Skip to content

Streetsblog USA No Comments

WaPo Transpo Forum: America’s Mayors Aren’t Waiting for Washington

Atlanta’s BeltLine of bike and pedestrian trails is raising property values in every place it touches. Denver’s new rail line will create a much-needed link between Union Station downtown and the airport, 23 miles away. Miami is building 500 miles of bike paths and trails. Los Angeles is breaking new ground with everything from rail expansion to traffic light synchronization. And Salt Lake City’s mayor bikes to work and, by increasing investment in bike infrastructure, is encouraging a lot of others to join him.

At this week’s Washington Post forum on transportation, five mayors from this diverse set of cities spoke of the challenges and opportunities they face as they try to improve transportation options without much help or guidance from the federal government.

Speaking of the feds:

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta is tired of Congress not doing its job. “Cities don’t get to kick the can,” he said. And even if the feds aren’t ready to make big investments, private and foreign investors are reportedly itching to get a crack at U.S. infrastructure, but there’s been no good process for doing so. Reed wants the federal government to play a convening role, bringing mayors together with private investors they can pitch projects to.

And either way, he said, if the federal government is providing less funding to cities for transportation, “we think they need to have a little less say” — except when it comes to safety. But Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says there’s an upside to the gridlock in Washington: “Cities are being more creative.” And Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the Obama administration has been a great partner — pointing especially to the TIGER program and the HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

New projects:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is excited about intelligent transportation technology, like the traffic signal synchronization his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, pioneered. And LA’s Expo line — which he dubbed the Beach-to-Bars line — opens soon, turning a two-hour slog through traffic into a 45-minute pleasure cruise. He says it’ll open up access to the Philharmonic and sports venues that, these days, are often avoided because the trip is too hellish.

But Garcetti is already on to the next thing. To him, that thing is autonomous cars. He thinks LA will be a natural home for those. In fact, he openly acknowledges that his push to build BRT lanes is all in the interest of turning them into autonomous vehicle lanes a few years down the road. That’s right — despite the visionary strategic plan LA just released, Garcetti wants to turn road space over from efficient modes to less efficient ones.

15 Comments

LADOT Pilots “Pedestrian First” Timing on Broadway

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

It seems like a simple concept. If you give pedestrians a walk signal before giving cars the go-ahead, pedestrians crossing at intersections will be more visible and crashes and injuries will be reduced. But in a city where too much of the infrastructure is still designed to encourage cars to move quickly, even a small change that benefits people who aren’t in cars will be noticed.

In this case, some Streetsbloggers have noticed that some of the traffic signals along Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles are out of sync with the rest of the city. Even if Broadway is home to the pedestrian friendly “dress rehearsal” and has its own pedestrian master plan, people are still cautiously optimistic when they see change at the street level.

“On Sunday morning, I was riding eastbound on 4th Street when I came to a red light as I reached Broadway,” wrote Patrick Pascal. “I was shocked to notice that (like Chicago and a few other progressive places) the walk signal permitted pedestrians to begin to cross at least four seconds before the traffic signal turned green.  Was this due to an error by the DOT or is the agency finally joining the 21st century?”

Good news! It’s the latter.

“At Broadway and 4th/3rd Streets, we are piloting a ‘pedestrian priority phase’ signalized intersection that provides a three-second head start for people walking/bicycling/skateboarding across the street,” responded Bruce Gillman, a spokesperson with LADOT. “We implemented this in conjunction with the Broadway Dress Rehearsal ribbon cutting ceremony last August.  Vehicles wait those extra seconds, making people more visible to drivers as they step off the curb.” Read more…

No Comments
Streetsblog.net

After 40 Years, Will Atlanta’s MARTA See a Major Suburban Expansion?

Back in the ’70s, Clayton County didn’t want to be part of MARTA, Atlanta’s regional transit service. It was one of the suburban counties that “opted out.” In fact, all of Atlanta’s metro counties opted out except DeKalb and Fulton — the two that share the city of Atlanta proper.

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta's MARTA transit system since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta’s MARTA since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

But times are changing. Clayton County, where the population of residents with low incomes is increasing, eliminated its bus service altogether in 2010, during a recession-era budget crisis. Now the county is seeking permission from the state to propose a tax increase to its residents that would make it the first new MARTA county in four decades.

Stephen Lee Davis at the Transportation for America blog has the story:

On Nov. 4, Clayton County voters will decide on a measure to increase the local sales tax by a percent to join MARTA, the regional transit system. Doing so would restore bus service and jumpstart planning for bus rapid transit or a rail extension in the years to come. As county commissioners debated whether or not to put the question on the ballot, they heard hefty support from residents, who turned out to meetings to urge commissioners to make a vote happen. And most of the commissioners saw the need.

Interestingly, state law already provided for Clayton to be a part of MARTA, and as one of the five core counties included in the 1970’s charter actually had a vote on the MARTA board. But Clayton and two other counties declined to pass the sales tax, and only the City of Atlanta, Dekalb and Fulton counties ponied up. In the meantime, Clayton had used its available sales tax percentage — state law caps it — for other purposes. That meant that the state had to waive that cap specifically for Clayton so they could decide on the MARTA tax. (A second piece of legislation was required to restructure the MARTA board to give Clayton County two representatives on the board starting next year.)

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Japanese Rail Car Makers May Still Build Factory in Palmdale (LAT)
  • Woman Stabbed In Front of Her Kids Over Parking Space (LAT)
  • Iced Cream Truck Kills Small Child Either Crossing the Street or Riding Next to the Truck (LAT)
  • Building More Roads Leads to More Traffic. Let’s Widen the 405! (Vox)
  • L.A. Uber Drivers Protest Wages, Rights (Neon Tommy)
  • L.A. Gets Google-Style Luxury Bus for Tech Workers (LAT)
  • OMG! Soooo Unfair. Mean LAPD Will Crackdown on DUI’s in K-Town (LA Weekly)
  • SaMo Council Candidate Richard McKinnon Proposes Vision Zero (SaMo Next)
  • First Brad the Turtle, Now the SaMo Airport Will Save us from Aliens. Our Tumblr Is Getting Hot (Curbed)
  • Pledge to #VoteLocal on November 4, Santa Monica (Facebook)

For more headlines, visit USA Streetsblog.

 

Streetsblog USA No Comments

By a Wide Margin, Americans Favor Transit Expansion Over New Roads

It's not even close. Americans prefer transit spending to road spending. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s not even close. Americans prefer transit spending to road spending. Photo: Wikipedia

If only our nation’s spending priorities more closely tracked public opinion: A new poll [PDF] from ABC News and the Washington Post finds that when presented with the choice, Americans would rather spend transportation resources expanding transit than widening roads.

In a landline and cell phone survey that asked 1,001 randomly selected adults how they prefer “to reduce traffic congestion around
the country,” 54 percent said they would rather see government “providing more public transportation options,” compared to 41 percent who preferred “expanding and building roads.” Five percent offered no opinion on the matter. The survey had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Attitudes varied by political leaning, place of residence, and other demographic factors. Urbanites were most likely to prefer transit spending (61 percent), followed by suburbanites (52 percent), then rural residents (49 percent), indicating that transit may be preferred to roads in every setting, though the pollster’s announcement doesn’t include enough detail to say so conclusively.

Among college graduates, racial minorities, people under 40, very high earners, and political liberals and independents, majorities favor transit expansion. Meanwhile, strong conservatives, evangelical white protestants, and white men without college degrees are more likely to favor road spending.

The poll release was timed in conjunction with Tuesday’s Washington Post forum on transportation issues.

9 Comments

Metro Updates: Rail-to-River, Complete Streets, BRT, & More

Here’s a round-up of newsworthy items from today’s Metro Board Meeting and the committee meetings that led up to it.

The tracks at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

These South L.A. rail tracks may soon be part of a “Rail to River” bike and walk path. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

Rail-to-River Project Keeps Moving
The Metro board of directors approved $2.85 million to continue to move forward with the Rail-to-River bike and walk path project. The funds will pay for further studies, planning, and design work to prepare the project to receive capital funding in the future.

Approval Highlights: Complete Streets, Union Station, and Support for Crenshaw Businesses
Metro’s board adopted the agency’s first-ever Complete Streets Policy [PDF]. It has some flaws. The board adopted the Union Station Master Plan. Metro also approved a contract for supporting small businesses impacted by Crenshaw/LAX rail line construction.

Revenue Up, Ridership Down After September Fare Increase
Metro raised fares in mid-September. It is too early to draw conclusions about trends and what is causing them, but stats are out for that first half-month. Metro’s Chief Financial Services Officer reported that fare revenue is up 7.1 percent, comparing September 2013 ($28.68 million) to September 2014 ($30.73 million). Overall ridership declined 3.2 percent, comparing September 2013 (39,903,521) to September 2014 (38,633,928).

