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.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Earth Day, Part 2: April 22nd

Earth Day anti-pollution rally at Philadelphia Museum of Art. April 23, 1970. Philadelphia Inquirer Photo: Lou Zacharias.

What’s lost since Philly’s amazing 1970 Earth Week," Philadelphia Inquirer

According to the article, Philadelphia was the most active community participating in the first Earth Day in 1970.  They had so much participation they created "Earth Week."

2.  FWIW, I think that April should be "Earth Month," with Earth Day still celebrated on April 22nd.  It's hard to pack everything in one day.

3.  National Volunteer Week is Sunday April 21st to Saturday April 27th.  In Utah, some organization put together a flyer listing a variety of volunteer possibilities for the week.  

I think this flyer is a great model that is adaptable.  E.g., a parks department could list a week's worth of activities.  A library system.  Or an Earth Month.

In any case, I went to a tree planting event last year for Earth Day, and it ended up getting me involved in Friends of Fairmont Park.  So that's something about Earth Day too, it can be an entry point for people to become more civically engaged in their community.

4.  Community cleanups.  The Orange County Register reports that a "14-year-old aims to clean 5 beaches in 5 weeks; he’s no stranger to helping the environment."

Clean ups are a great way to get people involved in their community ("Every Litter Bit Hurts," 2005, "Community cleanups (and other activities) as community building and civic engagement activities," 2011).

DC has Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, set up as individual Single Member Districts, united within a particular geography.  

This is up from our DC house.  And that area, abutting Georgia Avenue and commercial businesses and the police precinct tends to be pretty dirty.

Most commissioners do a bad job with holding regular meetings.  I think they should do at least one per quarter.  I suggested to an ANC4C commissioner years ago that one of the meetings should be a community cleanup.  Looks like they're doing it.

FWIW, DC is 100x dirtier than Salt Lake.

5.  Recycling versus zero waste.  Yes, there are lots of problems with recycling ("Recycling in the U.S. Is Broken. How Do We Fix It?," State of the Planet, "Recycling Reality Check: Addressing the Recycling Problems & How to Fix Them," Upper Route) in particular plastic and glass.  

Ryan Hickman, 14, walks along the surt to collect trash on T-Street Beach in San Clemente on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. At 7-years-old Hickman made national headlines when he embarked on a project collecting recyclables and donated the money to Pacific Marine Mammal Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Ryan Hickman became concerned about the environment starting with recycling.  

So recycling is a good thing from that standpoint.  But now it should be more about zero waste.  Which is broader than recycling, getting back to the line of "reduce, reuse, recycle."

As people drink artisan products (e.g., craft beer, Kombucha) and as plastic replaces glass bottles, there is less demand for mass production bottles, hence less demand for recycled glass.  It happens in Utah that there is an insulation plant which uses glass threads, so glass is recyclable here.  That being said, a major firm estimates that only 10% of the glass here is recycled. 

Salt Lake City puts pro-recycling, pro-zero waste messaging on its garbage trucks ("Every year Salt Lake City puts new pro-environmental messages on its sanitation trucks," 2018)

It happens that an elementary school in Salt Lake, Indian Hills Elementary, is probably national best practice for a school, and they open their programs to residents.

But there need to be more regulations forbidding the production of products that are impossible to recycle.  The EU has addressed this issue for years.  The US, given its neoliberal approach and opposition to any sort of positive environmental regulation by a majority of Republicans means the US will lag for a long time.

6.  Special opportunities with multiunit residential buildings and offices/restaurants ("Reformulating building regulations to promote sustainability," 2016).  I made the point that DC could drive best practice forward by addressing this.

7.  Watersheds.  In places with streams, I recommend "Adopt-A-Stream programs.  We have a stream in Sugar House Park and we need to address it as an element of our future master plan.  The city did a plan in 2010 that still isn't fully realized.  It's pretty clean in our park, but the banks need to be stabilized.

In DC, I argue that Advisory Neighborhood Commissions abutting the Anacostia River should have a committee on Rivers and Watersheds.

8.  Expos and Festivals.  Two weeks ago, DC had a "Healthy Homes Fair" to promote pro-environment, pro-sustainability practices for the home.  That's a good thing.  But four hours is too short.

I've always been a fan of Montgomery County's GreenFest.  This year it's April 27th.

These type of events can also be entry points into citizen involvement.

9.  Urban neighborhoods, especially rowhouse neighborhoods, use less energy than suburban houses.

OTOH, as people get older their mobility can become more constricted.  E.g., I never thought I'd have to use a cane and can't bike (I hope this will change after my course of treatment but I don't know).

But encouraging the people to use sustainable modes when their mobility isn't constricted is a good thing.

11.  Electric motor vehicles sales dropping.  Electric motor vehicles are experiencing a serious fall off in sales ("E.V. Sales Are Slowing. Tesla's Are Slumping.," New York Times).  Although much of the drop is a cratering of sales by Tesla.  

Still, from the standpoint of "diffusion of innovation" (also see "Crossing the Chasm"), I am not surprised at all.  The early adopters have bought.  There are still too many pain points for an average person:
  • The upfront cost of an EV is much higher than for a ICE vehicle.  Even with tax credits and a lot of times, tax credits aren't available.
  • Range is an issue, depending on how much you drive
  • Charging in the field can be difficult.  Not enough chargers, expensive, and often broken ("Why America's EV chargers keep breaking," Politico).  Plus some conservatives are a* and block access ("‘Don’t be this guy’: Experts say electric car haters feel ‘threatened, inferior’," Drive).
  • If you want to power up your vehicle at home you need special connections that also cost money.
  • If you live in a multiunit building, maybe they don't have enough connections
  • If you live in a rowhouse, what do you do?  (Some cities are working to create charging options in such neighborhoods)
  • Cost and complexity of repairs
  • Battery failure and high cost of replacement; Tesla voiding of warranty when using third party
  • Poor quality of Tesla customer service
The point about the adoption of new products is that they are supposed to be easier to use, not harder.  Although traditional motor vehicles went through a similar technology improvement process in the 1900s-1920s.  The thing was a car then was so much better than a horse or transit for so many people that they could overlook the difficulties.  

Now people don't need to, so an electric vehicle needs to be competitive on that basis and it isn't.  Companies were smart to focus on high end buyers, who cared more about the environment or status,
and didn't mind the hiccups.  The mass market isn't so forgiving.

12.  But EVs aren't that great.  Electric bikes are better.  The problem with EVs is that they are what I call "next generation asphalt nation."  Sure they lead to less use of gasoline, in fact it is predicted that this year or next might be the peak of oil consumption, which will then start to drop off.  But they are often powered by coal, also natural gas, and sometimes wind and solar, when it comes to power generation.

With electric vehicles, people don't drive less, and remain dependent on automobility, and automobility and sprawl waste a lot of resources.

Electric bikes can extend the distance that people are willing to bike, especially for commuting.  And every trip shifted to an e bike from a car is a big plus.  An electric bike trip versus an electric automobile trip is significantly better for the environment ("The Environmental Impact of Bikes and E bikes," Environmental Protection, "Why aren’t more big bike firms tracking their environmental impact?," Guardian).

Carbon Dioxide emissions per kilometer
Regular car Electric car Regular bike Electric bike
220 g/C0₂  160 g/C0₂ 25-35 g/C0₂  21-25 g/C0₂ 

Not dissimilar to the pain points with electric automobiles, there are some pain points with electric bikes too ("If you're going to promote electric bikes at scale, there needs to be complementary investment in secure bicycle parking and charging"): 
  • Cost
  • Need for secure parking, especially because e-bikes are more expensive
  • heavy
  • charging 
  • heavier bikes can be harder to transport within multiunit residential buildings up to the room, unless secure parking is provided
WRT cost, some cities and states have e-bike rebate programs.  Generally, they provide more support for low income users.  But the programs are oversubscribed.  No one seems to be addressing secure parking, which should be addressed regardless of e-bikes ("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").  And charging options beyond home are hit or miss.  

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Earth Day Part 1: DC isn't achieving its sustainability goals wrt waste diversion

According to the Washington Informer article, "DC's new plan to slash its trash," DC is adding ten years, one decade more, to its waste diversion goal, from 2030 to 2040  That's 16 years!!!!!!!!!!

From the article:

The Sustainable DC Plan, which came out in 2013, said the District should begin diverting 80% of its waste away from landfills and incinerators by 2032. Two decades later, the city has made some progress, particularly when it comes to composting and recycling—but it’s not likely to achieve the original goal. 

A long-awaited Zero Waste DC Plan, which the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) released earlier this year, pushed the target date back eight years. To reach 80% waste diversion by 2040, the plan lays out 43 actions aimed at seven overarching goals, which include reducing how much waste we generate, increasing how much we reuse and expanding access to recycling and composting services.
Ironically when the plan was introduced in 2013, I wrote that the city wasn't likely to achieve these goals especially wrt "waste," that it wasn't adopting best practice goals and examples from the best performing cities, but was watering the goals down ("Realizing all aspects of Sustainable DC: it all comes down to chickens...").

One problem is responding to "politics and interest" rather than best practice, like diverting food waste from households.  It's important, but hard to do at scale when you only focus on food waste. It's boutique, not substantive.

I've written about DC's waste practices for years ("More on zero waste practice and DC," 2015).  There's a lot more that can be diverted than recycling and yard waste.  But yard waste is a huge component of the waste stream.

The solution, which I wrote in 2013 ("Urban composting redux," "A way for DC to begin adding yard waste collection as a separate element of waste collection and reduction programming") is to divide the city into two: (1) rowhouse neighborhoods and (2) detached housing neighborhoods.

Salt Lake brands their waste program slcgreen,  They assign 3 cans to households: brown for yard waste and food scraps, green for trash, blue for recycling.  

They send waste inspectors through neighborhoods a few times per year to check for contamination and will post information on cans, and/or forbid their pick up, when there is a high rate of contamination.  

Separately Momentum has gray cans for glass and purple for food waste, which people pay for separately.  (Salt Lake also charges for waste pick up separately.)  Momentum also offers glass drop off recycling in various locations around the city, which is what we use.

Why so long, so obtuse, about developing a yard waste diversion program?
  Detached housing neighborhoods tend to generate a lot more yard waste than rowhouse neighborhoods.  But unlike neighboring jurisdictions, DC has never developed a yard waste diversion program for these neighborhoods.  That's the major reason why DC lags so much.

