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Vox Pulls Back the Curtain on “Scam” to Save Lives With Red Light Cameras

You can usually count on Vox for accurate, research-based explainers of public policy issues. That’s why the new Vox video on red light cameras is so monumentally disappointing.

Researchers have established that red light cameras make streets safer by reducing potentially fatal T-bone collisions, though they do lead to more rear-end crashes, which tend not to be very serious. But motorists upset about receiving fines for dangerous driving mobilize tenaciously against automated enforcement. The use of red light cameras in Colorado, for instance, is consistently under siege in the state legislature. They are currently outlawed in more than a dozen states.

Campaigns against automated enforcement could hardly ask for better propaganda than this Vox video. Here’s a look at what’s so wrong with it.

1. Red light cameras save lives — but who cares?

Once you get past the click-bait title, “Why Red Light Cameras Are a Scam,” the piece starts out well. There are more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the USA, we’re told, and “23 percent are intersection related.” Vox also notes that the cameras reduce T-bone collisions and that they “really can and do save lives” — but for some reason this is immediately overshadowed in the video by the increase in less deadly rear-end fender-benders.

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Tuesday Tube: Bunker Hill in Downtown L.A. 1940s and Today

The New Yorker’s YouTube channel has a clever new video that lines up 1940s film footage on downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill with contemporary video. It is a great peek into the heyday of L.A. transit, and, frankly, the anti-urban results of late 20th Century “urban renewal.”

7th Street then and now - part of the xxx

7th Street then and now – part of A Fare to Remember up now at El Pueblo. Images via PERHS website.

If readers enjoy that video, plan to catch a similar series of still photo juxtapositions in the “A Fare to Remember” show at El Pueblo‘s new El Tranquillo Gallery at 634 N. Main Street in downtown L.A., located right next to La Golondrina Restaurant on Olvera Street. The free exhibition is open now through July 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Details at Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society.

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Houston FTW: Transit Execs Aim to Fix Sorry Bus Stops

Houston METRO officials recognize that poor walking infrastructure and uncomfortable waiting environments are a big problem for transit riders. Photo: Christopher Andrews

The lousy state of American bus stops is a serious problem. Transit riders say bad waiting environments are one of their top concerns, according to a recent survey and report by TransitCenter [PDF]. That’s why Streetsblog is highlighting some of the sorriest bus stops in the nation this month.

Poor walking conditions and uncomfortable bus stops are not just the transit agency’s responsibility. Local governments and city and state DOTs are also to blame. It takes some coordination to improve bus stops, and not enough public agencies are stepping up to solve the problem.

One exception is Houston METRO, the same agency that became a national model by redesigning its bus network. Ryan Holeywell at The Urban Edge, a blog of Rice University’s Kinder Institute, spoke with METRO’s new board chair, Carrin Patman, and CEO Tom Lambert about how the agency intends to coordinate with the city to make the experience of getting to bus stops and waiting for the bus better for riders:

METRO sees fixing things outside of their vehicles — namely sidewalks and bus stops — as a critical way of boosting ridership. That means coordinating with lots of other players. “In order to have accessible shelters, you need to have the City of Houston fully on board,” Patman said. She says METRO will be more involved in public and private planning efforts and suggested she wants to explore the idea of asking private developers to install bus shelters when they’re making major improvements to their properties.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Arguably the Worst Expo Line Article Ever (NYT)
    …Expo Line Rebuttals (LAist, The Source, Curbed)
  • Carnage: Two Killed In Angeles National Forest Car Crash (ABC7)
    …West Covina Police Pursuit Car Crash Injures Seven (SGV Tribune)
  • Bunker Hill 1940 and Today (New Yorker YouTube)
  • More Photos Of Nearly Completed North Hollywood Metro Underpass (CiclaValley)
  • Koreatown Needs Parks With New Developments (Ahbe Lab)
  • Pokemon Go Craze Brings Out Experts Decrying “Distracted Walking” (KPCC)
    …Is Pokemon Go the Ultimate Planning Tool? (Alta Planning + Design)
    …Where To Catch Pokemon In Los Angeles (Curbed)
  • Republican National Convention Raising Cleveland Parking Rates (Parking Today)
  • These Fake Fingernails Are TAP-Compatible (Timeout London)

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarWith Metro and the L.A. City Council in recess, it is a bit of a midsummer lull, but nonetheless there are still a few livable streets events going on. Give your input at two city planning meetings along the Metro Orange Line. Dialogue on housing affordability. Bike the annual Tour de Laemmle. Get a glimpse of L.A.’s transit history at El Pueblo.

