Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Watch those numbers . . .

A poster at Planetizen has pointed out that we can have Fun with transportation statistics | Planetizen

And to think I got up this morning thinking there was nothing new under the sun!

Regardless, the point is well taken. While the poster above points out that Sprawl can be proven or disproven depending on what numbers one looks at, I'd like to take a moment to offer one of our favorites when it comes the the importance of studying rural safety: Half of the 42,000 crash-related fatalities in the United States occur on two-lane rural roads

It's enough to get me to work each day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Study on Carsharing and Tranist Technologies now available!

A few days ago I discussed HOURCAR's new solar-powered plug-in hybrid vehicles

Now I am pleased to announce the web publication of a study we completed here at the Humphrey Institute, "Improving Carsharing and Transit Service with ITS," which examines some of the other potential benefits from HOURCAR. The abstract is below, and the full paper can be found here The study also reports on the positive returns MetroTransit is realizing from its on-line trip planning tool.

This report examines Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) as they apply to carsharing and transit. Two modes that provide mobility to those who do not own a car. In the first study, researchers developed and administered a survey to members of HOURCAR, a local not-forprofit carsharing organization (CSO), and a randomly selected control group. The data reveals that (1) each HOURCAR removes 2.5 other vehicles; (2) HOURCAR members demonstrate an interest in deciding whether a car is their most efficient option for their trip, (3) HOURCAR respondents were not significantly different from the control group in terms of household size, income, age or housing type; and (4) most members indicated convenience and financial considerations were key to joining. The second study seeks to understand how citizen perceptions of trust and confidence in an agency, and its services, are impacted by the use of advanced traveler information systems (ATIS), specifically, an online trip planner developed and maintained by MetroTransit. A survey and focus group indicate connections between online use and perceptions about the agency. Notably, a strong positive view of the trip planner was associated with trust in the agency to perform the service.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Bicycle Research

As this entry from the Center for Transportation Studies CTS Research E-News: October 2008 notes, Fay Cleaveland and I have completed our work on the relationship between new bicycle facilities and bicycle commute share. The abstract is below, and the full report can be found here

A 2005 study by Barnes, Thompson, and Krizek examined how the addition of bicycling facilities during the 1990s influenced localized bicycle commuting rates in the Twin Cities. They found that new facilities had a small but consistent and statistically significant impact on increased rates of bicycle commuting in areas immediately surrounding these facilities. This study expands on these findings by applying the same methodology to six other cities that experienced new facility construction during the 1990s. The purpose is to determine whether results from the Twin Cities are consistent elsewhere and to identify possible contextual factors influencing facilities' impact on bicycle commuting rates in a given city. We conclude that the "build it and they will come" theory is not universally applicable; context factors are an important element in determining the effectiveness of new commuting facilities. Among the key factors we identified were the level of publicity surrounding new facilities, the utility of routes to commuters, and the overall connectivity of the city's bicycling network. This evidence will aid in the evaluation of bicycle facility investment as a congestion reduction strategy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Car-sharing - now providing green power to the grid!

Well, the folks at HOURCAR have taken Carsharing to a whole new level.

Research, such as ours, has shown that carsharing can lead to more efficient travel choices. However, HOURCAR now is pushing that efficiency to the home, by running plug-in hybrid cars in its fleet that get their charge from photovoltaic solar panels. When the cars are not in use, they contribute power BACK to the grid.

The economic ramifications of this becoming the norm boggle my mind. We now have a prototype transportation technology system that not only will greatly reduce our need for gasonline - and the gas tax revenues that go with it, but also our reliance on the power grid. How will this loss of revenue impact transportation and power utilities as we know them? (well, congestion pricing could help!)

But, for the same reasons the environmental benefits are almost equally mind-boggling.

In the coming months, we'll be adding to this conversation with a new report on HOURCAR's impact on travel behavior and auto ownership in the Twin Cities, including presentation of the findings at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in January!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bicycle Awareness

It's been a while since I mentioned anything about bikes - and that seems to be putting me in the minority! Indeed, before the temperature and gas prices dropped, it seemed more and more people were getting on their bikes. Unfortunately, it also seemed that more were getting hurt or even killed, too.

Minneapolis Mayor recently commented on these trends, noting in an e-mail update that, in Minneapolis, "there’s been a downward trend in traffic crashes since the late 1990s including in the number of reported bike-vehicle accidents. From 1993 to 1999, the average number of bicycle crashes was 334 per year. Since 2000, the average has dropped 269 per year, a 20 percent decline."

The Mayor attributes this decline in crashes, and high rate of bicycling, in part, to increased facilities for bicycling.

He MIGHT be on to something. Research by Gary Barnes and Kevin Krizek found that there was a notable increase in bike rates on new facilities in Minneapolis in the 1990's. However, a forthcoming study Fay Cleaveland and I recently completed indicates that "if you build it, they will come" is not necessarily true.

While publication of the latter study is forthcoming, a couple events will be taking place here at the Humphrey Institute on this very topic (details below). Hope you can join us!

TODAY!, October 29, 2008, 12:30 to 1:30 pm, Associate Dean Greg Lindsey will give a talk in room 184 on "The Built Environment and Physical Activity: Models of Urban Trail Use." Professor Lindsey is Associate Dean of the Humphrey Institute and specializes in environmental planning, policy, and management at the state and local levels. His current projects involve analyses of activity patterns on urban greenways and the effects of greenways in urban communities.

Then, on Friday, November 14, in room 215 at 9:00, Bike Walk Twin Cities and U of M Department of Computer Science researchers Reid Priedhorsky and Loren Terveen for "How Cities and Regions Can Plan & Map
Together: A Geowiki Solution for Instantly Sharing Planning Information" This will be a demonstration of the first Twin Cities geowiki, called "cyclopath" (you can view cyclopath at View Cyclopath at Please RSVP by 11/7/2008 to David at

Play with visualization

Earlier this month, we hosted some very interesting presentations on the potential for visualization technologies to enhance public participation. The slides from that presentation are posted here here

Then, earlier this week, Planetizen showed how a different visualization technology could be applied to the Presidential campaign.

The technology driving the PlaNETizen post was Many Eyes, which shows how all sorts of data can be put into visual format. Check it out. My left brain and right brain have not gotten along so well for a long time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

University Launches Rural Safety Partnership with Isanti County

Oberstar CERS panel.jpg
The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) has launched a new local partnership with Isanti County to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries. Congressman James Oberstar, who has been a key leader in efforts to improve safety in the area and also initiated CERS in the federal surface transportation law in 2005, was on hand for the launch. CERS Research Director Tom Horan, demonstrated Safe Road Maps/Minnesota, a new feature of the successful web mapping tool that has drawn enormous national interest.

