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Where Are the Best Places for Protected Intersections in Your City?

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

Protected intersections are the best new thing in American bike infrastructure since, well, protected bike lanes. They greatly reduce the potential for turning conflicts between drivers and cyclists — left turns on a bike, especially, become easier and less stressful — and they make pedestrian crossings much safer too.

So far, a few cities around the country have raced to install their first protected intersection, but the design is still very rare. That means there are a ton of opportunities in American cities to create safer and more inviting intersections for biking and walking.

Which locations could benefit from protected intersections? Here’s a fun exercise courtesy of Nick Falbo, a key figure in the introduction of this design in the U.S. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland says Falbo sketched out what six sites in the city would look like with protected intersections:

Nick Falbo, who works as a senior planner for Alta Planning and Design but did this project as a volunteer on his own time, said he got the idea to create them after he gave a presentation about protected intersections at a conference last fall. A city employee who was attending, he said, asked where in Portland protected intersections could go.

“I’m thinking, like, where can’t they go?” he said.

Read more…

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Washington State GOP Claims a Scalp in the Name of Socialized Roads

Republicans in the Washington State Senate are sending a message: Don’t mess with our socialized highways. To show they’re serious about subsidizing roads, they ended the tenure of Washington DOT chief Lynn Peterson.

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective, but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Senate Republicans used their confirmation authority to give Peterson “one week notice” that she would be fired, as one Democrat put it.

Josh Feit at Publicola explains:

[State Senator Andy] Hill said it was “nothing personal” but the senate needed to use its “blunt instrument” (its confirmation powers) to “impose accountability” on an agency that was responsible for imposing unpopular tolls on I-405. “I have no confidence that this agency is in any position to fix the problems it has,” he said about an agency he accused of unfairly executing its tolling program.

Dan Ryan at Seattle Transit Blog says the tolls are actually working pretty well:

Notwithstanding its unpopularity with some SOV drivers (at least those who don’t use the lanes), it has been rather successful in managing traffic. Travel times in both the express and general purpose lanes are better, saving drivers 14 minutes in the express lanes and 7 minutes southbound in the regular lanes. Bus riders have seen improved speed and reliability. Community Transit riders save six minutes at peak times, while Metro riders are saving eight minutes. After just a few months, ridership is up 4% on CT, and 6% on Metro routes in the corridor.

Read more…

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More Than 1 in 10 Workers Commute By Bike in Some D.C. Neighborhoods

Bike share commuting rates in central DC. Map: DDOT

Bike commuting rates in central DC. Map: DDOT

Imagine 20 percent of commuters getting to work by bike in a major U.S. city. No entire city is close yet (Portland, with the highest rate, is at about 6 percent), but some neighborhoods are getting there.

Dan Malouff at Beyond DC shares new data from DDOT showing that in a few areas of Washington, the bike commute mode share is especially impressive. The numbers for specific Census block groups should be taken with a grain of salt because the margin of error is high. But it’s safe to say that more than 1 in 10 workers commute by bike in some parts of DC.

Malouff writes:

This fascinating map is part of the background data DDOT is preparing to study a possible protected bikeway on or around 6th Street NW.

It shows how hugely popular bicycling can be as a mode of transportation, even in the United States. What’s more, this data actually undercounts bicycle commuters by quite a lot.

Read more…

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New Evidence That Protected Bike Lanes Get People Cycling More

Protected bike lanes so seem to encourage new people to try cycling, according to a new study Photo: Martin Reis via I Bike TO

A survey in Toronto shows that a protected lane led to new bike trips. Photo: Martin Reis via I Bike TO

Cities making the most progress on protected bike lanes are seeing bicycling rates go up. But at the scale of a specific street with a new protected lane, it’s hard to know how much of the increase in bike counts is due to cyclists moving over from nearby streets, and how much is due to people biking the route for the first time thanks to safer conditions.

Network blog I Bike TO shares a recent survey that sheds light on the question. Raymond Ziemba at Toronto’s Ryerson University looked at ridership along a new protected bike lane on Sherbourne Street in Toronto [PDF]. The results indicate that a substantial share of people riding in the protected lane made bike trips because of the street redesign:

Ziemba found that “[t]here was a strong association between travel route change and mode substitution, where the likelihood of switching to cycling was 11 times higher for those who did not use the street before 2012.” That is, the transformation of Sherbourne Street cycling facilities from painted bike lanes to physically separated bike lanes with curbs on the north end and raised to near sidewalk level on the south end. This is not surprising given the almost 300% increase in cyclists on Sherbourne.

There were some interesting findings of the survey that point to how important physical separation is to growing the mode share of cycling. Ziemba surveyed 214 cyclists on Sherbourne St in 2014. As [Ziemba’s former professor] Dr. [Ratkim] Mitra summarized in his email to me:

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Progress on Detroit’s Effort to Fix Its Badly Broken Transit System

Detroit’s transit system has been in crisis now for years. Among the horror stories chronicled by riders: Buses that never come, two-hour commutes, jobs lost to unreliable service.

Ann Arbor transit alum Michael Ford was tapped to help Detroit achive its vision for a better connected regional transit system. Image: We Are Mode Shift

Michael Ford is in charge of creating a better-connected regional transit system for Detroit. Image: We Are Mode Shift

But there’s hope in an effort to integrate the region’s disjointed urban and suburban transit systems into a unified regional network. David Sands at Network blog Mode Shift gives an update on what the new Regional Transit Authority is doing:

In May of last year, the agency kicked off an effort to develop a unified multi-modal transit vision for the region, which it’s calling the BEST (Building Equitable Sustainable Transit) plan.

Its goal is to figure out the best mix of services for the region. This will likely include creating new rapid transit services along major corridors and establishing better coordination between existing providers. The plan also involves coming up with a viable funding strategy to realize its vision.

Read more…

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A University Built Around the Car Sees the Light

Fresno State University was, until very recently, your prototypical car commuting school. The school began as an isolated agricultural institution and is still connected to a large university farm. Its transportation services haven’t extended much beyond subsidized parking.

Fresno State University is trying to transition from a drive-to campus to one with a more balanced menu of transportation options. This pedestrian scramble is designed to reduce pedestrian injuries. Photo: Stop and Move

Fresno State University is trying to transition from a drive-to campus to one with a more balanced menu of transportation options. This pedestrian scramble is designed to reduce injuries. Photo: Stop and Move

But over time, writes James Sinclair at Streetsblog Network member Stop and Move, the area around Fresno State became more residential. And the university’s transportation systems began to creak under the weight of increasing traffic.

Now, Sinclair reports, the university seems to be getting serious about moving beyond the car, and it’s rolling out a respectable Transportation Demand Management program.

He outlines what’s included:

Free Bus Passes

Also new as of last summer, Fresno State students and staff now have unlimited free access to FAX and the Clovis bus systems!

Scramble Crosswalk

This one was a very pleasant surprise, and another example of Fresno State finally (FINALLY) realizing that the infrastructure around the campus influences which mode of transport people use…

Unfortunately, the walking/biking facilities are poor. Very bad lighting at night, narrow sidewalks, and then an intersection which strongly favors cars.

Read more…

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Road Spending Threatens to Crowd Out BRT in Montgomery County

Montgomery County, Maryland, has an ambitious forward-looking vision for a bus rapid transit system, calling for an 81-mile network that would offer a way to bypass gridlock in the growing D.C. suburbs.

Bus rapid transit in Crystal City, Virginia. Photo: Beyond DC via Flickr

Bus rapid transit in Crystal City, Virginia. Photo: Beyond DC/Flickr

But that plan is now in jeopardy. It looks like county officials with the power of the purse are signaling they’d rather shell out for an expensive road. Pete Tomao at Greater Greater Washington explains:

By 2040, Montgomery will have 70% more congestion, 40% more jobs and 20% more residents. Better transit, which BRT would achieve, is a way to address this coming challenge.

But recent attempts to actually fund it have met resistance. Many supporters of the system are worried about stalled progress. Now, BRT funding from the state is set to run out, and BRT’s future in Montgomery could be in doubt.

Every two years the County Executive submits a plan for capital improvements in what’s called the Capital Improvement Plan. The CIP is a budget that encompasses 6 fiscal years and is amended every two. While council staff notes road funding has been down in recent years, it acknowledges that it still dwarfs that of other jurisdictions in the region.

One road in particular stands out as particularly expensive: Montrose Parkway East. With a price tag close to $140 million, Montrose Parkway East is 20 million dollars more expensive than it was two years ago. The project is in the Pike District, an area the county wants to encourage walkability, but building the road would only invite more people to drive.

Tomao says the project list can be changed by a vote of County Council, and that transit advocates should get busy trying to convince them.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transit Center makes a convincing case that L.A.’s falling transit ridership is due to cuts in bus service. And The Urbanist discusses Seattle’s plans to convert a mixed-traffic streetcar to a line with exclusive right-of-way.

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St. Louis “Beat Congestion” and Now Commute Times Are Longer

Image: NextSTL

Image: NextSTL

St. Louis is every highway planner’s dream. Consistently ranked among the least-congested cities in America, the region’s car commuters spend a smaller share of their trips to work sitting in traffic than all but two other cities.

That means St. Louis car commuters aren’t encumbered much by other car commuters, just like in those car commercials.

But that doesn’t mean people in St. Louis are spending less time in their cars. Alex Ihnen at NextSTL points out that the region’s commuters are behind the wheel as much as ever, because they’re driving longer distances:

As congestion has declined in St. Louis, commute times grew.

Peak hour commuters spent an average of 289 hours behind the wheel in 2009, 36 hours more than in 1999 when congestion was significantly worse. The reason for longer commutes, even if that time is spent moving faster? Between 1950 and 2000, St. Louis’s urban population grew 48% while urban (developed) land area grew by more than 260%. Sprawl has meant longer transit trips as well. In 2008, MetroLink riders travelled an average of 7.3 miles per trip, 6th most in the country amongst light rail and metro rail transit systems (APTA).

At its worst, accidents, flooding, (a little rain, the sun in driver’s eyes, a hill) etc., can slow traffic to a crawl. More than a century ago, the horse car, the city’s first public transit vehicle, could average six miles an hour. An hour commute from downtown Kirkwood to downtown St. Louis would be an average of about 15 MPH. Today, the rush hour commute can often be about 40 minutes, or roughly 23 MPH.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Comeback City says Baltimore’s problem isn’t a bad economy, it’s sprawl. And Mobilizing the Region reports that Amtrak has a timeline and budget estimate for the Gateway project to improve rail access between New Jersey and Manhattan: 15 years and $24 billion.

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Transit Investments and the Failure of Randal O’Toole’s Short-Term Thinking

The Los Angeles Times' recent story about transit ridership ...

The Los Angeles Times has been making a recent dip in transit ridership out to be a devastating failure. Graph: LA Times

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a big story to the effect that the region’s major investments in transit are not paying off, since ridership has recently declined.

But there are a lot of problems with the paper’s analysis, which Streetsblog LA looked at last week. Jarrett Walker at Human Transit has also taken issue with how the LA Times published sweeping conclusions about long-term investments based on just a year or two of data.

When professional transit critic Randall O’Toole seized on the LA Times piece to characterize transit investment as wasteful, Walker put together an epic rebuttal.

The claim that transit ridership has peaked, Walker points out, relies on a dubious reading of the numbers:

When he tells us that ridership “peaked,” he’s confessing that he’s playing the “arbitrary starting year” game. To get the biggest possible failure story, he compares current ridership to a past year that he selected because ridership was especially high then. This is a standard way of exploiting the natural volatility of ridership to create exaggerated trends. Again, the Los Angeles Times article that got O’Toole going made a big deal out of how ridership is down since 1985 and 2006, without mentioning that ridership is up since 1989 and up since 2004 and 2011. Whether ridership is up or down depends on which past year you choose, which is to say, it’s about what story the writer wants to tell.

Read more…

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Designing City Streets to Suit 47 MPH Drivers Is a Recipe for Failure

On a road like St. Louis' Gravois Avenue, applying the highway standard 85th percentile rule to establish a speed limit is dangerous and damaging, says Alex Ihnen. Photo: NextSTL

On a street like St. Louis’ Gravois Avenue, applying the “85th percentile rule” will kill street life. Photo: NextSTL

Gravois Avenue is an important commercial street in St. Louis that also happens to be designated a state highway. It’s currently slated for a redesign, providing a huge opportunity to make the street work better for walking and biking.

But unfortunately the highway-like mentality of state transportation planners persists. Alex Ihnen at NextSTL reports that Missouri DOT is using highway design strategies, and the city of St. Louis is letting them get away with it. Instead of redesigning the street to work for city residents, Ihnen writes, MoDOT is looking at how fast people already drive, and making decisions to accommodate drivers who travel faster than 85 percent of other drivers:

If the city street in front of your home were posted with a 35MPH speed limit would you feel safe? If one of every seven vehicles on the street travelled faster than 47MPH would you be OK letting your children play on the sidewalk or cross the street?

St. Louis is creating dead zones in the city, places with no economic role, streets that decrease adjacent property value and hurt the city’s economy. City leaders are either unable or unwilling to serve the interests of the city and its residents…

Now, with MoDOT’s Gravois speed study, it’s more obvious that it’s time for the City of St. Louis to re-take ownership of its streets.

Read more…