Data-driven Design for Transportation Infrastructure Saves Lives

Roundabouts are one example of data-driven design for transportation infrastructure

According to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 47 percent of fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. occur in urban areas, resulting in nearly 15,000 deaths per year. That’s more than 40 people dying each day on urban roadways.  If there was a data-driven design for transportation infrastructure that saved lives, shouldn’t we implement it? Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows traffic roundabouts reduce the number and severity of accidents.

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Building Quality Infrastructure for the Social Good

Building quality infrastructure

Critics of government spending claim that building quality infrastructure for the social good is not affordable. Focus on utility and low cost, they say. No need for grand stone building with imposing facades. Their concerns touch on two core marketing topics, design and pricing.

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The Power of Pricing: Paying for Public Infrastructure

paying for infrastructure

In their recent report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave US infrastructure a grade of D+.  ASCE also said bad infrastructure costs U.S. households $9 per day in higher prices, poor service, repairs, and wasted time. For just $3 per day, they say we could fix the problem. Those numbers sound small, but they add up. Multiple that household-per-day number by 125 million households and 365 days a year, and you get an annual infrastructure bill of $137 billion. Paying for infrastructure is a big decision. How to pay for things is a marketing decision regarding pricing. What are the options?

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How to Fund Holistic Water Quality Management

holistic water quality management

Governing common shared resources such as water supplies relies on layers of resource management. Each level of management has different roles and responsibilities, from neighborhoods and cities through to regional, state, national and international governance. Currently, the way many cities approach water quality is inefficient because resource management is not regional. Water agencies ignore problems upstream, where water quality problems start. Applying funds to upstream problems is a marketing decision related to how we price our social goods. Fixing those upstream problems reduces costs downstream for water treatment.

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Infrastructure: recycling Olympic venues


Wired  published an article at the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics showing how some of the games’ venues would be recycled once the competition ended. Parts of the aquatics venue (above) will be used to create two public pools. The beachside volleyball stadium will become four elementary schools.

I like this design concept. It reminds me of other innovations in public infrastructure, such as prefab bridges that cut both costs and construction times. But will Rio actually follow through on the promise?

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Infrastructure: Build sidewalks to build community

sidewalks build community
Flow chart showing benefits of sidewalks and walking

Sidewalks are infrastructure and infrastructure is a reflection of our social nature. Sidewalks are, or can be, important public spaces. They might, or could, be the public space with which we’re most familiar. Sidewalks build community and promote the healthy lifestyle and walkable neighborhoods that many people say they want.

Consider what happens on sidewalks: chalk drawings, tricycle rides, dog walks, hopscotch, jump rope, lemonade stands, neighborhood conversations, holding hands.

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Building and maintaining infrastructure is an expression of our social nature

Road infrastructure in Baku city
We are social animals, goes the premise of this blog, and social animals build.

You might think of the social insects as builders: ants and termites, bees and wasps. Social mammals also build for the community. For instance, tunneling mammals like prairie dogs, voles and meerkats build communal networks of tubes and chambers.

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Transportation infrastructure: the BART that could have been

Original BART map

Recently, a map of San Francisco’s BART system as originally envisioned in the 1960s appeared in my Facebook feed (see above), and left viewers aching for more public transit. Most of the comments accompanying the map went something like, “Wouldn’t that be awesome to have today!”

Mainly, that’s because Bay Area drivers sit a long time in traffic. In the national bad traffic rankings, San Francisco is #3 and San Jose is #8. Plus, the current BART system is crowded and serves only part of the central Bay Area, and nothing to the north or south.

Current BART mamp

Voters 50 years ago had a chance to make something truly useful and awesome, but did only half the job. When our grandchildren look back at 2015, what things are they going wish we’d done for them?

Taxpayers in the 20th century left us a powerful legacy of interstates, power grids, telecom and computer networks, and more. For the sake of our communities, now and in the future, I believe that we need to continue investing in infrastructure that benefits us all.