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Get Your Cameras Ready for Half-Empty Black Friday Parking Lots

If the parking lot at your local big box store looks like this on Black Friday, you're doing it wrong. Photo: Strong Towns

Does the parking lot at your local big box store look like this on Black Friday? Photo: Strong Towns

It’s standard practice to build parking lots to accommodate the maximum number of vehicles expected on the busiest shopping day of the year.

As a result, acres and acres of unnecessary asphalt make communities less walkable, waste land, funnel polluted runoff into our groundwater, erode tax bases, and drive up prices for lots of other goods that aren’t car parking. Incredibly, a lot of these parking lots are so large they don’t even fill most of the way up on Black Friday, America’s high holiday of retail shopping.

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns came up with an ingenious plan to help highlight this rather unsexy issue last year. He encouraged people to take pictures of half-empty parking lots on Black Friday and tweet them with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Last year’s contest produced some eye-poppers.

Chuck is encouraging people to do the same this year. If you’re out there holiday shopping and come across one of those sad, empty parking lots, please tweet it and show the world the foolishness of our parking policies. For more information, check out the Strong Towns blog

In the meantime, Streetsblog USA wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and looks forward to reviewing your spectacular pictures Monday.

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LADOT’s New Broadway Pre-Project Report Heralds Data-Driven Evaluation

Cover

Cover of new Broadway Dress Rehearsal report [PDF]

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT) released a new report entitled Broadway Dress Rehearsal: Pre-Installation Existing Conditions Report 2014 [PDF]. The handsome 82-page report is full of facts, figures and graphs all detailing the “safety, public life, and economic” conditions on Broadway from 2nd Street to 11th Street in downtown Los Angeles. This stretch of street is where the Broadway Dress Rehearsal project was recently completed. The streetscape project removed a traffic lane to make space for plazas which feature outdoor seating and planters.

LADOT’s announcement states that the Broadway report is the first one to use the department’s new “robust methodology for pre- and post-installation evaluation and data collection.” This evaluation process is outlined in a second report entitled Project Evaluation Manual V1.1 [PDF]. LADOT further states, “By using established metrics that illuminate how new public spaces and street design impact the life of the street, we can track trends over time, evaluate project performance, and inform future program direction.” 

LADOT plans to do a corresponding post-installation study in Fall 2015 to compare the conditions before and after the Broadway Dress Rehearsal.

The reports are from LADOT’s innovative People St shop, the folks who are oversee the city’s new plaza, parklet, and bike corral programs.

What does the report say about Broadway? Here are some highlights from LADOT’s announcement:

Pedestrians generally outnumber vehicles on Broadway. There were more people walking along Broadway over the course of just 6 hours than motor vehicles traveling along the corridor over a 24-hour period on the same weekend day.

From 2007 to 2012, 120 intersection and 94 mid-block injury collisions were reported along Broadway (involving people driving, walking, and bicycling).

Pedestrian and bicycle injury collisions have been increasing.

Most mid-block collisions were caused by unsafe lane changes and unsafe speed by drivers.

Vehicular speeds and volumes differ for northbound vs. southbound traffic. Traffic speeds were higher and volumes lower going southbound; traffic speeds were lower and volumes higher northbound.

Excessive driver speeding behavior was observed. Almost one-quarter of drivers were speeding while heading south on Broadway on the weekday studied.

The report is chock-full of great visuals, breaking down all sorts of data, even differentiating the east and west sides of Broadway. There is information on motorists yielding, motorist encroachment on crosswalks, bike and pedestrian counts, speeding, collisions, spending, tax revenue, and even pedestrian group size and posture (standing vs. sitting).

Below are some sample data visualizations:

Counts of people walking and bicycling on Broadway. From Broadway Dress Rehearsal report [PDF]

Counts of people walking and bicycling on Broadway. From Broadway Dress Rehearsal report [PDF]

Read more…

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No Charges for Driver Who Plowed Into Protesters in Minneapolis

The driver who rammed his way through a crowd protesting the non-indictment of Darren Wilson yesterday afternoon in Minneapolis, injuring a 16-year-old girl, has not been charged with any crime.

That’s according to Minneapolis Police spokesperson John Elder, who emailed us this morning saying the case “remains under investigation.”

You can see in the above video, captured by a local news crew, that the driver, Jeffrey Patrick Rice of St. Paul, drove directly into a crowd of protesters and ran over the legs of the girl, who reportedly suffered a leg injury. According to news reports, Rice, 40, stopped not far from the scene and called 911.

Here’s the only information the MPD would offer, from a police report (emphasis ours): “The victim‘s vehicle was damaged by a large group of people. While he was attempting to flee from the mob, he struck a pedestrian.”

So there you have it. The “victim” in this case was not the 16-year-old girl whose legs were crushed under a car, but the driver of said car. Looking at the video, it seems like the police have scrambled the order of events to exonerate the assailant. A “mob” doesn’t form around the vehicle until after the driver intentionally plowed through people. 

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes events unfolding very differently than the police report:

In the Lake Street incident, a Subaru station wagon lurched into the crowd around 4:30 p.m. with its horn blaring as the rally swelled to more than 1,000 demonstrators. When protesters didn’t clear a path, the driver knocked down a girl. The crowd erupted in screams and some people jumped on the hood of the car and violently pounded on the windshield and windows.

For all those sociopaths who were wondering last night if they were allowed to run over protesters standing in front of their cars, it appears the answer is “yes.”

Update: Here’s another angle where you can see the driver choosing to go straight through the crowd.

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Ride the Owls with So.CA.TA on Their Annual Day-After-Thanksgiving Tour

Traditionally Southern Caifornia Transit Advocates does a day-after-thanksgiving study tour , usually to explore service in far-flung areas outside urban Los Angeles (Santa Barbara, San Diego, Victorville, Bakersfield).

This year we are doing something different. We are riding owl service in the L.A. area, Friday evening into Saturday morning. This is service that operates in the wee hours (midnight to 4 a.m.). We’ll also ride some service on the fringes of that period

Schedules are posted on the websites of Metro andFoothill.

The reason we are interested in owl service is at a meeting of the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council earlier this year I learned Metro next year will be considering whether to change how it operates service overnight. Instead of having most bus lines run into downtown L.A. for the hourly “line’-up” timed connections, the agency might operate the Red Line 24 hours and have owl bus service feed into that.

This would open up possibilities versus the time constraints that currently shape how owl service is operated. It seems like a good time to start contemplating what we think the changes should be and go out to investigate the service operated now — are there gaps in service, or lines with low ridership that may not merit continuation?

Please post comments with any thoughts you have about owl service. And please note at this point running the subway overnight is just an idea Metro staff is starting to think about. Nothing at this point is set in stone.

As always anyone who wishes is welcome to ride along with us.

The itinerary was prepared by member Charles Powell. Read more…

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Why Ferguson Protests Spilled Onto Highways

WHAT CITY? Photo: D Magazine

Protesters in Los Angeles Monday night. Photo: D Magazine

Protests following a Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown spilled out onto highways in several American cities on Monday evening and Tuesday. Protesters occupied freeways in Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chicago. (One reported incident of road rage at the protests — a Minnesota man who ran over a woman in downtown Minneapolis — happened on a surface street.)

Patrick Kennedy, a Streetsblog Network member who now writes at D Magazine’s Street Smart column, sees special significance in the use of highways as a protest venue. It is less tidy and harder to ignore than staying on the surface:

These aren’t exactly Tahrir or Taksim Squares, large spaces at a central convergence point for all the city making for natural gathering places. Those occur in still urban places that promote gathering rather than dispersal. We’ve replaced city, and its inherent ability to foster foment just as easily as its day-to-day intended purpose of human progress through social and economic exchange, with car-dependent, isolated anti-city, fragmented by these hulking concrete structures…

The highways are the centerless epicenter of American life. What better place to disrupt? What else better represents the very literal as well as underlying divide, displacement, and disenfranchisement…

My point here is not to debate the specifics of the incident in Ferguson. Any one incident belies the deeper issues at hand leading to such widespread convulsion that registers nationally. Instead, it is to take issue with the belief that protesters should go back to the fenced in area so we never have to hear from them again nor pay attention.

Here are a few more scenes of the direct action on highways.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

We’re publishing lightly today. Enjoy the holiday and we’ll see each and every one of you again on Monday!

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Kinkisharyo Agreement Reached, Metro Rail Cars To Be Built in Palmdale

Kinkisharyo rail car. Photo from Don Knabe blog

Kinkisharyo rail car. Photo from Don’s Blog

In October, the L.A. Times declared Kinkisharyo’s Palmdale Metro light rail car manufacturing plant “all but dead.” KPCC reported that County Supervisor Mike Antonovich spoke at a rally condemning labor’s legal challenges as “nonsense.” County Supervisor Don Knabe opined that “regulatory red tape” had cost L.A. County jobs.

Apparently, the reports of the death of local rail car manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated.

At a recent Metro meeting, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had hinted that he was looking into this matter.

Today, the mayor announced that an agreement had been reached to allow manufacturing to proceed in Palmdale. Parties to the agreement include Kinkisharyo, Metro, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and organized labor, including International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union Number Eleven (IBEW 11). As the Metro light rail system expands, its rail cars will be assembled by workers in Palmdale.

The announcement follows a pattern of Garcetti assuming the mantle of a regional leader. The mayor has repeatedly stated that his responsibilities don’t end at L.A. City borders. Whether it is supporting Gold Line extensions east of Los Angeles, or sticking up for architecture in Orange County, Garcetti has made a point of supporting the region.

Portions of Mayor Garcetti’s announcement are after the jump; the full statement is available on Mayor Garcetti’s website.

Read more…

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Court: Environmental Review for San Diego’s Highway-Happy Plan Inadequate

The California Court of Appeals yesterday confirmed a lower court ruling that the environmental impact report (EIR) for San Diego’s long-range regional transportation plan was inadequate. The EIR, said the court, underplayed the impact of the emissions that would result from its highway-building, sprawl-inducing plan.

SANDAG approved its regional transportation plan in October 2011. It was touted as the first transportation plan in CA to be completed under the auspices of S.B. 375, which mandates regional plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But critics charged that the plan contradicted state climate change policy by focusing on highway expansions, which would only reinforce regional car dependence and increase emissions. Several groups took it to court, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris later joined the suit. In 2012 a California Superior Court judge agreed with the plaintiffs, declaring that the EIR failed to acknowledge how the business-as-usual plan will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The appellate decision says there are other problems with the environmental review. For example, highway expansions will increase pollution in nearby neighborhoods, but the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) “never connected the dots between that pollution and its public health impacts,” said Kevin Bundy, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to projections in the plan, emissions from land use and transportation would decrease until 2020, exceeding the targets set by S.B. 375. But after 2020, emissions would rise again, intersecting with the S.B. 375 targets somewhere around 2030.

“They acknowledged that in their environmental review,” said Bundy, “but what they didn’t acknowledge was that under state climate policy, and according to the best climate science, emissions have to go way down by 2050 — and stay down.”

Read more…

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States That Ban Traffic Safety Cams Put Their Own Residents’ Lives at Risk

In France, speeding cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

Speed cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years in France. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

In Ohio, lawmakers are now poised to outlaw traffic safety cameras, needlessly obstructing efforts to save lives. Similar bills were taken up this year in statehouses in Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 12 states have laws that forbid speed cameras under most circumstances.

If enacted, these laws will certainly end up costing a lot of innocent people their lives. A 2010 review of dozens of studies indicates that speed cameras always have a positive effect on street safety, typically reducing fatality rates by around 30 to 40 percent where they are installed. One of the most impressive case studies, on a national scale, is France.

Since the French government began its crackdown on speeding about a dozen years ago, annual traffic fatalities have been reduced by more than half, from 7,242 in 2002 to 3,250 in 2013. That is more than double the rate of improvement in the United States over the same period. Researchers attribute a major portion of that reduction to the installation of about 3,000 speed cameras across the nation.

Following the adoption of a new set of street safety policies by President Jacques Chirac in 2002 — including stricter penalties for traffic violations — and the installation of cameras in 2003, enforcement of speeding increased dramatically, from about 100,000 tickets per month to about 500,000. About 87 percent of those citations were issued by cameras.

In a 2012 study in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers set out to determine how many deaths and injuries were prevented by France’s wide-scale adoption of automated speed enforcement, developing statistical models to isolate the effect of the cameras. In the first two years following implementation, they estimate that speed cameras prevented 4,498 fatalities.

Read more…

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Residents Plan to Oppose Expanded Drilling at Jefferson-Budlong Site at Zoning Hearing Today

Pipelines emanating from the drill site at Jefferson/Budlong.

Pipelines emanating from the drill site at Jefferson/Budlong. PXP, the previous operator was acquired by current operator, Freeport-McMoRan.

Over the course of a lengthy conversation yesterday, Rizgar Ghazi, head of permitting at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), explained that part of the delay on the decision regarding embattled lead-acid battery recycler Exide’s petition for a formal operating permit was that Exide had to first draft an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The months it would take for both the EIR to be drafted and reviewed and for the DTSC to conduct painstaking inspections of the plant, he assured me, would help ensure that Exide was in compliance with CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and that the risk to surrounding communities would (finally) be minimized.

Contrast this highly flawed (particularly in the case of Exide, which has operated for over a decade on an interim permit) but somewhat transparent process with the one that guides permitting for oil drilling and well stimulation.

As the many concerned West Adams residents who will be on hand at 1 p.m. today to protest Freeport-McMoRan’s (FMOG) quest for a CEQA exemption from the City Zoning Administrator to expand operations at their Jefferson and Budlong site already know, the cards are very much stacked in favor of the operators. The residents vehemently disagree with FMOG’s declaration that drilling one new well and re-drilling two existing wells will not “have a significant effect on the environment” and do not wish to have any more wells added to the eleven already in operation on site, all of which also were exempt from CEQA.

For the uninitiated, the purpose of CEQA is (among other things) to alert the public to the significant environmental effects of a proposed project and prevent or minimize damage to the environment via development of project alternatives, mitigation measures, and mitigation monitoring. Until last year, even the implementation of some bicycle lanes required the drafting of an EIR and a lengthy public process.

In the case of oil drilling, however, as long as the applicant is in compliance with the “authorized activities” previously approved for a site, operators can generally forego the public hearing or EIR process in favor of an administrative review process. Because the drilling of new wells is not seen as a change to the land use or a modification to pre-existing entitlements, a review process is not triggered. And this remains true regardless of the technique (fracking, acidization, etc.) utilized, the thousands of pounds of acids and other hazardous materials/waste that must be trucked in and out of a site and through communities, the pollution generated by the hundreds of trucks that transport the water and other materials, the (potentially contaminated) dust that gets kicked up on site, the land that must be cleared, the millions of gallons of water contaminated in the process, the number of times a well must be fractured to complete drilling, or the potential for earthquakes as a result of drilling.

And while it is true that the majority of oil districts were established well before CEQA was even a twinkle in environmentalists’ eyes, drilling operators, oil and gas lobbyists, the Department of Conservation’s (DoC) regulatory agency, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), and even the state have continued to work actively to guard the right of operators to remain exempt from it. Read more…