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Roundup 8-18-2017

August 18, 2017

Contents

Transportation – The Wheel Keeps Turning

 – The Bottleneck

— The Right of Way

— The Study

— Selmon/ Gandy Connector

USF – Stadium Dreams

Hyde Park – Illogical

Downtown/Hyde Park – There’s More Than the River

South Tampa – South Westshore Movement

Downtown/Channel District – Happenings

— Downtowner Bolts

— Arena

— Channelside, the Complex

— D is for Cookie

Economic Development – Expansion

Port – Better Late Than Never

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State/Country

— The Competition Never Ends

— Time to Check Out Ft. Worth

— Seattle

— Redoing Suburbs

____________________________________________


Transportation – The Wheel Keeps Turning


 – The Bottleneck

For a long time we have been wondering why, instead of insisting on the whole TBX project, FDOT did not fix the obvious problem with the interstate.  A major one of those problems is the bottleneck at the east end of the Howard Frankland Bridge where the highway goes from 4 lanes on the bridge to 2 lanes under an overpass (there is another overpass but it is wide enough for more lanes).  That used to be the case on the west end but years ago FDOT fixed it.   Why not just fix the east end?

Well.

Motorists heading north on the Howard Frankland Bridge are all-too familiar with one of the worst bottlenecks in Tampa Bay: Interstate 275 splits in half before the Westshore interchange, leaving traffic backed up for miles on the bridge.

But now state officials say they have a solution.

The Florida Department of Transportation wants to add a third lane to both directions of I-275 approaching the bridge on the Tampa side, District 7 secretary David Gwynn told the Tampa Bay Times Friday.

“Our models are showing that would provide significant relief in that area,” Gwynn said.

Expanding that part of the interstate was part of the Tampa Bay Next project, formerly known as Tampa Bay Express. The old TBX plan called for adding 90 miles of toll roads to interstates 4, 75 and 275, but opposition led state officials to re-brand and re-think the $6 billion project.

But traffic entering Tampa from the Howard Frankland is so bad that the state plans to fast-track those improvements while the rest of Tampa Bay Next remains under review. Adding an extra lane to southbound I-275 will also help commuters taking the bridge to St. Petersburg. And neither of the new lanes will be tolled.

We are not going to get into the truthfulness of some of those descriptions (traffic was bad when they were insisting on TBX as the only fix).  We are just happy that they are adding a lane (which was part of TBX), though they should add two lanes.  (Just completely remove the bottleneck and be done with it.)  Anyway,

The new plan is in the preliminary stages and could cost at least $25 million — a relatively small number for a state agency with an annual $10 billion budget. Until now, fixing the chokepoint in the Westshore area was bundled together with all of the other projects previously planned for TBX.

The department wouldn’t move forward with one project until local leaders were willing to approve all of them.

“We had everything packaged up with TBX,” agency spokeswoman Kris Carson said. “Now that we’re taking a step back with the reset, it’s helped us work through some of this and find an interim solution.”

In other words, FDOT (or whoever) was holding fixing this obvious problem hostage to a larger, unpopular project (and, more specifically, the express lanes) – and local officials just went along with it.  Although,

The extra northbound lane into Tampa would likely continue all the way to N Dale Mabry Highway. Those short-term improvements, however, would not replace plans to consider completely rebuilding the Westshore Area Interchange. Instead, the third lane would be an intermediate step until the region can decide on a more robust plan.

We are not sure exactly what that means.  The third lane disappears at the SR-60/Kennedy exit and reappears at SR60. (The fourth lane disappears at the same place and returns at Westshore.) At Dale Mabry, I-275 north has more than three lanes already.

Regardless, while it is not a full fix, we are happy that FDOT is doing something about this obvious problem and not holding it hostage to TBX/express lanes anymore.  It shows that concerted pressure can achieve a positive result.  Unfortunately, we have wasted a lot of time because local officials were not willing to push for logical solutions and changes and relied on the public to organize and make some noise.  But at least something positive has happened.

And one more thing.

The expedited plan is welcome news to cross-bay commuters, particularly the business community, which has been clamoring for improvements to the Westshore interchange for years. The impetus behind this move is Gwynn, who was appointed to lead DOT’s local office in June.

“Whenever congestion and backups can be reduced… that’s reason to celebrate,” Tampa Bay Partnership President Rick Homans said. “It’s a positive step, and I like the pragmatism and the fact that (Gwynn)’s stepping in and finding a quick win that’s meaningful to the community.”

Setting aside the odd reference to the amorphous “business community,” a while back the Partnership President said this regarding his support for turning a free Howard Frankland lane into an express lane:

Rick Homans of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a strong advocate for TBX, said business executives care more about the bottleneck at Westshore, where four lanes currently narrow to two, than the number of lanes on the bridge. The plan aims to fix that by adding an extra through lane at the interchange.

“You don’t need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to add additional lanes to the bridge if you fix the root of the problem, which is a poorly designed interchange,” Homans said.

Since in his opinion, even with one lane through the bottleneck fixes the congestion, logically, there is absolutely no reason to have express lanes on the bridge. Now, he can focus on putting real transit in the space those lanes would have taken.

We still think all local officials, and the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation, as well as the community at large, including the business community, should be pushing FDOT to fully remove the bottleneck and keep the four lanes going from the bridge throughout the Westshore area.


– The Right of Way

In other news,

But the new district secretary didn’t stop there. Gwynn also announced Friday that the department will stop acquiring properties in the footprint of the old TBX plan, including those from willing sellers.

Opponents of the interstate project have asked DOT repeatedly to stop buying land, especially around the downtown Tampa interchange, until a new plan is approved. The department wasn’t taking land through eminent domain, but had previously refused to stop purchasing property from willing sellers — until Gwynn’s decision halted those acquisitions.

Which is also a good thing.  It shows that FDOT may actually be reconsidering TBX.


– The Study

There was also news about the transit study of studies:

Jacobs Engineering is launching the next step in its regional feasibility plan for the Tampa Bay region to help identify projects that could jump-start the area’s woeful public transit system.

The team is hosting a series of public meetings this month to present current findings, as part of the ongoing study to lay out priority corridors in the region. They will also gather input from residents in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties about what type of transit they think will work best along those corridors.

The corridors identified as prime spots for transit include routes connecting Westshore to Brandon, downtown Tampa to the University of South Florida, Wesley Chapel to USF and St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg to Clearwater via the Gateway business district and South Tampa to downtown Tampa.

That is all well and good, though it really does not present anything new or interesting (nor, in fact, was it intended to do so).

The meetings are Aug. 22 at the Residence Inn Tampa Suncoast Parkway in Lutz; Aug. 24 at the Tampa Bay History Center; and Aug. 29 at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

Which is not particularly convenient for the vast majority of people in the area, but at least it is something (do they have a website for comments?).  However, one should remember that the study is not studying how to make a comprehensive, coordinated transportation system:

The feasibility plan was funded through the Florida Department of Transportation during the controversial Tampa Bay Express (TBX) plan discussions that were ultimately reset earlier this year. The department is calling its future transportation planning process Tampa Bay Next, but that is now separate from the feasibility plan.

We find this whole process far less interesting than an actual study of present conditions and what would serve best in them.  But, it is what it is, and it is all we have right now, though we really need much better.


– Selmon/ Gandy Connector

There was also news about the Selmon Connector:

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Board of Directors on Monday approved a design-build contract worth $230 million to begin work on a two-mile toll lane running between Dale Mabry Boulevard to the Gandy Bridge along Gandy Boulevard.

* * *

Construction of the Selmon West Extension is expected to begin early next year with the extension opening in late 2020.

