Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement

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The Illinois Department of Transportation is ready to build many more lanes and flyovers at the Circle Interchange, shown here in a postcard from 1963. Posted by Brandon Bartoszek. 

Because of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, slightly less driving, and the gas tax not being changed since 1993, the motor vehicle fuel tax, or “gas tax”, has failed to pay for everything that Congress has legislated that it should pay for. The Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account, has received several infusions of money from the “general revenue fund” – to the tune of over $60 billion.

But a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the congressional think tank focused on financing, past, present, and future, has made the country take a giant step forward in considering a switch to a fee that more accurately charges usage. The report, like all GAO studies, was commissioned by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee*.

The gas tax charges drivers based on their use of petroleum, different vehicles can go different distances on the same amount of petroleum: essentially, some pay less than others for the same use of the road. Addiitionally, the counts of how much people drive has decreased (called vehicle miles traveled, or VMT), yet our demand for funds to maintain and build new infrastructure outpaces the incoming revenues from the gas tax. Lastly, the federal gas tax hasn’t changed at all, sticking to a cool 18.4 cents per gallon (for non-diesel drivers) since 1993. “While the gas tax was equal to 17 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas when it was set at its current level in 1993, it is now only 5 percent” (Streetsblog).

Continue reading Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement

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Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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An overhead view of the new design. View all images and site plans

Ed. note: In the spring of 2011, I suggested friends and readers of my blog Steven Can Plan write letters to the Chicago Department of Transportation about the distinct lack of bicycle infrastructure in the plan to redesign the intersection and streets at Damen Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, and Elston Avenue. It’s more than an intersection overhaul.  I then reported that it appears the letters you and I sent were positively received and bicycle infrastructure was added to the plan. The project, now set forth, will have three separated intersections (which should reduce the complexity of traffic signal cycles and automobile turning movements) all connected by roads with four travel lanes. Elston and Damen Avenues will have protected and conventional bike lanes, respectively. A Grid Chicago reader emailed us three weeks ago to ask us to reconsider our support for that design.

Tony Horvath lives in Lakeview and is a business analyst for Merrill Corporation. He doesn’t own a car but remembers the intersection from when he used to own a car and drove through it often. He commutes by ‘L’ but has also biked through the intersection and in the area. -Steven Continue reading Should I reconsider my support for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection plan?

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Good news in the update about the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection design

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A close zoom on the newly created west intersections from the plan drawing. Renderings are courtesy of CDOT. 

Update April 10, 2013: Construction will begin in fall 2014 after the acquisition of several parcels, covered in an ordinance introduced to city council on April 10, 2013

Update January 25, 2012: Based on some comments, and on some emails from readers, neither the original and revised designs are very good. One reader said that the project designers are applying a set of standards to a problem instead of applying a solution. Part of the problem at this intersection is the traffic coming from a highway where the ramps are spaced too closely together, but is not within the project limits. I will be looking into these and other questions, like, How much will this project cost (including property acquisition)? and Who will pay for it?

The much despised Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection is being redesigned by the Chicago Department of Transportation. They hosted an open house in April 2011 at the Bucktown Wicker Park library which I wrote about extensively on Steven Can Plan. I and others who attended were not satisfied with how the new design affected people who will bike through here. I published my comments in my article, left a brief comment with the stenographer at the open house, and emailed the project manager my extended comments. I asked Steven Can Plan readers to do the same. A few of them did!

CDOT received 41 comments, and is responding to all of them; 20 included comments about bike lanes and 3 people requested protected bike lanes.

What’s changing? Continue reading Good news in the update about the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection design

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Talking transportation with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack

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[This piece also runs on the Chicago web publication Gapers Block.]

As part of an ongoing project to interview all 50 of Chicago’s aldermen about sustainable transportation issues in their districts, I recently caught up with Scott Waguespack at the 32nd Ward service office, 2657 N. Clybourn. His ward includes parts of Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Goose Island, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Roscoe Village.

In 2007 Waguespack defeated Richard M. Daley-backed incumbent Ted Matlak and soon gained a reputation as an independent voice in City Council. Most famously, he was the leading critic of Daley’s push to privatize the city’s parking meters, a move that the former mayor would eventually admit, “we totally screwed up.” Continue reading Talking transportation with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack

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Did you get a response to your comment about the Damen/Elston/Fullerton project?

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Showing in red the right of way of the new road and showing in a transparent blue the property that will be affected and where property will have to be acquired.

In my article on Steven Can Plan about the project to recreate the six-way intersection of Damen, Elston, and Fullerton Avenues, I asked readers to submit comments to the project manager. I received a response to my comments on November 10, 2011, and I know of at least one other person who received a response to his comments. (This was back in April 2011.)

If you also received a response, I’d like to read it and share it here. The responses will help us understand the status of the project and how the design process is going. Send me a copy of the response you received: steven @ gridchicago.com. Next week I’ll be posting a new article and the response I received.

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Perhaps if the intersection has room for safe cycling, then people won’t feel the need to cycle on the sidewalks. 

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