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Want to Slow Displacement? Then Build More Housing, Says Legislative Analyst’s Office

From the LAO report

From the LAO report

What will it take to make sure there’s a future for lower- and middle-income people in California? Anyone who has tried to look for a place to live recently knows that question is much more than an abstract policy discussion.

Increasingly, the high cost of housing in California is driving the state’s low- and middle-income workers farther from job centers and even out of the state.

In a report released yesterday, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing,” Sacramento’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a nonpartisan advisory office that provides lawmakers with policy and budget analyses, tackles the sticky issue of displacement and what role, if any, new market-rate housing can play in stopping it.

It’s particularly timely, as no-growth activists in Los Angeles are currently gathering signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would significantly hinder the city’s ability to plan for new housing growth.

The state is facing a growing housing affordability crisis that is hurting disadvantaged and working people and must be addressed by, among other strategies, a significant increase in the production of new housing. The LAO report is their second in the last 12 months on the topic and underscores the importance of this issue,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represents Assembly District 50.

The new report is a follow-up to the LAO’s report last March, which outlined the causes and consequences of California’s housing shortage, and, in short, says that given the scope of the problem, the only way to stem displacement on a large scale is to significantly increase the amount of new housing that gets built in California’s desirable coastal communities.

“The Legislature is poised to address this issue in the State budget and with policy proposals. As a representative of a district where the crisis is acute and as a matter of concern for all Californians, I intend to be very active on both fronts,” said Bloom, whose district includes much of the westside of Los Angeles County, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills.

Too great a need for the status quo

The report notes that it’s simply unrealistic to expect that current strategies to prevent displacement, like voucher and affordable housing production programs, will meet the growing need of rent-burdened low-income households by themselves.

“While affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs. The majority of low-income households receive little or no assistance and spend more than half of their income on housing,” according to the report.

“Extending housing assistance to low-income Californians who currently do not receive it — either through subsidies for affordable units or housing vouchers — would require an annual funding commitment in the low tens of billions of dollars. This is roughly the magnitude of the state’s largest General Fund expenditure outside of education (Medi-Cal),” the report says.

Policies like rent control, while they may benefit some existing tenants, don’t actually do much to address the problems in the long term because price controls don’t add new housing.

“Households looking to move to California or within California would… continue to face stiff competition for limited housing, making it difficult for them to secure housing that they can afford. Requiring landlords to charge new tenants below-market rents would not eliminate this competition,” according to the report. “Households would have to compete based on factors other than how much they are willing to pay. Landlords might decide between tenants based on their income, creditworthiness, or socioeconomic status, likely to the benefit of more affluent renters.”

How does new housing help the poor? Read more…

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Metro Proposes Pilot For All-Paid Parking At Nine Stations

Should Metro parking policies

Metro may soon eliminate wasteful parking subsidies at several rail stations, including Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metro board will hear a promising proposal [PDF] that increases paid parking at nine stations on three Metro rail lines. According to The Source, the proposal will be presented to the Metro board this month, voted on in March, and go into effect in May if approved.

Charging for station parking was recommended under Metro’s 2015 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) review, which states: “Station parking is expensive to build and maintain” and “[parking] costs should be partially recovered to avoid giving park-and-ride customers the largest subsidies, to increase agency revenues, and to effectively manage parking supply.” APTA reviewers further stated that park-and-ride subsidizes higher income riders, decreases transit’s air quality benefits, and that it would be better to invest in convenient, frequent bus service.

Metro

Metro graph showing how rail patrons arrive at selected stations.

Metro’s figures, included in the proposal [PDF] show that, even with expensive large parking lots at stations, only 8 to 15 percent of rail riders park at the station. The majority of riders arrive by bus; approximately a third arrive by “other methods” including walking and bicycling.

Metro justifies the pilot on the basis that “non-driving transit patrons are currently under the [accurate] perception that their transit fare is subsidizing parking” with “operations of parking are currently being maintained by Metro’s annual budget without generating any parking revenue to recover a portion of its costs.” Metro estimates the pilot 9-station program is estimated to generate approximately $600,000 in annual revenue.  Read more…

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Washington State GOP Claims a Scalp in the Name of Socialized Roads

Republicans in the Washington State Senate are sending a message: Don’t mess with our socialized highways. To show they’re serious about subsidizing roads, they ended the tenure of Washington DOT chief Lynn Peterson.

