Pahhhking: The Two New Yawkers Couldn't Be More Different.

We reported on Bernie Sanders' parking spot. Now let's learn about Donald Trump's.


If you didn't catch the brick-throwing smackdown that was the most recent Republican debate, then you might not know about this gem (above). Jeb Bush attacks Trump for using eminant domain against an old lady, while Trump retorts that without eminant domain, the Keystone XL Pipeline would never be possible.

As part of Trump's Atlantic City casino business, he attempted to use eminant domain to take the house of an elderly woman for a parking lot. FactCheck.org finds that in the end the house was not taken, but that the Trump casino consortium made every effort to use eminant domain for parking. 

Again, for review, Sanders:


Couldn't be a bigger contrast.

No information has come forward about any of the other candidates' personal experience with that most-favorite-of-issues, pahhhking, but if Transport Providence comes across any news, we'll share it right here.

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Parsing Sanders' Transportation Record in Greater Detail

Last week, Streetsblog editor Angie Schmitt asked where Bernie Sanders stands on transportation. Schmitt started a vital national conversation about Sanders’ proposed trillion dollar infrastructure spending, and asked whether Sanders—a climate change champion—might worsen transportation priorities by focusing too much on rural priorities like roads. A careful review of Bernie Sanders’ track record shows Schmitt to be wrong about Sanders’ priorities—he isn’t road trigger-happy—but validates her spending concerns. Senator Sanders is already a strong choices for urban voters, but his campaign still needs to improve his transportation planks to account for problems in the way the United States spends federal transportation money. The call from activists is clear: Sanders must declare his administration’s intentions to employ a “fix it first” policy, and outline how he will use federal power to hold state departments of transportation accountable for their incessant road expansion projects. This policy will energize the progressive voters Sanders already does well with while also attracting moderate voters who are concerned about costs and climate change.

Where Schmitt is Wrong: Sanders’ is Not Road-Hungry
Schmitt’s questions about Sanders are appropriate and come at an important crossroads in his campaign. Sanders has captured the imagination of much of the country—especially young voters, who have favored Sanders overwhelmingly, and who have shown a strong preference for urbanist approaches to transportation. Schmitt’s analysis of Sanders’ position comes from a look at his planks leading into the Iowa Caucuses, where Sanders tied with Hillary Clinton. Sanders mentions “rural economies” or “rural development” several times, while never using the word “city”. Schmitt wonders in the article whether, at worst, the Sanders campaign is willing to sacrifice its environmental bona-fides in order to satisfy road-building unions, which would benefit from increased highway building. At best, she wonders if Sanders is unaware of the financing schemes that would produce the best transportation results.

Senator Sanders has a clear record of supporting walking, biking, and transit, and of being suspicious of auto-oriented development, so while Schmitt’s query is fair, a closer look reveals her conclusion to be wrong. Senator Sanders announced his run for president with Burlington, Vermont’s waterfront bike path behind him, a symbolic choice that could not have been accidental. Leading up to the announcement, The Burlington Free Press highlighted Sanders’ choice of venue (video), remembering that it was a four-term Mayor Sanders who had fought to maintain the public land used to build the bike path. In the article, the Free Press encouraged attendees that “Parking could become a challenge: The city encourages people to use the Burlington Bike Path, take the free College Street shuttle bus or walk from downtown parking garages. No parking is available on-site.” No doubt, the culture that shuns cars for large events had a great deal of nurturing from Sanders. In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Sanders highlights (page 73) bike infrastructure as one victory from his administration: impressive, considering that very few places outside the Netherlands were thinking about bikes, much less acting to promote biking, in the 1980s. Says Sanders:

After an enormous amount of public discussion and fierce debate, we ended up with a very successful and people-oriented waterfront of public parks, and nine mile bike path, and a public boat house. Today, cyclists can travel from one end of Burlington to the other. Swimming is free of charge at any one of our four public parks. We’ve got some very nice athletic facilities as well. We’ve also developed some very innovative concepts in affordable housing.

