Thursday, November 5th, 2009
I was in Boston last week for part of Rail~Volution 2009, America’s premier transit conference. I was part of a panel on the use of social media for transit advocacy. It’s clear this is a topic a lot of people are trying to figure out. I don’t want to go too far topic, but maybe I’ll do a post on that in the future, since obviously I’ve got a lot of experience in the space. In the meantime, just ponder this: why are almost all influential blogs and web sites in this space run by more or less independent people instead of agencies or organizations?
Election Results 2009
First, a quick Midwest election rundown in some key races:
- The great news is that Issue 9, the anti-rail charter amendment in Cincinnati, failed. I mentioned briefly before Issue 8, which would require a public vote before transferring the Cincinnati Water Works to a water district. That issue passed.
- Issue 3, permitting casino gambling in Ohio, passed
- Mark Mallory was re-elected Mayor of Cincinnati
- Frank Jackson was re-elected Mayor of Cleveland
- Cuyahoga County, OH approved a charter form of government
- In Indianapolis a referendum on building a new Wishard Hospital passed
- Dave Bing was elected to a full term as Mayor of Detroit
- Macomb County, MI approved a government reorganization
- R. T. Rybak was re-elected Mayor of Minneapolis
- Chris Coleman was re-elected Mayor of St. Paul
- Luke Ravenstahl was re-elected Mayor of Pittsburgh
John Robert Smith
I was able to catch up with John Robert Smith, CEO of Reconnecting America, and he recorded a short two minute video for me. If you only watch one of the videos I post, make it this one. He makes two incredibly important points that are too often overlooked when it comes to the livable cities agenda. The first is that we need to build an urban-small town-rural coalition around a new transportation policy. The other is that these issues are, or should be, non-partisan. (If video does not display, click here.)
Streetsblog and Streetfilms
I got to see an inspiring presentation by Aaron Naparstek, Editor in Chief of Streetsblog, and Clarence Eckerson, Director of Streetfilms. I’ve talked about Streetsblog here many times, but you might not be familiar with Streetfilms. Streetfilms produces short, high quality films on innovative transportation and livable communities projects from around the world. These films can be an extremely effective sales tool because they can show people in a very real and tangible way what a city looks like when it adopts these types of progressive ideas. The videos are under a Creative Commons license, so can be re-used as necessary. It’s a great resource.
I’ll share a couple of them with you today to give a flavor. This one is a ten minute piece on Bogotá’s “Ciclovia” program. This was one of the many innovations by Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and it has been widely imitated, including in the US. Every Sunday, 70 miles of streets are closed to cars and given to people for walking, biking, relaxing, or socializing. Also, exercise classes and other public events are held in the streets. It’s pretty amazing if you are not familiar with it. (If the video does not display, click here.)
This video has been viewed over 200,000 times.
Here’s another three and a half minute piece on students in New York “painting the pavement”. I hear people all the time say that livable cities initiatives are too expensive and that we can’t afford them. Well, something like Ciclovia does cost money for policing. However, there are all sorts of things we can do that cost virtually nothing. Here is the type of project that can be done for next to nothing. There is simply no excuse. (If the video doesn’t appear, click here.)
Here’s a similar example, where people paint wonderful murals in residential intersections. It’s in Portland, so it’s a little crunchy, but even if that’s not your bag, it’s a great idea. (If the video does not appear, click here).
Again, how much does it cost for a few buckets of paint? The video also talks about the practicalities, such as getting neighbor sign-off and working with city engineers. They even leveraged people sentenced to community service to help with the project!
Loyal blog readers know that I’ve written extensively about the challenges of inner ring suburbs in America. One of those inner ring suburbs is Carrollton, TX in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. They are trying to build a future for themselves based around transit oriented development. I also ran into Peter Braster, who is the TOD Manager from Carrollton, and recorded this 40 second teaser video. Anyone looking for lessons learned or someone to network with about TOD in an inner ring suburb, reach out to Peter. (If the video doesn’t show up, click here.
Since the good people in Boston were nice enough to host us, I thought I’d share a few pictures from the city.
Remember the “Big Dig”? This is where it happened. Where once a huge elevated freeway cut through downtown Boston, now there is a park. At $20 billion, it is certainly questionable whether the expense was worth it, but they at least got the results they were looking for.
Boston was home to America’s first subway. Today, the regional transit system is known as the “T”. Here’s a picture of the Red Line as it crosses the Charles River. Note the iconic “T” logo.
Don’t be fooled by the MBTA maps. The Green Line is principally a streetcar. And the Silver Line is a bus.
Here’s South Station. It’s a rail terminal used by Amtrak and commuter lines. There is a North Station as well – located on the lower level of Boston Garden.
A pedestrianized street in downtown Boston.
Beacon St. in Back Bay
The Brutalist Boston City Hall