Filed under: AL, Architecture, Birmingham, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, Civic Engagement, Commentary, Highway 280, Sustainable Development, The Rambles, Traffic, transit, Transportation, urban issues
People may be looking at this elevated highway issue the wrong way. When the issue was first discussed here last year, there were some that were commenting as though this would be a one size fits all solution to what will become a congestion issue for our region for years to come. We need to look at all sides of an issue, and this is part of a greater issue. A closer look at our traffic concerns about Highway 280 makes you realize that this is far from the case. Many of the problems associated with the commute time occur near (or as a result of) the interchange for Interstate 459 near The Summit shopping center. There are additional traffic issues that are beginning to develop along 280 as people continue to move to Shelby County, however many of those concerns exist past that interchange. The construction delays that would ensue with construction will only add to the current congestion that exists before alleviating it for those that feel it worth it to pay for the option of cruising among the treetops. Those questioning opponents in this case could say that NIMBYism exists, though not completely.
This solution also does not deal with traffic along Highway 31 nor does it deal (or can it) with what will no doubt be an increase in traffic along Highway 11 in Trussville as development continues in northern Jefferson County. There are or will be problems here too, and very soon.
Curtis provides an interesting (and lengthy) opinion on the situation on his blog. My thoughts are somewhat different due to being a native New Yorker. We did take down an elevated roadway (and railway) and it led to a much brighter way of life on the city’s west side. I will also say that we’re also spoiled with our mass transit system up there as well.
Those looking at this and criticizing must realize that it is one piece of a long term puzzle. Those that say that no one uses transit must look at the fact that if you got up and went to bus stops in the central business district at 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. in the morning, they would see full buses of people that currently must get up at time in order to use transit as it is currently operated to ensure that they arrive at their destination in time for work. An examination of the transit system and an encouragement of smaller transfer stations or locations would enable those that currently use the system to have some more flexibility in terms of when they had to be somewhere.
We must also be more willing to support work underway to provide our existing neighborhood commercial districts throughout the region with the tools necessary to serve those immediately surrounding them, whether it means supporting the installation of sidewalks, the expansion of mass transit, or just thinking about using what’s right around the corner to fill your needs. That last one may be the most difficult to do at first; however it will prove to be of the most benefit in the long run. It’s much easier when you know the owner of the local market and you’re in need of something than when you walk in after living in the neighborhood for 10 years and it’s the first time they’ve ever laid eyes on you when that emergency hits.
Part of the solution will be realizing that part of the problem is ignoring the functionality of cities of the past, including Birmingham. Share ‘em if you got ‘em.
Filed under: AL, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Blogging, Charleston, Chattanooga, Commentary, Cooper River Bridge Run, Dre's 101 in 1001, Jane Jacobs, MySpace, Papajohns.com Bowl, people, The Year in Review, transit, Transportation, urban issues
The MySpace effect (still not completely understood)
As tax day approached we took a first look at the phenomenon of MySpace and other social networking websites and their effect on communication among people in Birmingham, Alabama. Recent major projects have developed large groups of “friends” for the cause through these programs, including Red Mountain Park and Catalyst. We’ve even started keeping track of Birmingham-based MySpace pages here at the blog with a ever-growing list of businesses and organizations that continue to impress people with the ability to get the word out quickly and effectively.
Leadership and movement
Transportation made it’s first attempt to once again dominate discussions among people in the metro area as prices were fast approaching (and passing) $3/gallon. We paid tribute to Jane Jacobs, one of the leaders, in this crazy movement known by many names; I just call it rediscovering urban living. We made a point to try to remain focused on the growing need for a movement to begin among young professionals. We also tried to make sure that people were aware that this movement was not limited to those that are younger in age, but those young in spirit and hope as well. It was also interesting that the region continued to have people come in and talk about what it should be doing, including Edsel Ford, Colin Coyne and most recently Governor Riley. They all shared a message of making a difference whenever possible, one we echoed with this post.
