Posts by Author: Rachel Kaufman

Milwaukee’s Proposed Complete Streets Practice Already Paying Dividends

Milwaukee's city council is poised to pass a complete streets bill. (Photo by Nate V via Flickr)

The city of Milwaukee hasn’t yet formally adopted a complete streets policy, but already its efforts to make the city more bike and pedestrian-friendly are paying off, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

South Fifth Street was recently rebuilt to include wider sidewalks and bike racks, which has led to more outdoor seating for restaurants like MobCraft Beer’s brewery and taproom, and more pedestrian traffic, owner Henry Schwartz told the Journal-Sentinel.

“People are moseying around in the neighborhood,” Schwartz told the newspaper. “That walking traffic definitely didn’t exist beforehand.”

Vanessa Koster, the city’s planning manager, added that larger numbers of cyclists and pedestrians give visitors the idea that “this looks like a great place that I’d like to visit,” and traffic-calming measures entice motorists to slow down and notice shops and restaurants.

Scott Richardson, of developer Linden Street Partners, told the paper that the redesigned South Second Street was a factor in the developer choosing to build a five-story apartment building there, rather than leaving Milwaukee.

Economic development is, of course, not the only reason the city is pursuing safer streets. The advocacy group MilWALKee Walks has found that pedestrian deaths are on the rise in the city, with the majority of them occurring in low-income communities.

“There is [sic] not many crosswalk signals, the painted lines are faded, and drivers do not respect pedestrians,” Hector Alvarez Santiago, a pedestrian safety advocate, said at a safer streets community meeting earlier this year, according to Strong Towns. Research has found that in Milwaukee, drivers yield for pedestrians only rarely, even when the pedestrians are following traffic rules or had the right of way.

This is not exactly Milwaukee’s first try at complete streets. The Wisconsin state legislature passed a Complete Streets Law in 2009, the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation explained in a 2015 blog post. But Gov. Scott Walker repealed the policy in 2015. Walker’s office said that the move was designed to “reduce the regulatory burden on the Department of Transportation,” according to the Journal Times, and estimated that the repeal would save $3.7 million annually (a nonpartisan estimate pegged it closer to $1.2 million)

Even with the new complete streets policy, Milwaukee’s hands are somewhat tied, Urban Milwaukee reports. Many road projects in the city are actually state highways, and so the state Department of Transportation has final say on those roads.

The city’s Public Works committee unanimously supported an ordinance to adopt a Complete Streets Policy in early October, reports Urban Milwaukee. The full council has yet to vote on the ordinance, but committee chair Alderman Robert Bauman told Urban Milwaukee that he expects the full council to unanimously support the proposal when it goes up for vote Tuesday.

If passed, Milwaukeeans can expect more widened sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and bump-outs coming to a (complete) street near them.


Denver’s Revised Green Roof Ordinance Takes Root

The green roof at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo by JohnGiez via Flickr.

A revised version of Initiative 300, Denver’s ambitious green roofs ordinance, may be enacted into law — spurring actual green roof construction, Denverite reports.

Last year, a grassroots effort spurred the passage of Initiative 300, requiring that new buildings 25,000 square feet or larger devote some portion of their roof space to greenery or solar panels.

Green roofs capture and filter stormwater and, by absorbing sunlight, reduce the urban heat island effect. The plants on a green roof can also suck pollutants out of the air. Local restaurant manager Brandon Rietheimer got the initiative on the ballot in 2017 after realizing that the city was not doing much to meet its 2020 sustainability goals.

But Initiative 300 was hotly opposed by real estate and development interests, and Mayor Michael Hancock said that the ordinance went “too far,” Denverite wrote in 2017. Opponents said the ordinance would drive up the costs of construction “and make Denver’s [real estate] market even more expensive.”

Despite heavy opposition — opponents outspent proponents by a factor of 11 — Initiative 300 took effect on January 1, 2018, for new buildings, additions to buildings that expanded them over the 25,000 square foot threshold, and replacement roofs for existing buildings. But it wasn’t a smooth implementation. A city-convened task force found that many roofs of existing buildings in Denver weren’t actually strong enough to handle green roofs and that the costs of adding green roofs were prohibitive in some cases. (According to Denverite, green roofs cost about 2.5 times as much as a traditional roof, but last four to five times longer.) In the first four months of 2018, the ordinance resulted in not one green roof in the city. 9News reported that building owners instead opted to freeze construction.

