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By 2015, Nearly One in Five Angelenos Won’t Have Access to Transportation

(Tanya Snyder at Capitol Hill Streetsblog covered the report from a national standpoint, her article is here.)

It’s the stuff of nightmares.  As people grow older, they face the fear that as their body ages, they will have fewer and fewer options to help them get from one place to another.  Denied this basic right, they eventually find themselves isolated in their homes, with few options to interact with other people on a daily basis.  According to a new report from Transportation for America, by 2015 over 15.5 million people over the age of 65, including 17% of senior Angelenos, will face this dilemma.

The report, Aging in Place: Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation.  Our local population will continue to age and without continued investment in transit services that address their needs to access the healthcare, goods, and services they depend on seniors that are no longer able to drive will find themselves increasingly isolated.  Los Angeles is a city in the middle of the pack when it comes to senior mobility, but that doesn’t mean the city can rest on its laurels.

What does a lack of transit for seniors mean?  It means less living, and less life span.  Seniors who no longer drive take 15% fewer trips to doctor, 65% fewer trips to see loved ones.  If you take away their transit options, those numbers rise dramatically.

“Older adults rely heavily on public transportation for a greater share of their trips and want to stay in their homes and communities where they are closer to friends, family and vital services.  As the aging population increases, improving access to public transit services is critical.  It’s a lifeline for many elderly and low-income Californians who want to remain independent, but don’t have a car or are unable to drive.  We hope this report will continue the dialogue on mobility options that addresses the needs of our aging population,” said Charee Gillins, Associate State Director of Communications, AARP California.

The analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology evaluates metro areas within each of five size categories.  It shows that in just four years, 480,000 seniors in our region will live in neighborhoods with poor access to options other than driving, an increase of 118,000 over the year 2000. For metropolitan areas of more than 3 million people nearby counties of Riverside and San Bernardino will rank as the second worst in the entire country, behind only Atlanta.  69 percent of seniors will face poor transit access in these counties.  In Los Angeles, the number of seniors facing this hard reality will increase by 51 percent.

The city and county find itself in a bit of a good news/bad news situation.  The good news is that the promise of Measure R and the 30/10 (America Fast Forward) program should bring plenty of rail options to seniors around the city and county.  The bad news is that Metro, and City DASH, is both cutting service and increasing fares at an alarming rate.  On June 26, the 305,000 hours of bus service passed back in the March Metro Board Meeting. Read more…

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Transportation 4 America Report: Federal and Local Governments Need to Address Pedestrian Safety

Every circle represents a half mile radius from a school. Every red circle shows the highest possible danger to pedestrians based on state statistics. The map is of "Central Los Angeles." To download more maps, click here.

This morning, Transportation for America (T4A) released a report, “Dangerous by Design” which gives a state-by-state ranking of how dangerous each state is for pedestrians.  While there are certainly worse states to take a walk in than California, 6,957 Californians died (of 47,700 nationally) while walking as result of a crash between 2000 and 2009.

Locally, the news isn’t any better.  The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region ranked as the 27th most dangerous place in the country to take a walk; more dangerous than every California region except the Riverside-San Bernadino region and Greater Sacramento.  2,533 pedestrians were killed in the Los Angeles region between 2000-2009.

However, the reality of pedestrian danger really strikes home when looking at a new series of maps released by the State of California and University of California-Berkeley that break down how dangerous it is to walk to school based on the number of pedestrian collisions within one half mile of a school.  That sea of red pictured in the map above is a jarring look at the main barrier to promoting walking and bicycling to school.  In too many areas, parents believe it just isn’t safe.

Predictably, where one lives and how much money one makes are the top factors in determining how safe it is to talk to school, or work, to do errands or just for exercise.  T4A notes that low-income and minority communities are most likely to feel the brunt of poorly designed streets imperiling pedestrian lives. Read more…

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Two Important Transit Bills Moving in Sacramento

Two Sacramento lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve access to transit. Maybe they ride Sacramento's efficient light rail system pictured above. Photo:Free Foto.com

(Ryan Wiggins is Transportation for America’s an on the ground in Southern California.  Last week he presented a primer on transportation funding at “Expanding Our Public Transit Options: Resources to Keep LA Moving Forward?” a Salon put on by Breathe L.A.  He was nice enough to share his notes with us in a two-part series.  Today we’ll focus on some legislation moving in Sacramento.  Yesterday Wiggins gave an overview of the federal picture. – DN)

Earlier this year, the State of California reenacted the state fuel tax which is viewed by T4A partners as a positive development. This maintains transit funds at $330 million – meaning that there have been no more cuts proposed this year; however, if the state budget process fails i.e. the revenue mechanisms/taxes proposed by Governor Brown are not enacted then cuts to state transit funds could once again be on the table

Transportation for America doesn’t take positions on state and local issues; however, partners such as Transform are taking a leadership role on state transit issues with the goal of making California’s public transportation networks more expansive and efficient.

There are several bills being proposed this year in the state legislature but two that have the possibility of increasing ridership, access to transit, and overall farebox recovery. Read more…

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A Federal Funding Primer from Transportation for America

An altered billboard from a 1983 promotional campaign in San Francisco. For the full story behind the billboard visit Found San Francisco

(Ryan Wiggins is Transportation for America’s an on the ground in Southern California.  Last week he presented a primer on transportation funding at “Expanding Our Public Transit Options: Resources to Keep LA Moving Forward?” a Salon put on by Breathe L.A.  He was nice enough to share his notes with us in a two-part series.  Today we’ll focus on the federal picture.  Tomorrow on the state one. – DN)

Before 1983 all funds dedicated to transit came from the federal general fund through appropriations.  In 1983 the Mass Transit Account created 1.0 cent gas tax which was raised in 1993 to 2.86  cents per gallon.  The federal gas tax has not been raised since.

Federal transit programs such as New Starts, which is responsible for many of the nation’s major transit projects, and the newer TIGER program come from the general fund, not the gas tax, and are subject to the annual DC budget battles

For the most part federal transportation funds only fund capital projects and not operations.  The major exception is for urbanized areas under 200,000 people where some capital funds can be flexed into operations.

Two bills were introduced last year to address the increasing operating deficits that transit agencies have been facing as a result of the economic downturn, more fuel efficient cars, and people in general driving less that have decreased state revenues to cover operating expenses forcing agencies to cut services in a time when demand for transit has increased.

The first is HR 2746, introduced by Russ Carnahan (D-Missouri), that would allow regions with populations over 200,000 to use a portion of their formula transit funds to cover operating expenses. This bill does not require additional federal revenues and received significant bipartisan support in the last Congress.  It is possible for inclusion in the reauthorization of the federal bill this year. Read more…

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Behind the Numbers: California’s Bridges Might Be Worse Off Than We Think

Earlier this week, Transportation for America released a report on the state of America’s bridges.  Capitol Hill Streetsblog broke down those numbers yesterday, but the numbers for California were even worse.  According to “The Fix We’re In For: The State of California’s Bridges,” 11.8% of California bridges are “structurally deficient” and this figure will continue to rise as an entire generation of bridges approaches their 50-year life expectancy. Additionally the top ten most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in the nation are in the greater Los Angeles region.

All images via Transportation for America

Transportation for America is using the buzz created by their reports to pressure government leaders to prioritize a “fix-it-first” ethic in to the next federal transportation bill.  Local organizer Ryan Wiggins writes, “In the next federal transportation bill we must make caring for our existing infrastructure a core principle. It is key to our public safety and economic security.”

But just using federal funds won’t be enough for California to address it’s growing bridge crisis on its own.  To its credit, California already uses all of the federal dollars available for bridge repair for bridge repair.  To keep our bridges in a “state of good repair,” the highest mark a structure can receive, California officials will need to spend more local and state dollars on bridge repair, maintenance and evaluation.  In the 1970′s, Governor Brown basically halted highway expansion to support transit.  To make sure funding is secured for a “Fix-It-First” campaign of the needed magnitude, highway expansion might need to go back to the back burner.

