PHOTOS: Riding the Rails in Europe

Last summer I visited several cities in Europe and photographed a few of the scenes going on across the pond. My travels took me to Brussels and Oostende in Belgium; Cologne, Germany; and to London, Cardiff and Brighton Beach in the United Kingdom. The photo set below is premised on several observations:

Quality of  city transportation: Brussels has the cleanest trams of the whole trip. These trams are Bombardier 4000 series trams delivered to the city in 2010. The seating is very comfortable, the trams feature LCD screens and wood panel finishes. Trams running underground featured the traditional turnstile system found in many other underground systems.

Cologne’s trams are older and feature on-board payment systems both above and below ground. Their system consists of two joined rail cars. In some instances such as around Neumarkt Square also use the same transit right-of-ways reserved for trains.

London’s Tube system is the largest subway system in the world. However the city also features an aerial tram known as the United Emirates Line. The tram runs continuously, unlike a similar system in Portland, Oregon, and connects London’s former Olympic Village to the O2 Centre.

Cardiff also featured rail transit, however the system was antiquated and utilize heavy diesel trains that were sometimes as small as a single rail car.

Bicycle Infrastructure: Bicycle share was available in many of the cities I visited including Brussels and London. In Cologne bicycle lanes were placed on the road side of sidewalks and were delineated with either special paint or pavers in some areas. There were similar observations in Cardiff.

Placemaking: From the Dom in Cologne to Grote Markt in Brussels, Europe is filled with beautiful community gathering spots.

Enjoy the photos!

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February URBANexchange is Tonight

URBANexchange

Sick of winter? So are we, so come join us in keeping warm at the Moerlein Lager House for the February URBANexchange tonight! This month’s event is dedicated to sneckdowns, the snow filled islands in roads where cars do not travel but where pedestrians could one day roam.

As always, the event will be a casual setting where you can meet others interested in what is happening in the city. We will gather in the biergarten so that each person can choose how much or little they buy in terms of food or drink. Although we do encourage our attendees to generously support our kind hosts at the Moerlein Lager House.

URBANexchange is free and open to the public. This month we are giving away two $25 gift cards from Findlay Market as door prizes so be sure to drop your name into the raffle.

We will be situated in the northwest corner of the biergarten (near the Moer To Go window), but you can also ask the host where the UrbanCincy group is located and they will be happy to assist.

The Moerlein Lager House is located on Cincinnati’s central riverfront and is located just one block from a future streetcar stop. If you choose to bike there is free and ample bike parking is available near our location in the biergarten outside by the Schmidlapp Event Lawn.

Cincinnati Leaders Approve City’s Third Form-Based Code in Walnut Hills

Last week Cincinnati City Council approved the form-based code for Walnut Hills. The unanimous vote marks the third neighborhood to adopt this new regulatory tool for neighborhood redevelopment. Yet even after several years of development, many do not understand the basics about the new land use planning tool.

First of all, a form-based code is type of regulation that is developed by community stakeholders to guide future development or redevelopment of a community. Under a form-based code, new developments are typically configured to mesh with the character of the community’s vision.

Form-based codes get their name because it creates a type of regulation that typically focuses more on the form of the building and its relation to the public realm (i.e. the street) rather than the usage of the building. Development under the code occurs “by-right” and means if a new development complies with all the code’s provisions it can be built without having to go through the extensive and sometimes drawn-out process of traditional development.

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Over 700 American cities have adopted some type of a form-based code, with Miami being the largest city to completely adopt this type of code. Near by they have been used in Nashville and Columbus to spark development in revitalizing areas of their inner cities.

Former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (D) championed this movement locally and actually led groups of local officials and business leaders to Nashville to study the results of their form-based codes in 2008 and 2012.

While some cities have used these tools to encourage pedestrian friendly, mixed-use developments where none exist, older more established cities such as Cincinnati have opted to implement them in order to ensure that new development integrates seamlessly into the historic charm and character of the city.

Bellevue, KY became the first municipality in the Cincinnati region to adopt this type of regulation in 2011.

Cincinnati first began pursuing the idea of developing a form-based code in 2009. After receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, city staff selected Opticos to lead in developing the new code. Dan Parolek, principal of Opticos, wrote the book on form-based codes, quite literally.

After conducting a city-wide charrette in May 2012, the City of Cincinnati worked with Opticos to refine the code and prepare it for adoption. The form-based code was adopted in early 2013. From there staff from the city’s planning department worked closely with neighborhoods to craft the regulating plan map.

