Streetsblog Editors Tackle Your Questions
Welcome to the first podcast in our Ask the Editor series, in which the editors at Streetsblog California attempt to tackle your questions about almost anything you want to know. Today we discuss three of the questions we've received from our readers. Next week we will talk about more of them.
You can still submit questions either by emailing them to email@example.com or tweeting them @streetsblogcal
By the way, this is also a fundraiser. Yes, in this podcast we attempt to show how lovable we are, and how deserving of your support, because it's not enough that Streetsblog California brings you news about sustainable transportation that few other outlets report on. We also want you to know that we're kinda fun. And, it seems, a little bit wonky, if this podcast is anything to judge by.
Please consider supporting to our work to bring you information about local and statewide policymaking, funding, and laws affecting your transportation options by clicking here and donating today. [LINK]
You will hear Kris Fortin, our reporter in Orange County; Melanie Curry, editor of Streetsblog California and fearless explainer of wonky topics; Damien Newton, founding editor of Streetsblog LA and director of the Southern California Streets Initiative, which oversees all the Streetsblogs in California; and Jason Islas, Editor of Santa Monica Next and associate director of SCSI.
In this inaugural podcast, we tackle three questions from readers and supporters. We were hoping for softballs, but you, dear readers, sent in some doozies. Or maybe we just like to talk too much.
The first question was from our friend Pedal Love, who asks: “I believe that car crashes are the number one cause of preventable death in youth under 21—am I correct?”
Yes, it turns out to be so—for youth ages 15 to 24, the most common cause of preventable death, according to the Center for Disease Controls, is car crashes. And they are the fifth most common cause of preventable death for people age 0 to 14.
The question is, why? Does it go up at age fifteen because that is when people start navigating traffic on their own? Maybe it has to do with the dearth of driver education in California, or the ease with which even inexperienced drivers obtain drivers' licenses. There's a lot to unpack here.
The second question came from Marvin Norman, a regular reader and a member of the Streetsblog California steering committee. “When,” asks Norman, “will the VW Electrify America money start to show up in projects on the ground?”
Damien tells us that the $2 billion settlement agreement between VW, the federal government and several states—with California, whose regulators caught VW cheating diesel emissions tests, at the forefront—is already on the ground in other states, and “coming soon” to California. A timeline, here [PDF], shows electric charging stations being planned and built by the end of 2018, and an electric car-share program being developed for a 2019 launch.
On the ground:
The third question was from Jeffrey Tumlin, planner at Nelson\Nygaard, first leader and formulator of the Oakland Department of Transportation, and also a Streetsblog California steering committee member. His question was about congestion, and why we can't seem to solve it although we throw so much money at it.
Transportation investments have a powerful effect on public health, land value, social equity, economic opportunity, CO2 emissions, air quality, and other values. But no transportation capital project has ever succeeded in reducing congestion – at best, all infrastructure does is congestion chokepoints around. Why in California do congestion metrics remain central to most transportation funding formulas and performance analyses? If California thinks of itself as a global leader, why don’t we learn from other countries in doing more sophisticated business case analyses to ensure good outcomes from our transportation tax dollars?
A quick summary of the ensuing discussion, which does it no justice: because habit, inertia, lack of understanding of or belief in the concept of “induced demand,” political expediency, and funding.
But there is some hope. California is finally in the process of changing rules to require new developments to measure and report on how much vehicle traffic they produce instead of just how much congestion they produce. [LINK]
And the new gas tax will fund several programs that could help shift the focus away from just congestion. The Congested Corridors program, for example, will—if it's done right—invest in figuring out how to move people through congested corridors, not just cars. That program is set for adoption at the next California Transportation Commission meeting on December 6, so cross your fingers (or contact a commissioner).
Listen to the podcast, and please consider donating to Streetsblog California.