Tag Archives | Transit

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

Seattle Streetcar, image ericnvntr

The Seattle Transit Blog reports that, 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.


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.


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.

Continue Reading →


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.


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.

Continue Reading →


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 []

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.

Continue Reading →


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.


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


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.


T.F. Green Intermodal Facility, January Update


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


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


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.


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.

Continue Reading →


REBOOT: College Hill Transit Sub-Hub

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

One of the recommendations of the Metro Transit Study is a series of sub-hubs around the periphery of Downtown. One of those hubs, and the one that will likely see streetcars the soonest, is at the top of the bus tunnel on Thayer Street. One of our readers asks, “how will a sub-hub work at Thayer Street?” And that is indeed a very good question.

There is limited space at the top of the tunnel for transit, traffic, pedestrians, and then the amenities one would expect at a transit hub. While I’ve heard no specifics for what a planned sub-hub at Thayer Street would look like (only some murmurs that Brown may have some land to use), I do have whacky schemes in my own head for what a transit hub could look like on College Hill. Here we will look at two of those whacky schemes, one slightly more grandiose than the other. Is this what RIPTA and the city are planning? Probably not. Is this something that could be done given political will, proper funding, and time? Sure, why not?

Surface Option

College Hill Transit Hub
Click image to enlarge

The first option is the Surface Option. It does not require any extreme engineering, but would require some land takings. Basically, the transitway would be extended from the current portal, along Fones Alley to Brook Street. Fones Alley is not wide enough for a proper Transitway so the house at the corner of Fones Alley and Brook Street would need to be taken (preferably moved elsewhere as though it is currently wrapped in vinyl, it is likely a very good house). Also, the strip plaza at the corner of Thayer and Waterman Streets would need to be taken. This I would be quite happy to see go as a strip plaza with surface parking between it and the street is not good urban design for Thayer Street. The building would be torn down and a new building, built to the street, with several floors would replace it.

Continue Reading →


Marketing public transit: Los Angeles

Marketing public transit: Los Angeles

LA Metro: Promoting Mass Transit from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

The City Fix takes a look at Los Angeles’ successful campaign to rebrand and market their transit agency, Metro.

Through marketing and branding campaigns, Metro is working to change public opinion of the transit system. And it is working; discretionary ridership (people who have the option to commute by car, but choose transit) has increased from 24% to 36%.

The common perception is that money spent on marketing would be better spent on the transit systems themselves. The problem with this line of thinking is that it is short sighted. Over time, a sustained investment in marketing increases the number of people who use transit. Increased ridership leads to increased revenue and, ideally, an increase in service to match the new demand.

The Metro Transit Study should add a line item for marketing. These days, marketing can be done on the cheap with social media and just by creating collateral and putting it out there for people to take and use.


A look at streetcar rail placement

Photo from District (of Columbia) Department of Transportation Facebook page

As we get serious around here about getting some streetcars running, we should start looking around at what other cities are doing.

No concrete plans of exactly how the rails are going to be laid in the streets have been done yet for Providence, the actual routing is not even nailed down yet. We’ll be spending lots of time working these issues out in the coming months and years. While we start to tackle these issues, The Transport Politic takes a look at the Benning Road streetcar line in Washington, DC and finds it’s design lacking.

Graphic of the Benning Road streetcar tracks in Washington, DC from The Transport Politic

On Benning Road, the streetcars will run in the left lane, which is a popular alternative for streetcars. The problem as The Transport Politic sees it is the left turn lane at intersections which is to the left of the streetcar lane (see photo at top). In the graphic above, and other graphics on thier site, this left turn lane to the left of the streetcars sets up the potential for too much conflict between the streetcars and vehicles trying to reach the left turn lane. They conclude that this design is a design that puts cars first. The very concept of the left turn lane is to keep cars moving as smoothly as possible.

This raises questions about the value of streetcars in general | wouldn’t it make more sense to operate these trains more like light rail? Cities could do just that simply by installing cheap ground-level barriers between streetcar and car lanes, and eliminating the left-turn lanes to the left of the streetcars (or moving the trams to the outside lanes), all while instituting aggressive signal priority. These approaches would dramatically improve the efficiency and speed of streetcars and provide them a relative advantage over automobile traffic, which would be limited by fewer travel lanes than before, ultimately leading to more public transportation usage. That’s a valuable goal.

In the limited area in which our starter streetcar line is proposed for, this geometry is not terribly likely, except for perhaps the small portion between the hospitals and Davol Square along Eddy Street. It does raise an important question for our future planning though. Are we going to design our streetcar routes to avoid inconvenience for drivers, or are we designing streetcar routes to move passengers on the streetcars first and foremost? I think as we start zeroing in on the exact routing and figuring how the tracks will be laid in the street, this is important for us to keep in mind.


StreetFilms at COP15

Tens of thousands of people from nearly every nation on earth have descended on Copenhagen this month for the UN climate summit. As the delegates try to piece together a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’re also absorbing lessons from one of the world’s leading cities in sustainable transportation. In Copenhagen, fully 37 percent of commute trips are made by bike, and mode share among city residents alone is even higher.

Come see “the busiest bicycling street in the Western world”, and lots of other you-gotta-see-them-to-believe-them features including bike counters (featuring digital readouts), LEDS, double bike lanes (for passing) and giant hot pink cars.

Copenhagen wasn’t always such a bicycling haven. It took many years of investment in bike infrastructure to reclaim streets from more polluting, less sustainable modes. Last week, I was able to squeeze in a whirl-wind tour with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the bike culture evangelist behind Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic, to get a taste of the city’s impressive bike network and cycling amenities. Watch this video and see how Copenhageners flock to the streets by bike even in December, when average temperatures hover just above freezing.



