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Will Spokane Give Downtown Transit Riders the Boot?

Transit in Spokane, Washington, is centered around a well-designed plaza in downtown. While the transit plaza is considered a national example of how to design good amenities for riders, a group of business owners is trying to move it somewhere else, reports Bruce Nourish at Seattle Transit Blog.

Spokane's transit plaza is considered a national example of a dignified waiting environment. Will business leaders succeed in forcing it out of downtown? Photo: Jdubman via Seattle Transit Blog

Spokane’s transit plaza is considered a national example of a dignified waiting environment. Will business leaders succeed in forcing it out of downtown? Photo: Jdubman via Seattle Transit Blog

Nourish says that would be a real blow to the city’s transit system and to downtown itself:

Photos of the Plaza are shown around the world by Jarrett Walker as an example of the kind of civilized, humane waiting-place that transit customers should expect, and which can be built even by not-lavishly-funded agencies. Such facilities are especially important to small-city transit agencies like STA, where there is no rapid transit system around which to organize the rest of the transit network, nor enough money to run a full grid of frequent routes out to the limits of the service area, and thus many customers need to make connections through a single central hub.

Recently, a handful of well-connected downtown Spokane property owners have tried to force STA to move this flagship facility out of the downtown core. The events involved in the lead-up to this are a little complicated: there’s a recently-reactivated plan to refurbish the plaza, the removal (and then replacement) of a smoking area for plaza patrons, and a sudden flare up of concerns about crime, vagrancy and indigence in the retail core. The opposition’s stated reasons will be depressingly familiar to anyone who’s been involved in any major expansion of transit out to suburban areas: Putatively, transit facilities are full of ne’er-do-wells and criminals, loitering around waiting to rob or beg someone of their money, and the solution is to make these people disappear by making the facility disappear — and besides, all those buses are empty anyway. Of course, none of these things are actually true.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Plan to Replace Empty Yankee Parking Garages With Soccer Stadium Has Gone Quiet (CapNY)
  • Speeding Was Top S.I. Complaint on Vision Zero MapAdvance Wants to Hear More
  • First Ridgewood/Middle Village Bike Lanes Have Been Installed (Brownstoner Queens)
  • Sam Schwartz and Gerard Soffian Want More Enforcement But Saner Rules for Bikes (CityLand)
  • Rosenthal Bill Would Allow Drivers to Sign Up for Instant Email Notifications of Traffic Tickets (Post)
  • MTA Rejects Bklyn CB 10 Request for Bridge Walk to Mark 50th Anniversary of VNB (Home Reporter)
  • Proposal to Add Convention Center, Casino to Meadowlands Raises Traffic Concerns (WCBS)
  • School Bus Driver Pay Hike Questioned by Some CMs But Expected to Pass (CapNY, Post)
  • Bike-Share Kiosks Get Simpler Signage (Citi Bike Blog) …Now About Those Pesky Touch Screens
  • Police Arrest Teen Riding on Flatlands Sidewalk for Stealing Citi Bike (Bklyn Paper)
  • Bklyn CB 2 Looking for People to Serve on Transpo Committee (Bklyn Reader)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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A Proposal for Incremental Parking Reform in NYC

There is more than 400 Image: 9x18 [PDF]

Surface parking consumes more than 467 acres of NYCHA property citywide. Map: 9×18 [PDF]

In most of New York City, zoning requirements compel new development to include a certain amount of parking. These mandates make housing more expensive while causing more traffic and pollution, but the Department of City Planning took only the most timid steps to reform them during the Bloomberg administration, and the de Blasio administration isn’t shaping up much differently. Now a small team of architects and urban designers has a strategy to make progress on parking reform, and while it’s not exactly bold, it may appeal to the conflict-averse DCP.

Spurred by Mayor de Blasio’s housing agenda, the Institute for Public Architecture kicked off an initiative on public housing in March, awarding fellowships to six architects and designers. Sagi Golan, an urban designer at the Department of City Planning (who received the fellowship as an individual and not a DCP employee) teamed up with architects Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich, who lead design firm Peterson Rich Office and wanted to study how the city can build affordable housing on under-used sites.

They began working together in June under the name “9×18,” referring to the average size of a parking spot. The team has already presented to a panel of critics, including top DCP staff, and hope to get the ear of other city agencies.

The de Blasio administration has not made parking reform a top priority, but it has promised to catalog city-owned properties that are ripe for development and singled out parking lots as one possibility. While leaders including City Council Member Margaret Chin support the concept, the politics of replacing parking with housing can get tricky. Last year, for example, the Bloomberg administration shelved its proposal to develop apartments on parking lots at public housing in Manhattan after residents objected.

The 9×18 team picked up where that plan left off by examining surface parking at NYCHA properties citywide.

There are more than 20.3 million square feet, or 467 acres, of surface parking at NYCHA properties across the city, according to the 9×18 team. ”More often than not, the surface parking areas serve as a physical barrier between the NYCHA campuses and their surrounding communities,” the team wrote. This land could be put to better use by providing more affordable housing or much-needed community services.

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DOT: No Plans for Park Avenue Bike Infrastructure After Recent Deaths

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The west side of Park Avenue and 108th Street, facing south. Image: Google Maps

DOT will consider design changes at the Park Avenue intersection in East Harlem where drivers have recently killed three cyclists, but there are no plans for new bike infrastructure along the Park Avenue viaduct.

Livery cab driver Nojeem Odunfa hit cyclist Jerrison Garcia at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street Monday morning, reportedly dragging Garcia 80 feet before stopping. Odunfa was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and careless driving.

“There’s car accidents here all the time,” a local resident told DNAinfo. ”They drive like this is a highway.”

Park Avenue is divided by a Metro-North viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is car parking on northbound and southbound Park along this 30-block stretch, but no bike lanes. Cyclists on Park must share one through-lane with moving vehicles, and riding on Park or biking across Park entails negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

Jerrison Garcia was the third cyclist killed at 108th and Park since July 2012. Image: I Quant NY

It’s no secret that this segment of Park Avenue is dangerous for people on bikes. Garcia was the third cyclist killed at the E. 108th Street intersection since 2012. There were six additional crashes resulting in cyclist injuries on Park between E. 106th and E. 110th Streets from April to September 2013, according to I Quant NY. Data mapped by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat show dozens of cyclist injuries along the viaduct, and one death, from 1995 to 2007.

The viaduct area is also hazardous for pedestrians, and a DOT project to make it safer to walk there is underway. In light of recent cyclist deaths and injuries, on Monday we asked DOT if the agency is reviewing conditions at Park and E. 108th, and if bike infrastructure improvements along the viaduct are in the works.

Here is DOT’s reply:

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Talking Headways Podcast: Crown Prince of Fresh Air

podcast icon logoWhat would you think of a city planner, out ruffling feathers with his bold ideas about density and urbanism — who commutes to work an hour each way from his ranch way outside the city? Ironic — or hypocritical? That’s the question we wrestle with in our discussion of Brad Buchanan, the head honcho at Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development.

And then we head from Denver to Dallas, where MPO chief Michael Morris has unilaterally declared that the plan to convert I-345 into a boulevard is going nowhere. Trouble is, he doesn’t actually have the authority to say that, and his facts are wrong. But by asserting it, will he make it true?

Say your piece in the comments. And subscribe to this podcast on iTunesStitcher, or our RSS feed.

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DMV Cheating Cyclists With Unlawful Surcharges and License Points

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As NYPD’s latest bike ticket blitz — “Operation Safe Cycle” – rolls into its second week, here at my law firm we’ve been getting more than the usual number of phone calls and emails from cyclists with questions about summonses. Usually the big question in these discussions is whether to plead guilty, not how to plead guilty. But now it appears that if you pay your fine online for a moving violation while cycling, you’ll probably be paying an $88 surcharge that you shouldn’t be, and getting points on your license that don’t belong there.

The problem arises when cyclists make their plea and pay the fine online, as most who receive traffic tickets in New York City do. Even though traffic tickets issued to cyclists usually indicate on their face that the vehicle is a “bicycle,” the DMV’s online payment system appears to ignore this fact.

Yet the DMV’s own rules with respect to surcharges and license points make crystal clear that they do not apply to cyclists. The specific provisions of law that exempt cyclists from the $88 surcharge and from points are set forth in a letter we recently sent to the DMV demanding that it cease and desist from applying these unlawful penalties. We have yet to receive a response.

This is no simple computer glitch either. Judging from the pre-printed traffic forms supplied by the DMV, you’d think it’s trying deliberately to trick cyclists into overpaying their fines. The form states: “included in the total amount for each violation (except equipment) are mandatory surcharges in the amount of $88. Equipment violations include mandatory surcharges of $58.”

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Don’t Blame Hills for Pittsburgh’s Pedestrian Injuries

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published an in-depth investigation of the city’s pedestrian safety record. The paper reported that 2,100 collisions injured or killed pedestrians in the city between 2006 and 2013.

Being a hilly city doesn't preclude being a great place to walk. Photo: Wikipedia

Being a hilly city doesn’t preclude being a safe place to walk. Photo: Wikipedia

That should be a wake-up call, says Bike PGH Executive Director Scott Bricker on the organization’s blog. But some local traffic engineers are trying to deflect blame to the city’s famously hilly topography. In a letter to the editor published in the Post-Gazette and on the Bike PGH blog, Bricker says blaming the city’s hills is a copout:

The suggestion by Todd Kravits, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 11 traffic engineer, that it is our topography that is at fault is confusing and unfounded. He suggests that if Pittsburgh had more streets resembling “nice flat tables,” it would enable our streets to be engineered more safely; in reality, according to the article’s accompanying map, our flattest stretches of roadway are seeing the highest number of crashes with pedestrians. Mr. Kravits’ assertion that our hills are at fault in some way for these crashes simply does not jibe with the data here.

Norway, home of the vertical city of Oslo, has the second-lowest pedestrian fatality rate in Europe. How do they do it? By putting people, not cars, first in their planning and roadway engineering. For 50 years engineers in the United States have done the opposite. Righting this wrong will not only save lives but also create great, walkable places at the same time.

The city of San Francisco, another famously hilly city, recently announced its adoption of “Vision Zero,” a plan to completely eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2024. I urge Pittsburgh and its partners at PennDOT to do the same. Adopting a Vision Zero policy will set in motion the strategies needed to eliminate serious crashes locally by uniting design and engineering, enforcement, legislation and public health into a singular vision for the safety and vibrancy of our streets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Strong Towns wonders whether it’s wise to count streets as public assets, rather than liabilities. And Mobilizing the Region reports that New Jersey legislators are finally attempting to piece together a solution to the state’s transportation funding problems.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Karoll Grzegorczyk, 32, Crossing Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth (News, NY1)
  • Police Search for Driver Who Used Car as Weapon in Bruckner Blvd Hit-and-Run (WCBS, WNBC)
  • Driver Who Called Sikh Man a “Terrorist” and Ran Him Down Last Month Has Been Arrested (Post)
  • Cab Riders United Launches, Focused on Safety, Boro Taxis, Vehicle Improvements (CapNY)
  • SI Pols Call for More Transit, Then Work Against Actual Transit Improvements (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Malliotakis, Astorino Want MTA Funds for S.I.; Call Speed, Red Light Cams “Entrapment” (Advance)
  • SIEDC Relaunches Effort to Study West Shore Light Rail With Plea to Cuomo (Advance, DNA)
  • Jury Awards Brooklyn Man $150,000 for False Arrest After Cops Got Upset About Traffic (News)
  • Queens CB 9 Will Meet Thursday After Complaints About Plaza Replacing Parking (Forum, QChron)
  • TA Designates Sunnyside a Bike-Friendly Business District (Sunnyside Post)
  • Six Months Into Vision Zero, Queens Precincts Are Mixed on Traffic Safety (Make Queens Safer)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Kidical Mass NYC and Summer Streets Bring Out the Tykes on Bikes

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This just about captures the mood on the ride from Borough Hall to Astor Place. (Note: Biking on the sidewalk is legal in NYC if you’re under 13.) All photos: Ben Fried

Mission accomplished for the first Kidical Mass NYC ride: The all-ages Saturday morning bike convoy from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Summer Streets was a ton of fun.

Moms, dads, and kids — about two dozen people all told — made the trip with an assortment of box bikes, child seats, trailers, and kiddie cycles. The self-propelled children were super impressive. No one had training wheels, and they all made it over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here are some photos of the ride, plus some shots of Summer Streets, which seems to be drawing more families with kids every year. To plug into the next Kidical Mass NYC ride, follow them on Facebook.

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At Kidical Mass, everyone got their cues from ride organizers Ali Loxton and Doug Gordon.

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First leg: Cadman Plaza.

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Tourists all over the place on the Brooklyn Bridge? No problem.

Summer Streets itself has turned into a great family event and on-the-ground classroom for precocious cyclists. It is simply amazing to see kids as young as 4 pedaling down Park Avenue and Lafayette Street. And there are a ton of them…

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Why It Makes Sense to Add Biking and Walking Routes Along Active Rail Lines

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River Trail -- 60 miles long and about to double in length -- provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from ##http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork/reports/railwithtrail/report.html##RTC##

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail — 60 miles long and about to double in length — provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from RTC

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

You’ve heard of rail-trails — abandoned rail lines that have been turned into multi-use paths for biking and walking. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

But these trails don’t need to be built on the graves of defunct rail lines. A growing number of them, in fact, are constructed next to active rail lines. In 1996, there were slightly less than 300 miles of these trails. Today there are about 1,400 miles.

Railroads tend to be skittish about approving walking and biking routes because they fear liability if someone gets injured. Even so, 43 percent of rails-with-trails, as they’re known, are located wholly within railroad rights-of-way, while another 12 percent have some segments inside the right-of-way. So negotiating with railroads — from Class I freight railroads to urban light rail operators — is possible, if you know how to approach them.

At the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in Pittsburgh next month, Kelly Pack of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will be joined by Thomas Baxter of Pittsburgh’s Friends of the Riverfront and Jerry Walls, who chairs the board of the SEDA-COG joint rail authority in central Pennsylvania, to give tips on how to create new rails-with-trails.

While railroads are wary of opening up space near tracks to people walking and biking, there are ways to get through to them. And if advocates in your area aren’t convinced that walking and biking alongside a noisy railroad track is such a great idea, there are arguments to address their perspective, too. Here are eight great things about rails-with-trails.

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