In addition to the coming crisis as more and more California bridges hit the end of their original life-expectancy, some engineers question whether we even know how bad our crumbling bridge crisis is today. Read more…

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How the Information Age Can Make Streets and Transit More Efficient

In Pittsburgh, elderly para-transit riders get automated phone calls with the precise arrival time of their vehicle. Bus priority lanes and preferential traffic signals in the Twin Cities are improving on-time service. Here in Washington, DC, stored value on SmartTrip cards pays for Metro parking, train and bus, and it can sync with pre-tax employee transit benefits. In San Francisco, dynamic pricing varies parking rates based on supply and demand, reducing traffic and helping people find available parking spaces.

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In the future, we won't all be zipping around in our little hovercraft bubbles (as imagined by Disney in 1958)...

All of these transportation improvements are happening already – they’re examples of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) that are being heralded in a new report as a way to set the bar higher for transportation efficiency. Transportation for America, ITS America and other groups have teamed up to urge Congress to include technological enhancements in its transportation policies. They’re hoping these changes can help us get more out of our streets without building sprawl-inducing highways.

parking_sensor

...but we will be cutting traffic with parking sensors that allow cities to set curbside prices based on demand. Top image: Paleo-Future. Bottom image: SFPark.

ITS is a catch-all phrase for the ways digital technology can be applied to all modes of transportation. There are familiar forms of ITS on highways. E-ZPass has been around for about 15 years already. Electronic highway signs warning of delays or detours are becoming commonplace. Now, Google traffic maps supplement radio reports to help drivers pick more efficient routes. Add to the mix Zipcar and other car-sharing services, or vanpools with real-time tracking, and ITS becomes not just a method to move cars more efficiently, but to make streets more efficient by taking cars off the road.

“The technologies already exist,” says Lilly Shoup, the report author at T4A. “Now it’s a matter of being more strategic in integrating them throughout the transportation network.”

Read more…

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T4America: We Want You

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If you're a regular Streetsblog reader who's been looking for a career in fighting for transportation reform, have I got news for you.  Transportation For America, the organization that's looking out for us in the nation's capital, is looking to hire a field organizer for Southern California.  The requirements?  Knowledge of Southern California's communities, a passion for advocacy, two years of experience as a political organizer and an ability to work with, manage and grow a diverse coalition.

You can read all about the job opportunity at their jobs page.  Just tell them that Streetsblog sent you.

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The National Perspective: New Report Maps the Gap Between Pedestrian Risks and Federal Safety Aid

dangerous.pngThe top 10 most dangerous cities for pedestrians. (Chart: Dangerous by Design report)

If the equivalent of one jumbo jet full of Americans died every month, the resulting public outcry would be deafening. Or would it?

Anne Canby, the former Delaware transportation secretary who heads the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP), raised that question today as her organization helped unveil a new report on the nation's pedestrian safety outlook. In fact, Canby said, nearly 5,000 U.S. pedestrians die every year in traffic crashes -- but the resulting public health risk has yet to register as an urgent national issue.

The report released today, a joint effort by STPP and Transportation for America (T4A), ranks the nation's most dangerous cities for pedestrians and bicyclists according to a "danger index" that factors in the number of residents who walk to work.

The top 10 most dangerous areas (viewable above) were all located in the south. Florida has the dubious distinction of hosting the top four riskiest cities, though the study's authors noted that the state's large percentage of retirees were not disproportionally represented in fatality data.

The rankings are likely to be troubling for residents of the most dangerous cities, but the report's rundown of federal safety spending paints just as lackluster a picture.

Since the 2005 transportation bill took effect, according to the report, U.S. cities with populations greater than 1 million have spent an average of $1.39 per person in federal money on pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Under the 1998 transportation bill, the same U.S. cities spent just $0.82 per person in federal money -- a rise that today's report deems "a vast improvement" but Canby finds lacking.

