Friday, January 27, 2017

US Department of Transportation Selects 10 Pilot Sites For Autonomous Vehicle Testing

The US Department of Transportation has announced the selection of 10 designated “proving ground” test pilot sites for autonomous vehicles, which are intended to play host to the rapid in-depth testing of the technology.
To put it in the language used by the press release, the 10 proving grounds will “foster innovations that can safely transform personal and commercial mobility, expand capacity, and open new doors to disadvantaged people and communities. These designations are a logical next step in the Department’s effort to advance the safe deployment of automated technology.”
Perhaps a bit of a fluffy statement, but presumably the selections will help to speed up the development of self-driving tech. The 10 selections are mostly unsurprising, as most have been the site of autonomous vehicle testing for some time now. They are:
  • City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership
  • US Army Aberdeen Test Center
  • American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run
  • Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) & GoMentum Station
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Iowa City Area Development Group
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority
“The designated proving grounds will collectively form a Community of Practice around safe testing and deployment,” stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment.”
Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Is Biking Stressing You Out? Here’s How Planners Are Trying To Make Things Better

Bike commuters break down into two primary camps: those who appear to have no fear, whizzing through traffic on busy roads; and those who stick mostly to quiet side streets and off-road trails because the thought of riding in traffic terrifies them.
Some planners in the Washington region — along with a growing number across the U.S. — are beginning to pay more attention to the vast majority of people who they say would bike more often and to more places if doing so felt safer.
Planners in the District and Montgomery and Arlington counties are using satellite maps and street-level data about road widths, speed limits and parking patterns to gauge the “level of traffic stress” (LTS) along local roads. That stress factors in the sense of danger, as well as unpleasant noise and vehicle exhaust.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Will Virginia Beach Get To Keep $20 Million In Light Rail Money?

Now that the majority of voters have said they don’t want light rail, the city is trying to figure out what to do with a nearly 11-mile strip of railroad line that was bought for that purpose.
Virginia Beach was told to find a way to use the corridor for high-capacity transit or pay back $20 million the state pitched in to help buy the land.
But the city may have found a way to keep that money after all – as long as it promises to deliver large-scale public transportation on that piece of property.
The Virginian-Pilot learned late Friday that Mayor Will Sessoms, state Del. Ron Villanueva, state Sen. Frank Wagner, and state Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne negotiated a potential deal that would let the Beach off the hook. There’s a catch – council members would have to approve the agreement.
Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Green Lane Project Is Complete Here's What Happened

The PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project has been a five-year mission to accelerate the spread of protected bike lanes throughout the United States. Today is the project's final day.
It worked.

Protected bike lanes can now be found in the states highlighted in blue.
It's not that protected bike lanes are everywhere; far from it. The new project we launch tomorrow — more on that in a bit — will help them continue to spread.
But the whole point of having a project with a narrow, carefully chosen mission is that you can't move on to your next goal until you've achieved your first one. So to commemorate the end of the Green Lane Project, we're looking back on four moments when we knew our work was paying off.

1) When protected bike lane construction started to taper off … and then picked up again

Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Scored SMART SCALE Projects Released for Review by Transportation Board

