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In Tenth Year of Park(ing) Day, Parklets Bloom on Six Continents

Cities on six continents are celebrating Park(ing) Day today, now in its tenth year of temporarily transforming curbside space for cars into public spaces for people. Some of the pop-up parks that caught our eye this Park(ing) Day include:

Providence pulled out all of the stops this year, with 32 parklets — and a pop-up protected bike lane down Broadway — gracing a city with fewer than 200,000 residents. The parklet sponsors include not just local design firms, retailers, and schools, but also the campaign of Jorge Elorza, the Democratic nominee for mayor in this November’s election. What’s more, Park(ing) Day will have lasting policy impacts in Providence. James P. Kennedy of Network blog Transport Providence points out that Elorza has endorsed making the bike lane permanent, and that both major-party candidates have endorsed a parking tax.

The construction process for Resurfaced. Photos by City Collective, via Broken Sidewalk.

One group in Louisville “drew some inspiration from Angie Schmitt’s work with Streetsblog looking at Parking Craters” and decided to tackle a vacant lot amidst the otherwise unbroken line of buildings along the city’s historic West Main Street. Today, City Collective will open ReSurfaced, a six-week plaza and beer garden, on a vacant lot where a skyscraper had been proposed. The plaza offers interactive computer games laser-projected onto adjacent walls, a portable makerspace, and even its own brewed-for-the-occasion Kentucky Common beer.

The NoMa neighborhood BID in Washington, D.C. offered $200 micro-grants to individuals or groups who set up parklets along 1st Street NE, the main street of the developing neighborhood (and already home to a curb-protected bike lane). The BID’s Ali Newman said that having “a network of parks means that so many more people can interact with and enjoy the public space,” and that having multiple groups programming the space “gets people outside and engages the neighborhood in a new way.” One organizer, Do Tank DC, set up an outdoor game room to celebrate the successful launch of its new card game, Cards Against Urbanity.

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WisDOT Falls Back on Old Data to Justify Double-Decker Urban Highway

Does this chart cry out for more roadway capacity to you? Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

Does this chart cry out for more roadway capacity to you? Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group released a report yesterday, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.” In it, they examine 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now.

Here’s the latest installment in our series profiling the various bad decisions that funnel so much money to infrastructure that does no good. Of course, at least one of these case studies was bound to be about Wisconsin…

In Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has proposed expanding a segment of I-94 that runs east-west through the city. WisDOT wants to increase the capacity of I-94, widening the road in places and adding a second deck to the highway for a narrow stretch that is bounded by three cemeteries — at a cost of $800 million over and above just repairing the existing road.

Local officials have registered their opposition publicly, and have asked WisDOT to study alternatives, including those that would not expand the highway. Members of the community have advocated against the widening and in support of transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects — as well as repair of existing roads — instead. WisDOT projects that traffic will increase in the corridor, but traffic counts have been declining in recent years.

Other transportation modes could use significant investment. State funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) budget has been slashed, leading to route restructuring, curtailment of service and fare increases, all of which have made MCTS buses less convenient and less useful. Research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Economic Development found that at least 77,000 jobs in the Milwaukee metropolitan area became inaccessible by transit due to cuts in service since 2001. (Fully 43 percent of MCTS riders use its buses to get to work; 52 percent do not have a valid driver’s license and 23 percent choose to ride the bus despite the availability of a car.)

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What AASHTO’s “Top Projects” Tell Us About State DOT Leadership

If you can build a project fast and under budget, AASHTO will love it, no matter how little sense it makes. Photo: Citizens Transportation Commission

Who can build the biggest road slab the fastest? Those seem to be the major criteria used by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to determine the “best” projects by state DOTs across the country.

In another sign that most state Departments of Transportation should still be called “highway departments,” there are no transit projects on AASHTO’s “top 10″ projects list this year. The closest thing to one is California’s Oakland-Bay Bridge, which was “built to accommodate future expansions in light rail, bus, and other modes of transportation.”

Many of the projects listed are bridge repairs (and emergency bridge repairs), which are important. But the list is also larded with highway expansions.

In Ohio, AASHTO showers praise on a $200 million project to bypass the town of Nelsonville, population 5,400. The project earned a nod for “reliev[ing] a major congestion problem” in rural southeast Ohio.

The most ludicrous selection is probably Segment E of Houston’s Grand Parkway. This is a $320 million portion of a proposed 185-mile third outerbelt for the city. Proponents of the project have openly admitted it is more about inducing sprawl than addressing any transportation problem. The Texas Department of Transportation, mired in financial woes, has allowed real estate interests in Houston to more or less dictate where money will be spent. Whether the state will be able to find the funds to complete the $5.4 billion loop is an open question.

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Grab That Placard and Go Park! It’s Park(ing) Day, L.A.!

Parking Day happening now at Contreras High School! Photo via Twitter

Parking Day happening now at Contreras High School! Photo via @Mr__Zuniga Twitter

Grab granny’s disabled placard, Los Angeles, it’s Park(ing) Day!

But, in Los Angeles, Every Lane is a Bike Lane, and, well, Every Day is a Parking Day.

No, it’s not just everyday Parking Day — that was yesterday, last week, tomorrow, and next week — but “Park(ing)” Day.

Punctuation is everything. Well, maybe spelling and proofreading, and capitalization, too, but I digress.

About 10 years ago, Park(ing) Day grew out of an idea by REBAR in San Francisco. It’s a kinda long story… well, you see…

A Streetfilm is easily worth more than 1,000,000,000 words:

PARK(ing) Day San Francisco 2006 from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

REBAR fed the parking meter, and created temporary parks in parking spaces. It’s a playful way to demonstrate the ways cities have prioritized cars over green space. The Park(ing) Day phenomenon spread from S.F. to various cities around the world, then to the moon, Mars, and the rest of the known universe.

And the concept stuck, too. One-day parks led to parklets. Parklets migrated to Southern California: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Huntington Park. The city of Los Angeles Transportation Department (LADOT) now has a website where businesses and others can formally request a parklet. Wooot! Wooooooot!

Park(ing) Day right now at Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea. Photo via Twitter

Park(ing) Day right now at Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea. Photo via @NwUrbanFilmFest Twitter

Park(ing) Day’s presence seems to have waned a bit, since the all-powerful bike lobby won complete veto power over everything at every city hall up and down coastal America. Park(ing) Day still happens here in Los Angeles. They seem to be mostly using the handy #parkingdayla hashtag, too. Here are a few places we’re aware of (in no particular order, laced with plenty of gratuitous exclamation points):

  • Miguel Contreras High School - 322 S Lucas Ave, L.A. 90017 (off 3rd Street, just west of downtown L.A.) – now until 2 p.m.!
  • Sycamore Kitchen - 143 S La Brea, L.A. 90036 (at 1st Street – near LACMA) – until 4 p.m.!
  • 81st and Vermont, South L.A. – see @LANLT – now until 1 p.m.!
  • Union Station – at the Alameda-facing parking lot, Metro hosts loteria and more! 12 noon to 5 p.m.!
  • Urth Caffe and Vroman’s Bookstore - 594 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena 91101 – 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.!
  • Twigzz Design Studio -  600 E. Colorado Blvd (Madison/Colorado) in Pasadena, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.!
  • Pacoima – Pacoima Library 13605 Van Nuys Blvd – 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.!
  • Santa Monica – in front of Swingers Diner, 802 Broadway, Santa Monica 90401 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Santa Monica – 26th Street between Broadway and Santa Monica Blvd – 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Broadway Dress Rehearsal – downtown Los Angeles – every day!!!

Additional locations we missed?!? You bet. Include in your comments below:

 

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Norwegian Town Pays Cyclists and Pedestrians “Reverse Toll” Money

How’s this for bike- and pedestrian-friendly? A town in Norway is paying people to bike and walk.

Norway cyclists got a bonus for their good deed in the form of "reverse tolls." Photo: Wikipedia

Cyclists in Lillestrøm, Norway, got a bonus in the form of “reverse tolls.” Photo: Wikipedia

It only lasted for a week, but Eric Britton at World Streets says it’s a completely rational economic policy response:

As part of Norway’s ongoing European Mobility Week celebrations, around 10,000 NOK (€1,200) was handed out in the town of Lillestrøm to pedestrians and cyclists in “reverse toll money.” The money symbolised the health benefits of walking and cycling, including better fitness, improved air quality and more efficient transport.

Cyclists received around €12, while pedestrians gained €11. Calculations carried out by the Norwegian Directorate of Health shows that active transport provides the state with a saving of 52 NOK (€6) per kilometer for pedestrians and 26 NOK (€3) per kilometer for cyclists. An average bike trip in Norway is 4 kilometers, providing a health benefit of 100 NOK (€12), while an average walking trip is 1.7 km, worth almost 90 NOK (€11)

The only thing I have to say about this is: EXCELLENT!

This is not a light-weight, happy go lucky, feel-good idea. It is world class economics. Full cost pricing: All you have to do is run the numbers and you can see where it is best to spend the taxpayer money.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Rails-to-Trails explains how Florida’s Amendment 1 could be a watershed moment for protecting environmentally sensitive land and expanding trails in the Sunshine State. The Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog says Zipcar is moving into the Big D. And Urban Velo has an update on the woman whose “crime” was riding her bike on a Kentucky road — she was jailed this week.

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Today’s Headlines

  • HAPPY PARK(ING) DAY – Tune in to SBLA coverage!
  • Metro Removing Offensive “Scary Bitch” TV Show Ads (LAT)
  • New SFV-Westside 405 Freeway Express Bus Service Coming  (ZevWeb)
  • Expo Line Phase 2 Is 70% Done, Testing Starts Early 2015 (Curbed)
  • Man Walking on Rail Tracks Closes Green Line and 105 Freeway (KPCC)
  • LA Looks To Ease Taxi Regulations (LAT)
  • Cyclist Rides on 110 Freeway in Downtown L.A. (Eastsider)
  • 4th Street Mini-Park Getting a Welcome Makeover (LongBeachIze)
  • Public Safety Unions Make Santa Monica Endorsements (Santa Monica Next)
  • Debunking Media Hype About Bike Lanes Delaying Drivers (SB NYC)
  • NYC Bike Commuting Doubled Since 2009 (SB NYC)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Congratulations, Melanie! Protected Bike Lanes Story a Finalist for Major Award.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.52.22 PM

We just got word from California State University’s Center for California Studies that Melanie Curry is one of three finalists in the “blog category” in their 20th Annual Journalism Awards.

Curry is earning recognition for “Protected Bike Lanes Grow in CA as Cities Face Down Old Concerns.” Published in July during the midst of hearings on now-passed legislation that makes it easier for municipalities to create protected bike lanes, it explained the history of this street treatment in California. The legislation passed both houses of the legislature, and will hopefully be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the near future.

We’ll find out where Melanie places on October 2, but feel free to congratulate her in the comments section right now. In addition to everyone else in the state, this piece beat out works by writers at three Streetsblogs, Santa Monica Next, and LongBeachIze.

Of course, award-winning journalism isn’t free. You can also congratulate Melanie by making a donation to Streetsblog at http://la.streetsblog.org/donate.

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Celebrate Park(ing) Day at the Park or at Your Desk

Park(ing) Day used to me so much more organized, as this 2011 map for Park(ing) Day L.A. illustrates. But there will be parks tomorrow. You might have to look for them on your own.

Park(ing) Day used to me so much more organized, as this 2011 map for Park(ing) Day L.A. illustrates. But there will be parks tomorrow. You might have to look for them on your own.

While it may be missing much of the fanfare of previous years in Los Angeles, Park(ing) Day is still one of the happiest days on the Livable Streets Calendar. Across the world, people will gather in car parking spaces, feed the meter and turn publicly subsidized personal property storage into a public mini-park.

In Santa Monica, I’ll be manning a pair of parks. In the morning I’ll be with Jason Islas and Santa Monica Spoke at the Santa Monica Next/Spoke double park on the 800 block of Broadway. In the afternoon I’ll be with Southern California Streets Initiative board members Juan and Sirinya Matute at the Afternoon Tea Park on 26th Street.

Click here to visit our ##https://www.youtube.com/user/socalstreetstube##YouTube page.##

Click here to visit our YouTube page.

But fear not, if you cannot find a park near you and aren’t up for a trip to the Westside, we will bring Park(ing) Day to you with a special one-hour Google Hangout/YouTube broadcast on SoCal StreetsTube talking about the state of Open Space in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. At 11:30 a.m. we’ll be joined by the Chair of the Santa Monica Parks Comission, Phil Brock. At noon, we’ll be joined by staff from Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar. Council schedule permitting, we may get to see the Councilmember himself.

You can watch live at http://youtube.com/socalstreetstube. After the broadcast is over, the show will be stored just like any other YouTube video.

For more on the Santa Monica Next/Streetsblog/SM Spoke Parking(Day) spaces, read on after the jump. Read more…

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Orange County Toll Road Agency Courts Bankruptcy With Highway Addition

California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it. Photo: Transportation Corridor Agencies via U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it. Photo: Transportation Corridor Agencies via U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

Today, U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group released a new report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.” In it, they examine 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now.

This week we’ve previewed the report with posts about the proposed Effingham Parkway in Savannah, Georgia and the harebrained scheme to widen I-240 through Asheville, North CarolinaHere we continue with an egregious example from the Golden State. 

Southern California’s toll road agency has proposed extending an existing toll highway that might eventually span inland Orange County and connect to Interstate 5. The number of cars on previous sections of the highway, however, have failed to meet projections. Also, the agency is already struggling to avoid default on its debts.

California 241 is one of several toll roads in Orange County built and operated by the legislature-created Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). California officials enabled the creation of toll roads in the area in the late 1980s amid both a shortage of state transportation funding and the perception of insatiable demand for more highways.

Traffic on California 241, however, hasn’t met official projections for a decade. In recent years — and especially since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 — driving on existing sections of California 241 has declined.

The TCA measures road use by counting the number of transactions conducted by toll payers on the combined Foothill/Eastern Toll Roads, which include not only Route 241 but also Routes 133 and 261. The TCA’s count shows fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal 2004. As indicated by the dotted trend line below, there were about 32 million fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than would have been expected if the trend from 2000 to 2006 had continued.

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DC and New Orleans Closing the Bike Commute Gap With Portland

Perennial cycling leaders like Portland and Minneapolis have seen progress slow, while some less well-known biking cities are making gains. Image: Bike Portland

Growth in bike commuting has slowed in Portland and Minneapolis, while some less well-known biking cities are making gains. Graph: Bike Portland

New Census numbers are out, providing fresh data on how Americans are getting to work, and Michael Andersen at BikePortland has noticed a couple of trends.

The mid-size cities best-known for biking haven’t made much progress lately, Andersen writes, while other cities have made rapid gains:

2013 Census estimates released Thursday show the big cities that led the bike spike of the 2000s — Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver and, most of all, Portland — all failing to make meaningful changes to their commuting patterns for three years or more.

Meanwhile, the same figures show a new set of cities rising fast — first among them Washington DC.

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