Monday, October 31, 2016

Jim's Journeys 3

Greetings from the road!  

What a fun couple of days traveling this great state!  There is nothing better than driving through the back roads of Virginia during the fall.  I headed out to Lynchburg last week and then took a trip down to Danville to see how everybody was doing.

Down in Lynchburg I stopped in at VDOT and met with Chris Winstead and Daphne Ashwell (see picture).  We had a productive meeting and hope to bring some classes down to the Lynchburg district office in the future!

I was also able to drop off gravel road construction guides to Public Works directors in Lynchburg, Martinsville and Danville.  If you need any other training, books or resources don’t hesitate to call our office, we’ll be glad to help.

Just a reminder- if you have a training room and would like to host one of our classes, please give Robin Carpenter a call!  She’d be more than happy to work with you on setting something up.  Her number is 434-982-2897.

If you weren’t in when I stopped by but you got an arm full of books and brochures and would like to talk about your training needs feel free to drop me a line (my email is below). 

Watch for information about when I’ll be traveling to your location. Or contact me at to schedule a visit.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New Vancouver Data Shows Most Commercial Drive Visitors Don’t Drive

As part of the City of Vancouver’s process to consult with the public about the possibility of converting Commercial Drive into a Complete Street, the city hired a consultant to conduct an intercept survey of visitors to Commercial Drive. This survey asked visitors questions concerning how they arrived, how often then visit, where they came from, where they park if they drive and how they found the experience. The results were recently released and can be found here. I have attached one of the open house boards below.

Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cyclist Says His Pool Noodle Makes Toronto Streets Safer For Him

Cars barreling by him. SUVs passing within inches of his bike’s handlebars. Drivers jamming on the brakes and leaping from their vehicles to confront him.
Daily commutes used to be tough for Warren Huska, who cycles 18 kilometres from his home near the Beaches to his office in North York almost every day.
“People get really insulated inside a vehicle,” Huska said. “They don’t really know where the edges of their vehicle are.”
But, for the past year, drivers have given Huska a wider berth.
Now, when he mounts his trusty two-wheeled steed, Huska is protected by a pool noodle.

Strapped to his bike’s frame with bungee cords, the floppy foam cylinder is a reminder to drivers not to get too close.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Guide For Planners Offers Advice On Building Safe Streets

Out of the many changes former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought to the city, one of the few that was universally beloved was his administration’s transformation of many city streetscapes. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton were widely blasted when they casually considered reopening the Times Square stretch of Broadway to car traffic. It was one of many indications that a new era was upon cities, one in which the car was no longer king.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the Global Designing Cities Initiative just unveiled the Global Street Design Guide, the first-ever worldwide standard for redesigning city streets to prioritize safety, pedestrians, transit and sustainable mobility. Bloomberg Philanthropies funded the publication.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

HOV Lanes In Norfolk To Become HOT Lanes

ARLINGTON - The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) today voted to authorize VDOT to convert eight miles of Interstate 64 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV-2) reversible lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) or Express Lanes from the Interstate 264/64 Interchange to Interstate 564 in Fall 2017.  
VDOT Hampton Roads District Administrator James Utterback said the conversion from HOV to HOT (Express) Lanes “will improve reliability, provide travel choices and reduce congestion in both the general purpose and HOV travel lanes.”
Operating hours for Express Lanes will be in effect for four hours in the morning, from 5 a.m.- 9 a.m. and afternoons from 2 p.m.- 6 p.m. and will operate Monday through Friday only.  Vehicles with two or more people will continue to ride the lanes for free.  For the first time, solo drivers will have the option to use the lanes any time during peak periods when paying a variable toll.  
Use of Express Lanes is voluntary and tolls will vary depending on traffic volumes.  
VDOT estimates conversion to Express Lanes will decrease use of general purposes lanes by approximately 17 percent.
The CTB also agreed to allow VDOT to use its current toll revolving account to begin constructing infrastructure needed to build the Express Lanes.
Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, Aubrey Layne, called the conversion, “long overdue,” and said the HOT Lanes will be “a much better use of our assets.”
In January 2016 the CTB was briefed on the beginning of a feasibility study of HOV to HOT conversion on I-64.  Last month, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization passed a resolution in support of the conversion.
The current HOV lanes are underutilized and in 2008 the U.S. Secretary of Transportation encouraged the conversion to HOT lanes.
VDOT will immediately move forward with development plans for the conversion to HOT/Express Lanes.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Transportation Board Awards Three Contracts Worth $123.8 Million

