Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

Woodward Light Rail meeting

Monday, August 9th, 2010

DDOT and the Federal Transit Authority are hosting the initial public meeting for the Woodward Light Rail project this Saturday. The meeting purpose is “discuss the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Woodward Avenue (M-1) Light Rail Project from Downtown Detroit to Eight Mile Road (M-102).”

The EIS will consider impacts to bicyclists using Woodward — which is key. Light rail tracks along the curb are not always the best choice for bicyclists.

Earlier discussions were to not have biking on Woodward, at least below Grand Boulevard. It was suggested cyclists could use some streets paralleling Woodward. That overlooks the fact that people want to ?ride to destinations on Woodward.

Not accommodating bicycles on Woodward might just give Detroit’s Critical Mass something to protest.

Meeting Details

When: Saturday, August 14, 2010. Attend from 11am to 1pm or 5pm to 7pm.

Where: Considine Light Rock Family Life Center Auditorium (8904 Woodward Avenue, Detroit)

Detroit’s bad commute: Not all hooey

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Forbes loves publishing lists of dubious quality that are often based on census data. However, they recently named Metro Detroit as having the second worst commute in the U.S., which might be justifiable.

There are a few elements that easy-commuting cities have in common. In those places, more workers take advantage of public transportation, walk or bike; sprawl is minimal so workers tend to live closer to their offices; and the incidence of travel delays is low. To find the best and worst cities for commuters, we took the 60 largest metro areas and ranked each on three measures: The length of traffic delays at rush hour, the percentage of commuters who get to work by carpooling, biking, walking or taking public transportation (the “Green Commuter” rank); and the percentage of commuters that spend an hour or more getting to work. Click here for more details on the methodology.

Where Detroit scored most poorly was in the Green Commuting rank — we were last.

Then there’s Detroit. The city that comes in next to last was once at the forefront of transportation planning–the first urban freeways were built there. But its well-documented urban blight and population drain have wreaked havoc on the city’s infrastructure, and the once ubiquitous presence of the auto industry decimated what was a thriving public transportation system. Now, what would normally be a 45-minute drive takes an hour at peak times, and only 12% of commuters carpool, walk, bike or use public transportation–the lowest percentage of all the cities we tracked.

Detroit New’s columnist Tom Greenwood takes exception and makes the same mistake that transportation planners have made in Detroit for the past 50 years. They assume the word “commuting” means “driving.”

He adds, “I’ve driven in all those other cities, and I would rather have a tooth pulled than commute in any other big city compared to Detroit.”

It’s time to try that commute on a bike or by bus, Tom.?Detroit commuting looks a little different outside of the car.

Who killed the League of American Wheelmen?

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Detroit Streetcar and bicyclistIn 1888, the pneumatic bicycle tire was invented which made riding on rough roads much more comfortable. By 1890, the safety bicycle design (what we have today) replaced the more difficult to ride highwheelers. This also opened the door for more women riders.

It was these milestones that ushered in the mass adoption of bicycles. Bicycle production peaked at nearly 2 million in 1897.

Historians call this the golden age of bicycling.

And during this time, the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) was the national bicycle advocacy organization.

They had a Michigan Division which was led by Edward Hines during most of the 1890s. They were highly successful as Hines noted in his membership drive from 1899. They fought for equal access to Detroit roads and against ordinances requiring lights, bells, and bike registration. They got bikes allowed on trains. They got the city to build a bicycle pavilion on Belle Isle. Also, in 1896 the Detroit Wheelmen built a very fine 3-story club house.

Nationwide, there were 102,636 LAW members in 1898.

By 1902, there were 8,692 members. The bicycle craze was over and the LAW closed their doors.

A popular perception is the arrival of the car killed the bicycle’s popularity, but the timeline doesn’t support that.

From 1901 to 1904, Detroit’s Olds Motor Works was the nation’s leading auto manufacturer. They produced 425 cars in 1901 and 2,500 in 1902. The Ford Motor Company didn’t exist until 1903. While many cyclists undoubtedly switched to cars, there weren’t enough (affordable) cars in 1901 to replace all the bicycles.

It seems likely that many bicyclists switched to streetcars — at least in Detroit.

In December of 1900, all of Metro Detroit’s streets car were consolidated into one Detroit Urban Railway (DUR) system. The fare was a flat 5 cents on most lines and 3 cents on the remainder. By 1901, the DUR acquired nearly all of the interurban lines, which provided rapid rail travel to cities outside of Detroit and as far away as Port Huron, Jackson and Toledo.

