Skip to content

No Comments

Get Your Cameras Ready for Half-Empty Black Friday Parking Lots

If the parking lot at your local big box store looks like this on Black Friday, you're doing it wrong. Photo: Strong Towns

Does the parking lot at your local big box store look like this on Black Friday? Photo: Strong Towns

It’s standard practice to build parking lots to accommodate the maximum number of vehicles expected on the busiest shopping day of the year.

As a result, acres and acres of unnecessary asphalt make communities less walkable, waste land, funnel polluted runoff into our groundwater, erode tax bases, and drive up prices for lots of other goods that aren’t car parking. Incredibly, a lot of these parking lots are so large they don’t even fill most of the way up on Black Friday, America’s high holiday of retail shopping.

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns came up with an ingenious plan to help highlight this rather unsexy issue last year. He encouraged people to take pictures of half-empty parking lots on Black Friday and tweet them with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Last year’s contest produced some eye-poppers.

Chuck is encouraging people to do the same this year. If you’re out there holiday shopping and come across one of those sad, empty parking lots, please tweet it and show the world the foolishness of our parking policies. For more information, check out the Strong Towns blog

In the meantime, Streetsblog USA wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and looks forward to reviewing your spectacular pictures Monday.

No Comments

No Charges for Driver Who Plowed Into Protesters in Minneapolis

The driver who rammed his way through a crowd protesting the non-indictment of Darren Wilson yesterday afternoon in Minneapolis, injuring a 16-year-old girl, has not been charged with any crime.

That’s according to Minneapolis Police spokesperson John Elder, who emailed us this morning saying the case “remains under investigation.”

You can see in the above video, captured by a local news crew, that the driver, Jeffrey Patrick Rice of St. Paul, drove directly into a crowd of protesters and ran over the legs of the girl, who reportedly suffered a leg injury. According to news reports, Rice, 40, stopped not far from the scene and called 911.

Here’s the only information the MPD would offer, from a police report (emphasis ours): “The victim‘s vehicle was damaged by a large group of people. While he was attempting to flee from the mob, he struck a pedestrian.”

So there you have it. The “victim” in this case was not the 16-year-old girl whose legs were crushed under a car, but the driver of said car. Looking at the video, it seems like the police have scrambled the order of events to exonerate the assailant. A “mob” doesn’t form around the vehicle until after the driver intentionally plowed through people. 

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes events unfolding very differently than the police report:

In the Lake Street incident, a Subaru station wagon lurched into the crowd around 4:30 p.m. with its horn blaring as the rally swelled to more than 1,000 demonstrators. When protesters didn’t clear a path, the driver knocked down a girl. The crowd erupted in screams and some people jumped on the hood of the car and violently pounded on the windshield and windows.

For all those sociopaths who were wondering last night if they were allowed to run over protesters standing in front of their cars, it appears the answer is “yes.”

Update: Here’s another angle where you can see the driver choosing to go straight through the crowd.

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Why Ferguson Protests Spilled Onto Highways

WHAT CITY? Photo: D Magazine

Protesters in Los Angeles Monday night. Photo: D Magazine

Protests following a Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown spilled out onto highways in several American cities on Monday evening and Tuesday. Protesters occupied freeways in Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. (One reported incident of road rage at the protests — a Minnesota man who ran over a woman in downtown Minneapolis — happened on a surface street.)

Patrick Kennedy, a Streetsblog Network member who now writes at D Magazine’s Street Smart column, sees special significance in the use of highways as a protest venue. It is less tidy and harder to ignore than staying on the surface:

These aren’t exactly Tahrir or Taksim Squares, large spaces at a central convergence point for all the city making for natural gathering places. Those occur in still urban places that promote gathering rather than dispersal. We’ve replaced city, and its inherent ability to foster foment just as easily as its day-to-day intended purpose of human progress through social and economic exchange, with car-dependent, isolated anti-city, fragmented by these hulking concrete structures…

The highways are the centerless epicenter of American life. What better place to disrupt? What else better represents the very literal as well as underlying divide, displacement, and disenfranchisement…

My point here is not to debate the specifics of the incident in Ferguson. Any one incident belies the deeper issues at hand leading to such widespread convulsion that registers nationally. Instead, it is to take issue with the belief that protesters should go back to the fenced in area so we never have to hear from them again nor pay attention.

Here are a few more scenes of the direct action on highways.

