Posts tagged with "public transportation":

Placeholder Alt Text

After a $21M renovation, a Bronx subway station still isn’t wheelchair accessible

The non-profit group Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the MTA over a Bronx subway station that remains inaccessible to wheelchairs despite a major overhaul. According to DRA, the MTA’s failure to make the station wheelchair accessible is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people from discrimination based on disability. The Middletown Road station in the Bronx was closed between October 2013 and May 2014 for improvements, which included replacing staircases and other parts of the structure. The costly renovation also included new ceilings, walls, and floors, but failed to add an elevator. The station lies in the middle of a four mile stretch—which contains ten stops on the 6 line—that are not wheelchair accessible. According to the DRA, New York City has one of the worst public transportation systems in the country for handicapped people, with only 19% of subway stations accessible to wheelchairs compared to 100% of stations in Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area. While city busses are all wheelchair accessible, they're often a much slower and less efficient way to get around. According to DNAinfo, the MTA claims it was not in violation of the ADA because adding an elevator would have been impossible due to the physical constrains of the station. The DRA asserts that it could've been done. Minor accessibility improvements to the station were implemented, including new handrails and tactile signs. The suit, which was filed on behalf of Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) and Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA), claims that an elevator would have been technically feasible. According to Anthony Trocchia, President of DIA, the suit is meant to call attention to the broader issue of wheelchair accessibility on the New York City subway system.
Placeholder Alt Text

Designers offer transportation alternatives for NYC’s impending L train outage

As the specter of the L train's closure has become very real—it could last as long as three years—some alternatives have appeared from disparate sources. They include an East River Skyway cable car and a proposal to make 14th Street in Manhattan car-free. The Van Alen Institute recently hosted an L Train Shutdown Charrette to encourage the generation of further ideas. Proposals had been whittled-down to six finalists. Each proposal was judged on accessibility, potential for economic development, financial feasibility, socioeconomic equity, disaster preparedness, and inventiveness by an audience, who subsequently voted for the winner. The winning team was Dillon Pranger of Kohn Pedersen Fox who worked alongside Youngjin Yi of Happold Engineering; they suggested a water shuttle on Newtown Creek that would connect with the Long Island Railroad freight lines converted for passenger use. Much like what Jim Venturi proposed last month for NYC and NJ rail travel, the pair's idea makes use of infrastructure not currently utilized for public transit. Newton Creek was selected for its proximity to Greenpoint and Williamsburg, both popular stops for L-train commuters. Shuttles would also run from Manhattan to Dekalb Avenue and the North Williamsburg Ferry Pier. As for the other submitted proposals, landscape architects Gonzalo Cruz and Garrett Avery, engineer Xiaofei Shen, and architectural intern Rayana Hossain proposed a 2,400-foot-long floating tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan for cyclists and pedestrians. Submitting for engineering firm AECOM, the team titled their proposal Light at the End of the Tunnel. The tunnel, which could be submerged or float above the water, be features a translucent skin. A "fast cart people-mover commuter system" would transport people through 14th Street and North 7th Street in Brooklyn on land. Another submission, dubbed the Lemonade Line, came from John Tubles of Pei Cobb Freed Architects, Jaime Daroca of Columbia University C-Lab, Nicolas Lee of Hollwich Kushner, and Daniela Leon of Harvard GSD. The line aims to be “a multimodal transportation strategy that provides an all-access pass to seamlessly-linked buses, bikes, car-shares, and ferry lines following the L line above ground.” A mobile app would be developed for the program that could offer various routes depending on traffic.
Placeholder Alt Text

New transit line links Downtown Los Angeles to the beach

For transit boosters and urbanists in Los Angeles, last weekend’s opening of the 6.6 mile extension to the city’s Expo Line linking Downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica represents a capstone over a quarter century of hard-fought rail construction in a city notorious for its auto-dependent populace. Los Angeles systematically dismantled its pre-World War II Red Car system in the post-war era and did not begin rebuilding its rail transit infrastructure until in the late 1980s. Metro opened the Blue line in 1990, a 22-mile light rail route linking Downtown Los Angeles with Long Beach. Since then, the system has grown exponentially, with two subway routes, four light rail lines, and two rapid bus lines completed since. Much of the recent expansion has been funded with money collected via sales tax increases. The Metro has another such initiative, Measure R2, on the November ballot this year aiming to help the agency continue its vigorous growth. A first phase of the Expo Line opened in 2012 linking downtown to Culver City. The now-completed 15.2 mile route reestablishes rail transportation between the beach-adjacent westside communities and the region’s symbolic heart downtown by essentially reviving the route taken by the Pacific Electric Red Car service’s Air Line service that ran along the former Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe right of way between 1908 to 1953. The new line is expected to take around an hour end to end, about the same amount of time it takes to drive in good traffic. The Expo Phase II project was constructed via a design-build partnership between Skanska USA and Rados Construction Inc. and was administered by Expo Authority, the independent agency created by Metro to build the line. Skanska USA tapped Parsons Brinckerhoff to design the route’s tracks, stations, and bicycle facilities. Parsons Brinckerhoff also designed 24 at-grade and above-grade intersections for the line. Celebrations took place at each of the seven new stations last weekend and Metro offered free fares on Friday and Saturday to commemorate the completion of the new line. The much-hyped weekend saw so many Angelenos flock to stops along the route that service got backed up as enthusiasts and skeptics alike rode rail transit to the beach for the first time in sixty years. But in perhaps a sign the difficulty Metro faces in changing L.A.’s car-dependent culture, service ground to a halt for nearly two hours Monday morning when a drunk driver drove onto the Expo Line’s tracks along an at-grade run of the line near downtown, snarling the line’s first weekday morning commute.  
Placeholder Alt Text

L.A. Metro completes 11.5 mile extension to Azusa, aims for Montclair next

This year, a new northward extension of the Gold Line (Pasadena to Azusa) and the Expo line (Culver City to Santa Monica) are opening or have opened to the public, and a third extension of the Gold Line (Glendora to Montclair) may break ground as soon as the summer of 2017, pending the adoption and passage of a November ballot initiative to raise the sales tax by half a cent over the next 40 years. The initiative would also retain the voter-approved sales tax increase of 2008’s Measure R. A southward extension of the Gold Line (Downtown to East L.A.) and the first spur of the Expo (Downtown to Culver City) were among the projects funded by Measure R and opened in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

The Gold Line’s extension into these heretofore car-centric burgs isn’t just about increasing ridership by 13,600 daily boardings by 2035; it’s also a way to make once relatively inaccessible areas part of a newly defined urban corridor. At least, this was the thinking underpinning many of the speeches given by public officials such as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on the Gold Line extension’s opening day ceremony on March 5. “We want to come here and visit our friends here too,” he said, before remarking that “we want to see a vibrant region that eases congestion for everybody.”

The Gold Line’s northward extension has occurred in three primary phases: first, from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, then from Pasadena to Azusa, and now potentially from Glendora to Montclair. While the Metro operates the trains and manages the fares, a separate agency known as the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority is responsible for all of the planning, stakeholder meetings, and each construction phase. Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib F. Balian remarked in a phone interview that the March 5th opening was “very successful. It’s very complicated when you start operation of a project like this, let alone when it’s transferred from one agency to another. But it’s all gone very well.” Balian has overseen phase two and is already 30 percent into the design and engineering planning of phase three. His hope is to be “shovel ready” by the summer of 2017, if this November’s proposed ballot initiative passes.

Balian’s duties as planner aren’t simply about navigating the geotechnical challenges of laying track on top of the earthquake-fault-prone soil of Southern California, but also creating a piece of infrastructure that will hopefully add as much beauty as it does efficiency to its environs. In phase two, Balian and his team decided to make a bridge over the 210 freeway a significant part of the new line. “Once we got the funding in place in 2008 for the 210 bridge specifically, I thought ‘what a great opportunity to make it a gateway.’ If we started early enough and gave real direction to the designers and brought on an artist, it wouldn’t cost us any more than if we did it any later in the project.” Artist Andrew Leicester was commissioned to work on the bridge, while artist Christie Beniston helped select an orange highlight color for the previously gray operations campus in Monrovia. If phase three gets its funding, Balian is already working with artists to create meaningful motifs and patterns for the line’s alignment, which includes retaining walls, sound walls, bridgework, and abutment walls.

