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Boston Globe Columnist Tweets Out History’s Dumbest Anti-Bike Rant

I hesitated to even respond to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby‘s odious tweetstorm against cycling in Boston, because the man is obviously just trolling for attention.

But boy, Jacoby made it hard to hold back. In response to the death of Amanda Phillips, 27, who was struck and killed by a truck driver earlier this week, Jacoby went straight to the old bike ban argument:

Yep. Bikeless streets are clearly the solution to America’s 35,000 annual traffic deaths. At least Jacoby provided a fat target.

So Jacoby doubled down with this gem:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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6 Principles to Make Self-Driving Cars Work for Cities, Not Against Them

Self-driving cars are coming, and maybe sooner than we think. But the question of how they will shape cities is still wide open. Could they lead to less traffic and parking as people stop owning cars and start sharing them? More sprawl as car travel becomes less of a hassle? More freedom to walk and bike on city streets, or less?

How will self-driving cars impact cities? Hopefully federal regulators won't ignore this question. Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The answers depend in no small part on how federal and local policy makers respond to the new technologies. The National Association of City Transportation Officials wants to get out ahead of these changes with a statement of policy recommendations to guide the deployment of autonomous cars in cities [PDF].

Here is what NACTO proposes.

1. Cars should be fully autonomous, not partly

If cars have some automated features but still require human drivers to occasionally take control, safety could suffer. NACTO cites research that shows semi-automated vehicles actually increase driver distraction, lulling motorists into thinking they can pay less attention to the road. But fully automated vehicles should be able to achieve much better safety outcomes than human drivers.

2. Maximum speeds on city streets should not exceed 25 miles per hour

Self-driving cars should be programmed not to exceed 25 mph in urban areas. Controlling speed is one way self-driving cars could yield enormous safety benefits. But it will require regulators — with support from the public — to insist on putting safety above speed, which, historically, America has failed to do.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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DamienTalks 40 – Brown’s Housing Legislation with Jason Islas

Support Streetsblog California today. Click on image to make a donation.

Support Streetsblog California today. Click on image to make a donation.

Today, #DamienTalks with Jason Islas, the editor of Santa Monica Next. This podcast featured Islas a couple of months ago to discuss a proposal by Assemblymember Richard Bloom to make it easier to build more housing.

#DamienTalksThe spirit of Bloom’s proposal lives on in a rider to the California Budget by Governor Jerry Brown. Islas will discuss that rider and why, in his view, the legislation would help ease the affordable housing crisis in California, especially the overheated markets in Los Angeles and the Greater Bay Area.

The legislation is controversial, next week we’ll have someone in opposition featured on the podcast. We’re going to try and cover both sides of this issue, as there are a lot of good people on both sides of the conversation trying to protect communities and increase our state’s housing stock.

This week’s #DamienTalks is also the first interview given by Islas since Santa Monica Next was awarded the “Excellence in Communication” prize from the American Planning Association in Los Angeles. Just in time for our fundraising drive, “Next’s excellence” is a credit to the work done by the entire Streetsblog California team. So if you support our efforts, please consider donating today!

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

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626 Golden Streets POSTPONED Due to San Gabriel Fires

PicturePerhaps the conflation of area code and date were just too good to be true. The 626 Golden Streets open streets event has been postponed due to the air quality issues caused by wildfires in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Team SBLA is disappointed that we will not get to ride and skate the route this Sunday. We will keep a tear-laden eye out for the reschedule date and make sure to get the word out to our readers. In the meantime, check the 626 Golden Streets website for updates.

As of press time, SBLA was unable to confirm any rumors that the fires had actually burned up the tree where the elusive Golden Streets Sasquatch is known to reside. Another wild hunch we were not able to confirm was whether the now-saddened striding Sisyphean Sasquatch may be genetically related to the zippy zany Zozo.

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Color Your City Outside the Lines

This week I’m joined by cartographer Gretchen Peterson to talk about mapmaking and her new book, City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults. We discuss why she made the book and why she chose the 40 city maps she included in it.

