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With Permit Parking, John Cranley Could Help Cincinnati Despite Himself

Chalk this one up as a worthwhile proposal offered in bad faith.

Streetsblog readers may remember Mayor John Cranley as the pol who wasted a ton of taxpayer money trying to kill the Cincinnati streetcar. But lately Cranley has come out as a would-be parking reformer, proposing a $300 annual fee for on-street parking in Over-the-Rhine, a historic neighborhood on the streetcar route.

Mayor John Cranley’s proposal to charge for curbside parking could help Cincinnati neighborhoods more than he realizes. Photo: Travis Estell/Flickr

Not surprisingly, Cranley is getting blowback from some quarters. But Randy A. Simes at UrbanCincy says the plan is right on the merits.

To better understand how this proposed permit fee stacks up, let’s consider that it averages out to approximately $25 per month. According to the most recent State of Downtown report, the average monthly parking rate in the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton is $89. This average accounts for approximately 36,400 monthly parking spaces available in 2013.

While this average monthly parking rate is skewed by much higher rates in the Central Business District, many lots and garages reserved for residential parking in Over-the-Rhine charge between $40 and $110 per month. This means that Mayor Cranley’s proposal would put the city’s on-street parking spaces nearly in-line with their private counterparts.

This is a smart move. We should stop subsidizing parking as much as possible. Therefore, such a proposal should not only be examined in greater depth for Over-the-Rhine, but all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

All well and good. The thing is, Cranley makes no bones about the fact that he considers the fee as retribution against streetcar supporters. “They should be asked to pay a much higher fee for cars they still have on the street,” Cranley said on a local radio show. “[It] is consistent with the philosophy of the folks who are pushing the streetcar, which is this will reduce the need for cars, so those who want to bring cars into Over-the-Rhine … should pay for the amenity that they so desperately wanted.”

Cranley’s motives may be suspect, but ironically, by placing a value on curbside parking he may end up helping constituents he holds in contempt.

Elsewhere on the Network: Bike PGH welcomes Pittsburgh’s new bike and pedestrian coordinator, and Rights of Way celebrates the arrival of the first bike corral in Portland, Maine.

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The Link Between Northeast Ohio’s Flooding and Its Sprawl

As Cuyahoga County has sprawled since 1948, with roughly the same population now covering nearly four times the land area, it’s become more susceptible to flooding. Map: Cuyahoga County Planning Commission via Tim Kovach

After a string of major flooding events, residents of Northeast Ohio are looking for someone to blame, reports Tim Kovach. Are local governments at fault for the property damage from these floods? Or should residents, as a great poet once said, blame it on the rain?

Neither question really gets to the heart of the matter, says Kovach. If Northeast Ohio hadn’t spent the last 60 years spreading out ever farther, covering huge areas with impermeable pavement and developing every last inch of land, then the region would be much more resilient in the face of torrential storms, he writes:

…a recent study out of the University of Utah suggests that from 2000-2010, the Cleveland metro area became even more sprawling (PDF). Using Smart Growth America’s sprawl index, the authors examined the rate of change for the 162 largest metro areas (paywalled) during this period. While Akron actually became 2.7% more compact, Cleveland sprawled by another 13.3%, the 10th worst change of any metro area…

So why does this all matter for flooding? Well, simply put, areas that follow sprawl-based development models are more likely to suffer from flooding problems. Sprawl increases the percentage of land area that is covered with impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, roads, and driveways. As the extent of impervious surfaces rises, so too does the amount of precipitation that winds up as surface runoff during storms. Forested areas are excellent at controlling stormwater (PDF); trees enable 50% of precipitation to infiltrate the soil and allow another 40% to return to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Urbanized areas, in contrast, drastically reduce the amount of water that can infiltrate into the soil, guaranteeing that 35-55% of precipitation ends up as runoff.

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Lagos Bus Rapid Transit Handles 25 Percent of All Commuters

Six years after Lagos, Nigeria, launched the first Bus Rapid Transit program in all of Africa, the system handles a whopping 25 percent of all commutes and plays a key role in the city’s ongoing effort to reduce stifling vehicle congestion.

Lagos BRT connects the mainland to the central business district on Lagos Island. Map: World Bank

The average Lagos commuter spends over three hours in traffic each day, writes the City Fix. Installed on a wide 22-kilometer (13.6-mile) north-south highway that connects to the central business district, Lagos BRT is modeled on South American systems like those in Curitiba, Bogotá, and Santiago. Though it doesn’t incorporate all elements of full-scale BRT, bus riders pay before boarding and wait for buses in newly-constructed shelters. A physically separated bus lane was implemented along 65 percent of the route.

From the City Fix:

This BRT service has had a significant impact on transport in Lagos, and already has daily ridership of 200,000 people. Despite accounting for 25% of commuters, the BRT system contributes only 4% of all traffic. Further, the system was constructed at the relatively low cost of USD $1.7 million per kilometer. In comparison, Bogotá’s TransMilenio cost about USD $6 million per kilometer.

Lagos is building on its BRT system with investments in a range of other sustainable transport options. In a speech at last month’s Mail & Guardian conference on urban migration and renewal, Lagos Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola outlined six areas of infrastructural investment in mass transit. These included a light rail project called “Eko Rail,” a suspended cable car system, and improvements to the existing ferry system.

The light rail system is planned to encompass seven routes and will be integrated with the BRT corridor, hugely expanding the city’s transit capacity. The City Fix suggests Lagos focus on transit-oriented development and congestion pricing to go along with the new transit lines.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transportation for America is bracing for another last-minute budget scramble from Washington, and A/N Blog highlights the latest TIGER grant recipients.

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Two Visions for a Closed DC Freeway, But Only One Shows Any Vision

Image: Greater Greater Washington

David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington reports that city traffic engineers and city planners have very different ideas on what to do with a closed freeway segment in southeast DC.

The District Department of Transportation came up with a range of proposals for the Southeast Freeway between the 11th Street Bridge and the Barney Circle neighborhood. But all of them, writes Alpert, “primarily focused around moving cars fast, and … would be, at best, unpleasant to cross on foot.”

Unhappy with the DDOT offerings, residents and a city council member enlisted the Office of Planning to give it a shot.

“OP’s options still look at four-lane boulevards and even four-lane parkways, but much with much more appealing designs like a big park next to and partly on top of the road,” says Alpert. Other renderings from the planning department show the street grid extending into the freeway, with townhouses, larger buildings, and a mix of the two.

But regardless of configuration, says Alpert, the city hasn’t put forth a proposal to reduce the number of lanes designated for driving: ”[E]ven OP’s study assumed that there need to be four lanes of traffic, as that’s what DDOT insists on.” Alpert continues:

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It’s OK to Build Transit-Oriented Development Before Transit

Which should come first: transit or transit-oriented development?

Mountain View, California's Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF

Mountain View, California’s Shoreline Boulevard is seen as a potential mixed-use transit corridor. Image: City of Mountain View via Streetsblog SF

Streetsblog San Francisco reported Monday that residents of Mountain View, California, are trying to figure out how to accommodate thousands of tech employees without overwhelming local transportation infrastructure. One-fourth of all workers in Mountain View travel to and from an office district that houses Google, LinkedIn, and other companies, yet in 2012 the city council prohibited mixed-used development there.

It’s an election year in Mountain View, and some council candidates say it’s a bad idea to put dense housing in an area where public services, including transit, don’t exist.

They’ve got it wrong, says Jarrett Walker at Human Transit.

[T]here’s not enough transit there because there aren’t enough people there, yet. Transit is easy to add in response to seriously transit-oriented development, but as long as you have a development pattern that is too low-density or single-use for transit, you’ve locked in lousy transit service as an outcome.

So whenever someone gives you this line as a reason to oppose a transit-friendly development, ask: “Well, what would it cost to provide good transit, and who should pay for that?”

Often, as in Mountain View, extremely frequent transit into the nearby transit hub can achieve plenty, and is not that expensive, because of the very short distances involved.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Better Institutions reports on the housing boom in downtown Los Angeles. A View From the Cycle Path says making driving more expensive isn’t the only way to get people out of their cars. And Greater Greater Washington has a nice piece on a pedestrian desire path that, once blocked, got an upgrade from a strip mall developer.

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Miami Highway Builders Try to Sell a New Sprawl Project to the Public

The Miami Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) wants to build a highway extension in the southwest fringes of the city, near the edge of the Everglades, and to do that it needs to ingratiate itself with the public. At an open house to kick off the public-facing phase of the planning process, agency staff were well-prepared and friendly, reports Matthew Toro at Transit Miami. After all, he says, “all good salespeople are.”

MDX makes its pitch. Photo: Matthew Toro/Transit Miami

The agency team displayed maps giving the impression that MDX will take on “a comprehensive socio-environmental, socio-economic, and socio-cultural evaluation of the project,” Toro writes. But whenever Toro asked probing questions, he was met with an evasive reply or an answer that suggested MDX simply has no ideas besides “widen roads”:

Any response that wasn’t overly deflective still didn’t register as sufficient justification for a new highway. For example:

Me: If the underlying problem is that nearly all of Miami’s suburbanites commute from the west to the east, why would people want to lengthen their commute by driving farther west, just to ultimately go east again?

