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In the Inland Empire, Freeway Overpasses Can Win Urban Planning Awards

Such a beautiful site! This freeway interchange pays tribute to the nearby Air Force base. Image: Falcon Engineering Services

This freeway interchange offers eye candy for jet pilots using the nearby March Air Reserve base. Image: Falcon Engineering Services

The American Planning Association advocates for excellence in planning. But to judge from the awards given by its Inland Empire chapter, sometimes the notion of “excellence” is in the eye of the local beholder. The chapter gave its 2015 Urban Design Award to a sprawling freeway interchange where Van Buren Boulevard crosses over I-215 in Riverside.

As Jason Arango points out on GJEL’s blog, there are a lot absurdities about this award:

  1. It’s not urban–the overpass is located in the middle of a field.
  2. It ignores walking and biking. For pedestrians, there is one long 90-foot crosswalk. For bicyclists, there’s a bike lane –in only one direction–that requires bike riders to cross two lanes of accelerating freeway onramp traffic.
  3. There is literally nothing special about it, says Arango. “Some airplane designs that are barely visible from the freeway pay tribute to the nearby Air Force base. But that’s it. . .If anything, it embodies and reinforces the status quo.”

Furthermore , writes Arango:

By giving this project a Best Urban Design Award, the APA Inland Empire Chapter is encouraging a precedent of dangerous, automobile-centric 1950s design that doesn’t meet the needs of 21st century cities. While the safety hazards of this design might not seem to matter that much, it’s going to last a long time. If the Inland Empire continues to develop in a sprawling, car-centric manner (like the APA Chapter seems to encourage), this interchange could ultimately serve as yet another barrier to active transportation.

Boo, Inland Empire APA. If your vision to be “leaders in initiatives regarding the economy, environment, and equity,” is truly “the measure by which we want to be judged,” as the APA website claims, then we’re judging. And this award is a fail.

Note: GJEL are sponsors of Streetsblog San Francisco. We were first alerted to this story on Twitter.

Via Streetsblog California
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Thursday Registration Deadline For Caltrans Planning Conference In L.A.

Sign up by Thursday to attend Caltrans Planning Conference xxx

Sign up by Thursday to attend Caltrans Planning Conference December 2-4 in L.A.

This Thursday is the deadline to sign up for Caltrans’ 2015 California Transportation Planning Conference: Partnering for Sustainable Transportation. The conference will take place from Wednesday through Friday December 2-4 at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Some of the #CTPC2015 conference highlights include:

  • Presentations by Caltrans leadership including:
    – Malcolm Dougherty, Director of Caltrans
    – Kome Ajise, Chief Deputy Director, Caltrans
    – Carrie Bowen, Caltrans District 7 Director
  • Speakers including numerous livable transportation leaders:
    – Seleta Reynolds, General Manager, Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT)
    – Bill Fulton, author of The Reluctant Metropolis and Guide to California Planning, now head of the Rice University Kinder Institute of Urban Research
    – Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary, United States Department of Transportation
    – Will Kempton, Executive Director, California Transportation Commission
    – Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Cabinet Secretary and Senior Advisor, Office of the Governor
    – many more including: Juan Matute, James Rojas, Michele Martinez, Stuart Cohen, and Rick Cole
  • tour of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC)

Caltrans’ Jacqueline Hodaly emphasizes that the 2015 Planning Conference will be a great way to get up to speed on lots of new legislation and programs – from the latest federal transportation bill, to recent CA legislation, to statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction initiatives. Hodaly emphasizes that this year’s conference will not be overly top down, but will feature open discussion formats where participants can dialogue with experts and with each other. There will be an emphasis on partnerships, focusing on how leaders, agencies, businesses, communities, and others can work together to implement multi-modal projects, active transportation solutions, and great places. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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News from the Bike Summit: Caltrans Launches Statewide Bike and Ped Plan

Screen shot 2015-10-29 at 2.44.44 PM

California Bicycle Coalition director Dave Snyder watches Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty, right, as he addresses the California Bicycle Summit.

We’re still digesting all the reports and conversations that occurred at the California Bicycle Coalition’s biannual bike summit in San Diego this week. In addition to some very hard conversations about equity and diversity in bike advocacy—a subject that needs its own report—there were more planner-y presentations about on-the-ground bike issues. Caltrans was very active at the summit, with various Caltrans employees giving presentations on bicycle safety goals within the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, new sustainability goals for the department, and the Active Transportation Program.

And at a rousing lunchtime speech on the last day of the summit, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty announced the launch of the first statewide bicycle and pedestrian master plan.

The plan, which is just in its beginning stages, is slated to be a policy plan, “not a list of projects,” according to program manager Scott Forsythe. It won’t be completed until February 2017. So far the website has been launched and a technical advisory committee is being formed.

