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Chiu Bill Would Let Muni Cameras Ticket Drivers Cruising in Transit Lanes

Los Angeles editor’s note: This Streetsblog S.F. story seems applicable to L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard new peak-hour bus-only lanes. The “Wilshire BRT” lanes project fully opens next Tuesday, April 7. Eastern portions of the project have been open since 2013, but major bus speed improvements appear elusive, because cars do not always respect the peak-hour restrictions. Part of the problem may be enforcement. How can L.A. speed up buses on Wilshire Boulevard? Should Metro perhaps try to tag on to the San Francisco camera enforcement bill? 

Muni could get greater authority to ticket drivers violating transit lanes like this one at Third and Howard Streets under a new bill proposed by Assemblymember David Chiu. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Assemblymember David Chiu has proposed a bill to give Muni greater authority to keep transit-only lanes and bus stops clear of cars using the enforcement cameras that are now on every bus.

Assemblymember David Chiu today with his successor, D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen (right), Supervisor Scott Wiener, and SFTRU’s Thea Selby. Photo: Aaron Bialick

AB 1287 would allow Muni to issue citations to drivers who delay transit riders by cruising down transit-only lanes, parking in bus stops, and blocking intersections. It would also make the camera enforcement program permanent, as it’s currently a pilot program due to expire at the end of the year.

It’s the first transportation bill at the state level from Chiu, who was elected to the State Assembly in November after serving as District 3 Supervisor.

Camera enforcement “is about making dedicated space for buses work as well as possible,” Chiu said at a press conference today. “We all know that Muni is simply too slow, with an average speed of 8 mph. Transit-only lanes are critical to letting Muni do more than just crawl through our congested streets. For bus-only lanes to work, they can’t have cars double-parked or driving in them.”

Currently, Muni can only use cameras to ticket drivers who park in transit lanes, as spelled out by the bill that established the pilot program in 2007. Moving violations must be enforced by the SFPD, and drivers who park in bus stops and transit lanes, or block intersections, can only be cited by police or parking control officers on the scene.

Chiu’s bill would allow the SFMTA to send out tickets for moving violations captured on camera. Drivers caught cruising in a bus lane would get a $110 parking citation — which costs less than a moving violation.

Read more…

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What Does the “Failure” of the Ban on Fast-Food Restaurants in South L.A. to Curb Obesity Really Tell Us?

Young men play basketball during the Summer Night Lights program at the Jordan Downs rec center. It's one of the few opportunities for young men to be out late at night. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Young men play basketball during the Summer Night Lights program at the Jordan Downs rec center. The program provides one of the few opportunities for young men in the housing development to be out safely late at night. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“Yea, everything [is] OK…I hope all is well with you. I’m upset right now & crying because I’m starving. Have no food.”

I stared at the message on my phone. I had just checked in with 19-year-old South L.A. resident Shanique* to see how she was. I had interviewed her earlier in the summer and we had stayed in touch. Her family struggled quite a bit after the loss of her stepfather to a drive-by, the loss of her pre-teen brother to a walk-up (shooting), and being terrorized into silence by her brother’s killers, who lived nearby. Her mother’s disability — incurred years earlier on the job as a postal worker — coupled with a recent cancer diagnosis made it impossible for her to work.

And Shanique’s own promising progress in school had been halted by the trauma of a rape perpetrated against her in her own home at age 14 by the friend of a cousin. When her grades began to drop, instead of being offered extra help and counseling at her high school, she had been asked to leave. She was also shunned by her cousin’s family and friends and intimidated into dropping charges.

She was now struggling her way through a continuation school and working part-time at a grocery store. She was eager to find more work to help support her mother, as her hours were constantly being cut or adjusted, but this was made more difficult by a felony conviction. When Shanique’s best friend had called her on the day before her 18th birthday to ask if she could pick her and another friend up, she neglected to tell Shanique that they had just attempted to break into a home. Although the police could see from the surveillance footage that Shanique had not been anywhere in the vicinity of the incident, she says, the public defender told her flat-out that he was busy with murders and didn’t have time to prepare such a trivial case.

“They could have at least charged me as a juvenile!” she had fumed to me at the time.

Instead, she was stuck with three years’ probation, $5000 in court fees, and a felony strike that would have made it practically impossible for them to qualify for affordable housing when their rent suddenly jumped from $500 to $1600 (when, according to Shanique, the daughter of their landlord decided she wanted access to the property).

The combination of all these things meant that money often ran out well before the end of the month.

But I guess I still hadn’t expected things to be so dire.

Panicked, I immediately dialed her number.

The phone rang.

And rang.

Finally, she picked up.

Too upset to talk, she hung up almost immediately.

She texted me that she would probably go to the rec center about a mile from her house to see if she could get food from the Summer Night Lights program there — they usually grilled hotdogs for the community. She’d done it before, she said. She’d be OK.

* * *

Shanique came to mind as I read the 7-page study on the failure of the 2008 ban on the opening of new, stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A. to curb obesity there and the subsequent myriad stories and think-pieces dedicated to questioning the value of the ban, pointing out that obesity appears to have risen between 2007 and 2011 (from 63% to 75% of the population), decrying the nanny state and paternalism, and wondering what made a ban seem like a good idea in the first place.

Shanique, you see, despite suffering from hunger on a pretty regular basis, is obese.

Read more…

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Rail User’s Network National Conference

I first became aware of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) some years ago when they held their Board meeting in Los Angeles and invited local transit activists to attend and observe. While I was already a member of several rail advocacy groups including National Association of Rail Passengers and RailPAC, I found appealing RUN’s broad scope, dealing with passenger rail issues both national and local, and appreciated its strong customer focus. After joining I eventually also began contributing articles to the quarterly newsletter and more recently was elected to the Board.

RUN LogoBesides advocacy RUN also puts on an annual conference. In past years it was held in such cities as Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. When contemplating where to hold its conference this year a desire was expressed among the members of the Board to raise the group’s profile on the west coast by for the first time holding the conference there.

While several cities were considered it was decided Los Angeles and its rail renaissance was the ideal subject.

Enthusiastically I readily agreed to be on the planning committee and use the contacts and knowledge I have accumulated during 20+ years as a community activist on public transit issues in Southern California to help make the event a reality. The other members of the committee are Richard Rudolph, Andrew Albert and David Peter Alan. Key assistance in securing venues has been provided by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and Move LA. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Ranking the Sad Parade of Federal Transpo Funding Ideas From Worst to Best

The Highway Trust Fund is on a losing trajectory. But no one can agree on how to fix it. Image: Congressional Budget Office via America 2050

America’s transportation funding system is broken, and no one in charge has good ideas about how to fix it.

The problem seems simple enough: The federal transportation program is going broke because Washington has allowed the gas tax to be eroded by inflation for more than 20 years.

As obvious as raising the gas tax may be, America’s political leaders won’t touch it. Yesterday, The Hill reported that Congressman Bill Shuster, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is ruling out a gas tax increase or any additional fees on driving to fund transportation.

Apparently, anything that might make driving a little more expensive is no longer politically palatable. Instead, President Obama and members of Congress have trotted out a series of proposals that range from one-off gimmicks to total fantasies that wouldn’t solve anything.

It can be hard to keep them all straight, so here’s our ranking of ideas to fix federal transportation funding, from worst to best.

Read more…

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Boyle Heights Youth Research Community Challenges, Find Proposed TOD Solutions Don’t Go Far Enough to Help Neediest

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak at a Metro meeting about the fate of a Mariachi Plaza. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“So…” I begin, looking around the table at CALO YouthBuild students Abigail Navarro, Irvin Plata, Stephanie Olwen, and Eric Aguayo.

I am there to ask them about how the youth at this charter school — a school whose student body is comprised of at-risk students aged 16-24 who struggled at one or more traditional high schools before eventually dropping out or being kicked out — have managed to become among some of the most prominent community voices clamoring to be involved in the decision-making process regarding the future of Boyle Heights.

