Skip to content

Posts from the Streetsblog.net Category

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Comparing 20 Years of Housing Growth in American Cities

Here’s an interesting way to visualize how different regions are growing (or not). Using a tool developed by the University of Virginia Demographics Research Group, Michael Andersen at Bike Portland shares these charts showing where housing growth has happened relative to city centers. The dark brown lines show the number of occupied housing units at one-mile intervals from the urban core in 2012, and the orange lines show the distribution in 1990. The gap between the lines tells you where housing growth has happened, and there is huge variation between regions.

In Denver, for instance, you can see that housing growth was concentrated between eight and 20 miles from the city center:

Image: Bike Portland

Denver: The orange line shows occupied housing units in 1990. The brown line shows 2012. Image: Bike Portland

In other places — especially large, in-demand coastal cities like LA — housing growth has barely changed (note that the y-axis is scaled differently in each chart):

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Car Storage for a Few Trumps Safe Streets for All in San Diego

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week, taking sides on a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week to discuss a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

A major street safety campaign in San Diego is running up against the fierce territorial instinct that only on-street car parking can instill.

After a two-year public process, a plan to create safe biking and walking access to Hillcrest and other neighborhoods reached a local advisory group called Uptown Planners. The plan calls for adding bike lanes on major thoroughfares, and business owners have objected to the loss of 130 parking spaces. The opponents have also spread misinformation about how the plan will affect car traffic on local streets.

Uptown Planners play an advisory role in local government. At its meeting earlier this week, the NIMBY contingent prevailed, writes Sam Ollinger at BikeSD:

While many of us were out last night testifying and desperately pleading for safer access through along University Avenue to a board that ignored all public testimony for safer streets, except for the comments on using public spaces for private vehicle storage, a 74 year old woman crossing Camino Ruiz in a marked crosswalk suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by an SUV. No word yet on whether the driver has been charged.

Earlier this month, our endorsed candidates Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala were successfully elected to the Uptown Planners at the Community Planning Group election. But last night’s meeting was a special meeting and Brennan and Heiskala haven’t yet been seated — so they were unable to vote on the issue.

Uptown Planners ended up voting 10-0 against the proposal, essentially saying that bike lanes should go elsewhere and calling for the project to start from scratch, with “mitigation for any loss of parking.” Ollinger says the outcome disregarded plenty of testimony at the meeting:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

When “Congestion Reduction” Policy Actually Doubles Down on Congestion

The powers that be in Northern Virginia are getting ready to divvy up $350 million between a list of transportation projects. But in this growing, congested region, highway projects always have an edge over transit in these types of budgeting sessions, thanks to some old-fashioned policies that come from the state DOT.

A map of the locations of 34 projects selected by the powerful Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for funding. Image: NVTA via GGWash

Northern Virginia is going to widen these roads in the name of congestion reduction, thanks to the state DOT’s flawed formulas. Map: NVTA via GGWash

Douglas Stewart at Greater Greater Washington explains:

VDOT’s rating system for [Northern Virginia Transportation Authority] projects rewards expansions of the busiest highways, on the assumption that more road capacity will reduce congestion. It’s a flawed 20th century metric that ignores decades of real world experience that bigger roads actually make congestion worse.

The VDOT system does not measure things like how a project might benefit safety, or increase accessibility, and doesn’t take into consideration how land use changes are driven by infrastructure.

The biggest problem is simply that VDOT’s model doesn’t know what to do with short distance trips, which are the exact type of trip that transit-oriented development produces more of. So when a transit or pedestrian project makes it possible for thousands of people to walk two blocks instead of drive five miles, the VDOT model doesn’t always show that as reducing congestion.

Thus, road expansion projects end up looking good, and other things have trouble competing. Transit does OK if it relieves traffic on a major road, but pedestrian or bike projects are almost impossible.

Many other regions are using broader metrics for measuring transportation performance and congestion mitigation, but Northern Virginia can’t because the General Assembly won’t let it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Plan Philly imagines what an equitable street would look like. Streets.mn says banning banning funds for a passenger rail link between the Twin Cities and Rochester, Minnesota, is short-sighted and counterproductive. And 1000 Friends of Wisconsin says 42,000 miles of the state’s roads are in need of immediate repair.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

How Wisconsin DOT Distorts the Numbers to Sell Highway Projects

Total miles driven has been declining in Wisconsin but the state's still adding highway lanes at a furious, go-for-broke pace. Image: Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group

Driving has been declining in Wisconsin but the state is still adding highway lanes at a furious, go-for-broke pace. Image: Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group

The Interstate 94 expansion in Wisconsin is a textbook example of how state DOTs manufacture the case for billion-dollar highway projects.

Instead of simply fixing up the road, Wisconsin DOT is moving ahead with an $850 million repair and widening of Interstate 94 through Milwaukee and some of its inner-ring suburbs. WisDOT says the widening is needed because it expects traffic to increase 24 percent by 2030. But a quick look at recent traffic data shows driving on the road has actually declined over the last few years.

WisDOT also frames the highway widening as a safety improvement, even though for $850 million you could redesign hundreds of miles of surface streets and do a lot more for safety. But even when you limit the focus to I-94, WisDOT’s data doesn’t hold up, writes Gretchen Schuldt at Network blog Milwaukee Rising:

In the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, WisDOT says that “Crash rates in the I?94 East?West Corridor are mostly at least 2 to 3 times higher than the statewide average for similar roadways, and several sections are more than 4 times higher than the statewide average.”

The various-size road pieces that WisDOT includes in the average are all considered “large urban freeways,” even when they are not. The list includes, for example, a stretch of Highway 43 in Rock County that carries an average of 1,012 cars per day, or a whopping 0.67% of the average traffic count in the I-94 project area.

Schuldt reviewed the data for more than 1,600 “large urban freeway” sections WisDOT used as the basis for comparisons to I-94. She found that on average, they carry only 34 percent as much traffic as the project area, making the whole safety argument suspect.

According to James Rowen at The Politicial Environment, even some conservative groups are calling for Wisconsin to “rein in” wasteful spending by killing highway projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reports that Dallas is testing out its new streetcar line to Oak Cliff, set to open in weeks. Systemic Failure notes that Caltrans won a court battle to continue widening famously scenic Highway 1 along the California coast. And Better Cities & Towns! explores the “big asphalt” lobby and how it works.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

To Speed Service, Seattle Looks to Separate Streetcars From Auto Traffic

Seattle's South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

As streetcars make a comeback in cities across America, they are under scrutiny from transit advocates who complain about service quality.

Atlanta’s new streetcar has produced disappointing ridership numbers, with sources reporting it’s not much faster than walking. And Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic reports that after a fairly strong start, Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar has seen ridership sputter, with a 7 percent decline in the last year.

But the good news is Seattle has zeroed in on a key issue with the line. Freemark reports:

The problem may have something to do with the way the streetcar runs: In the street, sharing lanes with cars. The results have been slow vehicles — the line’s scheduled service averages less than eight miles per hour — often held back by traffic and a lack of reliability. This can produce horror stories of streetcars getting stuck for half an hour or more behind other vehicles and, combined with infrequent service, it certainly reinforces the sense that streetcars are too slow and unreliable to provide any serious transportation benefit.

This is a problem shared by every existing and planned modern streetcar line in the country, suggesting that the streetcar designed to run in the street with cars may, over the long term, simply fail to attract riders who grow increasingly frustrated with the quality of service provided.

