Currently viewing the tag: "Transit"

It is commonly understood that almost every transit trip  starts as a walking trip. With that in mind, it seems logical that those who take transit are more likely to walk more than those who don’t. It is also commonly understood that those who walk more, are healthier. So if I remember my 8th grade math correctly (which I probably don’t), the transitive property would state that public transit users are healthier than non-transit users.

Mathematics aside, a recent study from the University of British Columbia states that such an assumption is not only true, but that transit users are three times more likely to meet basic fitness guidelines than those who don’t.

According to the study, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity.

“The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception,” says Frank, the J. Armand Bombardier Chairholder in Sustainable Transportation and a researcher at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. “These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity. Unfortunately, we’ve engineered this activity out of our daily lives.”

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?  Frank goes on to say:

“You don’t necessarily have to rebuild communities or make major investments in infrastructure to promote public health,” he says. “There are things we can do in the interim, such as encourage people to drive less, and adapt their lifestyles which will get people more physically active and generate fewer greenhouse gasses.”

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In a moment rail advocates around the country have been waiting for, the Obama administration unveiled its plans for American High Speed Rail.

Amen.

While many advocates say the plan does not go far enough, the so called $8 billion “down payment” will jump start the process, with another $5 billion paid over the next five years. Click here to watch Ray LaHood, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama present their vision for American high speed rail, or here to read more of the details.

The corridors to receive funding have yet to be unveiled, but Obama promised the selection will be based on merit.

How the Miami-Orlando-Tampa route fairs in the funding process will be something Transit Miami watches closely.

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The Transit Advocates of Florida recently submitted this editorial.  If you have any comments, suggestions, or articles you would like to submit, feel free to contact us: movemiami@gmail.com.

Passenger Rail in Florida is vital to the economic future of this state. The federal government has presented a tremendous opportunity for states to leverage their money for rail corridors. Locally in the Miami metropolitan area both Tri-Rail and Metro Rail are both suffering from a lack of support for maintenance and new corridor development. Statewide rail corridors have been studied since Governor Lawton Chiles’ administration before being undercut by the Bush administration.

I urge you to support dedicated funding for Florida’s passenger rail service through the state legislature. This includes existing services such as Tri-Rail that have shown that passenger rail service in Florida is vital to the economy of a region. Tri-Rail ridership has surged as facilities have been upgraded and double tracking allows consistent train schedules and capacity upgrades. The state would never build a one-lane road and ask cars to please wait on the side every few miles to allow others to pass.

Regional rail is not for the local transit agencies to fund or run. These are regional systems using different technologies over larger areas. Additionally a state agency similar to the Turnpike Enterprise should be formed to create the Florida High Speed Rail network. Lastly local transit projects should be prioritized to link into these systems and create an interconnected grid of passenger rail for Floridians.

Please support dedicated funding for RAIL IN FLORIDA. Our state and localities competitive future depends on it.

Send a message of support for dedicated funding to your elected officials in Tallahassee, log onto www.tri-rail.com/FundOrFail

Sincerely,

Transit Advocates of Florida

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In Stuttgart, Germany when bicycle use far exceeded the capacity of the transit system, officials sought a creative alternative without limiting commuting options.

Via: Maria in Europe & The Overhead Wire

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Taken for a Ride is an amazing documentary by Jim Kleina and Martha Olson that documents the efforts to derail mass transit in America. Ever wonder why the U.S. has the worst mass transportation system in the industrialized world? Using historical footage and investigative research, this film tells how GM fought to push freeways into the inner cities of America, and push public transportation out.

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The Congress for the New Urbanism, an organization for which I am a proud member, has informed its members that the latest CLEAN TEA legislation is to add language supporting federal funds for walkable  street networks to their bill, the overall goal of which is to direct funds from future carbon  cap and trade for transportation and planning investments that reduce carbon emissions. To make sure the sponsors stay committed to network connectivity, CNU now urgently needs members and friends from the sponsors’ states and districts to write letters of encouragement and support.

The sponsors and the areas they represent are:

Sen. Carper, state of Delaware
Sen. Martinez, state of Florida
Rep. Blumenauer, Portland-Gresham area
Rep. La Tourette, Cleveland-Painesville area

A template letter, with text, is below.

For electronic communication, Sen. Martinez prefers that constituents use a web form found on his Congressional home page. Letter text must be pasted into a box. It can also be effective to print a letter on your letterhead (or from your home address) and fax it to Senator Martinez.

Sen. Martinez’s web form: http://martinez.senate.gov/
Sen. Martinez’s DC fax: (202) 228-5171

Dear Senator Martinez:
As a member of the planning and development community from Florida, I am writing to thank you for your leadership in moving our country toward transportation systems and development practices  that reduce carbon emissions while making communities more valuable, livable and sustainable. In particular, I appreciate your recent decision to add language to the CLEAN TEA legislation that encourages and funds improved street network connectivity. As a member of a leading inter-disciplinary organization promoting sustainable urban planning and development, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU - www.cnu.org), I have learned of your instrumental role in developing the CLEAN TEA bill. It represents a groundbreaking effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved public transportation, more connected local street networks and planning for transit-oriented neighborhoods where destinations are nearby and walking, bicycling and riding transit are all attractive options.  Along with others in CNU, I heartily support the CLEAN TEA effort. As word spreads, CLEAN TEA is attracting considerable positive attention in the planning and sustainable development communities.  One of its main provisions — the reviews by state departments of transportation and cities of more than 200,000 people of their transportation plans to determine how future investments can reduce carbon emissions — is a breakthrough. And a strong bill was strengthened further by the recent addition of language that recognizes the essential role that enhanced street connectivity plays in supporting both transit and walkable, livable low-carbon development. CNU’s partnership with the United States Green Building Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council to create the first certification system for neighborhood-scale green development (LEED-ND) confirmed that transit-supporting green neighborhoods must have highly interconnected street grids that make walking and mixed-use activity convenient, rather than a  dendritic pattern of cul-de-sacs and collectors that make driving the only option. We heartily thank you for including support for connected transportation networks in the CLEAN TEA bill. As practicing urbanists, we’ve been leading a revival of this kind of time-tested neighborhood-based development, whether it’s revitalizing inner city brownfields, turning dead malls into walkable mixed-use centers, revitalizing small towns or creating walkable new towns. Although it often requires the changing of existing zoning codes and automobile-only road and highway designs, development in these walkable mixed-use neighborhoods strengthens community ties and creates enduring value, generally selling at a premium compared to comparable driving-only subdivisions. By helping people reduce the amount of driving they are forced to do, these neighborhoods help households dramatically reduce both their personal transportation costs and their household carbon emissions. Where this mixed-use development is served by good transit service and accessible to regional job centers, the carbon reduction impacts are even more dramatic.

See cnu.org/climate and cnu.org/locationefficiency for more discussion of these impacts.

As you and your fellow sponsors of CLEAN TEA have made crystal clear, we cannot achieve either the sustainable economic growth or the carbon reduction goals we so badly need without addressing the emissions impacts of transportation investments and the shape of our built environment. CLEAN TEA starts to reverse highway-centric federal transportation policies that  actually made the problem worse. We in the planning and development community applaud you for making transportation reform a priority and look forward to working with you to help advance this legislation.Please do not hesitate to call on me or CNU to advocate for language that ensures that federal funds can be used to improve sustainable transportation networks. Thank you for your consideration of my views on this issue.

Sincerely yours,

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National: Streetfilms covers the technologically advanced Seattle  streetcar, and the investment it has attracted along its route (*ahem, Miami).

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood makes it official, DC’s Metro is expanding to Dulles Airport.

Oregonian columnist and Pedaling Revolution author, Jeff Mapes, tell us of a plan to tax bicycle ownership in Oregon. What?!

Local: Just over one year in, the recession economy slows the Miami Mega-Plan.

Riptide 2.0 stumps for building the Marlins Stadium at the Miami Arena site…a win-win-win for straphangers, the city, and the county.

Also, what happens when you don’t miss the bus, but the bus misses you? Well, we’re not sure either…

Finally, click here to learn how Jeb Bush helped derail, literally, high speed rail from Miami to Tampa Bay. Thanks Jeb.

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Transit Miami reader Stephen Malagodia has created a Twitter hashtag called “Tri-rail.” Those with Twitter accounts can now give and receive updates on a train’s status by simply telling Twitter to “follow hashtags”. Then tweet “#tri-rail <your message>. Users will then receive updates from other riders. Although this will only work if other riders participate, it promises to be a helpful tool for those riding the rails. So start tweeting tri-railers, and let us know how it goes.
If you need more help with hashtags, go to http://www.hashtags.org/
Thanks to Stephen for taking the initiative.

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trans0209takingthetrain

This excellent transit comparison comes to us from Cooltownstudios, via GOOD Magazine. The top five systems are located in the United States, while the bottom five are from locations around the world. The trains’ length represent total track length, while the human silhouettes represent the daily  ridership levels (in millions). With that clear, it it obvious that American systems are comparable in length, even far superior in the case of New York City, yet totally deficient in terms of attracting ridership.  This clearly is related to automobile infrastructure subsidy, lack of investment, and poor management. I would hate to see what Miami’s anemic system would like like against those pictured above. Click the image above to get a closer look.

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If you build it - Traffic will consume the neighborhood, taxpayers will fund 73% of 2000 temporary construction jobs, Jeffery Loria will cash out in a few years, the Little Havana neighborhood will be revitalized disenfranchised, The Marlins will stay in Miami (for 35 years, guaranteed), etc…

This Friday, the Miami-Dade Commission will meet to determine the fate (maybe - they will likely postpone the vote) of the Marlins’ Ballpark at the Orange Bowl.  As we noted earlier, from a strictly urban policy perspective – the current site plan (and funding scheme) is a calamity.

In addition to bilking taxpayers for 73% of stadium costs, we will also find ourselves footing the bills for at least $100 million dollars worth of parking.  Then, in the not too distant future, we’ll realize we built the stadium too far away from existing transit, and we’ll need to fund a reasonable solution (like a streetcar west from downtown to the MIC) or our elected officials will think up of a $180 million scheme to create a people-mover extension from the Culmer station.  By this point, I’m sure most rational people would then agree that it would have been better to save the hundreds of millions in parking and transit costs and just build the damned thing in downtown, near existing parking and transit to begin with…  But hey, this is Miami, right?  We can’t do anything right…

To reiterate – the current site plan will have deleterious effects on the surrounding community.  In its current state, the site will act as a vacuum – sucking in traffic while providing few benefits to little Havana.

Central to the Marlins’ and public officials’ pitch to taxpayers was a promise that, in exchange for $450 million in public subsidies, the $609 million stadium project would propel redevelopment in the surrounding area, luring commerce, jobs, amenities and foot traffic to an area that sorely lacks them.

But the stadium site plan released this month suggests that the city of Miami’s approach might best be summed up as “build it and hope.”

Contrary to Andres Viglucci’s thoughts, to me, the current site plan evoke more of a “build it and to hell with the surroundings.”

In reading the article last weekend, I was curious if anyone caught onto the glaring contradiction posed by the political proponents of the stadium plan and the city planners.

On one hand, political proponents claim the park will serve as a catalyst, bringing commercial and retail activity to the community at least 80 days a year.  This activity is confined to the “mixed-use” garages (FYI – parking/retail mix does not constitute mixed use) that provide scarce retail space along the base of the garages.  This space, of course, is supposed to be sufficient to create a vibrant district around the stadium, regardless of the season.

Then the truth comes out we have the city planner’s take on the garages surrounding the stadium:

City planners say the size and shape of the garages were dictated largely by the Marlins’ need for 6,000 spaces and quick exit times.

My question remains, if we were planning a vibrant district around the stadium, wouldn’t we want to complicate the exit procedure so that people would linger around the stadium longer?  It appears that is what the Seminole Hard Rock Casino did (rather well, I might add) in Hollywood (from what I’m told: just try leaving there in a timely manor on a Saturday night after a concert…) From a planning perspective, I would agree that this idea is convoluted, but it illustrates that the entire site plan is being designed so that drivers can come and leave as efficiently as possible on game day – not as it should be – a structure built to compliment a community.

As our own Tony Garcia aptly noted, ”Why are people going to come to this area?  What’s going to make it a destination, and not just for baseball games?…You need a better mix of uses here, not just parking garages.”

Below are a few images of some other successful baseball parks around the country.  These stadiums, particularly San Diego’s Petco Park, exemplify what a Baseball stadium should look like, how it should fit in with the surroundings, and how people interact with these spaces not just during baseball season, but 365 days a year. Compare these parks to the rendering above.

The Development Around Petco Park

The Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: docsplatter)

New Development Around Petco Park

New Development Around Petco Park (Image Via: Oh Snap)

Development Around AT&T Park

Development Around AT&T Park (Image Via: Gedawei)

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL

Wrigley Field as Seen From the EL (Image Via: straightedge217)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

Fenway Park's Entrance (Image Via: Ally85)

As you read this, congress is working to put together a $800 Billion+ Stimulus package to revive the nation’s economy.  As JM noted earlier this week, the stimulus is more of the same bureaucratic stupidity we’ve all grown accustomed to - tax incentives for vehicle purchases, at least $30 Billion for Highways, and a paltry $12 Billion for real transit.  Apparently some senators believe the transit allocation isn’t small enough and are trying to raid the transit allocations for increased highway spending.  Apparently our senators have a short memory - already forgetting the woes of this past summer when our gasoline powered economy began to crumble under $4+ gas prices.

Together with T4America, we urge our readers to contact their US senators and let them know that this is unacceptable.  Click here to find your Senator’s email address.   Follow this link or the link on our new sidebar ->

Via Greater Greater Washington:

According to the memo, they hope to cut $3.4 billion from public transit, but at the same time, are adding in more money for “additional transportation funding.” Presumably, if they’re cutting transit, that additional funding would go to roads. (It might be airports, I suppose, but I doubt it.)

They’re also cutting such items as Head Start, food stamps, child nutrition, firefighters, COPS hiring, NASA, and the CDC, while adding funding for defense operations and procurement.

The Senators reportedly in the room are Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), John Tester (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and George Voinovich (R-OH). We don’t know if all of them support these cuts or not (Carper is a big rail advocate, for example).

It gets worse.  Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted to accept, by a vote of 73-24, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) which states, “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

Update: Via Bike Portland:

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced an amendment last night that would prohibit funding of “bicycle routes” and paths from the economic stimulus package that’s working its way through Capitol Hill right now.

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Peter Calthorpe, an urban planner working on the California high speed rail project, wrote a very good piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on the lack of transit funds in the current form of the economic stimulus. Check it out—it sounds like something we would say here. We definitely agree that there is not enough funding for transit in the economic stimulus bill. I would take it a step further and point out that there is not enough infrastructure funding in the stimulus bill, period. Infrastructure investment pays off in the long term, while offering jobs in the short term. Of course, between highways and transit, transit spending creates more jobs in both the short term and the long term, besides further stimulating the economy.

Many different figures have been floated as to how many jobs are created per dollar spent on infrastructure. Depending on which source you look at, you might see that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure, 18,000 or 28,000 or some other high number of jobs are created. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, but the point is it’s high. Yet only about $30 billion of the $900 billion package is being directed at roads, with transit and inter-city rail getting $12 billion. Some of the other money is being directed to places that will do very little to create jobs.

The New York Times points out some of the latest additions to the bill, which include tax credits for home buyers and car buyers. I hate to say it, but this only attempts to feed our way of life for the past 50 or so years. The message it sends is, buy more homes in the suburbs to contribute to suburban sprawl, and buy a new car to drive on all those new lanes that are getting added to our highways. Don’t bother changing commuting habits or moving into the city, there was nothing wrong with our lifestyles that caused the economy to collapse or anything. (Oh, yeah. We bailed out the car industry so now we have to protect our investment. Same goes for the mortgage companies. Bleah.)

That’s totally the wrong message. Our representatives need to take advantage of the opportunity to encourage sustainable development by directing the funds to the places that will make a difference. Among those places are mass transit and high speed rail. If we don’t learn from our mistakes of spending unwisely in the past, we’re doomed to repeat them.

Noting the transit paradox — more and more riders, less and less funding — Richard Fausett of the LA Times has written an excellent piece featuring our own embattled Tri-Rail system. Says Fausett:

The dramatic spike in gas prices that began in 2005 sent Americans flocking to trains, buses and subways, a trend that appears to have held up even as gas prices have dipped. But 2009 could be a year of crisis for the agencies that run them — a time of more riders but much less money.

Some new funding could come as part of House Democrats’ proposed $825-billion stimulus package, which, in its current form, sets aside $9 billion for public transportation. But all of that money would be used for new capital projects, not operating costs. And it is operating budgets — the money agencies need to run the systems they have now — that are getting hammered.

Tri-Rail service cuts are expected to reduce trips from 50 trains a day — the result of a $450 million investment to meet demand ad expand service two years ago — to 20 trains a day. This would not only nullify render the original investment useless, but also discourage a continued growth in ridership. After all, if the train isn’t running when and where you would like it to, who is going to take it? In addition, it will hurt those who depend on the train for their own livelidhood.

For some, the cuts will be an inconvenience, but for others the consequences will be more serious. Lisandra Fonseca, 21, of Miami relies on off-peak and weekend trains to get her to her job at a McDonald’s 30 miles north of home.

If the trains are mothballed, she said, ‘I’d just lose my job.’

As Streetsblog put it last week, stimulus funding may hire construction workers, while thousands of transit employees are fired.

For now it seems we may have lost the battle for adequate stimulus transit funding. However, with the Fed’s 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: (SAFETEA-LU) up for reauthorization this year, the war has only begun.

Urbanist and well-known writer Neil Peirce almost always gets it right.  In his latest article, “Obama Open Government: The Stimulus Bill Test,” he asserts the importance of using stimulus funds for fixing existing roadway infrastructure, and directing funds to metropolitan areas, via MPOs, to get things like mass transit built.

With reports indicating state highway departments are ready to divert major portions of stimulus funds to new and broadened roads, national guidelines should put a premium on “fix it first” programs for decaying highways and bridges, plus transit and rail service. The new green mantra should be “No new lane miles!” And the law should require major allocation of funds to metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), with rules leading them to repair first and focus significantly on transit, undergirding the 80 percent of the American economy their regions represent.

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