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News & Notes

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Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Matunuk. Photo © RIDOT

→ The Atlantic Cities: Even More Evidence Climate Change Will Hit East Coast Cities Particularly Hard

Batten down the hatches, East Coasters: A new study argues that for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees F) of global warming, the American Atlantic seaboard could see up to seven times as many Katrina-sized hurricanes.

Oh, yay!


→ Mobilizing the Region: Poll Finds Support for Tolls In Connecticut

The majority of Connecticut voters support the return of tolls on state highways — under certain conditions — according to the latest poll from Quinnipiac University. While 58 percent generally oppose tolls on Connecticut highways, 57 percent would support them if the toll revenue were to be used to repair the state’s roads and bridges.


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News & Notes

→ Governing: Tree Population Falling in Cities

Trees have a tough life in cities. They face heavy stress from storms, insects, air pollution, road salt, low-quality soil and even reckless drivers. Yet the benefits of a healthy tree population are vast, from the numerous environmental qualities to the aesthetic value that comes with a green canopy in a city park or along a busy street.

There’s also the economic value of trees. Real estate experts say trees on residential and commercial properties can increase the value by as much as 23 percent. They can also cut the cost of cooling a home or building, and their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide makes them a great investment. According to the U.S. Forest Service, that value can average $2,500 per tree in urban areas.


→ Hartford Courant: After 2nd Wave Of Layoffs in 2 Years, Mohegans Look Beyond Gaming For Future Growth In State “We’re Going To Have To Seek The Appropriate Size For The Gaming Floor”

In the gaming industry, it’s always about the next big thing.

But this week’s layoffs at the Mohegan Sun casino — the second wave in two years — are about something else: the permanent downsizing of gambling operations in Connecticut, as major casinos face intensifying competition in neighboring states.

Mitchell G. Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said Friday that the tribe’s future growth in Connecticut is likely to come from other attractions such as dining, shopping, lodging and entertainment.


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Comments on NEC Future

mbta-providence-place

Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall

The Federal Railroad Adminstration (FRA) is running a planning program dubbed NEC Future to determine the future path of rail development in the Northeast Corridor running from Boston to Washington. Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard submitted the following comments to the FRA in response to the study’s request for public comment.

Content Summary

  1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
  2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
  3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track NEC corridor in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
  4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
  5. Develop Providence/Fall River/New Bedford interstate LRT
  6. Develop Providence to Worcester Commuter Rail Service
  7. New England track electrification and use of DMUs and EMUs
  8. Add multiple infill train stations within Providence’s urban core cities
  9. Develop Rhode Island Mainline Rail Transit
  10. Extend Train Service to Aquidneck Island
  11. New York to New Jersey – Penn Station New York to the Portal Bridge
  12. Penn Station New York to Grand Central connecting rail tunnel
  13. Extend the New York #7 Subway line to Hoboken Terminal
  14. Boston South Station to North Station connecting rail tunnel

1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
The study should include planning for a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station. Amtrak Regional service, as well as MBTA commuter trains could serve the station. Service models for this station would be the BWI Airport Station in Baltimore and Newark Airport Station in New Jersey.

2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
Study a HSR bypass option that would link the existing NEC between East Haven and Westerly following the routes I-95 and RI-78 corridor. This bypass would avoid excessively curved sections of eastern Connecticut’s legacy rail right-of-way, which would allow for significantly higher speeds for HSR service. This option could be a cost effective alternative to constructing a second completely new Southern New England HSR corridor from Westchester County through central Connecticut to Hartford and to Providence. There could be an opportunity to combine funding for a rail bypass and upgrading and increasing capacity to route I-95 simultaneously.

3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track corridor in Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
Amtrak has proposed creating a four-track rail corridor between Providence to Westwood. Other sections of Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence had the corridor width to accommodate four tracks. Also many bridges had been designed to allow for four tracks throughout the state. When the New Haven to Boston NEC segment was electrified in the 1990s, replacement tracks were installed off-center in much of Rhode Island to allow for the tilting feature on Acela trains.

Develop an alternate that would reserve the option to re-build Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence Station to four-tracks and if a HSR bypass is not planned for or constructed between East Haven and Westerly in Eastern Connecticut, to accommodate for future expanded track usage of high-speed and regional trains, commuter rail/mass-transit, and freight service. A Rhode Island four-track corridor would typically only require the acquisition of narrow strips of land adjacent to the existing corridor to meet current standards for high-speed track centers, while in other instances no land acquisition would be necessary.

Even if four tracks are not built in Rhode Island or Connecticut for decades, planning for a their future installation would insure that other federal and state funds will not be wasted when infrastructure, such as bridges are constructed or replaced over the NEC. With the current offcenter track configuration in Rhode Island, off-center abutments or column placements for new bridges could make future track expansion problematic and unnecessarily expensive.

4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
Develop year-round rail service from Cape Cod to Providence, T.F. Green Airport, and beyond to New York. Service could be provided by Amtrak or alternately by a commuter rail agency from Cape Cod to Providence and T.F. Green with connections to Amtrak. Study the reuse of the existing rail right-of-way from Providence to Attleboro to Cape Cod.

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And you want a train, and you want a train…

New London

Amtrak train at New London Station. Photo (cc) mjpeacecorps

The Day of New London editorialized this week about our new train service to Wickford Junction. The gist of the editorial being they like more trains and want even more. Currently, New London is stuck in a bit of a train void, Shore Line East service to New London does not run on weekends, and at this point neither does MBTA service to Wickford Junction. Nonetheless, a weekday drive from New London to Wickford Junction, parking in the garage, and a ticket to Boston cost less than either driving straight through, or paying for direct Amtrak service from Boston to New London.

New Londoners seem pleased that at the Wickford Junction ground breaking, MBTA officials expressed optimism for extending service further south the Westerly, which would put MBTA commuter rail service within 15 miles of New London. At the same time, weekend Shore Line East service to New Haven from New London is set to start in a year (putting Westerly within 15 miles of commuter rail service to New Haven and New York).

Meanwhile, The Herald News of Fall River reports that officials in Bristol County, Massachusetts are a little miffed that we’re getting commuter rail service built deeper into Rhode Island while Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford still lack commuter rail service. Though Mass. State Sen. Michael Rodrigues is realistic about the issues involved.

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News & Notes

Highway

Photo (cc) Count Rushmore

News & Notes→ Will pay-per-mile be a buzzkill for American road trips? [CNN]

During the next 20 years, projections show average vehicle fuel efficiency nearly doubling.

Revenues from the fuel tax will be slashed by half, according to the Iowa study.

Meanwhile, the cost of safe roads, bridges and transit systems will skyrocket. By 2020, says the American Society of Engineers, the price tag could be as high as $1.7 trillion.

Bottom line: two cents per mile would be enough to pay for the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. That’s according to a 2009 nonpartisan commission headed by two former U.S. transportation secretaries.


→ Bring Back the Rooming House? [CitiWire]

Is it time to restore the old-fashioned rooming house – or something akin to it – in America’s cities?

Candidate strategies for more compact urban housing units abound. Smith suggests, for example, basement or attic flats that use the “excess” space in larger homes in which an aging homeowner wants to remain but has rooms that are idle and chores that need to be done. “A bargain can be struck,” he suggests, with a younger tenant who pays reduced rent in exchange for upkeep and light maintenance. The net result: “to turn an over-housed, under-maintained single-family dwelling into a multi-household home that benefits both parties.”


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News & Notes

→ Pictoral> MTA Perseveres Through Hurricane Irene [The Architect's Newspaper]

The Architect’s Newspaper looks at how the New York transit system faired during Irene. More photos, such as the one below, on the MTA’s Flickr page.

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Photo (cc) MTAPhotos

Also see, Metro-North and the Aftermath of Irene, Damage Photos via I Ride the Harlem Line


→ Blackstone River Regional Rail [Pedestrian Observations]

Following up on my proposal for improving regional and intercity rail service between Providence and Boston, let me propose a line from Providence to Woonsocket, acting as an initial line of a Providence S-Bahn. The basic ideas for how to run a small-scale regional railroad, as usual, come from Hans-Joachim Zierke’s site, but are modified to suit the needs of a line with a larger city at one end. It is fortunate that the road connecting the two cities is not a freeway, and takes 24 minutes, allowing good transit on the same market to be competitive.

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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.


