Skip to content

5 Comments

Tuesday: Support Needed for a Car-Free Bike/Ped Path on the Marina

Photo: SFDPW

One year after community planning meetings began, plans finally appear to be moving forward for removing the 51 parking spaces in the middle of a walking and biking path along the Marina — the only stretch of the 500-mile Bay Trail with cars on it. But Marina boat owners aren’t giving up, and car-free path supporters need to turn out to a community meeting next Tuesday to ensure progress on this no-brainer plan.

Some of the boat owners arguing to keep the often-empty parking spaces have apparently used their connections to delay the project for several months — the city’s final proposal for the path was originally due in March. If the plan is approved this fall, the parking spaces would be removed next spring, according to a September 30 presentation [PDF].

In a letter to SF Recreation and Parks [PDF], the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Janice Li pointed out that a permit issued to the city by the Bay Conservation Development Commission requires that the plan pursue “a design of a Bay Trail segment that provides a high quality bicycle, pedestrian, and general visitor experience.”

“The only way to properly meet the Bay Trail standards and provide that experience is by creating a car-free path,” wrote Li.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA 2 Comments

New CA Database Shows How Much Parking Costs and How Little It’s Used

TransForm’s GreenTrips Parking Database provides an unprecedented level of data on the costs of building parking — and how much it’s used — in multifamily housing developments in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zoning laws in California usually require new developments to come with a minimum number of parking spaces. Housing, restaurants, stores, movie theaters — everything requires some number of parking spaces, theoretically based on the best available data.

Each of these empty underground parking spaces typically costs about $80,000. Image: Pixabay.com

Usually that data is whatever is listed in the Institute of Transportation Engineer’s (ITE) Parking Generation Manual. Since that manual has long been the only source of data on parking usage in the country, planners rely on it to help them figure out how many parking spaces a project should include.

But there are serious limitations with the ITE data, as is noted in the manual itself. As Professor Donald Shoup, UCLA’s “parking guru,” explained in a paper [PDF]: Providing too much parking encourages driving, thus contributing to congestion, and discourages walking and bicycling (unless you love walking across hot expanses of pavement to your store).

Plus, building parking is expensive.

A new tool, the GreenTRIP Parking Database, can help by providing better data on actual parking usage at multifamily housing units. This is only one of the many land use categories about which planners seek data, but it is a key one.

The database, created by TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group that focuses on better land use and transportation policies, tracks more than just parking usage. Data is available about the number of parking spaces per unit, how much of that parking sits empty, what percentage of the building is affordable housing, whether residents pay for parking separately from their rent, what level of transit service is available nearby, whether residents are offered transit passes or carshare membership, what if any parking management exists on surrounding streets, and other data relevant to parking usage.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Peter Norton: We Can Learn From the Movement To Enshrine Car Dependence

It used to be normal to play in the streets. Photo via Peter Norton

Yesterday, we published part one of my interview with Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. We talked about whether the push for infrastructure investment is always code for increasing car capacity, and how the Vision Zero campaign bears the legacy of 100-year-old movements to make streets safe for everyone.

Norton will be speaking on November 13 at the opening reception of Transportation Alternatives’ national Vision Zero for Cities Symposium in New York City.

Below is the audio of our conversation, which went on long after this written transcript. Feel free to take a listen, and forgive the background noise — we were talking in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, one of DC’s most iconic urban green spaces.

Here is a transcript of part two of the interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

We keep calling [the current movement for Vision Zero and livable streets] a “fundamental restructuring,” and I’m curious whether you think that’s accurate. What you’re talking about at the beginning of the last century, which you wrote about in “Fighting Traffic,” was a much more fundamental questioning — because it was new — of the role of cars on streets and in cities. And I’m wondering if you think what’s happening now really gets to those questions or whether it’s just, “Oh, can we just have a little space; we just want some accommodation; we want the buses to be a little better, we want a little bike lane”?

Such an interesting question, because I think that dilemma that we’re in right now in 2014, between fundamental rethinking and just fixes here and fixes there, is the same dilemma that advocates of the automobile found themselves in, especially in the early- to mid-1920s. At first a lot of them said, “We need to take the street as it is and do some fine tuning, things like optimize the traffic signal timings–”

The same solutions we’re looking at!

Exactly! The first synchronized traffic lights for motor vehicles were timed in Chicago in 1926, and at the meeting I was just in, they were still talking about getting the timing right.

Then there were others who began to say, “Stop talking about just retooling the streets to make cars fit in them better; we need to actually re-concieve this.” There was an editorial in Engineering News Record in 1920 — Engineering News Record then and now is the journal of the civil engineers — and the editorial said, “We need a fundamental re-conception of what a city street is for.”

Read more…

Streetsblog.net No Comments

Will Miami Take the First Step Toward Parking Reform?

It’s been a long time coming, says Felipe Azenha at Transit Miami, but finally the topic of parking reform is getting some attention in Miami.

