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Posts tagged "Transit"

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Ride New Orleans: Setting the Transit Agenda

Since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the city's transit recovery has been sluggish and asymmetrical. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) made the decision to prioritize streetcar restoration and expansion at the expense of bus service, limiting economic mobility for residents. As a result, even today the average New Orleanian with a car can reach 86 percent of the region’s jobs in 30 minutes or less, but the average New Orleanian relying on transit can only reach 11 percent of those jobs in the same time period.

The advocacy group Ride New Orleans formed in 2009 out of a growing sense that the comfort of the average New Orleanian wasn't being prioritized by the RTA. In just a few short years, the group is already setting the transit agenda. Ride has organized bus riders into a powerful force, releasing influential State of Transit reports and sparking policy changes at the RTA such as increased bus frequency and overnight service.

But perhaps most importantly, they've strengthened communication channels between riders and the transit agency. The RTA recently released its Strategic Mobility Plan with a specific to do list of improvements. It largely is informed by contributions from transit riders.

But don't just take our word for it - watch for yourself!

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Highlights from NOLA: Riding Blue Bikes, Fixing Transit & The “Neutral Ground”

As I usually try to do, here's a quick wrap-up of highlights from my adventures in New Orleans from mid-December to work with TransitCenter and Ride New Orleans. The above Streetfilm was quickly pieced together as I wasn't there to focus on bicycling. But thanks to using New Orleans' Blue Bikes bike share to get around to many shoots (its debut week!) and being around the Bike Easy staff (who shares an office with Ride) I was able to gather a few interviews and footage. Let me stress this one fact: New Orleans has a lot of cyclists. An incredible diversity in age, race, sex and type of bike ridden. I don't think my footage here does it any justice. Cyclists are a constant presence on the streets, but unlike many big cities, you won't see commuting peletons or large groupings waiting for lights. They are just there. Every intersection you'll see them.

But as I said the mission was to showcase the hard work of Ride New Orleans who is scoring victories for its riding public and providing momentum in a city that desperately needs even the bare essentials for its bus riding public. Simple things many might take for granted like signage, route schedules, benches and shelters. The above excerpt with Matthew Henrickson, the Policy Director for Ride, wasn't planned. We were waiting to interview another subject and he sarcastically pointed out we were standing under a bus stop. Knowing there are uncountable similar conditions throughout the city, I just told him to start talking. We got one fast take in right before our interviewee showed up. But this shows the hard choices facing their incoming mayor, which was buoyed by this late December news where the RTA approved a long-range, comprehensive plan to improve NOLA transit.

And speaking of interviews, one of the lovely people you will meet is Ms. Sonja (below with me, and by the way that's HER bike bag) who is on the Transit Riders’ Advisory Committee that meets first Saturday of the month. They're a wonderful, smart group of people who know they pushing the conversation to drastically change their city. Ms. Sonja gathered 600 signatures to get a bench and bus shelter installed at her senior living home, which she is very proud of. And now she is helping other volunteers and motivating people do the same.

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I really get to meet so many nice people in my travels. She's certainly one of them.  You'll get to meet her and up to a dozen others (hopefully) by the end of the month or early February.

And finally, if you watched the Streetfilm at the top of the page, you'll see I became a bit obsessed bike riding in the "neutral ground", which is the term for medians (grassy, concrete, whatever) in NOLA. I did some research on it and the history of the evolution of the term is quite cool. Click to read here. Then watch my extended outtake riding on the neutral ground and many of the other people riding bikes enjoy there.

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Unsustainable: Traffic 2018

New York is facing its most serious transportation challenge in decades.

Subway reliability is way down, and the bus system is shedding riders at an alarming rate. And because transit is so unreliable, today New York is accommodating growth in cars, in the form of the tens of thousands of Uber and Lyft vehicles we now find on our streets each day.

It's difficult to even list all the reasons why shifting transportation growth into cars in New York City is a bad thing. Choking the economy with congestion, safety concerns, making slow bus service even worse, poorer air quality - you name it.

