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Cleveland: Blue Line could be a livable corridor

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/30/16 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Transit

Cleveland’s Blue Line Rapid is featured in a new report, “Livable Transit Corridors: Methods, Metrics, and Strategies” from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Academy of Sciences, a highly respected research facility.

Kind of Blue<br />The Blue Line Rapid in Cleveland is a case study in suburban commuter corridor, reports the Federal Transit Administration. With some work, it could offer more access to opportunity and improve quality of life.

Cleveland's Blue Line is a national example of a suburban commuter corridor that offers high-speed transit between low-density residential and an employment center (downtown). The report offers a method to improve “livability”—defined as opening access to opportunity and improving quality of life.

Their analysis of the Blue Line shows that, for the most part, access is limited to those able to drive to it. Except for Shaker Square and downtown, the Blue Line is missing employment options.

“Employment opportunities are rare along this corridor between its terminus at Van Aken Center and Shaker Square, as is pedestrian- or transit-based access to cultural destinations, health care, and major retailers.”

Limited service outside of rush hour is a big drawback. As is the lack of development at station sites. The line is most valuable to one type of customer—a Shaker resident who works downtown.

“The relative lack of these opportunities within this Suburban Commuter Corridor is mitigated by the access to a higher diversity of opportunities available to corridor residents in the CBD. But, transit service is generally limited to commute hours, and the travel time between outlying stations and the CBD is high.”

The Blue Line is a type of “Emerging” corridor where auto-dominated travel patterns and low-density development prevail.

If Shaker and Cleveland were interested in altering the landscape, the report offers suggestions. A vision for something else must involve outreach to multiple groups in the corridor. If “scenario planning” is employed, it has to reach a large and diverse set of stakeholders.

“Sixty percent of all projects that concluded with the selection of a preferred scenario failed to involve the public in this critical decision,” they write. “The planners’ agenda is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) working to frame the problems and script the solutions in the form of value-laden scenarios.”

The report points to Minneapolis where many hands touched its Corridors of Opportunity. It shaped the successful light-rail corridor that connects low-to-moderate income neighborhoods and downtown.

“Corridors of Opportunity emphasizes whole system approaches to organizing land use and transportation.”

The elements of success include identifying infrastructure needs and redevelopment sites five years before opening a new line, including those that will be in place on opening day and at milestone years. Station area plans should be specific; Funding sources should be clearly delineated. Metropolitan Planning Organizations have filled a gap in technical assistance, offering grants to develop transit-oriented development plans. Again, Minneapolis-St. Paul MPO, Met Council, is a model for its TOD grants to promote moderate- to high-density development and affordable housing near transit.

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1 year ago

Lots of issues with the report and the blog post, but for starters the following statement fails to acknowledge the many Cleveland residents who take advantage o the Blue Line: "The line is most valuable to one type of customer"a Shaker resident who works downtown." After all, the blue line has 6 stops in Cleveland before reaching downtown and a good portion of the Blue Line in Shaker is in close proximity to Cleveland residents.

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