Categories

Tag Archives | Congress

News & Notes

Texting while walking, via Transportation Nation.


Planetizen: The Smart Math of Mixed-Use Development

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.


Continue Reading →

0

Congressman Langevin’s letter about SOPA

Congressman Jim Langevin released the following statement regarding SOPA this morning:

Langevin

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

Dear Friend,

Recently I expressed my strong opposition to the overreaching and much-debated proposals before Congress to combat Internet piracy and I wanted explain my deep concerns about why this issue is important for our economy and our values.

We must take seriously the impact of intellectual property theft, whether it involves plans for a fighter jet or the newest Hollywood blockbuster. It’s one reason that I have sounded the alarm about the importance of strengthening cybersecurity.

Unfortunately, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), designed to prevent user access to websites that offer bootlegged material, would damage efforts to increase transparency and security online by allowing US companies to actively seek to shut down other companies’ websites, without court order or government involvement, while placing difficult burdens on the infrastructure of the Internet. This approach is counter to our pursuit of openness online in places like Iran, North Korea, and China. Furthermore, nearly every major internet technology company is against this bill because it stifles the same open technological environment they used to develop the products we depend on every day.

Continue Reading →

4

News & Notes

Two-way traffic

Photo (cc) Oran Viriyincy

National Post: Taking a u-turn on the one-way street

Two years ago, city crews went to St. Paul Street – the one-way spine of downtown St. Catharines, Ont. – took down the “no entry” signs, painted new lines and opened up the street to two-way traffic. According to planners, it would slow cars down, make the downtown more pedestrian friendly and spur retail development.

St. Catharines was only following the example of hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada that have been shutting down their one-way streets since the 1990s. In Ottawa last week, planners announced they are considering the two-way conversion of several streets in the shadow of Parliament Hill. Two-way roads would help to “‘normalize’ the streets, by slowing traffic, creating a greater choice of routes, improving wayfinding, creating a more inviting address for residential and commercial investment and improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists,” according to a plan drafted by consulting firm Urban Strategies Inc. [...]


The New York Times: Paved, but Still Alive

Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a compromise of 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont.

As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

cornell-tech-campus

Proposed Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York.

Inside Higher Ed: The Lure of the City

Cornell, one of the only top private research universities in the country not located in an urban area, saw expansion into New York as a necessary component of its future ambitions and was willing to go to greater lengths, invest more money, and better conform to what the city wanted, officials said.

The competition helps cement the idea research universities have been pushing in recent years that they can serve as economic engines to local communities and the country as a whole, and could spawn a host of similar initiatives in other cities.

It also reinforces a growing notion that research universities are going to need access to the resources provided by urban areas to continue to serve as such engines. “We believe the city had the right idea at the right time,” Cornell President David Skorton said at the announcement. “The tech sector of universities is shifting from simply the pursuit of knowledge to service of business and industry.”


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

kendall split

Kendall Square in Cambridge. Photo (cc) Lucy Orloski.

News & Notes MIT injecting life into Kendall Square [Boston.com]

For all of its success as a center of commerce, Kendall Square in Cambridge remains something of an urban desert, with unused spaces and buildings isolated by wide streets, exaggerating the sense of emptiness.

In discussing the so-called “Knowledge District” in Providence, I am all the time saying I don’t want to see us make the mistake of creating another Kendall Square.

“MIT’s proposed new development has the potential to transform Kendall Square into a vibrant dynamic place where the activity at the ground is as cutting-edge as the science above,” said Cambridge’s city manager, Robert Healy.

We have the opportunity to learn from Kendall Square and get the right mix from the get go, not have to fix it later.

See also: Harvard looks to private partners to jump start development in North Allston. A model for Providence? [GC:PVD]


Experts struggle to express direness of infrastructure problem to a wary public [The Washington Post]

Alaska’s bridge to nowhere is so seared in the minds of voters as the epitome of wasteful federal spending that experts say hardly anyone is willing to pay more to revitalize the nation’s aging highways, bridges and transit systems.

Despite dire warnings that a cancer is eating away the networks that carry people from place to place and goods to market, there is little urgency among the American people or political will in tight times on Capitol Hill to address the issue.


Continue Reading →

0

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.


Continue Reading →

0

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.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes


Budapest

Károly körút in Budapest, photo from Origo fotó

Fixing a Boulevard [Railzone]

The street is called Károly körút, which is a ring road around the historic centre of Pest, exactly where a former city wall used to stand. It is a major artery for road traffic, including still too many through trips (i.e. trips neither originating nor ending in the city centre itself). It is also a tram route, which was almost discarded following a new subway line construction, but now, partly due to the reconstruction project itself, the future of the line seems certain and an extension to North is planned.

Be sure to click through from the link to the before & after photos.


House Approves Extensions for the Federal Surface Transportation and Aviation Programs [America 2050]

Transportation advocates were gearing up for a big push to ensure that the federal surface transportation program did not expire at the end of the month, but in a remarkable show of common cause and swift action on Tuesday, the House unanimously approved a six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, as well as a four-month extension of the authorizing legislation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Senate still has to pass this bill before it’s final, but Harry Reid has promised to move it through quickly, leaving transportation advocates breathing a little easier.


Continue Reading →

4

RIPTA submits service/jobs cuts plan to board of directors

Solitary RIPTA bus in Kennedy Plaza

ProJo reports this morning on RIPTA’s plan for service cuts and job reductions to address current budget defecit.

The proposals would reduce the frequency of service on 13 routes, mostly in the evening, and bring a variety of other schedule changes and reductions to save slightly more than $1 million.

The proposals would also eliminate 32 jobs, including 13 maintenance positions, 9 supervisory positions and 10 administrative positions, saving $1.4 million. Some work, such as plowing snow and doing other clean-up tasks, would be outsourced. But some workers would be laid off.

Oh, and Congress may reduce money that RIPTA gets from the Feds by 30%. From RIPTA:

Continue Reading →

5

News & Notes

Spokane: A very clear network map [Human Transit]

Human Transit looks at Spokane, Washington’s new system maps. The combined lines to create frequent service sectors would be apropo for RIPTA for places such as Elmwood Avenue and Charles Street.


In bicycle friendly D.C., going car-free is increasingly common [The Washington Post]

In urban areas nationwide, drivers younger than 24 drove six fewer miles a day in 2009 than in 1990. Drivers 25 to 34 drove almost 2.5 fewer miles a day.

“You don’t have to keep a car,” said Carroll, who takes Metro to work most days but walks the 2.4 miles occasionally on a nice day. “I love that the city is becoming more pedestrian-friendly and more bicycle-friendly. I can rent a bike and ride downhill all the way from work. I haven’t yet, but I’m going to.”

And Zipcar? She’s a longtime member who has never used a Zipcar.

“I have kept up my membership because you never know,” she said. “I might have a visitor who wants to take a trip to Middleburg or someplace. I think it’s a very valuable option.”

Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

City of Broadening Sidewalks [The Architects Newspaper]

Throughout the summer in Chicago, planners have canvassed residents for ideas big and small about what works-and what doesn’t-for walkers ambling their way through neighborhoods across the city.

The feedback, be it about a corner that floods over following every downpour or fundamental safety concerns walkers face in communities struggling with crime, will inform the Chicago Pedestrian Plan.


Brown’s new Medical School opened yesterday in the Jewelry District.

Brown, Bennett, and how I-195 will test Rhode Island’s elite [Nesi's Notes | WPRI.com]
New Brown University medical facility to serve students and economy [The Providence Journal]


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

A Preservationist’s Dilemma [Old Urbanist]

The use of historic preservation to preserve not only architecture, but the urban form itself, is not a new development. The National Register of Historic Places and municipal organizations have been listing and protecting entire neighborhoods, many of them consisting of low-density single-family detached residential homes, for decades now, the only change being that the National Register’s 50-year rolling cutoff for historic eligibility has lately encompassed the equally low-density but less architecturally noteworthy suburbs of the 1950s and early 1960s.


Philadelphia Takes a Revolutionary Approach to Stormwater [This Big City]

The current water system combines stormwater storage and sewerage. During periods of heavy rainfall it overflows, causing sewerage to flow through streets and into the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The project will replace as much as one-third of the city’s existing impervious cover – about 4,000 acres – with natural or porous surfaces that can intercept stormwater, store it, and then release it at a controlled rate.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

Fast 14 project an exciting demonstration of American innovation [USDOT Fast Lane Blog]

The challenge was tremendous; last summer gaping holes opened up in bridges along the crucial I-93 corridor near Boston. It was clear that the superstructure–the concrete decking and steel beams–of the aging bridges was failing and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, with conventional techniques, closing lanes to replace the 14 structurally deficient bridges on this primary commuter artery would likely tie Boston-area traffic in painful knots for four long years.

The Massachusetts DOT design-build team proposed to cut that four years down to 14 weeks by prefabricating the superstructure pieces off-site then quickly fitting them into position. Rather than close lanes for the weeks it would take to fabricate a bridge’s superstructure on-site, lane closures could be limited to weekends when the pre-fab superstructure could be lowered into place. Preparatory work, they suggested, could be done in advance without disrupting the flow of traffic.

Why isn’t everyone doing this?


Transit systems face across-the-board cuts, diminished funding stream under House bill [Transportation for America]

The House proposal contains scant information about public transportation, but by most indications, non-highway projects would have more difficulty receiving funding and prioritization compared to current law.
The outline did not explicitly call for maintaining the historic 20 percent share of Highway Trust Fund dollars for public transportation, though both Chairman Mica and Committee staff indicated verbally at a press conference that the 80/20 ratio would be preserved, albeit as part of a much smaller share of total dollars. Though even with the 20 percent share intact, the overall 35 percent cut would result in steep fare hikes, service cuts, job losses or some combination thereof.

See also: Federal transportation program slated for 35 percent spending cut in House bill [Transportation for America]


Continue Reading →

1

News & Notes

Aberystwyth: The town without traffic wardens [The Telegraph]

“We’re disappointed, obviously. If you went around asking people about their pet hates, they’d probably all say ‘traffic wardens’, but here we had a chance to show that we could get by without them, and we seem to have failed.”

