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Transportation Nation

Following Public Pressure, Metro Will Add More Bus Service to DC's Busiest Corridor

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Commuters at 16th and U Streets NW

Commuters at 16th and U Streets NW

Additional morning rush hour service is coming to Metro’s busiest bus corridor in Washington after the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission took commuters’ complaints to the transit authority.

The S bus line on 16th Street NW, a historic gateway into downtown D.C., is struggling to meet ridership demand. Buses are often packed before reaching the southern stretch of the route and cannot squeeze additional passengers aboard, leaving rush hour commuters waiting in long lines at bus stops in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, and near Dupont Circle. Some commuters eventually give up and hop in taxis.

“I went out to the bus stops and I saw taxicabs pull up to the long lines, seeing a business opportunity and offering to take them downtown, because the buses weren’t working for our city,” says Kishan Putta, a commissioner on the Dupont Circle ANC.

Putta tried to solicit commuters’ concerns on Facebook and Twitter but drew his largest response the old fashioned way: he put up posters at bus stops asking commuters to contact him.

“We took those stories and those complaints to Metro and they agreed to meet us,” in January, Putta says. “They had to admit in public this is a big problem.”

Putta provided the following example of a typical commuter complaint about crowding on the S line.

“I actively chose to walk 45 minutes to work during every day this week rather than take the bus despite the temperatures in the teens and howling winds,” the commuter’s complaint said. “On the one day when I decided it would be better for my health and well-being to take the bus I waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes.”

“Just this week it has taken me 45-50 minutes to get from 16th & V to 14th & I, and anywhere from 4 to 6 buses have passed the stop each morning because they are too crowded to accept any more passengers,” another complaint said.

Metro has been aware of S line bus crowding for years but its efforts haven’t kept up with growing ridership. In 2009 the S9, which makes limited stops on 16th Street NW, was added during morning and evening rush hours to alleviate crowding.

“Bus ridership remains strong especially with all the new residents moving into the district,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “There are new residential units along this corridor and so we want to make sure we are providing service for the folks who want it.”

Stessel says Metro has yet to decide on a name for the new S service, but says it will begin on Monday, March 25. An additional bus will arrive at 16th Street and Harvard NW every 12 minutes from 7:30 to 9:15 weekday mornings. A total of nine additional trips will go down 16th Street, then left on I St to 14th Street. Then the buses will head back to Columbia Road NW. The extra capacity will carry between 400 and 500 commuters on a busy morning.

“This issue didn’t just crop up two months ago. We’ve been working on the S line and broader issues related to the S line for more than a year now,” Stessel says. “That said, the relationship we’ve had over the last two months with the ANC has been nothing but constructive.”

“I will take my hat off to Metro,” says Putta. “They were responsive. We worked together on coming up with possible options.”

Still no answer to 16th Street traffic

Putta concedes that while the additional morning rush hour bus service will help move commuters south on 16th Street, the district faces a bigger task in mitigating the corridor’s notorious traffic congestion.

“As with a lot of these long-term solutions, you would need to do a transition so that you would hopefully get less people driving. And of course, the physical limitations of the road are definitely an issue,” says Putta, referring to the possibility of creating a bus-only lane on 16th Street during rush hour.

Metro’s Stessel says the transit authority is working on a solution.

“It’s an ongoing dialogue that we have not only with DDOT but with all of the jurisdictions,” Stessel says. “A major milestone will be achieved about a year from now when we launch what is true BRT (bus rapid transit) in the region for the first time. That will be on the Virginia side of the river in partnership with Alexandria and Arlington.”

The Route 1 Transitway will run buses every six minutes in dedicated lanes from Braddock Road in Arlington north to Crystal City.

“We hope that will spark other jurisdictions to consider, if not true BRT, perhaps traffic signal prioritization or more bus lanes,” says Stessel. “From a public policy perspective, if you have a vehicle that has 50 people in it, that really should get priority over a car that has one person in it.”

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The Brian Lehrer Show

East Flatbush Violence: Community Leaders React

Friday, March 15, 2013

Details surrounding the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray in East Flatbush are still emerging. And in the wake of the incident, protests and rioting have touched on larger issues of youth violence, police tactics, and economic development. We convene a conversation with Pastor Gilford Monrose, Mt. Zion Church of God (7th Day), activist and community liaisonShanduke McPhatter of G-M.A.C.C. Inc. (Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes Inc.); and Eric Waterman, president of East Flatbush Village, a community youth services organization.

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Transportation Nation

U.N.: Over 1 Million Die In Traffic Crashes Each Year - and Many Are in Poor Countries

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The World Health Organization says 1.24 million people die each year as a result of traffic crashes, which are the leading cause of death for people between 15 and 29.

The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, released Thursday, also estimates crashes injure between 20 and 50 million people each year.

Worldwide, the report says pedestrians and cyclists constitute 27% of all road deaths. But "in some countries this figure is higher than 75%, demonstrating decades of neglect of the needs of these road users in current transport policies, in favour of motorized transport."

(The above video, which has hair-raising footage of schoolchildren crossing roads in developing countries, provides ample visual evidence of this.)

There's also a strong link between income and road deaths. While wealthier countries have made progress, the toll is rising elsewhere. "91% of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately half of the world's vehicles."

