A wake up call for Secretary Pete

I’m not sure what qualified “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation, other than him being a Democrat and the vice president’s job going to Kamala Harris.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Photo: Newsweek)

As I predicted back in 2018, there was no chance Democrats would nominate two white men for president and vice president. I believe that is still true, into the foreseeable future. Soon it will be SOP for the GOP, too.

I believe Secretary Pete, as we should now call him, is a bright guy — the Navy veteran is a Harvard grad — but I think he is short on what President George H.W. Bush once called “the vision thing.”

Last week, he released a plan that would eventually eliminate all road deaths by the end of the century.

The first part of that — eliminate all road deaths — is laudable.

The time frame is laughable.

By the end of the century? You mean 78 years from today?

Talk about not overpromising.

He cites Oslo, Norway, population. 634,293, and Hoboken, N.J., population 60,000, that have achieved a couple of years with no pedestrian deaths. (The Washington Post story did not specify no “motorist” deaths, but we’ll let that pass.)

Credit was given to Vision Zero, a safety protocol invented in Sweden in 1997 to reduce road-related deaths that has gone global. 

It has many components, and the link will tell you more than you need to know. (Oslo admitted one facet of its success was enforcement.)

As I see it, the core principles are to reduce speed, and redesign roads to slow down motorists.

That used to be the job of the police, but Philadelphia police don’t seem much interested in writing traffic tickets.

In 2008, Philly cops ticketed 270,929 motorists. That number collapsed to 97,226 in 2018, a 65% decrease in motorists ticketed on Philly’s 2,500 miles of streets.

When I was at the Daily News, each year I reported the number of tickets written to motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, cars parked in bike lanes, and even skateboarders. The tickets written to nonmotorists were laughably low, and when I asked a police spokesman why the number of tickets written to motorists was declining, he joked that maybe Philadelphians had become much better drivers.

You’ve been out there. Are Philly drivers getting better?

No rational person opposes traffic safety. But a rational person can question the tactics of Vision Zero.

You may have noticed “speed bumps” on streets around town, such as Schoolhouse Lane, to slow speeding motorists. The city calls them “speed cushions,” and are part of the city’s overall effort at “traffic calming,” which suggests traffic is nervous.

It is not. The problem is reckless drivers — those who drive too fast, who zig-zag between lanes, and increasingly those who blow through red lights. Enforcement seems to be beyond the city’s ability, so it decided to inconvenience all drivers.

On some streets, such as Pine and Spruce in Center City, the 25 mph speed limit has been lowered to 20, “enforced” by (poorly) timed traffic signals. It would be a valid tactic if it worked, but it doesn’t.

Some other tricks the city has up its sleeve from the Department of Streets website:

“‘Right-sizing’ includes traffic lane removal [fewer traffic lanes, more delays] or parking addition for road narrowing, bump-outs (curb extension), staggered parking, to create chicane-like conditions.” (I have no idea what “chicane-like conditions” are.)

“Pavement undulations refer to soft rumble strips, raised crosswalks or speed tables & speed cushions.”

I have noticed mid-block pedestrian crossings — such as on Arch outside the Comcast center, or 10th between Market and Filbert — that scare the bejesus out of me. The Arch street location seems to have a traffic cop there all the time. After generations of people being taught to cross at the corner, not mid-block, we are now told to cross mid-block.

Why? This is asking for trouble.

The core of Buttigieg’s plan is to reduce deaths by reducing driver error, by the end of the century. Here’s the lack of vision.

Does Secretary Pete believe that anyone will be driving their own cars by 2100?

Driverless cars and trucks are already on the road. When they are perfected — and they are close — onboard computers will make collisions all but impossible.

Doesn’t he know that? And why isn’t he directing his attention to fixing potholes, improving ports, modernizing airports, and finally giving America the equivalent of high-speed, safe trains that Japan and Europe have had for decades?

Asking for my grandchildren. 

20 thoughts on “A wake up call for Secretary Pete”

    Glad to see that you survived January as you leap into February. You’ve been awful quiet lately…………..
    Here we have a typical political problem. A contender for a higher office who is not really qualified but can cause a lot of dissention agrees to quietly rescind for a promise of being part of the big show. I would say that Stu Bykofsky is more qualified to be the Secretary of Transportation that what’shisname.
    Without me going through the PADOT books, I would think that most of what Philly is proposing is illegal without dispensation from the Commonwealth. Of course, if they really want to screw things up, they can always put in “round-a-bouts” !
    Two words who meaning is lost in time. ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY.

