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Steal a Bike from this Guy?

Solis demonstrating a flying side kick while traveling in Hawaii. Photo: Albert Li

Solis demonstrating a flying side kick while traveling in Hawaii. A thief might want to think twice before trying to steal this guy’s ride. Photo: Albert Li

San Francisco native Ramon Solis was working out with his class at Quantum Martial Arts on 20th Street and Mission on Wednesday night when he heard a loud grinding sound coming from the street. “I am deaf in one ear but I still heard an angle grinder. It was 7 pm so it was too late to be a public works project,” he recounted. He ran to the window and saw a guy hunched over his expensive racing bike, which was locked to a rack outside. Sparks were flying.

It was just last week that a video made the rounds of a brazen thief who walked right up to a bike on Valencia, took out an angle grinder, and cut off the lock–with sparks flying–while onlookers did nothing. It was enough to make any cyclist sob. We get hit, cars and trucks continually park on the bike lanes, and to add insult to injury, apparently our bikes can get stolen with impunity. In fact, it’s not even the first time for Solis. A few years ago, he walked out of a building on Market Street just in time to see a thief pedaling away on his bike. The incident was captured on video and became part of a television news story. That bike wasn’t recovered. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Beall Proposal Tries To End California Transportation Funding Stalemate

bikeatCapitollabel2sizedLast year, Governor Brown called a “Special Session” to prod the California legislature to find solutions to what seemed an intractable problem: how to fund transportation needs in the state. Some bills were introduced, some hearings were held, but the biggest result of all the ballyhoo is a confirmation that the problem is, indeed, intractable.

Pavement condition is terrible in many places, and growing worse, in part because funding sources encourage building new roads and highways over maintaining what is already built. Traffic congestion and inadequate transit service waste time and money. Existing funding sources are not enough to pay for the backlog of deferred maintenance, let alone new projects on state priority lists. The gas tax is shrinking. Cities and counties have voted on or are considering local sales tax measures to raise money to “fix” transportation.

Some legislators insist that there is enough money being raised, but that it is being allocated inefficiently. Others disagree. Advocates say that spending priorities need to shift away from business as usual, while business as usual proponents argue there is not enough money to fund everything.

The Special Session has, so far, produced a few bills that have gone nowhere, and not much else. Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Jim Frazier has focused his energies freight movement, but nothing was produced by his committee. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Jim Beall (D-San Jose) came up with a solution that would raise gas taxes but faced stiff Republican opposition to the idea. His bill, SBX1-1, stalled in committee last fall.

Meanwhile the Governor released a proposed budget that, among many things, sought to create a new, undefined “Low Carbon Roads” program rather than support or increase funding for the Active Transportation Program. In May, he will issue a revision of his proposal, and one way or the other the legislature will have to grapple with his suggestions.

By law, the legislature must complete the budget by the end of June, and all legislative activity must be wrapped up by the end of August, including the Special Session. But there has been a long lull in the action.

Until last week, when Senator Beall amended his transportation funding bill. It seems to include a little bit for everyone to dislike, which means there’s at least a little bit for everyone to like, which is one way to find consensus. For example, the bill includes increased funding for the Active Transportation Program, but it comes with a trade-off on Complete Streets language.

Whether his approach will garner the bill the support it needs remains to be seen. It has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing. After the jump we discuss some of the bill’s highlights. Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Shadows Threaten Transbay Tower Plan (SFChron)
  • Phase II of Buchanan Street Mall Funded (Hoodline)
  • Fight Over Trees in Guy Place Mini Park (Hoodline)
  • NY and Florida Crane Collapses have SF Supes Looking at Safety (SFExaminer)
  • Developer Named for Water Front Parking Infill (Socketsite)
  • Bus Bridge for Caltrain Repairs Saturday (Kron4)
  • BART to Craft License Plate Reading Camera Privacy Policy (SFExaminer, EastBayTimes)
  • Bay Area Traffic Jams Growing Worse (MercNews)
  • Sneak Peek at Renovated Art Museum (MercNews, SFist)
  • Editorial: Yes to Inlaw Apartments (BizJournal)
  • BART Rider Had a Steak in Transit (SFGate, SFist)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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San Francisco Needs to Get Out of the Car Storage Business

