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Crowdsource Bicycling App ‘Ride Report’ Goes National Today

Crowdsourced map xxxx

Example Ride Report crowdsourced map of Portland streets. Redder streets are more stressful, greener streets more chill. Image via BikePortland.

Since last September, Portland cyclists have been generating bike trip data via the free Ride Report app. Today, Ride Report has completed its Portland beta and is now open for use throughout the United States.

Ride Report, currently available for iPhone only (Android coming soon), runs in the background. The app knows when riders are riding their bikes, and tracks these trips. After each trip it prompts a short one-question survey: was the last trip “stressful” or “chill”? The app aggregates survey data to form a crowdsourced bicycling map showing which routes cyclists rate best and worst. End users–likely to be mostly folks who are already regular riders, according to Ride Report co-founder William Henderson–can track their trips and can view crowdsourced maps. Ride Report also works with municipalities to license data for bicycle planning. Much of the data is available free in an open source format; for full data, cities contract with Ride Report.

BikePortland’s Michael Andersen writes that Ride Report is “simple, seamless, and some of the messages are gently funny, which makes it a pleasure to use.” Andersen’s recent article reviewed Ride Report data maps for Portland, identifying which streets are stressful at which times of day.

There are a few apps that are helping cities better understand cycling patterns. For example, Strava has licensed its trip data to cities. With its trip evaluation tool, Ride Report builds in the additional data layer of the bicyclist experience.

These apps are still in their early stages; none are perfect. They, of course, only track the trips of people who are well enough off to own a smart phone, hence low income riders and low income neighborhoods are very likely underrepresented in their data. Andersen mentions that during the past week Ride Report “accounted for 7% of my battery power. It turns off automatically when I’m under 20%, which is nice.”

Cyclists – are you using Ride Report and/or other apps to track your trips? What do you like or dislike about the app? What additional features could make your trips, your neighborhoods, and your region better?

Via Streetsblog California
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#DamienTalks 30 – SCAG’s Hasan Ikharta and the Pilot Program That Could Slay the Gas Tax

Today, #DamienTalks with Hasan Ikharta, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments about the pilot program that could be the second step in replacing the state’s gas tax with a vehicle miles traveled tax.

Ikhrata-2008Last week, the state announced it was looking for 5,000 drivers to participate in a pilot program to analyze different methods for replacing the state’s gas tax. Tax receipts have fallen in recent years as cars become more fuel efficient. While cleaner cars are a good thing, the state can’t keep up with the backlog of road repair projects that are needed to keep the state’s transportation network functioning.

So, they’re looking to do something different.

If you prefer your information in written form, and missed last week’s story on Streetsblog California, click here. If you’d like to sign up for the pilot program, click here.

At the end of the interview, we discuss SCAG’s long-term transportation planning and the opportunities to participate in that project. We are watching the LRTP closely at Streetsblog Los Angeles, and if you’re an interested Southern Californian, we urge you to follow that website for updates.

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

Via Streetsblog California
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PIRG: Proposed 710 Freight Highway Tunnel Among Country’s Worst Projects

Yesterday, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a national non-profit with state chapters throughout the country, released a report detailing the “12 biggest highway boondoggles” under study in the country. Not surprisingly, a California highway project made the list, the I-710 Tunnel Project in Los Angeles County.

Click on the image to go to the report.

Click on the image to go to the report.

PIRG explains the project.

San Gabriel Valley Route 710 tunnel, California, $3.2 billion to $5.6 billion – State officials are considering the most expensive, most polluting and least effective option for addressing the area’s transportation problems: a double bore tunnel.

The 710 Expansion Project has been studied for decades and has been one of the most contentious projects in the region. For nearly a decade, Streetsblog Los Angeles has covered the public meetings, public outcry and community opposition to the project even as it soldiers on through study after study. The project was debated for decades before Streetsblog Los Angeles even existed.

Heck, this isn’t even the first time a national environmental advocacy group has chimed in that plans to expand the 710 represented “one of the worst highway projects in the country.”

The maligned 710 freeway project, which Streetsblog L.A. readers voted to name the “Southern California Big Dig” would extend the existing freeway north so that it connects with the 210. The most recent iteration of the project is championed by councilmembers and representatives of cities that are dealing with congestion on freeways and local streets south of the I-210 that connect with the 710.

However, opponents of the expansion argue that a tunnel project is not the answer to congestion and port traffic. “I do not believe that the 710 freeway tunnel alternatives proposed by Caltrans and Metro make sense for our region or taxpayers,” writes Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents the portion of the San Gabriel Valley where the tunnel would be dug.