Enter a revised ordinance, approved 7-0 by a special city council committee.

Under the new ordinance, which will be voted on by the full council later this year, all buildings covered by the original ordinance must at least have a cool roof — a roof painted white to reflect heat rather than absorb it. Then building owners must either add a green roof or solar panels on the roof or lot. If neither of those options are feasible, buildings can instead agree to purchase renewable energy for the building, achieve LEED Gold certification, or pay a per-square-foot fee. The fees would go into a fund for the city to buy and improve green space and fund other green roofs, urban forests and solar panels.

According to Denverite, Rietheimer, who got the original green roof initiative on the ballot, is happy with the compromise, and so is Kathie Barstnar, executive director of the Colorado Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

“I have to say that the work done by the stakeholder task force should be a shining example of what can be accomplished when people are willing to come together and work to make something happen in a compromised format, rather than protecting sacred ground,” she told Denverite.

When the initiative initially passed, Denver became only the second city in the U.S. to mandate green roofs. The revised ordinance, if passed, would still be fairly unique among U.S. cities. Only San Francisco requires new construction to include green roofs; Washington, D.C. has a “de facto” requirement for large buildings through its stormwater regulations, National Geographic reported.


NYC Pilot Program Hopes to Beautify Miles of Scaffolding

This work of art covering a construction fence is "Color Mesh," by Mauricio Lopez. (Credit: Courtesy NYC Department of Cultural Affairs)

A constant of New York City life—besides MTA delays—is scaffolding. Last year, the city had 280 miles of scaffolding, according to a city map (and a New York Times story) released last year. Today, there are more than 300 miles of construction fences and scaffolds, also known as sidewalk sheds. The oldest one is 20 years old.

While the fences and sheds aren’t going away any time soon, they might start to look a little more attractive: Artnet reports that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Buildings and Office of the Mayor are amending city codes to allow art on those sidewalk sheds and fences.

The initiative is called City Canvas, and it’s a 24-month pilot to “improve the pedestrian experience” by adding art and “increase opportunities for cultural organizations and artists” to present art.

The program kicked off last month with an open call for proposals from local nonprofits, which closes today. Proposals must be site-specific, Artnet says, and should identify artists from the area near the site, if possible.

The city isn’t providing funding for the artists or organizations; the selected nonprofits will bear the cost of producing and installing the works. All the works must be printed or painted on vinyl, the application says—no 3D sculptures allowed for this pilot.

“Sidewalk sheds are unattractive, but they keep us safe,” said buildings commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE, in a statement. “We’re proud to work with our partner agencies on this innovative program. If anyone can bring some love to the sidewalk sheds New Yorkers love to hate, it’s our city’s artists.”

Sidewalk sheds have been required on NYC buildings any time the facade is being worked on, the New York Times noted in 2016, ever since a Barnard College student was killed by a falling piece of terra cotta in 1979.

“City Canvas is an innovative way to support local artists and build community, all while beautifying otherwise unattractive construction sites,” Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., said in a statement. “I hope the many great cultural non-profits that serve our city take advantage of this great opportunity, and that it becomes a lasting initiative that brightens our public spaces for many years to come.” Cornegy represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights.

In 2016, frustrated with the scaffolding mushrooming around the city, Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed legislation that would put a timeline on how long scaffolding can stay up. He reintroduced the legislation in early 2018. Building owners say the legislation is unfair because sometimes building owners don’t have the money to make needed repairs.

During the City Canvas pilot, the city is hoping to get proposals for at least one location in the city. With 300 miles of the stuff, it shouldn’t be hard to find at least one space to enliven with art.