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Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Marco Salsiccia is a blind resident of the Sunset District. Last month, while stepping off an L-Taraval train at a stop without a boarding island, he got his cane stuck in the wheel well of a car as it illegally passed the train. His cane snapped in two. The motorist stopped briefly and then took off. Salsiccia emailed his San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang about the incident:

Today’s situation could easily have been much worse. I could have been injured, maimed, or even killed. If this happened to me, I imagine similar—if not worse—things have occurred to others in the highly-trafficked area.

Indeed, worse things have happened. Salsiccia had his foot run over by a driver a few years earlier while he crossed Taraval from Safeway (fortunately, he only suffered some bruising). As Streetsblog previously reported, SFMTA data shows that 22 people have been hit getting off trains on Taraval just in the past five years.

Streetsblog reached out to Tang’s office to get her take on the rate of improvements on Taraval under SFMTA’s Muni Forward program. Streetsblog will update this post if a reply is received. But this was part of her reply to Salsiccia’s email:

Please know that there is currently an intensive planning process happening to plan for future safety improvements along the L-Taraval, including proposals for boarding islands. Along with that have been other ideas for how we can properly train/educate drivers about slowing down near trains where passengers are getting on/off the trains, and stopping behind the train when this occurs.

If that seems a bit wishy washy, there’s a reason. As previously reported, there’s resistance to boarding islands because they require taking away (or relocating) street parking. And this gets local merchants up in arms.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Does It Make Sense for Transit Agencies to Pay for “Last Mile” Uber Trips?

Should transit agencies subsidize short “last-mile” Uber trips to expand transit access for people who live outside comfortable walking distance of a train station?

Is it smart of transit agencies to use Uber subsidies to expand their service areas? Map of Atlanta's MARTA plus a three-and-half mile buffer via CAP

The green areas denote where people would be eligible for ride-hail commute subsidies. Map: CAP

Columbus, Ohio, has proposed something along these lines as part of its application for U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge. The city is one of seven finalists competing for a $50 million federal grant.

New technologies associated with ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft make such a program more feasible, but is it a good idea? In a new report, the Center for American Progress explores how such a program might work for low-income residents of Atlanta.

CAP’s Kevin DeGood and Andrew Schwartz don’t reach a firm conclusion about the merits of such a program, but their report suggests it would have very limited impact.

They start by defining who would be eligible for the subsidized ride-hailing program, mapping out a radius of 3.5 miles from MARTA stations while excluding areas closer than half a mile away from a MARTA rail station or a quarter mile away from bus lines that connect to rail.

In one of their scenarios, any commuter living in that zone who doesn’t own a car would be eligible for a $3 ride-hailing subsidy for each trip to or from work. That would reach an estimated 8,300 people and cost $12 million per year.

In the other scenario, the same subsidy would be available for workers in households below the poverty line with three or more children, regardless of car ownership. CAP estimates this would encompass 3,300 people and cost $5 million per year.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • More on New BART Car Brake Problem (SFGate, KQED, SFAppeal)
  • Plans for Geary and Masonic (Hoodline)
  • Tenderloin Mixed Use Development Could be Jammed Up by Historic Gay Bar (SFist)
  • More on SF Bailout of Transbay (SFExaminer)
  • High-Speed Rail Transbay Connection Still Going Nowhere (BizJournals)
  • Planning Code Amendment Aims to Bolster Transit Plans (SFExaminer)
  • Millennials Want More Housing (BizJournal)
  • 63,000 Apartments and Condos Coming to SF (Socketsite)
  • Poll Shows Stark NIMBY Attitudes Towards Housing (EastBayTimes)
  • More on Twin Peaks Road Changes (CBSLocal)
  • Sunday Streets Bayview Preview (Hoodline)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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Guest Editorial: Solving Our Housing Crisis Will Take Federal Action

San Francisco's Western Addition. Will it take the feds to solve the Bay Area's housing woes? Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Will it take the feds to solve the Bay Area’s housing woes? Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that, if affirmed by the voters, would allow them to increase affordable housing requirements. Meanwhile, in Sacramento, lawmakers want to spend $1.3 billion on low-income housing. Both will help with the Bay Area housing crisis and it’s great that San Francisco and California are working on the problem. But what about the Feds?

Without a large-scale financial commitment from the federal government, the issue of affordable housing will never be solved. Further, if we truly want to curb displacement of the most vulnerable households, this housing will also need to be publicly owned. States, regions and local jurisdictions simply can’t solve this problem on their own, and many of the strategies currently on the table–rent control, inclusionary housing, impact fees–are simply playing in the margins.

Market-based supply can play a significant role in addressing the housing affordability problem that is currently faced in communities like the Bay Area where housing costs have gotten so high, even high income households have difficulty obtaining new, market-rate housing. However, unfettered, market-based supply will not–and never could–fully address the affordable housing issue. This is where federal funding is critical.

With annual outlays nearing $4 trillion, where the federal government prioritizes–or retracts–its resources has significant effects that reverberate through our economy and society. Changes in federal policy can be so subtle and fundamental that it’s easy to mistake shifts in federal policy with the “the free market.” When we wonder why housing has become unaffordable for so many, we often lose sight that the problem largely emerged from changes in federal policy decades earlier.

Since 1981, we have seen public housing replaced, but nothing added to the stock of public housing. In fact, public housing has dwindled from a peak of 1.4 million units to a little over 1.1 million–roughly the same number in the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, the number of people in poverty increased by 17 million in that same time period–29.3 million in 1980 to 46.7 million in 2015. That’s not a problem the free market or cities can fix.

Current federal housing programs exacerbate the issue by further privatizing public housing, putting more people at risk for displacement. Voucher-based Section 8 is the largest federal housing assistance program, but it relies upon the cooperation of private landlords. In high rent areas where market rates far outpace HUDs “fair market rent (FMR)”, fewer and fewer landlords find Section 8 attractive–precisely the places such programs are needed most.

Nobody argues for a repeat of the racially and economically isolated public housing built between the 1950s through the 1970s. Say what you will about public housing, the neighborhoods that have fared best against displacement are those where it exists. While most associate public housing with the menacing images of Cabrini Green, there are many successful examples of public housing around the country. The failure of public housing was lack of funding, poor design and discriminatory housing policies. Blaming tenants for the deterioration of a building they did not own or have the responsibility of maintaining is like blaming drivers for potholes in the streets.

And this crisis exists in every county in the nation. The loss of affordable housing in cities has resulted in the spread of the population further into the peripheries. The outcome is congested freeways, longer commute times, and increased carbon emissions, all of which choke productivity nationwide. Moreover, it places an acute burden on those most at risk of displacement. A low-income household displaced from a city with mass transit now faces the new cost of purchasing and maintaining an automobile. Finally, regions don’t have the ability to shut their front doors and can’t be islands of respite. Denver solving the problem does nothing for the fireman traveling from Sacramento to Palo Alto, nor does it stop that fireman from relocating to Denver.

The withdrawal of federal involvement in the production of public housing created a “reality” where the largest historical source of funding for affordable housing is absent. As a result, the responsibility has fallen on state and local governments. To backfill the hole, they are left with few tools other than impact fees and inclusionary housing requirements. While one could argue developers should play a role in providing affordable housing, structuring housing policy that relies on a profit-based industry delivering housing that is by definition unprofitable is fundamentally flawed. The affordable housing crisis is a societal problem that can only be solved by society itself.

Of course it’s unrealistic to expect the current Congress to step in. Yet, while complex issues take decades to solve, Congress changes relatively quickly. It was not even a decade ago when Democrats swept in with supermajorities in both houses and the presidency. Times change, and we should prepare for when they change again. We should not limit our demands for the now, but work toward policies for the country we envision for the future. If we are truly going to solve the issue of affordable housing, we must understand what underlies our reality. The federal government isn’t the sole cause of this crisis, but its withdrawal was a key contributor. It should be held in account to play a key role in the resolution.

Jonathan Fearn is VP of Development for SummerHill Housing Group, a residential builder and developer. His is also a volunteer with “Connect Oakland.”

Via Streetsblog California
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#DamienTalks 35 – Mike Gatto and Parking Placard Reform

Parking placard abuse.

#DamienTalksArguing for reforms in the placard system is one of the few times parking reformers don’t sound overly wonky to the larger car driving public. In California, one out of every eight drivers has a disabled parking placard, a number which doesn’t correlate to data concerning how many drivers SHOULD have such a placard.

This abuse of the placard system creates a ripple effect of unsafe street conditions, a distorted view of our car parking stock, and worst of all undercuts the value of the placard to those drivers who are actually disabled.

Today #DamienTalks with Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-SFV) about AB 2602, his legislation that seeks to reduce placard abuse through two common sense reforms attacking the supply of and demand for disabled placards to those who don’t really need them. Gatto’s legislation sailed through committee last week.

Also moving in the Assembly is Gatto’s “Parking Bill of Rights” which takes a broader look at parking issues.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA. Or, if you want to reach Asm. Gatto, he can be reached at twitter @mikegatto or at his webpage, MikeGatto.com

Streetsblog USA
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After Big Push From Mayors, TIGER in Line For Slight Funding Boost

There’s good news out of the Senate committee responsible for doling out transportation funds.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail was funded in part with a TIGER grant. Photo: Walk Indianapolis

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee okayed a small increase in TIGER funding, according to Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America. TIGER is the program that allows local governments to compete directly for transportation funds, circumventing state DOTs, and helps get a lot of walking, biking, and transit projects off the ground. It must be renewed every year, so its prospects are always in doubt.

If approved by the full Senate and House, the committee’s proposal would set TIGER funding at $525 million, a $25 million increase over the previous year’s budget.

Elected officials and civic leaders across the U.S. campaigned for funding TIGER. A letter signed by 25 mayors — including the mayors of Tallahassee, Kansas City, and Anchorage, Alaska — urge lawmakers to continue the program [PDF], noting that applications for TIGER grants have typically exceeded available funds by a factor of 10.

T4A’s Davis said the bill could be brought to a floor vote sometime this week. The same bill would also authorize $2.3 billion for New Starts, the grant program that funds major transit expansion projects, and $1.4 billion for passenger rail. Those funding levels are in line with what was laid out in the most recent federal transportation law.

Streetsblog LA
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Parents Restrict Toy Guns, Why Not Restrict Toy Cars? #StreetsR4Families

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Many parents, including me and my mother, don’t let their kids play with toy guns. We believe that guns aren’t good for kids. They inure children to the danger inherent to guns.

But what about toy cars?

I write about transportation, so I am no expert on guns. From a little online research, here’s what I found. On an annual basis in the United States, cars have killed more people than guns. Since the 1960s, car deaths are trending downward. Gun deaths are trending upward. For the past half-decade, though, cars and guns each killed more than 30,000 people per year in the U.S.

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

But whether cars or guns kill more isn’t the question. It doesn’t matter which serial killer has the lower body count. Both kill.

We restrict our kids from playing with guns. We allow our kids to cuddle with, read about, and watch cartoons about cars.

Car toys are ubiquitous. Cars are in movies, on television, in video games, and books. Kids play with toy cars, ride in toy cars, clutch stuffed toy cars as they fall asleep. My mom encouraged my siblings and me to play car-race video games as an alternative to shoot-em-up video games.

What messages are all these toy cars giving to our children? Read more…