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CA’s Regional Agency Reps Tout Increased Ped Safety Funding in Sacramento

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG. Photo: Melanie Curry

The Peds Count! 2014 Summit kicked off in Sacramento with a panel of top-level executives from regional planning agencies celebrating their accomplishments in improving conditions for pedestrians.

The speakers represented an alphabet soup of major metropolitan transportation agencies in California: SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments; SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments; KernCOG, the Kern Council of Governments; and MTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The summit, the third bi-annual conference organized by CaliforniaWalks, brings together advocates and planners from throughout the state to discuss the current state of research, policy, and innovation in the realm of planning for pedestrians in California’s cities and counties.

According to the California Household Travel Survey, the number of walking trips has doubled since 2000, to 16.6 percent of all trips reported. However, less than one percent of transportation funding in the state goes towards improvements for active transportation (walking and bicycling). In addition, pedestrian safety goals were not included in a recent Federal Highway Administration proposal on new performance measures for national highways.

But the agency executives at the conference celebrated the progress that was made, and challenged pedestrian advocates to build support to make it easier for agencies to do more.

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Clipper Card Upgrade Could Bring Seamless Regional Travel, Or Not

Transit riders can transfer between BART, Caltrain, and SamTrans bus services at the Millbrae Transit Center, but riders must pay each transit agency’s full fare. Photo: BART

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will soon renew its contract for Clipper, the Bay Area’s “all-in-one transit card.” Transit advocates are urging MTC to use the opportunity to create a more seamless fare system, and remove barriers that could allow Clipper payments on both the region’s transit agencies and “first-and-last-mile” trip services.

Transit riders can currently use the Clipper card to pay fares on the Bay Area’s seven largest transit agencies (Muni, BART, AC Transit, VTA, Caltrain, SamTrans, Golden Gate) and the San Francisco Bay Ferry, and it’s set to include several other smaller transit agencies by 2016. While using a single card is certainly more convenient for customers whose trips take them across seemingly arbitrary transit agency service boundaries, it hasn’t made those trips faster or more affordable.

“Take the trip from U.C. Berkeley to Stanford: important destinations that are both inherently walkable places with daytime populations in the tens of thousands,” SPUR Transportation Policy Director Ratna Amin wrote in a blog post last week. “It’s logical to think they’d be linked by high-quality transit connections. But even during the morning rush hour, this trip takes nearly two hours.” It also costs $10.10, or about $400/month for a weekday commuter.

Clipper transit card reader

Clipper transit card reader. Photo: Dan Honda/San Jose Mercury News

“In other regions where transit works better, you don’t have to think about what brand of transit you’re taking or who operates it,” said Adina Levin, co-founder of Friends of Caltrain. “And you don’t pay a lot extra to take different brands.”

Even many shorter trips are either cost-prohibitive or time-prohibitive on transit. A one-way trip during rush hour between Daly City and Menlo Park, located 25 miles apart in San Mateo County, takes under an hour via BART and Caltrain, but costs $8.80. SamTrans’ ECR route is available for just $2, but takes about 2.5 hours. By car it takes just 45 minutes during rush hour, and for less than half the BART + Caltrain fare in gas money. Residents who can’t afford $17.60/day in transit fare and also can’t afford five hours of travel time drive instead for such trips, adding significantly to traffic congestion on the Bay Area’s highways.

“The Bay Area needs a regional transit fare policy… that doesn’t penalize customers who transfer between systems,” wrote Egon Terplan, SPUR’s regional planning director, as part of the urban think tank’s “Six Ideas for Saving Bay Area Transit.”

One proposal by MTC that would at least reduce the transfer penalty is a standard 50-cent fare discount that transit riders would receive when transferring between transit agencies. Although such a small discount won’t boost transit ridership, it would at least remove one barrier to regional fare integration by making discounts the default type of fare agreement between transit agencies in the Bay Area. Another MTC proposal is to enable future Clipper cards to charge passengers daily and/or monthly fare maximums. This would be similar to existing daily and monthly passes, except that riders wouldn’t have to “commit” to any minimum number of trips, or even sign up to receive a discount for heavy transit use. This concept could be expanded to apply to trips between transit agencies, thus creating creating daily and monthly regional transit passes.

