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SPUR Ocean Beach Erosion Plan Shelves Road Diet for Great Highway

SPUR will not pursue its vision for narrowing Great Highway from four lanes to two, as neighbors fear that traffic will divert onto their streets. Image: SPUR’s Ocean Beach Master Plan

SPUR has set adrift its proposal to halve the size of the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, as the group strives to avoid distracting attention from implementing the other priorities in its Ocean Beach Master Plan. A road diet may be revisited later, once more pressing concerns have advanced.

SPUR calls the OBMP “a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access.” It also includes proposals to remove other sections of the Great Highway that are threatened by severe erosion, in what’s called ”managed retreat.”

One of SPUR’s highest priorities is converting the Great Highway south of Sloat to a trail. Images: SPUR

Ben Grant, SPUR’s project manager for the OBMP, said one of the plan’s most pressing priorities is closing a short, severely eroded section of the highway south of Sloat Boulevard, and replacing it a walking and biking trail. Car traffic would be re-routed onto Sloat and Skyline Boulevards, which still would see less traffic than they’re built for.

But the “most controversial” piece of the OBMP plan, said Grant, was the proposal to remove two of the four lanes on the main stretch of the Great Highway, as well as adding parking spaces along that stretch to replace those that would be removed south of Sloat. SPUR doesn’t want opposition to those elements to distract from the more urgently needed road closure south of Sloat.

“We’ve gotten quite a few strong negative reactions to this,” Grant said at a recent SPUR forum. “We’re not going to be pushing for it at this time, because we have much more core, transformative projects to consider.”

Nothing in the OBMP is an official city proposal yet, but SPUR’s ideas are being seriously considered by public agencies that will conduct environmental impact reports for them.

“It’s an interesting thing to think about,” said Grant. “What if we take our one major stretch of oceanfront road and think of it not as a thoroughfare for moving through — [but] think of it instead as a way of accessing and experiencing the coast, as a coastal access or park road?”

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Steinberg Kills Bill That Sought to Delay Cap-and-Trade on Fuels

Mobile billboard against the “hidden gas tax.” Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

The misinformation campaigns trumpeting an imminent “hidden gas tax” in California lost a battle with the defeat of Assemblymember Henry Perea’s bill, A.B. 69, which was designed to delay application of cap-and-trade to the fuels industry for three years

Fuel companies have already begun participating in the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, buying pollution credits that they can use to help them meet the greenhouse gas emission cap set by the state. Emission caps will not apply to the fuel industry until this coming January, but they have had years to prepare for it.

Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg sent a letter to Perea [PDF] explaining his decision not to let A.B. 69 go forward. The bill may not have had much of a chance of passing anyway, but this settles the question without the Senate or Assembly having to take it up in the final few days of the legislative session.

A.B. 69 was originally a bill about water quality, and had been considered and passed in the Assembly as such, when at the last minute Perea completely rewrote it, in what’s called a “gut and amend.” At that point, it was in the Senate, where it would have had to pass out of several committees and then pass with at least a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor before the Assembly could take it up.

Steinberg killed it in the Rules Committee. In his letter to Perea, he wrote that “bringing non-stationary fuels under the cap is not an unforeseen issue that demands legislation which sidesteps the democratic process.” And “a measure of this importance should not be considered in the final weeks of a two-year session.”

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Are There Any Affordable Cities Left in America?

When you factor in both housing and transportation costs (H+T) as a percent of income, the car-dependent cities in the right column expensive. But are DC, SF, and NYC that much more affordable, even if you count the benefits of transit? Source: Citizens Budget Commission

Are Washington, San Francisco, and New York the most affordable American cities? A new report from the New York-based Citizen’s Budget Commission [PDF], which made the rounds at the Washington Post and CityLab, argues that if you consider the combined costs of housing and transportation, the answer is yes.

But a closer look at the data casts some doubt on that conclusion. Between the high cost of transportation in sprawling regions and the high demand for housing in compact cities with good transit, very few places in America are looking genuinely affordable these days.

The CBC report uses a better measure of affordability than looking at housing costs alone. Transportation is the second biggest household expense for the average American family, and looking at what people spend on housing plus transportation (H+T) can upend common assumptions about which places are affordable and which are not. Regions with cheap housing but few alternatives to car commuting don’t end up scoring so well.