The partnership is the first of its kind and represents a new approach to bringing the policy, technical and outreach expertise of the University of Minnesota to support state and local government in tackling high fatality rates in rural areas. Road fatalities remain high in the U.S. with over 42,000 deaths a year, with a disproportionate share, about twice the urban rate, occurring in rural areas. Isanti County has a Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program that engages local leaders and institutions in developing and carrying out strategies to reduce road fatalities.

Dehn Oberstar Bollenbeck.jpgOf particular note is the work of Judge James Dehn, who has taken on the problem of driving under the influence of alcohol by working with bars to tackle the problem of DUIs with a Safe Cab program. The Safe Cab program is a collaboration of bar owners and managers, law enforcement, the local taxi company, sponsors and liquor businesses to provide free rides home or at significantly reduced cost for patrons at participating bars. The program is funded privately by the bars and liquor establishments, sponsors and donations. According to Judge James Dehn of the 10th District Court, the number of DUI cases, tracked in his courtroom from January 1, 2008 through July 30, 2008 is down by 42 percent compared to the same period in 2007.

See articles:
County joins national effort promoting safety on rural roads
County chosen as pilot site to promote safety
Safe Cab program demand up, DUI cases in Isanti County down

Monday, October 13, 2008

Should a mileage tax replace the gas tax?

Steve Berg recently posted an article on "Should a mileage tax replace the gas tax?" on following the Humphrey Institute's roundtable on the German model of distance-based transportation finance.

Berg captured a primary argument for the mileage-based tax: "A stagnant tax rate on gasoline isn't the only problem. As fuel prices rise, people drive less, buy less gas and pay less tax. The move to fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids, also lessens the revenue flow." At the same time, national studies have shown that we are significantly under-investing in transportation infrastructure in the U.S. A national commission shows the U.S. "spending about $225 billion a year on maintaining and building roads, transit, rail lines and other surface projects. Governments currently are spending about $90 billion. In other words, the country must find a way to increase its infrastructure investment by 2œ times in order to catch up."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Freeway Congestion Pricing Paradox

Patrick DeCorla-Souza, an expert on congestion pricing with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), explains how congestion pricing can actually increase the volume of traffic during peak periods as well as reduce congestion.

(with apologies to Chao Chen and Pravin Varaiya, who wrote an article with a similar title “The Freeway Congestion Paradox� in 2002)

A primary goal of congestion pricing of entire roadways (all lanes) is to reduce vehicle use during peak hours in order to reduce congestion. Congestion pricing of roadways into the central areas of London, Stockholm and Singapore has demonstrated the ability of pricing to reduce excessive traffic and thereby alleviate congestion.

Therefore, it is not difficult for transportation professionals to accept that congestion pricing of a freeway (all lanes) could have a similar effect – reducing both traffic volumes and congestion during peak hours. However, this discussion attempts to explain a seeming paradox – that congestion pricing, if well designed and combined with active traffic management, could actually increase traffic volumes served on a freeway during peak periods (in addition to person throughput).

Let’s consider a freeway with the following vehicular demand (i.e., vehicles arriving) at a bottleneck location during the morning peak period, expressed as vehicles per lane (vpl):

5am to 6 am 1400
6 am to 7 am 2200
7am to 8am 2400
8am to 9 am 2200 (plus 400 queued)
9 am to 10am 1400 (plus 600 queued)
Total 9600

With a low demand of 1400 vehicles per lane per hour, traffic flows freely from 5 to 6am, exceeding 60 mph. In the next hour, demand reaches the sustainable capacity of 2200 vehicles per lane per hour (based on TRB’s Highway Capacity Manual), and traffic flows more slowly averaging 45 to 50 mph. Demand reaches 2400 vehicles per lane over the next hour (7 to 8 am) causing the flow of traffic to break down and speeds to be erratic. With this breakdown in flow, throughput through the bottleneck drops to 2000 vehicles per lane per hour. (This is consistent with the approximately 10 percent drop in throughput observed at bottleneck locations when flow breaks down). Consequently a queue of 400 vehicles per lane (vpl) is formed at the bottleneck by the end of this hour. Demand during the next hour (8 to 9 am) drops to 2200 vehicles per lane. But since traffic flow is now in the breakdown condition, throughput is still 2000 vehicles per lane per hour. Therefore, at the end of this hour, the queue length increases from 400 vpl to 600 vpl. In the final hour of the morning peak period (9 to 10 am), demand drops to 1400 vpl. Thus, by the end of this hour, the 600 vpl queue is cleared, at the lowered throughput rate of 2000 vpl.

Now let us consider the same bottleneck with a well-designed congestion pricing strategy designed to maximize vehicle throughput by combining it with active traffic management, including ramp metering. Active traffic management and pricing complement one another, for the following reasons:
· Demand varies significantly from day to day for a variety of reasons. However, on a priced freeway, prices must be pre-scheduled (rather than set dynamically) since the entire freeway is being priced. Drivers will need to know the toll rates before they leave their origins, rather than on the trip, since they will not have a choice once they are on the freeway. Therefore, if pricing is deployed by itself, prices would have to be set high enough to keep demand much below the sustainable capacity level. If pricing is deployed with active traffic management, however, ramp metering could be used to hold excess demand at on-ramps if and when this may cause traffic flow to break down, and speed harmonization could be used to delay the breakdown of traffic flow.
· Ramp metering by itself has limited applicability for severely congested freeway systems, because queues at on-ramps can get too long and disrupt traffic flow on the surface street system. But since pricing encourages some drivers to travel at other times, on other modes or on other routes, the total number of vehicles queuing at on-ramps would be reduced, making it easier to deploy ramp metering effectively. (Note: Fairness issues relating to longer queues at ramp meters in inner cities are easily addressed – toll credits may be provided based on the amount of time spent in the queue).
· Speed harmonization, by itself, is capable of delaying the breakdown of traffic flow. But when combined with pricing, excessive demand can be curbed, thus potentially allowing speed harmonization to keep traffic flowing throughout the peak period.

