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Posts tagged "transportation"

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Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

When it comes to smart transportation options and city planning, Zurich can credibly claim to be the global champ. This Swiss city has enacted a number of policies and practices that have produced streets where people come first. Getting around and simply experiencing the city is a pleasure.

How did they do it? In a 1996 city decree referred to as "a historic compromise," Zurich decided to cap the number of parking spaces. From then on, when new parking spaces were built anywhere in Zurich, an equivalent number of spaces had to be eliminated elsewhere within the city limits. Many of the new spaces that have been built since then come in the form of underground garages, which allow for more car-free areas, plazas, and shared-space streets.

Zurich also has an intricate system of more than 4,500 sensors that monitor the number of cars entering the city. When that number exceeds the level Zurich's streets can comfortably accommodate, all cars are halted on highways and main roads into the city until congestion is relieved. Thus, there is never significant traffic back-up in the city itself.

It's tough to top the city's transit options. Zurich has a network of comfortable commuter trains and buses, plus the magnificent gem of the city: its 15-line tram system. Trams run everywhere frequently and are easy to hop on and off. The coordination of the lines is a wonder to behold. And it's the preferred way to travel in the city center -- business men in suits traveling to the richest banks in the world ride next to moms and skateboarders.

That's only the beginning of some of the great things going on in Zurich. Bike mode share is now 6 percent and climbing. People flock to the amazing parks and rivers that have been cleaned up. Car-free and car-lite streets are filled with restaurants and people at all times of day. If you can never get to Zurich yourself, I hope you'll be able to experience a bit of what it's like via this Streetfilm.

Note: All stats in the video are from the Mobility and Transport Microcencus of 2010 by the Federal Government of Switzerland. The survey on travel behavior has been conducted every five years since 1974.

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Transportation Videos & Photos from Montevideo & Buenos Aires!

I was very fortunate to be able to take a long vacation to South America and was in the cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Asuncion. Of course with me a vacation can never be truly 100% relaxing when there is transportation observations to be made and I was able to squeeze in some Streetfilms work here and there.  Here are some short videos and photos with commentary.

The first video above (apologies for some sound, it was a very impromptu shoot without using all my gear) is from Montevideo, Uruguay. I was very surprised to see so much bicycling and very new bike infrastructure. And also: bike share! My wife and I had a few hours to rent bikes and were able to meet up with Matias Kalwill, creator of the app Bikestorming which aims to increase urban bicycling, who took us for a very quick city loop. I thought viewers would be happy to experience biking in another country, even if not given the usual Streetfilms treatment.

Public Space Takeover! While in Buenos Aires (an official Streetfilm on their MetroBus and other transportation accomplishments coming soon) we were fortunate to capture residents flooding the Avenida 9 de Julio (widest Avenue in the world) to celebrate Argentina advancing to the World Cup final. How exciting it was to be in the middle of it as it all occurred. Instant public space by the people!

Speaking of Avenida 9 de Julio (which is where Buenos Aires' MetroBus BRT runs) coincidentally we happened to be there on July 9th which is a national holiday. They had many car-free celebrations and festivals. They had some vintage buses to check out. I grabbed the above footage for all you bus nerds out there. Read more...

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Janette Sadik-Khan’s Greatest Streetfilms Hits!

Now that former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has moved on to her next transportation chapter, Streetfilms thought the time was perfect to look back at some of her greatest moments with us.  We've always had a great relationship with Janette and during her six and half year reign and she's been in a few dozen Streetfilms.

Let's begin with the gem above we went deep in the archives to pull up: Sadik-Khan's one-minute speech before the crowd for the 2007 Transportation Alternatives Tour de Brooklyn. It was her first big public appearance for most cyclists, and listening to her visionary words I don't think you you'd find anyone involved in the livable streets back then who thought she would accomplish all she did.  I spliced in just a few of her many Streetfilms appearances over time to tease what was to come.

One of the biggest Streetfilms we had with Janette was a thorough sit down interview with Mark Gorton, our biggest donor and supporter of our work.  Even though she had only been at work for a little over a year, you can see the amount of swift change Sadik-Khan had already accomplished in our Q&A and walking tour.  I knew we'd hit a home run when a week after posting it, there were many fans mobbing her at a Railvolution conference saying they had watched every minute of the Streetfilm.

The video above was compiled after the new Times Square pedestrian spaces were created. My favorite moment is when I got to interview her sitting amongst the lawn chairs on the first day. That's about 3 1/2 minutes in if you don't want to watch it all. Read more...

