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Parking Madness 2015: Can Your Parking Crater Compete?

This is the image that made Rochester last year's winner.

Rochester won last year’s Parking Madness bracket with this downtown catastrophe where a real neighborhood once stood.

March is a special month on Streetsblog. It’s the time when the nation’s worst downtown parking scars face off head-to-head for the shame of winning the “golden crater” — and the local publicity bonanza that comes with it. For the third year running, we’re asking you to help seed the bracket in our Parking Madness tournament by sending in photos of the sorriest wastes of urban space you can find.

What makes for a good entry? We’re looking for downtown parking craters — expanses of urban land where there’s no longer space for people, just a sea of car storage — in North American cities. Craters that have already competed in Parking Madness tournaments are ineligible — please check the brackets from 2013 and 2014 before submitting.

To enter, send us a photo of the crater and a link to an aerial map (not just the link, please), as well as a description of why your crater deserves to win. You can submit your entry in the comments or email angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Thanks for participating — looking forward to a new round of spectacular eyesores!

Tulsa, our 2013 winner.

Downtown Tulsa dominated the competition in 2013.

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The Terrible 60-Year-Old Parking Advice That’s Still Haunting America

Views like this aren't an accident, but a product of old sensibilities that have proved highly destructive. Photo: aGuyonClematis via Twitter

Where did we go wrong? Photo: @aGuyonClematis via Twitter

Scenes like the one above — enormous pieces of land devoted to half-empty parking lots — are ubiquitous throughout the United States. And that’s no accident.

Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns was looking over some 1954 guidance from the American Planning Association. Today, most planners would recognize it as terribly destructive, but it still holds sway to a remarkable degree.

Here is Marohn’s take on the 60-year-old advice that made so much of America a car-dependent mess:

It’s clear already by 1954 that planners know more than developers and must righteously defend the public good.

The shopper wants a space he can find easily, with a minimum of difficulty in moving around the parking area, and one that is located near the store or store group in which he is going to shop. The fault is sometimes with the developers who have underestimated the need for parking space or found the land too valuable to be devoted to parking.

Those greedy developers! How terrible of them to think of things like the value of land. It’s so sad that, even then, planners seemed to think that convenient parking and not land values would determine the future prosperity of a place.

Can you have too much parking?

We know of no existing center that has too much parking. Some parking spaces it is true are not economically used, due to their distant location from the stores. The poorly located spaces would be used more frequently if they were more conveniently located.

Most planners I meet today get how messed up our approach to parking is and are working to change it in their cities. Most zoners I meet would read this technical paper and seek to apply its findings in rote form to their community, not realizing (or perhaps not caring even if they did) that it is over 60 years old.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region says Connecticut is uniquely positioned to implement congestion pricing on its highways, if leaders will only consider it. Streets.mn reports that Minneapolis is getting its first “woonerf.” And Peninsula Transportation Alternatives critiques the idea that Palo Alto should cap office development to address its parking and congestion problems.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Free-Range Parents Found Guilty of “Unsubstantiated Child Neglect” (WaPo)
  • Oregon Bill Would Fine Cyclists $250 for Not Wearing Reflective Clothing (Oregonian)
  • Robert Bullard: A “Southern Initiative” on Climate Justice Is Needed (OpEdNews)
  • Huntsville, Alabama, Plans $70 Million Mixed-Use Development, Road Diet (Nanaimo Commons)
  • The Atlantic: $350 Million Might Not Be Enough to Revitalize Las Vegas
  • OpEd: New Orleans’ Streetcar Plans Favor the Affluent (Uptown Messenger)
  • Next City: Austin Development Debate Pits Motorist Convenience Against Affordable Housing
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How the Lure of Spending Keeps Dumb Highway Projects Alive

Decades ago, Ohio officials drew a line on a map — the Eastern Corridor, a highway for commuters living in Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs. No matter how much time has passed and how little sense it makes to build that highway today, that line can still seem like destiny.

An image used by the village of Newton to oppose the Ohio Department of Transportation's $1.4 billion Eastern Corridor highway plan. Image: Village of Newton

This is the message from the village of Newtown about the Ohio Department of Transportation’s $1.4 billion Eastern Corridor highway plan. Image: Village of Newtown

The Eastern Corridor began as a 1960s vision for a highway connecting bedroom communities in mostly rural Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, roughly 17 miles away. There is not much appetite for it: As soon as Ohio DOT dusted off its plans and started laying the groundwork to build this $1.4 billion project in 2011, communities along the corridor revolted.