Dougherty began by saying it was great that California moved up from ninth to eighth on the League of American Bicyclists’ 2015 ranking of “bicycle friendly” states. “But this is California,” he said. “How is it that we are not the runaway number one bicycle-friendly state?”

He also addressed the question of whether the Active Transportation Program is adequately funded. Advocates have been saying for years that the amount of money going to the ATP—about one percent of the state transportation budget—is too little, given that the state bicycle mode share is higher than that. “Over a decade, the amount of money going to the ATP will add up to about $1 billion,” said Dougherty, “and it’s way oversubscribed. But the ATP is not, and should not be, the only investments we make in active transportation,” he added, to enthusiastic applause.

He mentioned the main statewide transportation funding plans, the State Highway Improvement Plan (STIP) and the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP), and said those plans “need to take all modes into account in transportation projects. Why? To enhance livability and the economy,” he said. “Not car throughput.”

It could have been a little strange to hear the head of Caltrans saying that, given that Caltrans has been the source of much of the car-centric planning in the state. But changes happening at Caltrans headquarters in the last year or so—if not necessarily trickling down to the local districts—have been sounding pretty good for bicyclists and pedestrians. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Do Gas Prices Impact Transit Ridership? Sure. But There’s More…

A group of USC students under the tutelage of Professor Lisa Schweitzer produced the above chart, which seems to show a direct correlation between gas prices and ridership in Southern California. Simply put, when gas prices fall, so does transit ridership. When gas prices rise, so does transit ridership. The equation is not that simple; correlation does not mean causation. But is there a causal thread between gas prices and transit ridership?

While the above chart ends in 2014, a look at the existing data for 2015 shows the basic trend continuing. This chart, provided by Los Angeles County Metro shows that gas prices in the region have fallen since 2015. Their year-to-year ridership comparison also shows a dip in overall ridership.

But that is not proof enough for Steve Hymon, the editor of Metro’s in-house news blog The Source and a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist from his last gig at the Los Angeles Times. At The Source, Hymon writes:

There has been a lot written over the years about the relationship between the cost of gas and ridership. While others have certainly echoed the findings above — and it certainly seems intuitive —  the American Public Transit Assn. has lately been making the case that the gas/ridership relationship is eroding in many cities across the U.S. where transit has been expanded (i.e. people are taking transit because they prefer it to driving).

Of course, California’s special blend of gas — intended to help reduce smog — means that gas prices here are always higher than most parts of the U.S. That said, Metro has seen a ridership dip beginning in April 2014. In the time since, gas prices have ping-ponged considerably.

Hymon is referring to statements given by APTA CEO Michael Melaniphy who told Smart Cities earlier this year that, “Despite the steep decline in gas prices at the end of last year, public transit ridership increased. This shows that once people start riding public transit, they discover that there are additional benefits besides saving money.” Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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San Diego Readies to Break Ground on $200 Million Bike Plan

There's a higher-res version of this map at the Regional Bike Plan Fact sheet. ##

There’s a higher-res version of this map at the Regional Bike Plan Fact sheet. PDF

Active transportation planning in the Greater San Diego area has been uneven the past several years. Advocates have sued to stop the long-term regional plan passed by the San Diego Area Governments (SANDAG) because it focuses too much on building carpool and variable toll lanes and not enough on active transportation to meet the state’s greenhouse gas goals.

But yesterday, SANDAG also announced a plan to build $200 million of bicycle infrastructure over the next decade at the California Bike Summit, being held in San Diego this week. Via the San Diego-Union Tribune.

In an interview at the California Bike Summit, California Bicycle Coalition Board member Stephan Vance said other ambitious projects, including a route along to the San Diego River to near Qualcomm Stadium, will be designed by the end of next year.

“Let’s see how much of those we can get finished,” he said. Vance, who is also a regional planner with the San Diego Association of Governments, was speaking as a California Bike Coalition Board member.

These routes are expected to make riding safer so that people who are reluctant to ride will feel more confident, said Andy Hanshaw, the executive director of the Bike Coalition of San Diego County.

Vance seems both enthusiastic about the prospect of so much investment in bicycle infrastructure and wary about the possibility that the region might not follow-through on its promises to invest in the long-term. While funding is a concern, towards the bottom of the article, Assemblymember Toni Atkins rules out the possibility of raising these funds through a direct tax on bicyclists.

For more on the San Diego Regional Bike Plan, visit the SANDAG website here. There’s also fact sheets in pdf format for some of the major projects listed in the Union-Tribune article including the Contra Costa Trail Rail Trail, the Uptown bikeway network and the Mid-City network.


Via Streetsblog California
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The California Bike Summit Is Coming To San Diego This Week

CalBike_Logos_2015_FINAL_color_rgb-300x167We’re getting excited about the upcoming Bike Summit organized by the California Bicycle Coalition. It’s not too late to register for the biannual event, which will take place on October 25-28 in San Diego.

Some of the highlights we’re hoping to catch include:

  • Sessions on Open Streets events like CicLAvia and Sunday Streets, including how to get the ball rolling and the nuts and bolts of creating a successful event. [PDF]
  • An update on the first-ever California statewide bike plan, as well as other work Caltrans is doing to reach its goal of tripling bicycle mode share. The Bicycle and Pedestrian plan is supposed to be “innovative policy level plan—not a listing of projects, but policies that help us move in a direction that will provide for greater mobility and safety within active transportation,” according to project manager Scott Forsythe. “We want to create a user-friendly document that makes sense to the general public but also provides detailed information for planners to use when working locally.”
  • An update from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research on replacing Level of Service with a measure that better reflects a project’s impacts on all road users.
  • Hearing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner, and Bike SD founder Samantha Ollinger.
  • Talking about DIY bike workshops with Cindy Parra and Jason Cater of Bike Bakersfield, among others.
  • Listening to Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Sahra Suleiman talk about how to frame the story of bikes.
  • Listening to Tamika Butler of the LACBC talk about incorporating equity into advocacy work.
  • Hearing about the challenges of connecting local disadvantaged communities to the new 50-mile, car-free CV Link path in the Coachella Valley.
  • Taking part in a transnational bike ride to Tijuana to “promote bike culture across the Californias” the day before the Summit.
  • The opening night party at SILO at Makers Quarter.
  • The closing night party.
  • Taking a ride on an electric bike.

The full program is available here.

Via Streetsblog California
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Governor Signs Bill to Ease Parking Requirements for Affordable Housing


With A.B. 744, this wasted space could be better used to build more affordable housing units. Photo by, courtesy of Pexels.

Governor Jerry Brown had a Sunday deadline to sign legislation or veto it. Late in the day on Friday he signed Assembly Bill 744, which allows affordable housing developers to build less parking than many local zoning regulations currently permit.

The bill is a victory for affordable housing advocates, who have been saying for a number of years that the burden of building more parking than tenants use has made affordable housing too expensive to build.

A.B. 744, authored by Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), is limited to a few very specific types of housing, all meant to house population groups that tend to own few cars and drive less than the general population. Those are: housing for seniors, housing for special needs populations, and housing for low-income and very-low income people. It also applies to mixed-income developments that include a minimum number of affordable units. All categories are required to have a specified level of transit access (for details, see after the jump).

“This is super tailored to affordable, multifamily housing near transit,” said the bill’s sponsor, Domus Development founding partner Meea Kang. “It will help small cities that don’t have the political will to build good projects. This will give them tools to reduce parking, which they absolutely have to do to be able to get funding for needed housing projects.”

Under the new law, if a developer of these types of housing asks to be allowed to build less parking than required by zoning regulations, a city has to allow it—as defined in the statute, see below—unless it can demonstrate that more parking is necessary. And A.B. 744 specifies what that “demonstration” would entail, not leaving it to a vague “parking study.” A parking study to show that a development needs more parking would have to be somewhat recent and based on “substantial evidence,” including area-wide parking availability, transit access, potential for shared parking, the effect of parking requirements on the cost of developments, and rates of car ownership among low-income, senior, and special needs individuals.

This shifts the burden of proof from the developer to the city, in the process codifying the assumption that in general these populations need and use fewer parking spots. And while it’s a win for affordable housing developers, it’s also a win for sustainable transportation, clean air, and climate change efforts. As long pointed out by UCLA professor Donald Shoup and others, excessive amounts of parking contribute to more vehicle miles driven in a myriad of ways. [PDF]

Kate White, Deputy Secretary of Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), is excited about A.B. 744. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Late Late Show’s James Corden Opens Fire on Coronado Bike NIMBYs


Mocking people who fight safe streets improvements and bike lanes is hardly a new sport. From the subtle humor of the bicyclist crashing into Stephen Colbert’s desk to Jon Stewart’s rant about Dorothy Rabinowitz and the freakout about Citibike.

If you don’t already know him, meet James Corden, host of the Late Late Show. Corden focuses on America’s Most Famous NIMBYs, the white-haired residents of Coronado who took to City Hall to stop the influx of safe street projects graffiti-ing the streets.

I’ve been a fan of Corden since he appeared in Dr. Who a couple of years ago, so I highly recommend watching the entire clip. If you can’t here are some highlights.

“The problem of too many bike lanes ranks somewhere between, ‘my new BMW’s air conditioner works a little too well,’ and ‘The Starbucks near my house doesn’t take $100 bills,'” Corden exclaims near the start of the clip.

Later, after a woman compares a plan to increase the number of bike lanes to taking her daughters to a tattoo parlor for full-body-tattoos, Corden snarks, “If you are going to town hall to complain about bike lanes, you’re kids are definitely going to get tattoos.”

But he save the best for last. After a thirty-second call to arms where he promises a ride to Coronado to paint our own bike lanes if the NIMBYs win the day, Corden channels his inner-Braveheart when he declares, “You may take our bike lanes, but you will never take our freedom…to ride in those bike lanes.”

Incidentally, if someone from the Late Late Show is reading this, and you are planning to do more on Coronado, drop me a line on Twitter @damientypes or leave a note in the comments. Let’s talk…and ride…

Via Streetsblog California
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#DamienTalks Episode 19: CicLAvia’s Romel Pascual and the Rise of Open Streets

Today, Damien talks with Romel Pascual, the new executive director of CicLAvia, the non-profit that programs arguably the most popular Open Streets program in America.

Pascual comes to the new position with a strong background in Los Angeles’ Open Streets Movement. He served as Deputy Mayor to Antonio Villaraigosa when the first CicLAvia was planned five years ago and has served on its Board of Directors.

For people that believe in the power of Ciclovía-style events to bring change, this is the interview for you.Pascual discusses how CicLAvia helped change the complexion of the streets in Downtown Los Angeles and other communities  from both the perspective of an advocate and the perspective of a former high-ranking city official.

Pascual also answers the growing urban legend that “we got CicLAvia because Mayor Villaraigosa got bike religion after he was forced off his bike.”

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Libsyn.

Via Streetsblog California
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Governor Brown Signs Law Allowing Bicycle Ticket Diversion Programs

Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD at a Critical Mass ride in 2010. Image: Damien Newton/Streetsblog

Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD at a Critical Mass ride in 2010. Image: Damien Newton/Streetsblog

A new law just signed by Governor Jerry Brown will make it possible for bicyclists who are ticketed for certain infractions to attend a class on safe bicycle riding and thus reduce their fines.

The bill, A.B. 902, has been tracked by Streetsblog since it was introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) in February. It was amended a few times, but survived the process of squeezing through the legislature with mostly minor changes.

“When a bicyclist is ticketed for a moving violation in California, they by default receive the same monetary fine as when driving a motor vehicle. This means that with court fees added a stop sign violation can cost around $200, and running a red light around $400,” explained Bloom.

“The penalty should be determined so as to encourage safe behavior and not so punitive that it discourages bicycling altogether, especially for low-income individuals who rely the most on bicycling for everyday transportation.”

One of the changes clarified that any class taken in lieu of a fine would have to be “sanctioned by law enforcement.” Robert Prinz, Education Coordinator at Bike East Bay, who worked on putting the bill forward, said this was an important clarification.

“That means there would have to be a certain level of standard for the information provided in the class,” he pointed out. Also, he said, “for the most part law enforcement has a pretty good idea of what’s important for bicycle safety, but some police departments would benefit from attending some of these classes themselves.”

The other change to the bill removed a requirement that classes be offered free of charge. This was originally included because it created more of an incentive for people to take safety classes, and also because it’s the way Bike East Bay handles its education programs. But other advocacy organizations didn’t want to restrict their own, not-yet-in-existence programs in this way.

Whichever way a program is set up, the hoped-for result is a reduced fine and a more educated and knowledgeable bike rider.

Prinz points out that it will take some work to set up education programs where none exist now, and that it’s up to local bicycle advocacy groups to get the ball rolling. To that end, Bike East Bay has been working with other advocacy groups to formulate the best programs for local needs. Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the city of Long Beach, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have all expressed interest in creating diversion programs. Davis already has an on-campus diversion program and is interested in expanding it citywide. The cities of Huntington Beach and Alameda both used to have programs but suspended them because of a legal prohibition against them in the existing vehicle code. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition already has a diversion program, which it has been able to run because of strong local support from the police and courts.

“For sure it’s going to be easier to get these programs going in areas with established advocacy organizations,” said Prinz. “In rural or less populated areas there is going to be a need for outreach and education.”

Bike East Bay currently incorporates a diversion program into its regular educational offerings. Like Davis, UC Berkeley has its own police department that issues citations on campus. For on-campus infractions, ticketed bicyclists can attend a class, bring proof of attendance to the police, pay a fee, and have the ticket destroyed. The fee, around $50, is much less than what they would have to pay for a ticket if it went through the court system.

Read more…