Now, Mayor Lightfoot has admitted that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) may be forced to pay back the federal funding used to build a Block 37 transit station, as it isn’t being used for mass transit. The O’Hare Express System super-station would have sat below the Block 37 mixed-use project, but the site currently remains a large, unfinished basement. The CTA issued $175 million in bonds, which were later paid for by the federal government, to develop the station. Still, Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times, “That doesn’t change my view of the Elon Musk project. The notion that he could do this without any city money is a total fantasy. And in thinking about what our transportation needs are, I’m not sure that an express train to O’Hare in the current proposal rises to the top of our list.” However, the federal government hasn’t given the CTA a deadline for repaying the grants, and the site may still be used for another transportation-related purpose. The Boring Company and Musk have been mum on the project since the election, but it’s hard to see how the O’Hare Express System can bounce back (and only a year after the deal was first announced). As former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Emanuel confidant Ray LaHood told the Chicago Sun-Times in March, “I’m not surprised at all. It’s very expensive. It’s complicated. The environmental impact statement that would have to be done on that will take years. And it would take a real commitment from a mayor to make it happen. I don’t see it happening.”
This is simple and just works— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 24, 2019
Posts tagged with "Public Transit":
Fears that Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, would quash Elon Musk’s $1 billion underground shuttle between the Loop and O’Hare International Airport arose around the February 26 election to replace Rahm Emanuel, and now evidence is mounting that the project may be dead. It’s no secret that the O’Hare Express System was a pet project of Emanuel's, and that Musk largely chose Chicago to test the first practical application of the Boring Company’s underground high-speed rail because of the permissive attitude towards new construction. Originally, the loop was pitched as a sealed tunnel that would rocket riders between Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare in only 12 minutes, inside sealed pods riding on electrically-powered “skates.” The system was expected to move approximately 1,900 people per hour, and it was estimated that roundtrip tickets would cost $20 to $25; compare that to the Blue Line, which is able to move twice as many people an hour for only $5 a trip. Then, in late May, Musk announced on Twitter that, actually, instead of using sleds, the Boring Company tunnels would let modified Tesla cars cruise through the narrow tunnels at speeds of up to a demonstrated 127 miles per hour. Besides further reducing the tunnel’s estimated carrying capacity and introducing the potential for bottlenecks, this also seems to go against the pledge Musk made in March of 2018 to use his traffic-bypassing tunnels for public transportation first and foremost.
A partnership between the state-owned Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), the London-based architecture and technology firm PLP Labs (the research spinoff of PLP Architecture), and LogistikCentrum have released a new study and report proposing a new direction for public transit. Called NuMo, for New Urban Mobility, the proposed technology allows for highly efficient, electric-powered home-to-destination transit either over existing infrastructure or on new construction. The report claims that most cities rely on a less efficient 19th-century model of public transit, where trains and buses come at times at long intervals or unpredictably and can be either virtually empty or totally packed and uncomfortable. With NuMo, autonomous electric cars would be booked through an app and come directly to your current location. From there they would take off, eventually joining other NuMo cars with passengers or cargo in a “high-speed platoon.” The electric cars could then pull off at any point to pick up more passengers for carpooling, or to bring passengers directly to their destination. One of the central inefficiencies with traditional human-operated automobiles is that they have to be spaced fairly far apart from one another when moving and be given enough horizontal space to account for the inaccuracies and shifts from people operating them. Automated cars in a NuMo platoon would be able to “move within milliseconds of one another,” staying close together, reportedly reducing lane width by over three feet, fitting two cars into a single lane. In a NuMo-designed city, there would be a central control system with automated intersection control and load balancing, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and the ability prevent stopping and congestion, potentially ending traffic jams and accidents. Within the cities, cars would travel between approximately 20 to 40 miles per hour and outside they could reach speeds of 50 miles per hour. These NuMo cars and platoons could travel on existing infrastructure in specialized lanes, including in currently underused bus lanes or roads. The cars could also accompany the development of new roads over land or underwater, becoming a transit solution and network that, much like earlier subways and bus routes, could reshape how disparate parts of the city relate to one another. Such consolidation and optimization could help return streets to pedestrians and cyclists and, the researchers claim, could result in much greater capacity than current transit options. Open to all autonomous vehicles, NuMo is a protocol designed to be introduced to cities gradually. The researchers developed models for Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden, while also considering larger cities like London and New York. They claim that four-person cars set to travel only one second from one another would be twice the capacity of 120 passenger buses running a minute apart, quadrupling transport capacity and reducing travel time by a third while having no extra cost over building comparable traditional transit infrastructure. NuMo’s combination of autonomous electric vehicles, infrastructure overhauls, and efficient sustainable design is, according to Lars Hesselgren, director of research at PLP Architecture, “the next best thing to teleportation.”