The project lives on anyway. Last week, it seemed like state legislators were poised to reject the highway, but the thought of turning down a big construction project — no matter how wasteful and unwanted — was too much for some lawmakers to bear. The Eastern Corridor remains a looming possibility, a case study in how highway projects can develop a nearly unstoppable political momentum.

The outcry against the Easter Corridor has been growing since the moment ODOT told the public what it wanted to build. Along almost every section of the planned road, residents, neighborhoods, and whole towns tried to stop the project.

The most fiercely opposed sections involve rerouting State Route 32 through Newtown and Mariemont — two small, relatively affluent inner-ring suburbs. The road would cut through the heart of tiny Newtown, where the leadership is adamantly opposed, saying it will destroy the town’s business center. In Mariemont, it would ruin a park referred to as the South 80.

The Eastern Corridor also calls for a poorly-conceived rail line, expected to cost as much as $600 million and draw as few as 3,000 daily riders. The region’s rail advocates oppose it, calling it a waste of money.

Even farther away suburbs are not exactly thrilled about the highway. Andersen Township Trustee Russell Jackson told the Cincinnati Enquirer that “nobody in the local communities really sees this incredible benefit to building this thing.”

There are pockets of support for the project, including rural Clermont County, but overall, public opinion against the Eastern Corridor appears to be strong enough to sink it. Jason Williams at the Enquirer wondered last week if it was “on life support.”

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Segregation Remains Rampant in America’s Transportation System (Slate)
  • All Eyes on Seattle as Low-Income Transit Riders Get a Break (NYT)
  • Congress Is All Talk on Transpo Funding, But Iowa Acts (Transport Topics)
  • “Devolution” to States Seems More and More Unlikely (Fleet Owner)
  • It’s Been a Bad Winter for East Coast Transit (Salon)
  • Seneca, SC, Debuts World’s First All-Electric City Bus Fleet (USA Today)
  • Park Board Relents in Twin Cities Light Rail Dispute (Minn Post)
  • Honolulu Plans to Build Parking at Four of 20 New Rail Stations (Hawaii News Now)
  • Edinburgh Streets Prove the Value of Lower Speed Limits (Next City)
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Safety in Numbers: Biking Is Safest in Nations With the Most People on Bikes

The more people bike in a country generally the safer it is for cycling. This phenomenon is called "safety in numbers." Graph: International Transport Forum via Amsterdamize

Countries with high cycling rates also have low rates of fatalities per distance biked. Graph: International Transport Forum [PDF] via Amsterdamize

The more people get around by bike, the safer it is, according to the “safety in numbers” rule first popularized by researcher Peter Jacobsen.

This chart from the International Transport Forum [PDF] shows how the safety in numbers effect plays out at the national scale. As you can see, biking is safer in the countries where people bike the most.

There was, however, some variation country to country. The report noted that Korea’s cycling fatality rates were greater than what its biking rates would suggest. Researchers speculated that might be due to a rapid recent growth in cycling. Perhaps, they write, “neither cyclists nor other transport participants have had time to assimilate each other’s presence.”

Meanwhile, in some nations with high cycling rates, biking has become even safer over time. That was the case in Denmark, where cycling rates have been high but fairly stable for the last decade, but fatality rates have dropped 40 percent during the same period.

The safety in numbers effect has been observed at the scale of cities too. Recently, for example, bicycle injury rates in Minneapolis have declined as total ridership has risen. The same trend has played out in New York, as cycling has increased while total injuries and fatalities have not.

Do more people on bikes cause cycling to become safer, or does safer infrastructure attract more people to bike? There’s no conclusive evidence either way, but the answer is probably a mix of both. Safer infrastructure entices more people to ride, and more people riding instill greater awareness on the part of motorists and increase the demand for safer infrastructure.

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Protected Lanes Preview: Boston, Detroit, Indy, Minneapolis, Denver & More

Shelby Street in Indianapolis is a model for that city’s two latest protected bike lane projects.

pfb logo 100x22

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

Spring is three weeks away, and that means it’s time for one of American cities’ newest rituals: announcing the year’s protected bike lane construction plans.

