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An American Take on the “Bus Stop of the Future”

College Park, Maryland's "Bus Stop of the Future." Image: Beyond DC/Flickr

College Park’s “bus stop of the future.” Image: Beyond DC/Flickr

Four years ago, the regional transit agency in Paris, RATP, set out to create the “bus stop of the future.” This bus stop would be designed to give riders and even passersby a comfortable place to relax. In addition to a sleek shelter, it featured a bike-share station, a library, and snacks and coffee.

Inspired by that example, College Park, Maryland, recently created its own version of the “bus stop of the future.” Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington says it includes many of the elements of the Parisian bus stop, but at a price that’s a lot more reasonable:

They started with a normal bus stop sign and shelter, then added a standard mBike bikeshare station. To help with maintenance, the city chained a bike tire pump to the station sign.

For the library, they staked to the ground a Little Free Library, a pre-fab wood box for people to take and give away free books. There’s no librarian and no library cards; it runs on the honor system, and relies on people donating as many books as they take.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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California Senate Proposal for Cap-and-Trade Revenues Focuses on Equity

bikeatCapitollabel2The Senate released a spending plan for the unallocated portion of cap-and-trade revenues today, in the form of Assembly Bill 1613. The plan, say Senate leaders and advocates, focuses on environmental equity while supporting projects that will reduce greenhouse gases.

Cap-and-trade revenues, raised at auction from companies that pollute, are required by law to be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty percent of the total auction revenues are allocated by formula to several programs that include High Speed Rail, the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, and transit. Just yesterday, the California State Transportation Agency allocated $390 million for transit projects throughout the state, including streetcars, rail extensions, and increased bus service.

The remaining forty percent of the revenue has yet to be decided upon. This Senate plan is a step towards finding agreement with the Assembly and the Governor, each of which has previously proposed slightly differing expenditure plans. Last year, the end of the session passed with no agreement being reached. With only a few weeks remaining in this year’s session, an agreement is not guaranteed, although leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly have said they are committed to finding one.

Meanwhile greenhouse-gas reduction programs, like waste diversion programs, are in limbo until they know whether they will be funded or not.

The Senate proposal has support from advocates for its focus on environmental equity. “This represents good progress,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “This proposal means real help to low-income families and their neighborhoods.”

The plan would spend over $1 billion on programs and projects to reduce greenhouse gases, including the Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Transportation programs (which provide incentives for clean vehicles, among other things), waste diversion, methane emission reduction in the dairy industry, healthy forests, energy efficiency, and renewable energy programs.

The Active Transportation Program would receive $5 million under this proposal, which is better than the goose eggs offered in the previous Senate plan but a far cry from the $100 million called for by advocates and included in the original Assembly expenditure plan. As a method of reducing greenhouse gases, active transportation is hard to beat, yet so far it hasn’t received any money from the proceeds of cap and trade.

The plan does, however, set aside $175 million for a new program called “Transformative Climate Communities” that will support disadvantaged communities in efforts to coordinate and combine different projects and programs that together can multiply their greenhouse gas reduction benefits. That could include anything from bike infrastructure to planting trees to building charging stations for electric vehicles.

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Streetsblog USA
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State DOTs to Feds: We Don’t Want to Reveal Our Impact on Climate Change

State DOTs don’t want to report on how their spending decisions affect greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Andrew Boone

Every year state DOTs receive tens of billions of dollars in transportation funds from the federal government. By and large, they can do whatever they want with the money, which in most states means wasting enormous sums on pork-laden highway projects. Now that U.S. DOT might impose some measure of accountability on how states use these funds, of course the states are fighting to keep their spending habits as opaque as possible.

At issue are proposed “performance measures” that U.S. DOT will establish to track whether states make progress on goals like reducing traffic injuries or cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. For the first time, state DOTs will have to set targets and measure their progress toward achieving them. It is strictly a transparency initiative — there are no penalties for failure to meet the targets.

Nevertheless, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), doesn’t want to expose the effect of state transportation policies to public scrutiny. AASHTO has released a 110-page comment [PDF] on U.S. DOT’s proposed performance measures, rattling off a litany of objections.

Here are a few highlights:

AASHTO doesn’t want to measure greenhouse gas emissions

In a meeting with federal officials in May [PDF], AASHTO leaders opposed a rule that would require state DOTs to measure their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists and even some state DOTs support this rule (there is some diversity of opinion within AASHTO). But the AASHTO leadership really dislikes it. In its comments, AASHTO said it doesn’t believe the feds have the “legislative authority” make state DOTs track carbon emissions.

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Streetsblog USA
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A Year After Houston’s Bus Network Redesign, Ridership Is Up

Houston Metro ridership has increased about 7 percent since the bus system was completely overhauled last year. Graph: Rice University's Kinder Institute

Bus ridership is up 1.2 percent and total Houston METRO ridership has increased about 7 percent following an overhaul of the city’s bus network and the launch of new light rail last year. Graph: Rice University’s Kinder Institute

After years of declining bus ridership, last August Houston METRO overhauled service patterns around the city, updating the bus network for the first time since the 1970s. Practically overnight, Houston’s network changed from a hub-and-spoke model to a more grid-like system designed to expand access to frequent service to more of the city. Night and weekend service dramatically increased as well. The country has been watching to see the results.

