Search results for " bike lanes"

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Mayor de Blasio Goes All In on Urbanism in Downtown Brooklyn
In the decade since it was rezoned, Downtown Brooklyn has grown up in a big way. Just look at its skyline and the new apartment towers and hotels that call it home. The open air between those buildings will soon be filled because development isn't slowing down—it's just getting started. But the next decade of change in Downtown Brooklyn could offer much more than the first. That's because as new buildings rose, the area’s street-level never kept pace: public space is still scarce and underused, streets are hard to navigate and dangerous, and educational and cultural institutions have been disconnected. Today, however, Mayor de Blasio announced strategies to change all that by injecting the booming district with new (or refurbished) parks, redesigned streetscapes, new retail, and better connections between its many cultural and educational institutions. These investments could be transformative in their own right, but are especially notable given Mayor de Blasio’s hesitancy to talk about the importance of urban design. To be clear, New York City’s commitment to safe, livable streets did not die when Mayor Bloomberg walked out the door. In de Blasio's New York, there have been new bike lanes and the like, but the mayor doesn't speak about these issues with the force of his predecessor. That seemed to change today as this plan goes all in on urbanism. “This is one of the city’s great success stories, and we have an incredible opportunity to take these stunning communities, parks, and institutions and knit them together,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “The investments we are making will help Downtown Brooklyn continue its rise, generate good jobs, and make this a more dynamic neighborhood to live and work.” The plan starts where Downtown Brooklyn starts—at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge. The City plans to transform the 21-acre patchwork of underused parks and public plazas between the bridge and Borough Hall into a “great promenade and gateway into Brooklyn.” The renovated space, known as the "Brooklyn Strand," will be designed to better connect with the area's transit hubs and the celebrated Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. This strategy follows a study commissioned by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle - a cluster of tech companies in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and DUMBO. It was led by WXY. While not mentioned explicitly, Vision Zero factors into this plan though the City's strategies to make certain corridors more bike and pedestrian friendly. This includes a multi-million dollar transformation of the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge—a plan that was conceived under Bloomberg and is slated to break ground next year. Over on Willoughby Street, the City will "explore non-traditional roadway design that recognizes and accommodates the heavy use of the area by pedestrians." ARUP is working with the city on that redesign. The City has also pledged to build a new one-acre public park in Downtown Brooklyn and refurbish two others—Fox Square and BAM Park. The latter has been closed to the public for decades, but will be spruced up by WXY. Fox Square will be renewed by AKRF, with Mathews Nielsen. To boost business in Downtown Brooklyn, the City will offer-up some of its own ground-floor space to retail tenants. It may also consolidate its 1.4 million square feet to provide affordable office space for businesses. And there are plans to launch a consortium between Downtown Brooklyn’s 11 colleges to “better connect the tech, creative, and academic communities.” This is intended to best prepare students for jobs at Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle. The Economic Development Corporation will provide $200,000 in seed funding to kickstart that initiative. As part of this plan, the emerging Brooklyn Cultural District, which straddles the blurry border between Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, could get its very own Businesses Improvement District (BID). The City said it will work with the over 60 cultural groups in the district to market the area as a preeminent cultural hub. Of course, at this point, these are all fairly vague proposals—just ideas on paper unbound by hard deadlines. But this announcement shows that as Downtown Brooklyn builds toward the sky, the City will refocus on the people walking, biking, studying, and working on the streets below.
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Architect proposes a landscaped cycle track to tame one deadly Florida street
[beforeafter] florida-bike-lane-01 florida-bike-lane-02[/beforeafter]   From the West Coast of Portland, OR to the East Coast of New York City, designated cyclist and pedestrian lanes called cycle tracks are realigning pavement away from motor vehicles and creating safe infrastructure for bikes. Architect and avid cyclist Bernard Zyscovich has proposed such an infrastructure upgrade in Miami-Dade, Florida that would convert a killer expressway into a cycle super highway. Rickenbacker Causeway—linking Miami to Key Biscayne—currently holds three car lanes in each direction, but Zyscovich's plan would convert the divided highway to two lanes for automobile traffic and a landscape-buffered lane for cyclists and pedestrians. Hardwood trees and bushes that would be planted along the cycle track would increase safety by separating the various modes of transportation. Zyscovich suggested a preliminary project using plastic poles to separate the lanes, which mimics a plan implemented on I-95. The full project proposal would cost approximately $20 to $30 million along the entire stretch of Rickenbacker Causeway, however, there is currently no official backing for the project. Separating automobiles from other modes of vulnerable transportation has gained grassroots support in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida has a record of having the highest number of fatal bicycle crashes of any state. Further, Miami Dade County has one of the highest numbers of bicycle fatalities, which was highlighted by national news when the 44-year-old cyclist Aaron Cohen was struck and killed by a motorist.

Memorial Ride for Aaron Cohen

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"Walk For The Dead" Urges Pedestrian Improvements in Los Angeles' Highland Park
While Los Angeles implements plans for new bike lanes and other pedestrian improvements along its streets, there is still plenty of work to do. As part of that struggle, Highland Park residents and local activists this week staged the "Walk For The Dead," along North Figueroa Street, wearing Day of the Dead makeup and costumes as a reminder of the pedestrians and bikers who have been killed by cars on the thoroughfare. The road is often used as an alternate route to the nearby 110 Freeway, with cars traveling at excessive speeds, claimed the protesters. They also noted that while LA has chosen the road to become one of the its "Great Streets," local councilman Gilbert Cedillo has resisted efforts to make Figueroa a "Safe and Complete Street," with bike lanes and other traffic calming  measures. "The community is sick of unsafe streets, and wants to see improvements," said Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition. Bruins said that plans for bike lanes on the street have already been approved by the city's Department of Transportation (as part of the 2011 city bike plan), but that the department is still awaiting Cedillo's sign off. AN's request for comment from councilman Cedillo's office has so far gone unreturned. The Bike Coalition hopes that bike lanes are the first phase of improvements on the street, added Bruins. Future measures, dependent on funding, would include plantings, street furniture, improved crosswalks, and other pedestrian improvements. But for now safety is the chief concern.  "Our children deserve safe streets," said local community leader Monica Alcaraz. "North Figueroa is not a Freeway."
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The Music City's New Urbanism: The Nine Projects Leading Nashville's Transformation
For many, architecture isn't the first thing that comes to mind when considering Nashville—it's called the Music City for a reason. But there is more to Nashville than country songs, barbecue ribs, and the eponymous show on ABC. In recent years, the city of 600,000 has become a regional leader in smart urban design and distinctive architecture. New riverfront parks are transforming Nashville's connection to the Cumberland River, bikeshare docks have appeared around downtown, bus rapid transit is in the works, and the city's tallest tower is set to rise. And that's just the start of it. Take a look at the city's dramatic transformation and a peek at where it's headed. Music City Center One of the most significant new works in Nashville is Music City Center—a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center, which the mayor’s office called “Nashville’s  beacon of momentum.” The center is the work of tvsdesign, Moody Nolan, and Tuck Hilton Architects, and is as sprawling as it is striking. The structure is covered with an undulating roof that is meant to evoke the rolling hills of Tennessee. Below that curvy topper is a primarily glass facade and prominent, idiosyncratic, paneled forms that pull the building out of its own skin. The $585 million convention center also includes a public art collection and a 6,000-seat ballroom. “The defining character of Music City Center is how design—from large scale moves to the smallest detail—can tame an immense structure,” said tvsdesign in a statement. “The building communicates warmth, intimacy and an attention to detail that belies its 2 million square feet and reflects the distinct character of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.” Nashville Convention Center Redevelopment With the shiny new Music City Center open, Nashville’s existing convention center is no longer needed, so out with the old and in with the new. The city has proposed replacing the existing structure with a one-million-square-foot, mixed-use development. By the numbers, the project includes 840,000 square feet of office space, a 673-room Nashville Renaissance Hotel, 244,000 square feet of retail, and 50,000 square feet for the National Museum of African American Music. Gresham, Smith & Partners is designing the project, but, according to the mayor’s office, its “scope and design elements will be refined in 2014 through community input.”  The latest renderings show a multi-story retail base with glass towers above. NACTO Street Design In June, the Tennessee Department of Transportation became the first southern state to endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials’  “Urban Street Design Guide,” which serves as a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets. This campaign was launched in October by then–New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan who was serving as NACTO’s president at the time. “The Tennessee DOT endorsement of the Urban Street Design Guide is part of an exciting movement among states,” said Linda Bailey, NACTO’s Executive Director, in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with Tennessee and other states to build economically vital, safe and inviting streets going forward.” What does this mean for Nashville, specifically? That’s hard to tell right now, but it underscores the state’s commitment to public transit and safe streets in a region known for its car culture. The AMP, Nashville's Proposed BRT  In 2016, Nashville could have its very own, world-class bus rapid transit system that cuts through the city's urban core. Plans for the 7.1-mile system, known as the AMP, have been in the works for a few years and initially included dedicated center lanes and medians for quick boarding. As these things go, the project received some strong public backlash and was almost entirely derailed by a conservative state legislature, with a little help from the Koch Brothers. In March, the Tennessean reported that the billionaires' Americans for Prosperity group helped the state Senate pass a bill to block the $174 million project. But the AMP isn't dead just yet. The final design details of the project are currently being hammered out and construction could start as early as next year. While it’s not entirely clear what the AMP will look like, Ed Cole, the executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, is optimistic about this project and Nashville’s transit future overall. “The principles behind new urbanism are clearly part of our future here,” he said. 505 Church Street Adrian Smith—the man behind such projects as “the tallest building in the world”—has now designed what would be the tallest building in Tennessee. While not Burj Khalifa height, the tower proposed for 505 Church Street, which is designed by Smith’s firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, climbs its way up to 750 feet. Last August, AN reported on Smith and Gill’s plans for the site, which called for a mixed-use tower that gently bends and twists its way to LEED Platinum designation. That scheme has since been scrapped, but Smith and Gill have released an alternate design for a glassy, residential high-rise. Since a portion of the site was sold to the city for a parking garage, the firm created a more slender tower, which has balconies and horizontal louvers etched across its exterior. “The tower’s shape is based on a parallelogram which has been softened at the corners to maximize river views to the South and East,” said Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill in a statement. “The curved corners minimize the tower’s true East and West facades in an effort to reduce harsh East and West solar exposures.” The project’s developer, Tony Giarratana, told AN that the tower should get underway once the garage is completed some time next year. That puts 505 Church's opening somewhere around late 2018 or early 2019. Virgin Hotel While Sir Richard Branson is all about space travel these days, the knighted billionaire isn’t done with earth just yet. In April, Virgin Hotels announced plans to open its third outpost at One Music Row in Nashville in 2016. There are no renderings for the project just yet, but it is expected to include 240 rooms, a recording studio, and, according to a press release, “multiple concept suites, food and beverage outlets.” In a statement Branson said, “Nashville's time is now, and we want to be part of that excitement. We hope our first venture in Nashville will open the doors for more Virgin opportunities and more global travelers to enjoy Nashville's southern hospitality.” Nashville B-cyle Bikeshare In late 2012, Nashville fell to peer pressure and did what all the top cities are doing these days: It launched a bikeshare program. The 23-station system is known as B-cycle and, according to the program’s website, is an “absolutely stylin’ way to get around town.” Hear that? Absolutely stylin'. Peddle forth Nashvillians, peddle forth. Ryman Lofts In 2013, Nashville opened the colorful Ryman Lofts—the city’s first subsidized housing designed for working artists. According to the mayor’s office “the idea for Ryman Lofts grew from the Music City Music Council, which recognized that making quality affordable urban housing available to emerging artists can spur small business development, reduce transportation demands and help nurture the city’s creative workforce.” The project was designed by Smith Gee Studio, which bookended the primarily, brick-clad structure with bright, colorful panels that frame—and climb on top of—the main facade. Riverfront Amphitheater By this time next year, the good people of Nashville should have another venue to get their country music fix. Construction is currently underway on a 35,000-square-foot amphitheater right alongside the Cumberland River. The structure, and accompanying green space, is designed by Hawkins Partners with Hodgetts + Fung and Smith Gee Studio, and is intended to resemble the Cumberland's limestone cliffs. According to a press release from Mayor Karl Dean's office, "the amphitheater will accommodate up to 6,500 people with semi-fixed seating for 2,200, a 300-person greenway pavilion, and 4,000 lawn seats—all within a natural bowl providing optimal lines of sight to the stage and downtown." The amphitheater anchors the the new 12-acre West Riverfront Park, which replaces the city's old thermal transfer plant. The new space includes, greenways, gardens, a playground, and a dog park. 
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Victory in Round 3 for Los Angeles' MyFigueroa Streetscape Project
After four years of stops and starts, MyFigueroa, the $20 million proposal to transform Los Angeles’ Figueroa Corridor from a regional throughway to a bike- and pedestrian-friendly destination, appears to be moving ahead. Overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) with design assistance from Melendrez, Troller Mayer Associates, and Gehl Architects, MyFigueroa will add separated cycle tracks or buffered bike lanes, bike racks, and improved transit shelters, lighting, and landscaping to 4.5 miles of streets between LA Live and Exposition Park. The project hit its first major bump in the road at the end of 2011, when the Supreme Court of California dissolved the state’s redevelopment agencies, including the original custodian of MyFigueroa’s Proposition 1C grant funding. In April 2012, LADOT agreed to take over, and the project appeared to be on track. But in 2013, a traffic study indicating negative impacts combined with fierce local opposition to prompt changes to the design. Progress on MyFigueroa slowed to a crawl as stakeholders failed to agree on a path forward. On August 28, 2013, Councilmember Curren Price filed a motion calling for further traffic studies and design alternatives that did not involve removing a lane of automobile travel. Two weeks later, Shammas Group CEO Darryl Holter, who owns seven car dealerships along the Figueroa Corridor, filed a formal appeal against MyFigueroa. The fate of the project remained uncertain until March 2014, when, before a hearing of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), representatives from the offices of Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Price announced that the opposing parties had agreed to work together toward a solution. Throughout this time, LADOT and Department of City Planning put in long hours of research and analysis, first to answer Councilmember Price’s motion [pdf] and, later, in response to requests made by the stakeholders’ summit [pdf]. Finally, at the end of April, their hard work paid off as the Shammas Group withdrew its appeals. LADOT’s Tim Fremaux confirmed that MyFigueroa will move ahead with only minor changes, including tweaks to left turn pockets to facilitate ingress and egress at auto dealerships, and the formation of an advisory group to explore the possibility of bike lane closures during large events at Exposition Park. MyFigueroa is still in the design phase, said Fremaux, so the construction advertise/bid/award process has yet to begin. If all goes well, construction may start in January 2015. Funding, meanwhile, is an open question. Under Proposition 1C, the $20 million grant was to have been spent by the end of 2014. LADOT, said Fremaux, is waiting on official confirmation from the state that funding will be extended beyond December 2014.
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Route Improvements
A dedicated bus lane in New York City.
Courtesy NYC DOT

With the cost of new transit infrastructure skyrocketing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to expand the city’s Select Bus Service (SBS), a version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Twenty SBS lines are planned citywide by 2018, adding 13 new routes to the current seven. A joint effort of the NYC Department of Transportation and the MTA, officials have begun planning the next phase, a route along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards in Queens connecting Queens Boulevard and the Rockaways.

“All around the world there’s been a push for BRT due to the high cost of building underground rail,” said Gene Russianoff, a spokesperson with the Straphangers Campaign for NYPIRG. “It’s particularly well-suited to parts of Queens like the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor that is already very wide and has lots of available customers.” According to NYCDOT, the corridor services nearly 34,000 daily bus riders.

 
The planned Woodhaven SBS Corridor (left). Existing conditions along Woodhaven Boulevard (right).
 

Seven SBS lines already run through the city on routes identified by the Bloomberg Administration. The latest opened on May 25 running along the M60 bus line connecting 125th Street with LaGuardia Airport.

New York’s SBS is not a full BRT system, like international examples in Guangzhou, China, Bogotá, or Mexico City. SBS is characterized by dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal prioritization, pre-paid transit fares, limited stops, and other pedestrian safety amenities. NYCDOT figures show these changes can account for a 10 to 15 percent decrease in travel times as compared to traditional bus routes that are often slowed to a pace less than walking. Along the Woodhaven route, a study by the Pratt Center for Community Development estimated that travelers between Howard Beach and LaGuardia Airport could cut their transit times from 65 to 45 minutes. NYCDOT’s initial proposal for the Woodhaven line is similar to other SBS routes in the city with on-street bus lanes.

Proposed bus lane alignments.
 

“A more fully-fledged, world-class BRT system will include fully separated bus lanes and more permanent station locations,” said Ryan Lynch, Associate Director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “These are small things that really improve travel times and ease access for people with disabilities.” His organization this year identified Woodhaven Boulevard as among the region’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and is making a push for the new route to expand on existing SBS models. His group and others are proposing a median-aligned, physically separated bus lane with permanent, elevated stations. “When you do build out a world-class BRT system, you can expect faster transit times. Woodhaven is an ideal opportunity to take SBS to the next level.”

“It’s important to remember that SBS has been very successful throughout the city at a time when bus service has become slower on other lines,” said Lynch. “SBS has really done a good job of increasing ridership and has improved pedestrian and bike safety.”

NYCDOT has been studying the Woodhaven line since 2008 and is currently working with the community on defining what the future bus line might look like following a meeting in late April. The agency expects to have a concept plan complete by the end of the year.

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NYC Transportation Head Outlines Priorities For Building Infrastructure & Public Space
At a recent transportation forum hosted by the New York Building Congress, New York City Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, laid-out her agenda for the city’s streets. She said implementing Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic fatalities remains the department’s first priority, but made clear that, under her leadership, the NYCDOT will be doing more than safety upgrades. Trottenberg praised her predecessor, Janette Sadik-Khan, for “cracking some eggs” and fighting for bike lanes, bikeshare, Select Bus Service, and pedestrian plazas when it was not politically popular to do so. She explained that Sadik-Khan’s commitment to these types of programs—and the Bloomberg administration’s ability to realize them—makes her job that much easier. The