Saturday, January 31, 2009
It is only a quarter mile from my house and the best part is that its a flat walk. Being so close, I would not worry about forgetting something because I could just run back and get it in no time without having to hop in my car. In fact, getting in my car would be the worst idea ever because I would spend more time looking for a place to park than walking there, shopping, and walking back home. Now I'll have to go either 1 mile North or South to the Safeways' located at both of those locations.
In any event, I just learned today that Bell Market was closing and would be replaced with a Whole Foods. I'm not really sure what I think about that. Whole Foods tends to be overpriced and will in all likelihood turn 24th street into a fun traffic jam on Saturday mornings (Not that it matters to me since I walk, but I'm sure others will complain). Some merchants have called for it to be turned into a parking lot, but in all actuality having WF as an anchor will bring more foot traffic to the other businesses on the street.
During the time period I have lived here, I noticed that one of my biggest trip generators is groceries. Work trips are the largest with trips to the grocery store the second largest and trips to hang out with friends third. It made me realize just how important grocery stores located close by are for my and more than likely everyone's transit oriented lifestyle.
After 20 years of hoping, they might get their town center. And all it took was a transit connection.
Over the years, Farmers Branch has spent nearly $10 million to accumulate land and set up zoning for the roughly 144-acre station area. Of that, the city owns about 50 acres, about 18 of which are available for development.
McDougal Cos., which is also working with Irving on a development project, would buy the land from Farmers Branch.
And city officials say they believe that this, the third time, is the charm. Farmers Branch had memorandums of understanding with two previous developers for projects in the station area, but both fell through.
The fight between good and evil is represented by the colors green and red, at least that is the way Miguel Castro sees it. Castro is a bus driver in the Colombian metropolis of Cali, and the two colored lights on his dashboard tell him whether he is behind schedule or not. For Castro the panel of lights is a small revolution. Prior to their arrival, there were only the timetables to rely on -- treated by drivers more as a broad recommendation than as hard and fast rules.H/T Planetizen
Where will the next commuter line be?
Fred Hansen: “This is the first state’s first commuter rail project. I don’t think it’ll be it’s last.”~~~
54% of Cincinnati jobs (City of, not region) are in the core. That is some pretty good job density, excellent for transit.
In DC, 43% of folks in the core walk or take transit. Would biking get them over 50%? In transit zones in DC, in and outside of the core, the number of people who walk bike or take transit was 42% in 2000.
Personally I think asking bikers to pay a user fee on roads that are generally paid for out of local sales, income, and property taxes is silly. A lot of the times bikes aren't even allowed on freeways which are paid for with gas taxes that people think pays for streets, but doesn't. This is the same as asking urban dwellers who do own a car but don't use freeways or state highways to subsidize the folks who do even more. Sure they get indirect goods movement benefits but they could also pay indirectly for that with a little higher price at the store, much like people pay for free parking at grocery stores through more expensive goods.
The Aces train we talked about last week is on the go.
Mad press for Streetsblog. An article in Planetizen about discusses how they are trying to change the urban discussion. And the founder Mark Gorton got some good press in Wired. For those annoyed with Muni, Gorton is looking for the solution!
Portland, Oregon has already used his open-source software to plan its bus routes. San Francisco, whose MUNI bus system is a frequent target of criticism, could be next to get the treatment. Gorton says he's in talks with the city to supply transit routing software for MUNI that will do a much better job of keeping track of where people are going and figuring out how best to get them there. San Francisco "overpaid greatly" for a badly-supported proprietary closed-source system that barely works, according to Gorton, putting the city under the thumb of a private company that provides sub-par support.Good luck with that. We hope it works out.
"They're frustrated and thinking about replacing it completely, and see the value of open-source because then they won't have any of these support problems," he said. "And they won't be constantly at the mercy of the private companies that have these little mini-monopolies."
Friday, January 30, 2009
Gold Line Trains In Movement from curbed los angeles on Vimeo.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
As you all know, I'm not a reporter. But if I were to write a column on transportation, I would probably educate myself about what the best practices are around the country and fill my feed reader with every single piece of transportation information I can to inform my writing. I try to do that anyway but I don't get paid to write and I don't have a whole city to inform. But newspapers wonder why they are losing readers and market share to other sources and I would say its because the information they give is just too basic, especially on issues such as transportation.
While blog commentary will never take the place of reporting, they are creating an elevated discussion about niche issues such as transit and development. As I was discussing with a colleague the other day, if we were relating blogs to college courses, newspapers are often the intro courses and blogs the upper level electives. Feel free to look at the course schedule.
Update 1.30.09: David has more on newspaper issues including simple things they can do like linking out.
A high speed rail connection will soon be forged between Helsinki and St. Petersburgh Russia. I imagine that would be quite the beautiful trip.
Looks like Gavin was talking a bit too fast for the bus boys at AC Transit.
