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U.S. DOT Blows Chance to Reform the City-Killing, Planet-Broiling Status Quo

The Obama administration purportedly wants to use the lever of transportation policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently said he’d like to reverse the damage highways caused in urban neighborhoods, but you’d never know that by looking at U.S. DOT’s latest policy prescription.

U.S. DOT has drafted new rules requiring state DOTs to track their performance. Reformers hoped the rules would get states to reconsider highway expansion as a method of dealing with congestion and emissions, since widening roads induces more traffic and pollution. By introducing better metrics and reporting requirements, the thinking goes, U.S. DOT could compel states to document the failure of highway expansion, which would lead to pressure for a new approach.

Is U.S. DOT teeing up a lot more projects like Houston's Katy Freeway? Photo: Wikipedia

U.S. DOT isn’t taking steps to hold transportation agencies accountable for building ecological disasters like the Katy Freeway. Photo: Wikipedia

But the rules released yesterday are a big disappointment, say analysts. While it will take a bit more time to fully assess the 423-page document [PDF], advocates are already going on the record panning U.S. DOT’s effort.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On the question of whether state transportation agencies should be required to at least report the emissions impact of their transportation plans, U.S. DOT “whiffed,” writes Joe Cortright at City Observatory:

There’s nothing with any teeth here. Instead — in a 425 page proposed rule — there are just six pages (p. 101-106) addressing greenhouse gas emissions that read like a bad book report and a “dog-ate-my-homework” excuse for doing nothing now. Instead, DOT offers up a broad set of questions asking others for advice on how they might do something, in some future rulemaking, to address climate change.

This is hugely disappointing, considering that anonymous Obama administration officials were bragging about the impact of these reporting requirements to Politico earlier this week. At the rate things are going, half of Florida will be under water before American transportation officials acknowledge that spending billions to build enormous highways serving suburban sprawl is broiling the planet.

Traffic Congestion

There was also some hope that U.S. DOT would reform the way congestion is measured. Current measures of congestion emphasize vehicle delay, which leads to policies that actually promote more driving and more total time spent in cars, as agencies seek to temporarily reduce delay by widening roads. Policies that reduce traffic by improving transit or enabling people to live closer to work don’t rate well under this measure of congestion.

Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says the new rule “would still push local communities to waste time and money attempting to build their way out of congestion by using a measure of traffic congestion that’s narrow, limited and woefully out of date.”

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • NYT Encourages Tourists To L.A. To Ditch the Car
  • Boyle Heights Activists Fight Gentrification (Guardian)
  • Downtown L.A. Is Not Quite “Vibrant” (LAT)
  • Santa Monica Is Becoming A Model Of Mobility (LAT)
  • L.A. County Median Home Price Surpasses A Half Million Dollars (Curbed)
  • L.A. Transit Villages Need To Evolve Over Time (Parking Today)
  • UCI Nabs Bike Thieves Using GPS-Tagged Bait Bike (LAT)
  • Ride-Hail Companies Forcing Democrats To Re-Think Labor Regulations (KPCC)
  • CA Senate Blocks Bill Against Ride-Hail Surge Pricing (KPCC)
  • Advocates: CA Still Has Long Way To Go To Clean Air (KPCC)
  • Metro Expo Line Faces A Bottleneck Running In Traffic In DTLA (L.A. Weekly)
    …Petition To LADOT: Give Expo Line Signal Preemption (Change.org)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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Register This Week For UCLA’s April 27 Public Transit Conference

Click to find out more about UCLA's April 27 conference at the California Endowment in downtown L.A.

Click to find out more about and/or to register for UCLA’s April 27 public transit conference at the California Endowment in downtown L.A.

Time is running out to register for next week’s The Future of Public Transit, UCLA’s 9th Annual Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment. The conference takes place next week on Wednesday, April 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the California Endowment at 1000 North Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles, one block north of Union Station.