For our latest Streetfilm, we spoke with leaders in New York's transportation, labor and business communities to get their take on this alarming trend - a problem "screaming for a solution."

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Rotterdam: A Post-War Central City Moves Beyond the Automobile

On a trip to the Netherlands this summer for the VeloCity conference in Nijmegen-Arnhem, I had one extra day on my itinerary. So I asked the Streetfilms Twitterverse what I should do with my 24 hours, and I heard loud and clear from people in Rotterdam that I should come see their wonderful city. I'm glad I did.

Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. Because so much of the city was razed during a World War II carpet bombing, Rotterdam lacks a historic central district. Its newness makes it an interesting comparison to American cities. Even though much of central Rotterdam was built during the era of mass motoring, the city is still taking major steps to shift away from cars and toward transit, biking, and walking.

Traffic and parking are on the wane in Rotterdam as the city actively encourages more efficient modes of travel, with an extensive tram system and improving bike network (bicycling mode share currently stands at 20 percent and it's rising quickly). The city even has rain and heat sensors at traffic lights that give cyclists more green time during tough weather.

My guide to the city was José Besselink, a planner and one of the leaders of Rotterdam's "City Lounge" initiative, which makes public spaces in the central city more active and inviting for people. The program has been transforming parking lots and other underused spaces since 2008, and the results are impressive.

Perhaps the most stunning change is around the majestic Rotterdam Centraal Station. A 2014 overhaul reallocated huge amounts of space around the station, limiting car access while opening up more room for pedestrians and cyclists and laying down a "green carpet" for trams.

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Exploring More of The Netherlands: Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Arnhem & more!

By now you may have seen a few of my newest Streetfilms debuting from my visit to The Netherlands for the Velo City 2017 conference. The above video is a great resource in case you've ever wanted an on-the-ground tour of cycling by Dutch engineers but haven't the opportunity to do so. It's difficult capturing events like this in real time while moving with a group, but there is certainly enough to soak up in this Streetfilm and learn a great deal about logical design for cyclists and intersections from the best, so check it out.

I saw much on this journey spending time in a few cities. My first stop - unexpectedly - was the city of Rotterdam. When a vocal group of Twitter followers from Rotterdam found I was spending an extra day in the Netherlands (to save big time on my roundtrip airfare) they cajoled me into an amazing tour. José Besselink, Urban Planner for the City of Rotterdam, and Monique Zwinkels, Inner City Manager, Municipality of Rotterdam organized a fabulous journey by bike to sample some of what the city has to offer, especially looking at its core urban livability concept City Lounge. We had a few fun moments I was able to pop up quickly while on the road. 

The above is kinda silly, but shows my great love for transit running over grass. It's something I have also experienced in Oslo and Cambridgeshire (buses); there's just something about it that brings out the kid in me. And it jives with my son, since he loves the video too.

This next video speaks to the testament about how much more dense cities all over the world are getting and how cars are becoming increasingly a bad technology to use in cities. The ANWB, which you can think of as the Dutch AAA car-federation for motorists, now has a fleet of cargo bikes they use to rescue or fix driver cars in the central city of Rotterdam. They had only been operating a few days when we ran into this gentleman. Oh, and also they will fix bikes, too.

Read more...

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Checking out Silver Line Demo in Boston and more!

For the second year in a row, Streetfilms is working closely with TransitCenter to produce a series of videos about how people are organizing, planning, and winning better transit in American cities.

As such, I was recently in Boston talking to the Livable Streets Alliance about what they and their many local partners are doing to help speed up bus service. I happened to be in town during the two-week Silver Line Demo, a trial period during which riders can board the bus at all three doors, not just at the front.

As you can see, it was a rather dramatic change:

When I travel, I usually notice a heck of a lot more than what I am on assignment to document. So I grab what I can. While waiting for a meeting on this trip, I found myself wandering around Boston's car-free Downtown Crossing during lunch hour. It's always been a comfortable public space, and it keeps getting better.

Here's a short montage of people out in the middle of the day:

While in Cambridge getting some footage of buses, I came across what I'm calling a "sidewalk-assist" Copenhagen left turn. It's not the first one I've seen by any stretch, but I had enough time to get good footage showing it in action. The intersection is very difficult for cyclists, and it's great to have this option if you feel you need it:

The entire intersection is complicated, with lots of people walking and biking to a major transit station nearby. There are L-O-N-G wait times for a green light, no matter how you're getting around. If I had transportation superpowers, I would make one of the connecting streets car-free to create a more regular intersection and get a new pedestrian plaza in the bargain.

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Riders First: How Buses Are Moving San Francisco Forward

The unsung hero of San Francisco is the humble city bus, which moves more than 400,000 people through the city every day. This didn’t happen by accident –  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) have taken a systematic, rider-centric approach to improving bus service across the city.

This policy and implementation effort, dubbed “Muni Forward,” has been bolstered by a $500 million dollar injection of funding approved by voters in 2014, which enabled new capital investments to improve transportation access in an already service-rich city.

Muni Forward comprises a suite of service improvements, including dedicated bus lanes (“red carpets”), the first implementation of all-door boarding in a major American transit system, stop consolidation, transit signal priority, and the branding of a Rapid Network of bus routes in high impact corridors.

Though some of the bus lane projects have been controversial in San Francisco, it’s important to acknowledge the smart policy-making and intent behind Muni Forward.  The city is attempting to optimize its transit resources by prioritizing transit on streets, making transit easy to use and conducting a rolling review of routes and stops.

Bus ridership has increased in recent years as population has continued to grow, which has been essential as congestion has worsened and cost of living continues to rise. Even as the Bay Area increases its investments in BART rail extensions andPhase 2 of the Transbay Transit Center, Muni Forward demonstrates the city’s recognition of the essential role that buses will continue to play to ensure that Bay Area residents can get where they need to go.

The SFMTA’s comprehensive approach to improving bus service across the city should be a model for other cities across the country.

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Seattle: America’s Next Top Transit City

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and it is making bold investments to ensure most residents live within walking distance of frequent transit.

"Seattle can’t handle any more cars than we currently have," says Seattle DOT Director Scott Kubly. "Our mode split needs to go from 30 percent single occupancy vehicle to 25 percent, and the lion's share of that is going to be carried on the bus."

The city’s efforts are paying off -- both bus and rail ridership have seen huge gains in recent years, and 70 percent of trips to downtown Seattle are not in private vehicles.

In the past two years, city voters approved the $900 million Move Seattle transportation levy, and then regional voters enacted the Sound Transit 3 package, a $50 billion transit expansion plan. These were votes of confidence in the transit system and the agencies that run it.

Seattle is demonstrating how trains and buses can work in tandem to build a fast, frequent, and reliable network that wins over riders. A key factor behind this success is the leading role played by city government, which actively works to improve transit instead of passively following county and regional agencies.

The Seattle story demonstrates that when governments create clear transportation priorities, provide thoughtful, goal-oriented planning, and deliver good service, ridership goes up and a firm foundation of public support can be established.

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In Oslo, the Bus Experience is Efficient & Simple for Riders

While in Oslo shooting a Streetfilm on the city's ambitious plans to become as car-free as possible for 2019, I got to interview Frode Hvattum, Head of Strategy for Ruter. I asked a quick question about Oslo's amazing efficiency in having frequent train and bus schedules, but especially about how most City Center buses have three or four doors for boarding and also how the ease of using cell phone apps for proof of payment helps riders get on the bus quickly.

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Santiago, Chile: 2017 Sustainable Transport Award Winner

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy gives out the Sustainable Transport Award each year to a city that demonstrates "leadership, vision, and achievement in sustainable transport and urban livability." Over the past year, Santiago made major improvements in pedestrian space, cycling, and transit. Santiago will receive the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in January, and will be the site of MOBILIZE 2017, ITDP’s annual Sustainable Transport Summit.  For more information, visit staward.org.

Take a spin through Santiago's streets as former mayor Carolina Tohá describes the stunning transformations.  This fantastic video was shot and produced by Claudio Olivares Medina and the team at Bicivilizate. You can follow Claudio at @bicivilizate.

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Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story

One of the best transportation stories of 2016 comes from Vancouver, British Columbia, which achieved its goal of having transit, biking, and walking account for 50 percent of all trips a full four years ahead of schedule. Bicycling is a big part of that shift, and now one of every 10 work trips is by bike.

Vancouver is a city that prides itself on rejecting freeways in the 1960s and 70s. It is the only major city in North America without freeways in the core. Recently the city set out to build on the achievements of previous generations by increasing "sustainable modes" to account for two-thirds of all trips by 2040 (read up on the city's goals).

I was in Vancouver for the ProWalk ProBike ProPlace conference this summer and spoke to several people involved in the effort to make Vancouver a more multi-modal city, including former chief planner Brent Toderian, Manager of Transportation Planning Dale Bracewell, and Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, the activist couple behind Modacity.

I hope this Streetfilm provides a taste what it's like to have so many different options at your disposal -- bike, bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and more. And don't miss our short from earlier this year: Vancouver's Breathtaking Network of Protected Bike lanes.

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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city's buses every day. While NYC's buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation's slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC's bus problems. This research is summarized in their report "Turnaround: Fixing New York City's Buses".

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city's buses and attract riders back to the system.

We'll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, "High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus."

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Santa Monica’s Savvy Multimodalism

Santa Monica is trying just about everything in its transportation system: bike-share, a mix of bike lane treatments, a new rail line, neighborhood greenways, a pedestrian action plan, a new promenade/protected bike lane where the Expo line terminates, and of course they have the hard-to-miss Big Blue Bus!

In the last six months alone the city has launched Breeze bike-share and opened the Expo rail line to downtown Los Angeles, which cuts travel times from an hour and a half by bus to 50 minutes. (Personal note: At rush hour the discrepancy can be even bigger -- after spending the day shooting this story I endured a two-hour, 15-minute bus ride back to L.A.'s Union Station.) Breeze bike-share was my first experience with a smart bike system, and it was easy to use and comfortable.

Come see how Santa Monica is making it easier to get around without a car. Thanks much to the wonderful Cynthia Rose from Santa Monica Spoke, for giving me the grand tour and making my first visit there a joy.

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Why are New Yorkers bicycling to work in record numbers?

Today is Bike To Work Day in NYC. And as usual Transportation Alternatives was out hosting some fueling stations in the morning.

We thought with the newest NYC DOT data showing bicycling at an all-time high, it would be great time to ask bicyclists why they are riding their bikes more. Interestingly, the answers seemed to fall in three distinct categories: it is safer, it is healthy and MTA is falling apart.

But don’t take our word for it, listen to what your fellow city riders told us.

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High Frequency: Why Houston Is Back on the Bus

Every so often, every city should do a "system reimagining" of its bus network like Houston METRO did.

Back in 2012, Houston's bus network was in trouble. Ridership was down, and weekend ridership was especially weak. Frequent service was rare. Routes didn't go directly where people needed to go. If you wanted to get from one place outside downtown to another place outside downtown, you still had to take a bus downtown and transfer.

It was a system that had basically stayed frozen since the 1970s. And as you can surmise, the service it provided was not effective, convenient, or appealing for many types of trips.

METRO's solution was to wipe the slate clean. What would Houston's bus network look like if you designed it from scratch? By re-examining every bus route in the city, talking to bus riders, and making tough decisions, METRO reinvented its bus network. The new system features better, more efficient routes, shorter wait times, and increased service on nights and weekends. The changes were essentially revenue-neutral -- Houston now runs a better bus system on the same budget, because it optimized the use of existing resources.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the first in a series of four films looking at transit innovation in American cities.