(Read TN's report on the link between income and pedestrian fatalities in Newark, NJ)

from the "Global Status Report on Road Safety"

Africa has the highest death rate per 100,000 residents — 24.1, compared with 16.1 in North and South America. The European Region has the highest inequalities in road traffic fatality rates, with low-income countries having rates nearly three times higher than high-income countries (18.6 per 100 000 population compared to 6.3 per 100 000). The Western Pacific and South East Asia regions have the highest proportion of motorcyclist deaths.

The report says the first step to reducing traffic mortality is a group of laws aimed at drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints. Currently, only 28 percent of countries -- covering 7 percent of the world's population -- have laws addressing all of these factors.

Other steps are making road infrastructure safer, ensuring vehicles meet international crash testing standards, and improving post-crash care.

The report was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City.

Read the entire report below.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013

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Transportation Nation

Manhattan Buses Will Have Real-Time Status Updates ... A Bit Later than Planned

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Real-time bus information is coming to spreading around the NYC transit system. The New York City version of live updates on bus location known as Bus Time will expand to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. But those three boroughs won't be fully wired until April 2014 -- four months later than expected. The MTA says Manhattan will have the service by year's end, the other boroughs will come later.

Bus Time currently operates only in the Bronx and Staten Island. The MTA says the delay in rolling out the service to other areas is because of Sandy-related delays. Right now, riders in Staten Island and the Bronx can use their cell phones or computers to text or look up exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop, or as the MTA puts it, "Bus Time takes the wondering and uncertainty out of waiting for the bus. "

Bus Time, customers can send a text message to 511123 to find out where the nearest bus is ... if that bus is GPS tracked in the system. While other cities have real-time location data for their fleets, Manhattan's cavernous avenues have proved a challenge in designing a reliable GPS-based system. The NYC MTA operates the largest bus fleet in North America with 5,700 buses and about 300 routes.

For more info on Bus Time and to see which routes are tracked in real time, go to the Bus Time website.

 

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Transportation Nation

The Golden Gate Bridge Says Goodbye to Toll-Takers

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

(photo courtesy of Dawnette Reed)

(Danielle Vernon - San Francisco, KQED) Dawnette Reed started working at the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop one summer when she was 17. Now, at 43, she's a toll collector, and loves it. She’s even got her favorite lanes, Number 1 and 2.

But by the morning commute on Wednesday, March 27, Reed and the other eight full-time toll-takers and 29 part-time workers will be out of a job when the bridge goes to all-electronic tolling. The Golden Gate Highway and Transportation District estimates the change will save $16 million during the first eight years. And, they expect traffic to move much faster.

But for Reed, the change is like losing a loved one.

"We've grown to become a family at the bridge. And we loved coming to work. We won't actually believe it until we see it, " Reed says. "There's so many reasons customers still need us there for."

Drivers ask toll collectors for help during health emergencies, like heart attacks or diabetic shock. Toll plaza personnel routinely report accidents and drunk drivers, and they give directions to the many out-of-towners who get lost.

Golden Gate spokeswoman Mary Currie says the bridge district will run patrols to help motorists. And, she says, in an emergency, drivers can always call 911.

"It's not going to be a duty that is theirs and that is going to be missing," Currie says. "We do that on a regular basis."

Most toll collectors already have other jobs lined up within the bridge district, and a handful have retired. But quitting work isn’t an option for Reed, and she’s not interested in taking another district job. "I have the years, but I don't have the age, so I can't retire yet," Reed says. "The bridge has offered us positions, mostly they're pushing us to be bus drivers for Golden Gate Bridge. That's not what I want to do. A lot of people say, just go do it, just go do it. Well, every job is not for everyone."

Not everyone is sad to see the toll drivers go though. Brian Kelly, from Napa, says it's just progress.

"I don’t think that’s a reason to stay away from technology, and I think it saves assets," Kelly said.

Since electronic tolling with FasTrak was added to the Golden Gate Bridge in July 2000, wait times during the morning commute dropped from as long as 20 minutes to under a minute, according to the district.

Starting on March 27, motorists will have three ways to pay for the bridge: FasTrack, a license plate account, or through a one-time payment system. Drivers can open a License Plate Account that charges a registered credit card every time the car crosses the bridge. Otherwise motorists can make a one-time payment up to 30 days before or up to 48 hours after crossing the bridge online, by phone or eventually at "cash payment locations."

Listen to the audio version of this story here.

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Transportation Nation

How A Fake Train Station Could Improve Public Transportation In Miami

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

(Arianna Prothero, WLRNOver the weekend, public transit advocates in Miami built a temporary train station along an imaginary transit line. They called it the Purple Line, sticking with the theme of Miami’s other two commuter rail lines, the Orange and the Green. Organizers of the project say this mock train station is going to help improve public transit in the city.

One of the goals of the Purple Line project is to highlight Miami’s lack of real train stations by building a fake one along some unused train tracks between to two popular neighborhoods, Midtown and the Design District.

For people in Miami, a city whose commuter rail system lags behind many other major metropolitan areas, it may be a little difficult to imagine a train station with bustling crowds, vendors and live music. The event was intended to help residents imagine such a place.

Florida Atlantic University graduate student Marta Viciedo is one of the people who came up with the idea. Viciedo says the point of the project is this: people won't advocate for more public transportation if they don't even know what they're missing out on.

"It's a demonstration project,” explained Viciedo. “(to show) what the convenience of getting off of a train right there and walking over to Midtown or the Design District would be like."

The Purple Line stop was strategically set up next to the Florida East Coast railway tracks, which are currently unused -- although there will soon be freight trains on the tracks heading to the Port of Miami. Transportation officials and advocates have been talking about the possibility of getting a commuter line on those tracks for years. It’s an idea that may soon become a reality with a project called All Aboard Florida which has plans in the works to start a passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando in 2014.

Scott Guilbert visited the Purple Line on Saturday with his wife and three kids. Guilbert hates traffic so his whole family rode over to the event on bicycles. He says public transit in South Florida has an image problem. “I think people attribute public transportation to something like, for poor people or people who have to do it.”

Changing that perception was the other goal of the Purple Line project. Viciedo, who is studying urban and regional planning, hopes visitors to the pop-up train station walked away with the idea that train stations can be neat places. The Purple Line station also had art vendors, live music and a farmers market.

“The idea is that it’s a place. If you think of Grand Central, you can say it’s a place. You would even say, ‘hey, meet me at Grand Central,’” explained Viciedo. “Smaller subway stations in cities like New York or different places, they’ll have activity at least very close to them. So even if it’s not right in the train station, the train stations act as magnets for economic activity.”

 

Arianna Prothero is a reporter with WLRN - Miami Herald News in South Florida. You can find more of WLRN's transportation reporting at wlrn.org.
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Transportation Nation

AUDIO: With the A Train Gone, Traveling to the Rockaways Becomes Much Harder

Monday, March 11, 2013

View from the A Train window as it crosses Jamaica Bay. (Photo by roboppy)

(New York, WNYC) Before Sandy, every A train trip between the Rockaway peninsula and the rest of New York City began and ended with a crossing of Jamaica Bay. The train moved along a piece of land so thin that, from inside the train, it appears to skim atop the water.  But for months, that 3.6 mile railroad bridge has been out, doubling commutes for Rockaways residents and further adding to the sense of deprivation brought on by Sandy.

On October 29, Sandy's storm surge overwhelmed that thread of connection. When the waters receded, the A train's foundation was gone, removing a major transit link from the peninsula's 130,000 residents.

One of those residents is senior producer of The Takeaway, Jen Poyant.  She moved to the Rockaways a few years ago for a relatively affordable beach home -- far from Manhattan, but still, a direct shot on the A train.  Water filled Poyant's basement, and came within a foot of flooding her first floor.  For a month, she and her family couldn't return home.  When she finally got back, she was overjoyed, but the daily trip to work can feel overwhelming -- like a little bit of work squeezed between commutes.

The direct train ride has become an odyssey from a slow-moving crowded bus to the train miles into the mainland.  Sometimes, fellow commuters told Poyant, it takes all night to get home from Manhattan.

The MTA says its aware of the frustrating commute, but can't promise relief until summer.

MTA executive director Tom Prendergast described the result to New York's City Council: "An entire bridge and critical subway line serving the Rockaways was destroyed."

With the A train out, the MTA put subway cars on a truck, drove them to the peninsula and lifted them by crane onto tracks that serve six stops at the end of the line. The H train now runs for free from mid-peninsula at Beach 90th Street to the eastern end of the Rockaways. Bus service has also been increased.

But these are temporary measures. The list of needed repairs to the A train is extensive, and the going is slow. "We had to build out the shoulders on the east and west sides of the track, where you saw the washouts occur," Prendergast said. "We've had to replace damaged and missing third rail protection boards and insulators. We've had to replace signal power and communications equipment, which is ongoing." And damage to the Broad Channel subway station has not yet been fully repaired.

The MTA has patched and reinforced the land bridge where Sandy took large bites from it. But crews are still laboriously laying track and rebuilding the signal system from scratch — both on the railbed crossing Jamaica Bay and on the west end of the peninsula.

In the meantime, the MTA says it'll keep increasing service on the Q53 line, using old buses that have been held back from retirement. Those buses are jammed with riders every weekday rush hour as they make their way over the Cross Bay Bridge. More buses are coming in April.

The A train is expected back no earlier than late June.

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Transportation Nation

Bicyclists in D.C. Lobby for Safety

Thursday, March 07, 2013

(image by Katie Harbath via flickr)

(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) In the basement of a Lutheran church a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol bicycling advocates gathered on a rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon to prepare to meet their congressional representatives. On the third day of the National Bike Summit in Washington, bicyclists from across the country took their message to lawmakers: as more bikes share the roads with cars, more bicyclists are being killed or injured.

“In order for people to feel safe they have to have their own space,” said Karen Overton of New York City, who owns two bike shops. She had a face-to-face meeting with her congresswoman, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, to talk about improving street safety through federal investments in bicycling infrastructure.

“It’s getting easier. Ten years ago it was like we were aliens on the hill. So there has been change in the right direction,” Overton said.

Less than 0.5% of federal highway safety funds are spent improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety, say advocates, at a time when the streets are becoming more dangerous for people not in cars. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have increased from 12% of all roadway deaths in 2008 to almost 16% in 2011, according to the federal government's fatality analysis reporting system (FARS).

In addition to increasing federal spending on bicycling and walking infrastructure (traffic calming structures, separated bike lanes, cycle tracks), advocates are asking their representatives to follow through on efforts to require state transportation departments to set statistical goals to reduce biking and pedestrian incidents, part of a “performance measures” initiative of the MAP-21 legislation signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012.