New mobile-friendly SMART SCALE Dashboard shows latest status of funded projects, propelling transparency and accountability to a new level
RICHMOND – The Commonwealth Transportation (CTB) today released the second round of projects scored under the SMART SCALE prioritization process.  More than 400 project applications submitted by localities, metropolitan organizations and other regional entities across the state have been scored based on key factors: improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility to jobs and businesses, land use, economic development and the environment.  The CTB will not make a decision on which projects to fund until their June meeting this year, following a five month review process.
“What’s important at this stage is the process,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Because of SMART SCALE, the commonwealth has an objective data-driven process to score projects based on their merits and the value they bring for taxpayer dollars. The SMART SCALE process has empowered localities to submit proposed projects based on objective measures.  The result is localities are working collaboratively and thoughtfully to select projects that will bring the most benefit to their areas.  All of the projects will not get funded because there is not near enough resources.  There are 404 scored applications requesting more than $8.5 billion in funding when $1 billion is available.  With the needs far outweighing the source of funding, a deliberative and pragmatic process like SMART SCALE is absolutely imperative to make sure the limited funds go to the right projects.”
Localities submitted projects for scoring over the fall.  Those projects were made available for public review and input during several fall public meetings held across the state.  The CTB will release a draft scenario of projects for funding this spring for public review.  The board will make its final decision on which projects to fund and include in the Six-Year Improvement Program this June.  Once projects are in the program, they will be fully funded through construction.
Online Sources
For more information go to   
Click the SMART SCALE PowerPoint  presentation on a summary of the scored projects. 
The first round of SMART SCALE projects was funded by the CTB in June 2016, and the real-time status of their development can be monitored by going to the new SMART SCALE Dashboard.
Developed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the SMART SCALE Dashboard is a mobile-friendly site readily accessible to the public.
VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick said, “Once scored and approved, SMART SCALE projects are fully funded.  There is an expectation that we will deliver these projects as promised and without delay.  We have an obligation to openly and accurately tell the public how we’re doing.  Using the current VDOT Dashboard as a starting point, we developed a new SMART SCALE Dashboard that is specifically focused on the SMART SCALE program.  This dashboard tracks on-time and on-budget progress that is accurate and transparent to the public. I encourage taxpayers to check out the dashboard to see how projects are progressing.” 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Side-Street Bikeways Are Great- If You Have Protected Bike Lanes Too

Can we, as a planet, please retire the idea that cities face a choice between putting all-ages bikeways on low-traffic side streets and putting all-ages bikeways on busy arterials?
The data show exactly the opposite — and also suggest that putting bikeways only on side streets might actually be the worst course of action.
On Monday, Canada's national Globe and Mail newspaper offered the latest installment of this understandable but misguided narrative. It's part of a series about projects "that aren’t often talked about because they actually work."
The idea is that the bike boulevards of Vancouver are uncontroversial, and therefore good:
[Protected bike lanes'] most ardent critic, CKNW radio shock jock Bruce Allen, has spent numerous segments railing against the “big ugly cement barriers that turned our streets into eyesores.”
And yet, he is a fan of the more understated network of traffic-calmed residential streets that allow cyclists to traverse the city in relative safety and peace. ...
Urban-planning and transportation experts have long feted Vancouver’s extensive system of bike-friendly side streets as a cheap and uncontroversial way for bike-resistant North American cities to create the infrastructure that gets people out of their cars and onto two wheels.
It's true that Vancouver's bike boulevards are relatively cheap and uncontroversial. It's also true that they're good.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tapping The Power Of Place To Keep Us All Healthy

One number stands above all others as the best indicator of good health. It’s not your blood pressure, cholesterol level, average daily calories or even the age at which your grandparents die. It’s your zip code.

This fact has sent shock waves across the county. The chief aspiration of American democracy is that everyone deserves an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet medical evidence shows that people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods face greater health and mortality risks.

“That should not be…. All communities should have a right to a safe, sustainable, healthy, just, walkable community,” says Robert Bullard, the father of the environmental justice movement and a professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University.

“Health disparities don’t just happen by accident,” he declared at the 2nd National Walking Summit, accentuating his point with a series of maps showing that high levels of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity correlate strongly with low-income neighborhoods and those with a history of racial segregation.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vehicular Cycling Is Dead, Just Don’t Bury The Body Yet

