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19’s Plenty: Toronto Drops Speed Limit to 19 MPH on Residential Streets

“There is no war on the car,” said Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher. “There’s basically been this continued war on people who don’t have a car.”

30 km

The new speed limit is 30 kph, or 18.6 mph.

To remedy that situation, Fletcher, along with all of her colleagues on the Toronto and East York community council, voted last week to reduce speed limits to 30 kph (or 18.6 mph) on 240 miles of residential streets in the central districts of the city.

The lower speed limits are expected to encourage more people to bike and walk, and to improve air quality and noise conditions in the affected neighborhoods.

Toronto Mayor John Tory opposes the plan, preferring a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. Previous Mayor Rob Ford was (not surprisingly) more blunt, called the idea “nuts, nuts, nuts.” But on this issue, the mayor doesn’t get a vote.

Opponents of the plan argued that it will backfire since some streets are designed for faster speeds. It’s true that lowering the posted speed limit is no substitute for street designs that slow motorists. That’s why 20 mph zones that have saved lives in London include engineering changes as well. But it’s also true that blanket speed limit reductions, with no additional interventions, have a track record of success.

The lower speed limits in Toronto will make difference, and hopefully will serve as an impetus to redesign streets for safer driving speeds too.

Streetsblog.net
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Killing a Transit Project Isn’t Going to Fix Your City’s Parking Crunch

Broad Street in Richmond. Photo: Jeff Auth/Wikimedia Commons via GGW

Yesterday we ran a post from Michael Andersen about how Newark fixed the glut of parked cars on Mount Prospect Avenue, the first street in New Jersey to get a protected bike lane: Instead of letting people park in the bikeway, the city started charging for parking. With a price on parking, people stopped storing their cars on the street all day long, and there was finally some turnover. Problem solved.

The same approach makes sense any time free or cheap on-street parking gets stuffed with cars, but street redesigns often intensify the need to get parking prices right. Canaan Merchant at Greater Greater Washington reports on another case in point — a Bus Rapid Transit project called The Pulse in Richmond, Virginia.

On some sections, The Pulse will run on dedicated bus lanes along the median of Broad Street, and the city will remove some parking spaces to make room. That has a neighborhood association in the nearby Fan District riled up, but as Merchant points out, parking dysfunction can’t be pinned on the transit project:

It may be harder to park in the Fan in the future, but the Pulse won’t be to blame if that happens. Lots of people park on the street because parking there is usually convenient and cheap, or even free. In most cities, parking is drastically underpriced given how valuable the space spots take up is.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Wisconsin Lawmakers Rebuff Scott Walker’s Big-Spending Road Plans (Journal Times)
  • Michigan GOP Legislature Raises Gas Tax From 19 Cents to 34 Cents a Gallon (AP, ABC7)
  • Washington State Raises Gas Tax 11.9 Cents (Spokesman-Review)
  • Bipartisan Plan for $85 Million Transpo Bond Passes in Maine (MPBN)
  • Georgia Gas Tax Hike Takes Effect (WALB)
  • FRA Enlists Google Maps to Help Make At-Grade Rail Crossings Safer (Wired)
  • Journal-Sentinel, BizJournal Gang Up on Milwaukee Transit Union For Going on Strike
  • DC: A Hotbed of Transportation Technology Innovation (DCInno)
  • The Silver Lining of Seattle’s Deep Bore Tunnel: Waterfront Development (CityLab)
  • Jaywalking Laws Harm the Poor (Planetizen)
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Newark Clears Bike Lane of Cars, Solves Parking Problem With Meters Instead

walk bike jersey good lane

Newark’s stopgap solution to a parking crunch was to allow parking in the bike lane (see upper right). Since then it’s found a more sensible option: meters. Photo: WalkBikeJersey

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Three months after Newark drew national attention for considering removal of New Jersey’s only protected bike lane in order to allow illegal double-parking, the city has found a different solution.

Instead of designing the Mt. Prospect Avenue commercial strip around letting people park their cars two rows deep along the curb, the district is installing parking meters.

“Simply by adding parking meters and limiting parking to two hours, legal parking spots are now freed up for shoppers, rather than being occupied for hours or days at a time by residents and shop owners,” reports the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition. “As a result, bike riders regained access to New Jersey’s first parking-protected bike lane, and newly-enacted street parking regulations will ensure that there is an ample supply of parking for customers of businesses along Mt. Prospect Avenue.”

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Streetsblog.net
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Your City Has a Complete Streets Policy. But Does It Have Complete Streets?

Is this a complete street? Image: Google Maps via Urban Indy

Is this a complete street? Image: Google Maps via Urban Indy

Indianapolis passed a Complete Streets ordinance in 2012 to much fanfare. Three years later, how well is the city designing streets for walking and biking?

Mayor Greg Ballard shepherded the fantastic Indianapolis Cultural Trail through to completion in 2013, but Emily Neitzel at Urban Indy says recent street revamps outside the downtown area are hit and miss.

The Emerson Avenue project between Shelbyville Road and I-65 brought a sidewalk to the east side of the road where there previously was no sidewalk, and in this case a strip of grass if not a tree well was added to separate the sidewalk.

However, sidewalks are still lacking on the west side of the street. Furthermore, at the intersections where major businesses like Target, Aldi, and Home Depot are located on both the east and west sides of Emerson, there is no crosswalk to go from east to west. The intersection at Emerson and Southport Road, where more businesses are located on both sides of the street, also lacks an east-west pedestrian crosswalk.

The project document from DPW notes that traffic along this corridor has increased by 600% in two decades, and the project’s increase from two lanes for automobile traffic to five makes this a priority. In fact, the summary of the benefits listed in the document does not even include benefits for pedestrians or bikers; instead highlighting “reduced traffic congestion and better driving conditions” in addition to a longer life for the roadway.

Neitzel notes that, per Smart Growth America, a complete street corridor should “make it easy to cross the street” and “walk to shops.” Indianapolis’s Emerson Avenue project doesn’t do that.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Mayors Call for Action from Congress on Long-Term Transpo Bill (Fast Lane)
  • Obama Also Wants to See a Long-Term Bill During His Final Months in Office (The Hill)
  • Will Resurrection of the Ex-Im Bank Be Part of the Transpo Bill? (Politico)
  • In DC, Faster Service for One Metro Line May Mean Cuts for Others (GGW)
  • Amtrak to Continue Operating Hoosier State Line While Waiting on Public-Private Solution (Sun Times)
  • Will Baltimore’s Development Move Backward With the Death of the Red Line? (Baltimore Biz Journal)
  • Eno Center Offers an Updated Primer on the Highway Trust Fund
  • NJ Officials, Union Members Protest Planned Transit Fare Hike (NorthJersey.com)
  • In Cleveland, Harriet Tregoning Urges Smart Planning for Opportunity Corridor (Plain Dealer)
  • Can Charlotte’s West Side Replicate the South End’s Growth? (Charlotte Observer)
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America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

intersectiondesigns

The latest in bikeway design? Nope, these intersection treatments are from early American bikeway planning documents. Sources: Fisher, 1972; City of Davis, 1972; Smith, Jr. 1974

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, the protected intersection concept appeared in every foundational document for bike planning in the early 1970s. But no American city ever installed one until now — here’s why.

First, some background. The first modern on-street bike lanes in the United States were installed in Davis, California, in the fall of 1967. Of these three bike lanes, one was a parking-protected bikeway on Sycamore Drive. That’s right: The first on-street bike lane in the United States was a parking-protected bikeway.

davis_protected_lane

A woman rides on Sycamore Lane in Davis, CA.

As word of the Davis bike lanes spread across the country, cities all over the United States began improvising their own designs. In response, the Federal Highway Administration funded the publication of four key planning documents between 1972 and 1976 that provided diagrams and guidelines to help cities (and ultimately the FHWA) create a uniform design for bikeways. There are many similarities in all of these documents, but it is clear that with each subsequent report, the design of on-street bike lanes slowly drifted toward designs that treated the cyclist more like a motor vehicle than a human.

Just as the bikeways movement was gaining steam and formalization was taking shape, physically separated bikeways were challenged by a new movement of vehicular cycling advocates — many of whom still challenge bikeways today. Throughout the 1970s, these fit men who self-identified as “cyclists” attended meeting after meeting to decry the designs that engineers were supposedly building for them. Quibbles in the wording of laws or details of a design became arguments and headaches for city staff. Anyone who was not already riding a bicycle on busy car-dominated streets was drowned out by the vehicular cyclists who claimed to speak for all bicycle riders.

Of course, surveys of riders showed these individuals to be in the minority — with 72 percent of riders saying separated bikeways provided good protection and 59 percent saying “signed routes” offered poor protection:

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Streetsblog.net
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Washington State’s Faustian Bargain to Fund Transit

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state legislators have agreed to enable funding for a major Seattle transit expansion, but the deal comes with drawbacks.

The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia

The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia

If approved, the state would fund a $15 billion package of transportation projects and, separately, authorize Sound Transit to raise $15 billion to expand light rail via regional taxes.

Martin H. Duke at Seattle Transit Blog reports that, as a concession to Republican lawmakers, Inslee accepted a “poison pill” that would prevent the state from adopting low-carbon fuel standards.

In addition, Duke says the agreement would fund road-building projects that have support from Republicans and Democrats.

[T]he package doesn’t adequately fund highway maintenance and actually makes the problem worse by adding many more decaying lane-miles on SR 520, I-405, SR 167, and in North Spokane. Highway expansion is a futile response to congestion, encourages environmentally damaging driving, and literally destroys neighborhoods. About the only good thing to say about it is that it’s funded by gas taxes, which in a small way offsets a little of the environmental carnage.

The poison pill and the highway funding have turned off some environmental orgs, according to Duke, and they’re lobbying lawmakers to reject the deal.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on potential cuts to Metro service, and Mobilizing the Region says Governor Chris Christie and state lawmakers have officially doomed New Jersey transit users to fare hikes and service cuts.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Baltimore Leaders Seek to Reverse Governor’s Red Line Decision (Baltimore Sun)
  • Brookings: It’s Time for a National Conversation on High-Speed Rail
  • Six States Set to Raise Their Gas Taxes July 1 (The Hill)
  • How Can Smart Growth Become More “Lovable”? (HuffPo)
  • In Minneapolis: Light Rail Faces New Hurdles; More Bike Lanes Planned (Star Trib, F&C)
  • Transit Support High in Houston, Even If Ridership Isn’t (Houston Chron)
  • Would It Be a Good Idea to Privatize the DC Metro? (WaPo)
  • Boston Olympics Advocates Push for More Public Spending on T (WBUR)
  • Streetcar Could Be Revived in Downtown El Paso (El Paso Inc)
  • A Device to Give the 3-Foot Passing Law Some Teeth (CityLab)
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Can a New Way to Measure Streets Help Advocates Tame Speeding?

You’ve heard of sensors that can count cars or bikes. Tools like that can help transportation planners make smarter decisions about where bike infrastructure is needed, for example. A new digital tool called Placemeter aims to measure streets at a much more fine-grained level, analyzing a variety of different aspects of movement in an urban environment.

Placemeter’s software extracts information from video of streets — it can measure the movement of vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians and then tell you about things like the incidence of speeding or the foot traffic for a specific storefront. Cities are finding lots of interesting ways to use it — but it’s not just for bureaucrats. The people behind Placemeter think it will be very useful for advocates too.

I caught up with Alexandre Winter and Florent Peyre, the founders of Placemeter, to find out how their platform can help us understand what happens on streets.

How do you see Placemeter being useful for improving streets for people using various modes of transportation, including walking?

Florent Peyre: When you want to optimize a city, you need to be able to quantify and measure it first. We’re making it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to measure continuously at a fraction of the cost of hiring a data collection company.

We work with the city of Boston, where they’re interested in building more parklets, but they get pushback from people who think there should be more parking space. What we bring to the table is the ability to quantify the effect of such a change by measuring baseline and then how many people use that parking spot now that it is a temporary pedestrian zone. Bringing a layer of data removes a lot of the passion from a lot of those discussions.

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