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Happy Birthday, Streetsblog Los Angeles

It’s party time! Well, on February 21 it’s party time.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 10.08.08 AMJoin Joel Epstein, Juan and Sirinya Matute, Deborah Murphy, Jay Slater, Meghan Sahli-Wells, and Lee Wallach and the rest of the Streetsblog Los Angeles team to celebrate Streetsblog’s 7th birthday at the House of Amy and Jonathan Weiss on February 21 at 4 p.m. Make your reservation at Event Brite. Address provided to those who RSVP.

In seven years, Streetsblog Los Angeles has changed the way people talk about transportation in L.A. When Streetsblog Los Angeles was launched, discussion at open meetings was dominated by talks about how any change would impact cars. The concept of making Pico and Olympic Boulevards into one-way streets was thought of as “innovative” and was promoted as a way to change the way people thought about the Westside.

Seven years later, the City and County are aggressively promoting alternatives to car-centered transportation systems. Los Angeles is adding bicycle lanes, breaking ground on protected bike lanes, modernizing crosswalks and rapidly expanding its rail transit system. During that time, Streetsblog has been a vocal and consistent voice for clean, green transportation options, equity and social justice in urban planning, and stronger communities through better urban design. SBLA and its journalists have been honored for excellence in journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists, Los Angeles Press Club, Center for California Studies, American Planning Association of Los Angeles, and L.A. Weekly.

Tickets are $50 on a sliding scale. While we will accommodate people at the door, please RSVP below so we can get an accurate head count. Directions will be given with RSVP confirmation. Light food and refreshments will be available, including a birthday cake.

Streetsblog NYC 14 Comments

A New Type of Streetsblog in St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast? Yep.

A little more than six years ago, we launched the Streetsblog Network as a way for people across the country writing about livable streets, sustainable transportation, and smart growth to band together and share ideas. There are many wonderful things about the Streetsblog Network, but I would put this is at the top of my list: It is both profoundly local, full of people working on the nitty-gritty of street design, transit service, and planning issues in their hometowns, and broadly distributed, with hundreds of members operating in cities all over the nation.

For a long time we’ve been thinking about how to build on these strengths. And today we’re going live with a new way to channel the energy of the Streetsblog Network and broadcast it to the world.

We are launching affiliate sites that combine the work of Streetsblog Network members in four regions: St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast. These sites run on a different model than our other city-based Streetsblogs with full-time staff. Each Streetsblog affiliate syndicates material from several blogs in its region and runs a daily dose of headlines to satisfy the universal craving for morning news. Have a look. (Doesn’t it blow your mind to see the words “Streetsblog Texas” in a site banner?)

streetsblog_ohiosblog_se

streetsblog_texassblog_stl

Our partners in this endeavor are volunteers writing in their spare time, independent media entrepreneurs, and people working at non-profit advocacy organizations and academic institutions. By running their work in this format, on the Streetsblog platform, we aim to help build their audience both nationally and in their home regions. The geographic scope of most of these sites is bigger than the usual Streetsblog city-based beat, but the writers are addressing overlapping issues — a Paleolithic state DOT, for instance, or city leadership that struggles to get Complete Streets right. We believe there will be strength in numbers like there’s been with the national Streetsblog Network.

Read more…

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What’s Holding Back Austin Transit Ridership? Look at Where the Jobs Are

Why isn't Austin's transit ridership keeping pace? Graph: Keep Austin Wonky

Why isn’t Austin’s transit ridership keeping pace? Graph: Keep Austin Wonky

A recent post at Keep Austin Wonky asks why transit ridership in Austin seems to be stagnating even as the region grows at a healthy clip. Julio Gonzalez Altamirano says it doesn’t seem to be gas prices or transit funding, but something about the way the city is physically developing that’s hindering ridership growth.

Jeff Wood at the Overhead Wire says perhaps the culprit is job sprawl and the relative lack of growth in downtown employment:

Julio says that for the last 15 years, population has increased 34% in the region. Because data from LED is only available from 2002 on, that leaves us with a 13 year period.  But the growth in jobs in that 13 years has been 26% or ~675K to ~852K according to LED data.

But for downtown, which I looked at as West of I-35, North of Barton Springs Road, East of Lamar, and South of MLK employment growth is much smaller. Only an 18% change, from ~112K in 2002 to ~132K in 2011.  The share of employment that resides in this downtown sector has gone down too.  In 2002 it was 16.5% of total jobs in the region, while in 2011 it was 15.5% of total jobs.

Read more…

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Boris Johnson Commits to a Protected “Cycle Superhighway” Crossing London

London's "crossrail for bikes" will be the longest protected bike lane in Europe. Image: London Evening Standard

London’s “crossrail for bikes” will be the longest urban protected bike lane in Europe, according to the London papers. Image: London Evening Standard

London Mayor Boris Johnson is showing cities what it looks like to commit real resources to repurposing car lanes for high-quality bike infrastructure.

Yesterday, Johnson announced the city will begin building a wide, continuous protected bike lane linking east and west London when the weather warms this spring. When complete, it will be the longest protected “urban cycle lane” in Europe, according to Metro UK, carrying riders through the heart of the city and some of its most famous landmarks. The bike lane will be separated from vehicle traffic by a curb, London-based design blog Dezeen reports.

While bike infrastructure is cheap, London is devoting serious resources to ensuring that this bike lane is as safe, spacious, and comfortable as it can be. The central portion of the bike route, about 5.5 miles, will cost £41 to construct ($62 million).

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Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Tripda, App For Long-Trip Ride-Sharing, Gets $11M Capital (LAT)
  • Little Tokyo Dive-Landmark Gives Way To Regional Connector Wrecking Ball (KPCC)
  • Glendale Installs Pedestrian Safety Flags At Two Intersections (Glendale News Press)
  • Neon Tommy Compares Subways in L.A. vs. Taipei
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Woman, Turns Self In Later (LAT)
  • Metro Board Meets Today, Agenda At The Source
    SBLA Will Be Listening, Some Live Tweeting At @StreetsblogLA
  • Declining Oil Prices Curb Extraction in Bakersfield (LAT)
  • California Active Transportation Program “ATP” Second Round Preview (SRTS)
  • Santa Monica Next Interviews Outgoing SM City Manager Gould – Part One, Two
  • Torrance Transit Now Takes TAP Card Payment (The Source)
  • Historians Debunk America’s “Love Affair” With the Car (CityLab)
  • Clever Street Anti-Sexual-Harrassment Campaign Video (MetaSpoon YouTube)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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ULI FutureBuild2015 Recap: Peeks at Future Transportation and Parking

Streetsblog L.A. was a media sponsor of yesterday’s Future Build Los Angeles 2015 conference which showcased “trends, people and forces remaking the built environment.” The event was hosted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) L.A. in partnership with VerdeXchange.

Many individual speakers and panelists touched on topics pertinent to Streetsblog. City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Rick Cole (currently tied for second in SBLA’s reader poll to pick Art Leahy’s successor - voting ends January 31) touched on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to become a more “livable, walkable” place, and touted Metro’s ambitious five new rail projects under construction. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia touched on complete streets’ ability to accomplish multiple city goals.

Most streetsbloggy, though were panel discussions on transportation and parking.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Transformation of Ground Transportation and Streets: Trends Driving Tomorrow’s Cities 

This panel featured:

  • Gail Goldberg – head of ULI L.A., and former head of L.A. Department of City Planning (DCP)
  • Gabe Klein - entrepreneurial livability rock star, ULI fellow, currently with Bridj
  • Seleta Reynolds – General Manager, L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT)
  • Carter Rubin, moderator – L.A. mayoral Great Streets program manager and former Streetsblog L.A. intern

Seleta Reynolds prescribed three important tasks to move cities toward more streets as great public spaces:

  1. Get a “new cookbook.” U.S., CA, and L.A. all currently design streets based on what Reynolds called “insane” standards from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.) Reynolds urged cities not to use a cookie-cutter approach, and to put more credence in forward-thinking design guidance, including National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO.)
  2. Measure the outcomes that count. Reynolds decried the past decades when pretty much the only metric that mattered was car capacity. She’s happy that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is on its way out, but urged that we need to count all people using our streets, and to measure outcomes related to economics, health, and the environment. Reynolds told the story of how L.A.’s CicLAvia events were studied and showed to not only dramatically improve air quality on the CicLAvia route streets, but also overall, including nearby streets not on the route.
  3. Become better storytellers. Reynolds spoke about how the public quickly gets lost in the jargon of transportation discussions, mentioning that even seemingly simple concepts like a “left-turn pocket” will often be misunderstood. She stated that lots of transportation professionals have “totally lost the plot” and need to develop skills in communicating with the general public

Gabe Klein focused on how smart technologies are disrupting transportation’s “legacy assets.” Klein told how Uber has exploited the inefficiencies of old-school taxi systems, but that ultimately “the disruptors will quickly be disrupted” with proprietary “sharing” ultimately giving way to peer-to-peer sharing. Klein envisions a future where driverless cars in shared fleets could be active 95 percent of the time, instead of parked 95 percent of the time like current private cars. Klein stressed that Google’s driverless car is a “25 mph urban vehicle” expected to be deployed primarily in shared-use fleets, not individually-owned. Klein speculates that it could result in 85 percent fewer cars on our streets, and could dramatically decrease the need for parking.

During question and answer, both Klein and Reynolds expressed caution in giving too much private sector control of public space. Instead, they stressed that the public needs to incentivize outcomes that improve the quality of life for inhabitants. Partnerships should serve public good, with bike share systems as a worthwhile example of a successful public-private partnership.

Goldberg professed that she loves L.A.’s residential streets, but finds commercial corridors “embarassing.” She announced an exciting new national ULI initiative that will re-think a key street in L.A., though the formal announcement will be coming soon.  Read more…

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Pieces in Place for AASHTO to Endorse Protected Bike Lanes… by 2020

Part of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, installed in 2011.

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The bible of U.S. bikeway engineering, last revised just before the modern American protected bike lane explosion, will almost certainly include protected lanes in its next update.

That’s the implication of a project description released last month from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

AASHTO’s current bikeway guide doesn’t spell out standards for protected bike lanes. Its updated edition is on track to be released in 2018 at the soonest. A long wait? Yes, but that would still shave seven years off the previous 13-year update cycle.

“Back in 2009, we maybe had a few miles of separated bike lanes in this country,” said Jennifer Toole, founder of Toole Design Group and the lead contractor who wrote AASHTO’s current bike guide. “It was written right on the cusp of those new changes. Now we have all kinds of experience with this stuff. And data — we’ve got data for the first time.”

AASHTO’s richly detailed and researched guides are the main resource for most U.S. transportation engineers. Some civil engineers simply will not build anything that lacks AASHTO-approved design guidance.

However, dozens of cities in most U.S. states have now begun building protected lanes with the help of other publications.

Read more…

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DTSC Issues Eight Violations Against Exide after Inspection of Shuttered Facilities

The sign greeting visitors to Exide Technologies' Vernon facilities. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The sign greeting visitors to Exide Technologies’ Vernon facilities. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A press release sent out by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) this morning states that the DTSC has issued eight violations of state hazardous waste laws against embattled Vernon lead-acid battery recycler Exide for violations discovered during recent facility inspections it conducted with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The violations are of concern.

Exide was ordered to cease smelting operations in March of 2014 because of its struggle to comply with new rules issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The rules, approved in January of 2014, established requirements for the reduction of arsenic emissions and other key toxic air contaminant emissions, set requirements for ambient air concentration limits for arsenic, as well as hourly emission limits of arsenic, benzene, and 1,3-butadiene (all known carcinogens), and contained additional administrative, monitoring, and source testing requirements for stack emissions at lead-acid battery recycling facilities.

Unwilling to take responsibility for the health risk assessment, which had found that arsenic emissions from the plant posed an elevated cancer risk to as many as 110,000 people living in surrounding areas, and displeased by the more stringent emissions standards which required that Exide install costly new “negative pressure” air filtering equipment by April 10, 2014, Exide promptly sued.

To the relief of most residents, Exide lost its appeals and was forced to remain closed while cleaning up the facilities and making the required upgrades to the plant.

Which means that the current set of violations are a result of Exide’s failure to properly manage the very processes intended to help it operate more cleanly. Read more…

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This Is the Kind of Leadership We Need From State DOTs

“A breath of fresh air” — that’s how Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns describes this interview with Tennessee DOT Commissioner John Schroer. In this video, produced by Smart Growth America, Schroer describes what he is doing to make Tennessee’s the ”the best DOT in the country.” Here are some of the highlights:

We did a top-to-bottom review and we looked at everything that we did and we analyzed it from a production standpoint to a financial standpoint. Changed a lot of the leadership within the department, brought in a lot of people from the private sector.

I found when I  moved into this position, a lot of cities did a poor job of long-range planning — in how they did zoning, in how they approved projects — and took very little consideration into the transportation mode. Oftentimes those cities would then call us and say, “We’ve got a problem, you need to help us fix it.” Well, that problem was self-created. It was self-created because they made bad zoning decisions, they put a school in the wrong place without thinking about transportation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to build a bypass to a bypass, and that purely is bad planning. We’ve got a whole division now that is working with communities right now and trying to help them not make those bad decisions, and when that happens the state saves money.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Carnage: Driver Jumps Curb Kills Crossing Guard In Monterey Park (ABC, LAT)
    Elsewhere, Driver To Be Tried For Collision That Killed 4 People (KPCC)
  • Santa Monica Next’s Jason Islas Interview On Santa Monica’s No-Growth Pains (KCRW)
  • Flying Pigeon Looks At L.A. Election Numbers And Urges All To Bike The Vote
  • Profiling the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency (LAT)
  • Westwood Should Prioritize Walkability (Daily Bruin)
  • Transforming L.A.’s Alleys (Flying Pigeon)
  • Officials Looks Back at 2005 Metrolink Train Crash In Glendale (Glendale News Press)
  • A Report Sitting In The Middle Of the 101 Freeway (Guardian)
  • Infographics: Why and Where You Will Ride the Gold Line Foothill Extension (The Source)
  • Farewell To Long Beach 106-Year-Old Cyclist Octavio Orduño (Biking in L.A.)
  • Department of DIY’s Astrid Conder Paints Her Echo Park Bus Bench (Eastsider)
  • A Critical Transportation Link: Getting Angels Flight Running Again (LAT)
  • Secretary Foxx Challenges Mayors On Bike/Ped But There’s No Funding (Getting Around Sacto)
  • Handsome Red-Painted Bus Only Lane in San Francisco (SBSF)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA