Posts tagged with "rail":

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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.
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OMA selected to design The Factory, a major arts complex in Manchester, England

After fending off  Rafael Viñoly, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Haworth Tompkins Limited and compatriots Mecanoo, OMA's design for "The Factory" will become Manchester's new art house. Lead by Rem Koolhaas, The Factory will be in the British city's center and is touted to cost $166 million with a further $13.5 million-a-year to run. Funding will not be an issue for Koolhaas' building as U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has pledged $117.5 million to the project with the view that The Factory will become the "Northern Powerhouse" showpiece. The project's name supposedly comes from the home-grown Factory Records, an indie record label launched in 1978 that produced notable bands such as Joy Division and Happy Mondays. Koolhaas has designed what essentially is an art-box that will host a wide range of artistic events in Manchester, with an aim for the facility to become the cultural focal point of the region. The venue is dedicated to theatre, music, dance, technology, film, TV, and scientific advancements and will have a combined capacity of 7,200—2,200 seated and 5,000 standing. This will be OMA's first major public development on British soil, aside from a few minor forays into London, Glasgow, and the south coast. “The importance of the Factory cannot be overstated," Manchester council leader, Sir Richard Leese, told the Guardian. "It will be of international significance, the cultural anchor for the next phase of economic and cultural regeneration in Manchester, Greater Manchester and beyond. It will help power Manchester and the wider region towards becoming a genuine cultural and economic counterbalance to London, as well as being a place where inspirational art is created.” Koolhaas' project in Manchester is set to break ground next year with the aim to finish by 2019. According to the Guardian, "Those behind the project have predicted that within a decade it will help create the equivalent of 2,500 jobs adding nearly $211 million to the local economy."
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Restoration work brings new windows to long-vacant Michigan Central Station in Detroit

There are few buildings as emblematic of the urban blight in Detroit as Michigan Central Station. That changed slightly this week, when new windows appeared in some of the historic building's vacant frames. FOX 2 reporter Jason Carr spotted the new fenestration earlier this week. Michigan Central Station's neoclassical entryway and mighty Beaux-Arts towers once welcomed rail passengers to Detroit like royalty, but the building has been empty since 1988. Manuel "Matty" Moroun owns the building through his company NBIT. Last year the company got permits for $676,000 of rehabilitation work, from installing new elevators to repairing the roof. Mlive reported that NBIT had invested more than $4 million on "security, preparation and interior improvements" on the building to date. A few new windows may be little solace for those hoping to mount a full restoration, which could cost $300 million. But as FOX 2 observed, some are happy anythings being done at all:
"I love it," said another passerby. "I want good things to happen here."
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Kansas City’s Union Station hires Burns & McDonnell for $7.5 million renovation of public spaces

Kansas City's main rail station will get a $7.5 million expansion and streetscape improvement, local officials announced this week, including a new bridge designed to improve circulation between the terminal's “front and back yards.” Union Station was built in 1901, but its last major renovation was in 1997, when a major renovation closed the Beaux Arts building—which is on the National Register of Historic Places—for two years. Now KC-based Burns & McDonnell, picked by the Union Station board after a “rigorous” review process, will guide the redesign, renovation, and reconstruction of the local landmark's outside areas. A $2.25 million tax credit from the Missouri Development Finance Board kicked off fundraising for the project, which topped off only after a recent gift from the Bloch Family Foundation. The Hall Family Foundation covered more than half of the total project cost with a gift of more than $4 million. The new landscape features include a bridge for cars and pedestrians connecting Union Station's various outdoor spaces to its parking garage. New spaces include an outdoor events plaza to the west of the adjoining Science City for interactive exhibits and community-based events. Officials hope to complete the project by 2017.
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California breaks ground on High Speed Rail system that will one day connect Sacramento with San Diego

It's not often that the eyes of the country are fixed on Fresno. But this week, after years of fights and dozens of lawsuits, California's $68 billion High Speed Rail system is finally breaking ground there. The system, funded largely by state and federal money (much of that is still pending), is expected to eventually extend 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego and include 24 stations. A route from San Francisco to Los Angeles is expected by 2029. The first stretch of the electric bullet train initiative, between Fresno and Bakersfield, will be built by  Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick. Construction is beginning in the Central Valley, say officials from the California High Speed Rail Authority, to lower costs, speed construction, and get access to more federal funds. They noted that the plan will add a much-needed economic boost to the emerging area's long-struggling cities, like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Merced. The second phase of construction will connect the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley, the third will connect the Central Valley to San Jose, the fourth will connect the San Fernando Valley with Los Angeles and Anaheim, and the fifth will complete the connection from Sacramento to San Diego. New stations are moving ahead, some faster than others. Anaheim just opened HOK and Buro Happold's ARTIC Station, Los Angeles is beginning radical changes to Union Station designed by Grimshaw and Gruen, and San Francisco is building perhaps the most ambitious of them all, Cesar Pelli's Transbay Center. Even Fresno is getting in on the act, hiring AECOM to study a station there. Besides needing billions more dollars, the High Speed Rail Authority still has to condemn thousands of acres of land before this all becomes reality.
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Winner chosen for another billion dollar addition to LAX

Last year LAX opened its soaring new Tom Bradley International Terminal addition. But that was just the beginning of changes at Los Angeles' woefully-out-of-date airport. The biggest news: Last week the LA Board of Airport Commissioners awarded Turner|PCL (a joint Venture with Corgan/Gensler) a contract to design and build a $1.25 billion Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) North Project. The 800,000-square-foot, five-level concourse will be located about 1,300 feet west of the new Tom Bradley, containing 11 new gates spanning a length of about 1,295 feet. It will be connected to that terminal via an underground tunnel. As for the rest of LAX, let's just say it's about time. We first learned via Curbed LA about the just-passed Landside Access Modernization, which includes a new Automated People Mover (called the LAX Train), Intermodal Transportation Facilities (with links to light rail!), and a Consolidated Rent-A-Car Center. Beyond that, the LAX Modernization Program, which began in 2006 and continues through 2019, consists of 20 projects, including renovations to most terminals, circulation improvements, curbside upgrades, and much more. It's one of the biggest public works projects in LA's history. Our theory is proving to be on-target: LA is going to be one heck of a place in 2020.
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Letter to the Editor> Golden Age of Rail

[Editor's Note: The following comment was left at archpaper.com in reference to John Gendall’s feature article on multi-modal transit hubs (“The Golden Ticket” AN 07_08.06.2914_MW). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] The original design of all grand U.S. railroad stations fit the architectural design foundation “form follows function.” Unfortunately the years have not been kind to these railroad stations. Real estate developers have coveted the rail yard property for non-transportation development. In some cases these rail yards have yielded to interstates, highways, and streets. This has transformed the depot (waiting room, ticket offices, etc.) into just “a nice old building that used to serve the traveling public.” Denver is a prime example of a real estate grab. A beautifully designed rail yard gave way to developers interests. Look at the Google Maps satellite view. Transportation design was an obvious afterthought. The rail yard is stubbed, necessitating a time-consuming backup move for any train, namely Amtrak’s California Zephyr, using the original waiting room. Any future Front Range development will also require a backup. The light rail system is tucked away, far from the grand original structure. The wispy “Sidney-Opera-House-Denver” platform cover design is curious. It stands in stark contrast to the architectural elements of the original depot. A Google image search of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station does not reveal the austere feel purported in this article. What it may need is just a spit and polish rehabilitation. Those who want to remodel the structure seem to stand arrogantly. They claim the original designs were flawed and that somehow modern architects and planners can do a better job. So, will Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station become another depot from the grand era of passenger rail to fall to the modern architect? If the regal designs of the past are too ostentatious, then an entirely new depot should be constructed. The old should be left undisturbed until a new generation of architects discovers that their great grandfathers knew better how to design transportation facilities. Evan Stair Executive Director Passenger Rail Oklahoma
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Bomb Trains: Vice investigates the dangers of transporting crude oil by rail

In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn't some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it's already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike. The problem may only get worse, the report suggests. “A continental oil boom and lack of pipeline infrastructure have forced unprecedented amounts of oil onto US and Canadian railroads,” Vice explained on its website. “With 43 times more oil being hauled along US rail lines in 2013 than in 2005, communities across North America are bracing for another catastrophe.” Vice also published a map to see if you live in a “'Bomb Train’ Blast Zone.” If you live in a city, chances are you do. You can watch Vice’s full report above.
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With promise and pitfalls, Washington D.C.’s new Silver Line hopes to transform the suburbs

It finally happened. After decades of planning, five years of construction, and months of delays, Washington D.C.'s brand-new Silver Metro line welcomed over 50,000 commuters for its opening weekend. The new 11.4-mile line, which includes five new stations, will ultimately connect the city to Dulles Airport in Virginia. That part of the line is scheduled to open in 2018. The Silver line, though, is more than an attempt to connect a city with its airport—it's the latest, multi-billion dollar effort to expand a rail system, spur economic development, and create more walkable, pedestrian-friendly destinations. So, yes, it's ambitious. And, yes, it was expensive. A host of local and national officials—including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx—were on hand this weekend to test out the new rails, which were first proposed in the early 1960s. Many of the excited commuters on their inaugural rides told local news crews that the Silver line will significantly cut down their commute time and may even allow them to ditch their car altogether. The Metro predicts there will be 50,000 daily riders on the Silver line by this time next year, and more than twice that by 2025 when the line is connected to Dulles Airport. Of course, building an entirely new rail line comes with significant costs (and significant delays and significant cost overruns). This first section of the project cost $2.9 billion, which is $150 million over budget, and opened six months late. All told, this first phase of the line cost nearly $47,000 a foot. The second phase is expected to cost $2.7 billion. About half of the total cost of the first phase came from increased tolls on the Dulles Toll road. The remaining half is a mix of funds from federal and local levels. In between DC and Dulles is Tysons Corner—an area in Virginia that's trying to shake its reputation as just a collection of shopping malls and office towers. That is no easy task, but the powerful interests in town see the opening of the Silver line as a crucial test of whether that's even possible. “There's not much riding on the Silver Line except the future of the American suburb as we know it,” CityLab recently declared.  “A half-dozen Fortune 500 companies are based [in Tysons],” explained the site. “The area is rife with high-end hotels, restaurants, and department stores; there's even a Tesla dealership coming in. But grocery stores never arrived in any substantial numbers, nor did churches or parks or any of the other sorts of services that could help make a place feel like home for the roughly 19,000 people who live here now.” To achieve that, Tysons is planning new permanent green space, pop-up parks, new trees, overall streetscape improvements, and thousands of new apartments. A key element of the Silver line's planning seems to be perfectly aligned with that goal of a more walkable, urbanistic future. But it's not what the Silver line offers Tysons—rather what it doesn't: parking. The Washington Post reported that there are no parking garages at four of the five stations in Tysons. Walking or biking to one of these stations, though, appears to be a rather hellish experience, according to Ken Archer, who works at a  software firm in Tysons."I've endured the lack of crosswalks in Tysons Corner for years as a pedestrian, but assumed that Fairfax County would add crosswalks before the Silver Line began operation," he wrote on the blog Greater Greater Washington. "The county needs to create safe pedestrian pathways immediately, rather than waiting until someone gets hurt or killed."
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Michael Kimmelman Proposes A Queens-Brooklyn Waterfront Streetcar

As development along the Brooklyn and Queens’ waterfront has increased dramatically over the years, transportation options—for residents old and new—has not. The number of glass towers, startups, and parks along the East River has only been matched by style pieces on new “it” neighborhoods from Astoria to Red Hook. But, now, the New York Times' Michael Kimmelman has used his platform to launch a plan to change that equation, and give these neighborhoods the transportation system they deserve. Kimmelman is proposing a modern streetcar to better connect these waterfront neighborhoods. He explained that a streetcar system takes less time to build than a new subway line, needs less space on the road than light-rail, and is more romantic than a city bus. “By providing an alternative to cars, streetcars also dovetail with Mayor De Blasio’s vow to improve pedestrian safety,” Kimmelman said, adding that the mayor wouldn’t need Albany’s blessing for this plan. The streetcar would, of course, not run cheap, but Kimmelman said the upfront costs are more than worth it. “The city’s urban fabric can’t be an afterthought,” says Kimmelman. “The keys to improved city life—better health care, housing, schools, culture, business, tourism and recreation—all have spatial implications.” Read Kimmelman's full proposal at the NY Times.
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“Transit Future” Wish List Tantalizes Chicago Commuters with $20 Billion in Improvements

Here’s something to meditate on the next time you see three Chicago Transit Authority buses leapfrogging one another on a crowded street, or have to shell out for a cab because the trains won’t get you where you want to go on time: a grand proposal called "Transit Future" that seeks to improve the way Chicagoans get around the region. Imagine a South Lakefront line that connects the South Side to the Loop, running through the University of Chicago campus and South Shore. Or a “West Side Red Line” dubbed the Lime Line that would run along Cicero Avenue, connecting the Blue, Green, Pink and Orange Lines, before jogging East and connecting to the Red Line at 87th Street. Or how about a Brown Line extension connecting the North Side to O’Hare International Airport. Those are just some of the recommendations in the “Transit Future” plan unveiled last week by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance, two longtime advocates of sustainable development and alternative transit in the Chicago region. The plans also include a bus rapid transit line along Ashland avenue—a work-in-progress that proponents say will energize commerce along the corridor, but detractors say will clog streets—and an extended Red Line that could relieve pressure on the overburdened 95th Street station, which is slated for renovation. Great, you’re thinking, but it will never happen. Transit Future’s backers say the $20 billion wish list could become a reality if Cook County Board officials “create a robust local revenue stream…[that] will open the door to federal and other financing tools that will pay for the rest.” They point out Los Angeles residents voted in 2008 to raise their county’s sales tax by one half-cent, authorizing $40 billion in new revenue for transit lines over 30 years. That measure passed with nearly 68 percent of the vote. Head over to Transit Future's sleek website to read more about the project. Or check out WBEZ's The Afternoon Shift show that discussed the proposal with CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw Wednesday:
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Minneapolis Streetcar Plans Move Along, Renderings Released

This week a city council panel voted to advance Minneapolis’ plans for a 3.4-mile streetcar line along Nicollet and Central Avenues. The Transportation and Public Works committee’s thumbs up clears the way for a full City Council vote next week. Renderings show preliminary plans for a $200 million streetcar line instead of a bus route. About $60 million of that comes from a state-approved “value capture district,” (similar to TIF funding). The rest will come from funding not yet identified, but could include a transit sales tax. Minneapolis’ move comes alongside streetcar developments in Cincinnati and in Kansas City, among other cities.