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News & Notes

Should high-speed rail focus on the northeast? [2nd Ave. Sagas]

During [New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's] testimony last week, the mayor criticized the government’s current investment plan. With projects in Florida, California and the Midwest garnering headlines, the Northeast Corridor has taken a backseat in Washington with only one percent of federal HSR funds coming our way. “That simply just doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “What we need is a new approach to spending transportation money — one that is not dictated by politics, but based on economics.”

This area is in fact the biggest economic hub in the country, and without a solution to the congestion and transportation crisis, the U.S. economy could begin to feel a strain. As Crain’s New York noted, “The northeast corridor is an ideal place to invest in high-speed rail because its 50 million residents produce 20% of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

Could Bess Eaton doughnuts be coming back? [The Day of New London]

The Canadian-based [Tim] Hortons closed the former Bess Eatons around here in November, and most of them remain shuttered, fanning rumors that a revival is brewing.

[Bess Eaton found Paul] Gencarelli [of Westerly] said he understands that a group of investors in town has purchased the rights to the Bess Eaton name, and all the proprietary formulas, etc., and is planning to re-open sometime soon.

Planetizen DVD, “The Story of Sprawl” [Planetizen]

This 2-disc set is an unprecedented visual document of how sprawl happened, told through a series of historic films ranging from 1939’s The City, created by famed planner Lewis Mumford, to No Time For Ugliness from 1965, produced by the American Institute of Architects.

How Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Interventions Can Catalyze City-Wide Renewal [Project for Public Spaces]

Place-by-place interventions are emerging as a powerful way to create new life for an entire district, especially in cities where great economic hardship encourages innovation and entrepreneurship.

Yes, we do need to build more…. [Cap'n Transit Rides Again]

Last week, the Urbanophile posted an article called “Yes, we Do Need to Build More Roads.” He expected that a lot of people wouldn’t like it, and that he would come under a hail of criticism. I didn’t really see this hail materialize, but hey, I didn’t like the piece, and I’m ready to add my criticism.

In sprawling suburb, car drive you [Greater Greater Washington]

While last Wednesday’s hyped “thundersnow” underdelivered on the snow, it certainly didn’t in the chaos department. Storms like these highlight the benefits of compact urban development while underscoring the weaknesses of sprawling suburbia.

Residents of Washington’s outer suburbs struggled Wednesday night with horrendous traffic on the city’s commuter routes. At the same time, many DC residents were enjoying happy hours, snowball fights and otherwise carrying on with their lives. By the time people in the central city were fast asleep, many suburbanites were still fighting to get home.

Shameless Plug: Please feel free to nominate us as Best Blog in the Phoenix’s Best of 2011. You could also ask your friends, your mom, and your cat to nominate us if you like.

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News & Notes

Street Science: All Eyes on the Street [Next American City]

The effort will mark Boston’s entry into the National Complete Streets Coalition, a national group dedicated to making city streets more accessible across America, and is strongly supported by the mayor. “Mayor Menino,” Ms. Zehngebot noted, “is behind this all the way and understands that the car is no longer king.” The Complete Streets Initiative, according to the group’s brochure, “will improve the quality of life in Boston by creating streets that are both great public spaces and efficient and sustainable transportation networks. The city is committed to designing streets that are: Multimodal: Safe, comfortable, and accessible to all users; Green: Reduce energy use, sustainable, and low-maintenance; Smart: Efficient and maximize technological advances.”

The Incrementalists [Metropolis]

New plans to modernize our aging rail intrastrcture
are modest, in the extreme.

Streetscape-draining front parking lots may soon be out (Washington, DC) [Greater Greater Washington]

New developments that put their parking in front significantly diminish the pedestrian environment. They also make it less appealing for other, adjacent projects to address the street, creating a vicious cycle away from an active streetscape, while new buildings with their parking in the rear start a cycle in the opposite, positive direction.

Connecticut highway tolls could raise $600 million annually [Mansfield Today]

In a recent published statement, Rep. Guerrera says, “You put up border tolls for $5 a trip, you’re talking $600 million a year in revenue. That’s $18 billion over 30 years. You can’t argue with that.”

The proposal also calls for earmarking these funds for repairing highways and bridges and other transportation incentives, and not putting them into the general budget.

“We know we have more than $3 billion in infrastructure needs in this state, just to repair what we have,” Rep. Guerrera says.

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News & Notes

Tootling [The New Yorker]

“At twenty [mph], you’d actually save time,” King said. “Going forty miles per hour doesn’t change your position in the next queue, at the next traffic lights.”

“You’re right,” DeCarlo said, and he nodded. “I’m a firm believer that, whether you do twenty or fifty-five, you’re going to get to the same place at the same time.”

New York Expands Pop-Up Cafe Program in 2011 [The Architect's Newspaper]

The concept is simple: street space is limited and valuable. To that end, New York has been evaluating whether the highest and best use for street space along narrow sidewalks is storing cars. Like a glorified Park(ing) Day spot made (semi-)permanent and held on high, these pop-up cafés invite pedestrians to imagine their city in new ways.

Dreyfus Tees Up Center Leg Freeway [DC Mud]

Washington, DC developers plan to deck 3 blocks of the Central Leg Freeway which separates the city. When they are done, they are welcome to come to Route 95 in Providence.

Pedestrians take to the streets; motorists learn to coexist [New Urban Network]

Monderman advocated getting rid of the welter of traffic signs, pavement striping, and other devices intended to regulate conflicting modes of traffic. He believed that human beings — whether in motor vehicles, on bikes, or using their own two feet — could intuitively adjust their movement and manage to cross the streets and squares safely.

Monderman operated mainly in small towns, where traffic tended to be light. There it was fairly easy to count on pedestrians and motorists to keep an eye on one another, thus avoiding accidents. By contrast, Hamilton-Baillie has introduced the shared-space idea to streets in the center of a great metropolis — London.

US shared space: Starting small [New Urban Network]

Cambridge created two shared-space streets, both in 2008. The first was on Winthrop Street adjoining Winthrop Park, not far from Harvard Square. It’s a narrow, minor street near restaurants. People were already walking in the street, so it was a natural to be officially designated a shared space. A sign identifies it as shared by pedestrians and vehicles, with a posted speed limit of 10 mph.

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Amtrak’s Next-Gen High Speed Rail vision by-passes Providence

Update 07/11/2012: Amtrak has released an updated vision for the Northeast Corridor which happily does not by-pass Providence. Read the report. (.pdf)

Amtrak released A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor [.pdf] today. The Vision is as of yet unfunded, would not be complete until 2040, and the alignment analyzed for this report would by-pass Providence (there’d be a station in Woonsocket though).

A number of possible alignments were initially analyzed for their potential to meet these goals.

New York City to Boston

In the New York City-to-Boston segment, the study team examined a variety of potential alignments, including a “Shore Alignment” paralleling the existing NEC; a “Long Island Alignment” heading east of out New York and traversing Long Island Sound; and “Highway” alignments paralleling all or portions of major interstate highways, including I-84, I-90 and I-91, through Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is important to note that virtually all of the alignments considered pose a variety of construction and environmental challenges. It was beyond the scope of this study to analyze all potential alignments in significant detail. However, a representative alignment was chosen for analytical and costing purposes. This “Analyzed Alignment,” as shown in the figure, parallels the existing NEC from New York to just north of New Rochelle, then follows a combination of highway, rail and overland routes through Connecticut and Massachusetts, before rejoining the existing NEC south of Rt. 128 in Massachusetts and paralleling it into Boston. A route substantially paralleling the existing NEC between Boston and New York was not chosen for initial analytical purposes because of a combination of capacity constraints on MetroNorth’s New Haven Line between New Haven and New Rochelle. Curvature restrictions and design requirements to meet environmental concerns on the Amtrak-owned “Shore Line” from the Massachusetts state line to New Haven would make it extremely difficult to meet the travel time targets of approximately one hour and 30 minute service.

Now, this is a preliminary report, and nothing has been engineered or officially picked yet, so it is not exactly time to panic about being bypassed. Also, this is a plan for a 240mph corridor between Boston, (Woonsocket??), New York, and Washington, plus other cities; highspeed rail of somesort, just not as fast, would still run between Boston, Providence, New Haven, and New York City.


