Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Planning in 2009 and the future of cities

Brent Toderian over at Planetizen has this excerpt from a speech he gave very recently in Canada regarding the future of planning:

Borrowing rhetoric from American president-elect Barack Obama, City of Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian said the planning profession needs change. “We need to be much more persuasive, much more creative, more dogged and passionate than frankly our profession has been,” Toderian told the crowd of 830-planning professionals gathered at the Royal York Hotel for the 18th annual University of Waterloo planning alumni of Toronto dinner, Monday night. “I believe planning departments across the country need to be thought-leaders, partners of politicians…we tend to be too passive as a profession and not nearly passionate enough about what real progressive city building is and needs to be.”

A graduate of the Waterloo planning program, Toderian was the first person in the annual event’s history to attend the dinner as a student, as an alumnus and then return as a speaker. He has been called an “urban firecracker” by the Globe and Mail and is a passionate advocate for creative city building, working in Ontario, Calgary and now Vancouver. Toderian admitted that he could have talked about specific projects from his planning department or planning for the 2010 Olympic Games, but instead he decided to bend the ear of his target audience and inspire change.

He said there is a new generation of planners—a creative wave—knocking on the door. “Planning departments are not regulators, we’re not rule defenders, we’re not merely passive followers of politicians or community and we’re not poll-takers,” he said. “We are professional and persuasive voices in progressive, sustainable city building, creative and engaged listeners and leaders. We need different planning departments across the country with a much stronger sense of urbanist leadership, more of a design background and much better at strategic thinking.” In a challenging tone, Toderian asked: are planning departments prepared for the next generation of leadership?

Many cities are going to be left behind as planning takes on more of an active approach to our built environments. In the US you can see that some cities are moving forward and being creative, while others seem to be stagnate and are stuck in another era. The next ten years will be exciting as smaller cities (that have the room, budgets, and know how) will make themselves into desirable places to live on many accounts. They will have short commutes, plenty of green space, and vibrant neighborhoods. They will provide the options that many city dwellers seek at a fraction of the cost (when compared to New York city, Chicago, and LA). I believe this to be true and recently relocated from NYC to the Twin Cities, and I think our future is bright.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Has Friedman been listening to Car Talk?

Love em or hate em Thomas Friedman makes some good points about the new administration and the gas tax. In this NY Times article he discusses how far we have not come in regards to this tax. He are a few excerpts I liked:

Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11. The public is ready to be mobilized. Obama is coming in with enormous popularity. This is his best window of opportunity to impose a gas tax. And he could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month. But if Obama, like Bush, wills the ends and not the means — wills a green economy without the price signals needed to change consumer behavior and drive innovation — he will fail.

The two most important rules about energy innovation are: 1) Price matters — when prices go up people change their habits. 2) You need a systemic approach. It makes no sense for Congress to pump $13.4 billion into bailing out Detroit — and demand that the auto companies use this cash to make more fuel-efficient cars — and then do nothing to shape consumer behavior with a gas tax so more Americans will want to buy those cars. As long as gas is cheap, people will go out and buy used S.U.V.’s and Hummers.

Will we ever find that magic bullet that will change the way we have been living our lives? Realistically cars are not going away any time soon but we need to start planning for a future that better integrates other modes of transit (bike, bus, lrt, rail, walking, skating, skiing, ect). Until then we continue to spin our wheels at the pump.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Foreclosures in the Twin Cities

MPR had a good segment very recently about foreclosure in the Twin Cities. They spoke with Cecile Bedor the Director of the Department of Planning and Economic Development for the City of St. Paul and Tom Streitz the Director of housing policy and development for the City of Minneapolis.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Met Council says "nice try to MPR"

So the past week has been a media crazed one here in the Twin Cities where MPR tried to use its muscle to stop the proposed central corridor from going down Cedar. I think they miscalculated on both ends (public and political). The Star Tribune had this:

Minnesota Public Radio may stay or go, but the Central Corridor light-rail line will not be moved off Cedar Street in St. Paul, Metropolitan Council President Peter Bell said Monday. In a strongly worded statement, Bell criticized MPR for "using its airwaves and its website to rally its supporters" to push for moving the line off Cedar and away from its studios.

