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Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to Rip Out City’s First Protected Bike Lane

Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark has New Jersey’s first protected bike lane, as far as we know. But unfortunately it looks like the Garden State will soon be back to zero.

After business owners near the Mt. Prospect Avenue bike lane in Newark complained about losing parking, Mayor Ras Baraka ordered its removal. Baraka is allowing drivers to block it in the meantime. Photo: WalkBikeJersey

Andrew Besold at WalkBikeJersey is reporting Mayor Ras Baraka has ordered the removal of the bike lane, and in the meantime is allowing people to park in it. The executive order follows some unfriendly news coverage, Besold says:

Well, it might have been too good while it lasted. If you read The Star-Ledger or have been following our Facebook page you are likely aware of the parking protected bike lanes on Mt. Prospect Ave in Newark’s North Ward, the first that we are aware of in New Jersey. Columnist Barry Carter has been writing a series (123) about the claimed hardships the streetscape redesign, particularly the parking protected bike lanes have caused the local residents and merchants. This Tuesday he claimed victory over the bike lanes after Mayor Baraka issued an executive order [allowing] drivers to park at the curb until the roadway could be entirely redesigned without the bike lanes as they are now.

The crux of the argument to remove the bike lanes was that they had eliminated valuable parking that was preventing customers from visiting the stores on the avenue. Also, since the addition of parking protected bike lanes had narrowed the width of the the avenue, customers now would no longer be able to double park to quickly visit a store. However in the hour I was there on Tuesday, December 16th, between 2pm and 3pm, parking was not at all a problem. Again, I arrived by car and was able to find a parking space on just about every block, if not on Mt. Prospect Ave itself, on the immediately adjacent side streets.

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Cities Won’t Turn Out the Way Highway Builders Predict

What if the driving slump continues apace forever, asks Patrick Kennedy. Image: Street Smarts

The highway lobby in Dallas keeps beating the same drum: They talk about projected population growth and predict that highways will become a massive logjam. So they argue Dallas should be building, building, building new highways for these future drivers at a furious pace.

But Patrick Kennedy at Street Smart notes that if you look at more recent trends, they actually make the case for fewer highways. Ultimately, he says, basing complex decisions on simplistic trend line projections is just a bad way to plan for the future:

Let’s play a game then, if we’re following trend lines continually up and to the right. How much will DFW residents be driving in 2035 based on current trends? Well, according to Texas Transportation Institute, DFW averaged 13.26 miles driven per person per day in 2006. That number has since fallen to 11.90. Wha?! How could that be? All of our driving models show VMT going up (and therefore we base transportation funding and policy on said models). They couldn’t possibly be wrong. What is wrong is people. Who change and adapt and live and do things differently based on their time and circumstances which also change, unlike our models, which are exquisite and perfect and say we need moar damn highways.

If we’re dropping VMT per capita by 32% every 5 years certainly that trend line will continue for ever and ever. If it keeps dropping by 32% every 5 years, the average DFW resident will be driving 1.37 miles per day, about half as much as the average current New York City metro resident. Sounds ridiculous right?

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Using a Construction Project to Predict the Effect of a Road Diet

Portland’s dangerous Barbur Boulevard got a temporary road diet during a recent paving project, and speeding dropped dramatically. Photo: Bike Portland

Barbur Boulevard in Portland is one of the city’s most deadly streets, and advocates there have pushed for a road diet that would slow traffic and provide comfortable space for biking and walking. But the state DOT has refused to change the road, in large part due to objections from the local chamber of commerce.

But in an interesting natural experiment, a recent construction project on Barbur Boulevard took a lane out of commission. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that the data from the construction period in many ways confirms what street safety advocates have said all along:

Converting one northbound traffic lane on 1.9 miles of SW Barbur Boulevard to two protected bike lanes with sidewalks would apparently prevent unsafe weaving during off-peak hours without massive impacts to morning traffic.

That’s one conclusion from data released Friday that analyzed changes to people’s driving habits during construction work on Barbur this summer. A repaving project had temporarily closed one traffic lane in each direction.

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The Test of a Great Bikeway

What separates a great bikeway from one that makes you wonder why anyone even bothered?

Bike route fail: A bikeway proposed for Central Falls is indirect and wouldn’t take people to places they would want to go. Map: Transport Providence

James Kennedy at Transport Providence has put together a litmus test in response to a bike route planned for Central Falls, Rhode Island, which, he says, “sucks.”

Here’s the question set Kennedy put together and how he thinks the Central Falls route stacks up.

*Does it take you someplace useful?

I think there should be bike access everywhere, and there are some things that a person could go to here, so for some people this might serve a purpose. But for the vast majority, this is a useless route. The river cuts off access from the eastern part of Pawtucket, and the railroad cuts off access to the rest of Central Falls.

*Is the route easy to follow?