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Oakland’s Telegraph Gets “Pop-up” Protected Bike Lane on Bike to Work Day

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan rode on the “pop-up” bikeway, looking very happy. Photo: Dave Campbell, Bike East Bay

Yesterday, on the Bay Area’s 20th Bike to Work Day, Bike East Bay and Walk Oaklad Bike Oakland demonstrated what a block of Telegraph Avenue would look and feel like with a parking-protected bike lane. Without help from the city’s Public Works Department (but with city approval), the two advocacy groups created temporary bike infrastructure by painting green lanes and bike stencils, putting down planters, and turning the adjacent traffic lane into a parking lane.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was joined by City Council Members Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb, and Lynette McElhaney, as well as several city planners and engineers on a test run of the lanes, all of whom generally gave it a big thumbs up. One city engineer, after riding the lane, said, “I want this, right now!”

Mayor Quan said “this demo is very helpful to see what Telegraph Avenue could look like with a protected bikeway,” according to a press release from Bike East Bay. “I’m very interested in seeing how the project develops.”

Quan rode from MacArthur BART station on a borrowed bike from Bay Area Bike Share to celebrate the system’s expansion into the East Bay expected next spring. “Oakland is regularly ranked in the top 10 U.S. cities for the percentage of our commuters who cycle, and we’re committed to maintaining that leadership role and building on our successes,” she said in a statement, noting that she lobbied for the BABS expansion.

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Eyes on the Street: East Palo Alto’s First Sharrows

Sharrows on Woodland Avenue in East Palo Alto

New sharrows installed on part of Woodland Avenue in East Palo Alto are the Woodland neighborhood’s very first bicycle infrastructure. Photo: Andrew Boone

When East Palo Alto repaved Woodland Avenue between Newell Avenue and West Bayshore Road in late March, one half-mile of the city’s bumpiest pothole-filled street was suddenly transformed into its smoothest one, complete with new striping and well-placed sharrows on top. City planners hope the sharrows will help residents bike and drive more predictably on Woodland’s streets, almost all of which are too narrow to accommodate both parallel-parked cars and bike lanes.

They may just be stencils, but the new sharrows are the first in East Palo Alto, and the very first bicycle infrastructure of any kind in the high-density Woodland neighborhood west of Highway 101. Most of the city’s multi-family housing has been built in this narrow slice of land that San Mateo County allowed developers to build without sidewalks, before the area incorporated and became part of East Palo Alto.

High population density, poor transit service, narrow streets, and missing sidewalks mean that people walking or bicycling must share the road with car traffic volumes that are very high for a residential neighborhood. Woodland Avenue carries 3,300 cars per day, including a significant proportion of cut-through traffic comprising drivers seeking a faster route to Highway 101 than University Avenue during the evening rush hour.

Woodland Avenue, East Palo Alto, Before March 2014 Repaving

Woodland Avenue east of Newell Road was full of potholes and had no stripes or markings of any kind before its resurfacing in March 2014. Photo: Google Maps

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Bike to Work Day: Oakland to Demo Telegraph Protected Bike Lane, Parklet

A protected bike lane and parklet like this will temporarily transform the experience of traveling on Telegraph. Image courtesy City of Oakland, for illustrative purposes only.

A block of Telegraph Avenue in Oakland will get a protected bike lane and parklet for one day — Bike to Work Day, this Thursday. Bike East Bay and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland will set up the demo on the southbound side of Telegraph between 27th and Sycamore Streets, providing a taste of the transformation possible with the city’s plans to redesign the street.

The parklet will be one of many Bike to Work Day stations around the Bay Area where bike commuters can pick up goodie bags and fuel up on snacks and coffee. Visitors can also fill out a short survey about their experience riding the protected bike lane.

