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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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Today’s Headlines

  • Allegations Against de Blasio of Campaign Finance Misdeeds Are Mounting (NYT, Politico, News)
  • More Cuomo Meddling in MTA Management — What Could Go Wrong? (WSJ)
  • Shocker: Consultants Hired By City Hall Find BQX Streetcar “Reasonable” (Politico)
  • Design-Build Contracts Cut Construction Costs, But They’re Illegal for Most NY Projects (Crain’s)
  • DOT Shells Out to Accommodate Large Trucks, More Traffic By Hutchinson Metro Center (BxTimes)
  • Ydanis: Next Year’s Car-Free Day Will Be Bigger (News)
  • Red Light Running Driver Slams Into Church Van, Injuring 6, Then Flees (CBS2News)
  • Blossom Avenue and Main Street in Flushing Is a Dangerous Intersection in Need of Change (QChron)
  • David King: Penn Station Can Be Fixed Without Building a New One From the Ground Up (News)
  • The Times’ Guide for Beginner Cyclists in NYC
  • People You Share the Road With (NewsPost)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Seaman Ave. Has a Bike Lane and Sharrows, But It’s Still a Speedway

… and looking north, where the northbound bike lane turns to sharrows. Driver 1 is backing down the street for parking. Driver 2 is about to make a U turn. Photos: Brad Aaron

Seaman Avenue and W. 215th St., looking north, where the northbound bike lane turns to sharrows. Driver 1 is backing down the street for parking. Driver 2 is about to make a U turn.

The thermoplast is down on the new northbound Seaman Avenue bike lane — but it’s really a bike lane and sharrows. Unless DOT makes a bolder move and puts a protected bike lane next to Inwood Hill Park, not much is going to change on this important Upper Manhattan bike route

I’ve written about this project, which took almost two years to complete, many times now, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: DOT replaced two narrow bike lanes on Seaman, Inwood’s only north-south through-street west of Broadway, with a northbound bike lane and southbound sharrows. DOT’s rationale for one bike lane was the street isn’t wide enough for two standard-width lanes — though the new design retained two lanes for parked vehicles. The reason for putting the lane on the northbound side of the street, DOT said, was to provide more room for slower cyclists going uphill from Dyckman Street, at Seaman’s southern end.

But as it turns out, the northbound lane converts to sharrows at W. 215th Street, one block before Seaman terminates at W. 218th, probably because the street narrows there. I looked back through my correspondence with DOT and there was no mention of the northbound bike lane ending before the street does.

As noted in prior posts, the current design does not address the major obstacles to biking on Seaman. As shown in these photos, taken yesterday, drivers are already double-parking on the barely-dry thermoplast. Cyclists will be forced to weave around them, just as before. As far as speed is concerned, motorists aren’t taking cues from the fresh markings. On her walk to the train just after dawn today, my wife texted to let me know that “Seaman [was] a speedway this morning.”

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Scenes From NYC’s First “Car Free Day”

Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was closed to traffic for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer

Broadway between 17th and 23rd Streets was car-free for four hours today. Photo: David Meyer

New York City’s first “Car Free Day,” the brainchild of City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, is underway.

On the streets, there are three car-free zones in Manhattan in effect from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: blocks abutting Washington Square Park, Wadsworth Avenue between 173rd and 177th Streets, and Broadway from Union Square to Madison Square.

While the initiative is much more modest than events like Bogota’s, where the annual car-free day removes an estimated 600,000 private vehicles from the streets, or Paris’s, where last year the mayor made a third of the city off-limits to cars for a day, Rodriguez has said he hopes the event can build momentum for his efforts on the council to increase the share of car-free households in NYC.

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez speaks about Car Free Earth Day at a press conference this morning. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer

Speaking near Madison Square this morning alongside DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Rodriguez emphasized that cutting traffic is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. “For me this is not about a politician trying to do something that people will like to hear, this is for my daughters,” Rodriguez said. “By reducing cars, by reducing emissions… we can make a major contribution.”

Rodriguez has pulled together a coalition of more than 35 organizations and companies to participate in the initiative, encouraging employees and members to go car-free for the day.

In introducing Rodriguez, Trottenberg promoted the de Blasio’s administration’s policies to reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, and tied those efforts to her work at DOT to increase biking and reclaim street space for pedestrians. “As we’re focused on making the city greener — we’re focused on alternative modes of transportation — we’re also making the city safer,” Trottenberg said, referring to DOT’s Vision Zero program.

Trottenberg lauded Rodriguez for his efforts on the council. “I’m really proud, Mr. Chairman, of our partnership,” she said. “You really have been a force of nature on [Car Free Day].”

Mayor de Blasio himself was absent, however, and there was no new policy announcement to accompany the day’s events — no new budgetary commitment to bus lanes or bike lanes, no expansion of on-street parking reform to cut traffic, no concrete steps that will reduce driving beyond the city’s existing efforts.

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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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Today’s Headlines

  • It’s Car-Free NYC Day (GothamistNews), But the Mayor May Not Participate (Gizmodo)
  • Will de Blasio Take His Motorcade to Sign the Climate Change Agreement? (NY1)
  • Crosbie Backs Out of NJ Transit Post; Christie: “It’s Important to Keep Your Word” (NYT)
  • Kabak: Dragging Out Canarsie Tube Repairs Is Not the Way to Go (Crain’s)
  • MTA Unveils NIMBY-Compromised Revamp Plans for E. 68th Street Subway Station (DNA)
  • TLC Shelves Harassment Regs (Post); Partitions No Longer Required for Yellow Cabs (Post)
  • Politico Delves Into Byzantine Funding Scheme for Cuomo’s Staten Island Mall Subsidy
  • $1.7B BQE Reconstruction Project to Start in Five or Six Years, Says DOT (DNA)
  • Senior Dies Four Months After Driver Struck Her in Canarsie (News)
  • 78th Precinct Tickets Some Truckers (@BrooklynSpoke); Still No Charges for Gregg Death (News)
  • Bad Motorist Behavior Is a Natural Product of NYC’s Half-Hearted Commitment to Cycling (IVM)
  • Prince: Trailblazer, Genius, Cyclist (COS 1, 2)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: Lafayette Street Gets Its Bike Lane Back

Not quite Kermit, but the Lafayette Street bike lane is looking quite fresh. Photo: David Meyer

The Lafayette Street bike lane is looking quite fresh. Photo: David Meyer

One of New York City’s most faded bike lanes has gotten its shine back. There’s a fresh coat of thermoplast on the Lafayette Street bike lane between Spring Street and Canal Street, which for a while had almost completely disappeared.

The erosion of bike markings and the long lag times between resurfacing streets and restriping bike lanes became such a noticeable problem that it spawned the #PaintMyBikeLane hashtag last year.

At a City Council hearing in March, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city is aiming to do better, with $10 million in the 2017 budget set aside for DOT’s restriping program.

Of course, the Lafayette Street bike lane could use an upgrade too. Above Spring Street, the northbound Lafayette Street bike lane was converted to a parking-protected lane in 2014, but the southbound segment remains unprotected and is frequently blocked by double-parked cars. Refreshing the paint will make a difference, but swapping the parking lane and the bike lane would be the best move to keep cars out of this important southbound connection to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Until this week, the Lafayette Street bike lane was starting to look a lot like sharrows. Image: Google Maps

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Talking Headways Podcast: The City Is a Painting You Walk Into

This week I’m joined by James Rojas of Place It! to talk about art in planning and Latino urbanism. James is an award-winning planner and a native Angeleno, and he tells us about how growing up in East LA and visiting his grandmother’s house shaped the way he thinks about urban spaces and design.

Tune in and hear James discuss the importance of plazas to Latino culture and the history behind them, how people understand place, and why the public planning process works better when you start by tapping into people’s childhoods rather than treating it purely as a problem solving exercise. Enjoy!

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Will DOT Make Safety Upgrades Over Objections of Sheepshead Bay Cranks?

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

DOT is reportedly going ahead with a plan to add pedestrian space and eliminate B36 turns, including one at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin last December, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

Update: DOT confirmed this project is happening.

DOT intends to go ahead with a project to straighten out a bus route and add pedestrian space in Sheepshead Bay, reports the Brooklyn Daily. DOT had let the project stall after Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Community Board 15 opposed it, but after a bus driver killed a pedestrian in December while performing a turn that would have been eliminated under the plan, the improvements now appear to be moving forward.

The plan was first put forward in 2014, when DOT and the MTA proposed eliminating a winding detour on the B36 bus route between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street, removing bus turns at intersections that see a lot of collisions. Sheepshead Bay Road would be converted to one-way eastbound between Jerome Avenue and E. 14th Street, and a taxi stand would be installed near the B/Q entrance, where livery cab drivers now park illegally to wait for passengers getting off trains.

The plan would also replace a slip lane on E. 17th Street at Sheepshead Bay Road with space for people, and convert one block of E. 15th Street to a public plaza.

Seventy-four people were injured in crashes within the project area between 2009 and 2013, DOT says, and seven people were killed or seriously injured. A driver killed a pedestrian on Avenue Z at E. 15th Street in 2008, according to DOT.

But DOT shelved the plan after CB 15 and Council Member Chaim Deutsch objected to the street design changes and the proposed E. 15th Street plaza. Deutsch said he was concerned about plaza upkeep, and that bus riders would have to walk a block to transfer between the train and the B36. CB 15 chair Theresa Scavo was okay with the taxi stand but otherwise wanted Sheepshead Bay Road to remain as is. “The problem comes down to enforcement,” Scavo told Streetsblog. “If you have proper enforcement, traffic will move on Sheepshead Bay Road.”

Six months later a bus driver making a left turn killed 62-year-old Eleonora Shulkin at Avenue Z and E. 17th Street, an intersection where bus turns would have been eliminated had the redesign been implemented.

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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.

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