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Talking Headways Podcast: New Tactics for Transportation Ballot Measures

(L.A. readers – lots of good information in this podcast pertinent to Metro’s planned November 2016 ballot measure. – JRL)

This week we’re chatting with Jason Jordan, director of the Center for Transportation Excellence (CFTE) and policy director at the American Planning Association. Jason tells us how CFTE got started and why ballot measures for transportation have been so successful compared to other types of spending. He also describes scenarios where transportation ballot measures tend to do well and those where they tend to fail.

Political action networks opposed to public investments like transit are getting more sophisticated in their opposition to these ballot measures. We discuss how to combat these new networks, often backed by dark money, and how local champions and coalitions can lead to victory.

You’ll also hear about the measures on the docket for 2016, which is shaping up to be one of the busiest cycles ever for transportation ballot measures.

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Central Ave and Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes Preserved in Mobility Plan

TRUST South L.A.'s Samuel Bankhead giving public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday's Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Safe streets advocate and TRUST South L.A. boardmember AsSami AlBasir El gave public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At its meeting yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously re-affirmed keeping bikeway designations for Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

Unfortunately these facilities are likely to remain in the plan, but not move closer to on-the-ground improvements due to anti-safety positions staked out by City Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz. Price and Koretz had introduced motions, 15-0719-S9 and 15-0719-S3 respectively, requesting Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard be removed from the city’s approved Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN).

The City Planning Commission turned down the anti-bike amendments while voting unanimously in favor of a handful of amendments to the city’s approved and contested Mobility Plan 2035. The commission affirmed plan changes to formally acknowledge equity and community outreach, as well as a number of largely technical amendments.

The City Planning Department (DCP) 108-page staff report [PDF] affirmed the need to keep bikeway designations for Central and Westwood:

In response to motions from Council Districts 5 and 9, the second Addendum to the Mobility Plan EIR considered the removal of Westwood Boulevard (from Le Conte Ave to Wellworth Ave) and Central Ave (from Washington Boulevard to 95th Street) from the Bicycle Enhanced Network. While the councilpersons expressed their interest in having these segments removed, staff recommends that these segments be retained in the BEN. Both Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave serve as important north-south corridors for persons who bicycle and it would be premature at this time to foreclose the opportunity of improving these corridors for bicycling in the future. Language has been included in the Mobility Plan […] which reinforces the conceptual nature of these network assignments and further articulates the opportunities that exist in the future to consider alternative corridors. This level of flexibility is intended to provide opportunity to study such corridors as Westwood and Central along with potential parallel alternatives at whatever point in the future the corridors are prioritized for implementation. (emphasis added)

Planning staff opened the hearing affirming DCP’s position that the bike lanes were important to keep in the plan. A representative of the Fire Department (LAFD) spoke in support of the plan, stating that LAFD would further study “any kind of impacts” to emergency response times.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the commission, lamenting Westwood Blvd’s inclusion in the Mayor’s Great Streets initiative, calling protected bike lanes “pretty dangerous” and disparaging thousands of cyclists that use Westwood every day by suggesting, “only the most aggressive people take it.” Councilmember Price sent staff to testify against Central Avenue bike lanes; they asserted that even protected bike lanes there would not be “low stress.” Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s staff also testified in support of Price and Koretz, and against bike lanes.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists.

Shoddy, 50-year-old research is an obstacle to grassroots street safety efforts like this fleur-de-lis crosswalk in St. Louis. Photo: Rally St. Louis

That may sound like unremarkable bureaucrat-speak, but the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance on pedestrian safety.

You’ll find the words “false sense of security” in Washington state DOT’s crosswalk guidelines too. The city of Stockton, California, makes the same claim. The list goes on.

What gives? Well, you can trace this phrase — and the basis of some engineers’ reluctance to stripe crosswalks — to one very influential but seriously flawed study from the 1970s.

In 1972, a researcher named Bruce Herms conducted a study of crosswalk safety in San Diego. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks. He concluded that marked crosswalks should only be installed where they are “warranted” because they can give pedestrians a “false sense of security,” encouraging risky behavior.

