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Main Street in Santa Monica Poised to Get 2 Parklets

A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.

A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.

Update: The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved three locations for the city’s pilot parklet program. The three locations include the two recommended by staff and a third at Main and Hill in front of Finn McCool’s.

The Santa Monica City Council next Tuesday will consider giving the go-ahead to the beachside city’s first two parklets — small public open-space expansions of the sidewalk that usually replace on-street parking stalls.

If approved by the City Council, the parklet pilot program will begin with two locations on Main Street — one of the city’s most popular commercial districts — and will be a public-private partnership in which the city constructs the parklets and contracts with local businesses for operation and maintenance. The city is proposing the parklets be roughly a block apart with one in front of Holy Guacamole (at Ashland and Main) and the other in front of Ashland Hill, formerly Wildflour Pizza (between Ashland and Hill on Main).

“The pilot would be a public experiment with the Main Street community to temporarily test this new concept in the public realm,” according to the staff report. “The parklet design would be temporary and easily reversible, should the pilot demonstrate the need for design changes.”

As proposed, the parklet pilot program will last a year, “but may end earlier if public safety issues arise,” according to city staff.

“‘Parklets (transforming small urban spaces such as on-street parking stalls into public space and/or landscaping) has become increasingly common across America, but has not yet been authorized in Santa Monica,” according to the staff report. In the report, city officials point to the success of parklet programs in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.

A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.

Los Angeles, through its People St. program, has seen a number of parklets pop up in recent year, including the one on York Street pictured above. In Downtown L.A., there is also a parklet on Spring Street.

“Parklets introduce new streetscape features such as seating, planting, bicycle parking, or elements of play. Parklets encourage pedestrian activity by offering these human-scale ‘eddies in the stream,’ which is especially beneficial in areas that lack sufficient sidewalk width or access to public space,” according to the People St. website. Read more…
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TIGER Restored, Transit Expansion Funds Cut in 2016 Spending Bill

As the House and the Senate get to work on hashing out a multi-year transportation bill in conference committee, Congress is also putting together its annual spending package for transportation. The annual bill decides the fate of several discretionary programs, and earlier this year it looked like US DOT’s TIGER grants, which tend to fund multi-modal projects at the regional or local level, might not survive.

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking facilities in Lee County, Florida, one of the most dangerous areas for walking and biking. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking routes in Lee County, Florida. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says the final bill keeps TIGER but still represents a step backward for transit:

Good news: the new bill proposes no changes to what kinds of projects can apply for TIGER funding, and increases funding for the program by $100 million this year.

The Senate’s initial bill introduced this summer provided $500 million for TIGER — the same amount as the just-ended fiscal year — and the House version of this bill provided far less at $100 million. It’s encouraging to see the Senate appropriators increase funding for this important program in the newest draft proposal, and that there are no changes to what kinds of projects can apply. This is a hopeful sign that for future House-Senate negotiations on the final transportation spending bill for 2016.

The funding for building new transit service — New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity — was increased by more than $300 million from this summer’s Senate THUD bill up to $1.9 billion, just $24 million less than the proposed House levels of $1.92 billion. That sounds like good news, but it’s still represents a $200 million cut from last year for this program.

Amtrak funding was unchanged: $289 million for operating and $1.1B for capital projects, which is slightly more ($39 million) than this year.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Jarrett Walker at Human Transit says transit doesn’t have to be designed to serve a single “downtown” focal point — in fact there are major benefits to having multiple clusters of destinations. Also at Human Transit, a guest author asks whether autonomous cars will lead to a big boost in vehicle miles traveled. And BTA Blog writes that a group of victims’ families is speaking up for safer streets in Oregon.

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Today’s Headlines

  • City Could Have Made Every Major Street a Great Street for Cost of 405 Widening (City Watch)
  • Rep. Ballot Initiative to Scuttle High Speed Rail Really About Wrecking Environment (CAHSR Blog)
  • Even George Skelton at the Times and the Daily News Are Skeptical
  • High Hopes for Downtown Bike Share…if Anyone Actually Uses It (Daily Trojan)
  • Bike Share Is a Good Idea to Address First Mile-Last Mile Problems (SGV Tribune)
  • Metro Board Is Very Very Upset Over $132 Million Connector Overrun. Speaks to Staff in Stern Voice, Expresses Disappointment. Stops Short of Withholding Dessert. (KPCC)
  • SaMo City Manager Predicts Expo Opening in April or May (SM Mirror)
  • New Free Shuttle “Passport” Routes in Long Beach (LongBeachize)
  • LAX People Mover Will Be Finished in 2023 (Curbed)
  • How to Avoid Traffic Paid Content: Don’t Drive at Rush Hour (Daily News)
  • South OC Bus Routes on the Cutting Block (Patch)

