Thursday, September 13, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
(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.”
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.”
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.
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
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
By Mark Simpson
Planners designing around Central Florida’s SunRail future commuter line are working to bring walkable communities around rail stops, said Shaun Donovan, secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
They are making sure zoning changes around the stations will be able to increase nearby construction, which creates jobs, but also brings housing and jobs within a walkable distance, he said in an interview with WMFE just before the Florida Housing Coalition’s annual conference.
“Frankly, families are getting more and more fed up,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to spent two hours commuting...the average family now spends fifty cents of every dollar they earn just on housing and transportation...this can lower the cost of jobs.”
SunRail is expected to cost $1.2 billion to construct. It will begin operations in 2014.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
By Julie Caine
Around 250,000 people use Market Street every day— and in every way. They take the bus, ride BART, walk to work, shop... even live.
In 2016, the entire road, between Octavia and the Embarcadero, will be torn up and repaved. So city planners figure it’s the perfect time to reshape and re-imagine San Francisco’s main drag.
San Francisco’s transportation director Ed Reiskin says it’s a good opportunity for the city to do more than pour concrete.
“If we're going to go through the expense and disruption to repair the surface and infrastructure of Market Street, let's not just put it back the way it was, let's really fix it,” Reiskin says.
The Department of Public Works is in charge of the project. They’re working with a variety of city and county agencies to draw up a set of plans that balance the practical needs of the street with the vision of a wide variety of stakeholders.
The public is a part of the process, too -- the most recent public meeting was standing room only.
On the table is everything from a total ban on private cars to dedicated bike lanes; from fewer MUNI stops to more sidewalk cafes and parklets. The city anticipates the redesign to cost around $250 million. Funding for repaving is already in place.
I went out to Market to ask some of the people behind these ideas about their vision for the street.
At the corner of 3rd and Market, map-wielding tourists shiver in shorts and tank tops. A man sits on the sidewalk with his dog. The sign in his lap says ‘Anything helps.’ Throngs of office workers walk right by him, eyes fixed intently on the screens of their smartphones. Bikes squeeze in between buses and the curb, dodging taxis and delivery trucks.
Up ahead I see Mohammed Nuru. He’s the director of Public Works in San Francisco. He’s agreed to meet me here to talk about the street. “It's a pretty busy intersection, as you can see,” says Nuru. “It's busy all the time from about 7 o'clock in the morning until almost 10 o'clock at night.”
Standing next to him is Kris Opbroek. She manages the Better Market Street project.
“I think Market Street is the city's Main Street in a sense. I think it always has been, actually,” she says. “I think its identity is our parade ground, and our real civic space is still here. I think where it falls short a bit is in the day to day use.”
Nuru and Opbroek spend their days watching this street. They’re overseeing Market’s redevelopment. And they’re trying to pin down what is, and isn’t, working here.
Traffic is a big issue. Right now private cars, taxis, delivery trucks, paratransit, and bikes all share the road with streetcars and buses.
Leah Shahum is the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Her office is at 5th and Market. She says another thing on people’s minds is how to make Market safer and more inviting for bicyclists. Bike riding is on the rise, and Market is most used bike corridor in the city.
“I talk to a lot of people who are confident riders. They're people who bike elsewhere in the city,” Shahum says. “They’re adults who really are comfortable bicycling, but they say, ‘Wow, I don't want to bike on Market Street because I'm really scared about it.’”
Right now, most of the bike lanes on Market are painted lines on narrow pieces of pavement shared with buses and trucks and cars. Only about six blocks of the street have a physically separated bike lane.
“What we hear from people is: ‘Wow, for those six blocks, I feel calm, I feel safe, I feel comfortable. This works,’” Shahum says.
She wants that kind of comfort to extend the along the entire length of Market Street.
But the road isn’t just for wheels.
Elizabeth Stampe is the executive director for Walk San Francisco. She says that, ultimately, everyone is a pedestrian. Her office is a block from Shahum’s, at 6th and Market.
“This is the place where the most pedestrians have been hit by cars in the whole city,” she says, as we stand at the busy intersection. “And you can see it's a long crossing for folks with wheelchairs and canes, of whom there are many right here. You don't really get enough time.”