Seattle may offer a solution, however. CityLab‘s Nate Berg reported last year that the city is planning a new streetcar line — the 1.1-mile Center City Connector that in 2018 would run along dedicated downtown lanes as it links the South Lake Union line with another service, the 2.5-mile First Hill line, which is currently under construction. That’s great news, but even more interesting is the fact that the city is considering giving dedicated lanes to the existing South Lake Union line.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

NJ Police Chief Responds to Pedestrian Death: “Think About the Driver”

Route 130 has been named the most dangerous road in New Jersey five times in a row. Photo: Delran Township

Route 130 consistently ranks as the most dangerous road in New Jersey. Photo: Delran Township

After Richard Price, 56, was struck and killed by a driver on Route 130 in New Jersey’s Burlington County, the local police chief took to the pages of the local paper to scold pedestrians and implore people to “think about the driver… and about the life trauma they now have to endure.” The full piece, titled “If you must cross Route 130, use common sense,” is unfortunately behind a paywall.

When people in power blame victims like that, it helps explain why Route 130 got to be the deadliest road in New Jersey. Matthew Norris at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog explains:

Two pedestrians have been struck — one fatally — by cars while walking on Route 130 in Burlington County just since the March 5 release of Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report, which named Route 130 the most dangerous road in New Jersey for the fifth year in a row. Now more than ever, it is clear that Route 130 must be transformed to allow all road users to travel without putting their lives at risk — and it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Both sides of Route 130 are home to many places of work, restaurants, shops and transit stops. But like many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with as many as six lanes of fast-moving traffic, few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk.

While the New Jersey Department of Transportation has added new sidewalks and mid-block crossings in a few of locations along the corridor, more life-saving measures like continuous sidewalks, additional crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands must be added. These necessary short-term improvements could then be followed by a full-scale overhaul which could transform the roadway from a high-speed thoroughfare into an attractive multi-modal boulevard. These changes would do more than help to save lives — they could also help spur the development of walkable, mixed-use development on adjacent abandoned or underutilized land.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Purple Line supporters are hard at work trying to reduce the costs of that project and gain approval from Governor Larry Hogan. 1000 Friends of Wisconsin notes that while the state is splurging on highway expansions, one in three of the state’s local roads are in need of immediate repair. And Better Cities & Towns! shares a new study pegging the annual cost of sprawl to America at about $1 trillion.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Texas DOT Raring to Build Money-Losing Toll Lanes

Managed toll lanes can be big money losers. Photo: Wikipedia

Expanding highways by adding tolled lanes can still be a big money loser. Photo: Wikipedia

States seem to love expanding highways by adding tolled lanes, even when the money doesn’t add up. The 495 Express Lanes in DC’s Virginia suburbs lost $51 million last year, forcing investors to restructure $430 million in debt. Similarly, Maryland taxpayers are likely to be on the hook for the state’s new I-95 lanes, which are generating barely $5 million a year after costing $275 million. Toll lanes in Atlanta and Houston are also not hitting their financial targets.

Brandon Formby at the Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reports on a highway expansion in Dallas that seems to be heading in the same direction. As a toll road, it won’t make money, but that isn’t giving state officials much pause:

In a not-so-surprising move, the North Texas Tollway Authority board this morning passed on building the Southern Gateway, the name given to a planned rehab of Interstate 35E and U.S. Route 67 that will also add managed toll lanes to both roads.

But don’t expect that to halt the project. This is the sixth consecutive time the region’s tolling entity, which has dibs on any North Texas tolling project, has turned down a managed toll lane project. The Texas Department of transportation plans to move ahead with the work.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Touring Portland’s Brand New Car-Free Bridge

Portland's Tilikum Bridge will carry cyclists, transit riders and pedestrians over the Willamette River, but no cars. Photo: Jonathan Maus, Bike Portland

Portland’s Tilikum Bridge will carry transit, biking, and walking traffic over the Willamette River, but no cars. Photo: Jonathan Maus/Bike Portland

Okay, it seems like now Portland is just showing off. The city is putting the finishing touches on the Tilikum Bridge, a multi-modal span that will serve buses, cyclists, pedestrians and trains — but no cars.

