Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Dig job

Commissioner Rooney informed me that I got his new title wrong. He's going to be the Deputy Secretary for Public Works.

He only told me I got the title wrong, not what the title was. So, I had to do a little searching. In doing so, I found out he's going to have significant new responsibility.

According to a Globe news brief, he's going to "oversee the full safety review of the Big Dig and try to foster better communication between agencies." Also:

In his new job as deputy secretary for public works, Rooney will help identify cost savings between the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Highway Department and bring new technology to highways, Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen said yesterday. Rooney will also oversee the transfer of the maintenance and operation of Department of Conservation and Recreation bridges, roads, and tunnels to MassHighway.
That's all well and good, but is it going to offer the same intellectual stimulation as my hedge issue?

Previously: Outgoing Commissioner Rooney


What we need is a ...

I sometimes feel for traffic engineers given all the second-guessing by know-it-all citizens. (Click for a larger version.)

Not always, but sometimes.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Transit v. car?

The discussion of parking maximums at Monday's Zoning and Planning committee took a depressing turn.

Planning Director Mike Kruse and several alderman dismissed parking maximums as appropriate only for cities like Cambridge with an existing transit infrastructure. Mr. Kruse's argument, as I understood it: if we can't provide an alternative to cars, we've got to provide sufficient parking for all cars.

Fortunately, Aldermen Marcia Johnson and Vicki Danberg made the point that, regardless of our current transit infrastructure, we've got to cut down on car travel. As Alderman Johnson put it, "We've got to start somewhere."

Let me put it a different way. While we may not have transit infrastructure on Route 9, we definitely do not have the roadway infrastructure to handle unlimited traffic. And, we don't want to increase our roadway capacity because more capacity => more traffic => global problems like climate change and local problems like a serious degradation of our quality of life.

We have to have structural caps on the amount of traffic that a project can generate. The trip-generation maximums are a starting place, but they are only one means. Parking maximums are a good mechanism that also instills in the developer (and ultimately the landlord) a selfish desire need to promote alternative transportation -- by providing shuttles, by working to exploit the existing neighborhood for customers who can walk to shops, by lobbying for more and better mass transit to the location, &c.

To continue the traffic as pollution metaphor, you don't need to wait for a cleaner way to manufacture a product to limit or ban a polluting method. In this case, the product is customers for a commercial complex, and the polluting way of manufacturing them is to bring them by car. We shouldn't wait for the non-polluting method -- mass transit -- to become more widely available to start curtailing the polluting method.

Of course, somebody's going to bring out the stick that if you don't have adequate parking for all possible traffic, the traffic is going to overflow into the neighborhoods. (And, yes, the stick came out last night.) Yes, overflow parking is a problem, but it's a problem you can address. It shouldn't be a reason for abandoning a responsible transportation provision.

Previously: Traffic as pollution


Monday, June 25, 2007

Outgoing Commissioner Rooney

I'm guessing Commissioner of Public Works Bob Rooney is only going to be called outgoing in the present context. As the TAB is reporting, Commissioner Rooney is leaving City Hall for Beacon Hill, to become Deputy Secretary of Public Works.

It has been tough to get a read on Commissioner Rooney. He hasn't been a vocal champion of traffic calming or bike accommodations, but he isn't exactly the vocal type. The recent record is a pretty good one.

He was the one to deliver the news to the Public Facilities committee that Woodland Road would get speed tables, without DPW looking for approval from the committee or the board. Ultimately, it's his team that will be delivering the goods in the year of traffic calming. He's been striping up a bunch of bike-friendly shoulders. He and his team turned a request for pedestrian safety on Langley into a bump out proposal in record time. He, City Engineer Lou Taverna, and Traffic Engineer Clint Schuckel demonstrated a flexible, problem-solving approach to traffic calming on Fuller Street. And, I got the feeling that he was genuinely interested in figuring out the problem of snow covered sidewalks.

On the other hand, he's also been cautious in getting share-the-road signs up. And, he's been sheparding Newton's request a waiver of the bike accommodation requirement on Walnut Street. Also, can I hold him responsible for the fact that some hedges on Jackson Street never got trimmed?

In our next Commissioner of Public Works, we could get a more pro-active advocate for liveable streets. But, we could much more easily get a bigger foe.

On a personal note, Commissioner Rooney strikes me as a good guy and a straight shooter.

So, to RRR (as he closes his e-mails) from NS&S, thanks for the good work and good luck in the new position.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ten Commandments of Driving

There's been lots of buzz about the Vatican's Ten Commandments of Driving. But, it's hard to find the actual commandments.

Here they are:

  1. You shall not kill.

  2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

  3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

  4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

  5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

  6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

  7. Support the families of accident victims.

  8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

  9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

  10. Feel responsible toward others.

I'm most intrigued by 9 and 10, which I think are key. Like the rules of the sea, the rules of the road ought to give priority to the smaller and less powerful. Bicyclists should look out for pedestrians. Motorists should be vigilant for cyclists and pedestrians. And, the law ought to reflect that hierarchy.

Unfortunately, too many motorists view those on bike or on foot as impediments to their unfettered use of the roads.

Would have been nice if the Vatican had thrown in a "Share the road."


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pedestrian path from Langley to Hebrew College

I have been lamenting of late the lack of off-street pedestrian paths in my neighborhood. In particular, it's too bad that the City did not require Terraces project to include a public path or paths through the huge site.

So, it was a big surprise -- and disappointment -- to learn last night during a public meeting about the Herrick Road study that the special permit for the Hebrew College campus expressly forbids an improved path from Langley to Hebrew College.

I think the provision was short-sighted. The ostensible reason for the restriction was to prevent Prozdor parents from dropping their children off on Langley. This contributes to the Tuesday night and Sunday afternoon traffic jams on Herrick Road. And, it denies the neighborhood a foot path that would be usable the rest of the week.

It's time to rethink the restriction. Undoubtedly, lifting the restriction and creating a path would create a few periods of cars queuing on Langley Road. But, it might ease the queuing on Herrick.

It also might not. Parents who drop children off in Newton Centre to avoid the traffic on Herrick might change their mind as volume is siphoned off to Langley. And, easing the traffic volume on Herrick might encourage Hebrew College to expand the program.

But, whatever impact a foot path has on Langley might be more than made up by the increase in pedestrian opportunities.


Pedestrian bridge across Route 9

I've been skeptical of the value of a pedestrian bridge across Route 9 from the proposed Chestnut Hill Square project to the parking lot of the Mall at Chestnut Hill.

At various meetings, one Newton official involved with the Chestnut Hill Square planning has rather forcefully argued that, whatever one's feeling on the value of the pedestrian bridge, final approval of the project ought to include a requirement that accommodations be made for a bridge, even if it's not built right away.

It occurred to me that he's really right. If, as I expect, the owners of the Mall at Chestnut Hill decide to turn their property into a mixed-use project, it stands to reason that the big parking lot along Route 9 will get reconfigured. Whether it becomes shops, residences, or open space, it will be a lot more attractive destination than the existing parking lot. Which will address my (and others') major concern.


Peak pricing on the 'pike

At some point, somebody's going to figure out that the technology exists to charge market-based tolls on the Central Artery and we'll be on the way to addressing some real problems.

Backing up, there is a proposal to institute peak pricing on the Mass Pike, along with adding new technology that will allow transponder-equipped cars to travel faster through the toll plazas. This is a welcome relief from plans that call for lower tolls.

We should not be reducing any disincentive to drive, even though there is currently a wicked imbalance between what east-west commuters and north-south commuters pay. The answer to the imbalance problem is to charge the north-south commuters more, which is to say that we should be charging them something. (I'm sure there's some provision in the Central Artery funding legislation that prohibits tolls. That would have to be changed.)

The good thing is that this latest proposal points the way. The technology is becoming available to charge tolls without the physical infrastructure of toll plazas. That technology is what makes congestion pricing possible. And, that technology could be used to charge tolls on the Central Artery.

Of course, any plan to increase tolls would need to consider the ripple effect on mass transit and on secondary roads. It's a complex ecosystem.

One troubling thing about this latest proposal: the aim is to increase revenue for the Turnpike Authority. At least some of the money should be earmarked for mass transit improvements. The aim of peak pricing is to move some drivers to alternative transportation. Those alternatives need to be better.

Integrated traffic strategy
No pike toll, increased gas tax


Monday, June 18, 2007

Traffic calming frisbee playing

Want to slow traffic? Throw a frisbee across the street. That's what six-year-old son of NS&S and I learned on Sunday.

Please note that we did not throw the frisbee in front of traffic. We stopped throwing as soon as any car approached. But, our presence on the sidewalk, frisbee in hand, seemed to create some anxiety, and traffic slowed. Reaaaaaally slowed. It was remarkable.

