Posts Tagged ‘Transportation’

Check for sleeping iguanas under your wheel

Offbeat signs in Cayman Islands

I am such a transportation nerd that most of my photos from international travel are transportation-related. Between the Nspiregreen and Greater Greater Washington blogs, I have shared my travels to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Costa Rica, and Panama. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the signs I saw during my honeymoon in the Cayman Islands.

In the United States our signs are generally governed by the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). In its almost 83rd year on November 7th (Happy Early Birthday, MUTCD!!!), it was created to standardize signs, pavement markings, and other roadway features. Therefore, our roadways are predictable as people move between cities and states. Internationally, roadway signs are not governed by MUTCD and can seem offbeat to Americans. I’ve found through my international travels that in some cases, the signs in other countries can make more sense, despite their weirdness.

One of the funnier signs I saw in the Cayman Islands was “Caution Iguanas on the Road”. While in the U.S. iguanas are rare, they are very common in Cayman Islands. There are even signs to check under your car in case there may be sleeping iguanas. My neighborhood could use some of those signs for the feral cats that like to sleep under cars.

I saw four variations of pedestrian signs. One had a person walking. A second had two people walking with a note to walk left since people drive on the left side of the road. A third, had “Elderly People”. The hunched back and cane made me chuckle. There was a fourth sign that had two people running for their lives. Unfortunately, we could not stop the car safely to take a photo, which is probably why the people on the sign were running for their lives.

In the US we have a “Yield” sign which signifies that a person driving should slow or stop to let a person driving on the main road proceed. However, in Cayman Islands the signs say “Give Way”, which I think is easier to understand.

For some additional funny signs from my travels, check out my post on GGW on Offbeat signs in Panama, which include a robot pedestrian and a bodybuilder jogger. My personal favorite of all the signs I’ve seen is the “Ballerina Sign” I took like working on a Community Planning Assistance Team in Belize City, Belize. I was disappointed I didn’t see any ballerinas twirling across the street.

Have you seen any funny signs in your travels?

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

Katy freeway (I-10) in Houston, Tx

Are the Feds Pulling Back from Telework?

On April 11th, Kojo Nnambi had a show in which he explored Telework and the federal workforce. Mr. Nnambi introduced Max Stier who is President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service and Nicole Ogrysko who is a Reporter for Federal News Radio. They discussed, among other things, how prevalent telework is in the federal workforce, the benefits of telework, the potential for abuses, and the relationship between telework and worker productivity.

Approximately one-fifth of the federal workforce telework, at least part of the week. According to Mr. Stier, technology makes it possible for most federal employees and they like it because it allows flexibility and it helps employees avoid the terrible DC rush hour traffic on some days. Telework can also be a great way to attract quality employees. It is a challenge for the feds to attract and retain candidates when in competition with the private sector that may offer positions with higher salaries and more benefits.

Credit:  WTOP

Credit: WTOP

So why did the Secretary of Agriculture move to reduce the number of days an employee will be able to telework? Ms. Ogrysko stated it is an unexpected action, especially since Office of Personnel Management (OPM) put out a recent report that stated employees are happier and more productive if they telework. Apparently, the Secretary was walking through one of the USDA buildings and he was exclaiming, “where is everyone?”.

As with any policy, there have been problems with telework in the past. Both of the panelists referenced some issues with Patent and Trademark office, though they didn’t specifically identify the abuses. They remarked that with the federal government, there is a lowest common denominator in which the federal government will avoid problems instead of improving on its success. Additionally, relative to federal work-force policy, the U.S. Congress has a history of focusing exclusively on the bad actors and making an example of them for political reasons.

Some of the comments from the callers expressed both support and opposition to telework. Some felt it would be an excuse to do anything but work, take time during the work day to run errands, go to doctors’ appointments, go grocery shopping, etc. But there is technology for the employer to know if someone is online and working. One critic noted the vulnerability of cyber hacking with telework, but Mr. Stier noted that in theory, the feds should have appropriate tools in place to secure the work environment, whether working physically at the office or remotely.

One caller stated she actually contributes more hours when she teleworks than when she is physically at the office. I have teleworked myself, and I find it easy to work more hours in a day, especially in the afternoon, when you are working to get something finished before the day ends and you don’t have an upcoming commute home. Another caller noted benefits for employees with a disability or health issue, since they are not having to deal with the commuting challenges every day during the week.

