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.

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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 [...]

A Renewed Focus on Downtown Stamford’s Streets

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard -- seven lanes wide here -- is designed for vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard — a wide, multi-lane arterial — is designed to maximize vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford is one of the fastest-growing cities in Connecticut, and a big part of that growth has been concentrated in mixed-use, multi-family developments built in and around downtown Stamford in the last decade.

Along with new residents, downtown Stamford has also attracted jobs. Unlike many stops along the Metro North New Haven Line, Stamford is not a bedroom community, but “an edge city with corporate and media spillover from New York”  that draws an ever-increasing share of reverse commuters to downtown job centers within walking distance of the McKinney Transportation Center.

But being within walking distance only takes you so far. Downtown Stamford is a short walk from the Transportation Center, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or attractive walk. Walking between the train station and major employment hubs like Landmark Center and office buildings along Tresser Boulevard requires passing under Interstate 95, crossing wide, multi-lane arterials, and walking along streets lined with blank walls and parking garages (more examples in photo gallery below).

With all the new mixed-use development happening downtown, it’s clear that Stamford has figured out the land use side of smart growth. What’s needed now is a renewed focus on downtown streets, especially in light of two recent pedestrian fatalities and the fact that Stamford has the highest per capita pedestrian crash rate in Fairfield County with 240 people struck by vehicles between 2010 and 2012. On Monday, Tri-State partnered with Stamford’s Downtown Special Services District to conduct a walking audit of the east-west Main Street corridor and identified plenty of streets and pedestrian crossings in need of improvements; future audits will focus on other areas downtown, including the streets around the Transportation Center.

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Deadline to Contribute to Vision Zero Map is Thursday

Do drivers speed, run red lights, or double-park in your neighborhood? Do pedestrian signals provide enough time to cross the street safely?

If you live or work in New York City and face traffic safety challenges like these, speak up!

As part of the Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities, the City is seeking [...]

Advocates Tour CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit System

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Representatives from transportation and environmental advocacy organizations (including Tri-State) joined the Connecticut Department of Transportation for a tour of the CTfastrak bus rapid transit (BRT) system on Thursday. The tour was organized by Transit for Connecticut and led by ConnDOT’s Mike Sanders and Maureen Lawrence.

Here are a few photos from Thursday’s tour:

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NACTO State Transportation Departments Walk the Walk

State transportation departments in Massachusetts and California -- which have adopted NACTO's Urban Street Design Guide -- happen to be located in highly walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible locations. | Image: WalkScore

State DOTs in Massachusetts and California — which have adopted NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide — happen to be located in highly walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible locations. | Image: WalkScore

As MTR reported earlier this week, Tennessee became the sixth state to formally endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide.

The NACTO Guide is considered “a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets,” but 44 states (including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) still rely on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) less progressive design guidelines for urban streets.

That got us thinking: What, if anything do the states that have endorsed the NACTO guide (California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah and Washington) have in common?

Back in March of 2013, we used Walk Score to see if there was any correlation between a state transportation department’s priorities and where the people who staff those departments go to work each day.

Tri-State looked to see if — and to what extent — state departments of transportation lead by example. Specifically, how walkable are the locations of state department of transportation (DOT) headquarters, and what does this tell us about that state’s transportation priorities?

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