“For the same cost as the $5.6 billion tunnel, we could likely complete all of the alternatives — light rail, bus, surface street improvements, bike and pedestrian walkways, cargo movement, and other traffic flow solutions — combined, and use the remainder of the money to repair some of our aging infrastructure. These alternatives are not only more cost effective, but far less disruptive of the affected neighborhoods.”

Opponents have put together their own list of solutions to address mobility with a mix of transit, active transportation and highway and road projects. PIRG published recommendations for Caltrans and other California transportation departments to follow that would apply not just to the 710, but to every highway project designed to “reduce congestion.” Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Podcast #DamienTalks 29: Coalitions, Taxes and Placemaking with Jessica Meaney

This week #DamienTalks with Jessica Meaney, a longtime friend of Streetsblog and the founder of the Los Angeles based Investing In Place. Meaney has been a leading fighter for equity in transportation planning and funding by mode, by geographic need and by economic need.

Meaney (right, pictured with her friend and fellow Streetsie winner Alissa Walker) was Streetsblog Los Angeles' advocate of the year in 2013.

Meaney (right, pictured with her friend and fellow Streetsie winner Alissa Walker) was Streetsblog Los Angeles’ advocate of the year in 2013.

Today we focus on Meaney’s efforts to insure that any future sales tax passed for transportation infrastructure is used to create stronger communities that serve the people who live there and address regional mobility needs. Tomorrow, Los Angeles County Metro will unveil the results of a needs analysis for active transportation needs in the county which could go a long way in determining what a future sales tax will look like.

The interview also touches on best practices for advocates around the state who are facing sales tax measures on the ballot this fall. How do you build a coalition for active transportation? How do you judge whether a measure can successfully address the mobility needs of all residents?

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

Via Streetsblog California
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New Caltrans Design Bulletin OKs Protected Bike Lanes in CA!

In Temple City, bike lanes are protected by curbs and plantings. Photo by Joe Linton, Streetsblog LA

Squeezing up on its statutory deadline, Caltrans issued its “Class IV Bikeway Guidance [PDF]” on the last day of 2015.

There are already existing sources of information on best practices and engineering guidance for protected, or separated, bikeways but this is the first from Caltrans. It was prepared in response to the Protected Bikeways Act of 2014, a law sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition that mandated Caltrans create an official category of protected bike lanes and write guidance for planners and engineers to build them.

This “design bulletin,” a supplement to the state’s official Highway Design Manual, defines various types of protected bikeways, provides examples, and refers to existing publications (including federal guidance) for specific standards.

That Caltrans issued this is a big deal. The lack of official standards for protected bike lanes in California has sometimes been an obstacle for local planners, engineers, and advocates who want protected bikeways. Engineers and planners look to Caltrans for transportation standards, even for local streets and roads that are not directly controlled by the state department. Issuing a set of guidelines that provide background, resources, and consistent standards gives local jurisdictions some certainty about planning protected bike facilities.

To write them, Caltrans engineers relied on new federal guidance as well as other publications including the Massachusetts Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide and NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel—we were thinking the federal guidance is a good broad-based guidance for everything, from building all the way to maintaining facilities,” said Kevin Herritt, chief of Caltrans’ Office of Standards and Procedures and the project manager. The writing team coordinated the federal guidance with California laws and regulations. “We have our own requirements that we have to conform to, such as the MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices), and signage standards,” said Herritt.

The first step in developing the guidance was a gathering last May of interested stakeholders, including advocates for bicycling, walking, and disabled communities, city and county engineers and planners, and transportation planning organizations. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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CA Growth Council Awards Affordable Housing Funds, Updates Guidelines

Basketball players at the Jordan Downs Rec Center, which is set to be developed into a new mixed income, mixed use community. Phase 1, which was awarded funds from the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, will build 100 units of affordable family housing near the Blue Line. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) agreed yesterday to award funding to eight projects that had been left out of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities awards earlier this year.

The projects had all applied for funding under the AHSC program, and had all received high scores, but limited funding and a requirement that no one area of the state receive more than $15 million left these project out of the running last June when the awards were announced.

Around the same time, new allocations were made to the AHSC from the state’s cap-and-trade program. Because cap-and-trade has successfully raised more money each year, there was more money available for the 2015-2016 round of funding. SGC staff recommended using some of that money to fund ten projects that already gone through the application process.

Senator Kevin De León, President ProTem of the California Senate, applauded the awards. “Today’s action is another example of how California is concretely moving forward with equitable housing and urban planning efforts that reduce overall traffic and air pollution,” he said in a press release. “Over a third of the air pollution produced in our state comes from transportation sources: cars, trucks, and traffic. These funds will be invested to clean up the air our children breathe, and to provide desperately needed affordable housing in the city center.”