    1. If appointed I will serve. As to Philly making illegal changes, Kenney is famous for that.
      P.S.: I was quiet because I was working on a major piece for Philadelphia Weekly, which also will appear here in a few days.

    2. What Tony, no love for the roundabouts?? 😁

      I learned to drive in South Jersey in the mid-80s and tested my nerves in those named rotary monstrosities on Rt 70 & 73 (Airport, Berlin, Elisabeth, Marlton, etc). Nothing like a high speed merge into a circle with cars trying to cross/change lanes. Moved to the UK in the early 90’s and learned to love the roundabout. Why, because they work to manage traffic in many situations and when implemented correctly, allow traffic to move when drivers follow the rules… which in the UK, land of the “queues”, drivers appreciate and mostly follow the rules of the road. Here in the US, as Stu points out, rules are not enforced and thus driver habits reflect in chaos.

      Interesting, I now live in the US South East and the state DOT is installing modern runabouts to remove traffic signals and move traffic. I think it’s working well so far, time will tell if my southern neighbors will grow to appreciate the roundabout like I do.

      1. Talk,
        Hey youngster. We call them circles. In the ’60s, my father took all of us on a REAL driving test. We worked our way down from Port Richmond to center city. We went around city hall BEFORE there were lane lines in the street. Down Market and over the Ben Franklin – which was not blue. Airport circle here we come ! No lane lines. Consequently, after my father’s driving lessons, life was a lot easier behind the wheel.
        Many years later, I lived in South Jersey. The circles were a ?nice? place to meet ( crash ) with somebody. The Red Lion circle, in particular had such a mix of drivers. It was on a major route to the shore. It was a major N-S tie in for the NJTP. Plus, when you mix with the locals, there are fatalities.
        Consequently, after my father’s driving lessons, life was a lot easier behind the wheel.
        PADOT has been installing roundabouts for years. They do slow traffic down and if people learned what ‘yield’ means, driving will be safer.

  2. Stu – your points are well taken regarding this subject matter – and it is indeed an important one. But I think you got your words mixed up describing Sec’y Pete. You mentioned that the program is called Vision Zero. Obviously, you meant to say, “Zero Vision.”

  3. Philadelphia residents are receiving traffic enforcement according to those wishes of City Council; District Attorney’s Office and the current Police Administration. City Council has supported the driving equity bill, summer protests (police are out of control) and continue to make excuses for violent behavior. Driving reckless, high on marijuana or under influence are causes of extremely high fatal accidents and leaving the scene accidents. The PPD does not even respond to minor accident scenes. That policy shows such a lack of disrespect to the law abiding motorists of our city. So this behavior will continue until the political climate changes. Little Petey and his McKinsey group should come to our city and review our policies concerning safe flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Our only hope around City Council policies is speed cameras, red light cameras and self driving cars. The political atmosphere is curbing police enforcement of traffic violations.

    1. Most of what you said is wrong, so please consult the National Motorists Association for real info.

  4. The utopian mind
    Another example of Heaven on earth
    I don’t recall hearing from Mayor Pete SDOT during the snow storm where motorists were stranded in Virgina overnight. Now I know what he was dreaming about.

  5. Stu,you seem to have forgotten a few things.Pete got the job not just because he is a Democrat but also because he is gay.You know this regime regards identity politics more important than actual qualifications As for being smart I have watched him talk and read about his proposals and you would get more intelligence and common sense out of a middle school student.As for the traffic stops by police being down,who can blame them. Traffic stops are now racial and discriminate on a segment of the population,This lie is always repeated by the dishonest mass media. The real stats are they commit 65% + of the violations.As for pedestrian deaths while walking,I was born and raised in South Philly and the first think my mother told me was never cross the street without looking both ways.I was five years old and still do this to this day and I am now 75.In the rare occasions when i drive to philly,almost every trip I have to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting some bicycle rider who run red lights and disobey every traffic law you can think of .Tell Pete we could eliminate 80% of those deaths if people just paid attention when crossing the street or riding a bike.

    1. I did nor “forget” he was gay. I don’t think that’s why he got the job. Wduarion would bave been a better job for him, or HHS.
      I’ve heard him as much as you and believe he is smart. He sounds because some Dem principles are dumb.

      1. Is it bigotry to state an opinion that some democratic principles are dumb?

        I am a democrat and concur with Stu. I guess I am a bigot.

        1. Philly1, this wa not directed at Stu. It was directed at Rich M. I also agree with a lot of what he said.

        2. Philly1, I said ” I also agree with a lot of what he said.”

          What I meant to say I also agree with a lot of what Stu said.

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