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News & Notes

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Photo (cc) Michelle

Planetizen The Case Against Jaywalking Laws, Part 2

Some months ago, I wrote that laws against so-called “jaywalking” (that is, crossing in places other than crosswalks or where traffic lights encourage pedestrians to cross) fail to promote safety, because traffic lights are inadequate guides to safety. When crossing midblock, a pedestrian need only watch out for traffic coming in one direction—right toward her. By contrast, when crossing at a light, a pedestrian may be in less danger from cars coming straight at him, but may be attacked by cars making left and right turns. Moreover, it is not at all clear that jaywalking is a major cause of pedestrian fatalities; although most crashes do occur outside intersections, these crashes often occur in places where there is no easily available crosswalk. According to traffic writer Tom Vanderbilt, “While jaywalking is often cited as a cause of pedestrian accidents, less than 20 percent of fatalities occurred where a pedestrian was crossing outside an easily available crosswalk.” And even where a pedestrian is jaywalking, a crash may be caused primarily by driver misconduct.


Penn Medicine Remediating Abandoned, Inner City Buildings Reduces Crime and Violence in Surrounding Areas, Penn Study Finds

“Replacing broken windows and doors is an effective deterrent of crime—and a low-cost alternative to demolishing abandoned buildings,” MacDonald said. “During a time when big cities like Philadelphia are looking to tackle issues of crime and violence, this study points to a potentially effective tactic for municipalities to continue or implement in helping make their neighborhoods safer and ultimately improving health outcomes.”

Prior research suggests that vacant and abandoned places have a significant and negative impact on community health and safety. The “broken windows” theory proposes that abandonment sends a signal to would-be offenders that committing crimes is acceptable and will likely go unchallenged or unseen. A sister study of abandoned land, not buildings, conducted by Branas, MacDonald and others in 2011 found an association between greening remediation of vacant lots and reduced risks of neighborhood violence, stress, and sedentary behavior. Other studies have found associations between boarded-up buildings and drug-related deaths and sexually transmitted diseases.


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ProJo: DOT seeks permission to move RIPTA commuter lot in North Kingstown

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Image from Google Streetview

RIDOT is still discussing merging the RIPTA park and ride at Routes 2 and 102 with the parking facility at Wickford Junction MBTA station, a mile away.

“The property’s highest and best use is not as a parking lot,” said Paul Carcieri, the DOT’s real estate specialist. “It’s a very valuable property.”

Approximately $1.9 million dollars valuable.

Committee members are concerned about whether moving the Park-n-Ride roughly a mile to Wickford Junction would make it less convenient to RIPTA users, whether bus riders who park at the MBTA garage would be guaranteed free parking as they get now and whether the garage operator would keep the facility open as needed by RIPTA users — on weekends, for instance.

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National Dump The Pump Day – June 18, 2015

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From RIPTA:


On June 18, 2015, American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and public transportation systems across the country will celebrate the 10th Annual National Dump the Pump Day.

In these tough economic times with high gas prices, everyone is looking for a way to save money. National Dump the Pump Day encourages people to ride public transportation (instead of driving) and save money.

Riding public transit is an economical way to save money, particularly when gas prices are high. The latest APTA Transit Savings Report shows that a two person household that downsizes to one car can save – on the average – more than $9,569 a year.

However, public transportation doesn’t just help people save money, it also helps communities grow and prosper. For example, for every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 is returned in economic returns. Mayors know that communities with public transportation are more competitive. So, riding public transportation helps people and their communities!

Upload a photo of yourself showing how you dumped the pump with the hashtag #DumpThePumpRI and you’ll be entered to win a RIPTA prize pack.
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James Kennedy: Why Routes 6/10 should be redeveloped as a surface boulevard

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Overpass on 6/10 Connector inbound. Photo from RIDOT

This post originally appeared on Transport Providence and is reposted with persmission of the author.

My Letter to City Council

To Honorable Councilpersons Aponte, Hassett, Matos, Principe, and Jennings,

I would like to bring a proposal for Rt. 6/10 to your attention. My proposal was #10 on RI NPR’s “Things to Know in Rhode Island” this week, and I hope I can get Council’s attention to discuss it.

The Rt. 6/10 Connector would be best redeveloped as a surface boulevard. The RIDOT proposal for bus lanes is what I call “transit oriented decoration” rather than “transit oriented development” because the bus lanes would remain on a raised or sunken highway, which would mean that meaningful transit service would pass over your wards.

