MIAMI - PlusUrbia Design’s unique vision to create a parklet out of parking spaces in urban Miami will be unveiled this month. The Miami-based studio’s solution for a low-cost, high-impact urban oasis will open to the public at 10 a.m. Friday September 21 on NE 3rd Avenue and NE 1st Street in Downtown Miami.While legislation to regulate parklets is still being ironed out, the innovative studio brainstormed ways of making a demonstration parklet that didn’t need a permanent location. The studio has designed and built a 70 SF parklet on wheels – a tiny park that fits into no more than two parking spaces.The idea for the Tropical Trailer Park was the winner of the 2016 Miami Foundation Public Space Challenge.The Tropical Trailer Park will move to different locations, many lacking open space, to inspire people to find ways of making their neighborhood more livable. This Do It Yourself method of providing open space where none exists provides a quick solution to areas starved for civic amenities.  “Miami’s lack of open space has an adverse effect on our health and livability. Our studio decided to build a parklet that provides a mobile solution to enhance our streets – a park on wheels - as a gift to our city.”-Juan Mullerat, Principal of PlusUrbia Design  PlusUrbia is known for its urban interventions and advocacy in Miami including the Master Plan of Little Havana, Coconut Grove, the redesign of Calle Ocho and Complete Districts. Looking for more information on the Trailer Park? Follow the link! trailerparklet.com Related articles: The Big Bubble Miami
Glad our capacity crowd workshop and innovative online survey drove a plan that the Grove BID can use to steer economic development, preservation, walkability and unique village character for the next decade.
PlusUrbia Design was honored by the Miami Today's 2018 Gold Medal Awards competition earning the Bronze Medal for an organization.Our boutique studio was eligible for the award because it won the 2017 American Planning Association’s APA National Economic Development Plan Award for its Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District plan. PlusUrbia earned the Gold Medal Award for its context-sensitive, community-based planning. It submitted a brief portfolio to the Miami Today judges that emphasized innovative urban design that promotes multimodal mobility, affordability, and connectivity that enhances quality of life. Our studio has emphasized healthy living through access to open space, public transit, affordable housing, mixed-use development, active recreation and safe complete streets.“My father, a lawyer and published author, wrote about ethics and the social role and responsibilities of Corporations, instilled in me a sincere sense of Community Service,” said PlusUrbia Founding Principal Juan Mullerat. “This instilled in me this sense of service, which we practice in our studio through non-profit projects.”PlusUrbia has donated more than 1,000 professional hours to the ongoing Master Planning for a Healthy and Resilient Little Havana, in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Health Foundation of South Florida. Our 12-person studio has devoted more than two years listening to residents and crafting an Action Plan to improve the lives of one of the poorest, most unique, socially and demographically rich neighborhoods in the nation.“Our office has worked very hard and continues to push the envelope, delivering innovative solutions on issues that shape our built environment,” Mullerat said. “Our projects focus on transportation, affordable housing strategies, open space – all of which have profound impact on everybody’s life.”Whether it is a Transit Oriented Development, Community Redevelopment Agency, Business Improvement District, Transit Corridor, Action Plan or Visioning Exercise – PlusUrbia’s work focuses on outcomes that support healthy living in urban areas.Miami Today, celebrating its 35th year, is a weekly newspaper that reaches more than 68,000 readers and covers government, development, design, real estate, business, finance, health care and related issues that impact the future of Miami. Link to digital article: http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2018/06/05/gold-medal-awards-to-six-tibor-hollo-named-lifetime-achiever/
KEYS TO A LIVABLE COMMUNITY FOR ALLBy Steve WrightPhoto by Andy RyanYou’ve just moved into your new home. In addition to guiding you through the offer/ counter offer, financing, inspection and closing — your enlightened REALTOR® has found a dwelling that meets your needs as a person with a physical disability.There's at least one level entrance, wider doorways, a modified bathroom with a roll-in shower, raised commode with safety grab bars and a sink you can roll up to from a wheelchair. Though it has taken a ton of research, only half the battle is won. The inside of the home you purchased might be a show case of barrier-free access, but what about your neighborhood? Is there a nearby commuter train or major bus route? Are they accessible? Can you get to them safely via wide sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly crosswalks? Is the neighborhood park readily accessible, or filled with barriers?For a person with a disability — and according to the U.S. Census, there are 57 million disabled Americans — nothing is more relevant to quality of life than the old real estate adage “location, location, location.” But savvy REALTORS® know that location does not mean merely good schools, low crime and rising real estate values. When serving a client with a mobility impairment — and 16 million Americans use wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or walkers for mobility — a real estate professional should be familiar with the concepts of Universal Design and Inclusive Mobility. A real estate professional should be familiar with the concepts of Universal Design and Inclusive Mobility.Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people. Universal Design is defined as: “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” The concept was developed by the late architect Ronald L. Mace, founder of the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. The beauty is that Universal Design is not some segregated approach only relevant to wheelchair users. Its principles make spaces welcoming and easy to use for elderly people, young children, parents pushing strollers and others.Inclusive Mobility is an approach to designing the public realm in a way that is accessible to all people — from the moment they leave their door until they arrive at their destination: work, school, the supermarket, the park, shops, etc. The approach combines increased pedestrian access and safety with barrier-free public transit. Complete Streets is the concept that the roadway should not be designed primarily for cars — with mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and others merely an afterthought. Complete Streets — a rapidly-growing concept in the planning and transportation fields — advocates for calmed traffic, wide sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, safe crosswalks, curb ramps for disabled folks and well-defined transit stops, ideally with shelters to protect all riders from the elements.Inclusive Mobility extends to public transit, which is especially important to commuters in larger cities where traffic congestion is doubling and tripling commute times. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been federal civil rights law since 1990, transit is far from perfect for people with disabilities. In New York, a city that thrives on subway trains moving millions of people to work, just 117 of its 472 subway stations are fully accessible. Only 67 percent of Chicago’s train stations are fully accessible to people with disabilities. The key is to work with elected officials to retrofit stations. Some communities have gotten meaningful results. Washington D.C.’s 91 Metro train stations are 100 percent accessible.Even in medium-sized cities, public transit often is the only affordable way for a wheelchair user to get from home to work, college or other crucial destinations. Accessible consumer van upgrades — installing lifts, ramps, safety tie-downs, and automated systems that allow for transfer from a wheelchair to the driver’s seat — can cost upward of $75,000, and thousands more per year to fuel, maintain, insure and park. That makes it cost-prohibitive for low- to moderate-income families and barely attainable to even middle- to upper-income households.Courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation AuthorityCourtesy of Metropolitan Transportation AuthorityMany government officials embrace ride-share and transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, as the solution to the expense of vehicle ownership, traffic congestion and the high cost of adding transit lines. But these app-based services are provided by independent contractors who typically drive sedans and SUVs, meaning virtually no ride share vehicles can accommodate those who use power wheelchairs or other large motorized devices.Activist John Wetmore produces Perils for Pedestrians, a public affairs series on public access cable television stations in 150 cities in the United States. While the videos are aimed at pedestrian safety for all, Wetmore is acutely aware that something as simple as a public sidewalk full of obstructions can eliminate freedom of mobility for a person with a disability.“Often those responsible for blocking the sidewalk will say that it is alright because they meet the minimum legally required by the ADA. That is like bragging that you passed because you got a D on your report card,” Wetmore said. “We should expect better than that. Rather than striving for a D, they should attempt to get an A by putting the obstructions entirely out of the sidewalk.”Wetmore’s companion website has galleries that illustrate bad design examples, such as a parking meter in the middle of a sidewalk, a curb ramp constantly prone to flooding storm water, a street so full of sidewalk café tables that a wheelchair user has no room to maneuver, concrete so damaged and poorly maintained that it blocks wheelers and creates a tripping hazard for all. Another photo shows a streetlight control panel placed in the center of a heavily-traveled sidewalk right where a wheelchair user would crash into it after negotiating a curb ramp.Along with many blunders, Wetmore highlights an excellent example of a wheelchair-accessible sidewalk in Augusta, Georgia, that meets pedestrian access standards in the PROWAG (Public Right of Way Accessibility Guidelines) under the ADA.Everything about transportation — both urban and rural — will likely be transformed over the next decade. Transportation service providers such as Uber and Lyft, and autonomous self-driving vehicles are already changing the landscape. Some fear that suburban transit service will disappear altogether.WMATA photograph by Larry LevineSo what exactly does the future hold, and how do we serve everyone? These are some of the questions that land use and transportation planner Jana Lynott AICP, MA, seeks to answer.Lynott manages the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) transportation research agenda. She is responsible for the development of AARP’s policy related to transportation and other livable communities issues.