Thus, active traffic management must be a key part of the overall freeway congestion pricing strategy, in order to prevent the breakdown of traffic flow and maximize vehicle throughput. Revenues from pricing may be used to pay for investment in active traffic management infrastructure and operations. Gantries used for lane control and speed harmonization may also be used to mount electronic toll readers and enforcement cameras. As a metropolitan area grows and travel demand increases, toll rates will increase to balance demand and supply, providing the extra revenue needed for additional investment in highway or transit capacity through the bottleneck. The overall strategy will create a “FAST� system that will be:
· Flexible enough to respond to varying levels of demand throughout the peak period
· Actively-managed to prevent breakdown of traffic flow and maximize safety
· Sustainable financially through the longer term future as a metro area grows
· Throughput-maximizing

Now let’s consider the same freeway discussed above, with the “FAST� approach. With graduated variable tolls between 6am and 9am, the FAST approach can keep traffic at the level of sustainable capacity, and may result in the following shifts in vehicular demand (i.e., arrivals) at a bottleneck location during the morning peak period, expressed as vehicles per lane (vpl):

5am to 6 am 1500 (increased by 100)
6 am to 7 am 2200 (same)
7am to 8am 2200 (reduced by 200)
8am to 9 am 2200 (same)
9 am to 10am 1500 (increased by 100)
Total 9600

In reality, some vehicles may shift to alternative toll-free routes to avoid the toll, while others who previously used the alternative toll-free routes may shift to the freeway to take advantage of the travel time savings and reliability of service. Traffic may increase by 100 vpl from 5 to 6am, since some travelers may shift to avoid the tolls beginning at 6am. In the next hour, demand is kept at the sustainable capacity of 2200 vehicles per lane per hour, because the 100 vpl demand that shifts to the earlier hour is replaced by 100 vpl shifting from the 7 to 8 am hour to get a lower toll rate. Demand is reduced to the sustainable capacity of 2200 vehicles per lane over the next hour (7 to 8 am) because 100 vpl shift to the earlier 6 to 7 am hour and another 100 vpl shift to the later 8 to 9am hour to get a lower toll rate. Demand during the next hour (8 to 9 am) stays at 2200 vehicles per lane (the sustainable capacity), because the 100 vpl that shift from the earlier hour to this hour are balanced by 100 vpl that shift from this hour to the 9 to 10am hour to avoid paying tolls. Consequently, the total demand in the 9 to 10am hour increases to 1500 vpl.

The reader will note that total vehicle “throughput� as presented above for the 5-hour morning peak period is 9600 vpl for each case. This assumes that there will be no mode shifts and no route shifts. I acknowledge that these are not realistic assumptions. Depending on the nature of the corridor and available transit and ridesharing options, one could expect a further reduction in vehicular demand of 100 to 1000 vpl over the 5- hour period, which would be replaced by “new� vehicles that are either diverted from some other route or time of travel, or are completely new “induced� trips. Person throughput in the corridor may thus be expected to increase.

The big question is – what will happen in the 9 to 10 am hour, during which travel is toll-free and which carries only 1500 vpl vs. 2000 vpl in the base case without pricing. Will the spare capacity, available toll-free, result in new trips or from trips being diverted from some other route or time of travel? Since the 9 to 10 am hour was congested and in breakdown flow condition in the base case, one can assume that alternative toll-free routes would be at least as congested during that hour. If these toll-free routes still remain congested (since they are not priced), could we expect some travelers from these alternative routes to shift to our priced bottleneck route to take advantage of the toll-free service in the 9 to 10am hour?

If you believe that some drivers will divert to the freeway, you will now see the paradox: Congestion Pricing Can Reduce Vehicular Travel Demand While At the Same Time Increasing Vehicle Throughput Through the Freeway Bottleneck

A paper describing other ways in which congestion pricing and active traffic management work together is available at:

Patrick DeCorla-Souza, AICP,
Federal Highway Administration,
Washington, DC,
Phone: 202-366-4076;

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Technology for planners: going beyond maps and post-its

Inspired by the enthusiasm of Yingling Fan we recently hosted Dr. Ted Grossardt from the University of Kentucky Transportation Center. His expertise is in Structured Public Involvement, which is a protocol for using technology to greatly enhance the quality of public involvement processes in planning. In his presentation, he discussed how he and his colleagues have achieved useful feedback through enhanced modeling techniques (using fuzzy modeling) and computer-aided visualization technologies. More information on his work is included below.

In addition, he has graciously agreed to share his presentation slides here

A fundamental problem of most public infrastructure planning and design projects is how to usefully and efficiently engage the public in the appropriate aspects of the process. Well-meaning but lengthy meeting processes exclude citizens with limited time budgets, while rapid, short processes limit the quality and quantity of overall public input and reduce its usefulness to professionals. In both cases, as well, various subsets of the public can legitimately claim process injustices and challenge planning and design outcomes. As the questions become more complex, the challenges to effective public involvement multiply, and professionals are caught in a choice among bad solutions.

Structured Public Involvement is a protocol that combines the use of innovative dialogic techniques, technological tools for representation and feedback, and quantitative tools for capturing and modeling public responses. CommunityViz® is used as the visualization tool to help residents better understand the differences between potential land development patterns, an audience response system was used to gather their preferences in real time, and Fuzzy Knowledge Builder® was used post process to model the complex interplay of development pattern properties that were most preferred and least preferred by citizens. The development patterns vary by percent mixture of housing types, percent mixture of land use types, percent given over to green space, the ratio of sidewalk to total paved area, and the connectivity of the road network. These five parameters were chosen as the most useful and fundamental measures of differences between development patterns, and citizens’ preferences were derived based on them. Public input for this town was successfully gathered and modeled and the resulting preference patterns made available to city planners for use in updating their comprehensive plan.

This protocol is notable in that it exhibits high process transparency and public satisfaction with the process.

Relevant References:

Bailey, K, Grossardt, T. and Pride-Wells, M. 2007. Community Design of a Light Rail Transit-Oriented District using CAVE (Casewise Visual Evaluation). Socio Economic Planning Sciences 41(3): 235-254

Nelessen, A. 1994. Visions for a New American Dream: Process, Principles and an Ordinance to Plan and Design Small Communities. American Planning Association Press, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A German Model for Transportation Finance

In August 2008 the Humphrey Institute's State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) organized a visit to the German Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) tolling system. SLPP selected Germany for this visit because: (1) the German HGV tolling system to be at the cutting-edge of large-scale, distance-based tolling for the purpose of infrastructure investment funding, and its use of incentives to reduce vehicle emissions, especially as they relate to greenhouse gases (GHG); and (2) the HGV system could be used as a possible distance-based financing model for Minnesota and the United States in the future. It is anticipated that the next Surface Transportation Authorization Bill will likely include a distance-based implementation demonstration project.

The German Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) tolling system, introduced on January 1, 2005, is a satellite-based, electronic system covering the entire national motorway (Autobahn) network (12,500 kilometers or 7,768 miles). Tolls are assessed to all heavy commercial vehicles over 12 tons (26,400 pounds) gross vehicle weight, based on distance traveled, number of axles and emission class. The toll system is operated by Toll Collect, a private-sector joint venture made up of Daimler-Chrysler Financial Services, Deutsche Telecom and Cofiroute. The system generated 3.3 billion Euros or $5.15 billion in 2007.

On October 1 the Humphrey Institute hosted a roundtable on the German system. The purpose of this roundtable was to provide a better understanding of the challenges and successes of the German system and its possible relevance to Minnesota and the US. The roundtable was sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies and the Humphrey Institute’s State and Local Policy Program with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A copy of the agenda, presentation slides, and full report on the German system can be downloaded below.

Rethinking Transportation Finance Roundtable
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Roundtable Agenda
Presentation Slides
Full Report

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miami Advice

A central principal of the Hippocratic Oath is "first, do no harm." The same principal applies to congestion pricing practitioners. As this CNN
shows, Miami transportation officials are learning that even a relatively small amount harm can take a long time to live down.

Miami transportation officials acknowledge that the design and public education around their new high occupancy toll (HOT) lane could have been better, and that their initial shortcomings contributed to early safety problems. To their credit, those officials took quick and effective actions to mitigate the problems.

But the CNN story shows that first impressions have lasting effects. So it's important for officials to invest the necessary time and resources into project design and public education.

Road design and public education are not inexpensive items, and transportation budgets are tight all over. But repairing a battered reputation and regaining public confidence is much more expensive. As the old Fram oil filter ad used to say, "you can pay me now, or pay me later."

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Pricing" v. "Tolling" v. Something Else: Does it Really Matter?

Shakespeare’s Juliet famously said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Well, that “what’s in a name� issue has been the foundation of perhaps the most persistent debate in the history of road pricing or value pricing or congestion pricing or dynamic pricing high occupancy tolling 

The fact is, scores of different names have been applied to the concept of charging varying fees according to driver demand. Various names have gone in and out of vogue over the years, with each new variation promising to be more effective than the last. The most common Flavors of the Month right now seem to be “road pricing� and “congestion pricing.� But next year it could easily be something different.

I’ve been at this for a long time, so I can’t help but wonder: Does labeling matter as much as we pricing advocates think it does? After all, the history of public acceptance of road pricing tells us this: Consumers always are highly skeptical of the concept, whatever we call it, in the early stages. Pre-implementation, labeling doesn’t help minds. That initial skepticism only morphs into support after consumers can EXPERIENCE IT, whatever we happen to be calling “it.�

So, historically, it’s not the marketing label that changes citizens’ minds; it’s the experience. Moreover, some of the people I know who are most devoted to our Twin Cities “congestion pricing� project describe it with the four-letter word that sends chills up the spines of marketers, “T-O-L-L.� Gasp!

So I ask you, does labeling matter as much as we think it does? If so, what’s the best label?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sen. Scott Dibble Speaks Out on Transportation

Sen. D. Scott Dibble gave the following luncheon address on transportation and congestion pricing at the 13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference in Minneapolis on September 8, 2008:


I’d like to give you a little bit of background about what brought me to be so passionate about transportation. I first got my start in politics, “community organizing�, around basic issues of justice, fairness, access, civil and human rights. That quickly led me to fighting for basic common sense approach in the drive to expand I-35W through south Minneapolis and the southern suburbs at a time when transit and LRT were dirty four letter words (likened to the great social engineering experiments of the Soviet regime).

Thousands of homes and dozens of small businesses were on the chopping block, all to save just a few minutes of commuter travel via auto at the peak, which would have evaporated by the time the road was opened. All of the pollution and social impacts were to be borne by Minneapolis residents, with no access and no benefit. Downtown Minneapolis, which was supposed to benefit, could not fit one more car on its streets, and the project was going to cost $1B then the bulk of the agency’s for a whole year.

Surely there had to be a better way. Expensive new highways, congested as soon as they’re opened up, thousand of cars spewing out choking exhaust, people having to buy second and third cars for the family, old people and young people being stranded something wasn’t working. We knew that people wanted transportation to be a net benefit, to serve much larger goals and aspirations. Transportation engineers building monuments to themselves was not good enough.

But what did people want? To get into buses and trains (even pay to do so) and give up the freedom and convenience of a “free� car trip? To pay a toll on a road between their home and work or school or the store? To move into the city, out the gorgeous and inexpensive 1.5 acre, 4 bedroom home they bought for $150,000? People running around with all of these great ideas, transit, demand management, congestion pricing, seemed like pointy headed Debbie Downers.

To read the rest of the speech click below on "Continue reading this entry"

To be sure, the concepts and ideas that support the innovations you are all working on and trying to advance are compelling, are vital to solving are vexing transportation and mobility challenges. Better use of existing investments in infrastructure, driving the external costs from society to the user, creating a more rational set of economic choices for individuals and businesses, making transportation subordinate to our greater goals, rather than have the transportation tail wag the dog.

Along the way we have spin off benefits   raising additional resources for transportation alternatives, better use of land and redevelopment, more livable communities, mobility for those stranded seniors, low wage workers, the disabled and youth, and on. Who could be against that? But, for better or for worse, having the best idea around is, in my estimation, only about 15 percent of the equation.

Elected officials are really not dunderheads, craven seekers of adulation, power and control over vast sums of
money. Most are actually earnest, hard working, wanting to do right by their constituents, wanting to both lead on ideas that are ahead of the curve and to represent the interests of constituents. Most have a different focus and expertise than the one you have, so you are competing for their time and attention. And when you’re bringing an idea that might seem to be ahead of its time, upsetting the proverbial apple cart it is up to you to be sure that the ground has been prepared so the idea can be planted, grown and ripened. [big on metaphors]

Some might think that my role as a legislator is fairly straightforward – get a good idea, introduce a bill, present it through the committee process, bring it up on the floor for a vote, send it to the Governor for signature. Along the way have a few conversations with my colleagues and ask some regular people to show up and testify. Voila, good things happen, justice prevails!

As the sophisticated people in this room well know, my role actually comes somewhere near the end of a very long, very complicated and iterative chain of events. Before we’re ever ready for the prime time at the Capitol, squadrons of regular people have been asked to join the cause, other levels of government have made important policy shifts, private interests and businesses have made changes to their internal policies, the media has been engaged, your mom and dad have decided the idea is great, or at least worth trying out. Every sector of Minnesota life has been touched, organized, affected in some way – education, legal, social services, business, faith community, media, government, political parties, and on. You need to decide where you come in, what part you play: as a convenor, a leader, do you implement the new activity?

