Tag Archives: multi modal

City Council to Request $2 million in Bike/Ped Funds Tonight

As we previously mentioned on Oct 21, TXDOT has about $70 million dollars to give out as part of their State Transportation Enhancement Program, or STEP.  Denton city planning staff doesn’t have any shovel-ready bike/pedestrian proposals, and so they won’t be applying for the STEP money this year.

However, tonight’s city council meeting includes consent agenda items D and E which would allow Denton to apply for STEP money for two bike/pedestrian projects totaling about $2.25 million in cost, for which the city must pay 20%.

D.  Consider approval of a resolution of the City Council of the City of Denton, Texas, certifying funding and support for the 2009 Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program Nomination Form with the Texas Department of Transportation, authorizing the City Manager to submit an application to receive funding to construct the Hickory Street corridor and entertainment district project under the program and, if the grant is approved, to execute the grant agreement and take other actions necessary to implement the grant; and providing an effective date. The Mobility Committee recommends approval (3-0).

E.  Consider approval of a resolution of the City of Denton, Texas, certifying funding and support for the 2009 State Wide Transportation Enhancement Program nomination form with the Texas Department of Transportation, authorizing the City Manager to submit an application to receive funding to construct the Cooper Creek Bike and Pedestrian Trail Project under the program and, if the grant is approved, to execute the grant agreement and take other actions necessary to implement the grant; and providing the effective date. The Mobility Committee recommends approval (3-0).

The first item is a call for significant sidewalk improvements on Hickory St, which the city has sought to revitalize for several years now.  They applied previously in 2006 when the state funding was cut, and as such, they surely had the plans ready to resubmit.

Linda Ratliff, director of Economic Development writes:

The proposed project will connect the historic Courthouse on the Square, the planned passenger rail platform and Downtown Transit Center and the University of North Texas. The Hickory Street Corridor and Entertainment District will begin at Carroll Boulevard and extend east to Elm Street, will exclude the block from Elm to Locust, and will then continue from Locust Street to the proposed multimodal transit station at Railroad Road. All of the existing sidewalks within both sections of the project will be removed and replaced with 11’ concrete sidewalks edged by a brick detail 1-2 feet in from the curb. Pedestrian lighting is proposed throughout the project, as are trashcans, benches, bike racks, street trees, landscaped corner beds and flowerpots at various intersections. An irrigation system will also be installed along the length of the project.

The current three driving lanes will be reduced to two lanes approximately 12’ wide. Angle-in parking and a possible bike lane may be incorporated following the recommendations of the Downtown Implementation Plan study.

The text of the actual application to NCTCOG reads less ambiguously when mentioning the bike lane:

The South side of the street will be devoted to an 8′ bike lane.

Answering the “Project Use and Benefits” section, Denton makes the case for connecting UNT/TWU/downtown via pedestrian and bicycle access:

The University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University, downtown and the future transit center are not fully connected.  People in one center cannot easily move to the other.  Establishing effective linkages depends on creating a pedestrian and bicyclist friendly environment.

It’s a shame that the tabled Oak/Hickory bike lane proposal isn’t applicable for the STEP program, because it would nicely compliment this Hickory STEP fund request.

Item E on the consent agenda asks for about $300K in STEP funds for a 1.4 mile paved non-road trail that spans north Denton

This project is viewed as an urgent need proposal to connect the existing Cooper Creek Trail at Evers Park extending northwestward into North Pointe Park along Cooper Creek at Fallmeadow Drive and continuing to the University of North Texas School of Engineering campus. This will accommodate neighborhood needs for a safe route to school and park facilities. The project includes an eight foot wide by 7,100 linear foot concrete paved trail and a 75′ linear foot prefabricated steel span pedestrian bridge across the creek.

The primary beneficiaries of this project will be two new growing neighborhoods with many families who need a pedestrian friendly way and safe route to school and parks. The proposed extension will provide new opportunities for the North Pointe and McKamy-Evers neighborhoods to access the elementary school and Evers Park.

Unfortunately, the Western end of the proposed trail is not near the actual entrance to the UNT Discovery Park campus.  The campus is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and the only entrance is at the south end facing Elm/Hwy 77.  Hopefully this will not be a “Trail to Nowhere”.  I hope the city comes up with a similar plan to provide safer passage from downtown to Discovery Park, as cyclists and pedestrians still have to move along the 55mph shoulder-less highway to get to work/school.

