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Louisville Police Officer Strikes Pedestrian During City’s Big Safety Push

Louisville's three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called "Look Alive Louisville." Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville’s three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called “Look Alive Louisville.” Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville is trying to get a handle on pedestrian safety. An average of 16 pedestrians are killed on the city’s streets annually, and the last few years have been getting worse. The city has received funding from the federal government for a three-year safety campaign dubbed “Look Alive Louisville.”

Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk has been running a series about the initiative. While the objective is admirable, so far the city’s tactics are a mixed bag at best. Law enforcement has been ticketing pedestrians for “jaywalking” and warning them about the dangers of dark clothing. On a more positive note, some of the messaging is aimed at drivers, and Dixie Highway, where 20 percent of collisions involving pedestrians occur, is due for a design “do-over.”

In the midst of the campaign, Klayko reports, an off-duty police office struck a pedestrian — an incident the encapsulates, in some ways, how “Look Alive Louisville” comes up short:

One of five dangerous target intersections being watched by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) as part of the city’s Look Alive Louisville pedestrian safety campaign is at Fourth Street and Broadway. On Monday night one block west, a pedestrian was struck by an off-duty LMPD officer who failed to yield to the unnamed person crossing Broadway in a crosswalk.

Read more…

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“Places I Don’t Want to Sit” — A Gallery of Sad Public Spaces

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns says this gazebo in an office park parking lot is a great example of a terrible public space.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns is gathering a collection of terrible public spaces, like this gazebo in a parking lot.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns has tapped into something universal with her post “Places I Don’t Want to Sit.” The above photo sums it up nicely: lousy, leftover spaces with public amenities grafted on as an afterthought. Since the whole surrounding parking lot is so hostile to people, why would anyone want to sit there?

There’s an epidemic of sad spaces like this in America, she says. How are we getting it so wrong and what would it take to get it right?

We live in cities starved for good public space. There are so few spots in North America where you can sit comfortably (ie. safe, shaded, with a good perch/chair) and enjoy the city around you with zero expectation of spending money. It’s a fact made more tragic when you realize how simple and cheap it can be to create wonderfully sittable space. Instead, many of our highest-potential urban environments are built to explicitly un-sittable standards using defensive architecture.

Other times, we do try to create linger-worthy public space and fail spectacularly. We often demand developers throw some cash toward green space or public amenities in order to get approval for construction. You see it all the time in subdivisions with exquisite landscaping, roundabouts, and benches that are only appreciated from behind a car window.

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When DOT Refuses to Acknowledge That Its Streets Have a Design Problem

The intersection of North College and Ninth Street is the third-most dangerous in Charlotte. The city DOT will only consider tiny, cosmetic changes. Image: Google Maps via Naked City

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Mary Newsom at the Naked City has a classic story about a dangerous street in desperate need of a design overhaul, and a DOT that’s only willing to try out tiny, cosmetic changes.

Charlotte is out with its annual list of high-crash intersections, and not for the first time, the most dangerous locations are predominantly on wide, one-way streets like North College Street. When Newsom suggested to Charlotte DOT a few years back that the design of these streets is causing problems, an engineer told her that changing the configuration of College Street is not on the table:

Engineer Debbie Self, in charge of CDOT’s traffic and pedestrian safety programs, pointed out in 2013 that of the 150 intersections in uptown Charlotte, the majority involve at least one one-way street and most are not on the high-accident list. About North College Street in particular, in 2013, Self wrote:

“College Street in the areas of 7th, 8th & 9th Streets has been on the HAL [high accident list] for many years. It’s been hard to pin point a single underlying cause. Angle crashes account for about half of the crashes at College and 7th, 8th and 9th. CDOT will likely consider reflective back plates at the signals as a mitigation given our successful reduction in crashes at 5th/Caldwell.” [CDOT had attributed the 2013 decline in accidents at Fifth and Caldwell to the installation of the back plates.]

Newsom writes that tinkering on the margins is increasingly inadequate given the growing foot traffic around North College Street:

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What’s the Actual Cost of Amtrak’s Trans-Hudson Gateway Project?

