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News & Notes

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lanes 462

Protected bike lane in Vancouver, Canada. Photo (cc) Paul Krueger

USA Today: More small towns thinking big

These small but growing towns are applying some of the most forward-thinking planning tenets to create true downtowns, arts districts and new traffic patterns that alleviate congestion and encourage walking. They’re changing zoning to build city-style condos and apartments above stores. And they’re getting away from big parking lots and strip malls by putting parking underground and behind stores. Often, the downtowns are created around a new city hall, transit stations, arts center — or all three.

“We’ve got to start designing our cities for people first and automobiles second,” says Carmel Mayor James Brainard, a lawyer who picked up some European design sensibilities while studying in England.


American Planning Association: Milwaukee’s transit debate: Streetcar desire vs. disaster

Mayor Tom Barrett is the prime mover behind Milwaukee’s plan to build a brand-new streetcar system. Bright, modern vehicles would traverse a two-mile route through the city’s East Side, downtown and historic Third Ward, a former warehouse area now popular for its shops and restaurants.

Barrett believes flashy streetcars can revitalize Milwaukee’s city front and points to the popularity of the 10-year-old system in Portland, Ore. Today’s streetcars, Barrett says, are more about attracting attention than providing transportation.

“I look at this as an economic development tool,” Barrett told the Tribune. “Look at Portland. That system has aided in spurring development and growth, which is what all communities are looking for now.”


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Reader Rant: Urban design by traffic engineers

olneyville 001

Update: This project was done by the City without the involvement of RIDOT, which makes the entire situation worse actually.

Urban Design by RIDOT! Was the City complicit? I’m almost at a loss for words about the thoughtlessness in locating a new traffic signal control box within a public plaza in Olneyville Square. If this happened in Wayland Square instead, there would be protest demonstrations. The photos speak for themselves regarding alignment and adjacencies to building frontages and the information kiosk. How many 10’s of thousands or dollars did they spend on this piece of junk? Is this urban design by traffic engineers? This is as bad as when they place signal arm pole bases in the center of sidewalks so that people have to walk in the street. There should be a law against this. Or better yet the Design Review Commission should review all RIDOT installations within the City. Since Olneyville is a less affluent neighborhood, I suppose we should expect this new control box to sit where it is for the next 40 or 50 years. I guess the consolation is that there are new fake old streetlights.

olneyville 002

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News & Notes

Smart Growth America: Smart Growth Stories: Emerick Corsi on driving growth with transit

Many people recognize Forest City Enterprises as one of the biggest real estate companies in the nation, with a multi-billion dollar portfolio that spans coast to coast and a spot on the New York Stock Exchange.

What’s less well known is that Forest City also happens to be one of the biggest advocates of walkable neighborhoods with transportation choices. Real Estate Services President Emerick Corsi is a firm believer in the power of transit to drive economic growth in surrounding areas, and the company is actively pursuing this kind of development. As a member of LOCUS, Forest City understands the impact of transit-oriented development on local economic growth and job creation.


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News & Notes

Chicago Sun-Times: City wants to turn streets, alleys, plazas into outdoor fun spots

Designated Chicago streets, alleys, plazas and parking lanes may soon be painted blue with campy white footprints and filled with public seating, music, farmer’s markets and other seasonal activities.


GOOD: Young People Are Driving Less—And Not Just Because They’re Broke

I never got my driver’s license, which makes me an outlier in a nation of car lovers. But I have something in common with today’s teens. Recent studies show that American teenagers are far less likely to have their drivers’ licenses than their counterparts thirty years ago, and the trend continues to a lessening degree through the 20-something cohort. Today only 22 percent of drivers are under 30, down from a third in 1983.


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General Assembly approves Complete Streets legislation

Rhode Island State House

General Assembly Press Release:

Assembly OKs ‘complete streets’ bill

STATE HOUSE – With passage in the House yesterday, the General Assembly has approved legislation aimed at ensuring future road construction projects are developed with an eye toward the safety and ease of all types of users.

The legislation (2012-S 2131, 2012-H 7352) sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Peter Martin, requires the state to use “complete street” design features in all federal- and state-funded road construction projects, with an eye not only toward motorists, but also bicyclists, public transportation users and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

The goal is to plan streets that encourage people to use healthy, greener transportation modes whenever possible, contributing to their own health as well as the well-being of the environment.

“Cars shouldn’t be the only consideration when public roads are being built. The health and environmental benefits of walking, bicycling and other active modes of transportation are well known, and we should be building our roads in ways that are safe for those activities and encourage people to choose them,” said Senator DiPalma, (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton).

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Pedestrians everywhere actually

Pedestrians Ahead

I posted this photo of this sign last night on our Facebook page where it got a big response. I labeled it as, “shouldn’t this sign be everywhere?”

Where it happens to be is on North Main Street just north of Steeple Street, the pedestrians ahead that it is talking about are trying to cross at Park Row at the corner of the Roger Williams Memorial, while traffic barrels up North Main Street like a bat out of hell.


View Larger Map

I can’t recall if a crosswalk was actually painted here to accompany the signs, but really, the way traffic moves here, and the weird geometry of the intersection (how Meeting Street and Park Row are offset but traffic tends to move through as if they are not, even moving the wrong way on North Main at times to get from Park Row to Meeting), there needs to be more thought here than signs and paint.

Bump outs are needed on the sidewalks so that pedestrians can see oncoming traffic, and oncoming traffic can see pedestrians trying to cross. I find, as much as we talk about how terrible Rhode Island drivers are, if someone sees me, they have a tendency to stop if they can.

But really, this sign should not read “Ahead” rather it should read “Everywhere.” Within the city, there should not be any areas where drivers are given special notice that there might be pedestrians, it should be an assumption that drivers in the city make about everyplace. We’ve built this section of North Main in such a way that we make drivers forget there are pedestrians and we’re forced to put up signs then to remind them.

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Mayor Taveras Creates Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission

Taveras

Mayor Taveras at Bike to Work Day. Image from Mayor Taveras’ Facebook Page.

On Bike To Work Day, Mayor Taveras Creates Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission

Commission will incorporate bicycle and pedestrian planning in Providence’s Sustainability Action Plan

PROVIDENCE, RI – Speaking at a Bike To Work Day community celebration, Mayor Taveras today announced an executive order creating the Mayor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

“Cities that make a commitment to walkable and bikeable living are healthier cities, with a more dynamic and engaged quality of life,” said Mayor Taveras. “The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission will move Providence forward in our efforts to make biking and walking more regular modes of transportation for more of our neighbors.”

The five-member Commission will be appointed by Mayor Taveras to study changes in laws concerning bicycles and pedestrians, coordinate cooperation on bicycle and pedestrian matters, advise the public and the City on matters affecting the relationship between bicycle and pedestrian transportation and parks, schools, transit stops, and other major facilities, and incorporate bicycle and pedestrian planning in the City’s Sustainability Action Plan.

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News & Notes

StreetFilms: San Francisco: Reclaiming Streets With Innovative Solutions

Tom Radulovich, the executive director of the local non-profit Livable City, describes the recent livable streets achievements in San Francisco as “tactical urbanism” — using low-cost materials like paint and bollards to reclaim street space.

That willingness to experiment was a big reason that the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) gave its 2012 Sustainable Transport Award to San Francisco (an honor shared with Medellín, Colombia). In this Streetfilm we profile the innovations that earned SF recognition from ITDP.


ArtInfo: Pop-Up Populism: How the Temporary Architecture Craze is Changing Our Relationship to the Built Environment

America is fast becoming a pop-up nation. From sea to shining sea, her cities have been swept up in the frenzy for temporary architecture: Brooklyn vendors sell their wares in artfully arranged shipping containers; Dallas’s Build a Better Block group champions DIY painted bicycle routes and pop-up small businesses; architects in San Francisco are repurposing metered parking spaces into miniature parks; residents in Oakland, California rallied to create an entire pop-up neighborhood. The phenomenon has even climbed its way from grassroots origins to the agendas of local authorities: D.C.’s office of planning sprouted a Temporary Urbanism Initiative, while New York’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is implementing what she calls “Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses” with her fast-acting interventions favoring pedestrians and cyclists. The temporary, so it seems, is overtaking the permanent. But how permanent is our current fascination for the temporary?


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News & Notes

USDOT Fast Lane Blog: President Obama to House: Pass bipartisan transportation bill

In his Weekly Address, President Obama called on the House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan transportation bill that would repair crumbling roads and bridges and support construction jobs in communities all across America. According to a new report, 90 percent of these construction jobs are middle class jobs. The Senate passed the bill with the support of Democrats and Republicans because–if the bill stalls in Congress–then constructions sites will go idle, workers will have to go home, and our economy will take a hit.


USA Today: Few U.S. cities are ready for aging Baby Boomer population

Few communities have started to think long term about how to plan and redesign services for aging Baby Boomers as they move out of the workforce and into retirement.

Even more troubling, dwindling budgets in a tight economy have pushed communities to cut spending on delivering meals to the homebound and shuttling folks who can no longer drive to grocery stores and doctor’s offices.

These cuts, advocates for older Americans say, are coming when the services are needed more than ever. And those needs will grow tremendously over the next two decades.


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Like: Seattle’s Nickerson Street diet improves safety

Nickerson Street in Seattle

Image from Seattle.gov

The City of Seattle has released a report that their experiments with rechannelizing (i.e. putting the road on a diet) that city’s Nickerson Street has resulted in improved safety.

Completed by the City in August 2010, the modifications have produced the following results:

  • Reduced collisions by 23 percent over a one-year period (compared to the previous five-year average)
  • Motorists traveling over the speed limit have declined by more than 60 percent
  • Top-end speeders (people traveling 10 or more miles over the speed limit) have fallen by 90 percent
  • The 85th percentile speed dropped from 40 mph and 44 mph westbound and eastbound to 33 mph and 33 Westbound and Eastbound. This is an 18 and a 24% reduction in speed.
  • Traffic volumes remain roughly the same with no evidence of traffic diversion.

So LIKE for street safety and LIKE for Nickerson Street being a safer place now!

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Providence receives HUD grant to improve transit on high ridership bus routes

Broad Street

Image from Google Street View

Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities Project

The City of Providence has been awarded a Community Planning Challenge Grant through HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to conduct the Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities study. The project will focus on the highest ridership bus routes in the city– Broad Street, Chalkstone Avenue, Elmwood Avenue, Manton Avenue, and North Main Street. Over the next 18 months, the City and RIPTA will be working together to conduct corridor studies to improve transit service, enhance bus stops and other pedestrian amenities, and encourage the development of mixed-income housing and opportunities for jobs and the arts near transit. Once the corridor studies are complete, the City will update and revise the Providence Zoning Ordinance so that it will be an effective tool to implement the corridor plans and the City’s overall livability and sustainability goals.

Project Goals

  • Provide frequent, reliable transit service.
  • Improve access to employment centers, arts and cultural opportunities, and healthy food choices.
  • Encourage development that is concentrated around transit stops and offers a range of housing choices serving a variety of household types and income levels.
  • Encourage the creation of community hubs, unique to the character of the neighborhoods where they are located.

More information at ProvidenceRI.com

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News & Notes – Transportation Bill

Traffic

Photo (cc) Steven Damron

Transportation for America: House Ways and Means proposal to end guaranteed funding for public transportation undoes bipartisan agreement since Reagan

After service cuts and fare hikes, House leadership plan gives transit riders more to worry about

Reversing policy begun under President Ronald Reagan, House Ways and Means Committee – at the direction of House leadership – could move Friday to end guaranteed funding for public transportation, and leave even today’s inadequate funding levels in doubt.

The proposal to bar public transit from receiving funds from the federal motor fuels tax is part of a bill coming before the House Ways and Means Committee Friday morning. That bill sets the revenue levels for the five-year surface transportation bill making its way through the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee today.


Politico: GOP highway spending bill ‘the worst,’ Ray LaHood says

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the House GOP’s highway spending plan is “the worst transportation bill” he’s seen in decades.

“This is the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen,” LaHood said in an exclusive interview with POLITICO.

“And it also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our No. 1 priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we’ve been about for the last three years,” LaHood added. “It’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”


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News & Notes

Rotterdam

Image from I Make Rotterdam

News & Notes Rotterdam’s Crowd-Funded Pedestrian Bridge [The Pop-Up City]

The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) and Rotterdam-based architecture firm ZUS have launched the project I Make Rotterdam, a spectacular temporary pedestrian bridge between the city’s Central and the North districts that will be financed through crowd-funding.