Looking at this on a map, it’s really clear that because of what I said above in point #1, in a sense it’s impossible to get lost on this route (it’s all technically on High Street, a prime example of a Rhode Island Street that goes a million directions getting one name, while some other streets that are completely contiguous and straight get six). There is nowhere useful to branch off to, so where could you get lost? At the same time, for a new person on this route, or even someone who’s taken a few times, the constant bends back and forth are disorienting. Imagine this from the perspective of a visitor: do you want to give this route your trust? The answer is no.

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The High Cost of Unwalkable School Districts

Another consequence of unwalkable schools: big transportation bills for school districts. Photo: Zemlinki!/Flickr

About a generation ago, many American school districts started shuttering and abandoning walkable neighborhood schools and building replacements in sprawling, undeveloped locations where the land was cheap.

But by opting for cheap land costs in the short term, they incurred much higher transportation costs in the long term. Now many school districts are struggling under the financial weight of busing students, notes Richard Layman at Network blog Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. While the negative health effects of siting schools where kids can’t walk or bike have long been apparent, Layman says it’s past time to focus on the financial drawbacks as well:

According to various studies, it typically costs at least $500 per year to bus one student to and from school.

During the recession, more school districts began enforcing regulations concerning access to bus transportation–with some exceptions, most districts won’t provide bus service for students living within one mile of a school–and increasing the distance from school before bus transportation would be provided.

Some school districts have imposed transportation fees, which some residents have opposed as illegal. There is a case pending before the Indiana Supreme Court (“Fair fees? Facing cuts, more schools charge for busing,” USA Today) on this issue. Also see the Indianapolis Star piece, “Indiana Supreme Court to hear case on school bus fees.”

Missed in the discussion is how school systems developed on the sprawl land use paradigm end up being financially crushed by the financial implication — dependent on school buses, diesel gasoline, and drivers.

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Whoops! How Planners and Engineers Badly Overestimate Car Traffic

How much car traffic will a new building generate? Engineers and planners are constantly trying to divine the answer to this question in the belief that it will tell them the “right” number of parking spaces to build, or how to adjust streets to accommodate more cars.

This is the bible for planning infrastructure around new developments. Is it wildly wrong? Image: Access Magazine

The standard reference to guide these decisions is the Trip Generation Manual published by the Institute for Transportation Engineers. But the manual has come under fire for overestimating the traffic produced by mixed-use developments. A team of transportation engineers aligned with the Congress for the New Urbanism has been working on a fix for that.

Meanwhile, a new study by University of California professor Adam Millard-Ball takes the critique of ITE a lot further. In a new article for Access Magazine, Millard-Ball argues persuasively that ITE is overestimating traffic not just on mixed-use projects, but on all developments — and not by a little.

This has been the case for a long time, he says, and it’s only gotten worse as driving levels have declined across the country in recent years. Millard-Ball calculates that the ITE method of predicting trips based on development would have forecast an increase of 90 million trips during an eight-year periods in the 2000s. The actual increase? Just 2 million trips, as reported in the National Household Travel Survey.

Robert Steuteville at Network blog Better Cities & Towns explains the significance of Millard-Ball’s research:

For those who are keeping track, that’s a discrepancy of 4,500 percent. As US travel habits change, the ITE data keeps pointing to ever-increasing traffic, as developers pay impact fees and transportation planners anticipate more congestion.

Use of the ITE manual has a profound affect on new development–opposition often centers around traffic generation. But the bigger impact is on overbuilt roads and the construction of too much parking. Not only is this wasteful, but also it diminishes sense of place and walkability, which in turn affect quality of life and economic development. The design of the road itself can result in more cars on the road. Safety is affected–streets that are too large encourage speeding, which boosts the severity of collisions and ultimately injuries and deaths.

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How to Make Transit Succeed in a Sprawling City

In many ways, Calgary, Canada’s third-largest city, is very much like a sprawling American city. But in one way, it’s very different: It’s a huge transit city. Despite being composed mostly of sprawling single-family homes, in this Canadian energy boomtown, 50 percent of downtown workers arrive by transit and another 11 percent by bike — way higher than what you see in its American counterparts.

Calgary is Canada's Dallas, but it has transit ridership to rival San Francisco. Photo: Calgary Reviews

Calgary is the Dallas of Canada, but it has transit ridership to rival San Francisco. Photo: Calgary Reviews

Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic says the secret sauce for for Calgary transit seems to be limiting car use in the downtown area:

In 2013, Calgary’s transit services provided about 168 million annual trips, compared to about 70 million each in Dallas and Phoenix. Those metropolitan areas each have more than four times the population of Calgary. In other words, people in Calgary — an energy-driven, Western sprawl town — are using transit at about 10 times the rate of people in U.S. peers.

The difference between Calgary and a city like Dallas is not simply a reflection of differences in investment (after all, Calgary could be paying for sensational transit offerings that are simply not offered in the American sunbelt). While both Calgary and Dallas have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building out their light rail system, Calgary’s provides three times the daily rides on less than half the track miles. What gives?