Congressman Sanders showed his understanding of transportation priorities in a surprisingly cogent and off-the-cuff response to a 1991 Congressional roast. Comedian Dave Barry, ridiculing Sanders’ socialist proclivities, asked Sanders whether he would demonstrate his working class spirit by sharing his reserved Capitol parking space. Sanders took the opportunity to go beyond the question and to highlight the poor choices the U.S. had made in transportation:

The question was asked of me about sharing--sharing a parking space--and that's much too conservative a statement. I'm going to be bolder than that statement. And I'm going to announce tonight, before this illustrious and important audience, that I will do more than share my space. What I intend to do, at the right moment, and the appropriate moment, is to give up my space totally. . .

When the United States Congress begins the process of breaking our dependency on the automobile, when we put billions of dollars into public transportation rather than to highways and to roads. . . when that happens, I am prepared, unequivocally, to say before you, that I will give up my space.

Notably, Bernie Sanders is a pedestrian commuter to his work at the Senate, meaning, in fact, that Sanders did give up his parking space at least some of the time. As many transportation advocates know, parking policy can separate the wheat from the chaff, and Sen. Sanders followed through on this most vexing of land-use and transportation questions.

Schmitt’s conclusions about the words “rural development” don’t check out. On rural development, preserving “small family farms” (video, see especially at 13 minutes) has figured heavily in Sen. Sanders’ past priorities. Sanders’ webpage highlights efforts to reform the Farm Bill, advocacy on behalf of undocumented immigrants, and interest in food diversity and sustainable farm techniques as among is most important rural priorities. Schmitt’s highway-based development just isn’t there.

Where Angie Schmitt is Right: A Call for #NoNewRoads
That doesn’t mean Sen. Sanders is off the hook. Schmitt’s overarching point that Sanders proposes far too much transportation spending is something the campaign must address, because she’s right. Sanders’ campaign can put urbanist voters—whether they live in small rural towns, small cities like Burlington, or larger ones like Sanders’ native Brooklyn, New York—at ease by declaring a preference for “fix it first” road policies. Currently, the U.S. spends more money expanding roads than maintaining them, so while the infrastructure crisis Sanders talks about is real, much of the money needed to fix the problem should come from ending these road expansions. The best model for “fix it first” has been the Strong Towns’ #NoNewRoads campaign, but other organizations, like Smart Growth America, also have models for such a policy.

The Hill interviewed Sanders’ following his recent sponsorship of a $1 trillion transportation funding bill. The results were encouraging, but left room for improvement. Sanders mentioned transit funding and road “maintenance”, but did not highlight expansion of roads, congestion, or other dog whistles that typically stand-in for highway widening. However, Sanders also said nothing concrete to rule out use of funds for road widening, however. Sanders should support such a policy, because it has become commonplace. Some state DOTs, like New Jersey and California, have moved to a “fix it first” maintenance schedule, eschewing road widening in favor of efforts to preserve the roads the states has under its belt.

Whatever his intentions, Sanders’ new spending proposal could put that pattern in jeopardy. Strong Towns blog interviewed Urban Cincy blogger Randy Simes. Simes said ODOT, long enamored by roadway expansions, might follow New Jersey and California in choosing a fix it first stance. Simes said that ODOT was unlikely to keep that stance if it found itself awash in new money.

I wouldn’t say that Ohio is a leader on this. You know, from my understanding, Michigan was the first state to go [fix it first], and then California is the largest one, and they joined the group of states who have taken this approach last year. They announced a similar type of policy. So I think you’ll see more and more of this. The other thing that I would say about this announcement from ODOT is that it’s, it’s a bit tepid. You know? I don’t think they’re in this for the pure reasons of, you know, ‘we want to build a more sustainable system going forward’. I think it’s finances. So with that said I think that if they can expand and add capacity and pay for it using user fees, they’ll do it.  (my emphasis)

Simes said he felt that more roads in return for a higher gas tax or tolls might be acceptable as a compromise. Notably, Sanders’ approach to funding closes tax loopholes on corporations in order to pay for roads and transit, rather than using tolls, gas taxes, or other user-fees. Unfortunately, this would subsidize driving, something that is already a problem, according to U.S. PIRG. Should state DOTs find less progressive priorities than Sanders intends, the new funding stream could be the ultimate fuel-on-the-fire for climate change.

Putting more funding to transportation worries me too. As a Rhode Island transportation advocate, I have worked hard on the Moving Together Providence campaign, which is getting bipartisan attention for its call to remove the decrepit “6/10 Connector” urban highway in Providence, and replace it with a more affordable and green urban boulevard. The City of Providence is in strong support, and RIDOT has given encouraging words. In the back of my mind, I still worry that once Governor Raimondo’s truck toll plan RhodeWorks passes, RIDOT will back off of the cheaper and greener ideas of Moving Together and just build another highway. A Sanders campaign can be used to amplify the concerns of people like me, working to rebuild cities after decades of bad planning choices, or it can remain vague on the details, and leave us all worrying.

It isn’t that Sanders is wrong to want to close these corporate tax loopholes. In the most recent New Hampshire debate opposite Hillary Clinton, Sanders took the laudible position of demanding that General Electric—a company that currently pays nothing in federal taxes—pay its full share by ending exemptions for its nominally off-shored accounts. The question is whether transportation infrastructure is really the best use of those funds, once procured. Would a Sanders administration be able to expand tax credits for low-income families with that tax money instead? Would a Sanders administration be able to bolster its proposal for free state colleges and universities by taxing G.E.? Would a single-payer healthcare system—already expected to save money over private insurers—be even more affordable if Sanders forewent new transportation funds? And how might moderate voters—voters who want to steer away from Donald Trump or Ted Cruz anyway—respond to the idea of finding ways to fix bridges with the current financing the country has? Since America spends more money on expanding roads than fixing them, choosing not to put more money into transportation could be a win-win for everyone—a path chosen not to benefit multinational corporations, but ordinary citizens. It would reinvigorate an under-reported Sanders tradition: bipartisanship. Sanders worked closely with Republican council members as mayor, and garners about a quarter of the Republican vote in his own state each Senate election. Past Republican allies have said that he “out-Republicaned” them with rational policies like competitive bidding for city contracts. The New York Tines praised Sanders for his pragmatism, not a word often associated with the wild-haired socialist, but one that has been true to many voters over a many-decades-long career. A “No New Roads” approach would add to this pattern of fiscal conservatism mixed with social democratic ambition, and add depth to Sanders’ policy portfolio on infrastructure.

Let me lay my cards on the table clearly: I am a Sanders voter. I like most of the proposals Sanders has brought forth, I find the uplifting and clean-handed character of his campaigning style appealing, and ultimately I think he is more electable than Hillary Clinton. If it comes to it, I can certainly find other reasons to vote my conscience for Bernie. But far more exciting yet would be seeing Sanders respond to this call that way his campaign has responded to other activist critiques: by adapting. I believe that Sanders will do this.

At publication time, I have contacted Press Relations at Bernie Sanders’ campaign twice by email, but have not heard back.

Bernie, adopt “No New Roads” as an official plank. It’s the right thing to do, and it would be yuge.

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Don't Mess With Rhode Island Either


As mentioned in this video, the center of Austin Texas is bigger than the entire city of Providence (40 square miles vs. 25 square miles--and that includes water, because we only have 18 square miles of land). But as they say, everything's bigger in Texas.


You think we could get as many people to bike as this? Nah, probably more. But we've got to have infrastructure.

