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Streetsblog NYC 48 Comments

NYC’s First Speed Cameras Will Go Into Effect When Kids Head Back to School

Mayor Bloomberg joined Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller outside a Crown Heights high school this morning to announce the impending launch of the city’s first automated speed enforcement program. Cameras issuing fines for drivers who exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more will begin operating on September 9, when students head back to school, though for the first few weeks the program will only send violators warnings.

On Eastern Parkway this morning, Bloomberg addressed the need to enforce the NYC speed limit. Photo: @JohnSurico

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC last year, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Still, the state law enabling automated enforcement of the speed limit — which passed after several previous attempts had died in Albany — includes several restrictions. The city has just 20 cameras to work with, and they can only be placed within a quarter-mile of schools. They can’t be operated at times when classes or after-school activities are not in session. On the plus side, the city will be able to move the cameras to different locations, providing some flexibility that should help reduce egregious speeding on a greater share of NYC’s 6,000-mile street network.

To prevent motorists from selectively slowing down near known camera locations, the city is not disclosing the locations of these enforcement cameras. However, the site of today’s press event — W.E.B. DuBois High School on Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue — is “a candidate to receive speed camera technology nearby due to a high crash rate in its vicinity,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“Keeping streets safe for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is one of the most important public safety challenges any government faces,” Bloomberg said in the announcement. “Our streets are the safest they have ever been, due in large part to our enforcement efforts and innovative traffic engineering that have brought traffic fatalities to record lows. Curbing speeding around schools will help us continue to make our City’s streets safer for everyone.”

The cameras will start monitoring speeds on the first day of the school year, September 9, but the mayor’s office says the $50 fines for violators won’t start until a few weeks later:

DOT will begin the five-year program with a combination of fixed and mobile cameras at unspecified locations, which will be determined based upon factors such as crash and injury data, rates of speed and road geometry. During the initial weeks of the program and in order to send a message to speeders, DOT will only issue warning notices to motorists found on camera to be speeding in excess of 10 or more miles above the posted speed limit before eventually issuing $50 fines for the offense. Violations would be issued to the vehicle owner and will be adjudicated by the New York Parking Violations Bureau.

Streetsblog NYC 18 Comments

Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street

Streetmix lets users mix and match design elements to create the street of their dreams. Image: Streetmix

Last fall, Lou Huang was at a community meeting for the initiative to redesign Second Street in San Francisco. Planners handed out paper cutouts, allowing participants to mix and match to create their ideal street. Huang, an urban designer himself, thought the exercise would make for a great website. Now, after months of work beginning at a January hackathon with colleagues at Code for America, it is a great website.

The principle behind Streetmix is simple: it brings drag-and-drop functionality to a basic street design template. Users select a road width and add or remove everything from light rail to wayfinding signs, adjusting the size of each feature meet their specifications.

“It’s a little bit like a video game,” collaborator Marcin Wichary said. ”We were very inspired by SimCity.”

But Streetmix is more than just a fun way for amateur street designers to spend an afternoon. “What we want to focus on is, how can this enable meaningful conversations around streets?” Wichary said. “For many people it’s a kind of entry point.”

The first version of Streetmix went online in January, but the latest version, which has new features and a slicker design, launched less than two weeks ago. In that short time, advocates have used the website to illustrate possibilities for Dexter Avenue in Seattle and Route 35 on the Jersey Shore. Streetmix has profiled how people from Vancouver to Cleveland use the website. Residents of Sioux Center, Iowa, even used Streetmix illustrations in their campaign to stop the state DOT’s road widening plan in their town.

“It’s giving power back to the people, allowing them to vocalize what their streetscape priorities are,” Huang said.

Read more…

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Meet Tyler Hakomori, the Newest Editor of Streetsblog LITE

For the next couple of months, you might notice a difference at Streetsblog LITE. For the first time since last summer, we have a volunteer intern who will be running our tumblr…so say hello to Tyler Hakomori.

Tyler is a rising senior at Santa Monica High School. He is an avid cyclist, runner, and tennis player, who has ridden his bike for both transportation and recreation as a member of Velo Club La Grange. He hopes that, through his interaction with Streetsblog, he will learn more about what it takes to be an activist in the current social and political climate.

For those of you that haven’t checked out Streetsblog LITE again, it’s a great place to see the pictures, images and videos created for Streetsblog and by the groups that we regularly cover without all the boring text I write around them. LITE was founded by Veronica Hernandez, who interned with us last summer and also completed a project examining the growing bicycling network in Downtown Los Angeles.

