Sunday, October 14, 2007

Week 10/14: Ten Tools for reshaping St. Cloud, Florida

St. Cloud Florida rests at the southern tip of the Orlando metropolitan area and boasts a modest population of 30,000 residents. Like most cities in the southeastern United States, the automobile dominates the urban framework of the city as residents pay very little attention to sustainable practices or the consequences of reckless consumption. Consequently, the city perpetuates both unsustainable practices and the uninformed ideologies that encourage such practices. I have listed below several strategies for combating this feedback cycle and for introducing sustainable practices into the urban framework of the city.

1) Educate the population about sustainability. The residents (and government officials) of St. Cloud operate with very little awareness of sustainable practices. Consequently, we must educate the population and then encourage them to think holistically about issues of sustainability. Perhaps the best place to start educating the residents is within the public school system—a school system which, up until now, has paid very little attention to the natural environment. Residents must hear about sustainability on a regular basis before they can begin to make lifestyle changes or support sustainable policy.

2) Stop developing on the periphery. Period.

3) Do not allow developers to build new subdivisions without paying large impact fees and providing sufficient infrastructure. Under the current operating system, companies can develop incredibly large areas of land without having to provide any sort of additional infrastructure (parks, schools, services, etc) within the community. We should heavily tax these developers and force them to provide new infrastructure.

4) Market mass transit to the middle class. Although St. Cloud boasts an ingenious layout that would be perfect for some sort of light rail or trolley system, the city currently supplies only one form of mass transit—an unreliable and undesirable bus system. Not only should the city look into alternate forms of transportation, but it should also launch extensive marketing campaigns to encourage residents to use them.

5) Stop allowing big box businesses to enter the community. Although St. Cloud does a great job of finding new uses for abandoned big box facilities, we should not allow large corporations to dominate the physical and economic framework of the city any longer.

6) Provide free recycling for residents. The city of St. Cloud still charges its residents if they wish to recycle.

7) Find creative ways to bring the population out of commercial establishments and into public space. St. Cloud already boasts an outstanding park system that stretches two miles along the shore of Lake Toho. We simply need to market this park system to the residents and promote active living instead of mindless consumption.

8) Encourage bicycle use amongst residents who live within the city limit. Although most homes within the city limit are located very close to commercial facilities and schools, residents usually choose driving over bicycling or walking around town. Perhaps there is a creative way that we can encourage residents to stop using cars to make these short- distance trips.

9) Create some sort of carpool incentive. Many residents of St. Cloud commute to the same areas of Orando every day. These residents could easily join together in a carpooling effort.

10) Plant trees along the US 192 corridor that stretches through the heart of the city. This 5 mile strip provides a prime location for new tree plantings. Not only would such trees encourage drivers to slow down (current speed limit 45) but they would also remind residents of the importance of the natural environment.

10 + 1

10 + 1 tools/strategies that could help shape a 10-year + plan for sustainably transforming the transportation (and land use) infrastructure in Denver, Colorado.

Initial conditions to acknowledge and accept as necessary for change to occur…

1.) First and foremost, continuous and dynamic education about how to break out of the “automobile-dominated mind-set” is absolutely critical. Change the planning language, for instance, “Improvements,” which people negatively associate with road work, becomes “modification” (Beatley, 163). Inform the citizens of Denver that “they are living in a special ecological project” that will over the next few years become increasingly “intentionally auto-limited” (Beatley, 145). In this way, the more residents are educated about the changes and how their lives will be affected and improved, they will feel more involved and ready to “sign-on,” (even literally, for example, to live in car-free developments).

2.) Secondly, adopt an incremental piecemeal approach. Much frustration seems to come from the “chicken-and-egg” conundrum; i.e., how can we do this without this already being in place, and this depends on this, and on and on… But if we can let go of our knee-jerk reaction to give up when the going gets too complex, and just do what we need to do, things will eventually start to come together with greater and greater ease. “No single strategy or approach will be successful on its own – it is, rather, a series of interlocking strategies that will have some effect” (Beatley, 140).

Steps within the next 10 years…

3.) Participatory planning. Take the decision-making power away from just the politicians whose opinions don’t represent the greater population consensus. Make sure many groups are represented, that their suggestions are sincerely considered, and that the community needs are met to as great an extent as is possible. One example I appreciated greatly from Beatley is giving local graffiti artists facades to paint without being persecuted, but instead, empowered through being celebrated for their talent and contribution. I can definitely see this working well in Denver.

4.) A-B-C policy. Connect the city center, “A,” to the Suburban areas, “B,” to the Rural areas, “C” with a variety of public transportation options. Provide affordable, safe, conveniently located park-and-ride lots at the edges of the city limits (at location “B”). An example of how this would greatly improve my life in Denver: In Coloraodo, one of the most popular activities for residents and tourists is to travel to the mountains, especially in the winter to go skiing/snowboarding. The traffic on Interstate-70 has becoming increasingly horrific over the years, to the point where what used to be a 45 minute drive, even in poor weather conditions, is easily a 4-5 hour bumper to bumper inch by inch creep and destruction of a perfectly wonderful experience of the mountains. If I could hop onto a bus from my home in downtown Denver at 8:00 AM to connect to a light rail that passes through a few major suburbs (which geographically, it would pass through 2 or 3) on the way to the ski resorts, I could have a nice cup of coffee while reading a book or take a nap and be at the top of the ski lift by 9:00 or 9:30, as opposed to 12:00 or later. And my “ride” home instead of my“drive” will be much appreciated as I am usually exhausted!