Five years after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spiked the ARC transit tunnel to redirect money to roads, politicians are finally discussing how to go about upgrading rail capacity between Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, currently limited to a pair of century-old tunnels under the Hudson River. But just about every announcement related to the proposed Gateway Project comes with a different price tag.

rail_tunnels

Amtrak needs to be clear about how much it will cost to upgrade transit capacity between Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey, currently limited to these 100-year-old tunnels, and what’s included in the package. Photo: NJ Transit via Second Avenue Sagas

Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations says it’s time for clarity.

[E]ach time Gateway is the news, there usually seems to be a fresh cost escalation. Is it a $10 billion project? A $14 billion project? A $16 billion project? Or a $25 billion project? And what is included exactly? Amtrak does not make it clear what the various items are and how much they cost; I have not seen a single cost estimate that attempts to establish a baseline for new Hudson tunnels without the Penn Station South component, which would provide a moderate short-term boost to capacity but is not necessary for the project. The articles I’ve seen do not explain the origin of the $25 billion figure, either; it may include the tunnel and full four-tracking of Newark-New York, or it may include additional scope, for example Amtrak’s planned vertical circulation for a future (unnecessary) deep cavern for high-speed rail (see picture here).

Against this background, we see scare stories that Gateway must be built for reasons other than capacity and ridership. The old tunnels are falling apart, and Amtrak would like to shut them down one track at the time for long-term repairs. The more mundane reality is that the tunnels have higher maintenance costs than Amtrak would like since each track can only be shut down for short periods, on weekends and at night. This is buried in technical documents that don’t give the full picture, and don’t give differential costs for continuing the present regime of weekend single-tracking versus the recommended long-term closures. The given cost for Sandy-related North River Tunnel repairs is $350 million, assuming long-term closures, and it’s unlikely the present regime is billions of dollars more expensive.

Read more…

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Safe Streets Pioneer Deb Hubsmith Has Died

Today the Streetsblog Network is mourning Deb Hubsmith, who died this week at age 45.

Deb-HubsmithDeb founded the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a nationwide program that is saving the lives of children endangered by reckless drivers.

If you’ve advocated for or cared about safer streets in the last 10 to 15 years, chances are you’re aware of or have been influenced by Deb’s work, even if you don’t know it.

From the League of American Bicyclists:

She dedicated her career to bicycling and walking advocacy at the local, state and national levels.

She began her advocacy as the founding executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, where she helped develop the county’s Safe Routes to School pilot program. She championed the nation’s first statewide Safe Routes to School program in California and also a nationwide program, which passed the U.S. Congress and resulted in more than $1 billion for Safe Routes to School programs across the country.

She also brought the Safe Routes to School National Partnership from an all-volunteer organization to a coalition with 750 partners, 30 staff and a $3 million budget.

Deb was director of the partnership for nine years. You can read the partnership’s tribute here.

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CDC: Make Cycling Safer With Protected Bike Lanes and Lower Speed Limits

Cyclist age-adjusted mortality rate and cyclist proportion of all motor vehicle-related deaths in the U.S. from 1975 to 2012. Click to enlarge. Graph: CDC

Cyclist age-adjusted mortality rate and cyclist proportion of all motor vehicle-related deaths in the U.S. from 1975 to 2012. Click to enlarge. Graph: CDC

What if the United States treated traffic violence like the public health issue it is? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that would entail building bike infrastructure and slowing down drivers.

Last week the CDC released a report on the long-term mortality rate among U.S. cyclists. The study covers 38 years of U.S. DOT data — 1975 through 2012 — when drivers killed 29,711 people on bikes. (Crashes not involving motor vehicles were not included.) During that time period, according to the CDC, the share of household trips taken by bike doubled. At the same time, the report says, mortality rates among adults aged 35 to 54 nearly tripled, from 0.11 to 0.31 per 100,000 people — though the overall age-adjusted mortality rate declined, owing to a 92 percent drop in deaths among children younger than 15.

