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Sizing Up Target’s New Down-Sized Urban Stores


The site of the new Target in Rosslyn, Virginia. Photo: Dan Malouff

Love ’em or hate ’em, big box stores are shrinking their footprints in an effort to fit into city locations.

Target just opened its fourth store in the DC area, and Dan Malouff at Beyond DC scoped it out:

A miniature Target is now open in Rosslyn, occupying the ground floor of an office tower. At less than a sixth the size of a typical suburban Target, it shows how retailers are adapting to America’s increasingly urban reality.

The store had a soft opening last week, and an official opening Sunday. At 23,000 square feet, it’s about the size of a large Trader Joe’s, or a small Safeway. It’s minuscule compared to normal Target stores, which often top 150,000 square feet.

And yet, it’s got a little of everything, just like a normal Target.

A few years ago, when I lived in a Ballston high rise, I’d have killed to have a Target on the Orange Line. The only department stores I had easy access to were the Macy’s in Ballston and downtown DC. And, for a recent college grad spending way too much on housing, Macy’s wasn’t in my budget for housewares.

Malouff points out that other suburban retailers are nosing into the city too:

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A Conservative Case for Truck Tolls

Republican lawmakers in Rhode Island are trying to pay for roads and bridges without new tolls on trucks.

"The real welfare Cadillacs have 18 wheels," says conservative blog Strong Towns. Photo: Transport PVD

“The real welfare Cadillacs have 18 wheels,” says Strong Towns. Photo: Transport PVD

James Kennedy at Transport Providence is wondering what’s so conservative about giving a free pass to the interests that inflict the most damage on roads, since everyone else will have to pay instead:

One way we can assess the usefulness of a piece of infrastructure is to think of how much it costs, how much wealth it produces, and what people are willing to pay for it. Anti-tollers are saying that the price they’ve set is zero.

People will respond that we pay for roads through gas taxes. That’s only partially true. Road infrastructure is paid for in this country through a variety of means, and only about half of road cost is covered by gas taxes. That is both a function of the gas tax being low, and our spending being too high.

Gas taxes also have the fault of charging higher fees to users of local roads, and then essentially turning much of their funding over to highways, interchanges, and bridges. This is one reason tolls make sense: assigning a cost to going on a particular piece of infrastructure is more optimal than having a kind of gas tax slush fund that RIDOT can use at its discretion. The tolling requires, by federal law, that those bridges that are tolled are the only ones that can be paid for. This is truly GOP thinking if ever there was such a thing.

Tolls also make sense because they charge the users that use the most, in terms of weight. The proposal to toll trucks comes in the face of the fact that a single truck does 10,000 as much damage to roads and bridges as one car.

All sorts of scare tactics have come forward about the effect of tolls. It’s true, in a matter-of-fact sense, that truckers will try — to the extent that the market allows — to pass the cost of tolls on to consumers. But not to toll is also to pass that cost, just through some other means.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike PGH reports that air pollution levels on neighborhood streets dropped dramatically during an open streets event. And Seattle Bike Blog has an update on the city’s efforts to encourage biking and walking to school.
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County Gov Bullies Missouri Town Into Abandoning a Safer Main Street

Local residents described Main Street in O’Fallon, Missouri, as “ugly,” “outdated,” and “old” in a series of meetings earlier this year.

Main Street in O'Fallon, Missouri via Missouri BIke Fed

Main Street in O’Fallon, Missouri. Photo via Missouri Bike Fed

Officials responded with a plan to redesign the road to make it safer and more inviting for pedestrians: a road diet. Scores of American cities have used this design treatment to calm traffic and make commercial districts more walkable, preventing injuries and deaths in the process.

Who could have a problem with that? Well, St. Charles County. The county government has decided to intervene, usurping the authority of the local government. Brent Hugh at the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation explains:

This is, frankly, one of the most unbelievable scenarios we have seen in many years of advocacy for better communities for walking and bicycling. The city, which is close to the situation and knows its own needs, had gone through a detailed planning process for improving its main street. The process included public meetings, interviews, and many other forms of public outreach to find out what O’Fallon citizens and businesses really want and need from the project.

After all of that, the County — without doing any similar research or public outreach — stepped in and, attempting to exercise bald political power, issued a threat: If the city goes through with its citizen-supported plan, the County will withhold $2.5 million in funding from the city.

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How Engineers Deflect Criticism of Their Dangerous Designs

As people who’ve tried to make their neighborhood streets safer for walking and biking can tell you, engineers are amazingly adept at shutting down dissent.

Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns — an engineer himself — knows the drill inside out (it inspired this classic animation from 2010). In a new post, he explains:

Transportation engineers can be intimidating. They are hard to oppose. When a member of the general public shows up at local meeting to express concern over a project — for example, their quiet local street being widened as if it were a highway — they more often than not find themselves verbally outgunned by the project engineer.

