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Like: In Seattle, Amazon plans to buy a streetcar and fund shorter headways

The Seattle Transit Blog reports that Amazon.com, which is building a shiny new headquarters complex in Downtown Seattle, plans to buy that city a new streetcar vehicle for service on an existing line and provide funding for shorter headway service.

The overall proposal includes $5.5 million of support for the Seattle Streetcar. This funding will allow the City to purchase an additional streetcar vehicle and increase operational support for 10 years as a part of the Planned Community Development benefit package. In total, these benefits will increase street car service to every ten minutes during the workday.

They will also be building other pedestrian and cycling enhancements in the area. Apparently all this is in exchange for the taking of a number of public alleys the company needs to construct it’s headquarters.

Imagine if we called on developers to give concessions to receive zoning variances and street abandonments.

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Fund RIPTA with a Fat Tax?

Fatty Food

Photo (cc) ckforjc from stock.xchng.

Denmark is the first country in the world to impose a “fat tax.” The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The Nordic country introduced the tax Saturday, of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product.

Ole Linnet Juul, food director at Denmark’s Confederation of Industries, says the tax will increase the price of a burger by around $0.15 and raise the price of a small package of butter by around $0.40.

The tax was approved by large majority in a parliament in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes.

Denmark already has a tax on sugary foods such as candy and soda, as do many other European countries. The Danish government imposed the tax as part of measures to increase the country’s life expectancy, which has recently begun to fall.

If Rhode Island imposed such a tax, the revenue could be put towards RIPTA. A tax on unhealthy food would help to reduce consumption of such foods, and using the proceeds to fund RIPTA would allow the agency to better serve people providing an alternative to driving. As transit riders walk for part of their trips, improved transit would result in health benefits for riders.

Crazy yes, but we’ve had no problem taxing cigarettes. The Danes put the cigarette tax and the sugary and fatty foods taxes all under one umbrella of improving the health of the country’s citizens.

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News & Notes

News & Notes→ [Chicago] Mayor Mandates Public Transit for City Employees [NBC Chicago]

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn’t been quiet about his use of public transit, and he wants city employees to get comfortable using it too.

Under new travel mileage and reimbursement policies outlined Saturday, those who work for city government are required to use Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains as their main mode of transportation once they’ve clocked in.


→ In Little Rock, a Crosswalk That Forbids Crossing [The Atlantic Cities]

But while the city’s heart is in the right place, its head is on wrong. Upon implementing the new no-crossing sign in 2005, the city’s traffic manager, Bill Henry, offered this take: “Too often the motorists will be watching oncoming traffic to make the turn, and will not be mindful of pedestrians in the crosswalk.” Instead of punishing the perpetrators, then, the city chose to punish the victims. In all likelihood the sign was the cheapest practical solution to a legitimate social problem, but this type of auto-focused mentality ultimately hamstrings urban movement, and pedestrian safety, more than it helps.


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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

→ Would $12,000 Convince You To Move Closer To Work? [Fast Company]

How much cash would it take to get you to move closer to your work? For the purposes of this exercise, imagine that your work is in one of the more, shall we say, unsavory parts of Washington, D.C. and you live in a nice, quaint suburb in Virginia. Would you accept $12,000? Washington, D.C.’s Office Of Planning thinks you might–so the organization is launching a pilot program that will match employer contributions of up to $6,000 to convince people to move closer to their work or public transit.


→ A mighty role in downtown Worcester [Boston.com]

WORCESTER – Stand on one side of tiny, wedge-shaped Federal Square, on the southern edge of this city’s downtown, and the perspective is gleaming. What once was a boarded-up multiplex is now the glassy facade of the restored Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, a venue for touring Broadway shows that draws audiences from all over fast-growing Worcester County.

Stand on another side of the square, and the pawnshop that doubles as a check-cashing emporium is difficult to miss, while empty storefronts are easy to see. Then again, the dive bar is gone now, replaced by an establishment that serves craft beers. Apartments a few doors down from the theater are being rehabbed. A couple of small restaurants have popped up.

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News & Notes

→ Apartments, stores planned on Loyola Avenue near Superdome [The Times-Picayune]

Spurred by the future Loyola Avenue streetcar line, a local development firm plans to transform a sea of downtown [New Orleans] parking lots into 450 apartments and 125,000 square feet of shops and restaurants that it calls the South Market District.