“While there may be a broad safety target set for the number of lives that are lost on the roads, there isn’t a specific one for bicyclists, for pedestrians, and we feel it's a big enough issue that there should be a specific target,” said Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists. He is a signatory on a letter urging U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to convince states to use federal funding to make non-motorized transportation safer.

Letter to LaHood on Performance Measures

LaHood is a favorite among bike and pedestrian advocates, and he dropped by the National Bike Summit earlier this week.

Overall roadway fatalities have dropped significantly, according to federal data. The number of people killed has dropped from 37,423 in 2008 to 32,367 in 2011. But roughly 5,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are killed annually.

“The numbers have been going up slightly for those two means of travel,” Clarke said. “They’ve been going down for people who are in cars and are belted and buckled up. We want to see a similar level of attention paid to crashes that are happening involving bicyclists, involving pedestrians, even motorcyclists.”

Anthony Siracusa of Memphis was among the advocates who trekked to the hill on Wednesday. He successfully pushed for a $15 million grant to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. He says once lawmakers should visit bicycling and walking projects in their home districts to see for themselves how cities are becoming more livable.

“It’s one thing to talk about it across a board room table,” he said. “It’s another thing for them to actually experience it and see the number of stakeholders who come together around these projects, and the relatively small investment it takes to make a profound difference in the community.”

Follow @MartinDiCaro on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Beyond the School Bus: How Children Around the World Get to School

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

For thousands of children worldwide, the toughest part of getting an education is getting to school.

Walking to school in Calcutta  (photo by Alfred Yaghobzadeh/SIPA)

A new exhibit now on display at the United Nations chronicles those sojourns.  Journeys to School follows the routes of children in 13 different countries take as they walk, ride donkeys, snowmobile, ride the subway, and even canoe to school. Many of them must navigate dangerous roadways -- an issue that was thrown into sharp relief in New York City last week, where a 6-year old boy was struck by a truck just blocks from his school.  All the photos underscore the link between transportation and education. Getting to school in a safe -- not to mention timely -- fashion is as important as the condition of the classroom.

(Photo by Kate Hinds)

Children going to school via somlot, a motorcycle rickshaw in Mae Sot, Thailand. The driver is also the children's teacher. "If I can't get the kids only 50% would attend class," he said. (Photo by Nicolas Axelrod/SIPA)

According to UN statistics, 1,000 people under the age of 25 are killed in traffic crashes each day.

Six-year-old Elizabeth Atenio walks two hours every day to attend classes at the Kibera School for Girls in Nairobi. (Photo by Nichole Sobecki/SIPA)

While much of the exhibit was devoted to countries in the developing world, some children are in major cities -- including New York.

14-year-old Far Rockaway resident Santiago Munoz, who commutes over two hours each way to school in the Bronx (photo by Kate Hinds)

Santiago Munoz lives in Far Rockaway, Queens -- a New York City neighborhood devastated by Sandy. Before the storm, Santiago's commute to the Bronx High School of Science was already daunting.

"I used to walk six blocks to the nearest A train station," he said, "and from there I would ride it for around, I would say 50 minutes, then transfer to the 4 train for 40 minutes." Tack on a ten minute walk from the station to the school, and his commute -- on an average day -- was one hour and 40 minutes.

But then Sandy washed out a key segment of the A train, and he now takes two buses to get to the subway. "And now it takes me two hours and a half to get to Bronx Science." He says he uses his commute time to do homework or catch up on sleep.

Munoz said the exhibit gave him perspective. While he acknowledges his commute appears tough to the average New Yorker, "compared to these kids -- not at all. They're very inspiring."

Ruth McDowall, standing in front of her photographs of schoolchildren in Nigeria (photo by Kate Hinds)

Photographer Ruth McDowall talked about the average school day for children of the nomadic Fulani minority in Kulumin Jeji, Nigeria.  "They have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning," said McDowall, "to do chores like collecting firewood, getting water -- sometimes it can take an hour or more in dry season." The kids start walking to school by 6:30 am. "They get to school by eight, do about three hours of school, and then do another hour and a half walk home." Because the walk is long and hot, many children become dehydrated on the way to school, where they often find it difficult to concentrate. When they get back home, the rest of the day is devoted to herding responsibilities.

(photo by Kate Hinds)

 

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (photo by Kate Hinds)

The exhibit is on display in the United Nations Visitors Center until April 26, 2013.  It's organized by UNESCO, public transportation company Veolia Transdev and photo agency SIPA Press.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Considering Lifting Mandatory Parking Minimums

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

(photo by vpickering via flickr)

The District of Columbia’s Office of Planning is considering a proposal to potentially squeeze the supply of available parking spaces in some neighborhoods as new development attracts more residents and jobs. If successful, it will mark the first major change to the city's zoning code since it was first adopted in 1958.

It's part of a growing city attempt to reduce congestion by offering its residents alternatives to the automobile – from bikes to buses to making walking more attractive.

Planning officials may submit to the zoning commission this spring a proposal to eliminate the mandatory parking space minimums required in new development in transit-rich corridors and in downtown Washington.  The idea squares with the vision of making the district less car-dependent and would let developers decide how many parking spaces are necessary based on market demand.  However, opponents say the plan denies the reality that roughly 70 percent of Washington-area commuters drive and removing off-street parking requirements in apartment and office buildings would force motorists to circle city blocks looking for scarce spaces.