But there were problems with the study. For one, Herms didn’t actually study why people made certain decisions at crosswalks — that “false sense of security” was just speculation on his part.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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A Bigger Transit Benefit Is No Match for America’s Parking Tax Perk

In almost every U.S. metro area, more people drive to work thanks to a commuter tax benefit that helps cover parking and transit-related expenses. Graph: Transit Center

Even with “parity” between parking and transit, the federal commuter tax benefit leads more people to drive to work than if there were no such benefit at all. Graph: Transit Center

Late last year Congress finally moved to boost the maximum commuter tax benefit for transit riders to the same level that car commuters receive. That means transit riders can buy up to $255 in fares each month with pre-tax income, just like drivers can pay for $255 in parking expenses with pre-tax income.

Great news, right? Well, it’s definitely a step in the right direction (for years transit riders had their benefit capped at $130 compared to drivers’ $250), but in a lot of places it won’t have a big effect on how people commute. As TransitCenter noted in a 2014 report, eliminating the subsidy for parking altogether would be a much more effective way to cut traffic.

Now a new TransitCenter study examines exactly how “transit benefit parity” changes the equation:

We project that the expanded transit benefit will help cities and suburb-to-city transit commuters — but still won’t counteract the big pro-driving incentive created by the parking subsidy.

We simulated the impact of parking and transit benefits on five commute markets. In every case, the net effect of the parking and transit benefits together was more driving than in a world with no commuter tax benefits at all.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Planning Commission Keeps Mobility Plan Bike Lanes Intact (LAist, Biking in L.A.)
    Daily Bruin Makes the Case For Implementing Bike Lanes On Westwood
  • BRT Is Great, But When Done Right (Investing in Place)
  • Metro Unveils New Unsolicited Proposal Portal At Industry Forum (The Source)
  • Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell Speaks Against No Growth Initiative (Hollywood Chamber)
  • Uber Settles $28.5M Safety Lawsuit (LAT)
  • Santa Monica Updates – Mostly Lowers – Speed Limits (SMDP)
  • Glendale Votes For Quiet Train Zone (LAT)
  • Antelope Valley Transit Authority Approves All-Electric BYD Bus Fleet (NGT News)
  • How Car-Free In L.A. Is Sexy (KPCC)

Streetsblog L.A. will be off Monday for Presidents’ Day – returning Tuesday.

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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Strong Towns’ Chuck Marohn in DTLA, Pasadena Next Week

Civil engineer and planning reformer Charles “Chuck” Marohn says small, incremental growth is more prosperous than large business parks, which he cautions can be a "Ponzi scheme." (Samuel Western/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Strong Towns Chuck Marohn

One of my livability heroes, Chuck Marohn, is in Los Angeles next week giving a couple of talks. Marohn is the brains behind the organization Strong Towns. Marohn is a planner and engineer who is doing some of the most original, most valuable, most common sense thinking on urbanism and transportation.

I’ve learned a lot from Chuck Marohn’s articles and podcasts. He is insightful and often funny. Among his insights are looking at big roads from a fiscal perspective. I have long argued against conventional traffic engineering priorities from an environmental and safety perspective; Marohn taught me how this ill-considered infrastructure is also a huge fiscal drag on cities.

On Wednesday, February 17, the L.A. chapter of the American Planning Association hosts a Charles Marohn talk entitled “Transportation in the Next American City.” The event takes place at 7 p.m. at the SoCal Gas Tower Conference Area at 555 West 5th Street in downtown L.A. It is free for APA and Strong Towns members and students; tickets are $10 for non-members. Register here.

Here is the blurb from Strong Towns:

For more than six decades, local governments have been accustomed to building new transportation infrastructure, expanding existing systems in addition to constructing completely new facilities. While liabilities have grown, transportation funding has not kept up. Now there is a desperate need for local governments to shift from building to maintaining, from an approach that emphasizes expansion to one where we mature our use of existing investments. In difficult economic times, this is a scary, but necessary, realignment.