“It’s one thing to understand the law and the regulations, but another to understand the design experience. All of us as planners need to wrap our heads around the principles of universal design and think through what that means,” said Lynott.Lynott believes that these principles are essential to the design of better, more disability-friendly transit systems. For example, even compliantly designed buses may miss the mark if they service a bus way where poorly designed stops result in bus ramps that must be extended at a steep slope.Said Lynott: “The devil is in the details with design.”Lynott believes that if design is to truly be inclusive, it must balance the sexy with the sensible. This applies to developments on the cutting edge, such as self-driving vehicles, like autonomous buses and shuttle buses.Some of the vehicles currently in beta incorporate hip design details such as papasan, or bowl chairs. But the chic design doesn’t serve all riders. Public transit often is the only affordable way for a wheelchair user to get from home to work. WMATA photograph by Larry LevineAccessible civic space is crucial to providing a highly livable community. “An older adult — even one who walks — may have difficulty getting back upright from the seats. Standard transit bus designers have already figured out how to design accessible seating. We shouldn’t forget what we’ve already done that works,” said Lynott.The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has developed “The Transit Street Design Guide” for the development of transit facilities on city streets, and for the design and engineering of city streets to prioritize transit while improving transit service quality for all.The NACTO guide incorporates universal design features, which are critical throughout the transportation network, making it possible for any street user to comfortably and conveniently reach every transit stop. Universal street design facilitates station access, system equity, and ease of movement for all users, especially people using wheelchairs or mobility devices, the elderly, people with children and strollers, and people carrying groceries or packages.While clear pedestrian paths, safe crosswalks and public transit that is accessible — via gently-sloped ramps to boarding stations, elevators, or lift-equipped buses — is a key part of the equation, accessible civic space is equally crucial to providing a highly livable community for people with disabilities and their families.Michael Van Valken burgh Associates placed so much emphasis on Universal Design in its creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park that the park’s website has a prominent link that details all of the accessible features on its piers and greenway that stretches for more than a mile along the East River waterfront.Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park was recognized by the Paralyzed Veterans of America for its Universal Design. Photo courtesy of PVA.Handrails and gentle slopes provide Universal Design on Squibb Park Bridge designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Photo by Andy Ryan.“Ramped pathways and bridges are less prone to technical difficulties, and they also create a stronger continuity of landscape experience that is part of the enjoyment of being in a park,” said the Van Valkenburgh team. “Once you decide that it is important to connect two spaces through the landscape, it seems worth the effort to make sure that everyone can use it.”The Van Valkenburgh firm embraces creative approaches to designing for all, opting for landscape-based solutions to accessibility that use gentle slopes instead of lifts or elevators that require more maintenance and are much more likely to break down.Photo by Andy RyanCrown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park is noted for being accessible to visitors of all ages and mobility. Photos courtesy of Millennium Park Foundation.Accessibility requirements provide opportunities to build pathways that are more engaging. “In some cases, accessibility requirements provide opportunities to build pathways that are more engaging — for instance a curved pathway that directs your views to the landscape context rather than a straight procession with an unchanging perspective,” the Van Valkenburgh team said. “We are strong advocates for building accessibility into the fundamental structure of a project, rather than looking at it as an obligation or an afterthought. Ultimately, the goal is to make accessibility feel effortless so that everyone can enjoy the landscape on the same terms.”Toronto, Canada-based nonprofit 8 80 Cities has challenged more than 250 cities on five continents to design their streets and public spaces to be easily accessible for both an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old.“We focus on children and older adults because we know that modern childhood and older adulthood in cities around the world is increasingly characterized by limited freedom and independence, reduced opportunities for social engagement and physical activity in public spaces, and few opportunities to participate in community building and decision-making,” said Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8 80 Cities.She said children, older adults and people with disabilities often have the most to benefit from living in connected, walk able and bike able communities with access to great parks and public spaces.Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park is noted for being accessible to visitors of all ages and mobility. Photos courtesy of Millennium Park Foundation.