Thanks to everyone who’s given to Streetsblog and Streetfilms so far in our spring pledge drive — we’re nearly a quarter of the way to our fundraising goal of $40,000. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is for readers to chip in and help us reach our targets. Your contributions keep us going so we can deliver news and commentary about the transition to safer city streets that work for people, not cars. So keep those donations coming!
For the next two days, we have an extra set of goodies to give away to three lucky donors: a commuter pack courtesy of Planet Bike. This bicycle accessory horn-of-plenty includes all of the following:
(Note: To help Streetsblog readers decide how best to cast their vote in the election, we asked two regular writers not on staff to write their recommendations in the election. Today, current Board Member and 2009 Streetsie Writer of the Year Joel Epstein takes his turn writing about his support for Eric Garcetti. Yesterday, Founding Board Member Emeritus and our 2011 Streetsie Writer of the Year Dana Gabbard wrote about his decision to back Wendy Greuel. )
LA’s governance structure makes it sometimes difficult to know who runs the public side of things around here. Is it the County Board of Supervisors or does power rest with the City Council or the Mayor? And what about agencies like the LADWP and public employee unions so large that at election time they make the Koch brothers shudder?
LA’s next mayor has his work cut out for him. I say “he” because, LA’s next mayor should be Eric Garcetti.
LA needs Eric because our next mayor will face a still failing education system, limp job growth, inadequate public transit, a daunting homeless problem, inadequate affordable housing, baroque business regulations and a fouled environment. And, he will have to lead a public soured on government and smarting from Metro’s breakdown on the 405. Guess who pays when projects like this fall years behind schedule and are fumbled.
How do the candidates differ? Here is what Eric and Wendy said about a Crenshaw Line station at Leimert Park in South LA.
Eric: “As mayor, I will continue to aggressively fight for the rail stop in Leimert Park to improve safety, create jobs, boost local businesses and provide better access to a transportation option that will help South LA residents get where they need to go without a car, which will reduce congestion and pollution for us all.”
Wendy: “As soon as possible upon taking office as mayor [I commit to directing] staff to review the design options in the [Environmental Impact Report/Statement] as well as funding opportunities for underground portions of Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 59th streets.”
Further review? Review and lawsuits are what Beverly Hills and Cheviot Hills NIMBYs threw in the path of the trains?
This picture is from last fall at the Waterford and Constitution Bike Path, but Percus assures Streetsblog that it pretty much looks the same way now. Photo: Allon Percus
On April 16, Metro sent out a notice to Westside stakeholders of the 405 “Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project” that a bike path from Waterford Street to Constitution Avenue on the Southbound side of the 405 would be closed from April 18 until May 2 from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm. Cyclists groaned.
When a similar proposal occurred in September of last year, cyclists were treated to a three month odyssey of shifting explanations as the community demanded Metro provide a safer route during the path closure. Cyclists are double worried this time because an estimated re-opening date for anything having to do with the Sepulveda Pass (Still Totally Worth It!) Project is always a moving target.
On May 9, mathematical sciences professor Allon Percus approached the path, and saw that it was still closed. He fired off a letter to Metro staff, and was immediately rewarded with a full closure of the bike path for twenty four hours a day, until May 16 at the earliest. Yesterday, Metro re-noticed the community, retroactively, that the bike path would remain closed from May 2 until May 16.
Percus tells his story.
I arrived by bike at the north end of the path today at 5:40pm (Thursday, May 9 – ed), carrying my 4-year-old daughter on a bike seat. Even though this was well outside of the work hours communicated in the original closure notice, and even though we are well past the scheduled final closure date of May 1, we found ourselves locked out of the bike path. The only alternative bicycle routes were a shoulderless highway during rush hour (Sepulveda Blvd. between Montana and Constitution) and a 2-mile detour involving a 150-foot climb. As you can imagine, this is a distressing situation to find yourself in with a small child. (In the end, safety won out and we opted for the 2-mile detour and the 150-foot climb. It is not an experience I’d like to repeat, though.)
For their part, Metro staff assures Percus that the closure is a safety concern, and that the extended hours of the closure are also for safety reasons. Taking them at their word, that the path is now dangerous even when construction is not occuring, their safety solution (available to read in the closure notice) for cyclists and pedestrians is, in a word, unsafe.