This bridge has it all: a safe walking and biking path, transitways free of traffic congestion, sleek design, bike counters, a scenic lookout. Jonathan Maus at BikePortland got an early look a few months before it’s scheduled to open. He elaborates:

Before I even got on the bridge, I was impressed at how many bike-related changes have been made at the bridge’s intersection with SW Moody near the new OHSU/PSU Collaborative Life Sciences building. There are several new bike-only signals to help make the transition from the Moody cycle track, across the street, then onto the bridge’s bike path.

Given how much biking and walking will happen on this bridge it will be very important for people to stay in the proper lane. You’ll also notice the bike/walk lane markings, which are very similar to the ones used by Multnomah County on the Hawthorne Bridge (the only difference is that the bike marking is green instead of yellow). TriMet has also outlined the white center lane stripe with black to make it more visible.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

State Farm to Locate Thousands of Jobs Near Transit

A rendering of State Farm's proposed transit-adjacent office tower for Atlanta. The insurance company will employ 8,000 in that region. Image: T4A

A rendering of State Farm’s proposed office tower next to a MARTA rail station in Atlanta. The insurance company will be adding 3,000 employees in that region. Image: T4A

Some very good news for a few American cities: It is now the official policy of insurance giant State Farm to locate its sizable offices near transit. The company’s forward-looking approach should help relieve traffic congestion and promote low-cost, low-emissions commuting in some of the country’s more sprawling metros.

Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America has more on State Farm’s location strategy:

“We’re designing these workplaces to be the future of State Farm,” chief operating officer Michael Tipsord said at an Arizona State University event. “We’re creating a live-work-play environment that will give employees easy access to their work from the neighboring communities.”

The new hub in Tempe will give State Farm enough space to expand their Phoenix-area workforce from 4,500 to more than 8,000, and will be a ten-minute walk from a Valley Light Rail stop right by Sun Devil stadium at the edge of the Arizona State University campus.

In Atlanta, State Farm is at the center of an enormous 2.2-million-square-foot development at Perimeter Center, already one of the biggest job hubs in the entire metro region, located immediately adjacent to a MARTA heavy rail station. State Farm’s plan to lease more than 500,000 square feet in a larger development has been making waves in economic development circles in Atlanta. They’re planning to hire another 3,000 employees to augment the 5,000 already in metro Atlanta, bringing new jobs to this region as well.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Will Atlanta’s $250 Million Bond Measure Advance Biking and Walking?

Atlanta needs $152 million to bring its sidewalks into a state of good repair, but a proposed $250 million bond package won't help much. Photo: Atlanta Sidewalks Flickr pool.

Atlanta needs $152 million to bring its sidewalks into a state of good repair, but a proposed $250 million bond package won’t help much. Photo: Atlanta Sidewalks Flickr pool

Tomorrow, Atlanta residents go to the voting booth to decide on a $250 million bond package for infrastructure. The measure comes a few years after voters refused a 1 percent sales tax hike to fund infrastructure projects around the region.

Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist was curious about what approval of the measure would mean for biking and walking, so he reached out to two local experts. Rebecca Serna at the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition said it was likely to advance bike infrastructure somewhat:

“The project list represents a big step forward for safety on Atlanta roads — for everyone, not just people on bikes, because streets that are safe enough to walk and bike have fewer motor vehicle crashes too. The big Complete Streets projects on the list, like DeKalb Avenue and MLK, are important indications of how highly the city prioritizes the safety of people on foot and bike, and could transform corridors that are currently big barriers to biking and walking.

That said, we’d like to see some additions, such as Lee Street in SW Atlanta, and the expansion of the DeKalb Ave project to connect to the existing Decatur St bike lanes. Also, bridge projects like Courtland need to become Complete Streets – federal guidelines are very clear on that, and the city’s own Cycle Atlanta plan calls for a two-way protected bike lane on Courtland.

But Sally Flocks at PEDS, a local pedestrian advocacy organization, is less optimistic:

Read more…