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The Public Funds Sports Teams, But Teams Won’t Fund Transit to Games

Fans pack Metro train after a Nationals game. Photo: Wikipedia

Fans pack Metro train after a Nationals game. Photo: Wikipedia

Professional sports stadiums put a strain on transportation networks. While good transit service to games can lessen the traffic burden and help everyone get to sports venues more easily, this often imposes additional costs on transit agencies. Despite all the public subsidies pro sports teams receive, they rarely help pay for this service.

It doesn’t have to be this way, says Richard Layman at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space.

Layman reports that, of DC’s NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB teams, only the basketball and hockey arena has an agreement to pay WMATA for added transit service necessitated by games.

He writes:

The Washington Nationals have refused to put such an agreement in place, despite the city’s preference that they do so and the fact that the city is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the team’s stadium. The city didn’t put a provision for transit coverage in the contract so the Nationals, see no reason to do so.

The result, says Layman, is uneven transit service to and from games, which is frustrating for fans who can’t or don’t want to drive. It also puts the onus on WMATA to accommodate the teams — which, as Layman notes, may already benefit from taxpayer subsidies.

Layman recommends that cities include “transportation demand management requirements” in stadium contracts, and zone for stadium construction only in areas already served by transit.

Of course, many communities are so eager to get a team that transit service and station adjacency ends up being, at best, an afterthought.

For example, the Atlanta Braves baseball team is moving out of the city to the suburbs, to the Galleria district of Cobb County, located at the intersection of I-285 and I-75, which is an area not served at all by MARTA’s heavy rail transit system.

Elsewhere on the Network: Spacing Toronto tours rail stations that were built and never used, and TheCityFix looks at the growth of bike-share systems worldwide.

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Raise Your Kids in the Car, Says Stupefyingly Awful Web Site

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Want to talk to your kids? Stick them in the car.

That’s the word-for-word headline atop a recent post on Driving, a Canadian web site that also believes lowering speed limits in cities — you know, those places where kids and parents walk — is “an exercise in futility,” because drivers.

Both columns were penned by the same writer, Lorraine Sommerfeld, who among many other things suggests that “allowing” people to cross the street is a good way to teach courtesy. But the gist of her advice boils down to: “The family vehicle might be the single best place to talk to your kids, when you’re all held captive.”

Take it away, Family Friendly Cities:

While maintaining the attention of your child long enough to talk to them is a challenge for any parent, we shouldn’t be accepting of an environment built so poorly that we have to hold our children ‘captive’ in a car in order to talk to them.

Let’s ignore the fact that attempting to seriously engage your child in a thought provoking conversation is another distraction while hurdling a two ton piece of metal through space while risking the lives of others. Accepting that the car is the best place to engage, learn, and understand your child is disturbing … Children were meant to run, jump, play, or [engage in] just about any other form of movement that doesn’t include being restrained inside an automobile. The same can be said for how they learn about their environment and how, as parents, we teach, engage and converse with them.

Children learn nothing about the world at 30 mph. They cannot feel the world, they cannot smell it, and they certainly aren’t moving slow enough to experience all of its nuances. Unless a child’s parent happens to be a Picasso with words, talking to them about the world while captive in a car will do very little to expand their experiences with the real world.

We should probably add that health experts say car crashes are the leading cause of death for Canadian children. Auto collisions are a leading cause of child mortality in the U.S., with more than 9,000 kids age 12 and under killed in the last 10 years, according to the CDC. All things considered, it could be that rearing from the rearview mirror isn’t the best idea.

Elsewhere on the Network: The League of American Bicyclists has a new report on equity of access to cycling infrastructure, and nextSTL analyzes the difference between “urban” and “suburban” in St. Louis.

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Biking the Last Mile in Suburban Copenhagen

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: Google via Greater Greater Washington

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: GGW

Tooling around on Google, Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington stumbled on the above image from suburban Copenhagen.