This is consistent with the theories promoted by offbeat Australian traffic innovator David Engwicht. Among other things, Engwicht invented (or at least popularized) the idea of the walking school bus. Relevant to our frisbee toss, Engwicht believes that traditional approaches to traffic calming aren't necessary (or enough). Rather than build speed bumps, install chicanes, or otherwise change the roadway (or in addition), Engwicht promotes what he calls second-generation traffic calming: intrigue and uncertainty.

That's what we created with our frisbee playing. Intrigue and uncertainty. Motorists didn't know what to expect. So they slowed. Every last one.

While our experience confirmed the efficacy of intrigue and uncertainty, it also confirmed my concern with the theory. It takes a lot of work. There are a lot of cars out there. To maintain intrigue and uncertainty would be a full time job.

I'd still like some speed bumps.

Relatedly, Boston City Councilor Robert Consalvo recently introduced a proposal to create a pace-car program. In a pace-car program, motorists pledge to abide speed limits and pay special attention to pedestrians. Pace-car pledges put a sticker on the car. Sort of a peer-pressure program.

Though the Globe article doesn't mention it, Engwicht invented (or popularized) the pace-car program, too. The Globe article does mention that other efforts to institute a pace-car program have faltered with very limited participation.

Maybe we could have a volunteer program to play frisbee a few hours a day.


The transit way of life

Here's a brief snippet of an e-mail from Alderman Vicki Danberg about kids and public transportation that I found refreshing and affecting:

I would like to add that I bought my house because I saw early on, when my kids were in cradles, that they could get almost anywhere by T and I would have to drive them almost nowhere. That was, in fact, the case. They even went to summer camp when they were 10 years old at Community Boating, at the Charles River stop, and returned home at the end of the day by T. They went to the movies and entertainment by T, went to work by T, and took their dates on the T. They were trained to be true subway rats (one lived in NYC for 6 years without a car and at age 27 lives in Southie without a car) and continue to have a great attitude toward public transportation as young adults.

We need to provide a way for people to be able to live happily and conveniently with less reliance on autos.
The quote came up in the context of a discussion about public transit in Newton Centre.

What a great attitude!


Separating trip generation and congestion effects

The latest Planning Department thinking on the zoning amendment to create a Planned Business District includes trip-generation maximums, which I discussed at great length below.

One thing I did not discuss below was the difference between exceeding trip-generation maximums and creating unforeseen congestion problems. It's an important distinction.

It would be possible for a development to exceed its trip-generation maximums and not cause any noticeable new pockets of congestion. Should the maximums be enforced in that case? Absolutely. We want to strictly manage volumes because traffic is pollution, even when it isn't causing acute crises, and because traffic volumes don't need to cause acute crises to be a problem. Traffic causes death by a hundred cuts. We need to reduce traffic volume (or at least manage it) for the sake of volume itself.

If a site exceeds its trip-generation maximums, a developer should not be able to get off the hook by acknowledging excess volumes but saying that, in effect, the volumes aren't creating any particular problems.

It would also be possible to create a new traffic problem without exceeding trip-generation maximums. A development like Chestnut Hill Square is going to generate significant new traffic, even in compliance with maximums. The best efforts of all the traffic professionals and community activists isn't going to anticipate and prevent or minimize all the secondary effects of the traffic.

Should the developer be responsible for remediating such problems after the fact? Not if they are under the trip-generation maximums. Maybe, you have the developer contribute to a fund for unanticipated problems, but there's no reasonable way to require the developer to fund remedies for all the unanticipated consequences of traffic.

Trip-generation maximums are fair and relatively easy to enforce. The City and the developer agree on numbers and a way to measure them. If the numbers are too high, the developer can take all steps necessary to reduce the numbers on-site.

Congestion consequences are not-so-fair and messy. You can never be sure that a congestion problem is attributable to a particular site or even mostly attributable. It isn't fair for a developer to be on the hook for an uncertain amount to fix a problem that wasn't anticipated. A solution to a particular traffic problem may be well outside the control of a developer. For instance, a solution -- like a new signal -- might require regulatory approval.

The version of trip-generation enforcement in the Planning Department's most recent memorandum reflects this confusion. It lists changes to nearby infrastructure as a measure that a developer might take to remediate excess volumes. While you might be able to change the infrastructure to reduce volumes, the recommendation suggests that the developer has to address effects of volume, not volume.

Better to hold the developer to the maximums, regardless of what effects traffic has, and limit the developer to on-site changes to get back under the maximums. That is not to say that the City should not require mitigation efforts in anticipation of traffic problems.