challenge now is keeping up with the demand for new public space. According to Trottenberg, the NYCDOT is actively pursuing ways to expand these initiatives around the city—especially farther out into the boroughs. The department's wildly popular pedestrian plazas, though, could be more difficult to implement outside of Manhattan and hotspots in Brooklyn. In places like Times Square and Herald Square, explained Trottenberg, the plazas' construction and maintenance can be supported by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and deep-pocketed interests. This type of financial backing may be harder to secure in more middle-class and working-class neighborhoods. But while the most high-profile plazas are  in Manhattan, this program has already been successfully implemented in parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The commissioner also expressed support for congestion pricing, but did not explicitly endorse any plan. When asked about recent polling on the issue—which found modest support for the idea—she dismissed the numbers outright, saying poll respondents will always say "no" when asked about paying more for something. For congestion pricing to happen, she said, it will take politicians who can see past the politics. “If you’re waiting for a magical poll where people say, ‘yes, I’ll pay,’ it’s not going to happen,” she said. While Sadik-Khan broke significant ground on New York’s public space—physically and metaphorically—continuing to change the streetscape will not be easy. “We make things in New York very complicated,” said Trottenberg. A big reason for that is what she called the “Byzantine nature” of how the city’s infrastructure is divvied up between agencies and jurisdictions. It can be difficult, even for her, to know who oversees what road or bridge, and why exactly that is. Still, the city is in a much better place to make the case for public space than it was just a few years ago, back during the infamous bike lane wars of 2011. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan blazed the path, and now their successors seem intent to pave it forward.
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Motor City's first buffered bike lanes planned for Midtown
Given the severity and number of challenges facing Detroit, streetscape improvements might not seem like a very high priority. But in the Motor City's Midtown, one of the city's relatively resurgent neighborhoods, a local planning non-profit is betting that encouraging more bicyclists and pedestrians will be a boon for the area. As a result, Detroit may soon get its first buffered bike lanes. Between Temple Street and Warren Avenue, Midtown’s 2nd Avenue is the target of a substantial road diet, as first reported by ModeShiftAs Curbed Detroit put it, “The street is practically wide enough to land a jumbo jet, so carving up this turkey will provide cyclists and drivers with large portions of road,” creating a backbone for bike infrastructure between Wayne State University and the waterfront. The 5-foot bike lanes would run for approximately one mile on both sides of 2nd Avenue, separated from 8-foot parking and 11-foot drive lanes by a 3.5-foot, diagonally striped buffer. Midtown Detroit is pushing the diet as part of a larger campaign to repurpose a slew of extra-wide and outmoded one-way streets in the city’s central business district. City Council has already approved the larger project, which includes opening 2nd Avenue to two-way traffic. In 2012 work began on the "Midtown Loop," which turned two downtown one-ways into two-way streets and made bike lanes out of car lanes in this district dense with cultural institutions and new downtown development. ModeShift reports the project should cost $200,000 plus inspection fees. The Michigan Department of Transportation will oversee the work, which is expected to win some federal money. MDOT previously authorized $1 million for non-car "enhancements" along Cass Avenue in 2014. As MDOT gears up to revamp I-375, alternative transportation advocates are pushing for green space and pedestrian-friendly accoutrements in the wake of the downtown highway's car-centric legacy.
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Framework for Development
Philadelphia's Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River.
Brian Aydemir / Flickr

Philadelphia has unveiled plans to overhaul the 2,000-acre Fairmount Park. Though more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, it has never been utilized, or revered, as has Olmsted’s masterwork. Philly is trying to change that. In mid-March, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation unveiled a sprawling plan called “The New Fairmount Park,” which proposes to transform the open space with bike lanes, trails, redesigned streets, landscaping, a public boathouse, and a host of other interventions.

Fairmount Park comprises two parks, East and West Fairmount, which are separated by the Schuylkill River. It was originally designed as a watershed park that was meant to protect the city’s water supply. “It has never been conceived of as a whole park, or as a singular park,” said Harris Steinberg of PennPraxis, which created the master plan on behalf of the city. “It stands in contrast to the great Olmsted parks.”

Despite the park’s original function as a public utility, and not necessarily a public space, it still manages to attract 7 million visitors a year. To increase those numbers even further, the master plan calls for reconnecting Fairmount with the city, and the expansive park with itself.

 
The PennPraxis plan proposes to improve connectivity within the park, as well as to the surrounding city.
Courtesy PennPraxis
 

To begin that process, PennPraxis suggested that the city start from the park’s outside edge and work its way in. The master plan proposes new pathways and “attractive entrances” to better join the park with its bordering communities. Inside Fairmount, restored and reoriented trails create a more comprehensive way to move through the hills. Steinberg called these interventions “quick hits” because they can be implemented quickly and without too much capital. Ideally, they will build momentum for the more transformative proposals, like a public boathouse and pedestrian bridge across the Schuylkill.

It will take a lot more funding, planning, and political will to get the plans off the page and into the park. “Philadelphia has a long history of supporting visionary projects, but losing steam over time,” said Steinberg. For that reason the master plan is, in many ways, a political document meant to encourage those with the power to write bills and sign checks to refocus on Fairmount’s potential. Steinberg calls it a “framework for investment” and a “philanthropic to-do list.”

Given that the current mayor only has 18 months left in office, though, the future of this plan is uncertain. Some of the proposed “quick hits” could be executed in the near future, but, according to Steinberg, the bigger projects are being “teed up” for whoever leads the city next.

Route Improvements

With the cost of new transit infrastructure skyrocketing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to expand the city’s Select Bus Service (SBS), a version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Twenty SBS lines are planned citywide by 2018, adding 13 new routes to the current seven. A joint effort of the NYC Department of Transportation and the MTA, officials have begun planning the next phase, a route along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards in Queens connecting Queens Boulevard and the Rockaways.

“All around the world there’s been a push for BRT due to the high cost of building underground rail,” said Gene Russianoff, a spokesperson with the Straphangers Campaign for NYPIRG. “It’s particularly well-suited to parts of Queens like the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor that is already very wide and has lots of available customers.” According to NYCDOT, the corridor services nearly 34,000 daily bus riders.

 

Seven SBS lines already run through the city on routes identified by the Bloomberg Administration. The latest opened on May 25 running along the M60 bus line connecting 125th Street with LaGuardia Airport.

New York’s SBS is not a full BRT system, like international examples in Guangzhou, China, Bogotá, or Mexico City. SBS is characterized by dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal prioritization, pre-paid transit fares, limited stops, and other pedestrian safety amenities. NYCDOT figures show these changes can account for a 10 to 15 percent decrease in travel times as compared to traditional bus routes that are often slowed to a pace less than walking. Along the Woodhaven route, a study by the Pratt Center for Community Development estimated that travelers between Howard Beach and LaGuardia Airport could cut their transit times from 65 to 45 minutes. NYCDOT’s initial proposal for the Woodhaven line is similar to other SBS routes in the city with on-street bus lanes.

 

“A more fully-fledged, world-class BRT system will include fully separated bus lanes and more permanent station locations,” said Ryan Lynch, Associate Director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “These are small things that really improve travel times and ease access for people with disabilities.” His organization this year identified Woodhaven Boulevard as among the region’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and is making a push for the new route to expand on existing SBS models. His group and others are proposing a median-aligned, physically separated bus lane with permanent, elevated stations. “When you do build out a world-class BRT system, you can expect faster transit times. Woodhaven is an ideal opportunity to take SBS to the next level.”

“It’s important to remember that SBS has been very successful throughout the city at a time when bus service has become slower on other lines,” said Lynch. “SBS has really done a good job of increasing ridership and has improved pedestrian and bike safety.”

NYCDOT has been studying the Woodhaven line since 2008 and is currently working with the community on defining what the future bus line might look like following a meeting in late April. The agency expects to have a concept plan complete by the end of the year.

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Cleveland approves neighborhood plans to bring new life to first ring suburbs
The Cleveland neighborhoods of Kinsman, Duck Island, and West 65th Street could eventually get major updates now that three new plans have won unanimous approval from the city’s planning commission. All three neighborhoods were built when Cleveland’s industrial heyday propelled a boom of real estate development that has long since given way to depopulation. In Kinsman, on the city’s far East Side, the plan proposed creating an arts and entertainment district. The Duck Island plan focused on multi-modal transportation hubs, and the plan focusing on the West 65th Street neighborhood called for a two-mile multi-purpose trail. Funding for most of the work is still undetermined, but the city has committed some money for bike lanes, curb extensions, and other local improvements already called for in the three plans.
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Streamlined Streets Aim to Enhance Houston’s Quality of Life
Dunlavey Street in central Houston typifies the image of a Southwestern city street. It's a sprawling, four lane affair that is approximately 50 percent usable, 80 percent pedestrian unsafe, and, in this case, 100 percent in need of an update. Transportation officials are evening out the numbers for a proposed road diet that would reduce the four-lane street to two and using the outer lane space for parking, improved sidewalks, and bike lanes. Currently, many of Houston’s wide streets—and some of its highways—operate under the principle of induced demand. This idea dictates that existing space is utilized by sheer import of its presence. In other words, people use big roads because there are big roads to use. But the outer lanes of Dunlavey are hardly drivable. They are pothole-ridden, with uneven gutters and extensive debris. Because the lanes go largely unused, pedestrians misguidedly utilize them, sometimes with fatal results. Removing the exterior two lanes would remove confusion over what is drivable area and what is not. It would clearly delineate the road’s functionality, and create a responsible message to drivers and citizens about the roadway’s capacity. In years past, expanding outward has been the modus operandi of Southwestern transportation. Cars, and not people, determined the size of roadways. But this proposal overturns that tradition. The space that comes from the unused exterior two lanes will be converted into parking, bicycle lanes, and better sidewalks. According to planners, these changes will facilitate more efficient traffic, increase pedestrian safety, and encourage alternative methods of transportation such as biking or walking. It also curbs the expansion trend’s tendency to impinge upon private property—an aspect that, commuter or not, Houston’s citizens should be pleased about. If all goes according to plan, the proposal aims to not only increase the quality of life in Houston, but to be the beginning of a larger trend. Developers hope that Houston will be the next city that roadway planners look to when considering developments. A June open house meeting will follow up on the proposal’s details, while City Council will officially consider the changes in September. The plan’s announcement comes a week after Houston was named among the ten worst cities for pedestrians.