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and Norway-based A-Lab have been chosen to design the new Fornbuporten and Fornebu Senter metro stations in Oslo, Norway. Aside from being Norway's capital, Oslo is known for its innovative architecture, like Snøhetta's award-winning Oslo Opera House, and rich past as a gateway for shipping and maritime trade in Europe. The Fornebubanen metro line and its accompanying stations will only add to Oslo’s cultural appeal, serving as a vital new mode of public transit and connecting up-and-coming neighborhoods to the city center. The five-mile-long Fornebubanen metro line will run through an underground tunnel and connect to six stations, two of which will be designed by ZHA. Those two stations are intended to reflect Norway’s breathtaking landscape—characterized by hilly islands, rocky glaciers, and northern lights. At the Fornebu Senter station, buildings will be carved to resemble mountains and fjords, their canyon-like curves directing the flow of commuters to and from the street. The Fornbuporten station will contain two public spaces designed to geometrically mimic the dramatic landscape of Norway, including an oval canopy and civic park to the north and a layered, orthogonal pavilion to the south. Both stations will be flooded with moody, celestial lighting that varies depending on the time of day, symbolizing the mutable Oslo sky while uplifting passengers’ spirits. According to ZHA, it will take only 12 minutes to travel to the city center once all six stations are completed. The construction of the Fornebubanen metro line will be one of Oslo’s most impressive undertakings, revolutionizing the city and bringing communities together. Construction will likely begin in 2020 and top out by 2025.
Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority's board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University. In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years. Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta's 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions. Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation. A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.
After years of political wrangling, regulatory delay, and economic uncertainty, California’s $100-billion high-speed rail (HSR) project is finally under construction. Though the project has more than doubled in cost and is now over 11 years behind schedule, the California High Speed Rail Authority, a public agency tasked with planning, designing, building, and operating the 300-mile route, has broken ground on a variety of key construction initiatives since 2016. The agency is currently working on 20 sites scattered across five central California counties in an effort to build a 119-mile proof-of-concept route between Bakersfield and Madera by 2022. Among the multifaceted works underway are the 3,700-foot-long Cedar Viaduct that will carry high-speed trains over State Route 99 in Fresno, and the 4,700-foot San Joaquin River Viaduct that will span the San Joaquin River to the north. The aerial alignments are test runs for the types of layered sites the authority will have to build over in more densely populated centers. Here, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees during the day, workers are laying rebar for structural columns, balancing new concrete slabs on elevated spans, and acquiring new properties to complete the future rail alignment. Roughly halfway between the two ends of this initial route, the Dragados-Flatiron Joint Venture Precast Facility outside of Hanford is currently under construction, as well. The precast concrete factory will supply girders and precast slabs for the bullet train project when it opens in 2019. Ultimately, the facility will produce roughly 1,300 different types of beams and nearly 500,000 precast slabs for the rail line. Bruce Fukuji, principal at Albany, California–based Urban Design Innovations, is an architect working to develop transit-oriented community guidelines for sites across the state that will be impacted by the new route. In a statement, Fukuji explained that his goal was to “focus regional economic activity [and] attract public and private investment to stimulate the regeneration of station areas.” Fukuji added, “We are linking locally desired projects with potential cap-and-trade funding [and are] setting up the opportunity for local communities and disadvantaged communities to benefit from collaborating with us and our partner agencies.” Though far from the state’s major urban centers now, when the full route is completed in 2033, it is expected to carry over 30 million passengers each year on trains traveling between 110 and 220 miles per hour.
The Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA)–designed Salesforce Transit Center and its 5.4-acre rooftop park in San Francisco are now officially open to the public. Decades in the making, the opening of the $2.1 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot terminal this August capped off eight years of construction and followed the completion of the 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower next door in February. Taken together, the three elements—terminal, tower, and park—represent the beginning of a new era that, according to the planners behind the transformative project, is driven by a focus on public space and public transit. Dubbed the “Grand Central Terminal of the West” by its civic boosters, the new multimodal transit center is meant to be the crown jewel of a new high-rise, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood anchored by the multifunctional rooftop park and capped off by the tower. The arrangement is one of the many by-products of a far-reaching district plan crafted to embrace the terminal and reshape the city’s skyline. Designed as a massive, skylit, indoor-outdoor living room sandwiched between transit and a park, the terminal is geared for public use first and foremost. Inside its cavernous halls, terrazzo-based flooring by Julie Chang, a light installation by artist Jenny Holzer, and a fountain by James Carpenter enliven the grand and formal spaces designed by PCPA. A total of 3,992 perforated white aluminum panels—designed in collaboration with British mathematician Roger Penrose—wrap the terminal, skinning a bulbous, undulating object that sneakily cuts across the neighborhood. The lacey wrapper brings light into a second-story bus terminal and helps to dematerialize the massive complex. This visual transparency becomes physical porosity along the ground floor, where the multiblock building spans over city streets, weaving through the commercial district with its 85,349 square feet of retail space. Fred Clarke, a founding partner at PCPA, described the transformative project and the whirlwind of construction it has engendered as “transit-oriented development at a scale we haven’t seen before” in the United States. Clarke observed, “Our car-oriented society typically works against this building type, so we feel like we are cutting new ground here.” The expression is quite literal in this case, as the complex begins 125 feet below ground, where a five-block-long concrete box acts as a massive foundation for the complex containing below-grade ticketing, retail, and concourse levels. For seismic resiliency, the 1,000-foot-long terminal is designed as three structurally isolated sections connected by a pair of 2-foot-wide expansion joints that allow each piece to move independently. Thornton Tomasetti is the engineer-of-record for the project and served as a sustainability consultant for the Salesforce Tower project, as well. The also building comes outfitted with one of the largest geothermal installations in the world, according to the architect. It is a design that not only allows for impressive energy efficiency, but also reduces the need for the clunky air handling units on the roof that would typically accompany conventional HVAC systems. Situated 70 feet above grade, the terminal is topped by a new public park designed in partnership with PWP Landscape Architecture. Flower beds and tree pits of varying depths meander around the rooftop, where the verdant park is home to 100 trees, a 1,000-seat amphitheater, three sculptural lanterns, a playground, and a 1,000-foot-long fountain by artist Ned Kahn, among other elements. The stormwater-retention-focused park is also sculpted by artificial mounds concealing elevator overrides and mechanical equipment. Standing beside all of this is the Salesforce Tower, a tapered pinnacle defined by rounded corners, “classical proportions,” and a large crown that lights up with a large-format LED video artwork by artist Jim Campbell. The 61-story tower connects directly to the park and touches the ground with a light, open lobby that is meant to enliven the district, “in a simple, elegant way,” according to Clarke.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Regional Plan Association (RPA) released its Fourth Regional Plan back in 2017, a 400-page prescription for a variety of problems facing the Tri-State New York metropolitan area. Now through November 3, visitors to the Center for Architecture can explore the RPA’s plans for increasing housing affordability, improving the region’s overburdened public transit, and addressing climate change by 2040. The Future of the New York Metropolitan Region: The Fourth Regional Plan exhibition at the Center breaks down The Fourth Regional Plan into four typologies: core urban areas, suburbs, local downtowns, and regional green spaces. Each section is further broken down to address affordability issues, the failure of policymakers to address problems in those regions, how climate change will impact each area, and how to best improve mass transportation. Both the problems themselves, as well as the RPA’s proposed solutions, are on display. The Four Corridors, an RPA-commissioned initiative that tasked four different architectural firms with reimagining different “corridors” throughout the region, is also on display at The Fourth Regional Plan. Rafi A+U + DLANDstudio proposed a “landscape economic zone” to protect the area’s coastal regions from flooding—a softer, living take on the traditional seawall; Only If + One Architecture proposed creating the Triboro Corridor, an accessible route from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx; WORKac wants to turn the Tri-State suburbs into denser, greener versions of themselves and create easy access between smaller towns; and PORT + Range proposed reinvigorating the area’s highlands into ecological buffers with varied natural ecosystems. “RPA’s Fourth