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News & Notes

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Kansas City. (cc) Zach Werner

The New York Times: Millennials Going to Kansas City, to Live and Work

On one of the hottest days of the year in mid-July, Michael Knight, a real estate developer, made note of the torn-up street outside Commerce Tower, which opened in 1965 as this region’s first modern high-rise office structure with a glass curtain wall.

Workers were preparing the road for Kansas City’s $100 million streetcar starter line, which will begin running in 2015. It will include a stop right outside the 30-story office building, and the streetcar is one reason among many that the Commerce Tower Group, of which Mr. Knight is a partner, acquired the property just 70 days after he walked through it for the first time a year ago.

In October, the company plans to begin converting the 500,000-square-foot tower into a $90 million vertical city of residential and office space, and retailing and restaurants. The renovation will also include a Park University satellite location, which already operates in the building, and an early childhood school, among other amenities like a fitness center and a rooftop gathering spot.

I think it is cool that Knight Rider went into real estate.

The number of people living in the central business district has increased about 50 percent, to 20,000, since 2000, according to the Downtown Council of Kansas City. Apartment developers added more than 6,130 units from 2002 through 2012, and occupancy is above 95 percent, according to the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, a real estate brokerage firm.

Officials would like to see the current number of downtown residents double.

Officials in Providence seem to have no goals whatsoever about increasing the population in Providence, even with similar demand for downtown living as what is seen in Kansas City.


Governing: Do Cities Really Want Economic Development?

So many cities and regions continue to struggle economically. Even within nominally well-performing places there are pockets that have been left behind. Most of the have-nots in the current economy have been struggling for an extended period of time, often in spite of enormous efforts to bring positive change.

Why is this? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that these places are getting exactly the results they want: Maybe they actually don’t want economic development.

Jane Jacobs took it even further. As she noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo.

This is a something that I’ve been hearing more of around Providence lately; some feel that people in Rhode Island don’t actually want anyone to be successful, especially if those people are from away. I think of the General Assembly reading the Jacobs quote.


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City of Providence Seeks Public Comment on Sustainabilty Plan

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Over the past year, the City of Providence has been working on its Sustainability Plan. The City has released a draft of that plan and is seeking comment from the public. From the City:


From Mayor Taveras: Draft Sustainable Providence Plan Released for Public Comment

I am pleased to release for public comment a draft of the city’s first-ever sustainability action plan, Sustainable Providence.

In 2013, I released sustainability goals to move Providence forward in six key areas: waste, food, transportation, water, energy, and land use & development. Since then, more than 100 community leaders have worked with my staff to develop and provide feedback on this draft plan to achieve our goals.

Implementing this plan will help build a resilient and sustainable future for Providence as we protect our environment, rebuild our economy and strengthen our community. Thank you for working together with us to create a cleaner, greener city.

Please submit your comments by Friday, August 22, 2014 to Sheila Dormody, Director of Sustainability, sdormody@providenceri.com

Full disclosure: I participated on the Transportation Subcommittee
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ProJo: R.I. convention authority to fund parking garage construction behind Garrahy courthouse

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The R.I. Convention Center Authority said Tuesday it will put up the $43 million needed to build a parking garage adjacent to the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Dorrance Street in downtown Providence.

“The transformation of the current surface parking lot represents a unique opportunity to addres current parking capacity deficiencies and provide a mechanism to promote economic development,” said James Bennett, the convention center authority’s chairman.

Bennett also serves as economic development chief for the City of Providence.


No word on a possible RIPTA hub in the article.

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News & Notes

Snowy evening in Helsinki

Snowy evening in Helsinki, image (cc) Niklas Sjöblom

The Guardian: Helsinki’s ambitious plan to make car ownership pointless in 10 years

The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.


Old Urbanist: Going Driverless, or Not

A heated debate over the significance of Google’s so-called driverless car has been raging over the past several weeks. On one side of the aisle are those hailing it as a “revolutionary” technology that will dramatically alter personal mobility to the point of eliminating private car ownership. On the other side are those who reject the premise that the technology represents a groundbreaking shift, instead characterizing it as merely a “slightly different variation” on current transportation modes that is “so incremental that it epitomizes our national short-sightedness, and failure of imagination, when it comes to improving mobility in America.”

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RIPTA to relocate buses out of Kennedy Plaza to accommodate construction starting July 12, 2014

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From RIPTA:


RIPTA to Temporarily Relocate Bus Stops Out of Kennedy Plaza to Accommodate City of Providence Construction

All Routes Detoured Out of Kennedy Plaza Beginning Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will temporarily relocate all bus stops out of Kennedy Plaza beginning Saturday, July 12, 2014 to accommodate City of Providence renovations of the Plaza. These renovations will create a large civic space, reorganize bus berth locations and improve pedestrian connections to and from the plaza. The work is expected to be complete Fall 2014. All routes will be slightly detoured to avoid entering Kennedy Plaza. Bus stops will be relocated to Exchange Terrace, Sabin Street, Exchange Street, Fountain Street and Steeple Street. Park N’ Ride service will be relocated from Exchange Terrace to Sabin St. but will continue to pick up passengers at other downtown locations. Peter Pan and Greyhound passengers will continue to load and unload at their current stop in front of the Kennedy Plaza Terminal.

Ticketing and other passenger amenities will remain open inside the Kennedy Plaza Terminal during the construction period. RIPTA’s Kennedy Plaza sales and information outlet will remain open during construction. Customers are advised to enter through the side door on the Fulton Street side, near City Hall.

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Build your own transit system with Transitmix

transitmix

I hope you didn’t have any plans this weekend, because if you click this link, you’ll spend it drawing bus lines all over the place.

Transitmix allows you to lay down your own bus lines, measure the length, set the headways, and determine the cost of operation. A dangerous tool for armchair transit planners like you and me.

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News & Notes

miami-station

Proposed Florida Station in Miami.

Gizmodo: 5 Rail Stations From America’s New Golden Age of Train Travel

With a high-speed rail network slowly making its way towards reality, cities are commissioning grand stations for the 21st century to accommodate this new mode of transit. Here are five stations on the horizon that are bringing the drama and glamour back to train travel, while positioning it for a high-tech, high-speed future.


City Journal: Aaron Renn: The Bluest State

“Rhode Island is in the midst of an especially grim economic meltdown,” a 2009 New York Times story began, “and no one can pinpoint exactly why.” Five years later, the state continues to suffer from most of the same problems the Times story described: high unemployment, a crippling tax structure, dangerously underfunded state pension systems. But contrary to the Times’s claims, Rhode Island’s predicament is easy to explain. With no special economic advantages, the state has maintained an entitlement mentality inherited from an age of colonial and industrial grandeur. Rhode Island was once one of America’s most prosperous states, and its rate of higher-education attainment remains better than the national average. But the state’s key industries collapsed long ago, and its political leadership has refused to make adjustments to its high-cost, high-regulation governance system.

The result: a state with “the costs of Minnesota and the quality of Mississippi,” as Rob Atkinson, former executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, told WPRI-TV. Indeed, Rhode Island is arguably America’s basket case, overlooked only because it is small enough to escape most national scrutiny. Its ruination is a striking corrective to the argument that states can tax, spend, and regulate their way to prosperity.


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Grow Smart RI Power of Place Summit – May 23, 2014

convention-center

Grow Smart RI’s biennial Power of Place Summit takes place this Friday, May 23rd at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Online registration closes at noon tomorrow then the price goes up for telephone or walk-up registrations, so register today!

Details from Grow Smart RI:


Join 500 state, local and federal officials, business and civic leaders, real estate professionals, investors, architects, developers, builders, farmers, and community stakeholders from across Rhode Island and New England for Grow Smart’s 5th biennial Power of Place Summit.

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RIPTA: Downtown Transit 2.0

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As RIPTA prepares to introduce its new R-Line rapid bus service next month, and reroute some buses in September based on the recent Comprehensive Operational Analysis, the agency is also planning for how to operate in Downtown Providence in the future.

Ideas for the future include physical improvements to Kennedy Plaza and the creation of two new bus hubs, one at Providence Train Station, the other behind the Garrahy Courthouse off Dorrance Street.

Information from RIPTA on the recent studies they have undertaken:


RIPTA has commissioned several recent studies to seek ways to improve the transit experience for Rhode Islanders. Rising ridership and the need to provide service that best meets demand in our state has driven recent evaluations of RIPTA’s operations, including the Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA). As almost all RIPTA routes access Kennedy Plaza, it is expected that operations at this location would be more closely studied. RIPTA, in partnership with the RI Department of Transportation and RI Statewide Planning, is conducting a downtown transit improvement study, Downtown Transit 2.0, to evaluate whether the introduction of additional downtown Providence transit stations could improve service for existing riders, enhance downtown accessibility and mobility, and resolve operational and passenger experience issues at Kennedy Plaza.

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RIPTA R-Line Schedules Posted

r-line-002RIPTA’s new R-Line rapid bus service will replace and combine the current Route 99 service North Main – Pawtucket and 11 Broad Street services. The new service is set to launch on June 21st and RIPTA has published the schedules for the new service.

One notable service change is that North Main service will run via Providence Station, providing direct services between the station and Kennedy Plaza and serving communities along North Main Street to Pawtucket and south along Broad Street to the Cranston line.

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News & Notes

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Photo (cc) Cristina Valencia

The Washington Post: Actually, cyclists make city streets safer

In the hysteria that predated the launch of New York’s bike-sharing system last year, many critics cried that the bikes would make the city’s streets less safe. All those cyclists wouldn’t be wearing helmets! They’d have no insurance! Accidents would skyrocket, and with them lawsuits against the city. Fatalities would triple!

