Category Archives: Blog

The Overhead Wire Daily | July 17th, 2024 | Rent Caps

July 17, 2024

I want to circle back to something that was posted Monday on a rent cap proposal and discussed more yesterday. I see a lot of hand wringing over the policy of rent control generally on social media so I wanted to jump in and see what the idea is overall.

First there are a lot of economists that hate rent control with a passion and when you pair that with statewide votes here in California against it and you get a lot of feelings shared on the subject. I’m not here to argue about whether it’s a good policy or not long term. I did benefit from the policy here in San Francisco for a number of years and appreciated how it insulated from extreme increases in prices just like homeowners get with Prop 13 property tax limits and 30 year fixed mortgages.

And now that I am in charge of a unit that’s been under rent control since the 1990s, I still appreciate the certainty of it, especially when it comes to rental raises annually that are agreed upon citywide and everyone can be on the same page.

So with that being said, it seems that this specific very targeted policy is more like rent stabilization than rent control. As noted on social media, it also isn’t a hard cap in that any increase over 5% annually from landlords that own more than 50 units would be subject to a removal of any tax benefits. That includes just half of all rental properties and would only be for a two year period while other housing supply solutions are enacted. Which would make sense from the side of the policymakers because as we’re seeing in California you can’t just snap your fingers and have housing supply magically appear, no matter how bad someone may want that.

Another aspect of these housing policy machinations that isn’t really getting much attention is that, as I mentioned, it is supposed to be tied together with other home building plans including opening up federal lands for affordable housing construction through the Postal Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense, and even Department of the Interior.

The rental cap would have to be enacted by congress, not the president, which seems unlikely at this point in time. But I also think we’re not really doing enough to allow construction of housing around the country. We’re just kind of nibbling around the edges at the idea. And it should be paired with much better transit to connect existing affordable housing with destinations. Until we can build a few million units extra in places with lots of jobs and opportunity, much of this feels like its just a drop in the bucket and not big enough.

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The Overhead Wire Daily | July 11th, 2024 | Two Systems and Two Wheels

July 11, 2024

One interesting item at least for me today is the Associated Press piece on delivery company Door Dash and the pressure they are feeling to reduce dangerous driving by drivers on two wheels.

What strikes me about this is that often vehicle laws in the Untied States are written with cars in mind, and so with the proliferation of small motorized delivery vehicles and a time crunch, these drivers are going to look for every edge possible in a system that wasn’t even designed for them.

When I was in China, smaller delivery vehicles weren’t allowed in the road with cars but there were ample multi-use paths and wide sidewalks with designations available which I detailed in an Instagram post. There were ramps next to steps and even on huge pedestrian overpasses these electric two wheelers would be zooming up and down.

That didn’t stop me from almost getting run over a few times as a pedestrian, but it didn’t feel as messy as in big cities sometimes do in the United States. I also heard about the ridiculous delivery time penalties that were often enforced which is also a likely source of bad behavior.

But it feels like there’s a double standard for those driving two wheelers versus cars and trucks. UPS and FedEx famously in the past have just settled up in bulk parking tickets and other moving violations made by their trucks in cities. But we haven’t really designated spaces or designed streets for smaller vehicles to mix in with passenger vehicles on steroids so we penalize them for making decisions that might not entirely be theirs.

Are there bad actors? Of course. And I don’t condone riding on sidewalks with higher speed vehicles. But it’s all about context and when the police led by the mayor decide to target a certain working community, you get 13,000 impounded vehicles. But when you’re a driver who happens to be sitting in a diner in mid-town when the governor happens to stroll through, you have the ability to impact national policy. Not sure we’re starting on equal footing here.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 490: Electrify the Rails

This week on Talking Headways we’re joined by Adriana Rizzo of Californians for Electric Rail. We chat about freight and warehousing growth in California’s Inland Empire, the benefits of train electrification and a new California CEQA exemption push for overhead wires, and why hydrogen trains are getting more attention.

You can listen to this episode at Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of this episode:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | July 9th | Access as Policy

July 9, 2024

Two items today (Lincoln Institute | New York Times feat. Economic Renaissance Group) point at an economic growth surge amongst historically strong but weakened midwestern and southeastern industrial cities and counties. The two pieces point at two different potential reasons for the change; industrial policy and finance and a surge in startups that could signal a break from an existing downward trend since the 1980s.

Multiple bills passed over the last few years have financed a trillion dollar industrial policy that has boosted manufacturing and investment. Many of the tax credits and incentives from those bills are beginning to see an impact as cities that were once manufacturing giants see jobs grow from new industries such as renewable energy or energy storage.

At the same time, a surge of new businesses and a slowing out-migration of workers from “left behind” counties have bolstered areas that hadn’t seen a lot of wins this century. Job growth has been four times faster than before and those counties recovered from the pandemic much quicker than from previous shocks. The new business establishment including restaurants, service businesses and even technology startups tend to encourage local optimism.

Researchers caution that they aren’t sure if these job increases and surge in new businesses are durable, but one thing that connects the two seems to be money invested in businesses and people, not austerity policy.

But this also brings something else up that we think about a lot here. Access. In transportation, there’s been a trend over the last few decades to think about giving people more access to the places that they want to go. Not just the ability to move about, but to get to actual desired destinations. In my mind, we can potentially tie the access idea to this current growth in places that have seen stagnating economies.

Before the pandemic, access to capital seemed tied to locations. If you lived in or near a superstar city, you might have access to money or connections that allow you to build and grow a business that perhaps not a lot of people saw value in to start. But with these large scale investments in people, including money from pandemic recovery loans and all of these industrial policy investments, more people seem to be able to access the benefits of investment in new ideas.

I also think we can apply this to transportation policy as well. In the national transportation system the way to get between cities quickly is on an airplane. But those networks are tied to central hubs that distribute to other parts of the country unevenly. Airlines are going to connect large places because that’s where enough people go to fill planes and make a “profit”, but they skip over mutiple destinations in between that could see a benefit from a boost in access.

This is in part why I think we could see an increased interest in high speed rail. It’s not going to connect every place around the country but it could break us away from the superstar city hold on accessibility by bringing more small and mid-sized cities into a symbiotic relationship that benefits all. If we are actually benefiting from industrial policy in this way, perhaps a different transportation policy that brings access to the forefront should be next.

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Mondays 155: Four Day Workweek

This week on the Mondays show, we’re Han Solo but have a lot of interesting items about shorter work weeks, children’s brains and the impact of traffic noise, overbuilt retail, and highway expansion and climate change.

Below are the links and show notes:

News Items

Supreme court overturns Chevron – Grist

Supreme court on homeless – Governing

Traffic and children’s brains – BBC Future

Retail vacancies – Slate

Highway expansion and climate – LA Times

Colorado creating tenant value – Shelterforce

Four day work week – Barcelona Metropolis

VMT Place Types – CTOD

 

Bonus Items

Children’s play and climate change – Houstonia Magazine

Stable housing for kids – NPR

NJ Transit funding – NorthJersey.com

 

Listener Questions + Comments

SBA Small Business resilience – SBA

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Replay: Episode 382 – Measuring Transportation Insecurity

On this fourth of July special replay of Talking Headways we’re going back to Episode 382 with Alix Gould-Werth and Alex Murphy discussing their work on transportation insecurity.  Anna Zivarts mentioned this work in her book and recently on the podcast and I think it’s really important to share it again.  Hope everyone has a great holiday and we’ll see you with a new episode next week.

You can listen to this episode below and find the original transcript post here.


The Overhead Wire Daily | June 27th | Work Week Transportation

June 27, 2024

Barcelona Metropolis shares the idea of moving to a four day work week in hopes of increasing the amount of leisure time people have, which in turn could boost civic participation and reduce emissions from transportation. They took note of a month in Valencia Spain in holidays in the month of April meant four weeks with four day work weeks. Nitrogen oxide pollution in the city decreased 58%.

I wonder how closely related this idea is to the shift in work from home that was accelerated by the pandemic. And while less work days isn’t quite the same as work from home, it will be interesting to see what the meta results are of this new paradigm from a transportation standpoint.

INRIX released a report ranking cities by congestion, which I tend to take with a grain of salt, but what is interesting at the moment is how many newspaper reporters sharing those rankings note how people believe traffic congestion is worse now than before the pandemic.

We talked with Tracy Hadden Loh on the Mpact podcast recently (out today on Talking Headways) and she mentioned something similar, that total travel demand had increased but the demand for the office specific commute which transit was set up to serve had decreased.

It makes me wonder why travel demand is up and whether it has to do with a lot of people running errands from home in their sprawling neighborhood instead of in an urban setting with more services accessible by active transportation. I don’t have any data of course but what if work from home actually generates more VMT as opposed to less? That could mean more driving and of course as we’re seeing around the country, 80% of pre-pandemic transit use as people aren’t taking as many of those long commutes per week.

About 14 years ago when I was at Reconnecting America, we did a deep data dive with our Center for TOD partners on how transit station area types connected to VMT. What was interesting from that report looking at every station in the United States, was how putting more people in an existing low VMT place had a greater impact on driving reductions than building more housing units in an already high VMT place. Now that we’re taking people out of dense downtowns and they are staying home, we could be seeing this modeled VMT shift in real life.

We might also see regional differences as people in places that facilitate more active transportation are taking those trips, and people that are in auto-centric places increase car trips. I can imagine for example that New York City or Barcelona would have different results than say Phoenix or Atlanta.

But it’s something to think about. What are the results of work from home or a shorter work week, and are they sustainable? I look forward to seeing that data.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 489: Post-Peaky Transit

June 26, 2024

This week on Talking Headways we’re chatting with Tracy Hadden Loh of the Brookings Institute about impacts of the pandemic on downtowns, activity centers, and transit usage. We chat about creating activity center cluster maps and a recent report entitled Building Better on Philadelphia.

To listen to this episode, go to Streetsblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Articles of note from the discussion:

Mapping America’s Activity Centers – Brookings

Ensuring the intertwined post-pandemic recoveries of downtowns and transit systems – Brookings

Building Better – Brookings

This podcast was producted in partnership with Mpact – http://mpactmobility.org

Below the fold is a full AI generated unedited transcript of this episode:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 26th | Highway Leadership

Last week we shared an item about NRDC suing Caltrans over highway expansion in California that the State DOT says will reduce emissions. Obviously that claim has been getting a lot of pushback because more lanes often means more driving and even more congestion. But the lawsuit is likely to set a huge precedent in terms of how the courts will see regulations related to reduced driving and climate goals and whether California can keep getting away with talking out both sides of its mouth. But there are other states tackling this issue head on that don’t seem to be waiting for the courts to intervene including Colorado and Minnesota.

In Minnesota, a 2023 law asked the state DOT and the Met Council to assess whether highway expansion projects were consistent with state climate goals, which include a 20% reduction in driving by 2050. This year legislation went a step further and required the agencies to look at all road projects whether or not they added a driving lane, and create mitigation plans for increased emissions and VMT that result from projects.

Colorado is a bit further along in this process and the state saw perhaps for the first time in the country a highway expansion plan abandoned. I-25 through Denver was shelved because Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a law in 2019 that required the state to reduce emissions 90% in 30 years. When you start looking around for where those emissions are coming from, transportation is a large slice of the pie chart. As Megan Kimble notes, the state offered a new vision of transportation going forward and other states should take note.

Why is this important?  Because we need to reduced emissions in order to keep global temperatures from rising and causing havoc with our ecosystems, thus creating problems for human habitation and financial systems as we discussed last week. Where do a huge chunk of those emissions come from? The transportation sector.

In fact in the United States, ~30% of emissions are from transportation, most of which is from passenger vehicles. And unlike the energy or building sectors, emissions seem to continue to rise from transportation, even as small numbers of electric vehicles are purchased. The fact of the matter is that we need to reduce VMT as well to reach climate goals, even if those miles are with electric vehicles. So there’s a lot of work to do on this front, but these two states are leading the way. As I’ve mentioned before, I hope California and other states are jealous of their leadership.

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Mondays 154: Dead University Line

June 25, 2024

We’re Han Solo this week on Mondays at The Overhead Wire but that doesn’t stop us from covering a lot of ground from the last several weeks. We chat about how climate change could impact infrastructure building, the death of Houston’s University Line, and Boston’s commuter rail ridership success compared to before the pandemic. We cover a lot more but listen in to find out!

Below are links to the items we discussed on today’s show!

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 20th, 2024 | Interconnected Risks

June 20, 2024

I share a lot of Susan Crawford’s items from her substack Moving Day because it really is sounding an alarm on the issues climate change will soon make us reckon with. Today she’s shares a study that looks at how insurance costs have gone up since 2020 in areas that are at high risk of climate change. Of course insurance companies don’t share this information readily so the report authors had to disassemble millions of monthly escrow payments to get at what people are paying for insurance and it’s as fascinating as it is scary.

Rising insurance rates from climate change trigger multiple issues as Susan puts so well; the weakening of asset values and in turn property tax dependent entities like governments as well as shifting risk to housing finance stability systems like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which can then infect the whole financial system of the US.

But there’s another issue that people on this email list might care about more than some of the others. Infrastructure finance. Again, it goes back again to the discussion we had with David Schleicher about his book In a Bad State (transcript | audio) which shows over time how the government has created a legal and financial foundation for cities to be able to finance transportation and other infrastructure through bonds. If insurance companies raise prices so high such that the only backstop is the public insurance option, we then see different levels of government at risk of default. Then if default happens there are three choices (The Trilemma) for the Federal Government to fix it as David put it so well on the show and in his book;

“[The Federal Government] wants to avoid kind of really sharp budget cuts or austerity because that state and local fiscal crisis generally happen during recessions and budget cuts during recessions are bad. Secondly, it wants to avoid moral hazard. That is say if it bails the government out then the government may grow to expect it and that will lead to greater budget problems in the future. And then third thing is it wants to avoid harm to the municipal bond market. Why would anyone care about that? Well, state and local governments, we rely on them to build almost all infrastructure in America.”

As David notes, you can only do two of the three. I know it might seem like I’m repeating this over and over again, but I do feel that climate change could have a bigger impact on issues like these down the line if we don’t address it sooner. It is likely to be painful, but less so now than later.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 488: When Driving is Not an Option

June 19, 2024

This week on Talking Headways I’m joined by SPUR’s Laura Tolkoff to interview Anna Zivarts about her new book: When Driving Is Not an Option: Steering Away from Car Dependency.  We chat about non-drivers, car seats, and the week without driving.

You can listen to this episode at Streetblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the full episode:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 19th, 2024 | Killer Rabbits

Projects dead or dying strewn everywhere. All attacked by killer rabbits.

That would be my title if I had to characterize the absurdities that are happening in New York and now Houston. I can only make Monty Python references at this point because my disappointment is high and I need something funny to arrest the pain.

The University Avenue BRT was once a light rail project that got shelved and reincarnated as BRT. No big deal as it’s a super long and important corridor that connects four universities in Houston with major job centers. It would act as an East-West spine to the existing and popular Main Street line between downtown and the medical center. But the Mayor and his new charges at Houston Metro appear to have now really killed it with their nasty big pointy teeth.

Also wik

The Second Avenue Subway extension to Harlem is now on hold due to Governor Hochul’s (de)congestion pricing “pause” which seems like the latest bit of fuel splashed on this rubbish inferno. I’m holding out hope that NYC Comptroller Brad Lander’s open records request will go somewhere that leads to (de)congestion pricing. We always hope for better news soon.

Also, the writers of this newsletter intro have been sacked.

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The Overhead Wire | June 18th, 2024 | Sprawl Anyways

June 18, 2024

Two things we’re thinking about today.

First, we’ve been talking and sharing a lot about the insurance industry and the impacts of climate change on housing markets. We’ve also discussed car insurance and the rising expense of cars and increased exposure to collisions.

So today, Lloyd Alter discusses why cars should be designed for disassembly and ultimately the ability to be recycled. It’s better for the planet but also better for people’s wallets. But in the article he also brings up another interesting fact. Many car manufacturers such as Tesla are looking to build actual cars like die cast toy cars through a process of high pressure die casting (HPDC). This process replaces 50-70 individual parts with one single part.

Sounds great right? Well it turns out that if you get into a collision, it’s harder to fix the problem and in many cases the cost of replacement is more than getting a new car. So in addition to many insurance companies worried about battery scratches totaling otherwise usable vehicles, there’s now a car manufacturing component that could lead to much higher insurance bills.

And as we discussed with Dan Sturges (transcript | podcast), cars just have a lot of parts and in addition to how they aren’t sustainable driving you around, they aren’t sustainable from a mining and manufacturing perspective either. And now more than ever they aren’t sustainable for people’s wallets or even insurance companies profits. I suspect will hit some tipping point where a majority of people start realizing how expensive our transportation system really is.

And second there’s an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about California Forever having a plan B in the strong likelihood they lose their ballot measure in the fall. In addition to the 17.5K acres they own between Sacramento and SF, they also own about 800 acres adjacent to Rio Vista which wouldn’t require a vote to build on. But it seems like they are saying that if they don’t get what they want, they’ll just build more sprawl.

It feels like this whole thing is full of political mistakes. Buying up land in secret. Accusing farmers of price collusion on property they don’t want to sell. Building development that might be sustainable if not for the fact that people need to drive to get out of the district. Also let’s just be honest, people don’t really trust billionaires.

It’s also kind of funny to me that they think the threat of not getting community benefits from the larger project would persuade people to vote with them. No one cares about community solar, schools, or stadiums in communities that aren’t built for them.

So why not build a small demonstration of what the larger development would be like if it would sway people to change their minds on a future ballot that currently is losing heavily in the court of public opinion? Rather than asking people to trust them when they are inclined not to, build something to prove what the end result would be like. Apparently they can build on land in Rio Vista now if they want. But from the article, it seems as if they’ve chosen sprawl.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 487: Killed by a Traffic Engineer

June 12, 2024

This week we’re joined by Wes Marshall, Civil Engineering Professor at the University of Colorado at Denver to talk about his book Killed by a Traffic Engineer: Shattering the Delusion that Science Underlies our Transportation System. We chat about writing process, the ideas of risk and exposure, and what he learned from pouring over old transportation engineering journals.

Join our Happy Hour with Seamless Bay Area by RSVPing.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full AI generated unedited transcript:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 11th, 2024 | Out of Room

An article in the Las Vegas Review Journal noted that local home builders believe that there’s only 8 years of land available for building in the region. It was the source of jokes on Twitter because the idea that these home builders couldn’t go vertical was quite funny to many posters.

But it is an opportunity to test an idea we shared a month ago related to how cities grow and what it means to actually build out. Cheap construction ends and more infill begins because people still want access to jobs and amenities and it gets harder to build no matter the planning regime. As the study we shared noted, California found it’s edge long ago and saw home prices go up. Texas will see that soon as well. And I guess now we might have another test case with Las Vegas if what the home builders say is true.

We most definitely aren’t running out of land to build houses and these places certainly aren’t full. My trip to China’s greater Bay Area of ~80 million people showed how low our tolerances actually are. We shouldn’t really frame it in the terms of limited supply, but rather an evolution into a new era and that needs a new model of growth. It’s much like the idea we shared from Michael Batty’s book on the podcast last week. AI isn’t some “intelligence”, it’s just the overdone branding for the next step in computing.

And this new era is what Jim Kumon told us about when he visited the show. Our economic and physical systems for building both transportation and housing were made for greenfields and sprawl. But our housing crisis, transportation project timelines and other alarms are telling us something else is going on.

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 11th, 2024 | Car Insurance

June 11, 2024

The (de)congestion pricing saga continues as MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber has held a press conference and seemingly pushed back on Governor Hochul’s last minute rug pull by saying the agency isn’t giving up on (de)congestion pricing.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Wales, the country’s leading car insurance company has said that claims have dropped 20% since the implementation of a 20mph speed limit on local roads across the country. The head of underwriting at esure said this time period usually sees an increase in claims.

This points at something I’ve been trying to look more into but haven’t seen a lot of information about. Our home and car insurance increases are because both of these items are getting more expensive to replace, but for cars, our urban form and transportation funding system forces us to move further away from destinations making us drive more. More driving on top of heavier vehicles and faster speeds means more risk of collisions for drivers and insurance companies overall.

One of the interesting things Wes Marshall talks about in his book Killed by a Traffic Engineer is this idea of exposure. Instead of per capita collisions in city boundaries to be able to compare the relative safety of places, people like Paul Hoffman of Studebaker created a number where the denominator was incredibly large (collisions per mile driven) so that collisions and traffic deaths seemed like they were going down, when in fact they were going up.

Insurance companies have tried to counter the exposure a bit by giving low mileage discounts or even some going with per mile insurance. But that makes me wonder that if insurance companies are starting to think more heavily about climate change and the impacts on their bottom line, they might do well to start considering many more factors that create more exposure for them whether that’s sprawl or vehicle weights.

It could be just about miles driven, but as Prof David Hensher at the University of Sydney said in a show with us recently (audio | transcript), there’s an opening for the insurance industry to be a main driver of MAAS or as David calls his idea Mobility as a Feature such that they are focused on reducing risk and exposure. There’s a benefit to the insurance companies trying to lower exposure by promoting active transportation instead of driving as the only transportation mode. It might actually improve mobility, reduce emissions, and make them more money overall.

We’ll be releasing our chat with Wes Marshall on Thursday.  But something to think about as this discussion hopefully continues.

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Mondays 153: (De)congestion Pricing with Ben Kabak

This week on Mondays at The Overhead Wire we go into depth on the past week in New York City and Governor Kathy Hochul’s attempt to end a (de)congestion pricing program that was going to begin on June 30th. We’re joined by Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas to go over all the details.

Links discussed on the show: Riders Alliance | Transportation Alternatives

Also huge shout to Streetsblog NYC for some great reporting on this topic

Listen to this episode or read the transcript below:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 6th, 2024 | (De)congestion Deflated

June 6, 2024

Well that blew up today’s news…

Yesterday New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she was going to kill (de)congestion pricing just a month before the first toll would have been collected.

The $15 toll to enter Manhattan below 60th street would likely revolutionize transportation policy in not just New York City but North America as others could learn from a program that has been tried in other cities around the world to much success.

The governor had held out until now as a supporter of the program but for some reason decided to blow it up at the last minute for what seems like political reasons, urged by House Minority Leader and Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries over the idea that tight voters in certain house districts would be turned off by the charge. Some also believe that Majority Leader Senator Schumer was also likely involved in the idea, which is not unlikely given some of his past active transportation missteps. I would venture to say that she just made a lot of New Yorkers who supported her mad and unlikely to support her in the future.

From a political standpoint, the move shows how Democrats around the country are more than happy to support drivers over transit riders, even in an area where the vast majority of people don’t drive or even own a car. Not only that, examples from other countries show that pricing is the least popular right when it starts and gains greater popularity over time. It’s possible the positive impact of the policy could have been seen by the fall election. But the governor has had a tough time implementing good housing and transportation policy mostly because of her own missteps and fights with the suburbs.

The other issue that is driving people mad about this kick in the stomach is that the MTA had already started spending money it would have received from the pricing scheme and budgeted for it. They had put up equipment and had a contract in place for implementation to the tune of $500M.  Not only that, the MTA is supposed to be making transit stations accessible and losing funding could kill the Second Avenue Subway extension. The board didn’t even know it was happening.

Additionally, Governor Hochul’s funding replacement is a $1B business/payroll tax in Manhattan. As one Twitter user explained, how is getting rid of congestion pricing going to help recovery when instead of charging for the negative externality of driving from a few drivers, getting them off the road and reducing friction, you tax all Manhattan businesses? Reporters shared that the business tax plan has gone over like a lead balloon in the State Senate and Assembly Democrats cancelled their conference that was supposed to happen last night. Their support are likely needed to make the switch.

There was also hope that the MTA Board could actually decide to move forward with pricing with Aaron Gordon sharing that the announcement violates the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act which states the MTA board is independent and should be making decisions based on the MTA’s fiscal responsibilities. Ben Kabak wasn’t so sure that was an avenue forward after a representative of the Board informed judges taking the cases against the program that it was paused.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the fact that this program has been studied to death for decades. It’s finally gotten to the point of implementation and the rug got pulled out from under the advocates and public servants that have been tirelessly working to get it over the finish line. Did they waste their lives writing several thousand pages of environmental documents and getting yelled at by angry constituents? Perhaps someone can ask Rep. Jeffries next time they see him. All for a few more suburban votes that might not materialize and from voters that may be happy for a week then forget about it completely.

As others have noted, it will also be a setback for urban and climate policy in this country for likely a decade or more if it stands. It’s also a setback for people of New York, whether they supported the program or not, as the reductions in driving offset by increases in transit service and funding would have meant cleaner air and less emissions.

For me personally, I feel like we get hit with the same stuff over and over again as advocates. Here in the Bay Area it happens all the time too, so it’s not just a New York issue. Ask Indianapolis advocates about going through this crap over the last several years. It’s hard not to lose faith that the system is ever going to work for you or your preferences if Lucy keeps pulling the football at the whim of some power broker who doesn’t care about you or the preferred policy either way. I think if a policy is good and tried and it doesn’t work, that’s fine. But to never be given a chance is another issue entirely.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 486: The Computable City

June 5, 2024

This week on Talking Headways we’re joined by Michael Batty, Professor of Planning at the University College London. We chat about his book The Computable City: Histories, Technologies, Stories, Predictions which includes histories of computing, smart city critiques, what the discourse on AI should really be about, and discussions on the future of urban forms.

You can listen to this episode at Streetsblog USA or in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of this episode:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | June 5th, 2024 | Boosting Ridership

Interesting news out of Boston as the commuter rail lines of the MBTA are now at close to full pre-pandemic ridership. One of the changes since before the pandemic is running more mid-day train service because all the trains aren’t tied up in peak hour rush. They are also adding later night and weekend service for people going out for entertainment or sporting events as well.

This is a promising sign that there are ways of providing transit service that get results which aren’t dependent on the masses of the rush hour commute. One of the interesting ideas Jarrett Walker shared when we chatted with him a few weeks ago was that there’s more mental space now for systems to be better designed around the 80-90% of society who aren’t the elite rush hour commuters that Jarrett says have in some respects vanished from the system.

This also points to solutions for other parts of our systems as well. There are some great examples of higher ridership on lines that don’t go into the center of cities that have been given frequency boosts like the 22-Filmore here in San Francisco. But also the express bus services that could only make one or two trips with a driver could be running extra frequency on a popular route providing access to more people.

The article notes that MBTA has an advantage over other systems in that they don’t have to wrangle more space for trains from the railroads, but it does show the power of more frequent service and advertising what the system can do for people when given a chance.

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 485: Amtrak vs Brightline in Northeast Ohio

May 29, 2024

This week we’re joined by Cleveland journalist Ken Prendergast to talk about intercity passenger rail in greater Ohio. We chat about the competing interests of Brightline and Amtrak and the history of passenger rail planning in the region.

Check out Ken’s NEO-trans Blog for more.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full AI generated unedited transcript:

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Mondays Flashback: Verkehrsverbund with Ralph Buehler

We’re Han Solo today but no fear we’re flashing back to Episode 211 of the Talking Headways podcast where we chatted with Ralph Buehler about the topic of the German transport concept of Verkehrsverbund. With a lot of talk of regional transportation networks and planning, I thought it might be worth a listen again five years later.

Below the fold are links to following us on social and finding merch:

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(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 484: Rethinking Denver Along the South Platte River

May 22, 2024

This week on Talking Headways we’re joined by Erin Clark, Chief Real Estate Investment Officer of the Denver Housing Authority. We chat about the redevelopment of Sun Valley, a public housing project built in the 1950s that is being reinvigorated by new investments in public housing, parks, and community.

This podcast was produced in partnership with Mpact

You can listen to this episode at Streetsblog USA or find it in our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript of the episode:

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The Overhead Wire Daily | May 22nd, 2024 | The Biopsychosocial Model

The philanthropic wing of America’s largest Medicaid insurer has pledged $1B towards affordable housing by offering below market loans to a development partner. As noted in the Forbes article, 80% of health outcomes are driven by what happens outside the doctors office and are often referred to as the social determinants of health.

Dr. Mindy Fullilove has described this further as looking at place through the lens of the biopsychosocial model or the sociology of illness.  In this framework, we can see all of the social impacts on a persons life that lead up to an illness or medical emergency. Often this can be a fluctuating social network, unstable housing situation, or even a setback such as a loss of income or a loved one.

Yet governments don’t look deeper into the biopsychosocial model to determine whether they should increase housing production using housing money or give people more transportation options in order to reduce downstream medical impacts. So states are treating the illness by looking to use precious Medicaid monies on housing and transportation instead of sussing out root causes.

There’s definitely a direct benefit to the health care system in getting people housed who would otherwise spend too much time in an emergency room or getting people to appointments instead of missing them, but there are also bigger downstream impacts of improving housing and transportation that reduce health expenditures by reducing stress and improving quality of life.

Today, an article we linked in the LA Times discusses restaurants struggling to stay open amidst rising costs and inflation. Cost of living increases driven by housing seems to be a major culprit even if it’s not explicitly mentioned in the article. There’s also a discussion in Minneapolis of figuring out a way to lower child care costs that are stressing family budgets and creating disincentives to having a a bigger family or even just going out and doing fun things on the weekend.

This all can probably be filed into the housing theory of everything, but I want to give a plug for beginning to actually map it out in the biopsychosocial model Dr. Fullilove puts forward as a way of thinking about place. What are the problems we are seeing and how much are we focusing on them?  And how many resources would we have collectively for a lot of other important upstream things if we found that we weren’t focusing enough initially on key root issues. I suspect we’d improve our quality of life and our health exponentially.

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