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Washington Governor Jay Inslee Preserves Transit and Street Safety Funding

Washington Governor Jay Inslee isn’t taking the pill.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Last week Inslee signaled he would go ahead with a low-carbon fuel standard for the state, which would have triggered a legislative “poison pill” — a concession to Republican lawmakers — to eliminate billions in funds for transit and street safety initiatives.

It was a Faustian bargain that put some transit and safe streets advocates at odds. But Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog reports that Inslee found another way.

Inslee announced Tuesday that he’s going a different direction on reducing carbon emissions. Rather than a clean fuels standard (already in place in Oregon and California), he’s going to develop a regulatory carbon cap. Though it would not be a complete cap-and-trade system (that would take an act of law, not just executive action), it “would force a significant reduction in air pollution,” according to an official statement.

“In talking about the terrible choice the Senate imposed on the people of Washington — clean air or buses and safe sidewalks — I heard broad agreement that we need both clean transportation and clean air,” Inslee said in the press release. “I appreciate the commitment I heard from many to work with me to ensure our state meets its statutory carbon reduction limits.”

Also on the Network today, Greater Greater Washington finds that empty bike-share stations don’t necessarily mean long waits.

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Data-Driven Parking Policy Pays Off in Seattle

Inset of Seattle parking rate map. Image via The Urbanist

Inset of Seattle parking rate map. Image via The Urbanist

Seattle is set to improve upon its successful street parking program by setting meter rates based on demand.

The Seattle Department of Transportation keeps a close watch on curbside parking, reports Stephen Fesler at The Urbanist, with regular audits and adjustments to rates and hours for close to 12,000 spaces. SDOT’s goal is to reduce congestion, noise, and pollution by helping motorists find parking more easily. Increasing turnover also helps businesses by improving access.

It’s a common sense approach that gets results. Writes Fesler:

The paid parking program is managed on the basic principles of supply and demand. With a limited number of available parking spaces and inconsistent demand throughout areas and time, SDOT uses price and time limits to manage how consumers choose to occupy space and smooth out utilization.

With this in mind, SDOT’s primary goal of the paid parking program is to maintain an average of one to two open parking spaces per blockface throughout the day. This typically translates to 70% to 85% parking utilization, a key metric for SDOT.

This year the city will begin to expand variable parking rates, adjusted based on demand at a given time, to the entire system:

Read more…

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If Walmart Urbanizes Its Headquarters, What’s Next for Its Stores?

The Washington Post reports that Walmart, the retail behemoth whose name is synonymous with big-box sprawl, is looking to attract young people to work at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. To make that happen, the company is investing in amenities to make its hometown — population 40,000 — more urban.

Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_hot/Flickr via Washington Post

Sam Walton’s first store, in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, where the company hopes to draw young employees. Photo: brad_holt/Flickr via Washington Post

To remain competitive, the Post says, Walmart must draw professionals “who might not have a car” away from “large cities that have lots more to offer.”

Robert Steuteville at Better! Cities & Towns believes new development in the Bentonville area will have repercussions across the U.S.:

In the middle of the 20th century, northwest Arkansas consisted of a few sleepy towns on a railroad line. Now it has half a million residents in disconnected subdivisions.

The area must urbanize to move forward economically, and the implications of that necessity will turn suburbs on their heads. The needs of Bentonville and Walmart will reverberate coast to coast.

Walmart, the Walton Foundation, and local leaders are investing heavily in art museums and other cultural attractions, bicycle trails, and mixed-use infill development that brings restaurants and brew pubs.

Nearby Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas) are moving in the same direction. Urban amenities have gained status in the land of Walmart — arguably the largest, most suburban-oriented enterprise in the world.

“In order for us to compete for the type of talent it’s going to take to allow these companies to remain competitive in the global economy, we have to be a place where people want to live, where they can spend their free time doing things they enjoy,” one Bentonville official told the Post.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Family Friendly Cities says Seattle’s proposed residential zoning update won’t lead families with kids to flee the city.

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Take a Ride on St. Louis’s First Protected Bike Lane


Here’s a nice milestone: Downtown St. Louis has its first protected bike lane.

Alex Ihnen at nextSTL posted video of a ride along the one-way lane from end to end, along Chestnut Street. The protected segment is separated from motor vehicle traffic by a parking lane, painted buffer, and flex posts. The remainder is a painted buffered lane with parking on the right and thru lanes on the left.

Ihnen says it’s a good first step toward a protected bike lane network.

A few thoughts from the ride:

  • The protected bike lane is fantastic, making a huge difference in the feeling of safety when riding downtown
  • A west bound protected lane is needed next (Pine, Olive?)
  • Bike lanes aren’t much use if they’re littered with glass and debris (Olive, Jefferson)
  • A protected bike lane on Chouteau (LOTS of extra room there) would provide a great connection to/from The Arch, Soulard, Lafayette Square, The Gate District, Shaw, The Grove, Forest Park, and connected neighborhoods
  • Jefferson Avenue bike lane badly needs repainting – a protected lane would be amazing

Check out more coverage of the Chestnut Street lane from St. Louis native Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog. “If you had said a few weeks ago that kids would be biking comfortably on a downtown St. Louis street, people would have thought you were crazy,” writes Fucoloro. “That’s the power of protected bike lanes, and the change can happen overnight.”

