Urban transportation is a slippery fish. No two cities are the same, and most need to harmonize foot, rail, bike, bus, and automobile transportation to ensure everyone can get where they’re going in a timely manner. Unfortunately, as the constantly changing recipe varies significantly between towns, some projects can hamper a city’s wellbeing.
Take New York as an example. The city’s subway system is well on its way to becoming an unmitigated disaster as more and more disgruntled residents lean on ride-hailing services as an alternative. This has increased on-road congestion, without making the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s underground option cheaper, less crowded, or more reliable. The city has since decided to enact congestion charges for Lower Manhattan.
Other towns face similar issues, with the presiding logic frequently being little more than “let’s just cram a highway through there.” Unlike in past decades, cities are increasingly hesitant to enact such plans. An ill-placed freeway can spell disaster for local communities, just as a well-placed one can help bedroom communities thrive. Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) recently released a list of 10 highways it would like to see demolished in order to create more walkable, connected neighborhoods under the banner of promoting “great urbanism.”
Pedestrian fatalities in the United States climbed sharply over the past decade. Between 2008 and 2017, which constitutes the most recent data available, on-foot fatalities increased 35.4 percent — despite walking not growing in popularity. All told, the United States lost 49,340 people within the timeframe; about 13 people per day.
While still lower than vehicular deaths, the influx of pedestrian fatalities is cause for alarm for many. Forty countries, backed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, recently agreed to a resolution requiring passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to come equipped with automated braking systems starting as early as 2020. The primary goal? Improving pedestrian safety.
Not everyone is in agreement as to the solution’s effectiveness, however. Earlier this month, the National Complete Streets Coalition released Dangerous by Design 2019 to highlight the country’s plight — and suggested that the old ways might still be the best.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) has joined Ford, Uber and Lyft to work with the data platform SharedStreets to glean a better understanding of America’s infrastructure. Their collective goal is to “make it easier for the private sector to work with cities around the world and leverage data to improve urban mobility.”
That means different things to different companies. For Uber and Lyft, aggregate data on passenger pickups and drop-offs could be useful in deciding where to deploy their vehicles. The information could also prove helpful in telling city planners how to best manage traffic patterns. Uber also said it would track speeders and what on types of roads people are more apt to drive dangerously.