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What People Think of a Citywide 25 MPH Speed Limit in Decatur

More than two-thirds of Decatur residents support a citywide default 25 mph speed limit, according to the 2014 Decatur Citizen Survey

Last year, New York City enacted a citywide 25 mph speed limit, a central plank in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero street safety platform. Are other American cities going to follow suit?

Outside Atlanta, Decatur, Georgia, has been mulling a reduction of its default speed limit for a few years. The results of a 2014 survey indicate that it would be broadly popular, with support from two-thirds of residents, reports Network blog Decatur Metro. Like many American cities, Decatur has some major streets where the state DOT sets the limit, but the effect of a new 25 mph policy would still reach far:

As you can see, over half of Decatur residents either strongly or somewhat support a 25 mph speed limit on Decatur roads. Notice the question says “most” Decatur roads. State route speed limits, like Scott Boulevard, are controlled by the state.

…basically all Decatur residential streets would be affected if Decatur implemented this new across-the-board speed limit of 25 mph. The city held public input sessions on this topic back in 2013. If the city moves forward with this change at some point in the future, the major change would be on 35 mph streets, like Commerce, Clairemont, College, South Candler, West Howard, etc.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network: Streets.mn posts a great map that shows how Minnesota’s road system functions as a gigantic tax transfer from cities to rural areas. Stop and Move wonders if Fresno’s infill development plans can withstand Fresno NIMBYs. And The Urbanist has a photo update on Seattle’s newest protected bike lane.

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Today’s Headlines

  • GOP Continues to Give Mixed Signals on Gas Tax Hike (AP)
  • Alexandria, VA, Gets $50M Closer to New Metro Station (WaPo)
  • Despite DC Metro Incident, Transit Remains Safer Than Driving (WaPo)
  • Opinion: Don’t Miss the Opportunity of Milwaukee Streetcar (Journal Sentinel)
  • Transit Startups Moovit and Bridj Raise Big Bucks (Silicon Valley Biz, BostInno)
  • How to Right-Size Pricing and Supply of Parking (Roll Call, CityLab)
  • Miami Replaces Light Rail Vision With BRT (Miami Today)
  • Proposal to Cut Overnight PATH Service Now Dead (NJ.com)
  • AP Says the Term is “Ride-Hailing,” Not “Ride-Sharing” for Uber and Lyft (GGW)
  • Charlotte Streetcar Launch Delayed For Three Months (The State)
Streetsblog NYC 31 Comments

Jay Walder on What’s Next for America’s Biggest Bike-Share Company

Last fall, former MTA chief Jay Walder took over as CEO of Alta Bicycle Share, part of a restructuring that injected new resources and expertise into a company that had struggled to keep up with the demands of running bike-share systems in half a dozen major American cities.

Jay Walder. Photo: fortunelivemedia/Flickr

This morning, the company came out with a new name, Motivate, one of the first public announcements in what’s expected to be a year of rapid improvement and growth. (Another piece of news dropped last week: Jersey City has picked the company to run its new bike-share system, which will be accessible to Citi Bike members.)

I got a few minutes this afternoon to chat with Walder about the new name, the status of the Citi Bike overhaul, and his vision for the company. Here’s our Q&A, edited for length and clarity.

What led to renaming the company and why did you go with “Motivate”?

It was a requirement to rename the company after taking over. We engaged in a discussion of our values, and what we want to achieve. We think it fits in with the way people think of [bike-share] in their life. When I think about it, I use words like “action” and “energy” and “movement.” I think it also reflects that as a company we have to be continually moving and changing and evolving in the cities and urban areas where we are.

After we ran a short post this morning about the name change, readers immediately wanted to know more about efforts to make Citi Bike more reliable. What can you tell us about how that’s going?

When we took over, we said we would be working over the winter to use this time to make Citi Bike more reliable. We said we would overhaul all 6,000 bikes in our fleet, and that is underway right now.

Read more…

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Transit and Equity Advocate Stephanie Pollack to Lead MassDOT

Stephanie Pollack was one of the first transportation experts who made a serious impression on me. A few weeks after I started working at Streetsblog, at my first Rail~volution conference, she gave a presentation on the complex relationship between transit, gentrification, and car ownership. Her energy, intellectual rigor, and passion for social justice were apparent in her nuanced work exploring the reasons why car ownership rates tend to rise in neighborhoods with new transit services — and how it hurts not just the transportation system and the environment, but the poor.