On the road
The month began with the Ramblings on the road, visiting Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA and taking in everything that had happened over in the Coastal Empire since moving to Birmingham. The result of a post recounting Betsy’s first game at Grayson Stadium even encouraged a visit to the site by Frank Dinan, the frosty beverageman of the stadium himself. We also made a point of completing one of the first of the 101 in 1001, a quick day trip to Chattanooga, TN.
Two more for you
Two things we did get a chance to talk about as well in April was the Birmingham Bowl, with this recent post showing the result of the efforts put forth by organizers, and our chance to look at a window to our past.
As we get close to the end of the year, I hope you get a chance to look through that window as well, remembering some of those good moments.
Enjoy the day.
Filed under: Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Comedy, Sidewalk, The Birmingham News, The Ticker, Traffic, Transportation
While we’ve been happy with the recent increase in visitors to the Ramblings due to the radio station carousel, there are some other things going on in Birmingham, Alabama midway through this first week of December 2006. We’ll see if we can’t do our best to update you on those stories.
The latest word from Sidewalk
Wade Kwon has interviewed Sidewalk board president Alan Hunter (posting the interview on his blog) and has information on the open forum that will now take place at the next Sidewalk Salon (this coming Monday, December 11, beginning at 7 p.m. @ Rojo).
Perhaps this will calm most of those that are concerned with the future of the independent film festival and the departure of two very active and passionate members of the workforce that makes the annual event possible including the resignation of Erik Jambor last week. Here’s my take on some of the early comments made about the recent string of events.
It could also raise additional questions, some of which may need to be asked so that all are on the same page.
There’s no WiFi access at Rojo, but I’m sure that someone in the metro blogosphere will be prepared to provide notes on this event after it’s all over.
And we’ll hear more about the Progress 280 proposal…in January
Today’s Birmingham News has an update on the Progress 280 proposal for an elevated highway solution for the congested-at-rush hour stretch of the U.S. highway.
Public hearings on elevated 280 lanes delayed, The Birmingham News, 12.6.2006
According to the report, the road’s future has met with some of the same traffic that its users meet up with on a daily basis. Additional public opinion on the issue will have to wait until after the holidays, during which time the pent up frustrations from holiday shopping traffic combined with rush hour will probably lead to comments no one counted on about future remedies for it. We have posted on this topic before, with a few comments resulting, though not nearly to the degree of those posted recently. We’ll see what people say on January 22 & 23, the scheduled dates for the next round of hearings.
Local comedy takes the stage at the Bottletree
I got this e-mail from my friend Christopher Davis on Monday, just before I posted about the radio station. For those that know, it’s Chris’ fault that I’m writing this thing and in this town in the first place. I mentioned his t-shirt design for City Stages back in mid-June. The traffic has kept me from posting about the upcoming show that he mentioned in the note happening at Bottletree tomorrow evening. I’m going to trust that the image I stick in here will explain enough about it.
There’s more, but we’ll save it for tomorrow.
BTW – I’ve noticed that Cox Communications has been looking at posts around here recently. Probably doesn’t mean a thing, but you never know…
Enjoy the day.
Filed under: Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Bus Rapid Transit, Mass Transit, NABI, Traffic, transit, Transportation, urban issues
Truth be told, I almost started this post with a lie. I almost said that I hadn’t ridden on a bus for more than two years. Not counting a ride on the bus that connects the commuter train in Baltimore with Thurgood Marshall BWI last November, my last transit bus ride was in August 2005 while home in New York. Much of the subway stations in lower Manhattan are still not accessible years after 9/11, so construction during weekends mean that surface routes are used to get from point A to point B. In my case, point B was the Staten Island Ferry. Having grown up with one of the nation’s larger bus systems, I am aware of many of the complaints that are logged against using buses. Birmingham residents would not have any of those complaints available to them if they choose to go with a bus designed and built in-state. They’d also be assisting with the economy while providing a taste of what 21st century transit could be like.
The Birmingham News ran this story on the appearance of the bus this morning.