“This is a very dangerous proposal.  We think it threatens the future of Washington, D.C.,” says Lon Anderson, the chief spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which represents motorists and advocates road construction as a solution for traffic congestion.

A city where a car isn’t a necessity

Thirty-nine percent of D.C. households are car-free. In some neighborhoods with access to public transit, more than 80 percent of households are car-free.  Some recent developments wound up building too much parking to adhere to the mandatory minimums, including the D.C. USA shopping center in Columbia Heights, which is right next to a Metro station and busy bus corridor.

“The parking garage there is probably as twice as big as it needs to be, and the second level is basically not used so the city has had to scramble to find another use for it,” says Cheryl Cort, the policy director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and advocate of the zoning change.

“Rather than having the government tell the private sector how many parking spaces to build, we think it’s better for the developer to figure out how it best wants to market those units," Cort added.

Developers favor eliminating the mandatory parking minimums because the construction of parking garages, especially underground, is enormously expensive.  Each underground space adds $40,000 to $70,000 to a project’s cost, according to Harriet Tregoning, the director of D.C.’s Office of Planning, who is working on the overhaul of D.C.’s zoning code. The code was last updated in 1958 when planners assumed the automobile would remain the mainstay of individual transportation.

“No matter how much mandatory parking we require in new buildings, if the landlord is going to charge you $200 per month to park in the building and the city is going to let you park on the street for $35 per year, you may very well decide… to park on the street,” Tregoning says. “Many developers are finding they have parking that they can’t get rid of, that they don’t know what to do with.  That’s really a stranded asset.”

Parking-free building coming to Tenleytown

On the corner of Wisconsin Avenue NW and Brandywine Street NW stands what used to be a billiards hall. The property, just a block from the Tenleytown Metro station, has been an eyesore for years. Douglas Development is expected to redevelop the site this year, turning it into a mixed-use retail and residential space with 40 apartment units and no on-site parking.

“When the Zoning Commission looked at this site and DDOT did some analysis, they found a lot of availability of both on-street parking and off-street parking.  There are actually hundreds of parking spaces around this Metro station that go dark at night,” says Cheryl Cort, whose group contends the construction of parking spaces drives up housing costs an average 12.5 percent per unit. If developers can't find a market for those parking spaces, they pass the costs onto tenants.

Douglas Development, which declined to comment on this story, received an exemption from the zoning commission to avoid the parking minimum at the Tenleytown property. Situated close to Metro and planning to market the apartments to car-free residents, the developers escaped having to build 20 spaces under the current regulations in the zone (C-2-A).

Douglas’s plan may look sensible given the conditions in the neighborhood, but AAA’s Anderson says it will cause problems.

“Are you going to have any visitors who might drive there to visit you?  How about your mom and dad, are they going to be coming in? Do they live locally or are they going to be driving in? If so, where are they going to park?” says Anderson, who says the past three years have seen 16,000 new car registrations in Washington.

Fewer cars in D.C.’s future?

In its fight against the parking policy change, AAA is being joined by community activists who claim their neighborhoods will be clogged by drivers looking for parking. Sue Hemberger, a 28-year district resident who does not own a car, says Tregoning’s proposal is too harsh. In her view, district officials are making car ownership a hassle.

“What I see us doing in the name of transit-oriented development is pushing people who won’t forgo car ownership off the edge of the transit grid,” Hemberger says. “I’m worried about the future of certain neighborhoods and I’m worried about the future of downtown.”

Anderson says D.C. is waging a “war on cars,” but Tregoning says changes to zoning regulations are not designed to make motorists’ lives miserable.  On the contrary, the planning director anticipates the number of drivers in the district will grow but they will have enough options to do away with car ownership, like the car sharing services of Zipcar and Car2Go.

“How does your walking, biking, or taking transit affect his ability to drive, accept to make it easier?” Tregoning says in response to Anderson. “The national average household spends 19 percent of income on transportation. In the district, in areas well-served by transit, our number is more like 9 percent of household income. So we happen to think lots of choices are a good thing.”

In 2012 the city of Portland, Oregon, commissioned a study to look at the relationship between car ownership and new development, after apartment construction with little to no on-site parking in the city’s inner neighborhoods raised concerns about the potential for on-street parking congestion.

The study found “that 64 percent of residents are getting to work via a non-single-occupant vehicle. Almost a third (28 percent) of those surveyed belong to car-free households; however, cars are still the preferred mode of travel for many of the survey respondents.”

About two-thirds of the vehicle owners surveyed in Portland’s inner neighborhoods “park on the street without a permit and have to walk less than two minutes to reach their place of residence, and they spend only five minutes or less searching for a parking spot,” the study found.

To Hemberger, the Portland study’s key finding is that people don't give up car ownership just because they commute to work via public transit.  In a city like Washington, Hemberger says, there will not be enough street spot to accommodate new, car-owning residents.

Decision could come this spring

The Office of Planning will submit the proposed removal of parking minimums to the Zoning Commission later this month or early April, where it will go through the public process again before a final decision is made.

“We are a really unique city because we have an amazing number of transportation choices. Our citizens end up paying a lot less for transportation than the rest of the region,” Tregoning says. “I don’t understand why that would be considered a war on cars to try to give people choices, the very choices that actually take automobiles off the road to make it easier to park, to make it easier to drive with less congestion.”

Follow @MartinDiCaro on Twitter.