Stampe says that expanding the sidewalks at corners like this would help shorten the time it takes for pedestrians to get across the street and slow down the cars fighting to get through the intersections.
Making it safer to cross the street or ride a bike might seem obvious. But there’s always a trade-off. Solving one problem creates another problem somewhere else, or else pushes it a block farther down the road.
“Market Street is a special street,” says Stampe. “It's the spine of the city. And it's a gathering spot. It’s also a little bit magnetic. Both in the sense that it attracts people, but some parts of it still repel people.”
She says the corner where she works is a good example of Market’s confused identity. “It’s about a block from the mall, but it could be a world away.”
She compares the blocks along Market to islands in a stream. In this case, one island is the upscale shopping and tourist district around Powell Street. The next is lined with abandoned storefronts. Many people are either homeless and living on the street, or live in tiny rooms in nearby SRO hotels.
San Francisco’s transportation director, Ed Reiskin, works a few blocks away at Market and Van Ness. We walked through the Civic Center and talked about the street.
“For a lot of people, this is their living room and it should continue to serve that function,” he says. “If you or I had that space, we would also want to spend more time outside than inside.”
The city estimates that about 6,000 people are without shelter on any given night in San Francisco––many on Market Street.
“There may be some undesirable activity, some criminal activity, or unsafe situations that the city wants to address regardless of what happens design-wise on Market Street,” says Reiskin. “But I don't think we want to lose the character of Market Street or push anyone off of it. We want to make it a nice place for more people to be in.”
During the day the street has different feelings. Some new businesses have moved in, joining art spaces like the Luggage Store. But compared to the bustle just a few blocks away, the street here feels empty.
At Market and Van Ness, traffic hits the city from both major bridges. It’s a gateway to San Francisco – but instead of a grand monument marking the spot, there’s a car wash and a donut shop.
“It's not just infrastructure,” says Reiskin. “It's not just design. It's economic development. It's economic vitality. So I think there's more to it than just how we lay out the streets and how we paint the lines.”
That economic vitality is an important ingredient in a complex process. Money for repaving the street is in place. But coming up with the $250 million this project is expected to cost still has to be worked out. Back at 3rd and Market, Mohammed Nuru says some of that money could come from businesses that stand to benefit from the street’s upgrade.
“We’re bringing the right partners onto Market Street, bringing the Twitters in, bringing the new businesses in, bringing the restaurants in, all that adds to the vitality of a street,” Nuru says. “And they contribute and they partner with us, so together we’ll try to figure out what the bill will look like.”
Ultimately, though, the project isn’t just about the street’s physical condition––it’s about its character. And that’s a big part of what city officials are considering as they re-imagine Market. What does the street mean, and what should it be?
Nuru says it’s a great opportunity to think big. “I think what this process has done is woken everybody up and made them say, ‘Wow if I had an idea, this is the time to get it in because it could happen.’”
Another public meeting is planned for the fall. Get there early—it’s likely to be standing room only.
For more information on the Better Market Street project, click here.
Monday, September 10, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
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.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
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.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
By Kate Hinds
A plan to turn DC's old 11th Street Bridge into a pedestrian park is gaining traction. "What we're proposing to do is to transform this old freeway into a place of active recreation," says one supporter. The city of D.C. and some locals are on board with the idea, but worries about gentrification -- and how to pay for the project -- are hurdles that must be dealt with.
Read more -- and hear the story -- at NPR.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
(Patrick Madden - Washington, DC, WAMU) Hundreds of parents in Virginia's Arlington County are appealing a new policy that will likely force more than 1,000 children who used to take the bus to school to walk instead this year.
Arlington schools plan to strictly enforce a walking zone for students, reports the Washington Post. That means elementary students living within a mile of school and secondary students within 1.5 miles of school aren't eligible for busing.
When the school system spelled out plans in August, many parents were angry, and 200 of them filed appeals. But only a few of those appeals have been successful, an ACPS spokeswoman told the Post. Donna Owens, the mother of a sixth grader, told the newspaper that many children will have to cross busy roads to get to school.
