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NYC Speeds Up $1 Billion in 'Unglamorous' Infrastructure Work

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Comptroller John Liu

New York will be accelerating more than $1 billion worth of work on infrastructure projects already in the city's capital plan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg cautioned that these are not big ticket items. "The bulk of them are completely unglamorous," he said, adding that most of them can be completed within a 20-month time frame. The city is accelerating the work to take advantage of low interest rates.

A description of the authorized projects includes road and bridge repairs, waterfront infrastructure development, and improvements to city buildings and libraries. The mayor said an additional 300 miles of city roadways will be resurfaced, and it will also speed up the removal of PCBs from lighting fixtures in schools.

These are projects that are "ready to go, need to happen, and will be finished in the fixed timetable," the mayor said. He estimated that the work would create 8,000 jobs, mostly in the construction industry.

Read more about the project here, or watch a video of the announcement.

Bonus: hear the mayor announce the initiative in Spanish.

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Transportation Nation

Washington, D.C. Region's Economic Future Tied to Cars -- Or Is It?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(photo by Elvert Barnes via flickr)

For the thousands of commuters who spend too much of their lives sitting in traffic on the Washington area’s hopelessly congested roads, the future may not look much better than the present. Despite some large investments in mass transit projects, like the Silver Line rail link to Dulles Airport, about three-fourths of all economic activity – from shopping to commuting to work – will be the result of automobile trips in 2040, virtually unchanged from present day, according to a report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

In 2007, 74 percent of gross regional product (GRP) – a measure of all income -- was the result of car travel. By 2040 it will be 73 percent, according to the study’s authors, who forecast total GRP by that year to potentially amount to $1.8 trillion, up from the current $429 billion. The projections are based on where the study places the region’s major job centers: in the outer suburbs, implying that a regime of road building will be necessary to accommodate the region’s growth.  The study was prepared for the 2030 Group, a group of real estate developers.

The study is flawed, according to mass transit advocates.

“I think it is out of sync with changing demographics and the huge market demand to live not just in the city but to live in neighborhoods that are walkable and near transit,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which advocates transit-oriented development. “This is a report that seems to, through some magic they have applied, allocate significant portions of regional growth to outer suburban job centers.  They are arguing for more highway investment over transit investment in the region.”

The study designates the Tysons Corner-Dulles corridor as the most prominent “activity center” that will see significant changes in transportation use thanks to the arrival of the Silver Line, but the overall forecast allows for minor shifts in mode changes, including bicycling/walking.  Schwartz says the forecast overlooks surging demand for living in urban, walkable places.

“We are changing our land uses and have shown that compact, walkable neighborhoods with transit generate far fewer car trips and shorter car travel distances,” he says. “A younger generation is driving less, living in cities and an older generation of downsizing empty nesters and retirees will not be driving as much. They are out of touch with the trends. They are trying to justify more outer suburban growth,” referring to suburban real estate developers in the 2030 Group.

Whatever transportation infrastructure will be necessary for the expected population and job growth, current levels of government investment are grossly inadequate, according to Bob Chase, the president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group that supports highway construction.

“What the study shows is that most of the economic activity centers are heavily dependent upon a good road network, but roads also move buses.  It’s not just about cars,” Chase said.  “We’re not going to have the transportation network to support that type of economy. If we don’t invest more in transportation, we’re not likely to have the economic future that most people would want.”

One possible source of funds would be an increased state and/or federal gas tax, something few politicians are willing to publicly endorse. The current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been increased since 1993.

“The cost of construction and the cost of maintenance have gone up. The cost of just petroleum products that go into asphalt has gone up 350% in the last ten years,” Chase says.  “If you want to have a strong economy, if you want to have jobs for your kids, you need to make a greater investment in transportation, and the failure to do so is going to cost every person far more in terms of lost wages, lost opportunities, and a deteriorated quality of life, than paying a few more pennies on the gas tax.”

Chase says Virginia and Maryland could also raise sales taxes or create surcharges on income taxes to pay for infrastructure investment.

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Transportation Nation

Barclays Center Subway Stop: Mornings, It's Totally Dead

Friday, October 12, 2012

When the NY MTA agreed to sell the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner to build the Barclays Arena and some 17 other buildings, the authority's board waxed enthusiastic about how the city was getting a new subway entrance out of the deal.

Barclays Center Subway Stop, 7 am Photo: Maya Bernstein

But so far, in the mornings, it's totally dead.

Pretty much every morning since the stop's been opened, for about three weeks -- and we've checked --  it looks like this. Seven am, 8 am, no one. A sort of strange, post-Apocalypse feel.

Barclays Center Subway Stop, 7 am Photo: Maya Bernstein

As we've been reporting, lots of fans are going to events at the arena by transit.  The 18,000-seat arena has just 541 car spots on site, about 150 of those for season or VIP ticket-holders.   Even last night, when Brooklyn-born Barbra Steisand performed, and drew a heavy crowd from the suburbs, people took the train.

Barclays Center Subway Pre-Barbra Photo: Andrea Bernstein

The subway stop is set in a vast, uninviting plaza, with not much there to entice a morning subway rider, like newsstands or coffee-shops.

However, once you do cross Flatbush Avenue from Park Slope to get there, it is by far the cleanest and easiest way to enter the subway stop. Working escalators. Plenty of turnstiles. Tidy, well-lit hallways that don't smell (yet). And the shortest, least confusing ascent (or descent, in the case of the B-Q), from any entrance.

Word from transit officials:  "Use It!"

Ratner, BTW, paid $76 million for the new subway entrance.  But the whole deal with Ratner was heavily criticized at the time as a sweetheart deal for the developer, which was allowed to work with the MTA over a period of years to develop a bid to obtain the railyards for its arena.

Ratner offered $100 million less for the Yards than the rival developer -- but the MTA board argued that building a new subway entrance would in part compensate.

After much pressure, the MTA opened the bidding process for the rail yards to other developers, but then rejected the one other bid it got because it wasn't as detailed as Ratner's bid.

 

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Transportation Nation

In Test of NYC's Public Support for Bike Lanes, A Tabled Plan Gets Second Look

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Columbus Avenue bike lane in September, 2011 (photo by Kate Hinds)

A stalled idea of putting a protected bike lane on a stretch of a Manhattan avenue is coming up for air, offering a test of public sentiment about New York City's often-contentious bike lane boom.

On the docket Thursday for Community Board 7's Transportation Committee meeting: whether to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to look at lengthening the existing two-year-old Columbus Avenue bike lane -- and redesigning Amsterdam Avenue to accommodate one.

Again.

When the Upper West Side's CB7 first began mulling over bike lanes in 2009, the group requested a study looking at protected lanes on both avenues, stretching from 59th to 110th streets. The DOT came back with a proposal for a single Columbus Avenue lane, running southbound from 96th Street to 77th Street. Amsterdam Avenue, the DOT decided, was too narrow to accommodate three travel lanes and a protected bike lane. The Columbus Avenue proposal was passed by the full board -- after failing at the committee level -- in 2010.

So why is an Amsterdam Avenue lane back on the table?

"This is an effort to see whether our priorities as a community might have changed," said Mark Diller, the chair of CB7, "not whether the width of a lane or the width of an avenue has changed."

He said that a member of the CB7 board wants the city to take another look at an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane -- as had other community groups. " It's a matter that's of interest to members of the community," said Diller, "so the community board will respond by taking a careful look at it."

And lessons learned during the first few months of the Columbus Avenue bike lane could help smooth the way for future lanes in the neighborhood.

Amsterdam Avenue and 84th Street (image from Google street view)

But Andrew Albert, the co-chair of CB7's transportation committee, said he couldn't ballpark what was going to happen at Thursday's meeting. "Because this hasn't come up yet, we don't know how the discussion is going to go."

Albert -- who in 2010 didn't support the installation of the Columbus Avenue lane --  said the committee wasn't won over by the idea of putting in another protected lane a block west. "There's a good number of people that don't believe the Columbus one is working as intended," he said, "so we're going to reserve judgment on Amsterdam for sure."

In one respect, said CB7 chair Mark Diller, the neighborhood had gotten off easy with the Columbus Avenue lane. Installing something similar on Amsterdam could require a politically sensitive decision that could spark some...lively debate. "Are we willing to trade a travel lane for a bike lane?" he asked.

Another view of  Columbus Avenue, with protected bike lane on the right  (image from Google street view)

 

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Transportation Nation

Virginia County Wants To Re-Envision Roads For City Rising West of Washington

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Tysons Corner (photo via wikimedia commons)

With four new Metrorail stations coming to Tysons Corner next year -- as well as a 40-year plan to to bring high-rise condos and gleaming corporate offices to the area -- local lawmakers are considering rethinking the road network.

The Fairfax County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors dug into a report Tuesday from Planning Commission member Walter Alcorn that includes about $1 billion in taxes on current and future developers to cover the costs of infrastructure for cars, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians.

“Right now Tysons has a super grid of very, very large blocks which are not walkable,” Alcorn said in an interview with Transportation Nation.  The county's plan states the "vehicle-based road network will need to transition into a multi-modal transportation system that provides transportation choices to residents, employees and visitors." That means, in part, building smaller, more walkable blocks.

County officials say they want the population of Tysons Corner to increase fivefold by 2050. Currently, the community has 20,000 residents.

The infrastructure redevelopment cost is $2.3 billion, and to pay for it, the planning commission wants to levy new taxes on developers and increase existing property taxes. However, tapping general fund revenues, issuing bonds, and adding a commercial and industrial tax are also under consideration.

“The actual street in front of the development that’s being constructed should be paid for by that developer. However, larger transportation projects that have a major benefit inside and outside of Tysons probably should be paid for by the public sector,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

“These are extrapolations,” said Bulova, referring to the revenue figures. “We’re looking ahead to an extent we’ve never done before to look at what it is going to take to support the new development.”

And Alcorn says it's worth it. “The point of all these improvements is not to facilitate traffic through Tysons or across Tysons, but frankly to help Tysons become more of a walkable, transit oriented community,” he said. “It’s a grid of streets. It’s also new connections from surrounding roads into Tysons, for example, new connections from the Dulles Toll Road, and improved connection to the Beltway.”

