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Cincinnati Launching a 35-Station Bike-Share System Next Month

This hasn’t been a great year for bike-share launches in America, with the dominant operator, Alta Bicycle Share, struggling with supply chain problems. But there will be a new system coming online soon.

Cincy Bike Share stations will be concentrated in downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and Uptown. Map: Alta via Urban Cincy

Cincinnati will launch a bike-share system using the B-Cycle platform in the next few weeks, reports Randy Simes at Urban Cincy. The city recently cleared some of the final hurdles, and the initial batch of stations is on the way:

Queen City Bike says that the process will move quickly, with two to three stations being installed daily until all 35 stations planned for Downtown and Uptown are built. At the same time, there will be a volunteer effort to assemble the system’s 300 bikes.

“We hope to assemble at least 200 bike share bikes by Friday,” said Frank Henson, President of Queen City Bike, and member of Cincy Bike Share’s Board of Trustees. “This is being done by area volunteer mechanics under the supervision of B-Cycle.”

The aggressive schedule puts the system on track to open by early September, which is not far off the initial goal of opening by August.

The progress comes after Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) announced $1.1 million to more than half of the initial $2 million in upfront capital costs. At the time, Cincy Bike Share director, Jason Barron, said the commitment from the City of Cincinnati was critical in not only getting things moving, but also showing the private sector that it is all for real.

One strange aspect of the Cincinnati network is the gap between two clusters of stations. Simes says the two areas ”will most likely operate in isolation of one another.” It’s unclear if Cincinnati intends to fill in this gap. After the first 35 stations, the system is expected to expand across the Ohio River to northern Kentucky.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland shares a prediction from former Chicago and DC transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, who says driverless cars will eliminate the need for parking in downtown areas. NextSTL explains why Missouri’s proposed sales tax hike for transportation went down in flames. And Better Cities & Towns notes that some Houston suburbs are embracing placemaking.

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Charting the Essential Link Between Walkability and Transit

Surprise! The DC Metro stations with the most ridership also have the most people living within walking distance. Image: WMATA

Want to guess which DC Metro stations the most riders walk to? Your best bet is to count apartment buildings nearby.

New data released by WMATA shows the strong link between the number of people who live close to the station and how many people can walk to it. Dan Malouff at BeyondDC isn’t shocked by any means, but he says the data is interesting nonetheless:

According to WMATA’s PlanItMetro blog, “the more people can walk to transit, the more people do walk to transit — and data across Metrorail stations prove it.”

All in all, Metro’s stations fit neatly along a trendline that shows a strong correlation between more households nearby and more riders arriving to stations by foot.

Even the outliers tell a story. U Street and Mount Vernon Square have the 6th and 7th highest number of households nearby, but they under perform on walking Metro ridership. One might speculate that Mount Vernon Square is so close to so many offices that more people simply walk. U Street is a little farther away, but it’s still close enough to downtown that buses and bicycles may be better options for a large portion of riders.

One factoid that may in fact surprise is that three of the five most-walked-to stations are not in DC: Two of those stations are in Arlington (Court House and Ballston) and one is in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Elsewhere on the Network today: PubliCola reports that Seattle has struck a compromise on micro-housing. And Urban Review STL runs the numbers to see what Missouri would be collecting from its state gas tax if it had kept pace with the level of revenue in 1996.

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Why Charging Transit Riders to Transfer Makes No Sense

Paying twice for a transit trip that requires two buses makes no sense, says Jarrett Walker. Photo: Flickr, Mynameisharsha

Paying twice for a single trip that requires two buses makes no sense, says Jarrett Walker. Photo: FMynameisharsha/Flickr

Los Angeles Metro recently eliminated the charge for transferring from from one transit line to another. Eliminating transfer charges is becoming more widespread among transit agencies, and at Human Transit, Jarrett Walker explains why that’s a very good thing:

The core of the Los Angeles transit network is the liberating high-frequency grid, which relies on the assumption that passengers can be asked to change buses once. Until now, the agency’s policy of charging passengers extra to change buses was in direct conflict with the foundational principle of its network design.

Once more with feeling; Charging passengers extra for the inconvenience of connections is insane. It discourages exactly the customer behavior that efficient and liberating networks depend on. It undermines the whole notion of a transit network. It also gives customers a reason to object to network redesigns that deliver both greater efficiency and greater liberty, because by imposing a connection on their trip it has also raised their fare.

For that reason, actual businesses don’t do it. When supposedly business minded bureaucrats tell us we should charge for connections, they are revealing that they have never stopped to think about the geometry of the transit product, but are just assuming it’s like soap or restaurants. Tell them to think about airlines: Airfares that require a connection are frequently cheaper than nonstops. That’s because the connection is something you endure for the sake of an efficient airline network, not an added service that you should pay extra for.

Walker says that in the past, some agencies charged for transfers in order to avoid abuse of the system, such as selling a discounted transfer to a new passenger. But current fare payment technology can eliminate that problem, he says. Transit agencies that still maintain a transfer fee might just be trying to raise extra revenue without raising base fares. But that just masks higher costs while detracting from the usefulness of the system, he says.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reno Rambler pays tribute to Robin Williams, the cyclist. And Strong Towns explains how the prevalence of pedestrian flags illustrates the second class status of people on foot.

