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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Modern railroad tourism promotion

Another Reason To Visit ClevelandIn "the old days" railroads heavily marketed the tourism element of passenger rail travel. Posters from that time are still admired for the quality of their message and design.

The style and approach is often used today, especially for the National Park system, although the poster designs are rarely marketed, which is a shame.

Amtrak does do a fair bit of promotion, but it pales by comparison to the heyday of railroad passenger service.

That being said, sometimes they do a particularly good job. Such as for the poster pictured below for the Pacific Surfliner system along the Pacific Coast -- that track is also used by area commuter rail services such as Metrolink and Coaster in Southern California.

When I was in England, I noticed a number of "2-for-1" attractions promotions by various railroads (and the National Express bus system, at least for London) for use in association with train travel to major destinations such as London and other cities.

Pacific surfliner poster

Last weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a travel story about Santa Barbara ("Wandering Santa Barbara’s wonders more carefree when you’re car-free"), calling attention to how the local air quality initiative by Santa Barbara Car Free, which offers tourists a 20% discount on Amtrak fares and other discounts at area attractions and hospitality venues.

And LA-area newspapers are running a similar article ("Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner offers deals on travel for music and sports fans, wine and food connoisseurs and theme park enthusiasts this summer," San Gabriel Valley Tribune), about similar kinds of offers around travel on the Pacific Surfliner to various destinations, commenting in passing that more stadiums, arenas, and other venues are being constructed proximate to transit.

Fortunately, as the article explains:
More entertainment and sporting venues are starting to be built near train or bus stations or certainly with future public transportation plans and expansions in mind. The all-new Banc of California Stadium, located in Exposition Park next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to the Los Angeles Rams and USC Trojans football teams, is also a short walk away from public transportation with the Los Angeles Metro Expo Line being just a quick venture through the Rose Garden. The Expo Lines can be easily accessed by patrons coming into the Los Angeles Union Station via train.

FivePoint Amphitheatre, the temporary 12,000-capacity venue that opened next to the Orange County Great Park last year, is less than 500 steps from the Irvine station where the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner provides extended hours for concertgoers coming from Los Angeles and San Diego with several other major city stops other stops in between.

“It has been one of our priorities to partner with some of the great destinations and venues along our route,” says Michael Litschi, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner managing deputy. “There are a lot of venues in cities that are extremely walkable from the train stations and we want to offer people a unique experience on the train to get to some of those destinations and to be free of the stress that people experience while they’re stuck in traffic or running late because of traffic.”
The challenge is to facilitate the movement of riders within a community, once they have arrived at their destination. That is discussed at length in Santa Barbara piece, and increasingly newspapers are running travel articles about "city break" tourism where people use local transit to get around rather than the car. From the SFC article:
Car-free works best if you stay downtown or on the waterfront. Luckily, you have lots of lodging options in both neighborhoods. ... If your hotel offers bikes, even better. Near the beach, the Spanish-Revival, bougainvillea-swaddled Hotel Milo has a fleet of blue beach cruisers to borrow; downtown, the elegant Kimpton Canary will get you pedaling, too. … If you prefer a more direct, less fact-filled bus tour, the Santa Barbara MTD’s sporty blue-and-white shuttles run along the waterfront and up State Street for 50 cents, taking you near most places you want to go.
A number of regional "commuter" rail systems do provide some excursions and promotions, especially to sports events, not unlike how in the old days streetcar systems would promote streetcar travel to amusement parks. Before Washington had its own baseball team, MARC would provide some special service from DC to Baltimore for Orioles baseball games. LIRR and Metro-North do this in Greater New York, MBTA runs special trains to Foxboro for the Patriots football games, Metro-North runs special trains to Giants football games in New Jersey, and Metrolink does a lot of prootions with teams based in Anaheim (Angels baseball and Ducks hockey).

In Denver, weekend ski trains have been brought back to life ("Amtrak adds Friday trips to Winter Park Express ski train for 2018," Denver Post).

This could be an opportunity for some of the state-based railroad promotion programs, like Amtrak Virginia or Amtrak Cascades (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia), to promote tourism around train excursions.

In my comments on the "DC State Rail Plan," I suggested that Union Station be leveraged for the opportunity to promote this.  In the DC area, MARC has 7 day service on the Penn Line, but VRE operates only Monday through Friday.  This is what I wrote:

-- Train tourism

Many people are already riding trains as an element of their plans to visit DC and other cities in the region.  It is a key element of the Amtrak Virginia program and generally Amtrak devotes a fair amount of marketing to tourism.

Poster circa 1930.

Many states have scenic-excursion railroads that are tourist attractions.  There are a number of these systems in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the B&O Museum and the National Capital Trolley Museum have short tracks used for train riding.  NRHS chapters also organize excursion trips.

Other state rail plans, including those for Virginia and West Virginia, do discuss, albeit briefly, excursion railroads and their place in the rail and tourism systems.

DC as a city-state has much different conditions than a typical state, and there is no opportunity for that kind of dedicated tourist attraction in the city.

However, as a way to build interest and awareness of railroad service in the region, it could be worthwhile for MARC and VRE, with the National Railway Historical Society and the proposed transportation museum in Union Station and the B&O Museum, to develop a special event railroad excursion program.

One example is the program between Norfolk Southern Railway and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which offers special excursion steam engine trains in the Spring, Summer, and Fall on various segments of the Norfolk Southern system.

Since Norfolk Southern is already doing this with that museum, they would be a logical partner to work with to test and launch such a program out of DC, especially since they have trackage access rights on the CSX system, and the VRE line to Manassas runs on NS track.

At the same time, rather than just approach this haphazardly, a detailed marketing program to simultaneously promote regional passenger service should be developed in association with this program.

The DC State Rail Plan could make recommendations on excursion tourism as an element of the plan, both to serve tourist markets and as a way to market and promote passenger rail service.

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BaltimoreLink bus system redesign, one year later

The Baltimore Sun has a long piece, "One year of BaltimoreLink bus system: Ridership bounces back, reliability still falls short," evaluating the quantum scale changes to the Baltimore-area bus system one year later.

For many, the changes have lengthened trip times.

The reorganization was organized into what I term primary and secondary transit subnetworks.

-- Metropolitan Mass Transit Planning: Towards a Hierarchical and Conceptual Framework

The primary network is CityLink--color coded high frequency routes offering 24 hour service; complemented by a secondary network of neighborhood-based routes called Local Links, connecting neighborhoods to multiple CityLink services.

Note that during the Ehrlich Administration MTA created a network of limited stop faster routes called the QuickBus, which was the genesis of the new CityLink network, although focused on Baltimore City as opposed to longer city-suburban routes, like the QuickBus 48 route on York Road to Towson.

09a.BusStop.493.BaltimoreMD.11July2017According to the launch website, the system has added bus traffic signal prioritization on some routes, dedicated busways on some streets, better facilities, improvements in signage and real-time schedule displays, and connections to a richer set of "last mile connections" like bike share and car share.

The changes came with bus livery redesign, new logos, and cross-marketing of the new system on light rail and subway cars.

Immediately after the changes, ridership dropped by almost 25%.  Ridership returned to the buses over time and now it's 1% fewer riders than before the change.

Given that overall transit ridership is down 5% nationally, attributed to the rise in ride hailing services as well as cheap gasoline, maybe that's a victory.

It's hard to tell if the changes have made for a better transit system.
BaltimoreLink bus and billboard, West Baltimore transfer center, Smallwood Street
BaltimoreLink launched in June 2017 with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new West Baltimore transfer center on Smallwood Street.  Joe Andrucyk/Maryland Government.

Given that a lot of these massive overhauls of route structures for transit systems don't seem to result in significant ridership gains (see the January 2018 entry, "Improving bus service overall vs. reversing falling Metrobus ridership"), I wonder if we are focusing on the wrong things.

But what are the right things?

I have to acknowledge that maybe repositioning and rebranding bus service as premium, by switching to double deck buses, might not be enough. Although in London and other UK cities it works just fine, and more people ride buses in London on a daily basis than the entire railroad system in the UK.

-- "Marking bus service sexy and more equitable," 2012
-- Will buses ever be cool? Boston versus the Raleigh-Durham's GoTransit Model," 2017

The two main points of the first entry are:

1. bus service can be repositioned as a premium service by using double deck buses, which are seen as cool.

2. Introducing new buses and repositioning bus transit needs to be complemented with a series of other improvements to the provision of the service--I outlined eight categories of improvements (which is why the entry is way too long).

• Improve bus transit waiting environments
• Improve bus transit marketing
• Create a priority bus lane network in the core of the city
• Add Night Owl bus service along subway lines during the hours that the subway service doesn't run
• Improve wayfinding and transit information
• Augment on-board bus announcements and information on schedules, signage, etc., with landmark and destination information
• Create "Mobility" stores as part of transportation demand management programming
• Incorporate neighborhood history, public art elements, and transportation history interpretation into bus shelters

But MTA has incorporated many of these improvements into the BaltimoreLink program.

I think another point is pricing and other incentives. For example, in Columbus, Ohio they are introducing free transit passes to downtown workers as a transportation demand management measure ("Downtown Columbus parking issues getting partial fix as workers getting free COTA passes," Columbus Business First).  That would get more choice riders onto buses.

But it's not like MTA doesn't provide a number of incentive programs for discounted transit passes, such as to colleges and employers.  And the cost of a "day pass" to ride area transit (bus, subway, light rail) is cheap, $4.20/day.

Although to increase ridership but not farebox revenue, they could introduce "capping," so that low income riders paying daily for a day pass would stop paying daily once they've reached a payment equal to a monthly pass ($72).

London has capping and Edmonton is thinking about it ("Thinking systematically about bus transit service improvements: spurred by Columbia SC, Edmonton AB, and Baltimore," 2017).

David Blair, a candidate for County Executive in Montgomery County, suggests converting RideOn, one of the nation's more successful suburban bus systems, to free, given that the farebox revenue isn't that significant, about $21 million/year ("Who is Montogmery County executive candidate David Blair?," Washington Post)--that's less than a rounding error in the overall county budget.

(In Orlando, with the "new" commuter rail system, they spend more money on the cost of collecting fares than they make in fares, "SunRail ticket revenue is less than ticketing expense," Orlando Sentinel.)

I think it comes back to density, proximity of activity centers, and the relative efficiency of transit. If transit is reasonably efficient and cost effective, especially if you have to pay for parking, or the city is dense like most core center cities, you can get higher ridership. Otherwise, transit is more of a social service--at least bus service is--and your ability to grow the service is constrained.

In the Metropolitan City Era, 1920-present (Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis," Peter Muller), where the mobility system has been built to preference if not require a car, it's difficult for transit to compete.

I am behind in writing about my UK trip, but a couple pieces will focus on transit in Liverpool and London.

Merseytravel still runs the rail commuter system, but not buses, although the mobility system shares some branding and infrastructure, which Merseytravel still plans for and markets.  Some of what they do is simple, but it extends branding across transit infrastructure in visible ways.  It's a lesson for US transit systems.

Note that with regard to my past writings, holding up the creation of the London Overground rail system as a way to better integrate railroad services into the Transport for London system:

-- "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example," 2015

the reality on the ground is even more pronounced.  What a model!

You have to flash your card at a reader, but they don't use gates, although to continue your trip on the Underground, at the end of your trip you go through gates. That's what needs to be done for MARC in terms of integrating with transit systems in the DC and Baltimore areas.

London Overground platform, Highbury & Islington Station
London Overground platform at Highbury & Islington, where it connects to the Underground.  There is a coffee kiosk on the platform, which operates during the day.

Orange is the color of the London Overground, just like red is the color of the bus system. Orange is used as an accent color on the trains and in the stations, such as the color of handrails on stairways or in trains, within the Overground roundel, etc.

People on a London Overground train

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Building a Better City one-day conference by the Toronto Globe & Mail: Thursday, June 21st
Not cheap but looks to be an interesting lineup.

Keynote speakers include Gabe Klein, former director of DC's Department of Transportation and author of Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun, and Eve Picker, CEO of SmallChange, a real estate crowdfunding organization.

Session topics include the value of the public realm, complete streets, and historic preservation.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Are delivery robots and drones an element of the "Sustainable Mobility Platform"? (Yes.)

10.Robot.Postmates.WDC.25October2017NotionsCapital calls our attention to a Business Insider story, "People kicking these food delivery robots is an early insight into how cruel humans could be to robots." From the article:
The company behind tiny food delivery robots has admitted that people are kicking its machines — and it's an early insight into how cruel humans could be to robots.

Starship Technologies was launched in 2014 by Skype cofounders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. It makes 22-inch tall robots that roll along the pavement at 4mph delivering food to people. ...

Heinla told Business Insider that while most people like the robots, there are a few who take exception.
Not every element is likely to be equally valued. I do outline the importance of delivery as an element of the SMP ("Free access to cargo bikes/e-cargo bikes as part of a mobility hub/sustainable mobility platform") here:

I continue to work out where to place the various rungs on the ladder.  It's easier if you split it out according to trip distance.  These are the elements, with new items shown in bold italic.  The organization has been expanded by scale, divided into three scales: metropolitan; regional; and multi-regional/multi-state.

The Sustainable Mobility Platform at the city/county/metropolitan scale

-- Walking

-- Skateboards/Scooters (nonmotor)*

-- E-Scooters/Segways/electric wheels*
---- dockless scooters (Bird, LimeBike)

-- Cycling
---- secure bike parking, air pumps, repair stands
---- access to trailers
---- tandems
---- cargo bikes
---- e-bikes
---- special populations ("Two men leading an effort to provide bikes to homeless," WLOX-TV)

-- Bicycle sharing
---- community system (hub and spoke based)
---- dockless (LimeBike, Mobike, Ofo, etc.)
---- dockless e-bikes (Jump)
---- building/campus (e.g., hotel, office building, university, office complex)
---- special populations ("New bike share program gives One80 Place's homeless a way around the city," WCIV-TV)

-- Delivery services ***
---- packages long distance (e.g., UPS, FedEx, etc.)
---- local delivery (e.g. Dolly, robots) including groceries
---- package pickup points (Amazon, UPS, etc.)

-- Metropolitan Transit
---- network scale (regional, metropolitan, city; primary, secondary, tertiary)
---- various bus, streetcar, light rail, heavy rail, railroad services
---- intra-district (Baltimore Circulator, Circulators, San Diego FRED Shuttle); tertiary network (Tempe Orbit)
---- shuttle services (school, employer, residential)
---- microtransit either private (Bridj**, Chariot, Israeli sheruts) or public (AC Transit FLEX pilot project, "The newest battleground between public transit and Uber, Lyft is an unlikely one," San Jose Mercury News)
---- van pools (longer distance) (vride)
---- shared taxi type services at edges of the transit system (taxi collectif in Montreal) or intra-district (Via, UberPool, Lyft Line) either publicly subsidized ("Mass transit gets boost from ridesharing," USA Today; "Uber and Lyft Want to Replace Public Buses," Bloomberg) or not

-- Taxis/Ride hailing
---- single trips (equivalent of "single occupant vehicle trips")

-- Car sharing
---- one-way (car2go****)
---- two-way (Zipcar, Enterprise, Maven, etc.)
---- inclusion of a variety of vehicles in fleets to accommodate multiple uses (Zipcar)
---- electric car sharing systems

-- Two-Wheel Scooters
---- scooter sharing (Scoot in SF)

-- Car pooling

-- Car rental

Sustainable Mobility Platform at the Regional Scale

-- Regional Transit
---- Commuter bus
---- Inter-city bus (Megabus, Bolt, etc.)
---- Inter-city rail (regional passenger and/or commuter rail services including all-day services like Long Island Rail Road or commuter specific services such as Virginia Railway Express which does not provide weekend or late night service)

Sustainable Mobility Platform at the Multi-regional and Multi-state scale

---- Inter-city bus (Megabus, Bolt, etc.)
---- Inter-city rail (Amtrak, separate long distance rail services in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, All Aboard Florida)

*       Separation of non-motorized from motorized forms
**     Bridj went out of business
***   Recategorized by distance/origin of package
**** Car2Go and BMW Drive Now services have merged, but not yet at the scale of individual markets

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Revisiting the Purple Line article series after one year: Part 1 | a couple of baby steps

CAF, a transit vehicle manufacturer based in the Basque Country, but with a US plant in Elmira, New York, has the contract to build light rail vehicles for the Purple Line.  The firm is also a partner in the company that is being created to operate the line.

Starting in March 2017, I wrote a series of articles making the point that major new transit infrastructure projects should be complemented by a coordinated improvement program across the transit network, with the aim of making the launch of the new transit project very successful while improving the rest of the system simultaneously.

-- Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 1 | simultaneously introduce improvements to other elements of the transit network
-- Part 2 |   the program (macro changes)
-- Part 3 |   influences
-- Part 4 |   Making over New Carrollton as a transit-centric urban center and Prince George's County's "New Downtown"
-- PL #5: Creating a Silver Spring "Sustainable Mobility District"
- Part 1: Setting the stage
- Part 2: Program items 1- 9
- Part 3: Program items 10-18
- Part 4: Conclusion
- Map for the Silver Spring Sustainable Mobility District
- (Big Hairy) Projects Action Plan(s) as an element of Comprehensive/Master Plans
- Creating the Silver Spring/Montgomery County Arena and Recreation Center
-- Part 6 |  Creating a transportation development authority in Montgomery and Prince George's County to effectuate placemaking, retail development, and housing programs in association with the Purple Line
-- Part 7 | Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward

Downtown Silver Spring gateway sign lit up at nightSilver Spring as a sustainable mobility and innovative district. The set of articles on Silver Spring came about, outlining the opportunity of using the Silver Spring Maryland conurbation as a model for creating a "sustainable mobility and innovation district" using the Purple Line as a springboard, because blogreader Edward Drozd who lives in Silver Spring-Takoma Park, asked me to explain expand what I meant when I made the point (item #20) about creating "sustainable mobility corridors" around PL transit stations, using Fenton Avenue in Silver Spring as an example.

More importantly, he hoped to push the idea forward, and while I have spread these ideas to some blogs in Montgomery County, to some councilmembers, government officials and planners, it hasn't moved along at all.

But the concepts are applicable to other areas where there are going to be Purple Line stations, especially New Carrollton in Prince George's County.

Transformational Projects Action Planning approach.  It also propelled and helped me to scintillate my thinking about what I am now calling "Transformational Projects Action Planning" as an organizing structure for planning at three different scales:
  • macro ("Comprehensive Plan/Master Plan")
  • micro (specific elements such as economic development or transportation within a master plan), and 
  • individual project (e.g., how do we make this __________ [fill in blank] initiative transformational and innovative).
-- "Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning," October 2017

If it's not in the contract, concessionaires aren't not interested.  I'm really proud of the work, although it hasn't developed much traction.

Partly this is because in the "public-private partnership model," if it's not in the contract, the concessionaire isn't interested. It's not unlike the criticism of unions over "working to the rule."  This btw is the biggest problem with contracting.  It's not about iterative improvement or incorporating new developments in technology and programs as they occur after the contract was signed..

Lack of metropolitan and regional integrated transportation planning.  The other is no one in a position of authority is asking these kinds of questions.

I've argued that in part this is because we don't have a true metropolitan/regional scaled transportation planning and operation system comparable to that of the Germans, Paris or London (although I learned in my UK trip that while Transport for London has a lot of authority, there are also significant gaps, not unlike in the DC area).

And, as someone said at a meeting last night, the organization tasked with metropolitan scale transportation planning in the DC region is more of a "collator" putting into a combined list the various projects offered up by the separate jurisdictions.

But it's both the lack of a regional-metropolitan transportation planning organization with heft combined with the failure to approach planning in a transformational fashion.

-- "The answer is: Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority association," March 2017
-- "Verkehrsverbund: The evolution and spread of fully integrated regional public transport in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland," Ralph Buehler, John Pucher & Oliver Dümmler, International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (2018)

Update on actions.  There is some movement on a couple of the recommendations.

1. Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit.  In the 20 programmatic recommendations (Part 2 |   the program (macro changes)), item #11 recommends that Montgomery County coordinate its rollout of Bus Rapid Transit with PL development. The recommendation specifically discussed service on New Hampshire Avenue.  But I failed to make a recommendation concerning Route 355 Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue.

In any case, the New Hampshire BRT route is being rolled out. And the Wisconsin Avenue route is moving forward too in planning, pushed forward in part by a new limited stop bus service along the corridor ("An express bus is coming Maryland Route 355 this fall. Next stop, BRT," Washington Post).

The service is called RideOn Extra (Bus Route 101) and runs from Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg to the Medical Center Metrorail Station.

But in keeping with #10, which recommends extending certain bus services on arterials connecting DC and Maryland to create better links with the Purple Line, the Route 355 BRT service should start at  Friendship Heights to ensure a better connection with DC.  But the planning process starts the route at the Bethesda Metrorail Station.

That dovetails the recommendation within #10 of extending the DC 30s Metrobus Route on Wisconsin Avenue from its terminal at Friendship Heights Metrorail Station to the Bethesda Metrorail Station.

2. Cycletracks on Fenton Avenue and East-West Highway in Silver Spring.  The Silver Spring series ("Creating a Silver Spring Sustainable Mobility District | Program Items 1-9") proposes the creation of a core sustainable mobility district bounded by Fenton Avenue on the east (Item #1) and East-West Highway on the west (Item #2).

Part of this recommendation was creating high capacity cycletracks on those streets, rather than the "bypass" cycletrack the County has built on Second Avenue/Spring Street.

The draft Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan proposes those cycletracks.  The County Council public hearing to approve the plan is scheduled for July 10th.

Note that I talked about this with a County planner at Bike to Work Day and he took the sustainable mobility corridor one step further, suggesting converting Fenton Avenue to a pedestrian corridor removing all motor vehicle traffic!  But that's not in the plan.

Incremental movement. Well, that's not much to report but it is something.

Purple Line as an economic development generator.  Relatedly, likely the Purple Line is an element that has influenced Amazon's pick of Montgomery County's White Flint district as a finalist in their search process for the creation of a second Amazon headquarters.

Amazon says they prefer to locate in an area with quality transit service and the PL will expand the transit infrastructure available within Montgomery County.

-- "Could Montgomery County be home to Amazon's new HQ2?," WJLA-TV
-- "A look at Montgomery County, Maryland's bid for Amazon's second headquarters," Washington Business Journal
-- "Exclusive: Montgomery County, emboldened by HQ2, also courting Apple," WBJ

Although for all the same reasons as in hyper strong real estate markets like DC and Boston, I think "winning" would be problematic for Montgomery County.  Plopping that HQ in an already expensive residential property market will have significant impact, leading to high velocity price appreciation in Montgomery's residential property market, pricing even middle class households out of the market.

Although the county is achieving some success with companies moving from car-centric locations to Metrorail station areas like Bethesda (Marriott) and Rockville (Choice Hotels), with a 12% vacancy rate in commercial markets, plus the recent announced loss of Discovery Channel which post-merger with Scripps Networks is consolidating the companies at locations outside of the DC region, landing Amazon (or Apple) would be seen as a major boon to the commercial property market.

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Update: Action Committee for Transit "Sustainable Mobility" election candidate scorecard

Update and reposting of this entry, originally published on Thursday June 7th, with a new date

Originally I wrote that ACT wasn't doing "transit scorecards" for candidates. Over the past few election cycles, they did create internally distributed scorecards, but they weren't publicly distributed or passed out in electioneering such as at Metro stations.

For the 2018 election cycle, ACT has an active program during the primary season where they are passing out literature and talking with people at Metrorail and MARC rail stations. (They need volunteers to help.)

However, in the past, ACT has published transit scorecards. For example, in 1998, a pro-Purple Line candidate who was featured in literature that they publicly distributed won--by 100 votes! Likely the transit scorecard information made a difference.

And within a couple hours of the new Council being seated, one of their first actions was to create and send an official letter to the Maryland State Government calling for continued support and focus on creating the Purple Line.

The Maryland primary election is Tuesday June 26th, although early voting starts today.

In the DC area, the blog Greater Greater Washington has made endorsements for the various seats, which include local government races such as for the Montgomery and Prince George's County Councils and for County Executive, and for the State House of Delegates, State Senate, and Governor (among others).

-- "Our endorsements for state legislature in Montgomery County," GGW
-- "Our endorsements for Prince George’s County Council districts," GGW
-- "Our endorsement for Montgomery County Executive: George Leventhal," GGW
-- "Our endorsements for Maryland state legislature in Prince George’s County," GGW
-- "Our endorsements for Montgomery County Council At-Large: Hans Riemer, Danielle Meitiv, and Will Jawando; plus, two other great options," GGW
-- "Our endorsements for Montgomery County Council districts: Reggie Oldak, Ben Shnider, Nancy Navarro, Tom Hucker," GGW
-- "Our endorsement for Prince George’s County Executive: Angela Alsobrooks," GGW

A few years ago ("Tolls, parking taxes, elections, oh my!," February, 2014, items 1-3) I called on advocacy groups like Action Committee for Transit to be more proscriptive and not just hold "candidate forums" but to lay out an agenda of priorities and rate candidates on it.

While the agenda could be more wide-ranging, they have done just that, here:

Where the Candidates Stand

They have rated local (local Council and State of Maryland house and senate candidates) on five issues:
  • Support for the Purple Line
  • Bi-directional all-day service on the MARC commuter rail Brunswick Line
  • Opposition to the M-83 Highway
  • Support for Walking
  • Support for Housing near Transit
  • Support for more funding for WMATA, the metropolitan heavy rail and bus service operator.
A lot of candidates aren't up to snuff.  I was especially surprised that a number of County Council candidates, including incumbents, were weak on all-day bi-directional MARC service.

    They did miss some stuff:
    • HOT lane preferencing by Governor Hogan
    • support for the new Bicycle Master Plan in Montgomery County which looks to be quite good, clearly a national best practice (with only one big omission)
    • more specific bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the conurbations like Silver Spring**
    • my ideas for leveraging the Purple Line to drive complementary improvements across the transit network**
    • my ideas for creating a sustainable mobility district in Silver Spring as a national model**
    But I think that comes from the fact that they are still primarily a "transit promoting" advocacy group and haven't fully expanded their vision around sustainable mobility more broadly.

    ** Purple Line complementary improvements plan
    -- Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 1 | simultaneously introduce improvements to other elements of the transit network
    -- Part 2 |   the program (macro changes)
    -- Part 3 |   influences
    -- Part 4 |   Making over New Carrollton as a transit-centric urban center and Prince George's County's "New Downtown"
    -- PL #5: Creating a Silver Spring "Sustainable Mobility District"
    - Part 1: Setting the stage
    - Part 2: Program items 1- 9
    - Part 3: Program items 10-18
    - Part 4: Conclusion
    - Map for the Silver Spring Sustainable Mobility District
    - (Big Hairy) Projects Action Plan(s) as an element of Comprehensive/Master Plans
    - "Creating the Silver Spring/Montgomery County Arena and Recreation Center"
    -- Part 6 |  Creating a transportation development authority in Montgomery and Prince George's County to effectuate placemaking, retail development, and housing programs in association with the Purple Line (to come)
    -- Part 7 | Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward

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      Update: Bike sharing data from Seattle

      Update and a reposting of this entry with a new date:

      NotionsCapital calls to our attention a DC-area workshop on dockless bike sharing, held in late May by the area MPO, featuring presentations by DC and Montgomery County, sharing their experiences with other jurisdictions. The presentations are online. See "Dockless bikeshare workshop emphasizes the importance of regional coordination," Transportation Policy Board, Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

      Dockless bikes in Seattle.  Streetsblog photo.

      In the same line of inquiry around my point that "The problem when you define every outcome as a success, you don't learn, and therefore failure is more likely: bike share in Seattle and Los Angeles as examples," comes data on dockless bike sharing in Seattle, "State of bike share: 10K bikes in Seattle — out of 44K nationwide — and 468K rides, study finds," as reported by Geekwire.

      According to the data/interviews, most of the trips were utilitarian, that is for transportation, not recreation.  From the article:
      The study underscores the rapid growth of bike sharing in Seattle and the city’s status of a nationwide proving ground for the concept. The program only kicked off last summer, when the city granted permits to Spin and LimeBike starting with 500 bikes a piece, a threshold that was increased later in the year. In August, Chinese bike share company Ofo jumped into the fray.

      Nationwide, the survey found there were 44,000 dockless bikes in 25 cities at the end of last year, managed by five companies. Seattle’s approach has drawn national attention, and the study was undertaken earlier this year to find out information about who uses bike share, how they use it, and what they don’t like about the services.

      The survey found that most people using bike share are biking to transit or work directly, with very few using the bikes for exercise. Most users were between the ages of 25 and 44 and 62 percent of users were male, according to the survey.

      The survey found that 74 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the program, however 85 percent of comments received via phone and email were negative. The biggest complaints concerned poorly parked bikes, that the companies weren’t responsive and riders didn’t wear helmets.

      About a third of residents have tried the program, another third hasn’t tried it but is open to doing so and the final third is unwilling to give bike share a shot.
      Although in my observation in DC, I believe most of the dockless bike trips are recreational, not transportational.

      If 10,000 bikes were used 468,000 times over a period of 7 months (210 days) that's 0.22 rides/bike/day.   We know that figure isn't accurate because they didn't start out with 10,000 bikes.  According to a more detailed assessment, "Taking stock of dockless bike share in Seattle," in Streetsblog, we know the actual number was 0.85 rides per day.

      I don't see how that can be touted as a success.

      The big advantage of dockless is that cities don't have to pay for the bikes, and can even make a little money from licensing ("D.C. withdraws plan targeting dockless bike operations with fees and parking demands," Washington Post), although it comes at a cost in terms of how the bikes are often discarded improperly in the public space.

      Anyway, my issue with bike share in general is that in many respects, the issue of availability or access to bikes isn't what's holding people back from biking, as data in the National Household Travel Study indicates on average each household has at least one bike.

      It's that in a paradigm of automobile-centric mobility, people need direct assistance to make the switch from the car to a bike for at least some of their trips.

      Santander Cycle bike sharing kiosk employs maps from the Legible London wayfinding systemWhat's interesting about the traditional bike sharing system in London is how it is branded with a "roundel" from the same family of logotypes used to brand different forms of transit in London.  The maps on the stations are drawn from the Legible London wayfinding system, rather than being a completely different system.

      My trip in the UK was a blur. I wanted to check out bike parking at train stations in a directed way. I didn't have the time.

      I wanted to check out the bike hub at Heathrow Airport -- but I presumed I could get there but it turns out it is an employee only area and I would have had to set up a visit ahead of time with the Heathrow public communications group.

      I wanted to check out London Cyclist Campaign and at least one of the biking assistance programs in cities and boroughs, and I didn't get to do it.

      Many communities in the UK have programs that will lend or rent for a very low price a bike + helmet + lock for two to four weeks, to provide people with a way to try out biking, without their having to buy a bike and gear first, before being able to try it out. Many community centers in the UK offer bicycle skills training for free. And nationally, there is a program where people can buy bikes through a payroll deduction program. Some cities, including London, have programs that provide grants towards buying bikes.

      -- Bikeability skills training, Hounslow, UK
      -- "Hackney Cycle Loan Scheme: Borrow bike for month for just £10," Hackney borough, London
      -- Cyclescheme | The UK's most popular cycle to work benefit
      -- "Paris to offer subsidies to those who buy bikes, give up cars," Smart City Dive

      Plus many communities have a wide range of cycle (and walking) promotion efforts, and there are national efforts too, like Let's Ride which bring "Open Streets" programs to cities across the country each year.

      In general, such assistance programs are not offered in the US. Or at least they are not very prominent.

      Some credit unions do provide loans to purchase bikes. Many bike advocacy groups offer skills training, although not usually for free. Most places do not have formal "bike lending" programs. At least, I haven't come across any examples in the US that are comparable to those in the UK.

      Santander bike share station near the South Kensington London Underground station, with a dockless bikeSantander bike share station near the South Kensington London Underground station, with a dockless bike. The placement of the docks at this station is interesting. While in the US and Canada Bixi type stations are placed at a 90 degree angle, this are placed at a 45 degree angle, to fit better from an urban design standpoint into the street and right of way.

      Note that in talking about mobility in London with Ivan Bennett, formerly a senior product designer at Transport for London and now a consultant, he said the primary motivation for London introducing bike share wasn't to make money from it, but to increase the visibility of cycling as a way to encourage more people to cycle.

      Given the very crowded public realm there, even though there is a fair amount of bike parking -- the UK seems to have stronger zoning and building requirements for the provision of bike parking at transit stations, office buildings, and housing estates, he doesn't believe they have the ability to accommodate dockless bike sharing in a way where improperly parked bikes won't cause problems.

      In short, we need to put a lot more energy in developing direct assistance programs to help people make the shift from driving to biking for at least a preponderant number of trips.

      More bikes a la bike share and more facilities a la bike lanes and even cycle tracks, do get more people biking, but given the research that finds that upwards of 2/3 of the US population is willing to bike for transportation and the current rates of less than 6%, clearly more focus needs to be put into programming

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      Tuesday, June 12, 2018

      Action Committee for Transit, June Meeting: June 12 - All day MARC to Frederick - What would it take? Speaker: Fritz Edler, veteran railroader and advocate

      MARC Brunswick Line train at Garrett Park station, Montgomery CountyMARC Brunswick Line train at Garrett Park, Maryland station.

      ACT's monthly meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month, at the Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place. Meetings begin at 7:30pm.

      The Silver Spring Civic Center faces the ice rink and Ellsworth Avenue. It is an eight minute walk north from the Silver Spring Metro Station. Many bus routes can take you to and from the meeting. Ride-On #15 and #19 stop at the corner of Wayne Ave. & Fenton St.; Metrobus routes Z6 and Z8 and Ride-On routes #9 and #12 stop along Colesville Road; Ride-On #16, #17, and #20 pass by on Fenton St. If coming by car, plentiful evening parking is available at the Wayne Avenue garage and is (despite ACT's advocacy against subsidies for drivers) free after 7 pm.

      With regard to this topic see these past blog entries:

      -- "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example," May 2015

      Note that I just experienced this on my UK trip. Where I stayed in Hackney was literally across the street from the Hackney Wick London Overground station. Unfortunately, the one platform entrance directly across the street was under renovation, so I had to walk around the block. The line connected to other Overground rail lines as well as to the Victoria Line station at Highbury & Islington. It was awesome. During the day it runs very frequently, but unfortunately as the night wears on, about every 20 minutes.

      -- A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines," March 2017

      -- "Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 2 | proposed parallel improvements across the transit network," March 2017
      • item #3 calls for farecard system integration between MARC, SmarTrip/CharmCard
      • item #4 calls for the introduction of bi-directional passenger rail service between DC and Frederick on the MARC Brunswick Line
      • item #6 calls for acceleration of the plans to build an infill MARC station at White Flint
      • item #8 calls for providing integrated train arrival information screens at Metrorail, Light Rail, and MARC stations. This doesn't occur at present, even at the Silver Spring and Rockville stations
      • item #14 calls for setting the opening of the Purple Line as a deadline for the integration of the MARC Penn Line and VRE Fredericksburg Line into one combined railroad passenger service
      • item #17 calls for improved bicycle facilities at MARC stations
      Fort TottenNote that one additional item should have been included, creating a back up Brunswick Line station within DC at Fort Totten

      This station is accessible to the Green and Yellow Metrorail lines, as well as the Red line, if there are issues with either Union Station or the Red Metrorail line it would provide a level of redundancy (backup) for the MARC Brunswick Line which is not currently available.

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      Saturday, June 09, 2018

      A good example of how long a revitalization project can take: 25 years in Jamestown, NY for their railroad station

      Jamestown Erie Railroad StationOur NZ correspondent Nigel calls our attention to the reuse of the old Erie Lackawanna railroad station in Jamestown, New York for a new National Comedy Center and Hall of Fame.

      The piece, "25-Year Development Odyssey: The National Comedy Center Finds a Home in Jamestown’s Historic Train Station," by low power community radio station WRFA.  Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, hence the connection to comedy.

      From the article:
      The Center, which comes with a combined cost of $35 million between the money invested in the Train Station, as well as the NCC build out, is expected to attract more than 100,000 annual visitors and have a $23 million annual stabilized economic impact on the region.
      The piece provides a detailed timeline of the 26 years it took to:
      • raise money for renovating the building
      • do the renovation once funding was secured
      • find a good use for the building once it was ready to be reoccupied.
      and is a great illustration of how long it can take to bring such a project to fruition.

      It's also an example of why I often laugh when people complain at community meetings about a project not being finished within six months... as it is I am familiar with a number of projects in DC that take 13-20 years.


      A cool thing about the low power radio station is that it is an initiative of a local community arts center, Reg Lenna Center of the Arts. In addition to the radio station, the Reg Lenna Center has a large historic theater, a small theater and an art gallery. Similarly the low power station in Takoma Park, Maryland, WOWD-LP FM, was sponsored initially by Historic Takoma, the community historic preservation organization.

      Larger organizations have the capacity to be innovative, to seed and support innovative new projects. But frequently they do not.

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      Friday, June 08, 2018

      The Nation special issue of housing: June 18-25, 2018

      The Nation’s new special issue, “Give Us Shelter” (June 18-25, 2018 cover story), exposes America’s devastating, nationwide housing crisis—arguably a housing catastrophe—and documents the work of activists pushing a radical solution: “homes for all.”

      “If that sounds utopian, it is,” write the editors. “And yet, from marriage equality to marijuana legalization, free higher education to the Fight for $15, the political landscape is filled with examples of sweeping demands that have migrated from the periphery of possibility toward acceptance, embrace, and even, on occasion, actuality. What they’ve all had in common are movements and, as those movements gained strength, political champions.”

      The base is getting busy, but elected officials have been slow to catch on​.

      Nearly half of all renters can’t afford rent, and over half a million Americans are homeless on any given night. How did we get here?

      From rent regulation to social housing, activists are pushing for serious solutions to the affordable-housing crisis.

      From the first tenement regulation to work requirements for public-housing residents, these are key moments in housing policy.

      Sports teams as an element of city brand identity

      I have had a lot of bias against "sport teams as an element of community identity" partly because of how this sentiment is "appropriated" by team owners to extract extranormal financial benefits from communities ("How American sports franchises sell cities short," Guardian), but also because it's hard to see a real return on investment.

      Liverpool Football Club retail store in St. John's Shopping Center, LiverpoolLiverpool Football Club has a number of retail stores, not only in Liverpool, befitting the internationalization of the team.  This store is in St. John's Center, a major shopping district in the heart of the city.

      But in person in Liverpool last week made me reassess this in terms of a city and its identity and brand,  and the impact on the city's "brand," locally, within the UK and internationally, from the Liverpool Football Club is considerable ("Liverpool ranked the sixth most powerful brand in world football," Liverpool Echo). But Everton, its intra-city competitor (and the stadiums are close to each other), is ranked #13.

      -- "Football clubs as symbols of regional identities," Soccer & Society (2015)
      -- "The historical significance of Locality and Regional Identity to Football," chapter, Routledge Handbook of Football Studies
      -- "The globalization of football: a study in the glocalization of the ‘serious life’," British Journal of Sociology (2004)

      Liverpool Football Club retail store in St. John's Shopping Center, LiverpoolThe LFC retail store is a sporting goods store devoted to soccer.  Perhaps more teams and arenas need to develop more focused retail operations, e.g., with the Capitol One Arena, it could focus on the four teams owned by the group--two for basketball, the Wizards and the Mystics, hockey--the new Stanley Cup champs, the Washington Capitals, and the group's launching of an arena football team.

      Last night's Stanley Cup championship game drew lots of people to the Capitol One Arena area--the Washington Capitals broadcast the game in the arena and on video screens on the building as the game was played in Las Vegas.  And the team even paid for extended Metrorail service ("Monumental Sports keeping Metro open late Thursday," Washington Business Journal) which is unprecedented because it wasn't for a live game, but a live broadcast.

      People in Chinatown celebrating the Stanley Cup victory by the Washington Capitals.

      Insane...from 4th floor window— DavidDunn (@ImDavidDunn) June 8, 2018

      It's exciting to see that many people out on the streets around the arena.

      There is a CityLab article, "Sports really can save a city," about how sports as entertainment and business can be a good business for cities, using Indianapolis as an example.

      Reconsidering the issue via the article, it makes the point that the focus in Indianapolis was larger, and included a variety of sports-related initiatives, not just a particular event or sports team:
      Indianapolis civic leaders first decided to take what already attracted people to their city – sports entertainment – and enlarge and expand it go beyond merely one annual event.
      FWIW, Richmond has done something similar but scaled to its smaller size.

      -- "More need for economic revitalization planning/linkage with sports stadiums: Las Vegas (+ Houston and the Super Bowl)," January 2017
      -- "Better understanding of how to benefit from sports tourism," January 2018

      So it's really about what I have been calling "Transformational Projects Action Planning," applied to sports as a line of business in economic revitalization and identity planning for a community.

      But the typical focus (and even the article doesn't make the point strongly enough) on teams fails to make adequately the focus on a sports and economic development program in the TPAP mold, versus focusing on a specific team or "sports" more generally without much nuance. What made the difference for Indianapolis was visionary economic and capital planning of multiple projects within a larger plan, using sports as the fulcrum.

      Wayfinding sign pointing to Anfield Stadium, LiverpoolSpeaking of this and my trip to Liverpool, I asked people at a bus stop if what appeared to be a park was Everton Park, which I only knew about because I read the "Friends of Everton Park" newsletter on the community board of a local coffee shop, they said yes, but asked me where I was from, and one of the people on hearing "Washington, DC," asked me about DC United, the local soccer team.

      I mentioned the team's new stadium will be opening in a couple months, but I wasn't able to talk with him about any specifics of the team in terms of players, strategies, win-loss record, etc.

      I stayed in an Airbnb that happened to be about one mile from Anfield Stadium, home of Liverpool FC, and the proprietor gets a number of visitors who come to the city to see matches.

      Even, not unlike how people went to Capitol One Arena last night although the game was out of town, when the team played in Kiev recently. Someone stayed there from Portland Oregon, a fan who wanted to share the city's excitement over the team being in the UEFA Champions League final.

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      Small bike counter, Royal College Street, Camden Town, London

      The advantage of taking wrong turns is that you get the opportunity to see stuff that you wouldn't have seen otherwise.  While walking to Camden High Street from London Euston train station, I took a wrong turn, walking down Royal College Street, which is somewhat parallel to Camden High Street.

      It is the location of a main cycletrack and has a pretty simple, but effective, bike counter, displaying daily and year-to-date counts.
      Cycletrack bicycle rider counter, Royal College Street, Camden Town, London

      It's got to be a lot cheaper than the big, but very prominent bike counters like this one at the new Wharf District.  That being said, there's a place for both types.
      Bicycle counter, Wharf District, SW DC

      This post is sponsored by the donors--anonymous and named, to the GoFundMe account associated with my recent trip to Liverpool and London, which was triggered by my receiving a free registration to the International Place Branding Event one-day conference in Liverpool.  Their support is gratefully acknowledged in making this and many other posts possible.

      (Donations are still being accepted.  Thank you.)

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