Camden Night Garden Demonstrates how Public Spaces Can Help Revitalize and Connect Neighborhoods

The Camden Night Garden transformed a vacant plot of land on the Delaware River into a festival of art, music, food and bicycling. | Photo: Courier-Post Online

Over 3,000 local residents and visitors came out to bike, dance, eat and celebrate at the Camden Night Garden on the Delaware River waterfront in Camden (NJ) last [...]

Moving Midtown West, on Trains and Buses

MMW-cover

Mobilizing the Region has been reporting on increased developmentcommuter and pedestrian activity in the area west of Midtown Manhattan for several years now, but with the 7 train extension approaching completion and the Hudson Yards project now underway, it is becoming increasingly clear that a more unified strategy and plan is needed to accommodate and mitigate the impacts of these changes.

The New York Building Congress released a report this week titled Moving Midtown West which summarizes New York City’s most pressing transportation infrastructure issues, and outlines “four long-discussed, interconnected projects” that they assert would serve as solutions to these issues, while also providing recommendations for implementing the projects.

The report focuses largely on the limited rail capacity between New Jersey and New York City, which is practically bursting at the seams. “While these conditions are reason enough to expand the West Side rail network,” the report states, “two transformative events now make it imperative”: the approval of the Hudson Yards project, which is expected to add more than 30 million square feet of mixed residential and commercial space to the area; and Hurricane Sandy, which caused such extensive damage to New York City’s subway tunnels that some train service connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan is still down and more service is expected to be affected by the necessary repairs. But while there are several options for traversing the East River, this is not the case with trans-Hudson travel:

 [A]stonishingly, only two single-track tunnels connect the entire commuter rail system to points west of Manhattan. There is no alternative rail route if these tunnels fail. New tunnels capable of withstanding severe weather events must therefore be constructed.

The first of these projects is Moynihan Station, now under construction, which provides new space for Amtrak passengers and operations, and will help alleviate the “overcrowded, confusing conditions” across the street in Penn Station. Once Moynihan Station is complete, NYBC calls for a commitment to building the Amtrak Gateway Project, the addition of Penn Station access for Metro-North Railroad and the completion of the Penn Station Vision study, all of which are geared toward facilitating more “seamless travel throughout the region.”

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Why the NYC Region’s Density and Connectivity Translate to a Higher Quality of Life

measuring-sprawl-thumb

Though we often hear city residents complain of crowded commutes, crowded classrooms and crowded rental markets, there is a growing body of research to support the notion that higher density actually contributes to a higher quality of life.

Measuring Sprawl 2014 is Smart Growth America’s follow-up to the organization’s own 2002 landmark study on sprawl, and updates their research by evaluating the development patterns of 221 US metro areas. The report identifies the country’s least and most sprawling areas, and incorporates research that illustrates the relationship between sprawl and quality of life. According to the study, “metro areas with more compact, connected neighborhoods are associated with better overall economic, health and safety outcomes—on average a better quality of life for everyone in that community.”

Sprawl Index Score was assigned to each metro area based on development density, land use mix, activity centering and street connectivity. The average score for the 221 areas is 100, with areas ranking above 100 being more dense and connected. The New York City metropolitan area ranked number 1 with a Sprawl Index Score of 203, and the Atlantic City and Trenton, New Jersey metro areas also fell within the top 10. Connecticut’s biggest metro areas, however, ranked much lower, with scores between 115 and 120.

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91st Street Marine Transfer Station Should Not Be a Casualty of NYC’s SWMP Reevaluation

Sanitation trucks | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

The 91st Street Marine Transfer Station means more local truck traffic. It’s up to the City to ensure those trucks have greener engines and present as little a threat as possible to pedestrians and people on bikes. | Photo: Todd Maisel/NY Daily News

Despite four unsuccessful lawsuits in six years to stop the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS) in Manhattan, opponents are still making the case that it should not be built. Last month, opponents released a report, conducted by a private consulting firm, indicating that the vehemently-debated facility would not make much of a dent in reducing garbage filled trucks from some of New York City’s most overburdened communities. While the report takes a comprehensive look at the 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and makes solid recommendations, the construction of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station should not be the casualty of a reevaluation of solid waste management in New York City.

The 2006 SWMP was expected to reduce truck traffic through overburdened communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. So one of the report’s key claims, that truck traffic would not be reduced significantly in these communities, was bound to ignite the fire about the borough equity of the SWMP.

Overall, the report challenges the analyses and data underlying the 2006 plan and raises sound questions about the numbers while also addressing new issues that have come to light. Severe storms have exposed the vulnerability of the City’s waste disposal and treatment systems. Commercial trucks are still lacking greener technology. A recycling rate of 15 percent lags embarrassingly behind other progressive cities like Seattle (56 percent) and Los Angeles (45 percent). The polluting tug/barge industry is slow to implement green technologies. And the key point of the report: the 91st Street station will only divert 1.6 percent of commercial waste and 1.3 percent of the in-city truck miles associated with this waste. These points are the report’s strengths and contributions but they are not the reasons to abandon the 91st Street MTS. In fact, they are the reasons to make the MTS the premier environmental example in waste handling.

One way to do this is for the New York City Council to pass Local Law 2013/145 which would allow the City to refuse to issue a license or registration to any applicant that has failed to reduce (by 2020) “the emissions of pollutants from heavy duty trade waste hauling vehicles… with the best available retrofit technology.” This mandate will ensure that trucks entering the 91st Street MTS, which would be located in close proximity to recreational facilities like Asphalt Green, release as few pollutants as possible.

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The Region’s Freeways Without Futures

Earlier this month, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) released its 2014 Freeways Without Futures report, which lists the top opportunities in North America for replacing aging urban highways with boulevards or avenues that connect with local street networks.

2014 Freeways Without Futures

2012 Freeways Without Futures 

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans 

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-70, St. Louis

I-280, San Francisco

I-375, Detroit

Terminal Island Freeway, Long Beach

Aetna Viaduct, Hartford, CT

I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans

I-895/Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, NYC

Route 34/Oak Street Connector, New Haven, CT

Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, NY

I-395/Overtown Expressway, Miami

I-70, St. Louis

West Shoreway, Cleveland

I-490/Inner Loop, Rochester, NY

I-81, Syracuse, NY

Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

Although the list includes freeways throughout North America, 40 percent of the list is made up of opportunities in New York and Connecticut (show in bold). Three of the projects in particular (highlighted in red) also showed up on the 2012 list.

Connecticut has a newcomer in Hartford’s Aetna Viaduct, which the local government has explored alternatives for, but has eliminated the boulevard option. As planning continues to move forward, officials should consider how they can encourage Interstate 84 users to switch modes to alleviate traffic and expand the potential alternatives to include a roadway that is more appropriate for downtown Hartford’s urban landscape. Mode shift in central Connecticut will be a more realistic goal after the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor is completed, and especially after the CTfastrak BRT system — which has six stations along I-84 near the viaduct – opens in 2015.

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Emissions from Car-Dependent Suburbs Underscore the Need for Compact, Transit-Oriented Development

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Major urban centers appear as green-yellow holes surrounded by rings of red suburbs. | Map:  Environmental Science & Technology

The findings of a recent University of California, Berkeley study serve as yet another stark reminder that the suburban sprawl model of development is unsustainable. The report and corresponding interactive map, compiled by the CoolClimate Network , a division of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, calculate the carbon emissions for the average household in almost every United States zip code – with dark green indicating comparatively low emissions, moving up to light green, yellow, orange and then red indicating the highest concentration of emissions.

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To See the Potential of New Jersey’s Cooper River Trail, Just Look Across The State Line

The completed "Cooper River Trail" would allow users to trail between Camden, Philadelphia and numerous Camden County communities.

A completed “Cooper River Trail” would allow users to travel by trail between Camden, Philadelphia and numerous Camden County communities. | Map: connectthecircuit.org

Pick any day to visit the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia and you will see a fully-functioning commuter corridor — women and men bicycling and walking to work, while, across the river, motorists sit in miles of gridlock on the chronically jammed Schuylkill Expressway. Over a million people use the trail every year. But what makes this multi-use trail so attractive to commuters and different from other trails in the region? And what lessons can the Schuylkill River Trail offer for trail planners and builders across the state line in New Jersey?

The Cooper River Trail

Like the Schuylkill River Trail, Camden County’s (currently incomplete) Cooper River Trail corridor runs alongside a river and runs through a mixture of urban and suburban communities. But unlike the Schuylkill River Trail, which connects Center City Philadelphia with suburbs to the north, the existing segments of the Cooper River Trail remain disconnected and fail to form a coherent route that could be used by local commuters to reach centers of employment in Philadelphia and Camden. Closing these gaps — which is a key component of the Circuit regional trail initiative — is an essential step in producing a viable active transportation network.

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How Can Sustainable Transportation Practices Mitigate Climate Change?

The Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it undeniably clear that climate change is real, and it’s our fault. Scientists are now 95 percent certain that human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century, up from 90 percent certainty in [...]

TOD Implementation a Crucial Next Step for Connecticut Transit Projects

With CTfastrak and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail projects set to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively, discussion about future development in the area is ramping up.  Recently, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor Consortium commissioned a report detailing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around these bus and train transit stations.

The report, titled Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, analyzes which station areas on those future lines are most ready for development and what needs to be done to further encourage development at others.

The need for responsible strategies to deal with future development couldn’t be clearer. The area to be served by these future systems, also known as the “Knowledge Corridor”, is a large and long-interconnected area with a population of 1.8 million, more than 45,000 companies, a labor force of 1.1 million people, 32 colleges and universities and more than 120,000 students.

 Knowledge Corridor Image

[Source: New England’s Sustainable Knowledge Corridor]

This density of people and employers, especially schools and students, provides a great opportunity to utilize transit as rapid and reliable means of transportation to enhance the economy.

CRCOG TOD Image

[Source: Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, Executive Summary, September 2013.]

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Public Transit’s Savings Quantified

RS-Graph-1

It’s generally accepted that taking public transportation saves money. But just how much?

The American Public Transportation Association’s monthly Transit Savings Report quantifies how much money per month a typical individual saves by choosing public transportation over driving. APTA’s analysis relies on a number of assumptions, such as:

  • drivers have to pay for monthly parking;
  • drivers drive an average of 15,000 miles per year;
  • public transportation users only have to buy one monthly transit pass (not, for example, a monthly MetroCard and a monthly Metro-North ticket); and
  • public transportation users have no driving costs.

Nonetheless, the Transit Savings Report finds that using transit and “living with one less car” can save a striking amount of money.

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