Speed Cameras and Complete Streets

I’d like to add a little more to the comments I posted on Grid Chicago regarding the speed cameras ordinance passed by the City of Chicago earlier this week.

As usual, the guys at Grid Chicago did an excellent job of reporting on the legislation and what it will (or won’t) do and I don’t intend on covering that. What I do think is important to highlight is the fact that too many streets in Chicago are built so wide as to encourage speeding. In my northwest side neighborhood of Jefferson Park, Milwaukee Avenue gets so wide north of the UP Northwest Line bridge that it is virtually impossible to travel the speed limit (30 MPH) without getting run off the road.

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This type of road cross-section is what Charles Marohn calls a “complete road.” And it is designed for the 45 MPH world that is an engineering, fiscal, and urban design failure.

This is the problem with Milwaukee Avenue and for many of the major four lane arterial streets in Chicago. They are designed for quick movement of cars. Thus, a 30 MPH speed limit, which is the speed limit in Chicago where not posted otherwise, is a joke for cars. And it is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Seattle: N. 130th St. - Before Source: Complete Streets @ flickr

Seattle: N. 130th St. - After Source: Complete Streets @ flickr















If we’re really concerned about safety and about reducing pedestrian, bicycle and auto injuries and fatalities in this city, speed cameras are not the answer. Better design is. This is what I would recommend:

Reduce the width of the lanes to 10′ widths, perhaps even dropping a lane. Most of Milwaukee Ave. south of the UP-NW line into downtown is two lanes. This frees up room for the bike lane. In addition, there will be room for a median with protected pedestrian crossings. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition:

Complete streets reduce crashes through comprehensive safety improvements. A Federal Highway Administration review of the effectiveness of a wide variety of measures to improve pedestrian safety found that simply painting crosswalks on wide high-speed roads does not reduce pedestrian crashes. But measures that design the street with pedestrians in mind – sidewalks, raised medians, better bus stop placement, traffic-calming measures, and treatments for disabled travelers – all improve pedestrian safety. Some features, such as medians, improve safety for all users: they enable pedestrians to cross busy roads in two stages, and reduce left-turning motorist crashes to zero, a type of crash that also endangers bicyclists.

One study found that designing for pedestrian travel by installing raised medians and redesigning intersections and sidewalks reduced pedestrian risk by 28 percent. Speed reduction has a dramatic impact on pedestrian fatalities. Eighty percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 40 mph will die; at 30 mph the likelihood of death is 40 percent. At 20 mph, the fatality rate drops to just 5 percent. Roadway design and engineering approaches commonly found in complete streets create long-lasting speed reduction. Such methods include enlarging sidewalks, installing medians, and adding bike lanes. All road users – motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists – benefit from slower speeds

Complete streets encourage safer bicycling behavior. Sidewalk bicycle riding, especially against the flow of adjacent traffic, is more dangerous than riding in the road due to unexpected conflicts at driveways and intersections. A recent review of bicyclist safety studies found that the addition of well-designed bicycle-specific infrastructure tends to reduce injury and crash risk. On-road bicycle lanes reduced these rates by about 50%.

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Olympic Games and Transport Infrastructure: An Analysis

Olympic Games construction site A birds eye vi...

This is the last in a four-part series on the Olympic Games as a catalyst for urban, and specifically transportation, development. In Part I, we explored  the background of how the Games are administered at the local level. Part II examines the growth of the Olympic Games and how it became a catalyst for general urban development. And Part III examined transport infrastructure in relation to the Games, with a closer look at London’s preparation for the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics. In this last post on the Olympic Games, we’ll analyze what this all means for the Olympic Games and for the host cities themselves.


A London Underground train decorated to promot...

A London Underground train decorated to promote London's Olympic bid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Transportation infrastructure has become essential component of successfully hosting a mega event such as the Olympic Games. Due to the large volume of spectators and athletes, logistics problems become complex as organizers seek to make the Games as efficient as possible in an urban transport network that is often inefficient. Because of each city’s unique history and urban form, the impacts of the Games on transport development differ.

Additionally, it becomes clear that when examining previous Olympic Games over the last few decades, many of the host cities have tried to choose sites which were underutilized or brownfield sites. Often these sites are the only large sites within the central city that is suitable for Olympic venues. Additional incentives for this seem to be a regeneration of central city areas like we have seen at Homebush Bay in Sydney, Helliniko Airport in Athens, and Stratford in London. In all cases, some transportation infrastructure may have been in place, yet it was underutilized or inefficiently serving the site.

In Sydney, host of the 2000 Summer Olympics, the Games were a significant catalyst for urban infrastructure development around the region. Beside the direct investments made for the Games, the indirect investments prior to or after the Olympic Games were expedited. These improvements included better transport connectivity and a major capacity expansion scheme to its airport, Kingsford Smith International, as well as capacity improvements at its main rail hub, Central Station. All together, direct investment in transport infrastructure as a result of the Olympic Games was A$370 million ($384 million), while indirect investment was approximately A$3 billion ($3.1 billion).

Athens, host of the 2004 Summer Olympics,  had transport issues that were significantly different from Sydney’s. Athens is an ancient city with a dense urban form. It also did not have much of the tertiary structure that is necessary to handle the increased demands of an Olympic Games. Due to the city’s urban form and a lack of large parcels of available public land, Athens had to spread out its Olympic venues across the Attica Plain. This was problematic due to the notorious traffic congestion facing Athens and the little public transport infrastructure within the city. Thus, by agreeing to host the Olympic Games, Athens embarked on a scale of transport investment that had not been seen since Tokyo in 1964. The direct and indirect investments in transport infrastructure included a new international airport, two metro lines, a tram system, and a suburban railway. All of these infrastructure improvements were built with the goal of making transport more efficient during the Olympic Games. In total, direct investment as a result of the Olympic Games in transport infrastructure was over 2.86 billion euro ($4.5 billion).

London’s model for urban development was similar to Sydney. It has an area ripe for regeneration at Stratford. London also has transport connections near the site of the Olympic Park but needed significant investment in public transportation infrastructure to make the site accessible. The Olympic Village is also adjacent to the Olympic Park like in Sydney. However, the similarities between the two cities end here.

London has a much more complex set of existing transport infrastructure in place. The key for London is to arrange and maximize the efficiencies of the transport infrastructure to serve the Games and the regeneration afterward. For London is unique in the case studies to be simultaneously regenerating the area around the Olympic Park in Stratford.

It is difficult to estimate how much the London Olympic Games will eventually cost. Cost overruns have already plagued the Games and are further anticipated. Given what is now reported, however, direct investment by the Her Majesty’s Government in transport is anticipated to be approximately £900m ($1.8 billion). Indirect investments in transport, particularly at Stratford International and other public transport services, both public and private, are estimated at £1bn ($2 billion) annually from 2007 through 2012.


A legacy of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. The Olympic Bridge over the River Han.Source: yarra 64 @ Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past several decades, almost all Olympic host cities have used the Games as a catalyst for massive urban regeneration. The legacy of hosting the Games includes physical and economic effects that are left following the Games that would otherwise not have occurred without the Games.

Structural change to the host city’s urban infrastructure can provide the host city with a once in a lifetime opportunity for massive urban development. The improvement in transport infrastructure and efficiency makes the city more efficient and competitive, drawing industry, income, and jobs to the Olympic host city. It can spur regeneration like it has in London (5,000 homes and a town center). Or it can open up new areas for development (new international airport in Athens). Either way, the trend is toward larger and more significant investment in infrastructure, using the Olympic Games as a catalyst toward infrastructure investment and regeneration.

New York vs. L.A.

Wiltshire Blvd., LA. Source: Wikimedia Commons

About 10 days ago the New York Times ran a fascinating Room for Debate topic asking: Should Los Angeles New Yorkify? I think this is a fascinating debate and it is very prescient considering that the American Planning Association is hosting their annual conference in LA this week.

Unfortunately for me, I am unable to attend this year’s APA conference. This won’t stop me from weighing in on the matter even though I have only visited these two cities exactly once.

As an urban planner, I have had a lot of preconceived notions about what exactly LA is and is not. I thought I knew it to be a sprawling, low density, suburban template with no real sense of place and no urbanity. The reality is much more nuanced than this. Yes, LA has sprawl, but did you know it is actually the most population dense metropolitan area in the country? Now, of course, this is in terms of metro areas and not a direct comparison of Manhattan vs. the San Fernando Valley. LA has urban, really urban pockets. Hollywood is really urban. So too are many of the suburbs like Pasadena and Santa Monica.

Third St., Santa Monica, CA. Source: Wikimedia Commons

So it’s established that LA is its own kind of city, albeit in an urban form that is nothing like New York. New York is built the way it is exactly because of its dense mass transit system, among the largest in the world, and the constraints of geography. LA is building a mass transit network worthy of its size only because it has finally reached the limits of its geography (hemmed in by mountains on all sides). And I think LA has realized the limitations to the car and the auto-centric urban form that is ingrained in its fabric and has realized that the LA of the future can be many things to many people. It won’t be New York, but who cares? New York is New York.