  • Wednesday 7/20 –  L.A. City Planning hosts its third of four community workshops to plan transit neighborhoods along the Metro Orange Line. Wednesday’s focus is the North Hollywood Station. The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the North Hollywood Senior Center at 5301 Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood. Details on DCP flier [PDF].
  • Thursday 7/21 – East Area Progressive Democrats is hosting “High Anxiety On Housing” – a panel discussion on L.A.’s affordable housing crisis. The discussion takes place at 7 p.m. at the Glassell Park Community Center at 3750 Verdugo Road in Northeast Los Angeles. The event is free, but space is limited. RSVP, including names, to eapd.la[at]gmail.com. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 7/23 – L.A. City Planning host the fourth of four community workshops to plan transit neighborhoods along the Metro Orange Line. Saturday’s focus is the Reseda Station. The meeting takes place from 10 a.m. to noon at Columbia College Hollywood at 18618 Oxnard Street in Tarzana. Details on DCP flier [PDF].
  • Sunday 7/24 – The 2016 Tour de Laemmle bike tour takes place. The free 125+mile bike ride officially starts at 7 a.m. in Santa Monica, but there are lots of ways to join the tour in progress. Pre-registration is required at Tour de Laemmle website.

7th Street then and now - part of the xxx

Downtown L.A.’s Seventh Street then and now – from “A Fare to Remember” exhibit. Images via PERHS website.

  • Ongoing closes 7/28 – El Pueblo and the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society host “A Fare to Remember” – a free exhibition of rail memorabilia at the new El Tranquillo Gallery at 634 N. Main Street in downtown L.A., located right next to La Golondrina Restaurant on Olvera Street. The show includes numerous then/now images showing the same site during L.A.’s rail heyday and the present day. The exhibition is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Details at Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society.

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

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Bike Talk: What Bike Advocacy Needs to Understand about South Central

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“What is the situation in South L.A.?” is the question Colin Bogart, Education Director at the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, posed to launch our discussion of the removal of a 7.2 mile bike lane planned for Central Avenue from the Mobility Plan 2035.

Both Malcolm Harris, Director of Programs and Organizing from TRUST South L.A., and I had to laugh.

“Alright…” I said, “You said an hour? We have an hour…?”

The question was posed half-jokingly, of course.

But, as you will hear over the hour-long conversation that unfolds, understanding the history of South Los Angeles, who comprised the community back in the day (and why), who comprises it now (and why), and what folks’ histories and relationships are with each other, the city, advocates, and law enforcement are all essential to understanding how the area responds to efforts to implement active transportation infrastructure there now. [If the link below doesn’t work, please click here.]

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As both Harris and I argue, too often mobility advocates coming into the community are unfamiliar with the history of the area, the racial, cultural, and socio-economic dynamics that define the community, or the variety of barriers that can constrain mobility there. And the local advocates and actors who do have that knowledge are generally not brought in until way too late in the process – long after planning, design, branding, and engagement around plans are already well underway – limiting their contributions to a rubber-stamp approval.

As a result, mainstream mobility advocates are often unable to speak to members of the community in terms that resonate with those stakeholders’ realities. Worse still, the language used to promote active transportation can be deeply alienating. Narratives about the benefits of bicycling, the extent to which “bikes mean business,” and exhortations for people to see their “streets as sites of recreation” border on insulting in neighborhoods where the presence of bikes signals a lack of resources and a history of insecurity in the public space forced people to look to private spaces to build community.

That disconnect between the approach mainstream advocates tend to take and the lived experiences of people in lower-income communities of color is what helps breed distrust of the city’s intentions. And with new infrastructure seeming to accompany new developments making incursions into historically neglected neighborhoods, both Harris and I explain, it is no wonder the first question we often hear from folks is, “Who is this bike lane really for?”
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Streetsblog USA
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AASHTO’s Draft Bikeway Guide Includes Protected Bike Lanes and More

Bike guide contractor Jennifer Toole speaks last month at the annual meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Design.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

As the most influential U.S. transportation engineering organization rewrites its bike guide, there seems to be general agreement that protected bike lanes should be included for the first time.

A review panel appointed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will meet July 25 to start reviewing drafts of the new guide, including eight new chapters highlighted here in blue:

If the panel likes what they see and the relevant committees sign off, AASHTO members could vote on possible approval next year.

When AASHTO’s design subcommittee held its annual meeting in Baltimore last month, members who focus on bicycling facilities said they often need the sort of engineering-level detail and guidance about physically separated bike lanes that AASHTO guides are known for providing.

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Streetsblog.net
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Focusing Only on Commutes Overlooks Women’s Transportation Needs

In the UK, men devote about 23 percent of miles traveled to commuting. For women, it's only about 15 percent. Graph: Kasdekker

In the UK, commuting accounts for about 23 percent of the distance men travel. For women, it’s only about 15 percent. Graph: Katja Leyendecker

Commuting accounts for only about 15 percent of trips in the United States. But when planners make transportation infrastructure decisions, they often base them on commuting patterns, not other types of trips.

One side effect of this convention is that it undervalues trips by women, writes U.K. blogger Katja Leyendecker, and contributes to a built environment that is poorly suited to women’s needs. She digs into some of the U.K. data:

The commute makes about 20% of all the mileage (combined 19%, men 23%, women 15%), whilst shopping trips accumulate considerably less mileage (combined 12%, men 9%, women 14%).  The highest category for women actually is “visiting friends at private home” (18%), joint second followed “commute” and “holiday / day trip” (each 15%) and shopping hence coming fourth (14%). Men’s mileage, on the other hand, is somewhat dominated by the commute (23%), then jointly followed by “business” and “visiting friends at private home” (each 13%), with “holiday / day trip” (12%) in fourth place…

We historically have looked at the commute for its coincidence with the rush hour, to deal with peak travel demand. In the UK at least, a real and honest look at space as a limited precious resource (and how to carve it up fairly and effectively) has not taken place. The commute focus has not brought about a better transport system with alternatives to the private car largely still excluded. I suggest that taking the commute approach brings the problem that over 80% of all trips have been neglected in transport assessments. These trips require attention for other reasons than the peak demand. Reasons are for example safety needs when travelling with kids and transporting  shopping. In cycle cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam these trips are still carried out by women, [but] they are cycled. Removing those trips from the transport agenda marginalises the importance of women’s everyday activities and careful and sensible provision for these activities.

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Via Streetsblog California
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ClimatePlan Studies SCAG’s Progress on Climate Change

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.43.23 PM

Climate Plan’s report looks at the results of SCAG’s Sustainable Communities Strategy

Can California meet its climate change goals? A.B. 32, which set in motion the state’s current climate change policies including cap and trade, is set to expire in 2020. The legislature and the governor are taking up the question of what’s next. Do we continue down the same path? Adjust our policies? Scrap them entirely and start over?

Now would be a good time to ask questions about whether we are on the right track. ClimatePlan, a coalition of environmental, equity, and transportation advocacy groups, just spent two years asking questions about one such policy in one part of the state.

Its report, Towards a Sustainable Future: Is Southern California on Track?, looks closely at the Southern California Association of Governments‘ Sustainable Communities Strategy. The SCS is part of SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP/SCS), as required by S.B. 375. These strategies are supposed to outline how each region will meet its state-mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets, including how changing land use patterns will reduce vehicle travel.

The Air Resources Board is charged with checking every region’s SCS and judging whether the plans will help the region meet targets. But its oversight seems to end there. That’s a big problem, because while the regions come up with the SCS, local cities and counties actually plan and approve land uses and the transportation that connects them. It’s possible for the SCS to be ignored at the local level where planning decisions are made, especially if no one is tracking or monitoring progress at that level.

SCAG adopted its first SCS in 2012, covering a massive and diverse six-county region including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. The plan’s goals included reducing passenger vehicles greenhouse gas emissions by nine percent per capita by 2020, and 16 percent per capita by 2035. SCAG has since updated the plan, in April of this year, to include a 21 percent reduction in GHGs by 2040. Attainment will be achieved by increasing carpooling, biking and walking, and transit use, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and increasing transit ridership.

So they say. But have the strategies in the first SCS even been put into practice? If so, are they working? ClimatePlan and its nonprofit partners studied SCAG’s 2012 SCS and asked two questions: is the region meeting its goals? And is that enough?

“The Sustainable Communities Strategies are twenty-year plans,” said Chanell Fletcher, Associate Director of ClimatePlan, “and they’re not going to change everything overnight. But climate change is happening right now. We need to know whether what we’re doing is working, and how to avoid exacerbating the problem. We need to be able to show whether these plans are being implemented, and whether we are making the needed changes—not just in our planning but in our decision making.”

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Streetsblog SF
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Bay Area Transit Agencies Build on Parking Lots

202 housing units are now under construction on Caltrain's former San Carlos Station parking lot. Image: City of San Carlos

202 housing units are now under construction on the former San Carlos Caltrain Station parking lot. Image: City of San Carlos

Last Thursday representatives from Caltrain, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) presented [PDF] current plans for building housing and offices on top of station parking lots, at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) in downtown San Jose. Rail station parking lots offer the ultimate in “Good TOD” – Transit Oriented Development that guarantees new transit riders while providing housing and commercial space that can be conveniently reached car-free.

“There are many beautiful sites along Caltrain that could be ripe for development and become a revenue generating source for Caltrain,” said Caltrain Principal Planner Jill Gibson. “Often developers goals are in direct conflict with transit needs…so it’s imperative that we identify long-range transportation goals early on.”

Caltrain is working with those cities that have already completed station area redevelopment plans and adopted appropriate TOD zoning near stations to support mixed-use developments. The long-debated San Carlos Transit Village, now under construction, will bring 202 apartments to the former San Carlos Caltrain Station parking lot along with 26,000 square feet of commercial space. The project was scaled down in multiple iterations from a proposed 453 apartments.

A long-term lease agreement is now being negotiated with Sares Regis Group to develop 100 to 150 apartments on the Hayward Park Station parking lot, along with at least 50 parking spaces available to Caltrain passengers, 29 electronic bike lockers, and space for six SamTrans buses.

BART and VTA are developing real estate at their stations on a much larger scale than Caltrain. BART has already built several major developments on its parking lots [PDF] and is “engaged in 18 transit-oriented development projects at its stations, representing over $2.7 billion in private investment” according to the agency’s property development website.
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