Skip to content

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Tucson Region Poised to Slash Bike/Ped Funding

Disappointing news from America’s hottest, driest bike city: Regional planners in Tucson are poised to take an axe to an important pot of money for bike and pedestrian improvements, even while they maintain spending on much more expensive road widenings.

Tucson's funds for bike and pedestrian improvements are drying up, some advocates say. Photo: Bicycle Tucson

It doesn’t cost much to make streets safer for walking and biking, but Tucson’s regional transportation agency would rather widen roads. Photo: Bicycle Tucson

Michael McKisson at Network blog Bicycle Tucson reports on how Tucson’s Regional Transportation Authority is dealing with lower-than-expected revenues from a regional sales tax enacted in 2006. Even though active transportation projects are just a drop in the bucket, the RTA has targeted them for steep cuts, McKisson writes:

It’s about to get a lot harder for Tucson-area bicycle and pedestrian planners to find funding for projects after a decision by the Regional Transportation Authority slashed more than $14 million from the RTA’s bicycle and pedestrian budgets.

Pima Association of Governments deputy director Jim Degrood told the RTA’s bicycle and pedestrian subcommittee that revenue from the 2006 voter-approved half-cent sales tax was coming in 17 percent lower than the group expected.

“The economy tanked — as we all know,” Degrood told the committee.  “And that has had a profoundly negative impact on our collection.”

McKisson reports active transportation is the big loser because RTA officials say they are committed to the projects that were outlined before the 2006 vote. Namely, road widening projects:

Read more…

No Comments

Today’s Headlines

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

4 Comments

Interview with Josh Paget, Director of the New Urbanism Film Festival

Joshua Paget, co-founder and Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival

Josh Paget, co-founder and Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival. Photo by John Paget, taken at the Congress for the New Urbanism, Buffalo NY

On Park(ing) Day, I pedaled out to a park(ing) space on La Brea where I met Josh Paget. He is one of the co-founders of and the current Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival. The festival, now in its second year, is coming up November 6-9 at the Acme Theater in Hollywood. Festival details here. Note that, in addition to plenty of great films, it also boasts speakers, walks, rides, etc. Keep up with #NUFF and #NUFF2014 via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, too. We conducted the following interview via email.  

SBLA: Tell us about yourself. What’s your background? How did you get interested in livability and new urbanism?

Paget: I moved to L.A. to be a stand up comedian. Which is a great way to see the city because you are constantly roaming around town from club to club. And I began asking why some of the places were better than others.

Someone recommended that I read the The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. I got hooked on urbanism from that angle: How does this affect me? I started a book group with my friend Joel Karahadian, and out of that we started the film festival. People always say the book is better than the movie, but we think film festivals are better than book groups, as far as generating conversation.

At Park(ing) Day, we met up at the Mid City West Community Council park(ing) space. Some Neighborhood Councils have been progressive on livability, others not so much. What’s MidCityWest NC like? What initiatives are you excited about there?

I think that everyone on the council recognizes that our neighborhood is very “walkable.” The transportation committee also has a history of being progressive on transportation issues and it still is. We did the park(ing0 day installation. We are pushing a Bicycle Friendly Streets proposal. In fact, during the festival, one of the events is “The Friendly Ride” a group bike ride through MidCityWest showing off their Bicycle Friendly Streets/Neighborhood Greenways proposal.

How do you get around Los Angeles?

I ride a three speed Linus roadster. Or I take the bus. I also have a car but I rarely use it because there’s too much traffic.

Tell us about the New Urbanism Film Festival.

The New Urbanism Film Festival is a four-day festival in Los Angeles that hosts screenings, workshops, and panel discussions on Urbanism. We focus on themes of architecture, bicycling, transportation, and urban design. Our slogan is “better streets, better living.” The hope is that it will be a new way to engage the public in topics of urbanism. We have lots of issues facing us as a city, and we want these conversations to have a baseline and a focus. There’s lots of books on it, there’s festivals, or podcasts, we’re showing films.

What’s your favorite New Urbanism film ever? Why?  Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

NYC Bike-on-Sidewalk Tickets Most Common in Black and Latino Communities

Chart by Harry Levine and Loren Siegel. Full data, including summonses as a share of population, available on their website.

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Of all the possible ways to break the law on a bicycle, pedaling on the sidewalk ought to be one of the most sympathetic.

Yes, sidewalk biking is unpleasant and potentially dangerous to everyone involved. But people wouldn’t bike on sidewalks if they weren’t in search of something they want: physical protection from auto traffic.

