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Menlo Park El Camino Real Bike Lanes Delayed Again

This proposed expansion of El Camino Real to six lanes at Ravenswood Avenue was cancelled in early May, freeing up $1 million for other transportation projects in Menlo Park. Image: City of Menlo Park

This proposed expansion of El Camino Real to six lanes at Ravenswood Avenue was cancelled in early May, freeing up $1 million for other transportation projects. Image: City of Menlo Park

Menlo Park’s plans to fix El Camino Real’s safety hazards were postponed yet again by a city council that is now split on whether to go ahead with the installation of even a bike lane pilot project. Proponents continue to demand that the city take action to prevent injuries suffered by residents in traffic collisions.

“The goals of Menlo Park roadway infrastructure changes should be to serve more people and to make our roadways safer for everyone,” said Bicycle Commission Chair Cindy Welton at the May 3 City Council meeting. “Our status quo street design that we’ve inherited is not working. No one is served by our high collision rates.”

Citing concerns the city is making too many safety improvements too fast, and under continued pressure from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District to cancel the ambitious project altogether, the council voted to postpone it until after the city installs bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue later this year. A total of 112 car parking spaces will be removed for the Oak Grove bike lanes.

Read more…

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VTA Sales Tax With Massive Highway Expansion Program on November Ballot

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) hopes to use $350 million in new sales tax revenue to widen Highway 85 with new express lanes, free for buses and carpools but charge a toll to solo drivers. Image: VTA

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)’s half-cent “Envision Silicon Valley” transportation sales tax is now headed to the November 8 general election ballot in the county, after receiving the unanimous approval of the transit agency’s Board of Directors on June 2.

The new sales tax would fund a massive highway expansion program, spending $1.85 billion on expressway and highway projects over the next 30 years, along with $1.5 billion to extend BART to Santa Clara, $1.2 billion to repave streets, $1 billion for Caltrain upgrades, $500 million for VTA bus and light rail operations, and $250 million for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

“I love driving my car, and I think 97 percent of our population does as well,” said VTA Board and San Jose City Council member Johnny Khamis at the June 2 meeting. “More than 52 percent of this budget is dedicated to transit and less than 48 percent is dedicated to roads. In the meantime, 97 percent of population uses roads, whether you’re on the bus, or a car, whether it’s hybrid or electric, or on a bicycle, you need a road. We don’t float on air.”

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SPUR Talk: Dancing on the Grave of “Level of Service”

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Sarah Fine and Jeff Tumlin talked about the implications of the life and welcome death of “Level of Service.” Photo: Streetsblog.

Wednesday evening, SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, sponsored a talk entitled “Reconsidering Transportation to Create Better Urban Spaces” at their new downtown Oakland location. The talk focused on the history and damage done by the almost mindless adherence over the years to Level of Service (LOS) on urban spaces throughout California.

“We’re wearing black,” joked Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy with Nelson\Nygaard, “because we’re talking about the death of LOS.” LOS, for Streetsblog readers who might not be aware, is a way to measure traffic impacts of development projects that made its way into California environmental law. Although ostensibly designed to protect the environment, most livable streets advocates blame it for destroying urban spaces and actually making traffic and air pollution far worse.

Tumlin explained that LOS wasn’t originally part of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). “It was something the courts came up with,” he said. “They fixated on this single metric that measures the average seconds of delay that a car experiences—just in the peak fifteen minutes of the peak hour.”

In other words, if an intersection is all but unused, but analysis shows that a project would cause delay during the most congested fifteen minutes of the busiest hour of the day, the project would have to do something to mitigate that delay—typically, widen the nearby intersection. The result is well known to livable streets advocates—the state is now littered with streets that are wide and unwalkable. Meanwhile, thanks to induced demand, traffic has only gotten progressively worse. Read more…

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SPUR Talk: Connecting the Foot of Lake Merritt

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"The Living Room" of Oakland, Lake Merritt, is somewhat disconnected from Oakland's institutions. Photo: SPUR

“The Living Room” of Oakland, Lake Merritt, is somewhat disconnected from Oakland’s institutions. Photo: SPUR

Wednesday afternoon, at SPUR’s Oakland office, a crowd of some fifty people came to hear a panel discussion about knitting together the various attractions at the foot of Lake Merritt in Oakland.