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Interview With UNT Transportation Director, Joe Richmond

photo credit: UNT Inhouse Magazine

Thanks so much for talking with us. What is your background leading to your position as Transportation Director at UNT?

I initially worked as a shuttle bus driver for UT Austin, before I went to work for Capital Metro in Austin, just as they were born. I worked at Capital Metro for 18 years. I actually had an office on the UT campus while I worked for Capital Metro.

We see more cyclists riding on campus every year. Is cycling ridership increasing at UNT, and do you know if it’s been recently measured?

I don’t have a scientific method for measuring, but the bike racks appear to be at capacity. We have around 2500 bikes parked on campus. We purchased 100 racks and placed them strategic locations on campus.

Cycling was recently decriminalized on campus, and many bike racks have been installed.  What drove these changes?

We had a  bike consultant come in and provide us with a Campus Bicycle Master Plan which was adopted by the UNT  board of Regents in 2006. One of their recommendations was to install racks near entrances to the buildings. This came from a series of  focus groups. I was intimately involved with the study

Is demand still increasing, and do you think more racks will be installed?

Yes!

Dallas just hired a bike coordinator, and Fort Worth and Austin have published ambitious master bicycle plans. For their efforts, all three cities are attracting national attention. Would you like to see comprehensive bike and pedestrian plans in Denton, especially given the advantage of Denton’s smaller city size?

Yes, I think the time is right. Based on the growth and the alternative transportation initiatives, the stars are lining up right for Denton. All we’re missing is infrastructure and policies. The demand, energy, need, and social acceptance are already here.  In my opinion, Denton is perfect for this. I can close my eyes and see corridors with bikes, buses, and pedestrians.   No single occupancy vehicles.

If your department advocates cycling and walking, does that conflict with UNT Parking services which collect income from drivers?

UNT Parking and Transportation work as a TDM model, “Travel Demand Management”, and we want people to come to this university and have a pleasant experience. Fewer cars on campus equal less congestion, pollution, and aggravation.

UNT Transportation services have recently undergone huge increases in bus capacity, routes, handicap access, and bicycle accommodation during the last few years. Did you oversee this transition, and do you consider it a success?

I absolutely consider this a success. The student fee was voted and accepted by the UNT Board of Regents in 2002, and the service was first operated by a private contractor, Noble Coaches. I think the ridership back then was about one thousand per day with the city operating one route for UNT and their LINK system. Then, we agreed to operate 10 buses, purchased by UNT, in conjuction with Denton. The service continued to grow, so we bought used buses from Dallas. We transferred ownership of 15 buses from DART to the City of Denton. We had 27 buses total, and then DCTA received their funding to come into existence from area cities. The city was amiable to transferring the assets from DCTA, so DCTA took over the service. This is directly patterned after the UT/Capital Metro relationship.

(Joe provided data with which I created the following graph)

How many buses does UNT currently use?

UNT owns 12 buses, DCTA provides the rest for a total of 27.
UNT bus service accounts for about 85% of DCTA’s total ridership.

The City of Denton has shown renewed interest in multi-modal transit, especially with the DCTA A-train coming soon. Do you anticipate many students will commute to UNT via the train?

Yes, 200 students ride the Commuter Express every day from Lewisville and Dallas, and we expect this number to continue to increase.

Are there any related transit plans to ease passage between the train station and the UNT campus?

Absolutely. DCTA is looking to provide efficient links to the universities from the rail stations.

In what ways do you anticipate transit services to evolve at UNT in the future?

A totally walk and roll campus

I’d like to see enhanced and improved connections to major off-campus Denton destinations. I think we serve the students quite well, getting them from off campus housing to campus. I’d like to see more cycling and walking. We have a web-based rideshare program, customized to the UNT community. We also have a late-night E-ride service from 9PM-2AM on-campus only.

This fall, we’re starting a car-sharing program so students/employees can rent cars by the hours. It’s becoming very popular on dense urban environments and campuses. We’ll have 2 Priuses, 1 Camry, and a Ford Escape. The hourly rates will start as low as $8/hour. Reservations can be made online, and users receive an access card so they’ll never have to go to a counter or deal with a person.

The one bike lane on campus runs along Avenue C. It has a huge pothole alongside the music building, and cars park in it constantly. Can this bike lane be improved?

