Search results for "New York City Department of Transportation"

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Ride On

NYC to add more bike lanes in response to surging demand

New York City streets are a decadent mass of pedestrians, cabs, delivery trucks, and the crosstown bus, all scooting somewhere quickly. But even as rideshare apps are pushing more cars on the pavement, there's one green and steadfast transit option that's seeing a surprising surge in popularity.

Right now, the city's streets host 450,000 bike rides per day, an increase of 280,00 trips from 2005. To meet accelerating demand, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) promised on Monday to add 50 miles of painted bike lanes and ten miles of protected paths each year.

Over the last decade, New York has seen an explosion of bike infrastructure. Crain's reports that cyclists now cruise over 1,133 miles of bike lanes, up from a little over 500 miles in 2006. Of those, around 40 percent are shielded from automobiles by concrete or other physical barriers. These are the gold-standard tracks because of the protection they provide relative to painted paths.

But even this relatively robust network can't stop bike fatalities. Nine in ten cyclists killed while riding are killed outside of bike lanes. In response, the DOT plans to ramp up safety efforts in three Queens and seven Brooklyn neighborhoods where many bike fatalities and injuries occur.

Still, officials are optimistic that bikesharing, which was introduced only four years ago, will become further enmeshed in New York's urban fabric. City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez, who represents Upper Manhattan and serves on the council's transportation committee, would like to one day see free transfers between Citi Bike, the city's bikeshare system, and the MTA. (An annual Citi Bike membership costs $163.) Citi Bike broke ridership records with more than 70,000 riders on one day in June of this year, while last year, the system logged more than 14 million rides.

Despite their low cost relative to cars, and emissions-free crunchy-green aura that renders bicycles anodyne in most quarters, New Yorkers haven't embraced bike culture universally. On the Upper East Side last year, residents objected to bike lanes near a school, worried that speeding cyclists could mow down young ones. Though those crosstown lanes were ultimately approved, out in Corona, Queens, longtime Community Board 4 member (and unrepentant xenophobe) Ann Pfoser Darby called bike lanes in her neighborhood a waste of money, claiming they would be empty after President Trump deported the area's undocumented immigrants.

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"Verbal" Approval

Elon Musk says N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop has government approval
Elon Musk tweeted earlier this morning that he received government approval to start building a New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-D.C Hyperloop, as reported by engadget. His series of tweets indicate that while The Boring Company, the infrastructure and tunneling company that Musk founded, received “verbal” government approval, there are still steps to be made before getting formal approval. If the project is actually approved, construction will begin in conjunction with the company’s other talked-about project: underground tunnels in L.A. that aim to relieve vehicular congestion.

Musk is already plotting future connections elsewhere, too. One of his follow-up tweets reveals that the next Hyperloop would likely be an L.A-San Francisco track, and maybe even a Texas loop (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio-Austin).

A Hyperloop in the Northeast Corridor could do wonders for the deteriorating rail infrastructure at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which has resulted in a “summer of hell.” Right now, a regular Amtrak train between New York and Washington D.C takes approximately three and a half hours; the same trip is two-and-a-half on the Acela Express. With a Hyperloop, however, it will only take 29 minutes.

Apparently, local officials in charge of the cities involved were not looped into the conversation; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary tweeted that “this is news to City Hall.”

It’s unclear who Musk received this verbal approval from, though it is likely someone from the Trump administration (where he briefly served as one of President Trump’s advisors), according to CNBC. It will take numerous hurdles before Musk can even begin drilling a hole; he would need approval from the federal Department of Transportation, not to mention the various states, counties, cities, and elected officials.
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Recap

From a Facebook/OMA master plan to America's best new public spaces: AN’s can’t-miss top posts from this week
Missed some of our articles, Tweets, and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don't sweat it—we've gathered the week's must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Six of America’s newest and grandest public spaces From a highly anticipated river revitalization project in Chicago to a completely repurposed mall site in a tiny Connecticut town, projects revolving around public spaces are always feel-good stories. Who doesn’t enjoy a new, clean space to people-watch? Or better yet, catch some July 4 fireworks? The Architect’s Newspaper picked six completed projects that exemplify what a good public space entails. U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey Here’s the $3 billion project that will give Tampa a skylinenine-million-square-foot development will add Tampa’s first new office towers in almost 25 years and is set to reshape the city’s downtown. The project will take just under a decade to build. America’s biggest and best upcoming sports stadiums There’s nothing more American than sports, so for this July 4, we rounded up some of the biggest stadium projects in the works—from the world’s most expensive stadium to a celebrity-backed soccer field. Facebook and OMA team up for Menlo Park master plan Social media giant Facebook announced it had tapped international firm OMA to master plan its Willow Campus, a mixed-use neighborhood that will be located next to the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. “It’s exciting to collaborate with Facebook, whose innovation in networking and social media extends to urban ambitions for connectivity in the Bay Area,” said OMA Partner Shohei Shigematsu. Hans-Ulrich Obrist on architecture, art, and Metabolism Curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist pens an essay on how architecture influences his work, starting by saying "My interest in architecture, from the perspective of my role as a curator of art, stems from the fact that architecture is the pre-eminent site for the production of reality, as it is uniquely oriented the toward the future, but precisely as a continual negotiation, or as a continually articulated struggle between the present, the past, and the future."
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Impartial Infrastructure?

U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
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Common Grounds

Six of America's newest and grandest public spaces
From a highly anticipated river revitalization project in Chicago to a completely repurposed mall site in a tiny Connecticut town, projects revolving around public spaces are always feel-good stories. Who doesn’t enjoy a new, clean space to people-watch? Or better yet, catch some July 4 fireworks? The Architect's Newspaper picked six completed projects that exemplify what a good public space entails. Chicago's redeveloped Navy Pier  The first phase of Chicago’s popular tourist destination, Navy Pier, is now complete. James Corner Field Operations is the lead designer on this multi-year project, along with collaborators nArchitects, Gensler, Thornton Tomasetti, Fluidity Design Consultants, Buro Happold, and graphic designers Pentagram. The design includes an extensive renovation of the exterior public promenade, and this first phase includes a Wave Wall, a glass info tower, a new plaza near the base of the pier, and new Lake Pavilions that act as boat ticket kiosks and shaded rest areas. Phase III for the Chicago River: Chicago Riverwalk  The recent completion of Phase III of Chicago’s downtown riverfront redevelopment featured a new mile-and-a-half public park, the Riverwalk. Led by Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects and Watertown, Massachusetts–based Sasaki Associates, the Riverwalk is divided into separate “rooms” between the bascule bridges and has a large interactive water plaza. Previous phases led to new development along the water, including restaurants, bars, and the River Theater, a staircase-ramp bridging upper Wacker Drive and the river. This latest development is part of an overall goal to completely overhaul the Chicago River, with an aim of a clean, swimmable river by 2040. The long-delayed Los Angeles State Historic Park finally opens to the public The completion of the Los Angeles State Historic Park caps off a two-decade-long saga for local and state officials and residents. The current iteration of the park has been in development since 2005 and is the first California State Park in the City of Los Angeles. It is located on a multi-layered historical site that originally housed an indigenous settlement home to Los Angeles’s Tongva indigenous community. The park sits along a broad, gently-sloping plane that connected the Tongva’s main settlement in the vicinity of today’s Union Station with the Los Angeles River, roughly one mile away. Cleveland's latest 10-acre downtown park  As a part of an effort to connect Cleveland’s public spaces to Lake Erie, the city’s downtown now has a new civic space—a 10-acre park designed by James Corner Field Operations, the team behind the wildly successful High Line Park in New York City. It also includes a café designed by New York–based nARCHITECTS. The design sees four smaller traffic islands in between the wide lanes of Superior Avenue (now restricted to public transportation) and Ontario Street (pedestrian-only now). Astor Place improvements—complete with the Astor Cube  The much-beloved spinning Astor Cube (formally known as The Alamo) is back at Astor Place, a plaza that has also undergone a redesign from New York-based WXY and the city’s departments of Design and Construction (DDC), Transportation (DOT), and Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks). The plaza now features a 42,000-square-foot pedestrian-oriented streetscape, a reconstruction that was completed as part of an effort to upgrade infrastructure in the city and provide city dwellers with more public space as the city becomes denser. “We have now made the plaza space more welcoming for pedestrians and we have brought back distinctive elements—like the iconic Cube—that have long made this such a special gathering place and gateway to the East Village,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at the ribbon cutting ceremony. From derelict mall to community-centered green space in Connecticut  Cities looking to repurpose defunct mall sites can take a pointer or two from a city in Connecticut. In Meriden, a town halfway between New Haven and Hartford, city leaders transformed a former mall and brownfield site into a resilient 14.4-acre park complete with pedestrian bridges, an amphitheater, a remediated landscape with a flood-control pond, and drivable turf for food trucks and farmers markets. It was an expensive ($14 million) and extensive overhaul, but is one that has brought back green space to the community.
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Make American Green Again

From sea to shining sea: six projects restoring the U.S.'s ecosystems
As the threat of climate change and sea level rise becomes more pressing, projects looking to save our country’s ecosystems have never been more important. The relationship between water and a city’s landscape has become especially critical for all urbanists (see our water issue, which explored this in-depth). The six projects and proposals listed below aim to repair America's ecosystems and bring us closer to the environment. Unearthing a unique geological ecosystem back to Lexington, Kentucky  After winning a competition to revitalize downtown Lexington, New York–based SCAPE Landscape Architecture decided to celebrate the long-buried limestone landscape that forms the identity of Lexingtonians. With $14.1 million in funding from the U.S Department of Transportation, the project will carve pedestrian and bike paths to create new green spaces and link regional trails. There will also be new freshwater pools—“karst windows,” in reference to naturally occurring formations—to bring Lexington’s water into the open. “Here it’s all about finding a unique identity framed around a cultural and geological history of a place,” said Gena Wirth, SCAPE design principal. “What’s replicable is the multipurpose infrastructure that unites the city, its story, and its systems.” Transforming the Chicago River A clean Chicago River: a dream too good to be true? Ross Barney Architects disagrees, and may well be bringing that vision to life. The firm has dedicated extensive studies on how to transform the South Side neighborhood’s currently polluted river into an urban natural space with amenities that residents need. They even envision a water-taxi stop at the site to provide a direct connection to downtown. Bringing the people back to L.A River  A several-mile segment of the Los Angeles River that runs through Downtown Los Angeles could be getting a makeover soon, with preliminary proposals from AECOM, Gruen Associates, Chee Salette, WSP,  CH2M, Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA), and Tetra Tech. Each of the seven teams was given a specific segment of the river to reconfigure while keeping in mind future planning approaches, like the potential extension of the Red Line subway to the Arts District. The proposals focus on increasing pedestrian connectivity to the river while also “embracing bold, world-class design,” according to a project website. Rethinking urban waterfronts with Studio Gang's research-based approach Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects’ water ecology projects are programmatically ambitious, but are backed by the firm's extensive research and collaborations with experts often outside of architecture. A study with Milwaukee-based Applied Ecological Services and Edgewater Resources presented a master plan for Milwaukee’s waterfront development. “We’re interested in the intersection between built and natural environments,” said Claire Cahan, design director at Studio Gang. “We seek to understand the natural, cultural, economic conditions far beyond a property line.” Access to Willamette Falls restored The Willamette Falls near Portland, Oregon, is the second-largest waterfall by volume in the United States and has been cut off from nearby downtown Oregon City for over a century. But Snøhetta’s latest proposal aims to restore public access by building a long, sinuous path through the site that culminates in a broad promenade with 360-degree-views. The pathway has also been designed to accommodate for cyclical and historic flood levels and is seismically resilient. Construction is expected to begin in June 2018. Cleaning up Gowanus Canal Plans to transform the long-polluted, abandoned Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, have been unveiled by non-profit Gowanus Canal Conservancy and SCAPE Landscape Architecture. The Gowanus Lowlands: A Blueprint for NYC’s Next Great Park project outlines a possible park along the waterway, which runs through Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Gowanus. Performance venues, cafes, and other attractions in between are included, as are mitigation basins, bioswales, and sponge gardens for filtration and wildlife habitation.
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Excellence in Design Awards

Bomb squad building, verdant library, and others score NYC design awards
Today officials revealed winners of New York's annual Awards for Excellence in Design, a recognition of the city's best civic projects. Timed to NYCxDESIGN, the city's annual celebration of all things design and architecture, the projects being recognized contribute to the city's public life, preserve its history, and exemplify sustainable approaches to buildings and landscapes. The awards, now in their 35th year, are presented by the Public Design Commission, an 11-member group of designers and representatives from New York's cultural institutions that reviews art, architecture, and landscape architecture on city property. "The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a prepared statement. "We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker." Tonight, the mayor, along with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Justin Moore, will present awards to this year's and last year's honorees at a City Hall ceremony. Get a sneak peek at the eight winners below (unless otherwise noted, all images and project descriptions in quotes are from the Mayor's Office): AWARD WINNERS Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center Marble Fairbanks; SCAPE Landscape Architecture Greenpoint, Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library "Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design, and an environmental learning tool for the community." Double Sun Mary Temple Williamsburg, Brooklyn Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program and Department of Parks & Recreation "Gracing the interior of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s paintings create a subtle and elegant visual disturbance." Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Far Rockaway, Queens Department of Design and Construction, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks & Recreation "Incorporating Vision Zero strategies, this comprehensive streetscape design will foster a safer, more inviting, pedestrian experience in this central business district and transportation hub." Bomb Squad Building Rice + Lipka Architects; Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Department of Design and Construction and New York Police Department "The simple and smart design of this resilient office and training facility elevates critical program elements above the floodplain and allows flood waters to flow through without damaging the building." Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek  Tree-Mendous The Bronx Zoo Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Wildlife Conservation Society "Two new adventures provide unique perspectives at the zoo—visitors can zip across the Bronx River and navigate a series of bridges with narrow beams, obstacles, and climbing wiggling surfaces." FIT New Academic Building SHoP Architects; Mathews Nielsen Fashion Institute of Technology Agency: Department of Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York "The first newly-constructed building on the FIT campus in nearly 50 years has an NEA award-winning design that reflects FIT’s commitment to openness, community engagement, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms." Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility TEN Arquitectos; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Woodside, Queens Agency: Department of Design and Construction and Taxi and Limousine Commission "Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, this facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers, reduce queuing times, and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day." The Cubes Administration and Education Building LOT-EK Astoria, Queens Agency: Department of Parks & Recreation and Socrates Sculpture Park "Constructed of 18 shipping containers, the Cubes will be Socrates Sculpture Park’s first permanent structure in its thirty-year history and a manifestation of the organization’s emphasis on reclamation and adaptive re-use, as well as a reference to the neighborhood’s industrial roots." SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: The Department of Environmental Protection, for the agency’s thoughtful design of green infrastructure in the watershed to help protect the city’s water supply. "DEP’s use of green infrastructure in its upstate properties not only results in resilient and innovative designs, but is a critical component of the agency’s ability to maintain the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply." Conservation and Relocation of three WPA-era murals EverGreene Architectural Arts; Fine Art Conservation Group; Morphosis; Weiss/Manfredi Roosevelt Island, New York Economic Development Corporation and Cornell Tech "Commissioned in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals were painted over and forgotten for decades. As part of the new Cornell Tech campus, the murals were uncovered and conserved and will be integrated into new campus buildings for public enjoyment." Tottenville Shoreline Protection Stantec; RACE Coastal Engineering Staten Island Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York "In tandem with ReBuild by Design’s Living Breakwaters Project, this shoreline initiative will increase public access by creating an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail, incorporating wetland enhancement, eco-revetments, hardened dune systems, shoreline plantings, maritime forest restorations, and earthen berms."
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Next Big Thing

Is Jacksonville, Florida’s best hope for a post-climate change megacity?

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Increasing economic and environmental pressures have the potential to challenge the resiliency of South Florida’s low-lying urban areas in the near future. As Florida’s population continues to grow in the midst of the increasingly obvious impacts of gentrification, global climate change, and sea level rise, economic and environmental displacement are likely to make the northern city of Jacksonville a beacon of hope for a climate-ravaged state.

Why? Because Jacksonville is huge and has room to grow. The city, named after President Andrew Jackson, also first governor of Florida, is the state’s largest by population and the 12th largest in the U.S., population-wise, with 868,031 residents. Jacksonville is also the largest city in the U.S. by land area—874.3 square miles—making it almost twice the size of Los Angeles and about three times that of New York City. The city’s corresponding 1,142 people per square mile density—L.A. and New York are many times denser—means there is plenty of room to grow.

Ruth L. Steiner, professor and director at the Center for Health and the Built Environment in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said: “I think the area is amenable to accepting large amounts of new growth,” adding that though the region could likely support an influx of new residents, its schools, transportation, and land-use policies would need a healthy dose of re-thinking to be ready.

A question regarding the massive growth in southern and central Florida, however, centers around the long-term sustainability of these new population centers as the impacts of climate change and sea level rise threaten the state’s coastal communities. With sea levels predicted to rise between four inches and up to ten feet across the region, low-lying areas of the Miami region will see massive losses in real estate and untenable retrofitting costs. The simultaneous and ongoing population growth across that region will likely ultimately push residents to flee to higher, cheaper ground.

That’s where Jacksonville comes in. Though some parts of the city lie on the coast, much of the city’s land area currently sits roughly 16 feet above sea level. As of 2010, Jacksonville had 366,273 households with an 11.8 percent vacancy rate, meaning that roughly 43,220 units are currently unoccupied. The relatively high vacancy rate means lower rents and, maybe more importantly, lower economic barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers—a growing problem for Miami’s millennial residents. Jacksonville is also home to the nation’s largest urban parks system, with 80,000 acres of parkland distributed across 337 sites, which according to Steiner, “bodes well” for any future urban development. She explained, “Investment in public infrastructure like parks has a high level of pay-back in terms of raising quality-of-life.”

Steiner added that the city faces challenges in terms of its urban layout; “another dilemma is the city’s sprawled out urban form,” she said, adding that because most of the development in the city has happened since World War II, the city is organized along “a series of major arterials and mega-blocks,” a 3,400-mile long network of roads that deters pedestrian-oriented design. Jacksonville also has a bus-only transit system that, aside from a downtown monorail line, leaves much to be desired in terms of mass transit.

The city, a short drive from the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus, is, however, poised for knowledge worker growth. Not only that, but the vast majority of Florida’s recent population growth is not from an increase in births or even migration from other American states, but from a net influx of individuals moving to the state from foreign countries, with Cuban, Venezuelan, and Haitian immigrants showing up in the highest numbers. The impact of climate change on those countries is currently unknown, but it is safe to assume that those communities would continue to grow should conditions back home deteriorate.

In a not-too-far-off future, could Jacksonville provide a relief valve for the growing state? It’s likely, and if city officials can prepare accordingly, Jacksonville’s new residents might learn to love the city. “Sometimes,” Steiner added, “I think Jacksonville is a diamond in the rough.”

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Trains, Planes, Automobiles

Port Authority Bus Terminal to get total reset and other breaking news from annual RPA conference
The Regional Plan Association (RPA)'s Assembly conference in New York City, which focuses on urban planning, infrastructure, and transportation, was marked by an acute sense of crises and challenge. "You need to start shouting about how bad things are, how irresponsible" we've been as a nation, former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. He bellowed how the U.S.'s infrastructure released a D+ rating. Biden was on hand to receive the RPA's John Zuccotti Award. In addition to being a longtime advocate for Amtrack, the noted train enthusiast Biden administered the infrastructure-heavy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It's an "easy message to deliver," he said, "that our infrastructure is crumbling and making America less competitive." Challenges associated with major projects like the Gateway Program (which promises new rail tunnels under the Hudson, among other improvements), the Second Avenue Subway, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal loomed large as the conference started off. In the Assembly's large morning panel, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), highlighted how the region's "accountability and governance model" needs to be reviewed. If government officials have clear ownership, it's better, she said, citing Governor Cuomo's intervention into the Second Avenue Subway. Rohit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs and co-chair of the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, gave a preview of what the RPA would propose when the Plan comes out later this year. "What has happened to these institutions?" he asked, arguing that it wasn't politics, ineptitude, nor lack of funding that was causing major regional transportation projects to falter and slow. It's the "very shape and structure of these agencies" that were the cause, he said, adding that they're "deeply flawed" in how they're organized, funded, and how responsibilities are divided. He discussed how other global cities, such as London, Honk Kong, and Los Angeles, have all restructured their transportation agencies in the last 20 or so years, consolidating power on a more local level or finding new arrangements more reflective of their needs. "It is time for reinvention," he concluded, saying the Fourth Plan would address these issues head-on. (He gave no concrete hints about the Plan itself, though in one example of dysfunction, he cited how commuter rail authorities are divided by the Hudson.)
There were major project updates at the "Crossing the Hudson" panel, which sought to address the fundamental challenge of improving transportation across (and under) the Hudson to connect New York and New Jersey. Tom Wright, president of the RPA, kicked off the panel by showing how New Jersey added 65,000 new cross-Hudson commuters from 1990 to 2010 and stood to add another 75,000 from 2010 to 2040. (By another estimate, it would be 110,000 by 2040 if you include New Jersey commuters going to all five boroughs.) Forty-three percent of current commutes happen via bus and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is desperately needed. Additionally, if one track is lost on the current 106-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson, Penn Station can only handle six trains during a peak hour (as compared to 24 otherwise).
Put simply, "New Jersey transit systems are in a state of crises," said panel member and New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon. While PATH is in decent shape funding-wise (thanks to PANYNJ tolls), the rest of the state's transit system is severely underfunded. John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, framed the challenge a little differently: 10 percent of the country's GDP is in the New York metro area, but crossing the Hudson via rail its "single point of failure." A new rail bridge, dubbed the Portal Bridge and located over the Hackensack River, is ready for construction but is awaiting federal funding. The new rail tunnel's environmental impact statement should be released in 60 days, Pocari added, and a financing plan is also in the works. Those two projects (the new bridge and tunnel) constitute phase one of the Gateway Program; phase two includes a new Penn Station. Biden called the tunnel "literally the single most important project in the country." A new PABT is also essential to the trans-Hudson transportation question; the current station will require replacement in 15 to 20 years due to structural deterioration, said Andrew Lynn, director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)'s Planning and Regional Development Department. (Lynn sometimes holds meetings with local officials and stakeholders in the PABT, using the shaking walls to drive home his point.) The PANYNJ has about $3.5 billion set aside for the terminal, but despite numerous attempts to formulate a plan over the years, none have been successful. The PANYNJ is effectively "pushing the reset button" on the project, and while the group will learn from past failures, "we're really starting over," he said. (Gordon suggested expanding the current PABT upwards by building off the current structure. This would expand capacity while minimzing local impact.) However, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), countered that "global cities are not building big bus terminals"; rail is much more efficient. "One enormous bus terminal" is not the solution, she said, citing the failings of Robert Moses and how "we don't think that way now." Lastly, the panel touched on the replacement and expansion of Penn Station. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture Urbanism, who has put forward a plan to adapt the existing structure, explained his plan to move Madison Square Garden to the back of the old Farley Building, allowing the adaptive reuse of the current Garden's superstructure for a new train station that would make the neighborhood a "world-class address." (ReThink Studio, who was also present at the Assembly, has critiqued aspects of this plan.) Chakrabarti also sounded the alarm that office space might be built in the back of the Farley Building to fund Amtrack's construction of a new Amtrack platforms on the rails that run under the Farley Building. Those platforms, he added, would only serve Amtrack and exclude regional rail. He also warned that the current Penn Station was a safety hazard awaiting disaster: with such low ceilings, for instance, a smoke event would be disastrous in the already-overcapacity space. In sum, the panel portrayed a moment of crises but also a potential reconsideration of the current status quo. Once the current crises have been averted, panelists agreed it would make the most sense for New Jersey to emphasize trains over buses for a trans-Hudson commute, as rail is overall far more efficient (albeit also more expensive) a system for moving people. After this, an afternoon panel, "Planning for the Transportation Revolution," sought to address how ride sharing and autonomous vehicle could reshape the urban landscape. Bruce Schaller, principal at Schaller Consulting (which specializes in urban transportation policy), and Matt Wing, corporate communications lead at Uber, both highlighted how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft) have filled in gaps created by public transportation. Forty percent of Uber's New York City rides are in the outer boroughs and never touch Manhattan, which serves as little surprise given only one subway line (the G) doesn't pass through Manhattan. TNCs, Wing explained, are also serving as critical links in the "last mile" problem of getting people to mass transit stations. (See AN's transportation feature on Miami for more on this.) Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, revealed that Ford aimed to have a production-ready Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. (Level 4 means no steering wheel, gas pedal, or anything else drivers must operate.) Given their cost, said Robinson, such cars will almost certainly be owned and operated by ride-sharing companies. Seeking to stay at the forefront of mobility solutions, Ford also bought Chariot, a TNC that operates 14-passenger ride-sharing vehicles and aims to reinvent mass transit. It was Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, who gave the most impassioned presentation. "Cities are in a one-time position of power," she said, to dictate the terms of how autonomous vehicles should operate before they're legally allowed in major cities. She's currently organizing a global coalition of mayor to negotiate with large companies. Her top priorities include: ensuring all vehicles are electric, creating a level playing field for competition among ride-sharing companies, and negotiating new forms of ride sharing taxation based on distance traveled, curb rights, fuel type, and other factors. Conventional taxation based on registration fees, gasoline tax, and tolls may not be an option when autonomous vehicles hit the road. Overall, the panel argued that anything less than all-electronic fleets of competing ride share companies would be a major loss for cities. In that scenario, there are fewer and much cleaner cars on the road, and vast amounts of parking and curbside space would be made available for public use.
For more on major transportations plans, don't miss the upcoming Plan 2050 at the Cooper Union, this May 9!
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Making No Small Plans

Optimism fuels Miami's mega-developments, but a denser Miami isn't a sure thing

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

New York or Los Angeles?