If we profess to really be for something, a high minded ideal or principle, we actually have a moral imperative to go about all of the practical steps to bring about its realization. It is not good enough to be right on the facts and own the so-called moral high ground and sit up there sneering or complaining about all of the know nothings who don’t get it. It really is actually pretty lazy and a cop out.

Also key to change are all of the tasks and activities involved in influencing the large systems that permeate our lives, our culture, our society, our political climate and our government. Extremely complex and varied, those actions involve a lot of people, a lot of expertise and a lot of money. It also requires untold quantities of persistence, diligence and coordination. No one person, no one organization can solely take that challenge on. There is much to be done, plenty to go around.

One of the best examples I can think of is the work that has been done right here in Minnesota by none other than our own Lee Munnich and the University of Minnesota – The Humphrey Institute and the Center for Transportation Studies. Lee, of course, has the benefit of having been a practitioner of the finer arts of policy implementation as an elected official.

Converting the I-394 HOV lanes to HOT lanes, which has now given rise to the Urban Partnership Agreement innovations on I-35W and Cedar Avenue, was the result of research, conversation, persuasion, patience, collaboration. Public opinion was well researched, best practices, a community based steering committee was formed, earned and paid media was employed. It took patience and diligence over a number of years. It is a great story to tell and I hope you’ve had some time to really examine it as a case study during this conference.

By the way, I believe all of this is not a bad thing, and in fact, makes our work more fun and more interesting. Creating change in this way causes more buy in, allows for the improvement of an idea, forces the setting of priorities, increases the level of accountability for results, ensures that larger principles are in play, builds in greater sustainability, creates and climate for broader application of the larger ideas and on.

Again, thank you for giving me the honor of sharing some of my thoughts with you. Let me take this opportunity to commend you on a great conference and to thank you for all of the hard work you do to help make our communities better.

Senator D. Scott Dibble, Chair-Minnesota Senate Transit Subcommittee
Luncheon Address
13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference
Partnerships for Innovation
Minneapolis, Minnesota
September 8, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Real community-based transit

"Community-based" transit is a topic that we have addressed from time-to-time, and the Center for Transportation Studies (Center for Transportation Studies - University of Minnesota has a page on the related topic of Community Transportation

However, I thought it would be useful to highlight a post from our Humphrey Institute colleagues at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship By the People - A vehicle for learning in St. Paul

They have worked to create a small set of transit circulators that meet a particular need at a particular time. While I don't believe these circulators can replace major transit systems, I also don't believe they need to. Rather, they are outstanding complements, providing additional customized service that fills gaps left by larger providers. The existence of such circulators thus meets the particular mobility needs of a population, freeing them from the need to have access to a personal automobile.

It would be interesting to learn more about how these circulators are financed, and to develop a model for providing such service on a wider basis

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Introducing some of our contemporaries

Planetizen has done a bit of homework on other good planning blogs (and critics). A great way to plug in and get in on the conversation! On Blogging and Planning | Planetizen

Friday, September 5, 2008

Speed Enforcement Cameras on the Rise

Unexpectedly having your picture taken can be unsettling. Having a camera take an unexpected picture of you while speeding and issuing you a $300 ticket takes unsettling to a whole new level for most drives. Yet across the country, highway speed cameras are being used by state governments and local municipalities in an attempt to slow down drivers while making some extra cash for government coffers.

In Arizona, over 100 speed cameras are being placed on highways in order to reduce accidents and fatalities. These cameras have the ability to not only ticket a vehicle going over the speed limit, they also have the ability to snap a photo of the driver. Some drivers have learned this the hard way, like Jennifer Bitton, who lives in Nevada where automated enforcement devises are illegal. On a trip to visit her parents in Arizona, a speed camera caught a picture of her cruising 28mph over the legal limit. She was not aware the picture was taken until officers showed up at her parent’s home to arrest her.

Not all states have been so eager to allow their citizens pictures to be taken while speeding. In 2000, the California legislature passed a law strictly forbidding the use of such speech cameras due to privacy concerns. Since then, local jurisdictions like the city of San Jose as have been battling the state over their use of speed cameras, in the hopes that their desire to enforce speed limits locally will trump the privacy concerns expressed in the state legislature. The prospect of them winning that battle is on the verge of being realized this years as a bill is currently working its way through California legislature would allow the use of these cameras on highways throughout the state.

In Maryland, the recently authorized cameras are being heralded as a great success as 20,000 drivers are being ticketed a month on Maryland highways. Though Maryland is an example for other states in how effective the cameras can be in capturing violators (as well as extra revenue), privacy concerns about these cameras and their use still exist in the state and go beyond just picture taking. Maryland did not help put those privacy concerns to rest when they posted the name, birthday, Social Security number and address of speed camera violators on their state web site.

Not to insinuate that the states are doing anything wrong - at least legally, however. The law varies widely from state to state. The main legal challenges to enforcement cameras (both red light and speed cameras) concerns their legality within the framework of pre-existing states laws defining who can be liable for traffic violations. In Iowa, courts began throwing out tickets issued by speed cameras as local jurisdictions with cameras attempted to hold owners civilly liable for infractions committed with their vehicle, whereas Iowa /a> state law only permits law enforcement agencies to hold drivers criminally liable for traffic infractions. The issue of who can be civilly or criminally liable for traffic violations caught on video has also been central to Minnesota’s rejection of Minneapolis’ red light camera program, yet has not been an obstacle in other jurisdictions like Ohio.

Back in Maryland, law enforcement officers have decided to take advantage of the legal uncertainties around this issue. Police officers are literally giving the bird to speed cameras, leaving the owner of their vehicles (the county) responsible for over 224 unresolved speeding citations.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A little love for Hiawatha LRT

Well, actually, the Minneapolis LRT has received lots of love from planning types since it opened. Altho dedicated readers may want to keep an eye out for an independent review led by my colleague Ed Goetz sometime in the near future . . .

But, in this particular story (, a Planetizen blogger states his humble opinion that the Hiawatha LRT gets the common folk to the airport better than nearly any other landside connection in the country. As someone who has figured out how to get from the office to the gate in less than an hour via LRT, I heartily concur!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Humphrey Institute’s 2020 vision for Urban and Regional Planning and Policy

Last Spring, Dean Atwood asked us to identify significant policy and planning issues the world will face in the year 2020. Given the fact that in recent years the world’s population crossed a threshold and became for the first time in human history more urban than rural, the challenges of the coming years relate to the rate and scale of urbanization.

