Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Follow up to posts on Bike Month and planning: Iowa; Seattle; Boston

The posts "Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1" and "Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale," discuss how National Bike Month can be better leveraged to promote bicycling as transportation in the Baltimore-Washington region (and by extension to other places).

Since writing those posts last week, I came across three interesting things that need to be incorporated into such writings going forward.

Des Moines Register photo.

1.  Iowa creates bike-based pavement condition test vehicle.  The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is doing something supra-innovative, they have created a bicycle-based equivalent of a "pavement condition tester" to use to test the pavement condition of the area's 600+ miles of trails in Central Iowa.  They call it the "Iowa Data Bike."

From a DMAMPO press release:
The primary function of the Iowa Data Bike is to collect data on the pavement conditions of the trails – providing useful information to trail managers as they budget maintenance dollars.

A camera mounted on the back of the bike will take geolocated photos of every section of trail in the network and make them available online for trail managers for easy reference.

Additionally, the data bike will capture 360-degree images to upload to Google Street View, giving anyone with an Internet connection a panoramic, on-the-ground view of any trail at any point in Central Iowa.

“This is a powerful new tool for the many people, governments, and organizations who work together to make the paved trail network such a great asset for Central Iowa,” said Todd Ashby, executive director of the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. “Before now, we haven’t had a data-collection vehicle we can use for the trails. The data bike is an investment in the future – to assure the paved trails are here for decades to come.”

The Iowa Data Bike is a proof-of-concept project by the Des Moines Area MPO in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF). ...

The condition of Iowa's streets are already tracked and scored, using laser-equipped trucks to measure imperfections. But there’s no data for paved recreational trails, said Gunnar Olson, an MPO spokesman.

“As the system is aging we’re going to need to shift more dollars toward maintenance as a region,” Olson said. “We came up with this concept to get good, accurate data on trail conditions.”
DMR photo.

The Des Moines Register had a front page story on the Iowa Data Bike on Monday ("'Data bike' pinpoints trouble spots on central Iowa trails"). I don't think bike issues are likely to make the front page of the Washington Post any time soon!

The DMR article has a video interview with Gunnar Olson of the DMAMPO.

Contrast this to my point that the unofficial DC-area "Capital Trails Coalition" should instead be an official function of our MPO.

Note though that the DC-area does have an image-based trails database, but I don't think such databases substitute fully for maps and printed information.

More places need to create their own "Data Bikes" and collect and act on this kind of information.

2.  In terms of getting more people to bike regularly for transportation, what matters more, bike infrastructure or bike facilities?  I suppose the answer is that they matter equally, but I guess the point I try to make is focusing on infrastructure primarily isn't enough to get people to shift their behavior and routinize biking over automobility.

I think the Seattle Times proves my point about the vital importance of facilities in the article, "Which come first, the bikers or the bike lanes? How Seattle can increase two-wheeled commuting."

The article makes clear that the organizations that complement access to bike infrastructure with high quality bike parking, showers, and other facilities have a much higher percentage of people commuting to and from work by bike.

As an example, the Allen Institute has 21% of its 375 employees regularly commuting by bike.

From the article:
Which come first, the bikers or the bike lanes?  A new analysis by Commute Seattle offers some added ammunition for bike advocates.

There are a bunch of large employers, Commute Seattle found, that have a radically higher percentage of bike commuters than the city average. What do those employers have in common?

A couple things, but most notably they’re all near a bike path or a protected bike lane.

Of the 15 businesses with the highest percentage of bike-commuting employees, all are within five blocks of a protected bike path. The top seven businesses for bike commuting are all a block or less from a protected bike path.

When the Allen Institute moved to South Lake Union from Fremont in 2015, they realized that traffic would be worse and parking would be more expensive, Essmeier said. They wanted to encourage biking as much as possible.

“When they were building this building they really tricked out the bike parking and the facilities, with lockers and showers and all that,” Essmeier said.

That’s the second thing that every top business for bike commuters has in common — amenities that make it a little bit easier to ride a bike to work.

All 15 of the top bike-to-work companies provide indoor bike storage. Fourteen of the 15 provide showers. Six provide bike-repair stations. And four even provide the bikes themselves.

Jonathan Hopkins, executive director of Commute Seattle, said that a company’s culture in encouraging bike commuting makes a big difference. He noted that for the price of building one underground parking spot, a company can usually supply sheltered, secure bike storage for all its employees.

“Employer support makes a big difference. If people don’t have a safe place to ride and a safe space to store their bike, they’re probably not going to do it,” Hopkins said. “If we never built roads nobody would drive to work, either.”
The point is that without a focus on creating the right set of complementary bike facilities, people aren't going to go out of their way to start bike commuting.

So the answer is really threefold:
  • High quality bike infrastructure that is organized into a system of bikeways
  • a network of high quality bike parking and support facilities such as showers, lockers, etc., to support bike commuting
  • a system of programming and other assistance to help people make the transition to biking and to adopt biking for transportation as a routine activity and behavior.
A fourth point is that it is very important to regularly conduct research, collect data, learn from it, and report it out.

For example, looking at these results in the context of DC, which is home to many federal agencies, the NOAA Montlake facility in Seattle, home to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, has 16.9% of its workers commuting by bike. I can't imagine any DC-based federal building has a similar percentage of bike commuters.

The opportunity is present in most of the center city-located federal buildings, but the right complement of facilities and programming is not.

-- 2016 Center City Commuter Mode Split Survey Survey Results, Commute Seattle

Boston Globe photo by Gina Rinaldi.

3. Boston bike advocates use a form of public art protest to challenge statements by the Mayor.  The Boston Globe reports ("Cyclists respond to Walsh comments with tactical urbanism cutouts") on a guerrilla messaging campaign by bicyclists asking motorists to take more heed of bicyclists.

 From the article:
Under cover of darkness, several cyclists late Sunday night placed eight large cartoon cutouts displaying advice about bicycle safety along portions of Massachusetts Avenue, sending a punchy visual message to drivers and city officials that more needs to be done to make roads safer for those on two wheels.

The guerilla art project was created by architect and bike advocate Jonathan Fertig, who posted pictures of himself on Twitter installing the artistic “buffers” Sunday night with a group of friends.

“Buffers can be much more than just paint,” Fertig wrote on Twitter, using the hashtag #DemandMore.

The project was done in collaboration with local artist Bekka Wright, who designed the large character cutouts.

Wright promotes bicycle advocacy and offers safety tips through humorous drawings and editorial cartoons on her website,
According to the article, Mr. Fertig had been working on the project for some time, and accelerated the placement in response to comments by the Mayor in a recent radio interview.

Cyclists and pedestrian advocates criticized the remarks for not according enough responsibility to motor vehicle operators for how their actions contribute to traffic safety and crashes ("Mayor Walsh says pedestrians, cyclists need to take more responsibility, Boston Globe).  

Bekka Wright has created what look to be two very cool biking promotion booklets ('zines?).  OMG: A Bike is a traffic safety publication targeting motorists, and Bike There is a how-to guide on biking for transportation in the city.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Weaponization of EIS: the Purple Line

A few years ago I was at a conference on infrastructure, and I was talking to a journalist who reports on infrastructure financing for an institutional investing publication, and he referred to what he called "the weaponization of environmental review processes," in terms of how they (1) extend the development process to unbelievably long time frames and (2) provide multiple opportunities for people to file lawsuits against the project.

