Posts about North Carolina
President Obama yesterday nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next Secretary of Transportation. If Foxx's experience in Charlotte is any indication, he'll make a strong choice.
During his nomination press conference, Foxx said "cities have had no better friend" than the US Department of Transportation under outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood, and that if confirmed he would hope to "uphold the standards" LaHood set. That's great news.
The fact that Foxx comes from a major central city is also a huge benefit. It means he understands urban needs, which aren't just highways.
Charlotte may not be New York, but it's made great strides in the right direction. The city's first rail line opened a few years ago, and a streetcar line is under construction now. Charlotte also gained bronze-level status as a bike friendly community in 2008, and launched bike sharing in 2012.
Foxx has been a strong advocate for urban rail, especially streetcars. He knows transportation and land use are tied at the hip, and has fought repeated attacks on Charlotte's streetcar by former Mayor and current North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.
He's also worked as an attorney for bus manufacturer DesignLine.
Foxx also knows that state Departments of Transportation can sometimes be part of the problem. At the federal level, it's common for USDOT to delegate responsibilities and funding to state DOTs, under the assumption the states have a better understanding of local needs. But state DOTs aren't any more local than any huge centralized government. And since they usually focus on highways, the result is that federal dollars mostly go to highways as well.
Since Foxx fought with the state over Charlotte's streetcar, he knows that funneling everything through state DOTs means states hold the cards. He knows that can hurt cities.
Finally, Foxx hired Arlington, VA's former county manager, Ron Carlee, to run Charlotte's city government. Foxx would have heard about Arlington's reputation for progressive transportation planning during the hiring process, and presumably counted it in Carlee's favor.
Of course, no one can really predict what kind of Secretary Foxx will be. When progressive champion Ray LaHood was first tapped for the job, the blogosphere worried his history as a Republican from rural Illinois meant he'd be a status quo highway builder.
But we do know that Foxx has made a priority of building transit in his home city, and has had to fight to make it happen.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
When I went to Raleigh last weekend to visit a sick relative in the hospital, I wasn't expecting to find innovations in small apartment design. Then I spent three days in a Hyatt Place hotel by the airport. Though the hotel is geared towards weary business travelers, its cleverly-designed suites might make good permanent homes as well.
Most of the hotel rooms I've stayed in work like this: you walk through a narrow vestibule with a closet on one side and a bathroom on the other. Then, you enter a room with a bed, a television atop a dresser, and a window with a view of the parking lot.
Meanwhile, my family's room at the Hyatt Place, designed by national architecture firm CI Design, felt more like a little apartment. You enter into a sort of "living room," with a large, L-shaped couch, a kitchenette, and a desk with a large lamp.
Beyond a small partition is the "bedroom," with one or two beds, a vanity, and a small bathroom. (The view of the parking lot remains, unfortunately.) Straddling the two spaces is a flat-screen television on a pivoting base, so you can watch it from the bed or the couch.
The partition is what makes this space work. It's just long enough to create two discrete spaces, allowing my mother and brother to watch TV on one side while my dad sleeps on the other. But it's also open enough to let natural light from the window into the entire space, preventing it from feeling claustrophobic. I may be exaggerating, but I feel like the partition and the mix of public and private activities it accommodates has really helped our family stay sane during this difficult time.
Of course, an American family of four can only last so long in 400 square feet, but one person might be pretty happy here. "I'm surprised they don't make apartments for single people like this," my dad mused.
In fact, they do. Apartments the size of our hotel room, dubbed "micro-lofts," are increasingly popular with single adults seeking relatively affordable accommodations in expensive, in-town neighborhoods. Like a traditional warehouse loft, these units consist of one open space, albeit a small one. To make the space more efficient or flexible, designers use a variety of solutions, like loft beds or Murphy beds that free up room for other activities during the day. Like our hotel room, some micro-lofts have some version of a partition that allows the space to work as one large room or several smaller ones.
The designers of some newer apartment complexes in the DC area, like MetroPointe in Wheaton or Mosaic at Metro in Hyattsville, use partitions with their studio and one-bedroom units. Like our hotel room, the dividers define separate spaces, but they also allow some flexibility in how those spaces are used.
While the plan above denotes "living," "dining" and "sleeping" area, I might want to set my bed up by the big window in the "dining" area, place a dining table by the kitchen in the "living" area, and take advantage of the partition to place a TV in the "sleeping" area. That's far more difficult to do in most conventional one-bedroom layouts with walled-off rooms.
Apartments like this certainly aren't for everyone, but they're an interesting way to provide much-desired housing in areas where space is limited and housing costs are high. Small apartments force creative design solutions. But if done well, they can make a great place to stay, whether for a few nights in Raleigh or as a permanent home.
Charlotte, NC has been conducting a thorough analysis of streetcar power technologies for their planned streetcar system. Their final report is out, and essentially agrees with the conclusions from the recent APTA technology seminar: overhead wires are best for now, but alternate technologies show promise for the future.
The report thoroughly identifies and evaluates each of the alternative power technologies on the market or under development. After discussing each, they conclude:
The market for railcar technology and technology development is in continuous change and improvement. ... Advancements in power distribution technologies are being made by virtually all major railcar builders, with some having developed technologies to the point of having systems in revenue operation, while others are only in early stages of development.
Generally the technology that is the furthest along in development, by the most manufacturers is the battery / capacitor. ... Embedded "third rail" system appear to be significantly far along in development however they are more capital intensive, have higher operation and maintenance costs and require more substantial safety certification. Additional concerns exist regarding the proprietary nature of the technology and the potential to become dependent on a single supplier.
Overall, the implementation of a technology to replace an overhead contact system in whole or in part will represent an increase in the cost of construction and operation of a streetcar system, albeit some technologies have promise to be nearly cost neutral; and may someday even prove more cost effective. ...
[I]t is recommended that the City further investigate the use of battery and/or capacitor type propulsion for any new streetcar vehicle procurements. ... [Th]e City should continue with the conventional OCS design, while monitoring the progress of the development of battery and capacitor systems for application in future phases. It is noted that the battery / capacitor systems can subsequently be utilized for limited distance application to address low clearance
obstructions, areas of high visual significance and capturing regenerative energy resulting in operation savings.
With the battery and capacitor type of system, portions of the line could utilize OCS while others do not. Initial segments of the system may be better candidates to use conventional OCS technology, while subsequent extensions may be better suited to implement wireless zones.
For the liberals on this blog, check out this train-related election humor several people forwarded me.
However, I must point out that this isn't actually fair to Palin, nor was I in my snark last week. As commenter Mike Silverstein pointed out, Alaska relies heavily on trains. And tipster Daniel Goldstein forwarded me this statement by Palin extolling the importance of Alaska's railroads.
Meanwhile, in other elections, Matt Yglesias notices that Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan Every $10 million in transit capital investments creates 314 jobs and $30 million in sales for businesses, while $10 million invested in transit operations creates more than 750 jobs in the short term, and $32 million in increased sales for businesses. Every $10 million invested saves more than $15 million in transportation costs to highway and transit users.
To lower the amount of carbon emissions in transportation, Kay supports increasing fuel efficiency standards and increasing investments in public transportation. ... Since investments in public transportation have many indirect benefits on the economy, Kay also supports investments to increase public transportation systems.
Hagan now leads by about 4-5 points in the polls.
Every $10 million in transit capital investments creates 314 jobs and $30 million in sales for businesses, while $10 million invested in transit operations creates more than 750 jobs in the short term, and $32 million in increased sales for businesses. Every $10 million invested saves more than $15 million in transportation costs to highway and transit users.
- Cyclists are special and do have their own rules
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- O'Malley announces first projects using new gas tax money
- Can Loudoun grow while protecting its rural areas?
- ICC losing bus service in classic bait and switch
- Silver Spring mall could get massive facelift, new name
- WMATA launches "Short Trip" rail pass on SmarTrip