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News & Notes

TriMet: MAX and Bus on Portland Mall

MAX train and bus in Portland, OR. Photo (cc) TriMet.

The Atlantic Cities: Can Light Rail Carry a City’s Transit System?

We often think of light rail as a single component of a larger transit system, but if it’s done right it can just as soon serve as the foundation. Since 1981 a dozen American cities have built light rail lines atop bus-only systems. In five of them — Dallas, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, and San Diego — light rail now accounts for at least 30 percent of all transit ridership in the metropolitan area, even as it covers less than that much service space in the region.

Thompson and Brown settled on three key factors in the success of these systems. First, a great light rail system anchors a transit network that’s dispersed throughout a metro area. Second, it acts as an express regional alternative to the local bus network. And third, it promotes transfers between the bus and rail systems. The researchers believe these traits can serve as guides for future light rail planners “by setting forth attributes that these services need to possess in order to attract substantial ridership.”


Boston.com: Car-free commuting push pays off in Kendall Square

Doug Taylor used to get to work the way most Americans do, driving alone. Then he switched jobs to one of the many Kendall Square companies that offer financial incentives for employees to leave their cars at home. After trying the commuter rail, the 48-year-old Medford resident soon discovered he could pocket even more by biking.

Taylor is part of a set of statistics so surprising it looks like a mistake. ­Despite the rapid expansion in and around Kendall Square in the last ­decade — the neighborhood absorbed a 40 percent increase in commercial and institutional space, adding 4.6 million square feet of development — automobile traffic actually dropped on major streets, with vehicle counts falling as much as 14 percent.

Not for nothing but, modern day Kendall Square is a model City and State leaders are looking toward in regards to the (so-called) Knowledge District. Though leaders have not been looking enough at the transportation aspects of the area.


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News & Notes

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Photo (cc) MoDOT Photos

The Atlantic Cities: Zen and the Art of Snow Plow Maintenance

One of the realities of municipal snow removal is that what residents want during a freak event (a plow for every person!) is not what they’d be willing to pay for – or should pay for – when everything thaws.


Urbanophile: Providence and the Virtues of Scale

But they are small enough to have some structural advantages from that as well. First, as a small state and city, it’s easier to turn the ship. As I’ve observed about Detroit and Michigan, part of the challenge for them is that they are big. It’s always harder to turn a large ship than a small one. That’s Rhode Island’s advantage. You could almost literally turn the entire state into a civic laboratory in a way that can’t be done elsewhere.

In a related vein, things that wouldn’t make much of a difference in New York can make a huge difference in Providence. The presence of Brown University and RISD make a palpable difference in a smaller city that they wouldn’t in a much bigger one. Successful civic initiatives can have a bigger impact here.

I was at the cocktail gathering Aaron discusses later in his post. It was very nice to meet him and gather his impressions on Providence.


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Streetfilms MBA: Bicycling


Streetfilms has launched a new series of videos, Moving Beyond the Automobile. As Streetfilms releases each video in the series, we’ll be posting them here for you to enjoy.

For the second chapter in our Moving Beyond the Automobile series we’ll take a look at bicycling. More and more people are choosing to cycle for at least part of their commute in cities across the world. Leading the way in the United States, Portland, Oregon is up to a daily bike count of 17,000 riders! For this video we spent some time with leading thinkers in New York, San Francisco and Portland to discuss the direct relationship between providing safe cycling infrastructure and the number of people biking. The benefits of cycling are simple. Biking helps reduce congestion, air pollution, meet climate action goals and makes for healthier communities.

(Note: This series is made possible by funding from The Oram Foundation’s Fund for The Environment & Urban Life.)

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News & Notes

Next American City: Who’s Scared of a Transit Bridge?

Next spring, Portland will begin building its first bridge over the Willamette River in 37 years. The Willamette River Transit Bridge – which will link a future Oregon Health & Science University campus on the west side of the river with a museum and opera house on the east – will be 71 feet wide and feature 14-foot-wide paths on both sides for bicycles and pedestrians. The bridge’s middle will provide space for public-transit vehicles but no private cars


The Transport Politic: As a New Congress Sets Up Shop, Questions About the Future of Transportation Funding


Grist: Cafes will be popping up on the streets of New York

Pop-up Cafes provide outdoor public seating in the curb lane during the warm months and promote local businesses. Such cafes are popular in Europe, where narrow sidewalks prevent sidewalk cafes, and have recently been established in California and Canada.

In the summer of 2010, DOT partnered with two Lower Manhattan restaurants to pilot the city’s first Pop-up Cafe. Building on this success, DOT is expanding the Program in 2011 by partnering with restaurants or cafes in up to 12 locations throughout the five boroughs.

Two words: Atwells. Avenue.


DC Streetsblog: The Power of the Pursestrings Shifts to a Livability Denier in the House

…flying under the radar is another big shift with potentially enormous consequences. The Transportation and HUD subcommittee on Appropriations is getting a new master too. And livability advocates are alarmed.

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) made it onto the League of American Bicyclists’ Trash Talk list this spring when he said every biker is “one less person paying into the transportation trust fund.”


