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New Draft Spending Plan Increases Highway Dollars

Yesterday, the Bottleneck Blog reported on the breakdown of highway expenditures that Metro is proposing if the proposed half cent sales tax increase is successful in this fall’s election. Snoble was most likely trying to counter some of the spin coming out of the San Gabriel Valley that they are getting less than their fare share of the sales tax dollars. In addition to funds for the Gold Line extension to Azusa, the San Gabriel Valley will also see a $1.7 billion investment in expanding its highway system.

But for transportation reformers, the news was bad. If Metro moves forward with this new budget, the amount spent on highway projects will be increased from 15% to 20% of the entire tax. Presumably the money will come from the "Local Return" budget line, further reducing the amount of funds available for bicycle and pedestrian projects. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no discussion of setting aside any of the budget for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

To read the full text of Snoble’s letter, read on after the jump. For a breakdown of the highway expenditures by region, check out the Bottleneck Blog.

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Damn the Gas Prices, Full Road Widenings Ahead

Despite concerns from residents living adjacent to the highway that a highway widening of Route 57 would ruin their quality of life, officials from the Orange County Transportation Authority and Caltrans will not change their plan to widen five miles of highway in Orange County.  The transportation officials pushing the project argue that reducing congestion will improve air quality by reducing the amount of cars sitting in traffic.

The theory that you can build your way out of highway congestion has been debunked by advocates and DOT's throughout the country.  When capacity is added to a highway, the traffic lanes actually are filled up by new traffic in a matter of years because new sprawl development will lead to more traffic which will lead to calls to widen the highway again.  This is called induced demand, and is proven everyday in Southern California.  How have past highway widenings helped car commutes near where you live?


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Hundreds Show Up to Discuss “Destiny of the Valley”

Zev Yaraslavsky, Joyce Pearson, Stephen Box

Stephen Box reports that last weekend's "Destiny in the Valley" conference, hosted by the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council, was a success. When a community comes out in force to discuss fixing their neighborhood through an improved and integrated transportation network, government agencies and elected officials take notice.

Stephen writes:

As for news, the "Destiny of the West Valley" Community Forum was a tremendous success.

Over 300 people joined us and demonstrated a significant commitment to making Woodland Hills Warner Center a great neighborhood.

The day began with the usual questions about 311 and potholes but after the "Panel of Visionaries" had presented and after Zev had urged them to take charge of their neighborhood, we ended up with an auditorium of community leaders asking "What next, what next?"

What next, indeed?  Unfortunately it takes more than an excited and energized community meeting to redevelop a community.  If they can keep it up, Woodland Hills Warner Center could become a hot bed for Livable Streets and Smart Growth.  To read the Neighborhood Council's press release, read on after the break.



Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council Hosts “Density in the Valley”


The Woodland Hills Warner Center Community faces a tsunami of development. The Westfield Village bulldozers are revving, the Warner Center Specific Plan update is underway and the 3rd densest employment center in the City is besieged with gridlock.

The community needs a plan to fight back and reclaim their streets.  To that end the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Community Council has assembled a panel of visionaries to discuss the problem and elicit feedback from the community at an open meeting this Saturday at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital Auditorium from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The public is invited to join in the discussion on the issues and opportunities that challenge our neighborhood including traffic congestion, urban design, water reclamation, energy conservation, mass transit, accessibility, mobility, walkability and livability.

The panelists includes:

  • Bart Reed, Transit Coalition Executive Director
  • Joyce Pearson, Chair of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council
  • Denny Zane, the former Mayor of Santa Monica during the revitalization of the Third Street Promenade
  • Larry E. Smith, Executive Director of North East Trees

LACBC: Call Your Mayor To Support Bike Resolution


Following the lead of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Conference of Mayors will consider a resolution making the case that bicycling should be integrated into our nation's transportation, climate, energy and health policy initiatives.  They will vote on the resolution at a conference that begins this Friday and ends on Tuesday, June 24.

The LACBC joins the League of American Bicyclists in encouraging cyclists to call their mayors and tell them you want this resolution passed.  The LACBC helpfully supplies the number, 213-978-0600, and email address,, for Mayor Villaraigosa's office.

Of course, Villaraigosa isn't the only local mayor attending the conference, just scanning the list of attendees I see mayor's for Long Beach, Manhattan Beach and San Gabriel will all be present.  Every Mayor has an equal vote at the conference, so make sure to let  your mayor know that biking is important to you in the next couple of days.

Photo: Damien Newton 

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Federal Complete Streets Legislation Gains Momentum


Complete Streets advocates received a double dose of good news this week from Washington, D.C. For the first time ever, Complete Streets legislation is now introduced in both Chambers of Congress after the Safe and Complete Streets Act was introduced in the House of Representative. Meanwhile, the Senate version of the bill received its first Republican cosponsor.

Sacramento Democrat Doris Matsui introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008. Unsurprisingly, Matsui's move was praised by transportation reform advocates, but her office notes that Complete Streets is popular with more than just bike riders, pedestrians and transit users. Her press release, the full text of which is available after the jump, quotes not just leaders of the Complete Streets movement but also clean air advocates and the AARP.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman became the first Republican in either the House or the Senate to cosponsor Complete Streets Legislation. Coleman joins Senators Tom Harkin (D-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Thomas Carper (DUE) as cosponsor of S. 2686, the Senate version of the Safe and Complete Streets Act. Harkin introduced S. 2686 earlier in April.

Complete Streets laws would insure that all federal transportation dollars spent on road projects are used to improve conditions for all potential users of the road, car drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. While Complete Streets has proven controversial nationally, it has been adopted by several states including California, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia.

 The League of American Bicyclists has set up an action alert to help people contact their Senators in support of S. 2686. Currently, neither California Senator is a cosponsor.

A full copy of Matsui's release is available after the jump.



Fix Expo: We’re Going to Court

Enraged by the Expo Construction Authority’s decision to increase funding for an overpass at Culver City and not for a grade separated area by Dorsey High School, the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line (Fix Expo) has obtained legal counsel and intends to sue to Expo Authority to force more grade separations in the South L.A. part of the project.

Fix Expo’s complaint can best be summed up by one paragraph in the press release:

"They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City," said Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners. "They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA. Have they no shame?"

It sounds like the lawyers advising Fix Expo are two heavyweights. One is a former California lawyer of the year and the other a veteran of Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in the consent decree which has guided Metro planning for the last decade, will be heading up the legal team.

A full copy of the press release can be read after the jump.



LA Times Celebrates Road Widening as “Lifesaver”


While the New York Times is discovering a growing livable streets movement in Los Angeles, our Paper of Record’s transportation columnist, Steve Hymon, is ready to throw a party for a road widening project in Eastern Sierra. The widening will double road capacity from two to four lanes for 14 miles between Independence and Big Pine. It should be completed in 2009.

According to the article car traffic is light on the now two-lane stretch of road but that the road’s duel use as a truck route makes it more perilous. Hyman goes into detail about some of the horrific crashes that have taken the lives of motorists and passengers along the route, but in every example given, the fault of the accident lies on drivers who were driving recklessly not road conditions.

For example:

Take, for example, the crash near Olancha last August. A 23-year-old woman from Cerritos was driving a Toyota SUV on the 395.

Stuck behind an SUV pulling a trailer, she tried going around and rammed into a Mazda traveling in the other direction. A 14-year-old girl in her SUV died, as did a female passenger in the Mazda.

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LACBC: If You Want More Bike Facilities, Tell Metro


The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition is urging cyclists everywhere to submit comments on Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan. As we’ve noted here before, Metro isn’t just a transit agency, but also the main transportation planners for LA County. While the current Draft Long Range Transportation Plan is long on deserving transit projects, the total amount of funds that will be available for bicycle and pedestrian projects is between one and two percent of the total budget for the next thirty years.

Of course, the plan is still a draft and changes can be made…which makes getting written comments to Metro by April 25th asking for greater investment in bicycle and pedestrian projects all the more important. The LACBC has put together some talking points and all of the necesary contact information that you can find after the jump.  If you’re interested in reading my testimony, you can find it here.

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Feuer’s Sales Tax and Climate Change Bills Pass Committee

The California Assembly Transportation Committee passed Assemblyman Mike Feuer's legislation that would allow LA County to place measures on the ballot to fund transportation projects.  A.B. 2321 allows for the county to levy an additional half cent sales tax that would go directly to transportation projects after approval by two-thirds of voters.  The controversial A.B. 2558 will allow the county to increase vehicle fees or the gas tax in the name of fighting climate change with majority support of voters.  Both initiatives could be on the ballot this fall.

Passing committee is just a first step in allowing LA County to raise the funds they need to build all of the projects outlined in the Long Range Plan. Before any of these fees will be in place, Feuer's legislation would need to pass the full Assembly, the full Senate, be signed by the governor, placed on the ballot by L.A. County and passed by the voters.

Following a brief debate on whether or not animals should be allowed in the rears of pickup trucks, the Committee discussed A.B. 2321.

After a brief speech by Feuer introducing the legislation, Metro Board Member Richard Katz and a representative from the San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce both testified in favor of the bill.  Disappointingly, both testified about how the new funds would impact on automobile congestion. There was almost no discussion of how the funds could be used to provide alternatives to the automobile. When others were given the chance to briefly voice support for the legislation, CALPIRG representative Emily Rusch quickly commented that these funds could be used for a lot of deserving transit projects.