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Tag Archives | Walkability

Mayoral Candidate Jorge Elorza statement on Providence Public School’s busing policies

Following an article posted yesterday on Rhode Island’s Future, Candidate for Providence Mayor, Jorge Elorza released the following statement on the matter.

Jorge Elorza, Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence, issued the following statement on Providence Public School Department’s busing policy.

jorge-elorza-002Our city’s public high school students are not eligible for bus passes unless they live more than three miles from school. Students that fall into the far end of that range could be walking for as long as 45 minutes to an hour just to make it to their first period classes.

As a community, we have to do everything in our power to make sure our students are in their classrooms and learning. Our students face too many challenges for us to be creating additional institutional barriers for them. Denying students who live between 2-3 miles away from school bus passes impacts learning, impacts health, and impacts safety, and our low-income communities are disproportionately affected.

When I was a child growing up on Cranston Street, my Mother acted as the school bus for many kids in the neighborhood. Although we were lucky to have her there to bring us to school, not every student is as lucky as we were.

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City Plan Commission Meeting – January 28, 2014

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from the December 17th meeting – for action
  • Election of officers for the 2014 calendar year – for action
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

1. City Council Referral: Petition to amend the Providence Zoning Ordinance The petitioner is requesting that Article 3 and appendix A of the zoning ordinance – pertaining to certain dimensional and use regulations in W-3 and M-2 zones – be amended – for action

Major Land Development Project

2. Case No. 13-039MA – 48-54 Plainfield Street and 4-14 The applicant is seeking master plan approval to construct a free standing fast food restaurant with a drive through and a free standing retail department store on a vacant commercial lot. The applicant is seeking dimensional relief for front yard setbacks and a special use permit for a drive through use. A total of 56 parking spaces are proposed for the development, which measures approximately 64,295 SF – for action (AP 105 Lots
46, 47, 66, 98, 99, 100, Olneyville)

Re: Zoning Providence

3. Update on Re: Zoning Providence Presentation detailing progress on the zoning ordinance revision process and proposed zoning changes developed by the project consultants – for discussion

Adjournment


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The suburbanization of Olneyville

mcdonalds-rendering

Rendering of proposed McDonald’s and Family Dollar store on Plainfield Street in Olneyville.

The City Plan Commission meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to the impending storm. It is scheduled to take place now on January 28th.

After learning of plans for a drive-thru McDonald’s proposed on Plainfield Street in Olneyville, I requested plans for the proposal from the Planning Department.

The developer is seeking master plan approval from the City Plan Commission for the construction of a McDonald’s and Family Dollar store in a separate building on a site which was cleared of existing structures last year.

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News & Notes

→ Streetsblog: The Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, and Why It Barely Registers

In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and another 70,000 were injured. That’s one death every two hours.

It’s impossible to quantify the human toll of traffic fatalities, but as David Nelson at Project for Public Spaces points out, AAA estimates that traffic crashes cost America $300 billion annually in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other factors. That works out to three times the annual cost of congestion reported by the Texas Transportation Institute. But while we’re spending billions “fighting congestion” with expensive new roads, getting a handle on pedestrian deaths and injuries is almost a non-issue at your average state DOT.


→ The New York Times: Where ‘Share the Road’ Is Taken Literally

“Woonerf” is what the Dutch call a special kind of street or group of streets that functions as shared public space — for pedestrians, cyclists, children and, in some cases, for slow-moving, cautiously driven cars as well.

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News & Notes

→ USA Today: New tax hikes eyed for roads, transit

States are scrambling to find taxes to pay for highway repairs and their public transit systems, including payroll and sales taxes, and raising taxes paid by gasoline stations.

The proposals, being kicked around in at least 13 states as governors lay out their legislative agendas for the year, come as states find revenue from stagnant federal and state gasoline taxes isn’t keeping up with highways, bridges and urban transit systems that increasingly are falling into disrepair.


→ Next City: For Obama, A Renewed Focus on Urbancentric Topics

One should never expect to glean much policy insight from inauguration speeches, but President Obama indicated today that his administration will seek to take action on climate change and immigration as it moves into its second term. And as always, cities will be the proving grounds for how future policies affecting these issues play out.

During this morning’s inauguration ceremony, Obama touched upon several domestic topics — including investments into sustainable industries — that should have urbanists and urban dwellers perking up their ears.

Though light on specifics, the issues spotlighted today will likely set at least part of the executive agenda for the next four years.


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News & Notes

→ ecoRI News: Parking Lots Proliferate at Twin River

Getting a parking lot built in Rhode Island typically requires permits and review by state agencies and local officials. But in one case a large lot at Twin River Casino inexplicably appeared next to a wetland.


→ Urbanophile: Milwaukee’s Relationship with the Chicago Mega-City Revisited by David Holmes

I was intrigued by Aaron’s recent post “Don’t Fly Too Close to the Sun Piece” which focused on the relationship between Milwaukee and Chicago and the notion of whether “proximity to Chicago or another mega-city represents an unambiguous good,” or – as posited by Aaron – may actually be more of a curse than a blessing, and something that drains vitality instead of increasing it. This is a topic that interests me both from the perspective of a long-time resident of Milwaukee and as a long-time fan of the City of Chicago. There are likely unique combinations of factors to consider in this type of evaluation for every city pair – including the distance between the cities, the presence or absence of high speed and/or low cost transit options between the cities, and the relative size. Although I did not comment on Aaron’s post at the time of publication, I thought it would be useful to consider some specific examples of ways in which Chicago enhances or decreases Milwaukee’s economic vitality as both the article and many of the comments on Milwaukee-Chicago and other city pairs, seemed to lack specific examples of both positive and negative impacts.

Some Providence-Boston talk made its way into the comments.


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News & Notes

→ DC Streetsblog: Obama Takes Another Swing at $50 Billion in Infrastructure Spending

President Obama is pressing for infrastructure investment again as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The president kicked off talks calling for an end to the debt ceiling, the extension of middle-class tax cuts, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending — a proposal that first arose last year as part of his ultimately unsuccessful American Jobs Act.

The Wall Street Journal called the President’s proposals “a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list” and “a potential starting point for negotiations.”

See also: Our favorite Obama quote from 2009


→ The Atlantic Cities: 10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

In Jeff Speck’s excellent new book, Walkable City, he suggests that there are ten keys to creating walkability. Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. I don’t necessarily agree with every detail, and my own list might differ in some ways that reflect my own experience and values. But it’s a heck of a good menu to get city leaders and thinkers started in making their communities more hospitable to walkers.


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News & Notes

TriMet: MAX and Bus on Portland Mall

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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News & Notes

McMansion #2

McMansion outside Chicago. Photo (cc) ChicagoGeek

→ The Atlantic Cities: Have Americans Given Up On McMansions?

After many years of dramatically increasing home size in America – from an average of 983 square feet in the 1950s up to 2300 square feet in the 2000s, despite declining household sizes – the trend appears finally to be going in the other direction. The real estate research firm Trulia found in 2010, for example, that the median “ideal home size” for Americans had declined to around 2100 square feet. More than one-third of survey respondents reported that their ideal preference was lower than 2000 square feet.


→ The Boston Phoenix: The Fight Against MBTA Service Cuts and Fare Hikes Gets Ugly

The latest theater in the war against MBTA fare hikes and service cuts opened Monday with a bang on every corner of the train map. Occupy Somerville forces rallied in Davis Square. Their Jamaica Plain and Dorchester counterparts gathered at Forest Hills and Fields Corner, respectively, to sound alarms about troubling proposals. Leading the pack, a group of loud and determined teens with the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition joined hundreds from the T Riders Union (TRU) and other activist outfits for a mass rally on Copley Square outside the Boston Public Library, where the MBTA planned a bombshell public meeting for 6pm on Monday night.


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News & Notes

Trujillo Streetlife

Trujillo, Honduras’ future Hong Kong? Photo (cc) Wanaku.

→ The Economist: Hong Kong in Honduras

Trujillo is a sleepy backwater, but one with a lot of history. The beautiful bay surrounded by lagoons and mountains on the northern coast of Honduras was where Christopher Columbus set foot on the American continent during his fourth voyage in 1502. But in a few decades, it might be known for something entirely different: being the Hong Kong of the West. Scores of skyscrapers and millions of people could one day surround the natural harbour. The new city could dominate Honduras, today one of the poorest and most crime-ridden countries in Central America, becoming a magnet for most of the region’s migrants.

The prospect may sound fantastic, but this is the goal of an ambitious development project that Honduras is about to embark upon. In a nutshell, the Honduran government wants to create what amounts to internal start-ups-quasi-independent city-states that begin with a clean slate and are then overseen by outside experts. They will have their own government, write their own laws, manage their own currency and, eventually, hold their own elections.


→ The New York Times: In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted

The park here, called Madrid Río, has largely been finished. More than six miles long, it transforms a formerly neglected area in the middle of Spain’s capital. Its creation, in four years, atop a complex network of tunnels dug to bury an intrusive highway, also rejuvenates a long-lost stretch of the Manzanares River, and in so doing knits together neighborhoods that the highway had cut off from the city center.


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News & Notes

→ The Art and Science of Designing Good Cities for Walking [Streetsblog]

The article is a great read, but this photo is the best part to me:

Copenhagen sidewalk
Photo from Streetsblog

This Copenhagen sidewalk completely flips the script on the relationship between cars and pedestrians at intersections. Rather than there being a curb, the sidewalk ending, and pedestrians moved into the street via a crosswalk; the sidewalk continues across the road and it is the car that enters the pedestrians domain in order to move through the intersection. Why are we not making all minor side streets have this relation to the main?


→ Which part of Detroit really needs to be ‘right-sized’? [Grist]

Shrinking city? Really? What this tells me is that an even bigger problem for Detroit than the decline of the Rust Belt economy has been that the fringe of the region has been allowed, more than in most places, to expand, not shrink, and to suck the life and hope out of the inner city. So why aren’t the self-styled progressive responses to “the Detroit problem” addressing this critical aspect of the situation?

Maybe they are, but the only ones I hear and read are about “right-sizing” the inner city — demolishing vacant (and even some occupied) housing, letting vast areas revert to nature or farming, and so forth. Let sprawl, the cause of the problem, be someone else’s issue to address. But, in fact, the areas that are sprawling are where the “right-sizing” most needs to occur.


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Pedestrian struck, killed on North Main Street

Video from WPRI.com.

N. Main hit-and-run victim remembered: wpri.com

According to WPRI.com, 23-year-old George Adams, IV was killed last Thursday when he was struck by a car while walking with a friend on North Main Street near Benefit Street. The WPRI report does not say whether sidewalk conditions forced the victim and his friend to walk in the road or not.

“It was like they were walking and talking, holding hands,” said George’s father, George Adams III, on Monday. Mounds of unshoveled ice had forced them off the sidewalk. “And all of a sudden, he got ripped from her hand. He was gone that fast.” He later died at the hospital.

An eyewitness who saw the car drive away ended up chasing after the car. The driver never hit her brakes, the eyewitness said — and later tried to ditch the vehicle and take off on foot.

Police eventually tracked down the woman they believe was the driver, Haley Mckee, 31, in Lincoln. Her charges include leaving the scene of an accident-death resulting, reckless driving — and driving with a suspended license.

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RIDOT: No accommodations for pedestrians

RIDOT has been removing the wood from under the Chestnut Street overpass for the last few weeks, which is concerning in and of itself as it has been speculated that that wood was there to keep chunks of the bridge that were falling onto the roadway and sidewalk from falling onto the roadway and sidewalk, which begs the question, what is keeping chunks of the bridge from falling on the roadway and sidewalk now?

Today they moved over to the west side of the street and closed the sidewalk on that side. Fine, except for where the hell are pedestrians supposed to go now?

In the photo above, two cones block the sidewalk at a curb cut. If a Johnson & Wales van were not illegally parked at that curb cut, it would still be pretty much impossible to leave the sidewalk there as there is a 6 inch deep puddle of water and slush in the way. Of course there is no crosswalk here, so pedestrians shouldn’t be leaving the sidewalk to cross here anyway. Even if there were a crosswalk, there is a 3 foot high ice pile blocking the opposite sidewalk from the street, so pedestrians who overcome the lake of slush and the illegally parked Johnson & Wales van, would then need to invoke their ice climbing skills to get out of the street and back onto a sidewalk.

Of course, all that done, if your destination is southbound on Chestnut Street, there is then no way to get off that other sidewalk, to cross Friendship Street and continue south on Chestnut.

So what are pedestrians doing, walking in the street, up to the cruiser where a Providence Police officer is sitting doing Maude knows what getting paid Maude knows what to do it, then negotiate through the construction equipment, potholes, puddles, ice, and moving traffic to finally reach a sidewalk that itself (though under a bridge) is covered in ice.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation, if this is an example of the accommodation you are going to provide to pedestrians during the duration of the Route 195 removal process, then just stop right now. Stop what you are doing and leave. Give the City the money and we will figure out how to remove the highway ourselves. Until you realize that transportation means more than just cars, please just stay out of Providence.

