Tag: Transit

Houston, we have a solution

TX Houston bus Roy Luck flickrPhoto: Roy Luck via Flickr

This post is the first in a series of case studies about Complete Streets people, places, and projects. Follow the full series over the next several weeks!

Houston’s bold plan to redesign its bus system—the System Reimagining Project—is akin to a prima-ballerina dancing the final act of Swan Lake. The plan is so elegant, the results so awe-inspiring, that it’s easy to miss all the hard work that led to this moment. A comprehensive, creative, and thoughtful public input and outreach process led to broad support for this revolutionary new bus system.

Let’s start with the magic. In 2012, Houston and Harris County’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, or METRO, recognized its bus system needed an update. No one had taken a hard look at the system in three decades, even though Houston had grown into a more polycentric city and METRO had built the first of several planned light rail lanes. Instead of making minor adjustments, METRO’s board, with the nudging of board member Christof Spieler, an urban planner and transit advocate, decided to see what the system could look like if it were designed from scratch. The new plan, an almost complete remodel of Houston’s current bus system, was approved by METRO’s board just three years later, in February of 2015.

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Complete Streets News — June 2015

Photo by John Greenfield

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Core Values: Why American companies are moving downtown — Safe, convenient, and attractive streets are in demand, and a growing number of employers are moving to places where their employees can easily walk, bike, or take transit to lunch or a meeting with a client. In fact, hundreds of companies across the country have relocated and invested in walkable downtowns in the past five years. Join Smart Growth America on June 18 to dig into the who’s, how’s, and why’s–and to pick up some ideas for creating places more and more companies want to be. Register for the launch event >>

Safer Streets, Stronger Economies — The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is spreading the word that Complete Streets approaches to transportation projects can help people get where they need to go safely—and contribute to economic development. The June edition of the ITE Journal features an article based on our research. And, on July 9, ITE will host a webinar with Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, and Dean Ledbetter, Senior Planning Engineer at North Carolina Department of Transportation, about the safety benefits of Complete Streets. Register >>


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Planning Director George Atta on planning for a more convenient Honolulu, HI

honoluluArtist’s rendering of light rail service through downtown Honolulu. Image via AIA Honolulu.

Honolulu, HI is known for its natural beauty. The city unfortunately also has third worst traffic in the nation. To help remedy that, the City of Honolulu is working to create alternate ways for residents to get around the island and George Atta, the Honolulu Planning Director and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is one of the leaders making it happen.

Atta grew up in Honolulu and has been in the planning profession for many years. Doing this work on a small island, he explains, makes many smart growth lessons more immediate.

“Planners on an island see the consequences of our actions pretty quickly,” Atta says, “The problems we create stay here. So it’s been easy for us to understand the benefits of a smart growth approach.”

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Council Member Vi Lyles on expanding transportation options in Charlotte, NC

lynx-light-railA planned expansion of the Blue Line on Charlotte’s LYNX light rail system will connect the center city to the NoDA art district and University of North Carolina Charlotte Campus. Photo by Reconnecting America, via flickr.

Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina, with a metropolitan area population of 2.3 million as of 2013. Over the last half century Charlotte’s economy grew primarily around the financial sector, and as the home of Bank of America’s headquarters, the former headquarters of Wachovia, and a host of Fortune 500 companies the city was the  second largest banking hub in the country when the economic recession hit in 2008. In recent years leaders in Charlotte have worked to make the city’s economy more resilient by cultivating and expanding other industries, particularly energy, logistics, defense and healthcare.

In line with these efforts, there is a growing movement among many city leaders to provide a high quality of life in Charlotte’s unique and diverse neighborhoods, which radiate out from the historic center city, in order to attract and retain new businesses and residents and promote Charlotte as a great place to live, work and play. At-Large City Council Member Vi Lyles, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to provide these neighborhoods with a greater variety of transportation options to help foster a sense of community and connection to the city among residents. “We are focusing on making Charlotte a place where people want to be. To do that, we have to provide those people with choices,” says Council Member Lyles.

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Council Member Candace Mumm on making Spokane pedestrian-friendly

spokane A view of downtown Spokane. Photo by Mike Hoy, via Flickr.

In Spokane, WA safer streets and neighborhood vibrancy are going hand in hand. City Council Member Candace Mumm has a new crosswalk ordinance aimed at serving the community for both purposes. The ordinance – which passed with a 5 to 1 vote on September 8 – will require marked crosswalks to be installed at intersections adjacent to schools, parks, hospitals, trail crossings, and other high pedestrian traffic-generating locations.

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FTA voices its formal support for joint development

Joint developmentTriMet’s joint development program in Portland, OR, helped build the Patton Apartments (above) on land once occupied by the Crown Motel. Photo via SERA Architects.

Developing land owned by transit agencies boosts ridership and supports local economies. So how come more agencies don’t do it?

New guidelines from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) encourage transit agencies to do just that. In guidance issued on August 25, 2014, the FTA came out in support of joint development—cooperation between local transit agencies and real estate developers to make the most of agency-owned land. The new guidance is the first time the FTA has publicly recognized the multiple benefits of such cooperation, which include increased ridership, better transit access for the community, greater revenue for the transit agency, and broader economic development. From the document:

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City Councilor Tim Lovain on promoting transit-oriented development in Alexandria, VA

King Street metro station

In a few weeks, Northern Virginia’s first bus rapid transit service will begin operations on dedicated busways through Alexandria, VA’s burgeoning Potomac Yard neighborhood. A visitor standing under one of the new station awnings can see a string of cranes stretching from north to south along US Route 1, at work on the planned 3000 residential units, 4 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail space along the transit corridor. Alexandria City Councilor Tim Lovain, who championed the busway as an essential tool to support high-density growth in this corridor, smiles broadly as he describes the accomplishment, but is even more interested in the transit lines still under development in the city.

Many of these transit projects are included in the Transportation Master Plan Councilor Lovain helped adopt in 2008 during his first term on the Council. In addition to the Route 1 corridor, that plan identified two more high-priority corridors where bus rapid transit will be developed in anticipation of future streetcar lines. Both of those corridors are in the City’s newer West End, which is characterized by car-oriented, lower density development. West End neighborhoods are more difficult to serve with transit, but Councilor Lovain makes the case for it as an essential tool for economic survival in the transit-rich metropolitan Washington, DC region.

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Partnership in the news: Dallas seeks to improve and expand regional transit network


With assistance from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the city of Dallas, TX will make significant improvements to its downtown transit system over the next few years with the construction of the Modern Streetcar and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Orange Line extension. Both projects received funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

Modern Streetcar

With a $23 million TIGER I grant and additional funding from the City of Dallas, North Central Texas Council of Governments and DART, Dallas will soon have a streetcar network that connects residents and visitors to core areas of the city. Dallas’ modern streetcar network will be a 1.6 mile route connecting various downtown districts and destinations including Union Station, with connections to the DART Red and Blue lines and the Dallas Convention Center. The streetcar will connect walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods in the urban core, act as a catalyst for economic development and serve as a quick, efficient and cost-effective means of transportation. The street car is currently in the environmental review phase but is on track for beginning operation in 2017.

DART Orange Line Extension

DART, the region’s rapid transit agency, will soon extended its light rail service to over 90 miles of track in 2014 with the completion of the 14.5 mile Orange Line extension to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. DART operates both rail and bus services for downtown Dallas and 12 surrounding cities. Ridership on the DART light rail is among the busiest in the country with over 27.7 million passenger trips in 2012 and the extension of the Orange line will provide a much needed alternative transit option for residents and visitors. Part of the $5 million TIGER grant will go towards the construction of a rail terminal at the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW), which will include a train platform, passenger walkways, and a bus transfer station. This terminal will also be a connection to the TEX commuter rail system, expected to be completed in 2016. DFW is a major employer for the region and these projects will ensure that residents can get to and from work with a reliable, safe and affordable transit system.

Together, these projects are going to enhance the accessibility of the Dallas/Fort Worth region, making it easier for residents to be connected to where they live, work and play.

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Completing Our Streets: Who gets priority?

Health Line
Cleveland, OH’s HealthLine is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that offers rail-like convenience with the flexibility of a bus. It connects Public Square to the Louis Stokes Station at Windermere in East Cleveland. Photo by EMBARQ Brasil via Flickr.

This post is the fifth in a twice-monthly series of excerpts from Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks, the new book from Island Press by Barbara McCann, founder of the National Complete Streets Coalition. The book discusses the keys to the movement’s success, and how places and practitioners in the United States are tackling the challenges of putting a new transportation paradigm into daily practice.

All National Complete Streets Coalition Platinum Partners and those who upgrade to the next Partnership level will receive a signed copy of Completing Our Streets. Become a Coalition Partner today!

From Chapter 8: The Balancing Act: Setting Priorities for Different Users

Making a commitment to Complete Streets breaks open a tidy linear system that has traditionally delivered roads designed only to speed motor vehicles to their destinations. The transportation project pipeline was good at taking in a narrow set of inputs at one end and pouring out a finished road at the other. Agencies must now bring many more modes, voices, and considerations into the process all along the way. What was a pipeline can become something of a swamp; everyone involved may end up feeling caught in a morass of competing claims for limited roadway space and limited funding. Rather than simply delivering a project, transportation professionals must navigate their way toward a solution that may not quite satisfy anyone.

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Mayor Ralph Becker on building a prosperous Salt Lake City, UT

TRAX SLC
Salt Lake City’s TRAX light rail line, one of Salt Lake City’s many innovative transportation projects. Photo by Matt Johnson via Flickr.

Mayor Ralph Becker, a charter member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is turning Salt Lake City, UT into one of this nation’s most prosperous urban centers. And he’s doing it by building accessibility, sustainability and livability into many city policies.

Becker’s efforts are evident across Salt Lake City. He has spearheaded one of the most ambitious rail systems in the country, building new light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcar AND commuter rail systems. He’s also made the city accessible for all users by more than doubling the number of bike lanes, launching a bike share program and focusing on walkability and pedestrian safety.

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