Join Strong Towns founder Charles “Chuck” Marohn and explore the relationship between a city or region’s long-range fiscal health and its transportation investment strategy.  Specifically, Chuck will make a budgetary case for prioritizing investments such as walkable streets in the central cores. He’ll address how these investments can protect local budgets, control the rise of property taxes, protect long-term affordability, and provide for enduring prosperity.

On Thursday, February 18, the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association hosts Chuck Marohn giving his renowned Curbside Chat. The event takes place at 7 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s Gamble Lounge at 585 East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. The event is free, but pre-registration is encouraged.

Strong Towns describes the Curbside Chat as addressing these kinds of questions:

  • Why are our cities and towns so short of resources despite decades of robust growth?
  • Why do we struggle at the local level just to maintain our basic infrastructure?
  • What do we do now that the economy has changed so dramatically?

The answers lie in the way we have developed; the financial productivity of our places. This stunning presentation is a game-changer for communities looking to grow more resilient and obtain true prosperity during changing times.

Don’t miss Chuck Marohn next week! Register today. What are you waiting for?

 

Via Streetsblog California
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Watch Two Bridges Being Taken Down

A blimp, a bridge, and waiting barges. Image: screengrab from Caltrans' live webcast of Bay Bridge takedown

A blimp, a bridge, and waiting barges. Image: screengrab from Caltrans’ live webcast of Bay Bridge takedown

Caltrans was involved in two very different bridge demolitions last week, and has posted time-lapse footage of both of them.

In the first, L.A.’s iconic 6th Street bridge is crunched by big machines while water hoses tamp down the dust, with downtown L.A. glimmering in the background. The footage compresses tw0 days’ work into three minutes, lending the process a jangly, frenetic pace.

In contrast, timelapse of the Oakland Bay Bridge deconstruction is almost meditative. The circa-1936 bridge, already replaced by a new one, has been slowly taken apart over several years. Last week Caltrans removed the first of its trussed segments, lowering it onto two barges over the course of about fourteen hours. Caltrans’ timelapse compresses the work into almost two minutes, turning boats into swirling insects and animating the waters of San Francisco Bay.

The 2,500-ton steel bridge segments are being floated to shore for dismantling and recycling, with some of the material going to artists who applied for it through the Oakland Museum.

Rumor has it there may be a chance to grab a souvenir of the 6th Street bridge.

Streetsblog.net
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Where Are the Best Places for Protected Intersections in Your City?

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

Protected intersections are the best new thing in American bike infrastructure since, well, protected bike lanes. They greatly reduce the potential for turning conflicts between drivers and cyclists — left turns on a bike, especially, become easier and less stressful — and they make pedestrian crossings much safer too.

So far, a few cities around the country have raced to install their first protected intersection, but the design is still very rare. That means there are a ton of opportunities in American cities to create safer and more inviting intersections for biking and walking.

Which locations could benefit from protected intersections? Here’s a fun exercise courtesy of Nick Falbo, a key figure in the introduction of this design in the U.S. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland says Falbo sketched out what six sites in the city would look like with protected intersections:

Nick Falbo, who works as a senior planner for Alta Planning and Design but did this project as a volunteer on his own time, said he got the idea to create them after he gave a presentation about protected intersections at a conference last fall. A city employee who was attending, he said, asked where in Portland protected intersections could go.

“I’m thinking, like, where can’t they go?” he said.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Today’s Mobility Plan Hearing Questions South L.A., Westwood Bike Lanes (KPCC)
    Biking In L.A. Urges Planning Commission To Hold Strong
  • Woflpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race Is Back (CiclaValley)
  • L.A. Unveils Cutting Edge Digital Mapping Tool (Forbes)
  • Pasadena Star News Profiles Trains That Preceded Gold Line
  • Metro Unveils New Foothill Gold Line Website (Pasadena Star News)
  • Regional Connector Construction Proceeding Apace (The Source)
  • How Shifting the Olympic Village To UCLA Helps Transit (LAT)
  • Little Tokyo Mixed-Use Complex Nears Completion (Urbanize)
  • Taking Transit Saves Money (Footnotes)
  • Santa Ana Teen Attacks Man For Touching His Car (LAT)

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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No Más Deaths!: Stakeholders Demand Curren Price Support a Bike Lane for Central Avenue ahead of Mobility Plan Hearing

Posters created by South L.A. community members adorn the walls outside of TRUST South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Posters demanding safe passage for cyclists on Central Avenue adorn the walls outside of TRUST South L.A. They were created by South L.A. community members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Bottom line is, citizens want to be involved, they want to be engaged in the process of figuring out how we reprogram our streets, how we reprogram our communities, making it more livable, making it more desirable, making it safer.”

So said councilmember for the 9th District, Curren Price, when interviewed by KCET’s Nic Cha Kim at CicLAvia: South L.A. in December of 2014 (minute 4:20).

It is a perspective that many who live, work, play, and move along the Central Avenue corridor in historic South Central share.

Given that the corridor communities have a median income hovering around $30,000, an average household size between of 4 and 9 people, a median age of 23, and little opportunity for economic advancement thanks to limited access to higher education, area residents are very much at the mercy of their environment. Rapidly rising rents and the lack of affordable housing around the city make it nearly impossible for them to move anywhere else. And the high dependence of many families on transit, cycling, and walking to get back and forth to work and school means that just going about their daily lives entails constant flirtations with danger.

Central Avenue, boasting the highest number of cyclists anywhere in the city during peak hours (and a very steady stream in off-peak hours), has seen nearly 300 collisions between drivers and pedestrians or cyclists over the last decade.

That we know of, that is.

Many of those who have been hit by cars have never reported the incidents to authorities, either because they preferred to handle things informally with the driver, the injuries were minor, or the incident was a hit-and-run and they saw no point.

So, even though more than three-quarters of residents are renters, the vast majority would tell you they are deeply invested in the well-being of their neighborhoods and would like nothing better than to see them become safer and healthier places for all.

A father runs errands with his children along Central Avenue after picking them up from school. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A father runs errands with his children along Central Avenue after picking them up from school. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Thus far, however, efforts to get Councilmember Price to sit down and have that conversation with stakeholders about their needs and aspirations have proven futile.

Over the past year, the community has been shut out of discussions about Great Streets’ and the councilmember’s plans to remake Central Avenue in the image of Broadway (downtown) and to remove the Central Avenue bike lane planned to help bike commuters get safely between Watts, historic South Central, and jobs downtown from the Mobility Plan altogether.

The Great Streets plans for the street were only made available to the public after Streetsblog published an article complaining about the blatant steamrolling of the community. When local stakeholders tried to follow up by delivering letters to the councilmember’s office and approaching the members of the Business Improvement District, they were still not able to get any response from Price to their demands for a bike lane.

Fed up with failed attempts at peaceful engagement and concerned that Price would once again try to see Central Ave. removed from the Mobility Plan at tomorrow’s city planning commission hearing, residents took action. Gathering their signs, courage, a megaphone, and a banner to be hung on Price’s building, they stormed the councilmember’s constituent center at Vernon and Central yesterday.

Members of TRUST South L.A. hang a banner from Curren Price's constituent center. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Members of TRUST South L.A. hang a banner from Curren Price’s constituent center. Photo: Ashley Hansack

“We’re tired of coming to you!” said resident and safe streets advocate AsSami AlBasir El.

“When are you going to come to our* office?” he continued. “I’m asking…when are you coming down to have a dialogue?…What solution do you have?” [*He was referring to the conference room at TRUST South L.A., where residents, volunteers, and stakeholders regularly meet, discuss community problems and potential solutions, and plan community engagements as part of a mobility advisory council.]

Residents and stakeholders in the South Central community ask District Director James Westbrooks to help make their community safer. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Residents and stakeholders in the South Central community ask District Director James Westbrooks to help make their community safer. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Staff on site were not able to offer much in the way of reassurances.

When District Director James Westbrooks was asked by AlBasir El if he would be willing to tell the kids standing there — kids that are regularly transported back and forth to school by bike along Central Avenue — that “we’re not gonna have a bike lane,” there was not much Westbrooks could say.

Price made up his mind on the subject a long time ago.

Sadly, the logic used to reach that decision — detailed in a statement emailed in response to stakeholders’ action — seems rather questionable. Read more…