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective, but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Senate Republicans used their confirmation authority to give Peterson “one week notice” that she would be fired, as one Democrat put it.

Josh Feit at Publicola explains:

[State Senator Andy] Hill said it was “nothing personal” but the senate needed to use its “blunt instrument” (its confirmation powers) to “impose accountability” on an agency that was responsible for imposing unpopular tolls on I-405. “I have no confidence that this agency is in any position to fix the problems it has,” he said about an agency he accused of unfairly executing its tolling program.

Dan Ryan at Seattle Transit Blog says the tolls are actually working pretty well:

Notwithstanding its unpopularity with some SOV drivers (at least those who don’t use the lanes), it has been rather successful in managing traffic. Travel times in both the express and general purpose lanes are better, saving drivers 14 minutes in the express lanes and 7 minutes southbound in the regular lanes. Bus riders have seen improved speed and reliability. Community Transit riders save six minutes at peak times, while Metro riders are saving eight minutes. After just a few months, ridership is up 4% on CT, and 6% on Metro routes in the corridor.

Read more…

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Obama’s Last Budget Lays Out a Smart Vision for American Transportation

The White House released its 2017 budget [PDF] this morning, which includes more detail about the exciting but politically doomed transportation proposal President Obama outlined last week. Obama’s plan doesn’t have a chance in the current Congress, but it shows what national transportation policy centered on reducing greenhouse gas emissions might look like.

Obama had an awesome transportation budget in him all along. Photo: Iowapolitics.com via Flickr

If only candidate Obama had campaigned on this transportation plan in 2008. Photo: Iowapolitics.com/Flickr

Last week’s release sketched out a $10 per barrel tax on oil to fund a $30 billion increase in annual transportation spending. The budget gives us a closer look at what that $30 billion would fund.

In total, $20 billion of it would go toward programs to reduce GHG emissions and give people better options to get around without driving. Here are the details — keep in mind that with the GOP firmly in control of Congress, this is more of an aspirational document than a politically feasible spending plan.

Transit

The budget calls for an $8 billion increase in annual capital funds for transit, bringing the total to about $20 billion. Of that, about $16 billion would be divvied up to metro regions by formula to support maintenance and expansion projects, about 60 percent. Another $3.5 billion would boost competitive grant programs for expansion projects. The budget recommends funding in FY 2017 for Los Angeles’s Westside Subway, Southwest Light Rail in Minneapolis, Albuquerque Bus Rapid Transit, and Honolulu commuter rail, among other projects.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Protestors Urge Councilmember Price To Add Bike Lanes To Central Ave (MyNewsLA)
  • CiclaValley Urges Readers To Write In Support Of L.A.’s Mobility Plan
  • Ten Ways To Lure Angelenos On To Transit (LA Weekly)
  • Metro Explains Its New Paid Station Parking Plan (The Source)
  • Purple Line Subway Construction To Close Wilshire For 22 Weekends (KPCC)
  • Transit Investment Is For the Long Term (Pasadena Star News)
  • L.A. City Council Passes Plan To Curb Homelessness (KPCC)
  • L.A. City Council Could Approve Zoning For Disputed Hollywood Target Store (LAT)
  • L.A. vs. S.F.: L.A. People Are Lousy Collaborators (CP&DR)
  • S.F. Plans To Replace Level Of Service With Vehicle Miles Traveled (SF Planning)

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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Preliminary Federal Ruling Sides With Beverly Hills Against Metro Subway

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Early map of potential Purple Line subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Last week, United States District Judge George Wu issued a ruling [PDF] in Beverly Hills’ legal battles against Metro’s plans to tunnel the Purple Line subway beneath Beverly Hills High School.

The Beverly Hills Courier portrayed the ruling as a victory for Beverly Hills in that Judge Wu chided subway proponents for “not properly considering the environmental effects of running a tunnel through an area riddled with abandoned oil wells and pockets of potentially explosive methane gas.”

Though the judge sided with Beverly Hills, agreeing that the subway environmental studies did not fulfill all the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the decision is more of a split ruling with some of Beverly Hills’ winning points more nitpicky than substantive.

There are a couple of lawsuits with multiple parties involved. The plaintiffs include the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. The defendants include Metro and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). For the purposes of this article, SBLA simplifies the parties to “Beverly Hills” against “Metro.”

The ruling last week is in the federal court case; Metro won the state court case last year.

The lawsuit primarily centers on Beverly Hills’ criticism of Metro’s decision to relocate the planned Century City stop from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard.

Metro studied numerous subway alignments, and ultimately chose a route that places the Century City station at the intersection of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Though Constellation and Santa Monica are one block apart, Metro found that Santa Monica Boulevard would not work due to earthquake faults. The Constellation alignment effectively necessitates tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

All in all, Beverly Hills raised nine issues where it asserted that Metro’s environmental studies (Environmental Impact Statement – EIS) failed to meet NEPA requirements. The court sided with Beverly Hills on half of those issues. In effect, though, Beverly Hills effectively only needs to prevail on one issue to find that Metro failed NEPA.

The conclusion of the 217-page ruling [PDF] reads:

The Court concludes that [Metro] failed its disclosure/discussion obligations … in connection with [Beverly Hills’] comments concerning the effects of tunneling through gassy ground and the risk of explosions; that it failed its disclosure obligations regarding incomplete information concerning seismic issues; and that it should have issued [additional environmental studies]. The Court also concludes that [Metro] failed to properly assess “use” of [Beverly Hills] High School under [recreational land law] due to the planned tunneling. In all other respects, the Court rules in favor of [Metro].

Metro, via spokesperson Dave Sotero, issued a statement on the ruling:

After a thorough review, Metro concludes that Judge Wu’s tentative rulings uphold the approved plans to build the Century City subway station at Constellation and to tunnel safely beneath Beverly Hills High School. Some of the findings are procedural, requiring the FTA to perform additional environmental analysis and provide a further opportunity for public comment. The majority of extensive environmental work was deemed sound. If the ruling holds, Metro will support FTA in meeting these additional procedural requirements. Time is of the essence. Any significant delay resulting from this case could jeopardize the timely delivery of this critically important transit project for all L.A. County residents.

After the jump are summaries of the nine specific areas of dispute in the lawsuit. Following those are possible next steps in the case.  Read more…

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarTransportation Committee, Sam Schwartz, bus service hearings, challenges to L.A.’s Mobility Plan, Ride4Love, Kidical Mass and more this week!

  • Wednesday 2/10 – The L.A. City Council Transportation Committee will meet at 1 p.m. to consider bike infrastructure, streetcar, and school safety zone speed limits. Details at agenda and special agenda.

Sam Schwartz reads from his new book on Wednesday night

Sam Schwartz reads from his new book on Wednesday night

  • Wednesday 2/10 – Former Traffic Commissioner of New York City “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz will present his new book on the evolution of urban transportation. Book celebration and signing goes from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a meet and greet session until 7:30 p.m. at Vespaio at 225 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. RSVP to marketing [at] samschwartz.com.
  • Wednesday 2/10 – Metro is hosting its last two hearings on planned bus service changes. Wednesday’s meeting is at 6 p.m. at Metro Headquarters Building at 1 Gateway Plaza, Union Station Conference Room, located behind Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Details at The Source.
  • Thursday 2/11 – L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035 faces off against some fairly hostile amendments at the 8:30 am meeting of the City Planning Commission in the Public Works Board Room 350, City Hall, 200 North Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. The agenda should be posted here shortly; staff report is here.
  • Thursday 2/11 –  Metro is hosting its final hearing on planned bus service changes. Thursday’s meeting is at 6 p.m. at Norwalk Arts and Sport Complex, Sproul Reception Center, at 12239 Sproul Street in Norwalk. Details at The Source.
  • Friday 2/12 – Art opening at Espacio 1839 showcasing the work of legendary Chicano photographer Oscar Castillo. Castillo has documented the Chicano community and movement in Los Angeles since the late 1960’s, from major political events to cultural practices to the work of muralists and painters. In capturing how social movements, cultural heritage, and everyday barrio life intersected with the urban environment, he painted a portrait of the soul of a community from a perspective of someone inside it. The event begins at 7 p.m. More details can be found here.
  • Saturday 2/13 – Wheel you be my Valentine? Santa Monica hosts 2nd annual Kidical Mass Valentine’s Day ride! The family ride takes place on from 9 a.m. to noon at Clover Park. RSVP to cory.keen [at] smgov.net by February 12th.
  • Saturday 2/13 – One of Watts’ signature events, the Ride4Love, hosted by the East Side Riders Bike Club, rides again this weekend. Now in its seventh year, the group bike ride will leave from the grand opening of the Hamwich Shack (1330 E Imperial Hwy, 90059), and take a slow, ten-mile tour through some of Watts’ best spots. Ride starts at 11 a.m. More details found here.
  • Saturday 2/13 – Community Services Unlimited hosts a South L.A. dance party and celebration of their efforts to bring an organic market to the Paul Robeson Center (ground is set to break this summer). The party will feature music from DJ Yucasoul, healthy valentine treats and meals (available for purchase), and a peek at CSU’s plans for their market site. Join them starting at 8 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center, 6569 S. Vermont (90044). More details found here.

Did we miss anything? Is there something we should list on future calendars? Email joe@streetsblog.org.

Streetsblog USA
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More Driving, More People Dying on America’s Streets

On Friday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released new data [PDF] showing that traffic deaths are up. Up quite a bit.

More driving, more problems. Photo: Wikipedia

More driving, more problems. Photo: Wikipedia

During the first nine months of 2015, 26,000 Americans were killed in traffic collisions — a 9.3 percent increase over the same period in 2014. According to Autoblog, that would work out to the highest one-year percentage increase in traffic deaths since the 1940s if the trend continued through the end of 2015.

The most obvious reason is that cheap gas is prompting people to drive more. Indeed, during the first three quarters of 2015, drivers logged 80 billion more miles than the same period the previous year — a 3.5 percent increase.

That means the increase in driving doesn’t account for all the increase in fatalities. One theory, courtesy of David Levinson at the University of Minnesota, is that when gas prices fall, collisions rise faster than mileage because people who don’t ordinarily drive much, like teenagers, start driving more.

In its messages, NHTSA keeps hammering “behavioral” issues, like drunk driving and failing to wear seatbelts — which certainly are big contributors to traffic fatalities. But when you get down to it, driving itself is the source of risk, and NHTSA won’t address the systemic factors that compel Americans to drive instead of taking transit, walking, or biking.

You’ll never see NHTSA mention the disaster that is low-density, single-use zoning, which lengthens the distances people have to travel in cars. Or the way state DOTs keep building bigger highways even though they don’t maintain the roads they already have.

In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the new data “is a signal that we need to do more,” but he did not specify what, exactly, we need to do more of.

Streetsblog.net
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More Than 1 in 10 Workers Commute By Bike in Some D.C. Neighborhoods

Bike share commuting rates in central DC. Map: DDOT

Bike commuting rates in central DC. Map: DDOT

Imagine 20 percent of commuters getting to work by bike in a major U.S. city. No entire city is close yet (Portland, with the highest rate, is at about 6 percent), but some neighborhoods are getting there.

Dan Malouff at Beyond DC shares new data from DDOT showing that in a few areas of Washington, the bike commute mode share is especially impressive. The numbers for specific Census block groups should be taken with a grain of salt because the margin of error is high. But it’s safe to say that more than 1 in 10 workers commute by bike in some parts of DC.

Malouff writes:

This fascinating map is part of the background data DDOT is preparing to study a possible protected bikeway on or around 6th Street NW.

It shows how hugely popular bicycling can be as a mode of transportation, even in the United States. What’s more, this data actually undercounts bicycle commuters by quite a lot.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Study: “Shared Space” Slows Drivers While Letting Traffic Move Efficiently

The idea behind “shared space” street design is that less can be more. By ditching signage, traffic lights, and the grade separation between sidewalk and roadbed, the shared space approach calms traffic and heightens communication between drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Instead of following traffic signals on auto-pilot or speeding up to beat the light, motorists have to pay attention to their surroundings.

A "shared space" in Austria. Image: Transportation Research Board

A shared space in Graz, Austria. Image: Transportation Research Board

Shared space design has been shown to calm vehicle traffic and allow more freedom of movement for pedestrians with no increase in traffic injuries. A new study from professor Norman Garrick and Benjamin Wargo at the University of Connecticut finds that in the right conditions shared space also makes intersections more efficient for both pedestrians and motorists.

The study examined six sites around the world that have some degree of “shared space” and where each approach to the intersection has one lane of motor vehicle traffic. Because of the limited number of shared space designs in the U.S., only one American example is included: Uptown Circle in Normal, Illinois.

Using video, the researchers measured driver speeds and pedestrian and vehicle delay. The authors then compared those observations to computer-simulated estimates of how much delay would occur if the streets were designed with more conventional traffic control measures, like stoplights or roundabouts.

They found that in this context, shared space design calmed traffic while also creating less delay for both pedestrians and motorists than traffic signals.

Read more…