Four neighborhoods were included in the initial implementation schedule: Madisonville, College Hill, Westwood and Walnut Hills. Both Madisonville and College Hill have fully adopted the code with Walnut Hills being the latest. Westwood appears to be the next neighborhood poised to adopt the code after winning unanimous support from the city’s Planning Commission in December 2013.

$5M Mabley Place Project is First Phase of 4th & Race Transformation

Demolition and reconstruction of the old Tower Place Mall, now named Mabley Place, began December 16 with the installation of construction fencing around the perimeter of the old mall at Fourth and Race Streets.

Demolition of Pogue’s Garage, however, will not begin until the conversion of the mall is complete. Once the parking garage is removed, it will clear the way for construction of the 30-story apartment tower planned for the site.

Tower Place Mall, which was purchased by the city early last year for $8.5 million, came attached with the deteriorating eight-story Pogue’s Garage. Originally constructed to serve as parking for the namesake department store across the street at the intersection. The department store closed and was replaced by the mall in the 1980’s.

The mall building also supported its own parking expansion that currently is only accessible via a skybridge from the Pogue’s Garage. The parking spaces above the old mall will remain open during construction.

“The 525 parking spaces that currently exist above Tower Place Mall must be able to be accessible by other means prior to the demolition of the Pogue’s Garage. Right now, the only way to access those spaces is through Pogue’s, so the interior ramping at TPM must be completed first,” explained Stephen Dronen with the city’s Department of Trade and Development.

City officials expect the $5 million Mabley Place project to take six to nine months, and are optimistic that the parking structure will open by June. In addition to the parking, the project will include 8,400 square feet of street-level retail. One retail space has already been leased.

From there, developers of the Pogue’s Garage site can begin the laborious task of taking down the parking structure.

Due to its close proximity to other buildings, and the fact that it does not have a basement, engineers say that the garage cannot be imploded and must rather be demolished conventionally. The city estimates the demolition will take about four months and should begin this summer.

Flaherty & Collins is the lead developer on the new 300-unit apartment tower that will also include 1,000 parking spaces and 16,000 square feet for an independent upscale grocery store.

Construction is expected to commence immediately following the demolition of the garage, with the potential for a tiered opening of the garage prior to the residential tower above. Under such a model, the grocery store and parking garage components could open in early 2016, while the high-rise residential tower would open near the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

Although the redevelopment project was originally planned to be funded through the long-term lease of the city’s parking assets, the deal evolved to no longer require funding from the now cancelled lease. As a result, the project is being funded private financing and a $12 million forgivable loan that, city officials say, is contingent on the satisfactory completion of the project and completion and operation of a first-class grocery store on the ground retail floor of the project for at least five years.

Photographs by Elizabeth Schmidt for UrbanCincy.

Bus Stop Removal Could Enhance Service Times

As any frequent Cincinnati Metro rider knows, it seems like the bus stops at almost every block in the city. Would reducing the number of bus stops help make bus transit more efficient? A recent study released done by researchers at George Mason University looks at a hypothetical 43% reduction in bus stops in Fairfax, Virginia. Their results are worth checking into. More from Governing:

When bus stops are frequent, not only do buses have to stop more often to pick up and drop off passengers, they also use value time accelerating and decelerating. Those two factors alone can take up to 26 percent of total bus travel times. All that stopping and starting can also increase emissions.

Nationally, most bus riders — about 75 percent to 80 percent of them — walk less than a quarter mile to bus stops. But Zolnik’s study assumed that, in this case, most passengers could walk half a mile to stop, since many of the riders are young, healthy students.

URBANexchange to Highlight New Year

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We’re back for the new year!  The first URBANexchange of the new year will be this Thursday at the Moerlein Lager House. This month’s event is dedicated to looking forward for 2014.

What are some of the things you’d like to see accomplished in Cincinnati during this new year? Drop by and lets talk about it over a drink!

As always, the event will be a casual setting where you can meet others interested in what is happening in the city. We will gather in the biergarten so that each person can choose how much or little they buy in terms of food or drink. Although we do encourage our attendees to generously support our kind hosts at the Moerlein Lager House.

Our team of researchers and writers will also occasionally dive further into the topics and publish the information and ideas on the website.

URBANexchange is free and open to the public. This month we are giving away two $25 gift cards from the Lager House as door prizes so be sure to drop your name into the raffle.

We will be situated in the northwest corner of the biergarten (near the Moer To Go window), but you can also ask the host where the UrbanCincy group is located and they will be happy to assist.

The Moerlein Lager House is located on Cincinnati’s central riverfront and is located just one block from a future streetcar stop. Free and ample bike parking is available near our location in the biergarten outside by the Schmidlapp Event Lawn.