There are some problems with the CBC’s methodology, however. While abundant transit is absolutely essential to keeping household transportation costs down, and it provides a lifeline to low-income residents of major coastal cities, the report still tends to exaggerate overall affordability in these areas.

According to the report, for example, New York City ranks third in affordability among 22 large cities. A “typical household” in New York City, the CBC finds, spends 32 percent of its income on housing and transportation combined. Part of the reason New York comes out looking good, though, is that CBC used a regional measure of income but looked at typical rents only in the city itself. Because average incomes in the whole region are higher than average incomes in the city ($62,063 vs. $51,865, respectively, according to 2008-2012 Census data), NYC appears more affordable than it really is.

Another issue, flagged by Michael Lewyn at his CNU blog, is that by looking at average rents, which in some cities include many rent-stabilized units, the calculation doesn’t necessarily capture what someone searching for shelter is likely to pay. If you’re trying to find an apartment in New York now, getting a place for the average rent would probably be extremely difficult.

What really stands out in the CBC report isn’t that New York, San Francisco, and DC are affordable — it’s that car-dependent areas that may have cheap housing turn out to be so expensive once you factor in transportation.

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Downtown Houston Will Get Its First Protected Bike Lane

Houston’s protected bike lane should look a lot like this one in Seattle. Photo: Seattle DOT/Flickr

A piece of top-notch bike infrastructure is coming to the largest city in Texas.

That’s the word today from Kevin McNally at Houston Tomorrow, who relays the news that a two-way protected bike lane is on tap for downtown:

The City of Houston will install the City’s first on-street protected bike lane along Lamar Street in Downtown, possibly as early as October, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Morris. The two-way protected bike lane will help to connect Downtown to both the Buffalo Bayou trails and the Columbia Tap Trail.

The bike lane will be three-quarters of a mile long and will be painted green, the Houston Chronicle reports. It will be separated from car traffic by “armadillos,” or hard, low-lying plastic bumps. McNally says:

Based on the description from the article, the bike lane should look similar to the above photo of a two-way protected bike lane in Seattle, with the exception being that the white plastic bollards will be replaced by plastic “armadillos” or “zebras” (see examples of those here).

Bike Houston Executive Director Michael Payne said the objective is to make “people feel comfortable” about biking and getting “out of their cars.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Washington Bikes shares a poll showing overwhelming support for Safe Routes to School among the state’s residents. And Bike Portland reports that advocates in that region are trying to ensure that every school district has a Safe Routes to School program.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver, Bicyclist Collide at 11th and Harrison Streets (SF Appeal)
  • Northbound Hwy 280 in SF to Be Closed Over Labor Day Weekend Starting Thursday for Fixes (SFGate)
  • SFMTA Hearing on Muni TEP Changes at Haight and Clayton Next Friday (Hoodline)
  • Sidewalk Corner at Franklin and Turk Re-Built for Third Time Recently to Install Bulb-Out (SF Weekly)
  • You’ve Gotta Wonder How This Driver Hit a Parked Car and Flipped Her Car on Its Side (Richmond SF)
  • Aaron Peskin Appeals Treasure Island Re-Development EIR, Citing Transportation Limits (SFBG)
  • Uber, Lyft Drivers Frustrated by Company Feud (CBS, SF Weekly)
  • BART Tracks Damaged by Train Wheel Near Walnut Creek, Stopping Trains (CBSSFGate)
  • BART Board to Vote on Limits to Lifetime Free Rides for Board Members (CoCo Times)
  • Increased Bike Capacity Doesn’t Seem to Be a High Priority for Caltrain’s Electric Fleet (Cyclelicious)
  • SFGate‘s “Aggravating” Driving Habits Include Failing to Speed in the Far-Left Freeway Lane
  • In LA, Even Hikers Who Drive to Trails Abuse CA’s Disabled Parking Placard Privileges (NBC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: New Curbs Coming to Market/Valencia Bike Turn

Photo: Aaron Bialick

In case you’re wondering why the left-turn “jug handle” connecting bike commuters on Market to Valencia Street suddenly disappeared behind construction barricades, we’ve got the answer. The “bike bay” is being re-built with granite curbs, replacing the original concrete curbs with materials that better match the rest of Market Street.

