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Biking and the Homeless on the Hairball: A Sad Situation for All

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Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. Photo: Dan Crosby.

Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. Photo: Dan Crosby.

Dan Crosby works in tech and cycles to his job in SoMa, using the bike lanes and bridges along Cesar Chavez. Recently, Crosby brought this situation to the attention of Streetsblog: “There’s now a homeless encampment on the westbound Cesar Chavez bike bridge under the 101. There have often been a couple of tents there, but now there’s at least six tents, and a bunch of people standing around, ironically, a pile of bikes,” he wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “Yesterday I had someone exit their tent right in front of me in the very narrow space left for me to pass, and today I had to weave around several people.”

It was just two years ago that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) celebrated these safety improvements to Cesar Chavez and the notorious “Hairball” tangle of freeway on-and-off ramps where the whole mess crosses 101. “Today, we celebrated Cesar Chávez Streets’ transformation into a beautiful, calmer, more livable street, complete with bike lanes, bulb-outs, a planted median and a road diet from six to four lanes,” said a Bicycle Coalition release. And “A Traffic Sewer Transformed Into a Safer Street” was the celebratory headline in Streetsblog.

And now the crown jewel of the project, the bike bridge under 101, is blocked by tents and trash.

This is in no way to detract from the hard work of Fran Taylor, who lead the CC Puede movement to calm the street, reduce the lanes and make it a more livable area. Nor is it a slight to the Bicycle Coalition. Certainly, the road is much better. There are protected bike lanes for long stretches. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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When Cities Force Developers to Widen Roads, Everyone Loses

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At L.A.’s Vermont-Wilshire Towers, the city made the developer cede land and pay for 6,000 square feet of road widening. Photo: Google Maps

It’s a common practice for cities to make developers widen a street when they put up a new building. The thinking is that development creates car trips that must be accommodated with more asphalt.

But new research suggests these policies don’t help anyone. The main effect is to increase the cost of building, making housing less affordable.

“As traffic management exercises, many widenings appear unnecessary,” concludes UCLA researcher Michael Manville in a paper published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use [PDF].

Manville looked at how this policy is carried out in Los Angeles. In L.A., all multifamily housing projects (and some other types of construction) are assessed by city traffic engineers to determine whether the developer should widen nearby streets. This is like “blaming Disneyland for increased air travel, and forcing the theme park to expand runways whenever it adds attractions,” he argues.

Manville spoke to developers compelled by the city to pay for various road widenings. The costs varied. In one case, the street widening added an estimated $11,000 to the cost per unit of a multifamily housing development. In another case the figure was $50,000. In another, just $65 per unit. Where the costs of street widenings are substantial, the policy drives up costs for renters and buyers.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Earth to U.S. DOT: Streets Succeed When They Do More Than Move Cars

Will U.S. DOT encourage projects like the one on the left or the one on the right? Image: Transportation for America

Will U.S. DOT encourage urban streets like the one on the right to be designed like highways like the one on the left? Image: Transportation for America

What makes a street successful?

Does a street succeed when it’s economically productive, when it helps reduce carbon emissions, and when people can conveniently and safely get around using a variety of transportation modes, regardless of age, ability, or social status? Or does success boil down to moving as many cars as fast as possible?

The way public agencies answer these questions goes a long way toward determining what sort of streets our cities end up with. And that’s what’s at stake as U.S. DOT grapples with the question of how American transportation agencies should measure their performance. Unfortunately, the feds released a draft rule a few months ago that still emphasized the movement of cars above all.

Today Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports that local agencies and advocates from around the country have demanded a better standard from U.S. DOT — one that won’t subordinate people and cities to the movement of cars:

To develop a stronger alternative measure to submit to USDOT, SGA convened a working group of more than 30 local elected officials, state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and transit agencies, and national and state trade groups and advocacy organizations.

This work was supported by numerous state DOTs, MPOs, transit agencies and advocacy organizations; Oregon Metro (Portland) and Indy MPO; Trimet; Metro Atlanta Chamber and Indy Chamber; and the Transportation Equity Caucus, League of American Bicyclists, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, People for Bikes, PolicyLink, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center for Neighborhood Technology and many others.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • New Law Decriminalizes Fare Beating for Minors (SFGate)
  • Getting the Pee Smell out of BART Elevators (CBSLocal)
  • Van Ness Bus Construction Upgrades Will Start in November (SFBay)
  • More on Transit Agency Subsidies for Lyft and Uber to Help Solve “Last Mile” Problem (KQED)
  • Update on the Salesforce Tower (Curbed)
  • Oakland Now Epicenter of Real Estate Craze (Bloomberg)
  • Burlingame City Council Opposes Rent Control (DailyJournal)
  • As San Mateo Also Wrestles with Rent Provisions (DailyJournal)
  • Belmont to Discuss Plans for More Centralized Downtown (DailyJournal)
  • Commentary: Calling out the Double Standard in “Parking for God” (SFExam)
  • Commentary: Housing Projects at Risk with Planning Department Down Two Members (SFExam)

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

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Eyes on the Street: Sunday Streets in the Mission

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Dancing on Valencia yesterday afternoon during the Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: Streetsblog.

Dancing on Valencia yesterday afternoon during the Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: Streetsblog.

Normally, Valencia Street in the Mission is dominated by traffic, double-parked cars blocking bike lanes, close calls, and the occasional injury. But not yesterday; yesterday, Valencia Street was all about games, fun and dancing–and a bit of politics and social advocacy–thanks to Sunday Streets.

Yesterday’s event, the second Mission District event this year, went from 26th St to McCoppin Hub Plaza and cars were banned from interfering with the fun from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to bikes, kids on scooters, dancing and all sorts of other fun, lots of people and organizations used the event to get their advocacy and health messages across.

Francisco Siguenza, a nursing student at the University of San Francisco, was volunteering with the American Heart and Lung Association, taking blood pressure and teaching people the basics of CPR. He sees a natural connection between heart health and street fairs and events. “We can reach communities, but it [the event] is an incentive for people to learn reasons to be healthy, to eat healthy.”

Olga Fedyukova, also a nursing student at USF, teaches a passerby the basics of CPR. Photo: Streetsblog.

Olga Fedyukova, also a nursing student at USF, teaches a passerby the basics of CPR. Photo: Streetsblog.

Heart health was also the reason Jennifer Wade was out collecting signatures opposing the construction of the Warrior’s Arena in Mission Bay. “Mission Bay is surrounded by water on three sides, and I’m concerned about access to UCSF  Medical Center,” she said. Her son has a congenital heart defect and, sadly, an emergency trip to the children’s center there is inevitable. “There will be 225 events a year there [at the planned arena] and traffic is going to be a problem…it’s the wrong fit for an area with a medical campus.”

Jennifer Wade was there gathering opposition to the Warrior's Arena in Mission Bay. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jennifer Wade was there gathering opposition to the Warrior’s Arena in Mission Bay. Photo: Streetsblog.

Of course, wherever large groups of people gather, there’s going to be political activists. Along those lines, Supervisor Jane Kim was on her pink bicycle doing some old-fashioned, handshake-politics–gathering support for her bid for the District 11 State Senate seat. “Sunday Streets is such an important way to build community,” she said. “You can see how crowded it is! People love it.”

Jane Kim was out there doing some old fashioned local politicking. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jane Kim was out there doing some old fashioned local politicking. Photo: Streetsblog.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Stark Divisions Between Dems and GOP on Climate Impacts of Transportation

How polarized are the two political parties on key questions about transportation policy and climate change? As you can imagine, the answer is “very.”

