Skip to content

Posts from the Streetsblog.net Category

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

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.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

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.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

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.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

The U.S. Made Cars Safer, and It’s Past Time to Do the Same for Streets

Graph: City Observatory. Click for interactivity

Graph: City Observatory. Click for interactivity

If you have a well-worn copy of Ralph Nader’s seminal “Unsafe at Any Speed” on your bookshelf — and who doesn’t? — you know that in the mid 20th century U.S. auto companies were hostile to the idea of designing safer cars. Introducing basic features like padded dashboards and collapsible steering columns, the thinking went, would be tantamount to acknowledging that driving is dangerous.

Fifty years after Nader’s book sparked public demand for automobiles that are safer for motorists and passengers, Daniel Hertz at City Observatory says it’s time for “the next road safety revolution” — streets that are safer for people who aren’t in cars.

Over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries, American cities and suburbs transformed most of their streets from public spaces designed for walking, biking, and other kinds of transportation (as well as socializing, putting on public spectacles or demonstrations, or just watching the world go by) into highways that are dangerous for anyone not ensconced in a motor vehicle.

The fact is that urban planning bears a major responsibility for the incredibly high numbers of serious injuries and deaths on our streets. We’ve known for years that relatively small increases in the travel speed have huge impacts on the severity of car crashes … And yet the primary goal of street design, even in relatively densely-packed urban areas, has been to keep cars moving at high speeds … Other measures, including narrow sidewalks or no sidewalks at all, and large distances between controlled intersections, also make roads more dangerous.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

50,000 Portlanders Turn Out to Preview the Car-Free “People’s Bridge”

Photos: Michael Andersen/BikePortland

Photos: Michael Andersen/BikePortland

On Sunday residents of Portland got a preview of Tilikum Crossing, a.k.a. the “Bridge of the People,” described by Michael Andersen of BikePortland as “the first bridge in the United States to carry buses, bikes, trains, streetcars and people walking but no private cars.”

Tilikum Crossing is the first bridge constructed over the Willamette River in over 40 years. “Tilikum” is Chinook for “people,” and Andersen says they turned out in droves to cross their bridge ahead of its official opening in a few weeks.

The crossings began with an early-morning VIP ride and continued with the Providence Bridge Pedal bike ride, then an open crossing for people with disabilities and finally by the three-hour “People’s Preview” for anyone and everyone.

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch, helping direct traffic at the west landing, was one of several TriMet officials present to marvel at the throngs who showed up. At about 3 p.m., with more than an hour left to go, she estimated that more than 20,000 people had crossed.

By mid-evening after the event, she’d upped her estimate to “40,000 to 50,000.”

“Where are they all coming from?” deputy project director Dave Unsworth asked happily about an hour later, as people continued to stream across the river. He was straddling a bicycle on the west landing and directing people to avoid getting their wheels stuck between the MAX tracks. “Are they arriving in busloads on the other side?”

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

An Experiment in Driver-Cyclist Interaction, Powered By Christmas Lights

When you’re on a bike getting passed by motorists going 20 or 30 mph faster than you, it can feel like one act of deliberate aggression after another. And in many cases there is real, seething hostility and complete disregard for other people’s safety at work. But a lot of the time, people drive fast because that’s the message the street design is sending, and they don’t know any better.

Three out of four motorists dig these lights. Photo: Transport Providence

Today on the Streetsblog Network, James Kennedy at Transport Providence shares a story to illustrate the point:

I have these battery-lit LED Christmas lights strung up on my bike, and they’ve proven a great improvement for my mental health. I suggest you get some (they’re like $20 for a two-wheel set) and go riding at night. It’ll make a true believer of you about how street design rather than people’s personalities is the font of all driving mistakes.

I was riding home along S. Water St. the other night, from Waterfire no less, and the lights gave me a great thing. Here’s what was said to me out the car windows:

Driver 1 (whizzing by too fast): Great lights!
Driver 2 (also whizzing by too fast, then speeding up even more): Get on the fucking sidewalk!
Driver 3 (yep, too fast): Your bike is awesome!
Driver 4 Yeah!

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Metro Goes Off the Rails, and DC Streets Grind to a Halt

Traffic map following Thursday’s DC Metro derailment. Image: Google Maps via Greater Greater Washington

Gridlock after Thursday’s DC Metro derailment. Image: Google Maps via Greater Greater Washington

No one was hurt when a Metro train derailed in downtown DC yesterday, but the incident wreaked havoc on the morning commute — for transit users and motorists.

David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington said the derailment and ensuing Metro service interruption “surely contributed” to gridlock throughout the downtown area, as people who would normally take the train tried to drive to work.

Alpert says what happened Thursday shows why car commuters have a vested interest in a well-maintained transit system.

Transit often faces a political problem where many voters who won’t personally use transit just don’t care about it and don’t support funding maintenance or expansion. Most people drive sometimes, so broadly they support fixing roads and often adding new ones even if they personally won’t use that road every day. But it’s not the same for transit.

It should be. Metro makes it possible for everyone to get to and from their jobs. So do bridges, and buses, and bicycle facilities, and sidewalks. Completely shut down any one mode of transportation and everyone will suffer.

