Thursday, August 20, 2015

Streetsblog's fistful of straws

"Historic downturn"?

The hed on Monday's story in Streetsblog: Cities Lead the Way as U.S. Car Commuting Takes Historic Downturn. The writer desperately searched 2013 census data for evidence that Americans are turning away from those wicked motor vehicles:

The decline is small in number, but in the scheme of things, it’s huge: New census data out last week show car commuting among Americans is finally, after decades of growth, starting to reverse itself.

Driving to work is still the predominant mode to a depressing extent. Almost nine in 10 Americans get to work by car and about three in four drive alone. But those numbers are beginning to fall.

Since 1960, the percent of Americans driving to work rose from 64 percent to a high of 87.9 percent in 2000. Since then, it has declined slightly but meaningfully to 85.8 percent. The percent of the population commuting by car ticked down again in 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available.

Even solo car commuting is down from its high in 2010 of 76.6 percent. Despite a precipitous decline in carpooling, solo car commuting was down to 76.4 percent in 2013, after two decades of rapid growth.

This biased reporting was too much even for Streetsblog's readers. A comment to the story:

Title says this: Cities Lead the Way as U.S. Car Commuting Takes Historic Downturn. Data says the following:

2010 Solo Car Commuting: 76.6 percent.
2013 Solo Car Commuting: 76.4

Where is the historic downturn? 0.02% is a "Historic Downturn"?

The link the story provides to the ACS report has more "depressing" news for Streetsblog: only 0.6% in the US commute on bikes!

From the report:

In recent years, the percentage of workers who commute by private vehicle remained relatively stable after decades of consistent increase. For several individual years since the mid-2000s, the average number of vehicle miles traveled in the United States has either increased at a slower pace than in previous decades or declined.

What happened in "the mid-2000s"? The Great Recession, during which of course people drove less.

Calculated Risk provides more recent data from the Department of Transportation on driving in the US. Not surprisngly, people are driving more as the economy recovers:

Also see Randal O'Toole's Peak Automobile?

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Smart[sic] Growth comes to Berkeley 2

Berkeley deserves better than 2211 Harold Way

From Attack of the Stepford Planners in The Berkeley Daily Planet:

by Elisa Cooper

Berkeley is an iconic city because of its bohemian ambiance: people dwell in Berkeley instead of elsewhere because they want to identify as intellectuals, artists, spiritual seekers, social activists, quirky, creative, and diverse. Just as we sought Berkeley to embrace those identities, we are collectively responsible for protecting the city as the place that makes those identities possible. 

For months I have been bewildered as I've watched the City Council and a multitude of commissions ignore, shrug off, and often mock the surge of citizens that have been pleading for them to put an end to the hijacking of the City by the interests of market rate developers and to attend to the need for affordable housing. This experience has become something like those cheesy old 70s horror films like Attack of The Pod People, They Live, and, The Stepford Wives. Has our City government been taken over by pod people? The way they consistently and rather robotically disregard their constituents that literally beg them to make the Market Rate Reign of Terror stop seems like it...

The invasion of the Pod People started in the City planning department. A planner named Mark Rhoades decided "planners set the pace" for the city of Berkeley. The latest "smart growth" philosophies being pushed from the State level as well as academic departments, including UC Berkeley—which has an interest in shifting the student housing burden onto the City—was to build for "density" around transit and eventually supply would meet demand for housing. 

Clever planners could insert themselves into this process and make their own fortunes on the side. The City Planning Department gets paid out of developer fees, so their mission became to plan for as much dense smart growth as possible. Mark Rhoades and fellow city planner Matt Taecker upzoned themselves to start their own development consulting firms. 

Once the Planning Department opened the door to the idea that Berkeley was ready to be "redeveloped," Berkeley's political process became inundated with money from real estate industry lobbyists from all over the country. The local property owners’ association formed a half million dollar PAC. Developers fund the most read local news venue, Berkeleyside, and astroturf the comments section. A couple of paid "youth" get paid to testify to City Council and the Commissions about how we need to destroy Berkeley because somehow that will ultimately result in the youth getting housing...

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