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CA Transportation Choices Summit Tackles Policy Issues

The California Transportation Choices Summit, held in Sacramento this week, was an opportunity for sustainable transportation and public health advocates to spend the day learning about current state policies and legislation in the works to change them.

Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, discusses bike infrastructure on a pre-summit bike tour along the Sacramento River. Photos: Melanie Curry

This year’s summit was titled “2014: A Year of Opportunity.” The “opportunity” comes in the form of new funds from cap-and-trade and current discussions in the legislature about how to spend that money. As Streetsblog has reported, these funds are intended to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including projects that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit.

The annual summit is hosted by TransForm and a long list of partners across the state including ClimatePlan, MoveLA, Circulate San Diego, the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, National Resources Defense Council, and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In addition to discussing current policies, the learning day prepared attendees for TransForm’s “Advocacy Day,” in which participants meet with State Assembly members and their staff to talk about the issues that matter most to them and push for legislation.

Summit speakers laid out facts about funding, discussed trade-offs between spending on different programs, and urged everyone to share their personal stories about why their issue is important. “Let’s pull those heart strings,” said Elyse Lowe of Circulate San Diego, “so we can do a better job advocating for good transportation policies.”

Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, created an “applause-o-meter” to gauge summit attendees’ views on trade-offs between funding categories. He asked participants to applaud for the categories of activities they thought were most important: planning; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; transportation demand management programs like shuttles, carpool programs, and guaranteed ride home programs; affordable homes near transit; and transit capital and operating costs.

The audience, mostly comprised of savvy transportation advocates, applauded for all of these categories, although there two clear “winners”: affordable homes near transit and transit capital and operating costs. These also were the most expensive categories, according to Cohen’s estimate of how much it would cost to fully fund needs in these areas: $6 billion for transit and $100 billion for housing. Read more…

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Metro’s “Short Range Transportation Plan” Meetings Start Today

Goodbye, articulated buses. Photo: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metro_Rapid_LA_articulated_bus_08_2010_331.jpg##Wikimedia##

Goodbye, articulated buses. Photo: Wikimedia

Starting this evening and continuing during the next two weeks Metro is holding community meetings seeking input on its Draft 2014 Short Range Transportation Plan and the companion technical document.

Metro describes the plan thusly:

… a ten-year action plan that guides our programs and projects through 2024. It advances us towards the long-term goals identified in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, a 30-year vision for addressing growth and traffic in Los Angeles County.

Among the revelations of the technical document on page 29 is the following:

Articulated and extended length buses are assumed phased out over the Plan time frame. Metro is
standardizing on 40-foot buses as the maximum vehicle size. While this will increase operating costs,

it is expected to be offset by a reduction in acquisition and maintenance costs.

I understand Metro CEO Art Leahy has in the past stated his lack of enthusiasm for the articulated vehicles but one wonders how their elimination would impact operation of the dedicated busway services (i.e. the Orange Line and Silver Line). Read more…

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News Bites from BikeLA Webinar: Gap, Parking, Cycle Tracks, Metrolink

Last night, the city of Los Angeles Departments of Transportation (LADOT) and City Planning (DCP) hosted a webinar to introduce L.A. cyclists to what are called the “second year study corridors” for the L.A. City Bicycle Plan. The webinar included a presentation and a question and answer session. The unscripted Q&A yielded a handful of newsworthy tidbits. SBLA will report these newsbites first, then, next week, review bike plan implementation, including the “first year” and “second year” batches.

The York Blvd Bike Lane Gap: Earlier this month, LADOT extended the York Boulevard bike lanes to the edge of South Pasadena. Though the extended York lanes connect with bike lanes on Avenue 66 and San Pascual Avenue, Flying Pigeon lamented the 528 foot gap between L.A.’s York lanes and immediately adjacent bike lanes on South Pasadena’s Pasadena Avenue. LADOT’s Tim Fremaux explained that L.A. had approached the city of South Pasadena and met with their Public Works Commission, which includes John Fisher, formerly of LADOT. According to Fremaux, Fisher “pushed for an aggressive road diet” which would have created a continuous bike lane, but this proposal ultimately voted down by South Pasadena, leaving the gap at the city border.

Bike Parking: LADOT’s Michelle Mowery explained that, due to issues with a contractor bidding process, LADOT isn’t installing their inverted-U bike racks right now. They expect to resume installations this summer. Mowery stated that there was a wait list of about 30 bike corrals awaiting installation. One of the next corrals to be installed will be in front of Laemmle’s movie theater on Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood.

LADOT's San Fernando Road bike path has been designed to accommodate double-tracking the adjacent Metrolink rails. Photo: Rails-to-Trails

LADOT’s San Fernando Road bike path has been designed to accommodate future double-tracking of the adjacent Metrolink railway. Photo: Rails-to-Trails (Note: The  path extends across multiple city jurisdictions and this image might be just inside the City of San Fernando.)

Read more…

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Plaza 2.0: When People St. Plaza Projects are More Than Just Plaza Projects

The future site of Leimert's proposed plaza. 43rd Pl., runs in front of the KAOS Network artspace (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford's film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The future site of Leimert’s proposed plaza, 43rd Place, runs in front of the KAOS Network art space (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford’s film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The request that I sign the petition for Leimert Park Village’s People St. plaza application that landed in my inbox the other day made me smile.

Of all the places in the city I can think of, 43rd Place is probably the most appropriate place for a plaza project and the most likely to be able to replicate some of what makes a space a plaza.

For one, the wide and quiet street, running alongside a sizable park space that already plays the role of public square and anchor of the monthly artwalk, will serve as the welcome mat for several important community arts spaces and galleries (see more about that here, here, and here).

As such, it has the potential to serve as a special-occasion spillover space for those venues, doubling as a temporary performance space, outdoor gallery space, or fitness space (capoeira, zumba, yoga, etc.), or play host other creative endeavors.

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Second, the variety of programming an arts-heavy community offers can draw multiple generations of families. Events including the art walk already have a family-reunion sort of feel to them, as it is. More space to test out interactive street furniture, jump rope, or just play can enhance those events and keep the plaza active in between formal happenings.

Third, located within spitting distance of Crenshaw Blvd. — a newly designated “Great Street” — and the coming Metro stop, it will likely serve as an important rest and/or contemplative spot for those exploring the neighborhood.

For these reasons and more, community members have voiced a strong desire to see the creation of a permanent installation that celebrates the area’s cultural and architectural/art deco heritage while also reflecting their hopes for its future as a creative district.

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves (and a Sankofa in each corner). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

It is an approach that puts them slightly at odds with the People St. framework, which offers year-long renewable permits for communities looking to install plazas, parklets, or bike corrals in their neighborhoods, and has a limited menu of standardized design options intended to make the permitting and implementation processes easier. While the program supports the eventual conversion of the installations into permanent fixtures, the initial project itself must be designed as if temporary (i.e. no permanent furniture or public art).

Cognizant of the limits of the program, but still thinking longer-term, the stakeholders appear ready to find the resources to fill in the gaps between what the city can offer and what they need to adequately showcase their community.

They’ve done this sort of thing before.

In late 2007, a five-year effort came to fruition in the form of the Sankofa Passage along Degnan Blvd. (running perpendicular to 43rd Pl.).

The block-length walk is embedded with the names of important African-American artists, stamped with folk art animals, and graced by terracotta African-style planters. The Sankofa birds — Akan (Ghana) symbols signifying the importance of carrying wisdom from your past with you as you move forward — and the slave brands emblazoned around the names of the artists effectively remind you of where you are and who walked before you. Read more…

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Oakland Proposes Parking-Protected Bike Lanes on Telegraph Avenue

Bikes and buses jockey for position along Telegraph Avenue in Temescal. Planners say protected bike lanes are “likely” options on most of Telegraph in Oakland — except for this stretch. Photo: David Jaeger / Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

The City of Oakland has released preliminary design options [PDF] for a redesign of Telegraph Avenue, which include parking-protected bike lanes, improvements to speed up AC Transit lines, and pedestrian safety upgrades. Planners will hold open house meetings to collect input on the design options starting next week.

