Sunday, May 11, 2008

New option for AATA trip planning

You won't find a link to it on the AATA site but Google maps has added Ann Arbor to the list of cities for which you can get transit directions as well as driving directions. It's also pretty hard to tell by looking at the page that you're there but this seems to be where you start: Google Transit Ann Arbor

Perhaps one reason AATA isn't really promoting this is that it has its own trip planning site. In not-very-extensive testing, each site seems to have its own quirks, but they definitely have advantages over using the printed route maps and timetables. Even experienced transit users can find it a little daunting to figure out a new route with them; for people who are considering taking the bus for the first time, trying to make sense of them can be a big barrier. Any new options that help potential transit users become actual transit users can't hurt efforts to increase ridership.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hauling things by bike

I had really hoped to have a more spectacular re-launch of CFA2 in time for Curb Your Car Month 08, but it's been way busy on the non-motorized transportation front lately (which is a good thing) and it turns out it's not that easy to find bloggers who are not already blogging. So we'll do the best we can and maybe hope to have lots of new posts in time for World Carfree Day in September.

I'm (finally) prompted to post by an excellent recent Grist article on cargo bikes. Who could resist a title like Haul's Well that Ends Well?

Now, anyone know if anyone in town has an Xtracycle?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

photos of East Quad Bike Coop Fixup

HD points out:

Two weekends ago, the East Quad Bike Coop held a bike fixup and giveaway.

At the end of the event, 7 or 8 of the really really junky ones found
their way into the Ghost Bike project.

Here's a couple of shots from Matt Hampel's Flickr account:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ann arbor cranksgiving

We threw out the idea of a Cranksgiving ride a while back. The vision is now realized in what looks to be a fun alleycat race Sunday, November 18. You can read all about it at the Cranksgiving Ann Arbor blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

no bus service on memorial day

From the AATA:

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will not operate
regular fixed-route bus service, A-Ride paratransit, or Good As Gold senior
taxi services on Monday, May 28, 2007 in observance of the Memorial Day
holiday. Regular bus, paratransit and senior taxi services will resume on
Tuesday, May 29.

Passengers may take advantage of AATA's Holiday Ride shared-ride taxi
service on Monday for just $5 a person. Seniors and persons with
disabilities with an AATA identification card may ride for $2.50.

The Holiday Ride taxi service operates only within the city limits of Ann
Arbor. To schedule a Holiday Ride trip, call 734.528.5432.

AATA will close its offices at 2700 South Industrial Highway and the Blake
and Ypsilanti Transit Centers on Monday, May 28, in observance of Memorial

The three facilities will re-open for business on Tuesday, May 29.
Expect continued erratic postings while the housekeeping staff settles into their new home. We'd love to hear from anyone interested in conributing posts to cfa2 as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

howell - ann arbor rail line plans expand

According to Metromode, the Coalition for Mass Transit is optomistic about the million dollar Federal grant that they applied for. They are also considering adding stops in Hamburg and Saline.

Other juicy details include:

A three-car passenger train would make six trips during the morning rush hour and another six trips in the afternoon/evening rush hour. Each stainless steel bi-level car could carry between 500 to 600 people per trip. A train would take about 20 minutes one way, saving commuters about 45 minutes in transport time, officials say.

It is estimated the cost to passengers could be kept in line with what they pay for gas. The city also has an enthusiastic partner in Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is willing to set up the service and provide the trains.

Friday, May 04, 2007

curb your car month already started

The housekeeping staff as been consumed with preparations for a return to Michigan from the Far East. As a result, we forgot to remind everyone that May is Curb your Car Month.

The getDowntown program has a great list of events over the next 25 days, like urban cycling skills workshop, lunchtime river walks, class on building your own bike light... too many great things to mention. Check out the calendar for details.

Also, it's not too late to get your company signed up for the Commuter Challenge. Over 60 groups are already signed up! It's a great way to get co-workers to try a carfree commute and a great way for our community to quantify the possibilities of a non-SOV commute.

making shoes less hurty

Metafilter, the 21st century's fountain of common knowledge and folk wisdom, has a thread full of good tips on getting new shoes to be comfortable. The advice focuses on leather shoes with a lot of DIY and purchase-alternative ideas. It seems that just about any household item, from soap to vodka, will soften shoe leather. However, there isn't much info on the damage that these "softeners" might do to your nice shoes. Highly recommended for anyone who walks in shoes!

Friday, April 20, 2007

huron river drive carfree for 3 hours

From GetDowntown, among others announcing this unique opportunity:

Have you ever wondered what it be like if Huron River Drive were closed
to cars? Well, tomorrow is your chance to check it out and voice your
comments to the City. The City of Ann Arbor is closing Huron River
Drive from Bird Rd. to Main to motorized traffic from 9-12 on Saturday,
April 21st.
Whether or not the road should be closed permanently to motorized traffic, we should definitely take the opportunity for a bike ride or walk along the river when the opportunity presents itself. The road is closed while the city removes low-hanging branches, not specifically for bikes and pedestrians.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

speed traps on sidewalks?

A link from Ed's blog pointed us to a list of speed traps in Ann Arbor.

The interesting point, from a carfree perspective, is that some of the traps include police vehicles parked on the sidewalk and in bus loading zones.

Huron Parkway Ravine. They sit on the sidewalk along the concrete tieback walls.
Fuller near Mitchell Field. They do it Cali style and sit in the bus loading zone.

While cycling on the multi-use path on the north side of Fuller, our path has occasionally been blocked by a police car sitting in the driveway of the community pool.

Has anyone else run into a situation like this? Is it necessary for police to block NMT facilities in order to enforce speed limits?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

aadts and the tommorow that never comes

You're never going to believe this, but the Ann Arbor to Detroit rail project opening has been put off until at least 2008. Yes, over the last ten years you've been let-down repeatedly over the possibility of a decent mass transit connection to the airport and the city. Yes, it seemed like something might have come of it this time. No, it probably won't ever be completed if this uninspired group of foot-dragging bureaucrats continues to hold the reins.

"Amtrak officials are seeking meetings with officials of three freight railroads"
"A lot will depend on what the freight companies are willing to allow and how much it will cost to use their tracks"
"SEMCOG is trying to find out if some federal money for studying transit between Ann Arbor and Detroit can be used to help pay for the proposed contract service"
The AADTS website hasn't been updated since December 06. Until somebody at SEMCOG grows a real set of ovaries and starts MAKING this happen, we can look forward to sitting on the edge of our seats and biting our nails while waiting for the next announcement of delay on this project.
"We've identified a model that we would like to see," Palombo said. "Now we have to see what the reality is."
Never a truer word spoken.

Please contribute more optomistic perspectives in the comments.

what to do with huron river drive?

It appears that the miserable condition of Huron River Drive has reached some invisible but verifiable level of crapitude. For years the only thing cyclists and motorists using this stretch of road could agree on was the miserable state of the too-narrow road surface. The city has now deemed the bumpy patch-jobs, potholes, and cracks on HRD worthy of repair. However, knowing they will have to deal with the huggable bunch of community-minded citizens that is Ann Arbor, they are setting up a bitchfest public workshop first.

The workshop will be held Wednesday, April 4, though the News article fails to mention time or location.

The options are:
-repave as is
-widen the road for bike lanes or at least a paved shoulder
-close the section from Main to Bird Rd. to automotive traffic

While the carfree option obviously has some allure with us, we are not quick to jump on the bandwagon here. No doubt that HRD makes for a scenic bike ride. But it is not a major connection for getting around town. Also, access to this section of road is not great from downtown. North Main would need some work to provide a bike and pedestrian friendly connection. Closing off this section of road without other major improvements would result in a giant sidewalk (bike lane, multiuse path, whatever) to nowhere.

If we build it and they don't come, due to poor planning and integration with existing facilities, we'll be dealing with the collective memory of how much money was wasted providing a highway for cyclists that don't exist. This could turn the general population away from future bike/ped projects.

Closing the Drive to cars (not "vehicles", AANews. Bikes ARE vehicles) should be part of a larger plan for improved access to the river and connecting a carfree-friendly downtown with the river and Dexter. If not, the money may be better spent on realizing the "carfree-friendly" downtown.

Monday, April 02, 2007

blue bus etiquette

Laura sent us a link to some advice on being a good rider at the Ann Arbor Crier.

Above all else, follow two simple rules: Do not be in the way, and pretend everyone on the bus is your grandma. Use these as your rubric for courtesy and you’ll notice fewer Death Stares in your direction.
Students are one of the more neglected carfree groups (along with disasbled folks, homeless people, and the elderly population) on our site. While we are trying to correct this oversight, it is nice to see others picking up our slack, helping to define a local bus culture.

The list of tips focuses on being a polite rider. Among the 13 suggestions, this is our favorite:
When it’s 4:30 and the older University employees are leaving their jobs, laden with briefcases and coats, give them your seat. They need it more than you do. The same goes, of course, for pregnant women, kids and the elderly. Relevant stops: the entire medical campus.
Good manners start on the bus.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

carfree queries: diy traffic light changer

[One of our guilty pleasures in keeping house at cfa2 is browsing the site statistics. The idea is that by reviewing referrers and search terms, we can reach our target audience more effectively while, at the same time, expand that audience. That hasn't really panned out so far, but we still enjoy the harmless voyuerisn of finding out where visitors come from and what kinds of search terms bring them here. You'd be surprised how many posts come from following a Google lead recent keyword activity. We're trying out this new, semi-regular "column" to share the inspiration, confusion, and belly laughs that some of these referring search terms bring us.

A curious Googler inquires: "diy traffic light changer"

Our post on triggering traffic signals on a bike must have led you here. We haven't yet received any success stories based on our advice, but the info may be helpful if you're on a bike and getting impatient in the left turn lane.

If you are a cager looking to beat the system and shave 15 seconds off of your commute, we discovered that there is a whole industry providing infra-red signal that will turn a red light green. But don't get your hopes up. These devices are intended only for authorized vehicles; whether on foot, a bike, or a car, using a traffic signal preemption transmitter breaks Federal and State laws.

This may be of interest to Ann Arbor transit geeks, since the AATA has previously considered implementing a signal preemtion system to help keep buses on schedule. The impact would probably be slight (and thus not worth the hefty price tag), but combined with express service from Park & Ride lots, it may attract a following. Hopefully that following consists of more Park & Ride bus passengers and not just automobiles that follow express buses to make the lights.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

public parking workshop

As part of the Ann Arbor Discover Downtown (A2D2) project, the City is hosting two public participation events on long-term parking strategy. Tonight (March 28), the project team will facilitate a work session to obtain input and direction on the parking study at the Ann Arbor Downtown Library 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There will also be a public workshop on downtown access and parking issues Thursday, March 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, City Hall. More details at the A2D2 page.

So, why should you care? You either don't own a car or don't use one often. How is fixing downtown parking going to impact your life? If you aren't sure why you would attend these meetings or what you would say if you did, here are a few ways that parking affects carfree folks:

1) Community decisions are made by those who show up at the meetings. It is easy to blame the auto-centric design of cities on a Detroit conspiracy, but the fact is that decisions are being made at these meetings and the people who are most likely to show up are those who want more, better parking. If no one shows up to say, "hey, I ride my bike and take the bus. We need to include these options in this discussion," then those options won't be discussed.

2) Increased parking facilities reduce downtown density. Carfree life is always easier when parking lots are not spreading out the distance between destinations. We should be advocating for minimal increases in parking supply.

3) Parking is part of the larger transportation system. Increasing parking leads to a need for other changes to accomodate increased traffic (if more parking won't result in more traffic, why are we adding parking?). That means more competition between people and cars for public space.

4) Instead of more parking, we should be considering more convenient parking. Even when half of the spaces in town are empty, visitors end up circling the block looking for one of the few spaces on Main St. They do this because a) they want convenience, and b) they don't know about other options. We need to provide better information to drivers about where parking is available and make parking in a structure more convenient than parking on the street. Once they have parked their cars, we need to provide convenient ways to get around downtown without going back to the car. A good network of transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes, along with other facilities will help. Not coincidentally, these are the projects that the carfee community wants more of anyway. This is the perfect venue to explain that connection.

The workshop is an open house, so you won't get stuck sitting through a boring public policy lecture. Just stop in and let the leaders know that parking design is important to you and you want to know what alternatives they are considering.

Thanks to Nancy Shore for the heads-up!