The board will take up the proposal next at its scheduled meeting later this month.
See Fairfax County's "Transforming Tysons" slideshow:

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Transportation Nation

Bike Advocates Wonder Where the Completed Met Branch Trail Is

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

More than two years after its southern segment opened, bicycling advocates are asking District and Maryland transportation officials why there has been no progress extending the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) that is supposed to run between Union Station and Silver Spring, Md.

The southern segment is a completed, off-road bicycle path running straight north from Union Station through Northeast Washington to the Brookland neighborhood, but the remaining three segments are a combination of off-road and “interim routes” that force cyclists to leave the path and crowd onto city streets.

“In a couple of places it actually goes up relatively steep hills. In one place it goes against traffic,” says Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The group is urging the District Department of Transportation to begin work on the northernmost segment inside the district, from Riggs Road to the Montgomery County line.

“We’d like to see DDOT pushing harder on that,” Farthing says.

But starting work on the MBT’s center segment in D.C. is more complicated: there are outstanding land-use issues that have to be resolved by the National Park Service, DC's transit agency (WMATA), and the DDOT concerning federal property around Fort Totten, where the proposed trail makes a sharp left turn in the vicinity of a trash transfer station.  That is where bicyclists face the thorniest part of their ride as two-way bicycling traffic has to squeeze into one of the “interim trails,” a one-way street for cars.

“For kids and novice cyclists who might want to try this connection, I do think where you are sent into oncoming traffic it is intimidating,” says Farthing, who gave an interview at the noisy intersection of Fort Totten Drive NE and Gallatin Street NE.

“All of the area around Fort Totten is National Park Service land, and there are certain agreements that WMATA has with rights of use to get the Red Line through. So they have to make sure (that) all those different legal agreements on land use work together to allow for the trail access,” he added.

The partial completion of the MBT is not stopping bicyclists from using it as part of their daily commutes or for recreation. There were 11,503 trips on the MBT last year, a nearly three-fold increase from 2010, according to DDOT figures.

Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT’s associate director for policy, planning, and sustainability, said funding and land use issues have delayed progress.

“Some of what we face is a challenge of resources and dealing with multiple trail projects moving forward at the same time,” he says, adding that the Fort Totten area “is probably one of the most challenging sections of the trail in terms of dealing with competing needs of the right of way.”

Zinbabwe countered criticism that the DDOT isn't prioritizing the project.

“We don’t feel that we are [idle]. I think that we continue to try to move it forward,” he says.  Although Farthing says he believes the entire bike trail could be finished in two to three years, Zimbabwe called that goal “optimistic.”

In Montgomery County, where the proposed trail would end at Silver Spring, there are also outstanding conflicts concerning land use.

The group Montgomery Preservation Inc. is unhappy with a plan to run the trail between its building that houses a B&O Railroad museum and Metro’s Red Line tracks.  The plan also calls for building a bicycling bridge over Georgia Avenue that would block views of the historic railroad bridge.  The MBT is part of the county’s master plan and the Montgomery County Council has approved funding.

“The county council, county executive, and bicycling community are all interested in completing the design and construction and opening up this important part of this heavily used trail,” says Bruce Johnston, the chief of MCDOT’s division of transportation engineering.

Although frustrated by the slow progress, Farthing looks forward to a day when commuters can ride their bicycles all the way from Silver Spring to Union Station without squeezing past moving vehicle traffic.

“The ability to take your bike on and off Metro, the ability to mix it with bike share, we’ve got a lot of different ways that you can integrate biking into daily life, but it is important to have the trail so the people can do it safely and easily,” Farthing says.

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Transportation Nation

How D.C.'s Green Line Changed a Neighborhood from Blight to Big Box Stores

Monday, October 01, 2012

The 20010 zip code in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. is one of the ten fastest gentrifying in the country. (Photo by Martin DiCaro)

This is the third part in an ongoing series of reports about the metropolitan Washington region’s changing neighborhoods.  Read Part I and Part II )A recent study by a George Washington University real estate expert called the D.C. region a pioneer in creating WalkUPs, walkable urban places.  In this report, WAMU’s Martin Di Caro visits the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Ward 1.

When Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham sat down for lunch at Red Rocks Firebrick Pizzeria on a weekday afternoon it was easy for him to remember what the neighborhood used to be like here around Park Road and 11th Street, about three miles north of the White House.

“A few years ago this would have been unthinkable, unimaginable,” he says, considering his new neighbors.

The pizza place is situated in one of the D.C. region’s 43 WalkUPs designated by George Washington University’s Chris Leinberger, and in a zip code that has seen dramatic demographic changes through gentrification. The 20010 is tenth fastest gentrifying zip code in the country, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

“Where we are sitting right now was a house that was taken over by squatters who lived here without running water,” Graham said. “You wouldn’t have had any daytime restaurant opportunity. In fact, these restaurants and bars that are around us right now weren’t open.”

Chain stores and freshly built apartment buildings line once neglected streets in Washington, D.C.'s Columbia Heights. (Photo by Martin Di Caro)

The opening of Metro's Green Line in 1999 was the catalyst for so many of the positive changes that include rising property values.

“The Green Line made an enormous difference in terms of transforming what were vacant lots with chain link fences which gave rise to crime and other undesirable activities. So the Metro was key,” the councilmember said.

In Leinberger’s study Columbia Heights is considered an urban commercial WalkUP, meaning it is dominated by for-sale housing but has significant blocks of office, retail, and rental space.

Columbia Heights has experienced the challenge of retaining affordable housing as prosperity took hold.

“We’ve obviously brought a lot of newcomers into this neighborhood with the new apartment buildings… but it is very useful to keep in mind that we have the whole length of 14th Street starting at W [Street] and running all the way to Oak [Street], we have three thousand units of very low-income affordable housing,” Graham said.

Ward 1 is known for its ethnic diversity, the center of the district’s Latino, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese communities.  Graham said the government has actively worked to preserve those communities and resist the real estate pressures brought by gentrification.

“This is all quality housing that we now have for extremely low-income persons," Graham said of the housing 14th street housing stock. "Each and every one of those could have been a condo easily because of the real estate pressures,” said Graham who added D.C. has some of the most progressive affordable housing laws in the country.

“It took a determined effort. It just didn’t happen willy-nilly. What you see at 14th and Irving and 14th and Park was something very carefully understood and bought into by everyone who was a stakeholder,” Graham added, referring to the retail center built up around the Columbia Heights Metro station, including a large Target.

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Transportation Nation

PATH Train Connecting NY - NJ Gets Fare Hike Tonight

Sunday, September 30, 2012

(New York, NY -- Johanna Mayer, WNYC) The heavy rail transit system connecting New York City with Northern New Jersey is getting more expensive. The price of a ride on the PATH train will rise by quarter, making it the same as the NYC subway with which it connects. Soon though, the PATH system will cost more than it's big brother transit network as the agency that runs it, the Port Authority, seeks to stave off financial troubles brought on, in part, by the cost of rebuilding the World Trade Center.

The second in a series of fare hikes that were passed in 2011 comes into effect Monday morning. Fares will increase every year until 2015, when the price will reach $2.75 per ride.

“Income is already limited, and then they just dip into your pocket a little deeper,” said John Cooper, who is an every-day rider of the PATH.

Kyle Barry, who takes both the PATH and the NYC subway to work, was understanding about the fare hike. “I have no problem with the increase as long as it means, maybe, trains run more often,” he said.

Riders can use the same Metrocard to ride the PATH as the NYC subway. Last year, Port Authority Chairman David Samson justified the hikes by saying they were a result of the economy, rebuilding the World Trade Center, and investing in infrastructure for the future. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a multi-state agency that oversees bridges and tunnels in the NY metropolitan area, as well as sites like the World Trade Center

The Port Authority, facing fiscal troubles, also voted to raise tolls on several bridges and tunnels in 2011. Then, earlier this week, Moody's downgraded the Port Authority's credit rating citing the high cost of World Trade Center rebuilding. That could potentially increase borrowing costs for the agency, and make capital improvements, for properties like the PATH, more expensive.

For the riders who use the PATH to cross theHudson River from New Jersey, even a 50 cent increase still means the service is a steal compared to other alternatives like driving. Nicholas Stango, who rides the PATH every day said “I mean, it’s fine. The PATH, if they need more money and, like, they’re going to use it to make the PATH better, then I’m ok with it.”

For the history of the PATH train and a nice vintage pic, head over to this PA NY/NJ site.

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Transportation Nation

Should We Trade Infrastructure for Debt?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Four Self-Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) relocated the fully assembled 4.3 million pound, 394-foot-long, 67- foot-high truss bridge from its assembly site to its final position on the new bridge piers a few hundred feet away. (CDOT)

(image courtesy of Chicago DOT)

On Thursday's 30 Issues in 30 Days, the WNYC election series took a look at infrastructure.

Host Brian Lehrer notes that word did not come up in the convention speeches of either President Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Neither, for that matter, did transportation.

How times have changed. President Obama once talked so often about building roads and bridges we turned those mentions into an interactive chart.

Meanwhile, said one of the Brian Lehrer Show guests, it's not just that we have an infrastructure problem. "It's that we can't even deal with it how bad the problem is. "We are beyond denial of the crisis," said Infrastructure USA's Steven Anderson.

Listen to the conversation below.


Want to learn more about how infrastructure became a partisan issue? Go here.

 

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Transportation Nation

This Election Season, Americans Pony Up for Public Transpo

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Operators of Los Angles' new Expo light rail line enjoy the new gig, April 2012. (Photo courtesy of LA Metro Transportation Library and Archive)

(This article by Greg Hanscom originally appeared in Grist.org)

Infrastructure issues may have turned partisan these past four years while bridges crumble, waiting for repair, but transit-advocates have hope: This election may bring in big bucks for buses and subways, direct from voters.

More than a dozen transit-related initiatives will appear on local ballots in November, including a mammoth funding plan in Los Angeles. Elsewhere, a measure in Orange County, N.C., would add a half cent to the sales tax to fund transit. A third measure, in Memphis, Tenn., would increase the cost of a gallon of gas by a penny, raising an estimated $3 to $6 million each year for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

The big kahuna of proposals is in Los Angeles, where four years ago voters approved Measure R, a sales tax increase that is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years for transit, highway, and bus projects. Measure J, which will appear on the ballot this year, would extend the transportation tax another 30 years.

The city's transit system is still wanting for cash. Even as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has vocally championed new light rail lines and bike lanes, L.A. County’s Metro has slashed bus service to some of the city’s most down-and-out neighborhoods.

Atlanta faced a similar crossroads, and a similar vote in July that would have raised $8 billion for rail and other transportation projects. It went down in flames.

Atlanta’s transit agency has been cutting bus service due to budget shortfalls. But unlike in L.A., light rail hasn’t fared much better.

However, Atlanta seems to be an exception to the rule. Transit funding is winning wide approval in other cities around the country this year, as in recent years — and will likely see a few more big wins on ballot budget initiatives in November, including in L.A. If all goes as expected, Angelenos will get the world-class transit system that Mayor Villaraigosa dreams about — and sooner than you might think.

“The overwhelming majority of measures are successful,” says Jason Jordan, director of the Center for Transportation Excellence, a D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks transit-related ballot initiatives. “We were expecting to see approval rates decline back in ’08, with the economic downturn. But rates have actually been improving year over year.”

According to the center’s tally, transit is batting almost 90 percent at the ballot box nationally this year. Voters in Baton Rouge, La., approved a property tax measure in April that will more than double the annual budget for the local bus service. In May, residents of Parkersburg, W.Va., voted to extend a property tax that funds the local transit service. And Michiganders renewed a slew of taxes to fund transit in August.

“It used to be that you might go to the ballot in order to raise matching funds for federal dollars,” Jordan says. “Now, places have to make themselves competitive for federal funds by showing they’ve got skin in the game.”

Putting a long-term transit tax in place would allow L.A.’s Metro to borrow the money now and pay it off over the coming decades (there’s a good explanation here), meaning that Angelenos could be living in traintopia in the not too distant future. Under California law, the measure will require a supermajority of at least two-thirds support to pass, but that didn’t stop Measure R from passing in 2008.

So what happened in Atlanta — and could the same forces take down transit initiatives elsewhere? Here it is, mapped:

(Image: Atlanta Business Journal, via Grist)

Pretty clear, right? More than two-thirds of voters in the urban core supported the measure. But the further you went from the city center, the more the opposition won over. By the time you got to the suburbs, people it was a landslide of opposition.

Jordan says that in many ways, Atlanta’s initiative was destined to fail, both because of historic forces at work in the region, (listen to TN's documentary about Race and Mass Transit for the story of Atlanta's transit history) and because the state legislature imposed restrictions on the measure that made it unwieldy. The vote also coincided with the state primaries, in which the most contested races were among Republicans in the exurbs — not people who are inclined to tax themselves for better trains and buses.

For evidence that transit votes don’t always devolve into a simple city-vs.-suburb showdown, Jordan points to St. Louis, where a ballot initiative failed in 2008, but passed on a second attempt, two years later. Here are the maps:

(Images by the Center for Transportation Excellence via Grist)

Looks neat, but to me, the message remains the same: Folks in the ‘burbs don’t care much for  transit initiatives. The difference in the second St. Louis election was that fewer of them turned out to vote — and a strong grassroots campaign succeeded in getting pro-transit folks to support the measure. In campaign parlance, the initiative’s backers got their supporters out “without mobilizing their opponents.”

In L.A., where transit is winning my supermajorities, the story seems to be different. Mayor Villaraigosa has a long way to go in his effort to build a truly functional and just public transportation system for his city, but he has succeeded in creating a plan that a broad swath of society can get behind, one likely to pass the test of election day.

Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.

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Transportation Nation

"From the Draconian to the Inane:" Uber Taxi App vs D.C. Regulators

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) A pitted battle in Washington, D.C. over taxi technology, rights and safeguards turned testy Monday, with hints at compromise as well.

The chief executive of a rising, internet-based sedan-for-hire service accused D.C. regulators of pushing “crippling requirements” that threaten to drive its partners out of business, during a day-long hearing before a city council panel.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said proposed regulations range from “the draconian to the inane,” pointing to one rule that would require sedan companies with which it partners to possess fleets of at least 20 vehicles.

Uber allows customers to order rides directly from its smart phone app, a work around to regulations common in many cities that license and regulate which cabs can be "street hailed." In D.C. "black cars" may not be hailed on the street, but with Uber they can be summoned through a few clicks. Passengers are billed to their credit cards and receipts are emailed. Uber charges a base fare of $7 plus time and distance; drivers keep 80 percent of the total fare.

Kalanick criticized a slew of proposed regulations, saying “grey areas” could lead to interpretations that would harm his business. The CEO’s testimony reflected his faith in the marketplace: if Uber drivers don’t do their jobs well there will not be demand for his product.

“It sounds like hyperbole but so many of our customers literally feel like we have changed their lives,” Kalanick testified. “We hear from families that chose to sell their second car, couples who can finally go on date night in hard-to-reach areas, and from women who feel totally comfortable heading out of their office late at night because they have a photo, license plate and phone number of their driver.”

Monday’s testimony marked the latest move by Uber and district lawmakers to find common ground as the D.C. Taxicab Commission (DCTC) attempts to protect the city’s own regulated taxi industry from a completely unregulated enterprise.

Uber announced it would equip yellow cabs in New York City with the service pushing the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission to remind its drivers they cannot accept prearranged rides, nor use mobile devices while driving, pending a review of regulations. Uber plans to find a way to expand in New York City.

D.C. Taxicab Commissioner Ronald Linton has called Uber “arrogant.”

“The commission is in the process of adopting a regulation to add a new class of public vehicle-for-hire known as the sedan class for consideration and approval. This new class of service shall provide for rules to provide minimal regulatory requirements,” Linton testified on Monday. “I would also emphasize that this is a proposed regulation.”

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chaired the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation Committee hearing, sought a conciliatory tone during Kalanick’s testimony, but the CEO refuted her claim that the district is attempting to work with Uber, not against it.

Cheh conceded that some of the proposed regulations may not make a lot of sense and suggested that Kalanick might be misreading the proposal to require sedan companies own at least 20 vehicles.

“The attorney general has read those regulations… you don’t have to have 20 taxis. So I’m not defending that. I’m just saying the rhetoric about the [regulations] being designed to put companies out of business or eliminate them is a little over the top and not correct,” Cheh said.

“I’ve read the regulations,” responded Kalanick. “And we’ve had my attorneys read them and I’d say at best it’s a grey area,” referring to confusion about rules governing the differences between taxis and sedans.

“That may be true,” Cheh said. “But I just wanted to make a statement… that these regulations are not law. I don’t want the rhetoric of the taxi commission trying to put people out of business to take hold.”

“But that is the reality of it,” Kalanick responded, adding that the DCTC “has been on the attack since the moment we got here.”

Proposed restrictions on makes and models and requirements that sedans only be painted by the manufacturers would add unnecessary layers of regulations that serve no purpose other than to make doing business in the district difficult, Kalanick said.

Uber sedan driver Saad Hamadi, who owns a single town car, testified that fleet requirements would drive him out of business. “The requirement for most cars to be 2009 and newer would cause me hardship because it is a 2008 model. It’s clean, looks nice inside and out, and my customers have never complained about its age.”

Despite the testy exchanges, Councilmember Cheh sought to emphasize that the district wants to welcome innovative companies as the landscape of vehicle-for-hire services changes. Earlier this year a survey posted to Cheh’s website revealed deep dissatisfaction with D.C. taxis among the public, a reason Uber supporters say the sedan service should be left alone: if the city-licensed taxis were more dependable Uber sedans wouldn’t be so popular.

Uber’s flexible pricing policy is considered by regulators to be unfair to the city’s taxicab industry because it allows Uber drivers to raise their prices during periods of high demand while traditional taxis charge a set minimum fare plus mileage and time measured by dashboard meters.

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Transportation Nation

Central Florida Mulls Region-Wide Bike Share

Friday, September 21, 2012

More bikes in Central Florida's future? (photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) The train could bring in the bikes. The regional transportation planning agency MetroPlan Orlando is considering starting a bike share program to roll out alongside the SunRail train service under construction. The commuter train line is seen as a catalyst for cycling, with the potential to locate bike share kiosks around the stations along the 61 mile rail line. Other locations in consideration for bike share programs include the University of Central Florida and International Drive in Orlando.

Some cities like Orlando and Winter Park, are already researching bike sharing. But Mighk (pronounced Mike) Wilson, who leads the MetroPlan bike share working group, says it makes more sense to have a region wide system.

“You don’t want to have the user sign up for a program, let’s say in the city of Orlando, and then go sign up for another program maybe in Altamonte, and then have all that redundancy,” he says.

"Instead they should be able to hop on a bike anywhere in the Central Florida area, all under the same membership and fee structure."

The working group held its first meeting Wednesday.

Wilson says he doesn't know if bike share will be up and running in Central Florida by the time SunRail starts in 2014. "What we haven't really determined yet is, are we going to move forward with a bike share program," he says. "We still need to answer a number of questions before we make that commitment." Wilson says one of the first steps will be to put out a Request For Information from bike share companies.

Orlando already put out its own RFI, and three companies responded: Wisconsin based B-Cycle; Deco Bike, which has programs in South Florida and New York; and the Southern California based Bike Nation.

Winter Park Sustainability coordinator Tim Maslow says setting up a region-wide bike share program could take longer than it would for an individual city- but he's willing to wait.

Work is underway on tracks next to Winter Park train station in preparation for SunRail (photo by Matthew Peddie)

"I think the investment in time will pay off in the end," he says. "Maybe we could roll it out in three to six months, but I think it would be worse if we tried to expedite it on our own and then people who were traveling to and from Winter Park, Orlando and surrounding areas were using different systems and they had to get different memberships."

The other benefit of setting up a bigger system is a bigger funding pool. "If it was just city-wide, we would have to foot the bill not only just for bicycles and the stations, which could be a pretty hefty investment, but the city would have to assume the risk and liability and operation of that system," Maslow says. "I'm not sure we have the resources or the staff time."

Maslow says he's still hopeful bike sharing can roll out at the same time as SunRail. He says Winter Park is also making plans to accommodate private bike owners, and the city is in talks with the architects designing the new train station about a potential covered bike storage facility near the station.

A hundred miles west of Orlando, in St. Petersburg, plans are also underway for bike sharing. MyBike founder Andrew Blikken aims to use a system developed by the New York based company  SoBi., which does away with the need for kiosks.  The bikes include an on-board computer and can be locked up anywhere: riders can use their smartphones to locate a bike, unlock it and pay for its use.

MyBike founder Andrew Blikken (photo courtesy of Andrew Blikken)

MyBike was slated to launch in July with 500 bicycles, but Blikken says he's still trying to raise money for the program.

"There is not a bank on the planet that considers bikes collateral," he says.

"So that means debt financing is basically not possible for something like this. However, equity financing is. We have found a number of people who are very interested in putting down smaller amounts. We have a quarter million dollars towards our million dollar goal in our subscription agreement so far."

Blikken says he's looking for a major sponsor to get myBike off the ground. He says once he gets the capital it will be six months at least before his program will be operational.

Meanwhile in Orlando, another start up company is trying to generate interest in a bike share program using the same technology.

SunCycles founder Peter Martinez says he's in talks with SoBi, and he's also looking for people to invest in his company.

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Port Authority Board Gets an Earful from Public Over 9/11 Memorial, Community Relations

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One World Trade Center (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) The day after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a consultant's report lauding the agency's newfound zeal for transparency and accountability, the public showed up at the agency's monthly Board of Commissioners meeting with a very different assessment.

It was a full house.

A contingent of 9/11 family members used the public comment period to urge the Commissioners to reject a Memorandum of Understanding entered into last week between the bi-state agency and the National September 11th Memorial and  Museum. The deal, reached a day before the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks, cleared the way for work to resume. Construction at the site had halted last year after a funding squabble.

Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son on September 11th, took the Port Authority to task for not sufficiently involving the 9/11 families in the process. "Do not approve this MOU until we can have full public disclosure involving the 9/11 families as well as the community."

Richard Hughes of the Twin Towers Alliance told the panel it was being expedient with their deal with the Memorial and Museum that calls for passing ownership of the former site of the Twin Towers to the non-profit in exchange for adjacent land where the Deutsche Bank building once stood.

"You have eight acres of prime important downtown real estate -- a site that is sacred to all of us  -- and you are giving it away or swapping it, but it is really giving it away, without public debate, behind closed doors," Hughes said.

Under the agency's public comment period protocol, Commissioners don't respond directly to the public. But speaking to reporters afterwards, officials defended the deal as breaking a lengthy impasse and insuring the project stays on budget while guaranteeing the site remains a memorial.

Of particular concern to family members at the hearing were the plans to place several thousand of the unidentified remains from the attack in the museum. Boosters of that plan say it will permit work to continue on identifying the remains. The 9/11 families want the surviving families to be polled.

The full board approved the MOU over their objections -- but after the vote, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye reminded reporters the agency had lost 84 employees in the attack. He said he understood the families' concerns about the remains. "Given the grievous loss those family members experienced that is an issue that resonates with me," Foye said.

But it isn't only how the Port has handled Ground Zero that had members of the public fuming.

Casandra Dock came with residents of of the city of Newark. She chastised the Commissioners for not holding public meetings of the board west of the Hudson in New Jersey.

"I come before this board today -- since this is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey  -- to ask this board to have some of these board meetings over in Newark, New Jersey," Dock said.

In the board's brief public meeting it did move on some items without controversy. John F. Kennedy International Airport will host a animal handling facility that the Port Authority says will be the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the nation. The board also approved the deal with ARK Development LLC to convert a vacant building at JFK into what Foye says will be a state-of-the-art facility that will handle everything from household pets to horses.

"And this facility will provide animal daycare and kenneling services, more efficient animal transport services--a full service veterinary hospital. The facility is expected to serve approximately 70,000 wild and domestic animals a year,"Foye said.

The deal will net the agency more than $100 million dollars in rent over the next 20 years.

The Port also funded a study looking at the feasibility of taking over Atlantic City International Airport. It will also take a look at running its existing PATH train from where it currently ends -- in Newark Penn Station --  out to Newark Liberty Airport.

The latest board actions come as the agency grapples with how to fund some $44 billion dollars in upgrades it says the region's transportation infrastructure will need by 2020.

 

The World Trade Center construction on 3/8/12 (photo by Kate Hinds)
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Transportation Nation

Streetcar Could Make Virginia's Community Pike Neighborhood More Walkable

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This is the second part in a series of ongoing reports about the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region’s changing neighborhoods. Listen to the radio version of this story here. The first part highlighted Southeast D.C.'s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.

Columbia Pike stretches three and a half miles through the center of densely populated Arlington County, Virginia just west of D.C.  The corridor, extends southwest of Arlington National Cemetery, into an evolving landscape of mixed-use development that builders and community activists alike are hoping to improve into more livable communities. But unlike the nearby Rosslyn-Ballston corridor that was built up around Metro rail, the Columbia Pike has no rail link to attract real estate development. The future does hold plans for a streetcar.

“We’re working toward implementing light rail in the form of the Columbia Pike Streetcar which will connect the density at the west end in Fairfax to Pentagon City and Crystal City in the east end,” said Chris Zimmerman, an Arlington County Board member who has been heavily involved in the county’s transit-oriented planning. He said the county just submitted its application to the Federal Transit Administration for streetcar grant dollars.

The future path of a light rail line is currently used by the busiest bus service in the Commonwealth of Virginia at roughly 15,000 daily riders.  While residents have access to transit – a key requirement to be considered a thriving WalkUP in a study by George Washington University professor Chris Leinberger – Columbia Pike’s population is missing some important elements. For one, the corridor needs more people.

“We need more density. Density is sometimes viewed by people as the antithesis of what you want in development, but what density has proven to do in Arlington is create places where you can move around easier,” said David DeCamp, a real estate developer, who accompanied a WAMU reporter on a tour of the pike along with John Murphy, the vice president of the board of directors of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

The corridor also lacks commercial development.

“Mixed-use has three components: residential, office, and commercial," Murphy said. "The pike sorely misses office right now.”

A streetcar line will not be a cure-all, so county planners implemented two other measures to spur development along Columbia Pike: zoning laws were changed to make development easier, and the housing overlay zone was altered to double the unit density. Landowners will be required to maintain roughly one-fourth of their new apartment units as affordable housing; the county will build a streetcar line so their tenants can move easily up and down the corridor.

The combination of maintaining some affordable housing and expanding access to transit will allow the pike to avoid some of the negative consequences of gentrification, namely population displacement, Zimmerman said.

“Our goal is to make it possible for everyone who lives there today to live there tomorrow,” he said. “We believe it’s possible to accommodate the same number of people who make, say, 60 percent of the area median income or less, if we build it into our planning.”

Zimmerman said thirty years ago, when the county began planning for the Orange Line, it was so focused on attracting affluent residents to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor it neglected affordable housing units. That lesson is serving Columbia Pike planners today, he said.

“The community is very supportive of this because people understand that a lot of what they like about the Columbia Pike corridor is its diversity,” he said. “We don’t want it to become homogeneous. We don’t want it to become a place that is just for affluent people.”

Arlington County is considered a national leader in urban planning and land use. Although the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor on the Metro's Orange Line covers about 10 percent of the county’s land mass it produces 55 percent of its tax base, according to George Washington University professor Chris Leinberger.

“If you were to look at it 25 years ago you’d say, this may become a slum. All the obsolete strip retail was vacant,” Leinberger said in an interview with WAMU. “Today they have fabulous public schools. It’s a very diverse community and it’s extremely walkable.”

Murphy and DeCamp believe the same will be said for the Columbia Pike corridor.

“I’m excited about the potential of the pike to save the diversity of residents we have here,” said Murphy, who said the goal of zero population displacement is attainable. “They’ve made that happen. It’s going to be an incredibly dynamic, diverse, energetic engine with the streetcar in combination with the housing overlay.”

 

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Transportation Nation

New York Governor Cuomo Names New Design Review Team for Tappan Zee Bridge

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Earlier this summer New York Governor Cuomo promised that a "blue ribbon selection committee" would review designs for the new $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Bridge. And on Wednesday morning, he named the members.

Artist Jeff Koons, architect Richard Meier, and Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell provide star power for "The Bridge Design Aesthetic Team," which is tasked with recommending a final design for the new bridge.

The state is currently reviewing the bids from the three finalists for the project and will select one later this year.

Cuomo had promised to put a design review team in place to address aesthetic concerns about what the final bridge would look like.

But in his announcement today, he wouldn't be pinned down on what the team was looking for. "I think we'll know it when we see it," the governor said. "We want an attractive design that enhances the region." He added that the Tappan Zee, which connects Rockland and Westchester Counties, spans "a magnificent part of the Hudson River" and "design is an important element here."

But the governor's press release makes it clear that the team's job is advisory. "When the review team has made its recommendation," it reads, "a final formal decision will be made by the Thruway Authority, subject to the approval of its Board."

 The full press release is below.

____________________________________

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES TEAM OF ARTISTS, TECHNICAL EXPERTS, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS TO HELP SELECT FINAL BRIDGE DESIGN FOR TAPPAN ZEE PROJECT

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a selection review team for the new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee. The review team will include internationally renowned artists and architects, under the auspices of the New York State Council of the Arts, who will review proposed bridge designs as well as assist local community leaders and transportation experts in the evaluation process.

The artists and experts who will review the designs include:· Jeffrey Koons, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
· Richard Meier, a Pritzker Prize winning architect and Gold Medal awardee for architecture from the Academy of Arts and Letters
· Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
· Keith Brownlie, an internationally acclaimed bridge designer"Another day, another big step toward building a new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee which will be stronger, safer, better as well as one which will live up to the beauty and splendor of the Hudson River," Governor Cuomo said. "For this project, we are creating a different kind of review team – it’s a team that combines technical experts, architectural experts, local experts as well as artists to ensure the new bridge is the best choice and fit for the region."

The selection process will evaluate the technical quality of the proposals in conjunction with pricing information, to identify the proposal that offers the best value to New York State. The "best value" approach, made possible by the design-build legislation enacted by Governor Cuomo last year, looks at factors such as design and long-term quality of the project to ensure that the proposal chosen meets the needs of the region, the transportation system and toll payers.

