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San Gabriel Valley Regional Bike Plan Faces Two Hearings Tonight

The 5-city San Gabriel Valley regional bike plan is currently making its way through a complicated series of city approvals. Two important bike plan hearings are taking place tonight in the cities of El Monte and Monterey Park. Specific details on those hearings after the jump. Folks who live, work, bike, or breathe in the San Gabriel Valley are encouraged to attend in support of plan passage.

Like much of Los Angeles County, the ~30-city San Gabriel Valley sees itself as a car-oriented and traffic-congested place. It has plenty of cyclists and a few prominent well-loved bicycle facilities: Temple City’s excellent protected bike lanes on Rosemead Boulevard, and the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo river bike trails.

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

The central SGV cities of Temple City and Rosemead are ahead of the curve; they approved their Bicycle Master Plans in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Five SGV cities are in the process of approving individual portions of the new inter-connected plan: Baldwin Park, El Monte, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, and South El Monte. This regional effort was shepherded by BikeSGV working with the bicycle planning consultants Alta Planning + Design, with funding from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. 

BikeSGV Program Director Javier Hernandez acknowledges the broad spectrum of parties responsible for the latest plan:

The SGV Bike Plan is the culmination of a much greater force at play in the San Gabriel Valley, collaboration! The SGV Bike Plan is a prime example of a systematic, all-inclusive and transparent regional planning effort that has unified families, students, youth, seniors, non-profits, government agencies, businesses, school districts, and everything in between to address many of the regions public and environmental woes. A united San Gabriel Valley sets the stage for deeper, more profound regional impact with respect to improving health, reducing our carbon footprint, reducing auto/bike collisions, and sustainable development.  

Few bicyclists, pedestrians, transit-riders or drivers actually know when they have crossed municipal boundaries, so it is important that adjacent jurisdictions plan and implement livable streets together. The overall SGV bike plan features bike facilities that cross city boundaries; examples include Garvey Avenue and Ramona Boulevard. In addition to facilities, the plan includes policies and programs.

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City of Monterey Park bike plan. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

Here is the status of each of the five cities in the current SGV regional plan process:

  • The city of San Gabriel approved its bike plan in September.
  • The city of Baldwin Park approved its bike plan [PDF] earlier this month.
  • The El Monte City Council votes on the city’s bike plan tonight – details below.
  • Monterey Park’s bike plan will be heard at the city’s Planning Commission tonight – details below. Assuming it passes the commission, it will go to the Monterey Park City Council later this year.
  • The South El Monte City Council is expected to vote on its plan in December.

Read more…

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Seattle Advocates Convince City to Make Major Avenue Safe for Biking

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Image: The Urbanist

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Map: The Urbanist

A crucial Seattle street is getting the protected bike lane treatment thanks to the hard work of local advocates.

Roosevelt Way is a direct and convenient bike route to get downtown, writes Scott Bonjukian at Network blog The Urbanist, but it also has a high rate of cyclist injuries. At first, a proposed redesign did not include a protected bikeway, but timely advocacy convinced the city to upgrade its plans, Bonjukian reports:

Roosevelt Way is a one-way southbound street with two drive lanes, two parking lanes, and a painted bike lane. The street carries bus routes and the speed limit is 30 mph. Roosevelt is one of the most dangerous streets for cyclists in the entire city; between 2007 and 2014, the street has seen at least 63 bike-car collisions. But Roosevelt Way is popular with bicyclists because it is the fastest and most direct route to Downtown via the University Bridge, which is one of only two Ship Canal crossings in the area.

University Greenways, a neighborhood group that advocates on bike and walking safety, examined the 30 percent design drawings (PDF) last month. (Disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group.) At that point, the project did not include a protected bike lane at all, despite the City’s Bicycle Master Plan designating the route for a buffered facility. The group also conducted a walking audit of the project area. In a letter to SDOT (PDF) and a guest post on Seattle Bike Blog, they highlighted a laundry list of problems that the City should focus on, and some of those are being addressed. Many new curb ramps and sidewalk bulbouts will be built at intersections to comply with ADA guidelines and to reduce crossing distances.

In a surprising response, the 60 percent design drawings (PDF) released this month shows SDOT will remove the right-side parking lane south of NE 45th Street (where the most bike-car collisions have been) and replace it with a 7-foot bike lane and 5-foot buffer with plastic, reflective bollards. Similar to the rapid construction of Downtown’s 2nd Avenue cycle track in September, SDOT is going above and beyond by creating this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the outcome of multi-million dollar projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Montgomery County, Maryland, is considering legislation to mandate safer design standards for all streets in urban areas. The City Fix explains why Brazil’s streets are getting a little safer, though they remain extremely dangerous compared to European countries. And Urban Milwaukee says that plans are progressing for that city’s long-awaited streetcar.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Michael Brown Killing Protestors Shut Down 110 Freeway Near Pico (LAT)
  • Insane Holiday Car Traffic Is A Sign of Good Economy (KPCC)
  • Billions of Dollars Made L.A. Freeways Relatively Earthquake Safe (LAT)
  • A Look At Potential New Transit Projects on Van Nuys Blvd (The Source)
  • CM Cedillo Schedules Safety Meetings (Flying Pigeon)
  • Photos of New Expo Line Sepulveda Station with $Multimillion Parking Structure (Curbed)
  • Cutter Head Arrives for Crenshaw/LAX Line Tunnel Construction (The Source)
  • Santa Monica City Manager Talks Sustainability, Bikes, Inequality, &More (Santa Monica Next)
  • New Anaheim Transit Center Looks Like “Disco Roller Rink” (OC Register)
  • Divvy Bike Share Death Grave Injury: 1 in 3 Million (SB Chicago)
  • What Are the Implications of Peak Car? (Price Tags)

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Officials Celebrate BART’s Shiny, Costly New Oakland Airport Connector

BART’s new Oakland Airport Connector at Coliseum Station. Photos: Melanie Curry

The ribbon was cut Friday on BART’s new $484 million Oakland Airport Connector, with a ceremony complete with the requisite speeches, live music, and even a raffle. Free rides were given to everyone who came.

The new cable-propelled system is elegant, clean, quiet, and relatively quick. But it’s also a shining example of how BART can misplace its funding priorities by building a new flyover train to serve relatively few passengers while neglecting – and increasing — the maintenance costs of the starved larger rail network, as transit advocates argued throughout the years it took to plan and build the OAC. Its $6 fare will leave everyday BART riders paying for the lion’s share of its operating costs of $18 to $21 per trip.

“Despite the obvious needs, BART has gone forward with seemingly thoughtless projects like the airport connector,” Joél Ramos, TransForm’s regional planning director. “I use the word ‘thoughtless’ because they didn’t give alternatives fair consideration. BART never seriously considered a system integrating dedicated bus lanes, something we know to be efficient and reliable.”

The $6 train trip from the Coliseum BART station to the airport costs twice the fare of the now-defunct AirBART bus, and almost three times the fare of AC Transit’s 73 bus route (an underpublicized airport connection). And it doesn’t include the fare to anywhere else on BART.

The OAC travels at a sedate 30 mph, taking about eight minutes to get from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland airport, including a pause in the middle to switch cables. That stop seems long enough to take on passengers, but there’s no station there — just the green corrugated-iron wall of the cable wheelhouse. The lack of a station is just one of the train’s many missed opportunities.

Meanwhile, BART’s everyday riding experience is in decline, belying its image as a state-of-the-art rail system: Trains are overcrowded at peak hours, doors sometimes won’t open, lights won’t work, and other equipment failures lead to increasing tube-clogging delays.

At Friday’s celebratory ceremony, however, little mention was made of the downsides of diverting resources to the OAC at the expense of the larger system. Officials made speeches focusing on benefits like fewer car trips to the airport, an easier way for travelers to get to San Francisco, and increased transit service for the development planned around Coliseum BART Station.

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Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

This chart shows the performance of the world's bike sharing systems. U.S. systems, by en large, are lagging. Image: ?

U.S. bike-share systems, which tend not to have dense networks of stations, also tend to lag behind other bike-share systems on ridership. Graph: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations.

That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a leading U.S. expert on bike-share. In a recent exchange about what some cities are passing off as bike-share, Orcutt told he has some concerns about how bike-share systems are being rolled out in cities around the U.S. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate in an interview.

Here’s what he had to say about what separates a successful bike-share system from one that’s not meeting its potential:

So you’ve come to some conclusions about how certain bike-shares are functioning?

They’re not my conclusions. There’s a fair amount of research out there now and you can see pretty clearly what some of the variables are. There’s a huge variation across cities, especially in the United States.

Can you summarize the research?

The most useful metric is rides per bike per day. You can compare a system with 600 bikes to 6,000 bikes in different size cities pretty easily. You just see, how many rides is it getting?

I’d say the breaking point internationally is about three-and-a-half or four rides. High performing systems are seeing four rides per day on average or more, and then there’s everybody else. A lot of them in the United States are under two.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Where Am I?

Eyes on the Street: Where on the Expo Line can you spot this mural? Photo: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

Eyes on the Street: Where on the Expo Line can you spot this Faith47 mural? Photo: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

I admit. Usually when I’m on the Expo Line, I’ve got my face buried in my phone or an old Dr. Who book. But last week, I was staring out the window and I noticed a beautiful mural of swans on the side of a building.

Doing a little digging, I discovered the mural has been there since August and was painted by famed Korean muralist Faith47. It’s not just a beautiful mural, it’s also part of a plan to beautify and revitalize a community.

So here’s a quick Eyes on the Street quiz. The first person who can tell me where this mural is wins a Streetsblog t-shirt. Honors system in place, no using the Internet.

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Congress Gives Itself More Free Parking Than Its Own Rules Allow

How much are these free parking spots worth? Probably more than the $250 parking benefit Congress allows. Photo: ##http://www.jmt.com/project-portfolio/us-senate-parking-lot-study/##JMT##

How much are these free parking spots worth? More than the $250 per month in tax-free parking benefits that Congress allows. Photo: JMT

As TransitCenter and the Frontier Group reported last week, the federal government pays a huge $7.3 billion subsidy to people who drive to work by making commuter parking expenses tax exempt. There are countless reasons for Congress to scrap this poorly-conceived, congestion-inducing subsidy. While policymakers consider the big picture, they also ought to examine how their own parking benefits are administered.

Here’s the short version: Congress is breaking its own law, and it’s shorting the Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, by providing free parking far in excess of the allowable limits.

USC 26 Section 132f of the tax code allows employers to provide each worker with up to $250 in free parking per month tax-free, which can add up to $3,000 in tax-free perks per employee each year. That’s a pretty big amount to pay people for exacerbating congestion, but the parking at the U.S. Capitol is worth significantly more than that.

It’s hard to know exactly how many free parking spaces we’re talking about. The Architect of the Capitol and relevant committees don’t like to talk about it, but Lydia DePillis reported in the Washington City Paper a few years ago that a plan for the southern part of the Capitol complex completed in 2005 shows that the House office buildings alone have 5,772 parking spaces assigned to them.

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Rochester NY Residents Add Their Own Bus Stop Seating

This "bus stop cube" was one of two tested recently in Rochester to help give bus riders a place to rest. Photo: Rochester Subway

Reconnect Rochester put out this “bus stop cube” to give riders a place to take a load off. Photo: Rochester Subway

Rochester residents are experimenting with a simple idea to make riding the bus a little more comfortable.

Mike Governale at Rochester Subway reports that a group called Reconnect Rochester is testing out two brightly colored “bus stop cubes” to give bus riders a place to rest at stops that currently have no seating. Governale went around interviewing bus riders at cube sites. Here’s what they had to say:

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester recently tested a prototype bus stop seat shaped like a cube at two locations: The PriceRite at Dewey & Driving Park and N. Union St. at the Public Market. As the video above shows, the results were very positive.

These women [pictured above] had just finished shopping and were waiting for their #10 bus when they were introduced to the CUBE seat. One of the women said that when she’s waiting for her bus, sometimes her legs give out. And she says the bus stop cube is the perfect height for her. She said many of the standard benches throughout the city are actually too low for her to get up out of easily.

Reconnect Rochester also shot this video of live interviews with bus riders — the reviews were mostly good. The group is asking community members to pin spots on an interactive map to recommend future locations for cubes. They’re also seeking donations to support the project.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Bike Walk Lee says the principles outlined at the recent Vision Zero symposium in New York should help guide street safety efforts in Southwest Florida. I Bike TO asks whether Toronto should build bike infrastructure for “cyclists” or for people of all ages and abilities. And the Urbanophile weighs in on Tony Hsieh’s bid to transform downtown Las Vegas into a live-work neighborhood.

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ITDP Maps Bus Rapid Transit Successes Worldwide

ITDPmap

Searching for solid examples of Bus Rapid Transit in your slice of the world, or pondering possible ways to solve a particular BRT problem? A new interactive map developed by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy might have your answer.

ITDP, which created the BRT Standard to define high-quality BRT and foster it around the world, has now plotted every city on the planet with a BRT route that meets its criteria. The map shows that the most, and highest-quality, BRT systems are concentrated in Latin America, where the concept originated, and in fast-growing China. Within the United States, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh stand out as leaders, but cities around the country are hatching plans for new systems.

North America isn’t the only region where BRT has a lot of room to expand. Fast-growing cities across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia could also look to BRT to provide more mobility for their citizens at a relatively low cost.

The map also illustrates key examples of how individual cities have addressed the most common challenges of implementing BRT. For instance, it notes the “beautifully designed stations” along Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya line as a case study for level platforms, which eliminate stairs and thus speed bus boarding. As cities like San Francisco face similar challenges in designing and implementing their BRT systems, they can learn from other cities’ experiences.

(Editor’s note: See also Friday’s SBLA article about Metro’s BRT project getting underway for Vermont Avenue.)

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Today’s Headlines

  • Uh Oh! Metrolink Pulls Plug on Agency Watchdog (LAT)
  • PL8CHAT Ap Could Really Piss Off Distracted Drivers (LAist)
  • Councilmember Buscaino Bikes in China (Twitter)
  • LA Expected To Allow Expanded West Adams Oil Drilling (KPCC)
  • Taking on Man-Spread and Other Transit User Rudeness (LAT)
  • How To Not Walk To the Hollywood Sign (Gizmodo)
  • Culver City Installing Bike Parking Racks (CC Observer)
  • Carnage: Bighorn Sheep Escapes Zoo, But Not Griffith Park Traffic (KPCC)
    Maybe A Wildlife Undercrossing, Like Calabasas’, Would Help (KPCC)
  • Santa Monica PD Stepping Up Bike Infraction Enforcement Now (Santa Monica Next)
  • 12 Ways Bicycling Changed Writer’s Life (We Like L.A.)
  • Electric Bicycles Work For Some Commuters (KPCC)
  • Phoenix AZ Launches Bike Share System (AZ Central)
  • SF To Add Bus-Priority Signals on Haight (SB SF)
  • NYCPD Literally Tackling Scofflaw Cyclists (SBNYC)
  • Early L.A. Traffic Officers’ Backs Faced Oncoming Cars (LAT)

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Short holiday week – see calendar for events (no “This Week” post.)
We’ll be publishing lightly Wednesday.