Plan is a blueprint for creating a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable region, one with more affordable housing, better and expanded public transit, and a closer connection with nature," said RPA Executive Vice President Juliette Michaelson. "This exhibit provides an opportunity for New Yorkers and regional visitors to explore the Fourth Plan and imagine what our future could look like if we are bold enough to reach for it." Other than the show itself, the Center will host two accompanying programs. Creating More Housing without New Construction will take place on September 14 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and Designing the Future of the Tri-State Region will be held on October 29 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Ahead of a formal announcement later today, the Chicago Tribune has confirmed that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been chosen to dig a high-speed train route from Chicago's Loop to O’Hare International Airport. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has selected Musk to build out an underground rail system from Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare, potentially cutting the transit time from an hour by car or 40 minutes on the Blue Line down to 12 minutes each way. The route is part of the recently announced $8.5 billion O’Hare rehabilitation. Under Musk’s proposal, The Boring Company would dig two tunnels along an as-of-yet undetermined route under the city, and transport passengers in autonomously-driven pods that would “skate” on electrified rails. Each pod would carry up to 16 passengers, and Musk has promised that pods would leave each station every 30 seconds. The promotional video for the proposal seems nearly identical to the one Musk previewed in March for traveling to the LAX, except with different station names. While no timeline has been proposed yet, the Tribune reports that unnamed sources have cited the potential cost as under $1 billion. The Boring Company will be paying for the project out of pocket using revenue from advertisements, the $20 to $25 ticket costs, and selling merchandise on the trip itself. Boring will also fund the construction of a new station at O’Hare and finish the scuttled Block 37 station, and ownership of the tunnels themselves is currently an open question. Boring has pitched the system as being buried 30 to 60 feet underground with 12-foot-wide tunnels, but there are still serious feasibility hurdles that will need to be cleared before the project gets the go-ahead. The route still needs to be approved by Chicago’s City Council, and Boring technically hasn’t completed any full-scale route yet. While the company is building out a similar network of tunnels in L.A. and has received an exploratory permit for their D.C. to NYC hyperloop, the autonomous pods being proposed haven’t been tested in real-world conditions. Another concern is capacity; a 16-person pod stopping every 30 seconds means that the system would run at a capacity of about 1,900 passengers per hour. For comparison, the Blue Line, which Boring’s link is meant to compliment, likely handles twice as much hourly traffic for $5 each way.
A $1 billion update to New York City’s subway system is coming, and although the resulting renovations will shutter six stations for the next few months, transit advocates are outraged that $250 million has been designated for cosmetic upgrades. In a 10-3 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday, the body approved a station improvement funding package, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which will refurbish 33 stations across the city. But the package leaves out necessary upgrades that would bring aging stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The $250 million will instead go towards installing USB and lightning chargers in the affected stations, as well as adding glass barriers, better lighting, and new surface-level entrance vestibules. The passage of Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative was far from a sure thing, especially after MTA board members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully blocked an initial vote. Criticizing the plan’s selection of stations in need of repair, failure to allocate money for elevators or to address the system’s failing infrastructure (and the share of the bill that the city would have to foot), the vote was rescheduled pending further study.
Now it seems that the MTA board has ultimately sided with Governor Cuomo, as Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit (the subsection of the MTA responsible for the subway system) sided with the Governor. Byford defended the Enhanced Station Initiative as more than a cosmetic upgrade, and told the New York Times, “To wait for perfection at every station? Some will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair, and you will fall into my scenario of, ‘Yes it’s ADA-compliant but oops’.” As a compromise, New York City Transit has hired an outside consultant that will evaluate the cost and feasibility of bringing all of New York’s 355 inaccessible stations, or nearly 80 percent, into compliance; though so far, retrofitting these stations has been an uphill battle. The first $240 million dispersed from the initiative will go towards renovating a set of highly trafficked stations in Manhattan. The 23rd Street and 57th Street stations on the Sixth Avenue lines, the Lexington Avenue line's 28th Street station, the 34th Street-Penn Station, the 145th Street station in Manhattan and 174th-175th Street and 167th Street Grand Concourse line stations in the Bronx will all undergo modernization. While a start date for the construction hasn’t been announced yet, all of the aforementioned stations except Penn will be closed for the duration. Although subway service work typically lasts six months on average, no exact length for the repairs was given.
On the left are stations getting Cuomo makeovers. On the right is the list of stations NYC thinks are most in need of repairs. List courtesy of @NYC_DOT/MTA brd mbr Polly Trottenberg pic.twitter.com/mYjocDNgYC— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) January 24, 2018
After the draft version of President Trump’s signature infrastructure plan leaked to Axios last month, the administration has now released the full version of the document following the release of this morning's budget outline. The complete plan skews closely to the outline, laying out $200 billion in federal dollars with the expectation that the private market would generate an additional $1.2 trillion in funding. The depreciation model from the draft has been kept, meaning that older or existing projects will face a severe disadvantage when asking for federal money from the $100 billion “incentives program.” The same restrictions on grant funding have also been carried over, meaning that no project could receive more than 20 percent of its funding from the government, a restriction certain to stymie the New York-New Jersey Gateway Project. Funding for mass transit is disproportionately disadvantaged in the final plan. As with the draft, a shift to funding projects via state and private dollars means that projects with a low return on investment, such as public transportation, are likely to be passed over. While roads and highways are worth investing in because of the potential for tolls, trains rarely provide the same money-making potential. As such, the proposal would also roll back federal toll restrictions and allow tolling across any interstate highway. gut environmental requirements and study periods. Judicial reforms proposed later in the document would seem to back this claim up, as the plan, if passed, would curtail the amount, and lengths, of any lawsuits filed against a project. $20 billion has also been set aside for a so-called “Transformative Projects Program,” which would fund “ambitious, exploratory, and ground-breaking project ideas that have significantly more risk than standard infrastructure projects, but offer a much larger reward profile.” Also of note is the proposed expansion of the EPA’s ability to regulate water infrastructure, including a newfound authority over flood risk management, and likely any climate change mitigation measures. It’s worth mentioning that Trump’s plan would drop cross-state licensure requirements for anyone wishing to work on a project that has received federal funding, something that has been a hot button issue for AN’s readers in the past. While the infrastructure bill and accompanying budget released by the Trump administration would reorganize the American economy and privatize much of the country’s infrastructure, it’s extremely unlikely that Congress would pass it. Federal spending for the next two years has already been set after a recent budget deal was hashed out on February 9th, and this bill probably wouldn’t be able to achieve the necessary broad bipartisan support. Read the full text of the proposed infrastructure plan here.
Picture New York, 2040: Buses replace the subway at night, but when they’re open, subways are quieter, wheelchair-accessible, and clean. Everyone’s ditched tiny apartments for cozy mother-in-law units, built into single- family suburban homes. Working in the Bronx and living in Brooklyn isn’t a two-hour slog anymore, because there is rail service from Co-op City to Sunset Park. Craving fresh air? The national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands is a one-train ride from Queens, or there’s a long-haul hike from the Catskills to the Pinelands. This is a sliver of the tristate future envisioned by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit Manhattan-based organization that periodically analyzes the region from exurbs to downtowns to generate recommendations for a thriving future. When all 782 towns and cities in the tri-state area do their own planning and zoning, true regional planning seems daunting. The almost 400-page doorstopper of a plan, the RPA’s fourth since 1922, contains recommendations on a range of issues, from closing health disparities to fairer school redistricting and property tax reform, to making it easier to reverse-commute or travel from suburb to suburb without a car. The New York-New Jersey–Connecticut area is home to 23 million people, and only a third of them live in New York City proper. With that distribution in mind, the RPA identified four top priorities that affect everyone’s life. The group believes that, for the next 25 years, a thriving region depends on fixing the MTA, constructing more affordable housing to prevent displacement, building equity in one of the most unequal regions in the area, and adapting to rising sea levels. “Our plans carry zero weight of law, but they are very influential,” RPA President Tom Wright told reporters at a November briefing. It’s not possible to analyze all of the plan’s 61 prescriptions here, but there are key takeaways for architects, planners, and policymakers who live and practice in the region. The idea that the subway needs a total overhaul is a no-brainer to anyone who has been late due to massive train delays. To improve the system, the group wants to reconsider around-the-clock subway service. Surface transit would replace trains between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights, as only 1.5 percent of daily riders use the service during these four and a half hours, almost 20 percent of the day. Ending 24/7 service, the RPA argues, would allow the beleaguered MTA to make needed repairs faster, now that there are more riders than ever. New Yorkers didn’t take kindly to the idea. Commuters took to Twitter to denounce “the worst idea ever,” and even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, calling full service a “birthright.” If current trends continue, the city’s growth rate from 2015– 2040 will be half of its 