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Comparing 20 Years of Housing Growth in American Cities

Here’s an interesting way to visualize how different regions are growing (or not). Using a tool developed by the University of Virginia Demographics Research Group, Michael Andersen at Bike Portland shares these charts showing where housing growth has happened relative to city centers. The dark brown lines show the number of occupied housing units at one-mile intervals from the urban core in 2012, and the orange lines show the distribution in 1990. The gap between the lines tells you where housing growth has happened, and there is huge variation between regions.

In Denver, for instance, you can see that housing growth was concentrated between eight and 20 miles from the city center:

Image: Bike Portland

Denver: The orange line shows occupied housing units in 1990. The brown line shows 2012. Image: Bike Portland

In other places — especially large, in-demand coastal cities like LA — housing growth has barely changed (note that the y-axis is scaled differently in each chart):

Read more…

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Cyclists, Hikers Urge Park Advisory Board To End Griffith Park Parking Trial

Standing room only crowd as park users rallied to opposed Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Standing room only crowd as park users rally to oppose Griffith Park desecration of Mount Hollywood Drive. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, over a hundred people who walk or bike in and near Griffith Park attended the Griffith Park Advisory Board meeting to express opposition to a current 3-week trial allowing cars on formerly car-free Mount Hollywood Drive. In an attempt to deal with the problem of “too much traffic,” the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) has opened one mile of Mt. Hollywood to driving and parking.

A month ago, that quiet park road was off-limits to cars, and home to people on foot and on bike, and even coyotes and other wildlife. Today, it serves a parking lot.

DRP Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan stressed that spring break was the heaviest time of the year for Griffith Park, with car traffic sometimes backing up onto adjacent surface streets. “There’s a ton of people coming and there always will be” Regan stated. His statements tended to conflate “people” solely with cars and parking.

With the large standing-room-only crowd in attendance, and more than 50 speaker cards on the Mount Hollywood Drive item, the park board decided to cap testimony at 20 minutes.

Nobody spoke in favor of the pilot.

Many people expressed their deep affinity for Griffith Park’s serene car-free roads as a respite to the car-centric streets of Los Angeles. Weighing in against the trial were representatives from cycling organizations, including the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Finish the Ride, Ride to Recovery, and the city’s Council-appointed Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Though cyclists comprised the majority of the opposition, hikers and equestrians also expressed frustration with the trial. Friends of Griffith Park board president Gerry Hans spoke on his organization’s strong opposition, reiterating concerns raised in the FoGP’s comment letter [PDF].

A few speakers attributed the park’s worsening traffic problems to Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. LaBonge has had a heavy hand in steering Hollywood Sign tourist traffic away from the well-heeled Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, re-focusing it instead toward Griffith Observatory, then spilling onto Mt. Hollywood Drive.  Read more…

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Two Key Factors That Can Make or Break a Bike-Share Network

What if you could dramatically increase the usefulness of a bike-share system without adding any bicycles or docks? Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business have come up with a model that they say could help even the most successful bike-share systems in the world get more bang for the buck.

Paris' Velib bike share could attract 29 percent more riders if a few key changes were made, researchers estimate. Photo: Wikipedia

Researchers estimate that even Paris’s much-used Velib bike-share could attract 29 percent more riders by optimizing the location and size of stations. Photo: Wikipedia

The Booth School team focused on two factors: station accessibility (or how long it takes people to get to a station) and bike availability (or having at least one bike to check out at a station). After collecting minute-by-minute ridership data from 349 stations in Paris’s highly successful Velib system over a four-month period, they modeled the effect of these factors on ridership.

Researchers found that decreasing the distance to access stations by 10 percent boosts bike-share trips by about 7 percent, while a 10 percent improvement in bike availability can increase system usage about 12 percent.

Interestingly, given a fixed number of docks and bikes, improving the accessibility of a network can diminish its availability, since the system would have a larger number of stations spaced closer together, but each station would be smaller. The inverse is also true — designing for greater availability can reduce accessibility.

However, networks can be optimized taking both accessibility and availability into account. In the researchers’ model, simply rearranging existing Velib bike-share docks — adjusting the size and location of stations — could attract 29.4 percent more trips.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Cyclists Show Up To Protest Griffith Park Trial Road Takeover By Cars (L.A. Weekly)
    Windshield Reporting: Pity the Poor Tourist Unable To Access the Hollywood Sign (KTLA)
    New Petition: No Cars On Mount Hollywood Drive (Change.org)
  • Cool 1980s Renderings Of L.A. Subway Stations Never Built (Curbed)
  • Metro Is In the Affordable Housing Business (KPCC)
  • Supervisor Solis Opens Three County Parklets in East L.A. (Pasadena Star News)
  • CiclaValley Takes Aim At Studio City’s Planned Sportsmen’s Lodge Development
  • Permit Parking Coming To Echo Park (Curbed)
  • Driver Plows Into Sun Valley Hotel (Daily News)
  • Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Makes Chandeliers Out Of Cast Off Bike Parts (LAT)
  • The Latest Look At Metro Bus Ridership Trends (Let’s Go L.A.)
  • New Plan For Papermate Site: Suburban Office Park (Santa Monica Next)

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Metro Studying Arts District Red/Purple Line Subway Extension

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro’s outgoing CEO Art Leahy spoke enthusiastically at last week’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee about potentially extending the Red and Purple Line subways into the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The new station or stations would take advantage of existing tracks in Metro’s Heavy Rail Maintenance Yard, which extends southeast of Union Station, sandwiched between the Arts District and the Los Angeles River, mostly between First and Fourth streets, but extending all the way from the 101 Freeway to below Sixth Street.

The item didn’t even rise to the level of full Metro board approval; the board committee merely received and filed a Metro staff report [PDF]. That report joins an earlier staff report [PDF] filed in 2010.