5.) Provide safe public transportation. For women, the elderly, and children, especially at nighttime, the sense and reality of crime can be a great deterrent to using public transportation. Over the two years that I worked at a non-profit for homeless families 30 minutes from my home, I contemplated taking the bus, but kept deciding against it after hearing stories of unpleasant-to-life-threatening-instances that occurred on the infamous “15” bus that would be my route to work. Poorly-lit park-and-rides are also notorious in the Denver ara for being dangerous to walk alone after dark or have your car at risk for a break-in.
6.) Provide accessible public transportation to intergenerational passengers with a variety of abilities. For elderly, disabled, youth, and persons with strollers or carts, getting on and off busses, subways, trams, lightrail, etc., can be difficult or impossible if poorly designed. Not to mention disempowering. Design floors of public transportation vehicles to be flush with platforms for boarding and unboarding.

7.) Single tickets/ single fair systems/ “eco-tickets”/ mobility smart cards (like a debit card) / “mobility packages/ etc. with access to an extensive network of transportation options; car-share, trams, buses, light rail, PRT. By purchasing one of the various options listed, commuters are able to let go of the stress of trying to figure out which transportation is the most affordable/ accessible/ comfortable/ reliable for their personal needs. The decision-making stress itself can be a deterrent to use. I have heard friends of mine in Denver talk about the inconvenience of switching from one bus to another with the ticket transfer time is up, which has discouraged their use of public transportation, not to mention if they were to need to transfer from one type of public transport to another.

8.) Provide affordable/incentivized transportation options. In order to insure equity, these fast, affordable, reliable transportation options must be available persons from all levels of the socio-economic strata. In the current state of things, many economically disadvantaged persons are discouraged from even considering certain jobs because they don’t have a way to get there, and can’t afford to pay for any type of transportation, even a bus pass. So, by encouraging employers to provide transportation-passes as part of employment-benefits, employment opportunities are broadened, and use of and access to public transportation is increased.

9.) Implement “Proximity Power” planning strategies. Build a diversity of activities all within close proximity to each other. Having choice and convenience is one of the most powerful methods of persuasion for change from current habits and making excuses to adopting new behavior. Within Denver’s city limits there are many areas that are already attempting to include employment, housing, “services, products, environments, people, and natural features close together,” (Register 167) however; the surrounding metro areas could greatly benefit from following the lead.

10.) Large corporations to decentralize. Companies should take advantage of the increasingly internet-based-business world to “break up their mega offices and centralized functions and scatter them to satellite offices in the suburbs and small cities” and even encourage employees to work from home as much as possible. The Denver “Tech Center” is the destination for the majority of commuter traffic in the Denver-metro-area every day. Luckily, a light rail system along Interstate-25 has just opened up to the great relief of many frustrated road-ragers that have to make this daily-trek. However, the internet could potentially eliminate the need to travel this great distance completely, and increase worker satisfaction by allowing them to work out of the comfort of their own home.

11.) Build/ convert apartment/condo buildings to be car-free. As Richard Register suggests, (p 170-171) new buildings can be built and thus sold at a much lower cost without having to provide parking areas, and parking areas in existing buildings can be converted over time into more apartments, and additional uses, such as art galleries or restaurants or shops. In Denver, I believe that offering owners (and subsequently residents) financial incentives to promote car-free-living would increase in popularity in tandem with the decline of the need for a car.

redesigning ithaca: from idealism to reality and back

Register has his head in pretty much the right place when he places transportation in the anthropological context. I would agree with him that we have outgrown the need to travel long distances ( like the Moon or Mars) just for the hell of it. What I think he misses (or perhaps knows but does not choose to emphasize) is that people not only have a need for adventure, they have a need for productivity or purpose in their life. This assignment is particularly hard because it asks us to bring the idealistic ideas for eliminating the car back down to the most local scale. With cities already structured, we must think way into the long term.

When I travel through Ithaca, I notice that –depending on the weather—my experience with transportation changes within different modes. I hate to drive my car because there are traffic lights on every corner, not to mention pesky pedestrians, cyclists, animals and trains in my way at all times. This is evidence of the traffic calming already in place in the city, so my frustration further discourages me from getting in my car in the first place and even may cause me to rethink my choice to go forth and consume. The ideas from this past readings that get me most excited are transit systems that require no passenger involvement in navigating and returning elements of the city back to nature.

I love the idea of zoning a city into locations that vary from places of dense and varied public transportation down the rural areas on the A, B, C categorizing system. It only makes sense to provide public transportation to universally important institutions that benefit from high density like hospitals. My only concern with that idea is that people who feel very ill or who are injured often are not motivated or recommended to take public transportation. Herein lies the delema: How do we solve the problem of providing private transportation (to people who are sick, travelers with luggage or people who need to have man tools on hand for their job) while removing the personal auto? The issue of transporting sick or injured is partly already solved with the ambulance. However, due to the level of emergency and high price involved, most people would rather take their own cars. So let us institute a system of reduced car use with highly inexpensive car sharing, car renting and even taxi-like services. As for travelers, better design of transportation modes ( like convenient compartments for groceries, luggage etc) and better planned cities are the answer. But what about for Ithaca? Well, we already have Tcat ( which are loud, polluting, and nauseating) we could use only specifically designed busses for routes that involve trips to the airport or to other specialized places that would necessitate large amounts of luggage or hauling. But what about the contractor or the nurse that makes house calls? These are trips rely on the car for income, and are not necessarily solved with proximity. Perhaps there can be some way to design a tram transit system that passengers could input a location ( that also showed a map of the city) so that a computer could evaluate all the destinations of the passengers and drop them safely off to their respective destinations in an effective manner? Busses do seem to be an answer but they are so unpleasant to ride. To modify the TCAT to improve ridership, family passes or Upasses could be initiated.

I am also a big fan of Register’s Roll Back Sprawl campaign, with one exception. Well, aside from the fact that most governments and residents would not go to tearing down houses and roads that still have many, many years left to them, what will we do with all that material? Some could be recycled back into making the core more dense, but what about the asphalt? It does not seem to be structurally sound enough to use it as building material. Perhaps there is some way to create low to the ground recreation out of it, like skate and bike parks—though that would really add up. In the same vein, bio-remediation could be used in these areas to truly let nature take its course and purge itself of the pollutants we’ve placed upon it.

To really make Ithaca the most ideal place for me would be to replace the TCAT with trams and to connect a high-spped passenger train line to regional and interstate locations such as Buffalp, Rochester, Syracuse, New York City, and Cleveland (my home town!) If there was some way for me to get to a few of these places without hours of boring and dangerous driving in a car, I would gladly give up my auto.

Ithaca could be even more bike and pedestrian friendly, too. In addition to reducing the amount of paved roads, we could build bike routes that are direct and safe, and that would sensibly handle the inclines of this terrain. The idea of a sort of “you are here” mapping system on the manholes is positively fantastic! I would also opt for making use of unused space ( like the constantly-under-construction parking garage between the library and the commons into retail or recreation space by converting its use. With federal money saved on maintaining highways and roads, we could hire countless individuals (youths, seniors, people with low income) to beautify, green and maintain beautiful walkways and paths. Sidewalks would become are galleries and even history lessons or short stories (like in the example from Register reading). Not only would we satisfy our need for adventure with the constant installments of educational artwork but those modifying and maintaining the space would be fulfilling their sense of purpose while honing their skills.

Week 10/14

The 10 tools/strategies I liked best are:

1. Steering development to sites where public transit can be utilized.

2. Integrating local and regional transit modes.

3. Paying attention to the speed, comfort, and enjoyability of public transportation.

4. Exclusive lanes for trams and buses.

5. Giving buses and trams green lights at intersections.

6. Using a centralized computer system to control traffic lights to manage congestion.

7. Allowing buses to stop not at designated stops for night service (to enhance safety).

8. Using hybrid electric buses.

9. Car-free developments.

10. Car sharing.

How they can inform a 10 year plan for Ithaca:

Some of these tools and strategies are more relevant to Ithaca than others, but implementing many strategies at once over a number of years is a good way to ensure gradual improvement in transportation. One very creative idea is the use of traffic lights to manage congestion and public transportation. A unified traffic control system that works with traffic rather than against it (which is what seems the case in Ithaca) would greatly reduce congestion on the residential and commercial streets downtown, which would in turn reduce pollution from idling cars. Creating a system where buses always have green lights would improve the speed with which public transportation serves Ithaca, thereby improving its desirability. Public transportation use at night might also be increased by allowing the buses to stop at an individual's house rather than a designated stop. This increases nighttime safety and convenience, a big factor in using public transportation. While Ithaca already uses hybrid electric buses, their use could be increased, and the ability to switch to purely electric power while downtown or idling at stops would improve the environment and air quality around public transportation hubs.

For land use policy, Ithaca may be able to exert more control over where new development takes place in order to locate it where it could be served by the existing public transportation network. Ithaca could also promote car-free developments by offering developers incentives for such products. The use of car sharing could be promoted by reducing the number of parking spaces allowed for new developments, and providing spaces specifically for cars that are part of the car sharing network. If there is a concerted effort to reduce the availability of parking, there will be more people willing to use the car share service simply because they would be guaranteed a parking spot at their destination.

Transportation in Toronto: Week 10/14

Being new to Ithaca and more familiar with issues of transportation in Toronto, Canada, I chose to look for strategies in Beatley’s Green Urbanism and Register’s Ecocities that I could apply to Toronto. I am also highly critical of Toronto’s past and most of its current public transit initiatives, so I thought it would be helpful for me to look for ways in which Toronto transit could be improved. Having lived in many other major cities besides Toronto, I can confidently say that, considering the population, Toronto has one of the worst public transit systems. Toronto has been developing into a super-sprawl city where residents are virtually forced into using automobiles because of poor planning and a strong predisposition toward car-scale development. Toronto needs help, and it had better be fast! I was grateful to learn of some concrete transit policies that Toronto could look at implementing over the next 10 years in order to help curb its reliance on the automobile. Because of the structure of this assignment, I chose to weave my synthesis into each section instead of putting it at the end.

1. Systematic Transit Priority
In chapter 4 of Green Urbanism, Timothy Beatley outlines how Zurich’s transit system gives priority to public transit vehicles. When dedicated lanes can’t be used, then all buses and trams use special transmitters to allow traffic signals to change in their favor. There is even a “zero waiting time” goal for all public transit at intersections.(p.117) Such a policy favors public transit travel and provides an extra disincentive to travel by car. All cities who are serious about increasing public transit and reducing automobile traffic should consider this tactic. Toronto streetcars and buses are constantly fighting with car traffic. The public transit vehicles are now given almost no priority over cars and it thus takes at least twice as long to get anywhere by surface public transit as it does by car. It used to take me three times as long to get to work by public transit as it would by car, so guess which choice I would usually make! I wanted desperately to take public transit to work, but when I could pass at least 6 buses on my way to work in my car, there is little to no incentive to travel by bus or streetcar.

2. Disincentives for Car Travel
In addition to giving public transit vehicles priority at traffic signals, Toronto needs to do even more to reduce the population’s love for car travel. Zurich and Freiburg have incorporated even more disincentives for car travel by reducing the city speed limits and manipulating traffic lights to reduce transit congestion. It is also deliberately very difficult to find parking in many European cities. In essence, these cities have made it very difficult to travel quickly and efficiently by car. The reduction of auto traffic, combined with increases in the efficiency and service of public transport means that the vast majority of people in Zurich and Freiburg, rich and poor, choose to take public transit. These strategies could work very well, over a 10 year period, in a city like Toronto where the vast majority own several cars and use them much more than public transit. If you make it less desirable to travel by car, then people will think twice before they use them.

3. Very Slow Automobile Speed Limits
Beatley gives several examples of European cities that have made 30km/hr (or less) the speed limit within their urban zones. With Beatley, I got the impression that this reduction of speed limits made the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists and also made public transit systems seem more attractive. While slowing down car traffic to under 30 km/hr may help to deter people from using their cars in cities, Richard Register made slow speed limits also seem attractive to the car driver. He implies that speeds over 15 miles/hr not only damage the outside environment, but also prevent drivers from properly seeing and appreciating their surroundings. In Toronto, there are hundreds of fatalities due to automobiles. In fact, from 2000-2006, exactly 220 of the 440 total traffic fatalities were of pedestrians.( Given that 220 of the deaths were pure pedestrians, this still doesn’t account for the number of deaths for people on bikes who were struck by cars. This means that more than half the people who were killed weren’t even using cars at all, but were killed by them anyway. These sorts of scary statistics are part of what kept me from using a bicycle to get to work in Toronto. I would be no match for the 60-80 km/hr traffic that I would have to face on the way there and back. Only with radical reduction of car speeds would most major Toronto roads be made safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.

4. Referenda & Public Input
I was very impressed by the amount of input that Amsterdam and many other European cities have been granting to their citizens when it comes to facilitating public transit. In chapter 4 and 5 of Green Urbanism, Zurich, Bologna and Amsterdam are listed as examples of cities using referenda to directly involve the citizens in all major public infrastructure projects. In fact, these cities actually attribute many of the successful car-curbing transit initiatives to the public impetus, and not just good city planning. The idea of letting the citizens choose their transit options and have input in public capital expenditures is quite foreign to municipal planning in North America. When possible, Toronto and other North American cities should try to involve the public in more large transit projects. This would allow for more accountability and overall public support for public transit projects. It was interesting to read that surveys indicate that the public is generally much more supportive of public transit initiatives than municipal decision-makers, but in our current municipal structure, it is often only those few people who have the time and money to lobby for what they want who get their voices heard at town council meetings. It was also suggested that the municipal decision-makers are predominantly white, between the age of 20-60 and therefore the demographic group most predisposed to travel frequently by car. Considering this, Ernst Joos, deputy director of the Zurich transit authority, points out that municipal decision-makers are often the least likely to vote in favor of public transit over car transit planning.(p.119) Instead of municipal officials having almost total control over public transit, Toronto should let the public have a say in planning and prioritizing transit initiatives. Anyone who has sat through a municipal council meeting to try to voice an opinion or effect a change in a public policy knows that, aside from voting for representatives, our current system does not really provide a true forum for public input nor accountability in decision-making.

5. Car-Free Developments & Acess by Proximity
One of the worst aspects of many of Toronto’s car-centric residential developments is the fact that tract housing goes on for miles and miles with hardly no amenities that are walkable or even accessible by bicycle. In Chapter 5, Beatley looks at how the GWL-terrein project has been built to de-emphasize cars and has placed schools, shops, and cultural centers very close to the residential areas. While we were touring the Ithaca Ecovillage, I was likewise struck by how nice it was to be in a residential neighborhood where cars are not welcome. By having amenities close to housing, the need to use cars can be greatly reduced. Even if Toronto’s bedroom communities could allow the strategic placement of corner stores at key crossroads, this slight shift away from mono-zoning could reduce the need for people to drive to far-off shopping centers to pick up basic staples. Register also summarized this point well when he said “[i]nside the city, the best transportation is the least: access by proximity should be the objective.”(p139)

6. Increasing Public Transit to Popular Recreation Sites
One of the seminal duties of all Canadians is to love the great outdoors. One of the most standard consequences of our love of nature is a prerequisite ownership or frequent visitation to a cottage. Cottages range from modest timber shacks in the woods to opulent multi-million dollar lake-side properties, but around Toronto, they almost all require driving 2-3 hours (often in an S.U.V.) to get there. Freiburg is given credit for integrating its long-distance train system with its urban transit system to allow people to get to recreation zones outside the city. Toronto must also drastically increase its public transit options to its cottage and recreation areas. As it stands now, the cottage traffic is just as bad if not worse than standard commuting traffic, and the auto traffic is exerting huge pressures on wildlife and the environment. It is ironic that by seeking out the natural areas that we love and crave to much, we are also destroying them! Only by increasing train and other public transit options can Toronto ensure that its areas of wilderness remain for future generations.

7. Car Sharing
To date, two car sharing companies, Autoshare and Zipcar, already exist in Toronto, but there is room for significant expansion of both these companies and for more car share companies to operate. It is encouraging to see that membership in similar car share organizations has taken off in many European cities. Indeed, I have heard nothing but positive comments from Torontonians that already use a car share service, and I know many more that would eliminate their cars if a car share service was available in their neighborhood. It is my understanding that the car share systems work best when members use them rather infrequently. Another limitation to the car share systems currently being used in Toronto is that they don’t function well for trips outside the city or for one-way trips. Perhaps when the car share groups expand, it will make it easier to use them for longer trips. Of course, having the option to use a car share service is only viable in conjunction with an efficient public transit system that can enable you to get around on a daily basis and then use the car share for special trips.

8. Creative Marketing by Public Transit Authorities
In chapter 4 of Green Urbanism, Beatley shows how many European cities are cosponsoring events so that price of public transit is included in the price of admission.(118) This is a great idea that can be easily applied in Toronto. Everyone knows that the traffic becomes deplorable when there are major baseball, concert and exhibition events at the Skydome stadium. It would be very easy for the TTC (Toronto Transit Authority), Via Rail (Canada’s heavy rail system) and the Go Train (commuter rail system) to sponsor large events because the main downtown station that links all three systems is connected to the stadium. The three main public transit systems that I mentioned could try to connect into a single-fare system, and once this is done it would make it even easier to have the price of public transit be built right into the admission price for large events. I think that the price of transit should be automatically (with no opting out!) included in the price of admission in order to encourage as many people as possible to use public transit. Of course, the price for parking at the events should also be prohibitive in order to further discourage car usage, and the transit systems must add extra trains and streetcars to accommodate extra people at special times.

9. Make Public Transit More Attractive
In chapter 6 of Ecocities, Register makes a great point about how trains and ferries used to be aesthetically attractive both from the inside and the outside. He waxed poetically about his boyhood train journeys when there were large viewing platforms and classy train interiors. People used to be proud to take the train because the trains looked good and felt civilized. Today’s trains and public transit vehicles could gain a lot from an increase in attractive features. The modernist move toward utilitarian design has left behind good old fashioned beauty. Toronto and all transit stakeholders should realize that beauty can be a great marketing tool. If we could travel in trains and streetcars that were perceived to be as good looking as our cars, then we might just be proud to take the train or streetcar again. The perception that public transit is ugly also feeds into the perception that public transit is for the lower classes. Perhaps attention to aesthetic details might be a crucial step in eliminating the public transit stigma and creating a socially just transit system.

10. Promote Bicycle Travel
While Beatley briefly touched on the inclusion of bicycles into many European city transit plans, Register looks more deeply into the benefits of bicycle travel. Bikes take up minimal space, travel at much lower speeds than cars, require only human energy inputs and do not pollute the environment. Register thinks that bikes will be around long after gas-powered cars have gone extinct, and thus cities like Toronto should start planning for the future and built more bike-oriented roads. There is a serious lack of bike-friendly zones in Toronto. While there are some nice bike paths along the lake and in many of the ravines, these almost never lead to anywhere I need to go. Toronto must convert many of its main corridors to make them more bicycle-friendly. There is talk that Queen Street, one of the oldest and most widely used shopping streets in Toronto, could be closed down to cars and made exclusively for pedestrians, streetcars and bikes. This forward-thinking scheme would be a great way to showcase the city’s exciting new de-emphasis of cars and support for sustainable public transit.

Week 10/14

The main step in transforming a city does not have to do with an actual tool, but in getting any steps to be approved to be taken. After there is some kind of approval from the city, from the people, etc. the steps that are taken and the order in which they are taken is not as important. I decided to apply some of Register's European techniques to Fresno, Ca. The first step I decided would be creating a tram system. This because it would be a major change, letting people know the city is serious and means to create a real shift. The city now is first trying to beautify the city, giving the people an impression that it is merely trying doing a patch-up job. A tram system I figured would work because it doesn't snow in this city so it wouldn't be bothered by the weather, and also it might reduce the amount roads used for cars already. There are also a lot or freeways that may have been in the way of something like a monorail. The second step, which is actually a part of the first, is to have all of the lines intersect in the downtown area. The downtown area as it is has a bad reputation even though it still holds many of the city’s important buildings. The main thing is that the businesses that are there are considered cheap, and only attract a certain type of clientele. Something like a tram system could bring in different types of businesses and thus different types of people. Making it more representative of the actual community. The third step, also a part of the first and second, is to integrate the ABC policy to steer large institutional and commercial activities to public sites. This would help out the success of the tram system by making it more efficient for people to get from one place to another, and also help businesses that are located close to the tramlines. Something like this would reduce sprawl. The fourth tool would be making a single ticket/card good for all modes of transit in the city. The tram and policy would hopefully be passed in two years, the installation would hopefully be completed in three. The fifth step is to put the tram system on dedicated lanes, with traffic control systems giving them green lights at intersections. This would again increase the trams success by getting more people to use it since it would go by quicker. Showing that car priority has decreased. This part of the implementation could be done at the beginning of the tram installation or even a couple years after. Something else (sixth) that could be done while installing, or come later, is including grass and trees along tram lines to reduce noise, to make the city more aesthetically pleasing, and promote walking. The whole of the project could be completed within six to seven years. The next three years would include a few different projects that because a huge one was done first would be more easily accepted and implemented. The seventh tool then is car-free housing and developments. At least getting this idea across and beginning to offer it to see how it is received. These places could also offer a few cars for car-sharing if necessary, or free tram tickets. The eighth tool is utility-cars that could be picked up and dropped off at other sites. I think this would be best done as early as possible since even with the tram cars would be widely used, and cars are so much a part of the existing infrastructure with the amount of freeways increasing yearly. This would offer people who commute a mode of transport as well. Even with these tools cars would still be in use, as they would need to be in order to get between cities, offer public services like fire trucks, police cars, school buses, etc until other cities also caught on. As cars will still be around a system like Woonerf to slow cars (bend in roads, trees, sidewalks and bricks, etc) would be implemented in order to help decrease the cars priority as well as promote safety and a playable community for children. Lastly, but still importantly is the use of artwork, bricks, etc around the city to promote a more walking and biking.

These steps would serve to spread justice equally to all members of the community. Those who ride the bus now seem to be the poor, and as it is it does not pass often enough. Riding the buss is seen more as a thing for people who cannot afford to do otherwise. Entire families would have less of a hassle getting groceries and strollers on and off of a tram, there would be more green to be seen, and a safer playing area for children in front of their own homes. Fresno has really bad air pollution that creates an injustice for all the children with asthma and a tram system would help reduce those affects. A tram would also allow easy access to all parts of town. Unlike Ithaca where the idea of doing the ecologically sustainable thing is done by all classes, people in Fresno see things like riding a bike or taking the bus as a thing done as needed by the poor. It is quite backwards then, and the idea of being more sustainable actually being the more expensive thing has not quite sunk in there. This is probably because they have not advanced so far in their level of sustainability. So while walking, taking the bus, riding a bike, etc may be sustainable it is also what the poorer have to do, and solar power, local food, etc. is also sustainable but not something the poorer can afford to do. As such the wealthier strive to achieve the later as a form of showing off, but not the former as that would do the opposite.