That's what's happened with the Purple Line light rail project in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties Maryland, where a lawsuit challenged the project's EIS--environmental impact statement--arguing that decline in Metrorail and Metrobus ridership because of the decline in the operating reliability of that system could have marked impacts on Purple Line ridership.

While the Maryland Transit Administration and the US DOT argued that WMATA ridership drops are not necessarily permanent and that the impacts are likely within normal ranges already considered, yesterday it was reported that federal Judge Richard Leon did not agree, calling for a revised EIS.

-- "Purple Line suffers major setback in Court," Washington Business Journal

Because of changes in federal priorities under the Trump Administration that disfavor transit, despite claims by Donald Trump as candidate and as President that he is committed to funding and implementing a wide-ranging infrastructure, delays increase the likelihood that federal funding will not happen, and the State of Maryland will stop funding the development phase of the project too.

Ironically, on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal had an article ("One Rail-Station Design May Be Just the Ticket to Ease Congestion") on a proposal by Rethink Studio in NYC to improve rail system reliability in Greater New York by better integrating and enhancing existing stations in the "station network" by improving and expanding connections between Penn Station in ways that make the lines "through lines" rather than Penn Station being a terminal station (comparable to how I have suggested that the MARC Penn Line and the VRE Fredericksburg Line be merged, to increase throughput, service, and decrease the demand for train storage in the Ivy City yard, see "A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines).

-- Volume One, Regional Unified Network, Rethink Studio, NYC

That article uses Crossrail in London and the Regional Rail (RER) program in Paris, and the Center City Connection program in Philadelphia which connected separate Pennsylvania Railroad stations--Suburban Station and 30th Street Station--with the old Reading Railroad lines and Reading Terminal, as examples of how to increase railroad passenger train capacity by creating through lines through "elimination" of terminal end point stations.  From the article:
Terminal stations, where trains must reverse course to continue service, slow down travel. Through-running stations, where trains keep going without changing direction, speed it up.

The difference affects how many people can funnel into a busy urban core during peak hours or pass through the city to reach other destinations. For that reason, many metropolises opt for through-running stations.
I argued from a slightly different perspective that the Purple Line, by providing a critical east-west medium capacity, high frequency rail line that connects the East and West legs of the Red Line, the north leg of the Green Line, and the east leg of the Orange Line, can have a similarly positive impact on Metrorail, by reducing the need for people to travel to and from Downtown DC in order to transfer between lines for trips that originate or end in Suburban Maryland.

Plus, the Purple Line will connect to all three lines of the MARC passenger rail system, the Brunswick Line in Silver Spring, the Camden Line in College Park, and the Penn Line in New Carrollton, further increasing the utility and benefit of the rail system as a more integrated network.

(In "Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 2 | proposed parallel improvements across the transit network" I proposed a parallel and complementary set of improvements across the transit network in concert with the development of the Purple Line, to further increase the value of the transit network.)

Not to mention that because of congestion and rail-induced development ("transit oriented development") a larger proportion of dense development in the metropolitan area is constructed in transit station catchment areas.

Plus, it is likely that despite competing objectives and goals amongst the jurisdictions, WMATA will be "fixed" and ridership will recover a significant proportion of the current decline -- which has also been abetted by lower gasoline costs and continued subsidy of driving in various ways.

We must remember that the NYC Subway system suffered grievous declines in the 1970s and 1980s but recovered.  In fact, the system's current problems are a result of an explosion of ridership and the need to invest in physical improvements including technology advances and storm-related resiliency measures ("MTA Announces 6-Point Plan to Restructure Management and Improve System Reliability," MTA).

I am not a lawyer, and I didn't read the arguments and submissions on the court case -- from the WBJ article:
In the 12-page memorandum, Judge Richard Leon wrote that Maryland and federal officials must produce a supplemental environmental impact statement "as expeditiously as possible." The ruling is an extension of what Leon told the parties in November, when he declined to reinstate the Purple Line Record of Decision, a federal environmental document that would allow construction on the $5.6 billion project to proceed.

This all comes in a response to a complaint from a Chevy Chase citizens group, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, that has been in the courts since 2014.

"In effect, FTA boldly concluded that there is no need for an SEIS, and the Purple Line will meet its established purposes, no matter what happens to WMATA Metrorail," Leon wrote. "To say the least, this is a curious conclusion when one considers that one of the three explicit purposes identified for the Purple Line was to 'provide better connections to Metrorail services.'"
but I believe that Judge Leon erred in his holding--although I can understand his reasoning--and it is unfortunate that this holding significantly increases the likelihood that the Purple Line will not move forward, and for all the expressed concern about "the environment," "sustainability," "climate change and global warming," and "greenhouse gas emissions," the reality is that the automobility and oil-dependent mobility paradigm continues to reign supreme.

Weaponization of EIS indeed.   Note that I do agree with critics that the EIS process can be unduly time consuming, at significant cost to doing important projects.  In large part this is because it provides many opportunities for opponents to sue or otherwise influence stakeholders to back down.

It certainly discourages "the private sector" from bidding on and investing in such projects if there is always a high degree of uncertainty due to the possibility of lawsuits and unfavorable decisions.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

May is Historic Preservation Month: 58 ways to celebrate | Part 4: Items 40-58 (Cultural heritage tourism)

This post is updated and expanded annually, to encourage us to acknowledge and celebrate historic preservation, ideally not only during Preservation Month but throughout the year, by pointing out things that we can see and do.

In the past I've run this as one very long post, which grows each year as I add items.  This year I've broken up the post into four, and running each installment on succeeding Mondays throughout May.

-- May is Historic Preservation Month: 58 ways to celebrate | Part 1: Learn; Get Involved (1-15)
-- May is Historic Preservation Month: 58 ways to celebrate | Part 2: Explore your community (16-32)
-- May is Historic Preservation Month: 58 ways to celebrate | Part 3: Preservation At Home (33-39)
-- May is Historic Preservation Month: 58 ways to celebrate | Part 4: Cultural Heritage Tourism (40-58)
-- Preservation Policy basics
-- DC historic preservation policy and the DC Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process
-- Preservation successes

Cultural heritage tourism is the segment of tourism and visitation where people "consume" culture-related attractions, events, and places.  Cultural tourists tend to stay longer, spend more, and spend more "locally."  Of course, the great thing about making places great for ourselves is that they are attractive to visitors, and the money they spend while visiting supports the local economy.

-- Cultural Heritage Tourism, Partners for Livable Communities

At the same time, we have to be conscious of our footprint, because places can become "touristified" and the local offer shifts from locally-serving commerce to tourist-serving activities (think junky souvenirs and Spring Break type drinking establishments).  The use of nonstandard accommodations through Airbnb or Home Away can also be controversial because these properties can remove housing from the normal residential rental market ("Statistics and data on whether Airbnb puts up rent prices," Business Insider).

