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L.A. City Council Approves $1.4 Billion Sidewalk Repair Program

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/6382328885/sizes/m/in/photostream/##Waltarr/Flickr##

L.A. city sidewalk repairs will soon get underway as part of the new legally mandated Safe Sidewalks L.A. program. photo: Flickr/Waltarr

Today, the Los Angeles City Council approved the final touches to get its $1.4 billion sidewalk repair program going. This unprecedented L.A. city investment in sidewalk repair is due to the class action lawsuit Willits v. City of Los Angeles, concerning making the public right-of-way accessible to people with disabilities. The $1.4 billion will be spent over ten years beginning this current fiscal year.

The city program is essentially the fix-and-release model, outlined in 2015 and approved by joint committees last March. Under fix-and-release, the city will do extensive repair of broken sidewalks, then turn over sidewalk maintenance responsibility to property owners. L.A.’s fix-and-release program has drawbacks—including concerns over equity and street tree health—but today’s approval nonetheless gets needed sidewalk repair construction underway.

Today’s council action included approving several interlocked items (more detailed summaries are available on the meeting agenda):

  • Adopt ordinance to return sidewalk repair to property owners, and related programs (council file 14-0163-S10)
  • Set up Sidewalk Repair Incentive and Cost-Sharing Rebate Program (council file 14-0163-S3)
  • Designate specific departments to be responsible for various aspects of sidewalk repair (council file 14-0163-S11)
  • Direct Bureau of Street Services Urban Forestry Division to report on tree removal and replacement (council file 15-0467-S6)
  • Direct Bureau of Street Services to report on hiring additional tree pruning crews (council file 15-0467-S3)

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Federal Regulators Will Let U.S. Railroads Run Faster, More Efficient Trains

European-designed traincars are on their way to the U.S. Photo: Paris' high-speed TGV via Wikipedia

American passenger railroads will be able to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by using trains designed to standard European specifications. Photo of France’s TGV, via Wikipedia

Why are American trains so expensive and yet so slow? One factor that rail advocates often point to is the Federal Railroad Administration and its rail safety regulations — rules that are finally on the verge of changing.

Antiquated regulations that date all the way back to the late 1800s (they were updated in the 1930s) compel American passenger rail operators to use trains designed like “high-velocity bank vaults,” as former Amtrak CEO David Gunn once put it. While European and Asian railcars became lighter and sleeker in recent decades without compromising safety records, FRA rules continued to insist on heavy, slow, outdated, and expensive equipment.

That finally appears set to change with the FRA’s release of new draft safety rules for traincars.

The FRA expects the new rules will enable railroads to use trains that are safer, more energy efficient, and cheaper to operate. The rules will allow American passenger train operators to purchase rolling stock designed to European safety standards (but not Japanese standards), without going through an expensive waiver process.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Old Places Built for Driving Are Failing New Residents Who Don’t Own Cars

Langley Park, a low-income suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But now its residents rely a lot on walking, and the environment puts them at risk. Photo via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park, a suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But many current residents rely on walking, and the street environment puts them at risk. Google Street View via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park in Prince George’s County, outside Washington, D.C., took on its current form when World War II vets moved there in large numbers, aspiring to the suburban lifestyle: a single-family house with a yard.

The area was built around cars. But as in many other suburban areas, the population has changed over time. Now, reports Carolyn Gallagher at Greater Greater Washington, Langley Park is largely Latino, lower income, and home to many recent immigrants. Many current residents get around by walking and transit, even though the area wasn’t built for walking. Gallagher writes that officials aren’t doing enough to make the streets safe for people on foot:

People aren’t just going to and from their cars; they’re walking, hanging out in front of stores, or sitting on retaining walls and shooting the breeze. One strip mall even has a semi-regular street preacher. Armed with a megaphone and boundless conviction, he exhorts and cajoles passersby in equal measure.

Getting from home to shop and back again isn’t easy when you have to cross six lanes of traffic. And unlike the Palisades or Chevy Chase, the distance between cross streets in Langley Park is substantially longer.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • L.A. City Council Approves EIR For DTLA Streetcar (Curbed, KPCC)
  • Today, L.A. To Approve Plans For $1.4B Sidewalk Repair (KPCC)
  • Metro May Decriminalize Youth Fare Evasion (KPCC)
  • How L.A. Planning Got To Be Such A Mess (The Real Deal)
  • Carnage: Van Nuys 405 Freeway Crash Kills One, Injures Three (KPCC)
  • Former CRA Mariachi Plaza Parcel Slated For Development (Urbanize)
  • Santa Monica Adopts Ambitious Net Zero Energy Efficient Building Standard (Architectural Record)
  • CSULA Teams Up With Metro For U-Pass Student Pass (University Times)
  • Seattle Shutting Down Pronto Bike-Share System (Seattle Bike Blog)
  • The High Cost Of Free Delivery (Fast Company)

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

Streetsblog USA
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Trump’s Pick for U.S. DOT Is GOP Insider Elaine Chao

Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao to serve as transportation secretary in his administration, according to Politico. Chao was secretary of labor under George W. Bush and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. An official announcement is expected shortly.

Chao has a long resume in federal government under Republican presidents. She served as deputy secretary of transportation under George H. W. Bush, rising through the agency from a post in maritime administration.

Chao’s family owns an international shipping empire, and her father is singlehandedly responsible for making McConnell one of the richest men in the Senate, according to the Nation.

While Chao has more experience in government and a less extreme ideological background than other Cabinet picks, she has been on the Trump team for a while, serving on the campaign’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council, according to Politico.

Chao is no environmentalist, having resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies as a result of its “Beyond Coal” campaign. Her involvement with the foundation reportedly became an issue in McConnell’s reelection campaign in Kentucky. She’ll now be operating for a White House that denies the science of climate change. Federal efforts to coordinate transportation and land use policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not survive in the Trump DOT, but that would have been the case no matter who landed the transportation secretary job.

Read more…

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Support Streetsblog Today

Click on the logo to make a donation.

Click on the logo above to make a donation.

By now you’ve gotten at least a dozen emails about #GivingTuesday asking you to donate to an important and worthy nonprofit. This year, of all years, there are a lot of great causes to support.

And I hope that you believe supporting Streetsblog is one of those causes.

Today, throughout California, staff are working on stories and podcasts to cover and explain issues both locally and statewide. Our talented and devoted team has broken news, framed stories, broadened conversations, and played a crucial role in creating safer, more attractive and more equitable cities.

In Los Angeles, Joe Linton and Sahra Sulaiman continued to be an amazing reporting team. Streetsblog Los Angeles was named the Best Blog in Los Angeles for the third year in a row by the Los Angeles Press Club. While Joe sets the editorial schedule and writes daily on the goings on in the city, Sahra works on deep dives such as her recent piece on the REEF Project in South Los Angeles.

In San Francisco, Roger Rudick hit the ground running during his first full year at the helm of Streetsblog San Francisco. Roger has proven himself as a talented reporter and unbiased watchdog finding the balance to praise government agencies when they deserve it, criticize them when they don’t, and put individual projects into a larger framework to explain why things happen the way they do happen.

At Streetsblog California, Melanie Curry has been covering issues around the state including local stories on the many transportation sales tax proposals on the ballot throughout the state, the ongoing attempts to modernize Caltrans, and how the legislative agenda can be set by local issues. At the same time, we’ve begun to add regular local coverage of the Central Valley and Orange County, two often neglected areas that have a lot going on.

All of these publications are nonprofits and rely on reader donations to keep going.

If you value the news, analysis, broadcasts, and event programming of Streetsblog California, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, LongBeachize and Santa Monica Next, then please consider making a donation today, right now. You can make your donations here:

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Streetsblog USA
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4 Ways Trump’s Transportation Plan Is Ripe for Corruption

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As long as Trump doesn’t release his tax returns, divest from his assets, and put his wealth in a true blind trust, the public can have no confidence that federal infrastructure spending will be based on merit and not Trump’s personal financial interests. Photo: Kamoteus/Flickr

Donald Trump’s opaque personal finances and business entanglements around the globe raise the possibility of unprecedented corruption for a United States president. And transportation is one area where the risk of Trump using the powers of the presidency to enrich his family and reward cronies is especially high.

As a candidate, Trump outlined a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, consisting mainly of tax incentives and subsidized loans for private companies to build things like roads and water systems. Paul Krugman and Ron Klain have noted that this would confer huge subsidies to companies that don’t need them, for projects that would get built anyway. In other words, government handouts for contractors and financiers.

In the transportation realm, Trump’s plan would mean building lots of privately-financed toll roads, an arrangement rife with examples of costly blunders, bankruptcies, and conflicts of interest. Letting the Trump White House oversee a huge program of privatized toll road construction would open the door to corruption on a massive scale.

While the vast sums we spend on infrastructure have always been vulnerable to various forms of corruption, the potential for Trump to game the system goes far beyond typical “highway to nowhere” graft. Here’s a closer look at why.

1. Trump has not released his tax returns, and his assets are not in a true blind trust

Alone among modern presidents, Trump has not released his tax returns. The public has no way to tell exactly what Trump’s financial interests are and how far they extend. And because Trump and his children have not divested from the family’s assets and put their wealth under the control of a disinterested third party, or blind trust, they can continue to profit from decisions made by the vast federal government apparatus that Donald Trump will soon steer.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • How To Get Involved In Implementing Measure M (Investing in Place)
  • Metro To Pay $299M To Settle 405 Widening Lawsuit, Puts Project 55% Over Budget (LAT)
  • Metrolink Ahead Of East Coast Systems On Positive Train Control Installation (SGV Tribune)
  • Carnage: Victims Identified In Gardena Freeway Crash: Ivan Pacheco and Rocio Barron (KTLA)
  • Fight Over Parking Spot Turns Ridiculous (ABC7)
  • Outlandish Office Tower To Rise Along Expo Line Near Culver City (Urbanize)
  • L.A. Moves To Legalize Street Vending (L.A. Weekly)
    …In Hollywood, Conflict Over Street Vending (LAT)
  • Elaine Chao Expected To Be Trump Transportation Secretary (Politico)

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

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Metro Board to Consider $547M Multi-Agency Transit Policing Contract

LAPD Commander Anne Clark speaking at Metro's November committee meetings. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LAPD Commander Anne Clark speaking at Metro’s November committee meetings. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This Thursday Metro’s Board of Directors will consider a new contract for policing the agency’s transit systems.

Metro bus and rail policing is currently done by the L.A. County Sheriffs Department (LASD). The LASD transit policing has received criticism, especially in a 2014 audit that found numerous irregularities and shortfalls. The oft-extended LASD contract is set to expire at the end of next month.

Metro staff has recommended a five-year multi-agency policing proposal totaling $547 million. The multi-agency proposal would split policing between the city of Los Angeles Police Department, LASD, and the city of Long Beach Police Department:

  • L.A. Police Department – $370 million – 68 percent
  • L.A. County Sheriffs Department* – $150 million – 27 percent (*potentially involving other local agencies)
  • Long Beach Police Department – $27 million – 5 percent

During last week’s operations committee, Metro CEO Phil Washington characterized the proposed multi-agency contracts as “more security for less dollars.” The $547 million proposal represents an $80 million cost savings over the LASD’s proposed $627 million sole-agency contract. The contract would begin January 1, 2017, but would include a 6-month transition while LAPD trains and ramps up.

One possibly troubling factor is that LAPD, at least initially, plans to fill Metro policing shifts using officers who are working overtime on their off days. This overtime approach is unlikely to be the best policing bargain, nor does it create a consistent workforce specialized to handle transit system issues.  Read more…

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This Week in Livable Streets

sblog_calendarLots going on this week including South L.A. community plan hearings, a Metro board meeting, pop-up street festivals, autonomous vehicles, high-speed rail meetings, and more! 

