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Posts from the "Philadelphia" Category

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Vision Zero Momentum Builds From Philly to Portland

Eight years ago, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia challenged candidate Michael Nutter to build transformative, protected bike lanes, and he did. The Coalition's goal for the next mayor: Vision Zero. Photo: ##http://bicyclecoalition.org/our-campaigns/biking-in-philly/spruce-and-pine-street/#sthash.T6ljm6kF.dpbs##Bicycle Coalition##

Eight years ago, a campaign promise yielded this buffered bike lane on Philadelphia’s Spruce Street. Will the next mayor promise Vision Zero? Photo: Bicycle Coalition

This Friday, more than 200 movement leaders for safe transportation will gather in New York City for a symposium on Vision Zero — how New York and Sweden did it, and how their city can too. New York’s leadership on the issue has been inspiring: If you can make it (to zero) there, you’ll make it (to zero) anywhere.

And Wednesday, Advocacy Advance — a partnership of the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking that helps local groups maximize their efforts — will announce $10,000 awards to groups trying to make Vision Zero a reality in their cities: the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and a partnership between Portland’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Oregon Walks.

Portland has already announced a Vision Zero goal and is now working to define its strategy, amid competing ideas from business interests and safety activists. Philadelphia, despite its progressive leadership, hasn’t yet embraced the idea and activists are still struggling to determine whether zero is even a sensible goal. After all, a commitment to zero deaths, unfortunately, most likely sets a city up for failure.

In February, Portland’s transportation director, Leah Treat, announced that Vision Zero would be part of the city’s next two-year action plan. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Oregon Walks want to make sure that one component of that commitment is the allocation of significant funding for safe streets.

Portland officials will vote next week on a proposed new street fee, the details of which are still being worked out. BTA and Oregon Walks hope the final $40 million package will be scaled for different income levels and that at least 45 percent of it will be dedicated to safety projects. The Portland Business Alliance is trying to reduce the fees for high earners and wants the entire sum to pay for maintenance.

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Change Coming to Famous Philly “Sneckdown” Street, But Is It Enough?

This Philadelphia intersection was in need of some pedestrian improvements, as the patterns in the snow helped illustrate. Image: This Old City

This Philadelphia intersection could use some pedestrian improvements, as the patterns in the snow helped illustrate. Image: This Old City

Do you remember this image? Jon Geeting at This Old City used this touched-up photo, taken after a huge snowfall in Philadelphia, to illustrate how lots of asphalt at this intersection could be repurposed to make it more pedestrian-friendly. His post was a viral event in the great “sneckdown” mania this winter, which called attention to how leftover snow patterns can help envision safer street designs.

Well, the city of Philadelphia is working now to build a more pedestrian-friendly intersection here, at the corner of East Passyunk Avenue, 10th and Reed Street. Philly Curbed reports:

The Passyunk Post reported back in June that the work could cost upwards of “$400,000″ and includes traffic calming techniques like expanding the curbs to shorten the distance pedestrians have to walk, improved signaling and the installation of ADA compliant ramps.

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Four Mayors on Why They’re Building Out Their Cities’ Bike Networks

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Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, AC Wharton of Memphis, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, and Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, WV, kicked off the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference today.

A growing number of mayors want to make big strides on bike policy, and they need smart advocates to help them do it.

Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Selin of Morgantown, and A.C. Wharton of Memphis addressed the opening session at the 2014 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference, now underway in Pittsburgh. The mayors highlighted their own cities’ efforts to create safer conditions for biking and walking, and shared their thoughts about how their cities have overcome key obstacles and how advocates can make an impact.

In all four cities, mayors called investment in walking and cycling infrastructure a smart long-term policy with numerous community benefits. “It’s healthy, it’s good for the economy, and our citizens,” said Philadelphia’s Nutter. They each cited constructive partnerships with advocates, and intensive listening to community concerns, as keys to advancement. Selin of Morgantown said, “I enjoy bicycling, but I can’t put it forth as my own agenda. It has to come from the community.”

Each mayor also highlighted how their bike networks will bridge social divides within their cities, and they pointed out that city mayors, unlike legislators, are obliged to make things work: “We’re the government of last resort,” said Memphis’s Wharton. “We can’t pass our responsibilities down to anyone else.”

Martha Roskowski from PeopleForBikes led off by introducing Isabella, a fictional 12-year-old girl. She urged planners and advocates in the audience to design bikeways that people like Isabella would enjoy — and highlighted how protected bike lanes have multiplied across the country. Yet in city after city, advocates alone can’t build new bike networks. “The single determinant” that best ensures success, Roskowski said, “is a really great mayor.”

