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First bike lane inaugural parade

Streetfilms points out one of the many first that was overlooked during yesterday’s inaugural:

The networks were busy tripping over themselves trying to point out all the numerous “firsts” during today’s Presidential Inauguration. But when President Obama and his wife Michelle stepped out of the presidential motorcade to greet well wishers on Pennsylvania Avenue they missed a huge one in the livable streets community: he’s the first U.S. president to walk down a bike lane during his Inauguration.

The unique center-median, two-way bicycle lane down Pennsylvania was instituted by DDOT back in Summer 2010, so this is the first Inauguration in which the Avenue featured the new look. Check out this clip from ABC News that shows when the President steps out of his limousine, he commences his walk almost right on top of a bike stencil!

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News & Notes

The Atlantic Cities: What Real Respect for Bicyclists Looks Like

Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all compete for space and safety on the streets and roads of the world’s cities and suburbs. It’s a contentious and sometimes ugly coexistence, which is why so many government agencies and advocacy groups periodically mount public-awareness campaigns with messages like “share the road” or “don’t be a jerk” or “respect other road users.”

In the end, those are just words. The ultimate form of respect for any road user is properly designed infrastructure that allows that a person to travel with comfort and safety using their preferred mode. In the United States, it’s clear who gets real respect (and infrastructure spending) on a regular basis. That would be the people driving cars.


The Hill: GOP platform: Cut Amtrak, privatize airport security and focus highway money on roads

The platform approved by Republicans on Tuesday calls for the elimination of funding for Amtrak passenger rail service, private airport security screening and stopping the use of money earmarked for highway construction for other purposes.

The more than 30,000-word document was approved on the first full day of the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. It includes many provisions that were pushed by Republicans in the House during recent negotiations over the new $105 billion transportation bill that was approved by lawmakers in June.

Among them are reducing environmental regulations to expedite construction projects and using more money that is earmarked for transportation for road and highway projects, rather than other forms of transportation such as public transit or bicycling and pedestrian programs.


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Public comment on Northeast Corridor rail plan through Sept. 14th

nec_study_area_map

Federal Railroad Administration is running a planning program of future needs along the Northeast Corridor rail system and encourages public input:

Welcome to NEC FUTURE, a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA’s work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region’s intercity, commuter and freight rail services and the completion of an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.

The NEC, the rail transportation spine of the Northeast region, is a key component of the region’s transportation system and vital to its sustained economic growth. Today, the 457-mile NEC—anchored by Boston’s South Station in the north, New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Washington’s Union Station in the south—is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world.

Visit NEC Future to submit your comments.


See also: ProJo: Agency explores methods to expand rail service to D.C.

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News & Notes

The Transport Politic: Time to Fight – With a House like this, what advances can American transportation policy make?

Actions by members of the U.S. House over the past week suggest that Republican opposition to the funding of alternative transportation has developed into an all-out ideological battle. Though their efforts are unlikely to advance much past the doors of their chamber, the policy recklessness they have displayed speaks truly poorly of the future of the nation’s mobility systems.


The New York Times: How About Gardening or Golfing at the Mall?

Malls, over the last 50 years, have gone from the community center in some cities to a relic of the way people once wanted to shop. While malls have faced problems in the past, the Internet is now pulling even more sales away from them. And as retailers crawl out of the worst recession since the advent of malls, many are realizing they are overbuilt and are closing locations at a fast clip


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News & Notes

News & Notes

Temporary uses can enliven city neighborhoods [Greater Greater Washington]

Imagine you have a long-vacant storefront or empty lot in your neighborhood. What if, just for a few months, it could become a plant nursery, a food garden, a beer garden, a sculpture garden, a playground, a clothing boutique or a tiny movie theater?

These small, temporary projects have the ability to revitalize vacant spaces, enliven neighborhoods, and provide small entrepreneurs a way test out their ideas with relatively small capital investments. This is what’s called “temporary urbanism” and shows how we can put vacant space back into productive use, even if only temporarily.


Transportation groups want to increase gas tax [Politico]

Voinovich also makes a point raised by others: Most drivers won’t even notice a gas tax increase.

A BP station in the Cleveland area was selling gas for $3.45 per gallon the day Voinovich spoke to POLITICO. The day before, he said, it was 25 cents cheaper. “It’s all over the lot,” he said of gas prices.

A 2009 poll conducted for Building America’s Future found that 60 percent of people think the federal gas tax is increased every year. It has remained unchanged – at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel – since 1993. It’s also not indexed for inflation, so as construction costs rise, the flat tax buys even less in infrastructure repairs and upgrades.


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News & Notes

Union Plaza tunnel from Waterplace

Waterplace Park, photo (cc) pvdEric from Flickr

Planetizen: The Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada

The results of our crowdsourcing project, in collaboration with the Project for Public Spaces, reveal not an objective Top 100 but instead a handful of communities passionate about their own local public spaces.

