Election 2014: It’s Not All Bad News

Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut won a close race for reelection. | Image: ctnews.com

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, a proponent of transit-oriented development and improved rail service, won a close race for reelection. | blog.ctnews.com

Now that the votes have been counted, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of bad news for sustainable transportation policy across the nation: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a known climate change denier, is poised to lead the Environment and Public Works Committee, Wisconsin Governor (and avid highway expander) Scott Walker won reelection, and Massachusetts failed to defeat a ballot measure which ends gas tax indexing.

But if you look hard enough, you’ll find there’s some good news too.

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All Aboard the “Hartford Line”

Central Connecticut’s forthcoming commuter rail system, until today known as the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program, is being branded as the “Hartford Line” according to a press release from Governor Malloy’s office today.

This is the second time Connecticut officials have rebranded a transportation service in the years prior to launching. In 2012, the State officially renamed […]

What You Missed at America Answers: Fix My Commute

The Washington Post today launched America Answers, a new live event series which brings together a variety of innovators to discuss major national issues. The first in the series, “Fix My Commute,” focused on transportation issues. There were a wide range of topics discussed, from bike lanes and ride-sharing to high speed rail and flying cars. Mobilizing the Region wasn’t able to attend in person, but we were able to watch live online and follow along on Twitter. If you weren’t able to tune in, here’s some of what you missed:

Flying cars

 

Bike lanes

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With Investments in Traffic Calming and Street Redesigns, Bridgeport’s Safety Campaign Shows Promise

Enforcement is a key tool in boosting safety, but should be combined with physical street improvements to have a lasting impact. | Photo: Brian A. Pounds/ CTPost.com

Enforcement is crucial for boosting safety, but should be combined with traffic calming to have a lasting impact. | Photo: Brian A. Pounds/ Connecticut Post

Bridgeport will make infrastructure changes, including curb extensions. | Image: NACTO

Bridgeport officials are considering infrastructure changes, such as roundabouts and curb extensions, like the one seen here. | Image: NACTO

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced this week that the city is launching a comprehensive safe streets initiative. Seven pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Bridgeport since 2010. Bridgeport is the second Connecticut city to announce a street safety campaign in as many months. In September, Stamford Mayor David Martin unveiled the Stamford Street Smart campaign.

At first blush, the two efforts appear to have a lot in common. Mayor Finch — who participated in a walking audit with Tri-State in 2013 — described Bridgeport’s campaign as a “multipronged approach” focused on education, enforcement and investment, while Mayor Martin called Stamford Street Smart a “multi-faceted approach” that focuses on education, enforcement and engineering. Both campaigns began with crackdowns on distracted driving, and both include efforts to curb so-called “jaywalking.”

Both Bridgeport and Stamford also plan to address the physical condition of their streets, but how they’ll go about doing so is where there’s a more distinct difference between the two initiatives.

The engineering component of Stamford Street Smart is somewhat limited. Making sure signs are visible at intersections, re-painting crosswalks and synchronizing traffic signals are certainly good ideas, but not something to brag about. In other cities, these measures would be considered part of regular maintenance.

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Stadium or No Stadium, Hartford Must Prioritize Connectivity and Walkability in Downtown North

Downtown North's wide streets funnel fast-moving traffic to and from Interstates 84 and 91, and will certainly need to be reconfigured if this area is to be transformed into a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Downtown North’s wide streets must be reconfigured if this area is going to be transformed into a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted earlier this week to amend the City’s zoning so that a stadium would be a permissible use in the “B-1 zone,” which covers most of downtown. But then, citing concerns that building a stadium in the Downtown North area — as it has been proposed — may be inconsistent with the City’s plan of conservation and development, the Commission voted against giving the project a favorable recommendation to the city council.

Before the vote on whether to amend the City’s zoning, commissioners debated the pros and cons of having a stadium in the Downtown North area. Some expressed concern about foot traffic around the stadium area. Because of their size, stadiums can create “superblock” conditions, which limit permeability and pedestrian circulation. And although they attract a lot of people on game days, they sit mostly empty outside of events.