California Will Vote on 11 Ballot Initiatives This Fall

Among the initiatives on the ballot this fall in California is Proposition 3, which would authorize $8.8 billion in bonds for water infrastructure, dam repairs, watershed improvements and habitat protection, among others changes. Photo by Gabriel Rocha/Flickr

California voters will have 11 ballot initiatives to decide on when they head to the polls this November. The propositions deal with funding for housing, water infrastructure, hospitals, and tax breaks for seniors. They propose laws capping fees at dialysis clinics, regulating private ambulance companies’ work rules, expanding rent control and changing how livestock are housed.

Here’s a look at the propositions that most affect cities.

Prop 1

Prop 1 would allow the state to issue $4 billion in bonds to support low-income residents, veterans and agricultural workers. In July, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife, Priscilla Chan, announced it would donate $250,000 to support the ballot initiative, Next City reported at the time. It was the largest donation to the Prop 1 campaign to date.

The $4 billion would help provide below-market interest rates with low- to no-down payments for veterans to buy homes, the Initiative said, as well as allocate $1.8 billion to build and renovate rentals, according to nonprofit journalism venture CALMatters.

Prop 2

This initiative allows the state to shift revenue from an existing tax that finances mental health programs to a project to build housing for people with mental health issues. In 2004, California passed Proposition 63, the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” an additional 1 percent tax on people with incomes over 1 million. That money was used to fund mental health services and has raised around $2 billion per year, CNN reports. Then, in 2016, the state legislature authorized a $2-billion bond to build housing for people suffering from mental illness who were also experiencing homelessness, or at risk for becoming homeless. The state planned to pay down the bond using money from Prop 63. But a lawsuit said the state couldn’t move money from Prop 63 that way, so now it’s being put to the people.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative also supports this proposition, but the National Alliance on Mental Illness Contra Costa opposes it, calling it the “Bureaucrat and Developer Enrichment Act.”

Prop 3

CALMatters calls this bond “the big one” as it authorizes $8.8 billion in bonds for water infrastructure, dam repairs, watershed improvements and habitat protection, among others. The bone-dry state may need the funding to continue to supply reliable clean water to agriculture and cities, but the San Diego Union-Tribune points out that this is the third water bond in four years, and that “more than half the money raised to promote the measure came from business groups and farmers seeking specific improvements…This ‘pay to play’ approach to ballot initiatives is not new, but it should still not be rewarded.”

Prop 4

This initiative would authorize $1.4 billion in bonds to build, expand, renovate and equip children’s hospitals in California.

Prop 5

This initiative would change how property tax affects seniors and other groups. According to ABC7, the measure would allow homebuyers over 55, the severely disabled, or those who have contaminated or disaster-destroyed property to transfer their tax assessments from their old home to their new home, no matter how many times they have moved or the value of the new home. The California Association of Realtors, which sponsored the measure, says it could help seniors who want to downsize into a smaller home who are worried about rising property taxes. The California Teachers Association and state Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) oppose the measure, saying it will not make more housing available and could cost local governments $150 million in lost property taxes.

Prop 10

A “yes” vote on this initiative would abolish the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prohibits most forms of rent control in California. It’s supported by the Coalition for Affordable Housing, the California Democratic Party, and L.A.Mayor Eric Garcetti, to name a few, and opposed by both candidates for governor, business and real estate groups, the California State Conference of the NAACP and a number of other government officials.

Not appearing on the ballot this year, Prop 9, which would have split California into three distinct states. After venture capitalist Tim Draper collected enough signatures for the initiative to appear on the ballot, the state Supreme Court ordered it removed in July. “Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity,” the court said.

California is among the heaviest users of ballot initiatives; only Oregon has posed more propositions to its citizens, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In the 2016 election, the state posed 17 ballot measures to voters, and cities added another 650 local measures—enough to overwhelm many voters, NPR reported. It was enough for the California Voter Foundation to create the “Proposition Song,” an educational musical number that went semi-viral. (No voter song for 2018 yet, it appears.) If you live in California and have questions about what initiatives to support, CALMatters created a nonpartisan “game” to explore the issues.


Transit-Oriented Development Comes to Fort Worth

Rendering of the "Grapevine Main" project, a $105-million multi-use transit-oriented development in the downtown district of Grapevine, Texas, which will include a four-story train station with retail and office space and a 121-room hotel. (Credit: JQ)

Texas’s newest commuter rail project, which is set to open in late 2018 and will connect Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport to downtown Fort Worth, is also bringing more than $300 million in transit-oriented development to the corridor.