When are those protected bike lanes coming? Not too clear. I was at a ResilientPVD meeting last night where the city presented some vague and poorly-thought-out* bike "path" ideas, but bike paths take a lot longer and require a lot more money per-mile to develop than protected bike lanes. There's an reticence to use the existing wide streets we have, and even a denial that those streets are wide in the first place. Where can we fit the infrastructure? Here's where the Netherlands did it.

But Central Falls is about to become the first city in the state to get a protected bike lane. I guess some places in Rhode Island are leading.

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*They were placed across hills, in places where there were no existing highway crossings, and without any thought put to creating a comprehensive network. The city really needs to get its act together. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!



Bernie Sanders Offers Up His Parking Spot

Hashtag: #Swoon

At a 1991 Congressional roast, the moderator makes fun of Sanders, ending his remarks with a question: If Sanders cares so much about the ill-gotten gains of the wealthy, will he share his reserved Congressional parking space?


Sanders doesn't miss a beat. After some brief self-deprecating comments on Congressional pay rates, Sanders declares sharing a parking space as the "conservative" option:
All of us who are politicians hold the sacred right of totally ignoring the question and answering it in any way that we want to [laughter]. . .
 . . . The question was asked of me about sharing--sharing a parking space--and that's much too conservative a statement. I'm going to be bolder than that statement. And I'm going to announce tonight, before this illustrious and important audience, that I will do more than share my space. What I intend to do, at the right moment, and the appropriate moment, is to give up my space totally. . .
. . . When the United States Congress begins the process of breaking our dependency on the automobile, when we put billions of dollars into public transportation rather than to highways and to roads. . . when that happens, I am prepared, unequivocally, to say before you, that I will give up my space.
True to his word, Sanders notably walks to work (from Reddit):

I think this answers (answahhhs?) some questions that Angie Schmitt and I have both raised about Sanders' transportation priorities.

Feel the motherfucking Bern. ;-) Anyone that puts transit before roads and pahhhking has my vote.

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Attention! Community Forum!

This is the most up-to-date information I have on the upcoming public forum(s) the City of Providence will be having on the 6/10 Connector boulevard conversion. We have every intention to make the process open, so please have a gander. 

No dates have been set for this yet, but we expect early March. A number of specific Olneyville locations are being considered, but I'm keeping that information to us for now.

Please note that we are also looking for sponsor organizations to help defer the cost of this event. If you would like to donate, please contact transportprovidence at gmail dot com.

If you have questions for the city, contact Allen Penniman apenniman at providenceri dot com at Providence Planning Department.

Forum Organization
*Community benefits, equity and advocacy. We will explore best practices for addressing concerns about equity, facilitating grass-roots efforts, and engaging a representative audience of stakeholders. Speakers will also discuss quality of life and public health impacts such as air quality, walkability, and access to alternative transportation options.
*Traffic management and alternative transportation options. We will explore recent research on the traffic impacts of real-life urban highway transformations and opportunities to improve alternative transportation options for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, by discussing these projects with the traffic engineers and transportation planners who facilitated them.
*Economic development and place-making potential. We will explore the opportunity to invest in 6/10 in a way that maximizes the economic development and place-making potential of the land surrounding the project.

City of Providence Goals
*Community members and public officials engage in a meaningful dialogue about the project and are informed and inspired by the panel of experts.
* RIDOT works with the City of Providence and community partners to consider alternatives for the future of the 6/10, including a boulevard option
*The City of Providence considers becoming a Campaign City under CNU’s Highways to Boulevards program
*Press coverage that considers neighborhood and civic issues related to the project


Draft Agenda

DAY ONE (Dates not set yet)
6:00PM – 6:15 ( :15) Gathering and networking
6:15 – 6:20 ( :05) Welcome and introduction of Mayor Elorza by Bonnie Nickerson
6:20 – 6:25 ( :05) Opening remarks from Mayor Elorza
6:25 – 6:35 ( :10) Project history, overview, and panel introduction by Bonnie Nickerson
6:35 – 6:45 ( :10) Panelist presentation 1
6:45 – 6:55 ( :10) Panelist presentation 2
6:55 – 7:05 ( :10) Panelist presentation 3
7:05 – 7:15 ( :10) RIDOT presentation
7:15 – 7:35 ( :20) Moderated panel discussion
7:35 – 7:55 ( :20) Moderated audience Q&A – including questions submitted via Twitter
7:55 – 8:00 ( :05) Closing Remarks by Bonnie Nickerson
8:30PM – 10:00 ( 1:30) Networking reception with panelists


DAY TWO (Dates not set yet)
8:00AM – 9:30AM ( 1:30) Next steps strategy meeting with panelists (invitation only)

Potential Speakers

Veronica Vanterpool 
Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Bronx River Alliance 
Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, New York
Route 34/Downton Crossing, New Haven

Joe Cotrufo 
Tri-State Transportation Campaign 

Jeff Tumlin 
Nelson\Nygaard 
Central Freeway, San Francisco

Peter Park 
Harvard GSD 
Park East Freeway, Milwaukee

John Norquist 
Congress for New Urbanism 
Park East Freeway, Milwaukee

Steven Nutter 
Livable Streets 
McGrath Highway, Somerville

Chuck Marohn 
Strong Towns 

Norm Marshall 
Smart Mobility 

Dan Burden 
Walkable and Livable Communities Institute 

Potential Dates & Venues
We are targeting Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings between March 9 and March 31. We would like to hold the forum in the West End, Valley, or Olneyville neighborhoods 

Donor Structure
Donation of $2,000 to $4,999 
*Acknowledgement in all press releases
*Primary logo placement on promotional materials and event program
*Verbal acknowledgement in event introduction
*Invitation to Day 2 Breakfast Discussion

Donation of $500 to $1,999
*Secondary logo placement on promotional materials and event program
*Verbal acknowledgement in event introduction

Donation of up to $499 or in-kind donation
*Flyering and community outreach
*Interpretation services
*Poster and program design
*Other 
*Name listing on promotional materials and event program (no logo)

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Case in Point

What if we used parking meter revenue like a revolving fund? This year Providence received more than $4 million from parking meters. From EcoRI News:
Brown University was cited with a code violation shortly after taking ownership of the [to-be-demolished] properties, because of the conditions of the houses’ exteriors. 
Restoring the exteriors of the homes would cost the college $200,000, while interior and exterior restorations would cost $5 million, according to Stephen Maiorisi, the university’s vice president for facilities management. The school was aware of the buildings’ conditions prior to purchase, and invested in the properties with the intent to demolish the houses and construct something else in their place, he said.
In the case of Brown, which isn't taxed on its property, there would be legitimate questions to ask about whether it's even fair to add another subsidy on top of the ones that exist. But if a private owner that paid taxes held these properties, would anyone revolt at the idea of using parking meter revenue to maintain historic structures in a district that is metered? Keeping seven multi-family houses along Brook Street would add customers to the base of shoppers for the district, and would maintain the area as a place to go.

Would Providence residents object in Olneyville to parking meters, if it helped congestion, and helped restore this building?


Would they object if we helped parking turnover on Broadway, and used the revolving fund to restore this gem?


Or on Cranston Street?


It's not beyond my imagination that there could be wrangling to be done about where the endpoint of public benefit is and the beginning point of private use, and there's a worthy discussion to be had as to whether this is the particular priority we would put our parking meter revenue to, but it's a starting point for discussion about what we're choosing-not-to-choose when we choose cheap and readily available parking. We could choose to make all or part of these buildings open to some kind of public use once they've been restored, but at present they're endanger of being lost entirely.

For more "Most Endangered Properties" on the Providence Preservation Society's 2015 list, see this link.

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Return Parking Revenue to Businesses & Residents for Better Results

East Side Monthly covered Mayor Elorza's efforts to add parking meters to business districts, including the Wayland business district (see page 7, February edition). The article is balanced in a journalistic sense. Wayland merchants do not like parking meters, which they are afraid will scare away customers. The city believes that parking meters will help customer turnover, and notes that the meters bring important revenue. 

As with many Providence policymaking experiments, NIMBY complaints have been accommodated, but in a way that results in a less effective system. The article ominously notes that Hope Street may have its meters "reevaluated" after they've supposedly had a negative impact on residents. Mayoral spokesperson Evan England states that on Atwells Avenue, meters were "strategically" placed away from valet areas, to accommodate the custom of offering free valet service to restaurant customers on that street. 

Learn from the expert! Stop doing things wrong, Providence!


Donald Shoup calls for meter rates that leave one to two spots open per block at any given time. That means that if a price of zero would lead to one or two spots open, then for that time period the meter rate should be zero. If the price is $6.00 an hour, then that is the price. It rolls up and down according to parking demand. This helps with turnover, which the city cites.

But key information is missing. Shoup calls for 100% of the revenue to go into the hands of local merchants and residents as either tax cuts or increased services. The money is not meant to go into general funds for the city. Mayor Elorza's office needs to fix this now. I am going to be seriously pissed as an urbanist voter if the mayor's office fails to implement good parking policy because of greediness. The Wayland merchants are wrong to block parking meters, but are right to be annoyed that they're losing money. Citywide, the article in ESM cites $4.2 million in additional revenue. That revenue should be earmarked according to which meters it comes from, and merchants should be able to decide how to use it. Do they want to put the money into lower prices for customers? Do they want to give bonuses to employees? Do they want to improve the buildings they operate? That's for them to decide.

Parking meters belong wherever parking demand is high--that means that the city should not be leaving open spots for valets, or exempting residential areas. But again, that also means that the people who have businesses, houses, or apartments adjacent to those meters should be receiving the money that is collected locally. For residents that could literally be represented as a check each year: in return for living next to a high-demand parking area, the city should thank residents for dealing with parking overflow by lowering their taxes. 

Two-hour limits have problems. It means that the city needs to employ just as much enforcement as before, but without any revenue. It means that parking uses have to be planned in a Politburo style, instead of allowing for flexibility. I've heard people describe Shoup's parking policies as only about turnover. That's not necessarily correct. Parking is needed for a variety of needs, some of which are long-term, and others short-term. If someone is willing to pay to be in a spot for eight hours, as a commuter, then they should be able to be there. If a food truck wants to pay a commercial rate to be operating in the real estate that is a parking spot, then that should be allowed, so long as they pay. Short-term parking is important, but is manageable if we treat parking as a commodity, which is what it is. The two-hour limits just don't make sense and result in a lot of conflicts over the varied uses that people need.

I'm not well-traveled. I've never been to Canada, much less Europe or anywhere truly "exotic". But I do read, and I do look at plans for other cities. Do you know what strikes me most about the European cities I look at? They don't have their teeth knocked out of them by parking. Look at this birds-eye view of Barcelona:


Or Amsterdam:

 
I wrote a piece using Joe Minicozzi's analysis of per-acre value back when Councilwoman Sabina Matos foolishly advocated against pedestrian safety in order to bring a Family Dollar and McDonalds drive-thru to Olneyville. The brick-and-mortar storefronts that we least pay attention to in Providence are pulling in far more revenue with far less public investment, because they're not parking-heavy. This relationship is obscured by our city's continual efforts (with state and federal help) to subsidize parking and driving. Per-acre value is undermined every time when avoid dealing with parking, because ultimately it leads us to knock down more buildings for more parking lots. It's buildings, not parking lots, that drive our city's value.

Our city needs to deal with its parking problem, and it needs to make sure that when it does so, the effort doesn't look like an attempt to punish business. Let's give businesses and residents the revenue that comes from the parking meters, like Donald Shoup called for.

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