 

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Transportation Nation

Census: New York, Maryland, and New Jersey Have Most Long-Distance Commuters

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

(New York, NY -- John Keefe, WNYC) Do you travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles to work every day? The U.S. Census Bureau calls you a "mega-commuter" — and you're not alone.

According to the census, workers who live in New York state show the highest rate of long commutes at 16.2 percent, followed by Maryland and New Jersey at 14.8 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

Based on the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 586,805 full-time workers are mega commuters -- one in 122 of full-time workers. Mega commuters were more likely to be male, older, married, make a higher salary, and have a spouse who does not work. Of the total mega commutes, 75.4 percent were male and 24.6 percent women.

About 2 percent of workers in the New York Metro Area are mega-commuters, according to American Community Survey figures released Tuesday.

TN has reported on this trend, which is as shown in the rise of people who fly to work.

The routes into Manhattan have some of the highest number of mega-commuters in the country. The flow into the city from Suffolk County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, are near the top of that list, behind two counties outside of Los Angeles.

Also in the top-ten for number of mega-commuters: Those who commute to New York from Pennsylvania's Monroe County — a 91-mile trip that takes about 2 hours each way.

Read more about mega-commuters at the census bureau website.

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Transportation Nation

City of Alexandria Joins Homeowner Battle Against Location of I-95 Ramp

Friday, March 01, 2013

Outside the Overlook community in Alexandria (photo by Martin Di Caro)

(Washington, D.C. - WAMU) For the first time since they began fighting the construction of a highway ramp near their homes, a coalition of eight homeowners’ groups in Fairfax County and Alexandria are getting some official help in their battle with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Alexandria city leaders are pledging to lobby state transportation officials to reconsider the placement next to the homeowners’ properties of the planned northern terminus of the future I-95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014.

Before winning the public support of Alexandria city hall, the group Concerned Residents of Landmark had been rebuffed by public officials in their bid to convince VDOT to stop construction.

One of the group’s leaders, Mary Hasty, whose home in Alexandria’s Overlook community will stand just 75 feet from the completed exit ramp, says time is running out.

“We’re racing against the clock, yes. And my understanding is that VDOT has accelerated the building project of the ramp because they want it to be done so the opposition will stop,” Hasty said.

VDOT will begin pile driving at the site next week, a significant step in the building process, but Hasty remains steadfast.

“Even if they’ve driven the piles, when the public health issue comes to light, they can stop,” she said.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg says the city has a responsibility to represent its constituents.

“Science is convincing, and they had an outside firm that’s very prestigious do this research and it is very convincing,” Silberberg said. “We are certainly going to make the case from an environmental and health perspective.”

Concerned Residents of Landmark spent more than $70,000 to hire the national law firm of Shrader & Associates to perform a traffic and environmental analysis of the project. Their study found backed up traffic on the exit ramp will spew a cloud of pollution in excess of federal safety standards, the group said.

“My biggest concern with VDOT is that they failed to fulfill their requirements under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Hasty, who said VDOT did not perform localized studies of pollution impacts on her community.

VDOT officials dispute the homeowners’ accusations.

“Our studies were approved back in the end of 2011 which met all federal and regulatory requirements and that is why we are proceeding with construction today,” said John Lynch, VDOT’s Northern Virginia megaprojects director.  “Their study used a different modeling technique and so we are trying to see why there is a big difference in the outcome of the two models.”

The Shrader study says 80,000 people in Fairfax County and Alexandria will be affected by pollution from vehicles exiting I-95, especially from particulate matter equivalent to what was spewed by the coal-fired GenOn electric plant that was closed down last year after a long battle with Alexandria.

“This is a health issue.  It’s incumbent on our elected officials to carry this message to Richmond,” said Herb Treger, the vice president of the board of directors of Watergate at Landmark, a community of 4,000 residents that joined Hasty’s coalition. “It’s a government project. Government projects can always be stopped. I worked for the government for 40 years.  I know they can be halted until the proper studies are done,” he added.

In order to determine if the project’s environmental impacts met federal safety standards, VDOT studied the location with the most traffic volume in the project corridor, the Springfield interchange, Lynch said.  That “worst case scenario” conformed to federal standards clearing the way for construction throughout the corridor, Lynch said.

“For the localized ‘hotspot’ analysis there are guidelines from the EPA to choose different locations for your project and typically you choose the worst place,” Lynch said. “It’s a qualitative analysis.  If you do it at the worst case scenario then you assume that it is fine everywhere else.”

VDOT has no plans to stop construction.

“We have no intention of going away,” Treger said.

Follow @MartinDiCaro on Twitter.

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Community

The Provocative Cornel West

Thursday, February 28, 2013

We met up with Cornel West in The Greene Space. Here, he shares what motivates his efforts to continue to empower communities.  Let us know who you would like us to interview next and why, as we strive to reflect the diverse voices found within the New York City and tri-state area.

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Transportation Nation

A Year After the Trayvon Martin Shooting, Florida City Examines Urban Design

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trayvon Martin memorial in Goldsboro, Sanford (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Last year the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin thrust Sanford to the center of international attention -- and spurred a conversation about how urban design and public space shape civic behavior.

Now, Sanford is searching for a new vision for its future. The city has established Imagine Sanford, a project aimed at creating a solid identity for the city -- and a plan for how to get there. The 13-member steering committee is made up of community leaders who meet monthly while the plan is being formulated.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett says although the project started in January 2012,  since Trayvon Martin's death the pressure has been on to get the project moving.

