Skip to content

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

The American Highway Safety Establishment Warms Up Some Leftovers

TZD_chart

Thinking of all traffic deaths as “highway fatalities” and measuring safety in terms of how much we drive is part of the problem. Graph: Toward Zero Deaths [PDF]

A group of heavy hitters in the road building and traffic safety establishment recently came out with a plan called “Toward Zero Deaths” [PDF], presented as an ambitious strategy to cut traffic fatalities in America. But don’t get too excited by the branding — the ideas inside don’t present much of a challenge to practices that have made the U.S. a shameful laggard on traffic safety compared to other affluent nations.

The document was produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (the body represents state DOTs), in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and a number of safety and law enforcement groups. Take a look at what they’re proposing and it’s clear the mentality of these institutions hasn’t evolved much in the past 40 years, even as America falls farther behind countries with far safer streets.

Is it still 1975?

The report starts off stale and doesn’t get any fresher. The three main recommendations are the same ones the U.S. transportation establishment has focused on for decades:

  1. Increasing seat belt use and reducing drunk driving
  2. Improving the driving practices of young people and old people
  3. Regulating vehicle safety more strictly

All fine ideas that make a difference, but this formula leaves out many other strategies adopted by countries like Germany, Japan, and the UK — countries where the per capita traffic fatality rate is less than half the rate in America.

Read more…

7 Comments

Metro Installing Polycarbonate Shields to Protect Bus Operators

Metro's new bus operator security barrier. In this photo the opaque black lower barrier is shut. The upper transparent barrier is open. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s new bus operator security barrier. In this photo, the opaque black lower barrier is shut. The upper transparent barrier is open. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Numerous speakers at Metro’s press conference this morning went to great length to assure the public that “the Metro system is safe.” Nonetheless, the speakers focused on the number of crimes, foremost including assaults on bus operators, that take place on transit in Los Angeles. Metro reports that operators were assaulted by passengers 138 times in 2014.

“We’re fighting back,” proclaimed Metro Boardmember and Lakewood City Councilmember Diane DuBois.

Today’s press event focused on the on-bus hardware. Metro has been installing closed-circuit television monitors since November, 2014.

Today marks the beginning of the agency’s roll-out of new polycarbonate safety barriers.

These barriers don’t photograph all that well. Read more…

7 Comments

In Mostly Sharp Editorial, Times Opposes Mandatory Helmet Law

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times wrote a mostly thoughtful editorial against Senate Bill 192, Carol Liu’s proposed mandatory helmet law for bicyclists. In the Times’ opinion, there isn’t enough evidence to show that helmets make bicycle riders safer to justify changing the law.

Hear, hear.

One thing the editorial board didn’t get right: saying that “many of the objections raised by bicycling enthusiasts are laughable — such as the idea that mandatory helmets would make bicycling appear more dangerous and thus discourage people from trying it.”

All chuckling aside, there is actual data showing that mandatory bicycle helmet laws have reduced the number of people bicycling—compared to the uncertain evidence of such laws’ safety impacts, which the Times focuses on. In “Do enforced bicycle helmet laws improve public health?” Australian researcher Dorothy Robertson showed dramatic reductions in both youth (29%) and adult (42%) cycling after a mandatory helmet law was passed. In Irvine, a study found that the number of children riding bicycles decreased between four and five percent after a child’s helmet law was passed there.

Thus, the biggest argument against S.B.192 is that it would have a negative impact on the number of people bicycling in California—in direct conflict with state climate and air quality goals. Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

NJ Police Chief Responds to Pedestrian Death: “Think About the Driver”

Route 130 has been named the most dangerous road in New Jersey five times in a row. Photo: Delran Township

Route 130 consistently ranks as the most dangerous road in New Jersey. Photo: Delran Township

After Richard Price, 56, was struck and killed by a driver on Route 130 in New Jersey’s Burlington County, the local police chief took to the pages of the local paper to scold pedestrians and implore people to “think about the driver… and about the life trauma they now have to endure.” The full piece, titled “If you must cross Route 130, use common sense,” is unfortunately behind a paywall.

When people in power blame victims like that, it helps explain why Route 130 got to be the deadliest road in New Jersey. Matthew Norris at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog explains:

Two pedestrians have been struck — one fatally — by cars while walking on Route 130 in Burlington County just since the March 5 release of Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report, which named Route 130 the most dangerous road in New Jersey for the fifth year in a row. Now more than ever, it is clear that Route 130 must be transformed to allow all road users to travel without putting their lives at risk — and it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Both sides of Route 130 are home to many places of work, restaurants, shops and transit stops. But like many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with as many as six lanes of fast-moving traffic, few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk.

While the New Jersey Department of Transportation has added new sidewalks and mid-block crossings in a few of locations along the corridor, more life-saving measures like continuous sidewalks, additional crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands must be added. These necessary short-term improvements could then be followed by a full-scale overhaul which could transform the roadway from a high-speed thoroughfare into an attractive multi-modal boulevard. These changes would do more than help to save lives — they could also help spur the development of walkable, mixed-use development on adjacent abandoned or underutilized land.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Purple Line supporters are hard at work trying to reduce the costs of that project and gain approval from Governor Larry Hogan. 1000 Friends of Wisconsin notes that while the state is splurging on highway expansions, one in three of the state’s local roads are in need of immediate repair. And Better Cities & Towns! shares a new study pegging the annual cost of sprawl to America at about $1 trillion.

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Parking Madness 2015: Detroit vs. Walnut Creek

The Parking Madness competition has never been fiercer. In yesterday’s match-up, Parkersburg, West Virginia, edged Boston by a slim 12 votes, and before that, Amarillo beat out Nashville by just six votes. Your ballot counts.

We have two doozies to feast your eyes on today. The Detroit waterfront is taking on the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek, California.

Detroit

detroit_crater

Submitter Luke Klipp describes this crater as “a swath of surface parking lining the city’s waterfront just east of the Renaissance Center,” a cluster of office towers that serve as General Motors HQ.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Ranking the Sad Parade of Federal Transpo Funding Ideas From Worst to Best

The Highway Trust Fund is on a losing trajectory. But no one can agree on how to fix it. Image: Congressional Budget Office via America 2050

America’s transportation funding system is broken, and no one in charge has good ideas about how to fix it.

The problem seems simple enough: The federal transportation program is going broke because Washington has allowed the gas tax to be eroded by inflation for more than 20 years.

As obvious as raising the gas tax may be, America’s political leaders won’t touch it. Yesterday, The Hill reported that Congressman Bill Shuster, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is ruling out a gas tax increase or any additional fees on driving to fund transportation.

Apparently, anything that might make driving a little more expensive is no longer politically palatable. Instead, President Obama and members of Congress have trotted out a series of proposals that range from one-off gimmicks to total fantasies that wouldn’t solve anything.

It can be hard to keep them all straight, so here’s our ranking of ideas to fix federal transportation funding, from worst to best.

Read more…

2 Comments

Adequate Wages Needed to Create Truly Sustainable Communities

(Miguel A. Luna is a native of Colombia, an avid reader, and longtime advocate of community playing an active role in city, state and nationwide policies. An urban resident of Los Angeles for over 25 years, he commutes mostly on bike and public transportation after giving up his car in 2005.)

I find myself mulling over what sustainability in our communities means. Its interpretation has run the gamut: at times, it has been generally dismissed as just a buzzword or more specifically looked at as solely improving the physical infrastructure of a city.

Miguel Luna. Photo: ##https://lacreekfreak.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/marching-for-water/##Joe Linton##

Miguel Luna. Photo: Joe Linton

In Los Angeles, many innovative projects to improve our urban environment have been proposed. Last week, Next City reported on the need for healthy food hubs in industrial Chinatown and Lincoln Heights, while other exciting projects to restore the L.A. River and expand transit are blossoming. This is key, as L.A.’s most urban neighborhoods with the poorest residents have long lacked access to green facilities, like parks or walkable/bikeable streets.

We’ve seen pricey in-fill and transit-oriented development displace low-income communities to more distant areas. New green infrastructure in our neighborhoods does not ensure sustainability alone. Neighborhoods are also about sustaining people and culture too. Economic stability is important for low-income residents presently living in the city’s core and in other communities throughout the city currently being revitalized.

It might seem curious for Streetsblog readers to be hearing from an environmentalist on why we need to raise our city’s minimum wage.

For years, I’ve worked on projects to improve the environment for youth and their families, especially with access to the LA River and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. But I am equally passionate about raising the minimum wage and I am involved because I believe the two issues are very interrelated.

We’ve seen vigorous discussion on the blogosphere about how many neighborhoods’ specific plans (such as the Hollywood Community Plan) and Metro projects (such as Expo Line TOD raising property values significantly) are spurring on gentrification in previously low-income areas.  I am under the belief that one way to curb this, is to provide better wages so families have a chance to stay in the neighborhoods they grew up in, if they choose to.

In order for our communities to enjoy better health and a quality of life, our economic health must also improve. If hardworking parents can’t afford to pay rent, they cannot afford to stay in their neighborhoods and enjoy the new environmental benefits like rail lines, parks, or bike paths with their kids.  Read more…

No Comments

Boyle Heights Youth Research Community Challenges, Find Proposed TOD Solutions Don’t Go Far Enough to Help Neediest

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak at a Metro meeting about the fate of a Mariachi Plaza. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“So…” I begin, looking around the table at CALO YouthBuild students Abigail Navarro, Irvin Plata, Stephanie Olwen, and Eric Aguayo.

I am there to ask them about how the youth at this charter school — a school whose student body is comprised of at-risk students aged 16-24 who struggled at one or more traditional high schools before eventually dropping out or being kicked out — have managed to become among some of the most prominent community voices clamoring to be involved in the decision-making process regarding the future of Boyle Heights.

“What was it like to go back to the schools that you felt had written you off to tell their students that they needed to be more engaged in advocating for their community?”

Irvin grins.

He had returned to the school he had dropped out of — Roosevelt High — to speak to nearly 25 classes about gentrification, affordable housing, and the development of Metro-owned lots along 1st St. and Cesar Chavez Ave. The larger goals of the outreach he, Stephanie (who visited Mendez High), and the others conducted were to encourage students to participate in the Issues Forum the YouthBuild students will be leading this afternoon and to get the students to answer the online survey* they had created exploring challenges families face in Boyle Heights.

He had been nervous at first, he says. Especially because his partner had bowed out, leaving him to do all those presentations on his own.

He was confident in the knowledge that youth participation could make a difference in the planning process, thanks to the success he and his fellow students had had in winning a 3-month extension of the community-engagement phase of the Exclusive Negotiated Agreements (ENAs) for the affordable housing projects at Metro’s 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto sites. And his confidence had been further boosted by the fact that YouthBuild’s proposal for a forum on gentrification, police-community relations, and environmental justice was taken seriously by policy makers. So much so that a representative of County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office, Mynor Godoy (Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council) Max Huntsman (Inspector General of the Sheriffs Department), Patrisse Cullors (Director, Dignity and Power, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter), and Jenna Hornstock, (Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development at Metro) have all agreed to participate. (RSVP to forum here.)

But Irvin was not as confident that the students he would be speaking to were going to be interested in what he had to say.

He, Abigail, Eric, and Stephanie all agreed that, back when they were struggling their way through multiple schools, they probably would have tuned out someone who came in to lecture them about the joys of community involvement in urban planning.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle which protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tapping into the students’ lived experiences and connections to the community, Irvin decided (with the help of his economics teacher and mentor, Genaro Francisco Ulloa), would be key to getting their attention.

So, Irvin made his presentations interactive. He asked students about their relationship to landmarks like Mariachi Plaza and how they would feel if those sites were to become unrecognizable or de-linked from the community’s culture. He also engaged students on some of the challenges they face — high rents and overcrowded housing, no access to jobs, mobility issues, etc. — and tried to help them understand how developments in the area, if not designed with the community in mind, could exacerbate the struggles they were already living.

And the struggles those students are living are pretty intense. Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Texas DOT Raring to Build Money-Losing Toll Lanes

Managed toll lanes can be big money losers. Photo: Wikipedia

Expanding highways by adding tolled lanes can still be a big money loser. Photo: Wikipedia

States seem to love expanding highways by adding tolled lanes, even when the money doesn’t add up. The 495 Express Lanes in DC’s Virginia suburbs lost $51 million last year, forcing investors to restructure $430 million in debt. Similarly, Maryland taxpayers are likely to be on the hook for the state’s new I-95 lanes, which are generating barely $5 million a year after costing $275 million. Toll lanes in Atlanta and Houston are also not hitting their financial targets.

Brandon Formby at the Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reports on a highway expansion in Dallas that seems to be heading in the same direction. As a toll road, it won’t make money, but that isn’t giving state officials much pause:

In a not-so-surprising move, the North Texas Tollway Authority board this morning passed on building the Southern Gateway, the name given to a planned rehab of Interstate 35E and U.S. Route 67 that will also add managed toll lanes to both roads.

But don’t expect that to halt the project. This is the sixth consecutive time the region’s tolling entity, which has dibs on any North Texas tolling project, has turned down a managed toll lane project. The Texas Department of transportation plans to move ahead with the work.

Read more…