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Owners of Big Parking Lots Have to Pay More in Northeast Ohio

This big box center will be charged almost $11,000 a quarter. Image: NE Ohio Sewer District

This big box center will be charged about $44,000 a year for its parking lot. Image: NE Ohio Sewer District

Impermeable surfaces like parking lots are terrible for the environment in several ways, including the water pollution that results when stormwater runoff causes sewer systems to overflow. In Ohio, the state’s highest court recently upheld a fee on parking lots to help mitigate the damage to water quality.

Greater Cleveland, like a lot of older cities, was ordered by the EPA to fix its sewer infrastructure to prevent raw sewage from being dumped into Lake Erie every time it rains. It’s a not a cheap task, so it’s good to see the culprits will have to pony up to help cover the costs.

Marc Lefkowitz at Green City Blue Lake looks at who will pay what. The fees aren’t huge, when you consider how much it already costs to build and operate a large parking lot, but they shift incentives in the right direction:

Curious, we looked at some of the properties — the kind that you can easily pick out from a satellite image — and snooped at what they’ll have to shell out on a quarterly basis for their profligate parking lots and acres of operation centers.

Read more…

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Take a Moment to Appreciate the Absolute Enormity of This Interchange

Louisville's new "Ohio River Bridges" Interchange, right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: Ohio River Bridges project

Louisville’s new and expanded “Spaghetti Junction,” right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: The Ohio River Bridges Project

Every once in a while you have to step back and gape at the sheer scale of the highway interchanges America has built smack in the middle of our cities.

Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk is taking a moment to do just that with Louisville’s Spaghetti Junction, between downtown and the waterfront. This giant interchange is being expanded as part of the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, after wealthy suburban property owners and Kentucky’s highway industrial complex squashed a grassroots effort to reclaim the Louisville waterfront from cars.

Klayko says a whole city neighborhood could just about fit inside the footprint of this one interchange:

When you’re zooming through Spaghetti Junction for most of the day when there’s no traffic, it might seem like the tangle of highway ramps isn’t really that big. Or if you’re stuck in construction traffic, it might seem like it never ends. Speed has a way of distorting our sense of distance.

The Downtown Crossing segment of the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) recently shared these aerial views of the junction taken this spring by HDR Engineering, and it’s apparent you could fit a large chunk of Downtown Louisville within the bounds of the highway.

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When Homeowners Near Good Transit Refuse to Share the Neighborhood

This video from the Minneapolis-based satirical site Wedge LIVE sends up the not-in-my-backyard resistance to infill development that could help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing affecting a growing number of American cities.

Anton Schieffer at Streets.mn says the neighborhood where the much-feared 10-unit rental building would be built makes perfect sense as an area to focus new development. It’s close to downtown and has good transit access.

Schieffer says he was “surprised by the amount of vitriol” from nearby homeowners against this rather modest project. Casting themselves as opponents of gentrification, they’re actually perpetuating the lack of affordable housing options in the city, he writes:

Nowhere is the upward trend on property values more apparent than in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood, where land values often exceed the value of the structure on the property. One recent example is at 2008 Bryant Ave S., where a developer purchased a duplex for $275,000 near Franklin and Hennepin for the purpose of tearing it down to build a 10-unit apartment building. Nearby neighbors showed up at the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee to rail against the project…

Many who showed up to speak against this apartment project are nearby homeowners, who obviously have no use for an apartment building since they do not rent. Many of them have invested a lot of money to live in large single-family homes in this neighborhood. That’s fine, as a diversity of housing stock is healthy for a neighborhood.

But when a single-family home is on a lot where many people could live but do not, we need to acknowledge this fact: amid the cries of gentrification from well off homeowners, it’s these houses, not new apartments, which are luxury housing. It is a luxury to live in a 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom 3,000 square foot house, especially one that is close to downtown and in a safe and walkable neighborhood. I don’t begrudge it, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But it should be acknowledged.

Elsewhere on the Network today: PubliCola looks at how the two Democratic presidential candidates are faring in different cities. Spacing‘s Dylan Reid highlight areas he calls “safe crossing deserts,” where pedestrians have to make long detours to find a signalized crosswalk. And Plan Charlotte considers how Charlotte can apply lessons from former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her new book, Street Fight.

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Around Houston, a Million People Want to Live in a Walkable Place But Don’t

harris_county

About half of Harris County residents want to live in a walkable area, according to the Kinder Institute’s survey, but 37 percent of those people report that they don’t live in one. Image via Urban Edge

Every so often someone (usually Joel Kotkin) tries to make the case that the rapid growth of Houston, as opposed to say, Chicago, is evidence that Americans love sprawl.

There’s no question that Americans are moving to the Houston region in incredible numbers. But there are parts of Houston that are compact and walkable. And the fact is, there aren’t enough of those places to go around, according to a survey from Rice University’s Kinder Institute [PDF].

At the Kinder Institute’s Urban Edge blog, Ryan Holeywell explains:

Fifty percent of respondents said they’d prefer “a smaller home in a more urbanized area, within walking distance of shops and workplaces.” Meanwhile, 49 percent preferred “a single-family home with a big yard, where you would need to drive almost everywhere you want to go.”

The good news is the county is large enough — nearly 1,800 square miles — that there’s something for everyone here.

But the bad news is that a deeper dive into the data reveals that many Houston-area residents aren’t living in the type of housing they say they’d prefer. And the problem is particularly acute for those who say they want to live in a walkable, urban area.

Read more…

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Drain the Great Lakes to Fuel Sprawl? Not So Fast

Governors of the states surrounding the Great Lakes are considering a water policy case with big implications for land development throughout the Midwest.

If Waukesha gets its way, Great Lakes water would enable more sprawling greenfield development like “Pabst Farms.” Photo: Pabst Farms

Waukesha, Wisconsin, a sprawling suburban area outside Milwaukee, has exhausted its water resources. Rather than cooperate with the city of Milwaukee to secure water, Waukesha spent years preparing an application to divert water from Lake Michigan. Waukesha needs permission from the states and provinces that signed the Great Lakes Compact, a 2008 agreement to protect the world’s largest freshwater source from being pillaged.

James Rowen at the Political Environment has been following the case for years. He says at least one aspect of Waukesha’s application — the part that would use Lake Michigan water to fuel more sprawling greenfield development — looks DOA:

Decision-making officials from eight Great Lakes states and advisers from two Canadian provinces reviewing Waukesha’s request for a precedent-setting diversion of water from Lake Michigan — an application that took years to write and large sums of staff and consulting time to prepare, and which Scott Walker’s DNR had said was up to snuff — have chopped from the application the so-called expanded service territory beyond Waukesha’s municipal borders and into neighboring communities which had bumped up the diversion’s daily demand and its underlying controversy.

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Tell the Feds: Don’t Turn City Streets Into Highways

Will the Obama administration prod state DOTs to abandon the destructive practice of widening roads and highways, or will it further entrench policies that have hollowed out cities and towns, increased traffic and car dependence, and made America a world leader in carbon pollution?

Should state transportation departments be encouraged to speed cars through a street like Broadway in downtown Nashville the same way they would a more rural highway? New federal rules might. Photo: Google Maps via T4A

New federal rules threaten to give state DOTs more license to treat urban streets like Broadway in downtown Nashville like highways. Photo: Google Maps via T4A

That’s what’s hanging in the balance as U.S. DOT opens public comments on its newly released “performance measures” that states will use to assess their transportation policies. The rules proposed by DOT take the same basic approach to traffic congestion that American transportation agencies have taken since the 1950s — a strategy that usually concludes more asphalt is the answer. And they don’t do much of anything to address greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s important to weigh in and tell the feds that the draft rules need to change, says Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America:

There’s a direct connection between how we decide to measure [congestion] and how we choose to address it. If we focus, as this rule does, on keeping traffic moving at a high rate of speed at all times of day on all types of roads and streets, then the result is easy to predict: our solutions will prioritize the investments that make that possible, regardless of cost vs. benefits or the potential impacts on the communities those roads pass through.

USDOT plans to measure vehicle speed and delay seven different ways, while ignoring people carpooling, taking transit, walking & biking or skipping the trip entirely.

A host of people and groups from all across the map, including T4America, have already explained in detail how a singular focus on delay for drivers paints an incredibly one-dimensional picture of congestion. Focusing on average delay by simply measuring the difference between rush hour speeds compared to free-flow 3 a.m. traffic fails to count everyone else commuting by other modes, rewards places with fast travel speeds at the expense of places with shorter commutes and less time spent behind the wheel overall, and completely ignores how many people are actually moving through the corridor.

By reinforcing the old approach to congestion, U.S. DOT’s rule could give states more license to widen main streets in urban areas, Davis writes:

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Fake Jaywalking Tickets for Kids: A Sad Reflection of Our Awful Streets

Who is responsible for the safety of kids on the street?

The question of how to keep kids safe on Louisville's dangerous roads is a thorny one. Photo: Bike Louisville

Street safety is your responsibility, kids. Get used to the idea of paying a fine for walking! Photo: Bike Louisville

In Louisville, where the pedestrian fatality rate is higher than average, a city agency called Bike Louisville will be using grant funds on a safety education program that issues fake jaywalking citations to kids.

Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk says the program may be well-intentioned but there has to be a smarter way to spend that money:

According to Bike Louisville’s grant application, “The classes will teach our youth to walk and bicycle defensively, to anticipate dangerous situations, and to react appropriately.”

And that has been sparking controversy in online forums.

Louisville’s streets are deadly, built with the sole purpose of moving cars rapidly, and the city ranks above the national average for pedestrian fatalities — it’s not easy for anyone outside of a car to get around. We’re not going to educate our pedestrians out of our street safety problem. And even the most defensive walker is still no match for a distracted driver.

Read more…

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Philly Mayor: Tax Soda to Pay for Bikeways

Here’s an idea whose time has come: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed a tax on soda and other sugary drinks that contribute to obesity and poor health, and using the money to pay for public improvements, including bike trails.

Photo: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

The soda tax was first proposed by Kenney’s predecessor, Michael Nutter, who encountered fierce opposition from beverage companies. (Interestingly, the publicity from that had the effect of reducing soda consumption anyway, the New York Times reported.)

At the rate things are going, up to 40 percent of Americans will develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. Soda taxes and active transportation infrastructure are a great prescription for changing that trajectory. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has more on how the policy will work:

Mayor Kenney has proposed a far-reaching precedent-setting tax on sugary drinks to raise $400 million for several very worthy programs, including universal pre-K, community schools, retro-fitting City-owned buildings to make them more energy efficient, and paying down the pension debt.

It will also go toward capitalizing a new $300 million bond fund, called Rebuild Philadelphia, to pay for the repair and upgrade of dozens of City recreation centers, libraries, and parks. Rebuild Philadelphia will infuse make badly needed new capital dollars to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) for its capital projects.

This means that Rebuild Philadelphia will make more funding available for trail development, which is good news for Circuit Trails. PPR and other development corporation agency partners, such as Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Manayunk Development Corporation, Delaware River City Corporation and Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, all work on developing trails such as the Schuylkill River Trail, the Central and North Delaware River trail, the East Coast Greenway, the Tacony Creek Trail, the Cresheim Trail, and others.

The Bicycle Coalition is asking readers to sign this petition to support the mayor’s initiative, or testify at a public hearing early next month [PDF].

Elsewhere on the Network today: Columbus Underground shares a some big ideas for better transit in Ohio’s capital city. The Urbanist reports that Seattle is scaling back plans to expand its bike network. And Beyond DC posts a succinct little animated GIF showing the vicious cycle of road widening and increased congestion known as “induced demand.”

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Schools, Streets, and the Deadly Negligence of State DOTs

A 7-year-old girl was killed on this road Saturday night while trying to walk to a father-daughter dance. Image: Google Maps

On Missouri’s Highway 109 Saturday night, a driver struck and killed a 7-year-old girl who was walking to a father-daughter dance. Image: Google Maps

Here is a truly heartbreaking story about the price we pay for prioritizing cars over people on our streets.

This weekend in St. Louis County, a turning driver struck and killed 7-year-old Rachel Bick on Highway 109. She was trying to cross the street on her way to a father-daughter dance at Babler Elementary.

As Richard Bose at Next STL writes, this wasn’t an unforeseeable incident. The Missouri Department of Transportation treats Highway 109 like a space only for cars, even though it separates two elementary schools. It’s not coincidence, says Bose, that MoDOT roads like this are frequent scenes of carnage:

The highway was built as a road — meant to move cars quickly between places. It’s being turned into a stroad (video) as development occurs along it. A stroad tries to function as both a road and a street and fails at both. A stroad environment is predictably dangerous. The highway has no pedestrian safety features at the site of Saturday’s tragedy, not even quite affordable paint. The nearest traffic light is about 500 ft away and the nearest marked crosswalk is 1000 ft away. We can’t expect anyone to walk that far to cross Highway 109.

Read more…

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Louisville’s New Goal: Reduce Driving

Image: Move Louisville via Broken Sidewalk

Louisville isn’t known as a transit-rich, bikeable city, but it is drafting a blueprint to change that. Move Louisville, the region’s new long-term transportation plan, envisions a future with less driving and more active transportation.

Currently, 82 percent of the region’s residents drive to work, higher than the national average of 76 percent, and higher than peer cities like Cincinnati (72 percent). Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk reports that regional policy makers have coalesced around a step-by-step plan to reduce Louisville’s dependence on driving:

“Move Louisville takes a holistic approach to our transportation system,” Mayor Fischer said at the plan’s unveiling. He said the city’s existing transportation system is valued at $5 billion, making it an asset worth maintaining—one of the city’s main talking points. “We have two top priorities,” the Mayor continued. “The first we call ‘Fix it First.’ That is fixing our existing infrastructure so we can maintain what works best. The second is reducing the number of miles that Louisvillians drive. We’ll do that by increasing the number of mobility options.”

And the mayor plans to reduce the vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in Louisville by a significant number. In Jefferson County in 2014, motorists travelled over 7 billion miles—that’s enough miles to travel to the moon and back 15,211 times. The equals out to more than 19,178,082 miles each day (42 trips to the moon and back). Move Louisville suggests a reduction in VMT by roughly one trip to the moon and back—500,000 miles—or 2.6 percent or the daily miles driven in Louisville. But over a year those miles add up: a daily 500,000 mile reduction equates to 182,500,000 miles (397 trips to the moon and back). That’s not pocket change.

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