Listen in and hear from Gretchen about the art of cartography, including the importance of color, fonts, good data, and whether you have to be a designer to make maps. We also get into why maps are important in reports, maps we might regret, as well as tips for future cartographers. Enjoy.

Streetsblog USA
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4 Ways Road Builders Game the Numbers to Justify Highways

The people who make the case for highways often present themselves as unbiased technicians, simply providing evidence to an audience subject to irrational bias.

Greenville's Southern Connector, a PPP toll road, was predicted to attract 21,000 vehicles per day. It attracted less than 9,000. Map via Toll Road News

Forecasts said motorists would make 21,000 trips per day on Greenville’s Southern Connector, a public-private toll road. In real life they made fewer than 9,000. Map via Toll Road News

But traffic forecasting is not a neutral, dispassionate exercise. It is subject to all sorts of incentives, beliefs, and assumptions that can skew the results in a particular direction.

Intentionally or not, forecasters frequently exaggerate predicted traffic volumes to make the case for building toll roads, according to industry consultant Robert Bain [PDF]. Bain has catalogued 21 ways in which forecasters manipulate data to make toll road financing look attractive [PDF]. Gaming numbers isn’t limited to toll roads — DOTs do it for taxpayer-funded projects too.

Here are a few tricks Bain says forecasters use on private projects to make highways seem like a good bet to investors:

1. Pick a time frame that suits you

Maybe looking at the last 10 years of traffic doesn’t make that great a case for widening a highway. Why not just pick a different time frame?

To justify its $850 million I-94 expansion project, Wisconsin DOT used traffic data from 1999 through 2010, leaving out two years. But traffic was flat on the road between 2009 and 2012, according to a Wisconsin PIRG analysis, which has pointed out the agency is a notoriously overoptimistic forecaster [PDF].

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • 626 Golden Streets Postponed Due To San Gabriel Fires
  • More On Metro Approving Measure R2 (LAT, SGV Tribune)
    …Yesterday’s Pro-Measure R2 Editorial By Mayor Garcetti (LAT)
  • Lincoln Heights Residents Protest Lack Of Street Parking (ABC7)
  • How L.A. Cycling Advocates Are Working With Communities Of Color (Spoke Magazine)
  • Urbanize Shows Off Metro’s Airport Connector Plans
  • New Turn Arrows Make Figueroa/York Intersection A Little Safer (Eastsider)
  • Improvements Work – West Hollywood Crosswalks Are Getting Safer (WeHoVille)
  • Opinion: Could Driverless Cars Make Metro’s Spending Plan Obsolete? (LAT)
    …Probably Not (Let’s Go L.A.)

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

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Amendments to Remove Central, Westwood Bike Lanes from Mobility Plan, Add Substitutes Move Through Planning Commission

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Listening to the City Planning Commission vote in favor – albeit somewhat reluctantly – of moving forward on the regressive amendments to the Mobility Plan 2035 this morning, I felt my heart sink.

With recommendations the City Council approve amendments that a) remove Westwood Boulevard (between LeConte and Ohio) and approximately seven miles of Central Avenue from the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN), b) substitute those routes with less direct and less-likely-to-be-used parallel streets (Gayley and Midvale in Westwood and Avalon and San Pedro in South L.A.), and c) allow for more north-south corridor substitutions in the future, where deemed prudent, the city of Los Angeles officially moved closer to taking a significant step back from its commitment to building a safer and more accessible city for all. [See the CPC agenda and staff report.]

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

Worse still, it was all happening in the guise of greater “safety” and mobility as defined by people who appeared to care very little about either for people other than themselves or their own narrow interests.

That hypocrisy was perhaps best exemplified by the Westwood contingent of homeowners who now were masquerading as bus huggers. Which was truly bizarre, considering that just last year, when Fix the City and their Westside supporters launched their lawsuit against the Mobility Plan, they were decidedly anti-transit and anti-options in their approach. The group’s president had ranted about how the city “want[ed] to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses.” Laura Lake, the group’s secretary, had told the L.A. Times that safer streets and more transportation options could only lead to greater tailpipe emissions, greater congestion, first responders getting trapped in traffic more often (implying more death and destruction), and greater sacrifices made by people whose schedules would be so disrupted that they would lose untold hours that would otherwise have been spent working or with their families.

Today, Lake had completely changed her tune. Now she was telling the commissioners that she was deeply concerned about the more than 900 buses traveling along Westwood every day. If those buses were to get stuck behind a bicyclist, she posited, thousands of bus riders could be impeded from getting to work or school.

Clearly unencumbered by the idea that the whole point of having separate lanes for bikes and buses is to keep them from having to cross each others’ paths and that the only ones blocking buses in such a scenario would be private vehicles, she declared she only hoped to benefit “the greater good.”

Other Westwood advocates that stood to speak took their lead from the backwards logic regularly deployed by Councilmember Paul Koretz regarding bike lanes, arguing busy streets with no bike infrastructure were dangerous for cyclists and therefore better infrastructure must be avoided at all costs.

“It’s really simple,” declared Stephen Resnick, president of the Westwood Homeowners Association. Substituting the less-busy Gayley and Midvale streets for Westwood on the bicycle network was about nothing more than “safety” and “transportation.”

Barbara Broide, another Westwood HOA president, argued bikes on Westwood would deter people trying to connect to the Expo Line via bus and wondered how people could possibly feel safe riding bikes alongside hundreds of buses anyways (which of course they don’t, which is why they have clamored for the bike lane). Stakeholder Debbie Nussbaum warned against bike lanes on busy streets in general, proclaiming they ran the risk of giving people a false sense of security. Read more…

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Metro Board Approves November 2016 Sales Tax Plan

Metro sales tax promotional image

Voters will decide Metro’s new sales tax measure this November

At its monthly meeting today, the Metro board of directors approved placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, the measure would add a new half-cent sales tax and would extend Measure R’s half cent sales tax. These sales taxes would be permanent.

Today’s deliberations were quite a bit more contentious than last week’s unanimous committee approvals. After hours of public testimony – some hostile, some approving – the board considered the sales tax motion alongside four amending motions:

  • Boardmember and County Supervisor Don Knabe proposed two motions that would have derailed the sales tax. One would have postponed the vote, awaiting further study. Another would have allocated a great deal of funding for additional specific projects in Knabe’s district. Both Knabe motions failed to get enough votes for passage.
  • Boardmember and Inglewood Mayor James Butts pressed for a decision on his earlier motion to accelerate partially funded Measure R projects ahead of any new projects in this year’s ballot measure. Butts’ motion did not receive enough board votes to pass.
  • Boardmember and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spearheaded a motion to direct $180 million in ballot measure sales tax funding for a transit project, expected to be BRT, to serve the North San Fernando Valley. This addresses the recent push, led by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, for improved transit connections to Cal State Northridge. The Garcetti motion passed; it was the only sales tax amendment that did pass.

When the final sales tax vote passed, only boardmembers Knabe and Diane DuBois voted against.

Today’s approval includes $10.9 million to fund “election-related and public information costs.” Putting the measure on the ballot will cost $8.4 million. Metro will also spend $2.5 million to educate the public about it.

Streetsblog USA
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Send Us Your Nominations for the Sorriest Bus Stop in America

Last year's winner: this sorry bus stop in greater St. Louis

Last year’s winner, a very sorry bus stop on Lindbergh Boulevard in greater St. Louis.

Streetsblog’s “Sorriest Bus Stop in America” contest is back by popular demand.

Last year, readers nominated dozens of forlorn bus stops to call attention to the daily indignities and dangers that bus riders have to put up with. This sad, windswept patch of grass between two highway-like roads in a St. Louis inner suburb took the prize.

We’ve been hearing from readers and transit advocates who want another shot to name and shame the public agencies who’ve let bus stops go to seed. So the Sorriest Bus Stop competition is back. (If you have a great bus stop you want to recognize, don’t worry, we’ll cover that in a different competition later this year.)

We’ll be doing the contest as a Parking Madness-style, 16-entry single elimination bracket. Below is an early submission from downtown Austin and reader Chris McConnell, who says, “This has to be the saddest #busstop in Austin. It has no shade, no seating, and no stop ID for checking times. AND it’s at the main transfer point downtown. FAIL.”

Read more…