School officials argue they're addressing growing enrollment, because the bus system was reaching a crisis. There are an additional 1,000 students enrolled in the county's schools this year, according to Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Monday, August 27, 2012
The United States has more than 4 million miles of public roads. Alabama has more than Alaska, Delaware beats out Hawaii. There are 130 million registered automobiles on U.S. roads. Florida has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities per capita, Kansas and Wyoming tie for the lowest. Texas ships the most freight by weight (1.3 billion tons) but not value. California eeks out oil country in dollars shipped ($1.3 billion to Texas' $1.1 billion).
These scattered facts meant to offer a teaser of what we can learn from data, come from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Late on Friday when summer web readers are skipping town for the beach or an early BBQ, the BTS dropped two separate one paragraph press releases. They pointed to massive treasure troves of data. We saved the news for you until this morning so that more people could ponder what to do with all the new stats, and be at a computer to click through them.
You can peruse through a list of just about every source of funding in 2011 for transportation and infrastructure, from the highway trust fund to Aviation User Fees. You can see transit ridership by metro area. It could take you all day to go through just the indexes.
Some of the data comes from 2010 and from the latest census, other numbers are updated to 2011.
I took on the commuting numbers by state for a sampling:
The average commute takes 25 minutes in America. Would you believe North Dakota has the shortest average commute of any state? It does, at just over 16 minutes. Transit heavy New York has the longest average ride to work at 31 minutes when you factor in drivers. But dive a tad deeper into the data and we find even more surprises: Washington D.C. is the only place where the average commute time by transit (38 minutes) takes longer than driving (35 minutes). At the bottom of the list, Alabama drivers who don't carpool have an average ride to work of 84 minutes. Average!
What do you want us to investigate? Have any ideas for infographics we should make?
If you dive in and want to make a chart out of some of this please send it to us at transponation at gmail.
And here are the full press releases from Friday:
BTS Releases State Transportation Statistics 2011. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), today released its annual State Transportation Statistics 2011 (STS) – a web-only reference guide to transportation data for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. STS 2011 includes a wide range of state-by-state information, such as the calculations showing which states had the highest and lowest number of highway traffic fatalities per 100,000 population in 2010. The ninth annual STS consists of 115 tables of state data on infrastructure, safety, freight transportation, passenger travel, registered vehicles and vehicle-miles traveled, economy and finance, and energy and environment, plus a U.S. Fast Facts page. STS 2011 can be viewed on the BTS website.
Friday, August 24, 2012 - Federal and state government expenditures on transportation were almost $243 billion in 2009, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Government Transportation Financial Statistics (GTFS) shows that $200 billion of the expenditures were by state governments, with $43 billion from the federal government (Table 15A). More than 50 percent of the funds were used for highways, with 22 percent for transit and 20 percent for aviation (Table 12). Total revenue allocated for transportation in 2009 was almost $245 billion (Table 2A). GTFS consists of 43 tables showing federal, state and local transportation expenditures and revenue in current and inflation-adjusted dollars from 1995 through 2009. For 2009, GTFS does not include local government outlays for highways. Today’s release is the fourth GTFS issued by BTS.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
(Nicole Creston, WMFE -- Orlando, Fla.) The small town of Eatonville, Fla. just north of Orlando is best known for being the oldest incorporated African-American municipality in the United States. It is also known for being home to historical landmarks like the first Central Florida school for African-Americans, and to notable figures like writer Zora Neale Hurston.
This month, the town celebrated its 125th anniversary by cutting the ribbon on the crown jewel of a multi-year beautification project: an archway visible from Interstate 4. The stately structure welcomes visitors to town and gives Eatonville a new sense of identity. It could be the first step in turning the town into a destination for historic tourism.
Maye St. Julien, Chair of the Eatonville Historic Preservation Board, explains the significance of the year 1887 for Eatonville, and why it’s being recognized 125 years later. “What we celebrate is the actual signing of the articles of incorporation making it an official town recognized by the state.”
The town was actually founded in 1881 by a freed slave named Joe Clark, says St. Julien. She says since African-Americans could only buy individual plots of land back then – enough for one house – Clark sought the help of his boss, citrus industry entrepreneur and retired military captain Josiah Eaton.
“The town is named for Mr. Eaton because he was the major contributor and the major supporter of Joe Clark,” says St. Julien. “And he advertised, and you can see on the newspaper back in 1880s, for people of color to come to Eatonville and own your own land, and you could purchase a lot for $35, or $50 if you needed credit. And that’s how this town was made.”
Six years later, in 1887, men from 27 of Eatonville’s 29 families incorporated the town.
“There were 29, but there was a bit of intimidation on the part of the whites when it was learned that the blacks had acquired this much land,” explains St. Julien. “So, two of them became a little concerned and chose not to participate in that, but thank goodness and God bless the 27 who did,” says St. Julien.
Eatonville’s historic main street is East Kennedy Boulevard. From its intersection with I-4, the town’s business district stretches east about five blocks and the whole strip has been completely refurbished. The road has been repaved and repainted, brick pedestrian walkways have been added, and sidewalks are bristling with Florida-friendly flowers and foliage.
Eatonville Mayor Bruce Mount can’t hide his enthusiasm about the changes that district has seen over the past few years. “If you haven’t been down Kennedy Boulevard lately, you will not know Kennedy Boulevard,” says Mount.
Famous African-American institutions including the Hungerford Normal and Industrial School and figures like Hurston shared addresses along the storied piece of pavement.
And now, Eatonville is getting the kind of gateway its leaders say it deserves. A new iron archway mounted on brick columns stretches across Kennedy, facing I-4. A sign at the top extends a welcome to Eatonville and displays information about the historic town and its 125th anniversary. Mount says the whole structure lights up at night.
“It has a clock on it and it also has some nice plaques on it,” Mount adds. “The Zora Neale Hurston plaque is there, the school [plaque] is there, so that is a very nice theme to the streetscape… The citizens are proud. I’m getting calls all the time.”
The vast majority of those calls about Kennedy’s overhaul are positive, he says.
And so is most of the conversation down the street during a recent lunchtime rush at Vonya’s Southern Cooking Café on Kennedy. The customers were buzzing about Eatonville’s makeover.
“Huge difference already,” says nine-year Eatonville resident Darrius Gallagher. “It should be very beautiful. It’s a very historic town.”
Esther Critton has lived in Eatonville all of her nineteen years. “With them doing the construction, it gives the town a better look and then makes the people feel good, makes the town run smoother,” she says. “So, we’re coming a long way.”
In August 2012, 125 years after the 27 men signed the articles of incorporation for Eatonville, Mayor Mount helped honor those men by cutting the ribbon on the gateway that commemorates the town’s anniversary. The ribbon stretched the full five blocks of the business district, wrapping around the smaller brick columns that now mark the east end of Eatonville on Kennedy.
Those columns, although constructed as part of the same project as the gateway, do not have an arch to support. That seems to be a bit of a problem for one nearby business owner - former Eatonville Mayor Abraham Gordon Junior.
Gordon owns the Be Back Fish House, a seafood restaurant and the business closest to those columns. He had a different vision for his end of the street, including a sign identifying the town and, ideally, an archway like the one close to I-4.
“It should’ve been the same height that is down on that end,” says Gordon, “and just had across ‘Welcome to Eatonville’ and that would’ve made it somewhat complete.”Gordon also says the placement of the columns so near his restaurant used up space he was hoping he could dedicate to his customers.
“There’s parking in front of every business in the town of Eatonville,” explains Gordon. “There’s parking in places where there’s no business in the town of Eatonville. And no parking in front of this place, where there is business.”
Instead, he points out, there’s a proliferation of that Florida-friendly foliage, which is mean to enhance the look of the columns but winds up partially obscuring his restaurant from view.
But, he adds, he’s seen the changes Eatonville has undergone since he first arrived in the early 1950s, and he doesn’t want to stand in the way of the town’s evolution. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and we don’t need any more problems.”
He says Eatonville has come a very long way from the cluster of houses surrounded by dirt roads and strained wastewater systems he first saw, and overall he says the town’s new look is “very nice.”
Eatonville Public Works Director Abraham Canady says, “the construction is a result of a federal grant that was spearheaded by Congresswoman Corrine Brown." She adds, "the grant went through the Federal Highway Administration to Florida Department of Transportation.”
Canady says the current construction value of the project is about $1.4 million, and he thinks it’s worth every penny, especially the west end gateway that draws welcome attention to the town.
And that’s just the beginning, according to Mayor Mount. There are more changes coming, starting with plans for more development near the new gateway.
“We want it to be mixed use – amphitheaters, the eateries, the hotels,” he says. “That’s what we want. We want Eatonville, when we’re talking about the future, to be a tourist destination. And because people say, ‘What do you have to sell, what do people have to sell?’ Our history.”
He says Eatonville could capitalize on “historical tourism” and become a destination for visitors looking for a different type of Orlando vacation than the theme parks offer.
Mount says that idea is still in the early stages. Next step – a visioning meeting with the town council as Eatonville continues to evolve…and celebrate its anniversary throughout the year.
Click here to listen to Nicole Creston's report on Eatonville at WMFE.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
By Kate Hinds
In the greater New York City region, older pedestrians are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle than those under age 60.
That's the conclusion in a new report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), which also found that elderly pedestrians in the NYC area suffer higher fatality rates than the national average.
According to the TSTC, between 2008 and 2010, 435 pedestrians aged 60 years and older were killed on the region’s roads. That age range makes up just over 18 percent of the area's population -- but accounts for 34 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
For those who walk slower, it can be difficult to cross an intersection before the light changes. That's partly why the older a pedestrian gets, the more likely she is to be hit and killed by a car. Those aged 75 years and older fared worst of all, with a fatality rate 3.09 times the rate of those under 60.
According to the report, "older pedestrians in Litchfield County, Connecticut have the highest fatality rate in the region, representing 75 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the county, but only 22.1 percent of the population."
Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn in New York and Hudson County, New Jersey, rounded out the top five of worst counties for elderly pedestrian safety.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
By Kate Hinds
(UPDATED with new photo) That's message of a new street treatment being tested by the New York City Department of Transportation. We photographed this one at the corner of Second Avenue and 79th Street, on Manhattan's East Side.
The sign faces people about to step into the intersection and cross the street -- meaning it's oriented to pedestrians, not drivers or bicyclists.
The message comes at a time when nationally, streets are getting less safe for pedestrians. The federal government recently released a report that found pedestrian deaths were up 4% in 2010. Another report says older pedestrians in the New York City metropolitan area are more than twice as likely to be killed by cars or trucks than those under age 60.
We asked the NYC Department of Transportation all kinds of questions about the LOOK! street marking: Is it part of a campaign to combat distracted walking? Will there be more markings? If so, where and when?
Department spokesman Seth Solomonow declined to elaborate. "We'll be get back to you when we have more info," he said.
But a colleague recently snapped a photo at a bus shelter -- also, as it turns out, on the Upper East Side -- that makes it clear the LOOK signs are a larger campaign. "Traffic injuries are avoidable," reads a poster. "Look before you cross the street."
And, as the blog Bowery Boogie notes, the signs are also making an appearance downtown.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
By Kate Hinds
According to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,280 pedestrians were killed and 70,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States in 2010.
Three-quarters of those fatalities happened in urban areas. Alcohol usage -- either on the part of the pedestrian or the driver -- was involved in almost half of the fatalities. Nearly one-half (48%) of all pedestrian deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
This follows on the heels of news last month that overall traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2012 increased by 13.5 percent.
Read the report here.
Friday, August 03, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Want to learn to dance the Bachata? Need some free bike repair? Or just feel like riding a zip line? Or maybe you want to try something really novel: walk smack down the middle of a major New York City thoroughfare without having to dodge anything more dangerous than an unsteady rollerblader.
Check out WNYC's slideshow of pictures from Summer Streets here.
New York City's fifth annual Summer Streets kicks off this weekend. For three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of Manhattan roadway -- from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park -- are closed to vehicle traffic and given over to more pedestrian pursuits. There are performances, art exhibits, free rollerblade and bike rentals, a bike helmet giveaway, even yoga classes. You can see the route map below; to see a list of activities, go here.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Now we know.
The New York MTA spent $1.35 million on giant granite bollards that it later removed outside the Atlantic Terminal station.
To put that in perspective, a year of service* on the B51 bus line, which the MTA discontinued in 2010, cost $800,000 a year.
The bollards, much-reviled by architects and planners and panned by the Brooklyn Paper as "sarcophagi," were installed in 2010 for unspecified security reasons.
To be sure, the Atlantic Terminal has been a terror target in the past.
But the huge granite slabs were more imposing than simpler steel bollards outside the more heavily trafficked Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal.