While most cities charge a variety of "tourist" taxes (extra taxes on hotel stays, rental cars, and meals), some impose separate fees above that and other cities are considering this ("Barcelona plans day tax for tourists," London Telegraph).

From a planning perspective, interestingly, in Passaic County, NJ, the Transportation Plan raised the idea of treating historic transportation corridors as opportunities for historic interpretation and cultural tourism, and the county has further developed the idea as part of the county's Heritage Tourism Plan.

(The National Trust for Historic Preservation used to focus on cultural tourism, which is one of the ways I learned about the field, but they have de-emphasized this in recent years.  Like how the Main Street program can produce "resource plans" for local commercial district revitalization programs, they used to produce similar cultural heritage development plans, but other organizations still do so, such as the policy studies program at the University of Delaware, and their proposal for Sussex County.)

Visitor centers as resources.  Many cities, counties, and state tourism and/or "convention and visitors bureaus" sponsor "visitor centers" where people can get tons of information about the places they are visiting, and usually information about history and cultural is readily available there.  (For me, visitor centers are also a great place to learn about "best practices.")

Historic preservation organizations.  Obviously, local historic preservation organizations at the city, county, or neighborhood level are a great resource for finding out about local points of interests, historic neighborhoods,and interesting architecture.

The April 2017 cover story of Southern Living Magazine featured Charleston, South Carolina.  (FWIW, seeing Charleston and Savannah for the first time taught me about the value of historic preservation, but at the time thinking of my own community, how too often we take the historic features of our own city and neighborhood for granted.)

Magazines focusing on historic homes (Old House JournalThis Old HouseAmerican Bungalow) and regional travel (SunsetSouthern Living) and interesting travel (National Geographic Traveler) are also a good source.

-- Southern Living City Guides

Note that a community doesn't have to have the reputation of a Savannah or Charleston to have plenty of interesting historic features that are worth exploring.

Resources at local chapters of the American Institute of Architects.  In many cities, AIA chapters often have multifaceted offices that also have exhibit spaces and bookstores, and offer information on a city's built environment that is useful for visitors.  The Philadelphia chapter is particularly noteworthy, and is located close to Reading Terminal Market.

Most major cities have a guide to local architecture published in association with the AIA and the Architecture Daily website also has a City Guides page.

Local bookstores.  Most communities have some premier, usually independent, bookstores, and such stores usually have a section of books on local history and places to visit.

40. Stay at a historic hotel in the city or a bed and breakfast located in a historic district. For example, the Tabard Inn in the Dupont Circle Historic District is one of the most romantic places in the city to have weekend brunch--out on the patio, during the spring, summer, and fall.

Pittsburgh Trip - Priory HotelI'm a big fan of the Priory Inn (Flickr photo by Two Ks) in Pittsburgh, which is in the Northside district, but an easy walk over the river into Downtown, near various Northside cultural institutions (and football and baseball if you're into that), etc.

Kennedy School in Portland, Oregon is a B&B in a former school, etc.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an affinity group, Historic Hotels of America, a collection of particularly distinctive and historic hotel properties.  NTHP members get discounts.

But the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles isn't a traditional historic hotel--it is remade from an office building constructed during the art deco area for an oil company--and it's very cool!  There are an increasing number of such hotel properties across the country.

Old neon signs, like this one for Groff's Restaurant, hang in the Doo Wop Preservation League museum in Wildwood. Photo: Dale Gerhard, Atlantic City Press.

All kinds of buildings can be historic, from motels in the Doo Wop Motel District, technically named the "Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District" in Wildwood, NJ ("Wildwood's doo wop architecture, appeal finding new generation of younger fans," Atlantic City Press), the art deco district in Miami Beach, or the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. -- Vacation Rentals by Owners -- is a great site for finding places to stay in neighborhoods, including historic districts. Not only do you more directly support the local economy (typically, hotels are owned by noncity interests and most of the room rental revenue doesn't stay local), but you can--if it's your way--have a much better, more local experience.

As examples, we've stayed in a house on Forsyth Park and a converted church building both in Savannah, a rowhouse in North Beach in San Francisco, and a basement apartment in Capitol Hill in Seattle and we experienced those places much more like local residents.

When you visit other places, check out how they deal with historic preservation matters, and share that learning when you come back. For example, every fall, Pasadena Heritage sponsors Craftsman Weekend, in honor of its bungalow heritage.

41. Check out a historic library build/Central Library.  Another great place to learn about a community when you're traveling is the main library.  Some of the buildings are historic, others more recently are majestic new construction buildings very much worth visiting.  .

Pictured at left, the Handley Memorial Library in Winchester, Virginia is particularly grand.

A number of DC's libraries were built with support from the Carnegie Foundation (Northeast, Southeast, the old Carnegie Library downtown, Takoma, and Mount Pleasant, which is particularly gorgeous) as were more than 2,000 other libraries elsewhere in the US.

Big city libraries tend to be pretty awesome, but as Winchester, Virginia proves, there are such jewels in cities of all sizes.

42. Visit historic sites.  Many people visit historic sites when traveling.  Across the United States, ("The shortest route to America's 49603 historic sites," Washington Post) there are almost 90,000 places listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

43. Go see a museum exhibit relevant to urban history, even if it's on a seemingly broader topic. When people travel, and "consume" locally available museums, usually people's trips start and end with the local arts museum.

But most cities have history museums as well, and they are well worth visiting.  In New York City there is the Museum of the City of New York, the New-York Historical Society, the NYC Transit Museum.  The Morgan Library has relevant exhibits, etc.  The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley outside Winchester, Virginia combines history and art.  The Valentine Center in Richmond, Virginia is excellent, as are the museums in Greater Williamsburg, the Pittsburgh History Center, etc.

While it's a national example, at the National Museum of American History, the exhibit on transportation history, "America on the Move" is superb.

Part of that exhibit uses Washington as an example specifically. But in any case, it explains the role of transportation in urban and regional development, and will give you a lot of insight into these issues as they relate to any region.

44.  Walking and building tours.  Many communities have organized walking tours for historic areas. Some print booklets for self-guided tours, many places have smartphone tour apps, and cities often have historic marker and trails programs.

In New York City, the Municipal Arts Society offers tours.  In Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Center is a staging point for tours.  In San Francisco, the City Guides organization provides free tours led by volunteers.

45. Bicycle touring.  Bikes are a great way to cover a lot of ground more quickly.  And it's less tiring to bike than it is to walk.  Many cities have bike rental operations (there is a loosely affiliated group called "Bike and Roll" operating in many cities).  And some hotels and B&Bs make bicycles available to their guests.  (There are even apps for renting bikes directly from individuals, like Spinlister, which can be cheaper than the bike rental places.)

Me on a Bixi
Me on a Bixi bicycle sharing bike in Montreal.

Bike share operates in many cities and can be a good way to get around, although to be cost effective you need to be clued in to how the system works.

Usually you can buy a short term pass, for a day, a few days, or a week, and this entitles you to unlimited free trips of 30 minutes duration.

But if any individual trip lasts for more than 30 minutes, you will be charged additional fees, which usually escalate with each additional 15 minutes to half hour.

But as long as you keep your trips to 30 minutes, no additional fees will be charged.