The Fort Worth Business Press reports that TEXRail crosses through three cities, and “the potential for development around the stations is enormous.”

In south Fort Worth, the planned terminus of TEXRail and the existing TRE commuter line is known as T&P Station. There, the Business Press writes, plans are moving forward for a $94.2-million mixed-use building with 236 apartments and retail. A future hotel is planned for the site as well. The so-called Katy Station Lofts, still in the planning process, will be the first transit-oriented development in Fort Worth, news station NBCDFW reports.

About half of the apartments will be set aside for households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income, and 15 will be Rental Assistance Demonstration units—a federal program that allows cities to convert public housing into private-sector management through Section 8 contracts.

Many of the subsidized housing units are set aside for residents being relocated from Butler Place, the city’s largest public housing complex, Next City reported earlier this year. The city is in the process of relocating residents; 15 families moved last year to a new mixed-income development. The goal, Next City reported at the time, was to relocate everyone by the end of 2020.

Elsewhere, the city has asked for help from the Urban Land Institute of North Texas to create a development strategy for the Northside/Stockyards area, the city’s historic district.

Downtown, Texas A&M University purchased parking lots near its law school, and the Convention Center is scheduled to be redeveloped, the Business Press reports.

In North Richland Hills, which is getting two TEXRail stops, the city is building a $150-million project with hundreds of apartments and townhomes, plus retail. And in Grapevine, Texas, the third city on the TEXRail line, a notable project is “Grapevine Main,” a plaza, four-story train station with retail and office space and a 121-room hotel.

“We’re excited to see all these developments around the station, it shows us that we’re doing the right thing,” Bob Baulsir, Senior Vice President for Trinity Metro, told NBCDFW. Trinity Metro is the transit agency that operates TEXRail, it also operates bus service and partners with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to operate the TRE.

“We’re gonna connect folks with employment, with transportation to really anywhere in the world,” Baulsir added.

The TEXRail line was announced in 2016, according to Bisnow, approved a year ago, and will open in December. It uses existing freight tracks, hence the quick delivery. TEXRail is projected to have 8,000 daily riders when service begins.


Toronto Mayoral Candidate Proposes Turning Golf Courses Into Public Parks

Toronto's Scarlett Woods Golf Course is one of three courses within city limits that mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat proposes converting to land for parks, arts hubs, sports fields or other public use. (Photo by Bill Hertha via Flickr)

Urban planner and Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat has come up with a proposal to create more green space in the city: if elected mayor, she says, she wants to turn three city-owned golf courses into public land.

The three courses are located on transit routes and are operating at a loss (subsidized by taxpayers). Keesmaat suggested Monday turning them into parks, arts hubs, sports fields or skating rinks, the CBC reported.

“They are a massive amount of land and land is an incredible resource in this city that we shouldn’t leave closed half of the year, which is what we are doing today,” she told the CBC.

Incumbent John Tory told the CBC that the idea is “nothing new” and said that Toronto city council commissioned a report in January to review all seven city-owned golf courses to “determine the best model for golf service delivery” over the next 20 years. The report, which the Toronto Star says was only to “review golf operations,” not propose alternate uses, is due in early 2019.

Keesmaat says that re-evaluating the city golf courses would be in line with what other Canadian cities have done recently. Vancouver is updating its 25-year public parks plan, which includes its golf courses. In 2012, park commissioners in that city proposed converting all or part of the transit-adjacent Langara Golf Course into either a park or a housing development. But, commissioner John Coupar told the CBC, “There were a lot of golfers [speaking out] and a lot of people who use our golf courses not just for golf, but the walking tracks around the courses.” Heavy opposition led to the city canceling the project. Since then, the CBC adds, average property prices on the Vancouver’s east side have increased by 78 percent, and 72 percent in the west side, while golf course use has “remained stagnant.”