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Jury Awards “Precedent-Setting” $2.4 Million to Doored Cyclist

A cyclist who was seriously injured in a Philadelphia collision in 2011 won a large settlement earlier this month. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/philly_bike_coalition/8019843138/##Philly Bike Coalition / Flickr##

A cyclist who was seriously injured in a Philadelphia collision in 2011 won a large settlement earlier this month. Photo: Philly Bike Coalition / Flickr

In a decision that local advocates say delivers a “strong message” to drivers, a Philadelphia jury awarded a cyclist $2.4 million in damages earlier this month for injuries she sustained in a 2011 collision.

Ashley McKean was seriously injured when a driver doored her and she was then struck from behind by a van driver who was following too closely. The driver who doored McKean was found to be 43 percent at fault for the collision, the driver of the van 36 percent and McKean herself 21 percent, Philly Magazine reports. After the collision, the driver of the van reportedly told her she should have been riding on the sidewalk — which is illegal.

According to her attorney, Chris Brill, the formerly “athletic” McKean was lucky to survive but can no longer run or walk long distances. Brill said he’s not aware of such a large settlement ever being awarded in the U.S. for a dooring injury. Sarah Clark Stewart of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia agreed that the award is significant.

“I think that it does send a very strong message that bicyclists need to be taken seriously, and their safety needs to be taken seriously,” she said.

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Is Philly’s 24-Hour Subway Service the Wave of the Future?

This weekend, Philadelphia ran subways all night on two of its lines for the first time in 23 years, and ridership jumped. The city normally runs a night-owl bus that mirrors the subway between midnight and 5 a.m., but the early Sunday morning subway ridership this weekend was 35 percent higher than the average for the bus.

Blogger Conrad Benner pushed for 24/7 SEPTA service -- and got it. Photo: ##http://streetsdept.com/2014/06/18/midnight-thirty-subway-ride/##StreetsDept##

Blogger Conrad Benner pushed for 24/7 SEPTA service. 24/2 is a pretty good start. Photo: StreetsDept

The return to overnight service on two lines doesn’t yet put Philly in the ranks of New York and Chicago, the only two U.S. cities with round-the-clock rail. After all, Philly’s all-night service experiment is only on weekends, only for the summer, and only on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines — at least for now. But there are reasons to think that improving late-night transit can be a boon for the entire system.

“Metropolitan areas across the United States — whether their primary mass transit system is a metro rail or a commuter train or a bus network — are recognizing that city residents can’t get by on great rush-hour service alone,” wrote Eric Jaffe in CityLab, then called Atlantic Cities, in February. “They need frequent, reliable transit all hours of the day and long into the night.”

Jaffe quoted transportation planner David King of Columbia University: “The growth in transit ridership is happening in the off-peak hours,” said King. “It’s strange. You get on a train at five o’clock in the morning and it’s jammed.”

Philly already had late-night transit — it was just a bus, rather than a train. But many people ignored that option, choosing instead to pay for a taxi or just making sure to be home before the subways closed at midnight. What is it about all-night subway service that draws them when the night-owl bus did not?

Maybe people feel safer waiting in a subway station in the wee hours, rather than a bus stop. But there’s a safety argument to be made for the night-owl bus too: Although the bus is supposed to follow the same limited-stop route as the subway, drivers are required to stop anywhere riders want to get off, meaning shorter walks.

Or maybe people prefer having one option that works no matter what time it is, rather than having to keep track of various schedules.

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Why the Senate Transportation Bill Will Devastate Transit

Transit officials lined up today to make clear that holding transit spending at current levels — as the Senate’s transportation authorization bill does — will put transit systems at risk of falling further into dangerous disrepair.

Beverly Scott of the MBTA warned that current funding levels, as continued by the proposed Senate transportation bill, are "woefully insufficient."

Beverly Scott of the MBTA warned that current funding levels, as continued by the proposed Senate transportation bill, are “woefully insufficient.”

The backlog for transit maintenance and replacement stands “conservatively” at $86 billion, according to the Federal Transit Administration. That backlog is expected to keep growing at a rate of $2.5 billion each year without a significant infusion of funds.

To put it another way, the country needs to spend $2.5 billion more per year – from federal, state and local sources – just to keep the state of the nation’s transit systems from getting even worse.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was determined to expose the shortcomings of the bill Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently shepherded through the Environment and Public Works Committee. While the bill’s transit title hasn’t been written yet, EPW has been clear about its intentions to keep spending at current levels plus inflation. That means no help toward the $2.5 billion boost needed to keep things from getting worse.

Menendez chaired a hearing today of the Banking Committee — the very committee tasked with writing the transit title within the framework established by EPW — to demonstrate the problem with the bill’s funding levels.

“By a simple yes or no,” Menendez asked the transit officials before him, “does anyone on the panel believe that current funding levels are enough to help you achieve a state of good repair?”

