Tag Archives: transportation

Completing Streets, Giving Choices

Transportation choices: it’s the slogan of the Green Transportation campaign but it’s also at the heart of what we do. Complete Streets give choices: the roads and streets safely serve the needs of all users–cars (of course), but also cyclists, pedestrians of all ages, and transit users.

Common ways of completing streets are adding crosswalks, improving sidewalks, providing bus shelters, and narrowing traffic lanes to make room for bike lanes on the road. Simple, often inexpensive interventions can make an incredible difference.

Our Transportation Associate, Kari Banta, moderated a panel on Complete Streets at the SXSW Eco conference on October 3. Joshua Houdek of the North Star Chapter and David Jurca from the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to talk about Complete Streets– how they work, making them happen, and testing them out with  a “pop up” temporary demonstration project.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter helped get complete streets legislation adopted in Minnesota–a tremendous accomplishment–so now activists can direct attention toward getting them implemented. Minneapolis is truly transforming the way people think about getting around, as you can see in this presentation.

Making a complete street depends on who is using it. A rural highway might not need sidewalks or bus shelters, for example. The community needs to be involved in the planning process to decide what they need from their streets, working with the city planners and engineers to phase the improvements into the regular maintenance schedule. If the changes are low cost, there’s a possibility they could be done much sooner. As with many things the Sierra Club does, it takes volunteers working together to get people together and keep pushing the project forward.

Part of getting people comfortable with Complete Streets is giving them a chance to try it out for themselves. David Jurca explained Pop Up Rockwell, the project he did with graduate students to convert four blocks of Rockwall Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio to a pedestrian and biking oasis. Using paint, temporary planters, outdoor furniture, and some very clever inflatable art pieces he turned a disused and barren street into a real place.

Here’s the film they produced to explain the project–please set aside nine minutes to see how an amazing transformation is possible!

Pop Up Rockwell from KSU CUDC on Vimeo.

You can listen to the full SXSW Eco presentation, titled Life in the Streets: Reclaiming Public Space, here.


Kari Banta
Transportation Associate

SAVE THE DATE: September 29th-30th The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is Back!

Renewable Roundup 2012!

At a Glance…

WHAT?!?!: The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is a sustainability symposium centered around green living, alternative energy education, family festivities, and sustainable lifestyle practices for our future. This event wouldn’t be complete without it’s A-list of Guest Speakers, Hands-on Workshops, Eco-friendly Vendors, Progressive Exhibitors, Tasty Food Demonstrators, and Supportive Sponsors.

WHERE?!?!: Fredricksburg, Texas

WHEN?!?!: The last weekend in September. Saturday September 29th 9:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday September 30th 9:00am- 5:00pm

HOW?!?!: For more information on how to get involved with the Roundup as a either a participant or patron, visit http://theroundup.org/.

WHO?!?!: Everyone and anyone is invited! We encourage all individuals and families to come out to this great event looking to learn about sustainable living practices. This event is proudly brought to you by a joint effort from TREIA, Texas Center for Policy Studies, and The Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Learn How, Here!

In Depth…

DETAILS/ARTICLE: 

Great News!  The annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will be taking place again this year in the beautiful and historical town Fredericksburg, Texas! Organized by the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association, in collaboration with the Texas Center for Policy Studies and the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, Renewable Roundup is a collaborative event centered around individuals, organizations, and companies passionate about sustainable living.  The event planning committee is working hard on making this year’s show the best ever. The underlining theme of this weekend event strives to promote cleaner and smarter ways of using our resources while educating the public about “Greener” lifestyles and options. This event serves as both a conference and festival, as it enlightens, entertains, and publicizes those interested in a brighter greener future. We would love to have you at this extraordinary event the 4th weekend in September (Sept. 29 &30). Please check out our website http://www.theroundup.org/ to find out more or contact Event Coordinator Laura Rice at info@theroundup.org.