Specifically, the selection review team will be evaluating the best value of each bid based on criteria stated in the RFP, which generally include:· Best price for toll payers
· Bridge structure and design
· Investment in future transit options, including BRT and rail
· Traffic management plan
· Plan for working collaboratively with community and local stakeholders
· Ability to meet strict environmental requirements
· Construction plan
· Bridge lifespan
· Geotechnical for bridge foundations
· History and experience of design-build team
The review team members will undergo rigorous procurement training before beginning the bid evaluation process as required by federal procurement law. Once the evaluation process is complete, the review team has a number of options before it sends a final recommendation to the Governor. The team can:· Recommend one of the three bids submitted in July
· Authorize negotiations with one or more bidders based on its submission
· Authorize a request for a best and final offer from multiple bidders.
When the review team has made its recommendation, a final formal decision will be made by the Thruway Authority, subject to the approval of its Board.

MEMBERS OF BRIDGE DESIGN AESTHETIC TEAM

Jeffrey Koons: Artist
Internationally recognized artist Jeff Koons is widely known for his iconic sculptures Rabbit and Balloon Dog as well as his monumental floral works Puppy and Split-Rocker. His work has been exhibited extensively around the world. Working with everyday objects, his work revolves around themes of self-acceptance and transcendence. Koons has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his cultural achievements. Most recently, the Royal Academy of Arts presented Koons with the John Singleton Copley Award, Governor Ed Rendell presented Koons with The Governor’s Awards for the Arts - Distinguished Arts Award, and President Jacques Chirac promoted Koons to Officier de la Legion d’Honneur. He has become a fervent advocate for protecting children and has served six years on the board of directors for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). With both the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children, Mr. Koons developed the Koons Family International Law and Policy Institute in 2007, with the purpose of combating child abduction and exploitation. Koons lives and works in New York City.

Mr. Koons said, "As an artist I'm honored to participate as a voice to try to help assure an aesthetic Tappan Zee Bridge project. It's a wonderful opportunity for our generation to contribute to a project that will not only enhance everyday life but help define a sense of place for New York."

Richard Meier: Architect
Richard Meier received his architectural training at Cornell University and established his own office in New York City in 1963. Since that time his international practice has encompassed major cultural and civic commissions as well as private residences and corporate and academic facilities. He has received the highest honors in the field including the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, the Gold Medals of the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. He is best known for the Getty Center in Los Angeles; the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Jubilee Church in Rome. His current work includes the Mitikah Office Tower in Mexico City, Mexico; a condominium complex in Jesolo, Italy; the Rothschild tower in Tel Aviv, Israel; two residential towers in Tokyo, Japan; two hospitality and commercial projects in Mexico; a hotel in South Korea; a condominium tower in Taiwan; the Leblon Offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and private residences in Europe, Asia and North America.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Since becoming the ninth Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009, Thomas P. Campbell has pursued an agenda that focuses on scholarship and accessibility. These priorities maintain the Museum’s excellence in its exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and permanent collections, while encouraging new thinking about the visitor experience. Prior to his appointment, Campbell was a curator in the Metropolitan's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts for 14 years, where he organized two major exhibitions on Renaissance and Baroque tapestry.

Mr. Campbell said, "I was very pleased to be asked by Governor Cuomo to become a member of the artistic design committee for the new bridge. I am well aware—as a former resident of the Hudson Valley and as director of a great museum holding a distinguished collection of Hudson River School paintings, which portray the majestic beauty of the region—of the great significance that the project holds from a practical as well as aesthetic standpoint. It’s a privilege to work on a project so important to New York, one that will serve such an important practical purpose while preserving and honoring the scale and scenery of the area."

Alison Spear AIA, LEED AP : Architect
Alison Spear is a local and LEED certified architect licensed to work in New York as well as other states and is presently a Senior Designer with Ennead Architects, (formerly James Polshek & Partners), in New York City. Spear was formerly the principal of her architectural and design firm, Alison Spear AIA in Wappingers Falls, New York City and Miami, Florida. She has taught at several universities including University of Miami School of Architecture, Parson’s School of Design and a visiting critic Syracuse University School of Architecture and University of Toronto. She has received several awards including the Design Star Award from the Design Center of the Americas and was named the 2005 Interior Architect of the Year by the American Institute of Architects. Spear is a resident of the Hudson Valley.

Keith Brownlie: Bridge Architect
Keith Brownlie is a leading international Bridge Architect specializing in the design of major infrastructure and engineering projects worldwide. He has been responsible for shaping numerous landmark bridge structures including the Gateshead Millennium and Twin Sails Bridges in the United Kingdom, the Metsovitikos Crossing in Greece and the Sutong Yangtze River Bridge in China. He has also directed the architectural design of many significant infrastructure projects including High Speed One rail link in the UK and the 18km Fehmarnbelt Tunnel between Germany and Denmark, as well as super high rise buildings such as the 1450ft Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China. Projects with which he has been involved have received the highest international architecture and engineering awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in the United Kingdom, the Arthur G. Hayden Medal in the United States and the Balthasar Neumann Prize in Germany. Brownlie graduated from Brighton School of Architecture and the Mackintosh School of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow University. He is a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers.

Thomas Wermuth: Director, Hudson River Valley Institute & Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Marist College
Thomas Wermuth is a published expert on the social and economic history of the Hudson Valley. He is editor of the book series, “The Hudson River Valley: An American Region,” which focuses on the history, culture, literature and tourism of the Valley. He was an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of New York State and author of
Rip Van Winkle's Neighbors: The Transformation of Rural Society in the Hudson River Valley and edited America's First River: The Hudson, published by the State University of New York Press. He serves on the Executive Board of the New York Academy of History and is chair of the editorial board of the Hudson River Valley Review. He resides in Harrison, Westchester County.

MEMBERS OF THE SELECTION COMMITTEE

State Representatives
Brandon Sall, Chairman of Selection Committee
Brandon Sall is a member of the Thruway Board of Directors and a partner at Sall & Geist and Gellert & Rodner, located in White Plains. Sall has vast experience with real estate law and knowledge of the process involved with land transactions. He is admitted to the Bar in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida and is a member of the New York State Bar Association. Sall received his B.B.A from the University of Miami and attended the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He resides in Harrison.

Nuria Fernandez
Nuria Fernandez is Chief Operating Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). She previously served as Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill, a firm that provides engineering, construction, and operations services for businesses and governments throughout the world. Prior to that, Fernandez served as Commissioner for the Chicago Airport System, where she directed all airport operations, planning, engineering, and management services for O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the second busiest airport system in the world. She has also served in executive positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Chicago Transit Authority.

Joan McDonald
Joan McDonald is Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation. Commissioner McDonald previously served as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development for the State of Connecticut, as Senior Vice President of Transportation for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and as the Vice President in charge of New York and New Jersey at Jacobs Engineering. She began her transportation career as Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Traffic Operations for the New York City DOT and as the Director of Capital and Long Range Planning for the MTA Metro-North Railroad.

Karen Rae
Karen Rae is Deputy Secretary for Transportation in the Executive Chamber. Prior to joining the Cuomo Administration, she served as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration in the Obama Administration, where she managed the federal high speed rail initiative and developed national freight and passenger rail policy. She also served as Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, including negotiating and executing the multi-billion dollar public-private partnership contract for the Dulles rail project. She was previously General Manager of transit systems in Austin, Texas, Glens Falls and Buffalo. Rae was also Deputy Commissioner of Policy and Planning at the New York State DOT, where she was responsible for finance, planning and policy, and Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOT, where she led the creation of a streamlined, performance-based funding program for transit.

Community Representatives
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef has designated County Commissioner of Planning Thomas B. Vanderbeek, P.E., to represent Rockland County on the Selection panel. Vanderbeek has a wealth of experience with respect to facilities and water supply planning, having successfully worked with major governmental agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as Rockland County’s towns and villages. He is a licensed professional engineer specializing in civil and environmental engineering as well as water resources planning. For eight years, he was a member of the Rockland County Planning Board. Vanderbeek also served as Stony Point Town Engineer and was project manager and engineer in the development of sewer systems in western Ramapo, overseeing environmental impact study, survey and design. Vanderbeek has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University and is a member of the state Fire Prevention and Building Codes Council, the Rockland County Parks Commission and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
County Executive Rob Astorino has designated County Department of Planning Commissioner Edward Buroughs to represent Westchester County on the Selection panel. Buroughs’s career has since 1980 focused on municipal planning in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, following earlier experience in county and town governments in Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the county staff in 1994, he served as Director of Planning for the towns of Somers and Lewisboro in Westchester and as consulting town planner for the town of Carmel in Putnam County. He earned a Masters of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University and a
B.A. from the University of Delaware.

Village of South Nyack Mayor Tish Dubow
Mayor Tish Dubow has designated Richard L. Kohlhausen to represent the Village of South Nyack on the Selection panel. Kohlhausen was appointed to the SUNY Rockland Community College Board of Trustees by Governor Pataki and was reappointed by Governor David Paterson. He also serves as President of the Board of Nyack Hospital, and formerly served as President of the Nyack School Board and as a Member of the Board of the Edwin Gould Academy in Ramapo. A West Virginia native, Kohlhausen moved to Rockland more than 30 years ago and currently resides in South Nyack. He has worked as a chemical engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, and now works in the insurance industry for Capitol Risk Management Services, Ltd. in Nanuet. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from New York University and an M.B.A. from Iona College, New York.

Village of Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell
Mayor Drew Fixell has designated David Aukland to represent the Village of Tarrytown on the Selection panel. Aukland is a member of the Village's five-person Planning Board, to which he was appointed in 2006. His work for the Village has included reviews of the implications of various Tappan Zee Bridge replacement proposals with the Mayor and other officials, as well as other activities relating to the future development of the Village. Prior to his formal association with the Village of Tarrytown, Aukland worked for IBM. After early work in the United Kingdom, he spent fifteen years at the company's European headquarters in Paris, France.

Technical Experts
Al Biehler
Al Bielher is a Distinguished Service Professor of Transportation Systems and Policy at the H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University, Executive Director of the University Transportation Center, and an adjunct professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in the Engineering College at Carnegie Mellon. He previously served for eight years as Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOT, leading an organization that operated the nation’s fifth largest state highway system and administered one of the country’s largest grant programs for mass transit, rail freight, and aviation. As Secretary, he launched a program known as Smart Transportation to streamline and stabilize Pennsylvania’s transit program. In 2009, Biehler was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, where he helped to create the State Smart Transportation Initiative to assist state transportation agencies wishing to accelerate sustainable practices. Prior to his post at DOT, he was a Vice President with the international transportation consulting firm DMJM-Harris, where he was project manager for preliminary engineering of the North Shore LRT Connector project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Director of Planning and Preliminary Engineering for extension of the Tren Urbano rail system in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Earlier, Biehler was Director of Planning, Engineering and Construction at Port Authority of Allegheny County, in charge of the agency’s $500 million capital improvement program. He received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and a masters-equivalent Certificate in Highway Transportation from Yale University. He is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania.

Gene McGovern
Gene McGovern is widely known and respected as a manager of large construction projects. In 1979, he co-founded Lehrer McGovern Inc., which ultimately became a part of the construction industry leader now known as Bovis Lend Lease. Lehrer McGovern was the construction manager for the mid-1980s restoration of the Statue of Liberty, and worked on other high-profile projects including renovations of Grand Central Station and Ellis Island and the construction of Euro Disney and London’s Canary Wharf business district.

Robert Yaro
Robert Yaro is President of Regional Plan Association (RPA), the nation's oldest independent metropolitan policy, research, and advocacy group. He led development of and co-authored RPA's Third Regional Plan, A Region at Risk, and has authored and co-authored numerous papers and articles on planning and infrastructure for the five boroughs of New York City and the metropolitan region. He founded and co-chairs America 2050, RPA's initiative to create a national development and infrastructure plan. He is co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance, on the board of the Forum for Urban Design, and an honorary member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Yaro holds a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Harvard University and a B.A. in Urban Studies from Wesleyan University. In addition to leading RPA, Yaro is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and has consulted on city and regional planning issues across the United States and in Europe, China, Japan, Turkey, and North Africa.

TECHNICAL ADVISORS

Mark Roche, Senior Technical Advisor
Mark Roche is a Principal of Arup and leads its Highways Business in the Americas. A civil and structural engineer, Mr. Roche has worked in the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the Americas on a wide range of complex multi-disciplinary bridge, rail and highway projects where innovation and constructability have been key issues. His bridge experience includes post-tensioned segmental, arch and cable-stayed plus other more common bridge forms. He has extensive experience with bridges and other structures in high seismic activity zones and areas of high environmental forces. He brings innovation and value to projects with his knowledge of bridge aesthetics, risk and extensive experience on design-build projects.

Robert Brownstein, Procurement Expert
Robert Brownstein is Vice President of AECOM and an internationally-recognized expert with 40 years of experience in infrastructure related industries, with particular expertise in procurement and project development. He has served as a procurement advisor for numerous public agencies throughout the United States and other countries. He is a frequent speaker at conferences throughout the world.

Steven Polan, Counsel to the Selection Committee
Steven Polan is a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips. He represents government agencies and contractors worldwide in the development and construction of significant transportation infrastructure projects. He was general counsel for an international construction and engineering company, and previously served as Commissioner of Sanitation for the City of New York and as General Counsel of the MTA.

Construction
Jay Bayersdorfer
Jay Bayersdorfer is the Chief Estimator for AECOM NYC Metro and has over 29 years of experience in all types of heavy and civil construction. His experience includes planning, costing and implementation of heavy/highway projects, underground utility construction, complex excavations for underground structures, earth support systems, slurry walls, groundwater control, environmental remediation, heating, energy, and ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips is a Principal of Arup, a member of the Arup Americas Board and Chair of Arup's Transport Market in the Americas, with a particular focus on major projects in the fields of transport, civil structures, bridges, tunnels and heavy civil engineering. He currently holds senior management and engineering positions on a number of projects that include Lake Mead Intake #3, A30 P3 Highway project in Montreal, and California High Speed Rail Los Angeles to Fresno Segments. He was chairman of the Association of California High Speed Trains. He also acts as a reviewer and provides support and expert advice on major infrastructure projects and has been an expert on several legal cases.

Environmental
Robert Conway
Robert Conway is an environmental engineer with over 30 years of experience in the environmental assessment of complex infrastructure and development projects. He has led the environmental review and permitting processes for a number of major transportation projects in the region including the Long Island Rail Road Eastside Access Project, New York State DOT Route 9A Reconstruction Project, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey World Trade Center Permanent Path Terminal and Bayonne Bridge, the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak Portal Bridge Project, and New York City DOT Belt Parkway Bridges Program.

Financial
Thomas Kellerman, CFA
Thomas Kellerman, CFA is a senior vice president with Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors. He pioneered a methodology to evaluate and optimize project finance deals and developed an analytical tool based on this methodology. He has years of experience in asset valuation, capital markets, simulation modeling, risk analysis and mitigation and financial structuring. He has worked on a wide range of public sector projects including the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Goethals Bridge Replacement Project and Illinois DOT Elgin-O’Hare West Bypass, as well as a range of major projects for the Florida Department of Transportation. He has a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jeffrey A. Parker
Jeffrey Parker is a senior managing director of Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors. One of the nation’s leading advisors on public-private partnerships and financial planning for transportation projects, he played a key role in helping to bring to fruition projects including the Port of Miami Tunnel and I-595 public-private partnerships and the Miami Intermodal Center, the largest intermodal complex in the U.S. He is currently an advisor on the Georgia Multi-Modal Transportation Project, a mixed-use redevelopment and intermodal complex in downtown Atlanta. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Robert Megna
Robert L. Megna is New York State's Budget Director, where he is responsible for the overall development and management of the State’s fiscal policy, including overseeing the preparation of budget recommendations for all State agencies and programs, economic and revenue forecasting, tax policy, fiscal planning, capital financing and management of the State’s debt portfolio, as well as pensions and employee benefits. Mr. Megna previously served as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, responsible for overseeing the collection and accounting of more $90 billion in State and local taxes, the administration of State and local taxes, including New York City and City of Yonkers income taxes and the processing of tax returns, registrations and associated documents.

Before joining the Department of Taxation and Finance, Mr. Megna served as head of the Economic and Revenue Unit of the New York State Division of Budget, as Assistant Commissioner for Tax Policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia, as Director of Tax Studies for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and as Deputy Director of Fiscal Studies for the Ways and Means Committee of the New York State Assembly.

Geotechnical Advisors
Tony Canale
Tony Canale has been involved in managing a wide range of design projects covering transportation, private development, and public structures. He has been responsible for traditional geotechnical studies, such as laboratory testing of undisturbed soil samples, consolidation settlement estimates, slope stability analyses, seepage analyses, and rock bolting design. Canale’s design projects have included foundation recommendations for high-rise structures in Manhattan such as One Bryant Park, the New York Times headquarters and Times Square Tower. He has been involved in projects that required piled foundations and caissons such as the new Mets baseball stadium, Citi Field, and the East River Plaza Retail Center in upper Manhattan. He has also worked on the Tappan Zee Bridge Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) project over the past nine years. During that time, he has supervised several subsurface investigations and the recently completed pile installation demonstration program, and was the primary author of several foundation related reports that were included in the EIS report.

Tony Kiefer
Tony Kiefer is a project manager and project principal for geotechnical and civil engineering projects with AECOM. He is responsible for management and principal review of complex projects, and his experience includes scheduling, design of explorative programs, supervision of support personnel, and writing and reviewing of reports with engineering recommendations.

Hugh Lacy
Hugh Lacy is a partner with Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers (MRCE). He is an expert in underpinning, protecting existing structures during adjacent construction, and ground freezing technology. He was instrumental in developing the frozen soil testing capability for MRCE's in-house soil laboratory as a state-of-the art facility, and the only private lab in the United States that offers these services. He directs numerous high profile projects involving tunnels, subways and shafts, bridge foundations, building foundations and deep basements, wastewater facilities, dams, and the majority of the firm's work in Washington, DC. He specializes in geotechnical investigations, analysis of probable foundation performance, pile foundation performance, pile foundations, design and construction of building and waste water facility foundations, railroad structures and tunnels, associated dewatering and excavation support including ground freezing.

Legal
Peter W. Denton
Peter Denton is an attorney with Nossaman’s Infrastructure Practice Group, advising clients on design-build and other innovative contracts for development of major transportation projects. These projects include the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s intercity passenger rail system, the Virginia DOT Midtown Tunnel project, the North Carolina DOT I-77 HOT Lanes project, the Georgia DOT West by Northwest Managed Lanes Project and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit District’s commuter rail project.

Management
Tom Cascino
Tom Cascino is Vice President in charge of AECOM’s upstate New York transportation business practice, covering all design and construction inspection services. He has worked on multiple design-build projects, including the Gauley Bridge in West Virginia, and has a wide breadth of experience with staff throughout the region and with various New York State agencies, including the New York State Thruway Authority and New York State DOT.

Charles Dwyer
Charles Dwyer is a Program Director with AECOM with over 20 years of experience in the procurement and management of design-build projects. His skills include planning, design and construction of highways and bridges, and he formerly worked as the design-build project manager at the South Carolina DOT for the new Ravenel Bridge mega-project in Charleston. His responsibilities included budget, schedule, quality, public relations, partner/dispute resolution, and environmental agency coordination.

David Palmer
David Palmer is a principal consultant to Arup. He has extensive U.S. and international experience in the planning, design and construction of major infrastructure projects in rail transit, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, ports and harbors. He has recently been principal-in-charge for the design of Second Avenue Subway and Fulton Street Transit Center in New York City and the Tappan Zee Corridor. He provided construction management for New Jersey Transit new Hudson River tunnels, the California High Speed Rail Los Angeles to Fresno segments, and numerous other projects throughout the Americas.

Operations & Security
Jerry Gluck
Jerry Gluck is a senior manager at AECOM with more than 30 years of experience in transportation planning and traffic engineering. His vast experience comes from both the private and governmental sectors and includes highway operations/planning, access management and system analysis. He has directed major studies including the Long Island Expressway Capacity Improvement Project, and has a unique knowledge of access management from his involvement supporting numerous state DOTs.

Procurement
K. Gunalan
Mr. Gunalan is a vice president of global alternative delivery with AECOM with 30 years of engineering and construction experience throughout North America. He has served on both the owner’s and contractor’s sides in many alternative delivery projects, and most recently as the lead for development of technical requirements for the $1 billion Presidio Parkway public-private partnership project in California.

Peter Matusewitch
Peter Matusewitch is an associate engineer with Arup, with expertise in structural design, rehabilitation, planning studies, cost estimates and inspection of fixed and movable bridges. His strength is in the technical leadership of diverse aspects of planning and design of bridges. He served as the technical coordinator for an Airport Taxiway Bridge in Cancun, Mexico and for two major river crossings on a 42km-long design-build-operate project to extend Autoroute 30 around Montreal, Quebec. The coordination included seismic design, foundations, prestressed concrete beam fabrication issues and environmental issues.

Mark Swatta
Mark Swatta is a market segment director for AECOM’s Alterative Delivery Group and a structural engineer with over 39 years of project delivery experience. His diverse background includes structural analysis, design, and construction and project management capabilities, particularly in the transportation industry. He was recently a project director on Florida’s $1 billion Port of Miami Tunnel public-private partnership project.

Public Outreach
Dr. Arnold Bloch
Dr. Arnold Bloch is the principal in charge of the New York Office of Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates (HSH), and has more than 36 years of experience in the private, public, and academic sectors. At HSH, he has overseen hundreds of public involvement projects, including many projects for state DOTs, and most recently he has been in charge of HSH’s efforts on the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Environmental Review and the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project.

Jennie Granger
Jennie Granger serves as a project manager and planning market segment leader for AECOM. Her focus includes project coordination of major fast-paced National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) projects with extensive public involvement programs. She also specializes in preparation and review of various forms and documentation for NEPA and natural, cultural, and socio-economic resources; coordination of instruction efforts; and preparation and compilation of administrative records for litigation.

Roadway Design Advisors
Philip Cremin
Philip Cremin is currently Assistant Chief Civil Engineer at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. He has over 30 years of experience in civil engineering design at the Port Authority. He has held his current position for the past seven years, overseeing approximately forty staff members. Cremin has worked on the Goethals Bridge and Bayonne Bridge replacement programs and is currently overseeing the civil design for the LaGuardia Redevelopment Program and the Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal A Program. He was on the Port Authority committee responsible for the development of sustainable design guidelines for infrastructure-type projects. In addition, he directs the agency’s pavement management program.

Structural Design Advisors
Jamey Barbas
Jamey Barbas is a design manager for major design build and public-private partnership projects for Hardesty & Hanover. Her 28 years of experience in bridge design, construction and inspection have a special emphasis on complex and long-span suspension bridges. She has worked on many award-winning alternative delivery projects, including acting as the bridge design manager for the major bridges across Autoroute 30 in Montreal, one of the largest public-private partnership bridges in North America.

George Christian
George Christian is currently a transportation quality control engineer with AECOM. He is a structural technical advisor on bridge projects and for design build proposal development, which includes developing design concepts for complex bridges. Before joining AECOM, he had over 38 years of engineering management experience in varied bridge planning, design, construction and evaluation activities in the New York State DOT Office of Structures.

Angus Low
Angus Low is a consultant with Arup with over 30 years of experience with long-span bridges over shipping channels, in a variety of roles as designer, checker, assessor, tender assessor or technical advisor. His extensive experience covers many countries and includes many design build and alternative delivery bridge projects, such as the Hangzhou Bay Bridge in China and the Second Severn Crossing in England and Wales.

Ken Wheeler
Ken Wheeler is a transportation industry director with AECOM with over 35 years of experience in bridge engineering, particularly for major bridge projects. His experience includes particular emphasis on design build projects and encompasses concrete and composite steel cable-stayed, pre-stressed concrete box girder, composite steel box girder and composite steel truss bridges.

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Transportation Nation

Gentrification and Transportation in Washington: Part II of a Special Report

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Caoital Bikeshare station in DC's Deanwood neighborhood (photo by Martin DiCaro)

This is the second of a two-part series on the relationship between gentrification and access to transit in Washington D.C.'s rapidly changing neighborhoods. Part 2 examines the Deanwood and Kenilworth neighborhoods in Ward 7. Part 1 examined the Shaw and Pleasant Plains neighborhoods in the Georgia Avenue corridor in Ward 1.

Despite the presence of three Metro stations -- four when counting the station just over the border in Prince George's County -- redevelopment has been slow to take hold in D.C.'s Ward 7. If you take the train east of the Anacostia River and arrive at the Minnesota Avenue Metro station in the Deanwood area, you will arrive in what looks like a different city in one significant respect: while other parts of Washington are exploding with new high-rise apartment buildings and retail space, this neighborhood is only starting to grow.

"We still like the small-town feel of this area, and we have an older population," says Dennis Chestnut, 62. He runs the grassroots community group Groundwork Anacostia. "We like to retain a little bit of that as the growth takes place, so I think that very rapid growth has its drawbacks."

"When you look at this Metro station and all of the space that is available here, there is opportunity here for Metro and transit-oriented retail that could support the community in a lot of ways," Chestnut added.

That section of the city has remained underserved for decades, and developers are now beginning to take advantage of what is fertile ground for real estate projects. At the very busy intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, ground has been broken on the Park 7 development, a $67 million mixed-use real estate project that will include 20,000 square feet of new retail space and mostly affordable rental housing among its 370 apartment units, a key to protecting existing residents from rising property values as gentrification takes root.

"The people who are most vulnerable are renters because their rents can keep going up," says Cheryl Cort, the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "D.C. does have a moderate rent-control law for older buildings, but there are ways for building owners to get around that, so renters are most vulnerable to rising prices."

In July, about 100 affordable housing units for residents 55 and older opened at Victory Square on Barnes Street NE, a component of the ward's Parkside master plan. Tenants with moderate incomes will pay rents ranging from $775 to $960, according to a statement by the Banc of America Community Development Corporation.

There are at least seven major real estate projects in Ward 7 receiving city subsidies.

New transit and gentrification

Coming changes could cause unintended consequences for the ward's poorest residents. A plan to extend the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line east of the Anacostia River is under consideration. A study by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found that neighborhoods that get new rail transit systems like streetcars experience a significant increase in housing prices. In some places, renters and low-income households have been priced out.

"A streetcar or light rail can lead to gentrification here," says Peter Tatian, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. "It has in other places. It brings investment into a community and new people who are attracted by the new transportation. What the city needs to do is think about how it can take advantage of the benefits of light rail as well as mitigating the negatives that might exist, particularly for renters."

While many residents may welcome the streetcar line, Octaviah Holt, a 21-year-old professional, has her doubts about whom it will benefit.

"Who would put a trolley in this neighborhood?" says Holt. "I don't feel as though there is a lot of crime, but a lot of people wouldn't want to ride a trolley, the people that I know. I feel as though it's not for us, the people in the neighborhood. It's meant for the newcomers."

The perception that Ward 7 is not a place where developers want to build or people want to move is fading, according to Tatian.

"People who come out here will see the changes, but the problem is getting the people to come out here in the first place," he says. "There is still this perception that this is not a good place to be, but that is starting to change slowly."

New pedestrian bridge over I-295

One can get a bird's eye view of the traffic roaring by on Route 295 by standing on the old, narrow, poorly lit pedestrian bridge connecting Deanwood to Kenilworth. The latter neighborhood has been isolated from its neighbors since the highway was built through here, Chestnut says.

"This bridge is the only connection for this community to Minnesota Avenue and the Metro," he says. Now that Kenilworth is starting to grow, a new pedestrian bridge will be necessary to accommodate increased foot traffic.

"This pedestrian bridge was built a while ago, and it is time for it to be rebuilt," says Cheryl Cort. "It doesn't feel like a very safe place. We talk to residents and there's a tendency to use it during the daylight hours and take the bus home at night. The new pedestrian bridge will be designed to be a much safer place. It will deter crime."

Preparing for change

Whether the neighborhood Dennis Chestnut has called home his entire life can avoid the negative consequences of gentrification remains to be seen. The addition of affordable housing units amid new apartment buildings will certainly help. He says the late development of Deanwood has also turned out to be "a blessing."

"It wound up being a blessing in disguise for this particular area because of how rapidly it happened in some of the other areas," he says. "On the east side of the city, Ward 8 was one example of how rapidly it took place there. It has allowed the residents here in Ward 7 to witness that and to prepare to some extent. This is where the local engagement has been very important to get involved with the process."

Resident O'Neal Odom, 70, who has lived in the ward for 40 years, welcomes the expected transformation as major real estate projects are realized.

"We're finally starting to get some services," he says. "You know, streets fixed, getting stores, we are getting government. It's becoming a better place to live. I have no problem with gentrification. It's going to change like that anyway. Once they start building new houses and new things like that, people will stop being afraid of us."

For more on how gentrification has affected DC residents, listen to the TN documentary "Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality."

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Transportation Nation

DC "Pioneer" in Walkable, Transit-Friendly Neighborhoods

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

(Washington, DC - WAMU) D.C. is known for its great tourist attractions -- not to mention political scandals -- but among real estate developers the metropolitan area is receiving attention for what one expert says is a pioneering approach to the development of neighborhoods.

The D.C. metro area is leading the nation in the creation of WalkUPs --Walkable Urban Places -- according to a report released by George Washington University professor and smart growth advocate Christopher Leinberger.

In Leinberger’s view, developers are reversing decades of thinking about how people want to live, work and be entertained by creating anti-sprawl: densely-built office space, housing, and retail space in urban settings where residents can have most of their daily needs met within 1,500 to 3,000 feet of where they live.  While WalkUPs may differ in many respects from neighborhood to neighborhood, they all share one thing in common: access to multiple modes of transit, including commuter rail, bus, and bike sharing.

“There are 43 regionally significant WalkUPs in this region and they total only 17,500 acres, less than 1 percent of the land mass,” said Leinberger, who heads the political advocacy group Locus. “But this is the future of where most regionally significant job growth and development will go over the next generation.”

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

How walkable is your neighborhood? Leinberger developed a zero-to-100 scoring system at walkscore.com.

“These walkable urban places that I have been studying have a walk score that is a minimum of 70. As [a neighborhood] gets more walkable we have found that its economic performance goes up, and this is why developers are so fascinated by these places. Greater walkability, higher rents. But there is a downside to higher rents and that is basic affordability.”

Capitol Riverfront neighborhood Southeast -- near Navy Yard Metro (photo by Martin DiCaro)

The Capitol Riverfront neighborhood in Southeast D.C. may demonstrate the success of the WalkUP model. A blighted industrial landscape of oil storage tankers and trash transfer stations that was scarred by crime, prostitution and poverty, Capitol Riverfront – just five blocks from the U.S. Capitol building with two miles of riverfront real estate – has witnessed a rapid transformation over the past decade. The catalyst for change was the completion of the Navy Yard Metro Station in 1999, according to Michael Stevens, the executive director of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID), a non-profit that performs planning and infrastructure analysis.