“They are insufficient,” answered Joseph Casey, general manager of Philadelphia’s SEPTA.

“Woefully insufficient,” added Beverly Scott, head of Boston’s MBTA and a nationally respected transportation visionary.

“No sir,” said Gary Thomas of Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

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Homes in Suburban Philadelphia Are Worth More If They’re Close to Transit

Price premiums on houses in suburban Philly. Houses located very close to transit stations with high service levels sold for 10 percent more than those three miles from a station or farther. Image: Econsult Solutions

Living near a SEPTA station can add as much as $37,300 in value to your suburban Philadelphia home.

That’s according to a study by Econsult Solutions Inc., commissioned by the transit agency to analyze sales records for 88,300 single-family homes in the three counties sold between 2005 and 2012. Researchers found that the price premium for transit accessibility ranged from less than 1 percent to 10 percent, depending on how close the home is to the station, how many parking spots the station has, and frequency of service. Researchers found that the price premium fizzled out at a distance of three miles from the station.

Taken together, SEPTA service adds big bucks to the wealth of homeowners in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Transit access adds a combined total of $6 billion to property values in these three counties, the study found. That’s an average increase of $7,900 across the approximately 800,000 homes in the suburban Philadelphia region. But even this is a low estimate of the value of transit to residents of greater Philly, Econsult reports, since it doesn’t include property increases in Philadelphia or any other economic benefits like reduced congestion.

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Parking Madness: Tulsa vs. Philly [Updated]

Parking Madness, our hunt for the worst parking crater in an American downtown, continues today with two formidable contenders.

In one corner we have Tulsa: Oklahoma’s second largest city, birthplace of the teen sensation Hanson (mmmBOP!), home to nearly 400,000 people. In the other corner, Philadelphia: cradle of democracy, birthplace of the Fresh Prince, and home of the cheesesteak.

Don’t forget to vote at the bottom. Now, without further ado… Show us what you got, Tulsa!

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Road Diets Are Changing American Cities for the Better

If it can work on Edgewater Drive in Orlando, it can work anywhere.

Orlando's Edgewater Drive after a road diet: safer and more active. Image: Project for Public Spaces

This road diet — or “street rightsizing” — removed one traffic lane on a four lane road through 1.5 miles of the city’s College Park neighborhood. Since then, traffic collisions are down 34 percent. Pedestrian activity increased 23 percent and cycling rose 30 percent.

Virtually none of the problems opponents predicted have materialized. Immediate property values have held steady with regional trends. Nearby streets haven’t seen a major increase in traffic. And because the project was a simple striping, the road diet cost the city only an additional $50,000 over a basic resurfacing.

So why doesn’t every city in America get busy “rightsizing”? A new guide from Project for Public Spaces seeks to make that possible. PPS’s Rightsizing Streets Guide highlights case studies and best practices from Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa, Poughkeepsie, and elsewhere to show jurisdictions how they, too, can right-size their streets.

Philadelphia took a unique approach. “The Porch” project outside 30th Street Station removed only parking and replaced it with a wide sidewalk, seating, and public gathering space. This new destination, featured last year on Streetfilms, seats 250 people and is home to regular events like yoga and farmer’s markets, and it is a favorite spot for West Philadelphia workers to eat lunch on nice days.

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Philly Bike Win: Complete Streets Bill Sails Through City Council Committee

Big congrats to the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, which had a “pretty cool success” Thursday, in the words of Policy Director Sarah Clark Stuart. The entire Streets and Services Committee of the City Council voted to approve a complete streets bill, advancing what could be one of the strongest municipal complete streets policies in the nation.

A road diet on Allegheny Avenue added bike lanes while imposing order on car traffic. Image: Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition

The bill requires both public and private entities to consider all users when resurfacing or renovating a street or sidewalk. That should bring safer street design and better amenities for people who get around by walking, biking, or riding transit.

These seemingly dry, technical changes to traffic and zoning codes will make Philly’s streets safer for everyone, the Bike Coalition says. The bill has the support of Mayor Michael Nutter, whose top transportation official testified in support of the bill.

“Philadelphians walk, bike and take transit to work more than almost any other city in America,” said Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler. “An important step in making our streets safe for all travelers is to modernize the code to reflect the changing needs of our city.”

Recommended street treatments and designs — including everything from sidewalk bulb-outs to covered bus shelters to bike corrals — will be included in a “Complete Streets Handbook” [PDF] that combines the recommendations of a slew of different city plans and reports. Before, those ideas did not have the weight of law behind them. With this bill, they’ll be part of Philadelphia code.

“They wanted to be able to have legal authority to say that the handbook needed to be reviewed,” Stuart said. “The thinking of the Streets Department and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation was that by authorizing handbook and having language in there that all projects must be reviewed by it, that that was what was going to drive everyone to consider it as much as possible.”

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