Evan Roberts at Streets.mn reports:

Indeed, the most dramatic declines in mortality rates from cycling have come among children, and the authors of the report speculate that “the decline in bicyclist mortality among children might be attributable to fewer child bicycle trips rather than a result of safer road conditions.” Among adults the good news is that recent (since 2000) large increases in the frequency of cycling by adults have not been reflected in higher overall mortality from cycling.

But you can see the rise in cycling show up in the growing proportion of all traffic deaths that involve cycling (Figure 1). This figure implies nothing about the riskiness of cycling. We could see a growing proportion of cycling deaths relative to all traffic deaths merely because non-cycling traffic deaths have declined (which they have, but not as fast as in other countries).

The CDC recommends that the U.S. improve safety through “multifaceted, integrated approaches to bicycling that address safety while also promoting cycling,” including physically separated bike lanes, traffic calming, and lowered speed limits.

Elsewhere on the Network: Greater Greater Washington examines the upcoming overhaul of DC bus routes, The Urbanist maps Seattle sidewalks, and Getting Around Sacramento reminds the local paper that parking is not, in fact, a right.

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Houston Just Rebuilt Its Bus System From Scratch

Houston's bus system before, on the left and after a complete system redesign on the right.

Houston’s bus system before, on the left, and after a complete redesign.

On Sunday, Houston debuted an entirely new and improved bus system. The city didn’t pass a new transit levy. Instead it put existing resources to use in a way that is designed to maximize frequent service and boost ridership.

With the help of consultant Jarrett Walker (of Network blog Human Transit), Houston’s METRO changed nearly every route and every stop in the system. Smart Growth America explains what riders will gain from the process:

73 percent of bus riders will have access to high-frequency service—a 217 percent increase from METRO’s current system. The high-frequency routes will have 15 minute headways. An additional 19 percent of riders will be on routes with headways of 30 minutes or less. Almost 60 percent of bus trips to 30 key destinations will be 10 minutes or faster. METRO will accomplish this more frequent, speedier service primarily by shifting to a grid system that allows for more direct routing than the current hub-and-spoke network though downtown. Some of the speed improvements are the result of reducing the number of street-level rail crossings encountered on a bus route, almost eliminating route branching, and moving away from long, delay-prone routes.

To top it off, the frequent routes will run just as often on the weekends, dramatically expanding access for those with weekend shifts or who rely on the bus to make a Saturday grocery run. With Houston’s current system, about half of bus riders had access to high-frequency service during the week, that ratio dropped to 25 percent on the weekends.

It will be really cool to see if this kind of service upgrade can move more people to transit in a city like Houston. Columbus, Ohio is currently engaged in a similar effort.

Elsewhere on the Network today: We Are Mode Shift reports a new website will allow Detroit transit riders to share and publicize service issues. Green Caltrain says a bill in the California legislature would reserve some cap-and-trade funds for transit. And NextSTL shares lessons from one of St. Louis’s early experiments with parklets.

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Governor Larry Hogan’s Red Line Derailment Will Cost Maryland $100M

We have an update on one of the year’s biggest stories on the Network. Remember when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan killed the long-planned Baltimore Red Line so he could spend the funds on road projects? Washington says that decision is about to cost the state $100 million in federal funds.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Progressive Railroading reports that U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski asked Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx whether a federal allocation for the Red Line could be used for other transit projects along the planned light rail route. She announced news of Foxx’s reply last week:

Responding to her inquiry, Foxx said that the $100 million in federal funding for constructing the Red Line light-rail route could not be used for another project, meaning the state stands to lose the funds entirely.

In his letter to Mikulski, Foxx went on to say that the U.S. Department of Transportation shared her concern “regarding the effect of Gov. Hogan’s decision to cancel and abandon the Red Line project, forfeiting the federal government’s commitment for the development and construction of the project.”

However, Foxx also noted that the Federal Transit Administration has not yet received an official confirmation from Hogan’s administration regarding the Red Line’s cancellation, which means the project remains in the agency’s capital investment grant pipeline.