1990–2015 rate, but NYC officials say the city doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support more than nine million residents, even though the RPA believes the region (including NYC) could accommodate four million more people and add two million jobs. The organization argues that more and better transit options— and more affordable housing— will prevent the region from turning into California’s Bay Area and make it easier to grow inclusively. Packed trains and sky-high rents reflect many people’s desire to live in the New York City area, but unchecked housing costs could put a damper on growth. Adding more units—two million more— would alleviate the real estate crunch over 25 years. To meet demand, the RPA estimates that changing zoning near train stations could allow 250,000 homes to be created just on surface parking near rail lines while maintaining the neighborhood balance of schools and social spaces. Reforming zoning restrictions could also encourage homeowners to create accessory dwellings units (mother-in-law apartments) within the existing building envelope, while NYC’s 12 FAR cap could be lifted to build up density. Value capture from real estate development, especially those that benefit from big-ticket projects, could fund affordable housing near transit. All housing construction will be in vain, however, if the region doesn’t step up to address the immediate and terrifying effects of climate change. The RPA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via a California-style cap-and-trade plan, and convene a regional commission to help local governments adapt to extreme weather and rising seas. But, according to the RPA, the carbon pricing system we have isn’t comprehensive enough; the region should switch to California’s model, which does more to reduce emissions by covering those from buildings, transportation, power production, and industry. One million people from Connecticut to New Jersey live in areas likely to flood, and municipalities are gearing up to fight Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges. There is less emphasis, though, on the everyday flooding that’s likely to result from sea-level rise in the near future; the RPA says areas that can’t be protected should be gradually transitioned to higher ground. A tristate regional coastal commission would help communities plan for sea-level rise, and a small surcharge on property insurance would be used to fund resiliency measures like buyouts and coastal hardening. The retreat from vulnerable areas is painful for people who have built lives there, but there are opportunities in the changes. A national park in the marshy, industrial Meadowlands would provide recreation space and educate visitors on climate change mitigation. Denser Meadowlands towns like Secaucus, New Jersey, would be protected from sea-level rise, while the Teterboro Airport and surrounding communities would retreat, and nature would take over. To illustrate these recommendations more richly, the RPA applies its thinking to nine sites, imagining what they could be in 2040. In that year, Jamaica, Queens, has capitalized on its rich transit connections and proximity to JFK Airport to become a destination in its own right, while retaining its income and ethnic diversity. Further east, Long Island’s central Nassau County is a “model suburb” thanks to regionally integrated schools and a new North Shore–South Shore rail link that’s made it easier to access job centers in Hempstead and Garden City. “Nothing is off the table,” Wright said.
In recent years, the West Coast’s booming cities have seen significant population growth, resulting in an ongoing and worsening housing-affordability crisis. Though there are many overlapping causes for this crisis, the phenomenon is partially a product of too much success and not enough planning—cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have added tens of thousands of new jobs over the years, but have built comparatively few homes to serve those workers. The result is a dizzying increase in the number of people experiencing burdensome rents and homelessness coupled with an expanded reliance on automobile transit as people are forced to live farther away from their jobs in order to afford housing. This regime is straining urban and civic life as more and more people—including college students, school teachers, and even police officers and firefighters— face increasing difficulties in terms of housing affordability. But just as the overlapping crises of climate change, housing unaffordability, and gridlock threaten to overwhelm these cities, potential solutions may be afoot. Across the region, major cities are beginning to cooperate at the regional level with peripheral municipalities in an effort to rein in carbon emissions, increase affordability and equity, and decrease automobile reliance. By relying on envisioned networks of transit-connected villages to grow up rather than out, entire metropolitan regions have the potential to be remade in the image of multi-nodal urbanism. In the Los Angeles area, the Southern California Association of Governments represents 18 million residents across a six-county region with the aim of helping to reduce sprawl. To the north, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association aims to unite the region’s 101 municipalities toward measured growth. Of the three major West Coast cities, however, Seattle—nearly 30 years into its own regional planning experiment following the passage of the Washington State Growth Management Act in 1990—is the furthest along in its efforts to articulate a new form of dense regional urbanism centered on regional transit and dispersed density. As it should, the path toward this brave new world begins with high-capacity transit. Though only established in 1993, the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is in the midst of a massive, multibillion-dollar expansion plan that will see the transit agency extend a slew of new light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines across the Puget Sound region. Sound Transit has been undergoing vigorous growth since 1996, when the agency published its initial “Sound Move” plan, which has been amended, expanded, and reapproved by regional voters first in 2008 and again in 2016. The most recent version— Sound Transit 3 (ST3)—consists of a 25-year vision aimed at adding an additional 62 new miles of light rail throughout the region with the goal of ultimately creating 116 miles of light rail augmented by expanded commuter rail and new BRT services. Crucially, the expanded system includes increased street bus service, shorter headways between buses and trains, and increased transit capacity via longer train cars and articulated buses. When fully built out, the system will span north to Everett, south to Tacoma, east to Redmond and west to Ballard and serve a projected population of five million. Aside from being a transit plan, ST3 is also part of a dogged, municipally led vision aimed at supplementing Seattle’s downtown core by investing in and redeveloping existing cities and towns across the Puget Sound. The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), a cooperative agency tasked with envisioning equitable growth strategies for the region, leads the effort on the planning side. The organization helps to study and deploy land-use reforms like up-zoning, works to preserve the location and size of existing industrial lands, and pursues transportation and urbanization planning initiatives with the aim of keeping the rural areas, farmland, and forests around metropolitan regions “healthy and thriving,” according to the organization’s website. The council’s Vision 2040 plan—a growth management– focused environmental, economic, and transportation vision for Puget Sound crafted in 2007—aims to provide a blueprint for this transformation. PSRC’s vision seeks to direct urban growth so that it coincides with Sound Transit’s projected transit map for the future, overlaying progressive planning principles atop new transit corridors before the new lines are ever built. The effect is that land can be bought sooner and at cheaper prices, allowing, for example, nonprofit housing providers to maximize their investments long before surrounding real estate appreciates. Vision 2040 aims to create a set of interconnected “regional centers” that concentrate a density of housing, jobs, and civic and entertainment uses along these new transit corridors. According to PSRC, Washington state’s job growth will be three times higher than the national average over the next five years, a phenomenon the group hopes will reshape the Puget Sound region as a whole. The council is currently working to update its regional-centers plan, and it seeks to cluster groups of complementary industries across the region synergistically with housing and other services. Producing this “housing-jobs balance,” Josh Brown, executive director of PSRC said, is a central mission of the organization. Brown explained, “Our plan calls for larger existing cities to accommodate growth so we can achieve a better housing-jobs balance across the region.” Using this so-called Centers Framework, the organization has been able to create a plan for concentrating urban growth in existing urban centers and projects that, by 2040, the region will be served by over one hundred high-capacity transit stations surrounded by a density of mixed uses. PSRC administers and supports various programs to fulfill these goals, including helping to launch the so-called Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) Fund, which helps to capture low land prices in future-growth areas with the intention of developing mixed-use projects that contain full-throated affordable housing components. The REDI Fund was launched by Enterprise Community Partners and regional partners like PSRC in December 2016 and recently closed on its first deal, a project developed with the Tacoma Housing Authority to create 300 to 500 new homes in the city’s West End neighborhood. For the project, at least 150 of the units will be priced for low- and moderate-income households in a bid to provide affordable housing for community college students in danger of falling into homelessness. The project is planned for a site across the street from Tacoma Community College and will eventually sit at the southern terminus of a forthcoming light rail line. The development will help PSRC achieve its interlocking goals of promoting density in existing corridors while also supporting the region’s burgeoning cohort of future workers. James Madden, senior program director with Enterprise Community Partners, said, “Our goal is to get private land into the hands of mission-oriented nonprofits in order to create mixed-income, multifamily housing.” The initiative comes as the region begins to embrace the coming changes. In the city of Lynwood, north of Seattle, for example, a 250-acre site surrounding a forthcoming light rail station is being redeveloped into a district called City Center that will contain mixed-use development and include a convention center and pedestrian- oriented street design. The plan will help Lynnwood grow in population by over 50 percent in coming decades. The eastern city of Redmond—where Microsoft’s headquarters are located—is also pushing forward on new transit-oriented projects, including the city’s Overlake Village, a 170-acre district that will contain 40,000 residents in the future. The first phase of the redevelopment is a 1,400-unit complex called Esterra Park that will also contain 1.2 million square feet of offices, 25,000 square feet of retail uses, a hotel, and a conference center. Taken together, the multifaceted growth plans in place across the Puget Sound region can serve as an example of a potential future for West Coast cities, a vision that is particularly focused on equity, pedestrianism, and dense urban redevelopment.