Pink and green lines, new Next-Gen Highspeed rail, service Bos-DC in under 4 hours. Blue line, existing regional and Acela routing. Yellow line, Next-Gen route, Acela-like speeds Boston to NYC (stopping in Providence) and Next-Gen speed south of NYC.

However, it is never too soon for our Governor, Mayor, Congressional Delegation, and everyone else to start working to ensure that we’re on that line.

If the highspeed line were routed south to Providence then west to Hartford it would finally establish the mythical Providence-Hartford connection that was canceled out of the Interstate Highway plan.

Thinking about how a line to Hartford would branch off our current section of the Northeast Corridor (presuming that the existing Providence Station would be our highspeed rail station), a branch along Route 6 out of Olneyville makes sense as the starting point for the Providence-Hartford line. This Next-Gen Highspeed route is still 30 years from reality, but we should not do anything now to preclude it. As we look toward re-engineering the 6/10 interchange for example.

Nothing against Woonsocket, but if we’re going to lay new track (which is what this plan calls for) between Boston and Hartford, it would be ridiculous for it to serve Woonsocket, but not Providence.

View the entire report here. [.pdf]

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News & Notes

Georgetown’s ‘Social Safeway’ is a monument to changing supermarket architecture [The Washington Post]
New grocery store is built on the second floor, with street level retail screening a parking garage.

Foreclosures point to waning of the suburban era, study says [New Urban News]
Development is shifting to cities more strongly than most Americans realize, a new book asserts.

Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting suburbia [TED Talk]

DOT, HUD team up on joint funding for coordinated housing and transportation planning [FastLane USDOT Blog]

PennDesign Studio’s $100,000,000,000 NEC High Speed Rail Plan [PennDesign]

(Connecticut) State shifting focus to mass transit [The Connecticut Mirror]

Think gas is too pricey? Think again. [The Washington Post]

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News & Notes

Washington, DC expands bike sharing program [Good]

U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood turned transportation policy on its head with a declaration that pedestrians and cyclists should be treated as equals with drivers. That means federal dollars for more projects geared toward walking and cycling. [NPR]

Emergency transit funding bill introduced by Senator Jack Reed and others [Transportation For America]

R.I. Senate takes a new look at miles-driven tax [ProJo]

How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development [StreetsBlog]

One in five licensed drivers — some 38 million Americans — lack the knowledge necessary to pass a written driving test, and even more are distracted while driving, according to a survey released Thursday. [CNNMoney]

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Bikestation

bikestation
Washington, DC Bikestation | Photo (cc) jpchan

On October 2nd a new Bikestation opened at Washington’s Union Station.

Mobis Transportation operates Bikestations in several cities throughout the country including five in California, Seattle, and their first east coast Bikestation in Washington.

How it works; the 1,600 square foot structure houses 100 bikes. Cyclists buy a membership for up to $96/year giving them access to:

  • 24-HOUR BICYCLE PARKING
    Use your membership card to access bicycle lockers 24/7
  • AIR
    Free Air available on-site.
  • CHANGING ROOM / DAY USE LOCKERS
    Change out of your ride clothes before heading out on the town.
  • PARTS & ACCESSORIES
    Basic gear and accessories available for purchase.
  • BICYCLE SERVICE
    Provided by Bike and Roll Washington DC.
  • INFORMATION
    Maps and safety related information.

bikestation2
Washington, DC Bikestation | Photo (cc) Mr. T in DC

The Bikestation is a sleek structure shaped like a bike helmet. In the Washington Post’s Express Night Out blog commuter George Mino was happy to have a secure place to store his bike.

“I’ve had my bike stolen, vandalized and had the air let out of my tires,” he says. “Now I can finally buy a bike that costs more than my lock.”

While the Washington Bikestation is built and operated by Mobis Transportation, they are not the only game in town. Chicago’s Millennium Park features the McDonald’s Cycle Center.

chicago_bikestation
Chicago Bikestation | Photo (cc) Steven Vance

In addition to the amenities featured at the D.C. bikestation, the Chicago station has showers and bike rentals.

So, we need one of these here. Where should we put it?

Via SEGD

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