It’s important to have some kind of “express” service for buses, but what makes buses successful is ridership, which allows frequency. We can only get ridership if we allow the dense neighborhoods that 6/10 passes through to get full service, and that means fostering a healthy pedestrian environment with development around the route. A surface boulevard will do that, and a limited-access highway will not.

Bus lanes without a meaningful ridership base and walkable environment will be as unsuccessful as the Wickford Junction Station was, and for the same reasons.

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Barry Schiller: Rhode Works – $4.8 Billion for Rhode Island Transportation

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The crumbling Warren Avenue bridge in East Providence was recently replace. Image from RIDOT

Barry Schiller, a retired Rhode Island College math professor, is a long-time member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He also was on the RIPTA Board of Directors 1995-1999.

What is your 10 year vision for transportation in Rhode Island? The Governor and her new RIDOT leaders propose their answer on the home page of the RIDOT website where there is a link to a 10 year $4.8 billion transportation plan called “Rhode Works.” This is about $1.1 billion more than current funding levels. A $700 million revenue bond is proposed for funding “replacement, reconstruction, and maintenance” of state bridges, the bond to be paid back by tolls on large commercial trucks crossing some bridges on Routes 95, 195, 295, 146, and 6/10. $400 million is set aside for the Route 6/10 bridges. There is a goal to reduce the percentage of our deficient bridges from about 22% to 10%. There will be a hearing on the proposed tolls at House Finance on Tuesday evening June 2.

Another $400 million to fund Rhode Works is from seeking $400 million in federal “New Start” transit funds. Rhode Works promises a “new commitment to provide increased bus and rail services.” The only specific transit project mentioned is an express bus lane on Routes 6/10. Rhode Works also promises “funding for bike lanes and accessible sidewalks.” There is no mention of bike paths.

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CNU New England streetcar discussion – June 10, 2015

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From CNU New England:


Streetcar Revival: Providence, New England, and lessons learned from the World’s Best Transit City

Wednesday, June 10 | 5pm – 7pm
Aurora, 276 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

Join CNU New England for a discussion of the Providence Streetcar project as well as insights from world-class transit systems. Our conversation will explore the potential impacts to Providence, the unique opportunities and challenges for streetcars in New England’s towns and cities, and lessons learned from cities across the world.

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News & Notes

A couple of red traffic lights against a blue sky

Photo (cc) Horia Varlan

Better Cities & Towns: The benefits of removing stop lights

In the 1990s, the City of Philadelphia removed 800 traffic lights. Traffic flow improved and accidents declined by 26 percent in these intersections.

Recently, Wayne State researchers recommended that Detroit remove 460 signals, or 30 percent of its total inventory. And that figure may underestimate removable signals, the researchers note.

For pedestrians, four-way stops are much better—because every automobile has to come to a complete stop and traffic is calmed.

For pedestrians, removing traffic signals also helps maintain their right-of-way. If one approaches a stop light and is unable to reach the beg-button before the light changes, the red hand tells pedetrains and motorists that the pedestrian is not allowed to cross, even if they are trying to cross with the green which they should be allowed to do by right. Even if the walk-light actuates, turning drivers interpret their green as their right-of-way and treat the pedestrian as secondary.

A non-signalized intersection gives pedestrians the right-of-way.


The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: One-way streets are failing their cities

In John Gilderbloom’s experience, the notorious streets are invariably the one-way streets. These are the streets lined with foreclosed homes and empty storefronts, the streets that look neglected and feel unsafe, the streets where you might find drug dealers at night.

“Sociologically, the way one-way streets work,” he says, “[is that] if there are two or more lanes, a person can just pull over and make a deal, while other traffic can easily pass them by.”

It’s also easier on a high-speed one-way road to keep an eye out for police or flee from the scene of a crime.

So all the streets that were made one way on Federal Hill to deter drug activity, actually made it worse? Thanks NIMBYs.


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Elorza updates street sweeping plans

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Photo from Mayor Elorza’s Facebook page

Mayor Elorza held a press conference this morning to provide an update on the street sweeping schedule. I asked on Twitter about prohibiting parking during scheduled street sweeping.


I did take it upon myself to sweep the street in front of my house a few weeks ago, but the rest of my block remains littered with detritus even after the street sweepers went by because no one knew they were coming.