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), ranking member of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Wikipedia

California Senator Barbara Boxer. Photo: Wikipedia

The senior Democrat and Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — California’s Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, respectively — each wrote an opinion this week for the Eno Center for Transportation about a proposed federal rule to require state DOTs to measure their impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Boxer is the ranking Democratic member of the committee. Her column applauds the move to measure the climate impacts of state and regional transportation policy:

Establishment of a performance measure for carbon pollution is critically needed now. Since 1970, carbon emissions produced by the transportation sector have more than doubled, increasing at a faster rate than any other end-use sector. By requiring transportation agencies to track carbon emissions, we can evaluate whether transportation investments are effective in meeting the goal of protecting the environment.

Senator Jim Inhofe (OK) is chair of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Inhofe challenged the legitimacy of the rule:

The goal of the laws I co-authored is to improve the safety and advance the modernization of our roads and bridges. FHWA’s proposed GHG regulation would divert the limited time and resources of States and local governments away from this goal to pursue instead the administration’s unlawful and overzealous climate agenda.

Yes, the “overzealous agenda” of transparently documenting how much carbon pollution is caused by billions of dollars of spending on transportation.

FHWA regulators will be wading through these kinds and many other comments in the coming months as they produce a rule that may or may not require states and regional planning agencies to finally measure their impact on the climate.

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This Week: Bike Advisory Committee, Real Estate Development, Bicycle Traffic Skills

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

    • Monday tonight! Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting. The Bicycle Advisory Committee meets to consider bicycle transportation projects and policies to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, the Municipal Transportation Agency, the County Transportation Authority, the San Francisco Police Department, and other City and County of San Francisco agencies. Monday, August 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. City Hall room 408, 1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Place (Polk St).
    • Tuesday A Real Estate Development Primer. How do developers decide what to build and where to build it? Which comes first: new infrastructure or new buildings? Learn some of the basics of urban real estate development from one of Silicon Valley’s most prolific developers. Tuesday, August 23, 6 p.m. SPUR San Jose, 76 South First Street, San Jose. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members. Pre-registration is not necessary for this event.
    • Wednesday Architecture Next Now, Part 2. Many newer architectural practices in the Bay Area are establishing compelling trajectories in their work through innovative design mediums. How will these efforts shape the future of our cities? Come hear these firms debate the links between research, practice and culture while challenging the conventional strategies of architecture in the Bay Area. Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. SPUR Urban Center Gallery, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco. Free for SPUR members, $10 for non-members.
    • Thursday Drinks & Discourse — Adhi Nagraj. Come grab a beer and hear from the key people who are shaping the region’s future. In this installment of SPUR’s newest Young Urbanist series, we talk with BRIDGE Housing’s director of development and chair of the Oakland Planning Commission to hear his thoughts on the cities of tomorrow, his current role and the career path that took him there. Thursday, August 25, 6:00 p.m., SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway. Admission is free.
    • Saturday Learn Traffic Skills 101: On-Road with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Practice what you learned in the Traffic Skills: Classroom. After a basic bike maintenance session, the class will practice bike maneuvering skills in a car-free practice area before riding on the streets in small groups led by instructors. You will gain experience riding alongside moving traffic in different traffic conditions and apply safe riding techniques practiced in the car-free space into real-life situations. Adults and anyone over 14 years of age are welcome; bicycle, helmet, and pre-registration required. Please bring your lunch. Saturday, August 27, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 1899 Waller St., S.F.
    • Saturday Cool Effect & Proof Lab present #LetsSave. Grab a cup of Equator Coffee, snag a bite to eat, and learn more about Cool Effect’s carbon-cutting mission—then support one of their climate change fighting projects to receive 10 percent off all your Proof Lab purchases. Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m., Proof Lab Surf Shop, 244 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley.

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

Via Streetsblog California
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Stop Already with the “Cap-and-Trade Is Dead” Business

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Senator Fran Pavely, author of A.B. 32 and its potential successor, S.B. 32

Some members of the mainstream media seem to be enjoying a good rip on California’s climate change policies, especially its cap-and-trade program, heralding its imminent collapse and describing Governor Jerry Brown as desperate and “nervous” about whether he can save it.

And some of those media pundits are going a little overboard, like the Los Angeles Times’ in-house curmudgeon George Skelton when he derides High Speed Rail as Governor Brown’s “choo-choo.”