Salt Lake City puts pro-recycling, pro-zero waste messaging on its garbage trucks ("Every year Salt Lake City puts new pro-environmental messages on its sanitation trucks," 2018)

If DC had a regular yard waste diversion program, like Salt Lake, people could put their compostable food in the same can, not wasting money on the very small artisan diversion program at present. 

Start a yard waste diversion program with the Outer City and the detached houses, figure it out, and then introduce a more specialized program to the rowhouse neighborhoods.  

Alternatively, simultaneously with the launch of an Outer City focused diversion program, the city could also do a pilot program in one rowhouse neighborhood, and work from there.  But it's obvious they lack the capacity to do two different programs at once.

(Separately, in Salt Lake, Momentum Recycling, which is contracted to do the glass recycling, has started a boutique composting program too, but it takes everything, meat etc., and then does bio-digestion to produce natural gas. So it expands the range of what's offered towards zero waste, but I don't think the latter program could work at scale.)

Other DC area jurisdictions have done yard waste diversion for decades.  Montgomery County also promotes on-site yard waste composting in many ways.  That's what we did, although it's an issue with tree branches.  Having portable chippers go through neighborhoods every so often would help.  

Maryland even makes compost (Leafgro) and sells it based on getting yard waste from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

Um, paying attention to me 11 years ago, probably means that DC would have achieved its waste diversion goals by 2030...

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Thursday, April 18, 2024

What should the program for a Transportation Management District look like?

So for almost 20 years, I've suggested DC create TMDs, based on the concept of what Montgomery County Maryland does for its business districts but also what are sometimes called "Transportation Management Associations" like the one that covers Potomac Yard in Arlington/Alexandria (FAST Potomac Yard) or the Robinson District in Suburban Pittsburgh (Airport Corridor Transportation Association).  There are tons of these organizations across the country.

-- "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part one, Bethesda," 2015
-- "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part two, Takoma DC/Takoma Park Maryland," 2015
-- "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part three, jitneys/shuttles/delivery and the tertiary transit network," 2015
-- "Transportation demand management requirements for large developments and the MGM National Harbor Casino as an example of why this is absolutely necessary," 2015

Note that DC has created a MID, a "mobility innovation district" to support an electric shuttle in the Southwest Business Improvement District.  And they had "parking innovation districts" for awhile, but they were idiosyncratic, not systematic, and had many restrictions.  

A TMD is the way to go, focusing on everything, not just parking, which is more typical.  The famed Don Shoup approach in Anaheim includes revenue from parking meters, parking structures, and parking tickets as part of the business improvement district (I hope they are investing in the kinds of programs listed below).

At the time, my focus was trying to create a shared parking scenario, and to invest in sustainable mobility.  Often places have "lots of" parking, but it's spread out across multiple properties, and they don't coordinate. So people spend most of their time complaining about lack of parking.

-- "Testimony on parking policy in DC," 2012

It happens that Salt Lake has the potential for a TMD, in the Sugar House business district which is mixed use commercial and taller multiunit housing, as well as for the residential neighborhood which is across the street and mostly single family housing, not so much to coordinate commuter traffic and throughput, but to encourage sustainable mobility in response to the surgical addition of significant density, the existence of a streetcar and bus service, etc. 

This came up in an email discussion a few weeks ago, and I started listing what I thought should be the elements of an ideal TMD program.

Transportation Demand Management programming

The reality is, especially in a place like Salt Lake, most people drive.  The issue is two-fold, dealing with nonresidents working in or visiting the district, and with residents in their trips outside of the district and within the district.

Photo: Leah Hogsten, Salt Lake Tribune.  While this might not be dense for a much bigger city, Sugar House is becoming the densest SLC neighborhood outside of downtown, especially along the Trax light rail line.

But Sugar House is intensifying, the area is served by multiple bus routes traveling east-west and north-south, as well as a (minimally used) streetcar service which connects to the light rail line further west.  

Note that the streetcar has been particularly useful in stoking development ("Streetcar through Sugar House and South Salt Lake has spurred up to $2B in economic growth," Salt Lake Tribune), which contributes to density, which helps to build the foundation for shifting more trips to sustainable modes.

The best way to do this is to put out a survey on people's travel behavior, for the businesses, the residents of multiunit buildings, and the residents of single family and small apartment buildings.  In serious TDM programs there are people ready to help individual clients make the shift.

One thing the downtown district did in Columbus, Ohio is give all the workers free transit passes as a traffic management strategy ("Columbus Shows What Free Bus Passes Can Do for Ridership," Columbus Dispatch, "Free bus passes for workers: Columbus's big idea to relieve a congested downtown," Guardian).  

The program, by a different organization, has also been extended to the Short North neighborhood ("Free Bus Passes Coming Back for Short North Workers and Residents," Columbus Underground).

I would think that such a program should be encouraged for workers, and it should be offered promotionally for the residents of multiunit buildings, especially along the streetcar route, to get them to experiment with transit.

The Tribune article asks the question of whether or not the streetcar is contributing to traffic reduction.  I'd say definitely not, the ridership is abysmal.  But that is partially the result of expecting changes to "trickle down" rather than working to make the change in purposeful ways.

