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City Streets in State Officials’ Hands Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

Cyclists rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

People rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

Cities shouldn’t have to fight with state departments of transportation to ensure streets are safe for their residents. But too often that’s exactly the case, and when cities lose, the result can be deadly.

A tragic story from Pittsburgh illustrates the problem. Just a week after Pennsylvania DOT debuted a car-centric redesign of iconic Carson Street, a motorist struck and killed cyclist Dennis Flanagan there. More than 1,200 people have now signed a petition demanding a safer design. Here’s an excerpt from a letter from Bike PGH Executive Director Scott Bricker to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards:

West Carson was closed for approximately two years, and while inconvenient for many, it did not create the predicted traffic nightmare associated with a typical blocked arterial. In the lead up to the closure and during construction, Mayor Bill Peduto, Councilwoman Kail-Smith, Senator Wayne Fontana, Representative Dan Deasy, community leaders, residents, City of Pittsburgh Departments of City Planning and Public Works, and Bike Pittsburgh unsuccessfully lobbied PennDOT District-11 to create a more inclusive design that would connect these communities via bike to other bicycle facilities only a stone’s throw away, namely the Station Square Trail and the Montour Trail to the Pittsburgh International Airport. In fact, the City of Pittsburgh pitched PennDOT District-11 a conceptual design eliminating the needless turning lane for most of the distance and using the remaining width for bike lanes, only to be silently rebuffed. Instead, PennDOT’s engineers decided to go against these wishes and charge ahead with a design that only exacerbates the speeding problem, and which gave no dedicated safe space for people who ride bikes to get around.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Long Beach Unveils New Battery-Powered Buses (LBPT)
  • Independent Video Explains Measure M (nandert YouTube)
  • CSUN Passes 1500 Student U-Pass Transit Passes (The Source)
  • Carnage: South L.A. Hit-and-Run Kills One, Injures Two (ABC7)
    …Police Seek Suspect In Fatal Studio City Hit-and-Run (Daily News)
  • Weekend Ridership Up On Gold, Expo Lines (SGV Tribune)
  • Artists, Bohemians Moving From S.F. To L.A. (Guardian)
  • LAT Opinion Comes Out Against Measure JJJ, the Build Better L.A. Initiative
  • Podcast: Roads Were Not Built For Cars (The Source)
    Note: get past the initial windshield “road diets are an experiment” opening, then it gets good
  • Cracked Video Explains What Is Wrong With AirBnB (via Price Tags)
  • Leaders Quit Atlanta Beltline Greenway Over Equity Concerns (Saporta Report)
  • Treat Driving Like Society Treats Addictions (World Streets)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarTED-talk style urbanism talks at the New Urbanism Film Festival’s NUFFTalks! Celebrate a new Watts crosswalk and Long Beach protected bike lanes. Attend meetings: the 710 Freeway and the L.A. City Transportation Committee. Much more, and ULI and NUFF events coming up next week, too! 

  • Monday 9/26 – Tonight Caltrans and Metro host an informational workshop on SR-710 North project, aka the $6+billion tunnel that will clean the air and reduce congestion according to engineer’s sophisticated traffic models. The meeting takes place tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at Centro Maravilla Service Center at 4716 East Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights. Details at Metro website.
  • Wednesday 9/28 – The L.A. City Council Transportation Committee convenes to discuss sightseeing buses, repurposing earmarks, disabled curb markings and more. The meeting takes place at 1 p.m. at room 1010 at L.A. City Hall at 200 N. Spring Street (public entrance on Main Street) in downtown L.A. Details on city agenda.
  • Wednesday 9/28 – Join Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino and the Watts Community at the ribbon-cutting for the new high visibility crosswalk at 92nd Street and Bandera Street in Watts. The celebration begins at 3 p.m. Details at Facebook event.
  • Thursday 9/29 – The New Urbanism Film Festival and Helms Bakery District present NUFFTalks, a TED talks-style event where top urban thinkers and local community leaders give seven-minute long presentations on L.A.’s dynamic urban landscape. This event is Part 1 of the New Urbanism Film Festival’s “Urbanism Filmmaking Challenge” where filmmakers have one week to create 3-5 minute documentaries on the topics presented at NUFFTalks. The films will screen on Sunday, October 9th. Hear the talks from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 8745 Washington Boulevard in Culver City. Event details and purchase tickets at Eventbrite. Check the NUFF website for more on the Urbanism Filmmaking Challenge and the 2016 NUFF taking place October 6-9!
  • Friday 9/29 – Critical Mass gathers at 6:30 p.m. and departs around 7:30 p.m. from the Metro station plaza at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Koreatown. See unofficial Facebook event for details.
  • Saturday 10/1 – The city of Long Beach, Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and SCAG Go Human host Activate Uptown, a mini-open streets block party event featuring live music, food, a mural installation, a youth basketball tournament, a children’s arts and crafts area, giveaways, and more. Activate Uptown will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Artesia Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue. Details at Facebook event.

Register now for ULI-LA's transit-oriented development conference next week

Register now for ULI-LA’s Transit-Oriented L.A. conference next week

Did we miss anything? Is there something we should list on future calendars? Email joe [at]

Streetsblog USA
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White House: Make Cities Affordable By Building for Walkability, Not Parking

The Obama administration is taking on the crisis of rising rents in American cities, releasing a series of recommendations today to spur the construction of more affordable housing. Among the many ideas the White House endorses: allowing more multi-family housing near transit and getting rid of parking minimums.

Rising rents are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Rising rents and stagnant incomes are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Since 1960, the share of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing — the baseline for what is considered “affordable” — has risen from 24 percent to 49 percent, the White House reports in its new Housing Development Toolkit [PDF]. There are now 7.7 million severely rent-burdened households, defined as those paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent — an increase of about 2.5 million in just the past 10 years.

In the toolkit, the Obama administration acknowledges the links between housing and transportation, saying that “smart housing regulation optimizes transportation system use, reduces commute times, and increases use of public transit, biking and walking.”

The toolkit is full of policy recommendations to make it easier to build multi-family housing, incentivize the construction of subsidized housing, and shift away from the single-family/large lot development paradigm.

The document is merely advisory — federal officials don’t have the power to supersede most local zoning laws. But the White House does say that U.S. DOT will evaluate cities’ approaches to new housing development when it considers awarding major grants for new transit projects.

Here are a few of the highlights from the recommendations.

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New Caltrans Video Claims Widening 5 Freeway Is Good for Air, Congestion

In this new promotional video, Caltrans District 7 inexplicably proclaims that widening a stretch of the 5 freeway in southeast L.A. County will “reduce congestion” and “improve air quality.” The video, shown at Metro’s board and committee meetings recently, further boasts about “better safety” and how outsized new bridges over the freeway will each “dwarf the original bridge.” It goes on to herald Caltrans’ $1.9 billion project (funded by Metro’s Measure R) as a “21st-century transformation.”

What it really resembles are all of those dreadful 20th-century transformations that gave L.A. County its current congestion and foul air, plus plenty of child asthma, noise, disconnected neighborhoods, obesity, and other problems. These are all accompanied by budget-breaking infrastructure maintenance costs passed along to our children’s generation.

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans website

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans project promo website

The flaws inherent in Caltrans’ outdated thinking are summarized well by UCLA professor Michael Manville, in what he calls “Transportation Economics 101”:

We’ve known for a very long time that simply adding capacity doesn’t reduce traffic congestion. This was first pointed out in very clear language in the the 1960s by an economist named Anthony Downs in what he called the fundamental law of road congestion, which basically said that whenever you add road capacity to the road all you are doing is essentially lowering the price of driving.

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More Evidence That Speed Cameras Work

The evidence is clear: Speed cameras save lives.

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Here’s the latest success story — an update from Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland on the city’s first speed camera, which was installed on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway last month:

Here are some facts about the BHH camera released by PBOT today:

  • Before the cameras were installed, an average 1,417 vehicles a day traveled 51 mph or faster, according to readings by a pneumatic tube laid across the roadway.
  • During the warning period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 18, an average 93 vehicles a day were found traveling 51 mph or faster — a 93.4 percent reduction from the tube count.
  • In the first week of the warning period, cameras recorded an average 115 violations a day. Violations dropped to an average 72 a day by the week of Sept. 12 to 18.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: The City of Los Angeles Is Full

Shane Phillips, who writes at the blog Better Institutions, joins the podcast this week to discuss housing issues in Los Angeles (and everywhere else), and what to make of the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.”

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Today’s Headlines

  • Latest Metro Rail Ridership – Gold, Expo Up With New Extensions (Let’s Go L.A.)
  • Cyclists Remember Alan Deane, Push For Safer Streets (Pasadena Star News)
  • Garcetti Signs Yes On Measure M Resolution Aboard Metro Red Line (Garcetti Facebook)
  • Road Diet Planned For 6th Street In Central City West (Urbanize)
  • Rubberized Jogging Track Coming To East L.A.’s Calvary Cemetery (KPCC)
  • Sluggish Trade, Rosy Predictions Causing Fiscal Nightmare For Alameda Rail (SGV Tribune)
  • LAT Still Hates High-Speed Rail, Profiles North Valley Opposition To Tunnel Route
  • Man On Cell Phone Killed By Train In Del Mar (LAT)
  • CA Eyeing Solar Energy Roads (KPCC)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA


New Map Shows Metro’s 20,000+ Parking Spaces, Mostly Free

Metro Rail and BRT parking map - by Mehmet Berker

Metro Rail and BRT parking map created by Mehmet Berker. Click for higher resolution PDF

Earlier this year, a Seattle transit parking infographic map made the rounds. Created by Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog, the map is helpful for visualizing the urban to suburban mix of station uses, and understanding the investments that Seattle’s transit agency is planning.

Inspired by Shaner’s Seattle example, friend of the blog Mehmet Berker created an analogous map for L.A. County. The map above includes, as of this month, all of Metro’s current rail and BRT station parking, plus Crenshaw/LAX rail line parking currently under construction. Mercifully, neither of the under-construction subways – the Regional Connector and the Purple Line – include parking. The parking data is from Metro’s Park and Ride web page.

Similar to the Seattle map, the core of the Metro system (where most boarding occurs) has very little parking. The rest of the system, though, has lots and lots of parking (pun intended.) Including a couple hundred Crenshaw/LAX line spaces, Metro has 24,121 parking spaces. Only 1,596 of them (6.6 percent) are paid for by drivers. The remaining 22,267 (92.3 percent) are free, which is to say that they are paid for by taxpayers and transit riders, whether they drive or not.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why a Struggling Industrial City Decided Bikes Are the Way Forward

Reading, Pennsylvania, isn’t your stereotypical biking mecca. It’s a low-income, largely Latino, post-industrial city of almost 90,000 people.

But without much of anything in the way of bike infrastructure, Reading has the third-highest rate of bike commuting in Pennsylvania and is among the top 15 cities on the East Coast.

Some civic leaders in Reading have seized on the idea of better serving people who bike as a way to improve safety and community, as well as to help reverse the legacy of sprawl and disinvestment.

We’re excited to be the first to post this video from the Portland-based publishing crew Elly Blue and Joe Biel.

The film is part of a short series (the next one will air here next week) the Elly and Joe produced to show a broader cross-section of regions and people working on bike issues. They made the films while traveling around America on their Dinner and Bikes Tour.