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Metro Moving Forward With Flawed Complete Streets Policy

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro's Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report here.

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro’s Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report [PDF]

At today’s meeting, the Metro board of directors Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee approved the agency’s proposed Complete Streets Policy [PDF]. The committee approval sends the policy to the full board for anticipated approval at its meeting next Thursday, October 23.

Complete streets policies, broadly, mandate that all streets need to accommodate people using all modes of travel, including walking, bicycling, transit, and driving.

Metro staff in giving their presentation [PDF], expressed that the bulk of regional complete streets implementation occurs outside Metro’s jurisdiction. For the most part, street configurations are the jurisdiction of individual cities.

Metro staff identified two key areas where they assert that Metro has its greatest influence over complete streets implementation:

  • Corridor Planning: Metro is a lead agency in building various projects, most prominently rail, but also highways and other facilities.
  • Transportation Funding: Metro passes funding along to cities (and others) to build projects – including via the Call for Projects.

Seven public speakers, including L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins and Safe Routes To School National Partnership’s Jessica Meaney, expressed support for complete streets goals, and criticism of the draft policy. Comments focused on lack of enforceability, equity, performance metrics, as well as overall vagueness. For more details on criticisms expressed, read the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter at SRTS.

Sustainability committee members including Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Transportation Deputy Paul Backstrom portrayed the new policy as “a step in the right direction,” while suggesting that some improvements will need to be made to it over time. The committee approved the policy, and requested that staff return later with proposed metrics.

In recent years, Metro has incorporated commendable complete streets facilities as part of some of its projects; examples include multi-use bike/walk paths along portions of the Metro Orange and Expo Lines. Though these bike and walk facilities are well-used, Metro does not include them in all projects, and tends to invest much greater funding in providing free parking for cars than it does in ensuring safe and convenient walking and bicycling access to its stations.

Metro recently adopted its First Last Mile Strategic Plan. Many Metro projects, though, continue to be rail- and car-focused, with first/last mile bike and pedestrian facilities being poorly-funded afterthoughts unevenly tacked on much later.

What’s in Metro’s proposed Complete Streets policy?  Read more…

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Before/After: The 80-Year Leveling of an Oklahoma City Neighborhood

Before and after shots of Oklahoma City's "Core to Shore" area. Image: The Oklahoman and Google Earth, via Dustin Akers.

Shots of Oklahoma City’s “Core to Shore” area. Left image 1932. Right image 2014. Image: The Oklahoman and Google Earth, via Dustin Akers

What happened in the last eight decades to Oklahoma City’s Core to Shore neighborhood? That’s what these two photos compiled by Dustin Akers will have you wondering. The one on the left is from a slideshow by the Oklahoman, shot in 1932. The one on the right is from Google Earth in 2014.

The answer, according to Akers, boils down to a few things: An elevated highway, misguided urban renewal policies, flight and disinvestment.

But there’s good news. That elevated highway, Interstate 40, was torn down a few years ago. There’s a plan to replace it with an at-grade boulevard. Oklahoma City wants to redevelop 750 acres area here. The concept currently calls for mixed-use housing surrounding a 40-acre park.

Here’s an illustration:

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What’s Your City’s Ratio of Places to Non-Places?

 Andrew Price used a sunburn map to highlight the places (blue) and “non-places” (red) in downtown Phoenix. Image: Strong Towns

Here’s a really interesting way to look at cities. Andrew Price at Strong Towns has developed a graphically compelling way to break down developed areas into what he calls “places” and “non-places.”

He explains:

Places are for people. Places are destinations. Whether it is a place to sleep, a place to shop, a place of employment, or simply a place to relax – it has a purpose and adds a destination to the city. Building interiors are the most common form of Places found in cities. Examples of outdoor Places include;

  • Parks and gardens
  • Plazas
  • Human-oriented streets

Non-Places are the padding between destinations. Examples of Non-Places include:

