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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NYSDOT Advances Balanced Route 112 Plan, But Better Bike Infrastructure Needed

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advancing a project on Route 112 from Granny Road to New York State Route 25 in the Town of Brookhaven that will serve to better balance the roadway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The roughly 1.5 mile project, entering its final design phase, will:

  • build out connected sidewalk infrastructure on both sides of the roadway
  • enhance pedestrian crossings
  • implement landscaped medians and
  • include a five- to six-foot bike shoulder

In early June, TSTC submitted comments supporting the project as a “good example of a ‘fix-it-first’ initiative that maintains existing road infrastructure [and] improv[es] mobility by redesigning Route 112 into a more complete street”, but also called for a more progressive vision for bicycling infrastructure.

While shoulders are a welcome first step to encourage cycling, TSTC suggested further steps to improve safety for cyclists along this corridor, such as implementing plastic bollards or paint-buffered bike lanes. Either of these treatments would better delineate space for cyclists and enhance their safety, and the safety of other road users by creating a traffic calming effect. Increased safety will also lead to increased ridership.  According to a study of road injuries in Vancouver and Toronto conducted by the American Journal of Public Health, roads with protected bicycle infrastructure saw the risk of injury reduced by 90 percent when compared to wide roads with no cycling infrastructure. And a study by Portland State University’s National Institute of Transportation and Communities found that protected bicycle lanes increased ridership by an average of 75 percent.

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An Open Letter to the People of Nassau County

TSTC recently received an email with the attached letter from Westbury, Long Island resident Kevin Lucas, along with a note informing us that it had been sent to “a number of public officials, interest groups, and media organizations” with the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue on the subject.

Though local leaders are pursuing policies to increase road safety across Nassau County, the true challenge is how to bring about cultural change. While Complete Streets policies are a politically visible means of demonstrating commitment to the cause, they are not as visible to motorists as the installation of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, which serve to convey to drivers the message that the roadway is for sharing. It’s time for the state and local governments to hit the pavement and start walking their Complete Streets talk.

A couple of weeks ago my wife began joining me on my daily runs, except she follows along on her bicycle. And even though the run is only a mile, and is over in less than ten minutes, it has been a fulfilling and fun bonding experience for us. The runs instantly stopped feeling like a daily chore, and I looked forward to them. The way she encouraged me every day made me feel like we were Rocky and Mickey. This was going to be our daily routine. That is until July 12, 2014, at 8AM, when a man pulled up beside my wife in his car to tell her she was stupid for riding her bike in the street.

We moved to Long Island, Westbury to be exact, in February and for the most part we’ve enjoyed it here. We do not drive, by choice, and we knew that the area was suburban in nature before arriving. And although this has proved somewhat difficult we enjoy walking and the increased distances between necessities has not deterred us from walking to them. In fact, we’ve found certain stretches to be enjoyable on foot, despite being poorly designed for pedestrians. Mostly, the only consistent issues we’ve faced are lawn sprinklers spraying directly onto the sidewalks, pushing us into the street; and inattentive drivers failing to yield, particularly when turning right.

With this in mind I thought it would be nice for us to get bikes. Neither of us are cyclists, and only I had ever even really used a bike to get around before at any point in my life. She was nervous, but I assured her that it would be fine, that in a way it was safer than walking because drivers can see you better in the road. After all, everyone who drives learned how to properly give way to bicycles and pedestrians, to properly and safely pass, and to share the road. Plus, we would keep to the neighborhood streets. There would be no braving the traffic on Old Country Road. We just wanted to get around a little quicker, not make a statement. The busiest road on which we would travel was Maple/Westbury Avenue. Anything more than that and we would get off and walk our bikes. Once we got our bikes the apprehension quickly gave way to excitement. This was going to be fun, or so we thought.
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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

WINNERS

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo – This morning Governor Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation that authorizes the expansion of speed camera use on Long Island, saying that “By empowering Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install dozens of speed cameras in school zones, we are helping to protect our students and ultimately save lives. This should send a message to all drivers – slow down and obey the speed limit, especially when passing by a school.”

Hopewell Township, NJ – The township became the 100th municipality in the Garden State to embrace Complete Streets and the first municipality to do so by way of a Complete Streets ordinance. According to the Township Administrator/Engineer Paul Pogorzelski, “we decided that this policy should be in the form of an ordinance and have the weight of law rather than simply be part of a resolution which does not transcend governing body changes. “

Amtrak - Amtrak announced that they have begun testing new bike-friendly baggage cars to alleviate passengers of the hassle of boxing and checking their bikes as luggage. These baggage cars, which are manufactured in New York state, are expected to be put into service on all 15 long-distance routes by the end of this year.

