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New Documentary about Boyle Heights Opens New Urbanism Film Festival

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and commuters make their way home past the historic Boyle Hotel and Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“There’s a lot of beauty [in Boyle Heights],” says actor, writer, and director Xavi Moreno in East L.A. Interchange, a documentary about the history of Boyle Heights that will screen the opening night of the New Urbanism Film Festival on October 8. “If we invest in that beauty, then we invest in our community… as opposed to investing in things that might destroy what Boyle Heights has always been.”

Moreno’s perspective is one I’ve written about many times while tracking changes in this lower-income and largely Mexican-American community over the last few years, most recently with regard to developments Metro had planned for a complete overhaul of Mariachi Plaza.

And it’s a perspective readers from outside the community often find controversial, associating it with “anti”-ness: anti-outsider, anti-white people, anti-change, and/or anti-development. Or they see it as a NIMBYist position that denies Boyle Heights’ own storied history of being a haven for people of many different ethnicities, including Caucasians.

Ever the occasional optimist, I like to think that more knowledge about the history of the community could help remedy this disconnect.

Because when you know the history of how Boyle Heights came to be — how the institutionalization of racism in city planning and policy via redlining, government-sponsored white flight, “sanitation” sweeps, urban renewal programs that razed housing and funded freeway construction aimed at displacing and isolating poor ethnic communities, overt discrimination in education, the denial of economic opportunity, the labeling of non-white cultures as subversive, immigration raids, police brutality, and deliberate disinvestment constrained Boyle Heights’ ability to flourish — it becomes very easy to understand why the existing residents are raising questions about race, class, and the intentions of both public and private investors in the community.

And knowing how the community managed to thrive in the face of these obstacles and take pride in the heritage they were once told rendered them “unteachable” and “mentally inferior” makes it easier to grasp what it is that residents like Moreno are looking to preserve and invest in. Rather than “re-imagining,” “revitalizing,” or “place-making” their community, as is popular in planning now, they seek to help Boyle Heights grow and develop while remaining true to what they believe it represents. And what it represents is community, culture, resistance and resilience, unique voices and forms of artistic expression, struggle, transcendence, family, and heritage. The physical landscape matters, in other words, but it is the people, their histories, and their relationships with each other that give it meaning.

These are all things that I’ve tried to convey in previous articles in one form or another. But it’s one thing to read descriptions of how a community feels about itself and another altogether to see it for yourself. Which is probably why the arrival of Betsy Kalin’s East L.A. Interchange feels rather timely.

Eight years in the making, it began as the Connecticut-born Kalin’s exploration of what made Boyle Heights a place that people were proud to be from and felt rooted in, even long after having moved away.

Early on in the process, her focus was on residents’ transcendence of racial boundaries to forge a strong sense of community and enduring friendships in an era when state-imposed segregation was the order of the day. To that end, we hear from a range of elder African-American, Japanese, and Jewish Angelenos (and, occasionally, that grew up in the area in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s and have memories of the days when Boyle Heights was a veritable United Nations of neighborhoods and everyone knew a little bit of everyone else’s language.

Cognizant that it is hard to speak about the history of the community without investigating the discriminatory policies that gave rise to it, however, Kalin seems to have shifted gears a bit. While still (a little too) driven by the narrative of multi-ethnic harmony, the film also incorporates the voices of experts like George Sanchez, Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History at USC, to illuminate those links.

It was the right choice. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Choose Your Own Utopia: What Will We Make of Driverless Cars?

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group

A century ago, a new transportation technology burst onto the scene that threatened to disrupt everything: the car.

Thinkers of the day, along with boosters of the new technology, dreamed grand dreams of the utopia it would bring. General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair (shown in the amazing 1940 promotional film, To New Horizons) envisioned a nation criss-crossed by broad highways engineered for “safety – safety with increased speed”; American cities that were “replanned around the highly developed, modern traffic system”; and a network of urban express highways with rights of way “so routed so as to displace outmoded business sections and undesirable slum areas whenever possible.”

Sound familiar? The vision of the future dreamed up by General Motors largely came to pass… but utopia did not follow. Missing from Futurama, as from most utopian visions, was a full understanding of the trade-offs involved — the gutting of city after city for the construction of urban freeways; the expenditure of trillions of dollars over the last half-century on the highway system; the loss of roughly a million lives to motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. since 1990 alone (so much for “safety with speed”); environmental degradation and public health damage from vehicle exhaust and fossil fuel production — the list goes on and on.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Louisville’s Urbanism Derby

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This week’s guest is Branden Klayko, founder of Streetsblog Network member site Broken Sidewalk, which covers transportation and urbanist issues in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is one of the oldest American cities west of the Appalachians, and we discuss the history of the city and its urban heritage. (Is it southern? Is it in the Midwest?)  While many may know Louisville for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby, or college basketball rivalries, Branden gives us another view of the arts and culture that make the city great.

Streets-wise, there’s a lot happening in Louisville, with the coming of bike-share, the city’s focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety, and the legacy of freeway opposition in the city. Branden also reminds us of great local figures in urbanism such as Grady Clay, who was Jane Jacobs contemporary and featured in Death and Life of Great American Cities (check pages 161 and 195).

And if you’re ever in town, make sure to travel the Big Four Bridge, which proved to Louisville residents that you don’t need a car to cross the Ohio River.
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Is This a Downtown Street or a Surface Highway?

These plans for roads new downtown Indianapolis aren't much of an improvement for pedestrians. Image: Urban Indy

This is the plan for West Street in a part of Indianapolis that’s supposedly becoming more pedestrian-friendly. Image: Urban Indy

Indianapolis recently decided to convert two downtown streets — West New York and West Michigan — from one-way speedways to calmer, two-way streets. The changes should help make the city’s downtown campus area more walkable, but now it looks like the city is compensating for those traffic changes by turning another street — West Street — into even more of a surface highway.

Joe Smoker at Urban Indy was expecting that “with all of the energy devoted to pedestrian improvements, connectivity and safety, we would see the great way in which DPW is creating a more functional West Street to tie into the work on New York and Michigan.” Instead, he writes, the city is not actually tackling its legacy of creating “a confusing and frustrating one-way web of high-speed streets through our urban core.”

The plan for West Street calls for widening it so it can continue to serve as a feeder road to the interstate — and a barrier to walking. Smoker walks us through the design:

Check out this traffic pattern. The two dedicated left turn lanes on West, the ones that started at New York Street, cross over the south bound lanes of West Street creating a block long contraflow leading to an otherwise unrestricted inside turn, always works out great as a human or someone traveling by bike. The landscape medians, the small signs that life exists in this area, are otherwise obliterated and replaced with…umm…red area. Automobiles traveling southbound become the middle lanes of a traffic engineer’s boyhood dream. After getting through that mess, you will notice that we are introduced to a dedicated right turn lane from vehicles traveling east on New York Street to Southbound West Street. Don’t worry, DPW made sure it was a wide enough turn that cars need not hesitate as they motor through. Another item that always works out well for humans.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • KPCC Hears Both Sides On North Figueroa Safety
  • Hit-and-Run Crimes Plaguing Highland Park (EGP News)
  • Elysian Valley Zoning Changes Get Mixed Reviews (KCET)
  • Urban Adonia Questions Vision Zero, Especially In Light Of Police Profiling
  • Why USC Should Subsidize Transit For Staff and Students (Lisa Schweitzer)
  • Tiny-Footprint DTLA Spring Street Hotel Still Has No Car Parking, Plus Bike Corral (Urbanize)
  • Breeze Bike-Share Extends Trial Period, On Track For November Full Launch (Santa Monica Next)

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

Via Streetsblog California
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Late Late Show’s James Corden Opens Fire on Coronado Bike NIMBYs


Mocking people who fight safe streets improvements and bike lanes is hardly a new sport. From the subtle humor of the bicyclist crashing into Stephen Colbert’s desk to Jon Stewart’s rant about Dorothy Rabinowitz and the freakout about Citibike.

If you don’t already know him, meet James Corden, host of the Late Late Show. Corden focuses on America’s Most Famous NIMBYs, the white-haired residents of Coronado who took to City Hall to stop the influx of safe street projects graffiti-ing the streets.

I’ve been a fan of Corden since he appeared in Dr. Who a couple of years ago, so I highly recommend watching the entire clip. If you can’t here are some highlights.

“The problem of too many bike lanes ranks somewhere between, ‘my new BMW’s air conditioner works a little too well,’ and ‘The Starbucks near my house doesn’t take $100 bills,'” Corden exclaims near the start of the clip.

Later, after a woman compares a plan to increase the number of bike lanes to taking her daughters to a tattoo parlor for full-body-tattoos, Corden snarks, “If you are going to town hall to complain about bike lanes, you’re kids are definitely going to get tattoos.”

But he save the best for last. After a thirty-second call to arms where he promises a ride to Coronado to paint our own bike lanes if the NIMBYs win the day, Corden channels his inner-Braveheart when he declares, “You may take our bike lanes, but you will never take our freedom…to ride in those bike lanes.”

Incidentally, if someone from the Late Late Show is reading this, and you are planning to do more on Coronado, drop me a line on Twitter @damientypes or leave a note in the comments. Let’s talk…and ride…


Foothill Transit’s Class Pass: A Universal Bus Pass Success Story

Last week, Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas set things in motion for a universal community college transit pass program. Today SBLA profiles one successful local college bus pass program. Foothill Transit’s Class Pass is increasing ridership, helping solve parking problems, and giving students expanded and affordable mobility options.

Students boarding Foothill Transit Line xxx at Mount San Antonio College. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Students boarding Foothill Transit Line 486 at Mount San Antonio College. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In March, the American Public Transit Association (APTA) released its annual aggregation of nationwide transit ridership trends. Though APTA figures [PDF – L.A. County Google spreadsheet] show that overall national transit ridership was at a 58-year high in 2014, the figures were not as promising for L.A. County. Metro ridership decreased 2.8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Metro is currently studying ways to reverse its decline, but the agency’s budget forecasts an additional five percent decline in fiscal year 2015-16.

Most of the municipal transit agencies operating in L.A. County also saw similar decreases in ridership. Examples include Long Beach Transit down 0.5 percent, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus down 3.7 percent. Foothill Transit bucked the trend, showing a 3.6 increase in ridership.

What caused Foothill Transit’s ridership uptick? Expanded Silver Streak freeway bus service as part of Metro’s ExpressLanes program?

Foothill Transit Director of Marketing and Communications Felicia Friesema points to modest increases on a number of lines, including the Silver Streak, but the most substantive increases come from Foothill’s Class Pass program.

Foothill Transit’s Class Pass is an unlimited-ride student TAP card. Class Pass started as a trial at Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) in 2013. At Mt. SAC, the pass is effectively free to students who ride the bus, with the program being paid for by all students through a $9 registration fee ($8 for part-time students.) The registration fee was approved by a vote of the Mt. SAC student body in 2014, making the program permanent.  Read more…
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San Diego Planners Envision a Future With More Driving

When it comes to forward-looking transportation and planning policy, California is out in front of other states, with legislation that requires regional agencies to incorporate carbon reduction goals into their transportation plans. But not all regions are up to the challenge.

Gary Gallegos, head of San Diego's regional planning organization, SANDAG. Photo: Bike SD via SANDAG

Gary Gallegos, head of San Diego’s regional planning organization. Photo: Bike SD via SANDAG

San Diego seems to be having a hard time mustering the political will to adapt, as evidenced in this 2014 quote from Gary Gallegos, head of regional planning organization SANDAG.

We are not going to put everybody on a bike, we are not going to take everybody out of their car, transit is not going to work for every person in the region.

In a recent post, Sam Ollinger at Bike SD says SANDAG’s long term plans, which are up for a vote next week, set the stage for a future with more driving:

SANDAG’s own analysis shows an increase in vehicle miles traveled between now and 2050, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis goes on to state that in order to meet the state goals of reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, SANDAG needs to encourage “more compact development than a multiple dense cores scenario, further substantial increases in the cost of driving, and further substantial transit service improvements.”

This same document by SANDAG staff discusses induced demand, in that increasing roadway capacity induces driving (and thus more greenhouse gas emissions). The document also points out that congestion is good because it “may then lead to longer trips and a change in mode.” Between 2012 and 2050, SANDAG’s own analysis shows that they are planning to increase freeway capacity by an additional 1,757 miles of freeways…

To summarize, SANDAG’s own plan won’t meet the governor’s order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG continues to build freeways and increase road capacity for drivers while failing to push for either a means to pay for driving use or provide an alternative that would induce San Diegans to shift travel modes.

Elsewhere on the Network today: All Aboard Ohio reports that if Cleveland doesn’t get an influx of cash, all or part of its rail system, which carries 40,000 daily riders, may have to be shut down. Cyclelicious reports that a Sacramento television station seems to be blaming the death of a cyclist on the state’s 3-foot passing law. And the Tri-State Transportation Campaign laments that highway projects aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as transit projects.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Listen To SBLA Editor Talk Bikes On KCRW’s Press Play – Starts At Minute 45
  • Six Women Who Changed the Face Of L.A. Architecture (L.A. Magazine)
  • Major Wilshire Blvd Construction Getting Under Way For Purple Line (The Source)
  • Urbanize Has Renderings Of TOD Planned For Expo Line Bundy Station
  • Carnage: Driver Killed In Crash On 710 Freeway In Long Beach (LAT)
  • Los Feliz Ledger Takes A Somewhat-Car-Centric Look At Rowena Avenue Safety
  • S.F. Police Do Not Know Bicycle Traffic Laws (SBSF)
  • Insider Baseball: L.A. vs. NYC Transit Agency Twitter Exchange (Pasadena Star News)

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

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Streetsblog’s Joe Linton on KCRW’s Press Play Today


KCRW’s Press Play news round-up airs daily at noon. Image via KCRW

Streetsblog Editor Joe Linton appeared on KCRW radio’s Press Play with Madeline Brand today at 12:45 p.m.

Host Madeline Brand interviewed Linton and City of West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath about bike-share programs, bike safety, and Idaho stop laws.

West Hollywood is implementing a 150-bike bike-share system, coming Spring 2016. WeHo’s “smart-bike” system, like Santa Monica’s, is not fully compatible with Metro and the city of Los Angeles’ 1,000-bike “smart-dock” system in the works for downtown Los Angeles, expected Spring, 2016.

The Idaho Stop Law has been a hot issue recently in San Francisco. In 1982, Idaho adopted a law that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yields. A 2010 study showed that the law improved safety. The law does not allow cyclists to recklessly blow through stop signs, but permits them to slow, check for traffic, and proceed cautiously, without coming to a full stop.

The interview is available here (at about minute 45), the direct link will also be in tomorrow’s “Today’s Headlines” post.