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Snow as traffic calming

Currently, due to the snow, Atwells Avenue is a good 4 to 6 or more feet narrower than usual. Yet, cars are able to park on both sides and traffic is able to flow smoothly in both directions (in most areas, some places the snow is totally out of control). Which proves my point that the road is too wide and should be narrowed. A narrower Atwells makes the traffic move more carefully, which means slower, which makes the road safer for pedestrians. The traffic moves so slow, that bikes can take the lane and comfortably move with traffic outside the door zone.

An Atwells Avenue that is consciously narrowed (not narrowed by the happenstance of snow) would also of course allow for wider sidewalks which would be attractive to the restaurants and retail, especially those that want outdoor seating. And when it inevitably snows again, a wider sidewalk is better able to act a holding area for snow moved from the roads and the sidewalks.

With traffic moving slower, the areas where the sidewalks are clear are almost pleasant, the sidewalks too are narrowed, but it is nice that the traffic is moving slower. Of course…

…there remain many places where the sidewalks aren’t clear. Even with traffic moving slower on narrowed streets, walking in the street is most certainly not pleasant.

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Obviously, someone is trying to make me angry

As I was walking home I was pretty amazed that some sidewalks were actually dry, amazing! I ran into some problems in the LaSalle Square area and at the Atwells Bridge, where there was no way to get from the sidewalk into the street to cross the street.

Those challenges were mostly forgotten as I was quickly making my way all the way across Federal Hill on Atwells sidewalks clear of snow. Then I came upon this mess.

Obviously, this was shoveled, and for the first time this season, amazing. Until some snowplow came along and pushed all the snow back into the area that had been cleared.

While the Mayor admonishes us not to shovel snow from sidewalks into the street…


Pls remember to clear your sidewalks. I know there is a lot of snow, but make every effort to not put snow you remove back into the roadway.less than a minute ago via web

…we have snowplows all over the city pushing snow back onto the sidewalks. If there were a 3 foot pile of snow across the Atwells roadway, how many people do you think would be fired? Snow from the road pushed onto the sidewalk, not such a big deal it would seem.

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Snowblogging: Miracle Edition

Snow - January 27, 2011

THAT my friends is a shoveled sidewalk on the Atwells Avenue Bridge over Route 95. Yes, it is true.

But wait, don’t think I’m gonna be all sunshine and moonbeams. A for effort to get this thing cleared so soon after last night’s snowicane, but I have complaints.

Every winter, at some point this sidewalk does get cleared. But this is never cleared:

Snow - January 27, 2011

The traffic island on the Downcity side. If I walk all the way over the bridge, the crosswalk drops me on this traffic island, which now has about 3 feet of snow on it. Even on the miraculous day when the bridge sidewalk is cleared, this never is, so it is into the street with me.

But there’s some equal opportunity non-snow clearing at work this morning:

Snow - January 27, 2011

The right turn turbo lane from Atwells to the 95 ramp is not touched at all, which was surprising to see. Guess what, the traffic works just fine with out it. Drivers pull up to the light, turn on their directional, and make a right. I say let’s just get rid of that stupid turbo lane, I say we ban all turbo lanes.

Let’s take a look at the rest of my commute.

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Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal

Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal:

Public Service Announcement: Snow-Covered Sidewalks Pose Signficant Safety Hazard

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Providence community urged to follow City Ordinance on Snow Removal

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for a potent, fast-moving storm forecast to affect Providence this afternoon and tomorrow morning. The storm is expected to cause 6 to 10 inches of heavy, wet snowfall. Snow removal on City sidewalks continues to be a challenge for our community.

With additional accumulations expected this week, it is important that everyone take responsibility for making sure sidewalks are safe and passable. This is especially important to ensure the safety of children who walk to school, and the many pedestrians who regularly walk in Providence.

Providence City Ordinance requires that property owners must shovel sidewalks within eight hours after snow stops falling. The fine for failing to shovel the sidewalks ranges from $25 to $500.

Snow-free sidewalks are more than a convenience; they are a matter of public safety. Property owners are urged to shovel sidewalks as soon as possible. For fire safety purposes, property owners should not rebury fire hydrants after they have been dug out.

Residents concerned about unsafe sidewalks should call the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services at 401-421-2489, or report their concerns directly via the City of Providence’s website, at ProvConnex. ProvConnex is the City’s online dashboard that provides residents with access to dozens of City services.

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