Purple Line Extension Groundbreaking Announced
Board chair Eric Garcetti announced that the groundbreaking ceremony for Purple Line subway construction will take place on Friday, November 7. The fully-funded extension will bring the Wilshire Boulevard subway to La Cienega Boulevard. Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

ExpressLanes Enable Speeding Scofflaws
From this Performance Update Report [PDF]: Metro targets that toll lane “monthly average travel speeds remain above 45 mph.” For the first 19 months of ExpressLane program, the AM peak-period speed on the 110 Freeway was 62 mph, but on the 10 Freeway, that AM peak-period speed was 66 mph. That’s 66 mph where the speed limit is 65 mph. As that’s an average, certainly there must be a lot folks speeding much faster than this. When I was researching this ExpressLanes article, I found that Metro buses in the ExpressLanes act as a damper on car speed. When the (frequent) buses come through, they’re going the speed limit and each bus has a lines of cars bunched up behind it.

What I found a little surprising is how little attention this stat elicited: none. Speed kills, but it’s just kind of assumed that driving a few miles over the freeway speed limte is all OK. Can SBLA readers imagine how much grief pedestrians would get for a project designed to foster jaywalking? Or a bike project that assumed cyclists would just blow a stop sign? Hopefully, now that a clear pattern of law-breaking has been identified, Metro can work with appropriate law enforcement to slow speeds down and make this corridor safer. Don’t hold your breath.

CEO Art Leahy on Metrolink’s Importance… for Drivers
At last week’s Sustainability Committee meeting, Metro CEO Art Leahy responded to worries over “rumors about changes” for Metrolink commuter rail. Ridership is down on most lines. The L.A. Times explored why. Leahy defended the rail agency, stating [audio at 5:30] that “Metrolink will continue to be very important to L.A. County and the other counties. It helps with the 91. It helps with the I-5. It helps with the Hollywood and the 134 [freeways.]” Isn’t Metrolink important for the mobility of the people who ride it? Leahy sounds all too much a bit like the fictional L.A. Metro CEO in this Onion article.

CEO Art Leahy on Rail Car Manufacturing
Responding to questions about the demise of Kinkisharyo’s Palmdale manufacturing plant, Leahy stated that rail cars needed for the soon-to-open light rail lines will not be affected, though new rail cars may be manufactured “out of state.”

Metro Call for Projects Stays More-or-Less on Track
An early draft of a motion had called for the suspension of Metro’s Call for Projects from 2017 on. The Call is Metro’s every-other-year process where the agency grants transportation dollars to cities. The motion was amended, and Metro will just study the Call processes, while the upcoming 2015 Call proceeds as planned. As SBLA reported earlier, the Call had been an important funding source for bicycle and pedestrian projects, but changes at the Federal level have shifted that process into the state Active Transportation Program.

Bus Rapid Transit Projects Gaining Momentum
Mayor Garcetti is quietly becoming a strong proponent of medium-sized cost-effective Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects. The Metro board approved a Najarian-Garcetti-Antonovich motion regarding two BRT projects: Vermont Avenue and North Hollywood to Pasadena. Metro is currently procuring consultants to analyze and plan these BRTs. The motion directs both projects be given top priorities as Metro pursues federal small start funding.

Speaking of BRT, here is one more Metro-related news bit that really deserves its own article:

Metro Orange Line BRT Signalization Changes Ready to Go
Great News! At yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, representatives from the Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Metro announced some good news for Orange Line commuters. LADOT suggested that the latest motion wasn’t even needed, because Metro can unilaterally increase BRT speeds and LADOT will support Metro changes. LADOT and Metro are working together to nail down the specifics, but they estimate that BRT speeds will increase, shaving 4-8 minutes off cross-Valley rides. (There are other excellent LADOT folks working on this, but let’s speculate that the Seleta Reynolds effect could be at play here.)

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Talking Headways Podcast: Dear Bike People

podcast icon logoDo people of color and low-income people ride bikes? Not as much as they could, given all the great benefits biking offers, particularly to people without a lot of disposable cash. But yes, non-white and non-rich people ride bikes — in high numbers compared to the general population, by some measures.

Even though they’re biking the streets, people of color and those with low incomes are largely missing from the bicycle advocacy world. The League of American Bicyclists, along with many other advocacy organizations around the country, are out to change that. We covered the League’s report on equity in the bicycling movement last week — but there was still lots more to talk about.

So Jeff and I called up Adonia Lugo, who manages the equity initiative at the League. We talked about what local advocacy groups can do if they want to reach out to new constituencies, whether infrastructure design really needs a multicultural perspective, and how the movement can start “seeing” bicyclists that don’t fit the prevailing stereotype.

We know you have strong feelings about these issues. Tell us all about ‘em in the comments  – after you listen.

And find us on  iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.

No Comments

More Workshops on CA Affordable Housing Program

"Concept drawing" of an idealized street at the Strategic Growth Council website shows a mix of modes and multi-familuy dwellings.

“Concept drawing” of an idealized street at the Strategic Growth Council website shows a mix of modes and multi-family dwellings.

California’s Strategic Growth Council is holding a second round of workshops on its guidelines for spending cap-and-trade funds on affordable housing and sustainable communities. The draft guidelines [PDF] incorporate input gathered over the summer as well as at several packed workshops held throughout the state in August of this year.

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program was created this year with $130 million in funding from California’s cap-and-trade system. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects that connect land use and transportation, support infill and compact development, and contribute to other public policy goals including reducing air pollution, increasing mobility options, and increasing transit ridership.

The program is trying to do many things with not very much money. However, it is slated to receive an ongoing twenty percent of future annual cap-and-trade funds, which are expected to grow considerably in the next few years.

The draft guidelines set program requirements and eligibility, application procedures, and performance requirements. “We want to hear your ideas about the program and how it can best benefit your communities,” said Mike McCoy, the Strategic Growth Council’s executive director.

One of the sticking points at the last workshops was how to define and quantify benefits to disadvantaged communities, which by law must benefit from half of the program’s funding–but that was only one of many points of discussion. This round of workshops will not include the small group discussions of the past round, but staff members say there will be plenty of time for discussion and public comment.

The first in this round of workshops will be held in Merced today, October 23, from 1 to 4. Preregistration for all the workshops is necessary, and they will probably fill up, if the last series is an indication. However, as of today there are still tickets available for all of them. Read more…

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Fact Checking the Florida Department of Transportation

Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Photo: Walkable WPB

The Florida Department of Transportation says its rules prevent a road diet on Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Advocates looked up the rules and found the agency was wrong. Photo: Walkable WPB

Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach is what Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns would call a “stroad.” It’s a poorly designed, high-speed chute for cars that is completely hostile to its urban surroundings.

That’s why residents of West Palm Beach were so disappointed to learn that the Florida Department of Transportation plans to resurface the road and put everything back the way it is. When local advocates suggested that Quadrille Boulevard doesn’t need lanes to be 15 feet wide and can go on a road diet, the agency shot them down, saying its rules wouldn’t allow it.

Network blog Walkable West Palm Beach decided to fact check the agency, and it turns out FDOT needs to get a better grip on its own rules:

Frankly, FDOT is wrong in their response to the citizen stating that 10-foot lanes aren’t allowed on state highways. FDOT’s primary design manual is the Plans Preparation Manual (PPM). The PPM contains a very interesting chapter titled Transportation Design for Livable Communities (TDLC). The TDLC chapter is tucked away at the end of the manual far and away from the geometric requirements for highways and stroads. As shown in the following table from the TDLC chapter there is a footnote that allows thru lanes to be reduced from 11 feet to 10 feet in width in highly restricted areas with design speeds less than or equal to 35 MPH, having little or no truck traffic.

Quadrille fits the bill. Look at what 10-foot lanes would make possible for this street:

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Ice Cream Truck Strikes and Kills 7-Year Old Cyclist in South L.A. (LAT)
  • Bus Benches Tracking Cell Phone User Locations (BuzzfeedCurbed)
  • Opinion: L.A. Leaders Should Work for Rail Car Plant Deal (LAT)
  • Beautiful New City Cycling Guide Booklet (LongBeachIze)
  • L.A. Air Quality Worse in 2014 Than 2013 (LAT)
  • Metro Board Meets Today (The Source) (follow on @streetsblogLA Twitter) 
  • Santa Monica Airport Clouds Upcoming Election (Santa Monica Next)
  • Santa Monica Airport Protects Us From Aliens (SBLA Lite)
  • How CicLAvia Events Are Good Cities All Over (CityFix)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA