The Long-Term Impact of a Month Without Cars

SUWON, South Korea—This bustling city of 1 million is best known as the home of Samsung, the global titan of flat-screen TVs and smartphones. But two years ago, Suwon also became briefly famous among the world’s transportation planners for its temporary experiment with ditching cars.

For a month in 2013, the 4,300 residents of a historic neighborhood called Haenggung-dong left their cars parked in vacant lots elsewhere. Instead of driving to get around, they took buses, walked or rode bicycles. They also gave new models of e-bikes, Segways, and pedicabs a ride.

It was all part of an event called the EcoMobility World Festival. As 500 urban experts from around the world gathered in Suwon to share strategies for giving city streets back to people, the residents of Haenggung-dong lived out a version of this utopia. Kids played in streets once clogged with traffic. The area’s many elderly and disabled residents had no trouble crossing intersections. People walked. And they talked to each other, rather than blaring their car horns.

Now, a second Ecomobility Festival is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The central business district of Sandton, which normally sees 80,000 autos pass through a day, has closed some roads and restricted traffic on others for the month of October. With less fanfare, cities from Oslo to Madridto Mexico City also have been remaking individual streets and sometimes entire districts to prioritize walking, bicycling and public transit over automobiles.

The Mayor of Suwon, Yeom Tae-young, was a key proponent of the plan to close the neighborhood to cars. An environmentalist-turned politician elected mayor in 2010, Yeom had proclaimed Suwon’s intention to be South Korea’s “eco-capital.” He set a goal to cut the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40 percent by 2030—about double the national target. (Read Citiscope’s interview with Mayor Yeom here.)

Yeom teamed up with ICLEI, a worldwide association of local governments concerned with sustainability, and the idea turned into a global event. ICLEI coined the term “ecomobility,” which it defines as “travel through integrated, socially inclusive, and environmentally friendly options, namely walking, cycling, wheeling, and public transport.”

Many residents weren’t crazy about the idea of giving up their cars. The city government held a series of consultation meetings and surveys for all 4,300 residents of Haenggung-dong to address community concerns in the planning stage, says Ki No Heon, a transportation policy manager for the city. The city also opened a 24/7 call center to handle citizen inquiries during the project’s planning stage.

Some concerns were answered by loosening the restriction on cars to allow for deliveries to businesses and for the use of those who have physical impairments that prevent them from walking or cycling. Still, a retrospective book on the festival by Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, ICLEI’s secretary general at the time of the festival, notes that some residents criticized the planning as top-down and “not sufficiently transparent.”

 

A comparison of a Suwon street in 2010 and 2014. (Urb-i/Daum Maps)

A comparison of a Suwon street in 2010 and 2014. (Urb-i/Daum Maps)

Returning to Suwon

Two years later, the festival atmosphere in the streets of Haenggung-dong is gone but the sidewalks are still busy with pedestrians. Cars have made a noticeable return, although residents say there are fewer of them and drivers go slower. Walking the streets myself, I noticed that traffic here was much less busy than on some of the clogged streets just outside the car-free zone of 2013.

Shutting the streets entirely to cars seems unlikely anytime soon—Mayor Yeom says that goal will have to wait three or four years. But residents have begun requesting incremental changes that nudge Haenggung-dong in that direction.

For example, community members fought for and won a city ordinance that limits car speeds to 30 kph in the neighborhood’s streets. (National law does not allow for speed limits lower than that.) The community also has begun holding car-free Saturdays once a month on Gongbang Street, one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood, lined with restaurants and art shops. Hwang Yeong, a 51-year old community leader who initiated the car-free Saturdays, says it’s a “small step” toward reviving the experience of the month-long festival two years ago.

Real estate in the area has appreciated in value. Immediately after the festival, 17 new home-based shops opened and made the area a thriving food hub, says Park Yeonhee, ICLEI director in Suwon.

Suwon has continued a major push around biking since the festival. City government is purchasing 6,000 new bicycles for public rental. The bikes will come with high-tech chipsets that will automatically compute the rental fee based on distance and enable customers to pay by tapping a contactless payment card on the bike.

On any typical day, a public square known as Hwaseong Plaza is filled with families teaching kids how to bike. One afternoon, the sight of young kids biking inspired me to give it a try. I rented a bike from a shop that charges less than a dollar for an hour. The owner also offers tips to inexperienced riders like me. After 30 minutes of trial and error, I was able to stay balanced and do a few loops in the plaza.

A national model

Today, Suwon is looking to expand sidewalks and traffic calming to more parts of the city. The National Assembly is now looking to Suwon for lessons on how to replicate its model to other parts of South Korea as part of a plan to decarbonize the economy. Leaders from other countries also regularly visit Suwon to see the project site and and learn about the lessons they can apply in their local context back home.

Yeom tells them Suwon’s experience is a continuing process of trying new ideas and assessing the community’s readiness to adapt to change. Despite a successful month without cars, Yeom says Suwon isn’t ready to impose a permanent car-free status anywhere in the city. That would be tantamount to banning car ownership for some people. Instead of using force, Suwon is keen on tempting drivers out of their cars by providing residents better and greener transportation alternatives.

While a car is traditionally a symbol of wealth, Yeom says that today’s era of climate change and dwindling fossil-fuel resources requires new thinking that seeks to balance growth and sustainability, especially in cities.

“Mobility is a basic human right,” Yeom says. “As urban populations continue to grow, we cannot rely on the business-as-usual scenario of car-based cities.”

Read full article here.

Images: 7 Proven Principles for Designing a Safer City

Original article was published here.

Traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people every year, nearly the same amount that die from HIV/AIDS. But there’s an undervalued approach to making the world’s roads safer—good urban design.

While most traffic safety initiatives tend to focus on behavioral approaches—such as helmet- and seatbelt-wearing campaigns—a new publication from the EMBARQ sustainable mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities finds that seven design principles can help cities dramatically reduce road deaths. Here’s a visual look at how local officials and planners can design safer and more sustainable urban environments:

1. Avoid urban sprawl.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-01
Cities that are connected and compact are generally safer than cities that are spread out over a large area. Compact Stockholm and Tokyo have the lowest traffic fatality rates in the world—fewer than 1.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. Sprawling Atlanta, on the other hand, has a death rate six times that, at 9 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Cities should aim for smaller block sizes, pedestrian-oriented streets, and dense housing that allows for convenient, walkable access to transport, entertainment and public spaces. Doing so reduces the need for car travel and ensures a safe space for walking and cycling.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-022.  Slow down road traffic.

Lower automobile speeds, particularly below 25-31 miles per hour (40-50 kilometers per hour) drastically reduce the risk of fatalities.

Cities can implement low-speed zones and “area-wide traffic calming,” including speed humps, curves in the road called chicanes, curb extensions and raised pedestrian crossings. Research shows that speed humps can reduce vehicle speeds from more than 22 mph (36 kph) to less than 15 mph (25 kph). Paris, for example, has been using this kind of tool to design roads citywide to meet 30 kph (19 mph) speed limits.

3.  Ensure main streets are safe for everyone, not just cars.

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Avenida Eduardo Molina in Mexico City—an arterial with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, rebuilt sidewalks, and a green central median at some segments—accommodates mass transport, mixed vehicular traffic,bicycling, and walking.

Ensuring safety is particularly important for main roads, where pedestrians and motorists often mix. A growing movement for “complete streets” means that all types of users have safe crossings and dedicated road space.

For example, refuge islands and medians give pedestrians a safe place when crossing the road. Mexico City found that for every one meter increase in unprotected road width, pedestrian crashes increased by 3 percent.  The city recently rebuilt its Avenida Eduardo Molina as a complete street, featuring dedicated transit, bike lanes and a green central median for pedestrians. Similar but less dramatic changes in street design in the city have resulted in a nearly 40 percent drop in fatalities.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-04-box-5.24.  Create dedicated space for pedestrians.

More than 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year on the world’s roads. If pedestrians lack quality space, they are exposed to greater risk. Basic sidewalk space is necessary, but pedestrian-only streets and street plazas can also be effective tools for protecting walkers.

In the past few years, New York City has led a global shift toward eliminating street spaces for cars and turning them into “street plazas,” improved sidewalks and car-free areas. For example, a large section of Times Square is now only accessible to walkers and cyclists.  The city saw a 16 percent decrease in speeding and a 26 percent reduction in crashes with injuries along streets with pedestrian plazas.

5.  Provide a safe, connected network for cyclists.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-05-6.1

Studies from several cities find that injury rates go down and more people bike when there is dedicated infrastructure like off-street trails and dedicated bike lanes.  These cycling networks should also connect residential areas to business and retail, schools, parks and mass transport.

Bogota, Colombia found that adding more than 100 km (62 miles) of bikeways helped reduce bicyclist deaths by 47.2 percent between 2003 and 2013 , and increased bicycle use from just over 3 percent of all daily trips to over 6 percent.

6.  Ensure safe access to high-quality public transport.

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Pedestrian access to a median BRT station.

High quality public transport carries more people, and experiences fewer crashes than private vehicle travel. Research shows that a bus rapid transit (BRT) system can reduce traffic deaths and severe injuries by 50 percent.

It’s not enough to just provide this public transit, though—city planners must also ensure safe access for commuters. Belo Horizonte, Brazil recently launched MOVE BRT, carrying an estimated 700,000 passengers per day. The city rebuilt streets in its center and created dedicated bus lanes with clearly marked crossings and easy pedestrian access. This system makes it safe for commuters to ride the bus, as well as to wait for and get onto the bus.

7.  Use data to detect problem areas.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-07-fig-1.3

For example, London used data analysis and mapping to analyze its crash data and learned that a rise in cyclist deaths came from crashes with large trucks delivering goods into the city center. The city has since developed a pilot program to reschedule deliveries for low-cyclist hours.

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world, with cities expected to hold 70% of the global population by 2030. Designing safe cities now can protect current residents as well as those to come.

Cities can use data analysis to identify key streets where all the above solutions can be integrated. This means having good traffic crash data that can be mapped and analyzed, seen here using the PTV Visum Safety software to create heat maps of crash locations.

Major MARTA Expansion Could Transform the Atlanta Region

MARTA officials have proposed new, high-capacity service into North Fulton County and east into DeKalb County that could link important job centers by rail for the first time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it could “change the face of Atlanta.”MARTARailMapPropExpansionProjects_071715-01

The new rail service would finally connect residential areas to the rapidly growing area encompassing Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control, just east of the city limits. It would also extend all the way north to Alpharetta, a booming business center 25 miles north of Atlanta in Fulton County.

Officials from Cobb County, just west of Fulton, have long resisted and even ridiculed the idea of bringing transit access there, and Gwinnett County to the east is too low-slung and suburban to consider rail service at this point. But Fulton’s charge ahead into a more urban future could cause its neighbors to reconsider their ways.

MARTA Board Chair Robbie Ashe says the transit expansion could propel a new model of growth in the region. “Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations,” Ashe told the AJC. “State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station.”

Best of all, according to Darin Givens who blogs at ATL Urbanist, these new stations, even the ones far out in the suburbs, are likely to be surrounded by transit-oriented development rather than park-n-rides.

“MARTA has now accepted that it’s time to undo its park-n-rides,” Givens said. “They’re trying to turn all these park-n-ride lots around MARTA stations — around a lot of them — into transit-oriented development.”
The agency hasn’t released any proposals for developing the areas near the new stations, but Givens is hopeful that they’ll be surrounded by walkable, mixed-use development. “MARTA leadership understands that the way of the future for MARTA, and for Atlanta, is to build in a new way around these MARTA stations that allows people to walk to them,” he said.

The agency would need Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties to agree to a half-penny sales tax to fund the expansion. The counties already have state permission to ask residents to tax themselves, but only for five years. MARTA is petitioning the state to allow a much longer sunset of 42 years. They’ll also need special permission for the revenues to be directed to the transit agency.

It’s unclear why Clayton would be taxed. The county doesn’t get any new service in the most recent proposal and it just approved a full-penny sales tax last fall to be included in the MARTA network for the first time.

America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

intersectiondesigns

The latest in bikeway design? Nope, these intersection treatments are from early American bikeway planning documents. Sources: Fisher, 1972; City of Davis, 1972; Smith, Jr. 1974

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, the protected intersection concept appeared in every foundational document for bike planning in the early 1970s. But no American city ever installed one until now — here’s why.

First, some background. The first modern on-street bike lanes in the United States were installed in Davis, California, in the fall of 1967. Of these three bike lanes, one was a parking-protected bikeway on Sycamore Drive. That’s right: The first on-street bike lane in the United States was a parking-protected bikeway.

As word of the Davis bike lanes spread across the country, cities all over the United States began improvising their own designs. In response, the Federal Highway Administration funded the publication of four key planning documents between 1972 and 1976 that provided diagrams and guidelines to help cities (and ultimately the FHWA) create a uniform design for bikeways. There are many similarities in all of these documents, but it is clear that with each subsequent report, the design of on-street bike lanes slowly drifted toward designs that treated the cyclist more like a motor vehicle than a human.

Just as the bikeways movement was gaining steam and formalization was taking shape, physically separated bikeways were challenged by a new movement of vehicular cycling advocates — many of whom still challenge bikeways today. Throughout the 1970s, these fit men who self-identified as “cyclists” attended meeting after meeting to decry the designs that engineers were supposedly building for them. Quibbles in the wording of laws or details of a design became arguments and headaches for city staff. Anyone who was not already riding a bicycle on busy car-dominated streets was drowned out by the vehicular cyclists who claimed to speak for all bicycle riders.

Read full article here.

Study Show’s that Nearby Bike share Stations Boost a Home’s Value

Like proximity to good schools or metro stations, proximity to bike share stations increase a home’s resale price, a new study says.

140710_ao74g_bixi-mtl1_sn1250A team of researchers at McGill University looked at thousands of homes sold in Montreal before and after bike sharing was introduced.

Even accounting for inflation and other factors that could affect the sale price, the team found that proximity to a Bixi Montreal location increased sale prices on average 2.7 per cent.

“It is that much,” says Ahmed El-Geneidy, an associate professor at McGill’s School of Urban Planning and the study’s lead author.

Transportation has long been a known factor affecting home prices, El-Geneidy says. Nearby bus stops, subway stations or easy access to freeways is a key factor in home purchases.

“Areas around public transportation, the land values are much higher,” he tells Yahoo Canada News. “We’re finding this impact with the bicycle sharing system.”
El-Geneidy, along with urban planning student Dea van Lierop and Rania Wasfi, a doctoral student in the school of geography, looked at tens of thousands of MLS sales in Montreal between 1996 and 2012.

Read full article here.

MARTA Present Route To Avondale Station

MARTA has scheduled two meetings in early December to enable the public tolearn about, and comment on, plans to advance the proposed light rail line that’s to stretch from the Lindbergh Station, through the Clifton Road corridor, to the Avondale Station.

Lihgt rail

The proposed light rail line that would serve the Emory University area has been discussed for nearly 20 years.

The general concept is to create a transit option for commuters from the Lindbergh Station to the Avondale Station. One of two options includes a tunnel and above-ground structure. The other does not include the tunnel.

The route was to have been funded with proceeds of the transportation sales tax that was on the ballot in 2012. Although voters rejected the proposed 1 percent sales tax, advocates of the “Clifton Road corridor” transit route have continued to foster the project.

The state Legislature is expected to revisit in the transportation funding issue during the 2015 session. Any measure is likely to take two years to win approval, which means a funding mechanism could be in place with the environmental impact study of the Clifton Road route is complete, in 2015 or 2016.light rail

Some lawmakers are discussing an increase in the statewide motor fuel tax. Another proposal would enable a few counties to unite to propose a transportation referendum, rather than the 10 counties that were involved in the 2012 referendum.

Meeting details:
Dec. 4: Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1438 Sheridan Rd. NE., Atlanta, GA 30324
Dec. 9: Emory University Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), Room 316,1946 Starvine Way, Decatur, GA 30033.

– See full aritcle By David Pendered here.

MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

read original article here.

Beginning of April, Lara Hodgson, CEO and Founder of NOWaccount came by and brought experts from Atlanta’s mass transit authority and a WBE who’s worked with them to talk about MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Ferdinand Risco is the Executive Director for Marta’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity platform. This arm of MARTA focuses on engaging Atlanta’s disadvantaged business enterprises to provide them with opportunities to vie for contracts and sub-contracts to work with federally-funded projects around the community.

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Ferdinand shared that their goal for DBE participation is 30% of contracts awarded to this demographic of Atlanta’s business community. He talked about the fact that there are business opportunities on a broad spectrum of needs from basic office supplies to construction, planning, and other services. We talked about the online resources MARTA makes available to allow local business owners to easily review current and upcoming projects they could potentially participate in.

We also talked about the fact that business owners need to go through the effort to establish credit and corporate structuring to position themselves to be able to meet certification requirements for DBE status. Through partnerships with GMSDC and SBA, MARTA helps business owners have access to these often-free education and mentoring resources, as well as access to necessary resources such as working capital.

Lara shared information about NOWaccount’s recent partnering with MARTA to make their innovative capital solution available to the B2B community. This solution gives business owners access to their AR capital within 5 days or less for 2.5% of the total AR sold. In this way, NOWaccount gives B2B’s quick access to the capital they’ve already earned so they can add new staff, take larger orders, or purchase in bulk on discounts they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

Lara also introduced us to Heather Alhadeff, President of Center Forward, a transportation and land use planning firm based in Atlanta. Heather is so committed to the value of mass transit, she hasn’t owned a car in years. In addition to avoiding headaches associated with driving with Atlanta traffic, she also has gained first-hand experience of what users of our mass transit system experience. This affords her with insight to be able to recommend options that would improve on the experience and/or allows her to effectively engage community residents when discussing developments (growth or retraction) of mass transit, road systems, or urban land development.

We talked about why transportation is such a key element of urban or city planning, discussing examples of how mass transit availability can have unexpected impacts on such facets of our lives as healthcare delivery and other important functions.

Special Guests:

Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity,

Shifting the Transportation Paradigm with Placemaking

How “alternative” modes can be leveraged to create places may be their most significant contribution to community development and to the ultimate success “alternative” modes.

Advocates are finally getting attention for issues like the impact and efficiency of the various modes of transport, the fair allocation of road space and spending, and the opportunities to create more seamless transportation systems and choices. These advances all need to happen, but advocated for and implemented alone may actually end up perpetuating the existing paradigm. Moving the discussion beyond the technical mobility solutions, and modal shifts, may actually be the best way to make these solutions feasible.Melbourne_Australia_Station_as_Place_ek_SMALL-530x326

The goal of transportation planning would seem to be (and used to be) to facilitate getting people to places – connecting people with destinations. Unfortunately most transportation planning has not only forgotten to create and support the places they are meant to bring people to, but have degraded these very destinations they are meant to connect. The people in charge of creating destinations have likewise planned in isolation, for isolation. Everyone is blaming the need for greater mobility.

If the point of transportation planning is to get people places they want to be, then all transportation planning should really start with placemaking. And if our planning efforts actually focused on creating places, we could actually meet the goals of getting people places, and getting things done, much faster. Great places are in fact defined by the ability to accomplish many things at once, often accomplishing many spontaneous, “unplanned” goals in the process. Even residential land-use and density can best be shifted from a suburban model through a broader focus on place rather than forced density, and mode shifts.Current growth strategies have been based on increasing movement of people and goods. The future of transportation planning needs to start with creating comfortable settings for all kinds of exchange between people. It is through re-envisioning our cities, transportation systems and economies around these transportation destinations that we will be able to truly make our world compatible with strong communities, economies and natural ecosystems as well as make feasible the more sustainable transportation modes of mass transit, walking and bicycling.

Read full article here.