A year later, Houston officials are taking stock. Bus ridership has ticked up, bolstered by growing weekend ridership, and light rail ridership has increased substantially — a reflection of how Houston policy makers are treating both modes as a unified network, writes Leah Binkovitz at The Urban Edge:

From September 2015 (the first full month after the switch was implemented) to July 2016 (the most recent complete month), METRO saw its ridership on local bus and light-rail add an additional 4.5 million boardings — a 6.8 percent increase.

The numbers are more modest when looking at local bus ridership alone, which saw a 1.2 percent growth in ridership during that period. The light-rail system’s Red Line saw a more sizable 16.6 percent increase.

Local weekend bus ridership is one of the new system’s strongest areas, continuing a trend that begun almost immediately after the redesign was implemented. From June 2015 to June 2016 — the most recent METRO has released more detailed ridership data — local buses saw a 13 percent increase in ridership on Saturdays and a 34 percent increase on Sundays, according to METRO, with similarly strong numbers for rail as well.

Local weekday bus ridership actually dropped over that same time period by 1 percent. However, a 14 percent increase in light-rail ridership amounted to an overall weekday ridership increase of 3 percent. The growth in rail supports [Metro Board Chair Carrin] Patman’s focus on the new bus system’s strong connections to the growing network of lines. And she said, there’s more to come for the system.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Study: High-Traffic Arterial Roads Reduce Quality of Life, Even Blocks Away

A famous 1970s study by researcher Donald Appleyard found that people who lived on streets with lighter traffic had more frequent social interactions with their neighbors. Image: Safe Street Strategies

Research by Donald Appleyard in the 1970s found that people who lived on streets with lighter traffic had more frequent social interactions with their neighbors. New research shows that nearby streets impact quality of life, too. Image: Safe Street Strategies

Seminal research by Donald Appleyard in the 1970s found the volume of traffic on a street affects quality of life for residents in profound and unexpected ways. For example, the amount of social contact people had with their neighbors was curtailed for those who lived on high traffic streets compared with those living on quieter streets. People even defined their “home area” much more narrowly if they lived on a busy road.

A new study from the University of Colorado Denver [PDF], sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, builds on Appleyard’s research — finding that high traffic on your street isn’t the only type of traffic affecting what you think of where you live. Researchers Wesley Marshall and Carolyn McAndrews found that living near, but not on, a wide, high-traffic arterial can also reduce residential satisfaction.

The research is a repudiation of the suburban style of traffic calming that dominated the U.S. for decades, where cul-de-sacs and lack of through streets limits traffic on residential streets by diverting cars to major arterials. It turns out, pouring traffic onto inhospitable arterial roads is negatively impacting nearby residential areas, too.

The research team interviewed more than 700 people in Denver living within a half-mile of 30 major arterial roads. The survey, controlled for income, explored residents’ concerns about noise, pollution and safety. Like Appleyard’s research, this survey also asked residents to define their “neighborhood.”

Across the board, people who lived on lower-traffic streets reported better outcomes — no surprise there. But the presence of a nearby high-traffic arterial was also an important factor.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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John Oliver on the Cruel Poverty Trap That is Subprime Auto Lending


Never forget this: Those who pay the highest price for the American system of transportation — one that makes owning a personal car practically a mandate — are the poor. We’ve reported before about how the largely unregulated subprime auto lending market has been expanding in recent years, leading some people to wonder if a breakdown in the auto loan industry could echo the housing bubble.

HBO funnyman John Oliver, along with guest stars Keegan-Michael Key and Bob Balaban, took on the topic in a recent segment we thought was worth sharing.

Here is a shortlist of some of the horrors Oliver describes:

  • Commutes that are virtually impossible by transit,
  • Cars sold for double the Kelly Blue Book value,
  • Interest rates as high as 29 percent,
  • A single Kia tracked by the Los Angeles Times that was sold, repossessed or returned eight times in three years,
  • In-car devices that beep in the event of a missed payment before disabling the vehicle entirely, and
  • Default and repossession rates of 31 percent.

It’s cruel that our society all but requires people purchase an expensive consumer product, trapping them in usurious financing schemes, just to participate in the workforce. But because of our auto-centric land use and transportation policies, that is precisely the quandary too many Americans face.

Via Streetsblog California
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CA Legislative Update: Student Transit Pass Bill Is Dead—For Now

bikeatCapitollabel2A bill that would have created a statewide program to fund low-cost transit passes for students stalled out in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

There is still a slim chance to get something passed this session—more on that below—and there’s always next session, when bills can be introduced anew. But for now, A.B. 2222 from Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) is dead.

What stopped it, ultimately, was funding. As originally written, the bill would have used money from cap and trade to fund the program. But the Senate Environmental Quality Committee removed that language because legislators have not been able to agree on how to allocate the cap-and-trade money. With no funding source identified, the bill was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s “suspense” file.

