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“Level of Service” Planning Is Not Dead Yet

To see a higher-res version of the image, click ##http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/pwa/WarnerAveImprovements.asp##here.##

To see a higher-res version of the image, click here.

This is what happens when transportation planning focuses on moving cars instead of creating spaces for people.

At the same time that California is aggressively moving to ditch the Level of Service standard that has forced transportation and planning projects to measure and mitigate their impact on car traffic, some projects evaluated under that car-centric system still lumber on at the city and municipality level.

This explains how the City of Santa Ana in Orange County is one step away from approving a massive road widening project on one mile of Warner Avenue through the heart of the city. The plan would widen the already four-lane surface street to six lanes, add planted medians and bicycle lanes, and add ADA accessible street crossings.

The project is being completed to “improve traffic flow and improve safety,” according to the city. Worst of all, it is presented as a solution  based on complete streets principles. Again, this is what happens when even well-intentioned cities make transportation decisions based first on how it will impact car traffic.

While it is encouraging that the city is committed to increasing its downtown bike network, there is an inherent contradiction between improving traffic flow, i.e. increasing the speed of traffic, and making the street safer for people who walk or bicycle. Speed is a contributing factor in one-third of fatal traffic crashes nationwide. Fast-moving cars on a six-lane street make a daunting obstacle for pedestrians to cross, no matter how nice the planted median is.

The cost of the project is a cool $55 million, 20 percent of which the city already has in hand. Some of that money comes from Orange County’s transportation bond, Measure M, which handcuffs how municipalities can spend the money.

For the 37 families that will be displaced by the widening, the cost is much higher. Danny Cortes’ family lives at one of the homes Santa Ana plans to purchase for the project. When Cortes learned about the project at community meetings in 2012, his house wasn’t on the list of properties that would be purchased for the project. Only after checking the city’s website in January did he learn that his family would likely be evicted from the place they have called home for over a decade, when the homeowner cashes out.

“It is hard to just leave the place because you have to, when there’s no other option,” Cortes said.

Cortes has been working with Santa Ana Active Streets (SAAS)**, a nonprofit coalition of advocacy groups who push for complete street and smart growth solutions for regional transportation problems. In a document submitted to the city as public testimony, SAAS notes that despite the addition of a bike lane and ADA-compliant street crossings, this plan is not one that will make life safer for street users.

While the proposed bike lane is a much needed asset to create a comprehensive bicycle network in the City, adding bike lanes doesn’t mean the streets will be safer for bicyclists. At Santa Ana Active Streets’ Active Transportation Leadership Program workshop on February 21, 2015, Alta Planning + Design’s Senior Planner Bryan Jones said: “The mere act of adding bike lanes and sidewalks does not make a roadway safe; it has to do with the greater design.”

Santa Ana is not a city of people who are opposed to progressive transportation or have a knee jerk reaction to fighting non-automobile transportation options.  Read more…

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Boxer and Inhofe Say Transportation Bill Almost Ready, Funding Still TBD

Two leading Washington lawmakers assured reporters Wednesday that a long-term transportation bill is coming, but provided little in the way of details.

Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, respectively, held a press conference Wednesday featuring a line-up of construction and labor leaders demanding “action on transportation.” The event is shown in the above video in its entirety.

Inhofe told reporters a draft six-year bill is almost ready. Just six weeks remain before the current extension of MAP-21 expires, and the Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money in July — potentially threatening the construction season.

A critical hurdle for lawmakers is settling on a funding source to replace the declining gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. Just yesterday a bipartisan group from the House asked Congress to raise it.

But little was said about funding at the press conference. Boxer said while she is supportive, there isn’t much appetite for an increase in taxes on gasoline or crude oil. “I will do almost anything to fill that trust fund,” she said.

Boxer said she would be “dropping a bill” with Rand Paul to generate revenues by “repatriating” overseas profits on U.S. corporations hiding out overseas to avoid taxes.

“I’m hopeful that this type of reform can bring us together and unite us,” she said. The Hill reports lawmakers are divided on whether to make that 5 percent tax on corporate profits overseas voluntary or mandatory. Paul and Boxer say the repatriation tax bill could bring $2 trillion in revenue.

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The Beginning of the End for Dallas’s Trinity Toll Road?

Dallas City Council is endorsing and alternative to the Trinity Toll Road, without formally withdrawing support for the larger highway plan. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette

The “dream team” alternative to the Trinity Toll Road in Dallas would build a smaller four-lane road, but it leaves the door open for wide highway later on. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette [PDF]

It seems like the Trinity Toll Road — a proposal to build a wide, high-speed road right next to the Trinity River in Dallas — is losing momentum. But the politics of road-building in Texas are tricky, and the highway isn’t dead yet.

Earlier this week, a “dream team” of advisers selected by Mayor Mike Rawlings, who supports the project, came out and said they didn’t think the $1.5 billion highway was necessary, and that it would ultimately undermine efforts to establish a nice park by the river. However, their proposal for a smaller, four-lane road would leave open the option of building a wider highway later on.

In the City Council, legislators are still looking to build the full highway, but now they won’t come out and say it directly. At least, that seems to be the takeaway from the latest intrigue, according to Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reporter Brandon Formby:

In a last-minute amendment, the City Council voted unanimously not to affirm its support of the larger version of Trinity Parkway that’s planned to be built. But it didn’t technically say it doesn’t support it. In a way, it reaffirmed its support for the current large plan in a subsequent 10-4 vote to look at how to incorporate the dream team’s recommendations into the existing, already FHWA-approved plan for the larger road.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Metro Stopped Work On Crenshaw/LAX Rail Due To Safety Violations (LAT)
  • Metro’s New Campaign Against Sexual Harassment (KPCC)
  • Don’t Put the Burden Of Safety On the Victim (CiclaValley)
  • City of L.A. Opening Lots Of Small Parks (NextCity)
  • Building More Roads Just Means More Traffic (CityMetric)
  • New 2 Freeway Soundwall On the Way (Eastsider)
  • Long Beach Boulevard Re-Design To Include Protected Bike Lanes (LongBeachIze)
  • S.F. Chinatown Initiative Turns Kids Into Safe Streets Investigators (SBSF)

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

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Talking Headways Podcast: We Built This City on Transit and Roads

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Karoliina Korppoo, the lead designer for the new city building game Cities: Skylines, joins me on the pod this week to talk about the game and what makes it so fun to play. Among my questions for her: Why aren’t there any tramways or bike lanes in the game? And do the game designers realize what type of impact these city building games have on future city planners?

We also talk about new features coming in updates to the game as well as all of the changes people can make with the modification tools available. Karoliina also tells us what affects property values, what makes the individual sims smile en masse, and the importance of traffic.

As always, you can find us on iTunes or Stitcher if you’d like to subscribe, and please give us a review if you get a chance.

Streetsblog USA
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Even When a Driver Intentionally Causes Mayhem, Media Call It an “Accident”

A witness described seeing the driver of this Prius back up intentional over the other car, but CBS LA improperly persisted in referring to this as an "accident." Image: CBS LA

A witness described seeing the driver of this Prius intentionally back up over the other car, but CBS LA persisted in referring to it as an “accident.” Image: CBS LA

The New York Police Department stopped using the term “accident” to refer to car collisions because it conveys the “connotation that there is no fault or liability.” In the press, however, “accident” remains standard practice, even when a driver rams another person on purpose.

The Safe Roads Alliance, an organization that promotes safe driving, tracked down five examples just from the last few weeks where media outlets referred to intentional collisions as “accidents” (the reports also tend to say the crashes were perpetrated by vehicles, not the human beings who drive them). Here are the pieces they sent along, with the headline that ran with each story.

Seattle Times: “Road Rage Incident Leaves 1 Dead on I-5″

According to the Seattle Times, the driver of a Chevy SUV pulled in front of the driver of Dodge Neon on I-5, apparently enraged at his slow speed. The SUV driver proceeded to “brake check,” causing the collision. A 23-year-old passenger in the Neon was killed, and three others were injured. Both drivers are being charged with vehicular homicide, and yet the Seattle Times goes on to say: “The State Patrol is seeking information regarding the accident.”

Read more…

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Caltrans Goals: Triple Biking, Double Walking and Transit by 2020

bikes&peds

Caltrans’ new Strategic Management Plan sets a goal to triple bike trips and double walking trips in the next five years. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans released its new Strategic Management Plan [PDF], and it includes priorities and performance targets that show the department is serious about reforming itself.