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Light Rail Strengthens the Sibling Bond Between Twin Cities (Chicago Trib)
  • Amtrak’s Likely to See Highest Rider Numbers of the Year Today (Columbian)
  • Despite Recent Backlash, Uber’s Still Riding High (Tech Crunch)
  • Montgomery County Goes More Ped-Friendly, But Wastes Money on Parking (Bethesda Now, GGW)
  • Atlanta’s Figuring Out How to Operate Its New Streetcar Safely (WABE)
  • D.C. Buses Get Green-Light Priority (Washington Biz Journal)
  • Boise Envies Its Neighbors on Transit Spending (Idaho Press-Trib)
  • It’s Not Too Early for Detroit to Prep for Next Year’s Transit Vote (Metro Times)
  • After 98 Crashes This Year, Raleigh Plans More Bike Lanes (Indy Week)
14 Comments

States That Ban Traffic Safety Cams Put Their Own Residents’ Lives at Risk

In France, speeding cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

Speed cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years in France. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

In Ohio, lawmakers are now poised to outlaw traffic safety cameras, needlessly obstructing efforts to save lives. Similar bills were taken up this year in statehouses in Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 12 states have laws that forbid speed cameras under most circumstances.

If enacted, these laws will certainly end up costing a lot of innocent people their lives. A 2010 review of dozens of studies indicates that speed cameras always have a positive effect on street safety, typically reducing fatality rates by around 30 to 40 percent where they are installed. One of the most impressive case studies, on a national scale, is France.

Since the French government began its crackdown on speeding about a dozen years ago, annual traffic fatalities have been reduced by more than half, from 7,242 in 2002 to 3,250 in 2013. That is more than double the rate of improvement in the United States over the same period. Researchers attribute a major portion of that reduction to the installation of about 3,000 speed cameras across the nation.

Following the adoption of a new set of street safety policies by President Jacques Chirac in 2002 — including stricter penalties for traffic violations — and the installation of cameras in 2003, enforcement of speeding increased dramatically, from about 100,000 tickets per month to about 500,000. About 87 percent of those citations were issued by cameras.

In a 2012 study in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers set out to determine how many deaths and injuries were prevented by France’s wide-scale adoption of automated speed enforcement, developing statistical models to isolate the effect of the cameras. In the first two years following implementation, they estimate that speed cameras prevented 4,498 fatalities.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Seattle Advocates Convince City to Make Major Avenue Safe for Biking

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Image: The Urbanist

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Map: The Urbanist

A crucial Seattle street is getting the protected bike lane treatment thanks to the hard work of local advocates.

Roosevelt Way is a direct and convenient bike route to get downtown, writes Scott Bonjukian at Network blog The Urbanist, but it also has a high rate of cyclist injuries. At first, a proposed redesign did not include a protected bikeway, but timely advocacy convinced the city to upgrade its plans, Bonjukian reports:

Roosevelt Way is a one-way southbound street with two drive lanes, two parking lanes, and a painted bike lane. The street carries bus routes and the speed limit is 30 mph. Roosevelt is one of the most dangerous streets for cyclists in the entire city; between 2007 and 2014, the street has seen at least 63 bike-car collisions. But Roosevelt Way is popular with bicyclists because it is the fastest and most direct route to Downtown via the University Bridge, which is one of only two Ship Canal crossings in the area.

University Greenways, a neighborhood group that advocates on bike and walking safety, examined the 30 percent design drawings (PDF) last month. (Disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group.) At that point, the project did not include a protected bike lane at all, despite the City’s Bicycle Master Plan designating the route for a buffered facility. The group also conducted a walking audit of the project area. In a letter to SDOT (PDF) and a guest post on Seattle Bike Blog, they highlighted a laundry list of problems that the City should focus on, and some of those are being addressed. Many new curb ramps and sidewalk bulbouts will be built at intersections to comply with ADA guidelines and to reduce crossing distances.

In a surprising response, the 60 percent design drawings (PDF) released this month shows SDOT will remove the right-side parking lane south of NE 45th Street (where the most bike-car collisions have been) and replace it with a 7-foot bike lane and 5-foot buffer with plastic, reflective bollards. Similar to the rapid construction of Downtown’s 2nd Avenue cycle track in September, SDOT is going above and beyond by creating this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the outcome of multi-million dollar projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Montgomery County, Maryland, is considering legislation to mandate safer design standards for all streets in urban areas. The City Fix explains why Brazil’s streets are getting a little safer, though they remain extremely dangerous compared to European countries. And Urban Milwaukee says that plans are progressing for that city’s long-awaited streetcar.

