Currently viewing the tag: "San Francisco"

A streetcar view of San Francisco from 1906…

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GOOD Magazine has published an interactive graphic comparing our country’s largest mass transit systems (here). The abbreviated study looks at Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Boston and Washington, DC. It’s an interesting visual study of what ‘works’ and reminds us that if you build it, maintain it and keep it convenience, the masses will come. What do you think?

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San Fransisco Streetcars, thanks to the San Fransisco Sentinal.

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Miami lacks a center.  We have no urban square in which to assemble, no central oasis within our concrete jungle.  Our coastal parks lack focus, continuity, or the social elements which make them function.  By looking into the success of Urban Squares across the country, we’ll gain a better understanding of the attributes which make these squares function as centers for civic pride.  The features which make these urban parks succeed is what we as a community pour into them.  By contrast, our closest example of an Urban Square, Bayfront Park, is a disjointed, uncohesive mess, littered with commercial enterprises.  As we’ve discussed before, our closest community assembly point may just be a parking lot…

As you glance through these select few parks, notice the emphasis on community events.  You will find successful squares exist centered among the crossroads of business, theater, retail, and artistic centers while serving as the focal points for our densest urban communities. Don’t neglect the transit infrastructure.

Without reiterating many of the points made by my colleagues, I’ll turn our attention to the most successful urban squares across the United States, addressing why they work.

Union Square (San Francisco)

The 2.6 acre Union Square is located in the heart of San Francisco’s shopping, entertainment, and theater district.  A plethora of boutiques, department stores (6 to be exact), hotels, and theaters surround the square, making it one of the largest tourist attractions and shopping districts in the Bay Area.  The square is serviced by 2 cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason), the F Market Heritage Streetcar line, Muni Metro, and BART Subway systems (3rd busiest station along the system.)  Click here to go on a 3D Tour of Union Square.

Madison Square (New York)

The 6.8 acre Madison Square Park first opened in 1847, almost immediately served as a catalyst for the surrounding area, attracting hotels and theaters to the district (yes, this is where Madison Square Garden gets its name from.)  The park experienced a renewal in 1870 which bought a new design and sculptures to the park, among other items.  In 1912, America’s first public Christmas tree was erected in the park.  Today, the park plays host to abundant community and civic events (like the meatscursion.)  A new park favorite, the Shake Shack, garners hundreds of hungry patrons daily with lines snaking throughout the park.  Six lines of the MTA Subway service the region.

Union Square (New York)

Speaking more from personal experience, New York’s Union Square is a hub for local activity surrounded by an abundant mix of retail, residences, and commercial property.  The square is surrounded and influenced by the surrounding flatiron, Chelsea, Greenwich, and NYU neighborhoods.  Originally founded in 1815 as a public commons, the square began to take its more modern shape later into the mid 1800’s.  One of the square’s most prominent local features, the GreenMarket, began in 1976, providing regional small family farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other farm products in the city.  The Union Square Hub is serviced by eight MTA subway lines.

The Unions Square Pillow Fight 2008:

Copley Square (Boston)

Boston’s Copley Square was founded in 1858.  Up until the early 1900’s, the square served as a cultural and educational center for Boston, bordered by the original Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Public Library, and original MIT Campus.  In 1983 with the formation of the Copley Square Committee, the park was revitalized improving green space, water features, and sightlines.  The Square is serviced by the four routes of the Green Line Light Rail system.

Exciting news for livable cities advocates — it looks like bike sharing will finally be coming to America in 2008. According to sources, Washington D.C. is likely to be the first U.S. city to implement such a program, at least the modern version similar to many European cities.
The program, similar to Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, and other European cities, will likely be funded through an agreement with a major advertiser (such as Clear Channel), which will pay for the system in return for exclusive advertising rights on bus shelters and other outdoor furniture.

Unlike Paris, however, Washington will initially roll out a “lite” version of bike sharing, offering about 120 bicycles at 10 locations around the city. Details such as costs for usage and membership have not yet been announced. If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the D.C. program could start in March or April of 2008.

As for the bikes themselves, they will be locked into docking stations that will be opened with special cards for members. Washington plans on using a “sturdy” bike, which can be adapted to people of various heights. The bikes will also have some special features including a small front wheel that makes it “more maneuverable, but also quirky enough to discourage theft.” For nighttime safety, all bikes will be equipped with automatic lighting.

Chicago is also in the process of implementing bike sharing. The Windy City is studying two proposals, one from France-based advertising giant JC Decaux — which operates the Paris system — and one from London-based OYBike. The city’s mayor, Richard Daley, has expressed strong interest in a bicycle program, having viewed the Paris system.

“Mayor Daley’s vision is to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States,” said Ben Gomberg, bicycle program coordinator for the city.

“In Chicago, almost 60 percent of all trips by city residents are three miles (nearly five kilometers) or less, which are distances very suited for bicycling. That’s why we’re interested.”

Additionally, Gomberg said Chicago is flat and relatively compact compared to many US cities, making cycling easier. He said city officials see many advantages to the program including improving physical fitness and reducing pollution.

Besides Washington and Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon are also in the process of launching their own bike sharing systems. Given the direction New York is going in, I expect to see it added to this list in the near future. While all of this pleases me tremendously, I’ll be ready to party the day Miami (or Miami Beach and Coral Gables) takes the bike sharing plunge. I’ve said it so many times: Miami is blessed with natural cycling conditions most cities could only dream of.

The timing is right. With gasoline costing over $3/gallon, global warming concerns reaching the forefront, increasingly unbearable traffic congestion, and a national obesity crisis, there couldn’t be a better time for Miami (or any major city) to devise a bike sharing program. Moreover, given the global popularity and proven success of these programs, the formula for implementation is well established.

Come on Miami, it’s time to act.

Photo: Courtesy www.flickr.com

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Transit Miami reader/contributor Dave sent me an excellent price comparison he composed on the cost of transit:
Listed are the comparable monthly passes (basic all purpose pass for busses, trains and transfers) and what the single cash fare would be for one trip. The number of trips listed is how many trips you would have to make in a month for the pass to be worth while for simple round trips.

Miami monthly metropass: $75, single fare $1.50 (50 trips)
Boston monthly metropass: $59, single fare $2 (29.5 trips)
New York monthly metropass: $76, single fare $2 (38 trips)
Chicago monthly metropass: $75, single fare $2 (37.5 trips)
San Francisco (Muni&some Bart stations) metropass: $45, single fare $1.50 (30 trips)

Maybe its because Miami-Dade’s transit thinks we need to pay more than other cities for our monthly pass because we use the transit system so much more often than these other cities do (sarcasm)?

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