The Atlantic Terminal bollards also blocked pedestrian flow to and from the Terminal, which houses the LIRR and nine subway lines.
This, it was pointed out, presented a potential problem when huge crowds of people start to flow through the plaza for events at the next-door Barclays Center, set to open next month.
The MTA also came to the conclusion that the bollards were a bad idea. It decided to replace them with a smaller, sleeker model, like the ones at Grand Central.
About a week ago, the authority began to take the bollards down, bringing the total cost of the installation and removal to $1.35 million.
I might never have unearthed this information had I not passed by the Atlantic Terminal Monday morning, trying to grab a quick photo so you all could see how the plaza is coming along. (I also regretted not having the headline "Never Mind The Bollards," in our initial post, and was hoping for a second chance.)
The construction workers had other ideas. A piece of cardboard came down in front of my iPhone. I would not be photographing the site because it was "a Homeland Security project."
Like, um, the World Trade Center site, which must be one of the most photographed construction sites on earth?
I was told (though maybe in not-so-polite language), that this decision had been made by MTA police. I was offered the opportunity to have them tell me in person.
That's an opportunity I declined.
But I did later email the MTA's chief spokesperson, Adam Lisberg, for an explanation. And, while he was at it, could he please tell me how much the MTA had spent on the bollards in the first place?
Lisberg, a former New York Daily News journalist, told me quite clearly that anyone could photograph the site and that if I should be obstructed again I should stand my ground so I could do my job. In so many words.
So the next day, I went back.
I was greeted no more happily than I was the day before. This time half a dozen construction workers, and three MTA police, came to make the point. But, per Adam "L-i-s-b-e-r-g, the MTA communications chief," I would not leave.
Did I have documentation? Well, I had the constitution of the United States of America. Had they seen the Bill of Rights? Also, my press pass -- though that's not required to photograph a public plaza.
Besides, the construction fence was mostly down so, unlike the day before, I couldn't physically be blocked.
So I took my photos. (And, unbeknownst to me, was photographed doing so by my colleague, Emily Botein.)
Initially, the MTA re-issued a statement (which TN ran last week) citing the total cost of the Atlantic Terminal renovation -- $108 million -- and the cost of the new security project, which came in at $3.486 million.
Today, the authority furnished further details.
The total cost of building the 15 granite bollards: $1.2 million.
The total cost of demolishing them and removing the granite: $150,000.
A $1.35 million mistake.
*To be sure, service is paid for from the operating budget, while the capital budget pays for everything from bollards to the Second Avenue subway. So you'll hear that comparing one to the other is like comparing your lunch money to the loan you took out to redo your kitchen. But at the end of the day, it all ultimately falls to straphangers or taxpayers to foot the bill.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Kate Hinds
(UPDATED) New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is remaining mum on whether she'll back legislation to reform the way the NYPD investigates traffic crashes.
"As with all legislation on the day that it's introduced," said Quinn, "it will be referred to committee, I will review it, and it'll make its way through the legislative process."
Several New York City Council members have introduced a package of legislation that would broaden the number of crashes the New York Police Department investigates.
Current NYPD policy is to investigate traffic crashes only if the victim is dead or has suffered a life-threatening injury. And only members of the 19-member Accident Investigation Squad can conduct those inquiries.
Some 243 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2011. A TN investigation found that in "all cases where a driver kills someone — pedestrian, cyclist, other motorists, themselves — forty percent of the time, there’s not even a traffic ticket."
Council Member Brad Lander, who's co-sponsoring 'The Crash Investigation Reform Act,' says too few officers are dedicated to crash investigation. "We can train a lot more people to do that investigation work who are patrol officers or regular precinct cops," Lander said.
The bills and resolutions introduced into City Council would also require the NYPD to investigate serious -- not just deadly -- crashes; create a task force analyzing how crashes are investigated; broaden the NYPD's crash statistic reporting; and require the NYPD to collect insurance and ID information from drivers who injure cyclists.
These proposed reforms come five months after a bruising City Council hearing where NYPD brass defended the department's procedures.
"A broad set of people came out of that hearing feeling really troubled," said Lander. He said that he, Peter Vallone, and Jimmy Vacca -- three council members who haven't always agreed on transportation issues -- see eye on eye on this one.
The NYPD did not return a request for comment.
Ray LaHood: If You Want Federal Transportation Money to Go to Biking and Walking, Start Agitating Locally
Monday, July 23, 2012
By Ray LaHood, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
Last week Transportation Nation readers sent me a number of great questions to answer in my latest "On the Go" video. Today, I'd like to return the favor by answering one or two more questions right here on Transportation Nation.
Greg asked: "How can DOT give Americans more transit, walking, and biking options when the vast majority of the money will just be passed to state DOTs to buy more highways?"
Well, Greg, as I acknowledged in "On the Go," some readers of Transportation Nation may not be happy with every part of the new transportation bill, MAP-21. But at DOT, we aren't about to stop moving American transportation forward.
The new bill actually increases the portion of funding going to transit. It broadens the New Starts program to include projects that expand capacity on existing transit lines, and that's a great opportunity for cities with legacy systems. It also provides a big bump to our transit State Of Good Repair program.
And, although highway formula funding is passed to the states, states can still use some of those funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects and other activities that improve air quality and relieve congestion. It's true that MAP-21 permits the states to redirect transportation enhancement funding for purposes other than active transportation, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will.
If accessibility advocates and biking and walking advocates make their voices heard in their state capitols and in their county and city councils, there's no reason to believe that the tremendous progress we've made in the last three years can't continue.
(video of Secretary LaHood from "On The Go")
Tanya asked, "What's your favorite transit line? What city works the best?"
I don't know if Tanya is testing me here or not, but I've already been asked to pick my favorite Olympic sport, and I am not about to pick a favorite transit line or city and arouse the disappointment of every other community in America.
I will say that our nation's transit agencies are doing a great job of moving people where they need to go as safely and reliably as they can. Whether it's by bus, light rail, commuter rail, subway, paratransit, or streetcar, Americans are taking more than 10 billion transit rides each year. And the American Public Transportation Association recently reported that the first quarter of 2012 was the fifth consecutive quarter of ridership growth. As our economy continues to recover, those numbers are only going to increase even more. So my favorite transit line is any one that helps people get where they need to go.
I'm also pleased that MAP-21 gives the Federal Transit Administration a safety oversight role for the first time. We worked with Congress for more than two years to secure that authority, and I know the folks at FTA will hit the ground running in their new mission.
Okay, that's it from here. Thanks again to Transportation Nation and its readers. I appreciate your interest, and I encourage you to stay engaged.
Friday, July 20, 2012
NJ Spotlight reports:
After falling for three years in a row, the number of automobile fatalities in New Jersey rose in 2011, according to preliminary data from the State Police.
State police reports show that, typically, alcohol was involved in 3 of 10 fatal accidents. Driver distractions and speeding are also factors in a significant number of deadly crashes.
By far, most of those killed in accidents are drivers. Last year, 362 or almost 6 of every 10 fatalities were drivers. The second-highest rate of casualties was for pedestrians -- 143 of those killed. Another 105 were vehicle passengers and 17 were cyclists.
Click the image above to go to the interactive map from NJ Spotlight, and read the full article with more detailed numbers.
Newark tops the state with 27 fatal accidents. For a deeper look at what causes pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey, consider this TN report focused on Newark that explores walking while poor in New Jersey and how neighborhood income plays a role in predicting where it's more dangerous to perambulate on city streets.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Kate Hinds
For his latest "On the Go" video Q&A, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary fielded questions from Transportation Nation readers, who grilled him about the new transportation bill (MAP 21) and high-speed rail.
"We think that the MAP 21...is probably a little highway centric," says LaHood, but "I think we're on the right track" when it comes to bike and pedestrian improvements.
In response to a question about the prospects of high-speed rail in the Northeast, LaHood said that the federal government is investing $3 billion in rail upgrades along the corridor. "Amtrak is doing well," he said, pointing out that ridership is booming. While not talking specific timing for fast trains along the Boston-to-DC route, he said "the future is very bright" for rail in the Northeast.
Enough of transportation. What will the secretary be watching at the summer Olympics? It turns out he's a swimming aficionado ("people have to train very, very hard") as well as a basketball fan -- but he deftly sidestepped the current debate over whether the 2012 U.S. basketball team is the equal of the "dream team."
Friday, July 13, 2012
Addresses on the avenues of midtown Manhattan bestow a certain prestige for the law firms, TV networks, ad agencies and luxury hotels that populate the glass and steel canyons north of Times Square. So it's a bold move to wedge a new "avenue" in between 6th and 7th Avenues from 51st to 57th street. Or at least the naming is bold. The trail of pedestrian walkways between and under the skyscrapers has long existed as a public secret for midtown office workers looking to save a few minutes on the walk to grab lunch.
But, in giving this stretch of walkways a name, the New York City Department of Transportation is encouraging more walking. Even more than the cute name, they do so by painting crosswalks and stopping traffic mid-block where people already jaywalked with more than the usual amount of New York pavement entitlement (if that's possible).
And if DOT signage isn't official enough, Google Maps already recognizes the avenue. So, as Gawker points out, you can now legitimately tell someone to meet you at 55th Street and 6 1/2.
TN's Kate Hinds took a walk down New York's newest avenue. Here's what it looks like.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Developers are building apartments along Florida’s new commuter rail line -- but if SunRail isn't reliable, both the idea of transit-oriented development -- not to mention SunRail -- could flop.
The SunRail tracks run straight through Florida Hospital’s campus on North Orange Ave. When the commuter train starts in 2014 it will be an important part of the hospital’s plans for a health village, which will include a mix of apartments, shops and businesses clustered around the yet-to-be built rail station.
Developer Craig Ustler says the project will transform the surrounding neighborhood.
“It would look like a lot of people walking, a pedestrian friendly environment, and maybe an evolution to a place where the car doesn’t win all the time.”
Ustler is counting on residents for a 250 apartment, $38 million complex he’s building a few blocks from the hospital.
The idea behind transit-oriented development (TOD) is to create pedestrian- friendly environments with access to transportation alternatives to the car. Local officials, like Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, are excited about its potential.
“Transit-oriented development is popping up all around these stations, giving us new places to work, live and play," said Dyer when SunRail got the final go-ahead a year ago.
"New companies moving in, new jobs being created. People saving money because they don’t have to use their car. People saving time because they’re not stuck on I-4.”
With ten thousand hospital employees and about three thousand students at the College of Health Sciences, all of them potential rail passengers, shoppers or tenants, Florida Hospital is ripe for TOD.
To make it work, though, the rail has to run often and on time. And right now SunRail won’t run on weekends.
Gregg Logan, managing director of the Orlando real estate advisory services firm RCLCO, says that could be a problem.
“If it’s not convenient, then people won’t use it and that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘see, we shouldn’t have funded it because people aren’t using it,'" says Logan.
"Well, people will use it if it’s convenient.”
SunRail says it will extend the service if there’s demand.
TOD is still untested in Central Florida, and that’s made it challenging for developers to get financing for big projects around rail. Compared to cities with well-established mass transit system like New York, Central Florida’s urban environment is relatively young, with most of the big growth springing up in the last 50 years. But Gregg Logan says that could be an advantage.
“I guess the good news is we can go to some of these other places and look at what worked," he says, "and borrow some of their best ideas.”
Logan says Central Florida should take inspiration from Portland’s street car and the Washington DC Metro, where TOD has driven up the value of land around rail stations. While Florida Hospital has big plans for development, some of the other stops along the rail line aren’t as far advanced.
One landowner trying to attract business for a potential development is Tupperware. Spokesperson Thomas Roehlk says the company has 100 acres for mixed use set aside at its headquarters near the Osceola Parkway station.
“We haven’t had the interest yet from businesses, partially as a consequence of the fact that we are in phase two, so we’re four years out from having a station, and secondly just because of the slow uptick to the economy," He says.
However, Roehlk believes Tupperware’s plan will succeed in the long run because of the location’s proximity to another major transport hub -- Orlando International Airport.
Meanwhile, developer Craig Ustler says once the train starts running past his building at Florida Hospital, Orlando residents will begin to see the potential for a well-planned urban environment.
“I think the vast majority of people have woken up to the fact that living 30 miles away from where they work, and driving, and the price of gas and all that is probably not the most efficient thing in the world," says Ustler.
"We still need some time to work through exactly how to fix that and how to give people the tools to make a move.”
Ustler's apartment complex breaks ground next month.