Posts tagged with "transit":

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Planning, transit, and parks projects are transforming Indianapolis

Indianapolis has been busy remaking its downtown, embarking on several developments and planning projects that city officials hope bode well for the city's future growth. The editors at Indianapolis Monthly rounded them up this week, picking out “five projects improving Indy right now.” Two are long-term plans: Mayor Greg Ballard's LiveIndy Plan, which focuses on public safety through education and new police hires, and Plan 2020, a $2 million roadmap of “promises we're making to residents” on the occasion of the city's bicentennial in 2021. They've also got their eye on the redevelopment of Tarkington Park, a 10.5-acre green space at 39th and Illinois streets currently on the fringe between the low-income Crown Hill and “genteel” Meridian-Kessler neighborhoods. Full funding for the development, which goes toward park improvements and a new grocery store, is still pending. Local design firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA) is leading the process. Indianapolis is also in the middle of a transit overhaul, which may include building a new $20 million downtown transit hub. The project's breaking ground soon. Indianapolis Monthly also calls out an in-progress luxury apartment tower at the former site of Market Square Arena. Since the demolition of Market Square Arena, surface parking lots have deadened the downtown area.
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Construction finally underway on Detroit’s 3.3-mile-long M-1 rail line

After years of planning, Detroit's M-1 Rail Line took an important step into physical reality this week, as piles of 80-foot-long, 3,000-pound rails arrived on construction sites that will build the 3.3 mile streetcar line by the end of 2016. Streetcars in Detroit made their final run in 1956, but the new $140 million public-private infrastructure project could renew public transit in the Motor City. It's a small stretch of rail in the context of Detroit's massive urban footprint and widespread depopulation, but despite the system's shortcomings, some see M-1 as a reason to be optimistic about the city's future. Others say it's a boondoggle. At 3.3 miles long, the line will include 12 stops along Woodward Avenue, connecting pockets of development in Downtown and Midtown. It was originally intended to be almost 10 miles long. If the M-1 catalyzes development in the area, as its supporters predict, it's possible there would be an extension of the rail line. Rides are expected to begin by late 2016, around the same time as portions of an ambitious plan to attract development with cultural destinations and a new Red Wings arena. Meanwhile Detroit-based construction firm Farrow Group is already at work laying the rails, which arrived earlier this week from an Indiana factory of L.B. Foster Co.
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With Caveats, High Speed Rail, And Its Stations, Chug Ahead In California

Despite ongoing delays, lawsuits, and government holdups, it appears that California's High Speed Rail (HSR) plans (and their associated stations) are ready to move ahead. Last week the United States Department of Transportation issued a "Record of Decision" for HSR's initial 114-mile section from Fresno to Bakersfield. The decision, "represents a major step forward, both for the State of California and for High Performance rail in the U.S," Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. On the state level California governor Jerry Brown earlier this month managed to secure $250 million for the project from the state's yearly cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions fund. That number could total $3 billion to $5 billion in coming years. The total amount of track built in the network will measure over 800 miles. But the estimated $68 billion project is still short of the federal funding it needs, and there are a number of significant obstacles left. According to the Contra Costa Times, a Sacramento judge has blocked, pending appeal, the $8.6 billion in state bond funds owed to the project. The state also owes the federal government $160 million in order to receive $3.5 billion in matching funds, and the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block funds to the project as part of the federal transportation bill. Although that vote is anticipated to be overturned by the Democratic Senate. Still, California's HSR stations continue to move ahead, regardless of whether the tracks ever get built. Grimshaw and Gruen's plans to transform Union Station in Los Angeles just passed another benchmark, Pelli Clarke Pelli's San Francisco's Transbay Center is moving ahead as well, although perhaps without its signature rooftop park. And the furthest along is Anaheim's ETFE-topped ARTIC station, designed by HOK and Buro Happold. The multimodal facility combining bus, rail, high speed rail, shuttles, and more—is scheduled to be finished late this year. All of these stations will serve multiple transit functions, even if HSR never happens. But it sure would be a waste if that came to pass.
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Twin Cities celebrate first inter-city rail connection in decades

For a metro area as widely praised for its alternative transportation options as Minnesota’s Twin Cities, it’s surprising Minneapolis and St. Paul are only now celebrating a new light rail connection between their downtowns. The U.S. Department of Transportation called the Central Corridor, also known as the METRO Green Line, “the single largest public works project in the history of Minnesota.” The Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council says construction employed 5,500 people and created 200 permanent new operations jobs at a total cost of $957 million, $480 million of which was in federal funds, including TIGER grants. State and local governments split the rest. The METRO Green Line runs between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in St. Paul, stopping 23 times. Some 45,000 people rode the new transit line on June 14, its opening day, reminding many of the more than 500 miles of streetcar tracks that crisscrossed the Twin Cities 50 years ago. Some criticized the project for its costs, the Star Tribune reported, labeling the 11-mile route “the money train.” Others used an opening day with no major hang-ups to call for a slew of other rail projects around the city and state. Now that the Green Line's hoopla is over, as the Pioneer Press put it, “its real test begins.”
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Boston’s Green Line Extension Sending Real Estate Prices North

Boston’s subway system—the "T"—is currently undergoing its first expansion in nearly three decades, pushing the city's Green Line into the hip enclave of Somerville. And while the first stations in neighboring Somerville won’t open until 2017 (at the earliest), the promise of new transit is already transforming the city’s real estate market. The streetscape is coming next. Lisa Drapkin, a realtor in the city, told the Boston Globe, “If someone asks me how the market is doing in Somerville, I say you could put a cardboard outhouse near a [planned] Green Line stop and there’d be a bidding war.” With the first station still years away, prospective buyers and investors are snatching up property before prices spike. According to a report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, cited by the Globe, property values near new stations could increase 16 to 25 percent over the next 20 years. Over the same time, average rent could jump 67 percent. This, of course, has many residents and politicians worrying that new Green Line stations will mean rampant gentrification. To that end, the city plans to build 1,200 affordable housing units by 2030, or 20 percent of their new stock. Of course, that could do very little to keep rent down overall. But Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone is optimistic that new transit options will help lower-income citizens connect to jobs, education and healthcare opportunities. “We don’t want to lose our soul," he told the paper. "We want that creative, original, diverse, that sort of funky, freaky mix of who we are.” When the new Somerville stations open, 85 percent of residents will be able to walk to the train, up from just 15 percent today. And the extension is expected to increase ridership by 45,000, and take 25,000 cars off the road. The Green Line Extension will also lay down a string of new architecture through the city as each new street-level station has a unique style and form. While none are as distinct as, say, Calatrava's New York City stegosaurus, they incorporate much more design than the standard-issue American transit depot. A little farther south in the Boston area, New Balance is building a commuter rail station as part of their new $500 million complex. A look at some of the new stations via Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.
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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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Photo of the Day: Final Segment of Calatrava’s NYC Transit Hub Arch Set In Place

A tipster shared with us the above view of Santiago Calatrava's World Trade Center Transit Hub receiving the final piece of its giant steel arch. According to the tipster, "they JUST set the final tooth on the World Trade Center Transit Hub to complete the supporting structural system. Once welding is complete they will proceed with installing the "wings," the cantilevered outriggers that complete the structural form." Looks like this thing is about to soar.
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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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Designed in Chicago, Made in China: Blair Kamin, Chicago designers mull Chinese urbanization

Blair Kamin convened a panel of designers at the Chicago Architecture Foundation last Wednesday for a discussion around themes explored in his recent series “Designed in Chicago, Made in China,” in which the Chicago Tribune architecture critic assessed the effects of that country’s rapid development on urbanism and design. “It’s often said that architecture is the inescapable art,” Kamin said to lead off the talk. “If that’s true then China’s urbanization is the inescapable story.” Joining Kamin were Jonathan D. Solomon, associate dean at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University; Thomas Hussey of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will; and Silas Chiow, SOM’s China director. The event was part of the Tribune's "Press Pass" series. If you haven’t read Kamin's series, you should. It examined contemporary Chinese cities and some U.S. designers thereof, giving special attention to trends in three categories: work, live, and play. Photographer John J. Kim illustrated with visuals. “In regards to street life and public space,” said SOM’s Hussey, “there can be a lack of an attitude towards it.” Long Chinese “megablocks” in Shanghai’s soaring Pudong district facilitate an urbanism not on the street, which few Americans would find walkable, but it has given rise to a kind of vertical urbanism within mixed-use towers and urban malls. Hussey pointed to SOM’s plan for a new financial district in the port area of Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, which seeks to restore the street life present in Chinese cities before rapid modern development. And while Chinese cities are growing up, they’re also growing out. Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will reminded the audience that in the absence of property taxes, Chinese municipalities make money for new development by selling off land. That creates a ripple effect of rising property values and a pressure to sell that is devouring arable farmland. That trend’s not likely to slow down, said SOM’s Silas Chiow, since part of China’s national strategy to turn the largely manufacturing nation into a consumer country is to continue its rapid urbanization. That pressure helped produce China’s enviable mass transit systems and light rail connectivity, but also a homogeneity of design that some have called dehumanizing. Height limits, uniform standards for south-facing units and other design requirements that by themselves improve standard of living can breed sprawling, cookie-cutter developments that are easy to get lost in. Still, housing projects in China don’t carry the social stigma that they do in the U.S., commented a few panel members, in part because they’ve brought modern amenities to so many. Where China’s urbanization goes from here, however, is an open question. Images of smog-choked skylines remind some of Chicago in 1900, but the situation is not a perfect analogue. For one, the problem of carbon pollution is far more urgent now than it was then, and its sources far more potent. “Will China be the death of the urban world,” asked Kamin at the panel’s close, “or its savior?”
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Swiss Firm Offers Bubbly Shelter to Bus Travelers

As of late bus stops are proving to be unexpectedly fertile grounds for architectural innovation. Swiss architects Vehovar & Jauslin are the latest to try their hand at the task in the form of a seemingly floating structure that provides shelter for a bus hub in Aarau, Switzerland. The canopy was realized with the help of engineering firm formTL who appear well-versed in undertakings of a similar ilk. The covering's cool tone derives from a blue-tinged upper membrane that filters through a clear underbelly. This ETFE-foil skin is printed with a bubble-pattern and filled with air to create a curved surface. A steel ring hugs the canopy's perimeter and helps to protect its fragile inflated contents. The entire amoeba-like form sits atop metallic columns that double as light sources once night falls. Sheltering a ground area of 10,764 square feet, the structure is pierced by a central three-pronged opening that welcomes natural light into the station. The project was first begun some nine years ago before its eventual completion late last year.
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5-OH Rising Out of Park Fifth’s Ashes in Los Angeles

At long last, the recession-doomed site of the high-rise condo complex known as Park Fifth is seeing some action. This particular patch of ground, across the street from Pershing Square near downtown Los Angeles, has been the subject of a tug-of-war between would-be investors and market forces for at least seven years. Park Fifth, a pair of 76- and 41-story towers designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, went down with the real estate bubble in 2008. Even the current project, dubbed 5-OH, has seen a lot of uncertainty during its relatively short life. “We went through a lot of studies and a lot of different client groups,” said Harley Ellis Devereaux’s Daniel Gehman. “[There were] a lot of shifting sands.” Today things look more certain. MacFarlane Partners bought the site in October of last year, and are moving ahead with a pair of residential towers Gehman estimates will cost (very roughly) $260 million. 5-OH has already cruised through its zoning administrator hearing. If all goes well, construction crews will break ground in early 2015. Though smaller than Park Fifth would have been, 5-OH’s 615 residential units—split between a 24-story high-rise and its seven-story companion—dwarf what earlier plans envisioned. Several previous clients “tried to get it approved as a seven-story building, [but] it became evident in working with the council office that that wasn’t going to fly,” said Gehman. Harley Ellis Deveraux looked at the site and found that “there was a very evident place to put a tower.” From there, said Gehman, the high-rise practically planned itself, with the space in back reserved for the smaller building. In terms of aesthetics, the architects had two options. They could design a contemporary complex within the strict parameters of downtown design guidelines. Or they could draw on the existing historic building stock for inspiration. “We decided to be as contextual as possible,” Gehman explained. “We wanted the buildings to feel like they’re playing nice with their neighbors rather than getting into their face.” On its street sides, the mid-rise is clad in cement-fiber and metal panels. In the courtyards, the architects opted for plaster and other traditional residential materials. The courtyard balconies’ metal railings mimic the fire escapes of the older buildings nearby. The 24-story tower is much more glassy, but in a way that pays homage to its neighbors, particularly the Title Guarantee Building. “There’s a motif of trying to get the windows to look like they’re recessed in a thicker wall. It’s not a glass box, but glass strategically placed,” said Gehman. The cream-colored panelized metal skin creates “sort of abstracted traditional forms rendered in contemporary materials.” A community room and pool deck on top of the taller structure will provide views of both the historic core and the taller contemporary towers to the west. “One of the reasons I like the site so much is it’s extremely transit-rich,” said Gehman. There are bus stops at every corner, plus the Pershing Square subway stop within a stone’s throw. “It would be very, very easy to reduce auto dependency if you lived on the site,” Gehman concluded.
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Two Cheap and Efficient Ways to Improve Public Transit

Ah, the joy of New York City's rush-hour subway commute. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you know the thrill in stepping off one crowded, dirty subway car into a wall of people to push your way onto the next crowded subway car. You turn up your music, or that riveting Podcast with that guy from that thing, and you power through it. While you might be accustomed to it, the daily commute has plenty of room for improvement. Two new approaches to ease crowding on public transit systems show how some easy adjustments could make big-city commutes considerably less hellish. A group called the Efficient Passenger Project recently posted signs on New York City subway platforms telling straphangers which section of a train to board to efficiently make their future transfer. But only days after the signs went up, the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority tore them down. “These signs have the potential to cause crowding conditions in certain platform areas and will create uneven loading in that some train cars will be overcrowded while others will be under-utilized,” said an MTA spokesperson. Despite the swift removal of the signs, the guerrilla campaign, part of a trend known as Tactical Urbanism, isn't dead just yet. The anonymous individual behind EPP told New York Magazine, “I'm really going for it. I'm ready for them. My plan is to eventually convince the MTA that this is a plan worth allowing. I want to beat them with the numbers—just keep putting them up." But, as of early March, even the group's website had been taken down. Over in Santiago, Chile, a more official plan to place a small gate on a crowded platform has already seen remarkable success in easing congestion. The gate, which separates exiting passengers from transferring passengers, has reduced crowding, boosted passenger capacity and increased train frequency. The plan, though, does take some adjusting to—passengers must learn where to board a train to make sure they end up on their preferred side of the gate. A project like this shows that dramatic improvements to public transit don’t always require big investments; they require ingenuity and a willingness to try. We don’t know if the Efficient Passenger Project would have seen similar success because it wasn’t given that chance to succeed—or fail—on its own accord.