“We’re very excited they’ve released a lot of different options,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay. “It’s a very robust set of choices and allows people to make an informed decision on the best ones.”

This is the first time Telegraph is being revisited for a redesign since it was taken out of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit route that begins construction this fall. The proposal to extend BRT on Telegraph to Berkeley was dropped after merchants fought to preserve car parking.

The Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Implementation Plan looks at the stretch from 57th Street to 20th Street, a few blocks short of Telegraph’s end at Broadway in downtown Oakland, where the Latham Square pilot plaza was prematurely removed. Under some of the proposals, much of Telegraph could get parking-protected bike lanes (a.k.a. “cycle tracks”) by re-purposing traffic lanes and preserving parking lanes.

Oakland’s project website notes that “despite the lack of bike facilities, Telegraph Avenue is one of the most heavily traveled routes for cyclists, with over 1,200 daily cyclists.”

Bike East Bay is “super delighted to see proposed cycle tracks for a good segment of the street, and think there are some good options as well through the section with the freeway underpass,” said Campbell.

Read more…

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Eyes On The Street: Broadway’s Got New Bulb-Outs

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.'s Broadway "Dress Rehearsal." The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. photo Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.’s Broadway “Dress Rehearsal.” The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Crews are out this week doing striping and new crosswalks for a project called Broadway’s Dress Rehearsal. Broadway is, arguably, Los Angeles’ most heavily pedestrian street. The current project reallocates former car-lane space to make way for pedestrians. It’s no secret that the transformation here is inspired by NYC’s relatively-inexpensive street plazas, including Times Square.

Streetsblog L.A. reviewed the overall project earlier, and subsequently reported on implementation timelines. There’s plenty more project details at Bringing Back Broadway.

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TransForm to Host Third Transportation Choices Summit in Sacramento

TransFormLogoTransForm, an organization that advocates for sustainable transportation, smart growth, and affordable housing throughout California, will host its third annual summit next week to discuss the state’s transportation priorities. The Transportation Choices Summit will take place in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 22, and feature speakers from advocacy organizations including the Greenlining Institute, Move LA, and Safe Routes to Schools, as well as state legislators and representatives from state agencies.

The summit’s agenda includes panel discussions on opportunities and challenges in 2014, including cap-and-trade funds and Caltrans reform. Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), the keynote speaker, will discuss the connection between climate change and equity issues. De Leon authored S.B. 535, passed in 2012, which requires that at least 10 percent of funds earmarked for greenhouse gas reduction go directly to disadvantaged communities, and that 25 percent of them be spent in a way that benefits those communities.

Other highlights from the conference include a breakout session on increasing funding for walking and bicycling, led by Jeanie Ward-Waller, the California Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. Another session will feature Kate White, Deputy Secretary of Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency, who will talk about Caltrans reform with TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen. You can see the other speakers listed on the agenda [PDF].

Two related events will bookend the summit: On Monday, the day before the summit, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates Executive Director Jim Brown will lead summit attendees on two local bike tours. One will showcase the innovative bicycle master plan in West Sacramento. The other will focus on issues around new infill housing in the city.

On Wednesday, after the summit, Transportation Choices Advocacy Day will bring advocates and volunteers to the offices of legislators to talk about biking, walking, transit, and affordable, accessible housing near transit. This event is free and all are invited, but pre-registration is required.

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Memo to Metro CEO Art Leahy: They’re Called Bicycle Boulevards

Fourth Street Bicycle Boulevard design concept  for 4th Street at Catalina Street in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Image: Aaron Kuehn

Fourth Street Bicycle Boulevard design concept for 4th Street at Catalina Street in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Image: Aaron Kuehn

At today’s Metro Sustainability Committee, Metro CEO Art Leahy mentioned that he had visited Portland, Oregon. While there, he saw an “interesting treatment” for low volume streets making them better for bicycling. Leahy stated that cars hadn’t been removed from the streets, but that they were diverted in some places. He said that these low volume streets carry hundreds of bicyclists every day.

