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Gabe Klein’s Advice for Los Angeles

Gabe Klein is one of the United States’ top livability leaders. From the private sector, he became maverick city transportation department head for Washington D.C., then Chicago. In leading those DOTs, he championed innovative multi-modal approaches that activate streets. He embraces bicycling, walking, and new technologies. This year, he has a new book out titled Start Up City: Inspiring Public & Private Entrepeneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun.

Streetsblog L.A. caught up with Gabe Klein just over a week ago, after his inspirational closing keynote talk at the California Transit Association’s annual conference in Pasadena.

Gabe Klein speaking at the California Transit Association conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Gabe Klein speaking at the California Transit Association conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA: Let’s start with car-share. You led Zipcar expansion in Washington D.C. What’s your advice for L.A. regarding car-share?

Klein: Whether it’s taxis, that are limited here, car-sharing – it’s going to be challenging as long as everybody needs to own a car. When you look at where companies like Zipcar do well, they do well in places that are pretty transit-oriented or car-lite. In D.C., 38 percent of people own a car – a little more than a third. So car-share not only encourages more people to give up cars, but it serves the existing population.

I think in L.A., you need more of this type of development [gestures to pedestrian paseo], more urban village type development. We can actually place Zipcars on premise. Being realistic, I think I would focus on people getting rid of a second car or a third car. In the early days of Zipcar, we saw that: people would go down to one car, and if they knew they had a backstop of Zipcars on premise [then some would give up that car].

The interesting thing about Lyft and Uber is they’re providing that same security blanket that people need to give up a car.

So I think you need to embrace all the alternative options, whether there’s a driver or not a driver. Whether it’s Car2Go, Zipcar, bike-share – once people feel comfortable cutting that tether, they may give up their first car as well.

Of course, you need great public transportation, and L.A. unfortunately got rid of it all, in the 50s, like many cities. You have buses, but buses are not always as intuitive as rail transit. I think there’s also probably a stigma around here around who rides the bus and who drives. And the car has become a status symbol.

There are lots of challenges. Geographically, and I’m not an expert on L.A., but this is a massive place, so I think you have to focus on places that are already dense that are also creative and open-minded to start to implement creative solutions: protected bike lanes, bike-share stations, more car-sharing vehicles, zoning – with maybe parking maximums instead of minimums. Go where it’s easy to do, where you can prove concept – and after that you can take it to other places in L.A.

You need context-sensitive solutions. What we’re seeing in D.C. now – after 20 years of working on these issues – is that the creative solutions, started in the densest parts of D.C. and started in Arlington County where they’ve reinvented themselves, are now spreading to Tysons Corner. Tysons Corner is worse than most parts of L.A. in terms of car culture. They’re reinventing themselves as an urban village with Metro stops. If Tysons Corner can do it, anybody can do it.

You’ve got to start somewhere, so you start and you show people what the quality of life can be, then you use that example, that pilot project if you will, to then do it in other places. At that point you have other people saying: I want this here. I want that protected bike lane. I want my kids to be able to walk to school. I want more public safety, more retail activation.

L.A. is about to kick-off a thousand bike bike-share system in our downtown. What’s your advice on bike-share?

I think you have to have a certain density of service, so if you place a station two miles away from the next station, it’s going to be hard to make it work.

We’ve got politicians asking for those outlier stations already.

Use that to your advantage. We would tell people “look – we’ll get there. You need to help us fill in in-between then we’ll get there.” So we’ll get more money that way. Because it doesn’t work to have a station out in the middle of nowhere. It just doesn’t function. This is a nodal system; it’s got to be compact.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Advice for State DOTs Looking for More Money: Spend Smarter

The Oregon Department of Transportation is in a tough spot after it tried to justify highway expansion projects by saying they would cut greenhouse gas emissions. ODOT’s bogus claims helped sink a $350 million transportation funding package in the state legislature, and even some of the state’s Republican lawmakers are calling for agency director Matt Garrett’s head. What’s a beleaguered state DOT to do?

