In the news today: Items that suggest there’s another approach to transportation besides building ever wider freeways so commuters from far off can blast in and out of urban areas with the bare minimum of delay.

* THE WALTONS GET IT: The Walton Family Foundation, which has invested a significant sum in a trail system in Northwest Arkansas (spurred in part by bicycle fans in the Walton clan), says trails need not be used only for recreation. They also say residents in their part of the world are interested in diverse transportation options. The newsletter touts what Northwest Arkansas residents found in a recent conference in Denmark:


1. How can we ensure our modes of transportation are integrated?

One morning we biked to a train station, boarded the train with our bikes and traveled to a suburb of Copenhagen. Then we biked about 13 miles back to Copenhagen. This flexibility accommodates myriad routines and needs.

2. Can we get better information faster if we test transportation infrastructure, collect data, and evaluate design?

The Danes pride themselves on quality design from streets to bike locks. These designs are piloted, data are collected, and then the design is tweaked, overhauled or abandoned based on the data before being implemented. This process creates a sense of evolution and constant infrastructure improvement geared toward the users.

3. How do we make sure we are asking the right questions?

Typically, we ask how many cars can a street move from point A to point B. In Denmark, the question is: How many people can a street move from point A to point B? Not surprisingly, a street can carry more people when it accommodates multiple modes of transportation.

Imagine: Talking about moving people rather than cars. Imagine: Talking about multiple modes of transportation — nikes, buses, trams and even feet. In Little Rock, the 30 Crossing project began with the premise that we need to blast 10 to 12 lanes of concrete through the heart of Little Rock to pare a couple of minutes off Bryant and Cabot commutes a couple of hours a day. Some other considerations were added on the margins, after public outcry, but the huge negative fallout on the city grid will be the city’s problem, not the state’s. The entire 30 Crossing project is about commuters, nothing else. See their publicity folders.

* DEFINING SUCCESS: The blog of the progressive Transportation for America injects an idea that Arkansas freeway builders wouldn’t recognize: There are different ways to view traffic congestion. This is in the context of an ongoing comment period for federal rules on how states and cities should measure congestion.

…  the problem with using old measures for assessing traffic congestion is that it leads directly to old “solutions,” like prioritizing fast driving speeds above all other modes of transportation and their associated benefits. We’ve been illustrating this with some simple graphics that show what results when “moving cars fast” becomes the prime or only consideration:

You know the answer: Urban decay, induced traffic demand, concrete wastelands that are unfriendly, if not dangerous, to other living beings.


* CLOSER TO HOME: Oct. 22 has been set as the opening of the Big River Crossing, a mile-long pedestrian link between Memphis and West Memphis over the historic Harahan Bridge of the Mississippi River, a project completed with major financing from the federal government. This will add feet and bikes to a crossing used by cars and trains. This is viewed as more of a tourism lure than transportation link, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen imagined for 30 Crossing, where the only thought is to build the freeway ever wider to induce still more traffic demand and still more need for widening at choke points. (This work  will inevitably lead to the need for a 20-lane bridge for speeding cars and still wider freeways at the choke points.) Here’s a website link about the Big River Crossing.