1 Comment

Today’s Headlines

  • With Growing Ridership, Amtrak Deficits Shrink to Four-Decade Low (WSJ)
  • Uber Controversy Exposes “Gaping Hole in Nation’s Privacy Laws” (The Hill)
  • Former Dallas Mayor Joins High-Speed Rail Effort in Texas (Dallas Morning News)
  • With Landmark Transpo Funding Deal, Virginia Gas Tax to Increase 45% (Daily Press)
  • Puerto Rico Governor Warns of Transit Shutdown Over Bond Issue (Reuters)
  • Montgomery County Votes Today on Bill to Improve Urban Streets (GGW)
  • San Diego: Court Rejects Future Transpo Plan, Trolley Link Approved (KPBS, Railway Age)
  • How a New Amtrak Tunnel Could Improve West Baltimore (Baltimore Brew)
  • Sandy, Utah, Plans for Denser Downtown (Salt Lake Trib)
  • The Pitfalls of Hands-Free Car Technology (WSJ)
  • How Humans Have Evolved Into “Metro Sapiens” (Smithsonian)
25 Comments

Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

This chart shows the performance of the world's bike sharing systems. U.S. systems, by en large, are lagging. Image: ?

U.S. bike-share systems, which tend not to have dense networks of stations, also tend to lag behind other bike-share systems on ridership. Graph: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations.

That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a leading U.S. expert on bike-share. In a recent exchange about what some cities are passing off as bike-share, Orcutt told he has some concerns about how bike-share systems are being rolled out in cities around the U.S. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate in an interview.

Here’s what he had to say about what separates a successful bike-share system from one that’s not meeting its potential:

So you’ve come to some conclusions about how certain bike-shares are functioning?

They’re not my conclusions. There’s a fair amount of research out there now and you can see pretty clearly what some of the variables are. There’s a huge variation across cities, especially in the United States.

Can you summarize the research?

The most useful metric is rides per bike per day. You can compare a system with 600 bikes to 6,000 bikes in different size cities pretty easily. You just see, how many rides is it getting?

I’d say the breaking point internationally is about three-and-a-half or four rides. High performing systems are seeing four rides per day on average or more, and then there’s everybody else. A lot of them in the United States are under two.

Read more…

9 Comments

Congress Gives Itself More Free Parking Than Its Own Rules Allow

How much are these free parking spots worth? Probably more than the $250 parking benefit Congress allows. Photo: ##http://www.jmt.com/project-portfolio/us-senate-parking-lot-study/##JMT##

How much are these free parking spots worth? More than the $250 per month in tax-free parking benefits that Congress allows. Photo: JMT

As TransitCenter and the Frontier Group reported last week, the federal government pays a huge $7.3 billion subsidy to people who drive to work by making commuter parking expenses tax exempt. There are countless reasons for Congress to scrap this poorly-conceived, congestion-inducing subsidy. While policymakers consider the big picture, they also ought to examine how their own parking benefits are administered.

Here’s the short version: Congress is breaking its own law, and it’s shorting the Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, by providing free parking far in excess of the allowable limits.

USC 26 Section 132f of the tax code allows employers to provide each worker with up to $250 in free parking per month tax-free, which can add up to $3,000 in tax-free perks per employee each year. That’s a pretty big amount to pay people for exacerbating congestion, but the parking at the U.S. Capitol is worth significantly more than that.

It’s hard to know exactly how many free parking spaces we’re talking about. The Architect of the Capitol and relevant committees don’t like to talk about it, but Lydia DePillis reported in the Washington City Paper a few years ago that a plan for the southern part of the Capitol complex completed in 2005 shows that the House office buildings alone have 5,772 parking spaces assigned to them.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Rochester Residents Add Their Own Bus Stop Seating

This "bus stop cube" was one of two tested recently in Rochester to help give bus riders a place to rest. Photo: Rochester Subway

Reconnect Rochester put out this “bus stop cube” to give riders a place to take a load off. Photo: Rochester Subway

Rochester residents are experimenting with a simple idea to make riding the bus a little more comfortable.

Mike Governale at Rochester Subway reports that a group called Reconnect Rochester is testing out two brightly colored “bus stop cubes” to give bus riders a place to rest at stops that currently have no seating. Governale went around interviewing bus riders at cube sites. Here’s what they had to say:

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester recently tested a prototype bus stop seat shaped like a cube at two locations: The PriceRite at Dewey & Driving Park and N. Union St. at the Public Market. As the video above shows, the results were very positive.

These women [pictured above] had just finished shopping and were waiting for their #10 bus when they were introduced to the CUBE seat. One of the women said that when she’s waiting for her bus, sometimes her legs give out. And she says the bus stop cube is the perfect height for her. She said many of the standard benches throughout the city are actually too low for her to get up out of easily.

Reconnect Rochester also shot this video of live interviews with bus riders — the reviews were mostly good. The group is asking community members to pin spots on an interactive map to recommend future locations for cubes. They’re also seeking donations to support the project.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Bike Walk Lee says the principles outlined at the recent Vision Zero symposium in New York should help guide street safety efforts in Southwest Florida. I Bike TO asks whether Toronto should build bike infrastructure for “cyclists” or for people of all ages and abilities. And the Urbanophile weighs in on Tony Hsieh’s bid to transform downtown Las Vegas into a live-work neighborhood.