We have been all for the building of the Selmon/Gandy Connector (apparently officially the Selmon West Extension), though we would have preferred it be four lanes rather than what is essentially a very long exit ramp.  URBN Tampa Bay summarized all the issues with the present plan here.

Setting aside all the problems with the plan identified by URBN Tampa Bay and speaking just about the road connection (not the price, exposure), we think, in this case, something is better than nothing and the improvements to Gandy on the Pinellas side should be completed from the bridge to I-275.  But we wish it would be done right from the outset.

It’s also worth noting that the connector cost over $100 million per mile without an exit at Westshore and with limited capacity.  Keep that in mind when people talk about the cost of transit.


USF – Stadium Dreams

As some may know, when USF was founded, the lack of a football team was official policy, as, apparently, was making the campus sprawling and detached from the surrounding area.  Over time, both those ideas have been rethought.  Though USF is making progress on the sprawl/detachment issue, it obviously has come farther on the football team issue.  But one thing has always been lacking, an on-campus stadium.

We did not get to it last week, but a committee has conducted a study of possible stadium locations that was released last week. You can see the study here.

The University of South Florida is considering building an on-campus football stadium. School officials acknowledged they are still in the early stages of planning, but a preliminary feasibility study released Tuesday shows a stadium would set the school back about $200 million and hold 40,000 to 50,000 fans.

Several sites are up for consideration including the spot where the Museum of Science and Industry is currently located. That site is ideal in terms of size and location, but the land is owned by the county, which could pose a challenge. MOSI is expected to move to a location in Water Street Tampa in downtown by 2022.

In our opinion the MOSI site is not optimal.  It is not actually on campus, and it can used for other development like research, offices, residential that is connected to, but not directly part of, USF.  Notably, the report did not really focus on it.

Another possible spot is also along Fowler Avenue in the practice fields across from the Sun Dome. There’s also potential space at the corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fowler as well as near the USF Botanical Gardens on the west side of campus.

Those are the locations actually discussed in the report.

Both zones have unique characteristics; positives and negatives should be considered for optimum site selection.

Zone 1 has advantages in several categories. It offers the best connection to the heart of the campus and presents an opportunity to provide a memorable game day experience and tradition, utilizing the natural resources unique to the USF campus. Visibility and branding potential is strong, but not overwhelming. This zone also has access to the greatest number of existing parking spaces within a 15-minute walk. Connectivity to Bruce B. Downs and Fletcher from a variety of access points will help with game day congestion.

A portion of the proposed site resides on land that is currently delineated as USF Research Park. In addition to redefining the boundaries of the existing research park, the land use and zoning will need to be modified to allow construction of a stadium. Additionally, there are two occupied buildings on site that will need to be demolished and potentially relocated, both with substantial remaining lease terms. This site also impacts significant utilities serving the campus that must be rerouted. This infrastructure work can be seen in a positive light which will breathe new life into the southwest corner of the campus and serve as a catalyst for development of a higher density research park.

Zone 2 has a number of positive traits worth considering. This site offers great connection to the already established athletic zone on the main campus. It is possible that new improvements such as parking, road improvements, and public plazas could be utilized for games and events at the Sun Dome. The adjacency to the athletic infrastructure encourages an athletics village with practice facilities, gym, and athletic support offices all within a fairly compact footprint.

The visibility and branding opportunities for Zone 2 are significant, but also could dominate the street presence of the campus. The Zone 2 site is much smaller than Zone 1, resulting in less flexibility for building location, service, and public access. Significant campus utilities exist under the proposed site boundary and will likely need to be rerouted, but not to the same extent as Zone 1.

Pg 2 of the pdf

Here are a couple of conceptual renderings (we doubt a stadium would look like this or have seating so far from the field).

Zone 1

From USF – click on picture for report

Zone 2

From USF – click on picture for report

We think the above summary from the report is quite good.  The Zone 1 idea is an easier fit, though it would require more infrastructure.  The Zone 2 idea follows the campus lay out better by putting the stadium in the athletic area.  It would also share parking with the Sun Dome.  However, the site is smaller, which creates its own challenges.

It is still early in the process, but, if it can be done, we like Zone 2 more.  And we would definitely like USF to have their own stadium, like the other major state schools in Florida and most other major schools.  Of course, there is always the question of money:

The USF Board of Trustees will discuss the 41-page report during its meeting next week. That discussion is expected to address how the school would fund a new stadium. The school said no education or general state funds would be used, but student fees are still on the table.

We’ll see what happens.


Hyde Park – Illogical

There was news regarding the 9-story assisted living facility proposed for Hyde Park Avenue.

The Tampa City Council voted 4-2 late Thursday night to deny a rezoning for a 175-bed assisted living facility that developer Grady Pridgen proposed in Hyde Park near the bridge to Davis Islands.

During a lengthy public hearing, residents contended that the 9-story building at 509 S Hyde Park Ave., was out of scale with the neighborhood, would exacerbate an existing parking problem and could create traffic hazards on a route leading to Tampa General Hospital.

Can you say pretense?

Pridgen’s development team, however, said the project met all city codes, had more parking than the city required and — with no residents having cars of their own — would generate fewer traffic trips to and from the 1.2-acre site than the office building that’s there now.

In an effort to address neighborhood concerns, Pridgen offered to reduce the number of beds from the 215 he first requested to 175 and agreed to make a dozen changes to the plan to ease the project’s impact on the neighborhood.

From the Times – click on picture for article

Assisted living facilities are not huge traffic creators and Hyde Park Avenue is not particularly congested. (Nor is it full of single family homes)  And, as noted, the proposal has more parking than the City requires (which is already probably too much).  But let’s get to the point:

But that was still too much for opponents.

“A very huge building creating a barrier” within Hyde Park, said attorney Jim Porter, who represented two neighbors next to the proposed project, which is at the northwest corner of S Hyde Park and W De Leon Street.

In making the motion for denial, council member Mike Suarez cited several city land use policies requiring the need for new projects to be in context with the rest of the community, to encourage small- to medium-scale development and to be of a scale that’s compatible with the rest of the neighborhood.

Voting along with Suarez against the rezoning were Harry Cohen, Guido Maniscalco and Charlie Miranda. Frank Reddick and Luis Viera voted in favor, and Yvonne Yolie Capin was absent.

Actually, that’s not the point.  It doesn’t create a barrier and fits in with the area as you can tell from a map.  You can see one here. Looking at it, you notice the lot is surrounded by businesses (with some multi-family) and multi-story buildings cutting off Bayshore from the neighborhood. (And, seriously, 345 Bayshore condos are a block away.  It is not small.) This building just lines up with the road.

The fact is that we don’t really care if this particular building is built. We do care that the City is so eager to not build things in built up, mixed-use areas.


Downtown/Hyde Park – There’s More Than the River

The Related project on the old Tribune site has two cranes and a name:

It’s official — Manor Riverwalk will be the name of Related Group’s apartment project on the former site of the Tampa Tribune.

Ground-breaking for the eight-story, 400 unit project is slated for Aug. 23. Miami-based Related bought the riverfront site two years ago for $17.75 million.

We’re not exactly sure why the project on Harbour Island was the Manor but now is not (it’s Icon) and this one was not the Manor but now is.  But regardless, looking at this rendering:

From the Times – click on picture for article

The only thing that sticks out to us is that the parking garage on the left side is the tallest and biggest feature of the project and the street is dead except for that little plaza entrance next to the strangely flat highway. (We assume so that residents can theoretically walk downtown though presumably they would exit at the east end near the river.)  The river side may be nice (we’ll have to see) but the neighborhood side is really lacking.

It is truly disappointing.