But hold up there, cowboys. Yes, there is a pending court case about whether cap-and-trade is a tax—and therefore whether it needed to have passed with a 2/3 majority—but there are pretty good arguments against that reasoning, and the case has already been shot down once.

And sure, last spring’s cap-and-trade auction was disappointing in terms of raising revenue, but greenhouse gas emission reductions from the cap are not affected by the amount of revenue collected in the trade. And while we still don’t know the results of this week’s auction, permits had recently been trading on the open market at a price above the auction’s floor price. So let’s not jump in to proclaim the program’s demise quite yet.

Skelton’s derisive column is not helpful in the midst of a proliferation of ramped-up pessimism and misleading allegations about cap-and-trade. Do we want California to do everything it can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or would we rather stand around arguing about it? We’re kind of running out of time here.

(Note to the author of the above-linked nonsense, and like-minded people: stop it already with the “hidden gas tax” stuff. It’s just silly. For one thing, any pass-along costs to consumers are minuscule compared to the fluctuations in gas prices we endure; and for another, consumers should be paying for cleaner air, since we’re contributing to the problem by driving so much.)

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Portland Will Connect Streets Over a Highway With a Car-Free Bridge

Portland's newest car-free bridge will complete a key bike route. Image via Bike Portland

Portland’s newest car-free bridge will complete a key bike route. Image via Bike Portland

Here’s one way to heal some of the damage created by urban interstates.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that the city has won a $2.6 million state grant to help it complete a key bike route. To fill in the missing segment, Portland has to create a path across a big sunken highway. So the city will use the grant, combined with some local funds, to build a bike and pedestrian bridge over I-405.

Maus explains why this is such a smart investment:

Portland leaders have been working for over a decade to close this gap. Former mayor Sam Adams first proposed the idea of a new bridge over Flanders in 2006 when he was PBOT Commissioner. He continued to work on the project until his run for mayor in 2008 but was not able to make it happen.

According to the city’s grant application, the bridge would likely average about 3,000 crossings as soon as it opens as people shift their routes from the busy and high-stress crossings at Everett, Glisan and Couch. Once greenway elements like speed bumps, signage, and diverters are added to the street, it’s estimated that the new bridge would see 9,100 trips per day. That’s more than the amount of daily bike trips over the Hawthorne Bridge.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Carless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use

Many residents of American cities can’t escape the high cost of parking, even if they don’t own cars. Thanks to policies like mandatory parking requirements and the practice of “bundling” parking with housing, carless renters pay $440 million each year for parking they don’t use, according to a new study by C.J. Gabbe and Gregory Pierce in the journal Housing Policy Debate.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The financial burden works out to an average of $621 annually per household, or a 13 percent rent premium — and it is concentrated among households that can least afford it. “Minimum parking standards create a major equity problem for carless households,” said Gabbe. “71 percent of renters without a car live in housing with at least one parking space included in their rent.”

Parking is typically bundled with rent, making the price of residential parking opaque. So Gabbe and Pierce set out to estimate how much people are actually paying for the parking that comes with their apartments.

Crunching Census data from a representative sample of more than 38,000 rental units in American urban areas, they isolated the relationship between parking provision and housing prices. They determined that on average, a garaged parking space adds about $1,700 per year in rent — a 17 percent premium.

Looking only at carless households, the average cost is $621 per year and the premium is 13 percent. On average these households earn about $24,000 annually, compared to $44,000 for the whole sample, and they get no value whatsoever out of the parking spaces bundled with their rent.

Gabbe and Pierce estimate that nationwide there are 708,000 households without a car renting an apartment with a garaged parking space, for a total cost burden of about $440 million per year due to unused parking.

So how can parking policy create fairer housing prices?

Gabbe and Pierce say cities should eliminate minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable. Cities can also help by allowing and encouraging landlords to “unbundle” the cost of parking from the cost of rent — so people who don’t have cars aren’t forced to pay for parking spaces they don’t use.