Keesmaat’s proposal is slightly different than the failed Vancouver proposal, given that the Vancouver parks board hadn’t ruled out developing housing on the land. Keesmaat appears to be in favor of parkland only; her public statements have not referenced condominium or apartment development, but she has said that she supports the “highest and best use” of the land. Her opponent Tory has raised the specter of development. “I hope that when she said today that we would turn those into the ‘highest and best use’ she didn’t mean condo towers, because quite often when you use the expression ‘highest and best use’ it means more condo towers,” he told the Toronto Star.

Just over 150,000 rounds of golf were played at Toronto’s municipal golf courses in 2016, a 15.5 percent decrease from the 187,000 rounds played in 2007, the city said. Golf operations generate between $4.5 and $5 million in revenue but operate at a loss, and the city golf courses need $9.7 million in investment through 2026 to repair aging clubhouses and irrigation systems, among other repairs. A city report noted that these repairs are “basic infrastructure … requirements and do not address any service enhancements that may be required to remain competitive” with greater Toronto’s 100 public and semi-private golf courses. The report added that to compete with the other golf courses, municipal courses would need to add online tee-time booking, flexible fee structures, expand its pro shops, and make a “significant investment” in the food and beverages available at the courses.

In an unscientific Internet poll, readers of The Toronto Star at press time were in favor of converting the courses, 50 percent to 42 percent.


Court Sides with Deceased Cyclist, but Activists Say Vision Zero Progress Too Slow in Coming

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

A court has sided with the cyclist who was killed by a Coach bus while riding a Citi Bike last year, the New York Times reports.

The bus operator, Dave Lewis, was found guilty of failing to yield the right of way, a misdemeanor, and failure to exercise due care, a violation, the Times says. The misdemeanor carries up to 30 days’ jail time, and 15 days’ extra for the violation.

The cyclist, Dan Hanegby, had been wearing headphones when the bus struck him on his Citi Bike. Defense attorneys for Lewis argued that Hanegby had been “completely and totally unaware” of his surroundings. The argument did not convince the judge on the State Supreme Court, a fact that slightly cheered transportation advocates.

“Drivers are rarely held accountable for recklessly taking lives on New York City streets,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Times. “All too often, police hastily exonerate drivers while erroneously blaming bicyclists and pedestrians for their own deaths.”

Across the country, a few dozen cities have begun to make good on their Vision Zero pledges, but progress has been painfully — and in many cases fatally — slow. In Washington, D.C., activists are so fed up with what they say is the city’s lack of enforcement of red-light running and speeding that one was moved to create a clock showing the number of days since a traffic death. Chicago has seen 29 pedestrian and 6 cyclist fatalities so far this year, according to Streetsblog, which also reported recently that Denver has seen 16 pedestrian fatalities and four cyclist fatalities this year, as well as the deaths of five motorcyclists and 20 people in cars.

The distressing news comes as many cities are attempting to address the problems, albeit slowly.

New York’s Community Board 7 approved a nonbinding measure to protect existing bike lanes near West 67th Street, the scene of a cyclist’s death in August. The city’s transportation department will now consider the issue.

Philadelphia, which adopted a Vision Zero plan in 2016, has landed a $3-million grant from the state to build a new protected bike lane on Market Street, one of the city’s busiest, Philly magazine reports.

The project will reduce vehicle travel lanes from four to three, adding a protected bike lane in each direction, as well as “floating bus islands” and “pedestrian islands” on Market Street between 2nd and 6th. The area is a hub for major tourist attractions, with the Museum of the American Revolution and the Liberty Bell bookending that stretch of Market. The new funding will help build the proposed lanes but could take up to five years and cost an additional $4 million.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed has directed the SFMTA to expedite its bike-lane projects, beginning with a proposed lane on Valencia Street, which the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition called “one of the … most dangerous corridors in San Francisco.” The Mayor has said she wants fully protected bike lanes on a four-block stretch of Valencia in the next four months, “to serve as a pilot to inform changes through the rest of the corridor,” Streetsblog reports.


Amazon Will Pay All Its U.S. Employees at Least $15 an Hour

(Stephen Brashear/AP Images for Amazon)

Retail/cloud computing giant Amazon announced Tuesday that it would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all its U.S. employees and push for a higher federal minimum wage.

The wage is effective beginning November 1 and includes employees hired through temp agencies. This affects more than a quarter-million Amazon employees and 100,000 seasonal employees, the company said.

The move comes as Amazon has come under fire for poor wages and working conditions. A book published earlier this year contains an account of Amazon workers forced to urinate in water bottles to meet workplace targets, Wired reports; a Guardian investigation in July found Amazon workers suffering from workplace accidents, sometimes denied workers’ compensation or fired.

Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, was also found recently to be distributing anti-union videos to the grocery chain, Gizmodo reported last week. And the company quashed a “head tax” in Seattle, which would have charged employers grossing more than $20 million a year based on the number of people they employ, and funded homeless services to the tune of $47 million per year.

Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the richest person in the world, the New York Times reports.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has aggressively criticized the retailer (and even introduced a bill called the Stop BEZOS Act, which would have taxed employers whose employees rely on public benefits), praised the wage hike.

“What Mr. Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be a shot heard around the world. I urge corporate leaders around the country to follow Mr. Bezos’ lead,” he wrote on Twitter.

The company also promised to campaign for a higher federal minimum wage, but provided few details on what that might look like. “We believe $7.25 is too low. We would look to Congress to decide the parameters of a new, higher federal minimum wage,” the company wrote.

But there’s a possible ulterior motive to the raise. Wired reports that the move might make the retail giant more competitive to workers as it staffs up for the all-important holiday season; it could reduce employee turnover, which saves Amazon money in the long run, and it could put a shine on the company’s forthcoming announcement (due sometime before the end of the year) on the location of its second headquarters. Whichever city is chosen for the new location, it is expected to give Amazon massive tax breaks in exchange for bringing jobs to the region. “The last thing the company needs is the announcement to be overshadowed by concerns about how it treats its low-wage workers,” Wired writes.

The higher minimum wage could be a direct attack on brick-and-mortar stores, too, the Wall Street Journal reports, making “it harder for traditional retailers to hire the staff they need. The result could be lost sales or, worse, crowded stores without enough staff, sending shoppers online, most likely to Amazon.”


D.C.‘s Metro Has No Idea How To Fix Ridership Slide

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington, D.C.’s rail system, once the second-busiest subway in the nation, is foundering, the Washington Post reports.

Over the last decade, average daily trips have fallen by 125,000. But, as the Post reports, even as a consultant has advised the agency to increase service, Metro board members and the agency’s chief executive have been unwilling to commit.

“Not a single board member would commit to supporting a service increase in the fiscal year that begins July 1,” the Post’s Faiz Siddiqui reported.

Over a year ago, Metro cut its operating hours, closing the system earlier and opening later. It has reduced rush-hour service by 25 percent, leading to eight-minute headways during rush hour, and reduced service during off-peak hours so that waits at night can be 20 minutes or longer. Maintenance on the aging system has become a near constant, with track work shutting down or delaying parts of the system nearly every weekend and often during off-peak hours too. Yet Paul Wiedefeld, the agency’s general manager, said at a news conference that the problem was out of his hands.

“At the end of the day, there are certain things in the market that you cannot control, in terms of ridership,” Wiedefeld said. “Ridership clearly is important, but we also have to recognize that what we should be judged on, first and foremost, is how we’re performing in what we do every day. I can’t control the [ride-hailing companies], I can’t control the price of gas, I can’t control that.”

As the Metro board debates how to control the uncontrollable (the consulting firm, VHB, found that the factors “best correlated” to ridership are train frequency, the number of trains in service and the proportion of delayed trains), it’s also making other changes: it announced it plans to disband its rider’s advisory council, a group meant to offer riders’ perspectives directly to WMATA. The board must vote formally Oct. 25 to dissolve the council but has announced it plans to do so.

Advisory council members are upset.

“WMATA is undoubtedly doing better, operationally speaking, than it has in previous years — there are fewer fires, fewer off-loadings, better trains, all of that is definitely positive,” Rebecca Kortum, chair of the Rider’s Advisory Council, told Metro officials at a board meeting in late September. “But you have a serious credibility gap with the public, and you have not yet begun to fix the image of a secretive agency that is opposed to transparent.”

“Eliminating the only direct rider connection that you have, instead of trying to fix that connection, is shortsighted and only reinforces this public perception that you’re not to be trusted,” Kortum added.

Metro board members say that every option is on the table as it looks to the 2020 budget, including restoring late-night service, adding service, or reducing disruptions. But ultimately board members told the Post that they had to “explore all of our options” (Corbett A. Price, who represents the District) or “wait and see” (Michael Goldman, who represents Maryland). Jack Evans, chairman of Metro’s board, said the problem is reliability, not too few trains.

“We’re going to make it more reliable and people are going to come back to the system. But is it going to happen overnight if I change the headways?” Evans asked. “No, it’s not going to happen,” the Post said.

Board member David Horner, who represents the federal government, suggested that Metro compete with the ride-hailing companies that are siphoning off ridership by offering subsidies. “I expect the last thing ride-hailing companies want is to engage in a subsidy shootout with a competitor whose members have the power to tax,” he said.

The board meets next on October 25.


Here Are the ‘Great Places In America,’ According to Planners

The State Street corridor, spanning two states, one of 2018's Great Places in America according to the American Planning Association. (Photo courtesy of Bristol VA/TN Chamber of Commerce)

The American Planning Association has named fifteen “Great Places in America” for 2018. Among them are a bustling main street that spans two states, an amphitheater and park created from a brownfield, and a walkable Berkshires town famous for its flower bridge.

The Great Places in America awards recognize streets, neighborhoods and public spaces; five from each category per year. The APA says that the awardees “illustrate how a community coming together creates lasting value.”

Marcum Park in Hamilton, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati, was among the awardees this year. The park, dedicated in May 2017, was built on land once owned by Mercy Hospital, which left Hamilton in 2006. Work finished on an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Miami River in 2013, the Cincinnati Business Journal reports, and the rest of the park was finished in 2017 thanks to a $3.5 million donation from philanthropists Joe and Sarah Marcum. The amphitheater has twice been named the best concert venue in greater Cincinnati, the Business Journal added.

In Massachusetts, the APA recognized the Village of Shelburne Falls for its walkability, relative affordability and attractiveness to artists, and sense of community. (Apparently, it also has tasty tap water.) The village is also famous for the Bridge of Flowers footbridge, which is covered in seasonal blooms during the spring and summer, and the Iron Bridge Dinner, where residents dine at a 400-seat table spanning the length of that bridge. “Shelburne Falls has maintained resilience in the face of the changing rural economy and leveraged its wonderful historic and cultural resources to create a thriving community,” the APA writes.

One of the Great Streets recognized this year is State Street, the main street of both Bristol, TN, and Bristol, VA. Bristol is considered the birthplace of country music because of two weeks in 1927 when music execs recorded what was then known as “hillbilly music,” and is still a musical destination.

APA president Earl Anderson said that one of the factors in State Street’s nomination, however, was the cooperation between states. “You have two cities in two different states with two different sets of legislatures and governors and they are still able to come together and work collaboratively to revitalize this area,” he said, according to the Bristol Herald-Courier. Recent cooperative projects have included restoring the historic train station (with the potential to bring passenger rail back to Bristol), building a new library and developing new hotels on or near State Street.

Other winners this year included:


  • Cushman Street – Fairbanks, Alaska
  • East Cross Street – Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Fayetteville Street – Raleigh, North Carolina
  • West Magnolia Avenue – Fort Worth, Texas

Public spaces:

  • The Plaza – Orange, California
  • Aspen Pedestrian Mall – Aspen, Colorado
  • Mill River Park – Stamford, Connecticut
  • Public Square – Cleveland, Ohio


  • Canalway Cultural District – Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Guthrie Historic District – Guthrie, Oklahoma
  • Historic Downtown Georgetown – Georgetown, Texas
  • Ghent – Norfolk, Virginia

Since the APA began the Great Places program in 2007, it has recognized 290 places in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. See the full list here.

The APA is also accepting nominations for the “People’s Choice” great place of 2018 through October 12.


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