Elsewhere on the Network: ATL Urbanist reports that high-rises are replacing parking lots near a MARTA station, Seattle Transit Blog says circuitous alignment of a future light rail route has more to do with politics than sound planning, and Second Avenue Sagas reminds us that Chris Christie is a liar.

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Expanding Toronto Bike Share Aims to Bridge the Last Kilometre

Promising news today from Toronto.

Todd Harrison at Spacing Toronto says the city’s bike-share system is expanding thanks to an infusion of funds from Ontario. The best part: Docking stations will be sited near transit stops to bridge “the first and last kilometres.”

Photo: Spacing Toronto

Photo: Spacing Toronto

Harrison sees the move as an indication that Bike Share Toronto will, for the first time, position itself as a service for commuters.

At the program’s outset, many stations were placed seemingly to benefit tourists. Later, then-owner Bixi ran an ad campaign that pitched bike sharing as way to hop from one social destination to another — which always struck me as only slightly better than the cycling strategy Rob Ford published in 2010, which depicted cycling as a purely trail-based recreational activity. There are many possible reasons why Bike Share Toronto is marketed in this manner. Perhaps the Toronto Parking Authority, like the program’s previous administrator, figures that anyone who wants to commute to work on a bike is already doing so. It might also be the limited range of the network, or the fact that commuters’ unidirectional nature would create bike-distribution hassles.

Yet despite all this, many Bike Share Toronto members use the system to get to and from work — often in combination with public transit. If this is indeed the kind of user Metrolinx and the City intend to attract by putting more bikes outside of subway stations, their way forward is clear: Think of bike sharing as an inexpensive, modular, smaller-scale version of the downtown relief line, and act accordingly.

Harrison points out that the expansion must be supported with bike infrastructure and smart marketing. If done right, he says, the system could help reduce transit overcrowding. “Toronto’s program has a wealth of untapped potential,” he writes.

Elsewhere on the Network: Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space lists the must-haves for a safer, more sustainable city; Greater Greater Washington says DC may be in for a serious housing shortage; and Washington Bikes examines what will be lost of Governor Jay Inslee eliminates street safety funding.

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Is “Sprawl Repair” Worth It?

Should we let sprawl be sprawl? Image via Better! Cities & Towns

Transforming the territory of strip malls and big boxes into walkable places is a hot topic, exemplified by the popular book “Retrofitting Suburbia.” But is it worth the time, money, and effort?

Robert Steuteville of Better! Cities & Towns writes that architect Kevin Klinkenberg and development expert Lee Sobel raised the question at this year’s Congress for the New Urbanism.

Klinkenberg explained in a blog that sprawl repair is a “fools errand” and new urbanists should “just say no.” He said: “Suburbia, or sprawl as we interchangeably call it, is all about bigness and mass production.” Put simply, “it’s outside the DNA of walkable cities. Embracing sprawl retrofit is like saying we can transform fast food culture into healthy food.”

He’s saying that sprawl repair is the Chicken McNuggets of urbanism.

Klinkenberg concludes: “I do believe that sprawl retrofit is not a wise approach for new urbanists. I’d say, let’s keep it simple — let urbanism be urbanism and sprawl be sprawl.”

Steuteville disagrees. There will always be a market for sprawl, he writes, but as preferences change, it’s becoming obvious that drivable places consume a much greater share of the built environment — 95 percent — than people actually want.

He points out that some cities, like Atlanta and Los Angeles, have few options other than retrofitting their car-centric development patterns:

Read more…

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What Happened When Istanbul Opened Streets to People

Map of the Istanbul Historic Peninsula, with pedestrianized streets in blue. Image: EMBARQ Turkey via TheCityFix

Map of the Istanbul Historic Peninsula, with pedestrianized streets in blue. Image: EMBARQ Turkey via TheCityFix

By the end of the 20th century, the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul had a serious pollution problem. Writing for TheCityFix, Tu?çe Üzümo?lu says air quality was so bad that historic sites and monuments were degrading.

When a UNESCO study identified poor transportation infrastructure as a factor, the local government pedestrianized streets throughout the district. Ten years later, Üzümo?lu reports, the air is much cleaner.

Thanks to the recent pedestrianization efforts in the Historic Peninsula, vehicle emissions and pollution levels have come down significantly. A new report titled “Assessment of the Air Quality Effects of Pedestrianization on Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula” from EMBARQ Turkey analyses the impacts of pedestrianization on local air quality in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, the residential area in the Northeast of the Historic Peninsula — which has not been pedestrianized — has experienced little or no reduction in traffic-related emissions, demonstrating clearly the effect of pedestrianization on local air quality.

