Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lynx is finally fixing its maps

                                                 Bus route maps posted--in Portland, OR. 

Lynx, Central Florida's bus transit agency, is finally updating and improving its maps to more resemble those posted at fixed rail transit stations.  The most important new map is one showing links to and from SunRail, which warrants posting at all SunRail stations.  Here's a LINK.

Lynx should also post the new route maps at Lynx Central Station and other principal bus stops.  Portland's Tri-Met does this. People will not board a bus without knowing where it goes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SunRail--Almost Ready

Crews were finishing the SunRail platforms at the Winter Park station weeks before passenger service begins.  

In only a month, Central Florida's commuter rail system, SunRail, begins a "soft opening," with free rides offered for two weeks beginning May 1.

The Winter Park station is particularly well-done. The northbound platform integrates seamlessly into Central Park.

SunRail northbound platform--integrated nicely into Central Park.
Soon enough, we'll know how many people will ride SunRail despite the ridiculous half-hour headways between trains, the two hour headways mid-day, and lack of night and weekend service.  Link to the schedule HERE.  If I have a hearing downtown that ends at 10:00 AM, I won't wait for a train at 11:15 AM to return to Winter Park.

SunRail needs 15 minute headways during peak hours, half-hour headways during non-peak hours, service until midnight and on weekends, as well as a connection on the OUC tracks to Orlando International Airport to become convenient mass transit.

SunRail test run along the Orlando Urban Trail.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Keep Partisan Politics Out of Local Government

Local government should not be about partisan politics.  As others have said, there isn't a Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole.  Frank Torres posted a thoughtful analysis of how injecting partisan politics into the Orange County Mayoral race could backfire on the challenger, Ms. Demings, at this LINK.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Victor Dover at Rollins College: Raise the Bar on "Complete Streets"

Victor Dover lecturing on Street Design, the title of his new book, co-authored with architect John Massengale.
Veteran planner Victor Dover, whose redesign of Park Avenue in Winter Park in the late 1990’s made it one of Florida's greatest streets, lectured to about 150 students and visitors at Rollins College last night.  One reoccurring  theme was to "raise the bar on 'complete streets,'” the widely used term for streets designed for all users, whether motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists. 

“A street is not complete unless it’s beautiful,” Dover insisted.

A case in point was the Okemos, Michigan roundabout, an over-engineered span of asphalt conveying a message of car space and not people space.  (Michael Wallwork, the engineer who originally designed the Okemos roundabout, told me that the City retained a subsequent engineer, who “blew-up” his design by adding unnecessary lanes and increasing the design speed.)  The Okemos--like the Horizon West roundabouts--was not properly engineered to target entry, circulating, and exit speeds to below 20 miles per hour--essential for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

“If we’re going to design a circle, make it a people place,” Dover suggested, showing a slide of the Seven Dials in London, England. 

Dover noted that he is ending New Urbanists' unofficial moratorium on showing images from Europe.  

Dover was promoting his new book, Street Design, co-authored with John Massengale.  He said they inserted voluminous, color photographs so that “an elected official can ask, why can’t we have a street like that?”  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott--A Welcome Turnaround

 Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) last week released the following proclamation for "Florida Bicycle Month":

Click to enlarge
Who'd have thought we'd see words like these from Governor Scott a year ago, when he was vetoing the Coast-to-Coast Trail?  The Governor's 2014 Budget contains tens of millions for advancing the project.   His  proclamation speaks of the Florida Department of Transportation elevating protection of vulnerable road users to "critical priority" status.  It's a very welcome turnaround.    

Thursday, February 13, 2014

City of Orlando: Don't Cave-in to Wawa

Mediocrity in Winter Park.  
Wawa is the latest chain assaulting Florida's built environment.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Several local governments asked Wawa to alter its standard suburban layout to an urban, "gas backwards" layout respecting the street.  Architecture, instead of gas pumps, would dominate the streetscape.  7-11 is using this urban friendly format in the City of Orlando--and they're getting tons of business.

Urban-friendly 7-11 at Fern Creek and Colonial in the City of Orlando.
However, Wawa  has obstinately refused to adopt the urban format, emboldened by the fact that, each time, the local government caves.

Orange County staff caved even though Wawa was proposing to put their suburban gasoline station in the Sand Lake Road SunRail TOD.  If Orange County staff won't take a stand to protect the urban integrity of an area slated for transit oriented development, where will they?

In exchange for some "architectural adjustments," the City of Bradenton, Florida caved, allowing Wawa to build a suburban layout in an area slated for intense urban development classified as Transect 5 (Urban Center) of the City's form-based code.  

Altamonte Spring requested an urban layout and then caved when Wawa refused.   

City of Winter Park staff requested an urban layout.  Wawa refused.  At least staff did the right thing and recommended denial.  You can read the Winter Park staff report HERE.  The City ultimately approved the suburban Wawa, pictured above, the layout punching a hole in an otherwise improving corridor.  

In the instances of Orange County, Altamonte Springs, and Winter Park, the local governments did not have codes requiring the urban gas station layout.  It's well-past time for all local governments to update their codes.  

The City of Orlando, which has done a good job over the years protecting and improving its "traditional city," is the latest dealing with Wawa's obstinate behavior.   Orlando--Please don't cave.  When they refuse flexibility, remind them they don't offer the most desirable form of economic development.  As one planner told me, when Wawa threatens to walk (as they did in each instance above), tell them not to let the door hit them on the way out.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Biking after the snow

Dearborn cycle track, in the heart of Chicago's Loop, on a cold Sunday morning, February 2, 2014.
I spent an early Sunday morning cycling through Chicago's loop on a DivyBike, the city's bikeshare system. As you can imagine, I dressed for warmth with temperatures in the teens.  I found the DivyBike system easy to use and the bike comfortable, its reasonably thick tires cutting through several slushy areas easily.  

A day after a snowstorm canceled 350 flights in and out of Chicago, the city kept the Dearborn cycle track (touted as "best in the country") sufficiently free of snow and ice, aside from a couple treacherous spots on the bridge over the Chicago River.  The city has a camera traffic detection system, which gave me priority over motorists to lessen conflicts.  Green bicycle signals allowed me to proceed straight before a red arrow changed to green for turning motorists.  

Within blocks, few driveways create conflict points, which the City painted green to alert both motorists and bicyclists.  At no point was I concerned about my visibility to motorists. Overall, it's a comfortable facility--despite the frigid air and snow.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How NYC Is Making Streets Safer

Link HERE and scroll the bar in the middle of the photos for "before and after" imagery of New York City pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure improvements.  Very well done.

Streetfilms has posted a New York City "before and after" video:

Florida cities and counties can apply the same methods in appropriate locations.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Close the Local Bike Trail Gaps, Too

Typical weekend morning--carrying bikes through a muddy, rocky gap in the Cross-Seminole Trail
Governor Scott's budget is calling for record levels of transportation funding--$8.8 billion.  Certainly a small portion can and should fund the closing of gaps in the Coast to Coast Trail through FDOT. Also important is to fund the closing of frustrating gaps in local bike trails.  The gap in the Cross-Seminole Trail, pictured above, is one example.  To its credit, Seminole County has put closing this gap on the front-burner, where it belongs (before some kid slips, falls, and  injures himself on the rocky path).

The extension of Orange County's Little Econ Greenway from Forsythe Road to the Cady Way Trail should not await funding of millions for a pedestrian bridge over Semoran Boulevard.  Cyclists can use the existing traffic light in the interim.  [UPDATE 1/22/2014--An Audubon Park Elementary School student is in critical condition after being struck in a crosswalk at or near this intersection in the last week. A Glenridge Middle School Student, also in a crosswalk, was killed at or near this intersection last Fall.  It's time to accelerate construction of the pedestrian bridge before another tragedy strikes.]  Completion of the Little Econ to Cady Way gap will provide a continuous bike trail and low traffic on-street route from downtown Orlando via the Orlando Urban Trail and Cady Way Trail to the University of Central Florida.  MetroPlan should add this gap to the appropriate 5 year funding budget.  

Completion of the Orlando Urban Trail to Church Street Station would be a welcome addition, but is awaiting funding for a multimillion dollar pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive, which may take several years. UPDATE 3/7/14: The Bungalower has reported that FDOT included the construction money for the bridge for 2015/2016.

The cost of accomplishing all this would be miniscule compared to the overall $8.8 billion the State of Florida will spend if the legislature approves the Governor's 2014 funding request. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Conservatives versus Libertarians on Streetcars

KPMG projected net operating costs of the Cincinnati Streetcar, after fares and advertising revenues, to range from $1.88 million to $2.44 million--about $1 million less than a "trolley on rubber tires."  

During the recent saga of the Cincinnati Streetcar, commentators often pointed to Portland as evidence that streetcars encourage economic development.  In response, some anti-rail commentators pointed to a report by the libertarian Cato Institute critical of the Portland Streetcar.

William Lind of The American Conservative co-authored a study refuting much of Cato's report.  You can find a link to Lind's report HERE.  Lind establishes that, on a per passenger basis, streetcars are more economical to operate than buses.  In Cincinnati, Mayor Cranley's proposed "trolley on rubber tires" would have cost at least $4.4 million annually to run, while a City-funded KPMG audit established that the streetcar's annual operating expenses would be at least $1 million less and, after fares and advertising revenue, range as low as $1.88-2.44 million.  Streetcars have an operating cost advantage because they attract and carry more passengers than buses.