INVOLVEMENT:

  • Attend!
  • Apply to be a Guest Speaker
  • Host a workshop the Friday before the gates open on Saturday morning
  • Reserve a booth or exhibit space to advertise and or promote a sustainable idea or product
  • Advertise
  • Sponsor the event
  • Volunteer at the event
  • Come to the VIP kick-off party Friday evening

Can’t Wait to See Everyone There! 🙂

-Danya Gorel Sierra Club Intern

~Special Thanks to Mentor and Conservation Director Cyrus Reed~

Completing Texan Streets

Texas was rated #1 for best American roads in 2005 and 2006 but it seems that roads are rated on purely on automobile-centric views (i.e., Poor mileage, deficient bridges, fatalities, and congestion).  Complete Streets however takes a more holistic approach to road creation.

What are Complete Streets?

Complete Streets wants to make roads safer for all forms of transportation, revitalize economies by being more accessible, raise real-estate by providing nicer roads, and to change the psychology of the roads away automobile-centrism.  Between 2000 and 2009 47,000 pedestrians were killed in the United States or essentially 5,200 per year.  13% of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians with minorities and elderly at disproportionally high rates, but if more roads were Complete Streets that number could be greatly reduced.

So what is Texas doing?

Some Complete Streets can already be seen in the Lone Star State as San Antonio rolls out its new transportation plan that allows for a more flexible construction of roads to fit the needs of the area, is turning to more green ways to dispose of storm water, and will hopefully revitalize the area.  The actual Resolution can be found Here.

Austin has made its own strides in increasing pedestrian and cyclist accessibility with Resolution No. 020418-40.
Texas as a whole is almost keeping stride with San Antonio and Austin as TxDOT recently adopted more pedestrian friendly standards and Senate Bill 513 and House Bill 1105 are in the state legislature calling for the state to adopt even stronger “Complete Streets’” standards.  This would include amending TxDOT’s  policies to allow local authorities to have more sway in road design and construction.  Bike Texas is currently trying to get the bills passed in 2013 session, if you’re interested in helping pass the bills with Bike Texas shoot an email at advocacy@biketexas.org.  They also provide a list of representatives who voted for or against the bill on their site.

How are Complete Streets made?

Complete Streets doesn’t just advocate making new roads; fiscally it makes more sense to add in bike lanes whenever the roads are being redone or fixed.  Everything from sidewalks, to bike lanes, to turning lanes can be added to make a street more complete.  If you want to get involved you can plug in to complete streets directly, lobby your city council to pass a complete streets resolution as San Antonio and Austin have done, or even partake in “guerilla-complete streets as “Better-Block Project” did in Dallas in the videos below.

Want to know more information?  Below are some cool links!

Complete Streets Slideshow Presentation

San Antonio Ordnance for CS

San Antonio – Complete Streets Article

Unfunded Mandate or Sound Economic Principal

Previous TGR Blog Post

-Keegan Taylor,  Beyond Coal Intern

DART’s Green Line gets kudos from USDOT

You know you’ve got a good thing when US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood comes to check it out in person–and then blog about it. Along with Federal Transit Administration Director Peter Rogoff, LaHood toured the economic development in Dallas that is coming as a result of the light rail line.

Dallas is expecting an estimated 48,000 long term jobs created by development along the light rail line. That’s beyond the jobs directly created by the rail from engineering, construction, maintenance, operations, etc. Since these jobs are right by the rail line, chances are the workers will choose to ride. Just the thought of that makes me breathe easier!

While we’re talking about jobs, investment in rail and federal requirements to use American made products means the potential for jobs in the manufacturing sector. Though DART doesn’t currently use American made trains, other cities do. New street car lines also contribute to demand. Secretary LaHood blogged about this, too.

Why is a Sierra Club blog talking about jobs? We’re part of the Blue Green Alliance.

Kari Banta, Transportation Associate

New Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards!

The EPA and USDOT have announced a proposal to establish stronger fuel economy and emissions reductions for cars and light duty trucks for model year 2017-2025.  This proposal also includes a number of incentive programs to promote early adoption and advanced technologies, such as hybridization for pickup trucks.

For those keeping score at home, here’s the timeline for fuel efficiency standards. The fleet average must achieve:

  • 35.5 miles per hour by 2016
  • 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

This proposal saves Americans $1.7 trillion, reduces oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025, and slashes greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons from 2011-2025.

But what about fuel economy if you can’t afford to buy a new, more fuel efficient vehicle?

Here are some gas saving tips from the Sierra Club.

The Department of Energy has a website dedicated to gas mileage tips.

There’s even an app to help!

For those who don’t feel like following the links, the best advice is to drive responsibly.

Maintain your car with regular tune ups and filter changes. Check your tire pressure. Don’t accelerate rapidly or drive (too much) over the speed limit. If you’ve ever taken a defensive driving class, this should sound familiar.

To avoid traffic jams, plan alternate routes, try to vary your commute times, and keep your cool in the car. How much idle time can you save by not switching lanes and sneaking along the shoulder? Try 30%. A detailed explanation (with a cool video showing how too many cars cause a traffic jam) is on the Scientific American blog.

Or, frankly, take transit! You knew I’d have to say that eventually.

Kari Banta, Transportation Associate

Sometimes Good Transportation Means Not Moving

Here’s a little Friday fun: Imagine a bridge over a river. What comes to mind? Guard rails, lanes for cars. Maybe a walkway for pedestrians and a bike lane if you’re lucky. Anything else?

Did you imagine a bridge as a place to play chess or enjoy a cup of coffee or just watch traffic go by. No?

The bridge on Cedar Crest Boulevard over the Trinity River in Dallas has the potential to be this place. In fact, for one day, it actually was. On October 22, 2011, the bridge was converted to two lanes from four. Planters divided the car lanes from two bike lanes and a pedestrian esplanade complete with tables, chairs, and chess boards.

What difference does a day make? Plenty, as it turns out. This coordinated effort by Team Better Block and the City of Dallas was a proof of concept for Option D of the renovation plan under consideration by the city as part of the Trinity River Project. In plain English, they did it to see if it would work–and it did! Fingers crossed that they get the support to implement the plan.

What’s Up with Transportation Funding?

Several different funding bills have been in the news recently, and trying to keep track of them may make your head swirl (it did for me). Here’s a quick guide to each of them–with notes on progress from the House and Senate sides:

For 2012: Today, the Senate approved a $108 billion for Fiscal 2012 federal transportation. Spending caps passed over the summer have limited this funding to be only at or near existing levels. This amount does not account for inflation, so actual funding levels would drop. High speed rail funding would be explicitly cut to $100 million. The House bill is expected to have even more funding cuts.

Long Term: The last federal transportation bill expired September 30, 2009 and has been extended eight times since then. The new bill is expected to be passed by March 31, 2012, the date when the current extension expires. The duration of the bill and its funding level are hotly debated.

House Transportation Chairman Rep. John Mica’s bill would spend about $285 billion over the six years. However, Senate transportation leaders have announced they will vote on a two-year bill for federal surface transportation programs on November 9. The Senate will complete the draft of the highways section of the authorization bill by the end of this week, prior to the vote on the 9th. Amendments to eliminate funding for bike and pedestrian programs were defeated. Funding for Amtrak is also been preserved.

The Transportation Jobs Bill: Senate Democrats plan to introduce the Rebuild America Jobs Act this week. It would provide $50 billion in infrastructure spending and create a $10 billion national infrastructure bank.  Unlike the previous ARRA stimulus bill from 2009, this act focuses on infrastructure repairs that create jobs more quickly than new construction. $36 billion is specifically set for rebuilding roads and bridges, with an additional $9 billion for transit system repair. High speed rail construction would receive $4 billion and Amtrak would get $2 billion for upgrades. A competitive grant program would provide $5 billion for local projects of national significance.

Texas transit application for funding: Texas has applied for more than $93.8 million in funding under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER III) grants. This request is for four projects. The largest project is $53 million to go toward the second phase of the North Tarrant Express project in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The other three requests are for rail rehabilitation and improvement projects: $9.6 million to rehabilitate the South Orient Railroad line (from Sulphur Junction to Fort Stockton), $10 million to build additional track and make other rail improvements at the Port of Corpus Christi, and $21.3 million for the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas Sunbelt Rail Rehabilitation project to upgrade the Dallas, Garland and Northeastern Railroad, Kiamichi Railroad and Texas Northeastern Railroad lines. Texas is competing for $527 million available to the nation through TIGER III.

Kari Banta, Transportation Associate