The consensus among both panelists is that any abuses in teleworking may be a sign of bad management. The feds need a clear telework policy, but this is true for the private sector as well. It is not prudent to allow the problems with telework to overcome the clear value of telework to the federal agency or private company.

It is not clear if this initiative to reduce the use of telework is being done holistically or piece by piece by individual agencies. In either case, the federal agencies should be learning from each other to consider the advantages and disadvantages, so they can determine if telework would be appropriate for their work activities.

 

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of County as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.

5aaae020ee5c7_FIU_bridge

Rebuild or Rethink?

Earlier this month a $14.2 million pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami, Florida killing six and injuring ten people. Immediately, new articles sprang up trying to figure out the cause, such as here, here, and countless others. I’ll leave it to the structural engineers and the courts to sort out the cause of the bridge collapse.

When I first saw the photos and video, I thought the pedestrian bridge was over a highway. As more photos became available, I realized this was a bridge over SW 8 Street, or Calle Ocho, with traffic lights and crosswalks. The purpose of the bridge was to connect Florida International University (FIU) students to campus housing and the adjacent community. The real problem with this street is that functions as a highway that prioritizes motor vehicles over people. If we can change our mindset to prioritize people, can reduce the roadway footprint and reduce our infrastructure needs.

From what I can tell on Google street view, the street is about 10 lanes wide (8 travel lanes, 1 hashed area the width of a lane, and 2 bike lanes that equal 1 travel lane) plus a median. Based on data from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Average Annual Daily Traffic on the street was 66,500 vehicles, which is about the same volume as New York Avenue NE in DC between Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road which has 6 lanes plus a median.*

I made an approximate cross-section of the existing conditions at the location of the pedestrian bridge, based on Google Earth images. This perspective is looking westbound.

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After the investigations are finished, there is the question to rebuild the bridge. Rather than rebuild, FIU and FDOT should consider other options that would make it a complete and safe street. I played around with cross-sections including some that do not require putting SW 8 Street on a road diet. All the cross-sections are looking westbound. Some options they could consider, not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  • Widen the median: It appears that the westbound lane had a double left turn at one point. Rather than narrow the roadway it looks like the lane was removed by hashing. Given the space available, they could reorganize the roadway, so the median is equal to the current median and the hashed travel lane or about 16 feet. It would create a pedestrian refuge. Below is a cross-section that I mocked up that maintains the existing number of travel lanes. 

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  • Install protected bike lanes: From the Google aerial, it appears there are bike lanes on both sides of the street. The speed limit is 40 miles per hour, which means people are probably driving closer to 50-60 mph. For even the most fearless of cyclists, that is terrifying. They could consider installing a two-way cycle track on the south side of the street or raised cycle tracks on both sides of the street. Below is an example of a two-way cycle track

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  • Increase public transit: The Sweetwater Trolley operates every half hour. The Miami- Dade Transit has three bus routes that serve the university even at their peaks they are about every 30 minutes. While the system is free, 30-minute headways are not ideal for encouraging ridership. FIU could work with Sweetwater and Miami-Date Transit to develop a robust public transit system that benefits the university and residents. For the illustrative, I repurposed two travel lanes for bus only lanes and added in a bus shelter.

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  • Create people friendly public space: The sidewalks are right at the curb, which means people are walking right next to the roadway. In addition, there is very little shade along the sidewalk. Even with the location of the utility poles on the south side of the street, it is possible to create a grass median between the curb and a wider sidewalk as well as adding trees to add more shade. On the north side, it is possible to add a sidewalk and shade trees to make the linear park something more special that how it is today. If the roadway is narrower by a lane, that space could be added to the linear park. For the illustrative, I kept the cycle-track, narrowed the inside lanes to 10 feet and reduce the capacity from 7 travel lanes to 5. I left the outside lanes 11 feet to accommodate public transit.
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These are some ideas based on doing a digital tour on the site. After the investigations conclude, hopefully, there will be consideration of turning SW 8 St into a boulevard that is a gateway to FIU and Sweetwater.

*Note: FDOT’s data is 2016 and District Department of Transportation’s data is 2015. The point of comparison is volume and number of lanes.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.




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