These are the two contrasting models of urbanism that Raymond Fort, designer at Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, cites when asked about Miami’s future. In New York, numerous walkable neighborhoods—whose density, convenience, and character are major assets—are connected by a robust public transportation system. In Los Angeles, low density and car-oriented urbanism is the norm outside the downtown core (though transit-oriented development has begun to spread in recent years). Many developers working in Miami are clearly enthusiastic about the New York model. However, that future isn’t guaranteed: The potential for car-dominated sprawl and other hybrid models still exist.

Arquitectonica is behind Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot complex of offices, luxury condos, a hotel, and ample retail south of Downtown Miami. Developed by Swire Group, Brickell is one of the many large, mixed-use developments in Miami that signals movement toward density. Phase one opened late last year, and phase two will entail an 80-story mixed-use tower.

Just north of downtown, there’s Miami Worldcenter, a 17-million-square-foot, 27-acre complex. It’s a joint venture by multiple developers, with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi leading the master plan and designing the center’s phase one, which is anchored by a 1-million-square-foot retail podium. Phase two is a $750 million convention center and hotel.

Development isn’t only concentrated in the urban core. About two miles north of Downtown in the Wynwood neighborhood, developer Moishe Mana and Miami-based Zyscovich Architects are poised to build a 9.72-million-square-foot, 23.5-acre development that will feature as many as 3,482 residential units, a mix of retail, office, and cultural programming, as well as an extensive public “Mana Commons” that will cut through the complex’s cluster of medium-rise towers. Dubbed Mana Wynwood, it won approvals last September. More like it may be on the way: In Little Haiti, the Eastside Ridge development will replace 500 townhouses with 7.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, and another project dubbed “Magic City(also located in Little Haiti) would see an innovation center, business incubator, housing, retail, and other art-entertainment facilities arise across a 15-acre campus.

What’s driving all of these major concentrations of development? In part, affluent young professionals across the U.S. are moving to cities seeking walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods, and developers are eager to meet that need. But there are factors unique to Miami. One is the city’s zoning: The Miami 21 code, implemented some six and half years ago, has significant parking requirements that incentivize large developments. For example, in dense high-rise areas, the code mandates 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Consequently, smaller projects struggle to meet the logistical and economic challenges of incorporating that much parking into their site. Bigger projects can more easily integrate a parking garage into their lower levels. Furthermore, if a development covers nine contiguous acres, it can qualify for a Special Area Plan, an arrangement that allows developers more flexibility in situating parking and negotiating the rules of Miami 21’s form-based code. This maximizes the development’s value. Brickell, Mana Wynwood, and the Worldcenter, as well as virtually all of Miami’s major developments, are (or have applied for) Special Area Plans.

Miami’s geography is also part of the equation. John Stuart, professor of architecture at Florida International University and executive director of its Miami Beach Urban Studios, explained how wealth from the Caribbean and Central and South America has historically flowed into Miami. “We have this gravitational pull from the south,” he said. Affluent people from Chile, Venezuela, and elsewhere come to Miami seeking “these kinds of urban experiences where they’re safe, their products are confirmed as authentic, but they’re close to their own countries….”

But the city’s geography turns from an asset to a risk when one considers the threat of extreme weather and sea-level rise. Miami Beach, which sits a mere four feet above sea level (compared to Miami’s six feet), is regularly inundated during king (high) tides and is spending nearly half a billion dollars to raise streets, install pumps, and push back the waters. Faced with such uncertainty, Stuart sees mega-developments as “just overflowing with optimism” and the belief that climate change will be remedied, ameliorated, or far enough away to not warrant significant concern in the near future.

In the shorter term, how Miami 21 and public transportation evolve may be deciding factors in shaping the city. In Wynwood, the City of Miami Planning Department is testing out a new zoning overlay that alleviates parking requirements for developments with smaller units. If Wynwood ceases to become the exception, then dense growth may not be restricted to Special Area Plan developments and the downtown urban core.

This leads to the issue of public transportation. “That’s at the core of much of what’s fragmenting the city, holding it back economically, socially, culturally,” said Stuart. “There’s very little opportunity for people who live in a neighborhood they can afford to access other neighborhoods for employment, artistic production, or other means.” Miami is in the process of funding and planning an expansion of the Metrorail, the city’s above ground heavy-rail rapid transit system. Eighty-two miles of new rail and six new lines—costing $3.6 billion—would connect the city’s burgeoning neighborhoods with each other and downtown. Complicating the situation are Uber and Lyft, whose low rates can be competitive with public transportation. Moreover, according to Fort, the prospect of driverless cars adds a new level of uncertainty to major public transportation investment.

A conversation about public transportation and mega-developments must also include the question of affordability. According to a 2016 study from the New York University Furman Center, in Miami “85 percent of recently available rental units were unaffordable to the typical renter household,” making the city the least affordable for renters among the country’s top 11 metro areas. But there are glimmers of hope: As development moves from the urban core and the waterfront to places like Wynwood, more non-luxury units may come online. Additionally, the city is already taking steps to increase affordable housing stock: A measure passed in late February would reward residential projects that feature affordable units with greater density and less required parking. However, while the downtown core and Wynwood don’t have large existing communities facing gentrification, that challenge may arise elsewhere. In other instances, density alone may deter development: Earlier this year, local opposition stopped a 1.2-million-square-foot Special Area Plan development east of Little Haiti.

For a firsthand experience, Fort recommends riding the Metrorail to survey the city—from there, you can see pockets of development (Coconut Grove, Little Havana, Brickell, Downtown) that he thinks could become medium-density nodes in a new polycentric city. He also cites neighborhoods like Edgewater, Wynwood, and the Design District that aren’t on the Metrorail but are still growing. “That’s what I think the next phase of development in Miami is,” he said, “where we look at neighborhoods and understand what’s missing” to make them mixed-use, denser, and affordable. Optimism for density, however, is just one of many factors—climate change, transportation technology, affordability, and zoning codes, to name a few—that will shape Miami in the years to come.

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Getting There

Miami’s infrastructure woes run deep, but the city has its eyes set on “huge cultural change”

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Talk of “infrastructure” may be one of the few things—if not the only thing—that comes close to uniting Democrats and Republicans at the moment. It was transit infrastructure, of course, that literally united the states of America: originally with railroads in the 19th century and later with interstates and automobiles in the 20th. Today, however, some cities’ prevailing love affairs with the car have become rather one-sided.

Polluting air and clogging roads, vehicles choke our cities. Miami ranks fifth nationally and tenth globally for congestion, as residents spend 65 hours in traffic per year on average, according to INRIX, a global traffic researcher that uses big data. Adding real injury to insult, the state’s stretch of the I-95 is America’s most deadly, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There is a financial burden to excessive traffic too. INRIX estimates that congestion costs Miami drivers $3.6 billion per year (remember that figure). Additionally, drivers pay out an average of $628,000 every day in tolls, just for the privilege of using the Miami-Dade Expressway.

Cars aren’t cheap, but what is the alternative in an auto-dependent city like Miami? Director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) for Miami-Dade County Alice Bravo said that she wanted to make Miami a “car-optional community,” where people can get to “all the different regions within the county using reliable public transit that’s convenient and helps people save time.”

A plethora of schemes and projects are now occurring in and around the city, such as high-speed regional rail, local rail, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian routes, water travel, and carpooling. Miami has gone from having nothing concrete in the pipeline for years to everything happening at once, and this coincides with a development boom that is more tuned for urban living than previous waves of development.

Bravo said that the backbone of the infrastructure surge is the Brightline, a completely private, approximately $3 billion scheme by All Aboard Florida. The “higher-speed” (Note: not high-speed) rail service runs the 235-mile stretch from the Orlando airport to Downtown Miami. The new line will reduce travel between Orlando and Miami from four hours to two and a half, for about the same cost as driving.

Such a commuter-rail service may sound familiar: In the late 19th century, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was developed by Henry Flagler. Flagler’s railway ran from Jacksonville and was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The commuter rail prevailed until the 1960s when the line was used to transport freight only, which it still does to this day. Unsurprisingly, then, All Aboard Florida is a sister company of the FEC and the new tracks will be laid along the existing lines.

Designing the Miami station, as well as those in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) who are working with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects. Design principal Roger Duffy explained how the stations would work with the existing infrastructure around them: “At Fort Lauderdale, we’re looking to link up with a bus service that will connect the cruise port and the station.” The city is also pressing on with plans for a streetcar system called “The Wave” that would connect with the station as well.

Meanwhile, at West Palm Beach, the 60,000-square-foot station is located at the center of downtown and will connect with the existing trolley network as well as Tri-Rail and Amtrak. In Miami, the station inhabits a similar location. A zoning override that turned the area into a special transit district was required to build the station, and tracks here are elevated 50 feet into the air so that the 11,000-foot-long station can bridge roads and pedestrian pathways.

Like any contemporary train terminus, the station will offer a ton of retail space, with room for a food court too. Duffy, however, stressed that the station was “not like duty-free at an airport,” where you have to weave through shops to get anywhere. Amenities will also cater to the area outside the building. Space for food trucks—a hit in Florida—has been provided, while skylights where the station bridges the streets offer daylight.

The Brightline train itself was designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group—an in-house strategy and technology studio at the New York architecture and design studio. The LAB at Rockwell Group worked with All Aboard Florida to conceive the Brightline name, brand platform, visual identity, and designed the train’s interiors as well as the exterior graphics. In addition to this, one of Rockwell Group’s architectural studios designed the interior check-in areas, food and beverage areas, and lounge experiences for all four Brightline stations.

Using the Brightline project as a springboard, Bravo is embarking on a $3.6 billion (remember that number?) transport scheme. Part of “Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit,” otherwise known as the S.M.A.R.T. plan, 82 miles of track will be laid along six transportation corridors that involve local services, including the suburban Metrorail and the elevated monorail Metromover.

In addition to new tracks, existing tracks are also finding a new lease on life as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Known as the “Underline,” the rails-to-trails scheme, comes from James Corner Field Operations (JCFO)—the same firm who developed New York’s hugely popular High Line.

As one might guess, the scheme involves area underneath the Metrorail being turned into a landscaped oasis filled with pedestrian paths, cycle lanes, and native planting. The 10-mile stretch is planned to run from Brickell Station down to Dadeland South Station. Phase one is occurring in Brickell, where work is due for completion in 2019, set to cost netween $7 million and $9 million. “Brickell has grown explosively in the past 10 to 15 years,” said Meg Daly, president of Friends of the Underline, the group leading the project. “We really believe that this trail-cum-park will offer incredible amenities and green spaces to offset the vertical growth and increased density in the area.”

Expanding on this, Isabel Castilla of JCFO listed amenities such as a dog park, an outdoor gym, a basketball court that doubles up as a space for yoga classes and similar activities, as well as a 150-capacity bicycle garage (Miami-Dade’s first) and a bike repair station. Art will also line the trail, and amenities will be site-specific: In the University of Miami area, a beach volleyball court will be installed.

According to Irene Hegedus of the DTPW, providing safe bicycle routes is a high priority. Castilla added that the shade provided by the Metrorail is “critical” for a project where people are encouraged to “walk, run, and cycle to stations and along the path.” “Working with the existing infrastructure,” she continued, “we hope this leads to the rezoning and re-visioning of areas along the Metrorail as transit-orientated development sites and areas where, as Miami continues to grow, it hopefully grows in a denser way near transit stations rather than continuing urban sprawl that is very dependent on highways and cars.”

Bravo, too, is aware of the interwoven relationship between transit development and the densification of urban areas. Another tool she discussed to further assist Hegedus’s and her ambitions was the possibility of Uber and Lyft entering the fray of her transport plans, acting as the “first and last miles” for journeys.

Now operating in Miami (after three years of lobbying for service legalization), Uber and Lyft previously found success in other parts of Florida, notably in Pinellas Park and Altamonte Springs where rides are subsidized and saving the cities considerable money. Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz described the pilot partnership as “going very well,” but said the scheme is due to end in July.

The low-cost nature of services such as Uber and Lyft is a key to their success. Already able to outprice traditional taxi drivers, ridesharing services Uber Pool and Lyft Line are looking to compete with bus service, too. Uber has gone further than mere carpooling by introducing pickup points optimized by algorithms that essentially create Uber bus stops.

Uber is also losing money—approximately $3 billion per year. In December, economist Justin Wolfers commented that “prices will rise once they’ve succeeded at monopolizing the industry.” If he is correct, the governmental embracing of Uber and Lyft long-term will prove to be shortsighted. Evidence of what happens when alternative public transit routes become unavailable can be seen in London. During a tube strike earlier this year, Uber fares surged by 450 percent; one rider was reportedly charged $138 for a five-mile trip.

It should be noted, though, that Altamonte Springs and Pinellas Park went with car sharing due to other circumstances not going their way. The Altamonte Springs city government set aside $500,000 (of which only a fraction has been needed) for private-hire subsidies after it was denied funding for a $1.5 million pilot “FlexBus” program. At Pinellas Park, the program emerged in response to a 2014 referendum in which local voters declined to adopt a one-cent sales tax to aid transit in the area.

In Miami, however, residents appear to be more enthusiastic about public transport. The “People’s Transportation Plan,” a half-penny charter county sales surtax is helping to fund the S.M.A.R.T. project, something the public voted in favor of back in 2002.

All this, too, shouldn’t suggest that Miami is waging all-out war against the automobile. Getting around by car is being made easier by what Bravo calls “smart signals”—traffic signals that adapt to current states of congestion. Using cameras, they monitor intersections and use AI to optimize traffic flow. Miami-Dade County is investing $40 million this year for the implementation of the traffic signals along major corridors, part of a five-year, $160 million effort. Other smart-city services include 300 soon-to-be-installed wi-fi transit hotspots from CIVIQ Smartscapes.

With all the proposed infrastructural plans, varying in scale, Bravo is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task. “This is a huge cultural change,” she said. However, Bravo is optimistic about how future generations will take to the changes. “New millennials are cool about public transportation,” she added. Such unprecedented growth seldom comes around often, and the chance to invest off the back of hefty tax receipts may be fleeting. Miami’s public transit system is dire, but if it continues to ride the wave of public support and enact its plans, change in the form of mobility lies ahead.

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Say What? 

DOT releases first-ever noise map of the United States

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its first map of all the noise made by cars and airplanes across the United States. Though airports, ambulances, garbage pickup, and the neighbor's sweet new sound system can cost us our hearing (and sanity), most U.S. residents live in safe noise zones. But some people, mostly city-dwellers, may have cause for concern around their exposure to constant, too-loud sounds.

The National Transportation Noise Map shows that almost all U.S. residents—97 percent—hear background noise from highways and planes overhead at a safe 50 decibels, about equal to a humming refrigerator. A small fraction of citizens, though, hear noise equivalent to a garbage truck every day. Less than one-tenth of one percent of U.S. residents (approximately 223,000 people) hear 80 or more decibels on a regular basis. Sustained exposure to 85 or more decibels—heavy city traffic—can cause permanent hearing loss over time. In the New York metro area, pictured above, residents living near the region's airports or under flight paths are at greatest risk for unhealthy noise exposure. The U.S. DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) compiled and analyzed data for the Noise Map, which is meant to help agencies track transit-related noise at the state and local levels. Officials can use the information to implement policies that reduce transit noise. The layers, which now include data up to 2014, will be updated annually and may eventually include noise data from rail and ships. The Noise Map is part of the U.S. DOT's National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a collection of publicly-available infrastructure data.