The Divvy bike share system in Chicago sometimes offers neighborhood tours as a promotional effort, although these are targeting residents.

It would be great for bike sharing systems, working with local convention and tourism bureaus, to develop a little better the opportunity of bike tourism--it would increase usage during slack times, would introduce people to the concept, and make a little money.

As an example, Choose Chicago has a webpage, "DIY Tours: Chicago's Riverfront by Divvy Bike," promoting bike share as a way to explore parts of the city..

46.  Transit as a way to get around.  While not many cities in the US do this, many European cities set up or promote specific transit services as a way to tour parts of the city, usually a set of tourist-oriented attractions in the core ("Travel around the city by tram," Visit Helsinki).

If you're already familiar with how to use transit, it usually isn't hard to figure out how to use another transit system.  If you don't regularly ride transit, likely people will be happy to help you.

Pierce Transit Bayliner, waterfront transit serviceThe old "Bayliner" bus used by Pierce Transit in its special waterfront service was decorated with images related to the sea.

Many cities have "Circulator" bus routes focused on the core that can aid "traveling by tourists."

Most cost money, some are free (Baltimore, Raleigh, North Carolina).  Tacoma, Washington is re-introducing a waterfront access transit service.

Some transit agencies publish special brochures and webpages for visitors, but CVBs and transit agencies need to work more closely together on facilitating visitor use of local transit, if only for "transportation demand management" purposes.

-- CTA Visitor Information - Using Transit in Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority-- Visitor's guide to public transit, City of Vancouver
-- MetroCard City, NYC MTA
--- Visitor's Kit, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Some cities--not DC--have bundled transit access into specially priced tourist passes, such as the City Pass in San Francisco, which includes unlimited use of the MUNI transit system including the cable cars and the vintage streetcars as well as regular bus and light rail services.

To get the best prices on fares, likely you'll have to buy a local transit fare card, rather than paying for each ride as you go.  Depending on the system, the type and price of available passes, and how long you stay, it may or may not be worth buying a transit pass.

47.  When we travel, we like to visit house museums.  For example, the Woodford Mansion in Philadelphia is really cool, and Savannah has many different house museums that you can visit, the most notorious being the Mercer-Williams House.  Most cities have at least one.  Los Angeles has just reopened the Hollyhock House.

48. Don't forget to check out traditional commercial districts, antique shops, other stores, cinemas, theaters, concert halls, restaurants, historic cemeteries, etc.

49. Arguably, "antiquing" which for me includes ephemera, is a form of historical/historic preservation-related research and is deserving of a separate entry.

While traveling, you may wish to check out reclaimed building materials stores too.  You'll probably have to do some digging to find such organizations, but offhand I know there are such places in New York City, DC (Suburban Maryland), Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Detroit, York and Scranton, Pennsylvania, etc., plus the various Re:stores run by local affiliates of Habitat for Humanity.

50.  Visit a historic railroad station, bus terminal and/or a transportation museum.   There are many fabulous extant railroad stations, many no longer in use, in so many cities.2013 was the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Station in New York City, and in Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles new master planning and/or construction improvement projects for stations in those cities are underway.

Photo of the exterior of The Grey Restaurant, Savannah by Emily Andrews.  

Greyhound, the inter-city bus company, was known for in the 1940s and 1950s, the construction of dynamic bus terminals featuring art deco/streamline design.

Savannah's Greyhound Bus Terminal has been transformed into a sleek restaurant ("How a Greyhound station in Savannah became a hit new restaurant," Washington Post).

The Illinois Railway Museum runs trains and streetcars on its site, including the art deco/streamline designed Nebraska Zephyr, of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Nebraska Zephyr.  Arlington (IL) Daily Herald photo.

-- list of railroad museums

While they don't promote "sustainable mobility" classic car shows and museums are still interesting and great opportunities for learning and seeing something different.

-- National Association of Automobile Museums

51. Visit a streetcar museum.   Many communities have streetcar/transit museums such as the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and the National Capital Trolley Museum  in Montgomery County, Maryland in this area.  So try to ride a historic streetcar as well.

Photo of a Kenosha streetcar by Brian Gardner.

52.  Ride a streetcar system in active service. Some places run heritage streetcars in active service.  Everyone knows about the streetcars in New Orleans (and that system continues to expand in bits and pieces).

San Francisco's F Line/Market Street Railway is an active transportation museum, featuring vintage streetcars painted to represent various streetcar systems from around North America.

The cars are restored with the help of volunteers, organized as the Market Street Railway. Membership in the group entitles you to their quarterly newsletter, which is fabulous.

But historic/"old" streetcars run in many places in regular service: Boston; Dallas; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Little Rock; Memphis; Philadelphia; Tampa, Toronto (the current cars date to the 1980s but the system has remained in operation for a long time); etc.

In the summer, on weekends, the Toronto streetcar system runs a heritage car on the waterfront ("TTC's vintage streetcar a great way to see harbourfront on Sundays").

San Francisco also has the cable cars, which are a designated National Historic Landmark.
San Francisco Cable Car
Cable car in San Francisco.  Flickr photo by Jon Robson.  Cable cars are mostly a tourist attraction, but depending on where you live and work in the city, they are also a working element of the public transit system.

Not to mention new streetcars such as in Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, etc. Memphis re-created part of its historic trolley system, which runs Downtown and in the riverfront district, in 1993.

And note that the South Shore Line, an active transit service connecting Northern Indiana to Chicago, is the nation's only extant interurban railroad service--there once hundreds of such systems across the country, but their moment as an elemental mode in the transportation system was brief, snuffed out by the combination of the rise of the automobile and the Depression.
South Shore Line
South Shore Line train in Michigan City, Indiana.  Flickr photo by Tony Lau.

Reading Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John Stilgoe will help you look at the outside environment in new ways.

53. Tour a historic trail, road, railroad, canal, park network, or parkway/greenway.

The C&O Canal Trust has restored some of the canal lockmaster quarters, which people can stay in.

-- Great Allegheny Passage (biking)
-- National Scenic Byways Program

The National and State scenic byways programs draw attention to these opportunities, and information from these programs is usually made available at visitor centers.

Minneapolis has recently upgraded its Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System, which connects Downtown sites, neighborhoods and the city's park system including lakes, the Mississippi River, and Minnehaha Creek.

Salt Lake City has created a bike loop not quite 14 miles long, linking various points of interests and the route is signed with special "Cycle the City" signage (Brochure and map).

54.  Garden Tourism. Garden tourism has two different strands.

The first focuses on public gardens such as the National Arboretum in DC, Roses Garden in Portland, Oregon or San Diego, and large scale local arboretums like the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, or the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago. Usually such facilities are open all year.

The second is special event public access to normally what are private gardens.

One such program is Virginia's Historic Garden Week--held every year the last week of April--and sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia. 

Another is how GardenWalk Buffalo sponsors a weekend of events, this year on July 29th and 30th, where people can tour gardens across the city.    (It's supposed to lead into a six week program that they call the "National Garden Festival.")  Both organizations use monies raised from their programs to support beautification and restoration projects.

These larger scale events are complemented by various locally organized events and programs, such as the Garden Tour in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC, which this year is on Saturday May 13th, and is its 89th Year, sponsored by the Georgetown Garden Club--which is during National Historic Preservation Month.  The Shepherd Park neighborhood garden tour is Sunday May 21st.

University Avenue in Toronto.

There is an interesting article ("Hidden landmarks: Why Toronto is at the forefront of the landscape architecture movement") in the Toronto Globe and Mail about that city's place in landscape architecture, which is perhaps deserving of a separate item for landscapes and urban design. From the article:
University Avenue may be the least wild place in Toronto, with eight lanes of traffic running between great walls of stone and concrete. But it’s a landscape. Look around: On the islands in the boulevard, lawns, copses, planters, fountains and benches form a modernist tapestry all the way from College to Richmond Street.

To Charles Birnbaum, this is a valuable piece of history, a work of design with “a pedigree that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Toronto,” explains Mr. Birnbaum, the head of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Speaking from his office in Washington, he enthusiastically runs through the history of those traffic islands: The landscape designer André Parmentier planted the avenue in 1829; it was reshaped in the 1920s in the Beaux-Arts style; and in the 1960s, the current landscape was designed by the British-born architect Howard Dunington-Grubb to cap the newly built subway. It includes perennials, statues and vent stacks.
And as an example, the American Society for Landscape Architecture has produced three area guides (usually in association with their national conference) which discuss monuments, sites, neighborhoods and other points of interest from the landscape architecture perspective.

-- The Landscape Architect's Guide to Boston
-- The Landscape Architect's Guide to Portland
--  The Landscape Architect's Guide to Washington, DC,

55. Visit a heritage area/heritage park.  Somewhat different from a specific site is the concept of state or nationally designated "heritage areas," based on the organizing framework of the cultural landscape, addresses heritage preservation and cultural interpretation over a large district sharing a common identity, history, and theme.  Heritage areas are networks of sites, attractions, historic districts and other features.

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is a support organization for nationally-designated heritage areas.  There are more than 40 such areas including cities like Baltimore and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area: Blue Ridge Mountains, which includes Asheville, North Carolina.

Separate from the federal program of National Heritage Areas, which are designated by Congress (so it can be a somewhat political process), many states have their own programs. Some, like Maryland or Pennsylvania, call them "heritage areas," while certain states like Connecticut call them "heritage parks."

-- Map of heritage areas in New York State

Baltimore started out with a state-designated heritage area -- and I've argued that DC should use the heritage area concept as an organizing tool to manage and present the city's cultural resources -- which later was nationally designated.

A newer heritage area is the Thames River Heritage Park in Connecticut, promoting and linking cultural sites in Groton and New London, which are across the river from each other, and home to many great sites, shopping districts, etc.

Last summer they launched water taxi service for visitors wanting to see sites on both sides of the river.

-- Thames River Heritage Park Master Plan

56. Ride a passenger rail train.  Ride a passenger railroad (commuter) train.  In the DC region, that means MARC or VRE.  In Greater New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia (SEPTA), Chicago, and Boston (as well as Toronto and Montreal), Southern California, Northern California and elsewhere commuter railroads provide passenger rail services once provided by private railroad companies.

The Norfolk Southern Railroad, in association with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, is running steam engine passenger train excursions in various places on their system.

(Union Pacific has decided to restore a steam locomotive--it will take some time--and run similar kinds of excursions beginning in 2019, which is the 150th anniversary of the driving of the "Golden Spike" and the creation of a transcontinental railroad system. See "Big Boy steam engine to start journey to Wyoming on April 28" from the Los Angeles Times.)

Amtrak's National Train Day is one way to acknowledge and celebrate railroad history and passenger train service.

There are many special scenic railroad organizations and other riding opportunities too.  Children really love these experiences.

-- Tourist Railway Association
-- Heritage Rail Alliance

Perhaps the most prominent example is the railroad from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Railway.  The trains used to be powered by steam locomotives, but they switched to diesels to reduce negative environmental impact.

57. Visit a national or state park. DC, for obvious reasons, has many nationally owned parks, the system of Fort Circle Parks works to preserve the forts built during the Civil War to protect the city from Confederate invasion. Fort Stevens, hidden behind a church on Georgia Avenue, around Quackenbos Street NW, was attacked by Confederate forces, and President Lincoln was up there and watched. Up Georgia Avenue a bit, close to Walter Reed Hospital, is a somewhat forlorn and neglected battlefield cemetery and monument honoring soldiers who died at the battle at Fort Stevens.

-- National Park Service, find a park
-- America's State Parks

58. Take a boat trip on a local river.  Many cities have water-based tours or smaller scale water taxi systems.  Boston, Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco have working passenger ferry systems. The Staten Island Ferry is working transit that's free and is a fun trip.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Revisiting Trust for Public Land's Park Score® methodology

Trust for Public Land is a great organization, focused on the expansion of public lands, with a particular initiative on urban parks. 

Like how the National Trust for Historic Preservation every year releases a list of "the most threatened historic properties," TPL has created a community parks quality measurement system called the ParkScore® index and every year they release a press release on the top 100 scores from the previous year.

While the 2017 data doesn't seem to have been released quite yet, it has been reported ("Parks & Strong Communities—San Francisco Tops Cities List," Non Profit Quarterly) that this year, San Francisco is number one.

According to last year's data ("The Trust for Public Land Releases 2016 ParkScore® Index, Rating Park Systems in the 100 Largest U.S. Cities) DC is #3.

I am a critic (e.g., "How surveys based on gross data can be very misleading: DC and parks," 2015) because every year, DC is ranked in the top five, even though we significantly lag other communities in terms of providing a wide range of parks, open space, recreation, and programming activities meeting the needs of all of the city's demographics.

For years DC's parks planning functions were significantly lacking, although in recent years a quite good parks planning action framework has been developed, called the PlayDC Master Plan. (They call it a master plan but I don't think it quite rises to that level.)

And there has been a great deal of successful investment in rehabilitating playgrounds and recreation centers across the city with an occasional hiccup.

The problem with the TPL methodology is that it counts space/acreage, but doesn't indicate who controls the space, how it's programmed, and the quality of the programming.

In DC, almost 90% of the park and open space resources provided are controlled by the National Park Service, and they are not set up to manage and program parks that are predominately locally-serving.

Yes, we have parks, open spaces, and monuments that are decidedly federal/national in the orientation, primarily the National Mall and Monuments system and the parks along the Potomac River.

But NPS runs three other parks systems that aren't really federal: Rock Creek Park--although it was the first national park so designated, it is primarily locally-serving; the Fort Circle Parks system of Civil War forts--technically a part of the Rock Creek Park system, but spread across the city, and arguably all are locally-serving with the exception of Fort Stevens, which because President Lincoln was there during a battle, has special historical significance, and the Anacostia Park system along the Anacostia River.

Plus, NPS manages a wide variety of circles and other reservations left over from when the city was managed by the federal government, downtown parks like Franklin Park, Farragut Square, and McPherson Square, and parks/circles across the city including Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Grant Circle, Washington Circle, Sherman Circle, etc.

In about creating "local" parks master plans, the situation of DC has caused me to realize that parks plans need to provide:

(1) a complete inventory of all the spaces within their jurisdiction, distinguishing between city/county, regional, state, and federal properties;

2) guidance concerning space not controlled by the locality because otherwise local resident concerns are not likely to be adequately represented by the other entities; and

(3) contingency/scenario/risk management outlines for non-city/county parks assets so that the community can be proactive in the face of exogenous changes to circumstances such as budget cuts and parks closures by state parks systems or federal budget shutdowns which end up in the temporary closure of national parks, which tend to be significant assets in local economies.

When "DC's" park and open space assets are categorized by ownership, less than 20% of the city's park and recreation assets are under the control of the Department of Parks and Recreation or related entities (e.g., the land under parks like Canal Park or Yards Park are controlled by the city but the parks are managed and operated by non-city entities).

Compared to other city and county parks and recreation departments, the programming offered by DC DPR is minimal, etc.

Therefore, DC's parks, open space, and recreation assets fail to add up to a city rated third for the quality of its park and recreation system.

From the 2015 blog entry:

Questions that should be considered when ranking cities and the quality of their parks offerings include:

(1) breadth and quality of facilities including a mix of active and passive spaces
(2) access and equitable provision of resources
(3) whether or not there is an approved parks master plan
(4) breadth and quality of programming and special events
(5) the policies and practices for developing and operating new parks spaces (public vs. private management)
(6) level of planning and operational coordination with other parks entities within the jurisdiction
(7) (level of) innovation
(8) The presence of an integrated system of paths and greenways (and restoring park and boulevard spaces in streets) -- treating streets as linear parks
(9) capacity building efforts that also strengthen civil society

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale

In "Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center: a critical evaluation." and then expanded in "Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 2 |   the program (macro changes)," I outlined recommendations for a program for systematic improvement of bicycle accommodations at transit centers.  I included this as an item for a similar improvement program in Northern Virginia.  This updates that list, and extends consideration to Greater Baltimore also.

Note that bike infrastructure is defined as lanes and various treatments, while facilities are defined as  parking, showers, maps, and other supports.

Bicycle ServiceBicycle Service neon sign.  College Cyclery, Sacramento.  Flickr photo.

The program as outlined below should become an initiative of the DC and Baltimore MPOs, working with the local jurisdictions and transit agencies to implement and manage it.

Below, I suggest that the area jurisdictions should band collectively to develop and fund the program, ideally with the assistance of a facilities development grant from the Kresge Foundation.

1. As mentioned in previous posts, the Capital Trails Coalition should become an official program of the DC area Metropolitan (Transportation) Planning Organization, the Transportation Policy Board, and it should be extended to include Greater Baltimore and its MPO, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

2. Area jurisdictions should commit to creating an integrated metropolitan and regional bikeways network, supporting cycling as transportation.  Trail expansions should be coordinated and opened in association with the launch of the Purple Line light rail and the extension of the Silver Line subway in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. 

Examples include the Metropolitan Branch Trail in DC, and the connector from Fort Totten in DC to West Hyattsville station, in Prince George's County, as well as the Central Avenue Connector in Prince George's County, which won't connect to the Purple Line, but why not use the launch as an excuse to move the project forward ("Comments on the Central Avenue Connector Trail concept (Prince George's County, Maryland").

Other models include the Virginia Capital Trail linking Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia; the Empire Trail proposal in New York State ("Empire State Trail Would Be Longest Multi-use Trail in the County," New York Times), and a proposed trail from Newark to Trenton in New Jersey ("New bike, walking trail would link N.J's 2 largest cities)" Newark Star-Ledger), plus the Minuteman Trail in Greater Boston, the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, and of course many trails in the DC area such as the Mount Vernon Trail and the Capital Crescent Trail.

While some of these trails are more about recreational cycling, they can serve as a backbone foundation for the creation and extension of metropolitan bikeways networks focused on meeting the needs for transportational cycling.

And as a direct model, I have been remiss in writing about the trails network in the National Capital Region of Canada.  Given Ottawa's status as the national capital, it seems an obvious example, and the network is managed by Ottawa's equivalent of our MPOs.

-- Multi-use pathways in the Capital, National Capital Commission, Ottawa

3.  Jurisdictions should commit to the creation and printing of a "Metropolitan Bikeways Network" map and it should be posted in Metrorail, MARC, VRE, and Purple Line stations.  Sub-district maps like the Silver Spring Bikeways Map should be updated.  (I recall that Maricopa County, Arizona publishes such a map, at least they did in the past.)

Note that NYC does post large bikeways maps in their "bike parking shelters" (comparable to a bus shelter).
Bicycle parking shelter, Astoria, Queens, NYC
Note that the NYC bike parking shelter doesn't qualify as secure bike parking, nor does it provide parking that is reasonably protected from weather, since three sides of the shelter are open to the elements.  And it doesn't provide very much parking either.

4.  In the DC area, treat Metrorail, Purple Line, and MARC and VRE stations as "trailheads" for the bicycle transportation network.  Extend this treatment to Greater Baltimore, including MARC stations, as well as subway, light rail, and key bus transfer centers.

5.  Develop an integrated secure bike parking program across the region, anchored by the transit network, modeled after the Parkiteer program in Victoria State, Australia.

Centered on Melbourne, the Parkiteer bike parking is a network of 90+ secure bicycle parking cages at railroad and transit stations.  While many European, Asian, and South American cities provide similar types of bike cages, Parkiteer is different in that each cage is a node in a common network, rather than each a free standing facility with different membership and entry access systems.

Bayswater Station, Melbourne, Parkiteer Bicycle Parking Cage
Bayswater Station, Melbourne, Parkiteer Bicycle Parking Cage

I am suggesting the creation of a networked secure bike parking system covering the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas, one that isn't transit agency/jurisdiction specific, but functional without respect to agency or jurisdiction (like how you can use the SmarTrip/CharmCard across transit agencies, even though technically, the card program is run by WMATA), including:
  • key activity centers, not just transit stations.  
  • use city and county parking structures as opportunities for providing high quality protected bike parking.  For example, With the opening of the Purple Line, parking authorities in Montgomery and Prince George's should commit to participating;
  • provide such facilities in dense neighborhoods like Columbia Heights DC, where apartment buildings constructed before 1950 typically don't have parking garages
  • not just bike cages like the Parkiteer program, but work to employ a wide variety of high quality secure bicycle parking options designed according to the location's conditions, opportunities, and potential for the most cost-effective installation.
The way the Parkiteer program works is that "members" pay a one-time $50 fee for a key fob which allows them to open the access control device.  They can use any of the Parkiteer sites across the network.  There is no daily use fee for parking.   Ideally, a wide variety of high quality parking options would be employed, not just the "cages" used in the Parkiteer program.Biceberg underground bicycle parking
The Biceberg underground bicycle parking system works with an above-ground kiosk.

Interior bicycle racks, Logan Square station, blue line subway, Chicago
At the Logan Square CTA station in Chicago, protected bike parking is available within the station, behind the fare gates, in interstitial space.

Note that the Biceberg has the capacity of 23, 46, 69, or 92 bikes, depending on the underground configuration (each unit of 23 equals the cubic feet of one parking space), while the bike cages used in the Parkiteer program have a capacity of 30.  Plus, it seems that the Parkiteer program's cages are pretty expensive. 

In any case there are a variety of spaces (indoors, garages, underground options, etc.) that should be utilized for such a program.

6.  Upgrade wayfinding and signage systems, including the addition of map signage.  The Greater Knoxville Greenways Trail signage is a good model, so is Better Bikeways.  An integrated signage system shouasld include common branding and identity systems as well as contact information.  Maps are key.

The signage system should include information for bike shops and air, and public restrooms.

7. Add bike repair stands and air pumps to transit stations.   Including air pumps and repair stands at PL stations is still not standard practice for transit stations in the region. 

However, many local jurisdictions installing bike pumps are not installing pumps that can withstand the rigors of high use in public places.  Only pumps rated for such should be installed.  In protected spaces, electric air pumps can also be used.

8. Create bike hubs as needed at PL/Metrorail/MARC/VRE stations in the DC area and at MARC, subway, light rail, and key transit transfer centers in Greater Baltimore. WMATA has developed some secured parking stations, but not multifaceted "bike hubs." Ensure that the bike hub planned for Silver Spring opens simultaneously with the PL. 

A new model to consider is the Los Angeles MTA's Bike Hub program.  The first was at the El Monte Regional Bus Station, which is the largest local transit bus station outside of the East Coast and Chicago ("A parking garage for bicycles just opened at El Monte Bus Station," San Gabriel Valley Tribune).

Velofix is a mobile bike repair operation, with franchises across North America.

Work with mobile bike repair operations and/or local bike shops to create a regular schedule of on-site bike repair options at transit stations.

Iowa has some examples for bike hub models too.  For example a bike hub proposed for Windsor Heights seems to be pretty robust ("Windsor Heights bike hub could have café, arts music," Des Moines Register).  From the article:
Windsor Heights could convert an empty auto shop into a bustling hub for cyclists, complete with a restaurant, outdoor patio, locker rooms and bike repair station. The former Sears Auto Center sits just west of the Wal-Mart on 73rd Street, at the nexus of the Walnut Creek and Clive Greenbelt trails.

That's where consultants recommend that the city build a trail hub. "I’d love to see something like that. It'd be just wonderful," said Dan Baldi, community bike shop manager for the Des Moines Bicycle Collective. "You'd have good trail access, and it would be a good place for families to go and enjoy the community." ...

Other area cities have trail hubs — the Riverwalk Hub Spot in Des Moines has food and coffee vendors, and Trailhead Park in Bondurant includes an open-air shelter. And other hubs have grown up around popular watering holes of cyclists, such as Mullets, 1300 S.E. First St., and the Cumming Tap, 117 N. 44th St. in Cumming.

Ankeny is building a trail hub on the southern end of the High Trestle Trail. The Ankeny Market & Pavilion will include parking and restrooms in a park setting with two open-air pavilions that can host farmers markets and other summertime events. Backers expect that the park will draw 100,000 visitors a year once it's completed in fall 2017.
9.  As part of this program, develop special bike hubs at Penn Station in Baltimore and National and BWI Airports, and a new bike hub as part of the expansion of Union Station in Washington, DC.

10. Create bike hubs with shower and locker facilities that are not "building-tenant" specific in key employment centers such as Downtown DC, Bethesda, etc

Work with recreation centers and privately owned sports facilities to provide such services where facilities already exist.  E.g., the LA Fitness Center on Cameron Street in Silver Spring.

11.  Provide space for bike hubs/bike co-ops in community recreation centers and other well-located public facilities.

12. Bike hubs should be the touch point for the delivery of programs like a bike co-operative, youth programs, "create a commuter" programs, and cycle loan schemes to assist people in trying out cycling for transportation.

13.  Provide financial assistance for the opening of bike shops in low income areas  as a way to seed biking for transportation.

14.  Funding the creation of bike loan programs at public housing locations.  I've suggested this to a couple of public housing organizations but never got a response. The idea would be to develop programs similar to bike sharing programs offered by some colleges and universities, where rather than deploying technologically complicated and expensive sharing systems like Capital Bikeshare, instead they assign a student a bike for a semester for a small fee (or even free), along with a lock and helmet, and usually repair services are included. .

The idea is that public housing residents could get bike access in a similar way, and it could be bundled into the cost of renting an apartment. Of course, it would need to be complemented by the installation of protected and very secure bike parking facilities, located on site.

15.  Integrate the ability to pay for bike share use via the SmarTrip/CharmCard transit fare media card

16. Improve accommodations for bikes on transit vehicles.  Most of the bus systems in the region have front-mounted bike racks that can take two bikes.  Over time, these racks should be upgraded to the three-bike version. 

MARC has a weekend bike car on the Penn Line, and plans to extend bike accommodations to Monday - Friday service on all three lines. 

VRE will accommodate bikes on an as-needed basis.  More steps can be taken to systematically add bicycle storage capacity. 

WMATA should include bike hooks or other "contraptions" in the design of future train cars, which they don't do at present.  

17.  Long term, create an inter-operable bicycle sharing program for the DC and Baltimore region.  Currently, there is a bike sharing system in Greater DC called Capital Bikeshare.  College Park has its own system, but will switch over to Cabi as Prince George's County adopts the system.  Baltimore has a separate program with Bewegen and it doesn't include Annapolis.  (The Baltimore system includes electric bikes.)

When Copenhagen/Denmark selected the Urbikes system, the national department of transportation created a master contract offering the same terms to all jurisdictions within Denmark.  And in Ontario, the PRESTO transit fare card system works in all but one major city across the province.

It's not the end of the world if the systems stay separate, but from the standpoint of integrated transportation networks, it makes more sense to have one system. 

If communities outside of the core region (e.g., Hagerstown, MD or Winchester, VA, etc.) want to adopt bike share, they should be able to do so on similar terms.  That way people can use the same system wherever they go, not unlike how the SmarTrip/CharmCard system works on most transit agencies in the DC-Baltimore region.

How to seed financing for this program.  The Kresge Foundation is a national foundation focused on funding buildings and civic infrastructure, such as funding for museum and music facilities construction.  Typically, they provide challenge grants, say up to 50% of a project, as a way to motivate local donations.

-- A Guide to the Challenge Grant, Kresge Foundation

As a model program to build a networked system of bike facilities across two metropolitan areas linked into one region, I could see Kresge Foundation being receptive to a grant proposal outlining the following and a pilot phase:

- the creation of an integrated secure bike parking network operating regionally
- the creation of a bike hub network at key transit stations and activity centers
- creation of bike hubs and programming at a set of community recreation centers
- installation of bike repair stands and air pumps at transit stations
- funding the development of bike shops in low income areas
- a model bicycle wayfinding signage program

Increasingly, foundations see investments in placemaking, especially parks but also bike infrastructure as a way to build and extend community and economic revitalization.

In Akron, the Knight Foundation has been a key funder for the iTowpath bicycle trail project ("How improvements to Akron’s Towpath will better connect residents to the city," Knight Foundation; "Knight Foundation awards $500k grant for Towpath," Cleveland Plain Dealer), providing intra-city bike connections to the regionally-serving Ohio & Erie Canalway Trail.

