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✊🏙 Making US transit better; Portland loves scooters; TRB highlights; WeWork; e-bikes; & more!

January 20 · Issue #69 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but it’s certainly getting cold in Montreal — it was -22ºC (-7.6ºF) yesterday! I’d say I’m jealous of anyone in Australia right now, but with the heat waves in some parts of the country, I’m not so sure. Whenever it’s cold I’m always tempted to find some way to move back to Melbourne!
In the meantime, I think you’re going to like this issue. I took a closer look at some research on how to make US transit systems more effective, and positive experiences in Portland and elsewhere with scooters. I also linked to some of the highlights from the Transportation Research Board meeting I attended this past week. And, of course, there are a bunch of other intriguing articles near the end.
Have a great Sunday!

Making transit better, safer, and more utilized
Cities across the United States are investing in transit projects, but too often they struggle to gain ridership or ridership continues to decline. That’s not good news for transit, but neither is it good news for our climate goals when those people are driving instead. What’s to be done?
A new report from ITDP looks at how US transit systems can be more useful to residents and encourage more people to use them. This is largely achieved by balancing the number of jobs, low-income households, and people more generally in proximity of frequent transit. The report also compares US cities to some in Canada, where the percentage of people using transit, walking, and cycling is generally higher.
Sustainable transport = transit, cycling, and walking
Sustainable transport = transit, cycling, and walking
Additional research from UCLA looks specifically at Los Angeles and the residents which supported Measure M: the sales tax increase that provided billions in dedicated transportation funding. Transit mode share in LA has continued to fall, and the report shows that those who supported it often didn’t plan to use transit themselves, but hoped it would reduce congestion. Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog also argues that if LA wants to improve transit ridership, it needs to pay more attention to women’s safety.
Environmental effects and changing preferences are also important to consider. Alon Levy argues that transit is even greener than usually assumed because it tends to displace the longest car trips, but electric buses may not be ready for a mass rollout. Meanwhile, Alison Griswold writes that support for congestion pricing in New York shows changing attitudes toward cars, while Matt Lowrie breaks down the case for free transit fares in Auckland, New Zealand.
Cities reporting positive scooter experiences
Earlier this week, Portland released a report on its 2018 scooter pilot program, and it was very positive. During the four-month pilot, about 30% of Portlanders tried scooters, taking over 700,000 trips, with an estimated third having displaced car trips. There were injuries, but the report suggests the concern about them is overblown. Scooters are supported by 62% of residents, but even moreso by young, low-income, and minority groups. Another pilot is planned for 2019.
In response, Joe Cortwright asked why there’s such a double standard between scooters and cars. Cars are given a pass on so much, whereas the mere idea that people should be allowed to ride scooters on public roads is questioned — yet scooter users pay 10x the per-mile fees of drivers, when the cost of infrastructure and enforcement is far less.
Taxes and fees paid by scooters and cars in Portland.
Taxes and fees paid by scooters and cars in Portland.
Baltimore, Kansas City, and Nashville have also reported positive experiences with scooters in their cities, and how they’ve provided much-needed transportation alternatives for residents. The shift to more scooters and bikes can also make urban mobility much more efficient — regardless of what Whoopi Goldberg thinks — as proven by Toronto’s bike lanes, where the number of cyclists on two streets jumped from 730 each day to 7,509 with an investment of less than $1.5 million.
The move by tech companies to embrace dockless bikes and scooters has even resulted in an unexpected development: bike activists, many of whom would likely oppose the tech companies otherwise, are taking jobs at Uber, Lyft, Bird, and others to get more resources to advocate for greater bike use and infrastructure. Though not all of them agree it’s a good idea.
Of course, scooters aren’t just being embraced in areas where they’re seen as a welcome alternative to cars (especially where transit is lacking). In Mexico, fuel shortages caused by the president’s crackdown on fuel theft is leading to higher use of dockless bikes and scooters; whereas Matteo Di Maio writes they’re being embraced in New Zealand as part of a growing climate change movement that could rival its anti-nuclear movement.
Taras Grescoe
"Climate has little to do with how much people walk. #Toronto residents, New Orleanians and Manhattanites, with extremes of weather, walk more than Atlantans. The variable is the quality of the urbanism. Not the weather."
— @andres_duany
[Photo: #Copenhagen]
TRB recap
I was at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting this past week, and saw some interesting panels and research presentations. Here are a few of the things that stood out:
Paul Supawanich 🚎

🏙 23% increase in population
🚑 21% DECREASE in collisions


🚌 46% increase in transit
Other great reads
👍 California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, seems serious about climate targets; will withhold gas tax funds if cities hold up housing near transit
💔 The longest government shutdown in US history is placing growing pressures on cities. (I want to note that nowhere else in the world can politicians hold the government hostage for partisan reasons.)
📰 New research shows how the media absolves drivers of blame when they kill pedestrians and bicyclists
🏠 Tenant activists in New York are gearing up to fight for better rent regulations in 2019
🚄 Washington state introduced legislation for an interstate high-speed rail authority, moving plans for a Vancouver to Portland line forward
💰 WeWork’s CEO is making millions from buying properties, then renting them back to WeWork. I’d bet he’s inflating the rents along the way.
Jarrett Walker proposes we “use words that mean, not words that sell” when talking about tech’s transportation ideas
🇩🇰 Copenhagen plans man-made islands for new development, but is it really a good (and green) plan?
🇿🇦 Cape Town might not have run out of water, but that doesn’t mean South Africa’s water challenges are over
🏢 European “co-living” developer is expanding into the United States; wants to become the WeWork of co-living
🇫🇷 Making transit more affordable: Paris makes fares free for children under 11 and people with disabilities under 20. It will also cut fares for high-school students by 50% and give them free bike share if they buy a transit pass.
🌳 Trees play an important role in cooling cities, especially in Australia which had all 15 hottest places in the world on 16 January 2019
🇨🇦 Interesting assessment of how Ford Nation grew in Toronto and Ontario, and how it differs from right-wing populism in the US and Europe
By Paris: “Self-Driving Cars Are Out. Micromobility Is In.” (Medium Featured)
How to Build a Subway in One of the World's Most Crowded Cities
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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