Every few days over the last month, another U.S. city has released plans or announced progress in building protected lanes. Even more excitingly, many are in downtown and commercial areas, which tend to have the highest latent demand for biking. Let’s take a scan from east to west of the projects that popped onto our radar in February alone, to be built in 2015 or 2016:

Boston is “heading toward” a firm plan for protected lanes on the crucial Commonwealth Avenue artery between Boston University Bridge and Brighton, Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly said February 9. In column the day before, the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson endorsed the concept on the strength of a trip to Seattle, where he rode a Pronto! Bike Share bicycle down the 2nd Avenue bike lane.

“I did something here I am scared to death to do in Boston,” Jackson wrote. “I bicycled on a weekday in the city’s most bustling business district.”

New York City is on track to upgrade several blocks of Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Square with greater protection, improving connections to the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown, after a February 10 thumbs-up from the local community board.

Columbus, Ohio, said February 2 that a 1.4-mile bidirectional protected lane on Summit near the Ohio State University campus is “just the beginning” of plans for biking improvements, thanks to advocacy group Yay Bikes and a receptive city staff.

Detroit is installing southeast Michigan’s first protected lanes this year on a “very short segment” of East Jefferson. Advocacy group Detroit Greenways says it’s “precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads.”

Read more…

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The Enormous Promise of a Carbon Tax-and-Dividend

Absent any foreseeable action from Washington, some states and localities are stepping up with policies that put a price on carbon. And that has a number of exciting implications for cities and sustainable transportation. California is using revenue from its cap-and-trade program, for instance, to subsidize housing near transit.

Enacting a carbon tax in Oregon would require overturning a state ban on spending gas tax revenue on anything except car infrastructure. Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland

In Oregon, advocates are now pushing a carbon tax that would rebate all the money to households. Even without spending the revenue on specific goals, carbon pricing would be a huge boost for walking, biking, and transit, Michael Andersen at Bike Portland explains: 

The group, called Oregon Climate, is pushing a concept called “tax and dividend”: instead of sending the proceeds into government coffers, all of the revenue collected from wholesale fossil-fuel transactions — gasoline to a distributor, coal to a power plant, and so on — would be pooled and divided evenly among Oregonians in the form of checks worth an estimated $500 to $1500 per year.

“This is the most climate-friendly progressive legislature that we’ve had, and maybe the most climate-friendly in the country right now,” Oregon Climate Executive Director Camila Thorndike said in an interview Tuesday. “States across the country have their eyes on Oregon, and we cannot let this opportunity pass by.”

Prices would rise in Oregon for concrete, gasoline, electricity and other fossil-fuel-intensive products. Dan Golden, Oregon Climate’s volunteer policy director, said Tuesday that their proposed tax of $30 per ton of carbon (increasing by $10 each year) would translate into about 27 cents per gallon of gasoline, increasing another 9 cents each year.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Pedestrian Deaths in Michigan Increased 41% Last Year (Detroit News)
  • Scientists Find Link Between Car Exhaust and Heart Disease (LA Times)
  • Taking Transit Healthier for Your Brain Than Driving to Work, Science Says (Business Insider)
  • Governing: Transportation Agencies Need More Female Engineers
  • Is Chicago BRT Getting Watered Down Too Much? (CityLab)
  • How Much Money Does Minnesota Need For Roads? That’s a Political Question (MinnPost)
  • Hartford Busway Gets Nod in Connecticut Governor’s Budget (Courant)
  • Las Vegas Caps Off Three-Year Transit Planning Effort (Las Vegas Review Journal)
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Utah Restaurants: If You’re Not Driving, Spend Your Money Somewhere Else

Restaurants in Salt Lake City are winning their battle to keep people without cars from ordering at drive-thru windows.

Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: WIkipedia

Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: Wikipedia

Lawmakers in Salt Lake City had passed a law mandating access to drive-thru windows for people walking and biking. Drive-thrus often stay open later than the indoor restaurant, and serve customers faster.

The law was met with a major lobbying effort by the Utah Restaurants Association, which apparently feared it would leave them open to lawsuits, according to the trade publication Associations Now.

“We cannot mix bikes and pedestrians with vehicles in our service lanes,” URA CEO Melva Sine told the National Restaurant Association in August. “What if someone slips or gets run over? The city doesn’t get sued, the restaurant gets sued. Restaurant owners need the flexibility to manage their own risk, just like the city manages its own risk.”

State legislation overruling the city law was introduced by Rep. Johnny Anderson, a Republican representing Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb. The bill has cleared the legislature but the governor could still choose to veto it, according to Associations Now.

It says something about the system we’ve designed when it’s perceived to be so dangerous that business associations lobby to prevent people from buying their stuff.