All government forecasts predict far more driving than even the most conservative scenario envisioned by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group. Image: A New Direction
The driving boom is over.
After decades of steady growth, U.S. driving rates have stagnated and even fallen. Per capita driving is as low as it was in 1996. And yet, federal and state government estimates continue to predict inexorable growth, relentlessly building expensive new highways for drivers who might not materialize.
A groundbreaking new study from U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group shows that any of three likely scenarios for future U.S. driving trends show far lower vehicle miles traveled than any of the principal current government estimates. That creates a disconnect between the kinds of transportation Americans are choosing with their feet and the kinds of transportation the system is designing for them.
Transit ridership is rising steadily – Americans took 10 percent more transit trips in 2011 than in 2005 – yet more than half of U.S. transit systems have been forced by budget constraints to either raise fares or cut service – or both – since the beginning of 2010. Meanwhile, although Americans are showing a flagging interest in automobile travel, states are breaking the bank to build shiny new roads.
Here are the three possible future scenarios for driving behavior that authors Phineas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG and Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group laid out:
Back to the Future: This scenario assumes that the decline in driving is a temporary “blip,” largely due to the economic recession, and not a lasting trend. It assumes driving rates will soon pick right up where they left off. In this scenario, driving rates by age cohort and sex return to 2004 levels by 2020 and continue marching upward.
Enduring Shift: Under this scenario, the last decade’s shift in driving behaviors is real and lasting, with people continuing to embrace different forms of transportation and more compact communities. Gas prices stay high, the economy bounces back without leading to a huge jump in VMT, and the digitally-connected world continues to reduce the need for travel. This assumes each age and sex cohort keeps driving at lower rates than the same cohort did in previous generations. “For example, if 20 year-old males in 2009 drove 20 percent less than 20 year-old males did in 2001, it is assumed that eleven years later in 2020 they will similarly drive 20 percent less than 31-year-old males did in 2001,” Baxandall and Dutzik write.
There’s a line of reasoning advanced by the media, angry motorists and, sometimes, cyclists, that goes something like: Since some cyclists don’t follow the rules, cyclists don’t deserve respect.
There is a double standard when cyclists are expected to "earn" their right to the road, while motorist misbehavior is accepted as the norm. Image: Likecool.com
A version of this axiom was repeated yesterday by Sarah Goodyear at Atlantic Cities, in an article titled “Cyclists Aren’t ‘Special,’ and They Shouldn’t Play by Their Own Rules.” Goodyear argues that cyclists need to clean up their behavior in order to legitimize themselves in the eyes of others. A crackdown on rule breakers is needed, she says, to advance the cause of cycling.
Goodyear is asking cyclists to become footdroppers and thinks that more enforcement of cycling laws is what is needed for cycling to “get to the next level.” I disagree which is easy to do since Goodyear offers no evidence, no data and no defense of her position. It appears to be 100% emotion-based opinion.
When I look at great cycling cities in Europe it doesn’t appear to me that there is some point where increased enforcement is needed to keep growth going. Growth is fueled by better designed streets, laws that protect cyclists, and increasing the costs of driving. If anything, what I’ve read about Amsterdam and Copenhagen is that they don’t tolerate the kinds of bad driving that are considered normal here. I don’t read about ticketing blitzes.
She makes the point that many cyclists are rude or ride dangerously and that she’d like to see such behavior ticketed. I have no problem with ticketing dangerous behavior — though if we’re really going to focus on the MOST dangerous behavior, that will rarely mean ticketing cyclists. And if law enforcement were to blitz cyclists, it would likely not be for their most dangerous behavior (riding at night without lights or too fast on the sidewalk or against traffic) but rather not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign during a charity ride or at some out-of-the way intersection.
Bike lawyer Brendan Kevenides wrote in Urban Velo last year that “the way you ride is probably a crime,” saying that in many cases cyclists have logical reasons for breaking the rules, often for their own safety. He wrote that lawmaking bodies across the country are starting to recognize ways in which cyclists behave differently from motorists, and are making appropriate accommodations. In other words, lawmaking bodies are recognizing that cyclists are special, in that they are not the same as cars, and that they should have their own rules.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Kansas City’s gudthoughts blog considers whether crowd-funding is a viable way to improve that region’s transit infrastructure. Systemic Failure says Amtrak’s strict “no pets” policy is unnecessary and puts the quasi-public transportation provider at a competitive disadvantage with other modes. And People for Bikes asks cyclists to send pro-bike letters to their local newspapers in honor of Bike to Work Week.
Bike Nation will probably stick with the Convention Center as a logical location for kiosks. But where else might they go? Suggest your favorite coffee shop or even where you work.
New word has finally broke out and Bike Nation is encouraging Long Beachers to suggest where they should place those 250 kiosks, a move that is honestly cool and rather exciting (even though, as a fixie dude, a bit turned off by the bulky, GPS-equipped bicycle contraptions they’ve conjured up). Of course, a similar web-app appeared for Bike Nation’s Los Angeles system last August. Thus far, there are no Bike Nation bike or kiosks on the ground in the City of Angeles.
But there is a small system in Anaheim, and that’s reason to hope that the nation’s only completely privately funded bike share company is slowly readying for a larger roll out.
But back to the app.
The web-app–which after a little over a week of activation has some 11 nominations, with the vast majority being located in the downtown area–allows people to register for free and make their suggestions within the boundaries of the city. And note: make sure you register for the “Suggest a Station,” not the overall Bike Nation registration which will have you sign up for a membership that will throw either $75/year or $35/mo on your card. Read more…
Metro is in the midst of addressing one of the last Transit Access Pass bugaboos beyond the fixes I described previously: the rather poor quality of service provided by Xerox, the vendor staffing the Regional TAP Service Center.
At the Metro Board Executive Management Committee meeting on Thursday they will consider an extension of the contract with Xerox to facilitate a transition to having the Center be in-house staffed by Metro employees represented by the Transportation Communications Union (TCU).
This is good news. Not that everything will be peachy keen even with this change. Alex Vickers’ comment to my previous post I think brings up a very important point in re gating:
Closing the turnstiles is still going to be a complete nightmare… was held up for 5 minutes the other day trying to get through the turnstiles and almost missed my train. It’s difficult to deal with the huge rush of an entire train of people unloading and the stations weren’t designed to deal with two way traffic. Union Station is going to be a complete C.F
Another commenter, who wishes to remain anonymous because of business with Metro, explains why this could be a good move for customers.
This helps fix one of the biggest complaints about the TAP program, which is the poor customer service. By bringing this in house hopefully you will have staff at MTA Customer Service Centers actually helping passengers with the card instead of directing them to the phone booth where they sit on hold for over half an hour.
Tulsa ran away with the "Golden Crater" award in our Parking Madness competition. Now local leaders are taking steps to help build a healthier balance for the city's downtown. Image: Google Maps
Just last month, we were shaming Tulsa, Oklahoma, with our “Golden Crater” award for the downtown most riddled with surface parking lots. But today, we applaud the city for taking steps to reverse the plague of excess parking.
Tulsa World reported Friday that our Parking Madness competition winner is moving forward with a ban on new surface parking lots. The Tulsa City Council has extended a temporary moratorium on new surface parking through September. Between now and then, Tulsa will be working to prepare permanent changes to the city’s zoning code that will help contain the tide of surface parking lots and, hopefully, set the stage for some redevelopment.
The legislation is being championed by City Councilman Blake Ewing, who gave a shout out to Streetsblog in his remarks to the newspaper.
“Ewing pointed to a recent online contest by a nonprofit transportation advocacy publication in which Tulsa was named the worst city in the country for ‘parking craters’ — areas of historic downtowns that have been bulldozed for surface parking,” wrote Tulsa World reporter Zack Stoykoff.
Tulsa is in the early stages of the same program the city of Denver took on to repair its woeful surface parking lot problem two decades ago.
We’re proud that, by shining a light on the damage caused by Tulsa’s excess parking, Streetsblog was able to help catalyze change. Whether by highlighting best practices or worst practices, we’re thrilled when we can inspire cities to re-think their priorities and plan for a more sustainable future.