Traffic as pollution
Trip generation maximums


Friday, June 15, 2007

Two bills and a mashup

Friend of NS&S Bill sent a link to this Herald article about a proposed bike safety bill. I missed the public hearing, but will follow the progress of the bill.

The highlight of the article might be a mention of a new site I hadn't heard about: Check it out. The site is a Google Maps mashup that lets users identify dangerous places to ride in the Boston area.


Langley Road bump out

Within weeks of a neighborhood request for a redesign of the crosswalk on Langley Road at Langley Path, there will be a public hearing on June 27 at 7:45 PM before the Public Facilities Committee and Traffic Council on a proposed bump out. The picture above shows how the curb line will be changed to narrow the roadway gradually from the Terraces' driveway to Langley Path. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

I know that the Ward 6 Aldermen and Commissioner Rooney and the Department of Public Works get credit. I have reason to believe that Alderman Samuelson and the Traffic Council may have been involved, too.

Taking 6 feet out of a crosswalk that is a school crossing is a great step. This will also better connect people to the assets on both sides of Langley Road, particularly the school playground and fields to the west and the conservation lands to the east.

And, there should be some modest traffic calming effect by the narrowing of the roadway.

The year of traffic calming, indeed!

Previously: Curb Extensions


Newton North Parking

Andrew Greene has a useful summary of the parking discussion at the most recent Newton North Liaison Committee meeting. I'm with him that Traffic Council has done a good job making the best of a god-awful situation.

I do wish there were more call for a more radical approach. There has to be a way to reduce the number of car trips to our schools. This upcoming year-of-no-parking-at-North should have been a great opportunity to explore different modes rather than figure out how the neighborhood can accommodate single-occupant car travel.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Shopkeepers hate free parking

I've previously made the counter-intuitive point that business owners benefit from market-based parking fees (high enough to maintain 15% vacancy). Here's some support for the position from the opposite perspective -- too low meter rates hurt business.

Since New York City ripped out meters on a Brooklyn shopping strip (in preparation for a now-delayed improvement project), the people parking on the street have not been patronizing the businesses. Free or low meter rates lead to bad -- from a business perspective -- parking.

Parking is bad
Donald Shoup interview
Demand-priced parking


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Traffic as pollution

In the post below about maximum parking, with the words of New England Development's attorney ringing in my ears, I really struggled with how to convey that it should be acceptable to put a cap on business success to stem excess traffic. (Attorney John Twohig asked, in so many words, if a developer was supposed to limit the success of a tenant who succeeded beyond expectations.)

Then it hit me. We put caps on pollution, even though those caps may hurt business (though not, perhaps, in the long run). If success leads to too much pollution, you have to succeed less.

Traffic is pollution. It pollutes our air, our streets, our peace-of-mind. It's pollution that we all happily create. But, it's pollution nonetheless.

Capping a development's contribution to traffic pollution should not be a controversial notion.

Previously: Trip generation maximums


Trip generation maximums

Went to an aldermen committee meeting and a thoughtful discussion about mixed-use zoning broke out.

I kid.

But in all seriousness, last night's consideration of the proposed Planned Business District was particularly thoughtful, with a bunch of important points raised and considered. I'll post about some of them over the next few days (here and on the Garden City blog).

Let me start with maximums on trip generation, presented last night as post-construction traffic study.

Under a trip-generation maximum scheme, before construction the city and developer would agree on reasonable trip generation for the project, based on projections. Some time after construction and occupancy, the city and developer will measure actual trip generation. If the actuals are too much higher (say 10%) than the estimates, the developer will take measures to reduce trip generation.

As Phil Herr pointed out quite eloquently at the second public hearing on New England Development's PBD proposal, when a developer offers pre-construction trip projections, he implicitly acknowledges that the development can be profitable with those number of trips. Enforceable maximums take the implicit and turn it into a commitment. The city will permit a sufficient number of trips to allow the developer to succeed. The developer promises to limit development to those number of trips.

The key insight is that trip generation can be managed. There are all sorts of mechanisms, primarily on-site, that can discourage visitors: higher parking fees, reduced parking, programs to encourage alternative transportation, &c. And, there's always the nuclear bomb: forced vacancy.

A good point of reference is New England Development's attorney John Twohig question last night: If one of the tenants is particularly successful, am I supposed to tell him, sorry, you're too successful, gotta shut you down? (I'm paraphrasing.)

Attorney Twohig overloads the question with assumptions, so let's break it down.

If a tenant is so unexpectedly successful that trip generation goes over the developer's commitments, is the developer going to have to do something?

Yes. The trip-generation limit represents a bargain between the community and the developer. A developer can create enough traffic to make a project successful, but no more. If a developer -- and its tenants -- want to make more money, they have to figure out how to bring customers to the site by other means.

I think board President Lisle Baker was quite clear on this point. The developer is going to be forced to live up to his trip generation commitments. Among other things, excess trip generation is a sign of over capacity. Should the neighborhood and the city be denied the benefit of the bargain because the developer overbuilt?

If a tenant is unexpectedly successful, is the landlord going to have to shut him down?

No. Only if the developer has grossly miscalculated and has overbuilt will such an extreme measure be necessary. Attorney Twohig's question ignores all the less extreme steps the developer can take to reduce trips. For instance, raising parking fees.

We know that the cost of parking affects has an impact on driving decisions. If parking fees go up, fewer people will come. Raise them high enough and trip generation should fall below the commitment.

If a tenant is unexpectedly successful, is the landlord going to have to limit his success?

Maybe. If the development relies on vehicle traffic to bring customers, then yes, reducing trip generation is going to limit the opportunity for profit. At first blush, this sounds odd, perhaps even unfair. But, there is a growing awareness that neighborhoods and the city as a whole pay a price for unlimited traffic. That price amounts to a subsidy to the developer and the tenants. Traffic limits put an end to that subsidy. Developers and their tenants are going to have to make do with limits on what has been an unlimited resource.

Ultimately, the question as Attorney Twohig phrased it reveals a lack of imagination. It assumes the limitation of car-dependency.

A trip generation maximum is not a limit on the number of customers that can patronize the development. It is a limit on how they get there. If the development exceeds its trip generation commitment, the appropriate response is not to figure out how to prevent people from coming to the property. The right response is to figure out how to get more people there by bus, trolley, bike, and foot.

(On a topic I'll address in more detail later, another response is to figure out how to maximize visits by people who live within walking distance. Clue: day-to-day amenities.)

Ultimately, trip-generation limits align the developers' and the City's interest in alternative transportation. If there is a limit on the number of customers who can arrive at a development by car, the developer will become a strong advocate for other ways to get them into the stores and restaurants.

In later posts, I'll address related issues, like parking maximums and mitigating unexpected effects of post-construction traffic.


Friday, June 8, 2007

Watertown/Lowell/Craft intersection

Saw an article in the TAB online about problems at the can't-really-call-it-an-intersection of Watertown, Lowell, and Craft Streets in Newtonville.

A Google map of the intersection helps illustrate the problem.

I don't know the intersection well, but the suggestion of turning Lowell into a carriage road sounds promising.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Untangling the Safe Routes to School bill

After a little more research and e-mail exchange and phone call with Wendy Landman, the Executive Director of WalkBoston, here's what I understand about Rep. Kay Khan's Safe Routes to School (SRTS) bill (H. 3539):

  • The language calling for the formation of the already existing SRTS program is a legacy of the first version of the bill, which predated the creation of Massachusetts SRTS program. It won't have any effect.
  • The key provision of the bill is section (c), which instructs the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) to use federal highway money, beyond the $11,433,458 earmarked for Massachussets through SRTS through 2009 for infrastructure projects that meet the SRTS goals.
  • The bill instructs the DOT to allocate money from the federal Hazard Elimination Program (HEP). The HEP program has been replaced by the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). States can use HSIP funds for projects that improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, so the HSIP and SRTS project eligibility overlap.
  • The bill sets no specific requirements or targets for DOT to meet in its allocation of HSIP funds for SRTS or SRTS-like projects.
  • There will be important work to do to figure out the mechanism to coordinate SRTS projects for HSIP funding.
All-in-all, this is a substantial effort on the part of Rep. Khan and her co-sponsors to make more money available for pedestrian and bicycle safety, particularly around our schools.

Write your representative to support the bill. Write also to the members of the state Transportation Committee. And, write to the Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen.

Safe(r) Routes to School?


Monday, June 4, 2007

Daniel/Jackson Construction, Week 1

First, the (relatively) straight news. Bright and early Saturday morning, a DPW crew broke ground on the new Daniel/Jackson St. intersection.

The first task was to add a new street drain at the new curb line and connect it to the existing drain (which will now be off the street, but will remain for access).
The crew dug up the section of asphalt between the existing drain and the new drain location. The existing drain is under the piece of metal in the lower foreground of the picture at left. The trench goes to the new drain location, which is just behind the bucket.