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News & Notes

→ Saint-Pierre River Site to Become Montréal’s first Woonerf [Spacing Montréal]

The borough describes a woonerf as a convivial street where one can safely walk, bicycle, play, and relax, while still being accessible to cars, adding that the woonerf aims animate residential streets by giving them a soul. But the project also has more tangible goals: the subsidy requires the woonerf to have permeable surfaces over at least 85% of the site, to introduce vegetation in order to reduce the heat-island effect, and to incorporate a space for urban agriculture.


→ World Map on Bike-sharing [Fietsberaad]


View The Bike-sharing World Map in a larger map
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News & Notes

→ Street Science: All Eyes on the Street [Next American City]

The effort will mark Boston’s entry into the National Complete Streets Coalition, a national group dedicated to making city streets more accessible across America, and is strongly supported by the mayor. “Mayor Menino,” Ms. Zehngebot noted, “is behind this all the way and understands that the car is no longer king.” The Complete Streets Initiative, according to the group’s brochure, “will improve the quality of life in Boston by creating streets that are both great public spaces and efficient and sustainable transportation networks. The city is committed to designing streets that are: Multimodal: Safe, comfortable, and accessible to all users; Green: Reduce energy use, sustainable, and low-maintenance; Smart: Efficient and maximize technological advances.”

→ The Incrementalists [Metropolis]

New plans to modernize our aging rail intrastrcture
are modest, in the extreme.

→ Streetscape-draining front parking lots may soon be out (Washington, DC) [Greater Greater Washington]

New developments that put their parking in front significantly diminish the pedestrian environment. They also make it less appealing for other, adjacent projects to address the street, creating a vicious cycle away from an active streetscape, while new buildings with their parking in the rear start a cycle in the opposite, positive direction.

→ Connecticut highway tolls could raise $600 million annually [Mansfield Today]

In a recent published statement, Rep. Guerrera says, “You put up border tolls for $5 a trip, you’re talking $600 million a year in revenue. That’s $18 billion over 30 years. You can’t argue with that.”

The proposal also calls for earmarking these funds for repairing highways and bridges and other transportation incentives, and not putting them into the general budget.

“We know we have more than $3 billion in infrastructure needs in this state, just to repair what we have,” Rep. Guerrera says.

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News & Notes

→ Ad Nauseam 2010: The Year in Car Commercials [DC.Streetsblog]

Car sales are up, auto shows are packing them in, and the GM IPO was oversubscribed, but there may be no surer indicator of the auto industry’s recovery than the renewed avalanche of car ads rumbling across every medium. And there’s no better way to get a glimpse of what a born-again car culture might look like than to stay on the couch for a spell, un-mute the TV, and watch—that’s right, on purpose—a sample of 2010′s ads selling us our car-centric way of life. Here are some of the year’s most egregious attempts to get us into the dealership by conflating car ownership with American values.

→ Neighbors won fight for narrower Willy St. — now they want even more [The Capital Times, Madison, WI]

It is a walkable commercial and residential strip that embodies the cityscapes lauded as new urbanism by city planners. It’s also the main drag in a neighborhood that’s home to many of the city’s most outspoken activists. So when the aging infrastructure of Williamson Street on Madison’s east side is scheduled for a rebuild, you’d better believe its citizens will have their say. Speak they have, and managed the unlikely feat of getting the street scheduled for narrowing.

But some say that’s not enough.

→ How Shared Space Challenges Conventional Thinking about Transportation Design [Planetizen]

Before he died in 2008, the great Dutch street designer and engineer, Hans Monderman, re-introduced to the world the concept of shared spaces as the appropriate basis for designing urban streets. Shared space is based on the idea of self enforcing use of public spaces by different types of users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and private vehicle operators. The idea has caught the imagination of some designers in the USA, but it is still largely treated as a design style rather than for what it really is – a fundamental rethinking of the underlying philosophy related to the design and operation of transportation facilities.

→ As She Walks Out the Door, (CT) Gov. Rell Makes it Safer to Walk Down the Street [Mobilizing the Region]

On Friday, outgoing Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell announced significant changes to ConnDOT’s bike and pedestrian policies aimed to improve the delivery of projects, increase the pot of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects and enhance the existing design manual so cyclists and pedestrians are fully considered as part of the design process, as required by the 2009 Complete Streets Law.

→ Can streetcars save America’s cities? [CNN]

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