That’s according to SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. Jose said the re-construction is part of the ongoing work around the intersection of Market, Haight, and Gough Streets, which will create a contra-flow Muni lane and build pedestrian bulb-outs. Even though many have complained that the bike waiting zone and thru traffic lane are uncomfortably narrow, Jose did said the bike bay is not being widened, but that it could be in the Better Market Street project.

When I stumbled upon the construction site last Friday, there was no apparent alternate accommodation for people on bikes waiting for the bike signal to turn left off Market. It wouldn’t be the first time that construction crews have closed a bike lane on that stretch of Market without providing a safe detour.

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Man Killed by Muni Bus Driver at Closed Crosswalk Outside Geary Tunnel

Image: CBS 5

A man was hit and killed by a Muni bus driver on Geary Boulevard at Lyon Street on Monday at 1:15 a.m., according to media reports. Both crosswalks across Geary are closed at that intersection, just east of the Masonic tunnel, leaving a roughly 1,000-foot gap between crosswalks at Presidio Avenue and at Baker Street.

The man, who hasn’t been identified, is the 12th pedestrian to be killed on San Francisco streets this year.

“His death is all the more tragic, given the crash occurred on Geary — long identified as one of the six percent of streets which make up the city’s high-injury corridors and account for over 60 percent of crashes involving pedestrians,” said Natalie Burdick of Walk SF.

As we wrote last week, closed crosswalks remain even in SF’s most walkable neighborhoods, vestiges of 20th-century planning efforts to whisk cars down traffic sewers like the Geary expressway.

At intersections like Geary and Lyon, people are entirely banned from crossing Geary and instead are expected to spend five minutes (at standard walking speeds) walking to a different intersection and back. The extra 1,000 feet pose an impractical proposition for many people, particularly when traffic volumes are low — too often resulting in fatal outcomes for those who instead attempt the most direct path.

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CA Agencies Host Workshops on Cap-and-Trade Funding Programs

“Disadvantaged communities” in California, as determined by CalEnviroScreen.  Image: CalEPA.

State agencies are figuring out how to best spend new cap-and-trade revenue, and the first step is asking the public for input on creating guidelines for eligible projects.

The Strategic Growth Council held workshops last week on guidelines for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

This week and next the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) will ask for help figuring out how to define “disadvantaged communities,” which by law must benefit from a proportion of projects funded by cap-and-trade money.

Last week and this week, the California State Transportation Agency is hosting input sessions for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (which will receive $25 million, and 10 percent of future cap-and-trade proceeds) and the Low-Carbon Transit Operations Program (which will get $25 million and 5 percent of future proceeds).

These somewhat overlapping efforts are all intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as mandated by AB 32, which requires a reduction in GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020.

Transit Capital and Operations Funding

The low turnout at Friday’s workshop on transit funds—the first of three—may have been due to lack of publicity or the relatively small amount of money at stake — $50 million throughout California. There are more than 100 transit agencies, large and small, throughout the state. While the Intercity Rail portion will be allocated to particular projects, the Low-Carbon Transportation Fund will be divided up according to existing state funding formulas.

With only $25 million spread among transit agencies statewide, small agencies in areas with low populations and low farebox revenues are likely to see only very small amounts of money added to operations. For some, this will be less than $100 — at least in this first year.

That’s hardly enough to enhance or expand services to increase mode share, as required by the allocation.

And it may not be worth the effort at all, if reporting requirements are anything more than simply checking a box. A number of those attending the workshop requested that administrators keep the process as simple as possible so as not to cause more work for small and understaffed agencies.

The last workshop on transit funding will be in L.A. this Wednesday, August 27,  from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
at the Metro Board Room. Written comments on transit funding can be submitted to tircpcomments@dot.ca.gov and lctopcomments@dot.ca.gov

What Qualifies as a “Disadvantaged Community”?

