Expanding Downtown

Downtown Washington, DC

» Debating growth limits in a downtown? Consider transportation.

Washington, D.C. is a lucky city: Its downtown has been filled up with new construction over the past few decades to such an extent that it has virtually no space for new office buildings. Some, like Matt Yglesias, have suggested that one way to resolve this problem would be to increase densities by ridding the city of its height limit, which in essence makes it impossible to build structures in the city that are over about 10 stories. Lydia Depillis, another local commenter, has argued that the municipality still has plenty of developable sites which, though they may not be directly downtown, still offer opportunities for more office space.

What would be the manifestations of these different approaches? How can we weigh the advantages and disadvantages of upzoning the center city for more office space? Is our goal to produce

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Rapid Transit Closer to Realization as Honolulu’s Rail Project Breaks Ground

Honolulu Transit Map

» $5.5 billion, automated rail corridor is expected to attract 100,000 daily riders once it is completed in 2019.

A week after the Federal Transit Administration recommended it for New Starts funding, Honolulu’s rapid transit project took a step forward today with a ceremonial groundbreaking. The massive scheme, which will extend 20 miles from downtown to East Kapolei once construction is finished in 2019, will radically redefine transport on Oahu, offering residents a true alternative to traffic-plagued surface streets and highways.

Honolulu and the surrounding municipalities — incorporated into Honolulu County — are hemmed in by a geography whose natural barriers make the tropical metropolis practically ideal for fixed-guideway transit like the system that is now being designed. With mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, there is little room for the city to expand, so the only place it can go

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New BART Station Brings Infill Thinking to the Bay Area

West Dublin Pleasanton Station

» A new stop at West Dublin/Pleasanton could attract new riders and transit-oriented development without requiring further line extensions.

With 104 miles of track and just 43 stations, the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system may have the most widely-spaced stopping pattern of almost any rapid transit system in the world. One wonders whether those huge inter-station distances reduce ridership by making it too difficult for people to get to and from stops by foot. Washington’s Metro, which was built in essentially the same period, has almost the same track length but twice as many stations — perhaps that is one of the primary reasons that it also has nearly twice as many daily riders?

Today, BART has taken a step forward to remediate the matter, opening a new stop at West Dublin/Pleasanton in the median of I-580, near the freeway’s junction with I-680. It is the first infill station

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Florida Governor Rick Scott Rejects Funding for Tampa-Orlando Intercity Rail Project

Florida High Speed Rail Map

» Despite its capital costs being almost entirely covered by Washington and plenty of evidence that private investors want to move forward, project is off the tracks for now.

Just days after the White House revealed its ambitions for a $53 billion, six-year plan for an American high-speed rail network, the place where it was all supposed to begin now appears to be out of the running. Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) announced that he would refuse $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a rail line between Orlando and Tampa. The project’s construction would have required $280 million in state aid to be completed, but projections had indicated that the line would cover its own operating costs.

The Obama Administration has funded the project more than any other outside of California and hoped that the scheme, which would have opened in 2016 as the first line in a

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Breaking Down the Department of Transportation’s Proposed 2012 Budget

Seattle Rapid Ride

» Department recommends funding for new transit projects in several American cities, but its primary priority in the short term is in getting existing infrastructure up to a state of good repair. Amtrak announces it plans to increase capacity on Acela trains.

Almost a year ago, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff took a controversial stand when he argued that the public sector was not doing enough to ensure the good repair of the nation’s oldest inner-city rail systems. He pointed out that cities from New York to Chicago needed to spend tens of billions of dollars to upgrade their transportation networks — rather than spend most of their funds on expansion.

The Department of Transportation has, at least to some extent, heeded his advice and made such funding a significant part of what the White House hopes will be a greatly expanded transportation budget for Fiscal Year 2012. Of

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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