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East Palo Alto Bay Trail Will Be Built. Will Current Residents Benefit From It?

Ravenswood Bay Trail Map

The missing 0.6-mile segment of San Francisco Bay Trail through East Palo Alto requires crossing SFPUC property and protected wetlands. Image: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

The pieces are in place to build a key link in the San Francisco Bay Trail, providing a continuous bike route through East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Given the trail’s proximity to Facebook and the lack of housing close to the company’s campus, East Palo is also looking to strengthen its affordable housing policies to ensure that current residents can afford to stay in the city and benefit from the new path.

Local officials from five different agencies met on Monday to iron out the details of an agreement that fully funds the San Francisco Bay Trail through East Palo Alto, filling in the 100-mile network of off-street trails connecting Redwood City and Union City with downtown San Jose, Mountain View, and central Santa Clara.

“This is one of the most difficult gaps in the Bay Trail to complete,” said San Mateo County Parks Director Marlene Finley, whose department will manage funds for the project. “It’s wonderful that all the project partners are able to come together and get this done.”

The missing section lies within both East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and is subject to a number of regulatory agencies where the trail will cross protected wetlands in the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. The multi-jurisdictional nature of the project and complex political environment has delayed it for decades while every other section of the San Francisco Bay Trail in the mid-Peninsula region has been built or improved. The network of continuous off-street trails now stretches nearly from the Union City BART Station to downtown San Jose, except for this remaining gap.

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Via Streetsblog California
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Talking With Matt Nichols, Oakland’s New Transportation Policy Director

Matt Nichols is Oakland’s newly hired policy director for infrastructure and transportation. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf created the position to shepherd her proposed reorganization of transportation planning, design, engineering, and construction into one department, and to oversee the creation of a cohesive transportation policy. Nichols has been in his new job for about two months, and he’s excited about this chance to formulate policies to guide infrastructure.

MattNichols1

Matt Nichols, Oakland’s new policy director for transportation and infrastructure. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

“It’s a new way to ask the question for Oakland,” he said. “Up until now, transportation has been a maintenance issue. Arguments for changes on the city’s streets have come from the grassroots/advocacy level, and gone upwards. To have the mayor directing transportation policy is a great thing.”

“You can transform cities just through policy,” said Nichols. “It takes a bigger vision of the city–this isn’t just about carrying out projects.”

Last week Mayor Schaaf submitted a budget proposal that, among other things, would create a new Department of Transportation. The proposal lists principles for the new department: safe streets for all, great neighborhoods, transportation options, economic development, and sustainable infrastructure. Supporting these principles will mean creating bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, transit-friendly streets — where now many Oakland streets are wide roads that parallel freeways and present unsafe conditions for people who are not in cars. Supporting these principles will require a major shift away from business as usual.

“One thing we have learned,” said Nichols, “is that you just can’t build enough car infrastructure. That’s because, one, there’s not enough money, and two, it doesn’t work anyway.”

His first two goals are to create a more effective system for delivering transportation projects, and to find new resources. The two goals are interconnected, as the creation of a “project delivery pipeline” will help the city obtain more funding.

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Streetsblog.net
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Atlanta Can’t Fix Its Traffic Problem Without Getting a Handle on Sprawl

Complaining about traffic is practically a sport in Atlanta. Which makes sense, since traffic in the region is absolutely miserable.

What’s interesting, says Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist, is how infrequently the people complaining about traffic mention the primary cause of that traffic — the region’s notorious sprawl. He says:

You can’t expect good alternatives to car travel to happen unless the built environment is accommodating to safe pedestrian and bicycle mobility. Atlantans often seem to have trouble understanding that relationship between city form and traffic flow, complaining that “MARTA doesn’t go anywhere” and not realizing that it only feels that way because the city sprawls everywhere.

Another way of stating this point comes from Fred Kent: “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

A recent article in the AJC explores the way that the automobile congestion on Atlanta roads is affecting decisions companies make about who they hire and where they locate: “Traffic becomes a factor for Atlanta businesses.” The piece includes this statement about public transit and how it is perceived as not being robust enough for convenient use. “Atlanta motorists and employers alike have long complained that the area’s traffic problems are exacerbated by a largely anemic public transportation system.”

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Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Subway Double Berthing Only for Three Stations During Peak Commute Hours (SF Examiner)
  • Woman Killed, Another Person Hospitalized in East San Jose Crash on Piedmont Road (SJ Mercury)
  • Drunk Driver Charged With Murder of Mother and Baby in May 2 Livermore Crash (CBS)
  • Drunk Driver Who Killed His Four Passengers in May 12 Gilroy Crash Arrested (CBS)
  • Video: Ride of Silence in Memory of Those Killed or Injured Cycling on SF Streets (Mission Local)
  • Transit Riders and Businesses Protest Removal of Muni Bus Stops (SF Examiner)
  • SFMTA Public Hearing Friday Morning on Safety Improvements for Hayes Valley Streets (Hoodline)
  • Proposal to Cap Bernal Cut With New Park Would Reunite Bernal Heights And Glen Park (Bernalwood)
  • Memorial Day Weekend Closure of Presidio Parkway for Construction Postponed (SF Gate)
  • High Speed Rail Could Serve San Francisco By 2024, Pay for Caltrain Level Boarding Upgrade (GC)
  • BART Says Manufacturing Defect Responsible for Broken Rail That Delayed Trains (CBS)
  • Los Gatos Joins Saratoga and Cupertino in Lawsuit Against Highway 85 Widening Project (SJ Mercury)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Overcoming the Barriers to a Seamless Bay Area Transit Experience

Transit fragmentation can take many forms. Funded and managed by the City of Oakland and operated by AC Transit, the free B shuttle in downtown Oakland was a new transit service added to existing AC Transit and BART services.

Transit fragmentation can take many forms. Funded and managed by the City of Oakland and operated by AC Transit, the free B shuttle in downtown Oakland was a new transit service added to existing AC Transit and BART services. Photo: Sergio Ruiz

Ratna Amin is SPUR’s Transportation Policy Director. This piece originally appeared in SPUR’s The Urbanist.

The Bay Area’s prosperity is threatened by fragmentation in the public transit system: Riders and decision-makers contend with more than two dozen transit operators. Inconsistent transit experiences and disjointed planning and investment make our transit system less efficient, less usable, and less likely to help us meet our goals for a thriving and sustainable region.

The Bay Area economy and labor market is increasingly regional: 29 percent of Bay Area commuters cross a county boundary to get to work each day. These long commutes, many of which traverse the bay, put incredible stress on constrained transportation corridors. Two-thirds of Bay Area commuters drive to work alone, creating significant congestion on the region’s freeways and bridges. Dramatic growth in employer-run shuttles over the last few years demonstrates the demand for alternatives, both to car travel and to regional transit such as BART and Caltrain, which are running short on room for passengers. As people move further out to find affordable places to live, the expectation is that regional travel will grow.

For these reasons and others, such as managing sprawl and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Bay Area invests heavily in transit. It is spending $21 billion over the next 25 years to build public transit infrastructure and $159 billion to operate and maintain the transit system. Despite similar expenditures in the past, overall transit ridership has not been growing in the Bay Area. Most trips within the Bay Area are still made by car, with transit accounting for only 3 percent of all trips. Part of the reason it’s hard to increase transit ridership here may be due to how fragmented our system is compared to others.

Many could benefit from more integrated transit

We have the opportunity to increase the market share for transit in places where there is significant demand for regional travel. Half as many people travel from central Alameda County to San Francisco as travel from the Peninsula/Silicon Valley/San Jose to San Francisco, for example. However, 44 percent of the Alameda County trips use public transit while just 17 percent of the Silicon Valley trips use public transit.

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Streetsblog.net
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Driver Smashes Through House, Hits Baby in Crib. Police: No Biggie!

Via Seattle Bike Blog

Whoopsie! Via Seattle Bike Blog

If you’re behind the wheel of a car, law enforcement will let you get away with just about anything — even smashing into a house and pulverizing a crib where an infant was sleeping.

Guess what the police had to say after a driver in the Seattle suburbs did just that? Here’s the story from Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog:

Someone learning to drive “mistook” the gas pedal for the brake and smashed through the wall of the Hampton Greens Apartments near the Bellevue/Redmond border Tuesday morning.

The person driving continued into a baby’s room and crushed the crib where the nine-month-old boy was sleeping.

His parents rushed into the room and dug him out of the rubble that used to be his bedroom. By some miracle, the baby was not hurt.

But after only a couple hours of investigation, Bellevue Police decided that nothing illegal had transpired.

“It was purely accidental,” BPD spokesperson Seth Tyler told the Seattle Times. “Our past practice is that we don’t cite the driver in that kind of instance.”

No harm, no foul. Cars will be cars.

No charges of endangering a child. No charges of property damage. Not even a token $42 ticket for “unsafe lane change.”

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFPD Blames Cyclist Charles Vinson for Death Despite Witness Who Saw Driver Run Red Light (KQED)
  • Protected Bike Lanes on Oak and Fell Streets Finally Completed (SFBC)
  • Three Teens Arrested in Hit-and-Run That Killed Bridget Klecker on April 10 (SF Examiner, SF Gate)
  • Leap Transit Private Bus Service Shut Down by CPUC Over Permits (SF ExaminerSF Business)
  • Failed Bay Bridge Tower Rod Tested for Salt Water Corrosion (SF Gate, SJ Mercury)
  • SF Bike Chop Shops Fuel City’s $4.6 Million Bike Theft Industry (ABC)
  • Yesterday’s Morning Commute BART Delays Due to Damaged Equipment in Oakland (SF Examiner)
  • Two Hospitalized in Stolen Dump Truck Crash After SF-to-Daly City Police Chase (KTVU, ABC)
  • Serial Drunk Driver Convicted for 2013 Murder of Menlo Park Couple (Almanac, SM Daily)
  • Superstar Crossing Guard Protects Kids at Palo Alto’s Busiest School Commute Spot (PA Online)
  • Video: Bus Bunching Visualization By Berkeley Engineering Students (City Lab)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Applying the Parklet Strategy to Make Transit Stops Better, Quicker

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Planners are looking to use the parklet model to deliver bus bulb-outs at low cost. Muni and AC Transit (shown) are developing programs with different takes on the concept. Image: Ben Kaufman

San Francisco’s parklet revolution has broadened the possibilities for how curb space can be used. Now, city planners in SF and the East Bay are taking the idea in a new direction: using temporary sidewalk extensions to make transit stops more efficient and attractive.

Three different names for the concept have emerged from planners at three institutions where it was conceived independently — “temporary transit bulbs,” “multi-purpose parklets,” and “stoplets.” Those terms come from, respectively, SF transportation agencies, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, and Ben Kaufman, a graduate student at the UCLA Department of Urban Planning.

Whatever you call it, the method could allow transit agencies to much more rapidly implement transit bulb-outs — sidewalk extensions at transit stops — and reap the benefits at about one-twentieth the cost of pouring concrete, on average, according to Kaufman.

For his UCLA graduate project, Kaufman is wrapping up a stoplet design guide for AC Transit, which received a Safe Routes to Transit grant to study the idea.

Kaufman sees stoplets as a way to re-invent the bus stop. “Why can’t we create a space that people actually want to sit at, that would make people excited to wait for a bus?” he said. “Instead of being a waiting experience, it can be a relaxing experience.” Like parklets, stoplets would be “adopted” by merchants who want to improve bus stops in front of their storefronts.

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Streetsblog USA
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New Federal Guide Will Show More Cities the Way on Protected Bike Lanes

Oak Street, San Francisco. Photo: SFMTA.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Protected bike lanes are now officially star-spangled.

Eight years after New York City created a trailblazing protected bikeway on 9th Avenue, designs once perceived as unfit for American streets have now been detailed in a new design guide by the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHWA guidance released Tuesday is the result of two years of research into numerous modern protected bike lanes around the country, in consultation with a team of national experts.

“Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks,” the FHWA document says, citing a study released last year by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided.”

Among the many useful images and ideas in the 148-page document is this spectrum of comfortable bike lanes, starting with bike infrastructure that will be useful to the smallest number of people and continuing into the more broadly appealing categories:

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Streetsblog.net
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Will Milwaukee Fall for the Convention Center Shakedown?

Milwaukee's Convention Center has seen healthy growth in recent years. But a new study says it's not good enough. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

A consultant recommended that the way to fix dead zones near the Milwaukee Convention Center is to subsidize a bigger convention center. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

This is how it begins: Local leaders in Milwaukee commissioned a study examining whether the city’s convention center is up to snuff. Surprise, surprise, reports Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee: Hunden Strategic Partners, a consulting firm that loves convention centers, says Milwaukee really ought to be pumping a bunch of public money into expanding its convention facilities and a new arena for its NBA franchise, the Bucks. Oh, and a large publicly subsidized hotel wouldn’t hurt either. This is the same outfit that did the study for Kansas City’s Power and Light District, which has turned into a notorious money pit for the city.

Does Milwaukee really need to double the size of its convention center and chip in for a 1,000-room hotel? Murphy does a good job highlighting some weaknesses in the report:

“The cost and investment of keeping the Bucks is one worth working hard for, as the loss of a team can be devastating to the downtown economy,” Hunden warns, but offers no evidence whatsoever of this contention. The clear consensus among economists is that there is no economic spinoff from such investments, and Hunden never addresses this.

As for the need to increase the convention center, its own data undercuts that recommendation. For starters, the study finds Milwaukee’s convention attendance has increased by nearly 130 percent between 2007 and 2014, while convention hotel room nights increased 26 percent during the same period. So the convention center has done pretty well in recent years.

As for what a bigger convention center might accomplish, the study’s analysis of the Wisconsin Center “suggests that the convention-generated business downtown is minimal. The sales generated by those coming downtown from the suburbs (and beyond) for major events, especially during the summer, is a significant impact on downtown.”

In short, the convention center is not bringing much business downtown. So why should the city invest more money in it?

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