Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We should ask our grandparents how to address our traffic problems

The longer I work in urban design and transportation planning, the more I realize how much the past has to teach us about how to reduce congestion and improve our quality of life today. New Urbanism is not really new at all, since it takes urban design principles from a hundred or so years ago and brings them back to life. These principles have lead us back to more walkable communities and successful businesses.

The modern day Streetcar is certainly not a new idea but one that reaches back some 50 years to move people in a cleaner and more efficient fashion. Streetcars are now being constructed or discussed in more than 50 cities nationwide.

Freeways, which are a relatively modern phenomenon (post WWII), are actually being torn down ("Highway Teardowns Benefit Traffic Flow and City Life"), leading to additional green space.

Finally, roundabouts, which date back to 1903, are replacing antiquated signalized intersections, leading to reduced congestion and accidents ("From One-Way Rotary System to Modern Day Roundabout").

My only question is why does it take so long to figure out what we already know?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Amid rising costs, how do subways fare?

The local transit agency in Atlanta (MARTA) recently voted to raise fares from $1.75 to $2.00 starting in 2010. That is likely to cause howls since the economy is already hitting riders hard. But how does the new fare compare with other systems around the country? And how well in general does the Atlanta subway, well, fare?

To start, Atlanta is one of only eleven cities in the United States that has heavy rail service, which is admirable. Of course the trend in the last decade has been toward light rail. As for the number of stations and lines, it does not even compare to San Francisco's BART and DC's Metro - two systems that were established in the 1970's similar to MARTA.

As for the comparison to the fares of other subway systems in the "developed" world, Atlanta falls near the middle of the pack, which is good news for Atlanta riders.
Here are a couple of interesting websites about subway systems from around the world.

First is a ranking of the "top 11 underground transit systems from around the world," and the second is a devoted to the fact that "subway systems need not be boring or dreary."