Friday Fun Day! November 9, 2012

Last weekend, I got all crazy and drove out to Connecticut on an hour’s notice to support my brother, who was supposed to run the cancelled New York City marathon, in a solo marathon that he ran to support Sandy victims. Click here to read more or make a contribution yourself. It was great fun, and I couldn’t be more proud.

I had an interesting experience on how we fund automobile travel on the New York State Thruway – and the more I read, the more interesting it gets. I was on that road for four or five hours and, because I’ve been on very few tollways since returning from Japan five (!) years ago, expected to toll to be $60 or $80. Nope. It was in the neighborhood of $15.20, if memory serves. A pleasant surprise, but it was such a paltry sum that I got to wondering if the tolls paid on this road were enough to pay for its total maintenance – especially considering that one of the other big observations I made on this road trip was how poorly the interstates in Michigan and New York compared to those in Ontario. (The ones in New York were especially bad. They are quite literally falling to bits, with concrete flaking off the support pillars of overpasses and revealing rusty rebar underneath.) So I did some Googling, and discovered that the tollway authority will be voting on a controversial 45% toll increase this very day! How timely is that? The Authority does not, apparently, receive any tax revenue (though the article hints at other funding) and is therefore required to balance its own books. A novel concept in America, and one that is causing quite a ruckus (see more here, here, and here. Lunacy, it’s called! Now, I don’t know enough about the thruway to know if this hike is out of line, as opponents suggest. From the outside, however, it appears to be a case of Americans being faced with the true cost of their own transportation, crying foul, and demanding a subsidy. Wow. A lot to unpack there. Good luck, New York.

This week’s presidential election unveiled what appears to be a significant demographic shift. Young people. Hispanics. Cities. The Republican party is not reaching these constituencies in the numbers that it needs to if it wants to remain viable. This article at Human Transit briefly explores some of the problems held within the conservative movement in the U.S. and how it is differs from conservative parties in Australia and Britain which manage to do well in cities, as well as what this can mean for transit.

Closer to home, the proposal in the City of Walker to withdraw from The Rapid bus service failed miserably. Hallelujah! This same type of thing apparently happened in a few other places, and our humble local news made the big StreetsBlog network this week. The article is worth checking out; it quotes a visually-impaired man who had relied on the local transit until his suburb suspended service this spring. A cautionary tale as we rejoice in our local success.

The City of Zeeland, doing great fun things as usual, had their first Main Street Trick or Treat event on Halloween this year. Reviewing the city council minutes, it sounds like there was some concern over the safety of having so many children running around during such a busy traffic time. This is no new conversation, of course; as we noted earlier on this blog and others, Halloween is one of the most dangerous evenings for child pedestrians. Of course, one of the greatest ways to increase pedestrian safety is to increase the number of pedestrians.  So glad you moved forward with this great event, Zeeland!  Let’s keep working to make our streets safe for all users. Check their Facebook page for a few pics.

One of the best posts I read this week was by Chuck Marohn over at the Strong Towns Blog. Chuck has been writing for several years on the connection between America’s reflexive overbuilding of transportation infrastructure and the fiscal problems being faced by our local governments. This week he got personal, talking about how American culture and built environment has affected his health. He concludes with this thought:

Building a strong town is ultimately about more than just the finance of our places. While that is important, to endure, a place needs to also nurture our bodies and our souls. The American pattern of development is not only failing us financially, it is failing to create places where people thrive. If we are to be a great nation, that needs to change. We need to start building strong towns.

Finally, I just found the cargo bike tag on Tumblr (totally not into Tumbler – maybe when the kids are all sleeping through the night?). More bikes to love! Sigh…

Photo thanks to junk1988 on Tumblr

If only I could be so chic.

Have a great weekend!