Transit Deserts: Failing to Provide Access

A student "hacking" in Morgan Park, North East Baltimore, Maryland image: Diane Jones Allen, 2013

A student “hacking” in Morgan Park, North East Baltimore, Maryland
image: Diane Jones Allen, 2013

The story of Detroit resident James Robertson, who, due to patchy bus service, walked 21 miles as part of his daily commute to get to a factory job 23 miles away in the suburbs where he earned $10.55 an hour, captured the public imagination in February 2015 when his story was publicized. It generated a crowdsourcing response of over $350,000, and a local Ford dealer’s donation of an automobile. While the outpouring of generosity solved one man’s transportation issues, it failed to provide for the rest of the fragmented Detroit metropolitan region, or other regions facing similar issues, crippled by suburbs that intentionally choose to opt out of regional bus service. While Baltimore is comparably better served by public transit than other metropolitan regions, its African American residents have provided their own highly effective, yet illegal, answer to transit deficiencies: hacking. Diane Jones Allen, ASLA, discusses these issues and offers a response in her dissertation for Morgan State University in 2014. She is currently furthering this topic in a book about transit deserts, race, and suburban form. Portions of her dissertation and future book are summarized and excerpted below.
–Ellen Barth Alster, ASLA, Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN Chair

Within the past five decades, public transit-dependent and urban-oriented populations have been relocated or shifted to outer-urban, auto-oriented neighborhoods at the same rates that African-Americans moved to northern cities from southern rural communities during the preceding five decades of the Great Migration. These outer-urban areas have not offered adequate public transit to support economically viable employment, nor have they provided access to social and cultural networks, resulting from the suburban and low density built forms which favor the automobile. These areas are called “Transit Deserts,” a term first used in 2007 by Professor David Hulchanski from the University of Toronto. This topic is closely related to the “Food Desert” discourse, tying geographic form, neighborhood income, and public and private policies into a triangular model that drives an ever increasing number of American citizens into poverty through a narrowing of access to quality food or transportation.

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Stormwater Infrastructure & Streetscapes

Bainbridge Island, WA image: SvR Design Company

Winslow Way streetscape, Bainbridge Island, WA
image: design and photo by SvR Design Company

The article below, written by Professional Engineer Nathan Polanski of SvR Design Company, is based on a presentation Nathan gave to the Landscape and Environmental Design Committee of the Transportation Research Board at that organization’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC this January.
—Craig Churchward and Wendy Miller, Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN Co-Chairs

Integrating Green Stormwater Infrastructure into the Streetscape

Across the country, local governments are integrating green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) into the streetscape to manage urban stormwater runoff. More frequently implemented to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs), streetside GSI also treats polluted runoff that includes oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens to help protect the quality of local water bodies. Often overlooked, however, is the vital role that GSI can play in creating a thriving, pedestrian-friendly streetscape by providing physical buffers, reducing imperviousness, increasing opportunities for tree canopy, mitigating heat island effect, and promoting traffic calming.

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Bike Maps

image: City of Austin

image: City of Austin

Luckily I have had the pleasure of living in a few cities that find bicycle commuting important and recognize the best way to get people out of their cars and onto a bicycle is to make that step a bit less frightening.  Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC are just a few cities that have taken steps to add bike lanes to their streets and provide maps of these bicycle-friendly streets to residents and visitors.

Usually these map legends point out bike trails, on-street bike lanes, and streets that are recommended for bicycling without marked lanes.  Though helpful for the seasoned bicycle commuter, a first timer may not be ready to venture out just yet.

The city of Austin is taking this to the next step and has developed a mapping system that “prioritizes rider comfort in its symbology.”  The color-coded bike network is “keyed to the real-world experience a person can expect when cycling on any given street.”

Read more about the city of Austin’s bike map on The Atlantic Cities: “Bike Maps That Give Riders the Info They Actually Need” by Sarah Goodyear.

by Deborah Steinberg, ASLA Professional Practice Coordinator

Bicycling in Spain: Is there a relation to Land Use?

Bikes share a transitway in Seville
image: Stan Clauson

This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.

Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle.  Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation.  In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands.  So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling.  Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones.  But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation?  It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well.  In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.

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Bicycle Connectivity: A New Perspective

Cyclists enjoying the William C. O’Neill (South County) Bike Path, Rhode Island
image: State of Rhode Island Department of Transportation

Moving Beyond the Network

You could say that the author has some familiarity with the subject of bicycle connectivity; over the course of finishing his MLA degree at the University of Oregon, he pedaled over 6,500 miles in and around the city of Eugene.  The city is already well known for its bicycle friendly environment, but this did not stop the Colorado native from questioning how it can be made even better. His hope is to make cities and communities more hospitable places by creating innovative approaches to bicycle connectivity.  The author’s graduate research explores current thought on the subject then details a new, holistic approach to that goal.

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Transportation Meeting and Education Sessions

SR 179 through Sedona's Red Rock Country

SR 179 through Sedona’s Red Rock Country
image: Royal Enfield

Below is a list of some of the sessions at the Annual Meeting that may be of interest to landscape architects practicing transportation planning and design.

We also hope to see you at the Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN meeting on Sunday, September 30th from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the EXPO.   We will review the results of our PPN membership survey and develop an action plan to address our three most important issues.  Come learn how you can participate in The Field and join the discussion on topics of interest to our members on LinkedIn.

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Context Sensitive Solutions

Philly Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Master Plan

Philly Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Master Plan
image: ASLA

The Federal Highway Administration is beginning to conduct a second round of web-based conversations on Context Sensitive Solutions.  This is an excellent opportunity for LA and Transportation PPN members to participate in developing national policies related to transportation.

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