Congratulations, CEO Leahy, you discovered Portland’s Bicycle Boulevards.

Get more acquainted with them via this short Streetfilms documentary. Read more…

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Editorial: Why Raise Fares When Metro’s Building Even More Free Parking?

Foothill Gold Line's Azusa-Alameda Station not-so-innovative site plan - 200 more parking spaces coming on line next year. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

Foothill Gold Line’s Azusa-Alameda Station site plan means 200 more surface parking spaces due to open in 2015. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an editorial asking Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking? At the time, I totaled parking for Metro’s BRT and rail lines at 19,450 parking spaces. Despite Metro’s plan to increase transit fares, the agency has no plan to increase parking charges. Metro gives more than 9 out of 10 spaces away for free. I did a conservative estimate of Metro’s parking revenue potential to be at least $3.5 million per year.

Turns out that it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.

Metro’s building lots and lots of lots.

There are 2,435 more Metro parking spaces under construction. When the Gold Line Foothill extension opens in 2015, Metro will break the 20,000 mark with 1,525 new parking spaces. Also in 2015, Expo phase 2 will add 580 new parking spaces. In 2019, the Crenshaw Line will add 330 new parking spaces.

Metro’s overall total rail/BRT parking spaces will climb to 21,885. Using the same very conservative assumptions, I estimate that, with the additional spaces, Metro’s parking revenue potential will be at least $4.3 million per year.

After the earlier article, via Twitter and via the Source, Metro responded with the “doesn’t go far enough” argument:

Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

I’ve always found this sort of assertion to be disingenuous. It’s sort of like being in a boat that’s leaking in five places, and refusing to fix one hole, because it doesn’t fix all of them at once.

Read more…

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How Does LA City’s Mobility Plan Modify Its 3-Year-Old Bike Plan?

LA City Planning Dept graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn't become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

LA City Planning Department graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn’t become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

Streetsblog readers are probably aware that the city of Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) is currently updating the Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan. The Transportation Element has a great deal of influence over what L.A.’s streets look like, and which uses they prioritize.

The new Transportation Element, called Mobility Plan 2035,  has been released in draft form. For a plan overview, read SBLA’s Mobility Plan review, and also read SBLA’s series of Community Voices on the Mobility Plan: part one, two, and three. Read the plan documents and summaries at the DCP’s LA/2B website. DCP just concluded a series of community forums, but is still receiving public comment through May 13, 2014.

In the past, the Transportation Element included a somewhat independent bike section, called the Bicycle Master Plan. In 2011, after much controversy and struggle, the city adopted its latest bike plan, titled the 2010 Bike Plan. That plan is currently in effect, governing what streets are approved for bike lanes, as well as a host of other bicycle related policies.

At its community forum meetings, DCP distributed a handout entitled Where did the Bicycle Plan go? which states, in part:

The goals, objectives, policies and programs of the 2010 Bicycle Plan are incorporated into Mobility Plan 2035, which lays the policy foundation necessary for the City to plan, design and operate streets that accommodate all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. [...]

A few components of the 2010 Bicycle Plan have been modified during the Plan’s integration into Mobility Plan 2035. These modifications were made in order to reflect the latest input from the community, as well as to reflect further refinements of the bikeway system.

The details of the “few components [that] have been modified” are not entirely clear.

Bike Plan facilities have been carried over into the new Mobility Plan, but there’s no clear thorough accounting of what’s in and what’s not in. DCP lists a category called “Deferred Backbone” (the gray oval in their chart above) of 195 miles of streets that were approved in 2011, but, in DCP’s designation, just won’t happen before 2035, so they’re out.

The handout also states that the Neighborhood Network is “relatively unchanged.” Relatively unchanged never quite means a little more bikeway mileage. According to the stated totals, the Neighborhood Network appears to have lost 5 miles. The 2010 plan totals say there will be 825 miles of bikeways. The draft Mobility Plan shows a total of 820 miles: 50 miles in the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN) plus 770 miles in the remaining Neighborhood Network.

Which 5 miles are missing? Or was new mileage added, and more than five deleted? It’s hard to tell. It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

Read more…