,” explained Self Diploma founder Sean Herron in an interview with UrbanCincy. “What we are really excited about is the space we are creating it in – the underground tunnel is going to be something people will never forget partying inside.”

The Riverfront Transit Center currently serves as Metro’s bus staging facility during major events and its new Metro*Plus service.

Herron, a hip hop and electronic booking agent behind events like Fountain Square’s “Beats” summer concert series, shared the 9 artists he is most excited to see at Ubahn Festival this weekend.

Friday Picks: A-TRAK, DaveyC & Prism, The Animal Crackers, Trademark Aaron and Puck

Saturday Picks: Mike Posner, Cal Scruby, Buggs Tha Rocka and Santino Corleon

The two-day music event will run from 7pm to 2am each day. Those 18 years of age or older are welcome to attend. Friday’s collection of performances will be headlined by A-TRAK, while Saturday will feature Mike Posner.

Passes can be purchased in advance online and cost $20 for one day or $30 for both. Those prices go up to $25 and $40, respectively, on the day of the show.

Up To Speed

$1.6B partnership deal inked to replace Goethals Bridge

$1.6B partnership deal inked to replace Goethals Bridge.

Yet another multi-billion dollar bridge replacement project is advancing in the New York metropolitan area. A couple of weeks ago we shared how the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project got a $1.6 billion federal loan. Now a $1.6 billion public-private partnership deal has been signed to fund, build and replace the Goethals Bridge, which like the Brent Spence Bridge, is consider “functionally obsolete.” Unlike the Brent Spence Bridge project, however, is the fact that the new Goethals Bridge will reserve space for future bus or light rail service. More from Staten Island Advance:

This public-private partnership was struck between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NYNJ Link Partnership, a venture comprised of private companies Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc., Kiewit Development and lead contractors Kiewit Infrastructure, Weeks Marine and Massman Construction…Through this partnership, the developers are responsible for designing, building, financing and maintaining the new bridge and demolishing the old one.