Yesterday, we started our year-end 2011 round-up. We lamented transit cuts in places where transit is more important than ever, cheered the successful ballot initiatives that will fund transportation lifelines, took a moment to explore the nuances of some difficult issues, and called out Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin for some hare-brained ideas about the best way to spend money.
Now we continue with the second installment: What cities shone a little brighter and what cities lost their luster?
Let’s start with the good.
Cities That Led the Way: Bike-share caught on in 2011 like never before. New York City announced a system to dwarf all others, complete with 10,000 bikes. Boston had a great first season. DC and Arlington expanded Capital Bikeshare. Chicago got a TIGER grant to go full-tilt on its system. And bike-share is popping up in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect it – most recently, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. All those cities deserve credit for investing in active transportation options for their residents.
Meanwhile, in the DC area, suburban retrofits in White Flint and Tysons Corner started transforming these into urban, transit-rich communities with vibrant daytime and nighttime populations.
And Salt Lake City showed the country how to solve some of the most vexing geographic, political, cultural, and ecological challenges of urbanism. The city got behind a set of growth principles that champion walkability, density, transit options, and land conservation. The city’s new, sustainable developments are wildly popular and incredibly successful at encouraging active transportation.
But it was Minneapolis that stole our hearts this year. The city rocketed to the top of the Bike-Friendliness charts with its Nice Ride bike-share system and its beloved Midtown Greenway, which transformed an old industrial railroad trench into a major cyclist thoroughfare connecting key parts of the city. And that’s not all – Minneapolis has gone through the whole complete streets shopping list, from road diets to bike parking to improved crossings to bike boulevards.
Perhaps even more significantly, the Twin Cities aren’t just tacking some nice cycling amenities onto an otherwise roads-heavy transportation program. They’re actually divesting from road infrastructure, tabling 14 planned highway expansions and improving transit options instead. They’re maximizing existing highways by adding bus lanes and priced shoulder lanes, and they’re investing in transit-oriented development. As one city transportation planner said, “We couldn’t keep going on acting as if we were going to get money to build our way out of congestion.”
Cities That Lagged Behind: We at Streetsblog aren’t shy about calling out state leaders who make bad decisions in favor of sprawl and against smart transportation options. We talked about some of those yesterday (we’re looking at you, Scott Walker). But sometimes it’s not the state but the cities themselves that have a special knack for making bad decisions. And this was a big year for it.