Tell us your thoughts on funding the next Transportation Bill
I don't have an easy answer for that, but I always want to point out to governments that when they seek to meet the transportation needs, they are usually addressing the wrong issues-- like how to get a higher-capacity bailing pump in a boat instead of just fixing the hole.
It's insane that we have neighbors who drive 40 to 100 miles round trip for work every day. There need to be incentives for companies to set up shop where potential employees live. As it is now, at least in Los Angeles and Orange counties, various industries are concentrated in pockets. The pockets of electronics industry for example are all far from our city (and the neighbor who drives 100 miles per day works in one of them); but in the city that borders a mile or two from our house, there are a couple hundred machine shops. If a family moves closer to where the jobs are for one spouce, they may be moving farther from the jobs of the other, so they can't win unless one or the other changes carreers. Even mail carriers are sent to where the next job opening is, instead of recognizing that every community needs mail carriers, and slightly re-shuffling carriers so everyone is working closer to home. A friend was put on a route 40 miles away, when his own neighborhood can't go without a mail carrier, and he knew ones who lived where he was delivering, and they were delivering where he lived. Idiotic.
Zoning laws are also to blame, and my sisters live in a "bedroom community" with thousands of people living nearby, and yet until recently the nearest business of any kind, even a convenience store, was several miles away. Same for the elementary schools, and kids never walked or rode bike to school. Our own city has a lot of retail, but no industry. A neighboring city has a lot of small privately-owned industry, but almost no residences. I expect it's probably partly propelled by arrogance on the part of the cities and greed on the part of developers.
If this situation were slowly corrected, people could work their same jobs but closer to home, and the roads would have a lot less traffic on them. They would need less maintenance, and freeways would not need to be widened. Then, possibly while even reducing
the street and highways budgets, there would be money for additional bike trails. More people, having to travel fewer miles to work, would be willing to leave the car at home and ride bike.
But here we might have another chicken-and-egg situation. The DOT won't want to install more class-1 paved trails until more people are riding bike, and people won't ride bike much until the trails go where they need to. I would like to see class-1 paved bike trails (basically bicycle freeways) installed on the windward side of every automobile freeway, so we could really get around better on a bike. (I say "on the windward side" because we don't want the normal wind direction to carry the freeways' exhaust toward the bike trail.) When you can get around better on a bike, more traffic is removed from the freeway, again reducing its maintenance and other costs, and reducing polution and our dependence on foreign oil. As it is now, So. Cal. has maybe a half dozen long, very nice bike trails; but they all follow rivers, and if you're not going that direction, they don't help. It's great to put them along rivers because the levy is there anyway and there's just one street that goes over per mile; but why not freeways too. The right-of-way land and the bridges are already there. The only major expense left is the bike bridges or underpasses to cross the on- and off-ramps without slowing down.
I live near the 605 freeway in Los Angeles County. This freeway was always free-flowing, until the new 105 freeway was opened, going from the 605 to LAX. The 105 was supposed to meet a need for better transportation to downtown L.A. and the airport, relieving congestion on the 5 and the 91; yet after the billions of dollars were spent, what happened? People thought, "Oh, now with the 105 open, I can take that job downtown and hop on the 105 and be down there in 15 minutes!" Instead of having more roads to handle the same amount of traffic, more traffic was added, and suddenly the 605, which was never clogged before, now moves at a snail's pace, and just as many millions of hours per year are wasted in traffic that doesn't move. In the overall picture, traffic was not improved. The clogging just moved to the 605. A short portion of our local bike trail does run very close to the freeway, in full view. We regularly go faster than the vehicles. I keep hoping that more drivers will see us and decide to leave the car at home and get on a bike.
A nearby city just finished a rail-trail maybe 6 miles long. It's a nice place for joggers and skaters and people walking their dogs, but it's nearly useless for real bicycle transportation, requiring stopping at every major street it crosses. It's faster for us to commute on the boulevards than on the rail-trail.
The trail we live near is nice to have, as we can ride less than 20 miles with no traffic lights to get into the mountains, as well as in the other direction to get to the ocean and Pacific Coast Hwy. We are very glad to have it. Unfortunately, there are many places along it that are either dangerous or impractical for cyclists. These are things that would not have cost any more money to do right, but the trails are designed by people who aren't cyclists and don't understand cycling, and they don't seek cyclists' input.
It's good that the commuter trains allow you to take your bike on. Buses have bike racks, but they're usually slower than just riding, because they stop so much.http://www.labreform.org/blunders/b5.html
shows a lot of blunders in planning and engineering of bike lanes and accommodations on the streets. These are mostly things that again would not have cost any additional money to do right, but the planners didn't ask any real cyclists. (Click "Previous" and "Next" to see all the pages.)
With more long-term sight as to what's happening and why, instead of just scrambling to grab money to scratch itches, I think we'll slowly develop a more functional transportation system.