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Can VTA’s Bus Route Changes Keep Up With Suburban Office Park Growth?

Sunnyvale’s Moffett Park office park, where office development is attracting thousands of new commuters while transit service remains unchanged. Image: Jay Paul Company

Office development is booming in Santa Clara County. As the number of jobs increases, will the Valley Transportation Authority ramp up bus service to keep pace, or will streets become overrun with traffic?

VTA hosted a public meeting last week to present a set of proposed changes to its bus service that the agency calls its North Central County Bus Improvement Plan, designed to adapt to commuting patterns created by the recent growth of large office parks in areas that lack transit. About 70 people, mostly seniors and residents of Sunnyvale, attended the meeting at Sunnyvale’s City Hall.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in land use in these four cities,” said VTA Transportation Planner Adam Burger, who pointed to major office developments that are expected to bring several thousand more commuters through the region in coming years. Campuses are growing for Google and Intuit in Mountain View, Apple in Cupertino, Moffett Towers and LinkedIn in Sunnyvale, and the Levi’s Stadium area in Santa Clara.

“All these land use changes create new travel demand,” said Burger. “So we have to adapt our bus system to match the new travel patterns that people use.” VTA aims to provide major office developments with better transit and connect them to the bus rapid transit routes coming to El Camino Real in 2018 and Stevens Creek Boulevard in 2019.

But VTA only proposes improvements on a single north-south route that would help a significant number of passengers transfer to and from buses on the BRT routes. A new Bus 354 would supplement the existing Bus 54 with limited-stop service along a similar route on Mathilda and Hollenbeck Avenues between the Lockheed Martin Transit Center in Moffett Park and De Anza Community College in Cupertino. Despite large and growing concentrations of jobs in Moffett Park, along Mathilda Avenue, and in downtown Sunnyvale, Bus 54 still only runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 45 minutes on weekends.

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Costly New Parking Garages Still Gobbling Up Land at BART Stations

Oakland and BART officials cut the ribbon Monday on a new parking garage for a “transit village” being built at MacArthur Station. Photo: BRIDGE Housing/Twitter

BART continues to encourage the construction of multi-story parking garages at its stations, despite the exorbitant costs and lost potential for valuable land that could be put to better use.

On Monday, Oakland and BART officials held a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony to tout the opening of a 481-space parking structure at MacArthur BART station. The structure was built at a cost of $15,371,000, or about $32,000 per space (based on a 2012 figure), and is part of a “transit village” housing and retail development. But like most park-and-ride fortresses, it will mostly sit empty when commuters aren’t using it to store cars, which is most of the time.

The only media coverage of the MacArthur press conference was a San Jose Mercury News photo slideshow showing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, two BART board members, an Oakland council member, and a developer rep cutting the ribbon, before heading up to the empty rooftop to take in the views.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich, who sits on the BART board, said he’s “appalled that we wasted tens of millions of dollars building a commuter garage at an urban station like MacArthur.”

“Ridership kept growing at that station despite the reduction in parking during construction, which demonstrates that we could have done perfectly well without it,” he said. “Many of our highest-ridership stations — Balboa Park, Berkeley, 19th, 16th, 24th, Glen Park — have little or no commuter parking. At stations like MacArthur, Ashby, West Oakland, and Lake Merritt, we should be phasing out parking as we build transit villages, and enhance walking, cycling, and local transit access instead of building structured parking.”

Only 10 percent of people using MacArthur station drive there, the Mercury News reported in 2011, and five shuttles operate in the station area.

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Tomorrow: Oakland Drops Protected Bike Lanes on Telegraph Avenue

Oakland’s recommended plan for Telegraph Avenue includes no bike lanes near the freeway ramps at 51st Street. Image: City of Oakland

Oakland has dropped protected bike lanes from its draft proposals to redesign Telegraph Avenue, and the buffered bike lanes that are included would disappear at the most dangerous section, throwing people on bikes into mixed traffic with motor vehicles. The city will hold two open houses this week where the public can weigh in on the draft plan [PDF], on Thursday evening and Saturday morning.

“New bikeways need to be ‘continuous’ and not force you to continually mix with cars and trucks that travel up to 35-40 mph,” wrote Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay in a blog post. “Buffered bike lanes improve the experience and make it safer for people who currently bicycle and want to ride on Telegraph Avenue, but buffered bike lanes between parked cars and moving cars do not attract new people to bicycling or encourage others to replace one or two car trips a week with a bicycle trip.”

