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Open Thread: Coast, Santa Monica’s First Open Streets Event

Pier sign 2

Santa Monica’s first open streets event closed off two miles of streets to cars. Photos by Jason Islas/SBLA

Santa Monica closed off two miles of streets to motor vehicles on Sunday for its first-ever open streets event, Coast.

The route started at the newly-opened Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station. From there to the Pier was a designated pedestrian zone. The path continued north along Ocean Avenue to Wilshire and south along Main Street until Marine Avenue, the city’s southern border.

Santa Monica kicked off the event with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Colorado Esplanade, the stretch of Colorado Avenue from the Expo line station in downtown Santa Monica to the Pier which the city just improved with wider sidewalks, better street furniture and landscaping, and a separated cycle track.

Coast was the shortest open streets event in L.A. County to date, but that didn’t detour people from turning out. By the time I left the event — shortly after 1 p.m. — the streets were full of people.

As Gary Kavanagh noted on Twitter, the length of the route seemed to actually encourage more people to walk and that people on foot. He also noted that it made for a slower-paced event compared to other open streets events, like CicLAvia.

Santa Monica used the opportunity to highlight a number of goings on in the city, including the new GoSaMo initiative, which is designed to educate and encourage people to consider their mobility options before just jumping in the car.

The route was dotted with several “zones,” at which the city and its various partners highlighted the work they were doing. At the Mobility Zone, for example, visitors could learn about Santa Monica’s bike center, Santa Monica Spoke, Breeze Bike Share, Climate Action Santa Monica, railLA, and the Big Blue Bus, to name a few participants. Click on the map below to see a larger version.

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There was also a City Zone outside of city hall, where visitors could meet with their City Council members and state representatives, as well as learn about the new Downtown Specific Plan that Santa Monica is currently working on, in order to bring the zoning in the downtown up to date.

Especially on Main Street, local businesses touted their services as visitors gathered at local cafes and restaurants and took advantage of temporary seating that was set up in parking spots along the route.

There was also mobile entertainment that include Samba dancers who made their way up and down the route, stilt walkers, and rollerskaters.

It was a successful event overall, even though it definitely had a distinctly different vibe from a typical CicLAvia. It was the first open streets event I attended without my bike, but that didn’t prevent me from being able to enjoy the entire length of it.

One of Santa Monica’s City Council members has already voiced her opinion that the city should definitely do this again.

So, did you make it out to Coast? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below. More pictures after the jump. Read more…

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O Come All Ye Donors…

A man waits for a bus in the shade of a telephone pole on Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St. There tends to be fewer shelters and less shade available to those who are most heavily dependent on transit. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A man waits for a bus in the shade of a telephone pole on Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St. There tend to be fewer shelters and less shade available to those who are most heavily dependent on transit. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

You love us.

You really, really love us.

Or, at least, we like to think you do. How else could Streetsblog Los Angeles founding editor Damien Newton have expanded his west coast publishing empire to cover Long Beach, Santa Monica, San Francisco, the Central Valley, Sacramento, and beyond if you didn’t? Especially at a time when other news outlets find themselves continuing to cut back on coverage? It must be love.

For this, we are truly and eternally grateful.

It won’t stop us from asking you to spare a few dollars for us this holiday season, of course. But that does not diminish how appreciative we are of what you have helped us accomplish thus far.

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With your help, not only have we been able to cover the range of issues that typically fall within a livable streets scope, but we’ve been able to expand discussions of livability, mobility, equity, health, inclusivity, and justice to be more reflective of the wider range of realities lived across Los Angeles.

In doing so, we have explored how issues of national significance like gentrification, access to affordable housing, and law enforcement-community relations manifest in the lower-income communities of South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights as well as their implications for local planners and policy makers. We have also been able to elevate the voices of residents from these neighborhoods seeking to present their own visions of “community” and of what it means to be “livable.”

Our commitment to listening to historically marginalized communities has helped us to raise questions about what it means to really engage a wide range of stakeholders, make the case for why communication and trust-building with residents is of the essence, and explain how and why the unique contexts of these communities matters for outcomes. It has also helped us articulate why mobility cannot be spoken of as independent from access to affordable housing, economic or educational opportunities, or security in the public space for so many of those struggling to get by in our fair city.

As investment continues to flow into areas that have long suffered from neglect and disenfranchisement, these insights will be invaluable in the pursuit of infrastructure and policy solutions that both meet those communities’ mobility needs and discourage displacement. A more interconnected city in which everyone is able to participate is a healthier, more accessible, and more livable city for all.

Please help us continue to stay at the forefront of discussions on equity, mobility, gentrification, affordability, and livability as we move into the new year by making a tax-deductible donation to Streetsblog. You’ll be in the running to win a bike while you are at it: every time you make a donation, you are entered into our nationwide raffle to win a Tern Folding Bike.

Did we mention you can win a Tern Folding bike? Every time you make a donation, you are entered into our nationwide raffle. Click on the image to go to our donation page.

Thanks for your support! Best wishes for a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season!

 

Streetsblog.net
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TIGER Restored, Transit Expansion Funds Cut in 2016 Spending Bill

As the House and the Senate get to work on hashing out a multi-year transportation bill in conference committee, Congress is also putting together its annual spending package for transportation. The annual bill decides the fate of several discretionary programs, and earlier this year it looked like US DOT’s TIGER grants, which tend to fund multi-modal projects at the regional or local level, might not survive.

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking facilities in Lee County, Florida, one of the most dangerous areas for walking and biking. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking routes in Lee County, Florida. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says the final bill keeps TIGER but still represents a step backward for transit:

Good news: the new bill proposes no changes to what kinds of projects can apply for TIGER funding, and increases funding for the program by $100 million this year.

The Senate’s initial bill introduced this summer provided $500 million for TIGER — the same amount as the just-ended fiscal year — and the House version of this bill provided far less at $100 million. It’s encouraging to see the Senate appropriators increase funding for this important program in the newest draft proposal, and that there are no changes to what kinds of projects can apply. This is a hopeful sign that for future House-Senate negotiations on the final transportation spending bill for 2016.

The funding for building new transit service — New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity — was increased by more than $300 million from this summer’s Senate THUD bill up to $1.9 billion, just $24 million less than the proposed House levels of $1.92 billion. That sounds like good news, but it’s still represents a $200 million cut from last year for this program.

Amtrak funding was unchanged: $289 million for operating and $1.1B for capital projects, which is slightly more ($39 million) than this year.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Jarrett Walker at Human Transit says transit doesn’t have to be designed to serve a single “downtown” focal point — in fact there are major benefits to having multiple clusters of destinations. Also at Human Transit, a guest author asks whether autonomous cars will lead to a big boost in vehicle miles traveled. And BTA Blog writes that a group of victims’ families is speaking up for safer streets in Oregon.

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Anniversaries of Hit-and-Run Deaths Mark Time but Not Healing

Gardena police distributed a flyer with an image of the kind of vehicle they believe killed Benjamin Torres on Oct. 10, 2012.

Gardena police distributed a flyer with an image of the kind of vehicle they believe killed Benjamin Torres on Oct. 10, 2012.

Anniversaries can be a b*tch.

They can be positive reminders of how communities can come together and rally around victims and their families in the face of tremendous loss.

But they also mark the years that have passed since those families’ lives were forever changed.

And time, particularly in the cases of hit-and-runs, seems only to raise more questions.

Families rarely get any answers about how someone could see fit to leave a loved one to suffer and die in the street. Or why the justice system continues to not take these cases very seriously.

Few things were harder to sit through than the impact statements friends and family of young Luis “Andy” Garcia read at the sentencing of the woman that drunkenly ran Garcia down and killed him and left two other cyclists for dead two years ago last month.

Andy Garcia was killed in a hit-and-run on September 14, 2013. Photo: Justice for Andy

Andy Garcia was killed in a hit-and-run on September 14, 2013. Photo: Justice for Andy

And few things have made my jaw drop like hearing the judge tell the driver, a stoic 21-year-old Wendy Villegas, “If you drink and drive and kill someone again, it will carry a charge of murder…

We’ll get you next time, in other words, and then you’ll really be sorry!

Yeah, right.

Sentenced last April, she was released this summer, just a month before the second anniversary of Garcia’s death, after serving 16 months of a 42-month sentence. The family got no warning she was being released; instead they saw a photo one of Villegas’ friends had posted of her frolicking on the beach. Read more…

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Los Ryderz BC Suffers Setback with Theft of Tools; Still Plans to Ride Saturday for Cancer Awareness

New public art pieces grace 103rd Street in Watts. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New public art pieces grace 103rd Street in Watts. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As he often does, Javier “JP” Partida, president and founder of Los Ryderz bike club in Watts, took some of his club members for a bike ride on Saturday. When they returned from Torrance that afternoon, they locked up the bikes and called it a day. When he came back Sunday morning to work on the bikes and finish welding the Crank Award trophies to thank local community members for their service in and around South L.A., he found that someone had broken into their storage area and looted the place.

Someone broke into Los Ryderz' storage area and took the club's power drill, new welder, grinder, and other tools. And two bikes. Photo: JP Partida

Someone broke into Los Ryderz’ storage area and took the club’s power drill, new welder, grinder, and other tools. And two bikes. Photo: JP Partida

Gone were the power drill, a new welder, a grinder, and other tools he had purchased with his own funds, as well as two bikes.

The thieves had apparently intended to come back, Partida said, judging by the way they had lined up the rest of the bikes near the exit.

It was the second break-in at the complex in recent days. Last month, thieves broke into the boarded up fire station attached to the YO! Watts building, making off with donated toys the LAPD stored there, among other things.

For Partida, the bikes are not as much of a loss as the tools. Read more…

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South L.A. Cyclists Call for Price, Garcetti to Implement Central Ave. Bike Lane

People of all ages and backgrounds need access to Central Ave., including this adorable ninja turtle. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

People of all ages and backgrounds need access to Central Ave., including the family of this adorable ninja turtle. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“What do we want? Safe streets! When do we want them? NOW!”

So went the chants as approximately 40 members of the South Central community headed north toward City Councilmember Curren Price’s constituent center on Central Avenue yesterday evening.

Members of the South Central community head for the CD9 Constituent Center chanting in favor of safe streets and bike lanes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Members of the South Central community head for the CD9 Constituent Center chanting in favor of safe streets and bike lanes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

They were headed there to speak with the group of stakeholders that recently got the green light to initiate a ballot process for the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID). The marchers were eager to register their concerns regarding the councilmember’s effort to have the Central Ave. bike lane excluded from Great Streets’ plans for the section of Central between Vernon and Adams and removed altogether from the larger Mobility Plan 2035, which envisions a protected bike lane running the 7.2 miles from Watts to Little Tokyo.

Addressing the meeting attendees, Malcolm Harris, Director of Programs and Organizing at TRUST South L.A., gestured toward the crowd that had piled into the conference room and said, “Our constituents here want to have safer streets…[and] we want there to be engagement around this issue before any [city council] motion is taken out.”

Malcolm Harris of TRUST South L.A. addresses those gathered to further the formation of a BID at the CD9 Constituent Center. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Malcolm Harris of TRUST South L.A. addresses those gathered to further the formation of a BID at the CD9 Constituent Center. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Organizers of the BID received the testimony but reiterated that, as they were still in the process of formation, they had very little power to do anything other than listen to the community’s concerns and ensure they were incorporated into efforts to build consensus around the future form of Central Avenue.

Given residents’ frustration that so much of the planning for the street had already happened behind doors that even the prospective BID members had been shut out of, it wasn’t the cathartic moment they were hoping for. But news that next month’s meeting would entail more hands-on engagement with the design of Great Streets project slated for the street (below), many resolved to come back and participate.

The reconfiguration of Central Avenue, as proposed by Great Streets, includes a road diet, extended sidewalks, and the shifting of the bike lane planned to run from Watts to Little Tokyo over to Avalon. Source: Great Streets

The reconfiguration of Central Avenue, as proposed by Great Streets, includes a road diet, extended sidewalks, and the shifting of the bike lane planned to run from Watts to Little Tokyo over to Avalon. Source: Great Streets

Then, just as suddenly as they had arrived, the marchers headed back out into the streets to hold a press conference at the intersection of Vernon and Central.

Community members head back to the intersection of Vernon and Central to hold a press conference. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Community members head back to the intersection of Vernon and Central to hold a press conference. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Those that took the megaphone to speak on the corner of Vernon and Central had ties to South L.A. advocacy organizations TRUST South L.A, Community Health Councils, and Ride On! bike co-op, but all were residents in the area and regular users of the street. And, for most, a bicycle was their primary form of transportation. Read more…

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Exide: Can’t Put Together Proper Closure Plan but Absolves Itself of Blame for Massive Public Health Disaster

The Expanded Assessment Area to the south of the Exide plant (located just across the river, at Bandini and Indiana. Source: DTSC

The Expanded Assessment Area to the south of Exide’s now-shuttered lead-acid battery recycling plant (located across the river and just outside the frame, at Bandini and Indiana) where officials have found discernible patterns of lead contamination as well as the presence of a lead alloy that both point to Exide as the source of the contamination. Source: DTSC

“I want you to take a good look at me,” the fragile-looking young man with a curved spine, hunched shoulders, and gangly arms addressed members of the Exide Community Advisory Committee (CAC), representatives of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and Department of Public Health (DPH), and concerned residents and environmental justice advocates from the communities surrounding Exide Technologies’ now-shuttered lead-acid battery recycling facility.

“I look 13 years old, but I am 25.”

Anthony Gutierrez had grown up in Maywood, three-quarters of a mile from the Vernon facility. Like many present at the meeting, he believed his health had suffered for it. Cancer, rotting teeth, lead-related health issues, and other ailments had rendered him so sick that the Make-A-Wish Foundation — a charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses — had even sent him on a trip to Hawaii.

Although he, his mother, and his sister had recently moved to a one-bedroom apartment slightly farther away from Exide (but still on the northern edge of the Southern Sampling Area, seen above), new projections that lead emissions may have reached as many as 10,000 properties within a 1.3 to 1.7-mile radius around the facility meant that he still might not be safe.

DTSC ordered that further soil sampling be conducted outside the initial and expanded assessment areas. Samples were thus taken along the transect "Y" lines to determine how far lead dust had traveled. Source: DTSC

DTSC ordered that further soil sampling be conducted outside the initial (blue boxes) and expanded (green boxes and blown-up areas in images at top and below) assessment areas. An additional 351 samples were thus taken from 146 properties both within the 7500′ radius and along the Y-shaped transect lines to determine how far lead dust had traveled from Exide’s facilities (red block, at center). Source: DTSC

Noting he was recovering from a recent brain surgery, he said, “The sad part is [even though Exide has been shut down] I’m still being exposed to lead and arsenic and God knows what else,” and reiterated the need for the clean-up of lead-contaminated properties to pick up the pace.

It was a sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of the attendees at last Thursday’s CAC meeting. They had been alarmed, but not necessarily surprised, by DTSC’s recent announcement that preliminary results of soil testing in expanded areas north and south of the plant suggested that Exide’s emissions deposited lead dust across a much wider swath of East and Southeast Los Angeles than previously estimated.

What concerned the stakeholders was whether DTSC would be able to secure the (potentially) hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to test and clean the affected homes falling within the newly-identified 1.3 to 1.7-mile radius around the facility (variable due to the prevailing winds, see illustration after the jump). Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Confounded by Spike in U.S. Traffic Deaths and Injuries? Look Around

Why are so many people killed in traffic? Hmm, what could it be... Photo: Transportation for America/Flickr

Why are so many people killed in traffic? Hmm, what could it be… Photo: Transportation for America/Flickr

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by 14 percent through June of this year compared to the first six months of 2014, and serious injuries jumped by 30 percent, according to the National Safety Council [PDF]. At the current rate, the group says, nationwide road deaths would top 40,000 for the first time since 2007.

The NSC announced Monday that, by its estimates, nearly 19,000 people died in traffic through June, and more than 2.2 million were seriously injured.

Fatalities rose in 34 states. Several states saw increases of 20 percent or more — fatalities were up 59 percent in Oregon, and between 26 and 29 percent in Georgia, Florida, and Minnesota. Not every state had six months of data, so in all likelihood the numbers are higher than what the NSC was able to report.

Deborah Hersman, president of NSC, told the AP the increases can’t be accounted for by vehicle miles traveled.

The nation’s driving steadily increased for 15 consecutive months through May, the Transportation Department said in July. Americans drove 1.26 trillion miles in the first five months of 2015, passing the previous record, 1.23 trillion, set in May 2007.

However, the cumulative increase in vehicle mileage this year through May is 3.4 percent, far less than the 14 percent increase in deaths, Hersman noted. Also, the estimated annual mileage death rate so far this year is 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from the preliminary 2014 rate of 1.2 deaths.

The AP cited higher speed limits and driver distraction as potential factors, and said the NSC reported earlier this year that 25 percent of all crashes in the U.S. involve cellphone use.

“For many years people have said, ‘If distraction is such a big issue, why don’t we see an increase in fatal crash numbers?’” said Hersman. “Well, we’re seeing increasing fatal crashes numbers, but I think it’s complicated to tease out what that is due to.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Finally Transit Is Included in CA Transportation Funding Discussions

Assemblymember David Chiu proposes a packet of bills to fund transit, flanked by representatives from local transit agencies and advocates. Assemblymember Kevin Mullin is behind him. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Assemblymember David Chiu proposes a packet of bills to fund transit, flanked by representatives from local transit agencies and advocates. Assemblymember Kevin Mullin is behind him. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

On Friday, in separate press events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, several members of the California legislature presented new bills for consideration in the ongoing legislative special session on transportation funding.

Various estimates put California’s backlog of deferred road maintenance in the $100-plus-billion range. The special sessions, which involve the creation of new committees and a parallel legislative process alongside the regular legislative session, are supposed to get legislators working together on ways to solve transportation issues. Already a long list of bills has been introduced—look for more coverage of the process on Streetsblog as the week progresses.

So far the focus has been on how to get money to “fix the potholes,” with Democrats proposing an increase in the gas tax and Republicans calling for putting cap-and-trade revenue towards road maintenance (a ludicrous and likely illegal idea).

Now legislators are finally making the connection between public transit—which has its own daunting funding backlog—and the rest of the transportation system. “Anyone who hits a pothole or sits in traffic knows that our transportation system is in crisis, but so does anyone who has to rely on a late, crowded bus to work, school, or do errands, or who would take the bus if one was there,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) as he introduced the package of bills.

“California needs more transit funding to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to prevent gridlock from strangling our economic recovery,” he said.

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) pointed out that fixing congestion has to include better transit options. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the major transit systems including BART, Muni, and AC Transit “are at or near capacity already. Increasing capacity of public transit systems must be part of the solution,” he said.

The proposed bills would triple the diesel fuel tax, with the money to be distributed to all transit agencies in the state, and raise the portion of cap-and-trade money currently allocated to transit. See below for more details.

This was far from the first set of proposals for the special session. Read more…

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Filed Under: O Valley Bike Lane, Thou Art but a Vehicular Temptress

New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the driver pulled in behind me in the new buffered bike lane along Vineland, I thought, OK, it’s a little weird, but he’s probably going to turn right or park.

A block and a half later I turned around again.

Nope, he’s still there and now he is waving at me like this is perfectly normal.

A block later, he finally turned right.

I would have chalked this up to the guy being lost or perhaps disoriented by the new stripes, except that this turned out to be a frequent occurrence on both of my visits to Vineland.

Drivers, impatient to get into the right lane, regularly drove several blocks to a quarter-mile in the bike lane all along the avenue. Where they were jumping the line of traffic to get to Riverside Dr. (below), they tended to do so at a very fast clip.

Even Prius drivers can't wait to get into the right lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Even Prius drivers can’t wait to get into the right lane. This driver entered the bike lane at about where the first tree shadow hits the road (bottom right). Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Turning right onto Riverside Dr. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

No car lane, no problem! Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The eagerness of drivers to make use of the bike lanes may be somewhat puzzling to those that have followed the Valley striping saga. Read more…