"Safety for pedestrians has not really advanced a great deal over this period," Canby told reporters today, adding that walking and biking have yet to be "regarded as full forms of transportation."

Pedestrian and bicycle safety is often funded through Transportation Enhancements (TE), a program that sets aside 10 percent of each state's aid from Washington for green transport. But as Streetsblog Capitol Hill reported last month, TE took a disproportionate hit when congressional inaction forced the cancellation of $8.7 billion in state DOT contract authority.

Read more...

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Transit Cuts Report Underscores Cities’ Congressional Influence Gap

In a report released this morning, Transportation for America (T4A) expands on its months-long effort to map transit cutbacks across the nation and concludes that 10 of the largest 25 local agencies are being forced to hike fares by more than 13 percent.

stranded_cover_309x400.jpg(Photo: T4A)

T4A's report illustrates the punishing effect of such cuts on transit riders, many of them low-income workers, with a set of well-trammeled statistics: demand hit a 50-year high in 2008; every dollar invested in transit produces an estimated $6 in economic growth; transit is far safer than car travel and provides greater public health benefits.

But when it comes to the political battle over remaking national transport priorities, T4A's transit cuts map -- viewable right here -- speaks loudest of all.

Transit fare increases and service reductions, T4A found, are concentrated in major cities and along the coasts. And as the current health care conflagration has shown, lawmakers rarely wield political power that's commensurate with the share of the population they represent.

As the Washington Post's Alec MacGillis catalogued in a commentary last week, Senate influence is particularly concentrated in the hands of small-state denizens such as Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D) of Montana, who fought to remove a provision helping transit agencies with punitive tax shelters from last year's auto bailout bill.

Per MacGillis:

And then there's the Senate's age-old distortion of distributive politics, in which goodies are doled out on anything but a per-capita basis. California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey are among the 10 states that get the least back per tax dollar sent to Washington; Alaska, the Dakotas and West Virginia are among those that get the most.

In that context, it's not surprising that federal support for metro-area priorities such as transit is so perilously thin. Even in the House, where urban representatives lead several key committees, transit backers have yet to convince the Ways and Means panel to move forward with a solution to the immense revenue gap that has stalled progress on new long-term transport legislation.

Read more...

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Does Your Commute Suck? Tell Us About It.

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This morning our friends over at Transportation for America are launching a new site called My Commute Sucks, designed to give people around the country a place to vent their frustration over the nation's overburdened and inefficient transportation systems. Commuters can share their tales of commuting woe, upload photos and videos, and also take action by contacting members of Congress to ask for a more sane and sustainable approach to transportation policy.

Already the stories are starting to pile up. Here's one from a New Jersey commuter named Betty:

The Garden State Parkway in New Jersey is a nightmare, just like Jersey's other main arteries.

I would love to bike to the train, but the town of Little Silver doesn't have safe cycling roads. Pedestrians are also at risk on some of the very busy, sidewalk-free and shoulderless roads. 

Finally, the trains are a mess with many discontinuous lines, requiring bus/taxi/light rail connections between stations. ugh 

Build bikeways and we will come! Fix the trains and we will ride!

Brian Fellows asks:

Why should we tolerate 1- and 2-hour commutes?  Think how much time we spend away from our families, burning fossil fuels, and getting stressed out -- every day, every month, every year.  The quantity is staggering.  Even now, just 5 months after the start of our metro area's light rail system (which people are flocking to!) it still takes me an hour to get to work.  Building more lane-miles simply induces more people to drive -- and there you have it: even more traffic.  I would like Congress to attach requirements to highway money that mandate recipients/states to design higher-density and mixed-use development along the highway corridors. 

Go ahead and add your own story. The site has lots of interactive features, including a Twitter feed for micro-rants (tag with #mycommutesucks). You can also follow them on Twitter, they're @mycommutesucks.