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Rob Ford Isn’t the Only One Holding Back Toronto Bike Infrastructure

New buffered bike lanes wdebuted in Toronto late last month. But why aren’t they protected? Photo: Brian Gilham via I Bike TO

Bike advocates in Toronto are frustrated.

Late last month, the city added buffered bike lanes on two major thoroughfares: Richmond and Adelaide. But Toronto officials are hesitating to implement one critical aspect: physical protection that will keep the bike lane clear of cars and get more people to feel comfortable biking.

The City Council approved a protected bike lane design for these two roads 39-0, reports Streetsblog Network member I Bike TO. And Toronto has adopted the NACTO bike guide, which includes engineering standards for protected bike lanes.

So what’s the stumbling block? Herb at I Bike TO zeroes in on Transportation Services chief Stephen Buckley, who has a history of letting motorists invade bike lanes:

Read more…

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One More Reason Not to Trust Reason’s Attacks on Rail

Amtrak’s Acela service turns an operating profit, despite averaging “only” 3.4 million passengers per year. Photo: sanfranannie/Flickr

The Reason Foundation is one of the most persistent rail opponents in the United States. With remarkable consistency, Reason condemns high-speed rail, private intercity rail projects, and local transit expansions. No matter how shaky its numbers may be, you can count on Reason to undermine any transit project that runs on rails.

Shane Phillips at Better Institutions was looking over an editorial by Reason policy analyst Baruch Feigenbaum published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last year. He found this passage pretty revealing: ”A U.S. high-speed rail line would need ridership of 6 million to 9 million people per year to break even. The high-speed Acela service, despite operating in the busy Northeast Corridor, averages only 3.4 million passengers per year.”

Phillips says these two sentences encapsulate the sloppiness of Reason’s attacks on rail:

With Acela capturing barely half the “minimum” break-even ridership, one might imagine after reading Feigenbaum’s article that the rail service has been a catastrophic failure. Clearly, we shouldn’t waste our money on any more high-speed rail boondoggles. A quick look at actual facts, however, shows that Acela is doing quite well: despite its trains, which can only travel a maximum of 150 mph; its decrepit tracks, which don’t allow the trains to travel anywhere near its max speed for most of its length; and the fact that it has to share many miles of those tracks with freight, Acela is killing it.

Read more…

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Midwest Rail Advocates Take the Fight to Scott Walker

Rail advocates place this billboard along the corridor where Governor Scott Walker rejected a high-speed rail line. Photo: Environmental Law and Policy Center via The Political Environment

In November, voters in 36 states will head to the polls to choose governors. Among the state leaders up for reelection is Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who faces a strong challenge from Democrat and former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke.

Walker is one of three Republican governors who rejected high-speed rail funds from the Obama administration in 2010 and 2011. Now rail advocates are looking to remind Wisconsinites of what they lost out on. James Rowen at the Political Environment writes:

Readers of this blog over the years have probably seen innumerable posts — many rolled into or referenced in a comprehensive, summary 2013 item — about Wrong-Way Walker’s reversal of federal funding for Amtrak service from Milwaukee to Madison.

Also lost after the 2010 gubernatorial election: years of good-paying rail line construction jobs and a now-shuttered train assembly factory and maintenance base in a low-income Milwaukee neighborhood, all victims of Walker’s “No-train,” Tea Party-inspired, self-serving and partisan attack on the federal government, out-going Gov. Jim Doyle and Pres. Barack Obama.

Rail transportation advocates haven’t give up, as seen in this billboard along the now-lost rail corridor between Madison and Milwaukee. Hats off to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, (ELPC), in Chicago, for the activism and media campaign.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Dan Malouff at Beyond DC suggests keeping cars out of transit lanes using some of the same techniques cities employ to make protected bike lanes. BikeWalkLee has the numbers to prove that recent transit cuts in Lee County, Florida, are depressing ridership. And Bike Portland posts photos of the best bike parking at a Portland retail business.

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How Can Suburban Communities Repair Disconnected Streets?

Though there might be plenty of reasons to extend a cul-de-sac and convert it to a through street, the politics can be a tricky. Photo: Wikipedia

Winding, suburban-style streets that end in cul-de-sacs make it harder for people to walk in their communities and funnel traffic to a few major thoroughfares, leading to dangerous street designs and mounting congestion. But the people who live on dead-end streets tend to like the fact that they don’t have to deal with much traffic. 

Mary Newsom shares how this dilemma is playing out in some Charlotte-area communities at her blog, the Naked City:

One of the most politically fraught decisions any elected or government staff officials can make is to connect streets that used to be dead-ends. It’s easy to understand why residents protest, as the Floral Lane residents are doing.

The first house I bought was on a dead-end block in Charlotte’s Chantilly neighborhood, where my street ended at Briar Creek. I liked the lack of traffic on the street, with only residents and their guests traveling in front of the house. I felt my cats were safe to go outside there. People who live on cul-de-sacs have the same welcome lack of cars going past.