Elsewhere on the Network: The League of American Bicyclists rethinks three-foot passing laws, and Strong Towns makes the case for keeping parks open after dark.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Before “Accident,” Deadly Driving Was “Homicide By Automobile”

In the early 20th century “chauffeur” was synonymous with “motorist,” and by 1906 Life Magazine had had enough of them.

Newspaper cartoon from 1923. Via 99% Invisible

Newspaper cartoon from 1923, when the press still recognized traffic violence as a motorist problem. Via 99% Invisible

Doug Gordon at Brooklyn Spoke dug up a column titled “Get After the Chauffeurs,” in which Life reported on a two-vehicle crash in Central Park that killed several people, including the driver who caused the collision. “That one got his dues,” the magazine said. “His reckless driving was a crime. The result was homicide. If he had not been killed he should have been sent to State’s prison.”

The column questions why reckless chauffeurs go unpenalized for their “antics,” and compares “homicide by automobile” to “homicide with a gun.”

From Life:

There will be some legitimate automobile accidents, just as there are runaway-horse accidents, but they should be few. Horses are irresponsible, and cannot be punished for running away. Chauffeurs, as a rule, are very imperfectly responsible, but they can be punished for running away and held accountable for the harm they do.

Gordon notes that today, it’s the mainstream media that empathize with the chauffeurs while people who decry traffic violence are now called “advocates.”

Compare the above to stories of drivers who “lost control” of their cars before killing innocent victims. In some cases, news sites such as DNAInfo.com even describe the car itself as the thing that was “out-of-control,” never mentioning a driver, as if the car was some sort of sentient animal that got spooked. Like, say, a horse.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on plans to bring housing and transit to the Seven Corners area of Fairfax, Virginia; and Washington Bikes says Kidical Mass is taking off in Washington State.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Pennsylvania Rep Wants to Mandate Reflective Clothes for Biking at Night

Today in bad ideas, Bike Pittsburgh reports that Pennsylvania State Representative Anthony DeLuca wants state traffic code to mandate that anyone riding a bike at night wear reflective clothing.

Mandating reflective clothing for nighttime bike riding would “effectively kill” bike-share systems in Pittsburgh (pictured) and Philadelphia. Photo: Brad Aaron

Mandating reflective clothing for nighttime bike riding would “effectively kill” bike-share systems in Pittsburgh (pictured) and Philadelphia. Photo: Brad Aaron

Bike Pittsburgh points out that this type of law opens the door to selective enforcement and harassment by police. Requiring people to purchase and carry special apparel would also create an obstacle to riding, putting a damper on the “safety in numbers” effect as cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are adding bike infrastructure and introducing bike-share systems.

Writes Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh:

Fewer people biking means that biking is less safe for everyone.

The apparel guidelines that HB 1361 imposes are also redundant to Pennsylvania’s current night riding requirements per the vehicle code, and are not proven to provide an additional benefit to people who bicycle. Current Pennsylvania laws require people on bikes to have a rear reflector and front light.

We feel that better enforcement of the existing laws are needed, not new requirements. HB 1361 makes it impossible to simply jump on a bike and use it for regular transportation, even if you own a properly lit bicycle, because you would also always have to have your special cycling gear to ride legally. Specifically, the bill will effectively kill the bike share systems that were recently launched in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Even though bike share bikes are outfitted with front and rear running lights and reflectors, a large part of the customer base is people who spontaneously need a bike and probably have not packed special reflective clothing.

Bike Pittsburgh is encouraging Pennsylvanians to contact their reps about the bill, which is co-sponsored by legislators in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Elsewhere on the Network: Vibrant Bay Area tallies the losses caused by forcing residential tenants to pay for parking, Green City Blue Lake reports that opposition is growing to Cleveland’s cars-first “Opportunity Corridor,” and Greater Greater Washington has an interesting post on the characteristics of successful college-oriented development.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

The Dutch Have a Strong Car Culture — and Stronger Bike Infrastructure


We wrote a couple of months back about how Amsterdam prioritized people over cars only after ceding city streets to motor vehicles. Today, David Hembrow at A View From the Cycle Path has more on that subject.

As in the U.S. and other European countries, people race cars in The Netherlands. “Dutch people like cars a lot,” writes Hembrow. “They also like bikes.” Hence the sight of Dutch people riding bikes to — and on — the racetrack in Hembrow’s video.

In other places, car culture grew at the expense of cycling. The difference between The Netherlands and those places is that the Dutch chose to develop infrastructure that preserved and enhanced the safety and convenience of riding a bike, Hembrow writes:

It is sometimes forgotten by campaigners elsewhere that the Dutch cover 3/4 of all their km traveled by private automobile. There are enough cars and there is enough driving in the Netherlands that cars could be utterly dominant to the extent that they make cycling unpleasant. Indeed, that situation had already arisen by the 1970s in the Netherlands, when people owned far fewer cars than they do today. Domination of cars led to an increase in cyclist injuries and a steep decline in cycling.

Dutch people now cycle for a higher proportion of journeys than people of any other country not because cycling is “in the culture” but because cycling to almost any destination is possible without having to deal with motorized traffic. Dutch cycling infrastructure has made it possible for cycling to survive alongside a rise in motoring, removing danger and noise and enabling journeys to anywhere by bike, even motor racing circuits.

Read more…