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→ WPRI: Providence’s streetcar plan hits snag as feds reject $39M proposal

Jef Nickerson, founder and editor of the urban planning and development blog Greater City Providence, told WPRI.com that it is “disappointing that Rhode Island prioritizes funding for automobile infrastructure but continues to fail in funding for mass transit services in the state’s urban core.”

Nickerson cited the General Assembly’s inability to pass legislation that would provide a reliable source of funding for the R.I. Public Transportation Authority and Chafee’s unwillingness to support the streetcar as examples of how the state “undervalues transit.”

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News & Notes

→ USA Today: New tax hikes eyed for roads, transit

States are scrambling to find taxes to pay for highway repairs and their public transit systems, including payroll and sales taxes, and raising taxes paid by gasoline stations.

The proposals, being kicked around in at least 13 states as governors lay out their legislative agendas for the year, come as states find revenue from stagnant federal and state gasoline taxes isn’t keeping up with highways, bridges and urban transit systems that increasingly are falling into disrepair.


→ Next City: For Obama, A Renewed Focus on Urbancentric Topics

One should never expect to glean much policy insight from inauguration speeches, but President Obama indicated today that his administration will seek to take action on climate change and immigration as it moves into its second term. And as always, cities will be the proving grounds for how future policies affecting these issues play out.

During this morning’s inauguration ceremony, Obama touched upon several domestic topics — including investments into sustainable industries — that should have urbanists and urban dwellers perking up their ears.

Though light on specifics, the issues spotlighted today will likely set at least part of the executive agenda for the next four years.


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News & Notes

"I'm not in love with any of them"

Photo (cc) M4D1

→ Pedestrian Observations: Surreptitious Underfunding

One third of the MBTA’s outstanding debt, about $1.7 billion, comes from transit projects built by the state as part of a court-imposed mitigation for extra Big Dig traffic; interest on this debt is about two-thirds the agency’s total present deficit. Metra was prepared to pay for a project to rebuild rail bridges that would increase clearance below for trucks and cut the right-of-way’s width from three to two tracks. Rhode Island is spending $336 million on extending the Providence Line to Wickford Junction, with most of the money going toward building parking garages at the two new stations; Wickford Junction, in a county whose number of Boston-bound commuters is 170, is getting 1,200 parking spaces.


→ Salon On the waterfront, the battle rages on

In October, when an Australian metal-recycling company purchased two deep-water berths in Providence, R.I., Mayor Angel Taveras hailed it as “a major accomplishment in the city’s efforts to revitalize its waterfront industries.”

Five months later, locals are unhappy about the “eyesore” their new neighbor has created: a 50,000-ton hill of steel. “Where did the scrap metal pile come from?” asked a Providence TV station.

It’s the epilogue to a battle that’s been raging in Providence for several years – on one side, a developer who wanted to turn the shoreline into apartments, offices and hotels. On the other, the maritime industries that have been working there since the turn of last century. In the end, industry won, but the complaints that followed – who put this big, ugly heap of metal on our lovely industrial port? – say something about our attitude toward working waterfronts.


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WPRI: 195 land commission needs more money

The Route 195 Redevelopment District Commission created by the General Assembly last year was given $250 million for economic development planning. Now the seven-member commission of volunteers says it needs more money to hire an executive director to help execute the group’s five months of planning.

Seems the Commission actually borrowed $250k from the EDC, not was given $250 million by the state.

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News & Notes

→ A Stupid Attack On Smart Growth [Planetizen]

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a well-financed campaign to discourage communities from considering smart growth as a possible way to conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions. They contend that compact development has little effect on travel activity and so provides minimal benefits. The NAHB states that, “The existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and GHG emissions.” But their research actually found the opposite: it indicates that smart growth policies can have significant impacts on travel activity and emissions.


→ Most Aging Baby Boomers Will Face Poor Mobility Options [Transportation for America]

By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent, a new study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation “ages in place” in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.

The report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation.


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News & Notes

→ How to Create a Culture of Public Transit: The ‘Marci Option’ [The Atlantic]

Last week I went to an exurban office park in San Ramon, California where 33 percent of the park’s 30,000 workers leave their cars at home. Despite the fact that Bishop Ranch is 37 miles from San Francisco, a dozen miles from the nearest BART rail station, and home to Chevron’s corporate offices, its parking lots are surprisingly empty, and it has won many awards for transit. Marci McGuire, the program manager for the Ranch’s Transportation center, describes the attitude at the park as “a culture” where it’s cool to have a bus pass. “When you do it right, it’s like a cult,” she says.


→ Will London’s New Wayfinding System Get More People Walking? [This Big City]

The thinking behind the new system is to encourage more people to walk around London instead of driving or using already overcrowded public transport. By catching people at key decision points – such as tube stations – and providing them with the right information on walking times and local attractions, it is hoped that they will choose to walk.

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News & Notes

→ California Drive-Thru Ban and the “Health in All Policies” Approach Baldwin Park, California, home of the country’s first drive-thru, has banned drive-thru construction for nine months in an effort to combat obesity. [The City Fix]

→ RI senators land Pawtucket River bridge money Rhode Island’s senators on Thursday announced a $2.3-million appropriation to help replace the Pawtucket River Bridge, the deteriorated structure carrying Route 95. [Projo 7 to 7 News Blog]

→ Q&A: How the Deepwater Wind deal works What it means for RI electricity customers [WPRI.com]

→ Berlin Eyes Exotic Trees in Response to Warming Weather Palm trees in Berlin? Not quite. But the German capital is testing trees from the south as native species show signs of struggling with increasingly warm temperatures. Instead of limes and oaks, the city could soon be filled with Judas trees and Daimyo oaks. [Der Spiegel]

→ Jarrett Walker talks to our staff about public transport branding (and more!) [TransLink (Vancouver, Canada) Buzzer Blog]

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News & Notes

→ FooFest – August 14th: Over 20 art installations and creative activities. [FooFest]

→ Maker Faire Rhode Island – August 28th: Celebrate New England D.I.Y! Featuring hands-on making, building & hacking, culinary crafting, garage technology, arts and creativity for sale, and robots, culminating with a Waterfire in the Creative Capital, Providence, RI. [Maker Faire Rhode Island]

→ (Ohio) Mileage tax suggested to replace gasoline tax [The Columbus Dispatch]
The Coalition for Transportation Choices has urged the Rhode Island Assembly to consider a similar measure. The proposed bill did not pass the House this year.

→ Senate Committee approves forward-looking Livable Communities Act [Transportation For America]

→ The Mark of a Great City Is in How It Treats Its Ordinary Spaces, Not Its Special Ones [The Urbanophile]

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