“It was only until the Navy Yard Metro station opened in 1999 that I think people started to understand this could be an in-town neighborhood,” said Stevens, who said once the redevelopment of downtown D.C. was accomplished, developers could “jump” into adjacent neighborhood ripe for change.

In the past decade, the Green Line corridor has caught up to -- and exceeded -- the Rosslyn-Ballston Orange Line corridor in attracting the coveted 18-34 demographic, according to data compiled by the BID.  From 2000 to 2010, the Green Line corridor attracted more than 3,400 new households in that age group, slightly more than Rosslyn-Ballston.  In the previous decade such growth was nearly non-existent along the Green Line.

“We survey residents living down here on an annual basis and year in and year out the most important factor for them choosing to live in the neighborhood has been the access to multi-modal transit and the Metro station,” said Ted Skirbunt, the BID’s director of real estate research.

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

The WalkUP model has thrived because there's been an attitude shift among young professionals. Less interested in living in drivable suburbs where the costs of home ownership are incompatible with college debt bills, this cohort has been seeking smaller living spaces where cars -- and the parking spaces they require -- are unnecessary.

“We call it the five-minute neighborhood. Within a five-minute walk you can be at the grocery store, at the park where your kids are going to play or where you’re going to hear a concert. You can walk to your job. You can walk to a restaurant, a bar or entertainment venue,” said Stevens.

During an interview with Transportation Nation, Stevens pointed to an explosion of development taking place in an area covering just a couple square blocks: new loft apartments with ground floor restaurants, an old industrial building being converted into a retail and restaurant cluster, a 50,000-square foot grocery store, and 30,000-square foot health club.  In a suburban setting, such development would require many more acres of space considering the parking lots that would be necessary.

“We are seeing a paradigm shift from an almost entirely suburban model to a generation that doesn’t necessarily want cars. They want multi-modal transportation choices. They want to live close to the urban cores where the action is and the jobs are,” Stevens said.

For more about DC's history with development, check out the TN documentary Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit and Inequality

To read more about this issue, check out How Transit Is Shaping the Gentrification of D.C., Part 1

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Transportation Nation

Bidding "Irregularities" Delay D.C. Taxi Upgrade

Monday, September 10, 2012

A D.C. cab at night. (Photo CC by Flickr user Daquella Manera)

(Armando Trull -- WAMU) Paying your Washington, D.C. taxicab fare using a credit card may be priceless, but those plastic transactions are still being denied while a judge sorts out a lawsuit. An upgrade to taxicab meters in D.C. has been put on hold over alleged irregularities in the bidding process.

The $35 million contract to install new electronic card readers on the entire fleet of D.C. cabs has been challenged by two of the companies that were finalists, but then lost out on the bid after being barred from the final phase of the process.

The concern by city officials now is that if the judge's decision happens after Oct. 15, it won't be sufficient time to outfit all of the cabs in the District with the new meters prior to January's presidential inauguration.

 

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Transportation Nation

Special Report: How Transit Is Shaping the Gentrification of D.C., Part 1

Monday, September 10, 2012


This is the first of a two-part series on the relationship between gentrification and access to transit in Washington D.C.'s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Part 1 examines the Shaw and Pleasant Plains neighborhoods in the Georgia Avenue corridor in Ward 1. Listen to the WAMU radio version of this story here.

This two-mile stretch of Georgia Avenue NW, sandwiched between two Metro stations, looks like a construction zone. Every few blocks a new apartment building with ground floor retail space is under construction, surrounded by scaffolding or heavy equipment. A neighborhood that has changed dramatically in the past decade is in store for further gentrification.

"There were eight major development projects that were in various stages of planning," says Sylvia Robinson, 51, a community organizer who helped form a neighborhood task force to monitor proposals for new development over the past two years.

According to data compiled by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, the 20001 zip code -- which includes the Georgia Avenue corridor in Ward 1 -- was the sixth-fastest gentrifying zip code in the entire country last decade, based on the change in the share of the white population. In 2000, whites were only 6 percent of the population; by 2010 the white population had increased to 33 percent in the zip code, according to U.S. Census data. Washington has several of the fastest changing neighborhoods in the country.

Gentrification is an attitude

While gentrification is often simplified to mean the displacement of poorer black residents by wealthier white newcomers, Robinson says the change is more complicated where she lives.

"I consider gentrification an attitude," Robinson says. "It's the idea that you are coming in as a planner, developer, or city agency and looking at a neighborhood as if it's a blank slate. You impose development and different economic models and say that in order for this neighborhood to thrive you need to build this much housing, this much retail."

Robinson does not oppose gentrification; she wants her community to have a voice in the inevitable changes. "We are primarily an African-American, low-income community. Typically, we are not asked about changes that are coming," she says. For instance, in addition to new market-rate condominiums, neighborhood advocates are lobbying for new affordable housing units to prevent the displacement of long-time residents when property values ultimately rise.

Changes here have been dramatic. The Shaw and Pleasant Plains neighborhoods are safer, have seen property values increase and shopping opportunities multiply.

"It's an extraordinary change," says Peter Tatian, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. "I've been in D.C. over 25 years and I remember when that part of town was considered off limits by many people, that you wouldn't want to even go there. And now it's become one of the priciest areas." The median price of a home is over $500,000 in many parts of Ward 1, Tatian says.

The transportation angle

"The development of our community is really going to hinge on people being able to move up and down that segment of Georgia Avenue freely and easily," Robinson says.

The congested corridor connects two Metro stations in Northwest D.C: Petworth in the north and Shaw/Howard University in the south. Significant new development is being constructed close to the Shaw Metro station, leaving Robinson concerned that hundreds of new apartment units and thousands of square feet of retail space will focus economic activity there at the expense of older neighborhoods further away.

"[Developers] don't have a sense of what the natural boundaries are for the neighborhood," Robinson says. "Neighborhoods were here before the Metro Stations came in, so it's not like you are creating a new neighborhood. You are already in a neighborhood and that neighborhood can really benefit from that Metro station, but not if you are only focused on the station as a center of development."

When a "thriving neighborhood" is measured largely by how much money people are spending or how high rents are climbing, Robinson says gentrification causes damage.

"That is my main issue with all of this: everything is looked through the lens of shopping," she says.

Just a mile or so north of the Shaw Metro on Georgia Avenue, one will find shops and restaurants that are long-time establishments in the neighborhood. To get to them, Robinson says residents and Howard University students will have to rely on the 70 bus line.

"It's just notoriously unreliable and always has a very interesting set of characters on it," she says. "They're supposed to run every ten minutes, but what you'll get is three buses in a row and then nothing for half an hour."

Anika Rich, a Howard University senior who has witnessed the neighborhood's transformation, doubts the current bus service is adequate to connect people to different parts of the Georgia Avenue corridor.

"I don't think that people are going to be connected to it. I know that there are plans that Howard University has to lure us to the other side of the street, and have us patronize a section that doesn't necessarily get much attention from other people," Rich says.

Robinson worries that "isolated" pockets of economic development will be the result. Moreover, as the population of this part of the city continues to grow (14 percent increase in the 20001 zip code between 2000-2010), so will pressure on the existing infrastructure to efficiently move people between work and home, home and shopping.

"We're talking about improving the bus lines. We're talking about the Circulator bus... moving up this corridor. We're talking about possibly working with Howard University to have shuttles circulate further north," she says.

While Ward 1 has the look and feel of a dramatically different neighborhood, other areas of the city have not seen development follow access to transit. In part two of this series, we will visit the Deanwood and Kenilworth neighborhoods in Ward 7 to examine why development has been slow to rise up in an area that has had four Metro stations for many years.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Debates Reining in Rogue Bike Messengers & Food Delivery Cyclists

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A NYC DOT staffer handing out examples of educational material to members of the New York City Council (photo by Kate Hinds)

Businesses should be financially liable if their delivery people disobey cycling rules.

That's a goal of a package of four bills under discussion in the New York City Council. The legislation aims to educate commercial cyclists, as well and put teeth into rules that are already on the books. One of the bills would give the Department of Transportation the authority to issue civil fines to employers who don't post signs in the workplace about traffic laws, or fail to provide lights, helmets, bells and vests to their delivery people.

Jimmy Vacca, who chairs the council's transportation committee, said one of the main goals of the legislation is to take some of the burden off of the NYPD. "The New York City Police Department has been asked to do more with less for long enough," he said, "and commercial cycling enforcement in that agency has not been a priority."

The legislation piggybacks on a campaign currently underway in the DOT. This summer, the agency created a six-person unit tasked with educating businesses about commercial cycling rules. "This unit has already gone door-to-door to over 1,350 businesses," said Kate Slevin, an assistant commissioner for the NYC DOT, at a City Council hearing on Thursday. Its efforts are focused on Manhattan's restaurant-heavy West Side right now; it will expand to the East Side, as well as Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, by the end of this year.

Enforcement starts in January, when the unit's inspectors will begin issuing $100 tickets to businesses that aren't in compliance.

But whether a six-person unit can ensure that thousands of businesses are obeying the law is a big concern of the council -- not to mention the fact that moving violations are still under the purview of the NYPD.

"The extent of the problem that I see is tremendous," Vacca said, citing complaints about delivery people riding on sidewalks or against traffic. "I want to make sure that this unit has enough people in it to make everyone understand that the days of yesterday are gone."

He said he agreed with an idea that Council Member Peter Koo had floated earlier in the hearing about using the city's traffic agents to help enforce the rules. "What are they trained to do, just give summonses to people? ... It's an extension of their existing responsibility."

Sue Petito, a lawyer for the NYPD, tried to put the kibosh on that line of thinking. "It's a different body of laws and regulations," she said, "completely different from what their current mandate is."

Meanwhile, Robert Bookman of the New York City Hospitality Group said he wanted the council to cut restaurant owners some slack. "I just can't understand the logic of why an employer should get a summons for an employee who is provided with a helmet who chooses not to wear it," he said.

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said her office was reviewing the legislation and the findings from today's hearing.

(Minutes from the meeting can be found here. Read the legislation on the City Council's website.)

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