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November 2014

Texas “Ideal Market” for High-Speed Rail

Gordon Dickson | Government Technology

An undated photo of the Connecticut Telephone & Electric Corporation building on Britannia Street in Meriden. | Record-Journal ArchivesThe nation’s top federal railroad official is giving the prospect of high-speed rail in Texas an enthusiastic thumbs-up, saying the region “appears to be an ideal market.”

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo visited Fort Worth and met with Mayor Betsy Price to discuss the possibility of bringing bullet trains capable of traveling 205 mph to Houston, Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth.

The Dallas-to-Fort Worth connection is the subject of several public meetings, including one Tuesday evening in downtown Fort Worth, at which residents are being asked for their opinions on the proposed high-speed rail lines.

“It’s ridiculous. We need options to get us back and forth to work,” said Tammy Stancil of Hurst, who frequently rides Trinity Railway Express and was among about 50 people at Tuesday’s Fort Worth meeting. “We wouldn’t have all the hassles of driving a car.”

Other public meetings are scheduled for this morning in Arlington and Thursday afternoon in Dallas.

Officials from the Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration will also be at the meetings to answer questions about the futuristic proposal, which could reinvent the way Texans — who are among the most voracious users of automobiles and commercial airlines in the world — move about their state. Read more


‘Driving miles’ is best measure of new development in California

Curt Johansen | SF Chronicle

An undated photo of the Connecticut Telephone & Electric Corporation building on Britannia Street in Meriden. | Record-Journal ArchivesFor more than 40 years, California’s signature environmental law — the California Environmental Quality Act — has helped safeguard our natural lands and protect community health. Now it’s time to modernize some elements of the law to strengthen its effectiveness and make our communities even better places to live. Fortunately, the Brown administration is following through with some long-overdue fixes that deserve broad support.

Critics of CEQA have protested that the environmental review the law requires for major projects often adds unnecessary costs, time and uncertainty, while unfairly empowering project opponents. As representatives of nonprofit organizations committed to responsible, sustainable infill growth in our cities and downtowns, we see the continuing value of CEQA for giving the public a voice in project analysis, requiring more careful decision making, and encouraging project developers to mitigate avoidable impacts where feasible. Read more


Old Meriden, Connecticut factory primed for redevelopment

Andrew Ragali | Record-Journal

An undated photo of the Connecticut Telephone & Electric Corporation building on Britannia Street in Meriden. | Record-Journal Archives
An undated photo of the Connecticut Telephone & Electric Corporation building on Britannia Street in Meriden. | Record-Journal Archives

Once home to Connecticut Telephone and Electric, a thriving telecommunications and auto parts manufacturer, the 90,000-square-foot factory at 70 Britannia St. now sits vacant. But state transportation officials see promise in the four-story brick factory building.

The property was one of four statewide recently identified by the Department of Transportation as being vacant and having the potential for redevelopment. Other former industrial properties identified by the state are in West Hartford, Hartford and Windsor Locks. Each property is adjacent to the Amtrak railroad right-of-way and may be eligible for federal or state tax credit programs, according to the DOT.

“If you’re a developer, you might say ‘let’s tear this thing down,’” said John Bernick, assistant rail administrator for the DOT. “But it might make better economic sense to keep the structure and rehabilitate it.”

Bernick said the rail corridor between New Haven and Springfield has been deemed historic due to the construction of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail. In August 2012, an agreement between the DOT, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office was established to mitigate the impact of construction on historic structures. Read more


Momentum Builds for ‘Atlanta Waterworks Park’ Vision

Josh Green | Atlanta Curbed

[Rendering: Atlanta Waterworks Park/Facebook]
[Rendering: Atlanta Waterworks Park/Facebook]
The movement to create Atlanta Waterworks Park isn’t so grassroots any more. The initiative keeps padding its coffers, holding high-profile fundraisers and now has the public support of Mayor Kasim Reed and top Beltline honchos. Talk of reopening the grounds — a public park for many decades, prior to the Centennial Olympic Games — has been going on for years, but in recent months these more substantive efforts have caught the eye of government officials and local media.

Most recently, Westside Provisions District held a “high-energy fall fashion show” last month and raised $10,000 for the grassroots Friends of Atlanta Waterworks, the group working to make the Westside preserve public-accessible again, according to a spokesperson. That followed another “friendraiser” this year at Monday Night Brewing, which tallied $17,000. Supporters seem to feel the ball could really get rolling in 2015.

Like developers, residents and businesses with vested interests in the area, Reed seems committed to seeing the Waterworks vision play out. He’s selected a team of senior staff to oversee its progress, in fact. According to a press release, “The effort will be led by JoAnn MaCrina, commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, with support from Parks and Recreation and Atlanta Beltline, Inc. and city council representatives Yolanda Adrean and Andre Dickens who continue to show their support as key role players in these efforts.”

Prior to the Olympics, the Atlanta Waterworks property at 17th Street and Howell Mill Road hosted running races and allowed for leisurely strolls. Concerns of terrorists poisoning Atlanta’s water supply during the Olympics necessitated fences that have encircled the property ever since. Read more

Could Lyft And Uber Put Public Transit Out Of Business?

Tarun Wadhwa | Forbes

[Rendering: Atlanta Waterworks Park/Facebook]More than three-quarters of people commuting to work each day are driving by themselves.

That’s a lot of empty seats on the road – and all that traffic and congestion has a large financial, environmental, and emotional cost.  Carpooling is common amongst families, but has yet to become a viable transportation method for most people.  It’s certainly never been prevalent enough to be seen as a replacement for having a car.

But on-demand ridesharing platforms Lyft and Uber see a major opportunity here.  Earlier this year, both companies joined a host of other startups offering “shared ride” services (named Lyft Line and UberPool, respectively).  The idea is that if two riders are going in the same direction, it is cheaper and more efficient to have them ride together.  In exchange for sitting with a stranger, riders can receive a discount of anywhere from 30-60% each, depending on demand.  Although they are only available in certain areas thus far, the service is proving to be extremely popular – Lyft reports that in just two months, one-third of their rides in San Francisco are now Lines. Read more


Nationwide Survey Shows Americans Are Commuting Less

Tim Henderson | Stateline

The Tower Bridge links Sacramento with West Sacramento. imging / Shutterstock.comJillian Golan got tired of paying repair bills for her 2001 Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible last year and started walking the 20 minutes to her job at a dialysis clinic in Philadelphia. A year and a half later, she hasn’t looked back, joining the growing ranks of people giving up cars for commuting.

“I’m saving a ton of money. No car payment, no insurance, no worrying about a parking ticket,” said Golan, 37. “If I were to buy a car again, I would have to cut back on a lot of things I do socially, and I’m not willing to do that. I have a lot of friends who don’t have cars or never had cars.”

Nationwide, the percentage of workers who commute by car declined from 88 percent in 2000 to 86 percent in 2010-2013, according to a Stateline analysis of census numbers.  Car commuting percentages were down dramatically in some urban areas, but also in smaller Western towns that are making a focused effort to promote alternatives.

The places with the most dramatic declines include the District of Columbia, where the rate declined 11 percentage points to 39 percent; the Bronx, New York, where it was down 9 percentage points to 28 percent; and Hudson County, New Jersey (home of Jersey City), where it was down 8 percentage points to 47 percent. Read more

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