Number 66 on the list is Providence’s Waterplace Park, described by Project for Public Spaces.

Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk linked to it have a welcoming, well-thought-out design, which has become a focal point of the overall revitalization of Providence’s downtown area. But what really makes these great places is the wealth of activities they host. Between the annual Convergence art festival, the WaterFire installation which runs on selected nights most of the year, the Summer Concert Series, and long-term installations of public art, there’s always something going on – and all of these events are FREE.

Here’s what we said about Waterplace back in 2008 when the APA named it a Top 10 Public Place.


Streetsblog: The Power of Blogs and Social Media in Transportation Policy

Speaking to Streetsblog in July, attorney David Savoy gave bloggers credit for the granting of a retrial to his client, Raquel Nelson, who was charged with vehicular homicide after her four-year-old son was hit by a car as they attempted to cross a dangerous arterial road on foot. “I’ve never understood the power of the blogosphere,” Savoy said, “and now I’m humbled.”

Blogs? Hey, that’s us!

See also: Greater Greater Washington.


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News & Notes

VIDEOS: Atop Washington Monument, Visitors Scrambled During Quake [NPR]

Shaking starts around 1:45

Video from the National Park Service

When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia shook states from the mid-Atlantic into New England on Aug. 23, one of the places not to be was near the top of the Washington Monument.

Visit the NPR website for more information and another video.


Manhattan’s Stalled Construction Sites Could Become Urban Oases [Gothamist]

There are currently more than 600 stalled construction sites around NYC according to the Department of Buildings, and given the moribund economy, it doesn’t look like they’ll unstall anytime soon. So in the meantime, why don’t we do turn lemons into lemonade, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants to know!

I like that the article is illustrated with a concept from Boston.


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News & Notes


Budapest

Károly körút in Budapest, photo from Origo fotó

Fixing a Boulevard [Railzone]

The street is called Károly körút, which is a ring road around the historic centre of Pest, exactly where a former city wall used to stand. It is a major artery for road traffic, including still too many through trips (i.e. trips neither originating nor ending in the city centre itself). It is also a tram route, which was almost discarded following a new subway line construction, but now, partly due to the reconstruction project itself, the future of the line seems certain and an extension to North is planned.

Be sure to click through from the link to the before & after photos.


House Approves Extensions for the Federal Surface Transportation and Aviation Programs [America 2050]

Transportation advocates were gearing up for a big push to ensure that the federal surface transportation program did not expire at the end of the month, but in a remarkable show of common cause and swift action on Tuesday, the House unanimously approved a six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, as well as a four-month extension of the authorizing legislation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Senate still has to pass this bill before it’s final, but Harry Reid has promised to move it through quickly, leaving transportation advocates breathing a little easier.


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News & Notes

Spokane: A very clear network map [Human Transit]

Human Transit looks at Spokane, Washington’s new system maps. The combined lines to create frequent service sectors would be apropo for RIPTA for places such as Elmwood Avenue and Charles Street.


In bicycle friendly D.C., going car-free is increasingly common [The Washington Post]

In urban areas nationwide, drivers younger than 24 drove six fewer miles a day in 2009 than in 1990. Drivers 25 to 34 drove almost 2.5 fewer miles a day.

“You don’t have to keep a car,” said Carroll, who takes Metro to work most days but walks the 2.4 miles occasionally on a nice day. “I love that the city is becoming more pedestrian-friendly and more bicycle-friendly. I can rent a bike and ride downhill all the way from work. I haven’t yet, but I’m going to.”

And Zipcar? She’s a longtime member who has never used a Zipcar.

“I have kept up my membership because you never know,” she said. “I might have a visitor who wants to take a trip to Middleburg or someplace. I think it’s a very valuable option.”

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Streetfilms looks at Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare

The Phenomenal Success of Capital Bikeshare from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Nearly three years ago Streetfilms took a day trip to Washington, D.C. to see their Smart Bike DC in action. We found the trial bike share system a fun ride with great potential, but with only 120 bikes there wasn’t a great sense of widespread use.

Flashforward to 2011 and with over 1100 bicycles and 110 stations D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare’s is amazing testament to having to “go big or go home” when deploying bike share programs.

Streetfilms

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News & Notes

Fast 14 project an exciting demonstration of American innovation [USDOT Fast Lane Blog]

The challenge was tremendous; last summer gaping holes opened up in bridges along the crucial I-93 corridor near Boston. It was clear that the superstructure–the concrete decking and steel beams–of the aging bridges was failing and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, with conventional techniques, closing lanes to replace the 14 structurally deficient bridges on this primary commuter artery would likely tie Boston-area traffic in painful knots for four long years.

The Massachusetts DOT design-build team proposed to cut that four years down to 14 weeks by prefabricating the superstructure pieces off-site then quickly fitting them into position. Rather than close lanes for the weeks it would take to fabricate a bridge’s superstructure on-site, lane closures could be limited to weekends when the pre-fab superstructure could be lowered into place. Preparatory work, they suggested, could be done in advance without disrupting the flow of traffic.

Why isn’t everyone doing this?


Transit systems face across-the-board cuts, diminished funding stream under House bill [Transportation for America]

The House proposal contains scant information about public transportation, but by most indications, non-highway projects would have more difficulty receiving funding and prioritization compared to current law.
The outline did not explicitly call for maintaining the historic 20 percent share of Highway Trust Fund dollars for public transportation, though both Chairman Mica and Committee staff indicated verbally at a press conference that the 80/20 ratio would be preserved, albeit as part of a much smaller share of total dollars. Though even with the 20 percent share intact, the overall 35 percent cut would result in steep fare hikes, service cuts, job losses or some combination thereof.

See also: Federal transportation program slated for 35 percent spending cut in House bill [Transportation for America]


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Like: Greater Greater Washington Metro Map Contest

If you’re like me, you love maps (and ice cream, and gin & tonic, and Law & Order UK). And if you love maps, you’re gonna love the DC Metro Map redesign contest being hosted at Greater Greater Washington.

Metro is working now on new Silver Line service which will eventually reach Dulles Airport in Virginia also, new rush hour services are being introduced. These changes prompted the redesign contest.

You can see all the entries on their Contest Page (voting is closed), and see the first two posts on winners in different categories here and here.

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News & Notes

Developers Rediscover Newark [National Real Estate Investor]

For four decades, no new hotels were built in the central business district of Newark, N.J. Crime rates were so high that lenders were reluctant to finance new construction.

But the city’s fortunes have been changing. The number of crime incidents fell from 47,000 in 1999 to 25,400 a decade later. And there is a sense in the business community that the beleaguered city’s time has come.

In April, contractors broke ground for a new $35 million Courtyard by Marriott. Nearby, a developer is proceeding with plans for an upscale, $23 million Hotel Indigo. But hotels are not the only sign of progress. Standard Chartered Bank, a major British institution, just completed a 12,000 sq. ft. expansion of its office space. And Pitney Bowes, a mail service firm, moved to a 76,000 sq. ft. location in Newark.


New Study: Infrastructure as a Strategic Priority [The City Fix]

Urban Land Institute, in collaboration with Ernst & Young, released a report on the global infrastructure trends and activities in 2011, and the U.S. infrastructure policies that aim to repair and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, including roads, transit and ports. Within the theme, “Downscaling Ambitions and Finding Creative Solutions,” the findings of the study overwhelmingly point to a strain on U.S. cities to maintain assets and build infrastructure projects.


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News & Notes

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

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


A mighty role in downtown Worcester [Boston.com]

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

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

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News & Notes

Riled about rail: Why all the anger over high speed trains? [CNN]

Much of the opposition to rail projects appears to stem not from economic arguments, but from fundamental cultural values on what “American” transportation should be.

A perusal of online commentaries about passenger rail stories reveals a curious linkage by writers between passenger rail and “European socialism.”

Never mind that the majority of European passenger rail operates on a commercial basis.

Many critics of passenger rail emotionally identify it as an enabler of cultural values they fear.

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News & Notes

EU could ground short-haul flights in favour of high-speed rail [Guardian]

Short-haul flights across Europe could be replaced by high-speed rail under ambitious European Union proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 60% over the next 40 years.


True urbanism must come with a big tent [Greater Greater Washington]

Many urbanists seek greater density by revitalizing the built environment. These urbanists advocate for multi-use, human scale developments and multimodal transportation options, taking for granted that the in-migration and density that follow are good.

While density by itself naturally appeals to younger, more footloose residents, such architectural determinism casts a blind eye to those excluded from the benefits of city life when nothing changes but the built environment.

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News & Notes

Wow! Study says DC Streetcar could add $10-15 billion in value [New Urban Network]

The Washington, DC, streetcar certainly looks like a good deal. The 37-mile system, the first corridor of which is under construction and expected to be completed by 2012, will increase the value of existing properties by $5-7 billion, according to the study by Goody Clancy & Associates of Boston.


Boston’s success depends on T [The Boston Globe]

CITIES HAVE to grow, and the place for them to grow is on top of mass transit. A few decades ago, that was an academic argument. Today, it’s standard operating procedure. It’s just how neighborhoods get built.

Of course, the great assumption underpinning transit-oriented growth is that the transit will be there – to divorce construction from gridlock, to allow people to move around an ever-crowding urban environment, and to put scarce, expensive land into productive use, instead of reserving it for parking. Without mass transit, there is no urban growth.

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