Fernandez told Newsom that if he wants the first phase of the Transbay Terminal project delayed until funding is secured for the rail piece, terms of an agreement between AC Transit and the Transbay board may be ''threatened or violated.'' He asked the mayor to clarify his intentions.~~~
The Fort Worth Streetcar is moving forward. Kevin updates us and notes that they are thinking of paying for part of the capital with toll revenue.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
At least more funding got into the package. And Mr. Dukakis assures us that the future will be good.
Was there any money for engineering in the bill? I agree that it shouldn't take six years to build the green line. It should have been done yesterday. But unless there is some sort of signal from the administration that engineering should begin and go faster on more of these lines because the money will start flowing, there's no reason for transit agencies to push harder for it. That just means that the cycle continues as to whether it should be done at all. This is why the next transportation bill is so important. Let's get it right.
Wired.com: The Obama administration has promised more rail and transit funding. Are we going to see things start to happen?
Dukakis: No question about it. This economic mess we're in has actually turned out to be a huge opportunity to invest in transit projects. Despite the concerns out there, I think this is a huge opportunity.
Wired.com: What concerns?Dukakis: There's worry that the states just aren't ready to move on stuff. They haven't done the planning and the engineering they need to jump into major projects when the funding is there. We have a major construction-management problem in this country. In Massachusetts, the governor wants to build a four-mile light-rail extension using existing right of way [tracks and property that are already in place], and it's going to take six years to complete. How can that be? Chinese and Irish immigrants were laying four miles of track a day on the transcontinental railroad, and that was in the 1860s.
We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years...How many times do you think these guys took the Acela to DC to hang out with thier cronies. I guess they don't believe in the investment. Rupert's opinion page hacks are dumber than a box of rocks. This is a gem though:
Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?Would you like some cheese with that whine? Does no one on the R team understand how all transportation works? It's like they believe air traffic controllers come from magical fairly land and highway funds come out of an oil derrick. Where did they get these opinions from anyways? It certainly wasn't from the Manhattan news staff, most of whom I'm sure drive to work right?? I heard the cracker jack factory had some openings. Perhaps you could fill the boxes with this noise.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I'm amazed of late how much politicians who were elected to lead want to hide behind voters to make decisions for them or decide that they want things to be bipartisan if only for the reason that they can blame the other side when things go wrong. Take for example the stimulus package. At this very moment I'm sure its getting watered down in hopes of bipartisanship, something one side has made clear they don't believe.
Ten years ago, the council abdicated its responsibility, punting the issue to voters with no recommendations and too little information. Eight of 11 members declined even to take a position.
Then-Vice Mayor Will Sessoms and Councilwoman Barbara Henley said they supported light rail but did not actively campaign for it. Not surprisingly, in the absence of information and leadership, voters rejected it. The 1999 referendum became an excuse to delay action on the Norfolk Southern line, a critical corridor for the city's future.
But the Virginian Pilot makes a good point:
Why is it that we can build roads and don't have to ask anyone but when we make an investment in transit we have to ask usually not once, but a number of times to do it. Politicos always hide behind the decision when they should be embracing it. In cities where they have rejected rail referendums, they have been feeling it the last year. In cities where leaders and voters have made it happen, they have benefited from the investment, even if its short of what it should really be.
Voters don't decide which highways get built, whether the government should mail taxpayers stimulus checks or send troops to the Middle East. They elect representatives to make those decisions.If Virginia Beach's leaders support moving forward with light rail, they must publicly make the case for it, one strong enough to sway the city's voters.
Monday, January 26, 2009
My annoyance goes far. They have done no modeling to see what would happen with Oakland or San Francisco core BART expansions in terms of land use and green house gas changes. There's no real true modeling as the Streetsblog post mentions to real bike infrastructure and improvements to Muni and other agency bus movement would go a long way as well. Curbing cars with congestion pricing downtown would be good, but only if they improve transit capacity and speeds into downtown and the areas within the cordon. As I always say, it shouldn't take me an hour to go three miles on the bus. That should be the goal, better transit service, not better car service during peak hours.
Why isn't the TEP getting a French push like HSR? How come its not getting hammered in right now? He could be a real leader on that. I'm glad to see he's behind HSR. But it would have been nice to hear him scream about it during the campaign.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The underlying problem is that helicoptering money to "consumers" by way of tax cuts or lump-sum grants a la last year's stimulus payments does little or nothing to help satisfy demands that are latent due to incomplete markets. Give me $100 and I can drive to Chicago for the day, not insignificantly because past public infrastructure spending built the roads from here to there. Give everyone in Madison $100 and it still does sod all for extending the Amtrak Hiawatha service, seeing as the city was cut off from such passenger rail network as still exists in the upper Midwest and reconnecting it requires a substantial investment. Maybe in libertarian fantasyland, there are no such things as collective action problems, but elsewhere overcoming them may be considered to be a useful function of government.As opponents like to say, 90% of people drive, well then we should spend 90% on roads. But its a cycle of spending that causes this to happen. As we've seen in places like Copenhagen, if you build infrastructure to support other modes such as cycling and transit, you will get more and more riders and shift the policies. This is what we did in the 50's in support of the automobile. It was a collective push to increase funding and regulations for that mode that led to its rise. At the time, many felt it was the way of the future, but looking back we know that was completely wrong.