The system’s safety record quickly turned out to be less sensational. But this was as bike advocates expected. Biking — as with walking — offers a prime example of the power of crowds. As more people bike and walk, cycling and pedestrian fatalities actually decline. That’s because the more people bike and walk, the more drivers become attuned to their presence (either on sidewalks or road shoulders), and the more cities are likely to invest in the kind of infrastructure explicitly meant to protect them (all of which further encourages more cyclists and pedestrians).


The Boston Globe: Boston’s parking solution is not more parking

Northeastern University professor Stephanie Pollack has studied gentrification around transit stops across the country, and she’s found that one of the biggest mistakes municipalities make is requiring too much parking. Pollack’s data show that, given the choice, residents will self-select: Heavy drivers choose to live in homes that provide parking, and residents who don’t own cars will choose transit-oriented, low-parking homes. This is especially true for renters. So the answer to an urban parking crunch isn’t adding supply. It’s recognizing that parking demand isn’t monolithic. Urban parking is a choice, and if Boston really does have too many cars already, the answer isn’t to build room for more.

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News & Notes

armadillos2

Image from Cyclehoop

Fast Company: These Recycled Plastic Dividers Can Create A Bike Lane In A Second

Painted bike lanes are safer for cyclists than riding in the middle of the road, but bike lanes that are separated with a curb are even better. For example, one study found that cyclists in separated lanes had 80% fewer accidents than those in regular bike lanes. But it’s often tricky to convince city governments to take the extra, more concrete step of separation. One product from a U.K. design firm aims to help.

The “Armadillo” is a low-slung recycled plastic bump that can be installed along the edge of a bike lane. Set at an angle, the bumps allow enough space for bikes to ride back out into the street if they need to, something that isn’t as easy with a full concrete curb. But it still keeps cars out.


Mashable: London to Test ‘Smart’ Crosswalks

The system, called Pedestrian Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT) uses cameras to figure out how many people are waiting to cross the street and adjusts traffic signals accordingly. So if there is a large crowd waiting, for example, the signal to walk will last longer, giving the crowd more time to cross the street.

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Providence Streetcar to apply for TIGER VI grant funding

streetcar-empire

The Obama administration announced a new round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants (known as TIGER VI) with an extremely short turn-around for submitting applications, they are due April 28th.

The City of Providence applied for a TIGER grant last year, RIDOT also submitted a bid for Apponaug which was supported by the Governor. The Apponaug project was awarded a TIGER grant, and while there isn’t direct competition built into the grant process per-say, it is thought that Providence’s streetcar bid lost out to Kansas City’s streetcar which had more secure funding in place at the time. Providence’s 2013 TIGER grant application included a funding plan, but unlike Kansas City’s successful application, steps had not yet been taken to implement that funding.

Capital costs for the project (costs incurred to build it) are estimated to be $117.8 million (2016 dollars). Funding will come from City TIF Bonds, Federal funds, Rhode Island Capital Plan funds, RIPTA CMAQ funds, and a RIDOT land transfer.

In the next month, Providence plans to work further toward implementation of funding by working with the Providence City Council Ordinance Committee to approve a TIF plan for the streetcar district. This funding represents 50% of the projected cost of the project and will be one of the sources for operations revenue after the project is complete.

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News & Notes

Streetsblog: Obama to Propose Four-Year Transpo Bill Funded By “Business Tax Reform”

obama-official-portrait-vertA fact sheet from the administration indicates the proposal would increase dedicated funding for transit more than funding for highways.

The proposal would represent a 38 percent spending increase over the current $109 billion, 2-year law, known as MAP-21, and is the most concrete long-term transportation bill proposed by the Obama administration, which has never put forward a funding stream until now.

See also: Whitehouse.gov: FACT SHEET: President Obama Lays Out Vision for 21st Century Transportation Infrastructure


The New York Times: When Pedestrians Get Mixed Signals

But the indication to walk never came. I was contemplating a four-lane dash when a man appeared who told me I had to press the “Walk” button. I did, and at the next signal change for cars, my signal appeared as well.

At first, I applauded this municipal beneficence, which I encountered during a visit while researching my book. Los Angeles is looking after its pedestrians! In New York City, by contrast, the once-functioning “Walk” buttons were left to go dormant, then largely removed. But in my subsequent visits to Los Angeles, my feelings have shifted.

The reason the buttons were rendered obsolete in New York is that there was no need for them. There were always pedestrians waiting to cross. In Los Angeles, the working button came to seem a rare and feeble plea: May I please cross the street?

In Providence I’m all the time seeing people push the wrong walk button. People press the one closest to them, but that is not the button for the street they are hoping to cross.

But the article is really about the misguided crack-down on “jaywalking” in some cities.

If tough love will not make pedestrians safer, what will? The answer is: better walking infrastructure, slower car speeds and more pedestrians. But it’s easier to write off the problem as one of jaywalkers.

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