DC Streetsblog: Our Stagnant Gas Tax Rate Is Making the Deficit Worse

Despite the anti-tax rhetoric of this round of elections, there’s been a little flurry of support for raising the gas tax lately. Two senators just proposed bumping it by 25 cents to replenish the highway trust fund. And the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform included a gas tax hike in its proposal for reducing the deficit by $3.8 trillion.

Also…

They also proposed eliminating the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments – or at least restricting the tax breaks so that second homes, expensive homes, and home equity loans weren’t eligible.

The mortgage tax break is a sprawl-inducer, encouraging people to buy “more house” for their money. Besides, home ownership rates are higher in the suburbs, since urbanites are more likely to rent. By removing the tax break, as the deficit commission recommends, they would require people to pay the full cost of the house they buy – and stop subsidizing the choice to live in the suburbs instead of cities.

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News & Notes

Dallas Covers Highway with Greenery – Cities are increasingly decking highways with piles of greenery and new development. [Governing]

I’m looking at Route 10 at Olneyville, Route 95 from Broad to Atwells, Route 95 between Garden and George in Pawtucket, Route 95 next to the State House…

Parking Management That Actually Manages Parking [Bill Fulton, Mayor of Ventura Blog]

Some shoppers have complained over the past few months that parking at the mall is free, so why should they pay to park downtown? The answer — provided by Downtown Ventura Organization board chair Dave Armstrong — is that you’re paying for access to a few hundred premium spaces. And he’s right. After all, all the mall parking spaces are far away from the stores — farther than even the most remote free lot downtown. If it was possible to drive right inside the mall and park in front of your favorite store, don’t you think the mall would charge for that space? And don’t you think some people who think it’s worth it would pay the price? Obviously, the answer to both these questions is yes.

A Portland group pulverizes pavement to make way for green space [Grist]

Newport: Making Transportation Holistic [RI Future]

On September 15th, the Newport City Council passed a Complete Streets resolution, becoming the first municipality in Rhode Island to give equal consideration to all road users in its planning rather than giving primacy to automobiles. Redesigning our streets to be more inclusive of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders will be a boon to our quality of life by improving the environment, the local economy, and our health.

Dearest Providence, why are we letting Newport take the lead on this? Step it up!

Nissan’s smug (?), cute (?), ironic (?) polar bear Leaf ad [Grist]

But let’s take a look at the claim that climate-endangered mammals will thank you for buying a Leaf — which goes on sale later this year for as low as $21,000 in California and Georgia, and slightly more in other states.

An electric car might be superior to the gas-burner you own now, except that it still takes plenty of embodied energy to produce a new car. If buying a Leaf earns you a bear hug, then hanging on to a reasonably efficient ride for a few extra years probably deserves one too.

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News & Notes

Wind farm challenged in R.I. Supreme Court

Three entities have asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to overturn the approval of the Block Island wind farm contract.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch, the Conservation Law Foundation and large industrial concerns Toray Plastics and Polytop Corp. argue that the state Public Utilities Commission approval of the Power Purchase Agreement reached between Deepwater Wind and National Grid was legally flawed on several levels.

[The Block Island Times]

America’s Ten Dead Cities: From Detroit To New Orleans

What this list does not take into account is the suburbanization of America and the fact that many of the sunbelt cities that have taken top spots in population are largely suburban in nature. Never-the-less it is interesting to look at where cities were, what contributed to their downfall, and consider how they should re-invent themselves for the 21st century.

[24/7 Wall Street]

Relocating Route 195: Cost more than double

“The people here hadn’t done these big projects before,” said Robert A Shawver, the DOT’s assistant director for financial planning. “We learned a lot and we’re improving. I think you can see from our managing our other projects that we’re doing well.”

Emphasis added. I mean… really.

[The Providence Journal]

How the Stimulus Is Changing America
[Time]

The State of the Interstate

Now, officials are contemplating taking I-10 down, as part of a national trend in which dismantling freeways is favored as a cheaper option than rehabilitation. But resistance to change runs deep in New Orleans. A proud sense of tradition, racial polarity, corruption and a history of inequitable large-scale redevelopment projects such as the construction of I-10 make many residents distrustful of any big changes — including, paradoxically, the dismantling of I-10.

According to the city’s master plan, dismantling the interstate would add only eight minutes to commute times. The existing I-610 acts as a bypass and Claiborne Avenue, still operational beneath I-10, is four lanes wide. Dense street grids, experts say, handle heavy traffic better than highways by providing routes off of main roadways at more frequent intervals — at blocks rather than at half-mile exits.

Think of the traffic queuing to get on Route 10 at Cranston Street, then think if there were a more permeable grid for that traffic to flow through.

[Next American City]

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere
[USA Today]

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News & Notes

State of Maine on board with high-speed rail; upgrade work on the popular Downeaster begins [FastLane USDOT]

Too hot to cook? A few heat-wave recipes [Projo Subterranean Homepage News]

Hours extended for Providence water parks all week [ProJo]

Forecast for the Future’s Cities: Hot! [The City Fix]

Gas taxes give us a break at the pump [USA Today]
“Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation’s roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That’s a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.”

St. Louis’ Mayor Slay signs ‘Complete Streets’ bill, with promise of bikeable, walkable city [St. Louis Today]

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