Tag Archive | Transportation Planning

The Long Wait

In the nine years since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, filmmaker Jason DaSilva has found it increasingly difficult to traverse his beloved New York City. Using an electric scooter to get around his neighborhood, Mr. DaSilva has run in to many challenges including a lack of access ramps at the entrance of shops and restaurants and a nearby subway station with no elevator. City-provided taxi services for disabled persons have to be scheduled one day ahead of time and are often unreliable. The few public taxis that are wheelchair accessible can make traveling around the city easier, but taxi rides can be cost prohibitive.

In his short film for the New York Times titled “The Long Wait”, Mr. DaSilva demonstrates how arduous navigating the city in a wheelchair can be. As an experiment, Mr. DaSilva decides to time himself and his friend to see how long it takes them both to arrive at his favorite coffee shop (which is frustratingly only one subway stop away from his station nearest to his apartment). His friend Steve rides the train one stop and arrives at the destination in 13 minutes. After reviewing his public transportation options, Mr. DaSilva decides that the quickest route would be to take the East River Ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then transfer to two different buses. He arrives at the coffee shop in one hour and 43 minutes.

After traveling to cities like London, Toronto and San Francisco who have incorporated more accessible design elements like access ramps into buildings and wheelchair accessible trains, Mr. DaSilva says he was surprised that “forward-thinking” New York City lags behind other cities in accommodating their disabled population. “It’s not M.S. that exhausts me,” he says, ” it’s the barriers that prevent me from conducting my daily activities. Public-transportation challenges have turned my playground into a sand pit.”

Mr. DaSilva is working on researching design elements that can contribute to a more accessible city and believes that creating an accessible physical environment  for all users is a basic human right. Hoping to contribute awareness of this issue he’s created AXS Map which allows users to provide, rate and explore information on the most accessible places to grab a coffee, get a hair cut, eat sushi, etc in cities throughout the US. “I hope it’s a small contribution to the community I am now a part of,” he says, “and helps make New York a little bit easier for us to live in.”

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San Francisco’s Public Parklets

Parklet in front of Farm : Table cafe on Post Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

“Parklets” are small pocket parks built inside of former street-side parking spaces. The idea behind parklets is that you can take a small amount of space (like one, two, or three parking spaces) and turn it in to something that can be a public amenity.

Parklets are intended to be open to the public and are usually situated in front of a restaurant or market. The design of parklets can vary widely and unfortunately, certain design elements can sometimes give the impression that the parklet is private seating specific to that restaurant or market instead of a space open to the general public. For example, crowded parklets full of bistro tables and high, dense walls can look like cafe seating while parklets with varying seating and standing options (the red parklet below has a tall bar where you can place your elbows or food and beverages) and an open design with high visibility can appear to be more welcoming and meant for anyone to relax in and enjoy.

San Francisco has been a leader in the parklets movement and their Pavement to Parks program works with businesses to build parklets in front of their shops/restaurants. When I was home for the holidays, I visited San Francisco and snapped a few photos of some parklets that seemed to be working well as approachable and accessible public spaces- even on a cold and rainy day.

Parklet in front of Farm : Table on Post Street in San Francisco

Parklet in front of Farm : Table on Post Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Parklet in front of Martin Macks on Haight Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Parklet on Haight Street in San Francisco

Parklet in front of Haight Street Market on Haight Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Mexico City Residents Build Their Own Bicycle Infrastructure

Mexico City residents build their own bicycle lanes (Photo via This Big City

Mexico City residents build their own bicycle lanes. Photo via This Big City.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the National Network for Urban Cycling (BiciRed) has launched a campaign called “5% for the bicycles and pedestrians” to ask Mexico’s government to give at least 5% of the transportation budget to non-motorized infrastructure.
In light of the Institute’s request, community groups decided to raise awareness about the issue by building a 5 km (about three miles) designated bicycle lane. Advocates raised about a thousand dollars in four days to buy paint, brushes and build wood signs and stencils to build the bike lane, and on November 6th, 80 people (cycling advocates and citizens who heard about the idea through social media) showed up to begin working.
Mexico City residents build their own bicycle infrastructure (Photo via This Big City)

Mexico City residents build their own bicycle lanes. Photo via This Big City.

After eight hours the bicycle lane was completed. Jimena Veloz, one of the advocates who participated in the event asks: “How much would it cost to actually build the bicycle infrastructure the city needs?”
Mexico City residents come together to build much needed cycling infrastructure (Photo via This Big City)

Mexico City residents come together to build much needed cycling infrastructure. Photo via This Big City.

 

Measure J

Passengers waiting for the bus in Los Angeles. Photo by David from LA blog.

Passengers waiting for the bus in Los Angeles. Photo via Experiencing Los Angeles.



In 2008, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, giving our Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) $40 billlion over the next 30 years for transportation upgrades (everything from new light rail to expanded bus service to pothole repair) within the 88 cities that make up Los Angeles County. The $40 billion is funded through a half-cent transportation sales tax increase which will cost each resident around $25 per year for the next 30 years. In 2008, not only did I vote for Measure R (along with 75% of voters) but I did so enthusiastically. 

Four years later, the MTA proposed a new measure on our ballots (Measure J) which would extend the tax for an additional 30 years at the cost of $90 billion. Initially, I thought that voting for Measure J would be an obvious choice, that is until I started reading the opposition to the Measure and began to assess the cumulative impacts of Measure J – thinking regionally and locally.

In my research about the opposition, I learned that one of the unforeseen consequences of Measure R was that there were bus fare increases and service cuts which particularly effect those who depend on the bus system. Cuts that effect how they get to work, go to the store, transport children, etc. These cuts happened because the MTA has the ability to take current funds (not Measure R monies) and redirect them to other projects, taking money out of the bus system. 

20% of Measure J money will go to highway construction and expansion (including the extension of the 710 freeway which would tunnel through South Pasadena) which is something I do not support. Highway construction and expansion plus bus service cuts/fare increases means increased traffic and pollution and in my view, exacerbates our existing issues. Additionally, I looked at the development companies partnering with the MTA and how those potential projects could affect communities along the rail lines an determined that these projects could lead to a great deal of displacement in these communities.

I am a public transportation advocate and a passionate one at that. Some of the improvements proposed in Measure J seem like they would have a positive impact but many seem negative.The problem is that we can’t be guaranteed which projects MTA will choose (or who could suffer in unforeseen ways in the process ) to put our money towards and I’m not sure I’m willing to give Metro $90 billion to carry out initiatives of their choosing.

Kansas City Residents Build Their Own Bike Sharing Network

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City, Missouri has the highest ration of highway miles to city population in the country and also ranks last in bicycle and public transportation ridership in the nation. BikeWalkKC, a local bicycle advocacy group takes the approach, that if you don’t have the bicycle infrastructure you want, you build it yourself and they are asked local volunteers to help build a new bike sharing system for their city.

Volunteer labor not only reduces operational costs for the organization, but more important, BikeWalkKC is hoping that volunteers will become invested in the system they build and in turn, become advocates themselves.

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Over a two-day period and with the support of local business and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, 75 dedicated volunteers assembled NINETY bikes for the new bike share system. The bikes will be ready for Kansas city on July 3rd and spread from the Market District to the north and the downtown areas of Union Station and Crown Center to the south.

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City