Monday, July 13, 2015

5 Misconceptions in Transportation by Jeff Rosenblum - Livable Streets

I will start with the takeaways instead of the misconceptions, because not everyone will read the entire blogpost and the talk was really positive, but he used the misconceptions to drive the conversation for the students. He also described his role as an advocate which is a separate blogpost altogether.
  1. Streets are for people
  2. Cars need less space
  3. Traffic calming works
  4. Decisions are political
  5. Economic growth relies on livable streets not more highways.

1. Streets are for cars

  • Streets that are busy for 15 minutes a day
  • Place where no one wants to walk, no cafes
  • People used to use streets as part of their living environment - today 75% of place that children are free to roam has been compromised by automobile
  • Jeff used the example of a Dutch school drop off, paint being used in NYC, and Portland street paining at SE 34th & Yamhill.
  • European cities were not always the way they were. Amsterdam in the 1950s was moving toward car ownership, but they saw the way the U.S. was going and reoriented toward bicycle. Delft Center used to be a parking lot. NYC and Broadway is another example. Anytime you can take place in a city, you're making livable streets. Parking Day is a great example of this, founded in San Francisco.

2.  Cars need more space

  • Reducing congestion is not a goal for cities. Massachusetts Avenue road diet occurred in 1996. There is time and space. Don't let the number of lanes fool you! It isn't about just space, there's also the time component. Preventing left turns, retiming traffic signals, etc are all strategies that have to be part of the conversation.
  • Not enough parks, take space from parking or on-street traffic
  • Lafayette Square was rebuilt in 2008 as an example of remaking a crosswalk into a park. 
  • Western Avenue in Cambridge there was a cycletrack of 9 feet wide with a 7.5' parking, 10.5' travel lanes and another 7.5' parking. The speed limit is 30 MPH in Massachusetts, but 25 MPH is on Western Ave. Bus bulb outs are part of the cycletrack, eliminating parking.3

3. Traffic calming is the most important thing that engineers can do

  • Pasanen (1992) - NHTSA study
  • Traffic engineers have the tools at our disposal and we need to use them

4. Decisions are technical

  •  USDOT Ray LaHood started the dialogue related to considering additional flexibility. The Green Book even provides the following: "the intent of this policy is to provide guidance to the designer by referencing a recommended range of values..., sufficient flexibility is permitted to encourage independent designs tailored to particular solutions."
  • NACTO 

5. Cars drive the economy

Jeff used the example of Interstate 95 coming into Charles River. One of the Livable Streets founding Board Member was going to have his home demolished and have a highway that comes through the Northeastern University campus. 
McGraff highway in Somerville is an example of an antiquated highway that is going away. It takes concentrated efforts to think differently about the

Kendall Square Example 
Parking TDM policy "pays off" - no more than 45% or people drive themselves. If they don't have less than 45%, the building gets shut down. Clean Air Act and parking freeze. Self reporting happens once a year and the City gets to check how it is going. The City provides an ala carte menu of things.
The success has resulted in  great model for the City to follow when large projects occur.  

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