MARTA bus in Atlanta

National Links: A New Way to Budget for the People

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to our email list. At the end of the week they take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.

Fixing the woes of transit requires focus: The pandemic has reduced ridership and crippled the funding mechanisms for transit agencies, creating a coming fiscal cliff. To save them, David Zipper argues that the agencies need to have a singular focus on transit service that gets people riding again, ignoring other issues such as bus electrification, crime, and free fares that he says distract from the main mission. (David Zipper | Vox)

How buses alleviate unemployment and poverty: Bus service was terminated between 2010 and 2015 in Clayton County, Georgia. Because of this gap in service, researchers were able to connect increases in poverty and unemployment to the loss of public transit. They suspect that these findings could have been predicted understanding two economic theories that connect transit access to economic outcomes and residential location choices to transit access. (Fei Li and Christopher Kajetan Wyczalkowski | Urban Studies [Abstract] [Full Paper])

Parking lots eat cities: On average, about one fifth of all land in central cities is used for parking, taking up valuable space that could be used for productive buildings and creating hazards for pedestrians and cyclists. To illustrate how much space is taken up by parking spaces, the Parking Reform Network has mapped parking lots on aerial photos in 50 cities around the country to show just how much space is dedicated to automobile storage. (Frank Jacobs | Big Think)

Buildings look boring because of stairs: A lot of architecture critics and general observers think that American multifamily buildings have boring designs. Michael Eliason believes it’s because of stair and corridor requirements for buildings above three stories that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. One solution is to allow what Eliason calls Point Access Blocks — buildings with a single stair that have a greater ability to use space better. (Michael Eliason | The Architect’s Newspaper)

How citizens can control the budget: Cities around the world are trying a system of participatory budgeting that allow citizens to choose how their tax dollars should be spent. There’s hope that with this process, cities can improve public services and create more trust in government. The city of Cascais, Portugal shows how the idea works on a larger scale, with 15% of spending budgeted by a participatory process since 2011. (Nick Romeo | The New Yorker)

This week on the podcast, we chat with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins about the South Dade Busway, the importance of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) ratings in getting projects built and why she thinks it’s important as an elected official to ride transit.

Quote of the Week

“I’m sorry to break it to anyone who has trouble keeping their car out of a bike lane (or off a concrete barrier), but it’s not the bike lane’s fault you’re a sh**** driver. If you hit something stationary, that’s your fault. Pay attention to the f******* road while you’re driving. It’s not too much to ask when other people’s lives are literally at stake.”

— Collin Woodard in Jalopnik discussing the weird need by some to blame bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure for their bad driving.

Editor’s note: The vulgarities in “Quote of the Week” were bleeped out when received this edition of National Links. The editorial committee decided to leave them as such — and leave the rest to our readers’ imagination.

Image at top: A MARTA bus in Atlanta. Credit: R32s on the E Train, CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer