Transportation
April 22, 2020

NACTO Shares Global COVID-19 Transportation Response Data

 

Cities around the world are trying to figure out the best way to react in today’s strange new world which is flooded with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being urged by public health experts to stay home, to flatten the curve. And while many people are doing just that, others still rely on various modes of transportation for their essential trips to get to work, shop for groceries, or whatever their need may be.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recently released their own COVID-19 Transportation Response Center. This online hub acts as a resource for transportation staff, officials, leaders, and of course, anyone else with internet access and an interest in these things (that could be you!). 

A quick look – and maybe even a quick download and filter application – of the City Transportation Action Updates spreadsheet, tells a story of the variety of actions being taken globally by mobility operators. From free public transit for all to free taxi rides for health care workers to additional fees for ride hailing, no one knows for certain what the best way to move forward is, but organizations are doing what they think is best and learning from others along the way. 

Let’s take a look at bike share specifically. 

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It’s the hot topic at the National Association of City Transportation Officials conference in Chicago at the moment, which has produced a special guide 
Wired has a feature:

Urban planners talk about two visions of the future city: heaven and hell. Hell, in case it’s not clear, is bad—cities built for technologies, big companies, and vehicles instead of the humans who actually live in them. And hell, in some ways, is here. Today’s US cities are dominated by highways there were built by razing residential neighborhoods. Few sidewalks and fewer bike lanes. It’s all managed by public policies that incentivize commuting in your car. Alone. Trapped in traffic.
This special hell we’ve created for ourselves has tech companies and visionaries proposing heavenly ideals for our earthly woes. Uber and Alphabet want to unleash fleets of unmanned flying cars and drones upon the world. Elon Musk wants to tunnel beneath cities and build fast-moving hyperloops. And then there’s the dizzying spiderweb of companies racing to build autonomous vehicles to unshackle our ankles from the gas pedal.

But if humans no longer have to spend time piloting vehicles through traffic, what happens to cities? And what if autonomous vehicles actually make things worse? Yes, traveling will be easier, but that means everyone—even those without drivers licenses—will be able to do it. Maybe Americans will live farther apart, extending their commutes—no harm done when you can catch up with your shows instead of drive, right? The result could be a lot more trips and a lot more traffic. It would seem the old adage is true: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Which means cities need to start thinking now about how to incorporate AVs into future planning. To that end, on Monday, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, an international, 60-city organization of very serious transportation planners and engineers, published its own vision of the Promised Land, a 50-page blueprint outlining how to account for our autonomous future and build in flexible options that could result in less traffic for everyone, not just those riding on four wheels.
“We don’t just need new software running on our streets—we need to update the hardware of the streets themselves,” says Janette Sadik-Khan, a former transportation head in New York City during the Bloomberg administration who now serves on the board for NACTO. “That’s why we need a new roadmap that puts humans first.”
Full article here.
Urbanists must be engaging and debating issues related to automated vehicles and the impact they will have on cities now.  No one knows for sure what the impacts will be or how to best respond, but if voices for priorizing a humane city are not heard, the decisions will be made by and for those who will profit most from maximizing technology over community.    Read more »