But the issue with the stimulus that continues is the fact that we aren't doing enough and a lot of people don't seem to understand what is "enough". Calling $3 billion adequate is kind of lame, especially given the $250 billion in new projects that are in que as well as the thought that California's high speed rail line would be $40 itself. There is a want for a national high speed rail network, or at least start of work on the key city to city lines that would increase productivity and connectivity. And the excuse that it won't be started fast enough is based on existing FTA and DOT timelines in which transit is suffocated based on underfunding. Another excuse is that we should wait for the next transportation bill. But if we are able to make investments now and write a bill that can fold some of them in, why not do it?
While many will point to the New Deal as a major part of what got us out of the depression, the cap was World War II in which we turned auto plants into tank and plane manufacturers and people saved instead of continuing thier spending. No extra rubber around for new cars, only for the war effort. In fact, this poster reminds us of the lengths people took to save energy and resources. Imagine if in this time period of hardship people were asked to save a little more and come together to build or invest in more of what is needed such as education and technology.
If I were in charge, perhaps I would have an office of infrastructure reconciliation. This means bringing our rail infrastructure up to a current standard and increasing output dramatically, much like China. We'll have to also wait and see on the idea of an infrastructure bank but this is no time to comprimise or seek middle ground as Mr. Summers stated Obama will do. Tax cuts are an idea of the Republicans, thier solution to EVERYTHING over the last 30 years. After a while, there's not much left to cut. Look where that has gotten us. Seems like this is a time to strike forward with big thoughts and ideas.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Though I would hope that they don't use the whole thing, at least further east towards the beach. The closer the ROW gets to the beach, the closer it gets to a large Naval Air Station, which is likely not too great for mixed use development unless at some point it is shut down and the property is redeveloped. Close by however is a major shopping district that could be recast after its useful life as a new center for Virginia Beach. Currently it has a lot of parking spaces ripe for redevelopment. You can see the difference between the two probably paths below.
You can also see in the aerial below that there is a wide median for ROW. However such a large street could use a boulevard reconfiguration to calm traffic and create better pedestrian scale development.
The extension to Virginia Beach also seems like a good line from a job connection standpoint as well. Three miles from the end of the current line under construction and west of the Naval Air Station above is this job and entertainment center below called Virginia Beach Town Center.
The point however is that while this is a good line, they need to look long and hard into where it goes, and might want to think about how much the ROW is worth beyond the Naval Air Station. It's probably worth buying and keeping for the future because if the NAS is decommissioned, a rapid streetcar could connect the station with the beach and start and end at light rail stations as well as circulation. But it's something to look into.
What is most interesting is that this is a public private partnership (PPP) in which New Jersey provides the tracks and the casinos provided the railcars and operating costs. I wonder if they will get commuters as well? Though $50 might be a bit steep, the seats look comfortable. However it has been a long time coming. It has been in the works for a while and still hasn't started though this time its slated for Feb 6th.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The extension of the former East London Tube Line will run from West Croydon and Crystal Palace to Dalston Junction, and will connect with the Tube network at Whitechapel. A second phase, due to open in 2011, will continue the line through Canonbury to Highbury & Islington Tube station. The average house price has already risen from £187,800 in 2001 to £317,959 in 2007, according to Hometrack, and gentrification has arrived in the form of the Dalston Culture House and the relocation of the Vortex jazz club to new premises, as well as several new restaurants.What is most interesting though is something we never think of here in the United States. The warnings to some are that retailers won't be around until closer to the time that the new station opens.
A 2005 report by the Passenger Transport Executive Group found that all UK tram schemes have led to increases in commercial and residential property values, in some cases by 15 per cent. Rental prices have risen by 7 percent.