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L.A.’s Urban Future: More Places Where I Want to Sit

L.A. needs more places where people want to sit. Image via PPS

L.A. needs more places where people just sit. Image via PPS

I sometimes dream about a different Los Angeles; not the sprawling congested city, but an L.A. that is a series of walkable villages, like for example Santa Monica. They would be full of life and economic vitality, with corner stores, markets, coffee shops, plazas and parks. And they would all be connected by rail lines; streetcars that can whisk us away to anywhere we want to be, with no delays, traffic jams, etc. As we look out the streetcar’s window on our way to the next village, we’d notice the city changing… The higher central city with shops and apartment buildings becomes a more quiet residential area, with smaller apartment blocks, then row-houses, then duplexes, then single family houses, and then the streetcar goes through a park, with gardens and fields!

On the way back, the reverse happens. Along the way, we have seen people walking, chatting in the streets, kids playing in the park, people gardening, bicycling – and even some people driving.

This is not the way many perceive L.A. But it is probably not too different an experience one might have had in L.A. a couple generations ago.

Christopher Hawthorne speaks about L.A. in a useful metaphor: as a First and a Second Los Angeles, and he now sees a third Los Angeles emerging. The First Los Angeles stretches roughly from the city’s first population boom in the 1880s through 1940. That L.A. was what I described above. L.A. rapidly expanded at an exponential pace along a major transit network, and innovative civic architecture was built along the way.

L.A. once had the largest streetcar transit network in the U.S. It was, at one point, all owned by Henry Huntington. Huntington used streetcars to shuttle people to his various real estate developments. Yes, before we built the suburban sprawl we know today, L.A. built up streetcar suburbs: denser nodes around the stations of our streetcar network. These are the places we still love today: Santa Monica, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Glendale, Burbank etc.

The weather here is always perfect, and in this unique climate we developed both walkable communities, and innovative residential projects, for example the great garden courts of Wyvernwood, Village Green and Lincoln Place.

But it was the Second Los Angeles, in Hawthorn’s lingo, covering the period from 1940 to the turn of the millennium, which is giving us such an urban design hangover today.

The intention was good. We mass produced houses that afforded unprecedented economic access to home ownership for the middle class. In the process, we turned a complete transportation system over to the automobile, and we eventually generated never before seen environmental problems and sprawl.

In doing this we redefined the meaning of urban design.

There are many definitions for urban design. One in particular says that “urban design creates the outdoor living rooms for our public lives.”

The suburbia we built after WWII was not meant to support our public lives.

Suburbia is intended as a privatized, car-dominated landscape. Open space was to be privatized, divided up to each house, one at a time into the backyard. Of course, there were political motives then, too. This was a time when communism was seen as the great threat to society, and a group of people gathering in the streets could easily be mistaken as the beginning of a communist conspiracy.

In suburbia, the streets were no longer spaces for us to spend time outside our cars. The street’s new and exclusive purpose was to get from private place to private place, in a vehicle. This was the time when crossing a street as a pedestrian, thus interfering with traffic, was first deemed an offense. Jaywalking did not exist until then.

A website that describes our malaise with our urban spaces in the car age is entitled “Places where I don’t want to sit.” That almost says it all. Think about the public spaces we live in, our streets, our parking lots, our little parks that are created as token open space in the leftover land outside our buildings; they are all spaces where it’s not pleasant to sit.

However, amidst of all of this, a Third Los Angeles is now beginning to emerge.

At a quick glance, there is a lot of good news in recent years:  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The High Price of Cheap Gas

At least on the surface, the big declines in gas prices we’ve seen over the past year seem like an unalloyed good. We save money at the pump, and we have more to spend on other things, But the cheap gas has serious hidden costs—more pollution, more energy consumption, more crashes and greater traffic congestion. There’s an important lesson here, if we pay attention.

US macroeconomic forecasters are usually very upbeat about any decline in gasoline prices.

Because the US is a big importer of petroleum, a decline in oil prices benefits the US economy. Lower oil prices reduce the nation’s balance of trade deficit, and effectively put more income into consumer’s pockets, which helps stimulate the domestic economy. In theory, declining gas prices should have the same stimulative effect as a tax cut. Whether that’s true in practice depends on how consumers respond to changing gas prices. Some of the positive effect of the decline has been muted by consumer disbelief that price reductions are permanent. Earlier this year, surveys by VISA showed that 70% of consumers were still wary that prices could rise.