New Jersey Transit – The agency has unofficially launched its first-ever one seat ride summer shore rail service from Penn Station to Bay Head using new energy-efficient dual-powered locomotives. Riders will save 25 minutes by not having to change trains at Long Branch, which will likely boost ridership to the shore and alleviate summer parking in shore towns. » Continue reading…

Tennessee Adopts NACTO Guidelines; Still Waiting on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

The NACTO "Urban Street Design Guide" provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. Image Source: NACTO

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. | Image: NACTO

Tennessee recently became the sixth state to formally endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design GuideThe guide provides technical standards that departments of transportation can use to create streets that safely accommodate all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. Thirty-seven cities, including New York City, and six states have adopted NACTO standards, but New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut are not included in this list.

Leaders in Tennessee have set an example for the rest of the nation by publicly stating the goal of “having the best multimodal transportation system in the nation.” They have also taken an innovative approach to transportation planning by aligning transportation projects with public health goals and implementing transportation investment strategies that prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist projects and public transportation over building new roads.

It’s encouraging to note that until recently, places such as metropolitan Nashville were on a similar trajectory to much of the nation by building infrastructure that promoted suburban sprawl development, but have since responded to the demand for walkable, higher density development by planning for growth along existing corridors and downtowns. Analysis of recent commercial real estate trends shows that walkable urban and suburban places demand a 74 percent rental premium over auto-dominated suburban areas. Likewise, 85 percent of all recently built rental apartments have been built in walkable urban places.

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Next Week: Connecticut Complete Streets Roundtable

Save the date for Bike Walk Connecticut‘s first-ever Complete Streets Leadership Roundtable!

On Monday, June 30,  planners, engineers, advocates and public safety officials from communities across the state will gather to exchange ideas and learn about how to make Connecticut’s cities and towns better places for all users of the road.

When:   Monday, June 30 [...]

Dan Burden, Advocates Lead Walking Audit on One of Long Island’s Most Dangerous Roads

The group crosses Sunrise Highway in Freeport. | Photo: Samantha Thomas/WALC

Dan Burden, a national authority on traffic, pedestrian safety and street design, led a walking audit with local elected officials, civic groups and advocates along Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport on Thursday.

Sunrise Highway, a multi-lane thoroughfare that runs through each community’s downtown, [...]

Suffolk County Legislators Adopt a Complete Streets Implementation Fund

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

The Suffolk County Legislature voted today to establish a Complete Streets Implementation Fund behind the leadership of Legislator Rob Calarco and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. The 17-1 vote creates an amendment to the County’s 2015-2017 Capital Program, which will provide a yearly allotment of $250,000 to redesign the County’s roadways to more safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists, beginning in 2016 and continuing each subsequent year.

Tri-State, along with the AARP and Vision Long Island and other safe streets advocates have been calling for the creation of such a fund since the County’s Complete Streets policy was adopted a year and a half ago.

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NYPD Must Do More to Fill Gaps in Vital Crash Data Recording

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

NYPD must record crash information accurately in order to achieve Vision Zero. Image: Streetsblog

Since the release of New York City’s much-anticipated comprehensive crash dataset earlier this month, community members, advocates, and other proponents for safer streets can more easily access traffic crash data to advocate for safer streets. Opening crash data in this format is an integral step towards Vision Zero’s success.

As the City continues to outline next steps towards eliminating traffic deaths, the public can now view the NYPD-provided dataset, which includes information on all vehicle crashes dating back to July 1, 2012. Its 332,871 records (as of May 20,2014) contains date, time, number of persons/pedestrians/cyclists/motorists involved (broken out by injury and fatality), as well as geographic information. Of the 332,871 records within this period, 28,244 represent vehicle crashes that involved pedestrians or cyclists (or both).

Of particular interest when looking at crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists was the “Contributing Factor” attribute, which is what the investigating officer indicated as a factor in what caused the crash. This attribute could help us understand the true causes of crashes, but the dataset leaves a lot to be desired.

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Suffolk County Set to Establish a Complete Streets Fund

Suffolk County is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like the sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island, pictured here. | Photo: Ryan Lynch/TSTC

The Suffolk County Legislature is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like this new sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island. | Photo: Liz Krolik-Alexander

After repeated calls from Tri-State and safe street allies for additional funding for complete streets implementation in Suffolk County, it appears the County Legislature is primed to create a Complete Streets Fund in its 2015-2017 Capital Program. Scheduled for a final vote tomorrow, the proposed amendment to the Capital Program calls for $250,000 a year – beginning in 2016 and each subsequent year – to be dedicated to building infrastructure that enhances the mobility and safety of all users of Suffolk’s roads.

The amendment has been championed by Legislator Rob Calarco and supported by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory as a means of facilitating the implementation of the County’s complete streets law adopted in December of 2012.

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