Everyone agrees there are lessons to be learnt. One of them is likely to be that if you give the motoring public what it says it wants, you end up not with the Big Society but a big mess.


With Few Funds Available, What are Transit Agencies to Do? [The TransportPolitic]

The timing of these discussions – premised on GOP skepticism of government spending and Democratic fears of advocating raising taxes – comes not coincidentally just a week after House Republicans revealed their proposal for a six-year transportation budget. If it was not clear last week, it is now: The cuts being proposed would be devastating to the nation’s transit agencies, depriving them of much-needed funds for the purchase of new rolling stock and the maintenance and construction of necessary facilities. Even if this plan, which would diminish already too-limited transportation funds by a third, does not get implemented, the context of the debt negotiations suggests that something much better is unlikely to be had.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

Public Seating Beyond Parks and Playgrounds [Urban Design Week]

We’ve all been there: exhausted, hot, annoyed, and just looking for a seat! With over eight million people calling New York City home, finding a place to sit outside of parks and playgrounds can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine. Megan in Clinton Hill wishes there were places to sit in public space besides in parks: free, public resting spots on every block for a coffee, lunch, and conversation. Ultimately, she wants the city to be “more free and open to all! Not limited to only people who eat at outdoor cafes, etc.”

More and more this is how I feel about Downcity. You can sit at Grant’s Lot, and you can sit at the tables at Burnside Park, that’s about it.


The 1950s Called, and They Want Their Transportation Bill Back [AltTransport]

What costs $230 billion and shortchanges pedestrian and bicycle safety and already cash-strapped urban transit systems? If you guessed the new transportation reauthorization proposal from the GOP-led House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, you’d be right.


Continue Reading →

2

News & Notes

Some photos of RI (and New Bedford) in the ’30s and ’40s [WPRI | Ted Nesi]

Ted digs up some photos from Depression era Providence and New Bedford, including this one of Kennedy Plaza before it was Kennedy Plaza:


Photo from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


A Home Is a Lousy Investment [The Wall Street Journal]

At the risk of heaping more misery on the struggling residential property market, an analysis of home-price and ownership data for the last 30 years in California-the Golden State with notoriously golden property prices-indicates that the average single family house has never been a particularly stellar investment.

In a society increasingly concerned with providing for retirement security and housing affordability, this finding has large implications. It means that we have put excessive emphasis on owner-occupied housing for social objectives, mistakenly relied on homebuilding for economic stimulus, and fostered misconceptions about homeownership and financial independence. We’ve diverted capital from more productive investments and misallocated scarce public resources.


Continue Reading →

1

News & Notes

In China’s High-Speed Successes, a Glimpse of American Difficulties [The TransportPolitic]

Some Americans may dismiss the Chinese achievement, suggesting that the system’s construction by a single-party government with authoritarian tendencies makes it in itself suspect. One of the great things about the American political system is that it attempts to respond to the demands of the citizenry. The defeat of several Democratic governors in last fall’s elections reflected on some degree of disenchantment with the Democratic Party in general, but in three cases – Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin – the GOP’s open opposition to intercity rail projects there clearly played a role in convincing voters, who evidently agreed with the anti-rail sentiment, to throw out Democrats. In some ways, it is a reflection on a successful democracy that the rail projects in those places were cancelled, whatever their technical merit.


Check Out Minneapolis’ Bike Repair Vending Machines [Transportation Nation]

A small Minneapolis company is supporting cycling by making it easier to fix your bike while out on the road. Bike Fixtation has installed its first bike repair vending machine at Minneapolis’ Uptown Transit Station.

The self-service vending machine will be accessible, just like the transit station, from 6am-midnight every day of the year, ensuring an off-hours place to pick up an inner tube, patch kit, or even a headlight.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go [Embarq]

Major automobile companies spend billions of dollars annually to advertise their products to customers. In 2009, General Motors alone spent $3.2 billion on advertising campaigns and overall marketing efforts for their products. Major auto companies collectively spent $21 billion worldwide and it looks like their investments are working. The number of private vehicles in Brazil more than doubled in less than a decade — 1.2 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2010. India experienced a 20-fold increase in the number of private motor vehicles in the last decade.

Such overwhelming statistics in favor of private vehicles, backed by billion dollar investments in advertising campaigns, point to the urgency with which public transport must catch-up in this competitive marketplace. Often times, so much energy is focused on the technical and financial aspects of getting public transit projects off the ground that branding and marketing become an afterthought.

In an attempt to give public transport a competitive edge, EMBARQ released a report on marketing and branding public transport.


Great places: smart density as part of economic flourishing [Grist]

Done right, density can be an engine of prosperity. Business executives should love great places just as much as hippies like me do.

Here’s the basic idea: When smart, skilled people start to gather in a place, the process becomes self-perpetuating. More smart, skilled people show up to be near the others. And the more smart, skilled people you get close together, the more you reduce transaction costs and increase “knowledge spillover,” which leads to commerce and innovation.


Continue Reading →

0