We are, as a species, creating larger places, and more of them. The Greater Mumbai region in India, for example, has a larger population than 173 countries in the world. Currently, India has 31 cities with populations of more than one million people; China has 53 such cities. The rate at which we are adding new urban dwellers in the developing countries of the world is unprecedented. China added more urban dwellers to the world in the 1980s than did all of Europe in the 19th century. The World Bank estimates that within 30 years, “cities in developing countries will triple their entire urban built-up area, generating the same amount of urban area as the entire world had cumulatively generated by the year 2000.� Forty years ago, the American sociologist and demographer Kingsley Davis claimed that "cities exceed in size and densities the communities of any other large animal. They suggest the behavior of communal insects rather than of mammals." The scale of our urban settlements today dwarfs that which Davis commented on in the 1960s.

The attached powerpoint slides outline four key challenges that arise from this trend. The first is simply the challenge of creating and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to manage urbanization. The rapid growth of cities, especially in developing countries, far outstrips the ability of national and local governments to create water and sewage systems, transportation facilities, and housing.

Second, rapid urbanization is creating problems of ecological management. Urbanization around the world consumes land at a rate greater than the growth of urban populations; i.e., our urban settlements are spreading at lower densities over ever greater land areas. Sprawling urbanization puts intense pressure on natural ecosystems, and thus creating sustainable patterns of urbanization is an important challenge we will be facing in the years to come. In addition, most of the world’s urban growth is taking place in coastal cities, 12 of the 15 mega cities in the world are coastal. If global climate change generates a rise in sea-level, hundreds of millions of urban dwellers are at risk.

Third, our urban areas must deal with rapidly increasing social and ethnic diversity. In the U.S., suburban areas now have more poverty than central cities, and they have more immigrants than do the central cities. Patterns of mobility and immigration are producing a bewildering array of social and ethnic groups sharing the same urban space. How we deal with that diversity will be very important. Can we build multicultural urban areas to take advantage of diversity and the economic and social benefits it can produce? Or are we lurching toward some dystopian future of segregated urban spaces in which economic deprivation or ethnic differences are overlaid with spatial segregation?

Fourth, we see significant challenges in urban governance on two levels. First, rapid advancements in information technology is producing a population with different expectations regarding urban planning and the roles of ‘amateur’ citizen and ‘technocratic’ planner in that process. Can we use IT to provide citizens with greater understandings of planning and policy outcomes? In addition, will we be able to match the scale of governance to the scale of our urban problems? In the U.S. at the turn of the century there were over 85,000 separate local governments in existence. But, our urban areas grow into regions with housing markets, labor markets, transportation systems, and watersheds and natural resource systems that span municipal boundaries, county lines, state lines, and sometimes international borders. To fully address our urbanization challenges in the future we need to devise governance systems that have the capacity to act across jurisdictional boundaries.

While these may seem like formidable challenges, and indeed they are, we sometimes forget how much our daily decisions influence outcomes. One urban planner estimates that in 2030, one-half of all buildings in the U.S. will have been built since 2000. And, remember the World Bank’s estimate that in 30 years cities in developing countries will create new urban space equal to what the entire world has settled to date. To me, those observations suggest that we are not simply being swept along by some unmanageable tide of events. On the contrary, our actions every day contribute to building the future of our urban areas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Congestion Pricing a Bi-Partisan Issue

With the Republicans coming to Minnesota next week, one of the truly bi-partisan initiatives in Minnesota they should note is the collaboration between Republicans and Democrats in tackling urban congestion. While there has been a fierce partisan battle in Minnesota over raising gas and sales taxes to fund roads and transit, Republican and Democratic leaders have worked together to move forward a project to reduce congestion on I-35W. The project involves the use of congestion pricing, also known as high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, along with transit improvements, telecommuting promotion, and new technologies to significantly reduce congestion on I-35W from downtown Minneapolis through southern suburbs. This partnership, which involves a broad coalition of state and local governments along with the University of Minnesota, the Citizens League and private sector leaders, successfully competed for a $133 million US Department of Transportation grant to implement the congestion reduction project. Congestion pricing bridges the gap between liberals and conservatives. For conservatives, congestion pricing is attractive because it uses the free market to efficiently allocate a scarce resource. For liberals, congestion pricing represents a way to get maximum use of a public asset, while still preserving premium service for transit and carpooling.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Streets of Blood

The German website STERN.DE has an article about Safe Road Maps entitled "Unfallkarte: Straßen des Blutes." The title in English means "Accident map: Streets of Blood."

"The digital equivalent of the many tragic memorials on German roads and highways is available online at to find a virtual road map of fatal traffic accidents and the idea of Thomas Horan and Lee Munnich of the University of Minnesota," according to the Web piece. It includes nine photos of crosses on German roads where fatal crashes have occurred.

You can get a reasonable translation of the German text using Google Translate.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ITS Technologies Part of New York City Surveillance Plan

Watch out London, you may not be the surveillance capital of the world for long. While it was being reported last week that the average citizen in London is recorded an average of 3,000 times per week, New York’s Police Commissioner released a 36 page plan detailing how lower Manhattan is set to become a 24/7 mecca of surveillance themselves. In an attempt to prevent another catastrophic attack from happening, New York City Police plan to capture and track every vehicle that moves into the area through utilizing ITS technologies such as license plate readers and traffic cameras

The intelligence gathered from these ITS technologies will be used to detect and prevent vehicle born threats including radioactive dirty bombs and other explosives. The vehicle information will be stored for an undetermined period in order to follow up on “suspicious� vehicles or vehicles that are part of an on going law enforcement investigation.

Privacy advocates from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) have cried foul, claiming the plan “to track and monitor the movements of millions of law-abiding people is an assault on this country’s historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone.� Alternatively, those in favor of the system, like Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, argue that “This is a passive collection of data that is not as personally invasive as what they do at airports.�

In our review of this, NYC plan appears to be completely legal. Under current U.S. Supreme Court rulings, drivers have no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to law enforcement observing their behavior on roadways, however the constant creep towards law enforcements ability to observe an individual’s every move while traveling may bring what is considered “reasonable� back into question.

The proposed system is set to come online in 2010.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Showers - a necessary bicycle "Facility?"

Twin Cities bicycle commuters find ways to stay fresh -

I remember people used to tell me, "if my workplace had shower, I'd bike to work," as they walked to their car that had been baking in the sun all afternoon (talk about an opportunity to sweat!). And I also know of a few buildings where the shower stall had become a new storage closet.

But now, as gas prices rise and many workplace dress codes become more casual, biking continues to become more popular as a commuting option, and the shower question again arises. This article seems to indicate that showers may be nice to have, but not having them is not the major obstacle some claimed!

