Photo: Telwink. 

This week, new research on the potential safety benefits of Houston's Bike Plan, a home construction program, getting transit equity right and more.

Title Page

Denver Council Orders New Protections for Renters Who Pay Using Vouchers or Unconventional Sources of Income. Denver Post.

Introduction

Houston City Council Launches New Home Construction Program. Houston Chronicle.

The council approved a $6.7 million agreement with a dozen homebuilders and with the Houston Land Bank, the agency that owns the lots on which the homes would be built...

The new home construction program is needed, McCasland said, because most of the homes being built in Houston are at the upper end of the market, and are out of reach for working families, even when the city contributes other subsidies to try to make the financing work.

Executive Summary

Houston's Bike Plan includes a range of short- and long-term projects that have the potential to increase connectivity, comfort and safety. "Efforts to improve safety often focus on behavior but analysis of existing infrastructure and future planning like the Houston Bike Plan are important not just for offering a vision of connectivity but for urgently needed safety improvements," senior research fellow Dian Nostikasari writes about her new report about the geography of crashes and near-miss incidents as it maps onto proposed projects in the bike plan.

Looking at recent crash data, Nostikasari found that, "[o]f the 2,214 crashes between 2009 and 2015, approximately 60 percent of those occurred on or less than 1 mile from streets designated for long-term future projects in the Houston Bike Plan and 22 percent of those crashes were along streets designated for short-term retrofit projects."

Making safer streets for all isn't just about behavior, it's also about the actual infrastructure of the streets and this latest report helps underscore the importance of following through on plans and proposals.

Conclusion

Any agency receiving federal transit funding is supposed to assess and seek to limit bad outcomes for communities of color under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. But as the Urban Edge examined in relation to Houston's own preliminary long-range transit plans, there are many ways agencies can effectively "check the boxes" required without sincerely engaging with equity concerns. Writing in Governing magazine about their new TransitCenter report on the topic, Steven Higashide and Hayley Richardson note, "Title VI has done very little to advance transportation equity. It's a passive, malleable policy, the specifics of which are often left to the discretion of transit-agency governing bodies." 

One potential result of this, the authors argue? Agencies spending on "expensive, limited rail lines "that serve small numbers of high-income suburbanites and airport travelers while underspending on transit for working-class urban residents."

There are a few examples of cities and agencies trying to improve the process but the fact is, according to the authors, it's up to people at the local level to truly bring transit equity to the table since federal regulations alone don't cut it.

Endnotes