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Fighting Climate Change Is Not Hurting CA Economy: It’s Contributing

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Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Despite predictions that California’s climate change policies would destroy its economy, recent data seems to show that the opposite is happening.

Derek Walker, writing for the Environmental Defense Fund, points out that recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) not only show strong job growth in California, but that clean energy jobs are growing even faster than other sectors.

California, according to the BLS, added almost half a million jobs in 2014. This happened at the same time that the state has put into effect a wide range of policies to fight climate change, including placing a legal cap on greenhouse gas emissions and making industries pay for the emissions they produce.

According to Walker,

The number one argument against policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has always been that these policies will hurt economic growth. And yet… and yet… California’s experiences, reinforced by these recent job growth numbers, demonstrate that the opposite may be the truth… Moreover, we looked at numerous indicators to see how the state’s economy was doing while cap-and-trade was taking off, and our conclusion? Good, and getting better. The state’s GDP grew by over 2% in 2013, and overall job growth outpaced the national numbers.

We are also seeing evidence that much of California’s robust job growth is happening because of – rather than despite – the state’s commitment to climate change. Between 2002 and 2012, California’s clean energy jobs grew ten times as quickly as jobs in the overall economic sector.

Unpacking the numbers is a big task, and there are a lot of factors at play. California’s economy has been growing for a while, and although its unemployment rate has been improving, it’s still one of the highest in the nation. Also, climate change policies, including cap-and-trade, are relatively recent. But these latest numbers do seem to show that those policies aren’t slowing down the California economy–which is larger by far than any other state in the US.

Job growth and growth in GDP are two indicators of economic health. “A third one, which has salience to political leaders,” said Walker, “is that California has received more investment in clean energy [industries] than any other state.” Make that more than all the other states combined, according to the CleanTech Group.

Not only that, but early indications are that the climate change policies are succeeding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more…

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What Does the “Failure” of the Ban on Fast-Food Restaurants in South L.A. to Curb Obesity Really Tell Us?

Young men play basketball during the Summer Night Lights program at the Jordan Downs rec center. It's one of the few opportunities for young men to be out late at night. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Young men play basketball during the Summer Night Lights program at the Jordan Downs rec center. The program provides one of the few opportunities for young men in the housing development to be out safely late at night. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“Yea, everything [is] OK…I hope all is well with you. I’m upset right now & crying because I’m starving. Have no food.”

I stared at the message on my phone. I had just checked in with 19-year-old South L.A. resident Shanique* to see how she was. I had interviewed her earlier in the summer and we had stayed in touch. Her family struggled quite a bit after the loss of her stepfather to a drive-by, the loss of her pre-teen brother to a walk-up (shooting), and being terrorized into silence by her brother’s killers, who lived nearby. Her mother’s disability — incurred years earlier on the job as a postal worker — coupled with a recent cancer diagnosis made it impossible for her to work.

And Shanique’s own promising progress in school had been halted by the trauma of a rape perpetrated against her in her own home at age 14 by the friend of a cousin. When her grades began to drop, instead of being offered extra help and counseling at her high school, she had been asked to leave. She was also shunned by her cousin’s family and friends and intimidated into dropping charges.

She was now struggling her way through a continuation school and working part-time at a grocery store. She was eager to find more work to help support her mother, as her hours were constantly being cut or adjusted, but this was made more difficult by a felony conviction. When Shanique’s best friend had called her on the day before her 18th birthday to ask if she could pick her and another friend up, she neglected to tell Shanique that they had just attempted to break into a home. Although the police could see from the surveillance footage that Shanique had not been anywhere in the vicinity of the incident, she says, the public defender told her flat-out that he was busy with murders and didn’t have time to prepare such a trivial case.

“They could have at least charged me as a juvenile!” she had fumed to me at the time.

Instead, she was stuck with three years’ probation, $5000 in court fees, and a felony strike that would have made it practically impossible for them to qualify for affordable housing when their rent suddenly jumped from $500 to $1600 (when, according to Shanique, the daughter of their landlord decided she wanted access to the property).

The combination of all these things meant that money often ran out well before the end of the month.

But I guess I still hadn’t expected things to be so dire.

Panicked, I immediately dialed her number.

The phone rang.

And rang.

Finally, she picked up.

Too upset to talk, she hung up almost immediately.

She texted me that she would probably go to the rec center about a mile from her house to see if she could get food from the Summer Night Lights program there — they usually grilled hotdogs for the community. She’d done it before, she said. She’d be OK.

* * *

Shanique came to mind as I read the 7-page study on the failure of the 2008 ban on the opening of new, stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A. to curb obesity there and the subsequent myriad stories and think-pieces dedicated to questioning the value of the ban, pointing out that obesity appears to have risen between 2007 and 2011 (from 63% to 75% of the population), decrying the nanny state and paternalism, and wondering what made a ban seem like a good idea in the first place.

Shanique, you see, despite suffering from hunger on a pretty regular basis, is obese.

Read more…

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Comparing 20 Years of Housing Growth in American Cities

Here’s an interesting way to visualize how different regions are growing (or not). Using a tool developed by the University of Virginia Demographics Research Group, Michael Andersen at Bike Portland shares these charts showing where housing growth has happened relative to city centers. The dark brown lines show the number of occupied housing units at one-mile intervals from the urban core in 2012, and the orange lines show the distribution in 1990. The gap between the lines tells you where housing growth has happened, and there is huge variation between regions.

In Denver, for instance, you can see that housing growth was concentrated between eight and 20 miles from the city center:

Image: Bike Portland

Denver: The orange line shows occupied housing units in 1990. The brown line shows 2012. Image: Bike Portland

In other places — especially large, in-demand coastal cities like LA — housing growth has barely changed (note that the y-axis is scaled differently in each chart):

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Cyclists, Hikers Urge Park Advisory Board To End Griffith Park Parking Trial

Standing room only crowd as park users rallied to opposed Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Standing room only crowd as park users rally to oppose Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, over a hundred people who walk or bike in and near Griffith Park attended the Griffith Park Advisory Board meeting to express opposition to a current 3-week trial allowing cars on formerly car-free Mount Hollywood Drive. In an attempt to deal with the problem of “too much traffic,” the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) has opened one mile of Mt. Hollywood to driving and parking.

A month ago, that quiet park road was off-limits to cars, and home to people on foot and on bike, and even coyotes and other wildlife. Today, it serves a parking lot.

DRP Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan stressed that spring break was the heaviest time of the year for Griffith Park, with car traffic sometimes backing up onto adjacent surface streets. “There’s a ton of people coming and there always will be” Regan stated. His statements tended to conflate “people” solely with cars and parking.

With the large standing-room-only crowd in attendance, and more than 50 speaker cards on the Mount Hollywood Drive item, the park board decided to cap testimony at 20 minutes.

Nobody spoke in favor of the pilot.

Many people expressed their deep affinity for Griffith Park’s serene car-free roads as a respite to the car-centric streets of Los Angeles. Weighing in against the trial were representatives from cycling organizations, including the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Finish the Ride, Ride to Recovery, and the city’s Council-appointed Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Though cyclists comprised the majority of the opposition, hikers and equestrians also expressed frustration with the trial. Friends of Griffith Park board president Gerry Hans spoke on his organization’s strong opposition, reiterating concerns raised in the FoGP’s comment letter [PDF].

A few speakers attributed the park’s worsening traffic problems to Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. LaBonge has had a heavy hand in steering Hollywood Sign tourist traffic away from the well-heeled Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, re-focusing it instead toward Griffith Observatory, then spilling onto Mt. Hollywood Drive.  Read more…

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Two Key Factors That Can Make or Break a Bike-Share Network

What if you could dramatically increase the usefulness of a bike-share system without adding any bicycles or docks? Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business have come up with a model that they say could help even the most successful bike-share systems in the world get more bang for the buck.

Paris' Velib bike share could attract 29 percent more riders if a few key changes were made, researchers estimate. Photo: Wikipedia

Researchers estimate that even Paris’s much-used Velib bike-share could attract 29 percent more riders by optimizing the location and size of stations. Photo: Wikipedia

The Booth School team focused on two factors: station accessibility (or how long it takes people to get to a station) and bike availability (or having at least one bike to check out at a station). After collecting minute-by-minute ridership data from 349 stations in Paris’s highly successful Velib system over a four-month period, they modeled the effect of these factors on ridership.

Researchers found that decreasing the distance to access stations by 10 percent boosts bike-share trips by about 7 percent, while a 10 percent improvement in bike availability can increase system usage about 12 percent.

Interestingly, given a fixed number of docks and bikes, improving the accessibility of a network can diminish its availability, since the system would have a larger number of stations spaced closer together, but each station would be smaller. The inverse is also true — designing for greater availability can reduce accessibility.

However, networks can be optimized taking both accessibility and availability into account. In the researchers’ model, simply rearranging existing Velib bike-share docks — adjusting the size and location of stations — could attract 29.4 percent more trips.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Cyclists Show Up To Protest Griffith Park Trial Road Takeover By Cars (L.A. Weekly)
    Windshield Reporting: Pity the Poor Tourist Unable To Access the Hollywood Sign (KTLA)
    New Petition: No Cars On Mount Hollywood Drive (Change.org)
  • Cool 1980s Renderings Of L.A. Subway Stations Never Built (Curbed)
  • Metro Is In the Affordable Housing Business (KPCC)
  • Supervisor Solis Opens Three County Parklets in East L.A. (Pasadena Star News)
  • CiclaValley Takes Aim At Studio City’s Planned Sportsmen’s Lodge Development
  • Permit Parking Coming To Echo Park (Curbed)
  • Driver Plows Into Sun Valley Hotel (Daily News)
  • Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Makes Chandeliers Out Of Cast Off Bike Parts (LAT)
  • The Latest Look At Metro Bus Ridership Trends (Let’s Go L.A.)
  • New Plan For Papermate Site: Suburban Office Park (Santa Monica Next)

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Metro Studying Arts District Red/Purple Line Subway Extension

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro’s outgoing CEO Art Leahy spoke enthusiastically at last week’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee about potentially extending the Red and Purple Line subways into the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The new station or stations would take advantage of existing tracks in Metro’s Heavy Rail Maintenance Yard, which extends southeast of Union Station, sandwiched between the Arts District and the Los Angeles River, mostly between First and Fourth streets, but extending all the way from the 101 Freeway to below Sixth Street.

The item didn’t even rise to the level of full Metro board approval; the board committee merely received and filed a Metro staff report [PDF]. That report joins an earlier staff report [PDF] filed in 2010.

There is already a fair amount of detail covered at Downtown News, Urbanize L.A., and the Los Angeles Times, so SBLA will be relatively brief.

It is clear that adding new “revenue service” to this location where empty trains are already going would be a fairly low-cost way of expanding Metro rail service. As Metro extends the Purple Line subway, the agency is already planning upgrades to this maintenance yard.

Metro has committed to running subway trains with two-minute headways, with service every four minutes on both the Red and Purple lines. In order to meet the improved headways, the agency would need to re-tool some of its tracks east of Union Station.

This includes widening the tunnel portal near the 101 Freeway and creating a “turn-back facility.”

As the Metro staff report [PDF] states:

To support increased service levels on the Red/Purple Lines … a turn-back facility consisting of three tracks and two platforms must be constructed within the [maintenance] yard. [… T]o keep trains moving through Union Station, it is necessary to continue passenger revenue service through to the turn-back facility, at which point trains can be cleared and sent back into service. Designing the turn-back facility to also serve as an at-grade revenue station is a cost-effective method for expanding rail service to the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles.

Metro’s next step is to complete its “coordination study,” which is expected this Spring.

What do you think, readers? Should Metro prioritize this relatively low-cost connection? Should there be one stop or two?

 

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Car Storage for a Few Trumps Safe Streets for All in San Diego

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week, taking sides on a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week to discuss a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

A major street safety campaign in San Diego is running up against the fierce territorial instinct that only on-street car parking can instill.

After a two-year public process, a plan to create safe biking and walking access to Hillcrest and other neighborhoods reached a local advisory group called Uptown Planners. The plan calls for adding bike lanes on major thoroughfares, and business owners have objected to the loss of 130 parking spaces. The opponents have also spread misinformation about how the plan will affect car traffic on local streets.

Uptown Planners play an advisory role in local government. At its meeting earlier this week, the NIMBY contingent prevailed, writes Sam Ollinger at BikeSD:

While many of us were out last night testifying and desperately pleading for safer access through along University Avenue to a board that ignored all public testimony for safer streets, except for the comments on using public spaces for private vehicle storage, a 74 year old woman crossing Camino Ruiz in a marked crosswalk suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by an SUV. No word yet on whether the driver has been charged.

Earlier this month, our endorsed candidates Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala were successfully elected to the Uptown Planners at the Community Planning Group election. But last night’s meeting was a special meeting and Brennan and Heiskala haven’t yet been seated — so they were unable to vote on the issue.

Uptown Planners ended up voting 10-0 against the proposal, essentially saying that bike lanes should go elsewhere and calling for the project to start from scratch, with “mitigation for any loss of parking.” Ollinger says the outcome disregarded plenty of testimony at the meeting:

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Today’s Headlines

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120 Groups Call for More Funding for Active Transportation Program

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California should invest more to increase biking and walking, say community groups and advocates. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A broad coalition of organizations called today for California to increase funding for walk and bike projects. More than 120 organizations signed a petition urging the state to increase its investment in the Active Transportation Program (ATP), citing cost savings and health benefits from better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the low level of funding currently available.

The ATP provides $300 million biannually for projects that encourage people to take trips by bike or on foot, including infrastructure (paths, lanes, sidewalks, crossings) and programs (education, safe routes to schools). In the last round, announced in the fall, many more projects applied for the program than could be funded, leaving over $800 million worth of ready-to-go projects on the table.

“We know that 20 percent of trips by Californians are on foot or by bicycle, but despite the overwhelming demand for projects that create safer streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, the state Active Transportation Program still only receives around one percent of Caltrans’ annual budget,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Senior Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The 120 organizations that have signed on so far [PDF] include community and advocacy organizations that focus on health, walking, biking, the environment, equity, and economic policy. Several cities also signed the call for more funding.

The coalition emphasizes cost savings from investing in active transportation, which are less expensive to build and require less maintenance per trip than highways. It also refers to the recent Smart Growth America report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, that presents data on community economic benefits from better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

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