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Get Ready for Streetsblog Denver

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I’m pleased to welcome the newest member of the Streetsblog collective: Starting Monday, you can get news and commentary about safe streets, effective transit, and walkable development in the Mile High City by pointing your browser to Streetsblog Denver.

Streetsblog Denver arrives at a pivotal moment. The city is growing at an incredibly rapid pace, and it desperately needs streets and transportation policy that respond to these changes with intelligence and foresight. While there’s a huge grassroots appetite for walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and excellent transit access, for the most part the city’s streets remain stuck in the cars-first status quo. Working with an energetic advocacy community and the support of dedicated readers, Streetsblog Denver aims to change that.

Streetsblog Denver is run by a new, Denver-based non-profit of the same name, under the umbrella of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center. The site is possible thanks to the generous support of The Gates Family Foundation, the New Belgium Family Foundation, Zeppelin Development, Joel Noble and Julie Hock-Noble, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Editorial guidance and technical support come from Streetsblog’s main office in New York. Many thanks to Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek for getting the ball rolling.

Streetsblog Denver editor David Sachs

Streetsblog Denver Editor David Sachs

Leading Streetsblog Denver is editor David Sachs, who lives in Congress Park. David brings a background in journalism, communications, and political organizing to the job. As editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times in Virginia, he regularly covered transportation and development. David’s been hard at work cultivating sources and generating story ideas, and starting next week he’ll be cranking out posts every workday.

Denver came of age in the highway era, and its streets still reflect that. Wide, car-centric roads like Colfax, Broadway, Colorado, and Federal feel more like Autobahns than functional urban streets. Key measures of street safety are heading in the wrong direction, with pedestrian deaths on the rise. While the city has a reputation as a bike-friendly place, the truth on the ground doesn’t measure up — bicycling on Denver’s high-speed streets will get your pulse pounding for all the wrong reasons.

While transportation planners have done well connecting the region’s suburbs to downtown via rail, it’s not enough. The Regional Transportation District still caters to Denver’s suburban past. Its rail lines circle the city but barely penetrate it. For city dwellers, Denver’s neighborhoods remain fragmented by a landscape designed for cars, without effective transit to connect them.

But as a young city, Denver is also very capable of envisioning a new way of doing things.

Read more…

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Meet Your New Streetsblog L.A. Editor – Joe Linton!

Joe Linton has been a fixture in the L.A. bicycling scene for over two decades. In that time he’s founded the L.A. River Ride, co-founded the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, worked in key early leadership roles at CicLAvia and C.I.C.L.E., served on the board of directors of Friends of the L.A. River, Southern California Streets Initiative, and L.A. Eco-Village, and has worked to grow non-profits throughout the city.

Me on the left with Mary Leigh, Joe on the right with Maeve. Photo at the 2014 Complete Streets Day by Aaron Paley.

Me on the left with Mary Leigh, Joe on the right with Maeve. Photo at the 2014 Complete Streets Day by Aaron Paley.

As of last week, he has a new title to go with all the rest: Editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles.

Anyone who isn’t closely checking the titles on our business cards is probably surprised to find out that Joe wasn’t already the editor. Joe has been writing more articles than anyone else for well over a year and has been representing our organization at events throughout Los Angeles that aren’t held within walking distance of my house or in the South L.A./Boyle Heights communities that Sahra Sulaiman covers as part of our grant with The California Endowment.

But, I held on to that title for far too long after it was apparent that Joe had taken over most of the editorial work because, well, because it’s an awesome title. A friend of mine jokes that the Regional Connector is her first child (as opposed to her human child). If that’s true, than Streetsblog L.A. will always be my virtual child, even if I’m making coo-coo noises with Santa Monica Next, LongBeachize, and Streetsblog California.

In the meantime, Joe has taken over most of the editorial and day-to-day writing that makes Streetsblog what it is. He’s been both a groundbreaking reporter covering stories that fall through the cracks of legacy media outlets and a tireless voice for reform where other advocacy organizations leave off. But even before he joined our staff, he was a founding Board Member and first Board Chair of the Southern California Streets Initiative, the non-profit that took over the fundraising and editorial for Streetsblog L.A. in 2010. Read more…

Streetsblog NYC
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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?)

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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…

Streetsblog NYC
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Changes at Streetsblog in 2015

When Streetsblog launched in 2006, the site made an impact almost immediately. The daily scrutiny of NYC transportation agencies and elected officials created new opportunities for policy reform, leading to real change in the design and operation of our streets. It wasn’t long before advocates from out of town contacted Streetsblog about bringing this model of advocacy journalism to their cities, and where we could assemble the resources to pull it off, we did. In the course of a few years, Streetsblog became a truly national voice for overhauling our car-based transportation system.

With growth come risks. Our team knows how to make an impact with our reporting and commentary, but like many other media outlets, we’re still figuring out how to make the business of our journalism work. This process isn’t a straight line — there’s bound to be some trial and error.

In 2015, we’re making key changes based on what we’ve learned so far. While this will entail some difficult transitions, the new approaches Streetsblog is adopting position us to continue making an impact in more places over the long run.

Yesterday, we announced that Streetsblog Chicago is suspending publication after two excellent years of coverage from John Greenfield and Steven Vance. We hope this will be a temporary situation as John rustles up the financial support to revive the site under the umbrella of a new 501(c)3 separate from OpenPlans, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog. (In Los Angeles, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton weathered the same transition a few years ago by starting up the Southern California Streets Initiative, which today runs a thriving local transportation news site at Streetsblog LA.)

Given current budget constraints, we’ve also had to cut two other valued members of our editorial staff, Tanya Snyder and Payton Chung.

We hired Tanya in 2010 as editor of our national site, called Streetsblog Capitol Hill at the time. Her leadership and energy built it into a compelling news source, with a broad and influential audience.

Tanya learned the ropes of federal transportation policy with alacrity, culminating with her coverage of the MAP-21 bill. Then she proceeded to steer our national coverage in new and varied directions under the Streetsblog USA banner. Tanya plugged her readers into the movement for transportation reform from coast to coast, delved into fresh topics like car-free parenting, and started up a new content platform in the Talking Headways Podcast. We’re going to miss her tremendously.

For the last year, Payton’s analytical skill and deep policy expertise added depth to the reporting across several Streetsblog outlets. While you may not have seen his byline frequently, as editor-at-large, Payton shaped content all over Streetsblog USA, Streetsblog Chicago, and Streetsblog SF every day. I count the three-part series on privately financed highways he produced with Angie Schmitt last November as the best piece of reporting that Streetsblog published in 2014.

Going forward, Angie will be directing Streetsblog USA coverage. She has a nose for stories that get at the heart of why transportation policy needs to change, and a keen eye for visuals that grab people’s attention. I’m excited to see where she takes the site from here.

For a small non-profit news organization, these are not minor changes. While Streetsblog’s core operations remain securely funded with a mix of support from individual contributions, foundations, and ads, we have resolved to adopt a few key shifts in strategy.

First and foremost: We have to adjust our expansion model. We continue to receive strong interest from advocates who want to bring Streetsblog’s brand of advocacy journalism to their cities, and we want to work with them to make that happen. Streetsblog LA points to the way forward: In the LA model, OpenPlans offers editorial expertise and a technical platform to a local partner organization who employs the reporters, instead of OpenPlans taking on everything in-house. We hope to replicate this model with John Greenfield’s reboot of Streetsblog Chicago, and in other cities where potential partners have reached out about starting up Streetsblogs.

The other change is to make better use of our capacity to generate revenue from ads. Streetsblog reaches a sufficiently large audience that ad sales are viable on a much larger scale than we’ve pursued to date. We can’t afford to leave that revenue on the table. It may be jarring at first, but more ads on Streetsblog will mean a healthier news organization in the long run, one that can better achieve its mission of connecting people to information about the movement for livable streets.

Thank you for reading and supporting Streetsblog as we embark on these changes.

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Very Light Publishing Today In Observance of Veterans Day

Celebrate our servicemembers! Image via pixabay

Celebrate our servicemembers! Image via pixabay

It’s Veterans’ Day!

SBLA’s platoon of hardworking writers are taking some R&R from their daily toil in the War on Motorists. We will publish very lightly today in observance of the holiday.

We’ll be back back in the trenches tomorrow, and publishing full days of stories and headlines the rest of this week.

Coming up this week:

Full week’s transportation and livability calendar here.

Streetsblog NYC
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Peak Sprawl? The Fringes of the New York Region Are Shrinking

Image: Rutgers University

While the urban core shrank and the fringes grew between 1950 and 1980, the inverse has been true since 2010, with urban counties growing fastest, and counties on the edge of the region losing population. Image: Rutgers University

A new report out of Rutgers University [PDF] reveals that since 2010, the fringes of the New York region have lost population as the core has grown, a reversal of the sprawling pattern that predominated starting in 1950, when the suburbs grew and the city shrank.

The report compares regional growth between 1950 and 1980 to the three-year trend gleaned from the most recent available data, covering 2010 to 2013. Authors James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Joseph J. Seneca, a professor at the school, say recent shifts may signal the beginning of a long-term change toward more compact growth, while acknowledging that it’s too early to conclusively say so.

In 1954, Hans Blumenfeld published “The Tidal Wave of Metropolitan Expansion” in the Journal of the American Institute of Planners, using demographic trends in the Philadelphia area to accurately forecast a surge of growth for suburban counties in the coming decades. The Rutgers report could be an early indication that a new chapter in regional growth is already underway.

Read more…

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Congratulations, Melanie! Protected Bike Lanes Story a Finalist for Major Award.

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We just got word from California State University’s Center for California Studies that Melanie Curry is one of three finalists in the “blog category” in their 20th Annual Journalism Awards.

Curry is earning recognition for “Protected Bike Lanes Grow in CA as Cities Face Down Old Concerns.” Published in July during the midst of hearings on now-passed legislation that makes it easier for municipalities to create protected bike lanes, it explained the history of this street treatment in California. The legislation passed both houses of the legislature, and will hopefully be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the near future.

We’ll find out where Melanie places on October 2, but feel free to congratulate her in the comments section right now. In addition to everyone else in the state, this piece beat out works by writers at three Streetsblogs, Santa Monica Next, and LongBeachIze.

Of course, award-winning journalism isn’t free. You can also congratulate Melanie by making a donation to Streetsblog at http://la.streetsblog.org/donate.

Streetsblog NYC
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EPA Rejects New York’s Clean Water Money Grab for Highway Bridge

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the $510.9 million federal loan New York state had requested from a clean water program to pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. Only $29 million worth of TZB work is eligible for clean water money, the EPA’s regional office ruled, averting a dangerous precedent that could have let governors across the country raid environmental funds to pay for highways.

Building a new highway bridge with clean water funds? Forget about it, says the EPA. Photo: D. Robert Wolcheck/Flickr

Using clean water funds to replace this highway bridge? Forget about it, says the EPA. Photo: D. Robert Wolcheck/Flickr

“New York’s request presents a unique circumstance that is unprecedented… no other state has made a request of this type or magnitude,” wrote Joan Leary Matthews, regional director of EPA’s clean water division [PDF]. “There is no evidence… that the [Clean Water State Revolving Fund] was intended to fund mitigation for major construction projects within an estuary. Construction activities arising from transportation projects do not advance water quality, and CWSRF funding should not be used for these purposes.”

The Thruway Authority had planned on using the $510.9 million loan on twelve projects. Today, EPA rejected seven of those projects, totaling $481.8 million, because they are directly tied to building the new bridge. The projects deemed ineligible are: removal of the existing bridge, dredging for construction vessels, armoring the river bottom, installation of an underwater noise attenuation system, construction of a bike-pedestrian path on the new bridge, restoration of oyster beds, and the installation of a falcon nest box.

The state will be able to receive funding for five projects, totaling $29.1 million: the restoration of Gay’s Point and Piermont Marsh, the installation of stormwater management measures, and the creation of a conservation benefit plan, including an Atlantic sturgeon outreach program.

Environmental advocates and good government groups staunchly opposed the loan, saying that allowing clean water funds to be used for highway construction would set a dangerous precedent. “It’s great that the agency in charge of calling balls and strikes has called the state out,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “But we shouldn’t have gotten here in the first place.”

Read more…

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Job Opening: Paid Internship for South L.A. Student-Journalist

Veronica Hernandez, our summer 2012 intern, Antonio Villaraigosa, Damien Newton. Photo: Barb Solish

Streetsblog L.A. Looking for Student Leader from South L.A.

As part of our grant from the California Endowment, Streetsblog Los Angeles is looking for a student-journalist, age 17-21, who was born or lives in South Los Angeles for a four-month paid internship that would begin in early- to mid-October.

The winning candidate will work with Joe Linton, Damien Newton, and Sahra Sulaiman and, by the end of the session, will have published stories profiling civic leaders, covering community events, and attending City Council meetings, as well as a special research project of their choosing.

Applicants must have reliable and regular Internet access (we are an online publication, after all), two writing samples, and a reference from a English or writing teacher or advisor to a student publication. Some college coursework or published writing experience is preferred.

This is a paid position. The winning candidate should expect to work 5-15 hours per week and the stipend will depend on the hours the student can put towards the project. Applications are due by the end of September. Send your application, writing samples and cover letter to damien@streetsblog.org

In addition, he's got great taste in clothes. That's Joe on the right. Photo: Siel

Our first intern, Carter Rubin (left), now works for Mayor Garcetti and is a Santa Monica Housing Commissioner. Here, he mans the sign-in table for our “re-launch” party in August, 2010, with Joe Linton. Photo: Siel

Streetsblog NYC
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New Report Out of NYC: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone

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Injuries are down across the board on protected bike lane segments with at least three years of post-implementation crash data. The total number of injuries for cyclists dropped slightly even as the volume of cyclists on these streets increased, leading to big drops in what DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Chart: NYC DOT

In sync with Bicycling Magazine naming New York America’s best biking city, the NYC Department of Transportation released a report this week full of stats on the safety impact of protected bike lanes. It’s the most robust data the city has released about this type of street design, and the results prove that protected bike lanes make streets safer not just for cyclists, but pedestrians and drivers as well.

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had six years of before-and-after data for the study. Image: DOT

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had at least three years of post-implementation data and were part of this analysis. Image: DOT

For this analysis [PDF], DOT looked at protected bike lanes in Manhattan with at least three years of post-implementation crash data: segments of Broadway and First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Columbus Avenues. These streets saw big growth in cycling and major improvements in cyclist safety. The safety benefits extended to all road users, with total traffic injuries dropping 20 percent and pedestrian injuries down 22 percent.

The biggest improvement on these streets is in the diminished likelihood that a cyclist will suffer an injury — a metric DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Because injuries tended to fall or hold steady while cycling increased, most of the streets saw cyclist risk drop by more than a third. On Broadway from 59th Street to 47th Street, for example, bike volumes jumped 108 percent while crashes with injuries fell 18 percent.

The best results were on Ninth Avenue between 23rd and 16th Streets, where cyclists were 65 percent less likely to be hurt after the protected bike lane was installed. Only one of eight segments, Broadway between 23rd and 18th Streets, saw an increase in cyclist risk.

Read more…