But when a whole city is overloaded with dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, that sends huge numbers of cars onto the few streets that do connect. The result: far more congestion than you’d otherwise have.

Read more…

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The Problem With “Share the Road” Safety Campaigns

After this taxi rushed past him with only six inches to spare, Robert Wright snapped this photo “with a shaky hand.”Photo: The Invisible Visible Man

Appeals for courtesy between drivers and cyclists and pedestrians are pretty standard fare for traffic safety campaigns. In London, it’s “Share the Road.” In Utah, they have “Respect is a Two-Way Street.” Is this the best we can do?

Robert Wright at the Invisible Visible Man was thinking this over after a taxi driver nearly struck him while he was biking in Brooklyn, prompting him to yell at the driver in a burst of adrenaline. There’s a big problem, he writes, with safety messages that divide the world into drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, then assign equal culpability to each group:

A “leave it on the road” approach to road safety suggests that the real problem is people’s malice towards each other or negative perceptions. It ignores the evidence that negligence, inattention and poor risk assessment are significant causes of car crashes. It puts the focus on vulnerable road users’ reaction to negligent driving. It suggests that all cyclists and pedestrians are somehow collectively responsible for each others’ behaviour. Motorists are helpless vessels full of potential rage that cyclists or pedestrians can make explode or safely depressurize. The approach serves no conceivable purpose other than to comfort people like the taxi driver who put me at risk. “Yes,” is the hidden message. “The real problem is those nasty, lippy cyclists.”

Read more…

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Atlanta’s Parking Problem Isn’t a Lack of Spaces

Downtown Atlanta has 93,000 parking spaces, according to a new report. Photo: ATL Urbanist

Downtown Atlanta has 93,000 parking spaces, according to a new report. Photo: ATL Urbanist

A group of Atlanta business leaders recently commissioned a report examining the parking situation in the city’s downtown [PDF]. Aimed at “facilitating future growth in a sustainable manner,” the report found that there are 93,000 parking spaces in Atlanta’s central business district.

Darin at ATL Urbanist says the document has some good ideas — most notably the mention of car sharing as a way to reduce the need for parking — but it still misses the mark in many ways:

Obviously, the set of documents from the parking assessment has the sole aim of improving the experience of parking for drivers. In its place, that’s a valid pursuit (though it still doesn’t excuse the bizarre “A person’s first and last impression of a city begins and ends with parking”).

My complaint is that the assessment is happening in a silo — it doesn’t seem to be tied to an overall plan that includes sensible goals for downtown such as:

  • Encouraging new housing stock that accommodates use of alternative transportation
  • Reducing the truly soul-crushing amount of land devoted to parking here
  • Establishing the primary importance of improving the experience of walking, cycling and using transit here

Goals such as these should be front and center in the thoughts and actions of city leaders, taking precedence over concerns about improved parking and strongly informing any initiative regarding automobile use. That they are not present in the recommendations of this report is telling.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reinventing Parking evaluates Seattle’s low-tech efforts to manage street parking prices. Rights of Way reports that Portland, Maine, finally has a sidewalk to its train and bus terminal. And Rails-to-Trails looks at what the short-term federal transportation funding extension means for biking and walking.

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What If We Paid the Full Cost of Driving?

Driving is too cheap in the United States. It’s a complicated thing to unpack, but David Levinson, engineering professor at the University of Minnesota and blogger at the Transportationist, attempted to analyze the cost per-minute.

Car sharing service Car2Go charges on a per-minute basis. What if we made all out transportation decisions that way? Photo: Wikpedia

Levinson estimates that the true cost of driving — including vehicle purchase price, insurance, taxes, repairs, and costs like parking and air pollution that are not borne by individual drivers — is about 34 cents per minute.

Unfortunately, the cost we’re most likely to consider when making a discretionary trip — gasoline — adds up to only about 5 cents per minute. If we made driving decisions based on the incremental costs, and drivers bore the full cost of driving, our behavior would change a lot, Levinson says:

Economists use the elasticity of demand with respect to price to estimate this. This tells us how much demand drops as prices increase. The short run elasticity of demand for driving (measured in vehicle miles traveled) with respect to the price of gas is about -0.05, meaning for every 100% increase in the price of gas, there is a 5% decrease in gasoline consumption (which correlates to driving in the short run, in the long run there is also a shift in vehicle fuel economy). So if we hold that to be true for all costs, going from $0.05 per minute to $0.34 per minute is 676% higher cost (a 576% increase), leads me to expect about a 29% reduction in fuel use (mileage) in the short run if people paid their roughly fixed costs plus infrastructure plus externalities of vehicle ownership as variable costs instead. Of course at the magnitude of shift, the elasticity values may no longer hold. In any case, this is no small matter. Certainly the direction is right, countries with much higher fuel taxes see much less driving in general.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Strong Towns examines the personal impact of one car crash. The Transport Politic considers how to make transit-oriented development work around the Metro stop at DC’s Dulles Airport. And Steven Can Plan singles out some of Chicago’s worst red-light-running offenders.