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RIPTA online fare survey

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From RIPTA:


RIPTA Launches Online Transit Fare Survey

Survey Available Through May 1, 2015

Is it easy for passengers to buy tickets and passes to ride the bus? Do we offer the types of fare products they are looking for? The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) wants to know how passengers feel about their fare pricing and products, and is inviting their passengers to take their Transit Fare Study Survey. It is available on RIPTA’s website now through May 1, 2015. Also, copies of the survey are available at the customer service window at Kennedy Plaza and our Commuter Resource Team will be making it available to passengers at various locations, including some Park ‘n Ride commuter lots.

RIPTA is conducting the survey as it embarks on a comprehensive transit fare study that will review all fare products as well as the rates that are charged. One of the main goals of the study – which is expected to take about four months – is to determine if RIPTA is offering the types of fare products that best meet passengers’ needs.

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WPRI: Providence moving forward with streetcar plan

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Providence is moving forward with an altered – and slightly cheaper – version of its proposed streetcar line.

The city is currently seeking proposals for “planning and engineering services” that would include a preliminary design of a 1.6-mile streetcar line that would begin at Providence Station and end near the main entrance on Rhode Island Hospital.

The projected $100.2-million price tag is less than the original $117.8-million proposal, in part because the city is no longer planning stops on College Hill in the first phase of its plan. Future extensions of the line would include the East Side and Dudley Street in South Providence.

Update

Dan McGowan asked me to comment on the streetcar for the “Saturday Morning Post” on WPRI.

The state can support the streetcar project and make it more successful by working to increase the speed and frequency of MBTA Commuter Rail service between Providence and Boston and extending service to Kingston Station near URI.

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ProJo: State seeks contractor to evaluate possible consolidation of R.I. transportation agencies

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RIDOT work on the Providence Viaduct, March 2014

Is there a new transportation super-agency in Rhode Island’s future? Perhaps.

On March 25, the new Raimondo administration quietly opened bids for a contract to provide “Transportation Management Assessment and Review Services.”

Among the stated “goals of this investigation”: to take a step-back look at the effectiveness of having multiple state agencies operate different pieces of Rhode Island’s transportation network, from the ports and airports, to the RIPTA bus routes and road-builders.

It would be very helpful if RIDOT and RIPTA were more integrated on projects; if there was always a mass transit person at the table when RIDOT work was being planned. It is a little worrying that RIPTA could be merged with an agency that still has not proven that it can move beyond car-first thinking when it comes to transportation.

It is not just RIPTA and RIDOT though, airport manangement, port management, and Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (which controls our bridges and tolls) could all be merged into a larger transportation agency.

It all comes down to how it is structured of course. It will be interesting to see what the conclusions of the review are.

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RIPTA Comprehensive Fare Study

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RIPTA is launching a comprehensive fare study to evaluate the types of fare products the agency offers (online re-chargable debit style card please). They will be having public meetings to gather input.

From RIPTA:


RIPTA Launches Comprehensive Fare Study

First Round of Community Meetings Scheduled for April 14th

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is embarking on a transit fare study that will review all fare products it offers as well as the rates that are charged. One of the main goals of the study – which is expected to take about four months ­– is to determine if RIPTA is offering the types of fare products (such as all-day passes, or 15-ride passes) that best meet passengers’ needs.

The RIPTA Board of Directors awarded the contract for the study to LTK Engineering Services of Ambler, Pennsylvania in the amount of approximately $170,500 at its February Board Meeting. “This really will be an in-depth look into how passengers use fares in our system today,” said Amy Pettine, Executive Director of Planning at RIPTA. “We’re going to be looking at what types of fare products and sales locations might make it easier for people to use RIPTA. And we’re also going to be looking at overall issues such as whether we should continue to be ‘one state, one rate’ as well as how we can use fares to create easier connections to commuter rail.”

“This study is also going to give us chance to look at what we may want to offer in the future to take advantage of the latest fare technology like mobile payments and hopefully attract some new riders to our system,” she said.

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MacRumors: ‘Citymapper’ and ‘Transit App’ Offer In-Depth Looks at Transit Experiences on Apple Watch

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The RIPTA on your wrist!

As a few popular iPhone apps begin rolling out updates for their built-in Apple Watch apps ahead of the April 24 launch, a pair of transit-focused services have posted on Medium to share detailed looks into exactly what kind of experience users can expect from Citymapper and Transit App on the Apple Watch next month.

The Transit App provides schedule based bus information for RIPTA and also MBTA commuter rail, subways, and buses. So, I can tell it to give me a route from my current location in Providence to a location in Boston, and it will give me all the information I need. It also generally tells me what buses are near my current location and when they leave and where they go.

It is like living in the future.