-- planning process brochure
-- explanatory brochure

In Philadelphia, the Circuit Trail Network initiative enjoys the support of key foundations, especially the William Penn Foundation, which provide more than $8 million in a single grant (The Region’s Trail Network, The Circuit, Gets Major Boost," WPF).

Roughly half the funding for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail came from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, and a lead gift of $15 million from Eugene and Marilyn Glick.
Street crossing, Indianapolis Cultural Trail
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail circles the Downtown, linking six outlying neighborhoods to the core.  It is known for particularly distinctive sidewalk, bike path, and roadway crossing treatments and integrates public art also.

Note that other elements concerning "programming" need to be included in a master plan, but aren't facilities that a foundation like Kresge would consider funding.

- wide ranging bike-related/sustainable mobility related programming
- Open Streets program
- Create a Commuter program for low income households (discussed in other cited entries)
- local cycle loan programs to test biking out without having to buy a bike
- programs to assist people in buying a bike through payroll deduction programs
- bike expos
- creating "Bike Friendly Business Districts"

Bike Friendly Business District promotion, Bellevue neighborhood, Richmond.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1

Last year, pr people reached out to me to write about BTWD and the Commuter Connections program of the MWCOG, which I did ("Bike to Work Day, May 20th/May is Bike Month -- revised") and it made me realize that May/Bike Month is always a good opportunity to consider where we are in terms of overall questions about biking for transportation, planning, accommodations, etc.

-- It happens in late March I wrote a kind of assessment of the state of biking as transportation in the DC area, although it isn't exhaustive. See "Making cycling irresistible in DC 2.0 | Revisiting a post from 2008."

-- This piece, "Eight mutual assistance programs that can build support for biking as transport," discusses ways to promote biking for transportation amongst low income populations and earlier in the week I listed a set of programs that could assist people in making the transition to biking for transportation more generally.

-- I'd forgotten this post, from 2011, "Rethinking the best way for urban apartment buildings to support biking."

-- And "What should a US national bike strategy plan look like?," "Are developers missing the point on eliminating parking minimums?: it's to promote sustainable transportation modes," and "More bikes: elements of a Bicycle Friendly Community."

Some recommendations

1.  From Bike to Work Day to Bike Month.  As mentioned earlier in the week, May is designated as National Bike Month, and some places take the opportunity to focus their activities throughout the month, rather than just one specific day--in our case, Bike to Work Day.  All areas should focus on Bike Month just as much as they focus on Bike to Work Day.  That means Greater Washington definitely.

2.  Transit agencies should have a set of model practices for participating.  In the Quad Cities communities in Illinois, during Bike to Work Week, local transit systems are offering free rides to bicyclists, space permitting ("Local transit systems support cyclists," Quad City Times).

In the past, the Utah Transit Authority has had a bike expo, called Bike Bonanza.

3.  In the DC area specifically, there needs to be greater focus on the opportunities to work with large employers, especially the federal government, and college campuses.   Especially the federal government!  Converting 10% of the workforce to bike commuters could have tremendous positive impact in many ways.

One correspondent who works for the federal government argues that while federal government provision of free parking and transit benefits can be quite high, what's offered to bicyclists is paltry.

At the very least, local governments could step up and create a set of model benefits for bike co4mmuters, that go beyond the paltry amount provided by the federal government.

4.  Bike Month should be used as the "launch month"/target date for the launch of new infrastructure and facilities, and bike map reprintings.  In the DC area, most jurisdictions are very very good about printing and updating maps, whereas in many places, printed maps are being discontinued.  That being said, most places aren't good about updating localized maps (e.g., the Silver Spring Bikeways map is 9 years old and out of date).

5.  Sustainable mobility street closure event.  One of the points made by Nick Ramfos of Commuter Connections is that he would like to see a real "Open Streets" program--where a street/streets are closed off and open to walking, biking, and related activities, modeled after the Ciclovia program in Bogota, Colombia.  (Also see "Speaking of Sunday Streets" from 2010.)

It doesn't have to be during Bike Month, but it ought to happen.  In DC, it can happen on Massachusetts Avenue, between 9th Street NW and Dupont Circle, and even beyond Dupont Circle.  In Montgomery County, it can happen on Fenton Street in Downtown Silver Spring.  I'm not sure where the best, most visible places could be in the other counties.

CicLAvia logoLA's CicLAvia is the model.  They sometimes get as many as 150,000 participants.  The title sponsor is the transit authority, they have an event in both the spring and fall, and it shifts to various locations around the county.

Parking Day in September can also be better leveraged to support sustainable mobility.

6.  There should be a bike/sustainable mobility expo during National Bike Month.  Tomorrow's Bike to Work Day in Boston is also called a Bike Festival. 

-- Boston's National Bike to Work Day Festival

7.  There is a new "Capital Trails Coalition," organized by WABA. While it's great that such a "voluntary" group has been formed, I argue it should be formalized as a transportation planning function of the Metropolitan Washington Transportation Policy Board.

8.  Membership for the League of American Bicyclists and local and state bike advocacy groups should have special pricing during Bike Month

9. Special pricing for subscriptions to magazines like Bicycling, Momentum, Bicycle Times, etc. should be offered during Bike Month.

Some interesting best practice planning publications (this isn't an exhaustive list)

-- American Trails resource website
-- Bicycle and Pedestrian Data Collection Manual, Minnesota Department of Transportation
-- BIKESAFE: Bicycle Countermeasure Selection System
-- CREATING WALKABLE + BIKEABLE COMMUNITIES: A user guide to developing pedestrian and bicycle master plans, Portland State University
-- Cycling for Everyone - A Regional Cycling Strategy for Metro Vancouver
Translink Vancouver.  This plan is rare in that it sets high numerical goals for the number of bicycle trips for transportational purposes.
-- Additional cycling resources, Translink Vancouver
Their studies on bike parking and other support facilities are probably the best of any such study in North America.
-- Guide for Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycling Advocates, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
-- London Cycling Design Standards
-- Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan
One of the best, although I prefer the previous version
-- Federal Republic of Germany, National Cycling Plan 2002-2012: Ride your bike! Measures to Promote Cycling in Germany, this is the old plan, but it's excellent
-- North Carolina Department of Transportation Bike and Pedestrian Policies Master Webpage
The key policies for each functional area of the department are accessible from this page.  This model should be extended across a Department of Transportation as a whole.
-- Shared Use Path Level of Service Calculator, Federal Highway Administration
AASHTO guidance is out of date on how wide shared use paths should be.  Better to build for expected use, rather than sanction too puny of a width.  It's really hard to go back in and widen a path.
-- Sidewalks and Shared-Use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration.
-- Smart Transportation Guidebook
it needs to be updated, but it is an important step forward in how it defines roadway characteristics, roadside characteristics, and desired operating speeds in terms of specific land use context (along the lines of the New Urbanism Land Use Transect). However, the bikeway recommendations are out-of-date and urban desired traffic speeds can still be too high.
-- Utah Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Design Guide, Utah Department of Transportation
-- Urban Bikeway Design Guide, NACTO

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