We don’t consider it an official bike lane.

A few years ago, at a President Pohl sack lunch, UNT administrative staff expressed plans to develop separated pedestrian and cycling paths. Does UNT intend to further expand bicycle routes or implement separated cycling/walking paths?

I don’t think we’re going to implement separated paths, this is working pretty well. We periodically check with Risk Management to see if there are any pedestrian/cyclist accidents, and there are no reported injury accidents to date.

Do you ever walk or cycle on campus?

I prefer walking; I can get across campus in 10 minutes and see users of campus transportation, see full bike racks, hear the music, and I feel like part of the campus community. You get the campus experience. Nothing will give you the campus experience like taking a 10 minute walk through UNT. You’ll see loneliest people in town in their cars.

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Car-Free Mayor

Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

LA Times Maria L. La Ganga reports today that Berkeley mayor Tom Bates sold his beloved Volvo (his 26th car), and now takes the bus, walks, and uses the city’s car-share program.  His typical commute weaves together different modes of public transit, although he doesn’t mention using a bicycle.

Bates picks up his canvas briefcase (there’s a reusable shopping sack inside) and hoofs it to the station. His khaki-clad stride is long and swift. A panama hat sits jauntily on his balding head. He is off on the first leg of a 13-hour workday that began with a brief shower — never more than three minutes — and will include a train ride, a bus trip, a short hop in a City CarShare rental and four or so miles on foot.

Bates describes the beauty that he sees while walking, and he explains how he sees the city in a different way.

Walking “opens up a whole new vista in seeing the city in a different way,” he enthuses. “The city is beautiful. I’ve fallen in love with spring again, and the flowers.”

And finally, he talks about the health benefits of going car-free and using a pedometer to measure his walks.

About 16 months ago, Bates strapped on a pedometer and started walking at least 10,000 steps a day — for his health and the planet’s. Round trip from home to office is 4,400 steps.

By the beginning of this year, he’d dropped 20 pounds and realized his car was sitting in the driveway. The device, he says, “changed my life.

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Denton Pedicab Service Proposed

Over the years, Denton locals have consistently mentioned the idea of having pedicab service to the downtown and university zones, but until now, we haven’t heard of any proposals reaching city staff desks.

Christine Niblo, Denton resident, proposes to provide pedicab service to the downtown area. In the Operational Outline document, the services/benefits are succinctly summarized:

Denton Pedicab will:

  • provide clean, emissions-free, affordable transportation to the central Denton area, including UNT, TWU, and the downtown square
  • enhance the visibility of the downtown square to newcomers, particularly university students and their parents
  • help reduce the parking burden at and near the downtown square, thus enhancing the downtown experience for Dentonites, tourists, and business-owners
  • enhance the unique and friendly downtown Denton atmosphere with an attractive and locally-owned novelty
  • provide opportunities for community businesses, organizations, and individuals to charter pedicabs for special occasions and events

Christine reports that she’s submitted her proposal to Denton city staff, and she says she included examples of regulatory ordinance from other cities which have pedicab service.

I’m currently still awaiting the City’s verdict about the legal standing of a pedicab operation in Denton.

The proposal document touts the many ecological benefits of pedicab service, which fall in line with the city’s stated goal of increasing transit diversity and reducing single-occupant vehicle use.

Because pedicab operation is sustainable, the opportunities Denton Pedicab will provide to the community will be long-lasting. No natural resources will be depleted in order to operate pedicabs; therefore, their operation will not be affected by the price of oil, or state emissions standards. No pollution or waste will be caused by the operation of pedicabs.

Denton Pedicab will take great care to employ sustainable practices in all facets of its business, thus optimizing its potential for longevity. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of recycled, renewable, natural, and eco-friendly supplies like paper and cleaning products; as well as a commitment to serving the local community and economy.

Denton Pedicab will offer inspiration and vision to the community by bringing this service to the area at a time when the current transportation paradigm is shifting away from fossil fuels and petroleum-based products. Denton Pedicab will bring the City of Denton one step closer to the sustainability that is so desperately required by these transitional times.

The pedicabs to be used are manufactured in America by Main Street Pedicabs, and feature stout design and safety features like turn signals and 12V lighting.

File

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Portland Traffic Lane Widths

In our previous post about the Oak/Hickory proposed parking ban and bike lane striping, we discussed that the city would like to widen the automotive traffic lanes to 12′ wide, each.  I just noticed an article from BikePortland today in which a two-way cycle track would run alongside a one-way boulevard.  I noticed that the proposed traffic lanes will be 11′ for autos and streetcars.

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DCTA “Dump the Pump” Day

Denton Record-Chronicle’s BJ Lewis mentions that DCTA is giving free bus rides today in celebration of national Dump the Pump day.

Sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, Dump the Pump Day encourages people to save money, protect the environment, reduce oil dependency and improve air quality, said Dee Leggett, DCTA vice president for communications and planning.

“In today’s economic climate, any way you can pinch pennies and save money is good, and public transportation can do that,” she said. “It’s smarter environmentally, smarter on your pocketbook and leaves discretionary money in other areas of their life rather than putting it into cars.”

Individuals can save more than $8,000 annually by taking public transportation instead of driving, and living with one less car, according to the association’s Web site.

I use the DCTA service quite often, sometimes daily, and it works in nice harmony with cycling in Denton.  They’ve transitioned almost all the buses to have front bicycle racks, and the coverage has expanded nicely in recent years.

Dee’s comments are relevant and true, and I’d say they’re also apropos for cycling instead of driving.  I sold my car two years ago, and now my wife and I share the remaining car, although we both cycle far more than we drive.  The financial, health, and happiness benefits have been really noticeable, and really welcome.

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Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff published an interview with Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski, discussing how he incorporates consideration for bike/pedestrian planning into his overall design philosophy.  Fort Worth has committed itself to an incredibly ambitious people-first multi-modal transit plan, and Don is the key player who will oversee execution of the transit plan.

I have a lot of experience in the planning of bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems and the development of bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects. Bicycle and pedestrian planning has always just been one of the many duties that I have had, along with arterial street system planning, project identification and prioritization, capital program development, and others. I jumped at the opportunity in Fort Worth because of the tremendous challenges and opportunities the city has with its rapid pace of growth and evolving development strategies.

I was intrigued by Fort Worth’s walkable downtown, investment in mixed-use urban villages, relatively unconstrained growth potential, and interest in improving its bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems.

Cool, that sounds like Denton too: rapid pace of growth, evolving development strategies, walkable downtown, mixed-use investment, unconstrained growth potential, interest in improving bicycle and pedestrian transit.

Fort Worth has had some great recreational trails along the Trinity River and elsewhere for many years. What was lacking was a way to make connections for people interested in cycling for transportation purposes. In 1999, the city worked with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop an on-street bicycle route network plan that would create linkages between downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. The City came across some difficulties implementing the plan and the bicycling advocates in Fort Worth became frustrated with the lack of progress.

That reminds me of the Denton Mobility Plan, which proposed ambitious changes.  The bicycle component was never fully realized.

When I came on board in December 2006, I was immediately approached by the late Dr. Byron de Sousa – a community leader who had been Chair of the Fort Worth Plan Commission and was an avid proponent of bicycle transportation infrastructure – to develop a truly comprehensive bicycle transportation system plan encompassing infrastructure, education, encouragement, city policies and programs, and law enforcement. That was when we kicked off the effort that led to the Bike Fort Worth plan.

Excellent!  A comprehensive program touching all aspects of a properly planned endeavor: infrastructure, education, encouragment, city policy, and enforcement.  Bike lanes alone won’t do it, this holistic approach is the most likely to succeed, and the only logical choice.

However, there are a number of streets that are oversized for the level of vehicular traffic that they experience today or are likely to have in the future. In some of those cases, a “road diet” may be possible that could provide dedicated space for cyclists. We look at these on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to accommodate cyclists, based on the criteria established in the plan.

Bike lanes are a nice accomodation, bike racks are a nice accomodation, road diets would show incredible commitment to the growing Denton cycle community.  Does Carroll Blvd need to be 6 lanes wide?  I don’t know, but perhaps that could be asked of every huge artery which squeezes out cyclists and pedestrians and encourages traffic congestion and high speeds.

Regarding temperature, I don’t buy the argument that people won’t bike because it’s too hot/cold/wet/etc. Look at the cities that have the highest bicycle commute rates in the country: Portland (wet), Minneapolis (cold), Seattle (wet), and Tucson (hot). Certainly there are many cyclists who won’t bike for transportation purposes when it’s hot, but there are other ways to address that, like by promoting the provision of shower and change facilities at major employers. In fact, I would say Fort Worth has great potential as a bicycling city: relatively flat, decent street block pattern, great trail system to which to make connections, great cycling weather 8 months out of the year, etc.

