TagWashington

November snow

November snow photo by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WsDOT).

I rode this train, the Amtrak Cascades, from Portland to Seattle, but in April 2010. I would love to go back and ride it again, through the snow this time. It looks so beautiful.

I commend the Washington State Department of Transportation for its good presence on social media and social networking websites. I’m tracking where other DOTs are online.

Bikes and streetcar tracks

UPDATE 12-11-10: Someone recently searched for rubber in tracks and I wanted to provide some additional resources on the topic of protecting people who ride bikes from the dangers of open streetcar tracks. It is possible, in some situations, to fill the track flangeway (where the wheel goes) with rubber that the train depresses as it rolls over but people riding bikes ride over a level surface. Resource one input from people around the world, and two, a column in The Oregonian newspaper of Portland.

UPDATE 12-14-10: BikePortland has a story about an activism and advocacy group (AROW) that will demand better accommodations for bicycling around new streetcar tracks in Portland, Oregon.

UPDATE 08-13-13: Zurich, Switzerland, will be testing a flangeway filler on their tram tracks. I believe this will be the first transit system to test the rubber fill. 

Bicycle riders in Seattle are suing the City of Seattle for not providing enough warnings about streetcar tracks in the South Lake Union neighborhood. They allege the City installed warning signs only after several bike-track crashes.

Photo: A sign on Stewart Street in Seattle, Washington, advises bicycle riders to use EXTREME CAUTION when crossing the streetcar tracks. These signs are coming under question in a lawsuit this week.

Mixing bicycles and transit is one of the most sensible matches of transportation modes. The Federal Transit Administration has been promoting a positive union since at least 1999 (see the booklet they produced). The publication includes case studies and good examples of integration, including a story about how King County Metro (the primary bus operator in Seattle) installed bike racks on its buses in 1993, following the footsteps of Phoenix.

Photo: A resident rides their bike on the street while a Portland Streetcar rolls by.

So how is it now, 17 years later, we’re still deliberating how streetcars, light rails, and bicycles can safely share the road? Why this is a problem:

  • People are getting hurt. Concerns about personal safety demotivate people to ride their bikes.
  • The Federal government is funding many new streetcar projects across the country, including in Tucson, Arizona, two hours south of Phoenix, which has its own light rail system.
  • Bicycle riders have been navigating tram and streetcar tracks in Europe for 100 years. What knowledge can European riders and planners share with us?

Photo: A rubber-filled flangeway in the gap between rail and deck on the Cherry Avenue Bridge in Chicago, Illinois. This bridge serves a 1-car train a few times a week.

Could a rubber-filled flangeway be used on a medium-frequency streetcar line?

The snow debate: Who should clear sidewalks?

A couple of days ago (I think it was Friday night, December 18, 2009), a storm dumped several feet of snow in the northeast United States, covering New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The storm was so eventful that Metro (Washington, D.C.) stored many of its trains in the subway tunnels to avoid getting them covered in heavy snow, and applied “heater tape” to the third rails to keep them from getting new ice after two passes from plows and deicing trains. [This information comes from the linked Metro press release on December 19, 2009.]

Now Streetsblog NYC is hosting the debate about snow removal from sidewalks. Why doesn’t anyone do it, and who should do it? Images of unplowed sidewalks and pedestrians walking in clean and clear streets bring up issues about priorities in street design and maintenance.

Many municipalities have ordinances requiring the property owner to remove snow from the sidewalk (Chicago even specifies a time frame in which the work must be completed; at my last apartment, I shoveled the snow from the sidewalk and porches for a deduction in rent). Many people report how these laws pass through the winter without enforcement.

My bike waits for me on unplowed sidewalk in front of my school. I live in Chicago, Illinois, not the east coast.

A plow removes snow from a bike lane in Copenhagen, Denmark. Is this something we can bring to our bike lanes and sidewalks in the United States?

The airport link

On Friday I wrote about improving bicycle connections to the nation’s airports (daily destinations for thousands of passengers and workers). I’ll continue working towards this goal, but in the meantime I want to point out what I see as more important: Extending trains to the airport.

A revenue train built by Kinki-Sharyo pulls into the airport station. See more opening day photos from Atomic Taco.

The Sound Transit Link light rail opened to the public on yesterday, Saturday, December 19, 2009, taking travelers and passengers from downtown Seattle south to Seattle-Tacoma airport (SEA) in SeaTac, Washington*. The Seattle region now joins the fortunate ranks of North American cities with direct train access to the major airport. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, opened the Canada Line this year, connecting to YVR.

*SeaTac, Washington, is a real city! Visit the Wikipedia article to learn more. The town has only been incorporated since 1990.

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