The Streetsies: Vote for the Best and Worst of 2015

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The new year is right around the corner and it’s time to take stock of the year that’s passed. In 2015, we saw some painful setbacks and some important strides in the national movement for better walking, biking, and transit.

You determine the winners and losers of 2015 with your votes. Yesterday we asked you to vote on the best urban street transformation of the year (the polls are still open). Here are five more categories for your consideration. Before you vote, check out our handy guides to the nominees below each poll.

Worst livable streets villain

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan threatened to kill the Purple Line in the D.C. suburbs and did kill the Red Line in Baltimore. Now civil rights leaders in Baltimore are asking the feds to investigate whether the latter decision discriminates against the city’s black community.

The Koch brothers and their army of benignly named think tanks and political action groups did their best to sabotage city transit projects, including Nashville BRT and Albuquerque BRT. They also tried to convince Congress, unsuccessfully, to cut all funding for biking, walking, and transit.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) established a task force to “investigate” groups that don’t conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, one of the street engineering manuals that’s infamously resistant to new ideas like protected bike lanes. Apparently, the old guard doesn’t want cities innovating to make streets safer for cycling without their express permission.

The Austin Police Department, who followed up a scandalous jaywalking arrest last year with an even more brutal and indefensible overreaction to the simple act of crossing the street.

 

Best tactical urbanism win

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Boston’s snow tunnel. When the MBTA plowed a mountain of snow directly into a bike lane, some Boston advocates embarrassed them by constructing a giant tunnel right through it.

Image: Dragonbeard/YouTube
Image: Dragonbeard/YouTube

Boston’s flower-protected bike lanes. There’s something about Boston that inspires guerrilla action. After the thaw, an enterprising bike advocate made a point about the need for protection along a major bike lane with some potted mums and sunflowers, which finally jolted the city into installing some physical separation.

Photo: Jonathan Fertig
Photo: Jonathan Fertig

Akron’s 500-person dinner in the middle of a highway. ‘Nuf said.

Photo: Jason Segedy
Photo: Jason Segedy

Worst boondoggle

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Houston’s Katy Freeway. Just a few years after a $2.8 billion widening, this highway is more congested than it was before. Very Texas.

The Braves Stadium relocation. The taxpayer subsidized decision to drop a huge sports stadium in the middle of one of the region’s worst traffic snarls is already looking like a huge mistake.

Miami’s subsidized megamall. The perfectly named “American Dream Miami,” a 200-acre, $4 billion megamall, would be bigger than the Mall of America, and — probably — a bigger taxpayer shakedown than New Jersey’s “American Dream Meadowlands.” The same company is behind both projects. Despite the entirely predictable fiscal and environmental disaster, Miami leaders want to shower the developer with subsidies.

 

Best Sign of Progress

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Protected intersections. Salt Lake City and Davis, California, have brought this Dutch-inspired design to America, and now other cities are racing to install them.

FHWA’s proposed street design rule changes. FHWA appears to have had a come-to-Jesus moment, proposing throwing out 11 of the 13 highway-inspired standards it requires on streets that aren’t highways. These standards forced cities to design streets for high speeds in urban areas where the exact opposite treatment is needed. Good riddance (assuming the change is finalized).

Paris’s carfree day. Paris kicked cars off center-city streets for a day leading up to the COP21 climate talks, and by all accounts it was a huge relief, “like a headache lifting.”

Portland’s carfree Tilikum Crossing. With space for walking, biking, and transit, not for cars, this is an impressive bridge, even for Portland.

Houston’s bus system redesign. Yes, you can make a better bus system without an infusion of cash. Houston Metro, working with consultant Jarrett Walker, overhauled its bus system to deliver frequent service where it’s needed. The changes are beginning to inspire other cities, like Columbus, Ohio.

 

Biggest Letdown

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The status-quo five-year transportation bill, funded by accounting gimmicks. Thanks, Congress.

Camden, New Jersey, won the “Golden Crater” for its waterfront scars, then decided to make its parking problem worse.

Toronto votes to rebuild elevated waterfront highway instead of tearing it down, while its cooler cousin Vancouver does the opposite.

Atlanta Streetcar’s underwhelming ridership numbers. Eek!

Boulder removed a protected bike lane that was working well because some people complained about congestion. Boulder, we thought we knew you.

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