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Every year, global commercial real estate organization Colliers International produces an annual survey on parking garage rates across the United States and Canada which they compile into a public report. Columbus was noteworthy in that there was zero change between 2011 and 2012’s pricing, while the national average rate of increase was 1.6 percent.

“This year’s report shows that Columbus’s parking rates have held strong and are now listed as below the national average for monthly parking rates,” said  Leslie Hobbs, Director of Marketing at Colliers International for the Greater Columbus Region.

The average cost of parking in a covered or underground parking garage in Columbus is $95 per month, while the national average is $164.80 per month. The city at the top of the list is New York City, where in Midtown Manhattan the average cost is $562 per month.

To read the full report, visit www.collierscanada.com.

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Ohio to test variable work-zone speed limit signs
Friday September 21, 2012 3:15 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio transportation officials say a new pilot program will use signs that reduce speed limits in some parts of construction zones while allowing traffic to travel at normal speeds elsewhere in those areas.

The Department of Transportation says the Variable Speed Limit program is meant to help protect workers and travelers while reducing congestion and crashes.

Signs with flashing beacons will light up to indicate reduced speed limits in parts of construction zones while workers are exposed to traffic. When workers are gone, the beacons will turn off.

The signs will be tested during road and bridge projects in Franklin, Lake, Lucas and Warren counties. The program is planned to go statewide next year.

ODOT says several other states use similar signs, but it’s a first for Ohio.

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Indiana uses these speed limit signs with flashing lights, and as a driver I think it’s nice to be able to continue at the normal speed limit when there are no workers present. However, there are also times when speed limits are reduced in construction zones because of temporary geometric changes (e.g., shorter tapers, narrower lanes). ODOT will have to be careful to let drivers know which zones require speed reductions at all times and which only require reduction when lights are flashing.

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DOTs have been put on notice.  Spending billions on roads and ignoring other modes like transit in the planning process violates US civil rights law.

Wisconsin DOT broke civil rights rules, U.S. agency says
Lawsuit proceeds as state says it’s now in compliance
By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel

The state Department of Transportation did not follow federal civil rights rules for at least seven years, a yearlong investigation has found.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney applauded the decision by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights as a step toward holding state transportation officials accountable for how their actions affect minorities.

A Transportation Department spokeswoman, by contrast, had little to say about the ruling, noting its connection to a lawsuit that seeks to halt reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange. Most of the players in that suit were also involved in filing the complaint that triggered the federal investigation.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 6, accuses state officials of discriminating against minorities by refusing to include public transit improvements in the $1.7 billion reconstruction of the crossroads of I-94, I-894 and U.S. Highway 45. The lawsuit asks a federal judge in Madison to order the state to redo its study of the project’s environmental impact to address that issue.

Part of the legal basis for the litigation is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability. For years, civil rights groups and transit advocates have argued that state authorities have been discriminating in favor of highways that benefit white suburbanites and against transit projects that would benefit urban minorities without cars.

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The Wisconsin DOT found out the hard way, but there have been similar complaints in Ohio.

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My wife, son, and I recently took a vacation to Michigan.  We left from Chicago on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, turned the corner around Lake Michigan, and started heading north towards Mackinac Island.  We stayed along the Lake Michigan coast for the most part, stopping in many little tourist towns along the way.  I didn’t take pictures in all of them, but almost all were very charming, with what appear to be very healthy central business districts.  I know the tourist money helps with the business aspect, but there were some trends and commonalities that I think are worth noting:

  1. Traffic moves slow in the downtown areas.  There were very few multi-lane roads.
  2. There was lots of on-street parking.  Angled parking was especially common.  Drivers looking for parking is part of the reason traffic moves slowly.
  3. Street trees were usually abundant, large, and shady.
  4. Buildings on the main commercial streets were intact.  There were solid street walls of buildings, not the gap-toothed building-parking lot-building-parking lot pattern.
  5. Parking was on-street or behind buildings in public lots.
  6. There was good signage directing people to main attractions and maps of the business district in many towns.