What’s right with this picture? Note the (a) bike parking lot at the Friheden Street transit station, just across the (b) sidewalk from the (c) bike lane.

Writes Malouff:

One of the most important uses for bicycles is as a last mile tool, to get from one’s home to a transit station, or from a transit station to one’s final destination.

Anywhere you have a transit station with a lot of other buildings a mile or two away, bikes can help connect one to the other. That includes suburbs.

If you provide the necessary infrastructure, and treat bicycling like a serious option, people will use it.

Unlike central Copenhagen, which is dense and difficult to drive a car through, the area around Friheden Street is suburban and relatively low density. Actually it looks a lot communities around the Washington Beltway. [See Malouff’s post for images.]

I admit I’ve never been to Friheden Street. I’ve never even been to Denmark. Frankly I have no idea if it’s a pleasant community, or what the less desirable things about it may be. I’m sure there are trade-offs to it, compared to an American suburb.

But I happened to be on Google Earth looking at Copenhagen, which is famously a bike paradise, and wondered what its suburbs look like. I turned on Google’s transit layer and started looking at the areas around suburban stations. Friheden Street just happens to be one I zoomed in on.

And look at all those beautiful bike racks.

Elsewhere on the Network: Walkable West Palm Beach on why the Dutch don’t need helmets or high-viz clothing to bike (hint: it’s street design), and ATL Urbanist reports that someone on Twitter is trolling Atlanta.

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Jersey Pays Subaru to Bring Another Parking Crater to Downtown Camden

Camden, New Jersey, took home the 2015 Golden Crater award for the nastiest parking scar in the country, and it looks like state and local leaders aren’t about to let the city rest on its laurels.

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Joseph Russell at South Jerseyist reports that, thanks to over $100 million in tax breaks from Governor Chris Christie and the state legislature, Subaru is preparing to move its North American headquarters from nearby Cherry Hill to downtown Camden. Russell says the Subaru project was billed as “a game changer for the city” — a development that would bring jobs while revitalizing the downtown Gateway District. But the site plans, revealed last week, depict a low-rise office building surrounded by asphalt.

The plans call for a building shorter than the current headquarters in Cherry Hill. Brandywine Realty Trust, which has developed some wonderful buildings in Philadelphia, wants to build a squat suburban headquarters located in a sea of over 1,000 parking spaces.

From the perspective of those who thought, maybe, these tax breaks might actually lead to positive change in the city, as everyone working toward them has claimed, disappointment is the kindest word for what we are feeling. Devastation, bewilderment, and disgust are far more apt. This project could not be more disengaged from the city. Those parking spots guarantee that every single Subaru employee will drive in to work in the morning, stay on campus to eat lunch, and drive home at night. They will not interact with the city. Even if they wanted to, they are hardly given the chance. Employees would have to traverse a punishing sea of asphalt to get out of the suburban-style office park.

This plan, should it get built, will set the city back decades. Successful cities and towns all around the country are working to undo the harm caused by sprawling development. Here in New Jersey, office parks like this are going empty as people seek dynamic, urban environments to work in. What Subaru is doing here is guaranteeing that South Jersey will pay for the privilege of living in an increasingly obsolete development model, truly a dying past, for decades to come.

As for local access to jobs, Russell cites a Philadelphia Inquirer story by Inga Saffron, who points out that, though only 65 percent of Camden residents have access to cars, the Subaru site will be separated from the downtown transit hub by a mile-long walk along a “mini-highway.”

Elsewhere on the Network: The Political Environment says Milwaukee traffic congestion doesn’t justify spending billions on new roads, and Bike Delaware explains the problems with “Share the Road” signage.

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Detroit Riders Share Their Transit Horror Stories

Detroit’s transit system is in crisis.

The region’s fractious transit network was highlighted last year by the story of James Robertson — “Detroit’s walking man” — whose one-way, 23-mile commute consists of two bus routes and 10-plus miles of walking.