  • Tuesday 11/29 – The California High-Speed Rail Authority is hosting a series of five community input meetings on proposed plans for HSR from Burbank to downtown Los Angeles. There are four similar meetings at various locations through December 6. If you cannot attend in person, the December 6 meeting will be available as a live webcast. Tuesday’s meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch Library at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. Details on CAHSR flier [PDF].
  • Wednesday 11/30 – Investing in Place and their partners are hosting a Completing Streets Work Group Meeting where there will be a discussion on improving L.A. City sidewalks and crosswalks, especially for access for older adults, youth, and individuals with disabilities. The meeting takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. at Impact Hub Los Angeles, 2nd Floor, at 830 Traction Avenue in the Arts District in downtown L.A. Meeting details and RSVP via SplashThat.
  • Wednesday 11/30 Thursday 12/1 – High-speed rail meetings continue. Wednesday’s Thursday’s meeting will be at the Glendale Central Park Adult Recreation Center at 201 E. Colorado Street in Glendale. Details on CAHSR flier [PDF].
  • Thursday 12/1 – The final Metro Board of Directors meeting for the year will take place starting at 9 a.m. at the 3rd floor Metro board room at One Gateway Plaza (right behind Union Station) in downtown L.A. It looks like a potentially long meeting, with a new and different Metro policing contract, plus paid station parking, first-last mile intrigue, decriminalization of fare evasion, and much more. Full agenda and board reports at Metro.
  • Thursday 12/1 – Stan’s Bike Shop, the Montebello Bike Coalition, the Eastside Bike Club, and BikeSGV invite cyclists to dress up and participate in the city of Monrovia Christmas Parade. Meet at 6 p.m. at Stan’s Bike Shop at 880 S. Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia. More details and share via Facebook event.
  • Thursday 12/1 – FuturizeX presents The Future of Autonomous Vehicles: a forum featuring Lyft’s Emily Castor, LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds, Investing in Place’s Jessica Meaney, the L.A. Times‘ Laura Nelson, and Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu. The event takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Petersen Automotive Museum at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard in Mid-City. Event details at FuturizeX.
  • Saturday 12/3 (and next week Tuesday 12/6) – The Department of City Planning will host two open house public hearings on community plan updates for South L.A. Saturday’s meeting takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at Bret Harte Prep Middle School at 9301 South Hoover Street in South Los Angeles. Details on flier.
  • Saturday 12/3 – L.A.’s Great Streets Initiative and Councilmember Paul Krekorian are hosting a community pop-up event on Lankershim Boulevard between Weddington Street and Magnolia Boulevard. Help plan the future of one of the San Fernando Valley’s most transit-oriented streets. The free event will feature a pop-up protected bike lane demonstration. Ride at 10 a.m. from the North Hollywood Red Line Station. Details at L.A. Great Streets flier on Twitter. Share via  LACBC Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/3 – The City of Cudahy, County Supervisor Hilda Solis, MSRC and SCAG Go Human host Cudahy en Marcha. The free festival will temporarily transform streets into places that are safer and more enjoyable to walk, bike, skate, and roll. Experience pop-up protected bike lanes along Atlantic Avenue and safety improvements on Elizabeth Street. Celebrate the L.A. River Upper Segment Revitalization Plan kick-off with a community bicycle ride, music, live art, vendors, food trucks, prizes, crafts, a bicycle rodeo, and more. Cudahy en Marcha takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Clara Street Park at 4835 Clara Street in Cudahy. Get more details and share via Facebook event.
  • Sunday 12/4 – The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition hosts a Sunday Funday ride exploring L.A.’s faith diversity. The easy 12-15 mile ride starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Islamic Center of Southern California at 434 S. Vermont Avenue in Koreatown. More details and share via Facebook event.
  • Next Week: Monday-Tuesday 12/5-6 – High-speed rail meetings continue in Downtown L.A. and Cypress Park. Details on CAHSR flier [PDF].
  • Next Week: Tuesday 12/6 – South L.A. Community Plans open house from 5 to 8 p.m. at L.A. Trade Tech College (outdoor event tent behind Aspen Hall) at 2215 S. Grand Avenue in South L.A. Details on flier.

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