  • Roads
  • Freeways
  • Parking Lots
  • Greenspace

Price has developed a method that instantly conveys the ratio of places to non-places. Below he compares part of San Francisco to a suburban area of Little Rock.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • How CicLAvia Is Transforming Los Angeles (KCET)
  • Study: Parking and NIMBYs Drive Up Cost of Housing (LAT)
  • Video: How Gold Line Tracks Are Constructed (The Source)
  • A Peek At Proposals for LB’s New Civic Center (LongBeachIze)
  • Crenshaw Line TOD Coming to Inglewood (Curbed)
  • Public Hearings Underway For Gold Line Extension Eastward (SGV Tribune)
  • More on Nixed Palmdale Metro Rail Car Manufacturing Plant (AV Tribune)
  • Opinion: Legalize Street Vendors (LAT)
  • Uber Driver 2-Hour Trip from DTLA to Glendale: Incompetent or Abductor? (ValleyWag)
  • DTLA In “First Inning” Of Becoming Great Cultural Center (Zocalo)
  • Clever Suburban Engagement Photos (SB USA)
  • Taking on Chicago’s Most Dangerous Intersections (SB Chicago)
  • Vision Zero and the Challenge of Changing Police Culture (SB NYC)

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Don’t Forget: SBLA / Santa Monica Next first-ever playdate this Saturday 3-5 p.m.! #streetsr4families!

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Boyle Heights Takes to the Streets for 5K and Munchkin Run

Runners in the Munchkin Half Mile gather at the start line. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

Runners in the Munchkin Half Mile gather at the start line. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

With the installation of the jogging path around Evergreen Cemetery in 2004 and the more recent rise of the Boyle Heights Bridge Runners (now celebrating their first year anniversary), Boyle Heights has become a much friendlier place for those who prefer to get their exercise by pounding the pavement.

But there generally haven’t been that many races or other running events in the Boyle Heights area for those enthusiasts to participate in. And while there was an attempt to hold one recently — a Mariachi 5K run — it hit a stumbling block this past August when businesses and residents complained that the organizer hadn’t worked with them, hadn’t hired local mariachis, and that the “mariachi” theme would invite parodies of the culture (see Seattle’s Fiesta 5K Olé! controversy).

Organizers of this past Saturday’s Boyle Heights 5k Run/Walk and Munchkin Half Mile hope that dynamic will soon change.

And they're off! Runners make their way down 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

And they’re off! Runners make their way down 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

Lead organizer Juan Romero, owner of local café Primera Taza, spoke of his desire for runners and families to have an event of their own that celebrated health, family, and community while raising proceeds for those in the area in need.

The race was an idea many in the community had been tossing around for the past few years, he said, but no one had been able to take the lead on getting it off the ground. This past March, hoping to finally see that idea come to fruition, Romero decided to take on the responsibility himself.

The Mendez Jaguars stand with Councilmember Jose Huizar. Photo: Mendez High School FB page

The Mendez Jaguars stand with Councilmember Jose Huizar. Photo: Mendez High School FB page (click to visit)

In collaboration with White Memorial Hospital (whose health resource fair immediately followed the race) and the Variety Boys and Girls Club (the recipient of race proceeds and the provider of insurance for the event), he encouraged schools and local organizations to put together race teams.

Then, he wrangled donations from resident Jaime Perez for iPad minis for the male and female 5K winners (see results here), got 20 chromebooks from the i.am.angel Foundation for the school that was able to put together the biggest team (congratulations, Mendez Jaguars!, at right), got 200 bike helmets to kids, and was given 400 medals for the runners by the House of Trophies.

Even with all that planning, the event was more successful than anyone had anticipated. Read more…

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Conquering the Unbearable Whiteness of Bike Advocacy: An Equity How-To

In Los Angeles, Multicultural Communities for Mobility helped Latino community members learn both bike mechanics and bike advocacy. A PSA campaign heightened the visibility of cyclists of color within their own community. Photo: Multicultural Communities for Mobility

In Los Angeles, Multicultural Communities for Mobility helped Latino residents learn both bike mechanics and bike advocacy. A PSA campaign heightened the visibility of cyclists of color within their own community. Photo: Multicultural Communities for Mobility

Many bicycle advocacy groups find themselves in a sticky position today: They’re increasingly aware that their membership doesn’t reflect the diversity of the broader population, but they’re not sure how to go about recruiting new members, or how to do it in a way that doesn’t amount to tokenism.

The League of American Bicyclists has been working hard to address equity in the bike movement, and their collaboration with a wide variety of local groups has led them to share some of the most successful practices in a new report, The New Movement: Bike Equity Today. Here are some how-tos, drawn from the report, for people who want to bring new voices into the movement.

Listen. How can bike advocates be sure that the infrastructure solutions and education programs they’re promoting work for everyone unless they ask everyone — or better yet, get everyone at the table in the first place when designing the advocacy program? “You can’t just go and say, ‘We need you to show up at a meeting,’” says Karen Overton of New York’s Recycle-a-Bicycle. “That’s not the way to do it. People may reach out to African American churches and say, they don’t call us back. But what if you actually go to church and then start talking?”

Elevate new leaders. Portland’s Community Cycling Center trained 12 members of the low-income, Latino housing developments they were working with to be bike educators “to cultivate and sustain [a] community-led bike culture.” The trainings were led in Spanish. “These projects also represent the promise that the best solution to barriers to bicycling are created by those experiencing the barriers,” said CCC Director Alison Hill Graves, “particularly when there are cultural, income, or age differences.” Local Spokes of New York City has a Youth Ambassadors program in which local teens explored the Lower East Side and Chinatown by bike, learning about urban planning, bicycle infrastructure, community organizing, public space, and gentrification along the way. They then created educational materials to share what they learned with local residents. “In the short term, youth became educators, stewards, and champions of this work,” says the League.

Read more…

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Not Just a Phase: Young Americans Won’t Start Motoring Like Their Parents

Image: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Young adults in 2009 were driving less and walking, biking, and riding transit more than young adults in 2001, according to the National Household Travel Survey. Chart: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

A raft of recent research indicates that young adults just aren’t as into driving as their parents were. Young people today are walking, biking, and riding transit more while driving less than previous generations did at the same age.

The vast majority of state DOTs have been loathe to respond by changing their highway-centric ways. A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, points out the folly of their inaction: If transportation officials are waiting for Americans born after 1983 to start motoring like their parents did, they are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Though some factors underlying the shift in driving habits are likely temporary — caused by the recession, for instance — just as many appear to be permanent, the authors found. That means American transportation agencies should get busy preparing for a far different future than their traffic models predict.

“The Millennial generation is not only less car-focused than older Americans by virtue of being young, but they also drive less than previous generations of young people,” write authors Tony Dutzik, Jeff Inglis, and Phineas Baxandall.

There’s a good deal of evidence that the recession cannot fully explain the trend away from driving among young people. Notably, driving declined even among millennials who stayed employed, and “between the recession years of 2001 and 2009, per-capita driving declined by 16 percent among 16 to 34 year-olds with jobs,” the authors write.

Read more…

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Portland Shows How to Get More Bang for Your Traffic Safety Buck

Three road diets in Portland have prevented a total of 252 collisions. Image: Bike Portland

Three road diets in Portland have prevented a total of 525 collisions. Graphic: Bike Portland

State DOTs like to justify hugely expensive highway-widening projects, like Milwaukee’s $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange, partly on the grounds of safety. But if we really want to get a big bang for our transportation safety buck, fixing city streets makes a lot more sense.

Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that three local road diets completed between 1997 and 2003 cost a combined total of just $500,000 and have prevented more than 500 collisions:

A new city study shows the big payoff the city has quietly seen from a few uses of one of the least-understood tricks in traffic engineering: the 4-3 road diet.

Converting four general travel lanes to two plus a turn lane and (in some cases) painted bike lanes have prevented about 525 crashes on three Portland streets — Northeast Glisan from 22nd to 32nd; Southeast 7th from Division to Washington; and Southeast Tacoma from 6th to 11th — during the 16 years studied, the analysis released this week found. The number of traffic crashes on those streets dropped 37 percent.

Traffic volumes on those three streets, meanwhile, fell by an average 7.7 percent, suggesting that the safety and access improvements weren’t accompanied by major new burdens on drivers’ mobility.

The number of crashes being prevented on each of those streets, of course, continues to rise: by about 37 more every year among the three of them.

Now imagine if that money from the one highway widening project in Milwaukee was used instead to do 10,200 road diets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Bike Blog announces the opening of the city’s new Pronto bike-share system. Strong Towns shares readers’ stories of trying to walk to the nearest grocery store. And Forward Lookout shares some data detailing the declining rate of return on highway spending.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Union Pressure Scraps Kinkisharyo Planned Palmdale Metro Rail Car Plant (SFV Business Journal)
  • Editorial: Unhappy About Aps Auctioning Underpriced On-Street Parking (LAT)
    Editorial Cartoon: Glendale Unhappy With People Saving Parking Spots (GNP)
  • Arts District Residents Unhappy About New Metro Maintenance Yard Along River (KCET)
  • Editorial: Unhappy About LAPD False Patrol Reporting (LAT)
  • Editorial: Unhappy About Boneheaded Decision to Name Metro Station for Molina (Downtown News)
  • Gas Prices To Decline Through December, Then Increase with Cap-and-Trade in Jan (DN)
  • L.A. McMansionization Restrictions Not Working (Architects Newspaper)
  • Ebola Scare, Thought To Be Hoax, Onboard Metro Bus (LAT)
  • Glendale Seeks Input on “Green Streets” Bike/Ped/Rainwater-Friendly Makeover (GNP)
  • Culver City Seeks Input on Modifying Bus Service (CC Observer)
  • Great New Haight Street Contraflow Transit Lane Prioritizes Bus Speeds (SB SF)
  • New ‘Transport Oakland’ Group Presses For Livability, Endorses Candidates (SB SF)
  • Seattle’s Got Bike Share (Seattle PI)
  • Implementing Vision Zero Means Culture Change for NYC (SB NYC)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Got Transit Troubles? The Problem Could Be the Chain of Command

Boston's MBTA enjoys unique consolidation, but that hasn't spared it from grave funding challenges. Photo: Eno

Boston’s MBTA consolidates the entire region’s transit network, but that hasn’t spared it from grave funding challenges. Photo: Eno

If you still have to juggle multiple farecards for the various transit systems in your area — or if urgent maintenance issues in the city core are going unattended while the suburbs get a shiny new station — the problem might run deeper than the incompetence everyone is grumbling about. The root of it all might be embedded in the very structure of the agencies that govern your transit system.

Last year, infighting among members of Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority about how to distribute funds led the agency to seek outside help. A team of researchers, including the Eno Center for Transportation, came to try to figure out what the trouble was. “It soon became clear that RTA did not actually have a funding distribution problem,” Eno wrote in its report.

In fact, the authors concluded, RTA had a governance problem, which in turn had far-reaching consequences beyond funding battles: Governance issues impeded RTA’s ability to coordinate regional transit services and investments and contributed to “chronic underinvestment” in Chicago’s transit network.

The Chicago area is home to three major transit operators: the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra (a regional rail agency), and Pace (a suburban bus agency), all members of the RTA. While the RTA has the power to distribute funding, that’s about all it can do. Even those funding decisions are largely based on outdated formulas set by the state. When there is some money that RTA has the discretion to allocate as it chooses, bitter disputes ensue among the three agencies — disputes like the one Eno and company were called in to mediate.

The RTA doesn’t coordinate or steer Chicago’s transit providers, so all three essentially operate separate fiefdoms. “The inherent problem is that RTA occupies an ambiguous middle ground where it is powerful enough to create challenges and bureaucracy, but not powerful enough to be productive in pursuing regional goals,” reports Eno. The Chicago officials and transit experts Eno interviewed wanted to see RTA either strengthened or eliminated, but they agreed the status quo is not productive, leading to jurisdictional battles without building regional partnerships.

Meanwhile, the state is all but absent in Chicago transit governance, which Eno says is “shortsighted” when “transit has such a large impact on the economic success of the state.” Aside from helping with coordination and regional visioning, the state could be providing needed funds.

Intrigued by the findings in Chicago, Eno then partnered with TransitCenter to study five other cities to see how transit governance structures affect operations.

Here’s a cheat sheet before we go on:

Read more…