Olympic Games: Transport Infrastructure Development

Source: e-architect.co.uk

The discussion of the Olympic Games as a catalyst for urban development will now examine one specific aspect of the urban environment: the transportation infrastructure necessary to sustain that environment. This post is the third of the series.

Transportation is part of the tertiary structure of development for the Olympic Games. I’d argue that transportation infrastructure is every bit as important as building the Olympic sporting facilities because if you cannot get to the facilities, there will be no Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognized this fact and one of the chief mandates of the Olympic Charter to the Olympic Committee for Organizing the Olympic Games (OCOG) is the “provision for transport…of participants and officials and other matters which, in its opinion, concern the well-being of competitors and officials and their ability to perform the necessary functions at the Olympic Games”. The problem that the IOC is most concerned about involves the efficient and timely transportation of the athletes and officials to the Olympic venues. Prior to the bid for an Olympic Games, the host city often has long-standing plans to solve its transportation problems. The opportunity to host the Olympic Games has expedited these plans.

Many host cities see large investments in transportation. Tokyo, while not the first city to invest in its transportation infrastructure for an Olympic Games, was nonetheless known as the first city to significantly reorganize its transportation infrastructure prior to the Olympic Games for the long-term benefit of its metropolitan area. Due to its dense urban form, Tokyo had to build Olympic facilities across its wide metropolitan region, including the Olympic Village itself, which was composed of smaller satellite villages. In order to connect the Olympic Villages with the Olympic venues, spread far and wide, Tokyo realized it had to focus on transportation investments. Subsequently, $2.7 billion was spent on 22 expressway projects and 5 subway extensions for the Games.

Transport during the Olympic Games needs to link the sport venues, the Olympic Village(s), and hotels and accommodations in an efficient manner, while also considering the daily transport needs of local residents and businesses. For a candidate city to win a bid to host the Olympic Games, the candidate city must have a strategic transport plan that accommodates these concerns. In order to facilitate the process of developing a transport plan that can spur infrastructure investment, the IOC wants to know what transport infrastructure the candidate city has in place when applying to host the Olympic Games. This includes:

  • Existing transport infrastructure
  • Planned transport infrastructure
  • Additional transport infrastructure
  • Main airport capacity, distance to city center, and public transport linkage
  • Current transport challenges and how the candidate city intends to overcome these at Games time

By strategically thinking about how the above concerns are addressed, the host city has the opportunity to create or expedite its transport plans. And, as previous host cities have shown, the exposure to the massive numbers of visitors, as well as the logistics of the Games can justify the investment needed to improve and extend transport systems. Below, we’ll examine how London is using the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to revitalize its transport infrastructure.


In 2005, London won the bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. London holds the distinction of being the first city to have hosted an Olympic Games three times (1908 and 1948).  The impetus for London to host the Games yet again is due to its vision of urban regeneration in the Lower Lea Valley, expanding transport infrastructure, and providing modern sport facilities.

The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is the local OCOG responsible for the planning and implementation of the Games. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is the public sector authority working with LOCOG to ensure the delivery of sport venues and infrastructure. Among the responsibilities of the ODA are:

  • Building the Olympic venues
  • Planning and delivery on both transport infrastructure and services to support the 2012 Games projects
  • Converting the Olympic Park for long-term use after the Games
  • Making sure the project sets new standards for sustainable development.

The venues of 2012 Olympic Games are to be concentrated in three zones in London: Central Zone, Olympic Park, and River Zone. The Central Zone comprises a number of venues in the City of Westminster, utilizing space in Hyde Park. The Olympic Park will be located at Stratford, in the Borough of Newham, East London. Olympic Park will contain the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Village, and a number of smaller venues. The River Zone comprises a number of venues in Greenwich and near London City Airport.

The Olympic Park site at Stratford is the crown jewel of the urban regeneration initiative. It is an area that has seen little investment for decades. The land was used as landfill after the WWII bombing of London, it has poor drainage issues, and utility and transport infrastructure had crisscrossed the site. The objective of using the Stratford site is to provide quality infrastructure: social, physical, and economic to enhance the value of the site and surrounding areas. Olympic Park, when completed, will be a 270 acre park hosting a variety of venues for the Games. It will be considered a sustainable development, in terms of its impact on climate change, waste, biodiversity, healthy living, and inclusion.

The Olympic Village. © 2007-2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

The Olympic Village (left)will be developed adjacent to the site, allowing minimal travel time for athletes to their venues. After the conclusion of the Games, the Olympic Village will be turned over to the market for additional housing (of which 30% will be affordable). The Olympic Village will house 17,320 athletes and officials, which will place 80% of the athletes within 20 minutes of their venues. Adjacent to the Olympic Park and Village is the neighborhood of Stratford. The Stratford town center is a $6 billion office and commercial development adjacent to the Stratford rail station. Among the facilities included is a hotel, restaurants, clubs, cinemas, housing, schools, and parkland.



Transport Infrastructure

London, like other host cities, would like to make travel to the 2012 Olympic Games 100% via public transport. London already has a large and comprehensive public transport system to accomplish this goal. Yet, London has other transport objectives, which involve safety, financial prudence, and regeneration themes. Some of these key transport objectives for the Games include:

  • Provide frequent, reliable, friendly, inclusive, accessible, environmentally friendly and simple transport for spectators and visitors from all around the UK and overseas
  • Leave a positive legacy and facilitate the regeneration of East London

The ODA estimates that 7.7 million tickets will be available and that peak crowds will tax the transport infrastructure with 800,000 people on the busiest day. The bulk of this traffic flow will be at Olympic Park. London also estimates that its mode share, or choice of transport, will be predominantly by rail (78% rail, 18% bus share). These estimates reinforce the decisions of ODA to focus infrastructure investments intensively on rail infrastructure. Total transport investments from the ODA are projected at £900m ($1.8 billion) although there are transport investments being made by other parties.

The location of Olympic Park at Stratford has several unique transport advantages. Olympic Park is located near two key transport stations that will be served by 12 different rail services with connections to areas throughout London, Great Britain, and even Europe. These stations are the Stratford Regional Station, Stratford International Station, and West Ham. Services that operate from these stations include the London Underground (Tube) metro system, the London Overground commuter rail system, the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) system, the Network Rail national rail system, and the High Speed 1 rail system which provides Eurostar rail service to Europe. Below is a description of a few of the major improvements.

Stratford Regional Station

Stratford Regional. Source: e-architect.co.uk

Stratford Regional Station (above) is a major transport interchange in East London. Its location lies at the south end of the Olympic Park. This station serves the two tube lines, the Jubilee and Central lines; a DLR line, a Tube line, and five Network Rail lines. Future transport investments for the Games include an additional DLR service to Stratford and Greenwich and additional platforms at the station for capacity improvements.

Infrastructure improvements to Stratford Regional Station include both capacity and service expansion to the station. Capacity improvements include additional platform construction and extensions on the Jubilee line, a new mezzanine, and improved accessibility throughout the station. Service improvements involve new platforms for the new DLR North London line, which will pass through Stratford Regional en route to Stratford International. A new ticket hall will be constructed which will link the station with the Stratford town center. Overall, the ODA budget for transport investment at Stratford Regional Station is £119m ($239 million).

Stratford International Station

An aerial view of Stratford International Station with a Channel Tunnel Rail Link train passing through in March 2009. © 2007-2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

The Stratford International Station is a legacy investment of the Games. Located in the heart of Olympic Park and 400 meters from Stratford Regional Station, it will provide easy access to the venues in Olympic Park or to Tube, DLR, and National Rail service connections. During the Olympic Games, a high-speed shuttle service, the Javelin, will operate from St. Pancras with a travel time of just seven minutes and service frequencies of ten trains per hour. Following the Games, Stratford International will become be a station for Eurostar trains from continental European route to St. Pancras. Stratford International was completed in 2006 at a cost of £210m ($422 million).


In the next post, we’ll analyze what it all means. That is, why do cities invest so heavily in infrastructure and urban development in the lead up to the Olympic Games? What is the ultimate legacy of the Games on its host cities?


The Olympic Games and Urban Development

London Olympic Park under construction in Oct. 2009 Source: supermoving @ Flickr

In this part of the Olympic Games series, we’ll examine the role that the Olympic Games has played as a catalyst for urban development, particularly in the form of transport infrastructure.

The evolution of the modern Olympic Games can be related in terms of size and cost. As each Olympiad passes, the cost borne by the host city and country has grown. In the 1896 Athens Games, there were 245 athletes from 14 countries that participated. The next time Athens hosted an Olympic Games, in 2004, there were 10,625 athletes from 201 countries. The cost of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens was approximately €9 billion euro.

The growth of the Olympics has had a profound effect on the Olympic host city. Due to the escalating costs of hosting an Olympic Games, the IOC established an Olympic Games Study Commission to “analyze the current scale and scope of the Olympic Games…to propose solutions to help manage the inherent size, complexity, and cost of staging the Olympic Games in the future”. In the last few decades, however, this complexity has grown beyond the organization and implementation of the Olympic Games. Rather, organizing an Olympic Games has increasingly been used as an opportunity for urban renewal and economic development. This includes the increased economic activity as a result of tourism, the construction of sport facilities in previously under-provided areas, and the justification for new investment in transportation infrastructure and urban design.

The popularity of the Olympic Games among the countries of the world has much to do with the television broadcast of the Games. Since the 1960 Olympics in Rome, television has had an increasingly important role in displaying the Olympics and its ideals to the world. The 2000 Sydney Games attracted over 20,000 journalists and was watched by over 3.7 billion television viewers. This coverage has led to increasing popularity and participation among the countries of the world. In 1988, 159 countries participated in Seoul’s Summer Olympics. By the time of Sydney’s Olympics in 2000, there was 200 countries participating.

Olympic Village and Vancouver. Source: City of Vancouver

As the popularity of the Olympics has grown in terms of participation and spectators, a place to house Olympic athletes and officials was needed close to the Olympic venues. This need was recognized long ago, back in 1932. The first Olympic Village was constructed for the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The Village was built on 250 acres and contained several hundred dwellings, a post office, amphitheater, hospital, fire station, and bank. In contrast, the Olympic Village planned for London’s 2012 Olympic Games will provide lodging for 17,000 people with shops, restaurants, a hospital, media facilities, and direct transportation to central London via train. In both cases, the Olympic Villages were constructed adjacent to much of the sporting venues, thus creating the term “Olympic City.”

Because of the requirements of hosting the Olympics and because of the increasing popularity of the Olympics from the number of athletes and events to tourism, host cities are recognizing the urban impacts that the Olympic Games can have on their environments. Cities recognize that the potential long-term benefit of hosting the Olympic Games is the opportunity it provides to influence the pattern of urban development through investment in infrastructure and environmental improvements. As a result of winning the bid to host the Olympic Games, urban development in host cities are required to perform three major functions:

  • Primary Structure: Sport and Leisure
    • Stadium
    • Indoor Arena
    • Special facilities: swimming pool, shooting range, rowing course, equestrian facilities
  • Secondary Structure: Housing and Recreation
    • Athlete and media village (Olympic Village)
    • Media and press center
    • Training facilities
    • Parks
  • Tertiary Structure: Infrastructure
    • Transportation
      • Airport
      • Public transport
      • Roads and Highways
    • Tourism
      • Hotels
      • Attractions
    • Utility
      • Sewers: drainage and sanitary
      • Telecommunications

These urban development structures may or may not conflict with the host city’s own plans for urban development, but the Olympic Games provides the vehicle for expedient development. Since the 1960’s, many of the Olympic host cities have followed this structure that guides urban development.


The primary structure involves the physical development of sport and leisure facilities that are needed to successfully host the Olympic Games. These structures can already exist in a city or be newly constructed. Venues of this type can be subdivided into stadiums, halls, multi-purpose and training facilities. The construction (or reconstruction) of stadiums has been a feature of urban development since the first Olympics in 1896.

Many large cities usually have a large stadium which is normally used for the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field, and soccer. These facilities should have a capacity of at least 80,000. The Olympic hall would is a smaller venue that hosts volleyball, basketball and gymnastics. These facilities can have a capacity of up to 25,000. Multi-purpose facilities are even smaller and are often found in convention centers. Similarly, training centers can often use multi-purpose and smaller halls for their needs.

The secondary structure of housing and recreation are necessary in the hosting of the Olympic Games. The Sydney Olympics in 2000 had 15,000 athletes and 6,000 media and press. Requirements for housing have been provided by “Olympic Villages,” with post-Olympic use generally turned over to the private sector for affordable housing. Olympic host cities generally try to use Olympic Villages as a way to regenerate an area of the city. Due to the large spaces required for Olympic venues and housing of athletes, many host cities have usually chosen sites that are underutilized and near the center of the city. Cities such as Munich, Seoul, Barcelona, Sydney, and Athens have all chosen underutilized sites near the center of the city for Olympic facilities.

The tertiary structure, however, is probably the most important as a requirement for hosting the Olympic Games. Airports and rail stations are necessary as gateways to the outside world. Roads and public transport are necessary for movement and mobility around the city. Infrastructure investment is probably the single most important cost of the Olympic Games and is vital. It is correct in stating that without a strong tertiary structure, any city bidding for the Olympic Games will fail in its bid.

In the next post, we’ll examine how Olympic host cities leverage the Olympic Games in developing the tertiary structure of transport infrastructure.