If you have a suggestion for us to publish on LITE, send you suggestion to tips@la.streetsblog.org or send a message via twitter @streetsblogla.

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Streetsblog Wins Two Awards from L.A. Press Club (Update, 4:40)

When we first decided to submit for Los Angeles Press Club Awards, I was just hoping we would place in the top three once or twice. Not that I didn’t think we had some great stories, from Sahra’s photography and groundbreaking “Listening to the Streets” series, to Kris Fortin’s vivid profiles of the Ovarian-Psycos Bicycle Brigade to some of my own “slightly more opinionated pieces,” I thought we had a solid set of entries.

Sahra, Fidel, Damien. Photo: Marybeth Miceli Newton

When our seven nominations were paired down to three finalists, I was just hoping to get our name mentioned once or twice at last night’s awards ceremony.

So, last night was a very pleasant surprise. Even when a friend on the Press Club staff hinted to me on Friday we “had good reason to come,” I was still thinking we were going to get a third place, or honorable mention. After all, our work was up against Forbes, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. The amazingly in-depth series on the life of Fidel, an ernest young man who extricated himself from a life as a gang member, will remain one of the best pieces of journalism on any Streetsblog site ever…but it was up against profiles of pretty famous people such as Bon Jovi and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

But last night turned out to be Streetsblog’s night.

Sahra won “Best Personality Profile – Online” for her amazing three part series covering Fidel, a then 19 year old Business Administration student who began running with crews in elementary school. The series also explores how the traditional view of a “Livable Street” can be forever altered when one has reason to be scared of going for a walk in his own community. Read the entire three part series, here: “It’s a Small World,” April 4, 2012, “Are You Ready to Rumble,” April 27, 2012, and “Listening to the Streets,” August 9, 2012.

Making the evening even more special, Sahra brought Fidel as her guest for the evening. I have to believe that seeing how many people are moved and inspired by his story provided a moment he won’t forget. A congratulations to both Sahra and Fidel are more than in order. If nothing else, it was a pleasure meeting such an amazing young man with such a great future.

Don’t Let MyFigueroa! Get Lost in the CRA Shuffle, a piece I wrote begging the city to not screw up the golden opportunity to make real change on South Figueroa Street just because the Community Redevelopment Agency in-charge of the project collapsed was awarded “Best Non-Political Commentary – Online” from the Club. I didn’t get to give a speech, but if I did I would have to thank Deborah Murphy. Her passion, knowledge and contacts for MyFigueroa! drove and informed my work on the project over the years, and I never would have written as good a piece without her help.

Three other thoughts from last night. Read more…

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Notes About Streetsblog: Sahra’s Promotion, Streetsblog Summer Series, New Ads, Tomorrow’s Schedule

Every now and then, we like to update readers on a couple of internal things both because you all seem to like what’s going on and because we value transparency. So, without further adieu…

1) We’re undergoing a small staff shuffle. Kris Fortin is leaving as our Boyle Heights/East L.A. writer to pursue other interests.  You’ll still see him from time to time as he’ll be freelancing with us and continuing to work on our film series. Kris provided great coverage for us in East L.A., and we wish him well in his non-Streetsblog projects.

Instead of going through rehiring process for the Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles position, we decided to promote Sahra Sulaiman to a new position of Community Editor. She’ll be writing in both East and South L.A.. Because it’s impossible to be in two places at once, there will be a team of freelancers helping her out on a regular basis. We’re excited to see how this develops, as Sahra is a unique talent…something I think you all know.

2) Speaking of videos, you might notice it’s been awhile since we posted a new video, broadcast a Live Stream, or hosted a live Google Hangout/YouTube conversation. That’s going to change as I’m working with intern Matthew Tinoco on the “Streetsblog Summer Series,” a 10-part set of Google Hangout broadcasts set to begin on Monday, June 24 at noon. We’ll be discussing the incoming administration with some of Garcetti’s campaign volunteers and people that have worked with his office over the years. We’ll have more information on our lineup early next week.

3) You might have noticed a new advertisement on the right hand column or on the top of the website for Terranea, L.A.’s Oceanfront Resort and thought, “that’s odd, when did Streetsblog start getting ads from resorts.” Read more…

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Your Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane Photo Contest Winner Is…

Photo by Glen Primm

Glen Primm, the author of Postcards from L.A. and a professional photographer in his own right, is the winner of the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane photo contest. Grimm’s piece is actually the masthead of said blog, and it earned $300 more than the next closest picture at Saturday night’s fundraiser.

I asked Glen to send some thoughts, including how he took the picture. They are available after the jump, and his Streetsblog prize bag is in the mail.

I’m a native Los Angeleno and a car nut, but I like bikes and think cyclists deserve respect and room to ride, so I was actually pretty excited when they announced the lanes for downtown. For years commuters have been using Spring and Main streets as extensions of the freeways and blasting through downtown at crazy speeds. That might have been OK ten years ago when downtown was basically empty, but we have upwards of 40,000 residents downtown now, many with children, and a heck of a lot of them use bicycles. A perfect setup for bad news, any way you look at it. The bike lanes funnel the cars, which slows them down, and as time as gone by, it seems that car commuters have learned that our downtown streets are no longer a speedway, and the volume of traffic is much less.

Read more…

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LA 2050 – Some of the Best Ideas for Los Angeles’ Future Livability

A couple of weeks ago, GOOD and the Goldhirsh Foundation announced a series of ten $100,00 grants to people, organizations and non-profits that have an idea and plan to make Los Angeles a better place. The applicants submitted their plans last week in eight different categories: arts & cultural vitalityeducationenvironmental quality,healthhousingincome & employmentpublic safety, and social connectedness.

Learn more about the projects and programs by clicking on the image.

Even though we’re part of one of the grants, objectively we have to say that there are many applications that would improve the livability of the city. Since there are 279 applications and ten grants available, many of the deserving applications aren’t going to be funded. So, Streetsblog is devoting our entire coverage for today to saluting the great applications. I’ll be reviewing the city-wide livability grants below, and Sahra Sulaiman and Kris Fortin will be covering ones in their geographic areas later today.

In the end, it will be public votes that decide the winner. Just a note, you can only vote once, even though there will be 10 winners.

Without futher adieu, let’s get to it:

What’s the BF(B)D? Connecting Neighborhoods through Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts
by Green Octopus Consulting, LACBC, Streetsblog Los Angeles
Indicator: Social Connectedness

Quote:”Bicycle-friendly business districts improve local economies by strengthening connections between residents and their local businesses, increasing small business revenues, and improving neighborhood vitality and connectedness, all the while improving public safety, environmental health, and GLH – Gross Local Happiness.”

Learn more and vote, by clicking here.

Hey, I’m Walking Here! Celebrating Pedestrians in the City of Los Angeles
by Los Angeles Walks
Indicator: Health

Quote: “But the solution is not simply to get more people walking—it also requires that streets & sidewalks be redesigned to protect pedestrians from roadway traffic, slow down cars & trucks, & keep walkers feeling safe. With these ideas in mind, LA Walks proposes to launch “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” (or in Español, “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!”)—a campaign which will not only increase pedestrian safety, but also highlight & celebrate walking as a conscious act that’s happening all over the city.”

Learn more and vote, by clicking here.

Building Blocks LA: changing the shape of Los Angeles through imaginative urban planning Read more…

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Call for Interns! Looking for Young, Bright, Livability Advocates for Some Summer Fun

If you’re young, and smart, and motivated, and interested in promoting the idea that “Streets Are for People,” then Streetsblog Los Angeles is looking for you.  We have three different types of internships available designed for people of different skill sets…just because you’re not a writer doesn’t mean we can’t work together.  Do you want to spend your summer with Streetsblog? Let us know.

Here are the three types of Internships we offer:

1) Writing Internship – The succesful applicant will start with smaller projects, updating the calendar section, writing “Today’s Headlines” and “The Week in Livable Streets Events,” but over the course of the summer will progress to event coverage. In August the intern will have a chance to work on a larger research based project.

2) Social Media Intern – Help us update our Streetsblog LITE tumblr, tweet @streetsblogla, maintain a Facebook page, Live Stream events at Streetsblog TV and edit video for StreetsTube. Are their social media we’re missing? Let us know.

3) Fundraising/Events Intern – During the summer we’ll host at least two fundraisers and you’ll get to help us reach out to sponsors to make those events great. We’ll also be creating a new database to track donors and exploring options to expand the Streetsblog L.A. to other parts of the city.

While we don’t have the funding to offer a stipend, we will work with the winning candidates to help them earn credit with their school and understand they will require a flexible schedule. Interns get out of the program what they put in. Also, Streetsblog will reimburse any costs (travel, equipment) provided that the expense is approved ahead of time.

Interns are generally given assignments and our staff and board will work with you to make sure your projects are succesful. However, we don’t chase after volunteers who can’t, or don’t, meet deadlines or become unresponsive. Some of our interns have had great success as a direct result of their work, Carter Rubin turned a writing internship into a part-time job at The Source, and Veronica Hernandez had an opportunity to interview Mayor Villaraigosa.

Interested applicants should email a resume and work sample to damien at streetsblog dot org.

Streetsblog Chicago 31 Comments

Coming Next Week: Streetsblog Chicago

After setting up transportation news sites covering New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and national policy, next Tuesday Streetsblog will be expanding for the first time in four years with the launch of Streetsblog Chicago.

The reporters producing Streetsblog Chicago are John Greenfield and Steven Vance, who have built an impressive audience for local transportation and planning news at their current site, Grid Chicago. As writers and planners, they’re both veterans of the city’s movement for livable streets. With the additional resources Streetsblog affords them, John and Steven will be creating a wide-ranging, daily news source where Chicagoans can plug in to efforts to improve walking, biking, and transit. Initial funding for Streetsblog Chicago has been provided by The Chicago Community Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, local advertisers, and a generous anonymous donor.

Steven Vance and John Greenfield

Streetsblog will be launching at a moment when expectations are high for progressive change to the city’s streets. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, have rapidly expanded the city’s bike network, installing 12.5 miles of protected bikeways and 14.5 miles of buffered lanes since coming into office less than two years ago. Advocates believe upcoming Bus Rapid Transit projects could set a national precedent, showing other American mayors they shouldn’t shy away from giving street space to BRT. The Chicago Transit Authority is working on a major rehab of the Red Line and looking into extending it. Klein has made it the city’s explicit goal to eliminate traffic deaths by 2022. With so much happening in Chicago right now, there’s no such thing as a slow news day.

Streetsblog will track these developments, informing Chicagoans about how to get involved in the upgrades to their streets. We’ll explain changes so it’s clear, for instance, why converting motor vehicle lanes into exclusive transit lanes will pay off, and why this makes the city more livable. There’s a long way to go to re-orient Chicago’s streets toward effective transit and safe walking and biking, and getting from here to there won’t be simple or quick. Streetsblog will help map the route. If a columnist in search of pageviews starts ranting about a “war on cars,” we’ll be there to set the record straight, and if it looks like the city’s decision makers are going off-course, we won’t hold back from saying so.

We’ll also be raising the profile of issues that have yet to pick up steam in City Hall or Springfield. The CTA just raised fares, and its precarious budget situation still looms over riders who make 1.8 million transit trips each weekday. While the regional planning agency, CMAP, has a smart long-term plan called GOTO2040 with no shortage of ideas for funding a healthy transit system, political traction for those solutions has been in short supply. Chicago remains burdened by parking minimums that impede walkability, and the region has yet to prove it can consistently leverage its transit system — which in addition to the CTA includes Metra commuter rail and the Pace regional bus network — to produce smart development that puts people first, not cars. Streetsblog Chicago will be looking into these issues in Chicago proper and its suburbs, which have major potential for transit-oriented growth and walkable, bikeable streets.

The Chicago region is blessed with a deep roster of livable streets advocates, whom we expect to feature regularly in our coverage. The Metropolitan Planning Council — whose executive vice president, Peter Skosey, has been indispensable in bringing Streetsblog to Chicago — advances a better transportation network for metro Chicago, from regionally significant infrastructure projects to neighborhood-scale placemaking initiatives. The Active Transportation Alliance is working neighborhood-by-neighborhood throughout the Chicagoland region to build safe, efficient, multi-modal streets. And the Center for Neighborhood Technology produces research with a national scope about housing, transportation, and community development. We’re looking forward to working with all of them to make the case for change.

Most of all we’re excited about connecting with readers who want to see Chicago and its suburbs become better places for walking, biking, and transit. If you’ve got a story you’d like John and Steven to cover, drop them a line. And keep in mind, to maintain Streetsblog Chicago going forward, we’re going to need support from our readers. So if you get in the habit of reading our Chicago coverage, we hope you’ll drop something in the tip jar when the pledge drives roll around.

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Damien Will Appear on Huffington Post Live Today at 2:00 p.m.

L.A. Streetsblog Editor Damien Newton will appear on Huffington Post Live today at 2:00 p.m. to discuss how local bus issues are impacting the national transit scene. You can watch at http://live.huffingtonpost.com/. Once the video is available for embedding, we’ll post it here on Streetsblog.

(Update: Looks like Huffington Post Live doesn’t believe in embedding. Here’s a link to the 34 minute discussion:  http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/503b8c312b8c2a0c4100035c)