Stephanie Pollack, a thought leader on how housing and transportation policy impacts minorities and low-income people, will be the new secretary of MassDOT. Photo: ##http://www.northeastern.edu/news/faculty-experts/stephanie-pollack/##Northeastern##

Stephanie Pollack, a thought leader on how housing and transportation policy affects minorities and low-income people, will be the new secretary of MassDOT. Photo: Northeastern

The person who opened a Rail~volution session on transit and equity with, “I spent a couple of decades as a transit and equity advocate before I went into academia,” has just been named the director of a state department of transportation.

By a Republican governor.

When Streetsblog fretted about what a Charlie Baker victory over Democrat Martha Coakley could mean for transportation, naming such a firebrand as his transportation secretary seemed unthinkable. But perhaps Baker will continue the legacy of moderate Republican Massachusetts governors who care about smart growth.

Or perhaps he was simply impressed by Pollack’s résumé, including her leadership at Northeastern University’s Kitty & Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and her service on numerous teams and panels to help design city- and statewide public transportation and housing policy.

The Boston Globe’s headline yesterday about Pollack’s nomination read, “Baker names gas tax advocate as transit chief,” noting that “Baker has said he does not plan to raise taxes.” But Pollack’s history is much more interesting than her position on the gas tax.

Her research focuses on the intersection between transportation and equity. How can planners bring transit services into a neighborhood without bringing gentrification along with it? Are all communities equally consulted in the lead-up to major transportation changes? Are higher gas taxes “elitist or equitable”? (You can guess by that Globe headline which side she comes down on. Actually, don’t just guess – this short presentation of her conclusions is worth perusing.)

Read more…

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Jane Jacobs’ 1958 Warning About the Loss of Street Life Still Resonates

The mistakes of the urban renewal era are supposed to be behind us. Super-blocks, blank walls, and the publicly subsidized demolition of varied buildings to make way for monolithic districts are relics of a bygone era. Right?

Renderings of Louisville mega-developments emphasize the skyline, not street level. Image via Broken Sidewalk

Branden Klayko, who writes about Louisville at Broken Sidewalk, doesn’t think so. While development practices have changed in the last 50 years, Louisville still has a propensity to build mega-projects. Klayko writes that Jane Jacobs’ classic warning about the destruction of urban fabric and street life, “Downtown is for People,” feels just as relevant today as when Forbes published it in 1958:

“These projects will not revitalize downtown; they will deaden it,” Jacobs added. “For they work at cross-purposes to the city. They banish the street. They banish its function. They banish its variety.”

I don’t mean to compare Louisville’s recent large-scale developments outright to the mega-projects Jacobs is lamenting. The proposals from decades past were often far more destructive. But Louisville’s big proposals today are equally changing the nature of the city. And we must make sure we know exactly how. Jacobs’ lessons are certainly just as applicable today as they were half a century ago…

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 21 Comments

New Name for Alta Bicycle Share: “Motivate”

With a new name, Motivate is telling cities more bike-share stations are on the way. Photo: Citi Bike

After new management took over in 2014, injecting capital and expertise that’s expected to turn around a sputtering operation, the company formerly known as Alta Bicycle Share has adopted a new name: Motivate. (A verb! Very active transportation-y.)

Motivate operates bike-share systems in New York, DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, making it the dominant player in the American bike-share market. While the company isn’t releasing details about how it plans to upgrade the problematic software and equipment that have held back system growth in those cities and stalled the launch of systems elsewhere, today’s announcement promised a new wave of expansion.

“As cities change and grow more rapidly than ever, only bike share is flexible and personalized to keep pace,” CEO Jay Walder said in the statement. “Now, with the backing of new ownership, Motivate is positioned to deliver even better service to cities and bring bike share to scale.”

Walder told U.S. News that changes are underway now in preparation for peak bike-share season. “We’re trying to use the winter to be able to get things done,” he said.