“One of the famous quotes from our Founder and Chair of the Board Gil Penalosa is ‘we have to stop building our cities as if everyone was 30 years old and athletic,’” O’Rourke said. “Streets often account for at least 25 percent of a city’s public space (in some cities close to 40 or 50 percent) and that means they are spaces that belong to all of us. The way we have designed cities for the last 60 years has been much more focused on the mobility of cars, than on the health and happiness of people. And this car-centric planning has been disproportionately bad for vulnerable road users — children, older adults, people with a disability and low-income communities.”Chicago’s 25-acre Millennium Park earned a Barrier-Free America Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America — presented to architect Edward K. Uhlir, executive director of the Millennium Park Foundation.The park’s original grandiose design featured lots of grand staircases and other elements that were not conducive to Universal Design. The late Uhlir is credited with working with additional designers to greatly increase accessibility via ramps, gentle slopes and barrier-free play areas.“My office saw (the original plan with grand staircases and other barriers to mobility) and said ‘no way are you going to build a big park in downtown Chicago with stairs that are not accessible to people with disabilities,’” said Denise Arnold, a private practice architect and inclusive design specialist who worked for Chicago’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities while Millennium Park was being developed. We have to stop building our cities as if everyone was 30 years old and athletic. The Crown Fountain, designed by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa and executed by Krueck and Sexton Architects of Chicago, is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of 50-foot glass brick towers that display digital videos on their inward faces.“The fountain is the coolest thing in the world and (the reflecting pool) has no more than quarter inch lip at any place,” Arnold said of the grand piece of usable public art. “The fountain has giant glass block towers where water spouts 12 feet high off the ground and comes down on kids. It is a completely accessible mini water park. You see people of all abilities running around that fountain and playing in it.”James Corner Field Operations, the New York-based landscape architecture and urban planning studio that is best known as the project lead for the High Line in Manhattan, has heavily incorporated universal design into the Underline in Miami. The Underline’s vision is to transform 10 miles of land below Miami’s Metrorail into an iconic linear park, world-class accessible urban trail, to be completed by 2022.The future South Miami Hospital "Healing Garden" will feature native therapeutic plants and will open onto The Underline, promoting interaction between users of both spaces.Photos © James Corner Field Operations, Courtesy of Friends of the Underline.“The key criteria for the design of these two primary components are to provide a safe environment for users navigating the trail at different speeds and physical abilities,” says Isabel Castilla, lead designer for the Underline and a senior associate at James Corner Field Operations.The Underline will replace an underutilized, not universally accessible paved trail known as the M-Path. The existing M-Path is hampered by dozens of street crossings that are very dangerous for wheelchair users, children, and slow-walking pedestrians. Field Operations’ plan will increase safety and improve visibility at intersection crossings, meeting the needs of people with visual, hearing, cognitive, and other impairments, as well as mobility difficulties, Castilla said. Steve Wright is an award-winning journalist and the communications leader for PlusUrbia Design, a Miami-based urban design firm that incorporates Universal Design and Inclusive Mobility into its work. The studio’s Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization was honored with the 2017 APA National Economic Development Plan Award.www.plusurbia.com The future approach to Brickell Station will be a gathering space for residents, showcasing the existing oolite outcrop.Photos © James Corner Field Operations, Courtesy of Friends of the Underline.Link: http://www.oncommonground-digital.org/oncommonground/summer_2018_fair_housing_and_more/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=46#pg46
BY ANDRES VIGLUCCIaviglucci@miamiherald.comMarch 08, 2018 05:30 PMUpdated 11 hours 21 minutes ago Some time in the very near future, Wynwood will get something quite avant-forward, at least for Miami: A street in which cars, bikes and pedestrians share the pavement on an equal footing.It’s called a “woonerf,” it’s inspired by the Dutch, and it’s coming to four blocks in the heart of Wynwood. On Thursday, Miami commissioners approved a contract with a Brooklyn, N.Y., firm that will design the city’s first true shared street.In a woonerf (pronounced voo-nerf), planters, landscaping and bollards serve to slow down motorists enough so that people on foot and in cars or on bikes can mix freely and safely.For the formerly industrial Wynwood district, now a flowering arts and entertainment mecca, the woonerf affords an opportunity for badly needed green and welcoming public space. It would also provide a secondary focus for its lively street life west of the neighborhood’s main drag, Northwest Second Avenue.The idea is to transform the scruffy Northwest Third Avenue right-of-way between Northwest 29th Street, the district’s northern border, and 25th Street, where the street dead-ends, providing a natural terminus for the woonerf. The street is today distinguished largely by the Wynwood Building, the warehouse prominently painted in a zebra-stripe design. The zebra-striped Wynwood Building sits on Northwest Third Avenue, which will be transformed into a “woonerf,” a street in which cars, bikes and pedestrians share the pavement on an equal footing. Ger Ger Getty Images But can the woonerf concept stand up to the belligerent carelessness of so many Miami motorists? Experts say the devil is in the design details, but woonerfs have proven themselves all over the world, and are increasingly popping up in U.S. cities.It does require care and alertness by all users, but that’s why the woonerf works, they say. Beyond some basic principles, their design can be tailored to local circumstances.