CalEPA workshops this week and next on defining “disadvantaged communities” will play a crucial role in deciding how to allocate cap-and-trade funds. Overall, at least 25 percent of all cap-and-trade funds must be spent in, or somehow benefit, a disadvantaged community. In the case of the Affordable Housing/Sustainable Communities category, half of funds must benefit these communities.

So the definition of “disadvantaged community” is pretty important.

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Expanding the Mission of “Safe Routes to School” as Kids Return to Class

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over. In many places, the weather was so mild it seems like it never quite started. But kids are already going back to school.

Crosswalks and adult supervision are two ingredients in keeping kids safe from both traffic and violence. NY DOT

While the weather has been cool, temperatures have reached a boiling point on many of our nation’s streets. In many communities, violence is very much on people’s minds as kids return to school, following incidents like the rash of shootings in Chicago over the July 4th weekend and the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Last week, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership teamed up with Generation Progress, The League of Young Voters Education Fund, the Million Hoodies Movement, and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to hold a Twitter town hall with the hashtag #Back2SaferSchools. Generation Progress kicked things off with this sobering thought:

Q1: In 2015, gun violence will be leading cause of death for Millennials. What can communities do to ensure students go #Back2SaferSchools?

— Generation Progress (@genprogress) August 20, 2014

There are many ways to address this problem. But as Keith Benjamin of the SRTS National Partnership says, “Place-making plays a pivotal role in combating violence.”

Late last year, the Partnership released “Using Safe Routes to School to Combat the Threat of Violence” [PDF]. It weaves together in-school conflict resolution programs and anti-bullying work with the group’s regular program of walking school buses and infrastructure improvements.

“In some communities, the danger of violence and crime discourages children from walking to school and keeps people off the street, limiting physical activity and restricting errands and trips,” the report begins.

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New Parking in Seattle Comes With a Side of Mixed-Use Development

This new mixed-use development on a light rail line in Seattle will have 505 units, 523 parking spaces. Image: The Urbanist

This new mixed-use development by a light rail station in Seattle will have 505 housing units and 523 parking spaces. Image: The Urbanist

Part of the promise of Seattle’s Link light rail was its potential to create walkable places in the sprawling Rainier Valley. And that’s starting to happen, locals report, but developers are getting some important things wrong.

The proposed mixed-use development at MLK Way and Othello Street, for example, calls for way more parking than appropriate for an urban location near light rail. Will Green at The Urbanist explains:

The Seattle Housing Authority has found a developer for its 3.2 acre site at the corner of MLK Way and Othello Street, right next to Sound Transit’s Othello Link Station. The plans are impressive: 505 market-rate apartments spread over three buildings, 17,800 sq. ft. of retail space, and a 10,000 sq. ft. of public plaza intended to provide space for a farmer’s market and community events. But the developer, Everett’s Path America, has fallen into the same trap many have when planning TOD by forgetting the “Transit” and focusing on the parking. Instead, Path America is proposing a whopping 523 surface and underground parking stalls for those 505 apartments.

It’s a serious and well known problem: A recent report from the Sightline Institute found that 21 of the 23 recent multifamily developments studied had more occupied units than occupied parking stalls, with an average overnight parking vacancy rate of 37%. Those empty stalls do more than waste space; they cost developers a lot of money, costs that ultimately get passed on to tenants.

One study cited by Green estimated that parking costs add about $246 to monthly apartment rents in Seattle. Green continues:

 

It’s exciting to see development in the Rainier Valley take off. Seattle needs more affordable housing, and converting low-density (or vacant) land uses to medium- and high-density housing is a great way to meet that need. Likewise, taking advantage of major regional investments in transit is critical for ensuring affordability by freeing tenants from the burdensome cost of owning and maintaining car. Considering such realities, it boggles the mind that a major developer is planning to put more parking stalls than actual apartment units next to three frequent transit lines (Central Link Light Rail and King County Metro Transit Routes 8 and 36) in one of the poorest parts of Seattle. Not only is it a wasted opportunity, but it denies affordable housing in an area that desperately needs it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Architect’s Newspaper reports that Michigan is getting its first bus rapid transit route, Grand Rapid’s Silver Line. And Urban Milwaukee explains Wisconsin’s history with the “wheel tax” — a local tax on vehicle registration that’s being explored as a way to boost funds for road maintenance.