Promoting biking, walking, and other sustainable modes is another element of TDM.

Coordinating Parking/Developing a shared parking scenario

One of the big problems with capitalism is every property does its own thing.  Ideally there would be a shared parking scenario so people would park once, and go to multiple places, without worrying that their car will be towed.  Ideally this is complemented by district wide valet systems where you can drop your car off at one location but get the car at another location.  

This is discussed in the links above.  Two examples are the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation in Philadelphia, which coordinates off street parking, and College Park, Maryland, where a number of shopping centers gave their rights to the city to manage the parking lots, as a way to discourage all day parking by commuter students.  The lots are metered, the city collects the revenue, and maintains the lots.  And in many "neighborhood commercial districts" across the country, the city will maintain off street parking comparably.  

Arlington and Montgomery Counties provide parking structures in certain districts, and these are usually paid parking but not always (e.g., pay in Silver Spring but not Bethesda).

Intra-district shuttle systems

Item # 5 in "Creating a Silver Spring "Sustainable Mobility District" | Part 2: Program items 1 - 9," discusses how to implement an integrated parking-shuttle system in Silver Spring, Maryland.

This is an example of what I call tertiary transit ("Intra-neighborhood (tertiary) transit revisited because of new San Diego service," 2016), focused on movement within a neighborhood district, although mostly it's done in tourist areas and downtowns ("Low cost electric shuttle services debuts in Lake Worth Beach and Boynton Beach" Palm Beach Post, "Looser rules on transit tax bringing ‘Freebee’ shuttles to cities. Is Uber next?," Miami Herald, Long Beach, California, "FRED, San Diego's subsidized shuttle, will give free rides Downtown for another year," San Diego Union Tribune, "They're like Uber but free new electric shuttles are popping up all over South Florida," Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel), and using vans and small buses, to from and to transit stations ("It was very fast’: A shuttle service starts free rides from this Tri-Rail station," Sun-Sentinel).

The Turkish bus firm Karsan produces a 16 passenger electric bus which would also work but is bigger ("What Kind of Big Impact Will a New Minibus Have on North America’s Small Bus Market?," Mass Transit Magazine).  

The idea is that intra-district transportation, especially by SFH residents, could be shifted to shuttles rather than by car.  Go to the grocery store, bring back your purchases, without driving.  Go out to dinner, you don't have to drive.  Get to and from the transit station, you don't have to drive.

Getty Images photo of buses in London.

Marketing Transit. Besides the general TDM approach, utilize other methods to promote transit. 

I hadn't thought about it, but maybe SLC is ripe for the double deck bus approach ("Making bus service sexy and more equitable," 2012) for rebranding and repositioning of bus service as sexy, even though the ridership numbers wouldn't justify it otherwise. 

The route on 2100 South would be a great place to start.

-- Marketing in the Transit Environment, National Rural Transit Assistance Project
-- Best practice guide #5: Public transport | Citizens requirements, Hi-Trans, EU
-- Marketing your transit agency: a step by step getting started guide, TripSpark
-- "Public Transit Marketing 101: Why and How Public Transit Agencies Need to Market," Agora, 2012

UTA does do different liveries for BRT.  Maybe they could do an exciting one for 2100 South.  I think a Roy Lichtenstein influenced livery, or the Multiplicity branding from Luxembourg would work.

Above: Multiplicity bus.  Below: Roy Lichtenstein did do a painting of VW microbuses.

Campaigns, especially focused on workers and the multiunit buildings, are in order.  

Arlington County requires transportation information kiosks for multiunit and public buildings, like libraries.  A TMD should create the same for its district.  The Palo Alto school district has safe routes to school maps posted in building foyers, which is another strategy.  Surprisingly, a Walmart in DC had a map posted similar to Palo Alto's.

Creative treatments of bus and streetcar shelters--my point is that shelters are marketing touchpoints for transit.  An exciting livery for the streetcar, which is super boring.  Work with UTA to support free transit days.  Etc.

Salt Lake Streetcar reminds me of the little girl next door saying:
"boring, boring, boring boring."

Marketing Biking

Salt Like is doing a nice job putting in dedicated cycle tracks.  Sugar House has some on Highland Drive, by Fairmont Park on 900 East, is adding more cycle tracks on 1300 East and other streets.  

Cycle tracks are proven to qualm safety concerns and increase the number of cyclists.  

There are also some trails in the neighborhood, including along the streetcar line.  Bike parking is pretty abysmal.  

There are at least two bicycle shops, one dedicated to e-bikes.  And there are some bike sharing stations, with an expansion coming.  There aren't many free air pumps or bike stands.  I don't know if some apartment buildings have high quality bike parking.  

The journal article "Making Cycling Irresistible," inspired my own blog entry in 2008,  "Ideas for Making Cycling Irresistible in DC."  Besides investing in better facilities, and Sugar House has some trails, traffic calmed streets, bike sharing stations, and bicycle boulevards,  

-- I argue that there needs to be real assistance programs in helping people transition to a bike for transportation, this entry, "Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs," lists a number of ways to do it.  One of the methods lends bikes, helmets, and locks, so people can try biking without having to pay for it up front.