“What was it like to go back to the schools that you felt had written you off to tell their students that they needed to be more engaged in advocating for their community?”

Irvin grins.

He had returned to the school he had dropped out of — Roosevelt High — to speak to nearly 25 classes about gentrification, affordable housing, and the development of Metro-owned lots along 1st St. and Cesar Chavez Ave. The larger goals of the outreach he, Stephanie (who visited Mendez High), and the others conducted were to encourage students to participate in the Issues Forum the YouthBuild students will be leading this afternoon and to get the students to answer the online survey* they had created exploring challenges families face in Boyle Heights.

He had been nervous at first, he says. Especially because his partner had bowed out, leaving him to do all those presentations on his own.

He was confident in the knowledge that youth participation could make a difference in the planning process, thanks to the success he and his fellow students had had in winning a 3-month extension of the community-engagement phase of the Exclusive Negotiated Agreements (ENAs) for the affordable housing projects at Metro’s 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto sites. And his confidence had been further boosted by the fact that YouthBuild’s proposal for a forum on gentrification, police-community relations, and environmental justice was taken seriously by policy makers. So much so that a representative of County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office, Mynor Godoy (Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council) Max Huntsman (Inspector General of the Sheriffs Department), Patrisse Cullors (Director, Dignity and Power, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter), and Jenna Hornstock, (Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development at Metro) have all agreed to participate. (RSVP to forum here.)

But Irvin was not as confident that the students he would be speaking to were going to be interested in what he had to say.

He, Abigail, Eric, and Stephanie all agreed that, back when they were struggling their way through multiple schools, they probably would have tuned out someone who came in to lecture them about the joys of community involvement in urban planning.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle which protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tapping into the students’ lived experiences and connections to the community, Irvin decided (with the help of his economics teacher and mentor, Genaro Francisco Ulloa), would be key to getting their attention.

So, Irvin made his presentations interactive. He asked students about their relationship to landmarks like Mariachi Plaza and how they would feel if those sites were to become unrecognizable or de-linked from the community’s culture. He also engaged students on some of the challenges they face — high rents and overcrowded housing, no access to jobs, mobility issues, etc. — and tried to help them understand how developments in the area, if not designed with the community in mind, could exacerbate the struggles they were already living.

And the struggles those students are living are pretty intense. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Leimert Park Prepares People St Plaza for Grand Opening

The view of the People St Plaza in Leimert Park from the front of the Vision Theater. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The view of the People St Plaza in Leimert Park from the front of the Vision Theater. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The date for the grand opening of Leimert Park’s People St Plaza is not quite set in stone, yet, but it’s coming very soon. And I couldn’t be more excited. The stakeholders in Leimert Park have begun to install some of the unique features they developed as a way to tie the plaza to the culture of the community, and they look pretty fantastic.

Over the last week, Ben Caldwell, founder of the KAOS Network, and others laid down some of the Adinkra symbols which will eventually fill the entire plaza.

Adinkra symbols which will be used to populate the polka dots on the plaza.

Adinkra symbols which will be used to populate the polka dots on the plaza.

The symbols — representative of the philosophies of the Akan people (an ethnic group in Ghana) — were once only seen on cloths worn by community leaders during special occasions. Although they are more widely worn in Western Africa nowadays, and are commonly found stamped onto everyday objects, they still retain their meaning, represent proverbs, depict historical events, or offer some truth about human behavior or the world as the Akan understood it.

The values and ideas the symbols promote will be used to help guide programming in the plaza, incorporated into educational materials, and used throughout the Village area to reinforce the notion that when you enter Leimert Park, you are entering the home of a population with a unique cultural heritage.

The finished plaza will also feature an “urban farm lab” managed by the Carver program, wooden benches, bistro-style chairs and tables, a portable stage, and possibly some of the re-purposed street furniture that Caldwell and USC Annenberg Professor François Bar oversaw the development of in the tactical media courses they joint-taught.