There it stayed, and there it died, despite bipartisan support and a strong commitment from the author, for whom A.B. 2222 has been a priority.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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“Pocket” Bike Lanes: A Small Step to Make Intersections Work Better?

Photo: Greater Greater Washington

Photo by Mike Goodno (DDOT) via Greater Greater Washington

A bike lane that appears at an intersection to help guide bicyclists out of the way of turning drivers — in Washington, D.C., they call this a “pocket lane.” David Cranor writes at Greater Greater Washington that the District is looking to add them along streets that don’t otherwise have bike lanes, targeting intersections where they might help avoid conflicts. He says:

The District Department of Transportation recently installed “pocket lanes” on southbound 2nd Street NE at Massachusetts Avenue and at Hawaii Avenue and Taylor Street NE. A type of through bike lane that’s less than a block long and doesn’t continue on the other side of the intersection, they sit between the lane for going straight or turning left and the right turn lane.

Pocket lanes have several uses, and they make intersections more efficient for everyone. For starters, they keep people on bikes who are heading straight through an intersection from having to wait behind a queue of left-turning vehicles, whose drivers are in turn waiting for a break in oncoming traffic. They also keep drivers from having to wait in line behind a cyclist who’s traveling straight.

Another benefit is that they give people on bikes their own space that’s to the left of right-turning traffic, which prevents a situation known as the “right hook.” The “right hook” occurs when a driver who’s turning right hits a cyclist riding on the right hand side of traffic and going straight.

Have you seen “pocket lanes” in your city? On streets without bike lanes, would a “pocket lane” be a low-cost way to help guide drivers and cyclists through intersections? Would you appreciate more of them in your city or not?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobility Lab explains how Portland’s TriMet transit agency helped pioneer the open data system that has spurred a wave of private innovation in transit apps, with major benefits for riders. The Urbanist explains the many ways roundabouts are superior to ordinary intersections. And Market Urbanism says that intercity buses, long undermined by government policies aimed at protecting public investments in rail, are making a comeback in Europe, with some potential benefits for consumers.

Streetsblog USA
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Oslo Gradually Removing Parking From Central City as It Phases Out Cars

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Another European city is setting its sights on ridding the urban core of cars.

The City Council in Oslo, Norway, has approved a plan to remove cars from the central city by 2019. As part of that plan, parking spaces will be replaced by bike infrastructure.

Liv Jorun Andenes, who works on bike projects with Oslo’s agency for the environment, told Streetsblog via email that the city is planning to remove 1,300 spots over the next three years. In their place, eight bicycle routes will be added. In addition, 500 spaces will be eliminated to make room for pedestrians and transit. 

This City of Oslo map shows the locations of the proposed cycleways.

Proposed Oslo cycleways

The parking phase-out began this spring. “It’s going well,” Jorun Andenes says, “but of course we are receiving a few complaints from residents who are losing their free parking spot.”

The city expects to hear more complaints when 100 parking spaces are removed from a wealthy part of town later this year. That accounts for about 2 percent of Oslo’s parking supply, according to local news sources.

Ridding the central city of cars is part of a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, according to the Guardian. The city hopes to reduce auto traffic by 20 percent by 2019 and 30 percent by 2030.

Madrid and a number of other places in Europe are considering similar plans aimed at returning central cities to people.

Streetsblog USA
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Study: Even Drivers Prefer Protected Bike Lanes

Protected bike lanes are welcomed by drivers as well. Photo: People for Bikes

Protected bike lanes are welcomed by drivers as well. Photo: People for Bikes

When it comes to allocating street space, it is often taken for granted that anything that benefits people on bikes harms people who drive. Such assumptions are contradicted by data showing that cycling infrastructure makes streets safer for all users, and don’t mesh with a new study on motorist preferences.

In the latest issue of “Transportation Research,” a survey of Bay Area drivers and cyclists, conducted by Rebecca Sanders of Toole Design Group, found support for protected bikeways across the board.

Network blogger Tim Kovach reports:

According to Sanders, hers is the first study to ask drivers about their preferences for roadway design when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists.

She and her colleagues sent out a survey to 1,177 people in the San Francisco Bay Area in July 2011, asking respondents to rate their level of comfort on a series of different commercial road designs when driving near cyclists or cycling near near cars going 25-30 miles per hour. The various road designs included no bike infrastructure, sharrows, on-road bike lanes, and separated bike lanes. Sanders then followed up by holding a series of focus groups with respondents to get additional information.

The results of the study were clear. “There are only two roadway designs for bicycling that evenly appeal to all groups, regardless of cycling frequency: the two barrier-separated bicycle lane designs…”

In other words, while drivers and cyclists disagree on almost everything, they can both agree on the value of investing in separated/protected bike lanes. More than 80% of respondents in every user group agreed that separated lanes make cyclists more predictable on the road, which “runs counter to the idea that bicycle lanes only benefit bicyclists.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Transit Blog shares a chart showing which stations of the new Ulink light rail expansion will attract the most ridership. And Wash Cycle explains plans to add bike infrastructure along a DC highway.