As one of a slew of successful placemaking initiatives of late, along with the recently reopened Washington Park, Cincinnati’s Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is a key component of the city’s resurgent urban identity. It’s a multi-faceted design, aspiring to filter water for flood control, provide green space and connect two downtown stadiums with a multimodal trail along the Ohio River.
It might bode well for the burgeoning BRT movement in Chicago, then, that the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago Architectural Club have launched a bus rapid transit station design competition. Dubbed “NEXT STOP,” the station design contest will be the subject of the 2013 Burnham Prize Competition.
Submit designs for three stations (downtown, near State and Madison; Bucktown-Logan Square at Western Avenue Blue Line ‘L’ Stop; Pilsen near 18th and Ashland) by noon May 13.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service.
Last month, Ray LaHood made an off-the-cuff remark at a post-inaugural party that he would be “sticking around for a while” as President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, but last week LaHood made his final decision to step down from the position after four years on the job. The Republican made a name for himself in urbanist circles for his support of High Speed Rail, efficient urban transportation policies, and safety pushes, most notably his efforts to curb distracted driving. Reflecting on his tenure at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), LaHood remarked in a letter to DOT employees across the country,
“Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.”
In an exit interview with the Huffington Post, LaHood said, “We are behind on high-speed rail,” but remained optimistic that the topic will still maintain a top spot his successor’s agenda: “As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities.” LaHood will continue in his role as Secretary until his successor is found.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has seen some success in his time in office. But one element still remains a thorn in his side: MUNI, the city’s transit agency. In his State of the City address the other day (watch full speech below) Lee vowed to improve the notoriously late and overcrowded system, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. “We need to modernize our system…to better match up with 21st century patterns of where people live, work, and shop,” said Lee.
A few remedies that Lee has suggested: the formation of a task force to help develop a plan for modernizing the system and dealing with the city’s growing population; expansion of BART, the Bay Area’s regional transit system; new work rule reforms; and a bevy of new technologies. “Truly great cities have great transportation systems—Paris, New York, London, Tokyo,” Lee said. “I say San Francisco is pretty great, too, and deserves one as well.” The city is in fact adding a new transit line, the downtown T-Central, to help alleviate congestion problems. It’s slated to open in 2019. Check out images of the city’s upcoming line below.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey announced plans for expanding and maintaining the state’s transportation system on Monday. The improvements outlined in the proposal would require an estimated $1.02 billion a year reported Masslive.com, and include everything from adding new tracks at South Station and implementing a commuter rail to South Coast, to major road repairs in Western Massachusetts and a pedestrian and bike program.
One critical component remains rather vague, however—how the state intends on funding this costly agenda. MassDOT suggests a number revenue sources in its proposal such as a green fee (a fee assessed by the amount of carbon emissions released), an increase in tolls and fares, and an income tax that would increase the tax rate from 5.25 percent to approximately 5.66 percent. Governor Deval Patrick is expected to address the transportation plan in his State of the Commonwealth speech tonight, and the Boston Globe reports that he will likely come out in support of a raise in income tax.
Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed.
The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year.
Amtrak’s Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.
Planning and transportation wonks from around the country gathered at NYU’s Kimmel Center this morning to mark the beginning of three-days of the NACTO Designing Cities conference, emphasizing new and innovative ideas for designing streets and public spaces. To jumpstart the event, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released the Urban Street Design Guide, collecting design principles, strategies, and case studies from across the country on how to best design and implement everything from cycletracks to bus rapid transit.
“Safety is in the eye of the beholder,” says New York City DOT Commissioner Sadik Khan. Khan’s remarks came Wednesday as the New York City Department of Transportation unveiled its new LOOK! safety campaign urging self-responsibility on the part of drivers and pedestrians alike. The updated campaign features thermoplastic curbside lettering spelling L-O-O-K with appropriately focused eyeballs replacing the O’s on crosswalks at 110 of the most fatality ridden intersections across the city. The street markings are accompanied by witty color photograph ads on nearby phone stalls, bus shelters, and the backs of city buses warning us to heed our mothers’ advice and look both ways before crossing the street. The campaign plans to eventually increase their range to include 200 intersections and more than 300 buses.
Plans for a fixed-track trolley system in St. Louis got a $22 million infusion last week, when the Federal Transit Administration followed through with plans to fund construction of the city’s long-awaited Loop Trolley system.
The Loop Trolley Transportation Development District would administer a 2.2-mile track from the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park to the University City Library—part of a regional plan for more sustainable transit. Three hybrid electric trolleys will make nine stops along the way, offering connection with the existing light rail MetroLink system.