Urban Mobility Measures for New Mayors
Monday, January 6, 2014 at 8:00AM
Joe Nickol in Pittsburgh, Policy, Policy & Spending, Taxes, Transportation, transit, transportation

7th Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 2014 Transportation Agenda

As 2014 gets under way, many of the country's largest cities are transitioning into new leadership. New mayors such as those of New York, Boston, Detroit, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh are coming in amidst renewed understanding of the role, power, and influence of metropolitan regions. In their own way, each new mayor seeks to position his or her city as a hotbed of innovation in economic development, customer service, administration, finance, operations, housing, education, neighborhood regeneration, infrastructure, and public safety. And while expectations for these cities have never been so high, the fiscal fragility of cities has never been so real. Portfolios of expenditures, liabilities, and subsidies have been exposed by insufficient revenues and poor performing investments on Wall Street and main street. As a result, these new mayors must be creative and practical in guiding their cities through their first terms. 

One of the areas that these new mayors share a focus is transportation and regional connectivity. Where past administrations may have focused on highway spending, new interchanges, road widening, and bold rail projects, new leaders are going to be operating under a new reality that will have to do more with less. Efforts are going to be both tactical and visionary. When sewn together, they will lead to big structural changes. Pittsburgh is an excellent case-in-point. With a bond rating that is just coming out of junk status, the city has been building a brand of smarter spending within a number of constraints. It’s surely made its own mistakes but Pittsburgh’s transportation and regional connectivity agenda moving forward is clear, much of which could be applicable in other cities:

1. Services

 A 21st-Century city is a service-rich one that gives choice and redundancy to transportation options to offer a robust, interconnected system of mobility. The region boasts a number of existing services that interconnect people and goods but there is a host of other service providers and technologies that we can foster here.

2. Infrastructure

Pittsburgh and the region have an enormous legacy of infrastructure development that supports regional mobility. But we are also starting to realize the life-cycle costs of this system coupled with the unintended consequences of building car-scaled infrastructure and development rather than robust, livable places. 

A fix-it-first program returns to streets to allowing walkability. Installing crosswalks, like this one in Lawrenceville, helped improve retail visibility, safety, and performance.

3. Transit

Pittsburgh boasts one of the highest percentages of employees who get to work via transit and is rapidly becoming a city where living without a car is possible. But there remain challenges and opportunities for expanding and improving transit service in the region that maximize existing resources and position transit as a viable option for getting around the region. 

4. Development and Land Use

Development shapes transportation needs and transportation design influences development. The two must work hand-in-hand. 

5. Energy, Health and the Environment

The Pittsburgh region has the twin legacy of outsized air pollution loads and being a leader in health care. What is more, Pittsburgh is widely considered one of the most walkable cities in North America. As such, we have the opportunity to be a leader in leveraging all three to address multiple goals.

6. Design, Management, Programming and Administration

How our transportation system is developed and managed is central to its efficiency, sustainability, and ultimate success. 

Open Bridges program as part of Pittsburgh Pirates home games.

Many of these initiatives can be pursued and implemented in the first hundred days of office. They are sensible options that can yield enormous benefits. Other actions will take longer and involve the building of partnerships. Very few, aside from maintenance, are capital-intensive and rely on squeezing more out of what we have already built. The cities that can most effectively do so will be in a great position to ring in the new year, and their respective mayor's new administrations, with much success.

We look forward to another year helping the places we love adapt, grow and prosper. Happy New Years!                                





Article originally appeared on Street Sense (http://www.street-sense.org/).
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