At the southern end of Lake Merritt, Oakland’s street grid funnels around several big institutions there, including the Oakland Museum of California, Laney College, and the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. All are poorly connected to the lake. SPUR is promoting an initiative to connect the whole schmear through art and better pedestrian linkages.

The panel was composed of Lori Fogarty from the Oakland Museum of California, Kelley Kahn from the City of Oakland ‎Department of Economic and Workforce Development, and Walter Hood from the Hood Design Studio. Benjamin Grant, Urban Design Policy Director for SPUR, kicked off the discussion with the definition of “Place Making” from the National Endowment for the Arts:

In creative placemaking, public, private, not-for-profit, and community sectors partner to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.

From that definition, he gave several examples from other cities of how planners and policy makers can re-activate quiet and often forgotten areas of a city with art. He cited the Pearl Street Project in Philadelphia, the Waterfire Project in Providence, Rhode Island, the Project Row Houses in Houston, Texas, and the Wynwood Walls of Miami, Florida.

All of these are fascinating examples of urban revitalization and Streetsblog readers should check out their websites. But the Wynwood Walls project seemed a particularly good approach for the institutions of Lake Merritt. Miami did a global search and brought urban artists from all over the world to paint the walls of a warehouse district. The effect was to draw people in and create an enlivened and connected urban space. Of course, Lake Merritt is already the home of the Oakland Museum of California, with its walls and multiple levels acting as an urban tableau.
Read more…

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El Camino Real to Remain Deadly

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park’s City Council postponed a pilot project to replace parallel car parking with buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real, deciding that neighboring Palo Alto and Atherton should also agree on a common design for bike lanes before proceeding with the permitting process required by Caltrans. Despite strong community support to fix the urban highway’s safety hazards, the city remains content with today’s configuration, after 11 public meetings held since April 2014 on the topic.

In late 2014 Atherton approved a similar conversion of two of El Camino’s six lanes through the town into bike/ped paths physically separated from auto traffic. But Atherton’s Town Council put the critical next step to conduct a traffic study with Caltrans of the proposed six-to-four lane conversion on hold in February 2015–just four months after approving it. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District remains staunchly opposed to bike paths and bike lanes on El Camino Real, claiming they’ll threaten residents’ lives by slowing emergency vehicles.

El Camino Real remains the most hazardous street on the San Francisco Peninsula, killing five and severely injuring 20 people in car crashes each year between 2005 and 2014, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). A traffic safety report published by the San Mateo County Health System last month showed that 18 percent of all collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists occur on El Camino Real, despite the street making up only one percent of total roadway miles in the county. Read more…

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Oakland’s New Parking Protected Bike Lanes Are Challenging to Some

There is a lot going on in the street. Bicyclists now have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

There is a lot going on along Telegraph Avenue, and now bicyclists have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

With a road diet, new parking configuration, and protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue, Oakland is saying to its car drivers: slow down, take it easy. And to its bike riders: you’re welcome here and safe.

Not everyone is listening. The new parking-protected bike lanes have been in place for a week. In that time, it’s been easy to find cars parked in them, driving in them, and blocking bus and loading zones. It will take some time for people to get used to how the new street works, but it’s important to note that bad behavior is old hat on Telegraph Avenue.

Until a week ago, Telegraph had two travel lanes in each direction, plus parking at the curb, with some yellow-painted loading zones and red no-parking zones near crosswalks and at bus stops. During several afternoons of observing travel behavior prior to the changes, I saw a lot of illegal and dangerous maneuvers. At times the right-side travel lane was no more than a defacto double parking lane. Drivers would pull over, get out of their cars, and go into nearby businesses, spending five minutes or more inside. Other drivers, seeing those cars stopped, would pull up behind or in front of them and stop.

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yellow zones were frequently blocked by parked cars, and delivery vehicles double-parked. Meanwhile traffic, including bikes, buses, trucks, and cars, did not slow down, but flowed around obstacles by using the middle lanes. There were no turn lanes, so anyone turning left blocked the through-traffic if it couldn’t go around on the right.

