Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New York City Plan

Wow, now that congestion pricing is dead we have the New York City Plan. I definitely see the glass as half empty. Many of the things discussed in this new plan is NYC, half-thought out and far from progressive.

For example, let's have one comprehensive plan for the entire city. While there are random projects and improvements going on, they are being done in isolation. Also, let's get DCP on board so that new developments can incorporate some of these new principles with ground floor commercial space and green/open space requirements.

Finally, NYC plan has a NYC version of BRT, which is not going to be separated from local traffic, thus it will most likely not be very rapid. Also, the borough planned lines terminate at already overcrowded subway stops. I won't be holding my breath, that is for sure. If NYC is going to implement BRT, can't we do it the right way?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Atlanta to impose 1% tax for transit

If the state can't do it, then why not do it yourself. This article explains that a 1% increase in sales tax that would go to transit is a popular idea in the area.

Motorists in metro Atlanta aren't just venting about the nation's second worst commute. They're willing to pay more at the cash register for buses and trains that could help alleviate it, according to an 11-county survey released today.

Asked if they would support a 1 percent sales tax to fund a specific lists of transportation projects, including rail and bus service, 58 percent of respondents said 'yes.' That support held across the region, from inner counties such as DeKalb and Fulton to the suburbs of Henry and Fayette, the survey found. And it cut across gender, race, age and income level as well.

I think it is great that Atlanta is not wainting for the state to act to help with congestion and transit problems. As congestion pricing in NYC proved, what is good for the metro region is not always perceived as good for the state.

Friday, April 25, 2008

GAP: A Complete Streets Approach

I just submitted my GAP design to the Design Trust competition. Here is a brief description:
My proposal for Grand Army Plaza is to make it a desirable, multi-purpose destination that can once again become the grand entrance to Prospect Park. My priority is to ensure that the plaza is accessible to and safe for all users, and for it to become a “complete street.”

Original Sketch

Rendered Plan

Perspective View

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MPLS Photo Love

Just got back from a 5 day trip to the Twin Cities. It has been at least eight years since I have visited, but I always had good memories of it. Let me just say, this town far exceeded my expectations. Maybe after Portland (or maybe before even), it may just be the best biking city in the US.

Here is a photo essay of the trip (mostly bike focused):

Greenway system. This system of greenways and trails is just awesome. While we only had bikes for a day, getting around South Minneapolis by bike was a breeze.

This was my ride (thanks to a MPLS bike love member)

The Light rail

Arial shot of Downtown Minneapolis

Bridge Collapse

Bike parking was everywhere. Unlike NYC where you lock your bike to anything that is not moveable or cuttable, the Twin Cities had more than enough bike parking around downtown and in commercial/retail areas.

Downtown bike parking

More bike parking

Bump out on residential street

Minneapolis was great to bike in. With the trails, greenway, bike lanes, and driver awareness, it was extremely safe and easy to get around. I really liked how they have put bi-way and one-way bike lanes downtown between the bus lane and car traffic. During rush hour these lanes were filled with cyclist.

If I had to give it a letter grade Minneapolis would be a B+ for sure. Only real improvements I could see for the immediate future would be some bike BLVDs that would better connect some of the greenways.

One last thing (not my pic) is the new bike/pedestrian bridge over 55/Hiawatha. It cost $5.3 million.

Now that is a real investment in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Misc Videos PT II

I am not sure if this is hilarious or just scary.

Bike move MPLS

LRT in Houston, watch where you are turning

Berkeley Bike Boulevards

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Complete Streets to the rescue

Aaron Naparstek over at Streets blog has this to say in New York Magazine in the aftermath of CP no vote:

Similar ideas are already in the works as part of city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s implementation of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC. Last summer, the city opened a separated bike lane on a nine-block stretch of Ninth Avenue. Another, on Williamsburg’s Kent Street, got the nod last week. There are more to come, along with cordoned-off bus lanes (the rendering above shows a future Amsterdam Avenue). Also last week, work began on a new public plaza where Gansevoort Street, Ninth Avenue, and Little West 12th Street intersect; Sadik-Kahn promises more such projects, none of which requires Albany’s approval. There are no plans to turn the FDR into a beach, but the city is floating the idea of making some streets car-free this summer. The first attempt at car-free Sundays on Soho’s Prince Street died when neighbors feared it would make it too “mall-like.” Alors!

I couldn't agree more. My redesign of GAP is a complete streets approach (renderings should be done in about a week).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My thoughts on CP

Over a year ago an inside source from the Mayor's administration said they were going to propose Congestion Pricing and that he felt the main reason was to finally toll the East River Bridges. Considering all that has happened, I still feel the motivations from the Mayor's office were never really about actually getting congestion pricing passed for the betterment of New York City residents. It was about a Mayor who needs a big win to prepare himself for his next gig.

I firmly believe that congestion pricing was putting the cart before the horse. How could you be convinced that CP was in the best interest of residents, and thus in the best interest of those that represented them? While we do have a new DOT commish (and things seem to be moving along better), NYC still has a huge problem when it comes to progressive policies. CP was just that.

Not only is the city not ready for CP, but overall the city has done a poor job of getting residents ready for it. Where is the traffic calming, where are the urban design standards, where is the placard crackdown, where is the NYPD traffic rules enforcement, and where is the carrot? Yes, we need to take baby steps (BRT, more green/open space, dedicated bus lanes) before we can go down the road of congesting pricing. While many feel that this issue is far from dead, without the support of Albany, it is just a mere dream of transportation advocates.

Instead of CP, let's have DOT and DCP take the lead on design standards that make the city liveable for seniors, the disabled, and our children, If we do that we are creating an environment that will be better for everyone. Let's put pedestrians and bike riders on equal footing with automobiles and plan accordingly. Let's fully incorporate new development into the current streetscape as opposed to bending the existing to meet the standards of the new development.

While CP would be great, I think NYC is still a good 5-10 years away from implementation. We really need to make some fundamental changes to our built environment before we can wave the magic wand and charge cars users $8 to enter the city center. Next time let's fully think this through and build a strong coalition among advocacy groups and elected officials so when it makes its way to Albany, voting yes is a no brainer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Survey Results

It has been a month since I put up the survey for my study. To date I have just under 400 respondents. I plan on leaving the survey up for at least another month (maybe longer if this goes into the summertime). My next step I am going to start contacting respondents to do the one-on-one interviews. Here are some preliminary finding from the survey data:

People commuted because it was enjoyable and fun

Main destination was work

Overall people wanted to get to their destination faster rather than the safest route

Almost half of the respondents had indoor parking at their destination

Over half commuted 10 or less miles

Bad weather is the main reason people didn't commute

When not commuting by bike the subway was the mode choice

Being outside was the most liked aspect of commuting

More than half of the respondents owned 2-5 bikes

Over 75% gave the city a letter grade of C or less about the cycling environment

I'll post more info as I do more extensive data analysis later on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No Congestion Pricing for NYC

The clock on congestion pricing has stopped. Yesterday the Assembly did not introduce the bill to the floor. While Mayor Bloomberg pushed hard and the legislation actually got passed in the NYC council, State lawmakers did not see the advantages of securing $347 million as an incentive to get the ball rolling. Here are some good articles on it:

The Mayor Lashes out
$8 traffic fee for Manhattan goes Nowhere
Congestion hits the end of the Road
Pols Furious over Congestion Failure
Congestion Pricing Hits Dead End in Albany

Sunday, April 6, 2008

GAP design update

I decided to go in a different direction with the Grand Army Plaza (GAP) redesign.  Instead of working within the current design, I decided that more open and green space needed to be directly attached to the fountain and arch.  With this in mind the design has taken away lanes of traffic and the pedestrian way along Plaza Street has been revamped and reappropriated to the center.  Also, with this new design there will be no more than two crossings before you reach the center.

For my new design the traffic is now two ways, Prospect Park West also will have to be two ways. No parking will be allowed on Plaza Street and there will be a separated bus and bike way.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Aristocratization (Onion Article)

According to Kennedy, one of the most pressing concerns associated with rapid aristocratization is the drastic transformation of the metropolitan landscape in a way that fails to maximize livable space.

"A three-block section of [Chicago neighborhood] Wicker Park that once accommodated eight families, two vintage clothing stores, a French cleaners, and a gourmet bakery has been completely razed to make way for a private livery stable and carriage house," Kennedy said. "The space is now entirely unusable for affordable upper-income condominium housing. No one can live there except for the odd stable boy or footman who gets permission to sleep in the hayloft."

Many of those affected by the ostentatious reshaping of their once purely upmarket neighborhoods said that they often wish for a return back to the privileged communities they helped to overdevelop just a few years ago. Among the first to feel the effects of the encroaching aristocracy have been local business owners like Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident Neil Getz.

"Around here, you used to be able to get a Fair-Trade latte and a chocolate-chip croissant for only eight bucks," said Getz, who is planning to move back in with his parents after being forced out of the lease on his organic grocery store by a harpsichord purveyor. "Now it's all tearooms and private salon gatherings catered with champagne and suckling pig. Who can afford that?"

Full Article here

Friday, April 4, 2008

Carbon Fee in London

The next step with congestion pricing, now London is looking to charge $50 for gas hogs that enter the congestion zone.

Even an advocate for more livable streets, I am worried if this is going in the wrong direction.  While it is clear that policy around the world should be changed to hinder people from using too much gas and energy, maybe the better approach is to reward those that use alternatives.  While this new policy does that for drivers, why not give more benefits to walkers, cyclist, and public transit users, instead of those that use more energy efficient autos.

While Congestion pricing just passed in the New York City Council, many residents are concerned because of the so called "lock box" that will be used for transit improvements. While instead of just putting this capital towards public transit improvements, maybe it can be used to reward those that enter the city center without the use of an automoblie, a complete streets approach as opposed to just changes to mass transit. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Congestion Pricing passes

Well, I've had my doubts for a while now, but the New York City Council was able to pass congestion pricing (although my local CM did note vote in support of it).

The real question is does Bloomberg, Quinn, and Paterson have enough political capital to see this legislation get through the legislature in one piece? Also, I think the fight over congestion pricing really has shown the cleavage of New York City politics. Should we move forward, and for the lack of a better word, have progressive policies, or should we stick with the status quo, reactionary policies and planning?