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December 2014

San Bernardino’s E Street Voted ‘Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014’

Ryan Hagen | The Sun

A view of northbound E Street on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 after the sbX bus system was installed in San Bernardino. Micah Escamilla — Staff photographerE Street represents the country’s “best urban street transformation of 2014,” the readers of USA Streetsblog have officially decided.

The contest ended Sunday, with San Bernardino’s E Street grabbing 848 votes (48 percent of the total), compared to 427 for second-place Western Avenue in Cambridge, Mass. Streets in Minneapolis, Seattle and Pittsburg finished further back.

Blog manager Angie Schmitt confirmed in an email that San Bernardino had won the contest, which ended Sunday, and said she hoped to have an official announcement soon.

San Bernardino resident Marven Norman, a regular reader of the blog, nominated E Street — with the sbX bus rapid transit line and transit-oriented development like that advocated by Streetsblog — and Schmitt and others selected it as one of five finalists.

While many residents remain critical of sbX, and didn’t hesitate to say so in social media comments as the contest continued, the contest caught the excitement of many residents who said the city needed positive recognition. Read more

Portland plans growth along new light-rail line

Jim Redden | Portland Tribune

Developers tried to incorporate SouthSide Works into the existing neighborhood when it was built. Guy Wathen | Trib Total MediaConstruction of the replacement Lafayette Street pedestrian bridge is focusing attention on a new style of potential light rail-related growth — Employment Transit Oriented Development, or E-TOD, as planners call it.

Last Thursday morning, a large crane lifted a 70-ton steel walkway more than 50 feet into the air near Southeast Rhine Street and Southeast 17th Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The 184-foot collection of plates and girders hung in the air for 15 minutes as the crane rotated 180 degrees, then gently lowered it onto the top of two 42-foot-high steel towers on either side the Union Pacific railroad line.

Workers from Lorenz Bruun Construction rose on smaller lifts to nudge the span into place before fastening the large structures together. Company employees watched and took pictures from the rooftop balcony of their headquarters building, coincidentally located at the east end of the project. A light drizzle began falling as this phase of the job was finished. Read more

Staying true to Pittsburgh neighborhoods a challenge for developers

Tom Fontaine | Trib Total Media

Developers tried to incorporate SouthSide Works into the existing neighborhood when it was built. Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Developers tried to incorporate SouthSide Works into the existing neighborhood when it was built. Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media

It’s not easy to weave upscale apartments, condominiums and office buildings into historic neighborhoods known for their gritty charm, developers and architects say.

Pittsburgh has a lot of the latter and is rapidly getting more of the former.

The Strip District is the latest target. Developers this month announced plans for 700 luxury apartments near the historic Produce Terminal that will feature designated areas to store kayaks, wash dogs and charge electric cars. Rents will be as much as $2,200 a month.

“I’m typically a big fan of progress, but many (in the Strip) fear how some of the developments will change the vistas and feel of the Strip,” said John Jordan, 49, who owns a condo at the Otto Milk building that opened in 2011. “I’m more optimistic. Everything you do changes it somewhat, but I think the Strip will remain an iconic American neighborhood.”

Developers are committing billions of dollars to large-scale projects that propose a mix of housing, offices and retail in areas with rich histories.

They include plans at the former LTV Steel Co. site in Hazelwood ($1 billion in proposed development), the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District ($440 million), along the shore of the Allegheny River in the Strip District between 11th and 21st streets ($400 million) and 25th and 27th streets ($130 million), and transit-oriented development in East Liberty ($127 million). Read more

The Greening of a Suburban Downtown Maryland

Kaid Benfield | Huffington Post

Montrose Green development for 1819 W MontroseIf planners for Bethesda, Maryland fully realize a conceptual vision now being offered to community leaders and the public, the once-quiet but now-bustling suburb’s downtown could become a nationally relevant example of urban sustainability.

While the thinking is in its infancy, the Montgomery County Planning Department – under Maryland law, the county has legal authority – is considering a comprehensive green overhaul of Bethesda’s downtown plan, currently being updated by for the first time in twenty years. Particularly significant, in my opinion, would be two to three neighborhood-scaled “ecodistricts” within the downtown that would lead the way with showcase practices to accelerate and intensify environmental performance. The Department is being exceptionally cautious in stressing that for the moment its ideas are only conceptual and preliminary in nature, and will be subject to extensive review and refinement, but they point in the right direction.

Bethesda, just a few miles outside of Washington, DC, has been a leader in the smart growth and urbanist trends that were born in the 1990s and are still being put in place in many jurisdictions. A lot of progress has been made, and most of its downtown is now highly walkable and transit accessible, especially for a suburb. But, with a few exceptions, the community has not taken the next step to become “green” as well as “smart.” What was progressive two decades ago is merely good practice now. Leadership requires more, and the county’s new initiative is timely. Read more


ITDP Maps Bus Rapid Transit Successes Worldwide

Payton Chung | StreetsBlog USA

Montrose Green development for 1819 W MontroseSearching for solid examples of Bus Rapid Transit in your slice of the world, or pondering possible ways to solve a particular BRT problem? A new interactive map developed by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy might have your answer.

ITDP, which created the BRT Standard to define high-quality BRT and foster it around the world, has now plotted every city on the planet with a BRT route that has achieved the Standard’s criteria. The map shows that the most, and highest-quality, BRT systems are concentrated in Latin America, where the concept originated, and in fast-growing China. Within the United States, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh stand out as leaders, but cities around the country are hatching plans for new systems.

North America isn’t the only region where BRT has a lot of room to expand. Fast-growing cities across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia could also look to BRT to provide more mobility for their citizens at a relatively low cost. Read more


California Shows Residents the Greenhouse Gas Money

Carolyn Whetzel | Bloomberg BNA

Montrose Green development for 1819 W MontroseRevenue from California’s greenhouse gas emissions trading program would be used as a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, water efficiency projects and a variety of transportation projects, including high-speed rail, under a new plan outlined by State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D).

Unveiled April 14 at a news conference in Sacramento, the plan replaces a proposal Steinberg announced in February to impose a carbon tax on transportation fuels rather than bring them under the scope of the emissions trading program, as is scheduled in 2015.

The new proposal for investing cap-and-trade revenue would allocate $1.75 billion for affordable housing and sustainable communities; $1.31 billion for transit; $878 million for high-speed rail; $439 for street projects; $200 million for natural resources, water and waste projects; $200 million to deploy electric vehicles; and $10 million to fund a green bank. Read more


6 Ways to Free Up Land for Desperately Needed Housing

Staff | Macro Insider

The McLean station of Metro's Silver Line on June 23 in McLean, Virginia.Completely good lots are not being created for houses, even although hundreds of millions of people today worldwide live in houses that are unsafe, inadequate, or barely inexpensive, says a new report by McKinsey International Institute. Even in densely populated New York City, the report says, one of each and every 10 acres of land zoned for residential development is vacant. “Unlocking land provide at the appropriate place is the most vital step in providing reasonably priced housing,” the report’s authors create.

Land may well be affordable and plentiful in rural locations, but in the cities that the globe is flocking to it’s “not uncommon” for land expenses to exceed 40 % of house prices—and they’re as much as 80 % in some massive cities, the study says. Regardless of the high rates that landowners can fetch, parcels aren’t coming onto the industry for development simply because of such factors as “fragmented or public ownership, poor land records, and regulations and zoning laws that discourage improvement.”

Surveying the globe, the report’s authors found six practices that cities have followed to no cost up lots for housing where it is needed most:

Transit-oriented improvement: Over the previous 4 decades Hong Kong has added 1.4 million houses in the New Territories, across the harbor from Kong Island, most of them close to rail and metro stations. When land prices go up since of new transit, the government captures aspect of the achieve and uses it to spend for infrastructure and reasonably priced housing. Read more


A Studied Response to the ‘Too Many Cars’ Claim Against TOD

Patrick Sisson | Chicago Curbed

Montrose Green development for 1819 W MontroseA complaint often lodged against transit-oriented development projects is that dense new multi-story buildings will always results in more cars, increasing neighborhood congestion. But perhaps that isn’t the full story. In a studied and lengthy response to similar grievances about the Montrose Green development proposal, Streetsblog crunched some numbers. The five-story building’s ratio of tenants-to-parking spaces would be in line with neighborhood averages, while transportation trends suggest the number of people driving regularly will continue to decrease.

Vehicle counts on Montrose, between Western and Ashland, show 42 percent fewer cars (5,000 cars per day) between 2006 and 2010, the most recent data available. Car traffic also declined by 23 percent, or 2,400 cars, on Damen across Montrose. Since then, citywide miles driven people have continued to fall, dropping by 4.4 percent between 2010 and 2013.

In addition, other studies suggested that parking needs are often over-estimated, while nearby residents at a recent hearing about the building said a structure like this next to an ‘L’ stop actually makes the entire neighborhood less car-dependent by adding more walkable dining and retail options. Read more


Residents excited for CTfastrak busway to open

Erica Schmitt | Newington Town Crier


The McLean station of Metro's Silver Line on June 23 in McLean, Virginia.If the turnout at the town’s CTfastrak open house Monday night was any indication, Newington residents are anxious for the busway to open this coming March.

The state Department of Transportation is hosting 10 different open houses at locations across central Connecticut this month through January.

People flooded Newington High School for Monday’s event to learn more about bus routes and planning specific trips.

“It’s a really good crowd tonight; it seems like there’s a lot of interest,” said Sara Radasci, a DOT transportation planner.

“I think people are just trying to figure out which route goes where,” added Radasci, who spent the evening passing out pamphlets outlining each route and its scheduled stop times by day of the week.

The CTfastrak webpage,, will soon feature a trip planner for people to use. They will be able to search for the best route by their desired starting and ending locations.

“I work part-time for the Salvation Army on the Berlin Turnpike, and we’re looking to get a bus stop there,” said Gary Bolles, a town resident who attended Monday’s event. Read more

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