The Good (City) Life: Why New York’s Life Expectancy Is the Highest in the Nation [Good]

Most of us take for granted that urban dwellers are more stressed than country dwellers. Hey, it’s even proved by science! Not only that, their day-to-day existence is polluted, crime-ridden, and filled with hedonistic temptations. So they must have lower life expectancies, right? Wrong. In fact, the latest data from the Bureau of Vital Statistics shows New York City-my hometown-has the highest life expectancy in the country. Babies born in 2009 can expect to live a record 80.6 years. That’s almost three years longer than a decade ago, and more than two years longer than the current national average of 78.2 years.


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News & Notes

United Nations

Is Smart Growth a United Nations plot to subvert local control and create a world government? Photo (cc) Ashitakka.

News & Notes Agenda 21 and other wacky theories [New Urban Network]

Anti-smart growth ideologues have never shied away from half-truths and dubious arguments, but recent references to Agenda 21, Portland, Detroit, and Denver are unusually strange.

This article co-authored by Wendell Cox and Ronald Utt focuses on the United Nation’s Agenda 21, adopted in 1992, and its supposed connection to the smart growth movement. I guess the point is that if the UN issues a proclamation – in this case in favor of sustainable development – then any related activity must be part of some kind of world-government plot. The UN is also in favor of economic growth, peace, diplomatic relations, and education, and for programs that fight hunger, disease, and tooth decay.

See also: How the Tea Party Is Upending Urban Planning [The Atlantic Cities]


Lawmaker’s high-speed rail plan: Will it fly? [CNN]

How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?


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News & Notes

Texting while driving. Photo (cc) larry zou

News & Notes Replace parking lots with people [Montréal Gazette]

Exterior parking lots are holes in the urban tissue that disfigure the downtown core of a city. All efforts must be deployed to encourage property owners to redevelop these outdoor spaces and at least bring the parking indoors.

For years there was not enough of an incentive for owners of these vacant lots to build. Parking lots are a cash business that can be very lucrative. So when they were prohibited from building the amount of square footage that would maximize their return on the investment, the owners of these lots weren’t willing to take the risk. Thus the status quo prevailed.


Combating the Myth That Complete Streets Are Too Expensive [Streetsblog]

Are complete streets really too expensive? According to Norm Steinman, planning and design manager for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, design elements to turn an incomplete street into one that accommodates all users are usually a very low percentage of the total cost of street planning, design, and construction.


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News & Notes

Seattle Sharrows - 1 of 8

Sharrows on a Seattle Street, Photo (cc) The Prudent Cyclist.

News & Notes Sharing time: Tracking the ‘sharrow’ on city streets [Grist]

Like many experts on transportation bicycling, Fucoloro wasn’t enthusiastic about them. Sharrows are spread so indiscriminately on Seattle streets, he said, that “they mean nothing now.” He has noticed that there seems to be “slightly less aggression” from drivers when they’re in place. “But does that mean all the streets without sharrows are worse?”

In other words, with sharrows everywhere, do drivers assume that cyclists don’t belong on streets without them?


Five myths about your gasoline taxes [CNN]

A perpetual deadlock in Congress has resulted in eight extensions of the national transportation bill, causing roads to crumble, bridges to fall, and transit to break down.

Come March 2012, politicians will once again enter into a political debate about funding American mobility. Without a fiscal safety net in place, the Highway Trust Fund will go broke.


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News & Notes

Chicago Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Mannequin on Chicago’s Wacker Drive part of that city’s pedestrian safety campaign. Photo from CDOT’s Facebook page.

News & Notes Mannequins stand up for safety along Wacker Drive [The Chicago Tribune]

Mannequins representing dead pedestrians were placed along Wacker Drive downtown on Tuesday to focus public attention on fatal crashes in Chicago involving vehicles and people on foot, officials said.

“You’ll notice that some of it is sort of hard-hitting, some of it may even be a little bit shocking,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you are frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives we are talking about here. Please take that into consideration when you are driving, when you are riding your bike and when you are walking to look out for those around you.”


What works in cities: Why placemaking requires passion even more than big budgets [YongeStreet]

Before Detroit’s Campus Martius Park opened in 2004, many of the historic buildings around it had emptied. Major department stores were vacant or torn down.

To turn it around, the mayor’s office established a task force that studied the best public spaces in the world and quizzed the locals on how they would use a new park. After a $20-million investment, the park started buzzing year-round with music, a bistro, and ice skating under colourful lights and a giant Christmas tree. The park has since attracted several new corporate headquarters, new condos and a whopping one million park visitors each year.


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