-- Electric bicycles are maybe a quantum leap forward in getting people willing to commute longer distances by bike, plus they have significant environmental benefits over cars. E-bike promotion through voucher-based discounts, as some communities are doing, including Salt Lake, might be worth doing by TMDs.

-- There should be a program to promote high quality secure bicycle parking in large apartment buildings.

-- Bicycle sharing is expanding.  I've suggested a special parks focused concept with stations at Sugar House Park, Allen Park, Westminster University, Fairmont Park, Highland High School and other locations, including along the streetcar line and in the abutting City of South Salt Lake up to the Central Pointe station.  Ideally we could get a sponsor so that trips starting and ending in parks can be free. 

-- also special tours and occasional promotions to encourage people to use bike share.

-- There needs to be a system of secure bicycle parking, especially with the adoption of more expensive electric bikes.  Bike theft is a problem in Salt Lake. Currently, bicycle parking quality is pretty hit or miss.  Much, even at public facilities, doesn't meet the most basic standards of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.  

I've argued for creating such a network at the metropolitan scale ("May is National Bike Month too: Part 1 -- a good time to assess planning and programming").  No reason to not start by creating such a network in Sugar House.  It could include high quality air pumps and bike stands as accessories.  (At the very least, the library and post office could have them.) 

-- Some places have Bicycle-Friendly business districts programs and ride to shop days, which should be offered (Case Studies: Bicycle Friendly Business Districts, League of American Bicyclists).  In Denmark, Ikea stores have borrow-able cargo bikes.  Is that something to promote at the local supermarket?  Or to develop a community-based delivery service using bikes.

E.g., it bugs me that supermarkets offer free gas points based on sales, but nothing for people who walk or bike or use transit.

-- Regularly scheduled community bicycle rides are a way to get people out and biking.  I am always amazed seeing photos from Open Streets events, and I wonder, how come I don't see that many bicycles out in the community ordinarily?

-- Produce a brochure promoting biking in the greater neighborhood.  Like the old bikeways brochure produced by the Silver Spring Maryland urban district.

-- Bicycle shops in the area are more oriented to recreational bicycling.  Work with shops to better support biking for transportation. (E.g., I got pissed at the bike shop on 2100 South, when--because I am old--they suggested a cruiser bike.  Cruisers are totally unusable for real transportation.) Install mobility kiosks at their stores.  Maybe wall maps of the area bike routes, like at the Takoma Park shop in Maryland.  Or a brewpub in Pocatello.

-- Annual Urban Mobility/Biking Expo during Bike Month.  There are various forms.  Years ago, Arlington County, Virginia used to sponsor a sustainable mobility expo.  The UTA transit agency in Salt Lake City a Bike Expo.  Berlin has an annual Urban Mobility Day ("Berlin’s Urban Mobility Day showcases E-Mobility and new Apps," Urban Transport Magazine), and some colleges have Bike Weeks ("This week is Bike Week at the University of Utah").  NYC sponsors(ed?) a Bike Expo in association with the 5 Boro Ride, which had more than 100 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees in 2014.  Richmond hosted a Bike Expo in association with the UCI Race.

The TMD should sponsor at least two.  One in September when school starts with Westminster University and Highland High School as primary targets.  And one during Bike Month.  Such an activity should be a key event during National Bike Month, in every major metropolitan area.

Although major colleges should have a Bike Week/Bike Expo event during the first few weeks of the Fall Semester.  And for K-12 schools, 

-- During Bike Month, support "Bike to Work" Day.

-- There's talk about doing an Open Streets event at Sugar House Park.  A TMD should be a lead partner.  Open Streets events could also be held on Sugarmont Avenue, along the streetcar line and adjacent to Fairmont Park.

-- consider misters on the S Line Trail for hot summers.

-- map signage for bicycle trails and routes (we're adding the first such signs in the area to Sugar House Park).

Marketing Walking 

The blog entry, "Planning for place/urban design/neighborhoods versus planning for transportation modes: new 17th Street NW bike lanes | Walkable community planning versus "pedestrian" planning," suggests planning for walkable communities versus "improving pedestrian conditions."  

Some cities like Boston, Denver and Seattle have active pro-walking groups which are a model for improving places, technical assistance, and advocacy.

-- In Arlington County, WalkArlington does community walks.  Sometimes they're led by the elected official for that district.  Sometimes they are in parks or commercial districts, or cover history, etc.

-- improve sidewalks and street conditions along sidewalks.  Salt Lake is hot in the summer.  Maybe have misters.  More trees for shade.  Etc.

-- address lighting at night and in the early hours, especially an issue in winter.  Sugar House's main commercial streets do have light poles with "car lighting" and lower lights placed to light sidewalks for pedestrians.  But probably this can be expanded.

Safe Routes to Schools/TDM for schools.  Not typically part of a TMD, but increasingly traffic is generated in the morning and afternoon by parents dropping off/picking up students after school. 

Cars lined up to pick up students at a school in Reading, Pennsylvania.  Reading Eagle photo.

Apparently it can be quite gnarly ("Tantrums and Turf Wars: The School Car Line Is Chaos," Wall Street Journal).  All the reason to include it in TMDs.  Plus improvements to the walking and biking environment for children also helps neighborhoods simultaneously.

-- "Why isn't walking/biking to school programming an option in Suburban Omaha | Inadequacies in school transportation planning," 2022
-- School Walk and Bike Routes: A Guide for Planning and Improving Walk and Bike to School Options for Students
-- Safe Routes to School program, Washington State
-- City of Tacoma SRTS program, including SRTS Action Plan.  

-- Like with a TMD, the approach at a school should be the creation of a transportation demand management plan for teachers and staff, and students/parents.  

In 2009, I was able to spend half a day at Stoneleigh Elementary School in Baltimore County Maryland on International Walk to School Day.  They had a very sophisticated approach.  I've heard a school in Oxnard, California does something similar.  But it's rare.  What's needed is a school-based full scale TDM plan dealing with cars, buses, and kids on foot.

-- While SRTS is oriented to elementary schools, some districts like Palo Alto, do it across K-12.  In Boulder, Colorado, certain schools with SRTS programs have 50% or more mode split of kids coming to school by sustainable means.

-- organize "Walking School Buses" and "Bicycle School Buses" for each school in the TMD.

-- Promote International Bike and Walk to School Day which is October 6th, or the US one, when the dates differ.

-- schools need high quality secure bicycle, scooter, and skateboard parking too.  Showers and lockers in schools can encourage teachers and staff to bike to school instead of drive.

-- lighting is also an issue in mornings, evenings--especially as school buildings are used more in the evenings, and in the winter

Public space maintenance including public spaces like plazas, trees, and public art/Aesthetic qualities of transportation infrastructure.  A lot of communities dependent on the car have pretty ugly roads.  And by default, this is the environment that defines the community.  

In "Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces"," I argue for a focused approach to improve these aesthetic conditions and to address all modes.  Ed McMahon, now of Urban Land Institute, has made this point for decades.

Like business improvement districts, TMDs could take more responsibility for public space design and maintenance than is currently the case.  I suppose my model here is half a transportation district, half business and neighborhood promotion.

One thing would be to promote public art lighting of the freeway underpasses.  But also expanding the tree cover, providing and clearing trash cans.  Here a big thing is medians, and too often they don't have plantings.  Which yes, are tough to maintain, but add a lot of aesthetic value when they are.  Lighting is also an issue of public space maintenance as well.

Light Channels, Bill FitzGibbons, San Antonio.

Public art crosswalk by Carlos Cruz-Diez commissioned by the Broad Museum, Los Angeles.

Provision of wayfinding and identity systems ("Basic planning building blocks for urban commercial district revitalization programs that most cities haven't packaged: Part 2 | A neighborhood identity and marketing toolkit (kit of parts)").   

Salt Lake has a couple different systems which can be integrated.  Basically there are two scales, for pedestrians and for cars, with identity signs for civic spaces like parks.  Nothing for transit.  And there are some monument signs identifying the district.  Downtown they also have map signs.

Map and historic interpretation signage should be added to the system.  And business district brochures focused on the independent businesses.  

Boise has a great identity system for neighborhoods, which could be adapted for Salt Lake's residential areas.

Newcastle's Ride and Walk wayfinding brochure, also made available as signage, is a model too.

Traffic calming.  Salt Lake already has a best practice program called Livable Streets, and they are implementing it across the city.  A separate citizen initiated project by a friend is interesting because rather than focus on one street in Sugar House, it addresses multiple streets simultaneously.  

In those communities where there aren't good programs, a TMD could step up.  For example, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative created a Streetscape Lookbook to shape the look of the streetscape and road network.

Car sharing. Car sharing works in certain conditions ("Car sharing and integrated sustainable mobility planning," 2013, "Another example of DC's failures in transportation planning: carsharing," 2011, "When the one over neighborhood is in the county next door, and housing prices have been in the tank: Mount Rainer, Maryland," 2016, section on car sharing).  While it won't work across Salt Lake, it could potentially work in Sugar House and maybe Central City/Downtown.  (And don't muck it up with EV requirements.  That adds complexity and seems to have doomed many programs.)

It's worth exploring providing it, perhaps on a nonprofit basis, to discourage car ownership and promote sustainable mobility, while still providing access to cars as necessary.  

Hoboken, New Jersey has been particularly successful (""Car-sharing program finds home in crowded Hoboken":," AP) as has been DC.  Those places and their successes alongside the many failures prove that the necessary preconditions are very specific, although I do think Sugar House could pull it off.  But the mode split for transit, walking, and biking has to increase simultaneously.

EV charging.  I'm going to put EV charging as an issue, but I wouldn't say the TMD should install it per se, because management and maintenance is a problem, but it should actively encourage its provision in larger commercial properties, in multiunit housing buildings, parking structures, maybe at certain public facilities, etc.  

TMDs could regularly inspect such facilities (and inspect secure bike parking, air pumps, repair stands too) to ensure that they are working and to take the necessary steps to make them work when they aren't.

Planning and advocacy.  Goes without saying.  The TMD should be planning all these elements, and advocating for improvements as needed.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Follow up: arenas and stadiums as "performing arts centers" attractions for cities: experience versus retail

A couple weeks ago I wrote "Good quote on arenas and stadiums as "performing arts centers" attractions for cities," quoting Ron Kirk then Dallas mayor, on the decision to go forward in building a basketball arena in the late 1990s for the Dallas Mavericks.  

He was very clear about the point of the arena being developing the area around the arena, which has resulted in over $3 billion in new development over about 25 years.  That's pretty amazing.

This relates to my lesson about such facilities.  That if you want spillover benefits, you have to plan for them, what I call "transformational projects action planning."

-- "Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities, 2021

-- "Updating the best practice elements of revitalization to include elements 7 and 8 | Transformational Projects Action Planning at a large scale," 2024

2.  I also wrote recently in "Suburban stadium/arena interest a function of new, younger generations of ownership or a better real estate play?," about the desire for team owners to control more land around the stadium or arena, which they can develop for greater profit.

My problem with this is that it gives them a monopoly on earnings, rather than opening up the potential for other firms to benefit from the likely investment of public monies in such sites.

Battery District.

3.  There is a great article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Stadium entertainment districts — such as the one proposed in South Philly — are changing the game for fans around the country," about this phenomenon and reading it, it's great for teams--for example, the Atlanta Braves make $59 million per year in lease and other income from the Battery development next to their stadium.

It's also another lesson about planning and development.  As commercial districts shift to what I sometimes call "eater-tainment" ("Successful retail today often includes food, experiences, social elements, and isn't rote," 2016), the reality is that when going to a sports event, consumers aren't interested in shopping at retailers--unless they sell team merchandise exclusively--they want experiences.  From the article:

These mixed-use developments help provide a hedge at a moment when the dominance of American sports programming faces new competition, from such entertainment as video games and on-demand TV, and when fan behavior can be unpredictable. Last year’s World Series between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks was the least-watched on record. .

.. Of course, that’s not why most people go to the Battery. They go to ride the mechanical bull at PBR Atlanta, the bar brand of the Professional Bull Riders league, billed as the toughest sport on dirt.  They play in the Sandbox virtual-reality center and browse through the unique designs at Baseballism, a fan shop. 

"PBR Atlanta opens near Suntrust Park: 7 things to know about Battery Atlanta’s “cowboy bar”," Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“It’s more than just a baseball day experience,” said Winston Parrish, a Braves fan who with his father, Dwight, came from Asheville, N.C., to the Phillies’ opening day game. “You’re able to get a hotel right there in the Battery, and walk from your hotel to the game.” 

When Dwight Parrish attended baseball games as a boy in the 1960s and 1970s, the focus was on seeing star players and snacking on Cracker Jack. “Today, it’s a different thing,” he said. “It’s all about the kids. It’s all about the family experience. It’s awesome.”

Note that support of other businesses making money of patrons is a primary justification for public investment.

4, Retail consumerism now is more purposive, special directed trips.  It's not the kind of "mixed primary use" attraction that Jane Jacobs wrote about where people will shop, eat, then go see a movie.  Plus the effect of online commerce, which significantly reduces in person shopping.

In short, if you are a businessperson wanting to open a business by a stadium or arena or a development like the Navy Yard or Wharf districts in DC, focus on eating, drinking (tough because a lot of the time events are scheduled at times that discourage patrons from eating outside of the facility) and experience.


P.S.  Looks like the Phoenix Coyotes are coming to Salt Lake ("Did Ryan Smith just confirm the NHL is coming to Utah?," Deseret News).  

I've written about why does the NHL continue to support the Coyotes when they are unsuccessful ("Revisiting "Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities" and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team + Phoenix Coyotes hockey," 2022).

OTOH, while the "Good quote" article argues that Salt Lake doesn't really have the market size to justify more teams, I guess when a billionaire wants a team and there is a super-weak one out there, it presents opportunity.

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Drive ins are negative contributors to community

Salt Lake.  A few months ago, Salt Lake City banned more drive ins on 2100 South in the Sugar House business district ("City council looks to transform single-family zoning across the city; bans Sugar House business district drive-thrus," Building Salt Lake., "One SLC neighborhood backs drive-thru ban as it transforms into ‘model walkable, transit-connected community’," Salt Lake Tribune).  That's pretty close to us, and Sugar House is where Sugar House Park is, where I'm on the board.

Needless to say, the local business advocacy group didn't agree.  But they did make a good point, that in times like covid, being able to do drive through/pick up helped them survive.

Between 900 and 1300 is the main district, although there is redevelopment and strip shopping and a couple extant older buildings between 700 and 900.  There was an ice cream manufacturing plant, now slated for housing.

There are a couple shopping centers, a Smith's (Kroger) and a Natural Grocers, some extant liner retail on 2100 South, and some new buildings with decent restaurants on the ground floor.  There is some perpendicular retail on side streets, but it tends to not do so well unless it's destination.

But overall since the region's development paradigm is sprawl, drive ins are huge.  Suzanne is into them.  I'm not.  But we do succumb.

(Rachel Rydalch | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Chick-fil-A on 2100 South in Sugar House has historically generated a long drive-thru line, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. A proposal before the City Council would ban new drive-thrus from opening in dense commercial areas of the neighborhood.

On 2100 South is a Chick Fil A (terrible, expensive food) which tends to block traffic.  2100 South is pretty narrow, two narrow lanes in each direction.  So this is a problem.  It's likely what generated the call for action.

The other drive throughs (CVS, Walgreens, McDonald's, Cafe Rio--terrible food, ate there once, never again, a couple banks) are able to provide enough queuing capacity on site to accommodate use.  Although CFA did redo their access pattern and it did reduce traffic.

OTOH, 1300 East and 700 East are major roads abutting the district, and they are set up for drive throughs in a way that 2100 South isn't.

DC.  In DC, drive throughs aren't allowed in C2 commercial districts, those are the ones that abut rowhouse residential districts. Gas stations require a special exception review.  Drive throughs and gas stations are matter of right in C3 districts.  

One such district abuts H Street NE ("H Street NE nightlife district, failing?," "A follow up on the H Street article: Learning from Philadelphia | More sophisticated daypart, retail, cultural, and experience planning," "The community development approach and the revitalization of DC's H Street corridor: congruent or oppositional approaches?," 2013, and "DC and streetcars #4: from the standpoint of stoking real estate development, the line is incredibly successful and it isn't even in service yet, and now that development is extending eastward past 15th Street," 2015) and when we were addressing zoning issues 20ish years ago, we weren't sophisticated enough to try to downzone the 1400 block and adjoining block on Maryland C2.  At the time there was a Sonic on Maryland Avenue.

It's since been replaced with a Chick Fil A, and on the other side a gas station came in ("360 Apartment building + Giant Supermarket vs. a BP gas station, which would you choose?" 2013) it was during the time of the Fenty Administration and they had zero interest in or knowledge of place values in communities.  

Like a lot of administrations, to them any development was good development.  (Like for Walmart a few years later, "Walmart to close one of its three DC stores.")

Article states that drive throughs are negative contributors to community ("Mega drive-throughs explain everything wrong with American cities," Vox).  They are probably "fine" in terms of "the economy," although drive throughs tend to be chains, and chains contribute less to the local economy than independently owned locally based stores.

There's no question they don't contribute to community, they cause environmental issues (exhausst, poor use of space), they puncture the street plane and make it difficult for walking.

Maria Zivarts on Twitter makes a good point about the difference between a coffee shop that is a drive through serving 20 cars versus a walk up shop serving 20 people.  Not to mention the locally owned store likely contributes to the community in ways that a chain store doesn't.

Last week for the first time I went to Loki Coffee on 900 South ("A Utah couple open a cafe, aiming for ‘a West Coast vibe and East Coast efficiency’," Salt Lake Tribune).  Of course, most of the tables were used by people on their computers.  But it was a great vibe.  

There were people sitting out front--they need tables and chairs and a patio.  The block is an odd one for retail in that the buildings are all detached, and the road is wide.  OTOH, a lot of the lots have a big front yard and the buildings are attractive and it's in the center city with higher population density.

Loki Coffee.  Photo: Bethany Baker, Salt Lake Tribune.

I think Loki Coffee has a wide range of events scheduled for April.
Something you won't find in a drive through/chain establishment.

Zoning changes to protect place value,  Making neighborhood abutting commercial districts off limits to drive throughs is a good start.  Directing drive throughs to places where the land use context better supports them is an acceptable compromise.  At the very least require review.  It could be there are some instances depending on the size of the lot, queuing capacity, and type of business, where a drive through is less obtrusive, like a pharmacy.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Plants on tops of bus shelters to help bees: Utrecht, Netherlands

 Came across this via Reddit, "Dutch city transforms over 300 bus stops into 'bee stops'," Lonely Planet.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Railroad tourism as a way to promote transit: Union Pacific's Big Boy steam locomotive journey

Valley Transit (San Jose) poster promoting transit use and transportation demand management.

I have three pieces about transit marketing around the idea of creating a National Trains Month, to be held in May, which is the anniversary of the creation of a transcontinental railroad system.  

-- "Modern railroad tourism promotion," 2018
-- "May should be National Train Month as a way to market and promote passenger rail," 2021
-- "Two train/regional transit ideas: Part 2 | Running tourist trains from Union Station," 2021

The idea is to promote all forms of rail transit, including freight (that's a way to have the big railroads help pay for the event.)  It is inspired by how Amtrak had National Trains Day/Weekend in the early to mid 2010s, as a promotional event.

The idea of leveraging grand train stations is also discussed in this entry from 2015, "New State Rail Planning Initiative in DC: First meeting Monday September 28th," suggesting DC Union Station as a point of leverage.

Traditional railroads often do promotions of their old steam engines.  And some do special lighted trains during the December holiday season.

Even though I am into railroads, for some reason, I am not enamored of steam.  

Nonetheless, Union Pacific is doing a run of its Big Boy steam locomotive from Wyoming to California and back in June and July, and I probably will try to see it when it's in Ogden ("Union Pacific releases new details about Big Boy tour; Ogden a major stop," Standard-Examiner).

It's exactly the kind of event I suggest needs to be pulled into a larger scaled schedule of events to promote railroads--freight and passenger--and rail-based forms of transit.

And special programs for kids.  Japan's local railroads sometimes have railroad-related playhouse areas.  The National Park Service has a railroad themed Junior Ranger booklet, Railroad Explorer

I think railroad passenger services, which are mostly commuter oriented, need to provide free days to give people an introduction to the service, and that could be done during a National Trains Month.

Railroad themed playground in the Depot District of Lacey, Washington.  Photo by Nikki McCoy.


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