Meanwhile pedestrians had to cross four lanes of moving traffic at intersections with simple crosswalks but no traffic lights. It was a long way, and drivers frequently did not stop. Crossers had to wait until traffic in both directions was clear, and there was no place to pause in the middle of the road.

In other words, it was a busy, chaotic scene that flowed because it had a rhythm to it, but involved a fair amount of bad behavior and danger. It sort of worked for through-traffic because people found a way around obstacles, but it put everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists, at risk.

As of last week, with the changes almost complete, there is only one lane of through-traffic in each direction. There’s also a painted median with turn lanes at many—though not all—of the cross streets, so left-turning cars can get out of the way of moving traffic. Cars no longer park at the curb—that is, they are no longer supposed to park at the curb. Instead a bike lane lines the curb, with a three-foot painted buffer to its left. Cars park left of that buffer, leaving a wide space for bikes to travel without having to mix with fast car traffic. Read more…

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Proposed East Bay Bike-Share Sites Announced

Proposed bike-share stations near downtown Oakland.

Proposed bike-share stations near downtown Oakland.

Note: This story has been corrected since it was originally posted. Thank you to sharp-eyed readers.

Bay Area Bike Share released a map of proposed sites for bike-share stations in the East Bay today. Proposed sites for expansion into San Francisco and San Jose have already been released, but these are the first ones for Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. The total number of bikes planned in the three cities is 1,300, with 800 of them in Oakland and 100 in Emeryville, to be rolled out by the end of 2017.

Phase 1, about 25 percent of the final East Bay expansion, will include 350 bikes at 34 stations.

Proposed bike-share stations near the UC Berkeley campus.

Proposed bike-share stations near the UC Berkeley campus.

A map of the initial proposed East Bay hubs, available here, shows them mostly sited along a spine between downtown Berkeley and downtown Oakland. Five stations surround the UC Berkeley campus’ south and west sides, with another located across from Berkeley High School and the downtown Y, and a seventh a little further south on Telegraph at Blake street.

From there, the corridor of proposed sites generally follows Telegraph Avenue, incorporating BART stations and outlying hubs along 40th Street into Emeryville and on the western side of Lake Merritt.

Amtrak stations are left out of the first phase, though, and so are the West Oakland and Rockridge BART stations.

It looks like a good start, if your destinations are all near Telegraph or in downtown Oakland. With luck, further expansions to connect these hubs to other destinations will come sooner than later.

Having bike-share available close to the new Telegraph Avenue parking-protected bike lanes will be a game-changer for that area and we hope it will create some urgency to finish the new facilities further towards Temescal.

What do you think? Are these in the right places? Bike-share needs a somewhat dense network of hubs to be useful, but it’s also necessary to put the hubs in places near where people want to go. Is this a good start?

Bay Area Bike Share is still accepting suggestions for station locations here. Comments can be made here, or at local public libraries, which will be presenting information about the expansion at the following times:

From April 26 through May 9, during regular open hours:

  • Berkeley Library

    • Central Branch, 2090 Kittredge St
    • Claremont Branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave
  • Emeryville
    • Town Hall, 1333 Park Ave (through May 11)
  • Oakland Library

    • Main Branch, 125 14th St
    • Asian Branch, 388 9th St

Also on May 3 from 4 to 6 pm, at the Temescal Branch Library, 5205 Telegraph in Oakland.

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Pedestrian Safety Still Starved for Funding in San Mateo County

Funds for over two miles of new bike lanes on California Drive in Burlingame were cut by the SMCTA at the final approval of this year's $4.9 million for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. Image: City of Burlingame

Funds for over two miles of new bike lanes on California Drive in Burlingame were cut by the SMCTA upon the final approval of this year’s $4.9 million for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. Image: City of Burlingame

On March 3, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) awarded $4.9 million to ten pedestrian and bicycle safety projects – $1 million less than the agency awarded two years ago. Agency staff had revised up the amount of funding for this year’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program to $5.7 million in February, but explained in the Board’s March 3 report [PDF] that they had “corrected an error in calculation of the prior estimate.”