Trumbull-looking-north

Old-fashioned lighting is a nice touch in this section of Trumbull Street where Downtown transitions to Downtown North, but it doesn’t make up for Trumbull Street’s excessive width or lack of buildings. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

On the other hand, it’s probably a better idea to stick with putting the ballpark downtown, where fans have multiple transportation options, rather than, as Commissioner David Blatt put it, having a stadium “plopped in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by asphalt.”  After all, by the time the Rock Cats take the field in Hartford, the CTfastrak bus rapid transit system will be up and running; by the time the team’s second season begins, fans will be able to ride commuter rail to Union Station and walk to the game, “no parking required — just like a real city.”

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Four Ways to Improve Trans-East River Travel That Aren’t Gondolas

ERSWWhat does it take to get people talking about increasing travel options for people whose commutes take them across the East River?

A futuristic proposal spawned in the mind of a Manhattan real estate mogul, evidently.

The East River Skyway proposal aims to address congestion on the L train between Williamsburg and Manhattan by carrying passengers on aerial trams (like the Roosevelt Island tram). With rapid (and continuing) growth in North Brooklyn, the L train has become increasingly crowded in the last few years. But is a gondola the best way to accommodate demand for trans-East travel?

Benjamin Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas summarizes the issue nicely:

In a certain sense, this plan gets to problems with the current transit set-up including overcrowded L trains, a need to serve the southern part of Roosevelt Island, especially with the Cornell development on tap and more capacity across the East River. On the other hand, the alignment is terrible in that it tracks subway lines such as the J/M/Z that are under capacity and mirrors preexisting ferry service.

Although the East River Skyway would provide some fantastic views, perhaps we should consider improvements to the rights-of-way that already exist.

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Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidates Address State’s Transportation Issues

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and challenger Tom Foley joined a crowd of over 200 in North Haven on Monday to discuss transportation challenges in the Nutmeg State and take questions from the audience.

The forum was hosted by a broad-based coalition of transportation and environmental advocates, including Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transit for Connecticut, Connecticut Construction Industries Association, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Regional Plan Association, Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and Capitol Region Council of Governments.

Tri-State live-tweeted the event:

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RSVP Now for a Forum on Transportation with Connecticut’s Candidates for Governor

Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley (left) and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (right) will talk about transportation issues this Monday in North Haven. | Photo: Hartford Courant

Seats for this Monday’s Gubernatorial Forum on Transportation are filling up fast. Don’t miss this chance to hear Governor Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley explain their positions […]

Making Good on Campaign Promise, Mayor Martin Launches Stamford Street Smart Initiative

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the City's "Street Smart" campaign Tuesday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the “Street Smart” initiative Wednesday. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford Mayor David Martin announced the creation of a new  public safety and awareness initiative on Wednesday. “Stamford Street Smart” will take a “multifaceted approach” to traffic safety and is being led by the Mayor’s office in collaboration with the Stamford Police Department, Operations Department, Stamford Public Schools and community organizations.

The program’s launch was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. Sergeant Andrew Gallagher, who heads the Stamford Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit, reported that his division on Wednesday had stopped dozens of motorists for distracted driving — a key focus of Stamford Street Smart — and even a few for passing school buses.

Stamford suffers from a sort of dual personality: on some blocks, Stamford seems to be a walkable urban center with several new mixed-use developments; on other blocks, Stamford is more like an automobile-dominated edge city with wide, high-speed streets that make getting around on foot or by bicycle a challenge. So it’s good news that the initiative will focus not only on enforcement and education, but on engineering as well. 

Mayor Martin and Director of Operations Ernie Orgera said the City will review all 205 of Stamford’s signalized intersections, and has already begun to install flashing “No Turn On Red” signage. The City will also repaint crosswalks and re-synchronize the City’s traffic signals — something  that hasn’t been done in 20 years.

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Why Does the Metropolitan Region Only Get Dedicated Bus Lanes for Disasters and Special Events?

There’s talk of bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, and to make sure delegates can get between Manhattan hotels and the Barclay’s Center, City officials are planning for an exclusive bus lane on the Manhattan Bridge.

This wouldn’t be the first time exclusive lanes for buses were used during a […]