ARLINGTON, Virginia – The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved three projects at their monthly meeting today totaling $123.8 million that will improve transportation in the Fredericksburg, Hampton Roads and Richmond Districts of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
  • Diverging Diamond Interchange to be built in Stafford County
A $99.9 million design-build contract was awarded to Shirley Contracting Company, of Lorton, to construct a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) to replace the existing Interstate 95/Route 630 (Courthouse Road) interchange to accommodate the increased traffic volume expected in this location in the Fredericksburg District.                  
Courthouse Road will be relocated and widened to four lanes between Route 1 and I-95, and to streamline traffic, the project will relocate the intersection of Courthouse Road and    Route 1 to the south to align with Hospital Center Boulevard. 
West of I-95, Courthouse Road will be widened to four lanes to a point just west of Ramoth Church Road/Winding Creek Road, and a traffic signal will be installed at the entrance to Colonial Forge High School. Ramoth Church Road and Winding Creek Road will also be realigned to intersect at a traffic signal.
The existing commuter park and ride, currently to the east of I-95, will be relocated to the west of the Interstate and expanded to accommodate approximately 500 new parking spots in addition to the 545 existing spaces. A 10-foot shared use path will originate from the commuter park and ride lot, pass along the DDI over I-95 and continue along the north side of relocated Route 630, for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The project is expected to be completed by July 2020.
  • New Ferry will be added to Jamestown-Scotland Fleet
A $16.5 million contract was awarded to VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Miss., for the construction of a new ferry boat to replace The Virginia. Built in 1936, it is the oldest vessel in the Jamestown-Scotland fleet.
The new ferry will have a 70-vehicle capacity, and will be able to transport up to 499 passengers. The Virginia, built to accommodate 1930’s era vehicles, has narrower parking lanes and a 12-ton limit; it is only able to transport 25 cars on each pass. The ferries take motorists across the James River between James City County at Glasshouse Point and Surry County at Scotland Wharf in VDOT’s Hampton Roads District.
Construction on the ferry is expected to be complete by April 2018.
  • Pavement Maintenance Planned in Prince George County
A $7.4 million contract was awarded through State of Good Repair funds to Curtis Contracting, Inc., of West Point for pavement maintenance and repair in VDOT’s Richmond District.
The project will include patching the concrete pavement and laying a thin asphalt overlay on Interstate 295 northbound from I-95 to Route 460 (mile marker 3).
The expected completion date is October 2017.
The following chart tracks the dollar amount of major contracts the CTB has awarded in calendar year 2016:
16137_ctbAwardsCHARTIn advance of each CTB meeting, VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick also approves contracts up to $5 million in value. From the June 22, July 27, and August 24, 2016 bid lettings, the commissioner approved 57 contracts worth an approximate total of $75.2 million for construction and maintenance projects on Virginia’s interstates and primary and secondary roads.
Appointed by the governor, the 17-member CTB establishes the administrative policies for Virginia's transportation system. The CTB allocates highway funding to specific projects, locates routes and provides funding for airports, seaports and public transportation. The board normally meets on the third Wednesday of the month in months when action meetings are scheduled.
For more information:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Report: Only 1 In 5 Millennials Have Ever Tried A Big Mac

McDonald's hamburgers are not excellent. You know it. I know it. And, as the Wall Street Journal reports, McDonald's knows it. The company and its operators are acutely aware of how they've struggled in the face of competition from higher-end chains like Five Guys, Steak ’n Shake, and Shake Shack that have peeled off younger consumers by offering, well, better burgers. The Journal quotes a memo from a “top McDonald's franchisee” stating that only 1 in 5 millennials have even tried a Big Mac in their lives; we are apparently a generation immune to the charms of the special sauce. “The number of hamburgers sold at McDonald’s U.S. restaurants has been flat for the past few years,” the paper adds, “and was growing only at a 1% to 2% annual rate before that, according to former high-ranking McDonald’s executives.”
The trouble McDonald's is having with the youngs isn't so different from what other aging, iconic brands are experiencing. In 2014, for instance, the Journal reported that 44 percent of adults between 21 and 27 had never sipped a Budweiser (aka Bud Heavy, aka not Bud Light). The parallels between the two stories are somewhat obvious—both are somewhat bland flagship products aimed at a mass market that's been fragmented by a new variety of tastier (or, in some cases, cheaper) options popular among young consumers. American food and drink are getting better and more regionalized, which makes it tough to keep people interested in boring Big Macs and Buds.
Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vancouver's Cargo Bike Revolution

When historians tell Vancouver’s cycling story, 2008 will be seen as a turning point. There was a crucial shift in strategy from sport to transport, designed to attract the 70% “interested, but concerned” crowd. We already had an existing network of greenways, seawall, shadows, and door-zone paint. But then the City started to build a downtown network of protected bike lanes, one street at a time.
A change in street design unlocked the latent demand of “interested, but concerned” Vancouverites, and the types of people we saw on bicycles in Vancouver changed very quickly. Suddenly, there were more women, children, elderly, and even pets on bikes. So we at Modacity set about shining a light on those positive changes, to counter some of the bike-lash we were experiencing in the media.

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rochester Mayor Proposes Agreement For Bike Share System

Rochester got closer to installing a bicycle share system this week, as Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced that City Council will consider approving an agreement with bike share company Zagster to own and operate a system downtown. 

 The system will allow residents and visitors to access shared bicycles from stations located in public spaces. More bicycle use could help reduce emissions, increase public transit use, lower parking demand and improve public health. 

 The city chose Zagster from a pool of several proposals because the company had the best bike model and shared the city's vision for equitable system access throughout city neighborhoods, said city transportation specialist Erik Frisch. "

(Zagster) is constantly innovating ... and really sees this as an opportunity to be a flagship for them," said Frisch.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How Should Transit Agencies Respond To New Mobility Options?

The rapid growth of private ridesourcing (Lyft, Uber) and microtransit (Bridj, Split) has been a challenge for local governments, including transit agencies. The tech media like to talk about private sector innovation as naturally superior to government, as though government’s sole role is to react.  Local governments are harangued to “get ready” or “get out of the way,” as though they are about to be swept by some tsunami of transformation.  Yet local government — cities and transit agencies — urgently need to lead in forging a mutually beneficial outcome, drawing out the benefits of the new tools while preventing their potential for harm.  I explored these issues, in text and video, here.
A century ago our city leaders were told to get ready for an onslaught of cars.  The onslaught overwhelmed them only because they didn’t have the courage and clarity to demand clear thinking about how to manage the new thing’s impact.
Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

DC’S 15TH ST Protected Bike Lane Is 400 FT Longer, 100% Better

Since last summer, construction crews have been busy transforming a complicated intersection in Northwest DC from one of the most crash-prone in the city to a model example of a complete street. Earlier this month, crews finished up work on the large block where 15th St, W St, New Hampshire Ave, and Florida Ave NW meet near Malcolm X Park. The result is a far more intuitive and safe experience for people biking, walking, and driving!
In 2009, a driver turning right onto W St struck and killed a pedestrian crossing 15th St. In response, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed temporary curbs and flex-posts to reduce speeds through the intersection while a permanent solution moved through design. DDOT shared initial designs in 2012 and began construction in 2015. Now, seven years after the fatal crash, we have that permanent solution in place.
While it is frustrating to see crucial safety fixes for streets like Florida Ave NE,Maryland Ave NEC St. NE and this one take so long to implement, it is encouraging to know that the final results are worthy of praise. The District must find a way to accelerate timelines for those most needed projects and has plenty of excellent examples to follow from peer cities. But let’s spend a minute to appreciate this project.
Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Don’t Like That New Intersection? Wait A Minute

Armed with chalk paint, tape, cones, flowers and a piece of artificial turf, town planners recently set out to reconfigure and beautify several streets in downtown Maynard.
Within just a few hours, officials from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council put in new bike lanes, extended curbs, and even installed a miniature green space called a parklet.

