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Senate Transpo Bill Sinks Under the Weight of Its Own Chicanery

Last night, the Senate voted to proceed with the consideration of the transportation bill Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Barbara Boxer had worked out. It was just a day after the body had voted to block progress, objecting that they hadn’t had time to even look at the bill.

The policy elements of the bill are largely untouched from what we’ve already seen: the Environment and Public Works Committee’s DRIVE Act and the Commerce Committee’s section on rail and safety. Much of that was largely untouched from MAP-21.

A threat to eliminate TIGER was eliminated. A new formula-based multi-modal freight program is included. Some good language on Complete Streets appears to be gone. Advocates will feel better when the transit section gets fleshed out, and the Banking Committee is still MIA. This bill just doesn’t include earth-shaking policy changes.

But truly, the uproar over it has never been about policy. It’s all about funding. You know this because you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five years.

Because of the unreasonable and unyielding refusal on the part of just about everyone in the Washington political machinery to raise the gas tax, they’re left with a grab-bag of gimmicky pay-fors, or offsets, taken from other pieces of government programs. Here is the sad summary:

Image: ##http://crfb.org/blogs/senate-transportation-bill-finds-offsets-three-years-funding##CFRB##

Table: CFRB

Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: The Freeway That Never Was

This week we’re talking with Brendan Wittstruck about St. Louis’s never built freeway, I-755, which he recently wrote about at Streetsblog member NextSTL.

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Brendan discusses the history of the project and how drawing lines on maps can be seductive to planners, who always have to be careful about trying to “fix” cities. He also talks about the racial politics of freeway construction in St. Louis, and how that legacy still shapes the city today. Finally, we chat about what the I-755 story means for freeway teardown movements today in terms of data collection and why this freeway never saw the light of day.

Join us and hear about the teardown that never had to happen, and the freeway that was never built.

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Today’s Headlines

  • LAT Profiles California’s Influential Air Resources Board
  • Walking and Bicycling Help Fend Off Dementia (LAT)
  • Beverly Hills Won’t Do Bike Lanes On Santa Monica Blvd (Better Bike)
  • Editorial: USA’s Fair Housing Backlash (LAT)
  • Helmet Hair Among Challenges and Rewards Of Bike Commuting, Bike Trains (KPCC)
  • Can’t A Multi-Billion Dollar Subway Extension Get A Better Explainer Vid? (The Source)
  • 300-Unit Mixed Used Building Planned For NoHo 3 Blocks From Orange/Red Line (Urbanize)
  • Rough Roads Cost L.A. Car-Owners $1000/Year (KPCC, Curbed)
  • Recap of Yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting (The Source)
  • Metro Could Be Angels Flight’s Savior (KPCCLAT)
  • DTLA Bank of America Plaza Parking Garage Among Most Ridiculous (Systemic Failure)

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Metro Board July Updates: Joint Development, Bike-Share, and More

Today’s monthly Metro Board of Directors meeting saw the chair transition from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Incoming Chair Ridley-Thomas expounded on his priorities for the current fiscal year. The July board meeting did not feature any major controversies, but there are a number of items likely to be of interest to SBLA readers.

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Rail Lines Opening 2016: Metro CEO Phil Washington gave a brief update on the status of the extensions of the Gold and Expo Lines. Both of these projects are nearing completion. They are both being built by Construction Authorities, who will finish their work, then turn the project over to Metro for testing and, then, operation. Washington reported that Gold Line Foothill Extension construction is expected to be complete in September, while Expo Phase 2 construction is expected to be complete in mid- to late-October.

Bike-Share: With bike-share opening in Santa Monica, downtown L.A. and Long Beach this fiscal year, and other places interested, Metro is still working out if and how the agency needs to enforce or incentivize interoperability. Differences were evident in the debate at last month’s board meeting.

County Supervisor Don Knabe strung together multiple apt cliches urging Metro not enforce bike-share vendor conformity in a “my way or the highway” approach because “one size does not fit all.” Garcetti, on the other hand, asserted that a single countywide system “funds well,” meaning that it could attract lucrative countywide advertising sponsorship. Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana expressed “misgivings” over the current two-vendor implementation underway, suggesting that he thought it might be better for Metro to “buy out” systems being implemented by Long Beach and Santa Monica.

Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian pointedly asked Metro staff how cities like his should approach implementing bike-share, asking if Glendale should “refrain from an RFP (Request for Proposals)?” Staff recommended cities contact Metro, pursue funding together, and work things out on a case-by-case basis.  Read more…

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Filed Under: Hidden Gems in Fact Sheets. A Protected Bike Lane for the Sixth Street Viaduct

Map and timeline for intersection upgrades in preparation for the demolition of the 6th St. Viaduct. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement project

Map and timeline for intersection upgrades in preparation for the demolition of the 6th St. Viaduct. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement project

It is now nearly the end of July.

The suggestion made at the February groundbreaking for the 6th Street Viaduct that estimates that the bridge would be closed for demolition in July were “aggressive” has proven more than true. The closure of the existing bridge will come no earlier than October of this year, and demolition will begin shortly thereafter.

Even so, things are apparently moving along. Representatives from the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement project have been making the rounds at neighborhood council meetings in both Boyle Heights and the Arts District lately, offering updates on the projects.

When asked if the presentations would be made public, staff pointed me to the website, saying they had recently posted some maps and a new fact sheet.

The updates themselves are not particularly informative.

As seen in the map above, improvements to intersections expected to handle detoured traffic have been underway since May and will continue through August, on the west side of the river, and through October, on the east. The changes include upgrades to lighting and traffic signals, and the reconstruction of the corners for improved pedestrian access.

The 12 intersections targeted for improvements — down from 20 in the original plans — are meant to facilitate the traffic circulation pattern seen below.

The anticipated detours around the 6th St. bridge. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement project

The anticipated detours around the 6th St. bridge. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement project

For drivers, the closure will represent an inconvenience, slowed commute times, and, most likely, more crowded crawls along streets like Mateo, Alameda, Whittier, or Boyle.

For pedestrians and cyclists, the closure represents a more significant change. Those that used 6th St. will likely switch to using 4th, as the 7th St. bridge, with its many on and off ramps, is very uncomfortable to cross. And while 4th is a lovely crossing and was recently repaved, no accommodations were made for cyclists or to slow the often fast-moving traffic and no improvements were made to its narrow sidewalks. So, the next few years of waiting for the 6th St. Viaduct to be completed may be a little harrowing for some of us.

But it does look like there is a sliver of hope for those cyclists that survive the construction period. Read more…

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Is “Sprawl Repair” Worth It?

Should we let sprawl be sprawl? Image via Better! Cities & Towns

Should we let sprawl be sprawl? Image via Better! Cities & Towns

Transforming the territory of strip malls and big boxes into walkable places is a hot topic, exemplified by the popular book “Retrofitting Suburbia.” But is it worth the time, money, and effort?

Robert Steuteville of Better! Cities & Towns writes that architect Kevin Klinkenberg and development expert Lee Sobel raised the question at this year’s Congress for the New Urbanism.

Klinkenberg explained in a blog that sprawl repair is a “fools errand” and new urbanists should “just say no.” He said: “Suburbia, or sprawl as we interchangeably call it, is all about bigness and mass production.” Put simply, “it’s outside the DNA of walkable cities. Embracing sprawl retrofit is like saying we can transform fast food culture into healthy food.”

He’s saying that sprawl repair is the Chicken McNuggets of urbanism.

Klinkenberg concludes: “I do believe that sprawl retrofit is not a wise approach for new urbanists. I’d say, let’s keep it simple — let urbanism be urbanism and sprawl be sprawl.”

Steuteville disagrees. There will always be a market for sprawl, he writes, but as preferences change, it’s becoming obvious that drivable places consume a much greater share of the built environment — 95 percent — than people actually want.

He points out that some cities, like Atlanta and Los Angeles, have few options other than retrofitting their car-centric development patterns:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Daily News & Phil Washington Ask: What Kind Of Transportation System Do You Want?
  • Wilshire/LaBrea Development Fails Flying Pigeon‘s TOD Criteria – 997 parking spaces
  • South L.A. Residents Ask Pope To Intervene Against Oil-Drilling (LAT)
  • DJ Waldie Looks Into Metro’s Bus Service Reorganization (KCET)
  • Zocalo Says Angelenos Suck At Parking
  • Aaron Paley Talks About How CicLAvia Is Changing L.A. (Cities for Tomorrow)
  • Fact and Fiction In True Detective’s High Speed Rail Plotlines (KPCC)

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Bike-Share Round-Up: Multiple Motions At Tomorrow’s Metro Board Meeting

Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/

Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/

Last month, after a fairly lengthy debate, the Metro Board of Directors approved an $11 million contract to bring bike-share to downtown Los Angeles. Though there is a lot of interest in bike-share on the Metro board, there is not a lot of agreement on exactly how to move forward.

Though Metro bike-share, run by vendor Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS), will begin in Downtown Los Angeles, multiple future phases are planned, but not yet fully approved nor funded. Elected officials are doing their job, jockeying to make sure future bike-share phases will serve areas they represent. Santa Monica and Long Beach already moving ahead under contracts with a different vendor, Cyclehop, so there are also questions about inter-operability.

Below is a brief run down of the latest in the multi-faceted world of L.A. County bike-share systems. There are already a lot of moving pieces, and there is yet to be any live bike-share bikes on the ground. Bike-share may get less complicated when the bikes arrive and Angelenos can see and experience how bike-share really works:

> In Metro bike-share news: Metro’s full board of directors will meet tomorrow and decide on a handful of follow-on motions Read more…

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Major MARTA Expansion Could Transform the Atlanta Region

MARTA hopes to expand its rail service in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Image: ##http://wabe.org/post/8b-marta-rail-expansion-proposal-explained##ItsMARTA via WABE##

MARTA hopes to expand its rail service in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Map: ItsMARTA via WABE

Transit planners in the Atlanta area are getting serious about the largest expansion in MARTA’s history. MARTA officials have proposed new, high-capacity service into North Fulton County and east into DeKalb County that could link important job centers by rail for the first time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it could “change the face of Atlanta.”

The new rail service would finally connect residential areas to the rapidly growing area encompassing Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control, just east of the city limits. It would also extend all the way north to Alpharetta, a booming business center 25 miles north of Atlanta in Fulton County.

Officials from Cobb County, just west of Fulton, have long resisted and even ridiculed the idea of bringing transit access there, and Gwinnett County to the east is too low-slung and suburban to consider rail service at this point. But Fulton’s charge ahead into a more urban future could cause its neighbors to reconsider their ways.

MARTA Board Chair Robbie Ashe says the transit expansion could propel a new model of growth in the region. “Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations,” Ashe told the AJC. “State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station.”

Best of all, according to Darin Givens who blogs at ATL Urbanist, these new stations, even the ones far out in the suburbs, are likely to be surrounded by transit-oriented development rather than park-n-rides.

“MARTA has now accepted that it’s time to undo its park-n-rides,” Givens said. “They’re trying to turn all these park-n-ride lots around MARTA stations — around a lot of them — into transit-oriented development.”

Read more…

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What Happened When Istanbul Opened Streets to People

Map of the Istanbul Historic Peninsula, with pedestrianized streets in blue. Image: EMBARQ Turkey via TheCityFix

Map of the Istanbul Historic Peninsula, with pedestrianized streets in blue. Image: EMBARQ Turkey via TheCityFix

By the end of the 20th century, the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul had a serious pollution problem. Writing for TheCityFix, Tu?çe Üzümo?lu says air quality was so bad that historic sites and monuments were degrading.

When a UNESCO study identified poor transportation infrastructure as a factor, the local government pedestrianized streets throughout the district. Ten years later, Üzümo?lu reports, the air is much cleaner.

Thanks to the recent pedestrianization efforts in the Historic Peninsula, vehicle emissions and pollution levels have come down significantly. A new report titled “Assessment of the Air Quality Effects of Pedestrianization on Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula” from EMBARQ Turkey analyses the impacts of pedestrianization on local air quality in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, the residential area in the Northeast of the Historic Peninsula — which has not been pedestrianized — has experienced little or no reduction in traffic-related emissions, demonstrating clearly the effect of pedestrianization on local air quality.

Üzümo?lu points out additional benefits to prioritizing people over cars, including safer streets and an overall boost to quality of life. “It’s critical that city leaders in Istanbul and beyond recognize the success that pedestrianization can have on urban communities and continue to support walkable, people-oriented streets,” Üzümo?lu writes.

Elsewhere on the Network: BikeWalkLee reports that local leaders have decided that impact fees, once reserved for road-building, can be used for transit and bike/ped projects; the Virginia Bicycle Federation finds a relaxed cycling culture in Florence, Italy; and ATL Urbanist wonders if the Atlanta region is “density-proof.”