Whether protected bike lanes are made permanent in the Telegraph redesign will depend in large part on community feedback. You can weigh in on the project by checking out the proposed design options on the city’s website and downloading a comment card [PDF] to email to Jamie Parks of the Oakland Public Works Department by May 19.

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Standing Up to the Naysayers: Tales of Livable Streets Leadership From NYC

Re-shaping city streets almost always runs up against some level of opposition — it’s part and parcel of physically changing what people often see as their territory. Whether residents get to have safer streets, however, often comes down to the elected leaders who stand up to the naysayers.

When merchants fought a conversion of their block into a car-free plaza, New York City Council Member Danny Dromm won them over. Photo: Times Ledger

When merchants fought a conversion of their block into a car-free plaza, New York City Council Member Danny Dromm won them over. Photo: Times Ledger

In San Francisco lately, we’ve seen a lot of smart transportation projects get watered down or stopped without a supervisor or mayor willing to take a stand. In the absence of political leadership, city officials and agencies too often cave to the loudest complainers, who fight tooth and nail to preserve every parking space and traffic lane, dismissing the empirical lessons from other redesigns that worked out fine when all was said and done.

It’s not unusual for elected officials to be risk averse, but mustering the political courage to support safe streets and effective transit can and does pay off. Just look to the political leadership in New York City, where Streetsblog has covered several major stories involving City Council members (the equivalent of SF’s supervisors) who faced down the fearmongering and shepherded plazas and protected bike lanes to fruition.

These leaders suffered no ill effects as a result of their boldness. They were “easily re-elected” last year, said Ben Fried, Streetsblog’s NYC-based editor-in-chief. If anything, Fried says these politicians gained more support — not less — “because they had won over this very engaged constituency of livable streets supporters.”

In the battle over NYC’s Prospect Park West redesign, a group of very well-connected neighbors filed a lawsuit against the city for converting a traffic lane on the street into a two-way protected bikeway. City Council Member Brad Lander defended the project, which is now held up as one of NYC’s flagship street transformations.

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Protected Bike Lanes Key to a Calmer, Thriving Telegraph Avenue in Oakland

Drivers encroach on the crosswalk on Telegraph Avenue, where people often have to wait extensively for traffic to stop before crossing. Photos: Melanie Curry

At an open house meeting on proposals to redesign Telegraph Avenue in Oakland Saturday morning, attendees arrived to find the street blocked off by police investigating a hit-and-run crash in which a driver killed a pedestrian. The scene underscored the need to make the commercial corridor safer for people walking and biking, though the proposals to remove traffic lanes and add improvements like protected bike lanes, landscaped medians, and sidewalk extensions still saw opposition from a few at the meeting.

About fifty people attended the second of three open houses hosted by the city to hear from residents and merchants about the proposed options for Telegraph. The third open house will be held this Thursday evening.

Posters presented copious amounts of information about conditions on Telegraph, including a map of crashes in the area, and research showing the economic revitalization that results when streets are redesigned to become destinations, not just throughways. A recent survey of people who use Telegraph found that 60 percent wanted protected bike lanes on the street, including 53 percent of “frequent drivers.”

In a presentation, Phil Erickson of Community Design and Architecture said that the number of people walking and biking on Telegraph have been growing steadily. The city is looking to accommodate all users on the commercial corridor, he said, but it’s rife with problems like driver speeding, inadequately-sized bus stops, and pedestrian crossings that are often dangerous and difficult to navigate. The city has proposed options for three segments along Telegraph, between 20th and 57th Streets. Options for the inner and outer segments include parking-protected bike lanes, though the middle Temescal segment doesn’t, because city planners say it might slow down the higher volumes of car traffic.

Some in the crowd objected to removing traffic lanes or parking because they think it would increase car congestion and air pollution. One man said there would be “strong neighborhood opposition” to any plan that included bike lanes on Telegraph, and another interrupted Erickson’s presentation to say that people on bikes should stick to other routes.

A young woman, brave enough to speak into the charged atmosphere, responded, “But what if my destination is on Telegraph?”