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The NYC Rush Hour Bike Parade On 1st & 2nd Avenues

Just a series of photos to share. Today, I grabbed a Citibike and roamed around on our protected bike lane couplings on 1st & 2nd Avenues for about 5 minutes during the PM rush. Frankly, I've never seen so many people in NYC on bicycles. It's even more than last summer!

It's possible that the great weather combined with the addition of Citibike, people's desire to get fit and save some money could all be factored in, but in just five minutes I snapped these photos to share.  Every block had at least 5 or 6 riders at all times. It felt like a constant bike parade.

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GOP Mayor Greg Ballard: Making Bicycling a Priority in Indianapolis

Across the nation, many big-city mayors of both political parties are embracing bikes and livable streets. As you'll see, Indianapolis' Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, believes that making city cycling safer and more enjoyable will attract young people and families and benefit business.

Ballard has expanded the number of miles of bike lanes from one (in 2007) to over 75, and there are plans for 200 miles of bikeways by the year 2015. In addition, the city has seen the grand opening of the magnificent Indianapolis Cultural Trail (there's a great Streetfilm coming on that shortly), which features eight miles of safe biking and walking paths.

Mayor Ballard also does it with his body and voice. He now personally leads four bike rides per year, encouraging people to get healthy, have fun and see their city from a different perspective.

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Streetfacts #3: Roads Are a Money Losing Proposition

The majority of the roads and highways built in America are simply bad investments. Continuing this pattern will only ensure that wasteful projects consume larger chunks of our federal, state, and local budgets, without addressing the real need for transportation options.

This Streetfacts chapter has a bit more math than usual, but we think we've made an entertaining and accessible profile of how government agencies routinely justify unnecessary road projects. The example we've chosen to illustrate the problem is a federally-funded "diamond-diverter" interchange in Colorado. The project as proposed may look like a pretty good deal for taxpayers at first, but after crunching the numbers, you'll see that's not the case at all.

Much of the inspiration for this piece comes from the outstanding work of Strong Towns, an organization that emphasizes obtaining a higher return on infrastructure investments. Strong Towns Executive Director Charles Marohn, Jr. has been getting his message out through what he calls curbside chats, and we'll soon be debuting a Streetfilm that features his work.

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How Many NYC Drivers Fail to Signal?

If you walk on New York City streets (or frankly anywhere in the U.S.), you're well aware of how much unlawful and dangerous driving happens on nearly every block: red light running, speeding, double-parking, you name it.

I first moved to NYC in 1991, and one thing that seems to have gotten much worse since then is the percentage of drivers who fail to signal their turns. I've lost count of the times I've been walking or bicycling and nearly been hit by drivers who didn't use their directionals. Anecdotally, I would estimate that about 25 or 30 percent of drivers don't signal.

So I set out to put my theory to the test where I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, taping the first 100 turning drivers I saw. I won't spoil the final count, but this video is more evidence of the poor quality of driving across the city. Failing to use blinkers makes it hard for walkers, bikers, and other motorists to anticipate a driver's behavior -- this is basic Driver's Ed, people -- but so many people just don't do it.

Every week we read horrible stories of drivers crashing into pedestrians or mounting sidewalks -- and yet hardly anyone is ever charged or even issued a ticket. NYPD could be issuing plenty of tickets for drivers failing to signal turns on just about any block at anytime. They could start a crackdown tomorrow, it doesn't require more legislation. It doesn't require an officer to be stationed in a car with a radar gun. Just stand on the corner and pull people over. Simple.

NYPD credits cracking down on small crimes with helping to dramatically lower the city's overall crime rate. If we started to show less tolerance for "smaller" infractions, might drivers in NYC eventually change their overall driving habits?

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Streetfacts #2: Americans Are Driving Less

We continue our Streetfacts series by looking at the data on driving in the U.S. Beginning in 2005, per-capita driving has declined every year. That's not a blip, it's now an 8-year trend.

The reason? Neither the state of the economy nor changes in gas prices offer a satisfactory explanation. Social preferences and demographic shifts seem to be playing a role. Young people today are less likely to own a car or have a driver's license than young people several years ago. At the same time, America's growing population of seniors are no longer in their peak driving years.

Whatever the combination of factors, people are riding transit, walking, and bicycling more. Even magazines like Motor Trend are examining the shift away from cars.

The upshot is that we need to start making smart transportation investments that align with the new reality: Americans are driving less.

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Voices From the National Women’s Bicycling Forum

For the second year running, the Women's Bicycling Forum kicked off the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. 350 people attended, and Streetfilms got to take their pulse on the state of bicycling for women and collect some suggestions about how to grow the number of women who ride.

Here's a montage of what we heard (sorry to the many left on the cutting room floor), set to cycling scenes in a dozen cities throughout the U.S.

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Rethinking the Automobile (with Mark Gorton)

For more than 100 years New York City government policy has prioritized the needs of the automobile over the needs of any other mode of transport. Working under the faulty assumption that more car traffic would improve business, planners and engineers have systematically made our streets more dangerous and less livable. As a result, even the idea that a street could truly be a “place” – a shared space for human interaction and play – has been almost completely destroyed.

During his decade long effort to understand and improve the streets of New York City, entrepreneur and livable streets advocate Mark Gorton has gathered together a compelling set of examples of how transportation policy impacts the quality of our daily lives. Mark is regularly invited to speak in public about these issues.

In his current presentation “Rethinking the Automobile” Mark explores the history of autocentric planning and considers how New York and other cities can change. Filled with ample video footage of dozens of Streetfilms, we’ve worked with Mark to create a version of the presentation here.

As the founder of Streetfilms, Streetsblog, OpenPlans, and the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Gorton has been on the front lines of the battle to transform New York’s streets. But Mark is not done fighting. He contends that the recent improvements that have been implemented in New York should only be considered as the “tip of the iceberg” and that a truly comprehensive set of changes are still necessary.

For more on Mark’s continued efforts to make our world more equitable, livable, and safe visit www.rethinktheauto.org

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It’s a “Gridlock Alert” Day! Don’t Drive!

With apologizes to "Star Trek" we offer up this 30 second PSA for the holiday season Streetfilms-style.

For years we've been pretty annoyed at the standard portable billboards and flashing signs distributed on streets to warn "(insert day) is a Gridlock Alert day, please use mass transit",  Well, we thought we'd spend 10 minutes editing this and maybe capture people's attention and change their habits.  Maybe.

There's an alternate version available that is a little more harsh on drivers.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH

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Voices from the Rail~Volution (2010)

Streetfilms was out in Portland at this year's Rail~Volution 2010 trying to get a pulse on the transportation world by talking to a healthy dose of this year's attendees which includes advocates, bloggers, transportation planners, industry spokespeople and members transportation agencies across the country.  Among those we heard from was Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who helped push Rail~Volution - now in its 20th year - to national prominence in 1995.  Well over a thousand folks attended the four-day event.

In addition, almost 500 of them came to Portland's famous Bagdad Theater to watch a program of short films on the big screen, eight of which were Streetfilms!  Our fan base and influence continues to grow as Streetfilms is looked to as an inspiration and educational tool among our peers.  It's a great feeling.

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Fixing the Great Mistake: Autocentric Development

"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today.

FTGMlogo4webIn this episode, Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White shows how planning for cars drastically altered Park Avenue. Watch and see what Park Avenue used to look like, how we ceded it to the automobile, and what we need to do to reclaim the street as a space where people take precedence over traffic.

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Drivers Behaving Rudely

Just because there's a livable streets revolution underway in NYC doesn't mean that drivers have gotten the message. Cars blocking crosswalks, drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, unnecessary honking and a slew of other quality-of-walking violations are still a routine occurrence to contend with on nearly every corner of New York City.

Mark Gorton, publisher of Streetsblog, wants to put drivers on notice of their rudeness. While he acknowledges the majority of drivers are not bad or mean people, their actions speak otherwise and they may not even realize it. After all, one rude driver sitting in a crosswalk can inconvenience or endanger dozens of pedestrians in one light cycle. Yet would that same person take a shopping cart in a supermarket and purposely block an aisle and make people navigate around him or her? The betting line says likely not.

So what is it about driving a car that allows people to get a societal pass on their rudeness?

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Seattle’s Bus Chick on the Rewards of the Riding Life

Carla Saulter pens a very eclectic blog called Bus Chick, Transit Authority, which you can find on the Seattle Post Intelligencer's website.

Carla, who lives car-free with her husband and young daughter, is all about riding transit and inspiring others to do the same. The bus has indeed figured prominently in her life: she met her husband on the bus; riding has provided her with a creative outlet for stories and interesting anecdotes; and she named her first child for the most renowned bus rider in history.

I was bowled over when I heard that Carla actually went by bus to give birth at the hospital (not to mention to also come home afterward). I knew then and there that I needed to profile her. I just wish I lived closer to the Bus Chick family so I could ride the bus with them more often.