Category Archives: urban planning

Curbing Cars Test Drives Detroit’s New Light Rail System

In its first week of operation, the QLine carried nearly 50,000 riders, averaging 7,140 riders daily, well surpassing the operators’ goal of 5,000 riders a day according to M-1 Rail, which operates the system.

The streetcar system was funded by public and private monies with hopes of expansion in the future (there are no concrete plans that detail where the streetcar system may go in the future). There are six streetcars ready for operation–each can seat 34 people and hold 125 people–all of which can be used at times of high-ridership.

The QLine planned to offer free rides for its first week of operation. But late last week, it announced that rides will be free until July 1. The operators will use that time to work out the bugs, and capitalize on the public’s interest in the new light rail system.

Join our Colin Beresford for a test drive of the QLine.

Have you ridden the QLine? Please let us know about your experience at curbingcars@gmail.com

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Filed under cities, Curbing Cars, public transportation, urban planning

Your Guide To Sounding Like A Native, Anywhere

It always seems like everyone else has an accent, but no matter where you’re from, culture has a way of influencing its development. One of the clearest ways to tell that someone is a transplant from somewhere else is by the way they speak.

These recent graphs below not only show where particular dialects are geographically located, but also help teach us a little about ourselves and why we say the things we say. They could also provide a nice reference for native terminology and accents in various parts of the U.S.

I  personally found out exactly why I had never heard of the term “bubbler,” which is the inspiration behind Milwaukee’s new bike share program called the Bublr, as Micki and I discussed on the first edition of the Curbing Cars Podcast.

If you’d like to explore your own accent further, take this NY Times quiz. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, public transportation, urban planning

Presenting: The Curbing Cars Podcast

From Tucson to Kansas City, Denver to Detroit, it’s been a busy summer for transportation news.

Here, in our inaugural Curbing Cars podcast, Mark Remillard and I look at some of the stories he’s covered. They include:

Tucson’s new light-rail system, the Sun Link.

The Denver-based study showing that more bikes can actually be good for city safety.

The challenge posed to cities by parking craters.

Take a listen, and share it with  your friends.

Would you like to hear more episodes of the Curbing Cars Podcast? Take our survey.

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Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, cars, cities, Curbing Cars, public transportation, Rail, urban planning

Think Bikes Create Traffic Hazards? Think Again

Boulder Bike Story from Bikes Belong on Vimeo.

As biking continues to grow in popularity, a new report is adding to the list of reasons why cities should step up their efforts to accommodate cyclists. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver found that as more bikes hit the streets the number of collisions goes down.

The study focused on Boulder, Colo., because of its high biking population and because the city has been performing bike counts for more than a decade. Wesley Marshall, an assistant professor of civil engineer at CU Denver, told Curbing Cars that once intersections began seeing upwards of 200 bicyclists a day, the number of collisions began to drop.

“It’s interesting because you see the same affect with other modes of transportation too,” said Marshall, a co-author of the study. “If you have more cars going through, it is sort of safer per car.”

It may seem counter intuitive that as an intersection has more moving parts, the number of incidents would go down. While the CU Denver study did not look into the reasons why incidents were reduced, Marshall provided some possible explanations.

“If you’re in a city that has bikers everywhere, as a driver you expect to see them,” he said. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, cities, urban planning

The Cost Of ‘Parking Craters’

Parking Craters: Scourge of American Downtowns from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

It might be one of the most common answers people give when asked what their city’s downtown needs: more parking.

But there is a price cities pay in trying to accommodate the thousands of cars that come in and out of downtown cores around the country everyday. Parking lots have high costs to a city’s landscape, architecture, management and environment. It’s a concept called a parking crater. This is when an urban parking lot is placed in the middle of a downtown core, leaving a crater-like hole in a city’s landscape.

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Filed under cities, Uncategorized, urban planning

NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Focuses On Rethinking How We Get Around

Each week, NPR’s Ted Radio Hour, hosted by Guy Raz, explores unique topics based off Ted Talks, the short discussions on just about anything.

Ted Talks is a non-profit organization that holds conferences around the world with the slogan, “ideas worth spreading” in mind. Celebrities, scientists, philanthropists and more discuss topics of all types ranging from science and robotics to healthcare and disabilities.

This week, the Ted Radio Hour collected past Ted Talks focusing on how people move around. Speakers in this collection included New York City’s Transportation Director Janette Sadik-Khan as well as billionaire media mogul turned airline owner, Richard Branson, and more.

To listen to the Ted Radio Hour interview with the hosts and in depth segments, visit NPR.

Below is a video of Janette Sadik-Khan’s Ted Talk. It has a fascinating insight into the ways large cities can redesign their streets to make them more pedestrian and transit friendly, without spending billions of dollars for expensive renovation projects.

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation, Technology, Uncategorized, urban planning

World Urban Forum Focuses On Improving City Design

Image via unhadb.org

Image via unhadb.org

The upcoming World Urban Forum, the largest, most diverse conference dedicated to cities, will address how urban design can create equitable, sustainable and livable cities for all residents.

In preparation for the event, which opened Saturday in Medellin, Colombia, and runs through Friday, some of the leaders of the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ, its sustainable transport and urban development initiative, discussed the challenges cities are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Cities bring a wealth of challenges, according to Manish Bapna, executive vice president of WRI, which has offices based in China, India, Brazil and the United States. Poverty is rampant and the urban poor often lack access to basic services, such as public transportation. Although cities currently account for 80 percent of the global GDP, they are also responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 1.3 million people die prematurely due to urban air pollution every year.

“The spatial layout of a city has such a strong bearing on whether or not people remain segregated from public services,” Bapna said. “It is crucial to get the design right at the outset.”

EMBARQ, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China and India, works with governments around the world to develop better access (mobility) and urban design by creating examples and working with legislators to improve finance and policy to make the projects possible.

Continue reading

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Filed under cities, infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning

Which U.S. City Is Really The Best For Getting Around? Hint: Not LA

Detroit doesn't always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

Detroit doesn’t always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

It seems like every other day there’s a new “top cities” list. There are the top cities for foodies, the happiest cities, the best cities for families, and even the weirdest cities. And of course, we care most about the best cities for transit — walking, biking, public transportation, and traffic flow.

While it’s hard to compare lists, we thought it might be useful to see if there are any notable similarities or differences on these “best cities” lists.

Here are five lists from the past few years. Let’s see how they compare.

Livability’s Top 10 Best Downtowns
Livability ranks America’s best places to live, work and visit, based on a wide array of criteria. This particular list, created in 2014, looks at cities; downtowns, based on population growth, the ratio of residents to jobs, income growth, home vacancy rates, affordability of housing, and the vacancy rates of retail and office spaces. We like this list because it is includes some lesser-known cities in lieu of the major U.S. cities seen on most lists.

  1. Fort Worth, Texas
  2. Providence, R.I.
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Provo, Utah
  5. Alexandria, Va.
  6. Frederick, Md.
  7. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  8. Bellingham, Wash.
  9. Eugene, Ore.
  10. Birmingham, Ala.

Top 10 Best American Downtowns, ranked by Top Tenz
Top Tenz, a site solely dedicated to top 10 lists, included the usual favorites in this list from 2012. But this list deviates from the norm with its inclusion of Detroit and Milwaukee, both of which appear do not appear on any of the other lists we looked at for this post.

Detroit in particular is a noteworthy choice — it seems to wind up on more “worst cities” lists than those that rank the best. But Top Tenz calls Detroit’s downtown “one of the most architecturally impressive in the country” and notes that the city has been revitalized in the recent years following intensive development.

  1. New York City
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Chicago
  4. San Francisco
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Miami
  7. Boston
  8. Seattle
  9. Detroit
  10. Milwaukee

Continue reading

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Filed under advice, bicycling, cars, cities, urban planning, walking

5 Things On A City’s Shopping List For a New Transit System

A preliminary design for public transit in Ottawa. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A preliminary design for public transit in Ottawa. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Marine Gateway development in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Marine Gateway development in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

Broadway and Commercial station in East Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

Broadway and Commercial station in East Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A study for Vancouver's Cambie Corridor. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A study for Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Brentwood Skytrain station in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Brentwood Skytrain station in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

By Matthew Varcak

Jeff Doble is playing a key role in the future of one of the world’s most dynamic cities, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is designing the new Riyadh Metro System and Bus Rapid Transit System — the largest transit system in the world to be designed and built at one time.

He talked about the priorities that cities set down in creating their new systems.

1) Iconic design. Doble says that the goal is to design structures which residents will recognize. Branding becomes important for cities establishing a transit system where there previously was none, according to Doble.

2) An easy ride. Clients also strive to create the best passenger experience. This means riders must feel safe and have clear signage and way finding.

3) A good fit. Another important factor is how the transit system is integrated into the community. “It must respond to and respect the community,” Doble said. Continue reading

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Inside The Future Of Public Transit Design

A study for the Olayya Batha Corridor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image: courtesy of Perkins+Will.

A study for the Olayya Batha Corridor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image: courtesy of Perkins+Will.

By Matthew Varcak

A public transit system does more than just get people from point A to point B.

“Cities can be defined by transit systems,” said Jeff Doble, director of transportation design for the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will. “A station’s design affects the whole community. It affects future development.”

Doble is playing a key role in the future of one of the world’s most dynamic cities, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He and his team recently completed the preliminary design of the new Riyadh Metro System and Bus Rapid Transit System — the largest transit system in the world to be designed and built at one time.

“The goal is to get an oil rich population out of cars and into public transit,” Doble said. In order to convince them to do this, mass transit must be more comfortable, convenient, and a high quality experience for passengers.

But designing such systems is an everyday event for his company. A global architecture and design firm for everything from the aviation to the transit industry, Perkins+Will currently has projects under way all over the world.

Among other projects, Doble’s work has him developing stations for the Evergreen Line in Vancouver, British Columbia, and for the elevated rail line on Oahu, Hawaii, which we spotlighted in an earlier article. Continue reading

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