Image from Transit App via Medium.com

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News & Notes

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Planned protected bike lane on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

The Boston Globe: Boston to install protected bike lanes on Commonwealth Avenue

The city of Boston will install protected bike lanes on a stretch of Commonwealth Avenue, a victory for biking advocates who have pushed for the city to make it safer to cycle down the bustling thoroughfare.

City officials announced on Tuesday their plans to replace existing bike lanes with protected bike lanes — known as cycle tracks — from the Boston University Bridge to Packard’s Corner. The lanes will be about two-thirds of a mile and use parked cars as a barrier between cyclists and vehicle traffic, a move meant to cut down on accidents that have become common along the heavily used road.

The decision to install the protected bike lanes represents a turnaround for the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and could pave the way for more protected bike lanes in the city.

Providence is working on plans for the first protected bike lanes in the state along Fountain Street downtown.


The New Journal: Paint the Streets

On the morning of Sunday, May 1, 2011, residents of the Audubon district awoke to find a bold new crosswalk at the intersection of Whitney Avenue and Audubon Street. Spray-painted and slightly crooked, the rogue act made headlines around town. Opinions differed—officials said the sight lines weren’t clear enough for a crosswalk, business owners liked that it made it easier for people to get to their stores, and some just thought it looked a little funny. Useful or not, the crosswalk was illegal and officials had the paint removed two days later. The impromptu markings made a point, however: the intersection was dangerous. The city needed to rethink its streets.


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Providence Station Plaza improvement work commences

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RIDOT has begun work at Providence Station. This is improvements to the existing station area, the bus proposed bus terminal that had bond money approved for by voters last November is still in planning and development.

From RIDOT:


RIDOT Begins Work on Providence Station Improvement Project

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) started work this week to upgrade the southern entrance plaza (downtown side) of Providence Station. Through a $6.9 million contract with J.H. Lynch & Sons, planned improvements will enhance circulation for all users of the station as well as create an inviting civic space. Pedestrian enhancements will also be made along Gaspee Street, and damaged concrete and limestone areas on the building’s plaza will be repaired. Other planned improvements include adding amenities for bicyclists, updating signage, and landscaping.

This work, which will be broken out into two phases, will require temporary restrictions, including a closure of the top level of the parking garage, a relocation of the taxi stands, and a closure of portions of Railroad Street and Park Row West. Project completion is scheduled for spring 2016.

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News & Notes

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Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photo (cc) Dave Lawrence.

CityLab: Why Housing Is Key to Chattanooga’s Tech-Hub Ambitions

Chattanooga is aiming to build on the reputation it’s earned from its world-class broadband service. The goal is to make the city a sustainable innovation hub, showing that it’s a well-rounded city rather than a one-trick pony. Evidence of this forward-thinking strategy can be seen in an ambitious expansion of housing downtown—known locally as the City Center—which is aimed at attracting young professionals that value walkable urban cores.

The latest downtown housing effort began in 2013, three years after the city’s gigabit Internet was first introduced. The community was of course enthused by the changes they were seeing in the city. But to local policymakers, the level of housing density in downtown Chattanooga was far from ideal. Over 50,000 people showed up to work there each day, but a dearth of adequate housing prevented many of them from moving there. Over the course of several months, more than 70 local stakeholders came together to identify 22 downtown buildings that needed to be remodeled (some razed) to make room for new housing.


The Boston Globe: A new age for an old town

There have been three great ages of development in modern Boston. The first began after the Back Bay was filled in the late 19th century, a radical change that triggered a historic construction boom. The second came in the 1960s and ’70s, when a “high spine” of office towers — stretching from the financial district to the Pru — began to rise over an old town.

The third is now.

Its businesses and population on the rise, Boston is in the midst of a building spree whose enormity, pace, and geographic sweep are redefining the skyline faster than any period since the early Industrial Age.


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ProJo: Raimondo looking at tolls to finance roadwork

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Open-road toll installation in Illinois. Photo (cc) Tony Webster.

After more than a year of wrangling over the much-criticized Sakonnet River Bridge toll, Rhode Island lawmakers announced last June that they had created a long-term solution for financing Rhode Island’s roads and bridges that would avert the need for the toll.

Raimondo put the potential for tolls back on the bargaining table in a weekend Associated Press story about the poor condition of many of Rhode Island’s roads and bridges — and the uncertainty about future federal highway funding.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at solutions, everything from public-private partnerships to tolling,” Raimondo said.

See also: Rhode Island’s Future: Raimondo toll plan deserves progressive support
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