But buyers must be prepared to wait. “The change will not be instantaneous. Some people who would never have considered living in an area without a Tube line will come immediately. Others will wait for the retail and restaurants.” Scotford urges buyers to be aware that retailers may not arrive immediately to the area because current leases will take a while to expire. But it should not take too long.The fact that they expect retail that is within walking distance is a little bit different. Here there are a whole heap of issues surrounding the type of retail and whether there will be enough parking because around the station extensions, there is generally not enough density to support such retail without parking or other help from cities, but there it's expected. Kind of an upsetting commentary if you ask me.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The innovative principle of the PRIMOVE system is rooted in the principle of inductive power transfer, a technology used in cleanrooms in the computer chip and automotive industries. With Bombardier's introduction of PRIMOVE, inductive power transfer comes to rail vehicles for the first time.Apparently they have been testing in Germany since 2003 and the system apparently can work in all weather, unlike the Alstom APS system which reportedly has problems with ice and snow. Now we wait for commercial installation and testing under real life conditions. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
At the same time, Ryan notes that this super ridership record should make the region think about increasing core capacity with new subway lines and streetcars. I tend to agree. More core capacity can only increase mobility and perhaps let out a bit of a relief valve. Other cities such as Budapest are still building core lines in the central city (like line 4, line 5), we should be doing that as well.
Public/private programs… Tolling of new lanes, tolling of highways, is a different way of thinking about it… We need to think of those kind of opportunities… Differently than just the gasoline tax… We know that people are still using Amtrak even though gas prices went down, we know people in places like Chicago are still using mass transit.While I like all the nods to transit that were mentioned, and there were a lot of those, the idea of taxing cars alone as the only way to get things done, even if it is tolling is a bit one sided. What about how the Red Line in Portland was financed by trading property in exchange for Bechtel building the line. Or the Seattle Streetcar where property owners taxed themselves for half of the capital cost.
We need to somehow tie transportation investments to land use and that could mean funding based on true costs and things like tolling for suburban roads, but also other ideas that are floating around out there that could change the way we think about these investments and their value (H+T). Let's start to think harder. It's like we don't know how to be super innovative anymore. Or maybe I'm just hoping for too much.
Which made me think, does anyone go for a think on the bus or train? Just wander aimlessly about a city in order to collect their thoughts? I used to run in order to do that, but I haven't run in a while and it kind of hurts these days, not quite as relaxing. But somedays I'll go for a walk to check out urban things or get on the J and go for a ride. It just reminded me how much driving is entrenched into the national psyche. So much so that its seen as therapy for many, which begs the question, how can that be overcome?
Monday, January 19, 2009
Water Department Cover
The Google Bus Stop. At the place where Google kids hop on the bus, someone painted this into the concrete. It says "Trendy Google Professionals Help Raise Housing Costs".
Vegans for McCain
Stop the War, March 19th
Mr. Seahorse Knows That No One Is Illegal
There were also some interesting signs and murals:
Good Fricken Chicken
Emmy's Spaghetti Shack. Get the Spaghetti and Meatballs...mmm
I'll post more interesting things I found later, but I thought the signs and stencils were funny.
Steve at Urban St. Louis has an amazing set of three aerial photos that show the degradation of MLK(before it was called such) over time due to "urban renewal" among other things. Check it out.
Matt discusses the coming Metrocalypse during inauguration.
India is talking high speed rail.
Cleveland gets 6th annual ridership increase. Things going well.
Richard Layman reposts a comment he originally left here about the WRI Purple Line study. Apparently the Shell Oil* funded think tank has been working on BRT studies around the world, but has never recommended light or heavy rail.
An El Paso paper editorial states that a rail line should be on the cities to do list.
A Dallas Morning News editorial calls for new buses to be CNG. How about more trolleybuses? Figure out a way to integrate the restructuring of the energy grid and the highest ridership routes in order to facilitate the reduction in particulate matter on the corridors and the long term alternative energy strategy. Buses are a 12 year investment, what will happen in 12 years? my guess is a lot.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Despite a ridership increase of 6.8 percent for the first 11 months of 2008, the council predicts a budget shortfall of $72 million through the next biennium "just to maintain existing transit service and fund committed service expansions."To me this is the problem with the stimulus, cities and regions which are the major economic drivers of this nation are getting the shaft when DOTs (aka Highway Departments) want to build new capacity to the outskirts. There's no more room for expansion in cities without tearing out more of the urban fabric. For too long we've funded roads to nowhere and with 50 years of the same policies, we have the problems we are in now. It's not like this is a new theory or something being tested, the new capacity idea has been tested for 50 years! We need to figure out a way to either make highways go through the same process as transit or loosen the strings for transit so lines can be built much easier. This also means more money for transit is needed in the stimulus package. Its time to start catching up.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
TPM Election Central 1 and 2: Transit Wars
Even the Environmental Defense Fund, considered a relatively centrist player in the phalanx of Washington green groups, had a bone to pick with the transit part of the stimulus plan. Fewer than half of the 50 states have publicly released their priority transportation projects, according to the EDF, making transparency from the nation's governors a crucial missing piece.Wall Street Journal: Return of the Oberstar
Some members of the House transportation committee objected to the proposed level of investment during a Democratic caucus session Thursday, and several members later spoke out during a committee meeting. Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) suggested the committee draft a letter or resolution to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the transport section of the stimulus bill.Open Left: Oberstar Strikes Back
Basically CBO got numbers from the Bush administration DOT that said it was not possible to spend money on these projects within 90 days, meaning they're not "shovel ready". Oberstar explains that's BS and it's ridiculous to be taking numbers from the Bush folks at DOT that are getting ready to high-tail it out of town.Grist: Help Me Joe-B1 Kenobi
All this comes just as Barack Obama and "Amtrak" Joe Biden get ready for a railroad trip along said corridor. They'll be traveling from Philadelphia down to Washington, D.C. this weekend on their "Whistle Stop Train Tour." Maybe the trip will give them a few hours to think about transit funding.
"Sperling is the co-author (with Deborah Gordon) of Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability, a book that considers the environmental impact of so many automobiles and suggests ways that politicians, car companies and the general public can curb car-ownership and reduce climate change."
While most of the talk is on technology, he discuss the roles of transit, land use, and bicycling and car-share. "Mass transit won't solve our energy and transportation problems," states Sperling. The average bus passenger contributes as much greenhouse gases as a car driver because the buses aren't full, he explains.
Wonder which O'Toole he got that data from?
On the other side of the country, the Tampa Rays are looking to locate near a rail station. This is in a place that hasn't even started the most serious movements toward rail lines. But its nice to see the team looking ahead.
The West Corridor in Denver
The Seattle Link Extension to UW
The ARC in New Jersey
The Mid-Jordan Trax in Salt Lake City
Anyone seen any other news?
Friday, January 16, 2009
The World Resources Institute has issued a report that states BRT is better than LRT for the Purple Line. The question is how they came to this conclusion. It's littered with the usual objections to light rail with a few new ones for good measure. My favorite quip is the "we like light rail but not in this instance" which we've seen about a million times before. In the report, they even admit to thinking short term.
Major capital projects implemented in the near-term will shape the long-term future of transport in the region. WRI urges regional planners and other decision makers to consider current needs and concerns in the context of tomorrow’s transportation challenges, especially regarding traffic congestion, fuel costs, and climate change.So what you're saying is that we should look at everything? Well you forgot a few things guys, like changes in development patterns, particulate matter and lifecycle costs in terms of construction. Replacing all the buses every 12 years is always good for the environment. Another annoying FTA related issue is the no build alternative. It's not really a no build but rather a basic bus service. Of course incremental change from a bus line to BRT is going to be more "cost effective". The other bus line doesn't even exist! Then there is this:
As illustrated in Figure 7, only the Medium and High Investment BRT alternatives reduce CO2 emissions, with 8,883 and 17,818 fewer metric tons per year, respectively, compared to the No Build scenario. All of the remaining alternatives increase annual emission levels compared to No Build.Again. The no build doesn't even exist, so how is the BRT line reducing emissions and LRT isn't? Well the truth is it is reducing emissions because the alternative isn't the no build but rather nothing at all. Both lines reduce GHGs in the transportation sense. What we don't know is exactly what the reductions in VMT are going to be from land use and whether the land use patterns will create more incentives to walk, creating even less car trips and development patterns that themselves save infrastructure and energy costs. Not to mention they say nothing about particulates from a single source of pollution versus multiple sources that spew along a whole corridor.
Energy consumption from roadways decreases with introduction of LRT, but the resulting emissions reduction is not sufficient to counterbalance the effect caused by the high electricity CO2 emission factor. While we anticipate that this emission factor will decrease in the future due to increased use of renewable energy sources and likely GHG reduction legislation, these drivers have not been included in the AA/DEIS. Further consideration is given to the electricity emission factor in the following sections.
In all reality, the Purple Line should be a subway. Bringing it down to light rail is bad enough, but all the way down to bus rapid transit would be a wasted opportunity to change the corridor. But for once, could someone do an analysis that includes land use change, the issues of air pollution, the real lifecycle costs? This analysis shows how much affect the FTA policy has on what our future will look like, and that is upsetting. Let's stop leaving out the whole picture.
Negotiations have stalled before because the city and railroad company officials couldn't agree on price. The city also has considered condemning the land. Norfolk Southern appraisal last year valued the right of way at $50 million, said Robin Chapman, a company spokesman.
"That was done at the height of real estate values, and property values have declined since then," Chapman said. "We are nevertheless insistent on getting fair market value for it." He wouldn't say how much the company would take.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"Why is transit continuing to take a back seat to highways?" asked Kevin Sheys, a lawyer who represents commuter rail and transit agencies. "The disproportionate amount of highway spending could cut against a lot of things they're trying to do on energy efficiency."
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Now the only meaningful question is who gets to be the black lion...
Now, I'm not trying to dismiss Maus' opinion (he's a good guy and certainly knows his stuff when it comes to bike issues), but we still live in an auto-centric society. Car ownership is part of America's DNA. In most places across the country, bicycling as a primary mode of transportation is indeed, I hate to say it, considered a fringe movement.I think we need some gene therapy. Of course when people write these types of things, it's just continuing the self fulfilling prophecy. Of course people will continue to be auto-centric if they aren't given an alternative. It's just like those people that say, no one takes transit, so why build it so they can?