Bike East Bay is urging people to attend the workshops and tell planners they want continuous protected bike lanes along Telegraph. They are also calling on the city to create a pilot project for protected bike lanes using temporary paint and planters materials, similar to the block-long demonstration the organization created on Bike to Work Day.

When Oakland city planners held initial workshops on Telegraph “Complete Streets” project in the spring, a few local business owners complained about losing on-street parking spots, but much of the public strongly supported a much calmer, safer street for walking and biking.

city survey of people who use Telegraph found that 60 percent wanted protected bike lanes on the street, including 53 percent of “frequent drivers.” The city initially included parking-protected bike lanes as an option for most of Telegraph, but that option is apparently being abandoned.

The latest plans [PDF] include improvements to pedestrian crossings, raised medians, bike boxes, and bus stops configured so the bike lane runs between a boarding island and the sidewalk. But the bike lanes disappear completely where they’re needed most, near the intersection at 51st Street where drivers heading to and from Highway 24 ramps cuts through the area.

At most intersections, like Telegraph and MacArthur seen here, bike lanes become protected briefly at bus stops but then throw riders between parked cars and moving cars. Image: City of Oakland

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NYC’s Tom Maguire Expected to Lead at the SFMTA, if Mayor Lee Lets Him

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Ever since we broke the news that New York City’s Tom Maguire would be hired as the new director of the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division, we’ve heard only positive reactions. If nothing else, there’s a lot of hype building for this promising veteran of the livable streets renaissance seen under Janette Sadik-Khan‘s NYC Department of Transportation. On the other hand, Sadik-Khan and her executive staff had the full support of former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The SFMTA did its part for the hype with a press release that was rife with praise from officials in both SF and NYC. Here’s JSK herself:

From rolling out the fastest bus routes in New York City to devising groundbreaking parking policies, Tom Maguire worked on some of the most innovative changes to New York City streets over the last eight years. But the Big Apple’s loss is the Bay Area’s gain. With his one-of-a-kind mix of creative policy skills, technical expertise and political savvy, there’s no one better equipped to deliver world-class streets and chart San Francisco on a course to safer, more sustainable future.

Polly Trottenberg, Sadik-Khan’s successor at NYC DOT, said Maguire is “a remarkable leader [who] oversaw some of NYC DOT’s major initiatives from PlaNYC and post-Sandy resiliency to the Select Bus Service partnership and Freight Mobility. We will miss his vision and energy in New York.”

“The Giants moving to San Francisco in the late 50s had a big impact in the baseball world, and Tom Maguire becoming SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director is a big win for San Francisco in the transportation field,” she added.

While SF advocates don’t have experience with Maguire, they say his reputation holds a lot of promise, but that his ability to help the SFMTA make strides in advancing sustainable streets will depend on backing from Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

“The importance of this position cannot be emphasized enough,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “Mr. Maguire will need to bring a combination of high-level vision, and the ability to roll-up-his-sleeves, to ensure that projects get delivered in a timely way. And it’s critical that he has the support of MTA Chief Ed Reiskin. There’s never been a more opportune time for strong leadership to transform the SFMTA and help San Francisco’s transportation systems live up to their potential.”

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Mountain View Council Candidates Split on Building Housing Near Google

All nine Mountain View City Council candidates answered questions on housing and transportation issues at a community forum held September 2. Photo: Andrew Boone

A crowded field of nine candidates campaigning for three available seats on Mountain View’s City Council aired their disagreements at a community forum on Tuesday evening about whether new housing within the sprawling North Bayshore office park would be a practical solution to traffic congestion and rapidly rising rents.

Candidates Lenny Siegel, Pat Showalter, Jim Neal, Gary Unangst and Ken Rosenberg expressed support for a proposal put forth by city planners in 2011 to allow housing units to be included in future development projects along Shoreline Boulevard, as a way to reduce the need for so many North Bayshore employees to drive to work. Candidates Margaret Capriles, Lisa Matichak, Mercedes Salem, and Ellen Kamei disagreed, stating that North Bayshore lacks sufficient transit and other services that support residential neighborhoods.

The booming office district, located between Highway 101 and the Bay at Mountain View’s northern end is home to Google, LinkedIn, Intuit, and a number of smaller tech companies, bringing over 17,000 workers — one-fourth of all jobs in Mountain View — every weekday. The city’s 2012 General Plan allows an additional 3.4 million square feet of commercial development in North Bayshore, which would bring an estimated 10,500 additional weekday commuters to the area if built.

The North Bayshore Precise Plan calls for concentrating development along Shoreline Boulevard, and investing in improved transit connections to downtown Mountain View. Image: City of Mountain View

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Streetsblog NYC 15 Comments

New Report Out of NYC: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone

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Injuries are down across the board on protected bike lane segments with at least three years of post-implementation crash data. The total number of injuries for cyclists dropped slightly even as the volume of cyclists on these streets increased, leading to big drops in what DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Chart: NYC DOT

In sync with Bicycling Magazine naming New York America’s best biking city, the NYC Department of Transportation released a report this week full of stats on the safety impact of protected bike lanes. It’s the most robust data the city has released about this type of street design, and the results prove that protected bike lanes make streets safer not just for cyclists, but pedestrians and drivers as well.

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had six years of before-and-after data for the study. Image: DOT

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had at least three years of post-implementation data and were part of this analysis. Image: DOT

For this analysis [PDF], DOT looked at protected bike lanes in Manhattan with at least three years of post-implementation crash data: segments of Broadway and First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Columbus Avenues. These streets saw big growth in cycling and major improvements in cyclist safety. The safety benefits extended to all road users, with total traffic injuries dropping 20 percent and pedestrian injuries down 22 percent.

The biggest improvement on these streets is in the diminished likelihood that a cyclist will suffer an injury — a metric DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Because injuries tended to fall or hold steady while cycling increased, most of the streets saw cyclist risk drop by more than a third. On Broadway from 59th Street to 47th Street, for example, bike volumes jumped 108 percent while crashes with injuries fell 18 percent.

The best results were on Ninth Avenue between 23rd and 16th Streets, where cyclists were 65 percent less likely to be hurt after the protected bike lane was installed. Only one of eight segments, Broadway between 23rd and 18th Streets, saw an increase in cyclist risk.

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San Jose Merchants Object to Parking Removal for Bike Lanes on Park Ave

San Jose DOT Deputy Director Paul Smith explains a proposal for buffered bike lanes on Park Avenue. Some merchants have opposed the removal of 168 car parking spaces to make the bike lanes safer and more comfortable. Photo: Andrew Boone

About 150 residents attended a community meeting last Wednesday hosted by the San Jose Department of Transportation in the Willow Glen neighborhood to introduce plans for new bike lanes and sharrows on six streets west of downtown. The projects would complement four less extensive bikeway projects on streets east of downtown which were presented on August 6.

While some merchants opposed the removal of car parking to make the bike lanes safer, SJDOT officials say the improvements are critical to providing a more complete bicycle network in central San Jose, where the city is most dense.

“This circle shows a four-mile radius from the center of downtown San Jose,” explained SJDOT Deputy Director Paul Smith, pointing to a map showing existing and planned bikeways. “It’s about one-quarter of the land area of the city but contains 47 percent of the population and 57 percent of all the jobs in San Jose.”

SJDOT is aiming to create a high-quality east-west route across the city “to support higher numbers of bicyclists of various skill levels” running through downtown as the backbone of its network of “Primary Bikeways.” New conventional and buffered bike lanes, proposed on a 2.8-mile stretch of Park Avenue from the Santa Clara city limit near Newhall Street to Market Street, would connect to the green and buffered bike lanes installed last year on San Fernando Street from the Diridon Caltrain Station to 10th Street.

A total of three miles of new bike lanes are also planned for Lincoln Avenue, Stockton Avenue, and Julian Street, while a route of sharrows would extend 1.5 miles along Scott Street and Auzerais Avenue from MacArthur Avenue (near the 880/280 interchange) to the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

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East Palo Alto’s Highway 101 Ped/Bike Bridge Almost Fully Funded

Walking across Highway 101 in East Palo Alto requires crossing wide six-lane intersections, and using a narrow sidewalk on University Avenue’s north side (far left). Photo: Andrew Boone

East Palo Alto’s decades-long dream to reconnect its east and west sides via a pedestrian/bicycle bridge has taken a huge leap forward. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) approved the city’s $8.6 million application to construct a 12-foot wide bridge over Highway 101 between Newell Road and Clarke Avenue, following East Palo Alto’s City Council’s June allocation of $600,000 for environmental review and design.

The bridge is the second-most expensive project recommended for Caltrans funding statewide, out of 145 ped/bike projects that will receive $221 million over the next two years from the state’s new consolidated Active Transportation Program. (The top-dollar project is $10.9 million for environmental studies and land acquisition for the Coachella Valley Link, a 50-mile long “mostly continuous” multi-use path in Riverside County.)

University Avenue, which runs roughly north-south across the center of East Palo Alto, crosses Highway 101 and continues as Palm Drive through downtown Palo Alto and Stanford University. University Avenue’s 1950′s-era, auto-centric highway interchange design, complete with high-speed loop ramps and six-lane intersections on both sides, practically ensures danger for pedestrians and bicyclists. Anyone on foot or bike must cram into one narrow sidewalk, on the north side of the bridge over Highway 101, since no sidewalk was ever built on the bridge’s south side, and no bike lanes have never been striped within the street.

East Palo Alto’s Woodland neighborhood (foreground) and major shopping center and schools (background) are divided by Highway 101. The curving black line in the center shows the bridge’s planned alignment. Image: Alta Planning + Design

The East Palo Alto Highway 101 Ped/Bike Overcrossing, to use its official name, will provide a safe alternative one third of a mile to the southeast, and shorten the distance between the densely populated Woodland neighborhood west of the highway and the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center on the east. Shopping trips to Mi Pueblo, the city’s only grocery store, will be faster for many residents by bicycle or even on foot than in a car, since drivers will still have to pass through a total of seven heavily trafficked signals to make the one-mile trip.

Several schools located on nearby Clarke Avenue will suddenly become accessible on foot or by bike for the many children living west of the highway. And Newell Road, running due south from the shopping center and the future ped/bike bridge, connects directly to Palo Alto’s high-quality network of bike lanes and bicycle boulevards.

The bridge “will enhance public safety, promote walking and bicycling, and reduce vehicular trips on University Avenue and other congested roadways,” stated the introduction to the bridge project’s $300,000 feasibility study, completed last year by Alta Planning + Design. “The project will also improve community health by providing recreational opportunities and linkages to the Bay Trail and City of Palo Alto.”

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Removing Center Lines Reduced Speeding on London Streets

Traffic speeds slowed after London resurfaced three streets and didn’t restore center lines, even though resurfacing alone was shown to increase average speeds. Graphic: Transport for London

On some streets, getting drivers to stop speeding might be as easy as eliminating a few stripes. That’s the finding from a new study from Transport for London [PDF].

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell about 7 miles per hour after centerlines were removed. Image: Transport for London

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell after center lines were removed. Photos: Transport for London

TfL recently examined the effect of eliminating center lines on three London streets. The agency found it slowed average driving speeds between 5 and 9 miles per hour, after taking into account the effect of resurfacing. (All three streets were also repaved, which has been shown to increase driving speeds.)

The experiment was performed last year on three 30 mph roads that had just been resurfaced, where center lines were not repainted. A fourth street was resurfaced and had its center lines painted back to serve as a control.

Researchers found that drivers slowed down on all the three streets without center lines. On Seven Sisters Road, for example, after the resurfacing, northbound speeds dropped 2.5 mph and southbound speeds fell 4.1 mph.

Those changes appear to understate the impact of removing the center lines. When TfL observed traffic on the control street, motorist speeds had increased an average of 4.5 mph. Apparently, the smoother road surface encouraged drivers to pick up the speed, making the reductions on the three other streets more impressive.

Researchers suggested that the uncertainty caused by the removal of center lines makes drivers more cautious:

A theory is that centre lines and hatching can provide a psychological sense of confidence to drivers that no vehicles will encroach on ‘their’ side of the road. There can also be a tendency for some drivers to position their vehicles close to a white line regardless of the traffic conditions, believing it is their ‘right’ to be in this position. Centre line removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds.

When it comes to center lines, TfL notes, “most traffic engineers prescribe them by default without questioning the necessity.” London appears to be reevaluating this assumption after a 2009 directive from Mayor Boris Johnson to eliminate as much clutter from the roadways as possible.

Hat tip Jeff Speck.

Streetsblog NYC 16 Comments

Where Cyclists Have the Power to Ride Straight Past Turning Motorists

Hey, so it turns out the all-powerful @BicycleLobby didn’t actually scale the Brooklyn Bridge and plant white American flags at the top. That was two all-powerful German artists.

But courtesy of Clarence Eckerson Jr., here’s some footage of raw bicyclist power in Copenhagen, where turning drivers defer to people on bikes at intersections. I guess this is what you would call “soft power.” So many people bike in Copenhagen that all these polite motorists are probably either cyclists themselves or know close friends and family who bike. Each person on a bike going by could be a neighbor, an aunt, or an old roommate.