At the heart of the matter seems to be a radically different view about how to manage automobiles downtown. Decades of progressive thinking about how to run downtown have produced a Calgary where there are no freeways entering the central city. Citizens there have been vocally opposed to building highways there since the 1950s, with the consequence that it is simply not that quick to get into downtown by car. This has a number of related effects, including the incentivization of non-automobile modes and the reduction in outward suburban sprawl (since it takes a longer amount of time to get to the center of downtown).

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Stockton CA Wants Better Transit, Biking, and Sidewalks, Not Wider Roads

Residents of Stockton, CA, told the city they want better transit and active transportation, not more car infrastructure. Image: City of Stockton via Stockton City Limits

What happens when you ask people point blank what they want from their local transportation system?

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the city of Stockton recently asked people at a public meeting what types of transportation investments they’d prefer. Stockton, population 300,000, was especially hard hit when the housing bubble burst, declaring bankruptcy in 2012. With the city regathering itself and embarking on a new general plan, David Garcia reports at Network blog Stockton City Limits that residents left no doubt about the types of transportation options they want:

The findings of this exercise are crystal clear: Stocktonians want more walking, biking and public transportation options.

As you can see, the overwhelming majority of votes cast were in favor of active transportation. 19% of votes were cast in favor of “Pedestrian Sidewalks & Walkability,” 14% for “Mass Transit,” and a combined 25% for cycling for commuting and recreation. Road widening—the only true auto-oriented option—doesn’t register until near the bottom with 6%. While this is by no means a scientific survey, it’s very telling. About 60 residents participated in the exercise according to the city, ranging from the usual advocates as well as private citizens who simply wanted their voices heard.

It is clear that Stocktonians are ready for a more progressive approach to planning, an approach that emphasizes pedestrians and cyclists over the private automobile. It’s up to the citizens to continue to demand these changes and to stay actively involved in this General Plan process.

Elsewhere on the Network today: ATL Urbanist shares the words of an Atlanta developer trying to convince the region to embrace transit. And The Political Environment reports that Wisconsin is building a $1.7 billion interchange project exclusively for the region’s suburban commuters, but those commuters are unhappy with the construction delays.

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Devastating Job Sprawl Intensifies in Milwaukee’s Economic Recovery

In a continuation of a long-term trend with devastating results for city residents, job creation in the Milwaukee region in the wake of the Great Recession has been focused in the suburbs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that Milwaukee County has recovered only 35 percent of the jobs it lost in the economic downturn, meanwhile the surrounding suburban counties have recovered 70 percent. The report also found that new jobs in Milwaukee County tend to be lower paying, with a higher share of temporary positions.

James Rowen at the Political Environment writes that while suburban interests seem to take a perverse glee in the city’s troubles, in the end the whole region and state suffers:

The wealth and jobs data that [the Journal Sentinel's Rick] Romell cites show the result of decades of discriminatory public sector policies that disconnected transit links and thus intentionally reduced work and housing options for lower-income, minority Milwaukee residents by literally putting jobs and affordable housing out of reach.

While government builds more highways to serve suburban commuters – - despite a federal court ruling to the contrary - – and even now is contemplating giving the [suburban] City of Waukesha an exception to a multi-state water management agreement and allow Waukesha a diversion of Lake Michigan water not only for current needs, but to serve undeveloped acreage.

The sad irony in all this is that while the suburban counties and their louder political and media voices find votes and comfort manipulating Milwaukee, the state will not succeed like, say, Minnesota, because you cannot have an economically vibrant and attractive state economy if you deliberately constrict, abuse and stunt its largest city – - the center of the state’s commerce, banking, culture, entertainment and, in our case, the connection to an even bigger economy – - Chicago.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington explains why the new tolled lanes on I-95 in Maryland are likely to drain money from people who never use them. Twin City Sidewalks runs with the notion of freeways as public spaces for the expression. And Broken Sidewalk sees what lessons can be drawn from a heat map of where people are tweeting in Louisville.

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Imagining a Bizarro World With Rational Discussions About Parking

Remember that time you attended a public meeting about redesigning a street, and when the issue of free on-street parking spaces came up, the discussion was so thoughtful and productive that you walked away feeling refreshed and full of optimism? Me neither.

Parking has a way of bringing out the worst in us. Photo: New Rochelle Talks

But Bill Lindeke at Streets.mn has imagined the rational community discussion about parking that you fantasize about — here’s what it might look like:

Most of the time, when people are discussing parking, parking lots, paying for parking, or whether or not it’s difficult to find parking, I’ve noticed how quickly someone who might have had concerns puts aside petty squabbles and embraces the big
picture view.

I mean, the absolute worst case scenario is that you have to pay a few dollars or walk a few blocks through our lovely city on the well-designed and always comfortable sidewalks filled with non-threatening street life. As we all know, walking in our city is such a pleasure that most people love strolling around.

For example, just the other day a new restaurant wanted to open up in our city, but their parking lot was small compared to the Coon Rapids Applebee’s. Well, once the business owner explained the situation, and how the neighborhood was walkable and historic, everyone was OK with it. That’s inspiring!

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