News Roundup: June 21, 2013

From Transportation For America.
5 Ways Congress Plans to Hurt Communities, Hobble Economic Development (American Planning Associates)
More attacks on everything that isn't a freeway from the Republican House of Representatives. The APA has a list of the form those attacks are taking in this years budget. Surprise: they're cutting everything! Rail, transit, Community Development Block Grants, TIGER (the worst in my opinion), the list goes on... all slated for significant cuts from their already historically-low levels.

The backlog of our country’s deficient bridges is indeed shrinking, but barely (Transportation For America)
As pictured above, in the 1990s we were repairing over 15,000 structurally deficient bridges every four years, and that number has steadily dropped to the present low of less than 5,000 over the same length of time. At that rate it's hard to see how we can even keep up with newly deficient bridges as they crop up. And the number is even worse than it seems, since, in 2011 for example, almost half of the repaired bridges were located in just two states.

The Defense Department’s Embrace of Livability Will Save Money — and Lives (Streetsblog)
More on the DoD's efforts to convert their bases to more walkable, pleasant communities, and the benefits expected from the shift. Not only has it already saved tens of millions of dollars in wasteful and poorly-planned projects, there are also hopes that it may help address the disturbing suicide rates in the military by promoting more personal connections among military families and encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Maybe buses should be free (Economist)
Not many journalistic institutions can credibly make a suggestion like this, but the Economist is one of them. They note that the costs of fare collection cut significantly into the fares themselves (by my estimate, somewhere between 20-30%), and that the collection process itself negatively impacts the efficiency and speed of transit services. Eliminating fares would also increase ridership, of course, which could free up more space on the roads for other uses. The majority of transit agency budgets already comes from non-fare sources (e.g., sales tax, vehicle fees), so as the Economist says, free bus rides might be worth a second look.

Editorial: So much carnage on our streets, yet so little response (Bike Portland)
Jonathan Maus goes off on the lack of response we see from traffic violence and the other serious health impacts of a cars-first transportation policy. Repeated deaths of pedestrians, bicyclists, children and seniors, drivers themselves, the recent death of Rolling Stone contributor Michael Hastings, all reported as matter-of-fact--the price of doing business. We even have an international movement fighting an autism battle on the basis of anti-vaccine pseudoscience, but can't get angry enough to do something about the established connection between vehicle tailpipe emissions and autism in children.