And it looks like we have our new Ma "Bike's Aren't Transport" Peters in Minority Leader John Boehner. He stated that he saw bike paths as not stimulus. Some will say he means recreational trails, but we know these guys think any bike infrastructure is just for recreation. These guys are just out of touch.
Youth Vote? Gone. We ask for nothing from these idealistic voters, we offer little except chastisement of their lifestyle choices and denial of global warming, and we are woefully behind the Democrats in learning how to connect with them.Lifestyle choices such as biking, transit and urbanism. Keep chipping away John.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"I don't understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans,"What was she talking about? Well Greenpeace bought a small parcel of land that would have been a part of a new runway scheme at Heathrow Airport. They expect to subdivide it into a lot of parcels and sell them to environmentalists so that the government has to deal with hundreds of people instead of just the initial land owner. Do they not have eminent domain? This could push the issue on HSR as well which has been floated as an alternative to the next runway.
But her quote strikes a chord. It seems to me that all these people are talking big on climate change (ahem Arnold) but when it comes down to it, they won't make the tough decisions or do the right thing. Heck, California legislative leaders should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
When democratic lawmakers presented their proposal for balancing the state budget, there was one little thing they didn't mention: It would have all but eliminated funding for public transportation -- not just next year but in perpetuity.
TransLink intends to appoint a committee of local real estate experts to advise it on how best to make money developing land along future rapid transit corridors.
It's the latest wrinkle in TransLink's strategy to amass a major real estate portfolio in partnership with local developers that officials hope would generate at least $30 million a year and possibly much more.
It's for traction, but it's pure, high-grade sand, not salt or chemicals, according to a reader who's a mechanic on light-rail cars. "When the propulsion system detects either sliding while braking or spinning while powering, sand is dropped to increase traction between the wheels and the rails," the reader wrote.You can see the sand on the ground here in the photo below. It's the best one I could find. (Note to self, take better pictures of the little details)
Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson said he was so smitten that he not only dropped his opposition to a streetcar line from Salt Lake City but now prefers it to TRAX.I'm sure there is still a lot of education, but seeing is a step in the right direction.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
In 2007, the endowment accounted for about 40 percent of the streetcar's $2 million annual operating budget. That still left the endowment at about $3.3 million.
But in the past year, the fund plummeted to $1.4 million, partly due to its contribution to operating expenses, but mostly because the endowment was invested in securities that took a beating on Wall Street.
If this idea was brough forth in the early 90's this line would be operating a surplus from its endowment but given what has happened it's getting crushed by market conditions and perhaps overly aggresive investment. As property values have increased along the line, I'm surprised a more proactive approach at capturing them and putting them into the operations as well. At some point the city will have to take over, but no one should call this line a failure when they do. With 1,200 riders a day on limited operating times and over $1 billion in development along the line, it has shown what can be done with a lot of vacant line and a streetcar.
That brings us though to the issue of what that CEI has wrought in terms of projects moving forward around the country as well as thier timline.
One of the problems with the current thinking on transit and the "ready to go-ness" of them is that people think that the current speed at which transit projects get done is how it has always been. This is wrong and simply a function of how broken the funding system has become. Obviously it shouldn't have taken Charlotte 10 years to build their first rail line but it was trying to get through the federal funding program that took so long. This gives lawmakers a poor idea of how actually long it will take.
We need to push back hard on assumptions that the lines can not be started within a three month or even a year period after the stimulus money is let. That assumes also we don't get rolled by state DOTs (aka highway departments) which is another outrage entirely. There should be some sort of experementation with design build in these transit projects, especially since many of them will be street running, even with thier own ROW. It's not as if engineers will not be in need of funding for thier businesses either. This recession is hitting everyone, not just construction workers.
But we can see how fast things can go when they are planned from Portland and Seattle. Portland announced the alignment in 1997 and the line was open in 2001. In Seattle, it took 5 years from thought to operations. This is half the time it took Charlotte to open and possibly shows that if you have an alignment and the funding, it can be designed and moved forward in short order. In the next few years we'll have a few more examples with Salt Lake moving so fast on thier lines, hopefully a few more because of the stimulus.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Several conclusions and findings are made in this report. The high density planned community consumed 40% less energy than the low density sprawl pattern. In annual terms this means 400 million BTU per dwelling unit in the low density sprawl pattern compared to about 210 million BTU per dwelling unit in the high density planned pattern. The high density planned community cost per residential unit was $21,000 compared to $49,000 per unit in low density sprawl pattern. This is for all community costs prorated.We never learn do we.
Water and air pollution are substantially less and water consumption less in the higher density pattern. With 52% less travel time required in the snore(similar?) densely planned community, less accidents and other psychic benefits are described. Gas and electricity use ‘is a function of housing type and structural characteristics: no variation among planned and sprawl communities with the same housing mix is shown." But, ‘significant variation in consumption of gasoline occurs as a result of the differences among community types.. . ." The report concludes that significant energy savings can be attained through greater use of mass transit.
Friday, January 9, 2009
She played a key role in the county's Metro transit development, which transformed Arlington from a sleepy bedroom community into a thriving urban center. Because of her efforts, the idea of high-rises with retail, living and office space centered on Metro stations was embraced, said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington).I couldn't find much else on her, but this is interesting.
On a side note, I find the OTA reports are an interesting look into transportation's planning past, especially the subway systems built in the 70's. If you want to learn more about what went on back then in a number of different cities, check them out.
The agency puts out its first official monthly totals in the middle of next month. But based on estimates, Metro believes its daily ridership from Monday of this week to today ranges from 20,000 to 30,000.
"Despite its substantially higher cost"He goes on to comment:
Despite its substantially higher cost, I ordered the delicious steak the other night, instead of the potted meat. Despite its substantially higher cost, I bought a nice bottle of wine instead of a plastic jug of horse spit. Despite its substantially higher cost, I opted to burn a pile of money, rather than shell out for a copy of the worthless Washington Post.I'll do you one better! How about all these wonderful anti rail cliches from US News and World Report:
Democratic bleeding heartsWho thinks US News should stick to college rankings?
social engineering program
nice thing to have. But
at a fraction of the cost, buy swank new buses
half the cost of light rail, build a dedicated "bus rapid transit" system
riders of the proposed Purple Line already take mass transit to work
proponents are actually hurting the cause
It's easier to support a carbon tax if you have a grocery store within walking distance and can take the train to work.Absolutely. I would likely be skeptical if I were living in Austin still and knew that I had to drive to get most places. Now that BART and the Grocery store are a half mile in each direction, I don't worry about it anymore. I fill up my car maybe once every month and a half, sometimes even longer. Think about if everyone was able to move from once a week to once every two months. More money for local business, more money for alternative energy and more money for housing near transit. Winners all around.
Doing so starts with the recognition that the "farm bill" is a misnomer; in truth, it is a food bill and so needs to be rewritten with the interests of eaters placed first. Yes, there are eaters who think it in their interest that food just be as cheap as possible, no matter how poor the quality. But there are many more who recognize the real cost of artificially cheap food--to their health, to the land, to the animals, to the public purse. At a minimum, these eaters want a bill that aligns agricultural policy with our public-health and environmental values, one with incentives to produce food cleanly, sustainably and humanely.If we follow this logic to its transportation end, we should be calling the transportation bill something else entirely. Livable mobility bill? This means that the bill should be written with livability placed first. Is that so hard a goal? Let's try Michael's paragraph replacing the food words with transportation words.
Doing so starts with the recognition that the "highway bill" is a misnomer; in truth, it is a livable mobility bill and so needs to be rewritten with the interests of people placed first. Yes, there are people who think it in their interest that driving just be as cheap as possible, no matter how poor the quality. But there are many more who recognize the real cost of artificially cheap driving--to their health, to the land, to themselves, to the public purse. At a minimum, these people want a bill that aligns transportation policy with our public-health and environmental values, one with incentives to move us cleanly, sustainably and humanely.Sounds pretty good huh? If you have something better than the livable mobility bill, let's hear it.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
No question that Oakland is a full-on bonfire, soaked in gasoline and just waiting for a match or two. Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson and reporter Henry Lee have provided readers a long running and deep image of a city off its moorings, from hapless (or absent or corrupt) government leaders to rampant homicide.This has been boiling for a while. Oakland seemed a bit sleepy for a while but Dellums being the absent professor isn't helping and no one has really taken a leadership role in the city of late. I'm not afraid but rather sad. The city has such great potential but seems to have a bit of a complex. Always overshadowed by San Francisco, Oakland developed an identity related to the bad things that have happened. But it has great qualities. It has great bones.
Working downtown has given me some perspective, but I don't understand most of the dynamics. The underlying issues need attention. And I don't think anyone in the leadership of the city is paying enough attention to what is going on deep down to actually fix it. I don't know the answer, but hopefully someone will think outside the box on this. The shooting was just one event, but so was the killing of Franz Joseph. It's a powder keg in Oakland and we need a solution. Where's the leadership summit? Where are the bright minds and big hearts? This is a cycle that must be broken.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I think this is a very interesting idea. This would keep large swaths of downtown land from continuing on in life as parking lots. But it might also have the effect of having something built, but not quite to the density that it really should be over the long term.
How about restructuring the property tax across America to install a two-tiered system? More tax on those horizontal pieces of empty land and asphalt, less on the buildings. That is, reduce the tax rate on homes and other improvements, and substantially increase the rate on the site value. I think such a system would induce more compact development and more infill work.
Pittsburgh has used the system for years until problems arose with the way assessments worked out, as my colleague and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy has told me. Nonetheless, if assessments are fair, the higher land tax would bring vacant or woefully under-used central sites into use, giving new life to inner cities and reducing sprawl. It would also stem land speculation, which is the big engine behind house price escalation, thus stabilizing neighborhoods and keeping sale prices and rents more affordable. The land tax returns to government--the values it creates with bridges, roads, and other infrastructure--helping to pay for maintenance and necessary improvements.
"We wanted to find a way to make this a good project. It's a better project than it was a year ago."
Peters said the most significant improvement made by project managers was to strengthen the proposal's finances and contingency budget. The rail line's costs have spiraled in recent years, and the project was at risk of failing federal transit cost-efficiency standards. That risk is now gone, Peters said.
Did anyone think to ask them if the reason that costs were spiraling out of control was because they kept delaying the project? Then the hurl inducing comment of the week:
"God bless Mary Peters," said U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who, along with Kaine and recently retired U.S. senator John W. Warner (R) led state efforts to revive Dulles rail.You mean the lady that almost single handedly killed the project. Thank you sir may I have another?
Transportation leaders missed an opportunity to jump-start mass transit in Florida and to repair existing roads and bridges, he said. "The problem is our transportation leaders do not have vision," said Ashwell. The department defended the request. DOT spokesman Dick Kane said Congress requested the stimulus funds be tied not to mass transit but highway and bridge projects that can start within 90 to 120 days. "The whole idea of the stimulus package was to have projects ready to go," he said.Looks like Florida has about $13 billion in transit projects at some stage. You can't tell me that some of these can't be ready to go. Sounds like excuses to me.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The Ottawa Sun added that at today's council meeting, councillors "also voted in favour of directing staff to review opening the bus Transitway to vehicular traffic."Who's next?
Regional transportation planners want to remake Foothill Drive to help carpools and express buses speed students and workers to and from the University of Utah. It's not enough for some Salt Lake City Council members, who heard the plan Tuesday but said they want light rail -- and not just up Foothill, but all the way to Park City. "Anything that encourages more cars is short-sighted and yesterday's planning," Councilman J.T. Martin said.I don't know if I would say yesterday's planning, more like Highway Era. If we go back a little further, we did do it right. But semantics aside, he's got the right idea. But then here comes the study.
Martin and others said the plan focuses too much on moving cars through. Switching to light rail could help reshape land uses, leading to denser housing and new development east of the road, they said.
"What a wasted opportunity," Councilman Luke Garrott said of the Wasatch Front study. He agreed that the plan would cement the current landscape and promote cars instead of using light rail to reshape a major gateway to the city.
But in its study, the regional council dismissed light rail for the foreseeable future, partly because current land uses wouldn't support it, said Wasatch Front Deputy Director Doug Hattery.So which is it? Will light rail shape the gateway or is the land use insufficient for light rail? In my experience it's both. If they put light rail there and hope for growth without any other interventions in land use or development policy, the train will end up being a worthless park and ride route to the city and university (Congrats Utes BTW).
But transportation decisions drive development policy as well. If there is no light rail, there is no reason to get away from business as usual in development. The organizing principle and parking reduction impetus is gone. Express buses and buses in general are land use serving. That is, they will follow the development instead of shaping it. I'm not sure if there is enough of a ridership base to support light rail in this corridor so don't count me committed to one opinion yet and I really don't like light rail in freeway medians, but if they design intelligently with the future in mind, or figure out a way to get what they want, they'll smartly come out of it with something better than business as usual, scrambled eggs and chicken soup.
This along with similar reports in Phoenix and Denver has been telling us what everyone needs to hear. If you want a strong region, there needs to be a range of opportunities for people to live. I feel like part of the reason for this continued construction on housing near transit is not only that its strong in a storm, but rather there is a lot of catching up to do in order to provide the actual product that people want. The market is so saturated with the same dreck, the pendulum swing is going to be long and hard. I hope it goes far to the other side, but I'm not holding my breath.
Development in the Charlotte region has slowed for sure, but real estate analysts say persistent developers are still making things happen.
Look no farther than the Lynx Blue Line, where the Charlotte Apartment Report says 10 communities totaling nearly 3,000 apartments are in various stages of development along the tracks paralleling South Boulevard.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The New York Times has an editorial asking for more funding for transit and an end to the cost-effectiveness index. Never thought I would see that!
Folks in Tampa are hoping to expand their transit types to include a rail system.
The debate over light rail vibration continues in the Twin Cities. A study says that it can be minimized by technology.
Why does this matter for transit? Well transit users are pedestrians before and after they use the train. It's important to focus on the complete movement from place to place.