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CA Transportation Choices Summit Tackles Policy Issues

The California Transportation Choices Summit, held in Sacramento this week, was an opportunity for sustainable transportation and public health advocates to spend the day learning about current state policies and legislation in the works to change them.

Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, discusses bike infrastructure on a pre-summit bike tour along the Sacramento River. Photos: Melanie Curry

This year’s summit was titled “2014: A Year of Opportunity.” The “opportunity” comes in the form of new funds from cap-and-trade and current discussions in the legislature about how to spend that money. As Streetsblog has reportedthese funds are required to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which could include projects that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit.

The annual summit is hosted by TransForm and a long list of partners across the state including ClimatePlan, MoveLA, Circulate San Diego, the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, National Resources Defense Council, and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In addition to discussing current policies, the learning day prepared attendees for TransForm’s “Advocacy Day,” in which participants meet with State Assembly members and their staff to talk about the issues that matter most to them and push for legislation.

Summit speakers laid out facts about funding, discussed trade-offs between spending on different programs, and urged everyone to share their personal stories about why their issue is important. “Let’s pull those heart strings,” said Elyse Lowe of Circulate San Diego, “so we can do a better job advocating for good transportation policies.”

Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, created an “applause-o-meter” to gauge summit attendees’ views on trade-offs between funding categories. He asked participants to applaud for the categories of activities they thought were most important: planning; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; transportation demand management programs like shuttles, carpool programs, and guaranteed ride home programs; affordable homes near transit; and transit capital and operating costs.

The audience, mostly comprised of savvy transportation advocates, applauded for all of these categories, although there two clear “winners”: affordable homes near transit and transit capital and operating costs. These also were the most expensive categories, according to Cohen’s estimate of how much it would cost to fully fund needs in these areas: $6 billion for transit and $1 to $1.5billion for housing.

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Silicon Valley’s First “Bike to Shop Day” Set for May 17

Bike Trailer at Trader Joes

It’s rare for cities in Silicon Valley to accommodate cycling shoppers with adequate parking. Photo: Janet Lafleur

Planning to build on the wave of enthusiasm for bike commuting generated each May by Bike to Work Day, transportation and health advocates in Silicon Valley are promoting a spin-off called Bike to Shop Day on Saturday, May 17, to encourage people to shop by bike at local businesses.

Retail businesses offering discounts to bicycling customers are shown on a smartphone-friendly map on the event’s website. organizers expect many more to sign up in the three weeks remaining before the event. Any retail business located in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County that can offer some type of discount to customers who arrive by bicycle is eligible to participate. Shoppers are encouraged to upload photos of their bikes in action – carrying groceries or other items — to win gift certificates and other prizes.

“For the past 20 years, Bike to Work Day has achieved huge success motivating people to hop on bikes for their work commutes, including me,” said bicycle lifestyle blogger Janet Lafleur, who created Bike to Shop Day in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). “Now it’s time to do the same for their shopping and errand trips that are shorter and easier for most people than commuting to work.”

Lafleur, a marketing professional who writes two urban cycling blogs, Bike Fun and One Woman, Many Bicycles, called for a National Bike to Shop Day last month to promote shopping by bicycle. She came up with the idea after it became clear that Mountain View was simply disregarding the need to improve access and parking for bicycles as part of expansion plans for the San Antonio Shopping Center.

“I can’t see people biking to shop here,” said a planning commissioner at a city meeting on the project. ”Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up.”

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Tonight and Next Week: Open Houses on Oakland’s Telegraph Bike Lanes

The City of Oakland’s proposal for parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph between 20th and 48th Streets, one of three segments of the corridor.

Oaklanders won’t want to forget about the city’s open house meetings, starting tonight, on proposals for parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue. Show up, learn about the proposed design options, and let city staff know what you think will make this vital commercial corridor safer and more efficient, and livable. There will even be food trucks outside each meeting, in case you get hungry.

Here are the open houses:

  • Tonight, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph.
  • Saturday, April 26, 10am – 12pm, at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th Street.
  • Next Thursday, May 1, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street (accessible entrance at 411 28th Street).