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Supe Kim, SFMTA Get Tips From Copenhagen on Creating a Bikeable City

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Supervisor Jane Kim (left) rides in Copenhagen with SFMTA officials. Photo: People for Bikes

Supervisor Jane Kim and SFMTA officials took a trip last month to learn about best practices from two leading bike-friendly cities: Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden.

“I’d assumed that [Copenhagen] always had a bike culture,” Kim told Streetsblog. “I was surprised to learn that they also had a cars-first culture through the 60s and 90s. They’ve actually spent the last 25 years working to shift that.”

Kim joined a delegation including SFMTA Chief of Staff Alicia John-Baptiste, Communications Director Candace Sue, Livable Streets planner Mike Sallaberry, and board member Gwyneth Borden. The trip was organized by the national advocacy group People For Bikes.

“Not only are senior citizens getting around in a healthier way,” noted Kim, “they feel safe doing it. And that’s exciting.”

The delegation met with Copenhagen planning officials and a former mayor to learn about how the city made bicycling the most convenient way to get around.

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Today: VTA Board Could Enshrine Road Expansions in Sales Tax Measure

Santa Clara County’s proposed 20-year sales tax could go toward making dangerous mega-wide roads like the Lawrence Expressway even wider. Photo: Santa Clara County

The Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors today could enshrine road widenings in its 20-year transportation sales tax, proposed for the ballot in Santa Clara County in November 2016.

The agenda for today’s 5:30 p.m. board meeting includes approval of the sales tax measure language, which includes goals [PDF] to “provide congestion relief” and “relieve roadway, highway, and expressway bottle necks and minimize traffic in residential neighborhoods.”

“In the past this goal was met with roadway widening,” wrote Gladwyn d’Souza, transportation committee chair for the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter, in a letter [PDF] to the VTA board stating the organization’s concerns about the language. “Subsequent analysis has shown that the relief is temporary due to induced driving.”

The sales tax proposal, called Envision Silicon Valley, would fund at least two decades of transportation infrastructure projects in the South Bay, including the BART extension to San Jose, a network of bus rapid transit lines, a county-wide trail network, and safety improvements for walking and bicycling.

But widening Santa Clara County’s already-dangerous expressways to “relieve bottle necks,” even as traffic declines, would work against San Jose’s goals to reduce driving and end traffic fatalities, as called for in San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan and Vision Zero plan. Ninety-three percent of traffic fatalities occurred on major city streets and county expressways last year.

“It’s a fact that our transportation systems have been designed in the past to move cars efficiently,” SJ Transportation Director Hans Larsen told the City Council when it approved the Vision Zero plan on May 12. “This is a change in paradigm to say that safety is the top priority.”

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It’s Coming: MTC Approves 10-Fold Expansion of Bay Area Bike Share

Bay_Area_Bike_Share_Launch_in_San_Jose

San Jose city officials test riding Bay Area Bike Share at the system’s launch in August 2013. Photo: Richard Masoner

On Wednesday morning the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved contract terms with Motivate International to expand the Bay Area Bike Share system from 700 bikes to more than 7,000 bikes by November 2017. When the expansion wraps up, the Bay Area’s system is expected to be the second-largest in North America, after Citi Bike in New York City.

In addition to massively expanding the bike-share networks in SF and San Jose, the plan will bring bike-share to the East Bay for the first time, with stations in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville.

San Francisco will receive the lion’s share of new bikes: 4,500. San Jose will get 1,000 bikes, and 1,400 bikes will go to the East Bay cities.

The mid-Peninsula cities of Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Redwood City, which had appeared to be in jeopardy of losing their small allocation of stations set up under the initial Bay Area Bike Share pilot program, will together end up with 300 bikes if they all choose to remain part of the system under less favorable contract terms.

“This is incredibly exciting, that we’re going to extend to the East Bay and expand in San Jose,” said MTC Commissioner and SF Supervisor Scott Wiener at the board meeting. “In San Francisco, going from 350 to 4,500 bikes — we’re going to have a true city-wide bike share network.”

“We hope that by tying the program with successful outreach and education programs, and continuing to build a network of safe and comfortable bikeways, we will see many more riders, and especially new riders,” said Bike East Bay Project Manager Cynthia Armour.

Motivate initially proposed a 7,000-bike system that it would construct and operate using private funds entirely. The company agreed to add 155 bikes in the three Peninsula cities if the cities opt in to the program by contributing their own funds.

In addition, MTC staff recommended allocating $4.5 million in public funds to “emerging communities” to pay for improving their bike infrastructure and making them more bike-share ready. These funds would be awarded via a competitive grant program.

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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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Design of High-Speed Trains Threatens to Diminish Caltrain Capacity

When High Speed Rail begins operating in 2029, passengers will access Caltrain via the upper set of doors (blue) at stations shared with high speed trains, and via the lower set of doors (yellow) at all other stations. Image: Clem Tillier

When High Speed Rail begins operating in 2029, passengers will access Caltrain via the upper set of doors (yellow) at stations shared with high speed trains, and via the lower set of doors (blue) at all other stations. Image: Clem Tillier

The insistence of California High Speed Rail officials on running trains with floors 50 inches above the tracks threatens to reduce the capacity of Caltrain and hamper the benefits of level boarding for the commuter rail agency.

Last Tuesday, Caltrain officials gave an update on the electric trains the agency plans to purchase next year, which will begin operating in 2021 [PDF]. To enable level boarding for Caltrain passengers before and after CAHSR raises platforms to be compatible with its 50-inch floor trains, the new design has two sets of doors at different heights. This way, both Caltrain and high-speed trains will have level boarding at every station.

High Speed Rail Authority officials insist on the high-speed train industry standard floor height of 50 inches above the tracks. Building trains compatible with this specification, however, will diminish both the speed of Caltrain service and its capacity, though the scale of these effects has yet to be determined.

In order to achieve level boarding fully compatible with High Speed Rail, Caltrain will need to allow passengers to board at the 50-inch height. But a lower 25-inch floor height above the tracks is needed for the main section of each car in order for the trains to have both a lower and upper level, like today’s newer Bombardier models, without being too tall to operate.

This will require passengers to navigate sets of internal stairs on the lower level. This will increase the length of time people spend boarding and alighting, especially people carrying bicycles or luggage. Mechanical lifts will also be needed for passengers in wheelchairs to get between the 25-inch and 50-inch levels. The overall effect will be to lengthen the amount of time trains spend at each station (the “dwell time”) compared to trains with a single lower-level floor height.

That delay hasn’t yet been estimated by either agency, but it will affect Caltrain’s schedules. “The reason to go to level boarding for Caltrain is dwell time,” said Friends of Caltrain Director Adina Levin. “So the question of how much the internal stairs extend dwell time is a very important question about the benefits of level boarding.”

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Via Streetsblog California
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What Oakland Mayor’s Proposal for a Department of Transportation Means

Oakland

For the city of Oakland, the creation of a Department of Transportation is a first step towards formulating a cohesive transportation policy. Photo: Telegraph Avenue, looking towards downtown Oakland. Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

This week, Streetsblog California takes a look at changes occurring in Oakland, California, related to the way the city plans and implements transportation projects.

Today, Ruth Miller, a local planner, former Streetsblog contributor, and a member of Transport Oakland, writes about what the formation of a Department of Transportation will mean for Oakland. Later this week look for Streetsblog’s interview with Matt Nichols, the city’s newly hired Director of Transportation Policy.

Like a surprising number of other cities, despite its size, Oakland, California, currently does not have a Department of Transportation. Decisions about transportation projects from signal timing, to paving, to designing and applying for grants to fund a bike and pedestrian bridge over the estuary leading to Lake Merritt, have been made within either the Planning Department or the Department of Public Works — or both.

But if Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, has her way, this will change soon. Her proposed 2015-17 budget, currently under discussion, includes within it a reorganization of city departments to create one specifically for overseeing transportation policy and decisions — a Department of Transportation. Advocates for better transportation choices in Oakland, including the advocacy group Transport Oakland, believe that creating a DOT could help the city better plan for and manage its transportation.

DOTs often publish mission statements.

For example, the Los Angeles DOT “leads transportation planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations in the City of Los Angeles.” The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is equivalent to a DOT, works “to plan, build, operate, regulate, and maintain the transportation network” [PDF]. Essentially, these and most other city DOTs lead transportation projects from policy through planning, implementation, and maintenance. Because they govern the full life cycle of transportation projects, DOTs have the ability, and thus a certain obligation, to work strategically.

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Can LA Make “Great Streets” If the Mayor Won’t Stand Up for Good Design?

This plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge was preferred by neighborhood residents. But the city capitulated to a more status quo design. Photo: KCET via Los Angeles Walks

Residents preferred this plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge across the Los Angeles River, with bike lanes, sidewalks, and a road diet, but appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti opted for more space for traffic instead. Image via Los Angeles Walks

Los Angeles, with its expanding transit network, is supposed to be in the process of shedding its cocoon of car-centricity and emerging, in the words of a recent Fast Company headline, as America’s “next great walkable city.” The city’s streets, however, didn’t change a whole lot under former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. When Eric Garcetti was elected mayor in 2013, advocates thought he could provide the leadership to finally prioritize walking, biking, and transit on LA’s streets.

And Garcetti got off to a great start. He chose Seleta Reynolds, a standout from the San Francisco MTA’s Livable Streets program, to lead LADOT. The city retained groundbreaking former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to help shape its Great Streets strategic plan. The city is expected to adopt a Vision Zero policy in just a few weeks.

Garcetti himself has said, “As city leaders, we need the backbone to make the bold changes necessary to build great streets.” But the mayor’s failure to go to bat for a pedestrian-friendly redesign of the critical Glendale-Hyperion Bridge calls into question the strength of his commitment to changing streets — and with it, Los Angeles’s potential to become a walkable, bikeable, transit-rich city.

Last week, the city’s Public Works Board, whose members are all appointed by the mayor, rejected the bridge design that neighborhood advocates favor. That design, reported Streetsblog LA, would have repurposed one motor vehicle lane to create safe access for walking and biking on both sides of the bridge. The mayoral appointees, bowing to pressure from City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge, went a different route, voting for a design that preserves all the car lanes while removing an existing sidewalk from one side of the bridge.

About 1,200 people had signed a petition supporting the proposal with bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, as had dozens of businesses, nearby schools and the neighborhood councils in two of the three surrounding districts. Traffic studies showed that reducing the road to three lanes wouldn’t affect car congestion significantly. But the Public Works Board voted for a proposal that maintains four traffic lanes and leaves pedestrians with just one sidewalk — and a long, uncomfortable detour.

Advocates did not expect a decision so soon. LaBonge is at the end of his tenure in the council, and the leading candidates vying for his seat favor the more pedestrian- and bike-friendly design. With elections this week, the local politics were guaranteed to shift in favor of the better design in a matter of days. Instead, Garcetti’s appointees rushed through a decision the week before the election.

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The Philadelphia Bike Story

Of U.S. cities with more than a million residents, the one where people bike the most is Philadelphia. In 2012, the U.S. Census estimated Philadelphia’s bicycle commute rate at 2.3 percent [PDF], higher than Chicago (1.6 percent) and New York (1.0 percent).

It’s just about always been that way. That comes as a surprise to many people, since Philadelphia doesn’t have a lot of bike infrastructure. But there are other street design and urban design factors at work, many due to the fact that Philadelphia is an old city.

For one, the city has a lot of narrow streets. That makes it tougher to add bike lanes, but it also means motorists tend to travel at speeds that don’t intimidate people on bikes. On average, people also live closer to their jobs than in most other places, making bike commuting a better option. Stop signs are more prevalent than signals, and where there are traffic lights, the sequencing is short, so people on bikes don’t have to wait long at intersections. In the end, most people bike because it is the fastest, most convenient option.

Thanks to Alex Doty, executive director of the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and all the other bicyclists I got to speak with. They’ll tell you plenty more reasons why biking is good there, and how it could be better.

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San Jose to Adopt Vision Zero But No Target Date to End Traffic Deaths

Vision Zero San Jose As Soon As Possible Logo

San Jose’s Vision Zero plan doesn’t set a target date to eliminate traffic fatalities, only declaring a goal of “ASAP” — as soon as possible. Image: City of San Jose

The San Jose City Council is expected to adopt a Vision Zero plan [PDF] tomorrow, making it the third major city in the Bay Area and the tenth in the nation to commit to ending traffic deaths. But San Jose isn’t setting a timeline to achieve this goal.

“For years, San Jose created a roadway system exclusively for cars — not for people on bikes, pedestrians, or transit,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. “Vision Zero is San Jose’s commitment to prioritize street safety and ensure all road users – whether you walk, bike, drive, or ride transit – are safe.”

Unlike San Francisco and New York City, which adopted ten-years goals, San Jose’s version of Vision Zero doesn’t include a target date. Instead the plan calls for an end to traffic fatalities “ASAP”:

Vision Zero San Jose purposely has avoided setting a particular timeline as a practical matter and has instead chosen to pursue Vision Zero goals, as soon as possible (ASAP). The history of change particularly with regards to state and federal policy makes 10-years seem “unrealistic.” However, the urgency for safe streets makes a 10-year goal seem “too slow.” For now, our goal is to continue to make progress with advocacy, action and results, ASAP!

“While we understand concerns that a 10-year timeline may be too ambitious,” said California Walks Planning and Policy Manager Jaime Fearer, “we need to commit to a date for our goal, even if it is 15 or 20 years.”

Elijah Alvitre, 3, was killed in a crosswalk at Vine and Oak streets. The driver who struck him faced no legal penalties. Photo: Legacy.com

Dozens of supporters, including friends and relatives of people killed by reckless drivers, packed a committee meeting last week to plead for an end to the city’s traffic violence.

“Anything that can be done to improve safety should not only be considered but embraced, to help prevent this from happening to anyone else,” said Jenny Alvitre, whose 3-year-old grandson Elijah was killed in November 2013 by the driver of a pickup truck. The driver was not cited or charged for failing to yield to the 13-year-old girl pushing Elijah’s stroller in a crosswalk, hitting both of them, as well as a six-year-old girl holding the older girl’s hand.

Just hours later, 14-year-old Bianca Valdez was killed by a driver while walking across White Road near Hyland Avenue in east San Jose. A week later, 17-year-old Anthony Garcia was killed by an SUV driver while riding his bicycle on Branham Lane in south San Jose.

The death toll on San Jose’s dangerously-designed streets has risen in recent years, and a growing proportion of victims are killed by drivers while walking and biking. In 2013, 44 people were killed on San Jose streets, and 42 in 2014. In both years, 21 of the victims were killed while walking. Most fatal crash victims in SJ are now people walking or biking. That wasn’t the case between 2008 and 2012, when an average of 31 people were killed each year, 46 percent of whom were pedestrians or cyclists.

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