The Detroit region has been struggling to create a unified city-suburb regional transit agency for the last few years. Next year voters will be asked to approve a tax increase to ensure transit service in the region functions at a basic level again.

In the meantime, Detroiters who count on transit are suffering. Network blog We Are Mode Shift points to a new site, DitchedbyDDOT, where riders air their grievances. We’ve collected some of the more unbelievable examples below [emphasis ours]:

  • “More than 10, less than 15 people waiting for the Dexter 16, outbound. One says he’s been waiting so long his transfer expired. The bus scheduled to stop rolls past without stopping. It’s 6:15 pm and freezing.”
  • “During the ride, a fellow passenger got an angry call from what I assume was his boss. He pleaded with the man on the phone, saying that he had been waiting on the bus since 5:50 and would be there soon. From the way the other riders nodded their heads, I knew he wasn’t the only one. When the bus dropped me off downtown, the snow on the sidewalk was almost up to the parking meters. I walked the rest of the way to work in the street.”

Read more…

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Louisville Police Officer Strikes Pedestrian During City’s Big Safety Push

Louisville's three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called "Look Alive Louisville." Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville’s three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called “Look Alive Louisville.” Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville is trying to get a handle on pedestrian safety. An average of 16 pedestrians are killed on the city’s streets annually, and the last few years have been getting worse. The city has received funding from the federal government for a three-year safety campaign dubbed “Look Alive Louisville.”

Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk has been running a series about the initiative. While the objective is admirable, so far the city’s tactics are a mixed bag at best. Law enforcement has been ticketing pedestrians for “jaywalking” and warning them about the dangers of dark clothing. On a more positive note, some of the messaging is aimed at drivers, and Dixie Highway, where 20 percent of collisions involving pedestrians occur, is due for a design “do-over.”

In the midst of the campaign, Klayko reports, an off-duty police office struck a pedestrian — an incident the encapsulates, in some ways, how “Look Alive Louisville” comes up short:

One of five dangerous target intersections being watched by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) as part of the city’s Look Alive Louisville pedestrian safety campaign is at Fourth Street and Broadway. On Monday night one block west, a pedestrian was struck by an off-duty LMPD officer who failed to yield to the unnamed person crossing Broadway in a crosswalk.

Read more…

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“Places I Don’t Want to Sit” — A Gallery of Sad Public Spaces

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns says this gazebo in an office park parking lot is a great example of a terrible public space.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns is gathering a collection of terrible public spaces, like this gazebo in a parking lot.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns has tapped into something universal with her post “Places I Don’t Want to Sit.” The above photo sums it up nicely: lousy, leftover spaces with public amenities grafted on as an afterthought. Since the whole surrounding parking lot is so hostile to people, why would anyone want to sit there?

There’s an epidemic of sad spaces like this in America, she says. How are we getting it so wrong and what would it take to get it right?

We live in cities starved for good public space. There are so few spots in North America where you can sit comfortably (ie. safe, shaded, with a good perch/chair) and enjoy the city around you with zero expectation of spending money. It’s a fact made more tragic when you realize how simple and cheap it can be to create wonderfully sittable space. Instead, many of our highest-potential urban environments are built to explicitly un-sittable standards using defensive architecture.

Other times, we do try to create linger-worthy public space and fail spectacularly. We often demand developers throw some cash toward green space or public amenities in order to get approval for construction. You see it all the time in subdivisions with exquisite landscaping, roundabouts, and benches that are only appreciated from behind a car window.

Read more…

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When DOT Refuses to Acknowledge That Its Streets Have a Design Problem

The intersection of North College and Ninth Street is the third-most dangerous in Charlotte. The city DOT will only consider tiny, cosmetic changes. Image: Google Maps via Naked City

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Mary Newsom at the Naked City has a classic story about a dangerous street in desperate need of a design overhaul, and a DOT that’s only willing to try out tiny, cosmetic changes.

Charlotte is out with its annual list of high-crash intersections, and not for the first time, the most dangerous locations are predominantly on wide, one-way streets like North College Street. When Newsom suggested to Charlotte DOT a few years back that the design of these streets is causing problems, an engineer told her that changing the configuration of College Street is not on the table:

Engineer Debbie Self, in charge of CDOT’s traffic and pedestrian safety programs, pointed out in 2013 that of the 150 intersections in uptown Charlotte, the majority involve at least one one-way street and most are not on the high-accident list. About North College Street in particular, in 2013, Self wrote:

“College Street in the areas of 7th, 8th & 9th Streets has been on the HAL [high accident list] for many years. It’s been hard to pin point a single underlying cause. Angle crashes account for about half of the crashes at College and 7th, 8th and 9th. CDOT will likely consider reflective back plates at the signals as a mitigation given our successful reduction in crashes at 5th/Caldwell.” [CDOT had attributed the 2013 decline in accidents at Fifth and Caldwell to the installation of the back plates.]

Newsom writes that tinkering on the margins is increasingly inadequate given the growing foot traffic around North College Street:

Read more…

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What’s the Actual Cost of Amtrak’s Trans-Hudson Gateway Project?

Five years after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spiked the ARC transit tunnel to redirect money to roads, politicians are finally discussing how to go about upgrading rail capacity between Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, currently limited to a pair of century-old tunnels under the Hudson River. But just about every announcement related to the proposed Gateway Project comes with a different price tag.

rail_tunnels

Amtrak needs to be clear about how much it will cost to upgrade transit capacity between Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey, currently limited to these 100-year-old tunnels, and what’s included in the package. Photo: NJ Transit via Second Avenue Sagas

Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations says it’s time for clarity.

[E]ach time Gateway is the news, there usually seems to be a fresh cost escalation. Is it a $10 billion project? A $14 billion project? A $16 billion project? Or a $25 billion project? And what is included exactly? Amtrak does not make it clear what the various items are and how much they cost; I have not seen a single cost estimate that attempts to establish a baseline for new Hudson tunnels without the Penn Station South component, which would provide a moderate short-term boost to capacity but is not necessary for the project. The articles I’ve seen do not explain the origin of the $25 billion figure, either; it may include the tunnel and full four-tracking of Newark-New York, or it may include additional scope, for example Amtrak’s planned vertical circulation for a future (unnecessary) deep cavern for high-speed rail (see picture here).

Against this background, we see scare stories that Gateway must be built for reasons other than capacity and ridership. The old tunnels are falling apart, and Amtrak would like to shut them down one track at the time for long-term repairs. The more mundane reality is that the tunnels have higher maintenance costs than Amtrak would like since each track can only be shut down for short periods, on weekends and at night. This is buried in technical documents that don’t give the full picture, and don’t give differential costs for continuing the present regime of weekend single-tracking versus the recommended long-term closures. The given cost for Sandy-related North River Tunnel repairs is $350 million, assuming long-term closures, and it’s unlikely the present regime is billions of dollars more expensive.

Read more…

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Safe Streets Pioneer Deb Hubsmith Has Died

Today the Streetsblog Network is mourning Deb Hubsmith, who died this week at age 45.

Deb-HubsmithDeb founded the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a nationwide program that is saving the lives of children endangered by reckless drivers.

If you’ve advocated for or cared about safer streets in the last 10 to 15 years, chances are you’re aware of or have been influenced by Deb’s work, even if you don’t know it.

From the League of American Bicyclists:

She dedicated her career to bicycling and walking advocacy at the local, state and national levels.

She began her advocacy as the founding executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, where she helped develop the county’s Safe Routes to School pilot program. She championed the nation’s first statewide Safe Routes to School program in California and also a nationwide program, which passed the U.S. Congress and resulted in more than $1 billion for Safe Routes to School programs across the country.

She also brought the Safe Routes to School National Partnership from an all-volunteer organization to a coalition with 750 partners, 30 staff and a $3 million budget.

Deb was director of the partnership for nine years. You can read the partnership’s tribute here.