See? Telecommuting CAN solve congestion

Or at least, that's what some employers in downtown St. Paul are thinking with the Republican National Convention looming as a major traffic barrier

For some workers, anything but 9 to 5 during convention -

It continues to surprise me that telework is often listed as an option for solving short-term transportation options, such as major conventions, or even bridge collapses, but it does not seem to be popular as a long term option for addressing chronic congestion.

There are numerous examples of how telework CAN work in the long term, but even more evidence as to why it has not been the revolution once predicted. Watch this space for discussion of support for both sides in the coming months!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Political conventions are no place for bikes

All delegates will literally be "pounding the pavement" at the upcoming national political conventions.

A recent post on the Livable Streets blog points out the irony that the Democratic National Convention, hailed as the "greenest national political convention" will not have any places to lock up a bike. Apparently, bicyclists are radicals and pose a security threat.

But the irony noted in this blog about the 1000 bikes that Bikes Belong made available for the convention cuts both ways. In all fairness, the Republican National Convention will be rather bike-unfriendly, too.

Once again, it appears that "all politics is local," as in walking distance!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

GPS Criminals. . . ?

Apparently in MN and CA, you can't put a GPS unit on your windshield.

A recent article in the LA Times, Decriminalizing the GPS, discusses a proposed bill allowing for GPS devices in an otherwise “draconian� law banning the mounting of all but a few specific items, including the rear view mirror, on the windshield.

This is surprising news since I was offered a GPS for a car I rented in CA just a couple weeks ago! When I sent this out to a few colleagues, there was an immediate rush of questions and counterexamples.

There seems to be some confusion about when a navigation system is legal and when it isn't.
So, we asked one of our experts about the law. Jordan Deckenbach reports that Minnesota Statute 169.71 is the legal authority on this question. It restricts the "suspension" of items off the windshield and makes exceptions only for the following: sun visors, rearview mirrors, state park stickers (as well as other authorized stickers) and electronic toll collection devices (an ITS technology exception!).

Many GPS systems attach to windshields in a manner that would be considered "suspended" under the current MN law: bolting, gluing or suctioning, for example. While attaching a GPS to the windshield does not equate to permanent installment, it would be considered "suspension" of a disallowed item. That being said, GPS units can be mounted on your dashboard providing as much of an obstruction as a windshield mounted GPS unit, yet this method would pass legal muster. Companies have also provided numerous other ways of mounting GPS units in your vehicle to avoid the windshield restriction.

Deckenbach says, “the interesting part about this law is that it was originally a back door approach to making radar detectors illegal. However, there is also a general safety goal of making sure the windshield is free from obstruction.�

While some people may think that any permanently attached navigation system is legal, it is certain that any navigation system, attached or not, can be a safety issue, depending on how it is used. For example, looking at a map on an iPhone and following its directions can be highly dangerous, and if the police think you are text messaging or checking emails, it is now cause to be pulled over.

We wonder if making people look down from their windshield in order to look at the GPS unit is actually making anyone safer?

Easy ways to get smart about your commuting

Many of us at the Humphrey Institute continue to believe the best way to make travel demand equal the limited capacity of the road system is to make the variable cost high enough that people decide to only take trips that are important enough to them that they are willing to pay for the total cost they impose upon the system. But enough economics wonk-speak.

What we are really talking about is our interest in new policy directions like Congestion Pricing and Carsharing. However, Implementing these on a large scale continues to take time and effort.

In the meantime, regular folks are putting some great tools on the web that help just about anyone who wants to understand their current costs, such as, or reduce them at Gas Free Commute

Happy calculating!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Congestion Pricing Re-emerges in NYC

Congestion pricing may be back on the table in New York City, according to a New York times article, M.T.A. Shortfall Renews Talk of Congestion Pricing. A transportation funding crisis and the need to fund mass transit are leading New York policymakers to reconsider an earlier plan to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan.

According to the article, Mayor Bloomberg has said that he sees no alternative. “Congestion pricing will come, in New York and lots of other cities, because it is the only way where you were going to do the two things that you need to do: reduce people driving and find money for mass transit,� the mayor told reporters at the National Conference of State Legislatures in New Orleans last week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Immigrants and Urbanization

A key thing for planners to keep in mind as they think about planning future cities and regions is the increasing diversification of our population. In the past few days, this issue as it relates to the settlement patterns of minorities and immigrants has gotten some attention in both national and local media. In the former case, the New Republic discusses how this is making US Cities resemble their international counterparts: Trading Places

And, the Twin Cities are moving right along with this trend. Our colleague Kathy Fennelly is quoted in this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about growth among minority groups in three big Twin Cities suburbs: In the suburbs, population growth sees a diverse shift

Friday, August 8, 2008

Working from home - going mainstream?

Or, at least it's hitting the mainstream media a bit more - a local consumer reporter has some practical information about how to find work at home, and what it takes to succeed! Terri's Consumer Blog

Along with Jane Anderson from the The Midwest Institute for Telecommuting Education (MITE) , I recently completed a report on what employers are looking for, especially when it comes to thinking about telework as an option for those with disabilities, or looking to start a new job: Project Stride (PDF).

We're currently working on a synthesis of 3 major studies on this topic - stay tuned for when we complete it!

Wired Blog on

Wired has a great blog by Keith Barry on the Safe Road Maps web site developed by the University of Minnesota's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, "Avoid the Highway to Hell With".

"There is something stunning about seeing road fatalities mapped out on familiar routes, proving that cold hard statistics can drive a point home more effectively than any pre-prom MADD assembly," says Barry.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Human Factor

In a recent article on The Design Observer writer Tom Vanderbilt comments on Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. Here he demonstrates that while modern road design makes roads safer, and make cars safer, but that the human factor plays a major role. Drivers are human and the sense of security and control that the modern highway creates, makes for a different kind of danger, over confident driving. To make a difference in road safety, one must make the drivers safer as well. Saferoadmaps helps in this factor by providing information to drivers about what roads they may choose to maximize their own safety, in addition to things they should do every day, such as buckle up, drive sober, and obey the speed limit.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Twin Cities Streets for People

Local blogger Taylor Carik linked to a great bicycle-centric site on his "Best of 2008" mediation blog called "Twin Cities Streets for People" that chronicles distributed efforts in the metro area to make a people-driven transportation network a sustainable possibility in the world of $4/gallon gasoline. It looks to be a great resource for anyone interested in new techniques being developed to make the roads and byways of the cities more accessible, safe, and effective for bicycle travel.

As a side note, Carik also co-hosts the locally produced FLAK radio podcast with City Pages columnist Jim Norton. I was a guest on their show this week talking about the launch of the Regionalities blog and other topics related to the Humphrey blogging initiative.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Safe Road Maps viewed around the world

The response has been overwhelming to! We have received 3 million hits in the first three days. The largest number of requests have come from Minnesota. But, in this "world is flat" environment, we have been visited by lots of other countries. See screenshots below.

We will be developing new features over the next several months, especially based on some of the requests we have been getting. So it will be a busy time for us.

United States View image
Europe View image
World View image

Safe Road Maps in the news

The Safe Road Maps project has gotten some press in the Twin Cities metro area and around the country and the world. Below is a smattering of links to some of the stories covering the launch of the site:

For more news stories on, check out Google News.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Welcome to Regionalities!

Welcome to our new blog about local issues that can have a global impact! Produced by the State and Local Policy Program to highlight work done in the Urban and Regional Planning and Policy Area at the Humphrey Institute, Regionalities will explore topics that are becoming increasingly important as rising energy prices bring a sharp public focus on how our cities are planned to foster sustainable economic growth, to maximize personal mobility while reducing carbon emissions, and to fit into the larger web of regional economic and environmental concerns.

Regionalities is led by Lee Munnich and Frank Douma with the help of research assistant Katrina Mitchell.

Where are the most dangerous intersections in your neighborhood?

Everyone knows there are a few intersections in their neighborhood that always seem to be the site of some pretty bad intersections. Now, using GIS techniques and a vast national database of traffic fatalities, those hunches are backed up by statistical data displayed using Google Maps on a new site launched by the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS)—

Researchers at CERS have integrated data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to visually map out every reported traffic fatality in the nation. Using the new site, you can find out which intersections near your home are most dangerous, broken down by time of day, whether alcohol was involved, whether involved vehicles were speeding, and whether passengers were wearing seatbelts.

Below is a video of blog author and SLPP director Lee Munnich talking about the project.

Bike Boulevards

For all you folks awaiting our upcoming report on what makes for "Successful" bike facilities, I offer a tempting morsel from Berkeley, with interesting ideas for enhancing on-street facilities.

YouTube - Bike Boulevards

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Road Forward For NYC Congestion Pricing

“Déjà vu all over again.� When I heard the disappointing news about New York City’s congestion pricing proposal failing this year, those famous words of Yankees and Mets great Yogi Berra came to mind.

What New York just went through is similar to what we initially went through in Minnesota in the 1990s. Congestion pricing advocates in Minnesota struggled with public support for over a decade, with several initiatives going down in flames. At one point, an aspiring gubernatorial candidate even placed a newspaper ad attacking this new idea.

But that was not the end of the road for us, and it is not the end of the road for Mayor Bloomberg’s bold and innovative vision. The Mayor and congestion pricing advocates will undoubtedly do what we did in Minnesota in 2001, redouble their efforts to explain the truth about congestion pricing.

In 2001, stinging from a series of setbacks, Minnesota congestion pricing advocates focused intensively on public outreach. We convened a blue ribbon task force of key community stakeholders to air the issue thoroughly. We hired a communications consultant to coordinate public outreach efforts. We retained an engineering firm to help answer the public’s legitimate questions.

The task force was led by a former state senator and transportation leader, and it included many opponents and skeptics. Somewhat to our surprise, after an intensive year-long study process the task force recommended piloting the concept in Minnesota.

Then our communications team went to work. Members of the task force joined us in dozens of briefings with legislators, interest group leaders, state government leaders, municipal officials, civic groups and transportation and transit advocates. We reached out to the news media. We sponsored and promoted public policy roundtable discussions with issue experts to answer public questions.

We also learned from our mistakes. In prior defeats, we learned that an accusation unanswered can quickly become an accusation believed. For that reason, an inter-disciplinary public outreach team was formed to rapidly respond to all questions posed about congestion pricing.

In previous defeats, we also learned that even leaders who are well briefed on the concept of congestion pricing sometimes have a difficult time fully understanding how pricing can make lanes less congested. For many, congestion pricing literally has to be seen to be believed. So, we used trips to existing projects, videos and other visual tools to make congestion pricing more real, and less abstract.

After focusing more heavily on public outreach starting in 2001, the I-394 MnPASS congestion pricing project was approved in 2003 and implemented 2005. By 2006, polls showed high levels of citizen satisfaction with congestion pricing. By 2007, a plan to use congestion pricing to manage traffic on a longer section of I-35W was enacted without controversy.

Certainly, external developments during this period supported the case for congestion pricing, including worsening traffic congestion, record-setting state government budget deficits, a public pledge made by many legislators to not vote for tax increases, and a highly visible analysis documenting the excess capacity in the I-394 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. But our outreach efforts clearly contributed to the success.

I would never presume to tell New Yorkers what to do. Each locality is unique and each public outreach initiative has to be tailored to fit local circumstances. But our experience shows that set-backs can be overcome by engaging leaders and the public in a thoughtful conversation about the issue.

The whole world is watching as New York is on the verge of doing something truly historic and innovative to manage its traffic congestion. New York’s recent legislative set-back is just one early chapter in this story. As Mr. Berra famously said of his 1973 Mets, “It ain’t over til it’s over.�

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lee Munnich


Lee Munnich, senior fellow, directs the State and Local Policy Program. He focuses on transportation policy, regional economic development, quality strategies for government, and state-local fiscal policy. Munnich has more than twenty-three years of experience with state and local governments. He was a deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, research director for the Minnesota Business Partnership, economic consultant for the Minnesota House of Representatives, manager of Midwest Research Institute's Center of Economic Studies, and executive director of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission. He was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 1973 and 1975.

Munnich founded and chaired the Minnesota Economic Resource Group in 1985, developed and managed the annual Economic Report to the Governor of Minnesota through 1991, and chaired the National Association of State Development Agencies' research division from 1986 to 1990.

Munnich received a bachelor's degree in economics from Georgetown University in 1967 and has done postgraduate work in economics and computer science at the University of Minnesota.

Frank Douma


Frank Douma is the Assistant Director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and a Research Scholar at the Center for Transportation Studies, both located at the University of Minnesota. He manages research projects related to several different areas of transportation policy, including telecommunications and urban corridor development.

In addition to working at the Humphrey Institute, Mr. Douma has a wealth of experience in transportation, having worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. While working for these organizations, he gained experience in the legal aspects of transportation policy and an appreciation for the roles that different modes play in urban and rural transportation systems. Mr. Douma has a Masters Degree in Public Affairs and a Law Degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Grinnell College.

Regions + Cities + Reality = Regionalities

Regionalities is a blog produced by the State and Local Policy Program at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

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