Tuesday, May 22, 2018
I visited St. Louis recently and rode the Metrolink light rail and found it to be a nice ride. Pros: connects some major activity centers (ballpark, airport, Union Station, Forest Park, Central West End, etc.), connects Missouri and Illinois, comfortable ride. Cons: not a network (they call it two lines but it’s really one line with branches in the Missouri suburbs), some stations (notably Airport Terminal 2) are a longish walk to the actual activity center.
I was also pleased to see the Ballpark Village development (which I wrote about a few years ago) finally beginning Phase Two. Right now, it’s mainly bars and restaurants across the street from Busch Stadium (photo below), but will soon have extensive residential, office, hotel, and additional retail space (website here). St. Louis is definitely another success story in the downtown ballpark revitalization book!
One of the drawbacks of a transit line running mainly on old railroad right-of-way is that it traverses long stretches of semi-desolate industrial zones and rail yards. But this also provides an opportunity for new infill development. In St. Louis, Metrolink is building an infill station called “Cortex” after the expanding high-tech district it will serve (photo below, story here). Another TIGER grant success story!
For literally years now I have been helping the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and local residents fight to preserve the 200-year-old, one-lane Headquarters Road Bridge in rural upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which PennDOT insists on demolishing and replacing with a new, longer, wider structure. Why have we not been able to resolve this issue, which looks like a textbook case for applying context sensitive design and collaborative planning? It’s a long story (which has not yet ended).
You can watch my presentation at a recent briefing for press and local elected officials here. The news story from the event is here.Photo below (courtesy of Delaware Riverkeeper Network): yours truly on the left, May van Rossum, the Delware Riverkeeper, on the right.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Electrify America – the initiative born of Volkswagen’s restitution for cheating on car pollution tests – is doing just that: electrifying America.
They have now opened their first “ultra-fast” electric vehicle charger at a shopping center in Chicopee, Massachusetts, just off the Mass Pike. This new charger will be able to charge vehicles at an amazing rate of 20 miles of range per minute (story here). Of course, most EVs aren’t yet ready for that kind of fast charging, but they are on the way too. (For an intro to some of the technical issues involved, see my previous blog posting here.) The Chicopee charger is the first of what will be a network of chargers on key corridors throughout the country (see map below). This is a serious ramping up of EV infrastructure. VW may be atoning for past sins, but we should be very grateful to them for doing a lot of the heavy lifting in electrifying America! And quite a coup for Chicopee too (a town I know well)!
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Today 14 new electric Proterra E2 Catalyst buses start rolling in the Washington DC Circulator fleet (story here). Since the Circulators are so visible – to visitors and tourists as well as to residents – this could be a real milestone in the electrification of public transportation in this country. We need to make this work.
Yet another cool thing happening in DC! (See my stories on multimodal transportation at the new Wharf development here, dockless bikes and scooters here.)
Monday, April 30, 2018
Having recently written about multimodal transportation in Washington, DC (here) and dockless bikes and scooters (here), I have to provide an update about where the Venn diagram overlaps!
On a recent walk through Georgetown, I noticed a large number of dockless bikes, scooters, and electric bikes, both in motion and parked (see photos below) in this popular shopping and tourist destination. The District government has just extended its trial “Dockless Demonstration Program” which permits 7 companies to provide limited service. The trial program was extended after the District and the providers were unable to reach an agreement about how a permanent program might be regulated (Washington Post story here, Greater Greater Washington here).
As suggested in my previous story, stay tuned for more developments!
I was saddened to learn of the passing of David Billington, engineering professor emeritus at Princeton (story here). David was an outstanding scholar and teacher and a real gentleman. He was best known for his efforts to encourage the infusion of aesthetic sensibility into structural engineering design, which derived from his work on Swiss designers. He hated what he called “GI bridges” and believed that a piece of long-lived infrastructure such as a bridge should reflect and enrich its natural environment and cultural context. If the subject sounds dry, note that David was one of the most popular lecturers at Princeton and presented his views with humor and grace. If you never thought you would enjoy a lecture on bridge design, please take a look at this lecture at MIT (here).
How much influence did David have? Hard to say. There is still a lot of ugly design out there. Thanks to Jack Lettiere, then president of AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), he gave a lecture at that organization’s 2005 convention, which hopefully started some ripples. And certainly there are some iconic new bridges such as the Swiss-designed Zakim Bridge in Boston, which David references in the MIT lecture. I believe his thinking is still very valuable and I think it will still have an impact well into the future. I know it has influenced me (see poster on my office wall).
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
On a recent visit to San Diego I was pleased to see the Trolley doing well – appearing to be well maintained, running smoothly, and clearly popular. It’s still only a small piece of the transportation picture in a very auto-dominated metro area, but it provides a key mobility alternative, especially for access to a vibrant, revitalized downtown. A ride to the ballpark on the Green Line was smooth, well-utilized (but not crowded), and delivered us to the heart of the entertainment district, a block from the stadium. (Quite a contrast to the ride to Fenway Park on that other Green Line, rocking and rolling along the old tracks in a jam-packed antique car!)
Happily, construction is underway on an 11-mile extension of the Trolley north to the University City area (San Diego’s “second downtown”) near the University of California at San Diego (project information here). Hopefully a connection to the airport will follow soon.
Also encouraging is a recent report (here) that notes the largely unexploited potential for transit-oriented development at current station sites. I hope that bears fruit!