MDX (paraphrased): Well . . . some people already go west onto Krome [SW 177th] Avenue to go back east again.

Me: Yes, a handful do, but Krome Avenue is currently set to be widened by FDOT, and that will accommodate the relatively few who do.

MDX (paraphrased): Yes, that’s true; Krome is to be widened; but we need to look into whether widening Krome will be enough.

Me: . . .

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Fixing a Blank Wall Streetscape With Storefront Retrofits

Every city has places where the buildings present a blank face to the sidewalk. A dark, recessed arcade deadening the pedestrian environment or a soulless concrete wall fronting a windswept plaza.

Consultant Brent Toderian, formerly the planning director for the city of Vancouver, pointed out a cheap and easy solution to this problem. He calls them “blank wall retrofits,” storefronts that can be inserted over blank walls to add sidewalk-facing retail. He tweeted this great example in Calgary, Alberta: 

This retrofit fits between the lobby and plaza of the brutalist Westin Calgary and the sidewalk.

“It’s a great technique for dealing with fundamentally flawed architecture that presents blank walls to streets and public places,” Toderian says. ”Unlike ‘make-up on a pig’ — e.g. murals — this fundamentally changes the street edge condition. The pig is no longer a pig. It potentially changes un-urban to urban.”

We reached out to our readers to find more success stories. Here’s what they sent us.

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Can Columbus Get Its Sprawl Under Control?

The green area will all be filled in with sprawl by 2050 if current patterns don’t change — more than tripling the land area of Columbus. Map: MORPC, Columbus 2020 and Columbus ULI via Architect’s Newspaper

There’s a new study out examining the future of Columbus, Ohio, and the results are a little scary. This growing city in central Ohio has an Atlanta-like geography — no physical barriers on any side. And if current development patterns continue, Chris Bentley at the Architect’s Newspaper reports, the region’s physical footprint is expected to more than triple by 2050 as population grows by 500,000:

The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus hired the planning firm Calthorpe Associates to assess the development impact of current trends and make recommendations aimed at curbing patterns that could balloon the region’s environmental problems and its residents transportation budgets.

From the current city land area of 223 square miles, said the study, Columbus and its suburban jurisdictions could swallow up an additional 480 square miles by 2050 if current trends continue. The culprits include large lots for single-family homes and traditional suburban-style development…

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Two Keys to Livability in Sweden — Good Suburban Buses and Slow Cars

In a lot of ways, Sweden isn’t that different from the Midwestern United States, says Bill Lindeke at Streets.mn. Lindeke recently returned from a trip to his ancestral homeland in Scandinavia, and he reports that cars are just about as common in Sweden as they are in Minnesota, where he lives.

The very pedestrian-friendly main drag of Växjö, Sweden, a small city of 60,000 residents. Photo: Bill Lindeke

But there are a few things about cities and towns in Sweden that make them much better places to ride transit or cross a street. For one thing, riding the bus is much more convenient, comfortable, and practical there, he writes:

The buses in Sweden are as nice as any I’ve ever seen, and to me they prove that having a good transit system doesn’t need to be linked to rail. For example, the city buses in Växjö were all very new, mostly double-length, low-floor Mercedes buses with very wide front entrances that accepted cash, credit cards, and (of course) automatic transit cards. They had video screens inside that showed the next stops.

Most importantly, they came relatively frequently. Our hostel illustrated how far the bus system would go… the ride from the city center to a low-density part of the resort town named Evedal takes about a half-hour to go about seven miles, with half-hour frequency from 10:00 am until 7:00 pm.

The great bus system means it’s quite possible to get by without a car even in low density areas. That’s a big difference from the US.

Swedes are also much more assertive about creating a walkable environment:

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There Is No Right to Unimpeded Fast Driving

How come you don't see drivers raging about this? Photo: Washington Bikes

How come you don’t hear more drivers raging about this? Photo: Washington Bikes

How do you explain the outrage some drivers feel when they have to slow down for a few seconds for a cyclist or a passing pedestrian? There seems to be an ingrained sense that people outside of cars violate the natural order of things, and the natural order of things is motorists sailing uninhibited to their destinations at high speeds.

As kids go back to school this week, dangerous driving is on the mind of Barb Chamberlain at Washington Bikes. She says it’s time for a reality check:

There is nothing guaranteeing any street user anything like “unimpeded speedy passage with no need to slow down, ever.” There just isn’t. Get over it.

– let me point out that typical street traffic includes all of the following, every single day (well, except maybe for item #1, which probably doesn’t happen every day):

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