So, what will you see if you stop down to check out Metro’s Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw community fest this weekend or the Leimert Park Art Walk (Sunday, March 29)? Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Why Is Bus Ridership Slipping in Chicago? It’s the Service, Stupid.

New transit ridership figures are making the rounds, and the news out of Chicago is that bus trips declined while rail trips increased.

Bus ridership has dipped in Chicago, but not as much as funding, points out Daniel Kay Hertz.

Bus ridership has dipped in Chicago, which is what you’d expect after big service cuts. Click to enlarge. Graph: Daniel Kay Hertz

The emerging narrative is that bus ridership in Chicago has been in continuous decline, but that’s not actually the case, writes Daniel Kay Hertz at Network blog City Notes. Instead, he says, service cuts in the wake of the recession explain much of the recent drop in bus trips:

I think any discussion of bus ridership in Chicago needs to include this chart [right], and take two things away from it.

1. First of all, declining bus ridership is not actually a “long-term” trend, though it’s often framed that way. (Or, to be more specific: decline is typical of the last 50 years, but not the last 10 or 20.) In fact, as recently as the mid-2000s, ridership was growing. And other than the deep recession years of 2009-2010, 2013-2014 represents the first multiyear ridership decline since the mid-1990s. This isn’t meant to wave the problem away: it actually makes it worse, since it suggests that far from experiencing a long, slow decline driven by structural factors, something specific has changed recently that’s made buses less attractive.

2. Secondly, service matters. I think it is probably not a coincidence that ridership growth in the 2000s came at a time when the CTA was adding service: reducing wait times between buses, expanding their hours, and introducing express routes. (Between 2002 and 2006, the CTA created ten “X” routes, which mostly followed existing bus lines, but stopped every half mile instead of every eighth. Almost all of them were discontinued in 2010 because of a budget shortfall.)

I think it is also probably not a coincidence that the CTA has had a difficult time recouping its bus ridership losses from the recession, given that its dramatic recession-era service cuts have mostly remained in place.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment notes that the new budget from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker eliminates all funding for bicycling while adding to highway debt. Streets.mn wonders what’s the best scale to assess inequality — by city, by region, or beyond? And A View from the Cycle Path explains how European cities are using smart bike lane design to eliminate the risk of dooring.

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Rail User’s Network Brings Annual National Conference to L.A.

I first became aware of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) some years ago when they held their Board meeting in Los Angeles and invited local transit activists to attend and observe. While I was already a member of several rail advocacy groups including National Association of Rail Passengers and RailPAC, I found appealing RUN’s broad scope, dealing with passenger rail issues both national and local, and appreciated its strong customer focus. After joining I eventually also began contributing articles to the quarterly newsletter and more recently was elected to the Board.

RUN LogoBesides advocacy RUN also puts on an annual conference. In past years it was held in such cities as Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. When contemplating where to hold its conference this year a desire was expressed among the members of the Board to raise the group’s profile on the west coast by for the first time holding the conference there.

While several cities were considered it was decided Los Angeles and its rail renaissance was the ideal subject.

Enthusiastically I readily agreed to be on the planning committee and use the contacts and knowledge I have accumulated during 20+ years as a community activist on public transit issues in Southern California to help make the event a reality. The other members of the committee are Richard Rudolph, Andrew Albert and David Peter Alan. Key assistance in securing venues has been provided by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and Move LA. Read more…

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Ride On!: South L.A. Advocate Looks to Set Up Bicycle Co-op in Leimert Park

Ade Neff works on his bike in front of the Vision Theater in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Ade Neff works on his bike in front of the Vision Theater in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As one of the few attendees at the recent Live.Ride.Share. forum from South Los Angeles, aspiring bicycle co-op founder Ade Neff said he felt frustrated by what he wasn’t hearing. While the many of the advocates on hand had fantastic visions for the future of transportation in Los Angeles, they often seemed to gloss over the more complex needs of lower-income communities of color and deficiencies in the existing transit system that those communities already depended on.

“My daughter’s bus stop was in the bushes!” he said of the absence of infrastructure at the stop where she and her classmates disembarked near their school. “Nobody is talking about that…” or basic things, like finding ways to make the uncomfortable daily struggle of transit-dependent parents to get on and off crowded buses while juggling children, strollers that need to be folded, and multiple bags easier.

And, he felt, the kinds of mobility hubs he was hearing about — and could possibly be established at sites like the coming Leimert Park Metro station — featuring bike share, a repair shop, and other amenities could be great for visitors and those of means but nowhere near sufficient to address the needs of residents like himself.

Beyond the lack of bike infrastructure and poor connectivity of existing networks either within South L.A. or linking it to other communities, the lack of affordable resources to support lower-income cyclists can make obtaining and maintaining a quality bicycle a real challenge.

“Right now,” he explained, “I have to travel 8 miles to get to a [bicycle] co-op.”

There are a few shops in the vicinity of Leimert Park, but parts and repairs can be costly. So Neff, a recent graduate with a Masters in Urban Sustainability, Capoeira teacher, and father to a middle-schooler who has to watch his budget, makes the trek to toward Venice to visit the Bikerowave.

He, at least, has the ability to get to a co-op and knowledge of what he needs once he’s there. Too often, when the bikes of those of lesser means break down, the bikes go into the garage and stay there. Repairs can be put off for months — even if it is something as simple as a flat tire or a slipped chain that they could have fixed on their own. Folks that have no other means of transportation sometimes make crude DIY fixes and continue to ride around on unsafe bikes.

Recently, when helping out a bike clinic at a charter middle school near Culver City, Neff said he was dismayed to see the problem extended to younger kids, as well.

“No matter how much I adjust the brakes,” he mimicked braking on one of several unrideable bikes he worked on, “it’s not gonna stop [this] bike.”

In his head, he began creating a list of each of the things the kids would need to make their bikes street-worthy before he realized there was no point. Most wouldn’t have the money for those kind of overhauls.

That absence of affordable resources in his community, Neff said, is a key reason he’s looking to launch a co-op in Leimert Park Village some time in the next year.

But it’s not the only one. Read more…

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Long Beach Announces Open Streets Event

BeachStreets
Photo above from Los Angeles’s CicLAvia. Photo by Brian Addison.

It’s official: Long Beach will have its first ciclovía, dubbed Beach Streets, on June 6 thanks to $260K from Metro’s Open Streets Program handed to the City of Long Beach last year. (As noted by Streetsblog, Metro has become a major sponsor for open streets events, allocating millions in event funding for July 1, 2014 through June 30th, 2016.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.36.16 PMThough it was lamented that Downtown didn’t score a ciclovía—many felt the imagery of DTLB paired with its density, attractions, and biking/ped infrastructure, would have better served for the city’s first time in the ciclovía spotlight and led to more ciclovías from here on out with much more ease—Beach Streets will run up north and serve and feature a far more marginalized community.

Well, somewhat. The route is solely along Atlantic from Houghton Park at Harding in the north to Wardlow toward the south. This means it is strangely connected only to the Wardlow Station, effectively disconnecting the Del Amo and Artesia Stations. Understandably, three road closures simply for Blue Line access would be both expensive and taxing, but that is not what I am suggesting. Del Amo lies smack in the middle of the route and the semi-closure of Wardlow only reads as politicking the ciclovía under the guard of safety and affluence (given the majority of the route runs through the entirety of Bixby Knolls).

The proposal for the North Long Beach Beach Streets was the highest scoring bid out of 21 high scoring proposals when it proposed last year, with twelve events scoring funding. What is even more awesome is that Long Beach ranked high for three proposed events at the time, including the aforementioned Downtown Beach Streets (#4 on the list).

As for programming, Mobility and Health Coordinator Nate Baird explained that applicants seeking money to do certain things along the route will be available soon. Those applications will then be reviewed by a panel of people chosen by each council district member and funds will be dispersed to those applicants. While the information remains vague, it seems that come June 6, a ciclovía will be indeed happening—and that is something to cheer about.

Let’s just all band in on this together, yeah?