The biggest argument in urban cycling of the last 20 years is pretty much settled. So why are we still arguing about it?
After last week’s post about the ways Montreal managed to become one of the continent’s most bike-friendly cities, that old saw fired up again. Much of the commentary focused on the perceived shortfalls and benefits of vehicular cycling, which is a a philosophical and practical guide to getting around a city on a bike, described by its chief proponent John Forester like this: “Cyclists fare best,” he wrote in his 1976 book Effective Cycling, “when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”
For a long time, this was a dominant idea among North American bike advocates, but over the last 20 years, a counter theory grew that was, in some ways, the polar opposite. Rather than accepting bicycles as vehicles on a road, the new idea has cyclists being accommodated with dedicated infrastructure that keeps them segregated from cars.
Cue the bicycle culture wars, with factions on each side battling it out like Buckley versus Vidal (or, perhaps more accurately, Hitchens versus Hitchens) to the bafflement of outsiders who could never seem to understand why people who all loved bikes hated each other so much.
Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Real Problem With Higher Parking Meter Rates: They’re Not High Enough

Wouldn’t it be wacky if the cost of driving went down and up when market conditions change? Oh, wait, it already does: New vehicles get more expensive as automakers lure buyers with new features. After plunging for years, amid a global oil glut, the cost of gasoline is rising again.

 People take that in stride. But for some reason, we view free or low-cost parking as a human right, and we’re all shocked when the City of Boston asks drivers to pay extra for curbside spaces in jam-packed areas. Recently, Mayor Martin Walsh announced plans to hike parking meter rates from $1.25 an hour to $3.75 in the congested Back Bay and impose varying rates of up to $4 an hour in the Seaport District. The move provoked some drama, as a Globe story showed: “Nickel-and-diming commuters,” City Councilor Michael Flaherty called it. Vicki Smith, the chairwoman of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said her group was “blindsided” by the move. “I think I need to move to a different state,” a motorist on Newbury Street told a reporter.

 Relax. Moving lots of people and stuff in and out of congested spaces is a fundamental challenge in cities. Parking meters allow motorists to take turns using scarce curbside spaces, and should cost enough that there are vacancies on every block.

 If there’s a problem with Walsh’s experiment with higher rates, it’s that he didn’t jack them up enough.

Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Unlikely Success Of Calgary’s bike-Lane Network Has These Lessons For Other Cities

Monday was a big day for Calgary. After an 18-month pilot project testing out a downtown network of separated bike lanes, city council voted to make the project permanent. It was a squeaker of a majority vote that approved the pilot project in the first place, so its permanence was never assured.
In the end, more city councillors voted in favour of keeping the network than approved the pilot project in the first place, which means several changed their votes in favour after seeing the bike lanes in action. “I was a person that didn’t support this in the beginning. I thought this was madness,” Coun. Diane  Colley-Urquhart told reporters after the vote. “But, to see how it’s evolved, and how it’s working and to see how people are starting to get the fact that this is shared public space.”
I argued in favour cycle tracks in places like thisthis and this, so I’m certainly pleased with the result in my home town. The process also taught us much that may be applied to other cities.
Read the rest of the story here. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Bike Network With Just Trails Is like A Car Network With Just Freeways

If you've got a long way to go, or nowhere to go in particular, nothing beats an off-street path.
The Danes, masters of urban bike infrastructure, have a name for the nicest of their off-street paths: "cycle superhighways." It's apt. For better and for worse, a great bike path is a sort of tiny freeway. (Though it tends to smell much nicer.)
Maybe this helps explain why the United States, though it's lagged in building all-ages bike lanes, is so good at building nice bike paths. Minneapolis's Midtown Greenway, for example, is one of the wonders of the biking world:
Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The U.S. Now Has 12 Protected Intersections, Up From 4 In 2015 And 0 In 2014

The country's newest major bike-lane innovation is very young. But so far, it's spreading faster than the protected bike lane did.
Protected intersections — a clever way to rearrange traffic so that people on bikes and cars no longer have to look over their shoulders for each other — have existed for decades in other countries. But after they were visualized for the U.S. context in 2011 by the Dutch blogger Mark Wagenbuur and given a name in 2014 by the U.S. planner Nick Falbo, the design burst into the spotlight. Last year, four opened to regular traffic: two in Austin, one in Salt Lake City and one in Davis, California.
This year, the country added eight more. They arrived in Atlanta, Ga.; Berkeley, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; College Station, Tex.; and San Francisco, Calif.
Read the rest of the story here.