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Can a New Way to Measure Streets Help Advocates Tame Speeding?

You’ve heard of sensors that can count cars or bikes. Tools like that can help transportation planners make smarter decisions about where bike infrastructure is needed, for example. A new digital tool called Placemeter aims to measure streets at a much more fine-grained level, analyzing a variety of different aspects of movement in an urban environment.

Placemeter’s software extracts information from video of streets — it can measure the movement of vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians and then tell you about things like the incidence of speeding or the foot traffic for a specific storefront. Cities are finding lots of interesting ways to use it — but it’s not just for bureaucrats. The people behind Placemeter think it will be very useful for advocates too.

I caught up with Alexandre Winter and Florent Peyre, the founders of Placemeter, to find out how their platform can help us understand what happens on streets.

How do you see Placemeter being useful for improving streets for people using various modes of transportation, including walking?

Florent Peyre: When you want to optimize a city, you need to be able to quantify and measure it first. We’re making it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to measure continuously at a fraction of the cost of hiring a data collection company.

We work with the city of Boston, where they’re interested in building more parklets, but they get pushback from people who think there should be more parking space. What we bring to the table is the ability to quantify the effect of such a change by measuring baseline and then how many people use that parking spot now that it is a temporary pedestrian zone. Bringing a layer of data removes a lot of the passion from a lot of those discussions.

Read more…

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarIt’s a holiday-shortened week (SBLA won’t be publishing this Friday), but there are some rides and a special L.A. City Council hearing on sidewalk repair.

  • Tuesday 6/30 – At special South L.A. joint meeting of the Public Works and Budget committees [agenda PDF], the Los Angeles City Council will hear from the public on who will pay to repair and maintain sidewalks. Streetsblog previewed the latest sidewalk repair plan here. Tonight’s sidewalks meeting takes place tonihjt at 6 p.m. at the Estelle Van Meter Senior Center at 7600 Avalon Boulevard, L.A. 90003. Additional sidewalk meetings coming in late July, see Investing in Place.
  • Thursday 7/2 – Relampago Wheelery rides east for Morriseyoke. Ride departs L.A. Eco-Village at 9 p.m. Details here.
  • Sunday 7/5 – The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition hosts a Sunday Funday ride, focused on L.A. history. Departs 9 a.m. from Sunset Triangle Plaza. Details here.

Did we miss anything? Is there something we need to know for future calendars? Email

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Today’s Headlines

  • LAT Interviews Art Leahy About Metrolink’s Future
  • Video: Expo Line Major Progress, Featuring SBLA’s Joe Linton (KABC)
    ICYMI Yesterday’s SBLA Photo Essay On Expo
  • Town Hall Meetings On L.A. City’s Sidewalk Repair Program (Investing in Place)
    Submit Photos Of Broken Sidewalks To LAT
  • Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu Sworn In (KPCC)
  • The Changing Face Of Boyle Heights (KPCC)
  • Small Sample Shows Deadliest Hours For Cycling 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. (OC Register)
  • Bikes Have Been A Part Of North Hollywood For A Long Time (CiclaValley)
  • SF Firefighters Against Safe Streets (SBSF)
  • What Makes Brian Addison So Awesome (LongBeachIze)

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Photo Essay: Expo Phase 2 Construction 90+Percent Done, Open Early 2016

Metro Expo Line test train at Palms Station this morning. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro Expo Line test train at Palms Station this morning. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and others hosted a press event this morning to showcase progress on the Metro Expo Line Phase 2. The event took place at the under-construction Palms Station, and featured a test train pulling into the station under its own electrical catenary power. Leaders enthused that construction is more than 90 percent complete, and the project is on-time and on-budget.

It has been a while since trains ran on these tracks. Passenger service last ran in the 1950s, though freight trains continued through the 1980s. On June 15th, photos surfaced on social media showing a test train traveling the line.

The opening date isn’t set yet, but the most recent Metro estimates show a completion date of April 2016, one month after the also under-construction Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line, projected to open March 2016. There’s still quite a bit of work to do, so if you’re adding these dates to your calendar, use a pencil.

One anticipated wrinkle, reported earlier at Santa Monica Next, is a possible longer-than-usual headway when Expo Phase 2 first opens. According to a Metro staff report, if all these construction schedules remain on track, Metro anticipates a “temporary shortage of light rail vehicles.” Metro anticipates initially operating Expo trains every 12 minutes at peak hours. The poor headways shouldn’t last long, though; as more trains become available, the Expo Line headways reduce to every six minutes.  And it gets better in the near future. The six-minute wait time goes down to a five-minute wait time when Metro opens its Regional Connector subway, currently anticipated in 2020.

Below is a photo essay of the Expo train, station, and parallel bikeway under construction today.  Read more…
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DC’s Silver Line: A Transit Expansion 34 Years in the Making

Image via Greater Greater Washington

Image via Greater Greater Washington. Click to enlarge

When a politician like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan kills off a transit project, not only does he rob citizens of anticipated improvements, he could be wiping out decades of intricate planning.

Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington notes that by 2019 it will have taken 34 years to complete the Metro’s Silver Line, which will connect DC and suburban counties with Dulles Airport.

Malouff explains the above graphic:

The timeline begins in 1985, when the idea of a Metro line to Dulles Airport went from vague concept to serious planning initiative following a study that determined it would be feasible.

Planning (yellow on the timeline) and environmental work (green) took the next 21 years, until 2006. It took another 3 years for officials to finalize funding (blue) before construction (purple) could begin in 2009.

Plopping a rail line down the middle of a gargantuan suburban highway with a capacious median is easy compared to putting one virtually anywhere else. Almost any other potential Metrorail expansion imaginable will be harder to plan, fund, and build.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing,” Malouff writes. “But it’s definitely going to be hard.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: tests whether motorists are yielding to pedestrians; and Biking Toronto reports that there is fresh green paint, but no physical separation, on a much-needed bike lane.

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L.A. Press Club Honors Sahra Sulaiman, Brian Addison, and Streetsblog L.A.

Damien Newton, Melanie Curry, and Joe Linton accepting the Group Blog award at last night's L.A. Press Club awards dinner. Photo: Juan Matute

Damien Newton, Melanie Curry, and Joe Linton accepting the Group Blog award at last night’s L.A. Press Club awards dinner. Photo: Juan Matute

At last night’s 57th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards, the L.A. Press Club honored the Streetsblog L.A. family with three of its prestigious awards. Streetsblog L.A. is a project of the Southern California Streets Initiative, which also runs LongBeachIze, Santa Monica Next, and now Streetsblog California. Last night’s honors included:

  • Best News Feature (Online) went to SBLA Communities Editor Sahra Sulaiman for her excellent March 2014 article To Be or Not To Be a Gang-Banger: Is that Really the Question?
  • Online Journalist of the Year went to Brian Addison for his work at SBLA sister site LongBeachIze, as well as at the Long Beach Post.
  • Best Group Blog went to the Streetsblog Los Angeles 2014 team: Melanie Curry, Joe Linton, Damien Newton, and Sahra Sulaiman. This is the second year in a row that we received this honor.

Kudos to all the winners, and to the rest of the nominees, too. If you read SBLA and you like the daily award-winning coverage we provide, please support us!

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Today’s Headlines

  • N Figueroa Hit-and-Run Suspect Caught By LAPD (Northeast Daily News)
  • World Naked Bike Ride Takes DTLA (LAT)
  • Latest Revised Version of Straw Man Measure R2 Proposal (Move L.A.)
  • Hellish Car Commutes Put Pressure On New Transportation Bill (Pasadena Star News)
  • Carnage: 75-Year-Old Woman Killed By Car In Koreatown (LAT)
  • Metro Cutting Water Use (KPCC)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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Saturday! Leimert Park Celebrates 2nd Annual 20|20 Vision Charette with People St Plaza Launch

Adinkra symbols for Unity and Human Relations (Nkonsonkonson -- "chain link" -- at bottom right) and "Except for God" (Gye Nyame), intended as a nod to the spirituality of the Ghanaian people (the symbol is prevalent there) have already been painted on a few dots in the Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Adinkra symbols for Unity and Human Relations (Nkonsonkonson — “chain link” — at bottom right) and “Except for God” (Gye Nyame), intended as a nod to the spirituality of the Ghanaian people (the symbol is prevalent there) have already been painted on a few dots in the Plaza. The Plaza officially opens this Saturday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It is noon on a Monday.

The weekly Leimert Park Village (LPV) stakeholders meeting has just finished, and Sherri Franklin, founder of the Urban Design Center, and Romerol Malveaux, former Field Director for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, are leading a small group of people on a walk around the village streets.

Map in hand, Franklin is taking note of existing issues with the sidewalks, trees (or lack of), pedestrian lighting, planters, and street furniture. The notes will be used to help determine how the Prop 1C dollars Leimert Park received should be deployed to improve the streetscape.

It’s not an altogether uncommon scene.

Since the launch of the Leimert Park Village Stakeholders 20|20 Vision Initiative in January 2014, it seems there is always work to be done.

The 20|20 Vision Initiative was born out of the LPV stakeholders’ desire to harness the change the Leimert Park station will bring to the area when the Crenshaw/LAX rail line is completed in 2020. The nearly 200 stakeholders in attendance focused on developing an overarching vision for the area and what they would need to do to make that vision a reality. Participants debated how to make Leimert Park a destination, deepen relationships with sister cities or communities, attract investors looking to build partnerships with local artists and cultural caretakers, support black creatives and foster development from within the community, and the possibility of turning the space in front of the Vision Theater into a car-free plaza.

Since that initial charette, LPV stakeholders have been meeting every Monday morning to hone those plans and move forward on their implementation.

A year and a half later, their People St Plaza project is set to open in a ceremony this Saturday, June 27, at 2 p.m.

But instead of the Plaza symbolizing the end of the journey and cause to take a breath, it seems more like a beginning. Or maybe a benchmark. But definitely not an end. To wit, the ceremony will be taking place during a break for those attending tomorrow’s Second Annual LPV 20|20 Vision Initiative Charette, “Harnessing Our Cultural Economy.” Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Charlotte’s Urban Web

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Mary Newsom of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute joins me this week to discuss everything Charlotte, from its beginnings as a crossroads of Native American pathways to its current incarnation as a fast-growing metropolis. The enormous growth of the region, she says, includes a recent surge of suburban subdivisions that were lying in wait during the recession.

Transit is expanding in Charlotte, but the city also just finished a loop highway it began building decades ago, and the street network is not so conducive to urban growth. Tune in and learn all about it, and hear what prompted Mary to get into urban issues.

And don’t forget! You can find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


Deadly North Figueroa Street Hit-and-Run Crime Kills Cyclist

According to media reports, this morning at about 3 a.m. a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a cyclist in Highland Park. The crime took place at the intersection of North Figueroa and Pasadena Avenue. The L.A. Times reports that witnesses stated the driver was traveling at 80 miles per hour north on Figueroa. The victim was dragged several hundred feet. LAPD were summoned to the scene and are investigating the crime.

Cycling advocates will be gathering tonight at 8 p.m. to install a ghost bike at the site of the crime.

Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked LADOT's plan to make North Figueroa safer. Photo via Fig4All

Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked LADOT’s plan to make North Figueroa safer. Photo via Fig4All

Readers may recall that North Figueroa is one of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 15 selected Great Streets improvement areas, but that City Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked the Transportation Department’s ready-to-implement safety improvements.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino responded to the tragedy with a statement: “I am sickened by the deadly hit-and-run this morning in Highland Park and want to remind the media and all residents that there is a standing reward for all hit and run crimes in Los Angeles. There is an automatic $50,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the driver who struck this bicyclist. Please, please, please report any information you may have. Our city has an epidemic of hit and runs and the only way we can change this is to speak up.”

Late developments: KCAL is now reporting that LAPD found the car and arrested a suspect. SBLA will update this post as additional information becomes available.