Proposed parking reforms would be a boon for housing affordability in Miami. Photo: Mark Hogan via Flickr

Eliminating parking requirements for small buildings in Miami could lead to larger reforms — and the elimination of bigger garages like this one — later on. Photo: Mark Hogan via Flickr

A public hearing next week will consider the elimination of minimum parking requirements for small buildings along transit corridors. Azena says it’s just the thing this car-clogged, increasingly-unaffordable city needs:

Minimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months. This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. A few months ago Zillow released a housing report that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters. The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; it’s no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

A better move for Miami would be to entirely eliminate parking requirements and let developers decide how much parking to build. But in the meantime, this proposal is a step in the right direction, Azenha says.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Wash Cycle maps out the locations of bike fatalities in the nation’s capital. Urban Milwaukee reports that universal driver’s ed has been proposed to help combat racial segregation in that region. And Greater Greater Washington says that DC’s regional planners aren’t acting boldly enough to achieve local climate action goals.

13 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Easy Chang, 25, Arrested for August Road Rage Shooting of Pedestrian in Western Addition (CBS)
  • Parking Control Officers Call on DA Gascón to Protect Them From Violent Drivers (CBS, KTVU, Exam)
  • Golden Gate Transit Strike Cancelled After Tentative Labor Agreement Reached (CBSSF Examiner)
  • Join Enrique Peñalosa, Ciclovía Visionary, for a Ride to Sunday Streets This Weekend (SFBC)
  • Man Who Wrecked Muni Bus After Giants World Series Victory in 2012 in On Probation (SFist)
  • Muni Rider Shares Story of Riding 54-Felton Bus During Loma Prieta Earthquake (Muni Diaries)
  • Parkmerced Housing Redevelopment to Break Ground Next Fall (Biz Times)
  • 460 “Urban” Units Proposed Next to UCSF Parnassus to Redevelop Apartments With Carports (Biz)
  • BART Launches 18-Month Study to Find Solutions to Overcrowding (CBS)
  • San Jose Plans to Add Housing Density Close to Job Center to Alleviate Growth in Car Traffic (NBC)
  • Private Developers Look to Build Parking Structure in Downtown Palo Alto (Palo Alto)
  • Big Insurers Won’t Cover Ride-Share Drivers Because of Uncertainties in Law, Market (SF Examiner)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

5 Comments

Muni Metro “Double Berthing” Delayed Again — Wait Until November

Muni has yet again postponed the launch of simultaneously loading two trains in each of its Metro stations, also known as “double berthing.” We last reported that the practice was supposed to begin this month, but SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the new timeline is “early November,” with no specific date set yet.

While Muni riders salivate for what might seem like a simple step that would speed up underground boardings, Muni Operations Director John Haley has cited “issues with the platform signs and trains” for the delays. Apparently, setting up the software to work with the automatic train control system is turning out to be quite a challenge.

Originally, double berthing was supposed to launch in October 2012. Now, we can only hope it will launch before the new light rail fleet starts running.

25 Comments

New 5L-Fulton Limited Muni Line Has Brought 2,000 More Daily Riders

Photo: SFMTA

Muni’s one-year-old 5L-Fulton Limited service, which provides a crosstown trip 15 percent faster than the 5-Fulton, has attracted 2,000 additional daily riders to the bus route. That’s according to new data from the SFMTA.

“This is what Transit First looks like,” said Peter Lauterborn, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar. “We need to keep investing in transit.” Lauterborn is also the manager of the No on Prop L campaign, although Mar’s office isn’t officially associated with it.

Limited-stop service on the 5 has been met with virtually universal praise ever since it was introduced as a pilot project last October, and later made permanent by the SFMTA. The agency also made improvements that speed up both local and limited service, like a road diet that created wider lanes for buses on one section, and removing some lesser-used stops. The SFMTA also plans to install transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulbs along the route.

It’s unclear how many of the 2,000 additional riders are new Muni riders, or shifted from other routes. More details are expected to be presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors at its meeting on Tuesday.

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Exposing the Deep-Seated Bias in Transportation Decision Making

Transportation engineers think of themselves as detached and data driven. But bias is built in to many of the profession’s key metrics, write Eric Dumbaugh, Jeffrey Tumlin, and Wesley Marshall in an excellent report recently published by the Institute for Transportation Engineers Journal [PDF]. You can trace this bias all the way back to the dawn of the automotive era.

The authors use Level of Service — the ubiquitous engineering metric that assigns letter grades to streets according to how much traffic delay motorists face — as the overarching example. LOS is often presented as a neutral piece of data that informs rigorous, impartial decision making. But in truth, it is steeped in subjectivity and a bias toward automobility.

LOS measures the ratio of road capacity to motor vehicle traffic volume, which is then presented as an A to F ranking system, like a school report card. ”Asserting that a roadway has failed is not a descriptive statement, it is a call to action,” write the authors.

The problem with basing decisions on LOS is that it only tells us about one thing, vehicle delay, while sidestepping other metrics like safety or economic performance. When transportation planners rely on LOS above all other metrics, as they so often do, they are making a judgment that moving cars quickly should be the primary aim of the transportation system.

Since LOS only measures motor vehicle delay, it entirely ignores the experiences of bicyclists and pedestrians. Transit riders get shortchanged too, because their high-occupancy vehicle is considered no different for the purposes of the measure than a car carrying a single person.

Rather than serving as a neutral piece of data, “the current reliance on level of service is based on two philosophical assumptions,” the authors write. “The first is that a region’s economic performance is linked to vehicle delay, or stated another way that traffic congestion is a drag on our economy that should be eliminated. The second is the assumption that we could resolve the problem of traffic congestion if only we made sufficient investments in transportation infrastructure and operational enhancements.”

Neither of those assumptions are supported by the available data. Instead, the inertia of outdated traditions has simply carried forward to the present day, all the way from advocacy by the automobile industry in the early years of transportation engineering, write Dumbaugh, Tumlin, and Wesley. They note that the first endowed chair of transportation engineering at an American university was sponsored by the Studebaker Motor Company.

Instead of establishing LOS as the primary performance measure for streets, as so many transportation departments do, the authors say planners should take time to consider local values. Many urban neighborhoods would prioritize enhancing the experience of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders, which has been shown to increase land values and economic performance, as well as safety.

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Q&A With Peter Norton: History Is on the Side of Vision Zero

Public safety posters like these fought against the pervasive violence of motor vehicles on public city streets in the first part of the 20th century. Images via Peter Norton

Last week, a bunch of bigwigs gathered to talk infrastructure in one of Washington’s most historic and prestigious sites, the Hay-Adams Hotel across the street from the White House. I was offered an opportunity to interview former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and a host of other VIPs. But — no offense to those guys — the person I wanted to talk to was Peter Norton, listed as the “lead scholar” of the Miller Center’s new commission to “develop innovative, bipartisan ideas on how to create and sustain middle-class jobs through infrastructure policy.”

Peter Norton. Photo: ##http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/releases2006/20060627PeterNorton.html##UVA##

Peter Norton. Photo: UVA

Norton is a professor at the University of Virginia (where the Miller Center is housed) and the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. The book is a chronicle of the battle over who and what streets were for as automobiles were proliferating at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a conversation worth revisiting today.

We had that conversation on a shady park bench in Lafayette Square, one of Washington’s most iconic green spaces, between the Hay-Adams and the White House.

If our interview piques your interest, you can catch Norton in person at the opening reception of the upcoming Vision Zero for Cities Symposium, a national gathering organized by Transportation Alternatives in New York City next month (November 13-15), where public officials and street safety advocates will strategize about “how to achieve Vision Zero in cities around the world.”

First let me ask about the Infrastructure campaign that you’re part of here as the lead scholar –

That’s the title!

I have questions about the push for infrastructure investment from the point of view of someone who is skeptical of increasing car infrastructure. Not to start on a negative note, but a lot of the push for increased infrastructure investment is not necessarily choosy about whether that infrastructure goes toward sustainable, ethical, environmentally friendly, city-friendly infrastructure, or whether it’s highways and cars.

Right. When I was invited to this thing, that question that you’re asking was foremost in my mind. And you find yourself thinking, I could stay out of it as a way of saying I don’t really think these discussions are being held in an inclusive way that includes all kinds of ideas, including ones that haven’t been on the table before — or I could join in and see if I could work in some of those less orthodox perspectives. And I chose the latter. I had some opportunities over the last two days to work in some points of view that weren’t being represented there.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

A New Bike Network Takes Shape, and Atlantans Turn Out in Droves

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.

The capital of the New South is working on its latest “highway” network. This one is going to be a lot quieter.

The massive Beltline trail and an impressive grid of protected lanes that will connect the trail system to key urban destinations are poised to remake transportation in the city that anchors the country’s ninth-largest metro area. Striving for Mayor Kasim Reed’s goal of making Atlanta one of the country’s top ten cities for biking, Atlantans have shown their enthusiasm with their feet: An estimated 95,000 to 106,000 people attended the open-streets event Atlanta Streets Alive on September 28 — shattering the previous record by at least 12,000 people.

For comparison’s sake, Portland’s Sunday Parkways festivals also set an attendance record in 2014 — by drawing 109,000 attendees to all five events combined.

As the video above shows, Atlanta’s embrace of open streets is part of a bigger shift in a city that’s shaking off its old “Sprawlville, USA” image with a combination of new housing and bike and transit infrastructure.

“It’s really shifting the way people think about living in the City of Atlanta,” says Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “The focus is on the core of the city.”

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.