After this picture, they found some other pipes connecting to the existing drain. When they went to dig further, they hit a gas pipe.

That brought out the police, two fire trucks, including the massive and impressive new Tower Ladder 2, and NStar. It also ended construction for the day. A fire-fighter, police officer, and a crew member take a look at the broken pipe (with a rag sticking out).

NStar was on-site until after dark repairing the line. It's not all bad news. The line they repaired was probably the source of leaks in the neighborhood that many of us have reported over the last few years. That problem looks solved.

DPW will be back next week in two weeks to pick up where they left off.

The picture above shows the current state of construction, with son of NS&S who refused to get out of the picture.

Follow the jump for further thoughts.

What we learned on Saturday:

  • The crew from DPW was terrific. Very friendly and eager to hear how much we proponents were looking forward to the new curb.

  • The crew was were very sympathetic to our concerns about traffic and had all sorts of horror stories to tell about cars and trucks barreling by various constructions sites across town. Traffic is not a neighborhood-here, neighborhood-there problem, but a problem that touches all of us.

  • The crew reported that plenty of people stopped to complain, but almost all were complaining about the inconvenience, which is the point.

  • Turns out that traffic-calming construction is the best traffic calming. Daniel St was closed all day (and will be Saturdays until construction is complete). It was like heaven.

  • Closing Daniel Street was not heavenly for everyone. Our neighbors spent a few hours in our moccasins. Traffic diverted from the closed Daniel St. took Walter St. to Jackson. A Walter St. resident told wife of NS&S that he had no idea how bad traffic was on our street, and he walks Daniel St. regularly.

  • Our neighbor's sympathy for our plight was not universally shared. (Or, maybe I misunderstood my neighbors comment as sympathy.) The volume of traffic shifted to Walter St. sparked a petition campaign by Walter St. residents to halt the project. More on that in a different post.

  • Our street looks very small when there's a
    82,000 pound tower ladder truck barreling down it.


Friday, June 1, 2007

It's on!

Confidential sources deep within the city organization have revealed to me that construction is about to start on the Daniel St./Jackson St. intersection redesign.

Like, tomorrow.

The only cloud in the sunny sky that is this news: a Saturday start means, I think, that it's going to be a time-and-a-half job. That means that our dollars won't stretch quite as far.

Pictures, I hope, tomorrow.

Update: Neighbor Adam points out the silver lining to the time-and-a-half cloud. The city could have used an outside contractor, which would have been much more. Time-and-a-half for labor is a relatively cheap perk to toss to the city workers.



Rep. Khan wins the prize for quickest response to an e-mail inquiry to a government official. Three hours and one minute. (And I'm not even a constituent!)

I asked Rep. Khan what the difference between her proposed Safe Routes to School program and the existing program. Her answer: her bill takes advantage of a different funding source that will allow more money for infrastructure improvements (sidewalks, crosswalks, signs, signals, &c.). Rep. Khan's response after the jump. (Click on the "Read More ..." link.)

Seems to me like there must be some highly technical distinction because the bill cites federal grants under the SAFETEA-LU Strategic Highway Safety Plan and the current program is funded by SAFETEA-LU, generally.

I guess it would be less confusing if the bill called for the expansion of the existing program to take advantage of different funds, but any money to make it easier for kids to walk and bike to school is money worth pursuing.

Rep. Khan's response :

Thank you for your email and your questions [...]. The Tab article was a bit confusing and I plan to send a letter to the editor and to David Koses in an effort to provide more clarification. The bill that I introduced would add funding to the state's Safe Routes to School program - drawing from a different federal funding source than the new program that began this year and currently funds the MassRides effort. The existing Fiscal Year 2007 allocation to cover both state employees and all program and infrastructure costs is approximately $2.3m for all of Massachusetts. This budget does not go very far to address the needs of Massachusetts' students for safety improvements such as sidewalks, crosswalks, signs and signals. The legislation that I proposed is modeled on the approach that California put in place in 1999, and that has allowed a number of communities to both encourage walking (and biking) and to build the infrastructure improvements which make walking safe. We would like to see the program funded at least at $5 million annually from the $14 million Highway Safety Improvement Dollars that Massachusetts receives annually.

Hope this helps - let me know if you need any more information. And, by the way MA has not yet started spending ANY infrastructure funds for SRTS.

Previously: Safe(r) Routes to School?