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Posts tagged "transportation"

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Touring Delft with the Bruntlett Family: The City That Keeps Cyclists Moving

Streetfilms has known the Bruntlett's for quite some time. In fact, Chris & Melissa, co-authors of "Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality" once told me that the 2013 Streetfilm on Groningen, was the vital juice that motivated them to first visit the Dutch and that wonderful city we profiled.

Now earlier this year the former Vancouver residents have moved to The Netherlands with their children and they have chosen the "smaller" city of Delft (population: 100,000) to reside instead of some of the "bigger" names like Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Why? Well their reasons are myriad but as we biked around it became quite clear what most attracted them to Delft is that the city has really taken seriously the Dutch philosophy of giving bicyclists free movement with limited stoplights, roundabouts and maintaining through movement for people using human power to get around. In many places bikes have the default right of way, the opposite of many countries and cities where they would be required to press a beg button and wait their turn.

So I got to take a great fun tour with the family and all four of them, including daughter Coralie and son Étienne, offered ample reasons why Delft and The Netherlands are so great for their lives and getting around independently.

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A Street is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Boston’s Newest Bus Lane

Each weekday, half a dozen bus routes carrying 19,000 riders travel the 1.2-mile stretch of Washington Street to the Forest Hill Orange Line Station. Most people on the street at rush hour are riding in buses. Until May, the bus commute was usually slow and unreliable. When Mayor Walsh and the Boston Transportation Department converted a parking lane on Washington Street into a pilot bus lane during the morning rush hour, all of that changed. Bus travel time improvements were noticeable immediately.

Mayor Walsh announced on June 7th that the Washington Street bus lane would be made permanent, with the pilot lane marked by cones to be reinstated next week.

LivableStreets is working with the City to deploy more bus lane pilots like Washington Street throughout the city. To learn more visit www.livablestreets.info

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Ride the new Connect Historic Boston bike trail

Protected bike lanes are becoming less rare in many U.S. cities and I got to ride a fine new one in the City of Boston. Called the Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail, it is the beginning segment - about two miles so far - of a longer loop that plans to circle the downtown area.

The idea was to connect historic Boston places via a safe bike route that not only commuters could use to get about, but also visitors or residents wanting to further explore the city.

The segment features a lot of good design practices. Where it intersects with driveways or parking lots the drivers are slowed by having to meet the bike lane which has been raised to the level of the sidewalk. It also features ample #freshkermit (that's green paint) in areas to highlight possible conflict areas between motorists and cyclists. Additionally, some intersections have been built with some protection.  And some environmentally friendly bits as well: permeable pavement and a bioswale.

There's one section here tha'ts center running - which, yes, always has its critics - but in this case it makes much more sense to put riders away from crowded sidewalks at North Station/TD Garden. I'd much rather ride in the freedom of the center versus contending with pedestrians and cars. Just imagine this scenario averted.

Big thanks to the good transportation folks from the City of Boston who came out to meet me after work with little notice to take a one hour excursion with Streetfilms!

StreetFilms
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No room for peds on NYC’s 8th Ave so they walk in Protected Bike Lane

Can you really blame pedestrians on 8th Avenue?

For a few hours at rush hour in the am/pm the protected bike lane is filled with walkers since they are forced off the dense sidewalks due to the astronomical number of commuters and residents on them.

This of course turns the protected bike lane installed a few years ago into a virtual nightmare of dodging people. But look carefully, in the 30 minutes we were there pedestrians try to be as accommodating as possible walking in the null zone between bikes and parked cars. Cyclists, too, try to make their way slowly (most of them).

It has to be frustrating for all of them. But the true enemy is, as Mark Gorton points out in the video, we have given far too much of the street to vehicles and drivers. Both pedestrians and cyclists should be angry with NYC's administration for allowing this to happen.

At least one more driving lane (and maybe two!) should be given to widen the sidewalks.

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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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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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The New Bus Campaigners

Half of transit trips in America are made on buses.

But over the past several years, nearly every major US city has witnessed dramatic declines in bus ridership.

Some blame may go to low gas prices and new services like Uber. But transit advocates think bus service is declining because of longstanding policy neglect, and that something can and ought to be done about it. They’re pushing elected officials and transit agencies to apply changes like bus lanes, all-door boarding and traffic signal priority.

These kinds of policy changes require political attention and will, which will only be obtained through a groundswell of public support. To give voice to bus riders, a new generation of bus campaigners are now canvassing buses, bus stops, and transit hubs to hear from and organize riders. We were able to spend some time with organizations in New York City (Riders Alliance), Boston (LivableStreets) and Chicago (Active Transportation Alliance) to find out what is new there and how they are encouraging volunteers and city leaders to make improvements to their systems.

Buses are a relatively inexpensive and flexible form of transit that American cities could be making much better use of. Thanks to many new advocacy campaigns, we think we’ll see buses turning around.

StreetFilms
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Cyclists Become “Human Bollards” to Protect 2nd Ave Bike Lane

Earlier this summer, DOT filled an 18-block gap in the Second Avenue bike lane in Midtown. But there’s a big problem with the project: On most of those blocks, the new bike lane isn’t protected at rush hour, when the number of cyclists is highest and car traffic is most intense.

So this morning, Transportation Alternatives volunteers took safety in their own hands, lining up between 45th Street and 44th Street to form a “human-protected bike lane” during the 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. rush.

In Midtown, Second Avenue was supposed to get “low-profile tuff curbs” — plastic barriers — to keep motorists out of the bike lane during rush hour. (The rest of the day, the space next to the bikeway is a parking lane, which provides protection.) But the agency changed its mind, nixing the treatment “due to safety and accessibility concerns raised during additional design review and product testing.”

“Without that protection, people aren’t going to be using the bike lane,” TransAlt Manhattan organizer Chelsea Yamada said. “We’ve got 20 to 25 folks here that are using themselves as a substitute for infrastructure. We can’t afford to do this every day, we can’t afford to do that, to put our bodies on the line, but that’s basically what we’re doing every day.”

(From David Meyer, StreetsblogNYC)

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NYC Earth Day 2017: A Car-Free Broadway

This year for NYC's 2nd Car-Free NYC Earth Day, things picked up considerably from last year's inaugural event. The big spectacle was that you could walk or bike up Broadway from Union Square all the way to Times Square on car-free streets. But in a way since the Science March was already coming down Broadway to 47th street from the north, many people were able to traverse it all the way to Columbus Circle.
NYC Council Member (and Transportation Chair) Ydanis Rodriguez has been a real star in the move to get the city to think big things and also a great ally in the Vision Zero quest for safe streets. In this short, we got to walk with him for a few blocks and also talk to many New Yorkers about the state of the streets. Many dream big, wanting to see a car-free Broadway in the future, a proposal Mr. Rodriguez also would love to see.
As usual at these events there was plenty of programming. Running clubs. City agencies. Aerobics classes. Free Citibike rentals. In many ways it felt similar to one of the Summer Streets Saturdays in August, except this time it was on Broadway in the heart of the city. A statement to our city that it can be done. All we need is the will. After all 55% of NYC households don't own a car; and 77% of those in Manhattan.

StreetFilms
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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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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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The Gaman Spirit: Why Cycling Works in Tokyo

In Tokyo, bicycling accounts for 14 percent of all trips. Yet Tokyo does not have the cycling infrastructure of Amsterdam or even Hamburg. As much as wider bike lanes would help, Tokyo residents will bike regardless. If there's no bike lane, they'll just hop on the sidewalk or wherever they feel safe.

Joe Baur produced this excellent Streetfilm. He writes:

Still, it was easy to see some of the same problems in Tokyo that I've seen in my own cycling in Cleveland and throughout the United States. That is, motorists will take that space back when it pleases them.

For instance, while cycling on a beautiful blue lane into downtown Tokyo, my hosts and I stopped at an intersection to get some shots of cyclists passing by. Across the street a delivery truck had pulled over into the bike lane. Ahead of us, a car in the bike lane forced cyclists to either hop onto the sidewalk or move further into the vehicle lane. Unsurprisingly, drivers did not seem keen to make space for the merging cyclists or to slow down.

The other peculiarity was the fact that the responsibility of designing cycling infrastructure falls to the individual districts within Tokyo. Byron Kidd of Tokyo By Bike equated it with New York City boroughs coming up with their own cycling infrastructure, irrespective of one another. The result is, indeed, confusing -- comically so at times.

However, cycling continues to work beautifully in Tokyo. I was surprised by just how young the kids were cycling around the city. I was told that kids start in the back of their parent's bike, then they move up to a handlebars seat when the second child comes along before hopping onto their own bike when they're too heavy. This all makes sense when you consider that it's very common for Japanese children to be sent off on their own at an age many North Americans would consider too young.

There's at least one thing the rest of the world can take from cycling in Tokyo. That is the "Gaman Spirit." Literally, it means "to endure." But when applied to cycling in Tokyo, it refers to everybody getting along.

Whether you're a cyclist, pedestrian, or driver, it doesn't matter. We all have a job to get done, so as Kidd put it, "get it done."

StreetFilms
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Houston: Buses, Bayous, Beltways and Abounding Optimism for Better Mobility

Last week found me in Houston. And for a few hours (see above) I got to go explore their expansive bayou greenway system - which by 2020 will be the largest network of trails and parks in the nation. That may shock you about Houston, it's great trivia to pull out in a room with transportation friends.

But the primary reason I was there was to look at the ambitous realignment of Houston METRO's bus system, a complex multi-year project to make buses run more efficiently, faster, with more frequency and routes that make more sense for the city. It's already reaping great rewards and sweeping the nation with ample positive press so we thought it would make a great Streetfilm. Thus, thanks to our funding partners TransitCenter in a few weeks we'll be posting a film to tell the story.

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This photo is me with Janis "Bus Lady" Scott who is just one of the great folks I got to spend time with on the streets of Houston riding transit.  I think Janis just might be Jane Jacobs reincarnated.  She was so charming I might post a bonus Streetfilm segment just on her after finishing our primary feature on MetroBus.

I also got to do one of the more amazing things I have ever been allowed: I rode in an empty bus around downtown Houston just to get some driving shots after interviewing Cara (below) an energetic bus driver at Houston Metro who helped out planning some of the new routes. You'll meet her, the "Bus Lady" and many others in our film.

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While I was there, I was a guest speaker at Houston Tomorrow's Streetfilms screening at the Rice University Media Center. Always nice to see our films playing up on a handsome big screen with lots of folks. Furthermore, I was very excited since Jay Blazek Crossley their Executive Director, chose a great slate of Streetfilms mostly pulled from this blog post, which I've been cajoling communities to play. You should, after all they are free to screen.

Read more...

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How D.C. Cut Traffic Fatalities by 73% in a Decade

We continue to present short videos from our tour around Washington, D.C. with Gabe Klein, the former Transportation Commissioner in our nation's capital.

These are the final two vignettes in our series which focus 1) on the incredible reduction in traffic fatalities in D.C. and 2) the role of fast evolving technologies which has drastically altered transportation in our cities in the last few years - and will so much more in the years to come.

And just in case you missed it, last week Gabe talked about the evolution of how D.C.'s center-running, two-way, protected cycle track came into existence (and who challenged him to put it in!) We re-present that here so we have a nice trio of Streetfilms Shorties for you to ingest!

Gabe Klein's new book, "Start-Up City", is available on Island Press.

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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.