Mayor Jeff Triplett on the Jumbotron (right) at a 2012 rally for Trayvon Martin

Although Sanford has an enviable downtown, he says, more needs to be done to link up the distinct areas of the city, including the historic African American neighborhood of Goldsboro.

"We haven't really done a very good job of making Goldsboro part of the city, so to speak," he says.

"You've got historic Goldsboro Boulevard- we want to take that and do the beautification on through 13th [street] which ties that in to [US Highway] 17-92 and what's happening on the east side of town too."

Some of the other proposals for the city include welcome signs and a system of hiking and cycling trails through Sanford and around Lake Monroe.

Triplett says he wants to make sure the trail system connects to the SunRail commuter train station.

"Some people say we're disadvantaged because of the placement of our SunRail [but] we're kind of blessed in a way because we've got a blank slate out there."

Triplett says the vacant land around the station will allow for new development linked to the rail- including  shops and apartments.

"We've got a great opportunity over the next ten years- we've just got to make sure we do it right the first time."

Listen to a an interview with Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett here.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Light Sculpture to Brighten the Bay Bridge

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

(Cy Musiker - San Francisco, KQED) The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is having its moment.

The new eastern span opens in the fall. And on March 5, artist Leo Villareal will unveil the Bay Lights, a massive light sculpture he's designed for the suspension section connecting Treasure Island to San Francisco.

Working with CalTrans crews, Villareal has hung 25,000 LED lights on the cables on the north side of the bridge.

The project will cost about $8 million, all of it raised by private donations. And Villareal said it will pay off by attracting $97 million in economic activity to San Francisco.

"Really?" I asked. "People are going to fly here to see it?"

"Yes," he said. "Public art is a powerful magnet. Many people are drawn to this."

We were sitting on the Embarcadero, just north of the Bay Bridge. Bells were sounding behind us in the clock tower of the Ferry Building. But Villareal was focused on the sweeping view he had to the south, of the suspension span and the patterns forming in the lights he’s hung.

"For me its all about discovery," he said. "Figuring out what it can do. I don’t know in advance. There’s a lot of chance and randomness in my process, so I’m here to make discoveries."

In his lap Villareal held a remote desktop connected to a computer in the bridge's central anchorage, with which he was orchestrating the lights as he practiced for the show's opening night.

"This is a program that we wrote," he said. "It's called Particle Universe. And we can change their mass, the velocity, gravity. All these things we find in nature. As an artist, I use all these equations and rules as material, really just play with them. I'm just sitting here waiting for something exciting or compelling to happen. When it does I capture that moment, and that becomes part of the mix."

Artist Leo Villareal controls the Bay Lights with his laptop. (Cy Musiker/KQED)

Artist Leo Villareal controls the Bay Lights with his laptop. (Cy Musiker/KQED)

As Villareal spoke, he made the lights seem to fall from the tops of the cables to the bottom. Then a shadow moved across the lights from Treasure Island toward the city, and back again, and then the lights rippled, as though reflecting the waves on the bay below.

"You would think you wouldn't be able to improvise with software," said Villareal. "But I've found ways on involving chance and working intuitively with software. You can spend more time with this that a sign in Las Vegas or Time Square that does one thing for one minute and then repeats over and over again. The other thing that's important for viewers is that they don't feel anxiety that they missed something. At any point that you're ready to jump in, there it is."

I asked Villareal now that he’s spent so much time with the Bay Bridge, the commuter workhorse of the Bay Area, what he makes of its personality. It’s a question he struggled to answer.

"You don’t want to mess with it," he said. "You know I feel a lot of respect for it. I want to add something and augment what's here. These are the icons of the Bay Area, the bridges. I think there's also an honesty and integrity to the piece. That's very similar to what the bridge is like. I've done a couple of cable walks and gone to the top of the bridge and was amazed at how efficient it all is."

Villareal is a regular at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada, and he says he wants people to gather on the Embarcadero to see the lights, the same way people gather around campfires out on the desert.

It seemed to be working that night as passersby gathered nearby, pointing up to the bridge.

"It looks kind of like some kind of star constellation to me," said Amy Gallie, one of the onlookers. "It becomes ethereal instead of something which is so prosaic that we're used to looking at."

 

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Life of the Law

Redesigning Justice

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Red Hook is an isolated neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, once known as the “crack capital of America.” In 2000, residents banded together to create a community justice center more responsive to the needs of the neighborhood.

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On Being

Fr. Greg Boyle — The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fr. Greg Boyle on his work with gangs in L.A., connections between kinship and delight, and of finding delight in one another.

Comment

On Being

[Unedited] Fr. Greg Boyle with Krista Tippett

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fr. Greg Boyle on his work with gangs in L.A., connections between kinship and delight, and of finding delight in one another.

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Transportation Nation

Five Lessons for Seattle Bike Share from Boston's Hubway

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Boston Hubway bike share docking station. (Photo CC by Flickr user JMazzolaa)

(Derek Wang, Seattle -- KUOWThe plan to create a bike sharing program in Seattle is clicking into a higher gear. Puget Sound Bike Share hopes to launch in 2014. Organizers updated Seattle officials Tuesday saying they hope to hire a vendor by the spring.

Initial areas for the plan include the University District, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Downtown and Queen Anne.

To get some guidance for the Seattle effort, KUOW spoke with the founder of one of the fastest-growing systems in the US, Nicole Freedman. Freedman started Boston’s program, The Hubway, which launched in 2011. It has 105 stations, more than 1,000 bicycles and 9,000 members. Members have taken about 675,000 trips; more than 500,000 of those trips were taken in the last year. Freedman is also an Olympic cyclist and has studied city planning at MIT and Stanford.

Tip 1: Choose The Right Business Model That Fits Seattle

Boston’s system is operated by a private company, but the system is owned by the city. In fact, city officials view it as part of the transit system. Right now no city money has gone toward the system. Freedman said it’s paid for by advertisements, sponsorships and grants. But as the system expands, the city might be required to spend money on maintenance and operations, like it would for any other transit system.

Seattle’s proposal is slightly different. It would be administered by a nonprofit group, but a private company would run the system’s day-to-day operations.

Tip 2: Locate The Bike Stations Close Together

During the startup phase, planners might be tempted to space out the bike stations to cover as many different neighborhoods as possible. That’s something to avoid. Freedman recommended keeping the stations between 200 to 400 meters apart.

“Let’s say I’m in a meeting in a skyscraper downtown and I have to get back to my office. If I go downstairs, out the door and the nearest station is three blocks away, it’s not worth my time to go walk three blocks, and get on a bike," she said. "If I then have another three block walk at the other end at my office, the efficiencies of saving time and using the bike are pretty much gone because of the walk time.”

[Related story: DC Bike Share Visualizer Shows How Neighborhoods Use CaBi Differently, by Clusters.]

Tip 3: Talk To Other Cities

A lot of other cities, including Washington, D.C., Denver and Chicago, have bike sharing programs. Other cities, such as Vancouver, B.C., Portland and San Francisco are still in the planning phases. Freedman says those cities have already done a lot of the groundwork and Seattle could benefit from looking at those different experiences.

[Related: San Francisco Poised to Pick Alta to Run Bike Share.]
Tip 4: Don’t Be Discouraged By Reports Of Hardware And Software Problems

Some systems have had problems with bikes and the software that operates the system. Freedman says Boston was lucky and never had software problems. But she says the problem occurred when one of the nation’s leading vendors switched software developers. Freedman’s point is that the problems should not discourage planners because improvements are always being made. “There’s a lot of great choices out there,” she said. “Doing the homework early will definitely ensure the best system for Seattle.”

[Related: NYC Bike Share Delayed Until Spring]


Tip 5: Think Creatively About Encouraging Membership

Boston has made it a focus to offer service in poorer neighborhoods as well as more well-to-do ones. But low-income people often don’t have credit cards, which are required to become a member. Freedman said in Boston, they’re looking at social service agencies and the possibility that those groups could sponsor people looking to get a credit card.

Freedman has visited Seattle before and seemed excited about the prospects of a bike sharing program in the city. “I can guarantee that it’s going to be a huge success in  Seattle,” she said. “It’s a great city. You’ve got a great culture of people that want to be biking.”

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Transportation Nation

School Bus Workers Face Cold Reality of Strike

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tommy and Dina Nero are school bus workers who have been off their route for weeks because of the strike. (Photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(Stephen Nessen - New York, SchoolBook) Since January, Tommy and Dina Nero have been a presence at the picket lines nearly every day. A bus driver and matron, as well as husband and wife, the couple has been dedicated to their union’s position in the ongoing school bus strike but, as the dispute drags into it second month, they also are facing the real-life challenges of limited pay and not working at a job they love.

“Those children are our children, as far as I’m concerned,” Tommy Nero said. “The children on my bus now, I’ve known them for the last three and-a-half years. So, the parents know us. It’s like a family, an extended family.”

Buses at a depot in the Bronx (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The school bus strike has disrupted more than 5,000 of the 7,700 routes in the five boroughs. The last time this happened, in 1979, the strike lasted 13 weeks. And with all parties firmly entrenched in their positions, this one doesn’t have an end in sight. For the members of 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union, this means reduced wages and the loss of health care benefits.

And every week on strike has heightened the Neros’ anxieties.

There are the impending bills to pay: the mortgage on their Jackson Heights apartment, building fees, car bills, and college tuition for their 24-year-old son who has one more semester left at John Jay College. Also, Tommy needs a steady supply of inhalers for his asthma, a steep cost without health care.

Dina said she hit her head while doing laundry recently and it caused a big concern.

“I was like please, please don’t let me be bleeding, because I can’t afford to get stitches right now. It’s scary, because everything you do, you’re like ‘Oh I can’t get hurt,’ and it’s so on your mind,” she said.

Dina Nero on strike in the Bronx (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

During a recent visit to their home, Tommy wore his silver hair slicked back. Under his black driver’s jacket he sported a grey sweatshirt emblazoned with “Alaska,” a memento from better times.

“Alaska was our trip of a lifetime. It was our retirement money. We always wanted to go there. Now, from here on end, we don’t know what we’re doing. All our vacations will be on the fire escape,” Tommy said.

Tommy’s grandfather was a union man, working in steel mills in Harlem. Several of his relatives also are school bus drivers and escorts who are on strike now. He said he’s not only concerned about his job, but about the future of unions in the city.

The union says the strike is about ensuring employee protections are put in all new city contracts, protections that would ensure that companies hire union drivers and matrons, and assign routes based on seniority. The city says it’s illegal to keep the protections in the contract.

The strike has been going on since January 16.

Listen to the story here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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