Three of the projects had received partial funding in the first go-round, and four of them had not been awarded funds because jurisdictional caps limited each area of the state to no more than $15 million.

The current awards had to comply with existing guidelines for the AHSC program, which meant that the SGC had to award a minimum of 30 percent to “Integrated Connectivity Projects”—those that enhance transit, walkability, and bikeability—and a minimum of 40 percent to transit-oriented developments. Also, at least half had to go for affordable housing, and half had to be spent in disadvantaged communities. Note that these uses can overlap, so these percentages don’t necessarily add up to 100.

Staff recommended eight projects for funding, for a total of $32.4 million. The winning projects are

  • Rolland Curtis East in Los Angeles: $4 million
  • MacArthur Park Apartments Phase B in Los Angeles: $2 million
  • 1st and Soto Apartments in Los Angeles: $4.1 million
  • Eddy and Taylor Family Housing in San Francisco: $2.29 million
  • 222 Beale in San Francisco: $6.5 million
  • Jordan Downs Phase 1 in Los Angeles: $6.5 million
  • Riviera Family Apartments in Walnut Creek: $678,000
  • San Leandro Senior in San Leandro: $7.9 million

Details on each of the projects can be found here [PDF].

Members of the council asked questions about the ongoing clean up of lead contamination in the vicinity of the Jordan Downs project. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Is Rail That Important for Transit-Oriented Development?

pedestrians

It may take more than just plopping high density housing near rail to encourage people not to drive. Photo: Pedestrians in downtown Berkeley by Melanie Curry/Streesblog

It may be that TOD—transit-oriented development, which puts high density housing near transit to encourage people to travel by means other than by car—may be putting too much emphasis on the T. That is, the fact that people have a train station near at hand may not necessarily be what encourages them to use it. Other things—like whether they have access to free parking—seem to have more influence on car ownership and driving.

This is the conclusion reached by Dan Chatman of the University of California at Berkeley after surveying households near rail stations on the East Coast. Writing in the fall issue of Access magazine, Chatman says that planners who emphasize the closeness of rail transit to high-density housing may be missing other more important factors.

“Developing dense housing near rail stations with mixed land uses and better walkability is intended to encourage people to walk, bike, and take transit instead of driving,” writes Chatman. Studies show that households living near transit tend to use it more, but the reasons for that are not as obvious as one might think.

“Using transit more is not the same as driving less,” he writes.

And even if people in TODs do drive less than people elsewhere, we cannot be sure that transit is responsible. Easy access to a rail station might encourage people to walk rather than drive—but so too might wider sidewalks, narrower streets, and closer destinations. Denser places also tend to have worse traffic and fewer places to park.

Chatman used the results of his survey to look at what influences car ownership and commute mode, among other things. He found that the presence of a nearby rail station doesn’t have that much of an impact on whether people own cars or drive to work. What does make a difference is the number of parking spaces they have available to them, whether those are on the street or in garages or driveways.

He found that—surprise!—where there is plenty of free parking available, people tend to own more cars and drive more, and consequently use transit less.

“We generally think of parking usage as a measure of demand for driving,” Chatman told Streetsblog in a phone interview. “Where instead, parking supply ought to be thought of as a driver for driving. People do drive more if we give them free parking.”

Other things that also make more of a difference on car ownership and driving than rail, according to Chatman’s findings, are the number of nearby jobs, the number of nearby grocery stores, population density in the area, distance to downtown, and access to bus transit.

TOD is usually built near rail, because it’s considered more “permanent” than bus service, which can be easily changed or rerouted. But access to a good bus network may actually matter more if what you want to encourage people to drive less. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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The Benefits of Bike-Share Are Huge And Varied

The city of Santa Monica opened their 500-bike Breeze bike-share last month. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Santa Monica opened their 500-bike Breeze bike-share last month. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Bike-share is excellent in multiple ways. It eases traffic congestion in large, dense cities. It increases transit use in suburbs and smaller cities. And in all kinds of cities, it reduces auto use. It also has its drawbacks.

These are the results found by researchers Susan Shaheen and Elliot Martin when they studied established bike-share programs in Montreal, Toronto, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis-Saint Paul to find out how bike-sharing programs influence the travel patterns of their users.

The study found “both a modal shift toward bicycle use and a heightened public awareness of bikesharing as a practical transportation mode,” they write in the current issue of Access Magazine, published by the University of California.

The authors found that when people had access to the one-way trips bike-share provided, they drove less. Other mode shifts seem to depend on which city they were in—and are likely a result of a combination of factors, including what kinds of transit is available to them and where the bike-share stations are located.  Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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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…