The temporary road installation was a new technique gaining popularity among planners to test out changes to roadways, sidewalks and intersections without spending thousands or millions of dollars.But a few days later, all signs of the changes were gone.
Christopher Kuschel, a planner with the MAPC who oversaw the Maynard installation, said projects are typically studied, designed, and then built — all without knowing for sure whether they will work.
Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Biking, Walking Improvements Near Metro Stations Pay Off

Metrorail is the backbone of the D.C. region’s transportation system, but that doesn’t mean each station exists in a vacuum. For many people, walking and biking from their station to their ultimate destination is a key part of the Metro experience, whether we consciously recognize it or not. That’s a driving idea behind WMATA’s Metrorail Station Investment Strategy, which set out to identify simple ways to expand the usefulness, safety, and reach of the rail system to nearby workers and residents.
The agency notes that walking is the leading way riders get to a Metro station, coming in at about a third of all riders. Meanwhile, biking only accounts for approximately 1 percent of riders. While some of that is attributable to peak-hour bike restrictions, biking network connections to stations also play a role. These numbers could likely be higher if many suburban or semi-urban stations improved key pedestrian and biking connections that made it feel safer to cross busy intersections or to ride on adjacent streets. But how exactly would these investments pay off?
Detailed in its summary report (PDF), WMATA identified hundreds of potential projects across the six jurisdictions, and quantified the financial benefits these would bring to the region in terms of safety. From the WMATA Office of Planning’s PlanItMetro blog (emphasis in original):
“In short, we’ve estimated that a $13M investment in some of the 394 top pedestrian projects leads to a $24M discounted revenue impact for Metro and its funders over the course of these projects’ useful life, a net positive benefit of $11M.”
That’s nearly a two-to-one benefit, largely in avoided costs associated with crashes, over 30 years.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The War On City Parking Just Got Serious

THE NATIONAL POLITICAL dialogue is suffused with substantive issues like Benghazi, beauty pageants, and the best debate memes. But the biggest bugbear in neighborhood politics just got some serious side eye from the Obama administration: Parking.
It sounds bitty and trivial, but parking is a very big deal in city halls and neighborhood associations. Even dense cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, have long required developers to cough up enough parking to serve the residential projects they hope to build.
If you live in the neighborhood, this makes sense—you don’t want n00bs taking your spot. But as cities impotently scrabble to keep housing affordable, requiring developers to provide off-street parking feels like dead weight. The cost—up to $60,000 per underground spot—can kill projects before they even start. And you could argue that it’s better to use that land for bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms, not hunks of metal that spend most of the day sitting still. Don’t forget that in 2013, more than a quarter of US renters spend over 50 percent of their monthly incomeon housing. Affordability is a huge problem.
Indeed, says the White House. In a Housing Development Toolkit released Monday, the Obama administration calls off-street parking minimums an affordable housing no-no. “When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence,” it  says, “parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking and biking.”
Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bike Lanes Are A Sound Public Health Investment

Every $1,300 New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to one additional year of life at full health over the lifetime of all city residents, according to a new economic assessment.
That's a better return on investment than some direct health treatments, like dialysis, which costs $129,000 for one quality-adjusted life year, or QALY, said coauthor Dr. Babak Mohit of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.
Our greatest public health intervention, vaccines, take about $100 investment to yield one QALY, Mohit told Reuters Health by phone.
New York built 45.5 miles of bike lanes in 2015, with an investment of about $8 million. This increased the probability that residents would ride a bike by 9 percent, the researchers calculated.
Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

When Paris Closed A Major Road To Cars, Half Its Traffic Just Disappeared

Every summer in Paris, the city closes an almost two-mile stretch of road along the Right Bank of the Seine and turns it into a beach, complete with sand, beach huts, deckchairs, and parasols. This year, Paris decided not to re-open the road at all, turning the riverside into a permanently pedestrianized area.
The first traffic figures for the "non-re-opening" are in, with detailed numbers for the amount of cars displaced onto nearby roads. And while the traffic on these roads has jumped quite alarmingly during the morning rush-hour, the figures are way lower than Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo expected. Better still, evening rush-hour traffic has seen little to no effect. It’s as if those cars just disappeared. In fact, many of them have.
On this stretch of the river there are two roads running parallel, one high and one low. With the closure of the low road, big increases in traffic on the upper road were expected, as well as spillover onto the nearby Boulevard Saint Germain. And this did happen. The upper road saw a morning increase in traffic of 73%, and 13% in the evening. On the Boulevard Saint Germain, traffic increased 41% in the morning and just 4% in the evening.
Read the rest of the story here.