Posts tagged with "transportation":

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Illinois transportation amendment promises steady, secure infrastructure funds

Voters in the state of Illinois resoundingly voted to on Tuesday to amend the state’s constitution to include an amendment that controls funding for transportation infrastructure. The amendment dictates that all revenue raised through transportation taxes and fees must directly fund transportation projects. Nicknamed by its proponents the “Safe Roads Amendment,” the initiative saw rare bipartisan support from Illinois’s Republican governor and its Democratic house speaker. Despite the amendment's overall popularity among the electorate—receiving a 79% “yes” vote at the time of publishing—it was not without skeptics. Both of Chicago’s major newspapers, the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune, both spoke out against the amendment. Opponents of the amendment cited the fact that its wording was vague, which may lead difficulties for future yet-to-be-realized transportation methods. It was also pointed out that the major support for the amendment was coming from special interest groups such as trade unions and business groups that may see massive dividends from increased money going into transportation construction. Another concern is that the state will no longer be able to access transportation money in the case of disasters, which may require additional resources for recovery. Proponents of the amendment, including the voting public, have highlighted the “lockbox” aspect of the amendment. Many see it as protection from an un-trusted government reallocating money that comes directly from consumers. The fees and taxes covered by the amendment include gas taxes and license and registration fees on any “public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, or airports.” The amendment needed 60% of the vote to be accepted into the state's constitution. California, Maryland, and Wisconsin have all passed similar transportation “lockbox” measures in the past six years. Southeast Michigan is also debating transportation in this year’s general election. At the time of publication, the vote for Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan property tax millage was too close to call. The new tax would go to help fund a regional public transportation system which the area lacks.
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Portland approves a twenty year growth plan

Last Wednesday, the Portland City Council adopted a new growth plan that will span the next two decades, according to Oregon Live. The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is an extension of Portland’s 1980 Comprehensive Plan; it also builds upon the 2012 Portland Plan and the 2015 Climate Action Plan. Additionally, it follows the approval of the West Quadrant Plan, a long-term upzoning plan aimed at increasing Portland's downtown density. The Plan notes that Portland is expected to experience a population increase of 42 percent (260,000 residents) in the next twenty years. To address this, the plan will address five major elements: the development of city centers, the creation of jobs, the protection of public health and safety, changes to some residential densities, and updates to open space designations for neighborhood development. Rule changes would densify single-family neighborhoods and require the inclusion of affordable housing units in housing projects. The plan reveals a proposed $80 million extension of the Portland Streetcar to the John’s Landing neighborhood. The city would also make seismic improvements to Willamette River bridges and upgrade infrastructure for pedestrian and bicycle travel across the city, the article notes. The plan will allow increased building heights downtown, allowing for the construction and development of office buildings to accommodate an estimated increase of 140,000 workers in the city. Such large-scale developments have already been proposed: for example, the Goodman family’s Downtown Development Group has suggested an eleven high-rise project for Downtown Portland. Investment in brownfield remediation throughout Portland is another goal of the legislation, according to the article. The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is scheduled to take effect in January 2018.
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Mecanoo unveils plans for vegetated transport hub in Taiwan

Dutch studio Mecanoo has unveiled their proposal for a transportation hub in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The project will be the firm's sixth project in the country and third in Kaohsiung where Mecanoo has an office, located at the Southern end of the Island. Offering integrated train, metro, local, and intercity bus services, along with taxi and bicycle access, the new Kaohsiung Station is the centerpiece of the Kaohsiung Metropolitan Area Underground Railway Project. That project includes seven underground stations spanning a four mile tunnel, however the station aims to contribute significantly to life above ground too. Here, swathes of greenery inhabit the site in the form of green roofs and generous planting arrangements. The rounded roofscape exhibits a sense of calm within what is typically a chaotic environment. Totaling 376,700 square-feet of greenery, the grass on the roof also establishes connections between various modes of transport and is, in Mecanoo's words, meant to "Kaohsiung’s vision for the future as a sustainable city." The building's central hall, located below, opens upwards with a series of oval-shaped lights arranged to form a semi-tessellating pattern in the ceiling. Part of the 139,930 square foot sunken station plaza, the sculpted roof shields the open public plaza from Kaohsiung’s tropical climate. This design allows the space to host events, markets, traditional open air opera, or a mobile libraries, among other activities. “The most important events in Taiwanese villages take place on the main square in front of the temple, lit with traditional red lanterns," said Francine Houben, creative director of Mecanoo. "The central hall has been designed as a contemporary equivalent of this, creating a memorable experience for travelers." "The sprawling green canopy protects the open public plaza underneath from Kaohsiung’s tropical climate like large trees would do," she continued. "Here people can meet, enjoy a refreshing breeze, or visit events that take place at the station, like a farmers’ market, second hand market, traditional open air opera or a mobile library." The building is due to be complete by 2024.
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Salerno Maritime Terminus by Zaha Hadid Architects opened in Italy