Here are some photos:

South Haven, MISouth Haven, MI

Holland, MI

Traverse City, MI

Charlevoix, MI

Petoskey, MI

Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinac Island, MI

Full Album Here

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A road diet is what transportation engineers and planners call a lane reconfiguration where a wide road gets narrower. Upper Arlington is planning to put Lane Avenue on a diet, reducing the number of travel lanes from four (two in each direction) to three (one in each direction with a center turn lane) between North Star Road and Northwest Boulevard. On-street parking will be permitted on the north side of the street. This should reduce speeds to aid the street in becoming a new walkable urban business district.  Here are some renderings from Upper Arlington’s consultant:

(more…)

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I just learned about an initiative of the Urban Land Istitute’s Columbus chapter in the Dispatch.  It’s called Columbus 2050 and they’re seeking public input on the future of the Central Ohio, specifically housing. Their questions:

    • What do we hope to accomplish with our housing by 2050?
    • What are potential impediments to reaching those goals?
    • What specifically must we do over the next 3 years to reach our goals?

The Dispatch framed the question a different way:

What will central Ohio look like in 2050?

Will housing stretch uninterrupted to Urbana, Chillicothe and Marion or will run-down Columbus neighborhoods instead be rejuvenated?

Will the Outerbelt be surrounded by another freeway, or will trains bring people to the center city?

I’ll ask yet another way. Let’s say that Central Ohio adds 500,000 people by 2050.  Perhaps it’s ambitious, but I think it’s possible.  How much land do we want them to occupy?  Here are two images at the same scale.  Do you want approximately 333 square miles of this (assumes residential density of 1500 persons per square mile)?

New housing north of Polaris that some people think is called Lewis Center

Or would you rather have 42 square miles of this (assumes residential density of 12,000 people per square mile)?

Grandview Heights, 5th by Northwest, Harrison West, Victorian Village, Short North, and parts of Weinland Park and South Campus

Note that if you choose the second option, you will have 291 extra square miles of land that can be used for open space (i.e., parks and forest preserve) or preserved as valuable farmland to support larger populations (eating seems important to me).  The government – and homeowners by extension – will spend far less money per capita on miles of roads, sewers, water pipes, and other utilities.  And you’ll have the option to walk to stores, schools, parks, and restaurants without getting in your car.  I know which one I want, and it’s not the path we’re currently traveling.

Check out the Columbus 2050 blog and leave a comment to let them know your opinion.

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This Dispatch recently featured an article on the Eastmoor neighborhood, which is on the east side of Columbus east of Bexley.  Growing up on the northwest side, I rarely visited the east side.  I’ve driven through Eastmoor a couple of times, but haven’t spent much time there and don’t know the area well.  Based on Streetview, it does indeed look like a nice area with many large, well-kept houses (although I think they could use some sidewalks).

Regardless, I was struck by a comment from Walker on Columbus Underground regarding the condition of Main Street.

Broad Street is nice through this area as well, but Main Street needs a lot of love to be a valuable retail corridor through the area. Too many places boarded up and the street is very heavily car-centric and not a pleasant place for walking or biking.

So I Streetviewed Main Street too:

Main Street at Gould - looking east into Columbus

Main Street at Gould - looking west into Bexley

The differences only become more pronounced the farther you go into Columbus or Bexley.

Main at Eastmoor - looking east (Columbus)

Main & Roosevelt - looking west (Bexley)

Which streets look more appealing to you? Where would you rather walk?  Where would you rather bike?  Where would you rather drive?  Where would you rather live?  What makes one street more attractive than the other?

I think it’s obvious, but I’ll summarize for you.  The Bexley Main Street has lots of large street trees, on-street parking, at least some buildings on corners, no overhead utilities, traffic signals on mast arms instead of span wires, and historic-looking street lights.  Columbus provides few trees, no parking, suburban-style buildings, overhead utilities, ugly span wire mounted traffic signals, and freeway-style street lighting.

All of these things contribute to a perceptions of the area and how people use it.  Due to Bexley’s street design, I would expect lower traffic speeds, more people walking and biking on Main Street, fewer vacancies, and higher property values.  I don’t have data to check all of these things, but I’m pretty sure the last one is correct.  If people are voting with their wallets, Bexley is winning.

States and city departments of transportation need to think about the value of a place when they design streets.  This apparently hasn’t been done on Main Street in Columbus, despite an excellent example just blocks away.

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