• Is the United States Department of Transportation Aware That We Have a Huge Problem?

    by  • September 11, 2013 • Safety • 0 Comments

    usdotEvery day, people and businesses rely on a multi-modal transportation system to travel and to move goods to consumers at home and abroad. We know that wherever we invest in transportation infrastructure, opportunities for countless Americans follow. So we want to ensure that our strategic plan serves as a foundation for building, operating, and maintaining a safe and efficient transportation system.” – Anthony Foxx, August 27, 2013

    TO: The Honorable Secretary Anthony Foxx, United States Department of Transportation

    FROM: James Wilson, Executive Director, Bike Delaware

    September 10, 2013

    There is a lot to comment on in the USDOT draft strategic plan FY2014-2018. But we would like to draw your attention to a single sentence. On page 14 of section III (Safety), the draft plan says

    “the ten year trend in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities is consistent with the downward trend in overall fatalities”.

    In fact, between 2002 and 2011, vehicle occupant fatalities fell nearly 5 times faster than ped/bike fatalities. In Delaware during the same period vehicle occupant fatalities declined in line with national numbers but ped/cyclist fatalities are actually higher now than they were 10 years ago. And despite the fact that pedestrians and bicyclists represent only a small fraction of total ‘miles traveled’ in Delaware, together these groups accounted for nearly a third (29%) of all traffic fatalities in 2012 in Delaware.

    The draft plan conveys the impression that not even USDOT staff are aware of how little progress (or, in the case of states like Delaware, actual regress) has been made to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. This impression is underlined by the way vehicle non-occupant fatalities again fail to come into focus in the performance measures section (p.22). While air, rail and transit all get highly specific and individual performance measures, pedestrian safety only gets an unspecified “indicator”, even though pedestrian fatalities are 10 times the fatalities associated with air, rail and transit combined.

    In the final USDOT strategic plan, there must be a specific and quantitative performance measure for vehicle non-occupant fatalities. And it must not be normalized by VMT. There are other improvements that can also be made to the Strategic Plan, but this one is just basic.

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