Ditto.  Here, Denton has an advantage over Ft Worth in smaller size, reducing complexity and cost of cycling infrastruction improvements.

From the city’s perspective, the impetus behind this effort today are many, but include making transit service (bus and rail) more accessible and attractive, making the city more attractive to the creative types who want to live and work in bicycle-friendly communities, helping residents lead more active and healthy lifestyles, and giving people more transportation options – especially those that help alleviate air quality problems and that are easy on the wallet during these tough economic times.

All true, and very reassuring to see a comprehensive, progressive, sustainable vision from the transportation head.  I’d like to do an interview with the Denton transportation czar for comparison.

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Fortworthology Goes To Portland

I’ve been to Portland quite a few times, and I really enjoy the transit variety there.  Buses, streetcars, MET train (free in downtown, has bike hooks), tons of bike lanes, and even bike lanes on bridges.  Portland has a “Last Thursday” art-walk in Portland which is now car free, after the city agreed to repeating street closures.  For a Texan, the experience can be pretty overwhelming, and the openness towards multi-modal transit and new urbanism contributes to Portland’s appeal to the creative class.  

There are so many things I enjoy about Portland that they’re hard for me to succinctly articulate.  Lucky for me, Fortworthology has already written a series of articles about Portland, and this one is about cycling in Portland.

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Bike Rack at recent DCTA public meeting

So beautiful.

img_0389

Here’s a recap of what we learned from DCTA at the meeting:

  • new Rail Trail will be 8 ft wide, paved, with 3 ft wide paved shoulders
  • (quite handsome) white stone sound barrier wall between trail and rail
  • first 18 months of operation, DCTA will use ooooold rail cars, full diesel, with no bike accommodations.  However, when asked if we could bring bikes on the train, the DCTA director responded that we could as long as no wheelchairs are displaced.  After 18 months, we’ll see the newer hybrid-diesel ground level cars with 4-6 bike hooks each.
  • the train will not run on Sundays
  • train will traverse loop 288 via an overpass
  • yes, the current rail trail will be interrupted during construction, and they’ll be building the new trail and rail simultaneously.  Both will be done in segments.
  • DCTA seemed to appreciate the participation of Denton cyclists.  They mentioned that they’d love to have a cyclist on the DCTA citizen advisory board.  The DCTA directors came by the bike racks and made friendly conversation after the meeting.
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A Shared Vision for A Shared Future

Thanks to a streetsblog post, I noticed a bold announcement from the U.S. Deputy Secretary of DOT.  I know that he was addressing a regional east coast group, but these words still ring out as a federally endorsed initiative from the top of the DOT command chain.  Via nymtc.org:

Keynote speaker Vice Admiral Thomas Barrett, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, discussed the Obama Administration’s key transportation priorities, emphasizing the role the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will play in the nation’s economic recovery, as well as their approach for integrating transportation and land use through innovative programs such as the recently announced joint HUD/DOT Sustainable Communities initiative. 

I can’t overstate my thought that Denton is poised to become a model city for sustainable multi-modal transit.  It might not happen unless we ask for it, though.  Some key people in the city, like the mayor and Pete Kamp, support multi-modal transit, but so far I haven’t seen a collective citizen campaign to bolster and encourage it.  

Denton stands to gain so much from attracting intelligent innovators, who may have previously thought of Denton as a transitional college town.  This article from Fast Company sums it up succinctly:

If the suburb is a big loser in mortgage crisis episode, then who is the winner? Not surprisingly, the New Urbanists, a group of planners, developers and architects devoted to building walkable towns based on traditional designs, have interpreted the downturn as vindication of their plans for mixed-use communities where people can stroll from their homes to schools and restaurants.

Richard Florida, a Toronto business professor and author of “Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life,” argues that dense and diverse cities with “accelerated rates of urban metabolism” are the communities most likely to innovate their way through economic crisis. In an article published in this month’s issue of The Atlantic, he posits that New York is at a relative advantage, despite losing a chunk of its financial engine, because the jostling proximity of architects, fashion designers, software writers and other creative types will reenergize its economy.

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