Low gas prices: worse news than you think. Credit: Minale Tattersfield, Flickr

Low gas prices: worse news than you think. Credit: Minale Tattersfield, Flickr

But cheaper gas has does free up consumer budgets to spend more in other industries. Using data on credit card and debit card purchases of households, and looking at variations in spending among households that spent a little and a lot of their income on gasoline, and observing how spending patterns changed as gas prices fluctuate led the JP Morgan Chase Institute to predict that the bulk of savings from lower gas prices go to restaurant meals, groceries and entertainment.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

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Metro Committee Approves $132M Regional Connector Construction Increase

Metro's Regional Connector subway is already over-budget. Image via Metro

Metro’s Regional Connector subway is already over-budget

This morning, the Metro board’s Construction Committee approved an additional $131.8M for construction of the downtown Los Angeles Regional Connector subway. This increase ups the budget from $1.42 billion to 1.55 billion – a 9 percent increase.

The line had been expected to open in 2020, but has already experienced delays pushing it back ten months, likely to at least 2021.

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile light rail subway. Its alignment follows Second Street (Alameda to Flower) and Flower Street (2nd to 7th.) The connector ties together the Metro Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines, making for transfer-free travel from Long Beach to Azusa, and from Santa Monica to East L.A.

What is perhaps disconcerting is that the current cost overruns occur so early into construction. If the agency is just getting construction underway, and the budget has already overshot its ten percent contingency, what kinds of additional cost overruns might reveal themselves when major construction really gets underway?  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Gabe Klein’s Start Up City

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Gabe Klein joins us this week to talk about how to get things done and make big changes to improve city streets and transportation. Gabe has served as the transportation chief of both Chicago and Washington, DC, and prior to his stint in government was an executive with Zipcar (he is also currently on the board of OpenPlans, the organization that publishes Streetsblog USA).

Gabe is out with a new book, Start Up City, about creating change through local government. He shares his insights about the interplay of the public and private sectors, how to push people to overcome a fear of failure, and cutting across the siloes of city departments. Gabe also talks about how he got into transportation, and why Vision Zero is a powerful idea for cities.

All of this and more (including our debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich) on Talking Headways.

Streetsblog USA
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How Much Can Bicycling Help Fight Climate Change? A Lot, If Cities Try

A new study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy attempts to measure the potential of bikes and e-bikes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Buenos Aires has been ambitiously building out a network of well designed, separated bike infrastructure. If this kind of commitment were employed worldwide, the environmental and financial repercussions would be enormous. Photo: ITDP

Buenos Aires has been building out a network of protected bike infrastructure. If this kind of commitment were employed in cities worldwide, the climate benefits would be huge. Photo: ITDP

ITDP’s conclusion, in short: Bicycling could help cut carbon emissions from urban transportation 11 percent.

The authors calculated the carbon emissions reduction that could result if cities around the world make a strong, sustained commitment to promoting bicycle travel.

In a scenario where 14 percent of travel in the world’s cities is by bike or e-bike in 2050, carbon emissions from urban transportation would be 11 percent lower than a scenario where efforts to promote sustainable transportation sidestep bicycling.

The ITDP scenario calls for 11 percent of urban mileage by bike by 2030 before hitting 14 percent in 2050. For many big American cities where bicycling accounts for a small share of total travel, that may sound like a high bar — and that was part of the point. The ITDP targets will require a significant public policy commitment. But the goals are achievable and aren’t as daunting as they might seem, the authors say.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Anti-Growth Activists Seek Ballot Measure Against Mega-Projects (LAT, Curbed)
  • Measure What Matters: Investing In Place‘s Critique Of Metro’s Ballot Measure Criteria
  • More On Metro Committee Approving Bike-Share Fares (KPCC)
  • Burbank Airport to North Hollywood Shuttle Operating Through Thanksgiving (LAT)
  • Carson Stadium Would Connect To Metro Rail Via Shuttle Buses (Curbed)
  • Reason Foundation’s Elitist Zillion Dollar Plan Has Few Good Ideas (Lisa Schweitzer)
  • Looks Like City of Industry’s Quemetco May Have An Exide Problem (KPCC)
  • Police Seek Westside Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed 15-Year-Old Ped (LAT)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA