Category Archives: Public Transportation

Video: Mark Gorton — Designing Cities for People, Not Cars

This was a really phenomenal presentation, last Wednesday at Cleveland’s The City Club. Mark Gorton is the founder of Openplans, a New York City based nonprofit that has been instrumental in that city’s evolution toward being a leading in cycling and livable transportation.

If you didn’t have a chance to attend, but are curious, you can view the whole presentation here:

Video after the jump

(Fun fact: intro comes from Rust Wire founding editor Angie Schmitt, a Streetsblog employee.)

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Making Sustainable Attainable in Greater Lansing

Monday evening I had the honor to join approximately 100 fellow participants, planners, partners, and stakeholders from throughout Greater Lansing at a kick-off meeting for the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center. Partners in the program include the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing Area Economic Partnership, Michigan State University Land Policy Institute, Michigan Energy Options, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and CAM-TV.

The four-hour event showcased the nine sustainability projects that will be part of the three-year effort funded through a three million dollar grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and $5.2 million in local matching contributions. The nine projects as described in a handout prepared by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission are:

  • “A five-year comprehensive regional fair and affordable housing plan for the tri-county region.
  • A regional affordable housing study.
  • A community reinvestment fund to build capacity in the region for traditionally underserved and marginalized populations.
  • Develop an energy audit study of build structures.
  • Build capacity for a regional urban services management area.
  • Promote a multi-faceted and prioritized green infrastructure system.
  • Develop a sustainable corridor design portfolio using the 20 mile long Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor from the State Capitol to Webberville.
  • Build capacity for complete streets planning and implementation.
  • Create an online portal for sharing information, evaluating, and promoting sustainability.”









These nine projects will build the impetus for propelling Mid-Michigan into a thriving and sustainable metropolitan region that is inclusive and beneficial to all socio-economic and demographic populations within the Greater Lansing community. It is a very exciting prospect to consider and long-range planning project to participate in.

Other Rust Belt communities and organizations to receive sustainability grants from HUD in 2011 include the following:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Binghamton, New York
  • Erie County, Pennsylvania
  • Freeport, Illinois
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Pennsylvania
  • Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York
  • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (Traverse City), Michigan
  • Oak Park, Illinois
  • Warren, Ohio
  • Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Michigan

Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Politics, Public Transportation, regionalism, the environment, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty

Cleveland Gets Pop-Up Cycle Track

Good news, Clevelandphiles/cyclonerds.

Clevelandtown now has a green, two-way cycle track downtown. This lovely example of sustainable transportation infrastructure is to remain on display all week, educating the local populace about the latest in transportation innovation and helping build awareness of the city’s new complete streets policy.

Check out these beautiful pictures:

Anyone recognize that funny looking cyclist on the left?

This project cost $35,000 to put together (grants) and was designed by the brilliant students at Kent State University’s Urban Design Center, a group that is behind approximately 50 percent of the cool things happening in Cleveland.

Yay, us!!

Also, I asked an unnamed public official if there was any chance we could “just keep” the cycle track. He/she said no. 😦 But apparently, this was good training for our local transportation team!!


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Does Ohio's Transportation Policy Violate ADA?

Does Ohio’s transportation policy, which leaves just 1 percent of its transportation budget for non-highway modes like transit, rail, and complete streets, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

In Ohio, it's the highway or no way.

This question needs to be asked with greater frequency and urgency as 9 percent of Ohio households are without cars. The Census says that number is growing as Ohio’s population ages and as the cost of driving rises. Yet more transportation tax dollars are used for roads that cause Ohio’s metropolitan populations to sprawl over ever larger geographic areas, making options to driving difficult and virtually sentencing more Ohioans to house arrest.

Any type of transportation development must include accommodation for persons with disabilities, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). However, Ohio’s transportation policy itself fails to accommodate growing numbers of aging Ohioans as the Baby Boomers started turning 65 years old in 2011. The cumulative effect of the lack of accessible, affordable, and integrated transportation has created a social, economic, and medical crisis for Ohioans and their economy.

Ohio’s policymakers, be they in  General Assembly or in the state’s  metropolitan planning organizations, are failing to acknowledge this new reality. Legislators continue to devote only 1 percent of the state’s transportation budget to anything other than more roads. And metropolitan planning organizations like the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) fail to provide more than bare-bones (i.e. dial-a-ride vans) transportation alternatives to their citizens. MORPC recently announced $6.6 billion in new and improved roads for Columbus and its hinterlands. Yet its plan offers no transportation alternatives to congested roads or for those who will not drive, or cannot drive due to financial or physical disabilities.

“ADA is a civil rights law which says any facility or building must be equally accessible to a disabled person as it is to an able-bodied person. But if you’re disabled, you can’t get to all those ADA-compliant buildings as well as an able-bodied person can. That tells me Ohio’s entire transportation system and the laws which shaped it are not ADA-compliant. Ohio needs a mobility policy, not outdated laws designed to move more vehicles without consideration of alternatives,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast.

At issue is Ohio’s Constitution (Article XII, section 5a) which prohibits spending any state gas taxes on anything other than more roads (about 10 percent of federal gas taxes are spent on transit, rail and complete streets that are ADA-compliant and also have safe bike routes for children and commuters alike):

No moneys derived from fees, excises, or license taxes relating to registration, operation, or use of vehicles on public highways, or to fuels used for propelling such vehicles, shall be expended for other than costs of administering such laws, statutory refunds and adjustments provided therein, payment of highway obligations, costs for construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of public highways and bridges and other statutory highway purposes, expense of state enforcement of traffic laws, and expenditures authorized for hospitalization of indigent persons injured in motor vehicle accidents on the public highways. (Adopted November 4, 1947; effective January 1, 1948.)

“With the constitutional prohibition on using gas taxes and registration fees for anything but more roads, what other outcome can there be than to pour billions more tax dollars into an already overbuilt highway system while we can’t afford to maintain what we’ve got?” asked All Aboard Ohio President Bill Hutchison. “We are trapped into doing the same stupid things over and over and can’t change even if we want to. This is the stranglehold that prevents other solutions to traffic problems.”

Hutchison notes that if the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) spent a percentage of its annual budget equal to the percentage of households without cars, it would be providing about $250 million total in state and federal funding for non-highway transportation. Instead ODOT spends less than $20 million per year in state and federal funds on transit and rail  modes.

Ironically, about 5 percent of state gas taxes (or $50 million per year) come from non-highway uses (recreation, construction, landscaping, etc). If ODOT used that to leverage an 80 percent federal match, Ohio could provide $250 million per year in state and federal funds for much-needed transit and rail development projects and services.

Ken Prendergast
Executive Director


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Not Crazy Just Resentful: On Being Car Free by Choice in Cleveland

This post was written by Christine Borne Nickras and originally appeared on her blog, Queen of the Bondo.

“Mike doesn’t understand how you can do it,” says my friend Ruth, of her fiancé. Our companions at the bar are a retired surgeon and his wife. The bartender admires my gumption or lack of pretension or both when I ask the piano player to play “Stairway to Heaven,” which he then does, reluctantly.

“Well, I’m a crazy person,” I tell her. “And trying to do this for the last five years has made me crazier.”

She orders a second glass of riesling. “Why don’t you just get a Smart Car?”

This is the moment in the script that I always dread. The moment where I have to explain that my foolhardy commitment to public transit in the Rust Belt has nothing to do with the environment, and has everything to do with my deep-seated resentment that we’ve arranged modern American life in such a way that all but forces you to own something you probably can’t afford.

It might be doubly uncomfortable to explain to this to Ruth, who grew up in nearly identical middle class circumstances as me. Our respective sets of parents were both tight-fisted with cash, and we grew up in a size of house that kids don’t seem to grow up in anymore: the size where  you have to move out at eighteen because if you don’t, you and your parents are going to drive each other to homicide. We took the same classes, got similar degrees. But Ruth became a young professional and I became…I didn’t become anything. I stayed the same person I was at 19, eating canned beans and granola bars and obsessing about loose change I found in the street. Middle class in income, yes, but without the trappings.

Five years later, the plausibility of living in Cleveland without a car turns out to have been the biggest thing I was kidding myself about when I decided to move back here from New York. It’s possible, yes. What isn’t possible, however, when you depend on public transit in a shrinking city, is something that is easy to do in New York: you can’t turn a blind eye to human suffering.

Cleveland is a city built for a million but which is now home to about a third of that. A third of the people left in the city proper live in poverty. It has a public transit system that was used by the middle class at one time but is now largely used only by the poor, except when the Indians or Browns or Cavs are playing. I now live sans car in the neighborhood where I lived fifteen years ago as a college student, sans car. Fifteen years ago the bus ran every eight to twelve minutes. Now it runs once an hour and not at all on the weekends. It’s hard to depend on a bus that only runs once an hour. One time, the bus broke down near the beginning of the route, and I waited an hour and half for the next one. It was 20 degrees. I was suitably dressed, but teenage girls who live in Section 8 housing aren’t always, and picking up a ride from a stranger can seem like an attractive option. That’s a problem in a city where 11 women can disappear into one man’s house and never be heard from again.

I am in the middle class, and I do not have a single friend who does not own a car. I don’t go to Young Professionals networking events because getting around at night is difficult and oftentimes dicey. I don’t hang out with my friends much at all, because it’s inconvenient for me to get to where they are, and I feel like a burden asking them to pick me up and drop me off. I haven’t been to most of the trendy places the blogs and glossy magazines talk about, because I can’t get there. I go to the Bi-Rite that is three blocks from my house, where the green peppers are packaged on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic, and not Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods like everyone else who shares my skin color and educational background.

It occurred to me once as I was riding to work on a Saturday morning, on a nearly empty bus through a neighborhood that always makes me think of the Tom Waits song “God’s Away On Business,” that the whole reason I was having such a struggle with living in Cleveland this time around, why everyone was suddenly accusing me of being so negative, was that I was expecting to have a normal and typical city experience in a place that wasn’t a normal and typical city anymore. It occurred to me that the Cleveland seen by people who I was supposed to have turned out like was not the Cleveland I was seeing at all: I had watched Peter Weir’s film The Last Wave on television the night before, a film in which a white lawyer (played by Richard Chamberlain) takes on a case where four Aborigines are wrongly accused of murder. He forms a strange bond with one of the defendants, a bond which allows him access to the Dreamtime, the eternal, parallel world where you lived before you were born and where you go after you die. As I watched a drug deal happen on a street corner under sunny blue skies, not far from where my grandfather’s mother once lived, I wondered if I lived in a parallel Cleveland from the ones my should-have-been cohorts did.

(At the end of the film, Richard Chamberlain dies in a watery apocalypse.)

All it would take, really, for me to be #happyinCLE would be to just forget about this bus nonsense and do what a good samaritan suggested to me from their passing vehicle as I walked down Van Aken Boulevard: get a car. Presto change-o, Cleveland would become easy to love. I could forget all about the young woman with the stroller who has to wait on a dark, empty corner for a bus that comes every 45 minutes, in the kind of neighborhood where the roadside memorials don’t memorialize victims of traffic accidents or accidents of any kind, except maybe birth. I could forget about the dad in transit worker coveralls who’s falling asleep with his daughter on his lap. I would never have to think about what it must be like to be a young black transexual surrounded by a crowd of people who in one breath are threatening to beat the fucking shit out of you, faggot, and in the next breath are talking about God.

I am afraid that if I had a car, I would do that: I would never see these people, so I would forget about them. It would be easy to. And I can’t.

Instead, here’s a plea to car-having readers who do not wish to live as I do: understand that your car is a luxury. Understand that when you get in your car to run a ten-minute errand, the same errand might take someone without a car two hours on the bus. When you turn your key in the ignition, please feel the same sense of wonder and good fortune that I feel every time I take my dirty clothes down to the basement instead of hauling them to the laundromat: what a lucky person I am to not only live in a world where someone was smart enough to invent this thing that makes my life easier, but that I, by some additional happenstance of good fortune, can have one.

I can’t remember if I tell any of this to Ruth at the bar. It sounds like the kind of thing I’m likely to say while drunk, so I probably do. When she goes to the bathroom I steal her iPhone out of her purse and page through the dozens of people we grew up with who she is friends with on Facebook and I am not. At the end of the evening she offers to drive me home but the whole reason I asked her to this particular locale was because the train station is twenty feet away, so I take my leave. When I switch trains downtown I realize I am drunker than I’d thought. A Cavs game has just let out and the train, which is only two cars long, is jammed with middle class white people who don’t realize they’re not supposed to clog the doors, and who don’t realize there’s such a thing as a public transit voice. Is this the real Cleveland, then, or the Dreamtime Cleveland? If I close my eyes and fall asleep, I’ll end up at the end of the line, which is the airport, where I can buy a one-way ticket back to New York, a city that never compels me to ask myself such questions.

But I don’t fall asleep and I don’t buy that ticket. I never do.


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Big Cuts Looming for Pittsburgh Public Transit

WRCT-Pittsburgh (88.3 fm) is currently running a series exploring the

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future of transit in Pittsburgh as the city braces itself for cuts on the order of 35 percent.

This is a full-fledged transit crisis, “historic.” Forty-six routes are on the chopping block. The Port authority anticipates about 22,000 daily transit riders will lose service.

Pittsburgh has been relying on state funding in a mostly rural state.

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Destined to fail: Rust Belt cities without rail

Buffalo Metro Rail - Source:

Yes. I do believe this to be an accurate statement over the long run. Frankly, any major American city that solely relies on streets and highways for its transportation network will fail to remain competitive and will falter economically over time. That includes cities with bus transit systems that rely on the same streets and highways.

By rail, I am including subways, commuter rail, or light rail (tram, trolley, and modern streetcar). I am not including BRT (bus rapid transit), because they use the same thoroughfares as traditional buses and automobiles. Even the sprawling cities of the south and west, like Dallas-Forth Worth, South Florida, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Salt Lake City have learned that they cannot rely solely on streets and highways to efficiently operate a regional transportation network.

Sadly, too few Rust Belt cities are heeding this message. There is talk, but for the most part only talk, about adding some sort of rail service here and there, but it is hardly focused. Detroit is a perfect example of a large city that has vastly over-relied on streets and highways. Hence, it is largely sprawled out in a low-density spatial pattern that helps hinder its recovery. The hope for a 3.4 mile light rail line down Woodward Avenue recently faded as the design has now been altered to a BRT. While better than nothing, canada drugs online cialis BRT’s do not have the WOW factor of rail.

Other sizeable Rust Belt cities currently missing the train include Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Rochester, Akron-Canton, Syracuse, Albany, Hartford, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Toledo, Dayton, Greater Lansing, and Grand Rapids.

Why do I think incorporating rail is so important to the long-term viability of our Rust Belt cities? Several reasons:

  • A city’s transportation infrastructure must be comprehensive and multi-modal, not solely focused or over-weighted toward a single element. Should that single element fail (i.e. the I-35 bridge in the Twin Cities) the whole system is impacted.
  • A multi-modal transportation approach is much more environmentally sustainable in an era of higher energy costs, aging populations, global warming, and climate change.
  • A multi-modal transportation approach is more affordable and approachable to the less fortunate and helps foster greater social equity within the community.
  • Incorporating rail into a region’s infrastructure helps make the city more competitive nationally and globally by reducing transportation network delays, commuting times, and overall congestion.
  • With the exception of subways, commuter rail and light rail service are significantly less disruptive to the continuity and social fabric of the community than new highway construction.
  • Incorporating rail services into a region’s transportation program encourages redevelopment and reinvestment in older neighborhoods, while also increasing densities along and near the rail corridors.
  • Rail services are beneficial toward placemaking.
  • Rail services does not carry the latent social stigmas and stereotypes of bus transit service.

[As an occasional bus commuter myself, I questioned the continued existence of the last bullet point in the 21st century. That was until I overheard comments during a forum whether to develop a modern streetcar or bus rapid transit corridor. Apparently, certain segments of the population continue to associate bus transit service with the poor, immigrants, and the disadvantaged. While this perception is flat out wrong, it unfortunately still lingers. That makes canada pharmacy online promoting BRT a much more difficult endeavor, no matter how sleek and fancy the features.]

Personally, I am a bit miffed at the fact that cities in the south and west have been provided funding for rail transportation projects, while cities in the Rust Belt tend to be told that a BRT is their only viable (or fundable) option. That in itself gives those cities in the south buy cialis and west an unfair advantage.

Fortunately, some cities in the Rust Belt have seen the light at the end of the railroad tunnel and have invested in one of the three traditional rail options. From a Michigander’s viewpoint, Chicago is the best and most obvious example. One need look no further that the choice of emphasizing rail service in Chicago to emphasizing car travel Detroit to see a clear difference in outcomes. I love both Detroit and Chicago, but all of us in Michigan need to get our individual and collective heads out of the four-wheeled cocoon. Other Rust Belt cities with rail service include New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland (Red Line to the airport), St. Louis, and even Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis - Source:









So, the question remains. How can cialis online generic cities of the Rust Belt generate the political will and support, as well as the monies to develop rail systems? Here are some ideas:

  • Immediately incorporate rail services into your all of your planning efforts (not just transportation) and reemphasize its importance at every opportunity. This means incorporating rail at the local, regional, and state levels.
  • Emphasize increased densities along important transportation corridors to help justify the use of rail.
  • Repeatedly bend the ears of your local, state, and national politicians.
  • Coordinate with freight railroads to protect existing freight rail corridors for anticipated future passenger rail use.
  • Set aside (or protect) right-of-way along rail corridors or road corridors for modern streetcars whenever an opportunity arises.
  • Continuously support increased funding for mass transit in local, state, and national budgets. Speak out when highway advocates online pharmacy attempt to underfund or defund mass transit programs.
  • Emphasize the economic, environmental, and societal benefits of rail versus more highways.
  • Create an 30 second elevator speech about why rail service is critical to your community’s future and use the speech at every opportunity.
  • Advocate for and support other communities (even your competitors) in the Rust Belt. It is high time we worked together as a unified political voice to attract projects and funding.
  • Point out the inequities of funding rail services in other regions of the country, while asking areas of the Rust Belt to accept BRT instead.
  • Keep the topic front and center in the media through use of web pages, newsletters, press releases, and especially via social media resources.
  • Work, coordinate, and cooperate with all rail, mass transit, alternative transportation, environmental, and social justice advocacy groups. They can bring a lot of powerful voices to the table and provide an army of support.
  • When the budget allows, set aside matching monies for necessary studies, plans, corridor acquisition, and construction.
  • Celebrate and promote every small victory in your community and the entire Rust Belt and also learn to adapt quickly from each defeat.
  • Don’t give up – keep pursuing the goal.

–Rick Brown

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