Public presentations about adding Citi Bike stations started up last month in New York.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Massachusetts Governor Appoints Gas Tax Advocate as Transpo Chief (Boston Globe)
  • John Thune Eyes Corporate Tax Overhaul to Fund Transportation (Politico, Roll Call)
  • Leaders Named for House T&I Committee (Progressive Railroading)
  • Milwaukee Mayor Shows Passion For Streetcar (Express Milwaukee)
  • Our Cell Phones Can Provide a Trove of Travel Data (Roll Call)
  • What’s the Difference Between Streetcar and Light Rail? (GGW)
  • Chuck Schumer Pushes for Transit Investment Along Buffalo Route (Buffalo News)
  • Three Brazilian Cities Honored for Sustainable Transport (City Fix)
  • Baltimore Wants to Give Free Bikes to Schoolkids, But Are Streets Ready for It? (Baltimore Brew)
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Talking Headways Podcast: The Year Ahead in Transit, With Yonah Freemark

Image: Yonah Freemark, ##http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2015/01/05/openings-and-construction-starts-planned-for-2015/##The Transport Politic##

Graphic: Yonah Freemark/The Transport Politic

Think you’re all caught up on the latest transit news? Listening to Yonah Freemark of the Transport Politic and Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire (my lovely co-host) geek out on the transit construction projects of 2014 and 2015 is a humbling, and surprisingly energizing, experience.

podcast icon logo

You can prep for this episode by reading Yonah’s seventh annual compendium of “Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2015,” or you can just hit play right now.

You thought the Oakland airport connector was a good idea just because it’s transit? Get schooled. Didn’t know the country was getting its first car-free bridge just for buses/rail/bikes/peds? Learn about it here. Wondering how escalator length affects subway ridership? Yup, you’ll hear it here first, folks.

With that, I present: Yonah and Jeff on the transit starts of 2014 and 2015.

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In Search of Places With “Good Bones”

What do people mean when they say a city has “good bones”? Well, if the streets are laid out in a walkable grid pattern, that can be the “skeleton” for a healthy urban environment.

The key to strong urban areas is "good bones," says Robert Steuteville. Photo: Better Cities & Towns!

Healthy urban places depend on the “good bones” of a walkable street network, says Robert Steuteville. Photo: Better Cities & Towns

The United States used to regularly build places with “good bones” up until around the 1920s, writes Robert Steuteville at Better Cities & Towns. With walkable places in high demand, he argues that local governments should be focused on maximizing the value of places with good bones and figuring out how to create new ones:

A place with good bones may still need a lot of work before the streets are truly walkable. Times Square is a good example. This great intersection was traffic-engineered into an enormous confluence of automobiles in the 20th Century; it wasn’t repaired as a great public space until the 21st Century. All over America, traffic engineering compromised street grids. In places that have decent or good bones, the street network can be repaired — often delivering an exponential return on investment.

Good bones are in shorter supply in the suburbs, but they do exist in historic villages and towns that were overrun by sprawl in the last half of the 20th Century. Many of these communities are are now reviving. Less obvious opportunities await in the postwar suburbs, those built from the mid-‘40s to the mid-‘60s. Many of those have decent bones. Residential streets from this era tend to be curvy, but they generally connect and are not too wide.

Later suburbs are much harder to repair. Where development is taking place on a broad scale, however, communities can lay out a plan for a mixed-use neighborhood. This is not technically difficult, and it can create substantial value. The modern transportation and land-use system is set up to do the opposite of a grid, so this effort will not be easy — but it will pay off well over time.

Steuteville adds cities should be asking themselves two questions: Where do good bones exist and how can we improve those places? And where is there potential to create new places with good bones?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region examines Chris Christie’s decision to punt on Port Authority reforms. Bike Portland shames a travel site that describes “running cyclists off the road” as a local rite of passage. And Streets.mn argues that biking and walking should be part of the state of Minnesota’s transportation bill.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Obama Administration to Map Out 30-Year Transportation Plan (WaPo)
  • Transportation Wonks Converge This Week in Washington (Roll Call)
  • California Takes Two Big Steps Forward on Climate Change, But Then There’s Keystone… (The Hill)
  • Gas Tax Hikes Starting to Look More Realistic at Both Federal and State Level (Nat’l Journal, Planetizen)
  • Minnesota House Speaker: State Won’t Fund Minneapolis Light Rail (MPR News)
  • How Far Will People Walk to Reach Transit? (City Lab)
  • Uber to Share Valuable Trip Data With City Governments (WaPo)
  • New Orleans Launches Streetcar Construction (WAFB)
  • Oahu Gets Guidance From NYC, Seattle Bike-shares (Metro Oahu)