The Salerno Maritime Terminal in south west Italy has been inaugurated by the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. The building, which has been in the making for 16 years, is the first to be opened since Zaha Hadid's passing at the end of March earlier this year.

As part of a city-wide regeneration plan initiated in 1993, the terminus won an international competition in 2000. Situated on a public quay that continues into the marina, the building aims to continue "the city’s relationship with the sea and establishes new links; connecting Salerno’s rich maritime traditions with its historic urban fabric and beyond to the hills that frame the city."

Bearing the resemblance of an oyster, an asymmetric shell forms the roof and offers a much needed shaded area during the summer months. Come nightfall, the terminal is illuminated via an accent-lit concrete soffit running around the building's perimeter.

Underneath, administration offices for national border controls and shipping lines, as well as a restaurant and passenger waiting areas, are housed. Interior orientation ensures the swift circulation of passengers through waiting lounges, check-in, passport, security and customs controls to their ship.

As a result, 500,000 extra passengers will be able to pass through the port each year, meaning more ferry and cruise ships could dock. This, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) argues, "could create up to 2,000 new jobs in the city’s hospitality, services and retail sectors."

Due to its location, the terminal offers views of both sides of the famed Amalfi Coast, the Gulf of Salerno, and Cilento World Heritage Site. ZHA also hopes it "will act as a lighthouse to the port, welcoming visitors to the city."

When opening the terminal, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid tribute to the late Zaha Hadid. “This extraordinary work adds to everything Salerno is doing to transform itself and I think it is marvelous,” Renzi said. “It is also a way of remembering the great architect that Zaha Hadid was.”

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Enrique Peñalosa plans to give Bogotá the best transit system in the developing world

An economist who once advised Colombian President Virgilio Barco, Enrique Peñalosa is now a revered urban planner in the city of Bogotá. Having once served as Bogotá mayor from 1997 to 2001, Peñalosa is now back for his second stint and pledges to provide his city with the best public transportation system in the developing world. In his first term as mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for widespread changes in infrastructure and public space in Bogotá. These included a 40 percent reduction in vehicle usage within the city; replacing parking spaces with green sidewalks and street furniture; developing the TransMilenio bus rapid transit systems; building a major public library alongside two others in low-income areas; and creating expansive green spaces. Peñalosa also pioneered regulation on social housing that included a minimum square footage on new builds. Dario Hidalgo of CityFix sings the new mayors praises, citing how the bus rapid transit system (BRT) is "one of the world’s most heavily used", with over 2 million passengers a day using the service. Like any good economist, Peñalosa is a strong supporter of efficiency and growth. Now, with his self-laid foundations,Bogotá can begin to move forward again. Not dwelling on the past, he has plans to upgrade the BRT system, merging it with the rail network as well implementing more bus lanes. On top of this, Peñalosa plans on doubling bicycle usage in Bogotá. Naturally, when a such changes are proposed, the issue of financing these changes surfaces. An estimated $13-20 billion is required with the state being left to cough up $7.1 billion after accounting for all government revenue streams. The solution? Peñalosa is seeking to implement fees for personal automobile travel into the city, similar to the congestion charge in London (which has generated $1.42 billion since 2003). Despite these possible methods of financing, it is very possible that the new Mayor will turn to the private sector to secure further funding in order to secure the implementation of the new services.
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Explore Chicago’s regional transportation network on this interactive website

How many people get on the train at your "El" or Metra stop each day? Which county's roads make for the roughest ride? How long do Chicago-area drivers while away waiting for train crossings? The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) just unveiled a new tool to stir discussion about transportation in the greater Chicago area that can answer all of those questions, as well as many more about the regional transportation system as a whole. CMAP planners said they hope the interactive website, which is full of clickable maps and tables compiled from mountains of public data, will resonate with policy makers as well as frustrated commuters. When it comes to transportation infrastructure, Chicago has an embarrassment of riches—and a wealth of problems. Some 25 percent of the nation's freight traffic travels through the region, but the seven-county region's 1,468 rail crossings snarl traffic for a total delay of 7,817 person-hours every day. In total traffic ate up more than $6 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011 across the roughly 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, Lake, McHenry, Will, Kane, Kendall and DuPage Counties. As the authors of GO TO 2040, the 2010 comprehensive plan that sought to renew Daniel Burnham's regional vision, CMAP officials said they made the website to encourage more data-driven planning and regional policy. The website gives a mixed assessment of public transit in the region. While 71.5 percent of residents had at least moderate access to transit, progress on increasing that share of people has occurred at a slower rate so far than will be necessary to meet the 2040 goal of 78 percent, CMAP's analysis shows. Although Chicago lauds its growing open data culture, CMAP's Tom Garritano said arbitrary policies persist. For example Illinois' 55/45 rule, whereby 55 percent of highway funds typically go downstate, while only 45 percent stay in the Chicago region—despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the state's population and economic activity occurs in and around its largest city. “We believe strongly that the best decisions are driven by data,” said Garritano. “We want people to get excited about data.” While the website shows the region has made considerable progress on meeting GO TO 2040 goals in recent years, CMAP officials stressed that stats inflated with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may paint a rosier picture of transportation infrastructure's finances. CMAP pointed to the declining share of crumbling roads and bridges in the area—without continued funding for maintenance, they said, that progress would soon be overwhelmed by mounting infrastructure repair needs. More than half of non-highway roads in Cook County were judged less than “acceptable,” but that figure was less than 10 percent in McHenry and Kendall counties. More than 300 bridges in the Chicago area were deemed “structurally deficient” in 2013—a distinction CMAP pointed out does not mean they are necessarily dangerous, just below civil engineering standards. The total share of deficient bridges in the area was 9.7 percent, slightly below the national average of 11.1 percent. A section of the site named “Forward” links to a public-private fundraising campaign called FUND 2040. Last year CMAP called for a quarter-penny sales tax hike that would net $300 million per year for infrastructure work. “Metropolitan Chicago must compete globally against regions whose public investments have for decades far outpaced our own,” reads the site. “Current infrastructure funding mechanisms are simply not adequate to meet our region's infrastructure needs.” New spending, however needed, is politically risky in fiscally troubled Illinois, but CMAP's ideological influence recently got a boost in Springfield. The agency's executive director, Randy Blankenhorn, was recently appointed to head the Illinois Department of Transportation by incoming Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
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Detroit doubles down on startups and young creatives with new “innovation district”

As Detroit nears the one year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, creative professionals in a busy downtown corridor are the target of a Washington, D.C.–funded “innovation district" that hopes startups will rev Detroit's stalled economic engine. Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley's book for the Brookings Institution, The Metropolitan Revolution argued that since Congress is frozen, cities must save themselves. In a follow up report, the authors argued for the creation of “innovation districts” to encourage startups and business incubators. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan last month announced the city’s first such district would comprise a stretch of Woodward Avenue from the riverfront to New Center. The area has previously been branded a “creative corridor,” and already enjoys a growing startup culture—most of it formed organically. So what will the new designation change? Perhaps nothing by itself. But as Crain's Detroit Business reported, clusters of young professionals are happy to have the spotlight:
"The thing we have realized is that we actually have districts within this creative corridor geography," said Matt Clayson, director of DC3, a partnership between the College of Creative Studies and Business Leaders for Michigan. "There is a certain density of creative practioners [sic] that we did not have four years ago. That's a good 1,100 creative workers. Four years ago, no." … When Patrick Thompson was looking to open his interior design studio — which is well known for designing the Detroit Institute of Arts' Kresge Court — he was interested in being in Midtown. He didn't realize there was a creative cluster forming, but he liked the activity on the street and wanted to be around other design businesses. So when a first floor retail spot in The Auburn building opened, he moved in last summer. "As a landmark alone, it's been great," he said. "Everyone is starting to know this area. It's a pretty high-profile area, so it's been beneficial for our business being there."
The three clusters with the most activity at the moment, writes Amy Haimerl for Crain's, are around Grand Circus Park, near Cass and Canfield Streets, and near DC3 and TechTown Detroit in the city’s New Center neighborhood. Mayor Duggan convened a 17-person panel to chart more innovation clusters around the future and help guide growth in existing creative communities. As must be noted with any story of rebirth in Detroit, the city’s challenges are beyond the ability of any one intervention to overcome. But “innovation districts” are far from the only solution proposed for Detroit’s problems. Immigration reform, perhaps tied to a special city-specific Visa, has been touted as a potential shot in the arm for the struggling city. And transit improvements, especially along Woodward Avenue—which now has national attention—are a long time coming.
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New York City Traffic Safety Laws Signed by Mayor De Blasio Seek To Strengthen Vision Zero Plan

In his ongoing effort to eliminate traffic fatalities through Vision Zero, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed 11 new traffic safety bills. According to Streetsblog, the bills “suspend the licenses of dangerous taxi drivers, require the installation of 20 mph Slow Zones, and make it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, among other changes.” These bills were signed at PS 152 in Queens, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was struck and killed by a truck in December. It was at that school, one month later, where Mayor de Blasio announced his Vision Zero plan to dramatically improve street safety throughout the city. At the signing on Monday, the mayor also said that legislation recently passed by the state senate, which lowers New York City’s default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 MPH, will go into effect this fall.          
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Frustrated transit advocates blast ballot delay by Detroit’s Regional Transit Agency

detroit_light_rail_01 Detroiters have heard before that the Motor City could see better mass transit as soon as 2015. Local and state leaders came together in 2012 to form the area’s first regional transit agency (RTA), but Streetsblog reported locals are losing patience with Michigan’s newest RTA. detroit_light_rail_02 While waiting times for buses drag on, frustration grows. The RTA recommended holding off on a ballot measure for another two years, prompting a protest march from transit advocates. They marched from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the board’s meeting place at 1001 Woodward, one of many Rock Ventures developments in the region (Read a Q&A with Rock Ventures real estate chief Jim Ketai here). We Are Mode Shift reported even members of the RTA are losing faith:
Larry Dilworth, a member of the board’s Community’s Advisory Committee and the disabilities advocacy group Warriors on Wheels, told board members he had considered stepping down from his position with the CAC due to doubts about the RTA’s short-term effectiveness.
RTA’s chief executive John Hertel resigned in January in part because of concerns about funding stability—a problem that still plagues transit efforts in a region with a long history of sprawl, segregation, and steep financial challenges. Detroit’s light rail project, the Woodward Light Rail Line, got a boost last year from former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the form of $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue would include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center.
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Chicago’s ‘Green Healthy Neighborhoods’ plan moves forward

Chicago’s plan to revitalize troubled South Side neighborhoods with green infrastructure, urban farming and transit-friendly development is moving ahead. The city’s Plan Commission heard a presentation last week on the Green Healthy Neighborhoods program, which in 2011 announced its attention to lure investment to the Englewood, Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods (read AN’s coverage here). While the urban agriculture component initially grabbed headlines—renderings show an old rail line repurposed as the “New Era Trail,” which would link urban farms and community gardens with a park-like promenade—the wide-ranging proposals also include developing retail clusters around transit nodes and street improvements for bikers and pedestrians. Funding is still up in the air, but the project will seek financing through the department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. You can see the full plan here.
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Chicago breaks ground on Navy Pier flyover for Lakefront Trail

Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive.  LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.
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Chicago’s Divvy bikeshare wants your help placing new stations

Chicago’s Divvy bikesharing program wants your help placing new bicycle rental stations throughout the city. The Divvy Siting Team will consider your suggestions at suggest.divvybikes.com—they’ve already mapped many public suggestions alongside the 300 existing stations. Last month the program announced its intent to become North America’s largest bikesharing system. Divvy will add 175 stations by the end of 2014 and, pending state and federal funding, bring another 75 online after that, raising the total to 550 stations. As it expands, Divvy could address previous criticisms about equal access. Though it started by focusing on the Loop and other high-density downtown areas, the program has expanded into many neighborhoods. Still, many are unserved—Uptown is the northern terminus, while much of the West, Southwest, and South Sides have no stations.