Week 10/14-- 10 ways to change

We have done a significant amount of reading in this class on the ideals of public transit, urban renewal and greening and community sustainability. Reading Green Urbanism was a breath of fresh air for me as it discussed what has already been done in European cities that can possibly be implemented in the US. It also discusses the infeasibility of many projects up for adoption in the US and why something may work in one area of the world and not another. Personally, I think it is about time to stop saying “why can’t we be like ‘so and so’?” The US has to build its own goals and trails to reach them- here are 10 ways to start.

THE GOVERNMENT: Top down approach. This is how any really major change has ever happened in the world of environmentalism. Without governmental guidance or support very little will get done in a short period of time.

SHORT TERM: This is what we need, short term growth. People are sick of hearing grand-master plans. Let’s see something happen. Just one accomplishment that is noticeable enough to discuss could get a ball rolling. Specifically with transportation, it is hard to make something happen as the very infrastructure of a city relies on cars (which we are trying to prevent). To devise a small (look what we’ve done) project in a city like Ithaca would be incredible for progress and marketing/outreach purposes.

THE HITCHHIKER: A reason why America is so far behind Europe is also because of safety paranoia. In Europe, there is significantly less of a negative stigma regarding hitchhiking. Because this is a no-no in the US it is harder to implement Park and Ride programs or community carpooling. Everyone is watching their back every 5 seconds and cannot find a way outside of themselves to expand their horizons.

THE SYSTEM: There is a large systems problem in any city such as Ithaca in America. People, who are supposed to be the power force of “the system”, have no say. Yes there is voting but people can only vote once it has been approved by “the system”. If a city such as Ithaca took it upon itself to reform how the people interact with the whole, progressive ideas such as a PRT system would be much more likely to happen.

ACCESSIBILITY: In Ithaca, there is a problem. Many places have little to no accessibility. One of the most popular places to go in Ithaca is the farmers market. Have you ever been there? There is no place to park and you really can’t take a bus there for the risk of being run over after walking on the roads on route 13 (I think that’s it). This highway blocks everything that is not approximately a ton to get there.

PUBLIC TRANSIT: It is not “good enough”. If you have ever been to the annual funding meeting of a government the words “good enough” comes up a lot. This is almost always said for public transportation. “Getting the job done” or “good enough” should be redefined. People should not have to wait 20 minutes (like I did the other day) for a tcat that was late. Efficiency is something that can usually be improved on in discussing transportation. Invest in it, the money is available.

EXPANSION: Build up, not next to. This is a growing problem for cities. They cannot expand anymore… well good! Grow and stop expanding. Suburban sprawl is one of the reasons why there is poor public transit and poor accessibility. Cities should learn to grow up, both literally and figuratively.

TAXES: Taxes of people should be divided up equally for what they use. Taxes should therefore pay for public transportation- no card swiping or fuddling with change needed. This would ever cut down on lag between stations. There is always someone who doesn’t have exact change or his or her card doesn’t swipe. This shouldn’t be an issue.

TAX TRANSIT: Unfortunately, Bloomberg’s tax on cars into NYC was a good idea a little too early. It was too dramatic for the big guys- but this is exactly what we need. Make driving more expensive. It’s like oil. If it’s too expensive, we’ll stop using it.

CARS: Who killed the electric car? Well whoever did should kill the SUV. This big, clunky, car is a killing machine. It doesn’t only kill people with crashes but also kills with its awful mpg rating. So much pollution and so little air= big problem.

Week 10/14 Transportation Tools and Strategies

I decided to focus my tools and strategies for transportation on Pittsburgh, PA where I plan to return to when I complete my degree. My overall strategy was to break down the plan into phases, beginning with small changes that can immediately be implemented to make a large difference and ending with large-budget projects that would entail significant funding and planning.
Phase I: Renovations to Current Modes: Buses, Bikes, and Cars
1. The current bus system in Pittsburgh uses a series of busways combined with regular street use, busways and dedicated lanes already exist to deliver passengers to their destinations quickly. The biggest drawback to the busway is that it is isolated from the commercial and residential streets and often creates barriers between communities. Instead of adding any additional busway routes, a sensory system should be set up, such as the one in Zurich, so that buses do not wait at red lights. This addition to the system would allow for less wait time and give priority to buses, encouraging ridership. Fares should be reduced if possible, or they should be reduced for a time period to incentivize people to ride.
2. Bikes should be given greater priority on the road, with the addition of bike lanes and paths and increased signage making drivers aware that they are sharing the road. If the city invests in small safety measures at once, bicycle riders will increase and the increase in visibility should lead to increased riders as well as greater sensitivity on the part of drivers.
3. Car traffic in neighborhoods should be reduced using traffic calming measures. Overall speed limits should be raised to increase safety. Instead of penalizing drivers monetarily, giving buses priority at intersections, and implying the danger of the automobile by raising speed limits will hopefully induce people to try out the bus system.
Phase II: Rehabilitation of Current Modes
1. Buses should be energy efficient, electric or hybrid. Pedestrian bridges should be built over busways at more frequent intervals to increase connectivity between neighborhoods. Busway stops should be better integrated with surrounding neighborhoods through transit oriented development. Bus stops should include shelters that are dynamic spaces and contain maps, schedules, and other relevant information as well as digital updates on when the next bus will arrive. Shared taxis and car shares should be investigated as ways of linking the busways with the larger community.
2. Pittsburgh has two unique features that should be investigated for public transit: inclines and waterways. There are two inclines ("hill trams") still in existence in Pittsburgh, however historically there were more, many connecting neighborhoods to food sources and transportation hubs. These have largely been replaced by highways, which now cut through the neighborhoods and further isolate them. In particular, this has happened to the largely black community living in the Hill District. Pittsburgh should consider replacing some of its inclines, and give special priority to low income communities who need increased access to resources as well as transit.
3. Pittsburgh has attempted to implement a water taxi service that has existed as a trial and has largely served as a tourist attraction. Instead of linking almost solely recreation centers better attention should be paid in linking business centers.
Phase III: New Construction
1. Pittsburgh's small light rail system should be extended, with special attention to establishing connectivity between its surrounding suburbs. City government should consider an incentive based system for developers to build around any new planned transit corridors.
2. Downtown Pittsburgh is relatively isolated because it is surrounded by rivers. Currently there are no tolls to cross bridges into the city. Although it would be wildly unpopular, AFTER new and effective transit has been developed, or at least after Phase II is complete the city should heavily penalize traffic into the city monetarily.

Week of 10.14: The Ten Step Plan

I'm still a bit skeptical about the possibility of implementing the many and impressive improvements to public transportation that have been possible in various cities in Europe. I'm also semi-annoyed by the tone Register takes in Chapter 6. It's a bit sensationalist and rather than getting people excited, could very well just turn them off to the whole idea of getting rid of the car entirely. However, as is the case with all the readings we have done, there are many gems strewn throughout that point to some intriguing possibilities for a shift in transportation consciousness.
Here are ten of those gems that I think we could use here in Ithaca--especially because there is a progressive consciousness here- even if it is only in Utne Reader and not in reality.

One: Good Public Transportation as a Citizen's Right
We need to out the notion of public transportation into the public consciousness not as a new and funky progressive idea, but something that is due them by the democracy to which they subscribe by paying taxes, by voting, or neither- simply by birth. It is our right to have access to the places where we need and want to be. We should not be forced into a damaging relationship with a car in order to get groceries. This brings up the equity issue in terms of who really has a say within our political system. Public Transportation would make it possible for people, quite simply put, even to make it to the polling places on election days; beyond that it would make it possible for people to spend more time involved in their environment, noticing what's happening right next door or two blocks down, rather than speeding along in a car, all alone, bombarded by billboards and screeching advertisements on the radio from the US Army and WalMart.

Two: Using Public Voice
This is about Democracy too. We do have a public and political voice, and we should use it. If we don't, we won't even notice when it's taken away. So we better get our acts together and start speaking out and taking part in the decisions that are made on our behalf (or not?) every day. I don't know the political system well enough, but there must be a way to create a public referendum or something like they can and do in Switzerland- there, any citizen can start a referendum, and if it's supported by enough people, well, it becomes law.
And we better be prepared to deal with what happens, because it might not be exactly what we hoped for; when everyone has a voice, the outcome will change because it won't be based on what Richard Register thinks, but what the people think.

Three: Encourage Investment
It seems important to encourage both public and private investment in public transportation. Our tax dollars should pay for a system that supports all of us, not some of us. I think if the there really is a change in consciousness, then there will be a real demand for private investment in public transportation as well. A caution here, though. Do we want to simply market such things just like a new car is marketed, or should it be different? I suppose if there really is a shift in consciousness, then it will be.

Four: Proximity Policies
I really like these ideas from Register. Make it possible and reasonable to own a corner grocery store. I wish I didn't have to go all the way out to Wegman's to buy some groceries. Sure, I can go to Wilson Farms, but it's expensive because I think it's seen as a luxury to walk to the grocery store, something that is fun to do when you've got the afternoon off or something. I think it's backwards.
Of course, the questions of whether or not a landlord should refuse a renter based on where he or she works- well that is a tricky one and opens the door to all sorts of demons. Sounds like discrimination, which is not necessarily bad, but seriously walks the line.

Five: Car Sharing and Traffic Calming
I like these! In the short term, while not everyone is aware of or excited about a serious change in transportation, car sharing is something that would encourage people who are considering getting rid of their car to do so. From my perspective, it would be great if I could borrow a car for two hours to run some errands or go hiking out of town. As it stands, I'd have to walk really far, or take T-CAT----- Traffic calming would hint to people about how maybe their driving SUVs in downtown isn't too appreciated, and it would make it safer for people to walk places- maybe kids would have more freedom to roam about and see the place they live if their parents weren't afraid they'd get hit by a car.

Six: Equity, Justice, Reality
The truth is that the people who need public transit most aren't the people who are arguing for it now- we are doing this for the people who are less mobile than we. I think the idea of a golf cart for old people is scary. It takes stigma to a whole new level. In actuality, one should be able to access and comfortably use public transit. I've seen it happen in Europe that very very old people, very very young people, people with massive strollers, all can take the bus because it's built in such a way that makes it possible for them to be safe and comfortable.

Seven: Protection and Dedication
Once, and if, there is a transit system, it should have specific lanes and places where it runs. This way a bus isn't stuck in the traffic jam, the traffic is. The people who take the bus then get where they need to go, they don't sit and wait for 1/2 an hour.

Eight: Aesthetics
It seems like there is such a focus often on practicality and usefulness--function rather than form, that the public transit is pretty ugly. That doesn't make me want to take it, and it further stigmatizes those who do. It should be a clean, well-lit, comfortable, and beautiful experience to travel by public transit.

Nine: Real-Time Announcing
I would never have imagined the difference it makes to be able to glance up at a board and see how many more minutes I need to wait until the tram arrives. It becomes a manageable experience to wait for the 11 train for 5 minutes when you know that's how long you have-- maybe you quickly buy the snack you really need-- when before, you just stood there wondering should you get it or just wait-----

Ten: Connections
Transportation within a city should be intelligently and carefully connected to the inner- and inter- state transit. Then it sort of puts your travel into context; it makes sense to travel that way within your city if you can move between cities in a similar way. Practically it makes sense too.
Richard Register states that cars are the number 1 single contributor of air pollution worldwide, and are ultimately an unsustainable means of mobility. The best way to discourage the use of cars is by encouraging the use of public transportation by making those means more attractive. To get people to kick their car addiction we must give them an alternative way of mobility that is clean, fast, on time, reliable, and more efficient than their current means of transportation. The top ten strategies I have outlined from the reading would best be implemented in small steps over time because small changes are easier to handle than everything at once. The best way to implement the tools and strategies outlined would be over the course of 10 years, consciously executing them as part of a comprehensive plan for a city’s future.
1 Consistently improve and in the Public transit systems. Constantly identifying ways to make systems more efficient and a better experience for users. Making the city mobile for all citizens.
2 Invest funds and tax revenues into Public Transportation. Switch the emphasis placed on roads and road maintenance to improving and enhancing the Public Transportation Systems because it provides a greater public good.
3 Buses and trolleys should have zero waiting time at intersections. Priority needs to be placed on the public transportation so the public will feel they are more reliable than their cars. Buses and Trolleys should have their own lanes, strictly reserved for them. The exclusion lanes will make the systems faster and more efficient.
4 Use the type of eco-tickets described in Chapter 4 of Green Urbanisms. The tickets are low-cost compared to automobiles and can be used on multiple types of transportation. There should be easy transfers from one transportation mode to another. Specialty services should be provided for night riders concerned with safety and children’s use.
5 Employ traffic calming measures used for both cities and residential areas. Tree placement, street narrowing, lower speed limit, and traffic circles can all calm traffic, reduce noise, and decrease accidents.
6 All modes of public transportation should reflect natural commuter patterns. Suburb to city, suburb to suburb, and low income neighborhood access to public transportation should all be addressed to insure equity and usefulness.
7 Park and Ride should be big and accommodating, with free or lost cost parking, safe and easy to use to encourage more people to use them and decrease traffic in the city.
8 Increase costs for car ownership. Higher fuel costs, road pricing, increasing meter parking, decreases parking spaces and regulate fees for entering city during certain times of day. These strategies will make the public transportation systems more attractive. Support car shares and car on demand services.
9 Accessibility. As the baby boomer population ages, they will become more dangerous behind the wheel. By increasing Public Transportation we will give older and younger people more freedom and independence from the automobile.
10 Build cities for people not cars. Hire locally, shop locally, rent and buy homes that are close to work, family and other personal activities. Empower foot transportation.

Tools for an Effective Transportation Network

It is now clear that we need to reverse the increasing use of cars for mobility. It is also clear that the only reason for this is not only increasing oil prices. It is sprawl, congestion, lower productivity, higher mortality rates, and a lower quality of life. In order to reverse and virtually eliminate the use of cars in large cities, other modes of accessible, affordable, and efficient mobility must be supported. Before I describe some of the tools, it must be made clear that funding these alternatives is cheaper now and in the long-term than continuing on building highways and wasting resources due to the car culture. With a fraction of how much we spend on roads, highways, cars, fuels, and precious time every year, we can transform the world’s mobility systems to more sustainable, efficient, and community-engaging networks of mobility.

The most supported tool, in Europe, is to fund public transportation as much as possible (trams, light rails, trolleys, high-speed trains, PRTs, buses, bicycles, etc.). As described in the book, Europe has a developed system of public transportation that went along with the design of cities. In many cities, people have access to trains, light rails, buses, and in some cases bicycles. In many cases, the government funds a substantial part of the cost of public transportation using another tool: car restrictions. One restriction tool is to eliminate free parking, slowly increase the price of parking, and reduce parking spaces. This forces people to reduce car use and increase use of public transportation. The revenues can then be used to fund public transportation, a good that is accessible to all (not just those who can buy a car). Another restriction tool is to make streets narrow and more accessible to pedestrians, either by designating them as multi-use or by placing speed bumps and other speed measures. Finally, a very effective way to reduce congestion is to price it.

In some European cities, such as London, congestion pricing dramatically reduces the number of cars on the road and creates large revenues that can be used for public transportation. In addition, Europe taxes gasoline more heavily than the United States, reducing car use and creating revenues for different services. Car-sharing programs provide another way of reducing car use in cities.

A tool to promote access to public transportation is the multi-use ticket, which can be used for any form of public transportation within a city. This allows users to not worry too much about purchasing the right to use public transportation, making the use of this service more attractive. Another way of promoting public transportation use is by incentivizing its construction as places of high activity develop. This promotes the immediate use of this service in that area of high activity. Connecting the several forms of public transportation is another great way of increasing access to the service. Finally, one of the best investments to make in promoting public transportation is to create a culture for that kind of service. De-emphasizing the personal car and promoting community and accessible mobility can go a long way in reducing car use.

These tools can be incorporated into a 10-year plan to make any city as car independent as possible. First, car restrictions must be put in place to generate revenues and increase pedestrian-friendliness. This may include reduced parking spaces, increasing fees for parking, and congestion-pricing (as well as fuel taxing). This is also a great way of generating revenues from those who can pay for personal transportation in order to fund alternatives that are accessible to all. A city should then plan a network of different transportation modes including trains (to go out), PRT (inside), light rail (around the perimeter of the city), bikes (for central use), and buses (electric and with dedicated lanes). Such a network would reduce the time of transportation (saving money), reduce overall transportation costs, and increase access and community while taking back sprawl. In addition, such a system would cost less than continuing to fund sprawl and the automobile city.