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Posts from the "Enrique Peñalosa" Category

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Hints About Woodhaven BRT at MTA Reinvention Commission Panel

No room for BRT here, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder said yesterday to the commission charged with thinking big about the future of transit. Photo: Google Maps

No room for BRT here, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder said yesterday to the commission charged with thinking big about the future of transit. Photo: Google Maps

The “transportation reinvention commission” convened at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off its public hearings yesterday with a panel of experts at MTA headquarters. Appointees, still trying to figure out the commission’s exact role, chewed over some of the region’s big transportation issues in a discussion that mostly lacked specifics. Still, there were a few notable comments, including new information about Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard from NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

BRT featured prominently yesterday, as panelists highlighted the need for closer collaboration between the MTA, NYC DOT, and other government agencies to bring robust transit improvements to low-income workers with long commutes in the outer boroughs.

“It seems that the less that you make, the further you have to travel,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the commission. ”My union agrees with the BRT for NYC coalition that we can improve the situation.”

“We are going to look at going to a more full-blown BRT model, let’s say for Woodhaven Boulevard,” said Trottenberg, who also serves as an MTA board member. After the meeting, she said the budget for the project is close to $200 million, higher than the $100 million she put forward at the end of May and suggesting a more ambitious allocation of space for surface transit. Previous Select Bus Service projects, with painted bus lanes, signal improvements, and sidewalk extensions at bus stops, have cost between $7 million and $27 million to build [PDF]. (The full Woodhaven project corridor is about 14 miles — longer than other SBS routes but not dramatically so.)

It’s too early to say what the Woodhaven BRT project will look like — DOT Director of Transit Development Eric Beaton said the agency does not yet have a design for Woodhaven and is continuing to meet with local communities. But in another indication that the city is serious about pursuing a robust configuration for transit lanes on Woodhaven, Beaton said costs for Woodhaven should be compared with projects like Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, or Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Those projects feature center-running lanes (the SF busways have yet to be built).

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Enrique Peñalosa: Democracy Is Bus-Only Lanes and Protected Bikeways

I lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for about half of 2002. While I was there, a political party headquarters near my house was car-bombed, guerrillas attacked the presidential inauguration, and thousands of people were killed in routine violence. It was a stressful place to live.

Adding to that stress was the speed and chaos of traffic. Every taxi ride I survived was a minor miracle.

And then there was Sunday.

Sundays and holidays, 75 miles of major roads — normally choked with diesel-powered kamikaze vehicles weaving in and out of lanes in a cacophony of car horns — were closed to motor vehicle traffic for the ciclovía. Filling the void were families walking dogs, teenagers on skateboards, couples on bikes, and one freaked-out gringa who finally found a place in Bogotá she could breathe. Those car-free rides saved me.

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa didn’t start the ciclovía but he expanded it and made it a vibrant, exciting activity enjoyed by two million people every week. He flatly rejected the argument that it wasn’t worth building bicycle infrastructure for the tiny fraction of Bogotanos who rode, knowing that “if you build it, they will ride.”

In a TED talk posted yesterday (but filmed in September), Peñalosa pushes the boundaries of what most people think is possible in a city. Reserve every other street for transit, bikes, and pedestrians? Dedicate bus-only lanes in dense, congested cities? It’s not only possible, Peñalosa says, it’s also necessary for a healthy democracy. If you’ve never seen this man speak, do yourself a favor and spend 14 minutes with him in this TED talk.

In the talk, Peñalosa asserts that “an advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but one where even the rich use public transport.”

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East Side Coalition Unveils Its Vision for Safer, Transit-Friendly Streets

Image: Transportation Alternatives

A template to prioritize walking, biking, and transit at the intersection of Third Avenue and 117th Street. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Earlier this week, Laurence Renard was killed as she crossed First Avenue when a dump truck driver turned into her path from 90th Street, hitting her from behind. Renard was one of at least six pedestrians and cyclists who have lost their lives in traffic crashes on East Side streets since last August.

People are seriously hurt and killed with terrible frequency on the East Side of Manhattan: 148 pedestrians and cyclists died on its streets between 1995 and 2008, and more than 15,000 were injured. The area is rife with wide streets and intersections that invite speeding and reckless driving. At the same time, the East Side is home to high percentages of walk-to-work commuters, car-free households, and senior citizens. East Siders lead walkable lifestyles and make many trips by foot or bike, but their streets are extremely dangerous.

Last night, more than 100 people gathered at St. Mark’s Church on East 10th Street for the unveiling of Transportation Alternatives’ East Side Action Plan [PDF], which outlines a broad vision for making this part of Manhattan safer and more livable.

In a series of public workshops, more than 600 East Siders helped TA put together recommendations to redesign their streets and put walking, biking, and transit first. The Action Plan came out of those workshops to serve as “a tool for local East Side experts to use as citizen planners, so they can educate their communities and generate the local support needed to engage decision makers around design and policy change,” said TA’s Julia De Martini Day. Dozens of community groups from Chinatown to Harlem have signed on to the campaign.

With political attacks on pedestrian and bicycle improvements fresh in everyone’s mind, the kick-off event last night was something of a rallying cry for the coalition. New Yorkers who want safer streets have to organize and mobilize as effectively as possible, a point that former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa brought home when he told the audience that the allocation of street space “is a political decision, not a technical decision.”

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Streetfilms: Enrique Peñalosa in Boston

When Boston livable streets advocates invited Enrique Peñalosa to town recently, Streetfilms' Robin Urban Smith made the trip north to hear what the Colombian urbanist had to say to residents of "The Walking City." Watch here as Peñalosa speaks to a packed house at the Boston Public Library, and see what Bostonians think of their town's past, present and future transportation systems.

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Wiki Wednesday: Urban Bicycling With Children

sidewalk_bike.jpgAlready a prolific contributor to the Streetsblog Flickr pool, BicyclesOnly has recently put together a StreetsWiki guide to "Urban Bicycling With Children." The entry kicks off with a look at some of the less obvious benefits to biking with kids:

Bicycling with children initiates so-called "virtuous cycles" that further promote bicycling. Parents who bicycle with their children may be encouraged to bicycle more often because of their children's enthusiasm for bicycling. Adults bicycling with children tend to zealously guard their children's safety, becoming potent advocates on the road and with government for improving bicycling safety. Motorists tend to drive less aggressively when they are aware of children bicycling nearby. Children who bicycle regularly will be more likely to bicycle as adults. In all of these ways, urban bicycling with children promotes bicycling and bicycling safety generally. 

As Enrique Penalosa has said, "The measure of a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely go anywhere."  Parents can help realize this vision of a good city by bicycling with their children and making sure that they are safe.

After the multi-generational turnout for New York's first Summer Streets Saturday, the audience for this type of information should be on the rise.

Which reminds me, there's a new wiki entry on Summer Streets that's just begging to be filled out. I'm sure there are plenty of Streetsbloggers out there who can chip in. All you need to contribute is a Livable Streets account.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About BRT

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The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has a new online "clearinghouse" of information on Bus Rapid Transit.

From the Mobilizing the Region blog:

The clearinghouse explains what bus rapid transit (BRT) is, how it compares to other modes, how it can be implemented in suburban and urban contexts, and how it can anchor transit-oriented development. The clearinghouse will continue to be updated.

Earlier this month a new coalition called Communities United for Transportation Equity (COMMUTE!) called for expansion of New York's BRT plans, and for electeds to support BRT through congestion pricing. Their effort was punctuated by a visit from Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, which is home to the TransMilenio system.

Check out the Bogotá StreetFilm to see BRT in action.

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Peñalosa to New York Pols: BRT & Pricing Benefit Working Class


Streetfilms captured highlights of Enrique Penalosa's appearance with COMMUTE.

One of the most entrenched fallacies in the congestion pricing debate has been the assertion that blue-collar New Yorkers get the short end of the stick. The claim never withstood scrutiny, but now it is facing an especially strong counterargument from Communities United for Transportation Equity (COMMUTE), a coalition of organizations from low-income communities of color underserved by transit.

COMMUTE calls for giving poor New Yorkers better access to transit by implementing extensive, inter-borough Bus Rapid Transit corridors, funded from pricing revenues and the MTA capital budget. On Monday, they hosted an appearance by former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, who described how he addressed what he calls "quality of life inequality" by improving public space for pedestrians and building the TransMilenio BRT system.

COMMUTE presented Peñalosa's story as a challenge to New York pols. "People want to see that pricing is going to benefit them directly," said Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development, a COMMUTE partner. "He really demolishes the argument of electeds who oppose the plan and have 20 percent car ownership and 5 percent commuting by car in their districts."

The Pratt Center's Elena Conte brought this point home when she addressed the room following Peñalosa's Q & A

The example of Bogotá... reveals that inequities in the mass transit system can be addressed when elected leadership has the will to place the needs of the underserved above the long-established privilege of the tiny minority who drive cars

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The Human Rights Argument For BRT And Pricing

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A map produced by the Pratt Center [pdf] shows neighborhoods with a high concentration of low-income commuters with long commutes.

With congestion pricing now before the City Council, the coalition pushing it forward shows signs of strengthening at exactly the right time. One group we'll be hearing more from is Communities United for Transportation Equity (COMM.U.T.E!), a recently-formed partnership between the Pratt Center for Community Development and community organizations in low-income neighborhoods around the city. At a press event this morning, COMM.U.T.E! representatives spoke about their strategy to lobby for congestion pricing and greater funding for BRT in the MTA capital plan. 

Their campaign will call attention to stark inequities in New York City commute times. The Pratt Center has crunched 2000 Census numbers showing that two-thirds of city residents with commutes longer than one hour earn under $35,000 per year [pdf]; and that black New Yorkers face a 30 percent longer commute, on average, than white New Yorkers [pdf]. Disparities were present, if less pronounced, across other racial groups as well. Considered alongside the transit improvements that congestion pricing will make possible, the findings again pierce the argument that pricing is a regressive tax.

The problems revealed by the report are fundamentally about "human rights and dignity, rather than dry economic measures," said Joan Byron, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Justice Initiative at the Pratt Center.

Time lost to long commutes is "corrosive to community life and family life," said Silvett Garcia, Senior Planner at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the Soundview section of the Bronx. "That is time people cannot spend with their families, cannot meet with their children's teachers, cannot go to community events." She noted that bus commuters in the Bronx have to transfer twice to make a trip across the borough, which takes an hour. The same trip only takes drivers ten minutes.

Byron applauded DOT's commitment to a BRT pilot program, but noted that the scale of a BRT system would have to exceed current plans to seriously address inequities in transit access. The only way to dramatically improve transit access in neighborhoods that are currently underserved, she said, is to implement congestion pricing and significantly boost MTA funding for BRT.

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The Bogotá Transformation: Vision and Political Will

Last week's saga of MTA workers seizing bicycles locked to a subway stair railing in Brooklyn illustrated, yet again, just how far New York City has to go towards making bicycles an integral part of the city's transportation system. As Larry Littlefield aptly commented, "The MTA doesn't see bikes as an extension of the transit system. It's a new concept here."

Indeed, it is a new concept for New York City. And if one has never seen a city where it's done well, the idea of bicycles functioning as an extension of a transit system may be somewhat unimaginable.

I saw some great examples of a bike-oriented transit system just a few weeks ago during a trip to Bogotá, Colombia. I was there with StreetFilms' Clarence Eckerson, Transportation Alternatives' Karla Quintero and Project for Public Spaces' Ethan Kent. The New York City Streets Renaissance team was taken around the city by Gil Peñalosa, Bogotá's former Parks Commissioner and brother of former Mayor (and current mayoral candidate) Enrique Peñalosa and Eduardo Plata of the Fundación Por el País Que Queremos, otherwise known as The Foundation for the Country That We Care About.

(Update: Enrique lost the election to a far-left candidate promising an impossibly expensive subway system for Bogotá).

As a part of our tour, Gil took us to the Portal de las Américas, a major terminal of the TransMilenio bus system in the southwestern corner of the city. There, in the ground floor of the bus terminal, Gil showed us a bike parking facility unlike anything we have in New York and easily as nice as anything one might find in the most bike-friendly cities of Northern Europe.

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With a ticket-taker, security guard and space for somewhere around 700 bikes it was, without question, the finest Cicloparqueadero any of us had ever seen (Granted, it was also the only Cicloparqueadero we'd ever seen).

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New York City transportation advocates, I think, are accustomed to being told in contradictory fashion, that our various transportation agencies are either too focused on mega-projects to pay attention to something this small or too cash-strapped to do something this big. So, we immediately wanted to know how this project came about and how much it cost to build and run. Gil didn't have the numbers at his fingertips, but as a part of the mayoral administration that conceived and launched TransMilenio, he was able to explain the thinking behind it.

"For every 25 people who ride bikes to the terminal," Gil said, "That is one less 'feeder bus' we need to run through the neighborhoods. You do the math and pretty quickly you see it makes financial sense to set aside some space and hire a security guard to help people to ride their bikes."


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The Car Habit Is Tough to Break

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"People are addicted to their cars," said John Street, the Mayor of Philadelphia, at a panel on transport yesterday during the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit. He was identifying what he saw as the major challenge for cities striving to make their transport systems more environmentally sustainable.

That remark prompted a comment later from Jim Press, president of Toyota North America, who was in the audience. "It's not an addiction to cars, which makes me feel a little like a dealer," he said, to general laughter. "It's an addiction to personal mobility." Press went on to say he thought part of the solution to the problem of pollution in cities could be a car-sharing scheme (with Toyota supplying the cars, of course) in which people could take mass transit to a city center, then pick up a car to get to their precise destination.

Street, despite his earlier anti-car rhetoric, seemed suddenly interested. And no one in the room appeared to think there was anything odd about the idea of reducing pollution by giving people new opportunities to drive cars.

The exchange was typical in a discussion that focused on alternative fuels for existing and future motor vehicles, or on different types of motor vehicles, rather than on the reduction of the vehicles themselves. Certainly, mass transit (and getting more funding for it from central governments) featured heavily among the strategies touted by the municipal leaders on the panel, and all of them acknowledged personal cars as the biggest villain. But they seemed reluctant to press the idea that people could ever be convinced to give up their autos.

Representing the promise of better living through better fuels was panelist Ken Fisher (above, left), a senior vice president from Shell Oil. He acknowledged the deficiencies of ethanol and other fuel alternatives that require huge swathes of land and plenty of energy to produce, but he held out hope for "biofuel from waste, not food," like cellulose ethanol.

Apirak Kosayodhin (above, right), the Governor of Bangkok, bemoaned the difficulty of getting motorists to relinquish road space for Bus Rapid Transit in his city of legendary traffic jams -- where car ownership continues to soar, and where significant pollution reductions have been achieved only by focusing on means other than limiting vehicular traffic.

Only Luis Eduardo Garzán, the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia (where former mayor Enrique Penalosa promoted radical cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly measures), briefly mentioned bike lanes. Other than that, the conversation had little to do with encouraging entirely pollution-free forms of transportation -- or shall we call it "personal mobility"? -- such as bicycling and walking.

At this rate, that addiction is going to be hard to kick.