The result is a section of public transit that heavily incorporates aesthetic considerations while making it possible for a resident of Azusa to get to downtown L.A. in under 50 minutes, regardless of traffic conditions. 

Placeholder Alt Text

The San Francisco BART system’s brutally honest social media responses

San Francisco’s BART recently received nationwide attention from the likes of New York Magazine and Gawker for its new and improved Twitter account. No, it’s not because the transit system finally figured out how to correctly use Twitter (slow clap), but because BART has made the radical decision to be honest and upfront with its riders (er, another slow clap). In response to particularly terrible service with multiple hour-long delays, @SFBART tweeted: “BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.”

Perhaps the gesture would mean more if the majority of the tweets weren’t apologies for bad service, or if, as SF Weekly reported, that BART is engaging in campaign tactics to convince San Franciscans to pass a $3.5 billion bond for funding this November.

Placeholder Alt Text

After years of delay and $200 million, Washington D.C.’s 2.2-mile-long streetcar route opened to the public this weekend

After years of delay, Washington, D.C.'s $200 million dollar streetcar opened to the public this Saturday. Initially, the D.C. Streetcar was intended to be a modern-day streetcar network that would make other cities' streetcars bow down. The first segment was supposed to open ten years ago, and the planned route was to run 20 to 40 miles. Today, though, the streetcar scales a modest 2.2 miles, with a route that begins from behind Union Station and runs along H and Benning streets to end at the RFK Stadium parking lot. As expected by the public and feared by public officials, opening day was full of excitements and fraught with delays. Some riders were incredulous: https://twitter.com/ShortFormErnie/status/704311908585881601 Others, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, right, selfied on a packed ride... https://twitter.com/MurielBowser/status/703615386445443072 ...while The Washingtonian captured a video that reminds viewers that this streetcar has average speeds of 12 to 15 miles per hour. https://twitter.com/washingtonian/status/703604307615158272 Despite a fare of $0 for the first six months, the streetcar has limitations. Trains run every quarter hour, only run until 2 a.m., and not at all on Sundays due to limited capacity. (DDOT officials, The Washington Post reports, left three cars outside, unprotected from the weather, for a few years, damaging one so badly that it was not put into service.) For those with more burning questions about the streetcar, the paper produced a handy streetcar FAQ for the grand opening.
Placeholder Alt Text

To reduce their carbon footprint, four European cities introduce drastic traffic regulation plans

Amidst the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, numerous cities announced questionably large goals to reduce carbon emissions. However, Oslo, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Madrid, have backed their goals with concrete plans for extreme traffic regulation, ranging from a car-free city center in Oslo to free public transportation in Madrid.

Oslo's City Center to Be Car-Free by 2019

On October 19th, Oslo’s newly elected city council announced plans to turn the city center, within Ring 1, car-free by 2019. To do so, at least 37 miles of bicycle infrastructure will be established and protected, and all interfering or free parking spaces will be removed. 

The plan will also include a new metro tunnel and end the extension of E18 to the west. Lastly, motorists will be charged a rush hour fee. Through these bold implementations, the city hopes to halve emissions by 2020 and remove 95 percent of emissions by 2030, as AN covered here. As a first step, the City of Oslo will stop all its investments in companies that produce fossil fuel energy.

Stockholm Royal Seaport to Be Fossil Fuel Free by 2040

Since 1990, the City of Stockholm has lowered emissions by 44 percent, despite being one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Recently, Stockholm announced a goal to be fossil fuel free by 2040. Stockholm is one of three finalists in the Sustainable Communities category of the C40 Cities Awards. Stockholm's recognized project, Stockholm Royal Seaport, is one of Europe's largest urban development areas and aims to limit carbon dioxide emission below 3,000 pounds per person by 2020. By 2040, Stockholm Royal Seaport is expected to house 12,000 new residential units and 35,000 workspaces, in addition to becoming fossil fuel free.

Amsterdam to Prioritize Local Traffic at the City Center

Earlier this year, the Amsterdam city council agreed on a new design for Muntplein Square, but recent studies reveal traffic in the city center should be limited even further. A car number plate analysis revealed that 20 percent of motorized traffic in the city center is to access surrounding areas, 15 percent is to access areas further outside the city, and 30 percent are just circulating—taxis looking for customers or people in search of parking. The city council therefore agreed to implement further traffic limitations. The new plan will direct unnecessary traffic in the city center to outside roads and prioritize local traffic, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. Taxis will experience the largest extension in travel time—roughly six minutes per vehicle each week. Residents and commercial vehicles will have an additional two to three minutes of travel time each week. Although the city council has agreed upon rerouting city center traffic, they will not vote until 2016. If approved, the plan will be implemented before the end of the year.

Madrid to Monitor Air Quality With Strict Traffic Regulations

This year, Madrid received an F, 58 percent, in the Soot Free Cities rankings, and later announced plans to enact some of the most rigorous anti-pollution laws in the world. On days when air quality falls below a designated threshold, half of cars will be banned from the roads, drastic speed limits will be implemented, and public transportation will be free. According to El Pais, these measures would have a daily cost of $2 million, and if monthly and annual transit pass users are refunded for the day, the daily cost would rise to $4.4 million.   Although these numbers are dreading to a city swamped in financial crisis, studies reveal the city’s pollution is responsible for 2000 premature deaths per year, and therefore the matter must be addressed. If these four plans are approved and successfully implemented, their measures may become a pattern across the globe.
Placeholder Alt Text

Contrary to popular belief, the sacred “T” in TOD may not be necessary for reduced car dependence

Urban planning credo states that, through design and policy interventions that improve access to public transportation, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) reduces car dependency and encourages individuals to walk, bike, bus, or take the train to their destination. Well, maybe. A University of California, Berkley study suggest that, for rail, the T in TOD may not be necessary to reduce car travel in neighborhoods that are dense and walkable, with scarce parking. fig1 In a study of rail transit's impact on travel patterns, Daniel Chatman, associate professor in the Department of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, challenged the assumption that easy access to rail leads to less reliance on cars (and subsequently lower rates of car ownership). Were there other factors at play, like narrower streets, good parking, wider sidewalks, and nearby destinations? Chatman received over 1,100 responses to a survey he sent to households living within a two-mile radius of ten New Jersey train stations, within commuting distance to Manhattan. Chatman asked residents about what type of house they lived in, on- and off-street parking availability, travel for work and leisure, residential location preferences, and household demographics. 30 percent of respondents lived in housing that was less than seven years old. Half lived within walking distance (0.4 miles) to rail, in TOD-designated and non-designated developments. Controlling for housing type, bus access, amount of parking, and population density, among other markers, the availability of on- and off-street parking, not rail access, was the key determinate in auto ownership and car dependence. The study asserts that "households with fewer than one off-street parking space per adult had 0.16 fewer vehicles per adult. Households with both low on- and off-street parking availability had 0.29 fewer vehicles per adult." Living in a new house near a train station, moreover, was correlated with a 27 percent lower rate of car ownership compared to residents further afield. Bus access was also key in determining car use. The number of bus stops within one mile of a residence is a good indicator of public transit accessibility, and there are usually more bus stops in denser areas. The study found that "doubling the number of bus stops within a mile radius around the average home was associated with 0.08 fewer vehicles per adult." Compared to areas with poor bus access and plentiful parking, car ownership was reduced by 44 percent when strong bus access converged with poor parking availability. To reduce car ownership and use, municipalities don't necessarily have to invest in rail. Reducing the availability of parking, providing better bus service, developing smaller houses (and more rentals), and creating employment centers in walkable, densely populated downtowns may accomplish the same objective, at considerably less expense.
Placeholder Alt Text

Over a quarter of the streetcar systems taking shape in the U.S. are in Midwest cities

According to the American Public Transportation Association, a public transit advocacy group, there are more than 90 cities in the United States that are actively considering implementing streetcar systems. Of those 90, over a quarter are in the Midwest. Though all in different stages of planning, development, and construction, a handful are well underway, with service beginning as early as 2016. Kansas City and Cincinnati are both in the process of live testing their newly manufactured cars, while Milwaukee debates expanding its current plans. Though hundreds of cities across the country once had streetcars, by the 1960s most had been dismantled with the rise of the private automobile and public bus systems. The current renaissance of streetcar construction is often attributed to cities interested in bolstering downtown transit options, and encouraging more ecologically sustainable modes of transportation. Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, may be the first of the new Midwest streetcar lines to open in early 2016. Dubbed the RideKC Streetcar, the light blue electric trolleys will services a 2.2-mile street along Main St. The system will have four cars running between 16 stops for 18 hours a day. Similarly to streetcars of the past, electricity will be drawn from overhead wires. Unlike past services, the new cars will be wi-fi enabled and free to ride. This first leg of construction is being positioned as a first step in a much larger plan to link the entire Kansas City region with multi-model integrated transit system. Detroit’s new streetcar system will be unique in that it was masterminded by a private non-profit organization. The M-1 Rail, to open by 2017, draws on the economic power of small and large businesses along its route, philanthropic institutions, and a close tie with city government to realize a complex funding and administrative system for the public-private venture. At one point the project was envisioned to expand to a 9 mile route, with more involvement from regional transit partnerships. After multiple feasibility studies it was found that, for economic reason, the 3.3 mile current route was more viable, with possibilities of expansion in the near future. The path to building streetcar systems is often far from smooth. With resistance from state and local governments, it took Cincinnati voters electing new city councilors and rejecting multiple anti-rail ballot initiatives to realize their new transit system. With discussions starting in earnest in 2007 and construction starting in 2012, it will be nine years in the coming when the system finally opens in September 2016. The 3.6 mile loop will service the Over the Rhine neighborhood and the downtown, highlighting the original intent of the system to encourage development in both districts. The Over the Rhine neighborhood, a member of the National Register of Historic Places, has been experiencing a renaissance in the last 10 years, after decades of struggles with crime and declining population. In the case of Milwaukee’s streetcar project, set to open in 2018, the resistance has not been coming from the government as much as from a small group of vocal opponents, who have taken issue with the $124 million project. Though, with a recent failure of a petition to stop further expansion of the already approved first leg of the system, the opposition seems to have dried up. The majority of the funding for the Milwaukee Streetcar is coming from U.S. Department of Transportation grants and Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts. The city and the federal government are betting on the street car to relieve vehicle congestion and pollution while raising property values along the route. Anticipating the rail’s impact on downtown Milwaukee, a 44-story residential tower by local architects Rinka Chung is planned to begin construction in 2016. The base of the project will integrate a streetcar stop along with shopping and office programs. Though it may have been 50 years since many U.S. cities have had street cars, the next five years will see large moves to reverse that situation. Along with KC, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis, MO, and St.Paul, MN, are making moves to implement their own streetcar systems. With the rise of the suburbs and automobile travel often being blamed for the decline of the streetcar, it would seem that this new trend might be pointing towards yet another indicator of the tendencies of contemporary city dwellers. A greater environmental consciousness, neighborhood investment, and a shifted understanding of economic stability, define the values of a young population that streetcar systems across the Midwest, and the entire country, hope to leverage into success.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pictorial> Take a look inside Dattner’s 34th St-Hudson Yards subway station, now open to the public

On Sunday, September 13th, New York City got its first new subway station in 25 years. Located at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue, the 34th St-Hudson Yards station extended the 7 train one and a half miles to serve Manhattan's Far West Side. Dattner Architects designed the 364,000 square foot, $2.4 billion station. The new station is ten stories underground, and features the subway system's first inclined elevator. Below the canopied main entrance, designed by Toshiko Mori Architect, a multicolored mosiac mural by artist Xenobia Bailey greets passengers. MVVA designed the park surrounding the main entrance. See the gallery below for images of the new station.
Placeholder Alt Text

Milan hops on the car-banning bandwagon with its own proposal to create zones of “pedestrian privilege”

Milan is the latest city to join the ranks of Paris, Madrid, Brussels, and Dublin in expelling cars from its smoggy, often gridlocked city center. Unlike its more zealous counterparts, the city has opted for an incremental approach, with no proposed timeline and a gradual, virtually street by street implementation. Despite taking things slow, deputy mayor Lucia di Cesaris stressed that the plan will amount to no less than a “soft revolution.” Earlier this month, she announced the pedestrianization of the Piazza della Scala, the grand square on which the Scala Opera House is located. Purging the square of vehicles will extend to the north the existing pedestrian zone in Milan’s heart, consisting of the Cathedral Square and the area around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the adjacent shopping arcade. After the Piazza della Scala joins up with this zone, the car-free area will extend into the streets beyond the square. Pedestrianization of this area, a hub for arts and culture venues, is a welcome move to transform it into a thriving, open-air promenade. Over on the city center’s southern edge, Navigli, one of Milan’s most romantic neighborhoods, is expanding its pedestrian area, creating a car-free bar and café quarter to add to the just-pedestrianized Piazza Missori nearby. Ultimately, the objective is what the deputy mayor calls “the creation of a vast area of pedestrian privilege.” Long beset by pollution problems, Milan has experimented with an array of schemes—from banning traffic altogether for 10 hours on a Sunday in February 2004 when smog levels exceeded the statutory maximum, to paying commuters to leave their cars at home and use public transportation. A coalition of Milanese companies sends drivers vouchers worth $1.87 (the average daily cost for using public transportation) for each day their vehicles stay in their driveways between the hours of 7:30am and 7:30pm. Dedicated “black boxes” installed behind vehicle dashboards track the car’s whereabouts to verify compliance. According to Inrix, a traffic information provider, Milan has the worst traffic of any city in Europe, and one of the highest pollution levels in the continent.
Placeholder Alt Text

Traffic-plagued Dublin institutes a ban on cars in downtown area to reduce city-center congestion

In another radical pushback on the congestion-creating, carbon-emitting automobile, the Dublin City Council and National Transport Authority have proposed to ban private cars from entire sections of the city's downtown core. The capital city of Ireland and prime economic hub ranks tenth globally in terms of traffic congestion, according to a study led by GPS maker TomTom. The proposed restrictions are part of a more than $165 million improvement plan for transit, cycling, and pedestrians, and a buffer against the city’s present incapacity to accommodate a projected 20 percent increase in commuters to the city center by 2023. In 2014, around 192,000 journeys into the city center took place each weekday during the peak morning period (7am-10am) alone, according to the Dublin City Centre Transport Study. By 2023, that number will spike by 42,000. In order to “ensure that Dublin develops into a more liveable city, where the impact of traffic is minimized,” say officials, changes will occur along major routes in the city center east of City Hall, west of Trinity College, north of St. Stephen’s Green and south of River Liffey. The area in front of the college will be converted into a civic space with a greatly expanded pedestrian footpath, while College Green and the north and south quays will be solely accessible by cyclists, pedestrians, and users of public transport. Meanwhile, Suffolk Street and St. Stephen’s Green North will be pedestrianized. To incentivize commuters to defect from private cars, the city is fortifying its public transportation networks, adding a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT), upgrading the frequency and capacity of the DART, and running new rail passenger services between Kildare and the Grand Canal Dock area through Phoenix Park Tunnel. Meanwhile, D’Olier Street will be outfitted with a new central median with additional bus stops and segregated cycle lanes, while Westmoreland Street will have wider parks and enhanced cycling facilities. “The city can only continue to function effectively if we offer those living and working in Dublin, as well as visitors, more choices in how they access and move around the capital,” Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council chief executive, told The Journal. Given the 40,000-strong influx of new residents anticipated by the Central Statistics Office within 16 years, Dublin’s traffic reduction targets don’t have the luxury of hit-or-miss. At present, 48 percent of journeys into the city center are by public transport, 33 percent by private car, and walking and biking at 16 percent. The Dublin City Development has set a target of 55 percent for public transport, 20 percent by private car, 15 percent by bike, and 10 percent on foot.