Metro Transit Study


Providence Mayor David Cicilline speaks at the event introducing the Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study. Photo by Jef Nickerson

The time for us to make investment in transit is right now.

Today, RIPTA released their long awaited Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study, which looks to improve transit within the Rhode Island urban core centered on Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Warwick, East Providence, Cranston, and North Providence. While the proposal to build a streetcar network in the capital city is getting the most attention, the report actually outlines many initiatives to improve transportation within the metro core.

Video of the Mayor’s speech

New buses

RIPTA’s General Manager, Al Moscola says the agency is waiting on delivery of 24 “clean diesel” buses (same style as the last batch of new buses) and 10 hybrid trolleybuses (to replace existing LINK trolleys). RIPTA also plans to order 63 “BRT Style” hybrid buses this month

Improve RIPTA’s current services

The streetcars, though flashy, and fun, and cool (and expensive) will only be a small part of our future transit system. Now and in the future, buses will be the work horses of our public transit system. RIPTA sees the need for more buses, more frequent service, more service at night and on weekends, and additional lines in new service areas. RIPTA hopes to deliver on those needs, “RIPTA aims to provide a ten percent increase to existing bus service to strengthen corridors that already enjoy high ridership and levels of service.”

In order to offer expansions of service where they are most needed throughout the state, RIPTA plans to conduct a service analysis to identify potential improvements to routes and services throughout the state, determine how to provide the most cost-effective service possible, and develop a plan to prioritize the expansion of service as finances permit.

Provide Additional Bus Service

Introducing, Rapid Bus


Los Angeles Metro Rapid bus. Photo (cc) Metro Library and Archive

A new concept for RIPTA is Rapid Bus . Rapid Bus will function much like a BRT line, except it will not feature BRT’s separate bus lanes (at initially it won’t).

Rapid Bus offers the opportunity to enhance existing bus service to provide faster and more reliable service, a higher level of passenger comfort and amenities, and a distinctive service identity. Rapid Bus transit enhancements include: frequent service, simple routes, limited stops, queue jump lanes, unique identities, distinctive stop facilities, specially branded vehicles, transit signal priority, and real-time arrival information. These features work together to make service fast, reliable, convenient, comfortable and clearly identifiable – characteristics all associated with rail or Bus Rapid Transit service but without the major capital investment and in locations where dedicated lanes are not possible.

RIPTA’s first Rapid Bus line will combine the current Route 11 Broad Street with the current Route 99 North Main Street and Pawtucket. These two routes will be combined to provide continual service through Providence with one distinctive brand applied to the new route. These two routes in their current form serve 10,000 riders per day. Future enhancements to this route may include the reconstruction of North Main Street to provide true BRT service with designated bus lanes in that area.

Continue Reading →


T.F. Green Intermodal Facility, December Update


December Intermodal Update

The Intermodal project is at 64% complete, on schedule and within budget. Project highlights to date include the completion of the curtain wall spanning the length of the skywalk, installation of escalators at the TEI and the connection of the east and west garages over the train tracks.

An aerial view of the project

Terminal End Improvements (TEI)

Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installation continues at the terminal end. Overhead piping and roof drains continue to be installed as well. Glass curtain wall installation on the TEI bridge is over 90% complete. The stair tower is ready for exterior metal panels. Escalator units are being delivered to the site and lowered into the building by use of a crane. The elevator bays are now prepped and ready for the elevator units to be installed. All masonry work at the terminals end is complete.

A view of the terminal from the Skywalk as the moving walkways are being installed


The blue and green glass curtain wall along the skywalk from the TEI to the CSO is nearly complete with only a few panels along Fresno Street remaining to be installed. The sunshade is partially installed and extends south. Inside the skywalk, stanchions are being installed for the moving walkways on a daily basis. Moving walkways continue to be assembled and installed. Exterior metal panel installation is an ongoing operation. Hangers for the stretch fabric ceiling are being suspended from the (ceiling) aluminum roof decking. The ceilings in the skywalk is also being painted.

A view of the garage. The CSO building is visible to the right


The exterior skin of the Customer Service Operations Building is complete. The CSO roof is sealed and composite panels and curtain wall are complete. The connector bridge between the east garage and CSO building is now accepting sheathing and metal panels. Walls are being primed and painted as they become available. Work is being done on mechanical, electrical, and plumbing equipment as well as painting. Wire is being distributed throughout the building and the electrical room continues to be fit-out. Piping is being insulated and the mechanical controls are being placed.

The precast concrete sections are now spanning the railroad tracks


Precast concrete sections now span over the railroad tracks. This was accomplished in the overnight hours following the last train of the evening. The east and west sides of the garage were connected at the third level. Detail work on the garage continues daily. The east and west garages, ground floor, has been paved and curb has been installed. Temporary power and lighting are being installed in the east garage. Elevator pits are being waterproofed. Various slab on grade and slab on deck pours are happening. Permanent power and lighting are being installed at the west garage. Stair tower #1 foundation has been poured and the concrete block installation has started. Masonry work continues. Fire protection piping is ongoing, as is the water service work to all necessary rooms in the building. The third floor fueling platform has been turned back over to Gilbane, from CBRE, to finish the moment slab. Steel for the 3rd and 4th floor fueling canopies was set in place in November. These steel canopy frames were raised and set into place by crane in the middle of November. The fueling islands have been backfilled, fuel piping placed, and underground drainage set in place. The 3rd floor is prepped for pouring of slab in early December.