STATES TEST TAXING DRIVERS’ TRAVEL RATHER THAN GAS

Several states are proposing pilot programs to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel, rather than taxing the gasoline they consume. The I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation officials from 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test the idea. Officials would stitch together the policies and technologies needed to count the miles driven by 50 recruits from each of four states. They would send out “faux invoices” monthly, and collect the data that legislatures—and the driving public—would require to decide if the change makes sense.

In July Caltrans launched its pay-by-mile Road Charge Pilot Program with 5,000 volunteers who will provide information that could help lawmakers decide whether to pay for infrastructure through mileage-based user fees instead of traditional motor fuel taxes. Volunteers will “make simulated payments based on how far they drive” and test various mileage reporting systems over the next nine months, including some that use satellite-linked location tracking and systems that do not track vehicles. Oregon has also had success with a volunteer program collecting actual cash. See http://wapo.st/292tpId and http://bit.ly/29K66Rb

EXPLORING THE MYTH OF “FREE” PARKING

Planning for parking, UCLA economist Donald Shoup writes, “is more a political activity than a professional skill.” And they fall particularly heavily on the poor, the group least likely to have access to cars. “People who are too poor to own a car pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store,” wrote Shoup in the University of California’s ACCESS Magazine.

In any event, “free” parking is never free. A Milken Institute Review article considers who really pays for two types of free parking: shopping mall parking and curbside parking. The cost of mall parking is reflected in store rents, and higher rents are reflected in the prices of the goods and services the stores sell. City dwellers may think that curbside parking is free in front of their houses, but the value of the parking is capitalized in housing prices. One way or another someone always pays, often indirectly, in the form of higher prices for something else.

The enormous amounts of land and structures needed for parking almost guarantee that mispricing parking spaces will have substantial consequences on economic efficiency and societal welfare. The cost of constructing above-ground parking in a major American city runs about $24,000 per space, not including the cost of buying the land underneath it. An underground spot costs $34,000. Either way, a single parking space costs more than twice the median net worth of black and Hispanic households in America. http://wapo.st/1UjPJuq and http://bit.ly/29796Hg

LEGAL ACTION REMAINS AN EFFECTIVE “URBAN PLANNING TOOL” FOR UNIVERSAL DESIGN

Despite a robust Complete Streets movement and a growing emphasis on accessible design, the surest path to ADA compliance in America is still through legal threat. A generation after the Americans with Disabilities Act, cities across the United States are still broadly inaccessible to many residents. As an example, broken sidewalks and steep curbs endanger people who are blind or use wheelchairs. When it comes to universal design, the most effective urban planning tool still appears to be the threat of legal action. Read the report at http://bit.ly/1PYPl5Q for a look at what happened in two communities that were investigated and forced to comply. City leaders nationwide should be reviewing local situations before residents resort to legal actions.

MN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS USE NEW ELECTRONIC CRASH REPORT INTERFACE

The new electronic crash report interface now being used by Minnesota law enforcement officers improves the accuracy, reliability, and usefulness of crash data. The system gives officers three choices for electronically submitting a report: a quick capture, a wizard, and a form. A website interface and a standalone platform can be loaded onto officers’ laptops, allowing them to complete electronic reports even when they have limited Internet access. The state plans to eventually launch a public portal that will allow citizens to perform aggregated crash data inquiries and run data reports. See http://bit.ly/1UbZeia

NEXT CITY ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK RANKS PEDESTRIAN AND CYCLIST PROJECTS

Next City has released research that takes a first step toward developing standard ways of measuring effectiveness of how well new or improved roads and other facilities safely accommodate people on foot and riding a bike. The title is: Development of an Analytical Framework to Rank Pedestrian and Cyclist Projects: http://bit.ly/1XOWqah. Since the funds available for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure are scarce, developing a uniform way to measure their effectiveness will help local governments determine how best to use those hard-to-come-by funds. The researchers examined seven factors: safety, safety effectiveness, mobility, demand, equity, cost, and qualitative factors. A value is calculated for each factor; the safety effectiveness value is scaled to ensure that crash reduction rates are measured proportionally to improvement costs. Then the values are weighted—with the safety and safety effectiveness values given the greatest weight—and all are summed to produce an overall score. See http://bit.ly/1P4pGCM