The full list of speakers and sessions is available at the conference website. The keynote address will be delivered by Therese McMillan, Metro’s new Chief Planning Officer, who until recently was Obama’s Acting Federal Transit Administration head. McMillan will speak on “Public transit’s societal contribution: now and in the future.”

Other topics to be discussed include: Houston’s much-heralded frequent bus service reorganization, demographic shifts away from driving, youth and immigrant transit ridership trends, public-private coordination with ride-hail companies including Lyft, lessons from New York City, and CEO Phil Washington on Metro’s strategies for expanding ridership.

The registration deadline is this Friday, April 22 at noon. Register easily via Eventbrite. Regular tickets are $79; student tickets are $35.

After the jump, find the conference organizers promotional blurb. See you downtown next week!  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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How Good Is the Transit Where You Live? Measure It With AllTransit

transitrank

The top ten rankings are great conversation fodder, but the real strength of AllTransit is its deep reservoir of data, enabling multifaceted analysis of transit quality at many different scales. Table via AllTransit.

Do you have the sense that transit in your city could be a lot better, and you want to show your local elected officials what needs to improve? Look no further: Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology has produced a new tool called AllTransit that assesses the quality of transit down to the neighborhood level.

AllTransit lets you evaluate your local transit system in several ways. You can look up how many people in your city live within a half mile of transit service, for instance, or how many jobs are conveniently accessible via transit from your neighborhood compared to your city as a whole.

The tool combines route and schedule information from 805 American transit agencies with a wealth of Census data, making a broad spectrum of uses possible. With AllTransit, you can compare different facets of transit service across neighborhoods, cities, regions, states, or electoral districts.

To help people summarize complex comparisons, AllTransit offers an overall “performance score” incorporating several factors, including the extent of frequent service and how well transit connects people’s homes to jobs and other destinations.

The emphasis on frequency is unprecedented, said Linda Young, director of research for CNT. “Frequency is so important because it’s really the determinant of how people are going to use transit,” she said.

Here are a few ways you can use the tool, with Madison, Wisconsin serving as an example. Keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Below are the city’s performance score and top-level stats — click to enlarge.

Read more…

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Schools, Streets, and the Deadly Negligence of State DOTs

A 7-year-old girl was killed on this road Saturday night while trying to walk to a father-daughter dance. Image: Google Maps

On Missouri’s Highway 109 Saturday night, a driver struck and killed a 7-year-old girl who was walking to a father-daughter dance. Image: Google Maps

Here is a truly heartbreaking story about the price we pay for prioritizing cars over people on our streets.

This weekend in St. Louis County, a turning driver struck and killed 7-year-old Rachel Bick on Highway 109. She was trying to cross the street on her way to a father-daughter dance at Babler Elementary.

As Richard Bose at Next STL writes, this wasn’t an unforeseeable incident. The Missouri Department of Transportation treats Highway 109 like a space only for cars, even though it separates two elementary schools. It’s not coincidence, says Bose, that MoDOT roads like this are frequent scenes of carnage:

The highway was built as a road — meant to move cars quickly between places. It’s being turned into a stroad (video) as development occurs along it. A stroad tries to function as both a road and a street and fails at both. A stroad environment is predictably dangerous. The highway has no pedestrian safety features at the site of Saturday’s tragedy, not even quite affordable paint. The nearest traffic light is about 500 ft away and the nearest marked crosswalk is 1000 ft away. We can’t expect anyone to walk that far to cross Highway 109.

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Louisville’s New Goal: Reduce Driving

Image: Move Louisville via Broken Sidewalk

Louisville isn’t known as a transit-rich, bikeable city, but it is drafting a blueprint to change that. Move Louisville, the region’s new long-term transportation plan, envisions a future with less driving and more active transportation.

Currently, 82 percent of the region’s residents drive to work, higher than the national average of 76 percent, and higher than peer cities like Cincinnati (72 percent). Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk reports that regional policy makers have coalesced around a step-by-step plan to reduce Louisville’s dependence on driving:

“Move Louisville takes a holistic approach to our transportation system,” Mayor Fischer said at the plan’s unveiling. He said the city’s existing transportation system is valued at $5 billion, making it an asset worth maintaining—one of the city’s main talking points. “We have two top priorities,” the Mayor continued. “The first we call ‘Fix it First.’ That is fixing our existing infrastructure so we can maintain what works best. The second is reducing the number of miles that Louisvillians drive. We’ll do that by increasing the number of mobility options.”

And the mayor plans to reduce the vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in Louisville by a significant number. In Jefferson County in 2014, motorists travelled over 7 billion miles—that’s enough miles to travel to the moon and back 15,211 times. The equals out to more than 19,178,082 miles each day (42 trips to the moon and back). Move Louisville suggests a reduction in VMT by roughly one trip to the moon and back—500,000 miles—or 2.6 percent or the daily miles driven in Louisville. But over a year those miles add up: a daily 500,000 mile reduction equates to 182,500,000 miles (397 trips to the moon and back). That’s not pocket change.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Los Angeles Street Protected Bikeway Under Construction (@LAGreatStreets Twitter)
  • Gateway Cities COG Calls For Zero Bike-Ped Projects In Measure R2 (Investing in Place)
  • Transit Spending Boosts L.A.’s Economy (Daily News)
  • $20 Parking At Dodgers Stadium Is Comparatively Not So Bad (L.A. Magazine)
  • CA Senate Approves $177 Million For Exide Clean-Up (KPCC)
  • Carnage: Five Injured In Apparently Deliberate Freeway Hit-and-Run In Irwindale (KTLA)
    …Witness: Children Crying For Help At Fatal North Hills Crash (Daily News)
  • Beverly Hills Plans “MASS” Municipal Automated Shuttle System (The Verge)
  • LAT Tired Anti-High-Speed Rail Coverage Highlights Opposition Legislation

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarMetro wants your input at a series of community meetings regarding its draft sales tax expenditure plan. Re:code L.A. goes to Northridge. Great Streets makes Pacoima safer. And much more all this week!

  • Tuesday 4/19 – L.A. City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes and L.A. Great Streets host a community meeting to discuss safety improvements on Van Nuys Blvd in Pacoima. The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pacoima City Hall at 13520 Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima. Meeting details at L.A. Great Streets.
  • Tuesday 4/19 – Metro is hosting meetings to receive input on its proposed sales tax expenditure plan. The fifth of Metro’s community meetings takes place tomorrow night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center at 38350 Sierra Highway in Palmdale. Meeting details at Metro’s The Source.
  • Wednesday 4/20 – Re:code L.A. continues its series of public forums on the future of L.A. City’s zoning code. Read about an earlier Boyle Heights forum here. Wednesday’s forum takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Northridge Recreation Center at 18300 Lemarsh Street in Northridge.  Meeting details at re:code L.A.
  • Wednesday 4/20 – Housing Long Beach and City Fabrick host a discussion and screening of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. The film is about the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home. The event will be from 7 to 10 p.m. at 2025 East 4th Street in Long Beach. Details at Facebook event.
  • Thursday 4/21 – Santa Monica’s Sustainable Quality Awards take place at 11 a.m. at Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica Hotel at 530 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. There will be free bike valet and SM’s Bike Center is hosting a feeder ride. The event appears to be sold out – more information at SQA website.
  • Thursday 4/21 – Metro’s sixth expenditure plan community meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Meeting details at Metro’s The Source.
  • Saturday 4/23 – Metro’s seventh expenditure plan community meeting comes to downtown L.A. It will takes place from 10 a.m. to noon at the Metro Board Room at One Gateway Plaza, right behind Union Station. Easy access via the Metro Gold, Red, and Purple Lines. Meeting details at Metro’s The Source. Share via Facebook event.
  • Sunday 4/24SATURDAY 4/23 The city of Lawndale hosts its first open streets event! The 2-hour open streets festival takes place from 8 to 10 a.m. Event details including route map on flier [PDF] at Lawndale City website.
  • Sunday 4/24 – Wear a costume for the The Tour de Phat People bike ride! Meet up at the Metro Gold Line Heritage Square Station at 2 p.m. , roll out at 2:15. Details at Facebook event.
  • Next Tuesday 4/26 – Yet another Metro’s Measure R2 expenditure plan community meeting takes place. This one is 6 to 8 p.m. at the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (ask them why they have not prioritized any bike projects!), 2nd Floor Conference Room at 16401 Paramount Boulevard in Paramount. Meeting details at Metro’s The Source.

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

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Coalition Urges Good Local Jobs in Metro Heavy Railcar Contract

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning's rally. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning’s rally. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press event in front of Metro headquarters this morning, the Jobs to Move America (JMA) coalition called for companies to create good jobs as they manufacture Metro railcars. Today is the deadline to file income taxes, so the coalition emphasized the need for companies to be responsive to U.S. taxpayers who are footing the bill for these transportation manufacturing contracts.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning's Jobs to Move America event.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning’s Jobs to Move America event.

The national JMA coalition represents a broad range of organizations, including labor, civil rights, environmentalists, and others. Speakers at today’s event included representatives from the AFL-CIO, the L.A. Black Workers Center, Move L.A., Occidental College, and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The rally opened and closed with rousing chants of, “What do we want? Good Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” and “¡Sí se puede!”

Speakers emphasized the need for transportation investments to serve more than one purpose: expanding mobility and also creating quality jobs, especially for disadvantaged workers, including lower-income veterans, women, communities of color, and the formerly incarcerated. Speakers stressed that the generation of quality jobs would create a win-win situation for the contractor and the community.

Metro is in the middle of a $1 billion procurement process to build nearly 300 heavy railcars that will serve the existing Red Line and the expanding Purple Line subways. According to the coalition’s press release, “Metro is one of the first transit agencies whose Request for Proposals included innovative language developed by Jobs to Move America, called the U.S. Employment Plan, that incentivizes companies proposing to build taxpayer-funded transit vehicles to create U.S. jobs.”

Metro railcar bid proposals were due in January. According to one coalition spokesperson, at least two companies, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and Hyundai Rotem, are known to have already submitted bids. While local or even domestic manufacturing is not strictly required for the contract, Metro’s selection may take into account bidders’ job creation pledges.

Coalition speakers touted the past job creation successes from Metro’s light railcar procurement with Kinkisharyo. Though it has been the subject of some controversy, Kinkisharyo is currently building light railcars in its Palmdale factory. According to the coalition, the Kinkisharyo contract has resulted in “235 jobs for people facing barriers to employment.” Similar arrangements are in effect for the Chicago Transit Agency, where there is a “Build Chicago” partnership, and Amtrak, though their low demand and high crash standards have delayed domestic train production.

The Metro Board is expected to select its contractor and approve its heavy railcar manufacturing contract in June.

Streetsblog USA
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Car-Free Streets Draw Bigger Crowds in San Antonio Than Pro Sports

It’s hard to argue that people in Texas just aren’t into walking and biking after you watch the above video from the Rivard Report, which shows the overjoyed crowds at San Antonio’s Síclovía open streets event earlier this month.

This was the tenth Síclovía, which happens twice a year. About 65,000 people came out to bike, jog, Zumba and play along 3.4 miles of streets winding through the heart of the city. For comparison, the Spurs, San Antonio’s major pro sports franchise, play at an arena with a capacity of 18,500 people.

The main goal of Síclovía, which is run by the YMCA, is to promote physical activity and healthy habits. While many San Antonio residents would like more regular events, the YMCA says they don’t have the capacity to do more.

As for making streets safe for biking and walking every day, San Antonio still has a long way to go on that front, says Council Member Shirley Gonzales, a champion of the city’s recent Vision Zero legislation. But she sees this as an opportunity.

“Why can’t we have that every day?” she said. “Síclovía is an example of what the city can do… so that people see alternatives for what the streets can be.”

Photo: Siclovía

Photo: Síclovía