Hybrid-fuel bus attracts attention, The Birmingham News, November 3, 2006
I was able to take part in the second demonstration route traveled by the NABI BRT60. The fact that it runs on rubber tires is the only major similarity to many conventional buses. For those that do the morning commute in cities like Chicago and New York, the amenities would resemble their subways and els more than their buses. One of the most notable differences is the existence of doors on both sides of the bus, allowing for them to run in dedicated lanes and allowing for passengers to get off the bus safely whether on a one-way or two-way street (never interacting with traffic). The bus is also much longer than a normal bus; 60 feet instead of 40. Bucket seats with LED displays overhead that could be used to inform passengers of traveling distances and next stops. Passengers would pay before getting on the bus, again operating more like commuter trains than buses. The rubber floors, low to the ground, and available WiFi access would provide creature comforts that are not even currently available on most systems. The best way to express all of this is to show it, thanks to Curtis.
Yesterday we provided links in the post to examples of other systems that are in existence, even if only in an experimental phase, around the country and the world. It’s definitely something to consider in addition to some of the other alternatives being examined. Based on comments printed in the News’ article and comments overheard during my ride on the bus yesterday, I’d say that the first impression is one that may finally change some people’s negative views of riding the bus. Transportation is key to the history of this city. We should embrace it as part of our strategy to renew it.
It would not be a Friday without mentioning a couple of things happening this weekend. My quest to take part in the Vulcan Run will come up quite short. At this point, I’m setting an extremely slow target date of the Cooper River Bridge Run in April in Charleston, SC. It was the first race I ever ran, so it would be appropriate for it to be the first one I do getting back in the swing of things. I’m still planning on braving the temps tomorrow morning as there are a few people I know that plan to run the race. Check out the website to learn some more about it.
Two other events that should be an interesting part of the weekend are the first annual Moss Rock Festival and Cosmos Pizza‘s 10th Anniversary celebration, both taking place Saturday. There’s also a chance that people may actually see a certain blogger play kickball on Sunday afternoon, though we’ll have to wait and see.
Enjoy the day.
Filed under: AL, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, Ensley, Mass Transit, Photographs, Random shots, Sustainable Development, The Ticker, Traffic, transit, Transportation, urban issues
Is a bus always just a bus?
If you find yourself downtown tomorrow near the Chamber of Commerce’s offices at 20th and 5th Avenue North, say around 11 a.m., you may notice a sight that is not normal for the region. If you miss it there, you might see a similar sight over at MAX‘s Central Station around 1:45 p.m. At first glance the sight of a bus would lead some of you to think I’m crazier than you already think (especially after yesterday’s post). That’s not the not normal part. The bus that will be there is one used for bus rapid transit, one of the newer types of transit systems being implemented in cities such as Los Angeles and Mexico City, Mexico. There are plans for a system like this to be implemented in Kansas City. At the end of the Wikipedia piece linked to earlier in the post, you will see a list of cities currently using or in the process of implementing a plan for use.
These systems are also used to augment existing systems in the world, providing faster speeds when compared to use as a limited stop service provider in areas like New York City. We’ve written before about some of the transit issues that face our region. It will be very interesting to see what the reaction is to the bus around town today as it is demonstrated as part of the In-Town Transit Partnership Project at the Regional Planning Commission.
New businesses thrive on the west side
There has been a great deal of activity in Ensley in recent months as the district begins to see reinvestment. One of the most recent projects to be completed is a new business located at 417 19th Street in the building formerly occupied by AJ’s Bargain Shop. It is now Recycled Wardrobe, an urban consignment shop specializing in current fashions. The work done on the interior of the space provides an excellent example of how properties can be restored and make an area come alive. Hopefully he is the first of many opportunities.
A lecture I attended at the library yesterday about the history of jazz in Ensley (presented by Karen Utz of Sloss Furnaces) makes me wonder about how the area will come back. It may also help you follow my train of thought in mentioning both of these items in today’s post. It is widely accepted that the trolley turnaround located in Tuxedo Junction helped make it one of, if not the, premiere entertainment location in the city of Birmingham. With the focus already beginning to fall on increasing the housing density, one hopes that one will look at transit as well. To keep the character of the area, perhaps one should look at a return to active bus service to the area, with parking left at the periphery. It will definitely help with the image of the area; just wondering if its still possible.
Enjoy the day.