U.S. Legislators Ask DOT To Assess ‘People,’ Not Just Cars

by | July 27, 2016 | Featured | 3 comments

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Earlier this week, numerous U.S. Senators and Representatives from around the country requested the U.S. Department of Transportation change its rule on performance measures to include people, not just cars.

The letter, signed by Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), among others, asks that the Department of Transportation change its rules regarding congestion and freight performance measures.

“The members have requested that the agency changes the rule to assess the movement of people, rather than vehicles, which would ensure that performance measures accurately and appropriately assess the congestion relief provided by transit vehicles, bike lanes, High-Occupancy Toll lanes, and other congestion relief techniques,” reads a press release put out by Senator Tom Carper, of Delaware.

The letter was sent to Anthony Foxx, who heads up the Department of Transportation. The Legislators who signed the letter made a particular note that the DOT should address all road users – and focus on their safety, not speed.

To justify highway projects, roads on the National Highway System have to meet certain performance measures. Not meeting those performance measures justifies improvements for one way or another. In the FAST Act Congress made clear that states must consider all modes and users in the building and reconstruction of NHS projects.The Federal Highway Administration’s proposed performance measures are based on motor vehicle issues such as delay of drivers – not on the accessibility for cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.

These legislators are looking for multi-modal performance measures, which would be a big step forward.

“How we measure performance and outcomes directly affects the choice of investments that will be made. If we focus, as this proposed rule does, on keeping traffic moving at high speeds at all times of day on all types of roads and streets, then the result is easy to predict: States and MPOs will prioritize investments to increase average speeds for cars, at the expense of goals to provide safe, reliable, environmentally-sensitive, multimodal transportation options for all users of the transportation system, despite those goals being stated in federal statute,” the members wrote. “Encouraging faster speeds on roadways undermines the safety of roads for all road users, as well as the economic vitality of our communities.”

Many thanks to the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) campaign to comment on the NHS performance measures. A large number of the 5000+ comments received were in response to the bicycle and pedestrian issue. We encourage everyone to still submit comments on NHS performance measures using LAB’s Take Action Page.

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  1. Joseph

    I’m so happy to see both senators of my state, New Jersey, a place usually thought of as only pandering to cars, signing this letter.

  2. John Baxter

    This situation cries out for common sense. It matters whether you’re talking about the Schuylkill Expressway or a narrow city street in such evaluations. What speed you are evaluating also matters tremendously. Cars become very inefficient and emissions increase tremendously when crawling along, and drivers get frustrated for good reason. I doubt there are many routes where congestion shows up as a problem that don’t need improvement. Who says it’s impossible to have good traffic flow and safety at the same time? Vision Zero/Complete Streets advocates are far too narrowly focused on speed as a cause of crashes. The statistics prove that speed is often fare from the most common cause of crashes. Follow the science and focus on infrastructure improvements that will benefit everyone.

  3. Andrew Shecktor

    John has a good point, but it should be added that excessive speed causes automobile efficiency to diminish, thus wasting fuel and increasing greenhouse gas emission. For some reason, the same people who insist we quit burning coal and increase fuel efficiency seem to like support higher highway speeds! This makes no sense whatsoever. Speed also kills. And increasing the speed limit with the assumption that “this is the speed people are going already” (as PA did) is foolish. Raising the speed limit only means that people will go that much more above what they are currently doing. We need to get sensibility in Government! (This is one reason I have decided to run for U.S. Senate in 2018 – More non-politicians need to get involved. We need more engineers, scientists and school teachers in our Congress and Senate, and need to remove the old-school career politicians.)


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