Friday, May 25, 2012

Seriously MBTA

Train on the Fitchburg line courtesy of
Ok The T does a pretty good job considering what they are dealing with.  However, there are certain things that  just make me shake my head in wonder.
One would think that if shuttle service were running every weekend for 2 months it would be helpful for that information to be on the MBTA website and for it to be easy to find.  One would be very wrong.  I can sure as heck find out about elevator repairs but shuttle service which cause delays? nope nothing. (Try to find any information on this delay here, I dare you!)

I knew the weekend service on the Fitchburg line was suspended and shuttles running from all outlying stations to the South Acton station for continued rail service into Boston from an article I think on Universal Hub.  This was more than a month ago so I didn't remember the details.  When my girlfriend asked me about the shuttle service I thought it was still running but seemed to remember they were running trains as normal over Memorial Day weekend.

The reason for this is good, they are double tracking the line from South Acton all the way to the end to help speed up service and reduce/eliminate congestion.

I ended up being right, but it took two Google searches, plus fumbling around the MBTA site to find it.  Needless to say it was not on the T site but instead I found an article from Wicked Local Acton (division of the Boston Globe focused on communities) that talked about the closure and sure enough they were running trains as normal this weekend.

This service change was not just for one month, it was from April to June.  How can the MBTA in good faith not make this information available easily to riders.  It is not on the alert section for the rail line, all I get is Porter Square elevator work (important but not useful to me).

One of a myriad of examples of the T not doing the outreach and providing the information for train users that it very easily could be.  If folks show up to the station expecting a train at a certain time, and they don't see the signs for buses or shuttle what are they to think?  What if it was their first time using commuter rail?  Do you think they will try again?  No not likely.  Now the T just lost a customer all because of poor outreach and communication of major work closures.

To be fair this is an issue for the MBCR and not the MBTA proper but either way SOMEBODY should make sure the info is easy to find.  I shouldn't have to search so hard for it, at least I knew what I was looking for.

Lets do better MBTA.

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 12 Final

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 12 and the last part of this series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!

Google Maps Link
Another one of those God-awful cattle gates meant to keep motorized vehicles out.  They do not work and are a major pain for anybody on a bicycle and heaven forbid you have a child trailer attached to your bicycle. 

Google Maps Link
Rather dramatic eh?

Google Maps Link
Filming for a movie was taking place in the courtyard outside during my visit, I was able to sneak a picture while everybody was on break.  I have no idea what the film was but I believe it was a documentary taking place during WWI.

That's it! (well for this series at least)

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Death of a Dover Citizen

In many cases I will say pedestrian or cyclist but usually when it comes to a death or injury I try to focus on the fact that they are a citizen, a resident, and mattered to somebody.  Using the the term "pedestrian" or "accident" removes the human element from the situation and everybody can feel better.  An accident is when a wheel comes off, or the brakes fail, or when somebody falls off the curb because of a misstep.  An accident is not when somebody is struck by somebody else and killed due to negligence on any one or both of the somebody's.  Today we have a case that is not an accident but most likely was due to a number of factors.

An older gentleman was struck and killed in a crash today in Dover.  He was killed by another older gentleman driving a pickup while he was attempting to cross the street. Article from Fosters Newspaper on the crash.

I must commend Fosters for not using the term "accident" because this was not an accident (unless it turns out the driver's brakes failed or the gentleman crossing tripped while trying to move out of the way of the truck).  The crash happened at this location:

View Larger Map

Approximately 42 Main Street.
I have created a location mock up in ArcGIS using 2010 1 foot imagery:
As you can see the likely spot of the crash is almost halfway between two crosswalks and is very close to one of the entrances to the older brick buildings in the lower left of the image.  As you can see from my road section mock up the parking area is to the left before the travel lanes.  My best guess based on risk and other typical crashes of this nature was the man killed was partially obscured by parked cars as he attempted to cross the street.

What you don't see here but you can see in Street View is what appears to be old crosswalk markings in the road that go from the building entrance/sidewalk on the left to the sidewalk on the right.  Take a look and tell me that they don't look like a faded crosswalk (which a large majority of crosswalks in Dover are).

In the above image I have marked the official crosswalk in white, but even these are faded and unless you noticed the pedestrian crossing sign you might not know they are there.

You may notice another issue with this road while looking at the cross section.  Look at those lane widths.  16 feet and 15 feet, wowe!  Those are typical widths on freeways with speeds over 50mph.  This is a downtown with an already too high 30mph speed limit that in this section most people exceed by 10+mph.  Also note from the Google Map above that this is a State road and thus even less likely that the speed limit would be reduced or road changes implemented.

Finally if you read the article the man crossing was an older gentleman at 77, however the driver was older still at 84.  Was age a factor?  I would bet so.

We have study after study that shows as drivers get older their reflexes and skills go down, in terms of crashes they are nearly on par with first time drivers.  Why are they still allowed to drive?  Why do we allow them to renew their licence as long as they can see/have a correct glasses prescription?  There is a heck of a lot more to driving than just if they have 20/20 vision.

However, we have built a system of communities that does not provide safe ways for older residents to get around with out a car.  If you live outside of the COAST bus service route you are pretty much out of luck.  Maybe you can walk somewhere, but that means your town has sidewalks by your house to wherever you want to go.  That is unfortunately highly unlikely (Dover does a reasonably good job though).  You have no choice but to continue driving if you want to maintain any sense of independence.  Many families will refuse to take the licence away from a grandparent for fear that that person will hate them or will be unable to go anywhere.  I don't blame them one bit, but what it means is we have older drivers on the road who do not have the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle at the speeds required in an urban/rural setting.

If we provided good bicycle paths, safe and complete sidewalks, and reasonably accessible transit I think many would feel more comfortable about giving up their drivers licence, because at least they still have options to get around.

The exact cause of course is still under investigation and we may never know but a combination of age of the  man driving and age of the victim, the width of the road, the speed limit of the road, the distance between crosswalks, old markings in the road, as well as potential shadow from the building all contributed to this man's untimely death.

You should not have to take your life in your (or somebody else's) hands if you wish to walk downtown.

There are solutions though!

  • Reduce the road width.  Reduce each travel lane to 10 feet, use the additional 9 feet for a buffered bike lane (hey it could even by two-way) and curb bulb-outs (you can see a bulb-out in the lower crosswalk) or sidewalk expansion
  • Remove a travel lane and reduce remaining lane to 10 feet.  Use space created to expand sidewalks on both sides, plant trees, and provide a buffered bike lane, along with curb bulb-out, and provide better transit stops
  • Reduce speed to 15-20mph.  This is a downtown, not a freeway.  The goal in a downtown is to slow auto traffic down so people can park and visit shops safely without worrying if they will get run over by a semi doing 45.  This can be done by pavement changes, raised crossings, and will naturally happen if the lanes are narrowed.
  • Better marking of pedestrian crossings.  It is not all about the drivers, sometimes a bit of signage in the form of bright white thermoplastic crossings can help folks walking find a safe crossing place.  Increase the number of crossings too.  People will not walk out of their way by very much before they jay-walk wherever they see fit, increase the crossings and this risk is reduced.
  • Make drivers over 65/70 do a motor response test at various speeds in addition to eye tests and update on current laws.
  • Restrictions on mobile devices through an engine lock type feature and/or hefty fines.
  • Provide more rigorous drivers ed training with regard to interactions in the urban environment.  Looking at the red light/stop sign or for traffic in the other lane is not all that is required.  Bicyclists, kids, pedestrians, buses are all interacting in the urban environment.  Learners must interact with these things as part of their learning process.  The Dutch traffic gardens are a perfect example of this type of education.
With a little bit of work and dedication and perhaps even some push back against "the State DOT knows best" we can make our urban environments safer and prevent deaths like this from happening.

Condolences to his family.  His death should not have happened like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 11

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 11 of the series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!

Google Maps Link

Google Maps Link
Another more colorful bicycle route marker

Google Maps Link
I love these little markers.  They are the original markers along the canal when it was first built.  This one has been restored.

One more part and we will be in Saltaire!

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License