Below is an excerpt from a May 1901 LAW Bulletin article that notes cyclists switching to streetcars.

Why do we note a decline in wheeling? We think it has its root in the laziness of mankind. Time was when men wanted to get out and see the country and they employed the wheel. They had to work for it but they felt paid for all their labor in what they took in of scenery and fresh air. And now comes the trolley car and takes them out into the open country and they do no labor, get nearly all of it without work and for a nickel. We are such a lazy set that we use the nickel.

But that is not all. There is another point where wheeling hits a man in his lazy longitude. It’s a question of clothes. When a man desires to ride he must change his clothes, and when he has finished he must make another change. The trolley car requires no change of clothing and he takes the trolley. These two appeals to a man’s laziness have been very potent factors in causing riders to give up the wheel.

But all men are not lazy. There are many left who vote the wheel the king of pleasures. There are many who do ride and who will ride as long as they have strength to push a pedal and a keen appreciation of the beauties of nature when we meet her face to face. The trolley car does not put us into communion with nature as the wheel does. It does not go into the by ways the forest roads the out of the way places where we find the richest treasures of scenery. There is an independence on the wheel that we do not have on the trolley and there is an exhilaration that comes to us in no other way.

It seems the same author published an article with a similar tone in the October 1901 Bulletin, which ended with this foretelling sentence:

We are too lazy to work for our fun and we fear the muscular development we were once proud of will give place to flabbiness.

But eventually Detroit’s railway system suffered a similar demise as its ridership shifted to using buses and cars.

However, it should be noted that the futures of bicycling and light rail in Detroit are looking brighter than they have in generations. And this time, they can enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, not unlike what the SMART (and forthcoming DDOT) bus bike racks provide.

Reference: LAW Cycling Handbook from 1945

Portland Bicycle Plan

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Seal_of_Portland_ORPortland, Oregon recently created a proposed bicycle plan.

One highlight of that plan is a supplement on Bicycle Design Best Practices, where they have compiled a very comprehensive and up-to-date collection of bicycle facilities. Some of the newer facilities (newer to the U.S. at least) include bicycle boulevards and separated bike lanes (a.k.a. cycle tracks.)

This report documents an extensive review of best practices from world‐class bicycling cities where the most innovative technology advances in designing for bicycle traffic have been proven effective. The purpose of the report is to create a guide for traffic engineers, designers and planners detailing tried and‐ tested bicycle facility designs along with essential considerations for their implementation.

Note that there are no side paths or “safety” paths shown in their best practices guide.

And while speaking of Portland, the Census Bureau recently released 2008 American Community Survey data. This data includes statistics on how people get to work. Portland not only leads the U.S. in this people biking to work, they are reporting a record increase.

Portland experienced the largest one-year increase in bicycling as commuters primary mode of transportation ever, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

“Our small investment in bicycling infrastructure and education are paying off in a big way,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “Once again the data backs up our belief that when Portlanders are given a safe, convenient alternative to driving they will get out of their car and onto a bike.” Adams has been in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation since 2004.

The data released Monday showed 6.4 percent responded to the survey that they bicycled to work in 2008. This makes Portland number one in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country. The percentage of walkers and transit users also rose.

The city of Detroit and Metro Detroit bike commuting numbers were fairly flat. This is surprising given the greater number of bicyclists on the roads (though they may not all be riding to work.) Or they are biking to work and using transit, in which case it’s unclear how they would have responded to this census survey.

That said, there was a decrease in car use which appears to have shifted to transit.

Detroit-Windsor ferry service for bicycles?

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Detroit RiverWe’ve mentioned the possibility of having ferry service for bicyclists and pedestrians wanting to cross between the U.S. and Canada without needing a car. (Yes, pedestrians can use the Transit Windsor tunnel bus.)

Now the Windsor Star has an article discussing this possibility.

North America’s largest private passenger ferry company is in discussions with Windsor and Detroit port officials to link the two border cities by boat.

NY Waterway, operator of the largest ferry fleet in the New York harbour, has participated in several meetings locally about launching a service across the Detroit River that would focus on transporting commuters, operating tours and carrying fans to sporting events such as Detroit Red Wings’ games.

Of course this is far from being a done deal according to the article. NY Waterway still needs to determine if this is economically feasible.

We sure hope it is.