There are a handful of ways engineers deflect criticism. Chief among them is to resort to quoting industry standards. Having a huge budget and all the clout that comes with it doesn’t hurt either. There are, however, a number of reliable threads that I’ve heard engineers use time and again.

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Are Streets Full of Traffic Good for Elderly People?

Following an eye-opening three-day experience with a car-free center city — a byproduct of Pope Francis’s visit — many Philadelphia residents are beating the drum for more large open streets events to provide some relief from traffic.

Joseph Martin, an engineering professor at Drexel University, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that open streets events would cause traffic outside the zone. Photo: Haverford School District via This Old City

Drexel University’s Joseph Martin, open streets curmudgeon. Photo: Haverford School District via This Old City

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer story explored the idea, and playing the role of curmudgeon was Joseph Martin, an engineering professor at Drexel University who gave some rather feeble reasons why another big open streets event in Philadelphia would be a total disaster.

Patrick Miner responds to Martin at This Old City:

When Martin does get around to remotely substantive assertions, they’re focused on scaring people into opposing Open Streets – dramatic traffic jams! stranded elderly relatives! – rather than making a serious case that the logistics are unworkable.

First, while seniors are the most vulnerable to being killed by cars while crossing the street legally (see pg. 25) – and may have the most to gain from car-free streets – it is true that restricting vehicle access could cause a temporary inconvenience to the small minority of people who have no other choice but to use a car in city neighborhoods on Sunday mornings.

The idea that this is an insurmountable obstacle to hosting Open Streets, however, is ridiculous. It barely takes an engineer to devise a scheme in which people can walk freely while simultaneously making arrangements for the few people who truly need vehicle access to their homes.

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Is This a Downtown Street or a Surface Highway?

These plans for roads new downtown Indianapolis aren't much of an improvement for pedestrians. Image: Urban Indy

This is the plan for West Street in a part of Indianapolis that’s supposedly becoming more pedestrian-friendly. Image: Urban Indy

Indianapolis recently decided to convert two downtown streets — West New York and West Michigan — from one-way speedways to calmer, two-way streets. The changes should help make the city’s downtown campus area more walkable, but now it looks like the city is compensating for those traffic changes by turning another street — West Street — into even more of a surface highway.

Joe Smoker at Urban Indy was expecting that “with all of the energy devoted to pedestrian improvements, connectivity and safety, we would see the great way in which DPW is creating a more functional West Street to tie into the work on New York and Michigan.” Instead, he writes, the city is not actually tackling its legacy of creating “a confusing and frustrating one-way web of high-speed streets through our urban core.”

The plan for West Street calls for widening it so it can continue to serve as a feeder road to the interstate — and a barrier to walking. Smoker walks us through the design:

Check out this traffic pattern. The two dedicated left turn lanes on West, the ones that started at New York Street, cross over the south bound lanes of West Street creating a block long contraflow leading to an otherwise unrestricted inside turn, always works out great as a human or someone traveling by bike. The landscape medians, the small signs that life exists in this area, are otherwise obliterated and replaced with…umm…red area. Automobiles traveling southbound become the middle lanes of a traffic engineer’s boyhood dream. After getting through that mess, you will notice that we are introduced to a dedicated right turn lane from vehicles traveling east on New York Street to Southbound West Street. Don’t worry, DPW made sure it was a wide enough turn that cars need not hesitate as they motor through. Another item that always works out well for humans.

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San Diego Planners Envision a Future With More Driving

When it comes to forward-looking transportation and planning policy, California is out in front of other states, with legislation that requires regional agencies to incorporate carbon reduction goals into their transportation plans. But not all regions are up to the challenge.

Gary Gallegos, head of San Diego's regional planning organization, SANDAG. Photo: Bike SD via SANDAG

Gary Gallegos, head of San Diego’s regional planning organization. Photo: Bike SD via SANDAG

San Diego seems to be having a hard time mustering the political will to adapt, as evidenced in this 2014 quote from Gary Gallegos, head of regional planning organization SANDAG.

We are not going to put everybody on a bike, we are not going to take everybody out of their car, transit is not going to work for every person in the region.

In a recent post, Sam Ollinger at Bike SD says SANDAG’s long term plans, which are up for a vote next week, set the stage for a future with more driving:

SANDAG’s own analysis shows an increase in vehicle miles traveled between now and 2050, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis goes on to state that in order to meet the state goals of reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, SANDAG needs to encourage “more compact development than a multiple dense cores scenario, further substantial increases in the cost of driving, and further substantial transit service improvements.”

This same document by SANDAG staff discusses induced demand, in that increasing roadway capacity induces driving (and thus more greenhouse gas emissions). The document also points out that congestion is good because it “may then lead to longer trips and a change in mode.” Between 2012 and 2050, SANDAG’s own analysis shows that they are planning to increase freeway capacity by an additional 1,757 miles of freeways…

To summarize, SANDAG’s own plan won’t meet the governor’s order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG continues to build freeways and increase road capacity for drivers while failing to push for either a means to pay for driving use or provide an alternative that would induce San Diegans to shift travel modes.

Elsewhere on the Network today: All Aboard Ohio reports that if Cleveland doesn’t get an influx of cash, all or part of its rail system, which carries 40,000 daily riders, may have to be shut down. Cyclelicious reports that a Sacramento television station seems to be blaming the death of a cyclist on the state’s 3-foot passing law. And the Tri-State Transportation Campaign laments that highway projects aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as transit projects.
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In Oakland, a “Green Street” That Doesn’t Live Up to Its Name

Harrison Street in downtown Oakland is a barrier for pedestrians. Unfortunately, even after a "Green Streets" makeover, it will mostly stay that way, says Ralph Jacobson. Photo: Google Streetview via GJEL Accident Attorneys

Harrison Street in downtown Oakland cuts people off from the lakefront. Even after a “Green Streets” makeover, it will mostly stay that way. Photo: Google Streetview via GJEL Accident Attorneys

Downtown Oakland is growing and changing. Earlier this year, Mayor Libby Schaaf said it’s time for the city to “re-envision our roads.” That’s easier said than done, however, and it looks like Oakland is about to blow its chance to re-envision a major downtown street.

Ralph Jacobson at GJEL Accident Attorneys blog takes a close look at plans for Harrison Street, which runs along Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. Voters approved a measure intended to improve the downtown waterfront area, and while several of the resulting projects have been quite admirable, Jacobson says Harrison Street will remain a dangerous barrier between downtown and the lake:

The existing highway design of Harrison Street predates Oakland’s freeway system. Harrison was widened to six lanes in the 1930s, and widened again to eight lanes in the 1950s during the construction of the Kaiser Center to accommodate projected traffic growth (filling in part of Lake Merritt in the process, as shown in the image below). However, this traffic never materialized: freeway construction rendered the eight lane highway obsolete, and it has remained half-empty over the past sixty years.

Local planners have missed a prime opportunity to correct past mistakes, Jacobson says:

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How Portland (Maine) Pairs Car-Share With Parking Reform

Is your city skittish about reducing parking minimums? Here’s one way to ease people into the idea that new buildings shouldn’t be forced to include lots of parking along with housing, and it comes from Portland — Maine.

The expanding number of places you can pick up a shared car in Portand, Maine. Image: Rights of Way

Portand, Maine’s car-share fleet is growing as its parking mandates shrink. Image: Rights of Way

Network blog Rights of Way reports that this city of 66,000 pairs the reduction of parking mandates with the expansion of car-share. C Neal MilNeil writes:

It’s hard to believe, but UhaulCarShare has been operating in Portland for over six years now.

They started with four cars parked near Monument Square and the ferry terminal.

As of this fall, they’ve doubled the local fleet to 8 cars and expanded into South Portland with a car parked at the Southern Maine Community College campus.

A lot of UhaulCarShare’s success here comes from a helpful new reform of parking rules in the city’s zoning requirements. For the last few years now, city planners have allowed a reduction in developers’ expensive parking-construction mandates if the developers agree to sponsor a carsharing vehicle on-site.

Several new apartment buildings have taken advantage of this incentive, most recently Avesta Housing’s 409 Cumberland Avenue apartment block, which built only 18 basement parking spaces for its 57 new apartment units and sponsored a new UhaulCarShare vehicle to be parked on-site. This arrangement benefits everyone: reduced construction costs for the developers, reduced housing costs and more mobility options for residents, and a more convenient carsharing network for neighbors.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland reports from Mayor Charlie Hales’ bike commute yesterday, his fourth Monday in a row riding to work. Urban Review STL photo blogs the experience of navigating the way to St. Louis’s new Ikea store by wheelchair. And Plan Philly wonders if SEPTA should provide all the city’s students with discount transit passes.
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The Cafe Table Test — What Outdoor Seating Tells Us About Places

You can tell a lot about a place by its outdoor seating. So says Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist, who compares a sidewalk in Atlanta where cafe seating looks inviting to a place where it essentially fails.

In downtown Atlanta, outdoor seating is natural and inviting. Photo: ATL Urbanist

In downtown Atlanta, the outdoor seating is inviting. Photo: ATL Urbanist

The first photo he shares is from Broad Street in downtown Atlanta:

Most every weekday afternoon office workers, GSU students and even a residents like me all descend on the restaurants here. Many people have their lunch on the inviting sidewalk cafe tables al fresco style.

This is the kind of street-level activity you can find in many cities wherever there are buildings that predate cars (the ones in the background above date to the 1880s). Having these tables and people and stores all together serves as a type of signifier of urban vibrancy. You look at this and think, “yep, this is what a city is supposed to look like.” It looks alive.

Darin compares that scene with a Starbucks on Howell Mill Road in Northwest Atlanta:

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