David Bragdon, formerly a leading planning official in Portland, has been pushing for systemic reforms at ODOT. Photo: Wikipedia

David Bragdon has been pushing for systemic reforms at ODOT. Photo: Wikipedia

David Bragdon, former head of Portland’s regional planning agency, Metro (he now runs the New York-based nonprofit TransitCenter), has some suggestions, and they’re relevant to other state DOTs too.

In a recent opinion piece in the Statesman Journal, Bragdon said voters and elected officials shouldn’t cave to the DOT’s pleas for more funding until its “transportation governance and management problem” gets fixed. Nor, says Bragdon, should the state DOT be allowed to direct the inquiry into its own flaws, which he says would be like “asking the board of United Airlines to report on why United Airlines performs poorly.”

Instead, he proposes two key reforms. First, give more authority over roads and bridges to the most local level of government that is practical. In other words, let cities decide for themselves how to spend transportation funds. And in a related idea, he says Oregon should abolish its arbitrary transportation funding split — in which the state keeps 50 percent of funding, 30 percent goes to county governments, and another 20 percent goes to local governments:

Oregon can develop a new, rational funding allocation method that discards the current non-strategic distribution based on outdated agency entitlements, and replace it with one based on spending money where it brings the highest return for Oregonians, regardless of what level of government is spending it. The current conflict of interest of allowing the state highway division to be simultaneously both a competitor with local government for federal funds and an arbiter of where federal funds go must also be ended.

Simply replacing the top people, or locating a new source of funding won’t fix what’s broken and restore public trust, Bragdon writes:

Read more…

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarPlenty of great happenings as the calendar slips into December. Attend a conference for rail passengers, a Metro board meeting, holiday rides, and more. Plus watch Streetfilms in Santa Monica this Friday!

  • Tuesday 12/1 – The city of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. at 6501 Fountain Avenue in Hollywood. To be discussed are planned future segments of the L.A. River and Expo bike paths, Mobility Plan 2035, and more. See agenda [PDF] for details.
  • Tuesday 12/1 – Tomorrow is the last day to vote to name Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX line tunnel boring machine. Details at Metro.
  • Wednesday 12/2 – Santa Monica officials want your input on the latest veteran housing plans for the 387-acre West L.A. Veterans Administration campus overhaul. Attend a public input meeting from 7 to 8 p.m. at the City Auditorium at 1855 Main St in Santa Monica. View the plan at the project website. More meeting details are at Santa Monica Next.
  • Thursday 12/3 – Metro’s Board of Directors meets at 9 a.m. at the Metro Board Room behind L.A. Union Station. Agenda items include Regional Connection subway construction cost overruns, bike-share fares, and more. Full meeting details at Metro.
  • Thursday 12/3 – Pacoima Beautiful and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative invite you to a Pacoima Street Values Open House taking place along Van Nuys Boulevard from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall at 13520 Van Nuys Blvd. Refreshments, child care, and translation will be provided. Additional details on flier [PDF] or call Max Podemski at (818) 899-2454.
  • Friday 12/4 – SBLA sister site Santa Monica Next hosts a night of Streetfilms starting at 7 p.m. at Vidiots at 302 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. Details at Facebook event.
  • Friday 12/4 – The documentary film Bikes vs. Cars opens at the Laemmle Theaters in North Hollywood.
  • Saturday 12/5 – The LACBC’s Culver City Bicycle Coalition hosts a free holiday ride. Gather at 9:30 a.m. at Veteran’s Park at 4117 Overland Avenue in Culver City. Leisurely six-mile ride rolls out at 10 a.m. If you can, bring an unwrapped toy to donate. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/5 – From 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada along with National Association of Railroad Passengers Region 12 are presenting a joint annual meeting, the Steel Wheels Conference entitled “2016: A Year of Possibilities.” The conference takes place in the Metro Board Room behind L.A. Union Station. Speakers include:
    – Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke, former County Supervisor and Metro board member
    – Jay Fountain and Eric Smith, Amtrak route managers
    – Dave Golonski, chair of LOSSAN
    – Darrell Clarke, head of Friends4Expo
    Registration costs $35. Sign up in advance via Eventbrite.
  • Saturday 12/5 – Decorate your bike in advance of Sunday’s NELA Holiday Parade. A decorating party takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at 5608 Monte Vista Street in Highland Park. Bring decorating supplies and creativity! Details at Facebook event.
  • Sunday 12/6 – Figueroa for All encourages all to ride bikes in the NELA Holiday Parade. Gather at 10 a.m. at 5608 Monte Vista Street in Highland Park. Details at Facebook event. Decorate your bikes during Saturday’s bike decorating party; see above Saturday event.

Did we miss anything? Is there something we should list on future calendars? Email
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Stranded on Two Feet: The Danger of Gaps in the Pedestrian Network

The only way to access this post office in Minneapolis by foot is to break the law and sprint across this speedway. Image: Clark Parket,

The only way to access this post office in Minneapolis by foot is to break the law and sprint across a 75-foot speedway. Photo: Clark Parker/

Anyone who does a fair amount of walking to get around will encounter gaps in the pedestrian network sooner or later. Sometimes they might just be minor annoyances, but they can also put people in very dangerous positions.

Clark Parker at stumbled into a pedestrian gap when he tried to send a letter on a Saturday afternoon. The only post office open in the Minneapolis area was by the airport. He took transit to get there, and that’s when the adventure started:

The thought of 10 miles of highway driving and dealing with airport parking seemed more trouble than it was worth. So I grabbed a book and my Metropass, hopped on a bus to Downtown, and caught the Blue Line to the airport. Upon arriving at Terminal 1 Lindbergh Station (map), I re-checked the directions; according to Google Maps, it would be an easy 6-minute walk to the post office. I headed out the door and could instantly see the USPS eagle logo across the way.

The Google Map directions proved to be inaccurate, so I improvised, making my way past a low building that led to the a wide stretch of pavement. This was the exit for the airport’s main parking garage. I was encouraged by the clearly marked crosswalk painted on the ground. Few cars were exiting the gates, so I easily made it across. At the end of the crosswalk I reached a two-lane road with cars whipping by at near-highway speed. There was no crosswalk, no bridge, and no discernible option for getting to the post office by foot.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • LAT Talks South L.A. Bicycling With CicLAvia’s Tafarai Bayne
  • Why It Takes A Long Time To Revitalize the L.A. River (KCET)
  • Hundreds Of Angelenos Rally To Stop Climate Change (KPCC)
  • Gabe Klein On the Future Of Los Angeles, Including Driverless Vehicles (LAT)
  • CiclaValley Comes Face To Face With A Car “Accident”
  • Cities Blocking Growth Force A Lack Of Affordable Housing (Santa Monica Next)
  • CSUN Urban Planners Use Design To Curb Prostitution (Daily News)
  • OCTA Proposes Frequent Bus Service Network, Cutting Lines, Increasing Service On Others (KPCC)
  • Santa Ana Looks To More And Larger Granny Flats To Ease Housing Crunch (KPCC)

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


City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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It’s Time to Stop Pretending That Roads Pay for Themselves

If nothing else, the current round of federal transportation legislating should end the myth that highways are a uniquely self-sufficient form of infrastructure paid for by “user fees,” a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls.

Highways have been massively subsidized for many years, but now it’s going to be harder to ignore. Graph: U.S. PIRG

With all the general tax revenue that goes toward roads in America, car infrastructure has benefited from hefty subsidies for many years. But at the federal level, the road gang could always argue that the gas tax paid for the Highway Trust Fund. Not anymore.

The gas tax has stagnated at the same rate since 1993, and the Highway Trust Fund has been bailed out so many times over the last decade, it’s hard to keep count. A long-term transportation bill was supposed to fix that. Instead, the six-year bill on its way to passage right now in Washington may finally bury the idea that American highways are wholly paid for by the gas tax.

Despite gas prices plummeting to barely more than $2 a gallon, and despite pressure from interest groups on both the right and left, Congress has never seriously considered raising the gas tax to cover the cost of the federal transportation program. That means roads are in line for way more subsidies.

It’s unclear exactly how much subsidy the final bill will contain, since the House and Senate bills have yet to be reconciled. But it looks like about $85 billion will be needed to fill the gap over six years. Part of that figures to come from raiding the Federal Reserve and part from a gimmicky one-shot tax on “repatriated” overseas corporate profits. Either way, we’re not talking about “user fees.”

In the House bill, the combined subsidy would account for a quarter of the $322 billion in transportation spending over six years. The subsidy will only get larger in future bills as the purchasing power of the gas tax continues to erode, unless Congress can overcome its aversion to asking drivers to pay for roads.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • CA Emits More GHG Than Any Country Per Capita Except Rest of U.S. (CalMatters)
  • Remember That Reason Foundation Report That Called for Billions on Road Construction That Everyone Laughed Out of the Room? Apparently the Fake Libertarians Found Someone Who Took It Seriously (Forbes)
  • Who Needs High Speed Rail When You’ll Be Able to Cruise in Your Driverless Car? (LAT)
  • Don’t Expect Angels Flight to Be Open Anytime Soon (Curbed)
  • New Marina Del Rey Development Funds Bike Trail 18% of Parking for Bikes (My News LA)
  • OCTA Seeks Public Input on Route Changes (OC Register)
  • Growing Pains (errrr Full House) Star John Stamos Pleads Guilty to DUI (Daily News)

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


Winning Arguments with Your Family: Don’t Fall for the Traffic Trap


Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a disastrously titled piece entitled “L.A. Expo Line hasn’t reduced congestion as promised, a study finds.” The article is based on a study by the University of Southern California that used traffic monitors to gauge how many cars are driving on the freeway and arterial streets parallel to the Expo Line between Culver City and Downtown Los Angeles.

The central premise of both the article and the report it is based on is that government agencies should not base their arguments in favor of transit investment on the impact such investment will have on car traffic. I couldn’t agree more; Streetsblog has published articles and opinion pieces on the same theme.

However, the Times article has framed the debate on Expo’s effectiveness on the impact the line has on car traffic and that’s how the other media have covered the coverage. From mainstream outlets such as KPCC to conservative media columnists such as the Santa Monica Daily Press’ Bill Bauer; the coverage of the study has been reduced to: Expo Line hasn’t reduced car congestion.

Perhaps realizing its error, or perhaps just to create conflict, the Times tried to correct its error the next day with an opinion piece entitled, “The Expo Line hasn’t reduced traffic, so what?” In this piece, writer Kerry Cavanagh pretty much writes about the many benefits of investing in transit and the many dividends that Expo is paying.

Here at Streetsblog, we’ve run an irregular series helping our readers prepare for arguments soon to be had with relatives over the dinner table during holiday feasting. Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on how to prepare for “transit doesn’t reduce congestion.” Read more…

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Cartoon Tuesday: Calvin and Hobbes Turn 30

To see the whole comic, visit ## Planning in the 21st Century##

Original strip by Bill Watterson. Image via Urban Planning in the 21st Century

Last week, TIME Magazine reported that Calvin and Hobbes was first published thirty years ago this month. For a lot of people my age, the story of a precocious and imaginative young boy and his stuffed tiger/best friend was a daily treat. For me, it was how I spent my last couple of minutes before the school bus pulled up.

Calvin and Hobbes have influenced my writing both here at Streetsblog and elsewhere. My first “April Fool’s” post was based on the traffic safety poster that Calvin eventually created for the above-mentioned contest. “Be Safe or Be Roadkill” may not have won Calvin the prize, but it was good enough for a fictional LADOT Public Service Announcement campaign.

But while the stories of his clashes with teachers, the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, or just spending a day playing Calvin Ball are what pop up most, we should also remember that transportation choices and Livable Streets were a part of Calvin’s suburban life. Calvin takes the bus to school, is scared of learning to ride a bike, and, of course, has a dad that is part me, part MAMIL.

So, on behalf of middle-aged Generation X’ers everywhere, Happy Birthday, Calvin and Hobbes. The strip has reached middle-age itself, but thanks to creator Bill Watterson’s early retirement Calvin will always be the fresh-faced little boy on a sled, who just wants to explore the world around him.

A simple Google search brings up dozens of Calvin’s adventures on his bicycle. Enjoy.