South Tampa – South Westshore Movement

Continuing with the Related news,

Related Development LLC, a Miami-based company, was approved for a $52 million loan to build a luxury apartment tower in the Westshore Marina District.

That is on land south of Gandy on the waterfront.  It is a decent sized loan.  Whether it is luxury or not remains to be determined.  As for “tower,”

The building will be four stories and 396 units. Among the amenities are fitness studios, saunas and concierge services. It is one of four projects Related is building in the area.

Not so much. (You can see it here.)

Much more interesting and more tower-like, though not about Related, was this:

BTI Partners, master developer of the $600 million district, has started an “interest list” of potential buyers in the 16-story Marina Pointe tower overlooking Tampa Bay.

Prices for the seven townhomes and 112 condos in the boomerang-shaped tower will range from the $600,000s to more than $1.5 million. Among the features: a two-level lobby with concierge service; a Residents’ Pointe Club with bar; a massage, yoga and exercise studio; and locker rooms with steam rooms and showers. An elevated amenity deck is to include a pool, fireplace, bocce ball court and summer kitchen.  

From the Times – click on picture for article

You can’t really tell much from that rendering except how many floors it is, but it is more interesting.  As is this:

Daniel said “another large sale” is expected to close next month for an apartment project but he did not disclose the name of the prospective buyer.

“Beyond that we are going to develop everything ourselves,” he said. The marina district eventually could include a grocery, restaurants, shops, hotel and a 1.5 mile waterfront park.

It should be noted that this is part of the planned developments on Westshore south of Gandy that the Selmon Connector as planned will not help, nor are there any other clear plans to deal with.  We are all for development of this area (though we would like better development than this), but, if it is going to happen, the City should be planning to deal with it. 


Downtown/Channel District – Happenings

In the last few weeks, there have been a number of things happening downtown, none of which is huge but they deserve some mention.


– Downtowner Bolts

The Downtowner free shuttle service starting running their Chevy Bolts.

The Downtowner hit the 100,000-rider mark less than seven months after launching last October, and currently about 500 people a day use the service.

Wait times average 26 minutes, with the heaviest demand coming during morning and evening rush hours and at lunch. One of the program’s most popular pickup and drop-off locations is the Marion Transit Center, and a good portion of the demand is driven by commuters looking to cover the first and last miles of their trips between home and work.

The numbers are good but point to a use more out of need than choice.  Then again, you have to start somewhere.

And, regardless, they needed more vehicles and the Bolts have some advantages:

The addition of the Bolts is expected to reduce wait times, support the growth in demand and — blissfully — provide some air-conditioned rides. The Downtowner’s original vehicles, a five-passenger mini-shuttle known as a GEM, have their own charm, but their lack of air conditioning means that they often roll through downtown with windows open.

Another key difference between the Bolts and GEMs is the Bolts can go more than 200 miles on a single charge, allowing them to stay on the road all day.

In contrast, the 12 GEMs in the Downtowner’s fleet are limited to around 60 miles per charge, meaning that half of them are on the road and half are on a power cord at any one time.

How local officials paid for a service that lacks air-conditioned vehicles is beyond us, but the Bolts have air conditioning.  The range issue is self-evident.

On the other hand, while we were intrigued by the idea, we saw Bolts driving around and, frankly, if they had a/c like they should have, we’d rather get picked up by the taller, bigger doored old shuttles, especially when it is raining, than the short, small doored, cramped (see here) Bolts.

Since you are not travelling at high speed anyway, comfort and ease are the most important thing.  Both options on offer right now are lacking.


– Arena

Speaking of Bolts,

Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa is ranked among the top venues worldwide for concert, event and family show ticket sales through the first half of 2017.

Pollstar, a trade publication that covers the concert industry, has ranked the top 200 venues worldwide by ticket sales through June 30. At 322,828 tickets sold, Amalie Arena ranks No. 15 on the global list.

It is definitely good, especially in light of the other venues here and in Orlando against which it competes.  A busy arena can do nothing but help the Water Street project.


– Channelside, the Complex

And speaking of the Lightning owner’s holdings involving public land,

Restaurants in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza are shuttering as Strategic Property Partners preps to demolish that portion of the beleaguered waterfront mall.

Hablo Taco, a Tex-Mex restaurant by Guy Revelle that opened with great fanfare in early 2015, will close at the end of August. Thai Tani closed at the end of July.

Kimmins Contracting Corp. has filed for a demolition permit for the southwest wing of the plaza, a spokeswoman for SPP said Monday. Demolition is scheduled for mid-September.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

This is part of the recently announced rethinking of the Channelside complex to make it work with the Water Street project,

“Demolishing the southwest wing allows us to open Channelside up to the waterfront and create a new active plaza for the community so we’re eager to get work underway,” Ali Glisson, a spokeswoman for SPP, wrote in an email.

A waterfront park with programming will create a destination within the district before the majority of its buildings break ground (more than a dozen buildings are slated to begin vertical construction in early 2018).

We like the opening of the waterfront, which was a problem with the complex from the beginning.  We also like that we are starting to see real movement with the Lightning owner’s project, even if nothing is actually getting built yet.


– D is for Cookie

One of the great things about a blog is that sometimes you can just do a plug for something you like.  We like Metropolitan Ministries and we like Inside the Box, so we like this too:

. . .a new Metropolitan Ministries enterprise called Dough Nation (Get it? All proceeds from your purchases go directly to feed the hungry in Tampa Bay). This is the brainchild of Cliff Barsi, who is also the mastermind behind Inside the Box Cafe, which recently announced it would open another location in the lobby of the Tampa Bay Times building in Tampa.

The Dough Nation concept will debut in September in downtown Tampa, and will be set up like a scoop shop with flavors including dark chocolate, s’mores and even a vegan option (coconut macaroon). Dough Nation will serve as a training platform for the students of the Metropolitan Ministries culinary program transitioning out of homelessness.

Eating cookie dough for a good cause.  What could be better?  So have a treat and help those in need.


Economic Development – Expansion

USAA, which already has a substantial presence in the area, is expanding again:

USAA is expanding its campus in suburban Tampa, planning a new office building that’s nearly a quarter-million square feet.

The financial services giant said Wednesday that it is building a 240,000-square-foot new office building at Crosstown Center. The new building means room for up to 1,000 additional employees, bringing USAA’s capacity in Tampa to nearly 4,500 employees, the company said.

Crosstown Center in near the Brandon end of the Selmon.

While we may complain about subsidies or hype, we are not going to complain about getting more jobs.  As for the complex itself, it is a basic suburban office complex.


Port – Better Late Than Never

Last week, we discussed some interesting reports about spending at the port, including for golf club memberships.

Following fallout from media reports of excessive spending by its executives, Port Tampa Bay has revised its employee expense policies.

The changes to policies pertaining to expenses associated with employee travel, promotion and business development and the use of purchasing cards represent the latest chapter in the controversy surrounding spending by port executives.

Well, that’s good.

The revised policy, which went into effect Tuesday, forces port officials to forgo renewing golf memberships or Tampa Bay Lightning season tickets and will require detailed documentation of all business and travel-related expenses. Port employees will be required to attend a training session about the new policies and to fill out a new form to document every expense.

The Business Journal had a more detailed list here.

We said last week that we get the Port has to do some entertaining for business, and we do. But it should not take media reports to have reasonable controls on that spending.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the State/Country


— The Competition Never Ends

In more examples of competition for international flights (which also sometimes shows how big the market really is), Orlando is getting more international service to Amsterdam on Delta and Brazil on Azul.

In addition, going outside Florida, Nashville is getting a British Airways flight to Heathrow, with all its connections (and more business travel reputation). We still only have Gatwick, which lacks the British Airway connections.

And, while we won’t get into the detail, the LA Times had a very interesting article on the growing numbers of flights to Mexico.


– Time to Check Out Ft. Worth

As we keep saying about theoretical transit using the CSX lines (especially in Hillsborough County), the use should not be “commuter rail” which is basically morning and evening service with little in between.  It should be regular local transit service.  We also keep saying that the best technology to use right now, assuming there is no electrification, would be DMUs.

Stadler has completed the first Flirt multiple-unit to be assembled in the USA at its plant at North Salt Lake in Utah. The DMU for the TEX Rail project will be officially unveiled at the ATPA Expo in Atlanta in October.

This Ft. Worth line will open in 2018.

Of course, we saw this technology in this area decades ago as a demonstration,

From HART – click on picture for Facebook page

From HART – click on picture for Facebook page

But, as with most things transit, nothing happened (though you may find this Business Journal editorial from the time an interesting window into why not much happened. ) 


– Seattle

Last week, we wrote extensively about road removals or burying.  One of the examples we discussed was the replacement of the Alaskan Way in Seattle with a tunnel.  Just to keep up to date,

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is in the process of laying out the plan, and are seeking public input through an online open house on issues like noise and demolition methods.

Through that open house, we’ve learned a few things about what’s to come for the aging viaduct—or at least, what’s left of it. (A mile of the viaduct was already demolished in 2011.)

The short answer: Right now, WSDOT is anticipating beginning demolition in early 2019, and the whole structure to be demolished by that fall.

Also, quite interesting, in light of discussion of the proposed boulevard to replace I-275 and other transportation, Seattle is a growing city.  The numbers of personal vehicles is growing at about the same rate as the popluation, while transit ridership is growing at the same rate or more (it is not entirely clear because some transit services aren’t counted).

Crunching census data from between 2010 and 2015, Balk found that Seattle’s population grew by 12 percent, the same increase as the number of personal vehicles owned by Seattle residents.

* * *

Still, as car ownership is rising, household car ownership is not. During that same time period, the rate of car ownership among city households fell 1 percent. It’s not a huge drop, but it’s a far cry from a 12 percent increase.

* * *

That’s growing at around the same rate, too. King County Metro ridership grew at about the same rate between 2010 and 2015: just over 11 percent for that agency alone, not including Sound Transit. (Sound Transit ridership has grown much faster, but that’s more likely because of an increase in options, like Link Light Rail.)

According to Commute Seattle data, solo car commutes downtown have fallen by 5 percent since 2010, and only make up 5 percent of new commutes during that time—looking at that side-by-side would imply that not many of those new cars are being used for downtown commutes.

That all implies that some people have cars for the weekend or to use when they feel like it.  It also indicates that in a growing area, we need a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-modal transportation system.


– Redoing Suburbs

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post  regarding how office parks are trying to reinvent themselves in a market where people want shorter commutes, more options, and some urbanism.

From the Washington and New York suburbs to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, traditional corporate campuses that have struggled since the Great Recession are trying to transform from sterile worksites into vibrant mini-towns. In addition to housing, they’re adding restaurants, grocery stores, playgrounds and outdoor concert spaces — anything to draw people in and make them want to stay.  

You can read it here for details.  We will say that the retrofits described are nowhere near as good as actually building properly planned developments and that some of the references to housing seem a tad high-priced.  On the other hand, the examples also point to some fixes that can happen to make office parks far better than they are now.

And, even more interesting, is what can happen to suburbs in growing areas than are properly connected by real transit.

While malls across the country struggle to attract customers who’ve been lured away by the convenience of online shopping, Perimeter Mall could soon find itself the heart of a bustling, urban-scaled community.

The Dunwoody City Council has given its stamp of approval to “Nexus Perimeter”—a two-tower development set to rise in the parking lot of the mall, adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA Station.

You can read the article here for details.  The point is that, with vision (and desire), things can change.

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