While MPR is a serious institution here, I think they poorly choose the way to breach this issue. I am happy that the Mayor and Met Council responded so quickly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Car Talk advocates $.50 gas tax

Car Talk is a NPR show where two brothers who are mechanics take caller's questions. This past show Ray renewed his call for a national gas tax, including a new idea for who can reinvent themselves as train manufacturers.

Here is an excerpt from the show and website:

"I think it's an idea whose time has come," he said. "I know most politicians have been too wussy to do it, but I think the logic of raising the gasoline tax right now is unassailable.

"Gas is less than two bucks a gallon. There's never been a better time to do this. If we added a 50-cent national, gasoline tax right now, and gas cost $2.50 a gallon, would that be the end of the world? Hardly.

"This new tax would generate between 50 and 100 billion dollars every year for the treasury. That money could be used to help rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and develop new technologies for more fuel-efficient cars... further decreasing demand for oil. This is a way for us to get on the wagon, and stop sending money to countries that don't like us. We could become energy independent.

"The other thing that the gas tax revenue could fund is high-speed-train infrastructure between major cities. And who would build all of the new high-tech, high-speed trains we'd need? GM and Ford! We'd help them start a mass-transit division, convert some of those factories from building inefficient gas hogs to building high-speed trains."

What do you think? Is Ray on to a genius idea that will point our country towards a sustainable transportation future? Or does he have his headlight firmly implanted in his tailpipe? Is it even a political possibility?

Says our humble co-host, "I'm sick of people whining about a lousy 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline! I think its time has come, and I call on all non-wussy politicians to stand with me, because our country needs us."

Listen to Segment 9 here. Check out the support it is getting in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Officer Is Indicted in Toppling of Cyclist

The officer who knocked a cyclist (more like body checked) during critical Mass in NYC months ago has been indicted by a grand jury. The NY Times City blog reports:
A police officer who was caught knocking a man off his bicycle in Times Square over the summer in a video that was distributed widely on YouTube has been indicted by a grand jury, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The officer, Patrick Pogan, has been instructed to report to State Supreme Court in Manhattan for the unsealing of the indictment, his lawyer, Stuart London, said. David Rankin, a lawyer for the bicyclist, Christopher Long, said the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, informed him around 3 p.m. that a grand jury had voted to indict Officer Pogan. Mr. London and Mr. Rankin both said they did not know the specific charges, and Mr. Morgenthau’s office declined to comment.

It is believed that prosecutors were seeking felony charges of filing false records in connection with the police report that Officer Pogan filed after arresting Mr. Long. Officer Pogan, who was stripped of his gun and badge in July after the video emerged, also could be charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is it time to buy?

This New York Times article demonstrates that this might be the best time to buy your first house. While many people are worried about job security, if you have the downpayment, prices and mortgage rates are at the lowest they will be for years to come.
When Jaime and Michael Proman moved this fall to Minneapolis, his hometown,from New York City, they craved a different sort of life after two years together in a 450-square-foot studio apartment. “We didn’t want a sterile apartment feel,” said Mr. Proman, who is 28 (his wife is 26). “We wanted something that was permanent and very much a reflection of us.”

The fact is, in many parts of the country there are few if any attractive rentals for people looking to put down roots and enjoy the sort of amenities they may spot on cable television home improvement shows. Comparing a rental with a place that you may own seems almost pointless in these situations, especially for those who are now grown up enough to want to make their own decisions about d├ęcor without consulting the landlord.

Still, for anyone feeling the urge to buy, a number of practical considerations have changed in the last year or two. The basics are back, like spending no more than 28 percent of your pretax income on mortgage payments, taxes and insurance. Even if a lender does not hold you to this when you go in for preapproval, you should hold yourself to it.

It might sound crazy to some since we still don't know where the bottom is, but if you are smart and keep your costs to one overhead for couples, then this might be the best opportunity to get more house for a lot less.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caught in the Middle

Here is a great segment from Smart City Radio with Journalist Richard Longworth about how the Midwest can stay vibrant in a global economy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chicago Photo Essay

I have always liked downtown Chicago (I grew up just inside and outside the city). Until I became older and got an urban palnning degree I could never really articulate why. I went home for Thanksgiving and having a few hours to kill waiting for my wife to arrive via Amtrak I decided to take the opportunity to see downtown again. Below are the photos and some of my thoughts on why Chicago's downtown is one of my favorites.

Even though Chicago has large buildings the streets are still at a human scale

Bike Station

How I got there

Union Station

El (elevated subway in Downtown Loop)

The Chicago River

Art Institute

Millenium Park

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wintertime Commuting

The snow has hit the Twin Cities and I still had to run my errands last week. Most people think you are crazy to commute by bike in the winter. What I have found is that having the right equipment makes all the difference and makes winter commuting quiet easy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hunter College study gets is wrong

I am a bit surprised by this study done at Hunter College. For newer readers I had started this blog because I was doing a study of bike commuters in NYC (you can read the study here). This new report points out all the things cyclists do wrong, but yet the students who did the study merely observed the cyclists. It would have been good if the study actually had these students do a few things.

1. Ride themselves in these conditions

2. Interview the riders as to why they broke the law

3. Put the results in the larger context of street use in NYC (transportation planning)

It is great to have more institutions doing studies about biking in cities, but I feel this study ignores the most obvious thing. In NYC a cyclist does what they have to just to stay alive. This might not convince everyone, but it is the truth. Plus, the study could have looked at how the rules of the road are geared toward drivers, thus they don't really apply to cyclists and the way they use the road. Here is the NY Times article.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Target hurting or helping our cities?

The Sustainable Cities Blog has this entry about Target supporting a community garden in Harlem:

Just last month, the Target East Harlem Community Garden was opened. On 117th St. just east of 1st Avenue, a new garden is growing with $300,000 of Target money. Much of this is going into an endowment for up keep. The rest was for the creation of the garden which includes a storm water capture system on the roof of the adjacent building, photovoltaic capturing discs (red to remind us of the sponsor), wind turbines, and of course the green garden itself. Focus groups were held within the community (only about a dozen people were spoken to though) before the design concept was drawn up. For the most part though, people seemed to want green space for children to play, seeing as there are already a few other nearby gardens that grow vegetables and produce.

What is interesting is the point they make about corporations stepping where cities should be funding these projects. While I completely agree, we no longer live in a world, unfortunately, when we can count on our city, state, or federal government to step in and make these community projects happen. On the flip side, would we rather not have the garden? I am not so sure this does mean corporate ownership. Corporations need to support neighborhoods and groups so why not let someone like Target fund a community priority. Honestly, many non-profits doing community work have relied on funding from corporations for years, even though it is not out in the open, would we really want them to stop providing their services to communities around the country? I think not. Here is the NY Times link.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Americans vote for transit

Transportation for America has this article that recaps all the transportation initiatives that got voted on this past election. What seems clear is that Americans are ready to pay a little more on their taxes to see mass transportation improvements.

It’s perhaps most telling that even in a time of brutal economic crises and expensive gas, taxpayers voted for 14 initiatives that will raise their taxes. In short, we seem to be collectively tired of business-as-usual — more highways, all the time, resulting in only more congestion, with no coherent vision for world-class transportation in our cities and communities — and we are willing to pay out of our own pockets for solutions that can get us out of traffic and keep us moving. Hit the jump for the details.

At least 23 transportation-related initiatives were approved nationwide, meaning that more than $75 billion will soon be flowing into our transportation networks. There were big victories in California with Measure R in Los Angeles (read our Q&A with the campaign director) and Proposition 1A statewide that will provide the initial financing for a high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Change happens slowly but it is great to see that priorities are starting to change across the country. I am not sure we still get how much trouble we are in for the next few years in regards to transportation and infrastructure, but it is great to see the focus start to shift.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Practice What You Preach

I realize that not everyone is in a position to live a car-free life. Actually, having just moved to the Twin Cities from NYC I have seen how years of built infrastructure is crippling the TCs. Everything seems to be about parking. So yes, I did sign up for car share (and honestly a car might be in my future for sharing with my wife) but right now I am still going to battle it out with the bus, light rail, and my new bike. I feel it is important to not only "talk the talk" but you need to "walk the walk."

I found this article ironic when a city planner confesses how much they love to drive:

Almost daily, I promote smart growth - alternative transportation choices,reduced greenhouse gases, increased housing densities. It's my business to help Canadians understand and adapt to a future that is different from the past. I am a 21st-century city planner.Along with fellow futurists, I advocate less vehicle travel, more cycling and transit use, smaller cars and sensible energy consumption. The terms "eco-density," "high-occupancy vehicles" and "environmental footprint" are common currency. By day I'm committed to radical societal change. But my lifestyle is suspect because I really like to drive. Mostly by myself. Pedal to the metal. Wide-open spaces. No boundaries. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

And an unsustainable future:

I understand the disconnect between the extravagant past and our frugal future. My lifestyle is unsustainable and I need to change my patterns. But I subtly resist the shift. Perhaps it's the curse of the baby boomers. For our generation, driving has been a lifelong love affair, one that isn't easily surrendered.

Don't get me wrong, cars are always going to be a part of our lives. What I promote is a balance of options so that people have the opportunity to walk,bus, rail, or even bike to a destination. My concern is that when we have streets that are designed with one thing in mind (moving cars through as quickly as possible) as a planner and community development director, it is my duty to show people a different way of thinking about these spaces.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Big Box

This Slate article is looking at how communities have taken big box stores and have put them to better use.

Big-box buildings are the large, free-standing, warehouselike structures that have become dominant in the American landscape, constructed by one-stop-shopping retailers, grocers, and category-killers. Hundreds of new big-box buildings are built each year—and hundreds are vacated. In a healthy economy, retailers often leave behind one store to build an even bigger one nearby. In tough times, weaker chains are forced to close stores. Circuit City recently announced it will close 155 stores before the holiday season. What happens to big-box buildings when a retailer abandons them?
Check out the slide show here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NYC transit cutting subway and bus lines

Every New Yorker knows that the MTA NYCT has been in trouble for years. When times are hard, transit seems to take the brunt of it. This Daily News Article illustrates just how dire things have become in the Big Apple:

The MTA's doomsday budget will wipe out the W line, zap the Z line and ax more than 1,500 NYC Transit jobs, the Daily News has learned. The list of bus and subway cuts the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will unveil at its monthly board meeting Thursday is extensive and potentially bruising, sources said.
With ridership in NYC is the highest it has ever been, the bigger lesson that we should learn from this is that you don't build an extension onto your house when the roof is leaking. For years the MTA has moved forward with large projects (Eastside access and extension of the 7 line) while the "state of good repair" for the rest of the system has been less than perfect. In the future, large projects and extension of services, should only be done when the current status of the system (and funding for it) are currently adequate. Hopefully the MTA NYCT can get a bail out from the state, but going forward better practices would avoid these situations when the economy takes a dive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NYC buses are slow?

Here is a great tidbit from New York Magazine:

Everyone who takes the bus in New York City knows that you have to have something to read, or a video game to play, in order to not go insane. Not because the people around you are crazy, or because it's too crowded, or anything like that. It's because if you are left with nothing to do, you will inevitably notice that outside the window, the same people are walking past your window at every stop. Pedestrians, you see, walk just as fast, if not faster, than plenty of city buses. And forget it if someone in a wheelchair gets on. Buses in New York are great; they're clean, they're effective, and they get you where the subway won't take you. But they're not for getting anywhere quickly.

An annual study of bus speeds and reliability by the Straphangers Campaign came out yesterday, and they handed their "Pokey" and "Schleppie" awards yesterday to the M96 and the M101/103 lines. The M96 moves at 3.7 mph, and the M101/103 is unreliable one out of four times. According to the geniuses at the Daily News, that means that the M96 moves more than twice as slowly as a swiftly moving chicken.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hour Car

While my bike is my main mode of transportation (and has been for the last 10 years) I am also a frequent user of the bus, light rail, other people's cars, and of course walking. Today I decided that the car was going to be the best use of my time and money. Twin Cities' Hour Car was there for the rescue.

Having lived in other cities that have car sharing programs (Chicago, NYC, Philly) this is the first time I actually have had the real need to use it. I needed to do a bunch of errands this morning and doing it by the other modes was just not going to work since I had to be in the office at 9:00 am. Car Sharing was the perfect solution for me today. For those individuals who are interesting in different ways to get around town check out these website and resources for a multi-modal approach to life: Hour Car, Commuter Connection, and Smart Trips.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are shopping centers the answer?

The Bad Architect Website poses the question and has an answer on both sides. Yes:

Retailers and users are demanding public spaces, civic streets and squares in new developments. The internal agenda has become truly external, moving the focus away from controlled environments towards outside spaces and places.

New developments are creating a sense of place which is a natural extension to the city, not just a retail scheme, and through it, restoring and creating civic pride.

We have created destinations to get people back into city centres that were previously underused, with a rich mixture of retail and leisure that caters for the widest range of people, as well as offices, hotels and residential.
and No:

Shopping centres certainly provide jobs and activity, but they do so at the expense of virtually everything else, rather in the way that a forest planted only with conifers will sterilise the ground around it.

They suck the life out of the shopping areas nearby, creating a much larger regeneration challenge in their wake. Drive past the enormous Westfield shopping
centre in West London in a few months’ time, and doubtless the process of decline will have begun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Impressions

It has been a week and I have managed to ride to work, downtown, to St. Louis Park, and pretty much all around South Minneapolis. The first thing that struck me about riding around the Twin Cities, driver awareness. Coming from NYC where hitting cyclists and running over pedestrians is a daily event, the Twin Cities drivers are not out to run over every cyclist in their path to make it to their destination 5 seconds faster.

In NYC I was so use to drivers pulling out in front of me my muscle memory kicks in every time a car comes to a stop on a side street. So far, in the Twin Cities, these cars actually stop and wait for me to pass. Can you believe that.

On Saturday I was able to go to Trader Joes in St. Louis Park and 95% of the ride was on trails.

Two things I like about the trails: first, it really is a bike super highway. Second, they provide a great environment to ride in where all you have to worry about are the other trail users. Bike parking is every where (see pic above). Unlike NYC where getting a spot is like winning the lottery, the Twin Cities had plenty of bike parking around its commercial areas. It could do a lot better in residential areas.

Finally, it is getting cold. I had to hit the store today to get a base layer and a set of long underwear. I still need to get some smart wool socks for when the temps really start to drop. That is it for now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can New York Reinvent Itself?

Days after 9/11 the country and the world thought that New York City would be devastated. Most projected that it would be years before New York City got back on its feet. It shouldn't have been a real surprise that with in about six months NYC was getting back to normal.

Today, New York State and New York City are facing hard economic times. Just this past week Governor Patterson announced a huge budget deficit. Patterson stated that overspending by the state and Wall Street's meltdown will result in a $47 billion deficit over the next four years if nothing is done. Just a week prior to Patterson's announcement Mayor Bloomberg said the City's budget would swell by $500 million during the current fiscal year because of weakening tax revenues.

Joel Kotkin over at New Geography may have the answer that NYC needs: San Francisco. In his article he looks to San Francisco as a luxury city that reinvented itself after the dot.com meltdown. It may be time for NYC to diversify itself. The 9/11 recovery was fast because Wall Street recovered. Today it is different, the three main industries in NYC (finance, insurance, and real estate) are all on a major decline. I am hopeful that NYC will eventually pull out of this recession, but Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson might want to start thinking differently about the industries that basically support the city and the state.

Images from the New Geography.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

California Transportation

East Bay BRT

High Speed Trains

Assembly Report

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cycle Track

Is the cycle track the solution to bike safety? Cyclists have been advocating for years to be treated equally on the road. Does the cycle track, a physical separated lane, hurt or help that cause?

I have mixed feelings about cycle tracks. While they do provide safety for cyclists, does it not reinforce the idea that drivers then don't have to worry about cyclists on the road (they have their own lane I don't need to pay attention). Or would we rather have an approach that looks at street space as something that needs to be shared by all users, even if it is a complete or shared streets approach. I am torn on this issue because both have logical and real world applications.

I end up not loving the idea of the cycle track because it reinforces the idea that riding a bike needs to be treated separately than other users of the road. Of course we can continue to make accommodations to make cycling safer and easier, but at what social and cultural costs are we loosing out. Cycle tracks unfortunately reinforce the idea that a cyclist is less superior than an auto vehicle and should be treated as such.

Check out this post over at TC Streets for People.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Moving to the Twin Cities

I am sure regular readers have noticed my postings have been leaning more towards the Twin Cities as of late. Starting in November I will be living there full-time. I have taken a job with a community development organization in St. Paul. In addition, I'll be doing some blogging over at TC streets for people in a few weeks.

So hub and spokes will be going through some changes in the next few weeks. I'll be focusing on more local issues in the Twin Cities, but will still keep an eye on what is happening in NYC. Also, I am going to try and do more blogging about housing, community development, and livability issues. While I will still be covering bikes and transportation, it will no longer be the main focus.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Deadliest Streets Around

For all the improvements NYC has been experiencing under our current DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, this AM New York article illustrates that we still have a long road ahead of us. It profiles the new Tri-State Transportation Campaign's study.
Third Avenue and Broadway are the deadliest streets in the city, with 10 pedestrians killed on each roadway in the past three years, a new report says.In fact, New York City is home to five of the top 10 most dangerous streets in the tri-state area, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s report.
“The most dangerous roads are either extremely busy urban roads, such as Third Avenue in Manhattan, that handle many pedestrians and cars,” said Michelle Ernst, a staff analyst with the group. “Or … they are major suburban roadways dotted with retail destinations but designed exclusively for fast moving traffic.”

Third Avenue and Broadway tied for third place in the tri-state area with two Long Island roadways, Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County and Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County, taking the top two spots. Overall, pedestrian deaths in the city are down with 136 fatalities last year compared to 187 in 2000.
Every three days a pedestrian is killed in NYC. Yes, that is a frightening statistic to swallow. Just recently Streets Blog had these posts Safe Streets for Seniors and Pedestrian killed on Ocean Parkway (pic above is from this post) . Also check out TA's crash statistics. I am still hopeful but a lot of work needs to be done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Streetcar along the Midtown Greenway

Following up on the post from yesterday I wanted to talk about what will eventually being sharing the greenway with bikers, joggers, and everyone who uses it: a streetcar. Currently all the talk in the Twin Cities has been about the new central corridor line which will connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul with a new light rail line running along University Avenue, less attention has been given to the three alternative routes for the Southwest light rail line.

All three of the alternatives have merit, but it seems that if the route was 3A along the current trail would make sense. As the third pic illustrates the two light rail lines can then be connected by a streetcar that runs along the greenway. The streetcar itself would provide service to many neighborhoods. The most obvious stops along the greenway would be Southwest light rail, Hennepin, Lyndale, Nicollet, Chicago, Cedar, and then making the connection at Hiawatha (55). Not only would this give more service to more residents, the connections between the two light rail lines would be an option when going to south Minneapolis. This alternative would function much like the Shuttle (S) lines in New York. These shuttle lines function connecting two major lines and providing local service to the neighborhoods around them. This same concept should be the purpose of the streetcar.

This transit corridor would be truly multi-modal and would provide even more options for residents. Also, downtown Minneapolis would no longer have to be the main hub for suburban bus commuters, instead they could be dropped off at a light rail and/or streetcar stop. Also, extending the streetcar to local streets in the future would be much easier if an existing line already existed. Finally, the twin cities needs to stay away from the idea of building tunnels, that is 20th century technology for aging subway systems. The Twin Cities needs to keep miving forward building this network and use existing at grade streets and trails.

Monday, October 27, 2008

FreeWheel Midtown Bike Center

So what is better than having a 5.5 mile grade separated greenway? Having a $1 million bike station that has everything any bike commuter would want.
Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is a joint effort of Allina Health Systems and the City of Minneapolis to provide the Midtown and larger Twin Cities community a full service bike transportation station, complete with long/short term Bike Storage , Bike Rentals, Cafe , Repair Classes and even Public Shop where you can do your own maintenance. We also have a full service repair shop, bicycle and accessory sales, public restrooms and showers, and other ancillary uses.

Our mission is to provide urban cyclists with a sanctuary where they can access best in class products and services and to serve as a base for community outreach. We are now taking applications for annual memberships to the Commuter Club , which gives you access to the 24 hour bike storage facility along with priority access to the lockers and showers. Stop by soon to check out our new digs, or just take a break and refresh yourself in our Cafe.
When your in the Twin Cities make sure to check out the Freewheel Midtown Bike Station.

Spend some time over at the Midtown Greenway Coalition who made it all possible.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

A sad day for NYC

The NYC Council has decided that they should give themselves four more years (also the Mayor). While a few Council Members tried to get an amendment passed that would have stopped the vote on the extension of the term limits, when that failed, some decided to vote "Yes" on extending term limits. This NYC Times article gives you the blow by blow of yesterdays events.

After a spirited, emotional and at times raucous debate, the New York City Council voted, 29 to 22, on Thursday afternoon to extend term limits, allowing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to seek re-election next year and undoing the result of two voter referendums that had imposed a limit of two four-year terms.

The vote was a major victory for Mayor Bloomberg — a billionaire and lifelong Democrat who was elected mayor as a Republican in 2001, won re-election in 2005, became an independent last year, and decided just weeks ago that he wished to seek a third term for himself in 2009 — and for the Council’s speaker, Christine C. Quinn. But the intense acrimony surrounding the decision left a sharply divided Council and could ultimately damage the mayor’s popularity.

Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn, one of three members who had introduced the amendment, announced that despite its defeat, he would vote for the underlying bill. He said that term limits were bad public policy and that a limit of 12 years, instead of 8, would help strengthen future lawmakers in the face of strong mayors.

Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn adamantly disagreed. “The city of New York has never, ever in the history of our nation postponed a transfer of power, regardless of the circumstances,” she said, citing an editorial from The New York Times in 2001, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sought, without his success, to extend his term by three months in the aftermath of 9/11.

I still do not understand the logic that many members used to vote yes. If you are against term limits (and would like to change the policy) then why would you vote to give yourself one more. Why not vote NO and introduce legislation that would eliminate term limits for the next term. It is amazing how a bad economy and tough times can be spun so well that the Mayor can give himself four more years in office.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NYC Block Parties

Here are some photos of the numerous block parties around New York City this past summer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Portland's first two-way bike lane

So when 250 TriMet bus drivers signed a petition to get bicycles out of the Rose Quarter transit hub, the city made some design changes, added a new bike lane, and now all seem happy. The Portland Tribune had this article.
The changes come a few months after more than 250 TriMet bus drivers signed a petition calling for bicycles to be banned from the center. It claimed that bus and MAX light-rail traffic through the center makes it too dangerous for bicycle riders.

TriMet and the city are hopeful that the changes will reduce the danger, however. The bike lane will include a number of so-called Bike Boxes that will require the bus drivers to stop behind bicyclists at the intersections along the street. They are intended to prevent bicyclists from being run over by drivers making right-hand turns.

“The goal is increase the safety for everyone who uses the center, including the increasing number of bike riders,” said Mayor-elect Sam Adams, who oversees the Portland Office of Transportation.
It is great to see a city go back and work out a solution that works for all transit users. check out more at Bikeportland.org (pic above bikeportland.org)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shared Streets hit the US

Shared streets have been a common feature in many parts of the world. In the United States we have been slow to come around to this concept where separation of uses is ignored. Instead the lines between sidewalk, street, car, pedestrian, and cyclist are removed. This article in New Urban News explains which cities are endorsing this design.
Up and down the West Coast and in parts of the East Coast, a select group of streets is going through a radical makeover. The street surfaces are being raised to the same level as the sidewalks. Curbs are being eliminated. Trees and vegetation are extending into what had been the domain of the automobile.

Motorists and pedestrians are being expected to use — imagine this! — their intelligence and their powers of observation to operate safely in multipurpose environments. A fundamental premise of modern traffic engineering — that safety can be assured only by strictly separating pedestrians from moving vehicles and by explicitly telling drivers what to do — is under challenge.

The new approach, called “shared space,” is showing up in Seattle, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, Santa Monica, and other cities on the West Coast; in Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York City, and other places in the East; and in scattered places in between, such as New Town at St. Charles, Missouri, and the South Main development in Buena Vista, Colorado.
Shared space origins:
The father of today’s shared-space movement was the Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who succumbed to cancer last January at 62. Monderman devoted much of his career to removing traffic signs, signals, markings, bollards, and barriers from small communities in Holland; he accentuated the physical cues that cause motorists to proceed carefully through streets that serve purposes broader than vehicular movement.
Still a new concept here this is a design that calms traffic and works for all users. It is a great idea for commercial corridors where pedestrians dominate and fewer cars should be. This would be a great concept to try out on Prince Street in NYC.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Philly ridership is up, parking is not

Increase ridership in the city of brotherly love has created a new parking problem: where to park your bike. This article in Philadelphia Inquirer does a good job of explaining the steps that the city is taking to get more parking ASAP.
Philadelphia's parking shortage is approaching critical proportions. You see people circling the streets of Center City in an anxious quest for an available space. It's unexpectedly hard to park at institutions such as La Salle University and the Art Museum's Perelman Building. But you really know things have reached a dire state when you have to go blocks to find a pole or parking meter that doesn't already have someone's bicycle hitched to it.

The problem starts when the bikers stop. There just aren't enough bike racks on Philadelphia's heavily used, narrow sidewalks for everyone. Desperate bikers will lock to anything that won't move, like Rittenhouse Square's elegant wrought-iron fence or the railing around SEPTA's 16th Street concourse entrance. The tangle of metal is not pretty.

The Nutter administration hopes to improve the situation somewhat in the next few months. It just ordered 1,500 racks and expects to begin installation in November. The new upside-down "U" racks will bring the sidewalk total to 2,600, distributed through the entire city. It's a far cry from the 10,000 the Bicycle Coalition says are needed.
I always liked Philly as a bike town. Philly is flat and it's main arterial roads are still on the smaller side so riding on Broad and Market is not all that bad. They still need a better over all network, but as the article points out the planning department is now starting to work on a pedestrian and bike plan. I hope we only see more good things coming from Philadelphia in the near future.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Take Action - Transportation4America

If you had your ear to the ground you most likely know about a new campaign Transportation for America. As a resident of NYC and an urban planner it is great to see this coalition tackle the real issue that has somehow been avoided by both of our mainstream presidential candidates. Here is a bit about the new campaign to change the way we currently live:
The cost of just running day to day errands or getting to work, let alone taking that family vacation, just keeps getting worse. We pay for it every day in dollars at the pump and hours lost sitting on congested, crumbling roads. We need a bold agenda to fix our roads and bridges; build high speed trains; invest in public transit, streets safe for biking and walking, and green innovation.

There is a desperate lack of real alternatives for American families because our transportation system is half a century behind—but it doesn’t have to be that way.
And here is their vision:
Create green jobs through greater investment in modernized infrastructure and healthy communities — from highway maintenance and repair to public transit upgrades to green housing and neighborhood construction.


Build a world-class rail network — both between cities and within them — that links our communities, transports people and goods more smoothly and makes our economy more competitive.


Protect the integrity of our existing highway and public transportation systems with an aggressive program of rehabilitation and upkeep, and financial support for superior service.


Help people drive less, avoid unpredictable gas prices, get healthy and stay active in their own neighborhoods through expanded construction of public transit, bicycle routes, and safe sidewalks to walk on.


Set and enforce national transportation standards, but empower local communities to decide what is necessary to meet those goals as well as the needs of its neighborhoods and residents.
Get involved here. I will also keep you updated via the blog. Now go for a walk or ride your bike.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Transit Museum

Having lived in NYC for many years I always wanted to check out the transit museum, but some how never got around to it. Since I'll be leaving NYC in November for a new job (look for a post about this soon) I decided it was one of the things I wanted to do before my departure. I have to admit that I didn't really think that it was going to be much of a museum, but it exceeded my expectations.

The museum is actually in a subway station (nice touch). The main floor has a good recap of the history of transit in NYC from trolleys, to bridges, buses, and of course, the subway. It did a great job of laying out the history and technology that made it all possible. It was really great to see how the subway tunnels and tracks actually got built over a hundred years ago. To my surprise they were playing Contested Streets in a screening room.

After about an hour on the main level you then descend to the subway platform. Here they have old subway cars parked on either side. Not sure what it is, but there is something really nice having the ability to actually walk through these cars and see what changes they made from model to model. They have large information boards down the middle that basically gives you the past, present, and future of the subway system.

I really thought the museum was well done. It actually gave me hope about the MTA NYCT, that if they are able to pull off a decent museum, maybe, just maybe, they will be able to keep the system up and running in a state of good repair.