Posts tagged with "Transportation":

Rotterdam considers piloting environmentally-friendly roads made from recycled plastic bottles

Always an early adopter of innovative sustainability methods, the city of Rotterdam is considering piloting roads fabricated from recycled plastic. The creators of PlasticRoad wooed the city council with their proposal of an all-plastic road that is quicker to lay and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Construction firm VolkerWessels also claims that the material can withstand greater temperature extremes—from -40 to 176 fahrenheit—can be laid in weeks rather than months, and lasts three times as long. The Netherlands-headquartered conglomerate points out that asphalt generates 3.2 billion pounds of carbon emissions globally on an annual basis, accounting for two percent of all road transportation emissions. Lighter roads that exert less pressure on the ground are a godsend for the low-lying Netherlands, one eighth of which is already submerged below sea level. The hollow design of PlasticRoads makes it easy to install cables and utility pipelines and even channel rainwater. Sections of road can be prefabricated in a factory, reducing on-site construction and ensuing congestion caused by roadworks. “As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to try this],” Rolf Mars, director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, told The Guardian. “It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry. We’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.” Although still at the conception stage, VolkerWessels hopes to lay the first fully recycled thoroughfare within the next three years, and the city of Rotterdam is raring to host the pilot test. “We’re very positive towards developments around PlasticRoad,” said Jaap Peters from the city council engineering bureau. “Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.” The initiative should perhaps be most lauded for its potentially massive-scale, industrial use of waste materials. And while plastic bottles are already widely recycled and repurposed into garden furniture, compost bins, and more plastic bottles, the questions becomes: can used up PlasticRoads be recycled?

Divvy Up: Chicago Launches Bike-Share Program

Get on your bikes and ride — Chicago’s long-delayed Divvy bike share program launched Friday, kicking on 65 solar-powered docking stations and unleashing 700 “Chicago” (read: powder) blue bikes. But some West and South Side residents may have to wait for the program's full benefits, if they get them at all. Optimized for short trips in high-density areas, the Divvy system requires a credit or debit card and few of the initial stations serve the far West and South sides. The Department of Transportation plans to rollout a total of 400 stations and about 4,000 three-speed bicycles in all. Chicago’s Department of Transportation unveiled its bike share plans in April, tapping Portland, OR–based Alta Bicycle Share, which also runs DC’s bike-share program. The rollout follows a similar program, Citibike, which launched in New York in late May. If you’re riding Divvy today, watch out for stragglers from the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade.

Illinois Takes Helm of High-Speed Rail Group

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service. “Our goal is to offer 110-mile-per-hour service on at least 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor—the segment from Dwight to Alton—by the end of 2015,” Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann L. Schneider said in a statement, “and these locomotives are the key to achieving that goal.” A test run on a portion of that track last fall set a regional record for high-speed rail at 111 mph. Full service at that speed between Dwight and Joliet is expected in 2017. Illinois is also working with Michigan to provide 110-mph service from Chicago to Detroit. The trip would take roughly three hours at that speed.

Suburbia: The Next Generation

It's official. The suburbs are here to stay. Now we just need to figure out what to do with them. At least that's the premise of the Build A Better Burb competition that we told you about back in July, when entries submitted by architects, urban designers, planners, visionaries and students, all vying for $22,500 in prizes, were slimmed down to 23 finalists. And the winners are...

AgIsland This ambitious entry has Long Island reclaiming its agrarian roots, replacing office parks with farms. It also calls for consolidating and relocating 9 million square feet of office space along Route 110, utilizing a transit-oriented model.

Building C-Burbia Landscape designers created "an infrastructure system for short-term biomass storage and formation of long-term soil carbon reservoirs in suburban landscape."

Levittown: Increasing Density and Opportunity through the Accessory Dwellings One problem of suburban life in the NYC metro area is a lack of affordable housing options. One solution proposed here is to allow a homeowner to maximize the buildable area of his/her lot, preferably by using modular forms (instead of timber) the structure can expand and contract as needs change.

Long Division This vision of a sustainable Long Island starts with a regional plan that aims to preserve the island's aquifer, maximize transportation, and targets several underutilized downtowns for growth. The plan calls for new typologies of space combined with planned voids.

SUBHUB Transit System Transit doesn't always go where people need it to and is sometimes too big for it's own good. Instead, a more walkable and extensive micro-infrastructure that consists of re-imagined transit, a HUB at existing train stations where people and goods transfer to a smaller shuttle system, and SUBHUBs at existing public schools is envisioned for Long Island.

The winning student submission is: Upcycling 2.0 These Columbia University students target the ubiquitous suburban typologies -- single family house, strip mall, train station, street medians, big box stores, endless parking lots -- and re-appropriates them.

The winning Long Island Index People’s Choice Award, selected by the public, goes to: LIRR: Long Island Radically Rezoned Long Island becomes Living Island by re-densifying the residential fabric,  re-centering public space around train stations, and chopping up underused parking surfaces into small blocks that are a more appropriate fit for scale of the neighborhood.

While the Long Island Index originally anticipated having a first prize and multiple other winners, the jurors felt that the winning submissions were all strong and decided to honor the top designs equally.  Therefore, $20,000 will be split among the top five designs; each will receive $4,000: The student prize was $2,500. ( The “People’s Choice Award” did not have a cash prize.)

Winning entries will be on view at The Long Island Museum from October 8th-October 24th and at The Long Island Children’s Museum from October 5th-October 31st.

Obama Banking on an Infrastructure Rebound

President Barack Obama hopes that a $50 billion infusion of government money will help counteract two things that plague the nation—job loss and potholes. The White House has a list they see as “tangible” goals for the next six years, with a focus on roads, railways, and runways. So, what might you, the taxpayer, get for $50 billion? If the president has his way, a commitment to a national high speed rail system, more of an investment in sustainability and livability—including affordable housing—better bridges, and a more modern air traffic control system called NextGen. A key part of Obama’s ambitious transportation and infrastructure plan is the creation of a so called ‘infrastructure bank’ to be run by the government but with some infusion of private funds. The idea behind the bank is that project will be approved based on merit, versus the usual pork barrel politics that get project funding directed towards an official’s home district. While this all sounds promising, our friends over at the Infrastructurist feel there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the plan, chiefly how it won't become bogged down in the usual partisan gridlock.

Expedited Boarding in the Loop?

Mayor Daley has announced a plan for a high speed rail line linking O'Hare to the Loop and has appointed a 17 member panel to look into the project. According to the Sun-Times, though, he has a major caveat: the line should be entirely privately financed and run with no city or government money of any kind. He gave this ultimatum to the panel of prominent business and civic leaders. The line would connect O'Hare to the currently unfinished station under Block 37. Is such a plan feasible? The mayor thinks so. “There’s already interest by private investment funds, foreign investment funds,” Daley said, according to the Sun-Times. “They’ve come to see me, I’ll be very frank, talking about this. That’s exciting.”

Two Routes to Poster Art

Well, this is embarrassing: the MoMA and the Yale Center for British Art have nearly simultaneously come out with exhibitions on the same subject. In museum-world, isn't that like two girls showing up to a party in the same dress? Nevertheless, it’s an interesting enough topic that the repetition hardly matters. The Yale Center's "Art For All: British Posters For Transport," on view through August 15, and the MoMA's "Underground Gallery: London Transport Posters 1920s-1940s," on view through February 28, 2011, both offer a fascinating look at London’s innovative campaign to bring art into the Underground and create a strong civic identity. The two exhibits' slightly different focuses also help reduce the redundancy. The larger Yale exhibit features over 100 posters, really giving a sense of the diversity of artistic schools represented in the Underground campaign, ranging from Cubism, to post-impressionism, to Japanese woodblock prints. The MoMA show is a smaller installation, with only 20 posters, but the curators have chosen carefully to capture the zeitgeist of the city of London during those years -- its culture, its entertainment, and its fears of war.

Chicago and New York Score Big Bucks for BRT

Chicago and New York have well developed mass transit systems, notable for their extensive subway and commuter rail networks. But it's buses that are getting a big boost in both cities. Chicago will receive more than $35 million in federal grants for two planned rapid bus service projects, and New York is getting $18 million to rework 34th Street with segregated bus lanes. In Chicago $24.6 million will go to fund a new downtown circulator, linking major transit and tourism hubs. The Central Area Transitway will connect Union Station to Navy Pier with several stops along the way. The would be extended to include the West Loop, the Museum Campus, and McCormick Place. $11 million will go to create express bus service on Jeffrey Boulevard from 103 Street and Story Avenue to Jefferson and Washington. The 34th Street project in New York, which would included extended green lights for buses and segregated lanes along with wider medians for pedestrians, is expected speed up bus trips by 35%. Another project we've been following, Cincinnati's planned streetcar system, also got a $25 million boost. Here's a complete list of selected selected from around the country.

The Perils of Subway Naming Rights

Our favorite wonky MTA blog has an interesting and funny post about how quickly and easily naming rights on a public transit system can get, in this case down in Philadelphia. While we all know transit systems are in trouble and should probably go about getting money wherever they can—short of more draconian fare increases, let's hope—it is easy to go too far on the naming rights front, not only into parody but confusion. While it may be a bit unseemly that the MTA tried to charge the Yankees for the rights to have their name at a refurbished 161st stop last year, and that Barclays is actually paying up for the rights in Brooklyn, yet another advertising assault on our public lives. But SEPTA has gone a step further, renaming its Pattison Avenue Terminal to AT&T Station. Unlike the Barclays annoyance, this could be downright confusing because there is no geographical relevance here, nothing AT&T about this station. As another blogger puts it on SAS: "The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T."

Straphangers with Fins

For years, the MTA has been dumping decommissioned subway cars into the ocean to create artificial reefs for marine life. If you've ever wondered if it works, YouTube appears to have the answer. This video shows fish and a giant turtle swimming amid old red bird subway cars. The juxtaposition of the natural and manmade in such an unlikely location is a delight to watch. Next stop, the ocean floor! (via Huffington Post).

Some Serious Equipment

It would appear the Second Avenue Subway is really, truly happening. Not to have doubted all the construction work that's gone on so far, but we have been-there-done-that about half-a-dozen times over the past century. Now, however, the 200-ton Cutter Head has arrived, the main piece of the Tunnel Boring Machine that will begin carving out the tunnels for the first phase of the new line. The MTA posted some pretty cool pics of the device, including the one above, on its Facebook page. And if that weren't socially networked enough, there's a YouTube flick of the thing being lowered underground with a soundtrack that sounds oddly like that of a softcore sex scene in some '90s movie. Second Avenue Sagas points out that this is largely "symbolic," as the real challenge, technically and fiscally, is not digging but building the lines and stations. That said, we still wonder if all this money wouldn't be better spent on maintaining service than pushing ahead with capital projects, even if it does mean their nth death. While you ponder, the flick and more pics after the jump.

Our Man in Washington

It's been a busy week for Ray LaHood, our favorite Transportation Secretary. On Monday, he sat down with the Times' Green Inc. blog to discuss a range of topics, most notably his recent declaration (video above, shot from atop a table at the National Bike Summit) that cyclists and pedestrians would get equal time, money, and consideration on America's streets. The next day, a blog post, ostensibly by the secretary, featured an interesting study showing that a staggering amount of us—Americans, not just readers of this blog—want more and bet transit options. And this goes for the nation's waterways as well, all delivered through a more transparent DOT. And in an unusually unbureaucratic move, the department is even sharing some of its responsibilities, partnering with the EPA to set fuel efficiency standards. The week was capped off today in a sweep through New York to press drivers stop texting and stump for high-speed rail, one of his pet projects. And to think people were afraid he'd be reactionary just because he was a Republican Congressman. Revolutionary is more like it.