As a result, a project to install two miles of standard bike lanes on California Drive connecting the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station with Broadway Avenue in northern Burlingame was cut from the SMCTA’s draft funding list [PDF]. Money for crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands, yield lines, curb ramps, and sharrows on streets leading to Sunshine Gardens Elementary School and El Camino High School in South San Francisco was also reduced from $504,000 to $461,464, leaving the city to make up the difference.

Cities submitted applications for twenty safety projects totaling $9.3 million. SMCTA chose ten of those to split the $4.9 million in available funds, in awards ranging from $200,000 to $1 million.

“We’re thrilled that a number of worthy and much-needed bike and pedestrian improvements will move forward due to Measure A funding,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Policy Manager Emma Shlaes. “However, the number of applications received and amount of projects that did not receive funding once again underscores the need for increased funding for bike and pedestrian projects in San Mateo County.”

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Via Streetsblog California
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An Early Look at Local Transportation Sales Tax Measures in CA

 

Will local sales tax measures fund business as usual or innovative livable streets?

Will local sales tax measures fund business as usual or innovative livable streets?

Three California counties are considering transportation sales tax initiatives for the upcoming November ballot. Los Angeles Metro just announced its proposed expenditure plan today; Contra Costa is working on a draft proposal, and Santa Clara county has developed a scoresheet to help prioritize potential projects according to agreed-upon goals. Sacramento, Stanislaus, and San Francisco have made some noises about possible sales tax measures as well.

The question is, are these long-term measures looking far enough into the future, or are they basing their plans on business as usual?

More than half of the money spent on transportation now comes from sales taxes. That’s because of declining gas tax revenues and the lack of political will to raise them. And sales tax initiatives, like any tax measure, need approval by at least two-thirds of voters to pass. Alameda County’s first try at Measure BB failed, and LA County’s last bid to pass Measure R2 missed by a small number of votes. And the need for wide voter appeal also means that sales tax measures have to please many different constituencies. This can lead to grab-bags of projects that are thrown in purely for voter appeal, rather then a well-thought out program that reflects long-range plans or larger regional or statewide goals.

All of the proposed ballot measures so far are in very early draft form, and discussions continue. LA Metro just released its proposed expenditure plan for Measure R2.1 today; a final draft of the Contra Costa County’s Measure J reauthorization is due next week or so. Santa Clara county’s draft plan is due some time in April. Meanwhile, all three will need to be finalized and approved by the lead agencies by June so they can go on the November ballot.

After the jump is a quick recap of what we know about how these plans are shaping up. It’s not just a question of how the funding pies are divvied up, but also what kinds of projects are prioritized. Read more…

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Berkeley Advocates Win Agreement for Long-Delayed Bike Lanes

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A Berkeley City Council meeting was full of supporters for bike lanes on Fulton Street. Image: Dave Campbell/Bike East Bay

At a packed meeting last night, the Berkeley City Council approved a project to bring a long-delayed bike lane to Fulton Street, the site of a recent collision that seriously injured a cyclist.

The section of road where the crash occurred is where a bike lane disappears, forcing bicyclists to merge into traffic. The city’s bike plan has long included bike lanes there, but they haven’t been high on the city’s list of priorities. The city hadn’t taken action in the past in part because putting in the two-block-long lane would require a traffic impact study.

But California is in the process of updating requirements under environmental law that will allow cities to skip off-target traffic impact studies for projects like bike lanes. San Francisco went ahead and adopted the new rules already, but Berkeley has not.

Mike Wilson, whose wife Megan Schwarzman was the cyclist hit by a car in February, told the council, “The origins of this collision lie in choices made by traffic planning managers in the design of this busy intersection, which terminates a bike lane and suddenly puts cyclists in the midst of fast-moving traffic, greatly increasing the probability of a serious collision.”

“I’m proud of our bike boulevards and our early investments in infrastructure to support cycling as a viable means of transportation,” he said. “But we’ve fallen way behind. Let’s aim for zero collisions, rather than holding our collective breath for the next collision.”

The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved the bike lane and called for it to be completed by Bike to Work Day on May 12. This is a huge victory for advocates and bike-riding residents, who have been pushing to extend the bike lane there since before the street was repaved last year.  A concerted campaign for a protected bike lane gained momentum—and the council’s attention—after last month’s crash.

Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay says that the city’s current plan to do a “very focused traffic study” should be a model for future planning.

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