Üzümo?lu points out additional benefits to prioritizing people over cars, including safer streets and an overall boost to quality of life. “It’s critical that city leaders in Istanbul and beyond recognize the success that pedestrianization can have on urban communities and continue to support walkable, people-oriented streets,” Üzümo?lu writes.

Elsewhere on the Network: BikeWalkLee reports that local leaders have decided that impact fees, once reserved for road-building, can be used for transit and bike/ped projects; the Virginia Bicycle Federation finds a relaxed cycling culture in Florence, Italy; and ATL Urbanist wonders if the Atlanta region is “density-proof.”

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Will Washington Governor Jay Inslee Sacrifice Safer Streets?

As we reported yesterday, it looks like Washington Governor Jay Inslee may move forward with a low-carbon fuel standard, triggering a legislative “poison pill” that would eliminate funds for transit and street safety initiatives.

Safe Routes to School funding would be cut if Washington Governor Jay Inslee swallows the poison pill. Photo: Washington Bikes

Safe Routes to School funding would be cut if Governor Jay Inslee swallows the poison pill. Photo: Washington Bikes

The Seattle Times reports that Inslee is gambling on restoring those funds at a later date, but Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog says the governor would be making a costly mistake:

By abandoning the only funds in the transportation package that would actually help residents of our state get around without a car, he’s not doing the environment any favors.

But far worse, the money he’s considering pulling is designed to prevent people from being killed or seriously injured while walking or biking. This isn’t just horse trading one environmental policy for another. These are lives we’re talking about.

Safe Routes to School would be slashed nearly to death by this decision. $56 million can build a ton of safe crosswalks, sidewalks and bike routes for kids all across the state to get to school safely. That’s the great thing about walking and biking safety projects: Your money goes a lot further. $56 million doesn’t get you very far in a highway expansion project (it’s about 1.3 percent of the 520 Bridge Replacement budget), but it could dramatically improve safety in communities across the state.

Washington Bikes is calling on people to urge Inslee not to sacrifice funding for safer streets. “There doesn’t have to be a choice between safer and healthier communities and climate change,” says policy director Blake Trask. “Governor Inslee knows he has other avenues to implement his climate change agenda.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region explains why New York has the smallest ecological footprint of all U.S. states (spoiler: it’s housing density and transit), and ATL Urbanist says a suburban bus rapid transit line should be a catalyst for a more humane public realm.

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Transpo Funding Intrigue in Washington State

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the Streetsblog Network today…

Washington Governor Jay Inslee may go ahead and swallow the “poison pill” that Republican legislators insisted on including in a state transportation package, reports Frank Chachiere at Seattle Transit Blog. That would mean Inslee will go ahead with a low-carbon fuel standard for the state, which will torpedo a funding package for roads, transit, and street safety projects. With Inslee having already secured a separate $15 billion authorization for Sound Transit that will be untouched by the poison pill, however, local transit advocates don’t seem too worried about the governor’s strategy.

A developer’s rendering of a mixed-use project in the works by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station in DC. Not depicted are the 2,000 parking spaces the plan calls for. Image via GGW

Darla Letourneau at BikeWalkLee has a mid-year progress report on street safety in Florida’s Lee County. After spikes in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in recent years, street safety is getting more attention from the press and policy makers. However, injury rates for walkers and bikers don’t show signs of improvement yet. “The bottom line is that while there are lots of efforts underway to make it safer for people walking and biking in Lee County, we need to step up our game, if we expect to lower our stubbornly high bike/ped fatality and injury numbers,” she writes.

At Greater Greater Washington, Jonathan Neeley reports on a big mixed-use housing project coming to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. While the development would replace car-oriented retail, the plan currently calls for 2,000 parking spaces — more than the number of new apartments. Is this the best DC can do?

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Transit Alone Won’t Lead to Transit-Oriented Development

Top: The area around what is now the Garnett MARTA station in 1913. Bottom: The same area today. Images via ATL Urbanist

Top: The area around what is now the Garnett MARTA station in 1913. Bottom: The same area today. Images via ATL Urbanist

When MARTA opened its Garnett rail station in south downtown Atlanta in the early 1980s, the city expected development to follow. Darin at ATL Urbanist writes that documents from the 70s show that planners believed the station could spur offices and a residential high rise.

More than three decades later, that hasn’t happened. In fact, over the years commercial buildings and houses in the vicinity of the station were obliterated for parking. The station currently sits in the middle of a parking crater.

Writes Darin:

A catalyst like a transit station is similar to a garden — it can produce great things, but only if you take care of it and give it the nurturing environment it needs. City government did not do that with Garnett. In regard to its potential for spurring growth, it’s turned into a waste of money because of the lack of care taken to give it a proper environment for growth.

Here’s what it looks like now, from above. A city that sits back and waits for the market to work is not doing everything it can to help the station fulfill its potential. Imagine what could be here.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Second Avenue Sagas has a smackdown of transit deadbeat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; A View From the Cycle Path examines how the decline of the public realm in Wellington, New Zealand, was mirrored across the globe; and Chicago Bicycle Advocate says Uber is designed to evade responsibility for driver crashes.