A person biking on a sidewalk is just trying to use the protected bike lane that isn’t there. That’s why sidewalk biking falls dramatically the moment a protected lane is installed. When a bike rider fails to follow this law, it’s not good. But it’s usually because the street has already failed to help the rider.

All of which makes it especially disturbing that bans on sidewalk biking seem to be enforced disproportionately on black and Latino riders.

That’s the implication of a recent study from New York City. City University of New York sociologist Harry Levine and civil rights attorney Loren Siegel coded the neighborhoods with the most and fewest bike-on-sidewalk court summonses by whether or not most residents are black or Latino.

Of the 15 neighborhoods with the most such summonses, he found, 12 were mostly black or Latino. Of the 15 neighborhoods with the fewest summonses, 14 did not have a black or Latino majority.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

It’s Happening: Washington State Revises Traffic Forecasts to Reflect Reality

Washington State has revised traffic projections downward, to reflect changing patterns. Image: Washington State via Sightline

The Washington State Office of Fiscal Management has revised its traffic projections downward to reflect changing patterns. Graph Washington OFM via Sightline

The amount that the average American drives each year has been declining for nearly a decade, yet most transportation agencies are still making decisions based on the notion that a new era of ceaseless traffic growth is right around the corner.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, for example, has overestimated traffic on its roads by an average of 73 percent, according to a recent study. And Dallas-area planners recently produced traffic projections that predicted a much larger increase in driving than the state DOT was even predicting.

That’s why a new traffic forecast from the Washington State Office of Fiscal Management is so interesting: It actually acknowledges how travel habits are changing. Seattle-based environmental think tank Sightline spotted the above traffic projection in a new government report. In its most recent financial forecast, the agency has abandoned the assumption of never-ending traffic growth that it employed as recently as last year. Instead, the agency has responded to recent trends, even projecting that total traffic will start to decline within the next ten years.

Sightline’s Clark Williams-Derry says that’s huge:

By undermining both the rationale for new roads and the belief that we’ll be able to pay for them, a forecast of flat traffic should help inject a needed dose of reality into the state’s transportation debates.

Of course, there’s no telling whether this forecast will be right. As Yogi Berra allegedly said, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But if it turns out that this forecast underestimates traffic growth, budgeters won’t find it such an unpleasant surprise, since more traffic will bring more revenue from drivers.

Update: This post has been amended to reflect that the traffic forecast was published by the Washington State Office of Financial Management, not the Washington State DOT, as originally reported. According to the OFM report, however, the projections were produced by a division of the DOT.

Streetsblog.net No Comments

The Surprisingly Rare Sanctuary From Urban Freeway Noise

There are precious few places in the Minneapolis region where you can escape the whirr of speeding cars. Map: Adam Froehlig at Streets.mn

There are precious few places in the Minneapolis region where you can escape the whir of speeding cars. Map: Adam Froehlig at Streets.mn

Bill Lindeke at Network blog Twin City Sidewalks says he grew up in a rather bucolic setting. Even so, he wasn’t able to escape the constant whir of speeding cars. The old farmhouse on a half-acre lot where he grew up is just three-quarters of a mile from Interstate 35E. And in that way, he was like almost everyone else in the Twin Cities, he points out:

It made me realize that freeways are surprisingly close to most houses. It’s increasingly difficult to find anywhere within the 494-694 ring of the Twin Cities where you can’t hear the high pitched whir of tires all hours of the day and night… Cars are a backdrop to every outdoor conversation, every rustle of leaves, and every birdsong day in and day out forever.

The other day at streets.mn, Adam Froehlig made a map that answered one of the questions that’s been nagging at my earlobe for years: Where are the respites from the whir? Is there anywhere in Minneapolis or Saint Paul where you can escape the sound of tires, if even for a brief moment in the middle of the night?

While it’s not perfect, Alex’s map [above] does point to a few small places where freeways might be at least a mile off.

 

There are precious few of these freeway-free pockets in Minneapolis: a pie slice of Northeast Minneapolis, a halo surrounding Lakes Harriet and (Haystacks) Calhoun, a few tiny pieces of South, and a peripheral edge of North Minneapolis. Is there a silent way that these neighborhoods help with delicate sanity?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Forward Lookout warns that a proposed constitutional amendment in Wisconsin could exacerbate the state DOT’s roads-only approach. TriTag says that despite what some opponents are saying, canceling light rail plans in Waterloo won’t actually save taxpayers any money. And the State Smart Transportation Institute points to a new study demonstrating the impact of the federal Safe Routes to School Program on travel habits.

3 Comments

CalBike Looks Back at This Year’s Legislative Efforts–and Ahead to the Next

Calbike2The California Bicycle Coalition–CalBike–supports local bicycle advocacy efforts to build better bike networks. It does this in part through its work on state legislation that promotes bicycling and via its efforts to increase the amount of funding available for building better bike infrastructure.

We liked their end-of-session legislative wrap-up, focusing on bikes–an important part of Streetsblog’s beat–so we’re reposting it for you here. We edited it slightly for length.

California is poised to become one of the most bike-innovative states in the nation. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) got a new mission and vision statement this year that is more bicycle friendly, and endorsed progressive street designs. A new State Transportation Agency is shaking up how California traditionally thinks of transportation, and we got to see the first rounds of the Governor’s new “Active Transportation Program.”

While the 2014 legislative session wasn’t ideal in every way, our policymakers took huge steps forward, most importantly with exciting advances toward modern street design. You can find links to exact bill language, fact sheets, and letters to and from lawmakers at the California Bicycle Coalition website here.

We Win Better Bikeways
The California Bicycle Coalition’s main strategy for enabling more people to ride a bike is to get communities to build bicycle-specific infrastructure: networks of paths, protected bike lanes, and calm streets that get people where they need to go, and that are built to be comfortable for anyone ages 8-80. Design rules, outdated laws, and inadequate public investment have been preventing better bikeways for years.

Design rules changed this year. In April, California became the third state to endorse the NACTO Urban Streets Design Guide. “We’re trying to change the mentality of our Department of Transportation,” emphasized Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. The mere endorsement wasn’t enough, however, as the Caltrans Design Chief made clear a few weeks later, stating flatly that “the standards haven’t changed.”

In September, Caltrans took another step by supporting AB 1193, the Protected Bikeways Act. Authored by Assembly Member Phil Ting and the California Bicycle Coalition’s top priority for the 2014 legislative session, this bill has two primary functions:

  • It removes language from the California Highway Design Manual (guidelines for how to design our streets) that  prohibited engineers and planners from building protected bike lanes — bikeways that have been proven to get more people to ride bikes. AB 1193 also requires Caltrans to set “minimum safety design criteria” for protected bike lanes by January 1, 2016. With new design rules, California has a chance to promote the best designs in the country and become a leader in bikeway design.
  • It allows municipalities to use other guidelines for street design, such as the bike-friendly Urban Bikeway Design Guide produced by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

In short, Caltrans and our policymakers are responding to the voices of the people calling for a revolution in street design. A vital next step is to advocate for protected bike lanes locally. You can pledge your support here for protected bike lanes so local advocates can find supporters in your area.

More Funding Approved, but Not Much
More funding is essential to building the infrastructure California needs to get more people to ride bikes. It is also key to economic sustainability. Active transportation infrastructure creates more jobs during construction and supports the local economy during its lifetime.

At $129 million, or barely 1 percent of the state’s transportation budget for biking and walking combined, funding for bike infrastructure is paltry at best.

Read more…

2 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • How To Get People To Ride Metro? Endless Craters of Free Parking (LAT)
  • Bike the Vote Posts 2014 Ballot Recommendations (BtV Tumblr)
  • More on Kinkisharyo Palmdale Rail Car Manufacturing Plant Shuttering:
    Blame Organized Labor For Killing Jobs 1 (LAT)
    Blame Organized Labor For Killing Jobs 2 (LAT)
    Blame Organized Labor and CEQA For Killing Jobs (KPCC)
  • KCET Interviews Lewis MacAdams Poet Founder of Friends of the LA River
  • Transdev Starts Operations and Maintenance Contract for Foothill Transit (Mass Transit)
  • Tour of California Bike Race Coming to L.A. (Biking In L.A.)
  • Car-Share Comes to S.F. Curb Parking Spaces (SB SF)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

2 Comments

Times Gives Voice to Die-Hards, But Ultimately Favors Safe Diverse Streets

An L.A. Times editorial invokes San Francisco's measure L as a "cautionary tale" for Los Angeles.

An L.A. Times editorial invokes tired arguments from proponents of San Francisco’s Proposition L as a “cautionary tale” for Los Angeles. But what about Proposition L’s many critics? Don’t ask the Times. Image via No on L via SBSF

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published the editorial Sharing the Roads in L.A. Ultimately the Times favors moving patiently toward a vision that “puts pedestrians, cyclists and transit users on equal ground with drivers,” but some of the Times preamble undermines its welcome conclusion.

The start of the editorial quotes the proponents of San Francisco’s Proposition L, a Republican-funded regressive measure that calls for prioritizing cars and enshrining free parking. L’s deceptive rhetoric is to “Restore Transportation Balance” which seems to be code for “Let Us People in Cars Have All the Space Like in the Good Old Days.”

The Times editorial only gives voice to Proposition L supporters, ignoring its many detractors. Prop L is opposed by a broad range of S.F. political leaders. Critics warn that L’s policies will worsen gridlock, harm affordability, and degrade the environment.

From the Times editorial, quoting Proposition L’s backers:

Because 79 percent of [S.F.] households in the city have a car, proponents argue, wouldn’t it make more sense to dedicate more money to helping cars move faster and making it easier and cheaper to park them? Why have local transportation authorities created a “war on motorists” by removing street parking and traffic lanes for bike routes, while hiking meter rates and parking ticket fines? Enough already!

Maybe the Times only had print space for one side of this issue, so I’ll be helpful and feature some of the other side’s rebuttals. Here is Streetsblog San Francisco‘s take on that 79 percent number:

This [statistic] is a misleading and hyperbolic way to misrepresent policies aimed at giving San Franciscans better alternatives to owning cars. Another way to look at car ownership stats: 37.1 percent of households own only one car, so 58 percent of households own one or zero cars. Despite having a solid car-light majority, San Francisco already devotes most of its street space to moving and parking cars — mostly for free.

And how about that “war on motorists”? If the situation we face today is some kind of war on motorists, I am looking forward to the war on cyclists, pedestrians, and transit-riders. The one where we get all kinds of “free” stuff subsidized by other taxpayers, billion-dollar capital projects, space everywhere, etc. If anyone you know, editorial writers included, trots out phrases like “war on cars” show them these charts from Streetsblog New York City and Streetsblog Los Angeles.

Like some other recent Times editorials, yesterday’s seems to speak with multiple voices. This multiplicity of viewpoints is fitting, as it is reminiscent of L.A.’s streets. Cars, buses, shuttles, taxis, trains, bikes, feet, wheelchairs, and much more – all come together and share space on L.A. streets all day every day. Striking a safe, healthy balance that supports a world class city requires a dance, a dialogue, a negotiation.

As new LADOT general manager Seleta Reynolds often points out: it’s all people out there using our streets, so it can be unhelpful rhetoric to categorize everyone into neat stereotypes including: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. When drivers park, they become pedestrians. Many cyclists become drivers when we carry lots of groceries. Reynolds also points out that drivers benefit from greater road safety and parking reform, and that many complete streets projects can reduce congestion.

Like the Times, I would favor “a consensus-building process” that leads to “a record of success” in streets that are great for all. I don’t remember a lot of Times editorials pushing for patient public consensus when many backroom processes were delivering car culture to our doorsteps, but, nonetheless: yes, today as ever, community consensus is important. Unfortunately, I think that the Times is holding Los Angeles to an impossible standard if it thinks that “even die-hard drivers” can be won over.  Sometimes, a few vocal critics is a sign that we’re getting somewhereSometimes, a greater good, like, say ending traffic deaths by 2025, means that a few die-hard people, like, say, Proposition L proponents, don’t always hold sway over what is good for everyone.

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Center Cities Drawing Young College Grads Even in Shrinking Regions

The central cities of America's urban areas have seen a 34 percent increase in young college-educated residents over the last decade. Image: City Observatory

The central cities of America’s urban areas have seen a 37 percent increase in young, college-educated residents over the last decade. Image: City Observatory

In another striking sign of shifting generational preferences, the number of young college graduates is on the rise in central cities across the country — even in regions that are shrinking overall.

That’s according to a new report from City Observatory [PDF], which found the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees living within three miles of a downtown area has increased dramatically — 37 percent nationally — over roughly the last decade. America’s total population increased about 11 percent in the same period.

College-educated millennials are even more likely to live in central city areas than their Generation X predecessors. And the trendline is among 51 metro areas examined, just two — Detroit and Birmingham — saw a net loss in 25- to 34-year-old college grads living within three miles of downtown.

Interestingly, the total number of people living in America’s core cities remained roughly unchanged between 2000 and 2012, at about 9.4 million people. (There was, however, enormous variation by metro region.) The millennial generation is also a larger cohort than the Gen X group that came before them, and more likely to have a college degree, but that doesn’t fully explain the trend.

Clearly, shifting preferences are at work, says study author Joe Cortright. The number of young college graduates increased twice as fast in core cities as it did in American metro areas overall.

Read more…