There is already a fair amount of detail covered at Downtown News, Urbanize L.A., and the Los Angeles Times, so SBLA will be relatively brief.

It is clear that adding new “revenue service” to this location where empty trains are already going would be a fairly low-cost way of expanding Metro rail service. As Metro extends the Purple Line subway, the agency is already planning upgrades to this maintenance yard.

Metro has committed to running subway trains with two-minute headways, with service every four minutes on both the Red and Purple lines. In order to meet the improved headways, the agency would need to re-tool some of its tracks east of Union Station.

This includes widening the tunnel portal near the 101 Freeway and creating a “turn-back facility.”

As the Metro staff report [PDF] states:

To support increased service levels on the Red/Purple Lines … a turn-back facility consisting of three tracks and two platforms must be constructed within the [maintenance] yard. [… T]o keep trains moving through Union Station, it is necessary to continue passenger revenue service through to the turn-back facility, at which point trains can be cleared and sent back into service. Designing the turn-back facility to also serve as an at-grade revenue station is a cost-effective method for expanding rail service to the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles.

Metro’s next step is to complete its “coordination study,” which is expected this Spring.

What do you think, readers? Should Metro prioritize this relatively low-cost connection? Should there be one stop or two?

 

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Car Storage for a Few Trumps Safe Streets for All in San Diego

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week, taking sides on a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

About 250 people packed a San Diego Church earlier this week to discuss a plan to improve street safety. Photo: BikeSD

A major street safety campaign in San Diego is running up against the fierce territorial instinct that only on-street car parking can instill.

After a two-year public process, a plan to create safe biking and walking access to Hillcrest and other neighborhoods reached a local advisory group called Uptown Planners. The plan calls for adding bike lanes on major thoroughfares, and business owners have objected to the loss of 130 parking spaces. The opponents have also spread misinformation about how the plan will affect car traffic on local streets.

Uptown Planners play an advisory role in local government. At its meeting earlier this week, the NIMBY contingent prevailed, writes Sam Ollinger at BikeSD:

While many of us were out last night testifying and desperately pleading for safer access through along University Avenue to a board that ignored all public testimony for safer streets, except for the comments on using public spaces for private vehicle storage, a 74 year old woman crossing Camino Ruiz in a marked crosswalk suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by an SUV. No word yet on whether the driver has been charged.

Earlier this month, our endorsed candidates Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala were successfully elected to the Uptown Planners at the Community Planning Group election. But last night’s meeting was a special meeting and Brennan and Heiskala haven’t yet been seated — so they were unable to vote on the issue.

Uptown Planners ended up voting 10-0 against the proposal, essentially saying that bike lanes should go elsewhere and calling for the project to start from scratch, with “mitigation for any loss of parking.” Ollinger says the outcome disregarded plenty of testimony at the meeting:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

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120 Groups Call for More Funding for Active Transportation Program

bikesandcars

California should invest more to increase biking and walking, say community groups and advocates. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A broad coalition of organizations called today for California to increase funding for walk and bike projects. More than 120 organizations signed a petition urging the state to increase its investment in the Active Transportation Program (ATP), citing cost savings and health benefits from better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the low level of funding currently available.

The ATP provides $300 million biannually for projects that encourage people to take trips by bike or on foot, including infrastructure (paths, lanes, sidewalks, crossings) and programs (education, safe routes to schools). In the last round, announced in the fall, many more projects applied for the program than could be funded, leaving over $800 million worth of ready-to-go projects on the table.

“We know that 20 percent of trips by Californians are on foot or by bicycle, but despite the overwhelming demand for projects that create safer streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, the state Active Transportation Program still only receives around one percent of Caltrans’ annual budget,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Senior Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The 120 organizations that have signed on so far [PDF] include community and advocacy organizations that focus on health, walking, biking, the environment, equity, and economic policy. Several cities also signed the call for more funding.

The coalition emphasizes cost savings from investing in active transportation, which are less expensive to build and require less maintenance per trip than highways. It also refers to the recent Smart Growth America report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, that presents data on community economic benefits from better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Read more…

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Making the Case for Complete Streets

This complete street redesign in Hamburg, New York, decreased collisions 57 percent. Photo: Smart Growth America

This street redesign in Hamburg, New York, decreased collisions 57 percent. Photo: Smart Growth America

Redesigning streets to make room for people is a no brainer. “Complete streets” projects that calm traffic and provide safe space for walking and biking save money, reduce crashes and injuries, and improve economic outcomes. Need further convincing?

Smart Growth America has done some number crunching, looking at the impact of 37 complete streets projects from communities across the country. Here are the major findings from SGA’s new report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies.

Complete Streets Are a Bargain

The average cost of a road diet — reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes on a street — was $2.1 million. In other words, pocket change. Per mile, three quarters of the complete streets projects came in below the cost of a typical arterial street project cited by the FHWA.

Here’s an amazing example: Portland, Oregon, spent $95,000 restriping Multnomah Boulevard and adding signs and bollards. That tiny investment reduced speeding by half and increased cycling 44 percent.

Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: Growing Up and Out in Houston

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This week and next I’m joined by Christof Spieler, a vice president of Morris Architects who serves on the board of Houston Metro, to talk about Houston. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the podcasts.

Christof tells stories about how planning works in Houston, including how Intercontinental Airport was sited during a backroom deal and how people inside the city think about zoning and development. We discuss projects like the “Ashby Highrise,” the growth of roads and sprawl around Houston, and Exxon’s move out of downtown along the region’s newest 170-mile ring road. Yup, 170 miles.

So please join us for part one of the Houston podcast. Next week we’ll discuss high-speed rail in Texas, Houston’s new bike lanes, light rail expansion, and the implementation of the new bus network.