Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that public transportation systems provide many benefits to the communities they serve, and ballot measures across the country this year have revealed strong public support for public transportation. For communities interested in bringing services like these to their area, a focused, organized transit campaign can make all … Continued
Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr
This post is the seventh in a series of case studies about Complete Streets people, places, and projects. Catch the final one next month!
The Washington, DC region prides itself on robust bus service, and a recent change to bus stop accessibility standards is opening the system to even more people.
Thousands of people in the Washington, DC region take the bus each day, including people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides three basic criteria when defining an “accessible” bus stop. It should 1) have a firm landing surface; 2) be at least five feet wide and eight feet long; and 3) connect to the curb. Because when bus stops are narrow or located in a patch of grass, getting to and waiting at the bus stop isn’t just unpleasant for people with disabilities — it’s a barrier to travel.
As part of their public outreach process, DDOT asked residents to map their daily commutes with pins and string. Photo by thisisbossi via Flickr.
This post is the fifth in a series of case studies about Complete Streets people, places, and projects. Follow the full series over the next several weeks.
All too often, engaging residents in long-range transportation planning means little more than holding a few, sparsely attended evening presentations. For their 2040 transportation plan, however, Washington D.C.’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT) decided to take a completely different approach and create a diverse array of opportunities to provide input, both in-person and online, that were fun, interactive, and personal to get as many DC residents, visitors, workers, and commuters as possible to share their ideas for the city’s transportation future.
Photo: Roy Luck via Flickr
This post is the first in a series of case studies about Complete Streets people, places, and projects. Follow the full series over the next several weeks!
Houston’s bold plan to redesign its bus system—the System Reimagining Project—is akin to a prima-ballerina dancing the final act of Swan Lake. The plan is so elegant, the results so awe-inspiring, that it’s easy to miss all the hard work that led to this moment. A comprehensive, creative, and thoughtful public input and outreach process led to broad support for this revolutionary new bus system.
Let’s start with the magic. In 2012, Houston and Harris County’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, or METRO, recognized its bus system needed an update. No one had taken a hard look at the system in three decades, even though Houston had grown into a more polycentric city and METRO had built the first of several planned light rail lanes. Instead of making minor adjustments, METRO’s board, with the nudging of board member Christof Spieler, an urban planner and transit advocate, decided to see what the system could look like if it were designed from scratch. The new plan, an almost complete remodel of Houston’s current bus system, was approved by METRO’s board just three years later, in February of 2015.
Photo by John Greenfield
Core Values: Why American companies are moving downtown — Safe, convenient, and attractive streets are in demand, and a growing number of employers are moving to places where their employees can easily walk, bike, or take transit to lunch or a meeting with a client. In fact, hundreds of companies across the country have relocated and invested in walkable downtowns in the past five years. Join Smart Growth America on June 18 to dig into the who’s, how’s, and why’s–and to pick up some ideas for creating places more and more companies want to be. Register for the launch event >>
Safer Streets, Stronger Economies — The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is spreading the word that Complete Streets approaches to transportation projects can help people get where they need to go safely—and contribute to economic development. The June edition of the ITE Journal features an article based on our research. And, on July 9, ITE will host a webinar with Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, and Dean Ledbetter, Senior Planning Engineer at North Carolina Department of Transportation, about the safety benefits of Complete Streets. Register >>
Artist’s rendering of light rail service through downtown Honolulu. Image via AIA Honolulu.
Honolulu, HI is known for its natural beauty. The city unfortunately also has third worst traffic in the nation. To help remedy that, the City of Honolulu is working to create alternate ways for residents to get around the island and George Atta, the Honolulu Planning Director and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is one of the leaders making it happen.
Atta grew up in Honolulu and has been in the planning profession for many years. Doing this work on a small island, he explains, makes many smart growth lessons more immediate.
“Planners on an island see the consequences of our actions pretty quickly,” Atta says, “The problems we create stay here. So it’s been easy for us to understand the benefits of a smart growth approach.”
A planned expansion of the Blue Line on Charlotte’s LYNX light rail system will connect the center city to the NoDA art district and University of North Carolina Charlotte Campus. Photo by Reconnecting America, via flickr.
Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina, with a metropolitan area population of 2.3 million as of 2013. Over the last half century Charlotte’s economy grew primarily around the financial sector, and as the home of Bank of America’s headquarters, the former headquarters of Wachovia, and a host of Fortune 500 companies the city was the second largest banking hub in the country when the economic recession hit in 2008. In recent years leaders in Charlotte have worked to make the city’s economy more resilient by cultivating and expanding other industries, particularly energy, logistics, defense and healthcare.
In line with these efforts, there is a growing movement among many city leaders to provide a high quality of life in Charlotte’s unique and diverse neighborhoods, which radiate out from the historic center city, in order to attract and retain new businesses and residents and promote Charlotte as a great place to live, work and play. At-Large City Council Member Vi Lyles, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to provide these neighborhoods with a greater variety of transportation options to help foster a sense of community and connection to the city among residents. “We are focusing on making Charlotte a place where people want to be. To do that, we have to provide those people with choices,” says Council Member Lyles.
A view of downtown Spokane. Photo by Mike Hoy, via Flickr.
In Spokane, WA safer streets and neighborhood vibrancy are going hand in hand. City Council Member Candace Mumm has a new crosswalk ordinance aimed at serving the community for both purposes. The ordinance – which passed with a 5 to 1 vote on September 8 – will require marked crosswalks to be installed at intersections adjacent to schools, parks, hospitals, trail crossings, and other high pedestrian traffic-generating locations.
TriMet’s joint development program in Portland, OR, helped build the Patton Apartments (above) on land once occupied by the Crown Motel. Photo via SERA Architects.
Developing land owned by transit agencies boosts ridership and supports local economies. So how come more agencies don’t do it?
New guidelines from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) encourage transit agencies to do just that. In guidance issued on August 25, 2014, the FTA came out in support of joint development—cooperation between local transit agencies and real estate developers to make the most of agency-owned land. The new guidance is the first time the FTA has publicly recognized the multiple benefits of such cooperation, which include increased ridership, better transit access for the community, greater revenue for the transit agency, and broader economic development. From the document:
In a few weeks, Northern Virginia’s first bus rapid transit service will begin operations on dedicated busways through Alexandria, VA’s burgeoning Potomac Yard neighborhood. A visitor standing under one of the new station awnings can see a string of cranes stretching from north to south along US Route 1, at work on the planned 3000 residential units, 4 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail space along the transit corridor. Alexandria City Councilor Tim Lovain, who championed the busway as an essential tool to support high-density growth in this corridor, smiles broadly as he describes the accomplishment, but is even more interested in the transit lines still under development in the city.
Many of these transit projects are included in the Transportation Master Plan Councilor Lovain helped adopt in 2008 during his first term on the Council. In addition to the Route 1 corridor, that plan identified two more high-priority corridors where bus rapid transit will be developed in anticipation of future streetcar lines. Both of those corridors are in the City’s newer West End, which is characterized by car-oriented, lower density development. West End neighborhoods are more difficult to serve with transit, but Councilor Lovain makes the case for it as an essential tool for economic survival in the transit-rich metropolitan Washington, DC region.