“There’s no real guidelines for what a woonerf needs to be, so you can be creative,” said Juan Mullerat, principal at Coconut Grove-based urban design firm PlusUrbia, which first came up with the idea for a Wynwood woonerf when it drew up a new zoning plan for the burgeoning hipster district. “The idea is slow cars down and provide an equal use of the street.”For the Wynwood blueprint, the city is turning to Local Office Landscape and Urban Design, whose co-principal, architect Walter Meyer, grew up in Miami. The firm won a competition for the $392,900 design contract.Separately, the commission also approved a $615,140 contract with Miami-based Arquitectonica GEO for a broader tree and landscape master plan for Wynwood, a former warehouse district sorely lacking in greenery.Local Office, which designed the temporary Grand Central Park in downtown Miami, also collaborated on the design for the recently completed makeover of Miracle Mile and a block of adjacent Giralda Avenue in Coral Gables.Giralda, the suburban city’s famed restaurant row, was redesigned in a woonerf-like fashion, with no curbs or sidewalks and trees planted in the center of the street. But the city has closed it off to cars in a two-year experiment, turning it into a pedestrian plaza filled with outdoor cafe and restaurant tables.The recently remade restaurant row in Coral Gables, Giralda Plaza, was designed as a shared street but is functioning as a car-free pedestrian plaza in a two-year experiment.Courtesy City of Coral Gables This modern version of the shared street originated in the Netherlands in the 1970s, thus the Dutch name. It has spread around the world, though the concept of people on foot mixing it up with horses, carriages, bicyclists, trolleys and, yes, even motorcars is an old one.Before urban streets were segregated for use primarily by cars, with pedestrians relegated to sidewalks, different modes of transportation mixed in freewheeling fashion in cities across the world and in the United States.Modern woonerfs are intended to put the pedestrian first. They often have no signage and no curbs, to avoid tripping obstacles and to provide a feeling of expansive shared space. Often they contain cues such as colored pavement or bollards to demarcate primary areas for pedestrians and cars.A rendering of a concept for a woonerf in a new pedestrian friendly zoning district in eastern Hialeah.PlusUrbia Because of Miami-Dade County road-safety rules, though, the Wynwood woonerf may have to provide separate primary zones for motor vehicles and pedestrians, perhaps through markings or signage, said Jorge Kuperman, an architect whose office sits on Giralda Plaza and who served on the steering committee for the makeover.“We are the country of regulations, but it can be as minimal as landscaping,” Kuperman said. “It’s a great model, obviously. You can go to Lisbon or Madrid. All you see are urban interventions that are absolutely curbless. They are not from last year. They’re from long ago. And they’re designed mainly for the life of pedestrians.” Link to article: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article204194634.html
PlusUrbia Design Communications Leader Steve Wright, and his wife: Americans with Disabilities Act expert Heidi Johnson-Wright, co-authored the Planning Magazine February Cover story. Inclusive Mobility is the title of the article on applying Universal Design to every aspect of mobility – from complete streets to commuter rail to buses and safe sidewalks. The article interviewed a half dozen experts and shared best practices for delivering seamless barrier-free mobility to the nearly 57 million Americans who have some kind of disability.Planning, the publication of the American Planning Association, has previously published the Wright’s guide to better urban design of public spaces for people who use wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers and other assistive mobility devices. Johnson-Wright, an attorney by training and longtime advocate for people with disabilities, has used a wheelchair for her mobility for four decades. Wright, an award-winning journalist, blogs daily on urban design, travel, human rights and related issues at http://urbantravelandaccessibility.blogspot.com.Inclusive MobilityApplying universal design to how people get around.Illustration by Lana Gwinn; map source: WMATA. By Steve Wright and Heidi Johnson-Wright John Morris, a Florida-based travel writer (wheelchairtravel.org), uses a power wheelchair for mobility. He has explored the accessibility of dozens of public transit systems while on the road in both the U.S. and on four continents. He says that virtually every city in America has a long way to go before they truly offer inclusive mobility. "City planners often fail to recognize the true cost of accessibility barriers in transportation and movement. Just like our able-bodied counterparts, people with disabilities are on a schedule and have places to be: jobs, meetings, appointments, dinners, movies, concerts, sporting events, flights to catch, etc.," Morris says. "Barriers to accessibility disrupt freedom of movement and place additional hardships on those who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices."People with disabilities are a signification part of the population: Nearly 16 million Americans use wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or walkers. Millions more have vision, hearing, or cognitive disabilities that impact how they get around.Supporting the mobility of all people, regardless of ability, is arguably one of the most important urban planning issues facing public- and private-sector professionals.John Morris at the Amputee Coalition National Convention last August in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy Amputee Coalition.Embracing a new philosophyFrom the 1950s to recent times, mobility was largely defined by the ability to buy, finance, maintain, fuel, insure, and park an individual automobile. Outside of very large, older Eastern Seaboard cities, public transit was given second-class status and streets were designed to move more cars faster — sacrificing pedestrian and multimodal mobility.A huge shift in philosophy — to make life more affordable, accessible, and healthy — has begun to bring about a focus on universal design that aspires to give urban and suburban people who commute — by foot, by wheelchair, by bicycle, and by public transit — equal standing or priority over automobiles.This seismic shift can have a profound positive impact on people with disabilities. The complete streets movement, which embraces wider, well-maintained sidewalks; safe, well-marked crosswalks; more accessible bus stops; and better elevator access to underground or elevated commuter rail, also facilitates universal design, giving people of all abilities increased access to housing, jobs, civic opportunities, medical care, recreation, and more.But for the nearly 57 million Americans who have some kind of disability, challenges remain.Well-meaning designers who seek to activate the pedestrian realm with more plantings, decorative furniture, and sidewalk cafes sometimes block the wide, accessible path of travel needed for people who use wheelchairs for mobility.At times it's a simple lack of communication and coordination among the professional disciplines — planners, architects, traffic engineers, public works field staff, downtown development authorities, community reinvestment authorities, and private developers changing or designing rights-of-way.And then there are ride-share and transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. Many planners embrace these as one answer to both traffic congestion and the conundrum of getting people to and from transit — the so-called first and last mile. But these services are provided by independent contractors who typically drive sedans and SUVs, making few ride-share vehicles able to accommodate those who use power wheelchairs or other large motorized devices.Poorly designed sidewalk and crosswalk infrastructure make it more difficult for people with limited mobility. For example, a utility pole blocking the middle of a narrow sidewalk might not pose an issue for an able-bodied person, but a wheelchair user, a person with a walker, or a mom pushing a stroller would have to find another route, or walk in the street to get around the pole.Likewise, a pedestrian activation button on a raised sidewalk out of the ADA-accessible part of a curb ramp makes it nearly impossible for a wheelchair user to cross under the safety of the "walk" light. Photos courtesy Perils for Pedestrians, Pedestrians.org.Making transit inclusiveFor more than half a century, Los Angeles has been famous (some would say infamous) for being the most car-centric place in the Western world. That makes getting around a lot harder for people with disabilities. Accessible consumer van upgrades — adapting for lifts, ramps, safety tie-downs, and automated systems that allow for transfer from a wheelchair to the driver's seat — can cost upward of $75,000, and thousands more per year to fuel, maintain, insure, and park.But all of that is changing with development of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 105-mile Metro Rail system. In 2016, county voters approved a sales tax that will generate nearly $1 billion per year for transit and related improvements. Measure M, the dedicated tax, will roll out another 32 miles of rail service in the next decade alone — all of it fully accessible. At full build out, Measure M could potentially double the rail network in Los Angeles County, and add bus rapid transit lines and pedestrian infrastructure.One hundred percent of the Metro Rail train stations are wheelchair accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act, thanks to elevators or boarding platforms with gently sloped ramps at all 93 stations.That isn't the case for older, legacy systems, notes research published in London's The Guardian. In Paris, nine of 303 metro stations are fully accessible and only 50 out of 270 London Tube Stations are. New York gets a poor grade, too, with just 117 of its 472 subway stations fully accessible.But progress is being made in other major U.S. cities. Washington D.C.'s 91 Metro train stations are 100 percent accessible, and in Chicago, where some elevated and other rail stations were built long before the ADA was passed in 1990, 67 percent of the Chicago Transit Authority train stations are fully accessible to people with disabilities."We need to design transit systems that everyone in a community — regardless of money, or physical or cognitive ability — can use," says Jana Lynott, AICP, manager of AARP's transportation research agenda.Fixing the first and last mileBut transit is only one part of mobility. Another challenge is bridging the gap between where riders live and work and the stations they might use."People who have mobility constraints really need access to transit," says Bill Delo, AICP. "They are a big market for transit ridership — but only if they can get from their home to transit to their place of work, on wide sidewalks with safe crosswalks." BEST PRACTICES FROM LAThe First Last Mile Strategic Plan addresses multimodal access and the need to design in a way that mainstreams people with disabilities.The plan advocates for universal design, stating: "Most public transportation stations, trains, and buses are accommodating to manual wheelchair users; however, they have historically been treated as an isolated group, with limited number of spaces on buses."As the population ages and more manual and electric wheelchair users ride public transit, new seating configurations and storage may be required. Sidewalks and routes to transit nodes must maintain smooth and clear rolling surfaces, accessible curb ramps, and signal times conducive to safe street crossings." LA County tackled this head-on when it adopted the First Last Mile Strategic Plan (tinyurl.com/ya68mr7n) in 2014. The plan focuses heavily on inclusive design to serve people with disabilities. The progressive, innovative plan was honored with the American Planning Association's 2015 National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice (www.planning.org/awards/2015/firstlastmile.htm).Delo, who led the project for the Irvine office of IBI Group, a Canadian-based, technology-driven urban design and engineering firm, notes that universal design should be inclusive of the needs of a great span of mobility."We looked at this as an opportunity to go beyond the typical mobility plans that look at bike and pedestrian mobility then stop ... to increase access for people who use wheelchairs, scooters ... even skateboards," he says. "We wanted to improve accessibility for everyone who commutes by transit [in] Los Angeles."Delo says that a key to a better first- and last-mile experience is widening sidewalks and making sure they are well maintained. "People have many different ways of getting around without a car, but they all — other than bicyclists — are restricted to the sidewalk."Sidewalks in LA are narrow in some places, and many have cracks, gaps, and obstructions or are poorly maintained, he adds. The plan acknowledges this and recommends replacing insufficient sidewalks, but doesn't include an implementation strategy or funding to do so. (The problem of absent and insufficient sidewalks is hardly limited to LA, although the authors know of no national database that tracks sidewalk statistics.)Communities too often wait for private redevelopment to improve sidewalks along transit corridors, Lynott says, instead of initiating improvements to rights-of-way. This often means neighborhood connectivity fails to meet minimum standards."I see many communities that need to invest in access for people with disabilities to both public transit and sidewalk networks. And they need to have Americans with Disabilities Act transition plans that are updated on an ongoing basis," says Lynott.An ADA transition plan is a state or local government's self-evaluation of its facilities, programs, and services to assess whether the government is in compliance with ADA rules. Problems and shortfalls are identified and a plan is put in place — with action steps and deadlines — to address them. "Transition plans serve to connect people with disabilities to jobs and services," she says. "This has a direct, positive economic impact."Venice Boulevard in Venice, California, now provides shorter pedestrian crossings, mid-block crosswalks with signaling buttons, narrowed traffic lanes, protected bike lanes, and other complete streets features that make it safer for all pedestrians, including those using assistive mobility devices. Photo courtesy LADOT. Beyond the ADAGabe Klein earned a national reputation for being an innovator who favored inclusive mobility, focusing on putting people before automobiles on city streets, when he ran two of the largest transportation departments in the U.S.: Washington D.C., then Chicago.According to Klein, far too many agencies and planners still look at design for people with disabilities as a last-minute item, even on a new project."I think when agencies focus only on the Americans with Disabilities Act, they can get too focused on just meeting minimum ADA requirements. That's when we lose track of truly making a place accessible for people with disabilities," says Klein, cofounder of CityFi, an advisory services platform for urban change management, and author of Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun."In Chicago, I had a great relationship with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities," he says. "We focused on practical solutions. We didn't want to just look at numbers in a book, we wanted to have people with disabilities come in and help with our design from the ground floor. That way, you didn't just have a ramp to meet the ADA laws, you had a ramp that functioned, even in the Chicago winters.""When we came up with our complete streets guidelines, the idea of designing for people with disabilities wasn't an afterthought. It was a priority to design inclusively from the start, because we found if you design for people with disabilities, the able-bodied people will be just fine," he adds.In 2015, the National Complete Streets Coalition, a part of Smart Growth America, published "Complete Streets Help People with Disabilities." The complete streets approach, says Emiko Atherton, the coalition's director, "means that transportation decisions, plans, and procedures are aligned and designed to accommodate all users of all abilities."The two-page guide notes that "Complete Streets policies provide flexibility to transportation professionals and give them room to be creative in developing solutions that promote accessible travel," noting that designers should think about important details at intersections (like audible or tactile signals for blind pedestrians); smooth, obstacle-free sidewalks; and ample space to wait and board safely at transit stops.Further, such policies "remove barriers to independent travel by considering the needs of all users at the outset of every transportation project," the guide reads. Considering all users helps keep people connected, which improves livability, and can reduce "dependence on more costly alternatives, such as paratransit or private transportation service."According to Lynott, communities that want to make a real commitment to providing effective, inclusive mobility must take compliance with the ADA seriously. They need to educate staff in planning and other departments about the standards and about universal design to align those concepts in zoning, development review, and comprehensive planning."It's one thing to understand the law and the regulations, but another to understand the design experience. All of us as planners need to wrap our heads around the principles of universal design and think through what that means," says Lynott.Seattle Department of Transportation engineer Johanna Landherr uses a wheelchair to test a new curb ramp. Photo courtesy SDOT. Looking past the curveEverything about transportation — both urban and rural — will likely be transformed over the next decade. Disruptive transportation technologies are already changing the landscape. Some say suburban transit service will disappear altogether.Benjamin de la Pena is the deputy director for policy, planning, mobility, and right-of-way at the Seattle Department of Transportation. The agency just published the New Mobility Playbook (newmobilityseattle.info), a planning document that addresses rapidly evolving transport technology (like autonomous vehicles), app-based transportation network or ride-share services (Uber and Lyft), car-share firms (Zip Car and Car2Go), and private-sector microtransit start-ups that use vans or small buses to transport passengers."One of our chief concerns is equity, says de la Pena. "The city has a very robust equity plan and our concern about these new options is that they offer mobility."He notes that ride-share companies currently offer few options for people who use power wheelchairs. He wants autonomous vehicle technology to consider disabled users, too.The playbook's suggested solution is to develop a "Wheelchair Accessible Taxi program to reduce operating costs, meet customer expectations, and work more efficiently across jurisdictional boundaries." The playbook acknowledges that while much of tech-driven new mobility is owned and operated by the profit-minded private sector, government "must ensure that shared mobility services provide dignified, reliable, and affordable transportation options that are accessible to all."Further, the New Mobility Playbook notes that "mobility options and technology must fight against the displacement of vulnerable communities and develop the living wage transportation workforce of tomorrow," and its Strategy 1.1 notes that best practices for cities and regions grappling with the onslaught of smartphone-app-driven mobility must "advance shared mobility equity programs targeting people of color, low-income, immigrant, refugee, youth, and aging populations, women, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities."Working directly with people of diverse abilities also helps inform the planning process in Seattle. Inclusion is not only a best practice, it is required, notes de la Pena. The city's advisory boards "have members who use wheelchairs for mobility, people with low vision, people with other disabilities. And we listen to them."De la Pena urges other cities to include significant input from community members with disabilities when designing and implementing inclusive mobility initiatives.It's a practice John Morris certainly advocates."ADA compliance consultants should have a personal experience with disability and be able to understand the needs of the disabled population," he says. "In larger cities with a large population of disabled citizens, multiple consultants should be brought on board, each specializing in an area of accessibility, but also participating in team planning and discussions.""The perfect ADA team," he adds, "might include a wheelchair user, deaf/blind expert, and an expert in intellectual disabilities."Steve Wright is an award-winning journalist and the communications leader for PlusUrbia Design. Heidi Johnson-Wright is an attorney specializing in ADA issues. She has used a wheelchair for mobility for more than 40 years and frequently lectures on the intrinsic value of universal design and inclusive mobility.RESOURCESMetro: A Customer's View: A wheelchair user navigates the bus and rail system in LA. youtu.be/QE12ktreN2cLA County's First Last Mile Strategic Plan: tinyurl.com/ya68mr7nSmart Growth America/National Complete Streets Coalition's "Complete Streets Help People with Disabilities:" tinyurl.com/yb9z9ctfAARP's Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America: tinyurl.com/y8ckxblvSeattle's New Mobility Playbook: tinyurl.com/y7vjbssbThe Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at Buffalo: idea.ap.buffalo.eduLink to article: https://www.planning.org/planning/2018/feb/inclusivemobility/
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