So unless Hogan reverses himself, his transportation legacy will be forfeiting a $100 million federal transit investment in his state’s largest city for a $204 million road project to speed trips to the beach.

More on the Network: People for Bikes on transit agency-funded bike lanes in Portland, Better! Cities & Towns has a primer on form-based zoning, and Greater Greater Washington says the DC transit system has a dangerous leadership vacuum.

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To Become a Sustainable City, Atlanta Must Face Its Parking Addiction

Parking blight, not shaded, along the downtown Atlanta streetcar line. Image: ATL Urbanist

Parking blight, not shaded, along the downtown Atlanta streetcar line. Image: ATL Urbanist

Does Atlanta want to be a sustainable, transit-oriented city? The answer has a lot to do with how it addresses parking.

Following up on “Atlanta’s Parking Addiction,” a recent column in the alt-weekly Creative Loafing, Darin at ATL Urbanist points out that much of the city’s new downtown streetcar route is lined with vehicle storage, rather than housing and businesses.

Creative Loafing reported that over the last 30 years, “the availability of low-cost parking” was “the second strongest indicator of the lack of success ” of urban rail in the U.S. Darin says local leaders must recognize that giving streetcar riders fewer places to go hampers ridership and hurts the system’s chances for growth.

The image above shows a section of the streetcar line on Luckie Street in Downtown Atlanta. Everything that isn’t shaded in red is either a parking lot or a parking deck.

This is important. We have a $100 million starter line for modern streetcars in Atlanta and much of the track runs beside properties that contain facilities devoted to car parking instead of destinations for pedestrians. If this seed is going to grow into a larger, successful system of street rail — and there are proposals for that — city leadership needs to get off its collective ass and give the line a chance to work as it should.

I am in general very excited to have a streetcar here and hopeful that it will end up, some day in the future, serving a thriving neighborhood of new residential and commercial structures that replace our downtown parking blight. But there are also days when I walk these streets, where I live, and cynically think: “In Atlanta, we love parking so much that we built a $100 million streetcar line to show off our parking facilities to tourists.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reports on an egregious case of victim-blaming on the part of local police and media; and Streets.mn says that, contrary to newspaper headlines, Minneapolis hasn’t stopped building infrastructure for cars.

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The Future American City as Imagined in 1925

It’s hard to imagine, but at one point not that long ago, cities in America were at an inflection point. In the early part of the last century, the first signs of motorization and sprawl were just appearing. But not everyone was convinced that the crabgrass frontier was inevitable.

A 1925 cover illustration for Popular Science offers a vision for the future that never came to pass. Image: Popular Science via The Urbanist

A 1925 cover illustration for Popular Science offers a vision for the future that never came to pass. Image: Popular Science via The Urbanist

At The Urbanist, Stephen Fesler points out some of the leading “futurists” of the time pictured just the opposite: densely populated vertical cities.

In a two-page spread from the August 1925 issue of Popular Science Monthly, an extraordinary future for the American city was foretold. Conceived from the mind of American architect Harvey W. Corbett, “May Live to See, May Solve Congestion Problems” illustrated vertical cities in the sky that would forever change the way Americans experience urban living and space. Corbett disagreed with the contemporaries of his day on many trends like rapid decentralization, arrangements of living, and transportation forms. He remained faithful in the strength of the city; he believed that the American city would be revolutionized through expansive districts of skyscraping towers, which had only began in earnest the decade before. According to Corbett, these vertical cities would not only house people, but contain all of the necessities to take up leisure, learn, and work within.

Peeling back the layers, the Corbettian modern city is deeply complex and varied. On the ground, restaurants and retail would prevail as the active, engaging uses that city dwellers would be accustomed to. Upper floors, meanwhile, would also contain the necessities for living, professional services, education and child-rearing, and leisure. Strikingly, Corbett believed that people would put rooftops and terraces to use as gardens and parks. Just imagine!

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has charts that help explain a rise in hit-and-run collisions. The Urbanist offers three different models for urban mobility that work in Seattle. And The Kansas Cyclist says Topeka’s new bike-share system, opened this summer, has attracted higher-than-expected ridership.