Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roadways played out?

The lock and key combination of the highways and the automobile unleashed an explosion in the supply of urbanizable land. While traffic congestion has grown on exponentially on population growth, only recently have the cumulative effects of congestion outstripped the capacity to maintain and expand the highway network. As a result, the value of centrality is again rising, and there is once again a need for real urbanism, and not just the faux "New Urbanism" railway suburbanism.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Portland Curiosity

Busily mapping light rail systems, and as I look upon Portland, I realize--two shopping centers inside the beltway. We're not talking regional malls here--we're talking large strip centers. In Salt Lake in Phoenix, they are legion. Some might attribute it to the light rail, or the smart growth boundary, but I personally wonder if block sized does not play a major role. Portland blocks are about 200' on a side--tiny. Salt Lake's are 660' x 660', which makes for ten-acre blocks. Portland's blocks must be... 40,000 SF? Less than an acre, and certainly smaller than the 'anchor' tenants at even a small shopping mall. Closer inspection shows that 'Pioneer Place' has a skybridge, joining two blocks, and a 6-story parking garage next door. The second 'shopping center' is the Portland Galleria, a 5-story converted industrial warehouse. Certainly not your standard item.

Friday, December 14, 2012

UTA needs to plan more light rail

UTA needs to plan for some more light rail. It's like planning for arterials roads--it represents a key link in the transportation network. Think of it this way: Commuter Rail = Highway. Thus, without to connect to, a 'highway to nowhere'? Governance scale also relevant--Commuter rail is the MSA, light rail a County-level project, and street-car a city level project. However, for roads, the Feds pay for most of the highways, the state pays for the major roads (most arterials are 'state highways'), and only the smaller roads are actually handled by cities. On that analogy, there is actually no transit 'small' enough that a city can handle it.

Regardless, Salt Lake County has it's light rail, and Weber, Davis and Utah all have commuter rail now. But UTA wants to build something--they've developed the capacity, and well, 'when you've got a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail'. I'm unpersuaded about the value of streetcars (however awesome Portland's has been), but still devoted to light rail and it's capacity for doing the things a bus can't do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I increasingly suspect that the primary advantage of rail transit over bus may be in the planning. Rail costs per foot of guide-way, and so routes are direct. Likewise, acceleration and stopping are slow, so station spacing has serious implications for speed and travel time. I suspect a similar dynamic may apply to BRT--stations are costly, so there is pressure to limit them, rather than scattering them liberally.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Courthouse TRAX station

Staring at an aerial of the UTA Trax, reflecting how awkwardly close the courthouse station is to both the Gallivan Center and Library stations. Wonder how much it would cost to move the station a block south (yellow star), so that it would provide direct access to the Grand America and Little America hotels, rather than to the Matheson courthouse? I have to imagine the ridership would be better. Currently, conventioneers have to walk the block to the station to get on TRAX. It would also add some redevelopment potential from that large cleared lot a block away.