Jewelry District, this is your fuiture.

→ In Quest for Revenue, Cities Turning to PILOTs [CitiWire]

“PILOTs can provide crucial revenue for certain municipalities, and are one way to make nonprofits pay for the public services they consume,” Kenyon and Langley say. “However, PILOTs are often haphazard, secretive, and calculated in an ad hoc manner that results in widely varying payments among similar nonprofits. In addition, a municipality’s attempt to collect PILOTs can prompt a battle with nonprofits and lead to years of contentious, costly, and unproductive litigation.”

→ Moving an Interstate highway [Let's Go KC]

In recent months a movement has started to relocate I-35 from Downtown to the West Bottoms, undoing one of the city’s worst 1950s-era highway mistakes. MoDOT is planning to rehab the aging section between the state line and Downtown Loop, and several neighborhoods have seized the opportunity to broaden the conversation to include the idea of moving the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

Been there, done that.

→ No Free Parking [Physics Central]

Next time you’re searching for a parking space and someone grabs a spot from right in front of you, it might seem like the last space left on Earth, but ponder this: there are at least 500 million empty spaces in the United States at any given time.

The researchers extrapolated on a rule of thumb used by urban planners that claims eight parking spaces exist for every one car. The group says that there is little science to support this scenario, but the result would be a whopping 2 billion parking spaces. If all of those spots were consolidated into a single location they would cover an area the size of Massachusetts. The most likely scenario calls for about half that area in parking spaces.

→ seattle: quick notes on “rapid ride” [Human Transit]

Looks to be a lot like RIPTA’s proposed Rapid Bus [.pdf] service.

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Core Connector Study Meeting, Dec. 9

Providence Core Connector Study
December Public Forum

Three potential route options are now being reviewed to identify relative strengths, weaknesses, costs and benefits. The results will be presented at an upcoming public forum:

Thursday, December 9th
Providence Central Library
150 Empire Street, 3rd floor
Providence, RI
5pm to 7pm

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Sometimes, you need a map


Map by Jef Nickerson

Update 02/25: RIPTA has seen this post and read the comments. They are working on a map/better info system for the bottom of the bus tunnel.

The other night I was standing at the bottom of the bus tunnel waiting for a bus to take me up to Wayland Square. Problem is, though I live here, and though I know RIPTA really well, I wasn’t positive which buses went to Wayland Square. I knew the trolley went close, but I didn’t know if it was after the period it stops running to Eastside Market (I would have been ever so annoyed to get dropped off in the middle of Fox Point).

I know the 35 goes to Rumford and the 40 goes to Butler and both go through the square. I had forgotten about the 78 though, which runs to Pawtucket via East Providence.

I had my iPhone with me so I could have figured it out, and I could have just asked the driver if they went to Wayland Square, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way for me to know, like a map or something? The tunnel carries all the bus traffic to the East Side, so a map like the one I just whipped together above, is pretty easy to put together.

A simple map shows the casual transit user or city visitor which buses go where. All go to Thayer Street, easy. Three go to Wayland Square. One goes to Hope Village…

I threw this map together pretty quick. A more comprehensive map would have shaded areas showing points of interest such as Brown University, Hope Village, Wickenden Retail District, India Point Park… A little walking time marker between Eastside Market and Wayland Square would be useful to show that they are almost on top of each other. Another walking time from the trolley to India Point Park. I’d also include another panel with a list of destinations, which buses service them, and bus travel time to them. A time table for each bus would also be very very very helpful (but let’s not get crazy here).

Maybe I should just laminate this and tape it to the wall at the bus tunnel.

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T.F. Green Intermodal Facility, January Update

From RIAC

The Intermodal Project is now approximately 65% and on target for a Fall 2010 opening.


Escalator installation at the TEI

Terminal End Improvements (TEI)

Escalators were dropped through the roof of the building and have now been installed in their permanent positions from the first to the fourth level. Elevators at the TEI site being installed work continuing throughout January. The bridge ceiling has been sprayed with cementitious fireproofing. Ceiling ductwork, fan coil units, and overhead hanger rough-in work are now taking occurring. The stair tower is now receiving metal panels and curtainwalls are being set in place.


A view of the moving sidewalk installation

Skywalk

The moving walkways’ installation and assembly is continuous. Stanchions are being aligned and leveled by laser at walkway sections 1, 2, 4 and 6. Electrical distribution is being wired from the electrical room located in the walkway’s “knuckle” to the curtainwall light fixtures. Insulation is being hung at various points throughout the skywalk. The ceiling and mechanical equipment continues to be painted white in increments. Glass installation at the knuckle began in December and continues.


A view of the skywalk connection to the CSO

Customer Service Operations Building (CSO)

Final detailing of the CSO building exterior was completed in December. Permanent light fixtures for the first floor are now on site. Permanent mechanical equipment and electrical power are near completion and the heating system should be ready for “start-up” in January. The curtainwall is being hung on the “Connector Bridge” between the CSO building and the Garage. Exterior metal panels are also being installed. The doors connecting the CSO to the Skywalk and the Connection Bridge have been framed and will remain temporary as construction continues in this area.


The garage spanning the train tracks

Garage

Foundations at stairway 7 were formed and poured in December. The precast garage was also erected and detailed. Stair 1, along Jefferson Blvd., was installed as well as doors and hardware at the Electrical rooms. Fire protection piping and permanent power distribution were ongoing processes in the garage. Several light posts were raised on the 6 floor. The elevator pits on the east side of the railroad tracks have been waterproofed. The 3, 4, & 5 level fueling canopies at the fueling platform have been installed. All three of these levels also now have fuel pipe transition sheds installed. The concrete pilings for the shoring system have been poured in preparation of setting the fueling tanks.

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I want an ORCA Card


Photo (cc) Oran Viriyincy

What the hell is an ORCA Card you ask? Only a wicked awesome tranist fare Smart Card. The ORCA (One Regional Card for All) is the Seattle area’s version of Smart Card transit fare technology which is taking root around the world. London has their Oyster card, Hong Kong Octopus, and the Chicago Card are among many other Smart Cards out there.

What struck me about ORCA and why it applies to Providence is that the ORCA provides fare services for seven regional transit agencies, and the fare services can be bought in various configurations. For example, say you ride Sound Transit commuter rail into Seattle every weekday, then take a King County Metro bus from the train station to your office. You can have a discount monthly Metro and Sound Transit fare charge applied to your ORCA card. But say you occassionally take Washington State Ferry and occassionally use Community Transit buses? Not every day, so you don’t want a monthly pass for those services. No problem, ORCA can also deduct cash fares from your “e-purse” account built into ORCA.

This makes using transit in the Seattle area seemless. As long as you have your ORCA card in your pocket, you know you can board any transit service. And if you ride a particular service often enough to warrant a monthly fare, ORCA handles that too.

How does this apply to Providence? Well, we have RIPTA and MBTA running into Providence (and the MBTA soon to move further south into the state). Also in our metro area we have GATRA and a smattering of other transit agencies in southeastern Massachusetts. Not to mention transit services in Connecticut. Not all of these services directly connect, but riders may mix through these service areas, especially with the Commuter Rail tying all these service areas together. Say someone wanted to take GATRA to the Attelboro T station, the T to Providence, and a RIPTA bus to their job at RI Hospital. That is three transit systems and three fare products (or the need to keep track of having the proper cash for each of three services).

The biggest benefit of ORCA, or a like system, to me is, the ability to load the card like a debit card and have it in my pocket when I need it. Though I don’t own a car, I actually ride RIPTA rather infrequently, mostly walking everywhere. I’d likely use the bus more if I had a card in my pocket that I knew would get me on it, not needing to dig for change to jump on a bus I wasn’t necessarily planning on taking.

The best RIPTA fare card for me currently would be the 15 Ride card which offers 15 discounted rides, but is still not ideal. I need to remember how many rides I’ve used, say I have one ride left, but need to do a round-trip, now I’m out of luck. ORCA, if I had one ride left, but needed a round trip has an auto re-load option, so when I boarded that return bus but my ORCA was empty, ORCA would debit my account by the amount I told it to auto-debit when my card was empty.

Also, to get a new 15 Ride RIPTA pass, I have to go somewhere. Say I use the last of my 15 Rides to get home. Now I’m stuck at home with no fare card and have to pay cash to go somewhere (for me the most convenient place would be Kennedy Plaza) to get a new card. ORCA allows for me to manage my account online (or if one is not online, then by phone). So if I ever got home with an empty ORCA (if I didn’t have auto-debit), then I could login or call and be good to go with more money on my card.

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