You pay your rent or you pay your mortgage, and you do so because you need a roof over your head. That was the conventional wisdom before the housing meltdown, and it is what made mortgage backed securities such alluring investments. Interestingly, that assumption may no longer hold true according to a credit information company’s analysis of consumer payment patterns. The analysis tracks three indicators: mortgage payments, car payments, and credit card payments. In 2006, when the study was first conducted, only 3.6 percent were late on a mortgage payment, but current on car and credit card payments. Today 39 percent are now choosing car and credit card over mortgage.

The temptation to parse that 39 percent is strong, but for now let’s agree that 39 percent or even 99 percent of Americans would be happy paying less for transportation. So, other than $2/gallon gasoline and a free car, what do people want from their transportation system? Affordability, mobility, and safety.

Addressing the second and third concern is the first presentation approved for Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012:
All Road Users Want the Same Thing, to be presented as a poster session by Rebecca Sanders of UC Berkeley. The session will describe the findings of a Caltrans survey of 500+ SF Bay Area pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers who were asked for their preferences on street design changes that would improve the road safety, walkability, and bikeability of urban arterials. Quite encouragingly, all users–regardless of mode–identified the same top five roadway improvements.* You will have to come to Long Beach to query Rebecca about the full results of the survey, but here is a teaser:

  • Bike lanes were ranked #1 by drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. (Ranked #5 by transit users.)
  • Improved pedestrian crossings were ranked #2 by drivers, pedestrians, and transit  users. (Ranked #3 by bicyclists.)

My favorite takeaway: Moreover, [the findings] offer evidence that focusing solely on specific user groups in the design process may miss opportunities to benefit other user groups through prioritizing a few roadway design components.

Sure the SF Bay Area is a unique place, but my experience leading neighborhood transportation planning charrettes tells me that people in Strongsville, Ohio and Visalia, California have the same basic desires for their transportation system: they want safe places to walk, safe places to bike, and they don’t want their kids run over. That holds true whether they are walkers, drivers, or kids.

If you are wondering whether there will be silo-busting (or talk of it) at Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012, the answer is an emphatic
yes! However, before you shoulder your sledgehammer to knock down cubicle, departmental, agency, and disciplinary walls, recognize that we often wind up in silos of our own making by thinking solely as a biker, walker, driver, transit rider, or 4 foot/second street-crosser. Rebecca’s presentation is a nice reminder of the benefits of thinking of all users.

Today’s quiz: How many problems can you find with this bus stop?

* The term roadway improvement as used here is does not refer to the traditional DOT definition of wider, straighter, faster roadways and intersections.

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