The new plan includes active transportation and Vision Zero, within its priority number one, “Safety and Health.” It also cites a goal of tripling bicycle mode share and doubling walking and transit mode share by 2020–that means not just the number of trips, but the percentage of total trips in California.

This is a major turnaround for the state DOT, which in the past has focused on motorist safety.

The mode share target is called out under the goal of “Sustainability, Livability, and Economy.” That broad goal also includes lowering vehicle miles traveled (15 percent by 2020) and reducing the percentage of greenhouse gases from transportation (to match current and proposed state mandates).

The Strategic Management Plan is an in-house document, meant to guide decisions made by planners and engineers in the course of planning and completing projects statewide. It stems from the new Caltrans mission, to provide “a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.” The new mission statement was a response to harsh criticism of the department’s old way of doing things.

“This is a pretty major shift for the department,” said Steven Cliff, newly appointed Assistant Director of Sustainability, and leader of one of the teams working on the plan. “We’ve been working hard to develop new metrics which speak to what we’ve been doing the last couple of years, with our new mission, vision, and goals.”

“It’s meant to be our plan for how we manage our work going forward.”

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Parklets Arrive In East L.A.

East Los Angeles Parklet on Mednik Avenue. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

East Los Angeles Parklet on Mednik Avenue. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Many cities are finding that sometimes, places where people park are just a little more desirable than places where cars park. Parklets began in San Francisco. The first Southern California parklets are in Long Beach. They’ve since spread to the city of Los Angeles, the city of Huntington Park, and now unincorporated East Los Angeles.

The parklet pictured above is located in front of So-Cal Burgers on Mednik Avenue, across from the East L.A. Civic Center.

In late March, County Supervisor Hilda Solis celebrated the opening for East L.A.’s parklets. The County installed three new parklets; they can be found at 203 S. Mednik, 4514 Whittier Blvd., and 3534 1st Street. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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FHWA Will Help Cities Get Serious About Measuring Biking and Walking

This bike counter in San Francisco gives planners reliable, up-to-date data about biking rates. Photo: Aaron Bialick/Streetsblog SF

This counter in San Francisco gives planners reliable, up-to-date data about bike trips on Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick/Streetsblog SF

The lack of good data on walking and biking is a big problem. Advocates say current metrics yield a spotty and incomplete picture of how much, where, and why Americans walk and bike. The U.S. Census only tells us about commuting — a fairly small share of total trips. The more detailed National Household Transportation Survey comes with its own drawbacks: It’s conducted infrequently and doesn’t provide useful data at a local scale.

Without a good sense of people’s active transportation habits, it’s hard to draw confident conclusions not only about walking and biking rates, but also about safety and other critical indicators that can guide successful policy at the local level. A new program from the Federal Highway Administration aims to help fill the gap.

U.S. DOT announced today that FHWA will help local transportation planners gather more sophisticated data on walking and biking. The agency has selected metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in 10 regions — Providence, Buffalo, Richmond, Puerto Rico, Palm Beach, Fresno, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Memphis — to lead its new “Bicycle-Pedestrian Count Technology Pilot Program.”

FHWA says the program will provide funding for equipment to measure biking and walking trips. Writing on U.S. DOT’s Fast Lane blog, FHWA Deputy Administrator Gregory Nadeau adds that “each MPO will receive technical assistance in the process of setting up the counters; uploading, downloading and analyzing the data; and –most importantly– using the data to improve the planning process in their community.”

The first counts will be available in December. Following the initial pilot, a second round of regions may be chosen to participate, Nadeau writes.

This would be an enormous improvement over what they do in Cleveland, where I live, as well as many other regions: recruit volunteers to stand at intersections with clipboards once a year and count cyclists by hand.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Metro’s Mobility Matricies and Measure R2 Timeline (Investing in Place)
  • The Big Problem With California’s “Jaywalking” Law (Systematic Failure)
  • Joel Epstein on Garcetti’s State of the City (HuffPo)
  • Proposed State Bill Would Plan Lower L.A. River Revitalization (KCET)
  • A Particularly Rude Metro Bus Wrap Ad (Curbed)
  • Long Beach PD Arrest Two Grand Theft Bicycle Suspects (LBPT)
  • Affordable Housing Is A Social Justice Issue (Santa Monica Next)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA