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Was the Turning Point on Taraval a Teachable Moment?

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The contentious "Safeway Stop" on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog

The contentious “Safeway Stop” on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog

A week ago today, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency decided unanimously to move forward with concrete boarding islands on the L-Taraval. And maybe, just maybe, it was also a concrete turning point, towards finally putting safety first.

As Streetsblog readers know all too well, every time SFMTA develops transit improvements as part of its Muni Forward program, the agency encounters enormous push back. It comes from competing agencies, local politicians, but, more often than not, from a loud minority of angry stakeholders. And whether it’s the Mission, Masonic, or Van Ness, it’s this push back that gets covered in the mainstream press.

The resulting political pressure causes delays, watered-down projects, and–more often than not–a failure to adhere to the voter approved “transit first” policies dating back to the 1970s. In other words, a minority of self-interested and ill-informed people are given more political sway than the voters. Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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City Streets in State Officials’ Hands Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

Cyclists rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

People rally for a safer Carson Street in Pittsburgh. Photo: Bike PGH

Cities shouldn’t have to fight with state departments of transportation to ensure streets are safe for their residents. But too often that’s exactly the case, and when cities lose, the result can be deadly.

A tragic story from Pittsburgh illustrates the problem. Just a week after Pennsylvania DOT debuted a car-centric redesign of iconic Carson Street, a motorist struck and killed cyclist Dennis Flanagan there. More than 1,200 people have now signed a petition demanding a safer design. Here’s an excerpt from a letter from Bike PGH Executive Director Scott Bricker to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards:

West Carson was closed for approximately two years, and while inconvenient for many, it did not create the predicted traffic nightmare associated with a typical blocked arterial. In the lead up to the closure and during construction, Mayor Bill Peduto, Councilwoman Kail-Smith, Senator Wayne Fontana, Representative Dan Deasy, community leaders, residents, City of Pittsburgh Departments of City Planning and Public Works, and Bike Pittsburgh unsuccessfully lobbied PennDOT District-11 to create a more inclusive design that would connect these communities via bike to other bicycle facilities only a stone’s throw away, namely the Station Square Trail and the Montour Trail to the Pittsburgh International Airport. In fact, the City of Pittsburgh pitched PennDOT District-11 a conceptual design eliminating the needless turning lane for most of the distance and using the remaining width for bike lanes, only to be silently rebuffed. Instead, PennDOT’s engineers decided to go against these wishes and charge ahead with a design that only exacerbates the speeding problem, and which gave no dedicated safe space for people who ride bikes to get around.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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White House: Make Cities Affordable By Building for Walkability, Not Parking

The Obama administration is taking on the crisis of rising rents in American cities, releasing a series of recommendations today to spur the construction of more affordable housing. Among the many ideas the White House endorses: allowing more multi-family housing near transit and getting rid of parking minimums.

Rising rents are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Rising rents and stagnant incomes are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Since 1960, the share of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing — the baseline for what is considered “affordable” — has risen from 24 percent to 49 percent, the White House reports in its new Housing Development Toolkit [PDF]. There are now 7.7 million severely rent-burdened households, defined as those paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent — an increase of about 2.5 million in just the past 10 years.

In the toolkit, the Obama administration acknowledges the links between housing and transportation, saying that “smart housing regulation optimizes transportation system use, reduces commute times, and increases use of public transit, biking and walking.”

The toolkit is full of policy recommendations to make it easier to build multi-family housing, incentivize the construction of subsidized housing, and shift away from the single-family/large lot development paradigm.

The document is merely advisory — federal officials don’t have the power to supersede most local zoning laws. But the White House does say that U.S. DOT will evaluate cities’ approaches to new housing development when it considers awarding major grants for new transit projects.

Here are a few of the highlights from the recommendations.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Two Pedestrians Hit Over Weekend, One Victim Already Blamed for Wearing “Dark clothing” (SFGate)
  • Third Pedestrian Hit–Trapped Under Car Near King Street Station (SFExaminer, SFGate, SFBay)
  • “Allegedly” Drunk Motorist Drives into Cole Valley Tunnel (Hoodline)
  • Ferry Service Changes (SFExaminer)
  • Tidal Barriers for Mission Bay (SFGate)
  • More on Bay Day (EastBayTimes)
  • Soil Tests on Sinking Millennium (SFGate)
  • SF Housing Market Mapped (Socketsite)
  • Boy on Bicycle Collides with Mountain View Community Shuttle Bus (CBSLocal)
  • Judge Throws Out NIMBY Lawsuit Against Caltrain Electrification (DailyJournal)
  • Conversations with Drivers Who Stop on Caltrain Tracks (KRON4)

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

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Santa Clara Proposes New San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail Detours

Santa Clara closes a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi's Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

Santa Clara closed a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi’s Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara City Council approved a proposal [PDF] to build new detours of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, over two years after the construction of Levi’s Stadium has resulted in ongoing closures of the trail “to limit security breaches” on days with stadium events over 20,000 attendees. Despite objections from both the public and council that the stadium should pay for the improvements, city staff intend to seek up to $4 million in public grant funds instead.

“Fixing this problem should not be shouldered by any taxpayers. It should be shouldered squarely by the 49ers,” said Santa Clara City Clerk candidate Deborah Bress at the meeting. “This is a residual part of the construction of the stadium.”

The trail closures have forced people walking and bicycling on a confusing two-mile detour on city streets and through parking lots that includes heavy bus traffic. Now the city is proposing to construct a slightly shorter detour including a new path on the east side of the creek as a short-term fix for $1 million and a new undercrossing of the trail under the stadium’s pedestrian access bridges as a permanent solution for $3 million. Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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New Caltrans Video Claims Widening 5 Freeway Is Good for Air, Congestion

In this new promotional video, Caltrans District 7 inexplicably proclaims that widening a stretch of the 5 freeway in southeast L.A. County will “reduce congestion” and “improve air quality.” The video, shown at Metro’s board and committee meetings recently, further boasts about “better safety” and how outsized new bridges over the freeway will each “dwarf the original bridge.” It goes on to herald Caltrans’ $1.9 billion project (funded by Metro’s Measure R) as a “21st-century transformation.”

What it really resembles are all of those dreadful 20th-century transformations that gave L.A. County its current congestion and foul air, plus plenty of child asthma, noise, disconnected neighborhoods, obesity, and other problems. These are all accompanied by budget-breaking infrastructure maintenance costs passed along to our children’s generation.

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans website

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans project promo website

The flaws inherent in Caltrans’ outdated thinking are summarized well by UCLA professor Michael Manville, in what he calls “Transportation Economics 101”:

We’ve known for a very long time that simply adding capacity doesn’t reduce traffic congestion. This was first pointed out in very clear language in the the 1960s by an economist named Anthony Downs in what he called the fundamental law of road congestion, which basically said that whenever you add road capacity to the road all you are doing is essentially lowering the price of driving.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Cap-and-Trade May Not Be Working

Emissions in sectors covered by cap and trade have not gone down, according to A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

Emissions in sectors covered by cap and trade have not gone down, according to A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

At last week’s California Air Resources Board hearing to discuss its plan for meeting climate change goals, the cap-and-trade system that has underpinned much of the state’s efforts got raked over the coals. But not by the industries subject to the emissions cap.

Instead, representatives of the communities that are supposed to benefit from investments made possible by money raised by cap and trade asked the board to jettison the program.

Cap and trade, they say, has always been a way for polluters to continue polluting as long as they pay for it. And the harm to communities located near those polluters outweighs any benefits they might get from the money produced by charging them.

Environmental justice advocates have been talking about this for a while, and now there is data backing up their claims. A study by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program [PDF], found a tight correlation between the locations of polluting industries and of low-income communities, especially communities of color.

High-polluting industries tend to be located near low-income communities and communities of color. Graph from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

High-polluting industries tend to be located near low-income communities and communities of color. Graphic from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

But the study found more. The report says that cap-and-trade has not decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and that in fact the opposite is happening: in several industry sectors subject to the emissions cap, in-state greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up since the program began.

Only about a quarter of offset credits, purchased to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, come from California. Image from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

Only about a quarter of offset credits, purchased to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, come from California. Image from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

The assessment also found that the highest emitters of pollution tended to buy out-of-state offset credits and use them to meet their emissions cap, rather than reducing their emissions locally.

Cap and trade specifically targets the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, and yes, those need to be reduce everywhere, not just in California. In that sense out-of-state offsets make sense.

However, the study also found that the companies that emit the most greenhouse gases are the same ones that emit high levels of other serious pollutants like particulate matter, which affect the health of local communities.

In other words, the worst-case scenario seems to be true about cap-and-trade: that polluters who can afford to are continuing to pollute, buying their way out of making actual reductions. And those polluters tend to be located in or near low-income communities that are frequently also communities of color, where their continued emissions of particulate matter and the like are degrading residents’ health.

The purpose of Thursday’s ARB meeting was to discuss its scoping plan for meeting greenhouse gas emission targets, and to that end staff had prepared a fat report detailing the trade-offs of various adjustments that could be made to the existing cap-and-trade system. It was written before the legislature passed S.B. 32, which extends and deepens the greenhouse gas reduction targets that led to the creation of cap and trade—although ARB staff was working under the assumption that the targets would be extended.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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More Evidence That Speed Cameras Work

The evidence is clear: Speed cameras save lives.

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Here’s the latest success story — an update from Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland on the city’s first speed camera, which was installed on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway last month:

Here are some facts about the BHH camera released by PBOT today:

  • Before the cameras were installed, an average 1,417 vehicles a day traveled 51 mph or faster, according to readings by a pneumatic tube laid across the roadway.
  • During the warning period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 18, an average 93 vehicles a day were found traveling 51 mph or faster — a 93.4 percent reduction from the tube count.
  • In the first week of the warning period, cameras recorded an average 115 violations a day. Violations dropped to an average 72 a day by the week of Sept. 12 to 18.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why a Struggling Industrial City Decided Bikes Are the Way Forward

Reading, Pennsylvania, isn’t your stereotypical biking mecca. It’s a low-income, largely Latino, post-industrial city of almost 90,000 people.

But without much of anything in the way of bike infrastructure, Reading has the third-highest rate of bike commuting in Pennsylvania and is among the top 15 cities on the East Coast.

Some civic leaders in Reading have seized on the idea of better serving people who bike as a way to improve safety and community, as well as to help reverse the legacy of sprawl and disinvestment.

We’re excited to be the first to post this video from the Portland-based publishing crew Elly Blue and Joe Biel.

The film is part of a short series that Elly and Joe produced to show a broader cross-section of regions and people working on bike issues. They made the films while traveling around America on their Dinner and Bikes Tour.

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This Week: Fossil-Free Bay Area, High-speed Rail, Prop. 13

sblog_calendar1Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Monday Today! Fossil-Free Bay Area. California has the most ambitious climate policy framework in the world, and the Bay Area has the resources, political temperament and innovative spirit to demonstrate how to work toward eliminating fossil fuel use. But is that spirit enough to go fossil-free? SPUR’s latest report lays out an agenda for the region to transition to a high-efficiency, 100 percent renewable energy system that will create a model for other urban regions while improving climate resiliency. Monday, today!, Sept. 26, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members, $10 for non-members.
  • Monday Tonight! Bicycle Advisory Committee. The committee meets monthly to consider bicycle transportation projects and policies to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA, and other City and County agencies. Monday, tonight! Sept. 26, 6:30-7:30 p.m. City Hall, Room 408, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, S.F.
  • Wednesday High-Speed Rail on the Horizon. California’s high-speed rail project is under construction in the Central Valley. What is the current status of the project and its funding? When and where will the first high-speed trains arrive in the Bay Area? What can riders expect once trains begin running? Learn more about this groundbreaking project. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members.
  • Wednesday Solutions for 101 Congestion. Tens of thousands are stuck in traffic on 101 every day. What are strategies to move more commuters, with less time and stress? What is the role of express bus service? What options can best support climate goals? A cast of experts from state, local, employer, and advocacy perspectives (SPUR, TransForm, CalTrans, Stanford, C/CAG) will discuss options to ease the commute pain. Co-sponsored by SPUR, TransForm, and Friends of Caltrain. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m., San Mateo Public Library, 55 W. 3rd Ave., San Mateo. Admission is free but RSVP is requested.
  • Thursday Who’s Afraid of Prop. 13? The state limitation on property tax has had significant, far-reaching impacts on our education system, housing costs and public services. Join a panel of statewide leaders, experts and activists for a wide-ranging discussion of the impacts of Prop. 13 and the growing campaign for reform. Co-presented by Evolve. Thursday, Sept. 29, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members.
  • Saturday Ride the Waterfront on Bay Day. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is teaming up with Save the Bay for the inaugural Bay Day celebration. This six-mile, casual-paced bike ride will start at Brannan Street Wharf and end at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, with stops along the way to talk about changes coming to the waterfront and ongoing ways to get involved in the planning process. Saturday, Oct. 1, 11-1 p.m. Start Location: Brannan Street Wharf, End Location: Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture. Free but RSVP required.
  • Saturday Oakland Mobility (OakMob) 101 – East Oakland. Oakland residents – what moves you? How could carshare and bikeshare help you stay connected to work, school, family, and more? Come to OakMob 101 to help chart the course for new car share and bike share programs coming to Oakland. Bring your friends and family for a day of food, prizes, music, and the opportunity to plan a better connected and more equitable Oakland. Saturday, Oct. 1, 12-4 p.m., Martin Luther King Branch Library, 6833 International Blvd, Oakland. RSVP requested.

Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.