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Streetsblog NYC
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Streetsblog Retains BlankSlate to Strengthen Our Bottom Line

Earlier this year, I wrote about the imperative for Streetsblog to generate more revenue from our website. With so many unsold impressions, ads were a clear opportunity to put Streetsblog’s sizable reach to use strengthening our bottom line. Today I’m pleased to announce that we’ve retained BlankSlate to help us sell ads and make good on that potential.

BlankSlate is an experienced shop that works with several other publishers similar in size to Streetsblog. Their team will be selling ads and setting up ad networks on Streetsblog, and you’ve probably noticed the new ad zones on the site this week. BlankSlate has also set up filters to prevent automotive and fossil fuel industry advertisements from appearing on Streetsblog, which should keep many heads from exploding.

Streetsblog is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and we continue to rely on reader contributions and foundation support to fund our work. Ads are the third leg of the stool, and we’re excited to be working with BlankSlate to build a durable publishing operation.

Streetsblog NYC
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A New Type of Streetsblog in St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast? Yep.

A little more than six years ago, we launched the Streetsblog Network as a way for people across the country writing about livable streets, sustainable transportation, and smart growth to band together and share ideas. There are many wonderful things about the Streetsblog Network, but I would put this is at the top of my list: It is both profoundly local, full of people working on the nitty-gritty of street design, transit service, and planning issues in their hometowns, and broadly distributed, with hundreds of members operating in cities all over the nation.

For a long time we’ve been thinking about how to build on these strengths. And today we’re going live with a new way to channel the energy of the Streetsblog Network and broadcast it to the world.

We are launching affiliate sites that combine the work of Streetsblog Network members in four regions: St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast. These sites run on a different model than our other city-based Streetsblogs with full-time staff. Each Streetsblog affiliate syndicates material from several blogs in its region and runs a daily dose of headlines to satisfy the universal craving for morning news. Have a look. (Doesn’t it blow your mind to see the words “Streetsblog Texas” in a site banner?)



Our partners in this endeavor are volunteers writing in their spare time, independent media entrepreneurs, and people working at non-profit advocacy organizations and academic institutions. By running their work in this format, on the Streetsblog platform, we aim to help build their audience both nationally and in their home regions. The geographic scope of most of these sites is bigger than the usual Streetsblog city-based beat, but the writers are addressing overlapping issues — a Paleolithic state DOT, for instance, or city leadership that struggles to get Complete Streets right. We believe there will be strength in numbers like there’s been with the national Streetsblog Network.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC
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Changes at Streetsblog in 2015

When Streetsblog launched in 2006, the site made an impact almost immediately. The daily scrutiny of NYC transportation agencies and elected officials created new opportunities for policy reform, leading to real change in the design and operation of our streets. It wasn’t long before advocates from out of town contacted Streetsblog about bringing this model of advocacy journalism to their cities, and where we could assemble the resources to pull it off, we did. In the course of a few years, Streetsblog became a truly national voice for overhauling our car-based transportation system.

With growth come risks. Our team knows how to make an impact with our reporting and commentary, but like many other media outlets, we’re still figuring out how to make the business of our journalism work. This process isn’t a straight line — there’s bound to be some trial and error.

In 2015, we’re making key changes based on what we’ve learned so far. While this will entail some difficult transitions, the new approaches Streetsblog is adopting position us to continue making an impact in more places over the long run.

Yesterday, we announced that Streetsblog Chicago is suspending publication after two excellent years of coverage from John Greenfield and Steven Vance. We hope this will be a temporary situation as John rustles up the financial support to revive the site under the umbrella of a new 501(c)3 separate from OpenPlans, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog. (In Los Angeles, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton weathered the same transition a few years ago by starting up the Southern California Streets Initiative, which today runs a thriving local transportation news site at Streetsblog LA.)

Given current budget constraints, we’ve also had to cut two other valued members of our editorial staff, Tanya Snyder and Payton Chung.

We hired Tanya in 2010 as editor of our national site, called Streetsblog Capitol Hill at the time. Her leadership and energy built it into a compelling news source, with a broad and influential audience.

Tanya learned the ropes of federal transportation policy with alacrity, culminating with her coverage of the MAP-21 bill. Then she proceeded to steer our national coverage in new and varied directions under the Streetsblog USA banner. Tanya plugged her readers into the movement for transportation reform from coast to coast, delved into fresh topics like car-free parenting, and started up a new content platform in the Talking Headways Podcast. We’re going to miss her tremendously.

For the last year, Payton’s analytical skill and deep policy expertise added depth to the reporting across several Streetsblog outlets. While you may not have seen his byline frequently, as editor-at-large, Payton shaped content all over Streetsblog USA, Streetsblog Chicago, and Streetsblog SF every day. I count the three-part series on privately financed highways he produced with Angie Schmitt last November as the best piece of reporting that Streetsblog published in 2014.

Going forward, Angie will be directing Streetsblog USA coverage. She has a nose for stories that get at the heart of why transportation policy needs to change, and a keen eye for visuals that grab people’s attention. I’m excited to see where she takes the site from here.

For a small non-profit news organization, these are not minor changes. While Streetsblog’s core operations remain securely funded with a mix of support from individual contributions, foundations, and ads, we have resolved to adopt a few key shifts in strategy.

First and foremost: We have to adjust our expansion model. We continue to receive strong interest from advocates who want to bring Streetsblog’s brand of advocacy journalism to their cities, and we want to work with them to make that happen. Streetsblog LA points to the way forward: In the LA model, OpenPlans offers editorial expertise and a technical platform to a local partner organization who employs the reporters, instead of OpenPlans taking on everything in-house. We hope to replicate this model with John Greenfield’s reboot of Streetsblog Chicago, and in other cities where potential partners have reached out about starting up Streetsblogs.

The other change is to make better use of our capacity to generate revenue from ads. Streetsblog reaches a sufficiently large audience that ad sales are viable on a much larger scale than we’ve pursued to date. We can’t afford to leave that revenue on the table. It may be jarring at first, but more ads on Streetsblog will mean a healthier news organization in the long run, one that can better achieve its mission of connecting people to information about the movement for livable streets.

Thank you for reading and supporting Streetsblog as we embark on these changes.

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Keep Streetsblog Going Strong – Donate and Enter to Win a New PUBLIC Bike

If you look at the state of American streets, the scale of our transportation dysfunction is epic. Nothing conveys the failure of the car-based system better than this: More than 30,000 people lose their lives in traffic annually — which means the U.S. could prevent about 20,000 premature deaths each year if we catch up to the nations that are leading the way on street safety.

Can we do it? Well, when you look at the changes happening on city streets, you know this is a time of tremendous ferment and progress. Deadly, car-centric streets are being replaced by human-centric designs that barely existed in America a few years ago. More cities are waking up to the fact that they can’t address issues of transportation, housing demand, and access to jobs by building more parking and highways — they need better transit, biking, and walking.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms are playing a critical role in this transition. Our reporting, commentary, and videos connect people to the information they need to be effective advocates for safe, livable streets. We create pressure on public officials to shake up the way streets work instead of letting the status quo continue. We expose the failures of bad transportation policy. We help good ideas spread fast.

And we need the support of our readers to make it all work. Streetsblog is powerful because elected officials know that our readers care deeply about the issues we cover. And the whole site functions, on the most basic level, because readers fund what we do.

Our year-end pledge drive starts today, so if you value the impact of Streetsblog and Streetfilms, I hope you’ll contribute. The shift to a safer, more sustainable transportation system is just getting started, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.

For good measure, our friends at PUBLIC Bikes have donated a brand new R16 bicycle that we’ll be giving away to one lucky reader who contributes before the end of the year. Thank you PUBLIC! Here’s a look at their handiwork:



Thanks as always for supporting Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

— Ben

Streetsblog NYC
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Alta Bicycle Share Has New Owners, New CEO, New Expansion Plans

With new ownership and a new CEO, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has even started taking suggestions for bike-share expansion again. Image: DOT

With new ownership from executives at real estate giant Related and a new CEO in former MTA head Jay Walder, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has already started taking suggestions for new bike-share stations. Image: DOT

It’s official: Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, has a new owner, an infusion of cash, and a fresh face at the top — longtime transit executive Jay Walder. At a press conference this afternoon, the new team promised to correct Citi Bike’s blunders and double the system’s size by the end of 2017.

The same ownership group will also be running Alta bike-share systems in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, and Boston, among other cities. While today’s news signals potential changes in those cities as well, the most immediate changes — along with Alta Bicycle Share’s headquarters — are coming to New York.

Citi Bike’s reboot has been months in the making. Top executives from Equinox Fitness, itself a division of real estate giant The Related Companies, burst onto the bike-share scene in April with an unsuccessful last-minute bid for Bixi, the bankrupt Canadian supplier of Alta’s bike-share components. Related execs resurfaced in July, when word came that they were on the verge of buying out Alta. After months of negotiations, the deal is now official, with a company backed by Related executives and other investors, called Bikeshare Holdings LLC, acquiring all of Alta Bicycle Share.

Alta is getting a major cash infusion — $30 million from Bikeshare Holdings LLC, which is led by Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, Related CEO Jeff Blau, and investor Jonathan Schulhof. Citi has extended its initial $41 million, five-year sponsorship of NYC bike-share by promising an additional $70.5 million through 2024, contingent on system expansion. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which has already helped finance Citi Bike, is increasing its credit line to Alta by $15 million. The deal includes $5 million from the Partnership Fund for New York City, an investment fund backed by the city’s big business coalition, to expand Citi Bike to more neighborhoods.
Read more…

Streetsblog NYC
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American Driver’s Ed Is a Joke

Want a driver’s license? It’s easy. Fill out some paperwork and pop on over to the DMV to take a 20-question test for your learner’s permit. Then, get in some practice with a licensed driver. (But if you’re over 18, you can just ignore that part!) Then sit through a five-hour course before taking a quick road test, like these people. Total cost: about $50 and a few hours. Once your license expires, you can renew it with a few clicks online.

No wonder the United States has such a high traffic fatality rate.

Compare this to Germany, where people are less than half as likely to be killed in traffic. In a new video, CNET’s Brian Cooley explains German requirements for learning to operate a high-speed, multi-ton piece of heavy machinery.

The process starts with 14 to 20 hours of technical training, sometimes more, Cooley says, including a test with 30 multiple-choice questions that determines whether you know how to react to any conceivable situation in traffic. That’s followed by at least twelve 90-minute training sessions behind the wheel, including four on the Auotbahn and three at night. If your instructor isn’t satisfied, you could be sent back for additional training sessions.

Then there’s another written exam that plumbs the depths of German traffic law. Three wrong answers is an automatic failure. Fail it three times, and you have to go back to the technical training sessions. And if you learn on an automatic transmission instead of standard, your license prohibits you from driving anything but an automatic. The entire process takes three to six months and can cost about $2,500.

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Streetsblog’s Beginnings: Founder Aaron Naparstek to Speak in SF Tuesday

Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek will be in SF to serve as the keynote speaker at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards on Tuesday evening. We thought it’d be a good opportunity to look back on how Streetsblog San Francisco came to be, and get Naparstek’s take on what’s changed in the city since we launched at the start of 2009.

Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek talking about “bikelash” at the National Bike Summit last year. Image: Streetfilms

Naparstek founded Streetsblog in New York City in 2006 as a project of OpenPlans, our non-profit parent organization founded by Mark Gorton. Naparstek was the editor-in-chief until 2010, during which time he launched Streetsblog San Francisco, Los Angeles, Capitol Hill (now USA), and the Streetsblog Network. He recently completed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and has been working as a Visiting Scholar at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Naparstek was approached by a group of SF’s sustainable transportation advocates, led by SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum, in the summer of 2008 at the World Car-Free Cities Conference in Portland.

“They said, we think bringing Streetsblog here can really help energize the movement,” he said. “To me it said, there’s a community here that wants it, so let’s try to make it happen.”

With a four-year injunction on bicycle infrastructure in effect at the time, Naparstek said he’d been following SF’s issues for a while. “It seemed like there was all this pent-up demand,” he said. “I thought, San Francisco would be great for this.”

Naparstek and the SFBC worked together to organize Streetsblog SF, raising funds and interviewing candidates for editor. At one point in that process, Naparstek said Shahum recommended interviewing Bryan Goebel, who had volunteered for the SFBC and had nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, primarily in radio. Goebel was chosen to become the editor of Streetsblog SF, and was partnered with Matthew Roth, who moved from New York City after working in livable streets advocacy there. Ultimately, Goebel took me on as an intern and trained me on the job, and I was chosen to fill the position after he left.

Naparstek noted that he was impressed by Shahum’s commitment to helping launch a separate project in an environment where non-profits compete for scarce funds. “A lot of non-profit executive directors would be hesitant to bring us into their orbit because we’re another mouth to feed, looking for progressive transportation advocacy dollars, when it’s not that easy to raise money,” he said. “I was impressed that the Bike Coalition had a broad enough view of the movement as a whole that they recognized that we could help make the pie bigger.”

Streetsblog was formed around the idea of a media outlet that could cover issues around sustainable transportation and livable streets from an advocacy standpoint, highlighting stories not covered by traditional media. The aim is to promote the growing movement and shed light on the responsibility of government leaders and agencies to shape streets in ways that promote safer and more efficient ways of getting around.

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Time Is Running Out to Become a Streetsblog Superhero — Give Today

This is it! The final days and the final giveaway of our spring pledge drive. So far, 221 superheroes have donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. To reach our goal, we need 179 more readers to step up and give by Sunday at midnight.

If you’ve been been holding out until the end of the pledge drive to make your mark (or just casually procrastinating), now’s the time to fill out our secure donation form and contribute to media that makes streets safer and more sustainable.

More to the point, if you value the impact of Streetsblog in your city, if you want to see more coverage making the case for 21st century transportation policies that work for people, not cars, if you value the way Streetfilms help great ideas for city streets go viral — your gift makes it all happen.

In keeping with the superhero theme of this pledge drive, our final giveaway will reward one lucky donor with an impervious cape and another with an eye-grabbing yet utilitarian belt. Give before midnight on June 1 and you’ll be entered to win a Cleverhood rain cape in Ocean State Blue, imparting the power of dry all-weather biking, or a reflective CINCH belt from Vespertine, which makes you extra-visible and is available in your choice of three colors:


Big thanks everyone who’s contributed so far. One more big push and we’ll reach our goal.

Streetsblog NYC
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Streetsblog and Streetfilms Are Searching for a Development Director

After three stellar years with Streetsblog and Streetfilms, our development director Christa Orth is embarking on a new chapter with the fundraising consultancy Wingo. Christa masterminded the creation of a fundraising system essentially from scratch, and it’s safe to say Streetsblog and Streetfilms would not be in the position we are today without her. If you’ve ever attended one of our benefits or happy hours here in New York, you probably heard her ebullient laughter. We’re going to miss her and we wish her all the best.

We are now accepting applications for the development director position, which is based in our headquarters in New York. Here’s what we’re looking for in our next hire…


Founded in 2006, Streetsblog and Streetfilms produce powerful media that makes the case for designing cities around people, not cars. With outlets in four major cities plus coverage of national policy, Streetsblog is the marquee news source in the movement for streets that work better for walking, biking, and transit. Streetfilms is the go-to online video site for educational and fun short films about how smart transportation policy results in better places to live, work, and play. Streetsblog and Streetfilms are projects of OpenPlans, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms have a robust fundraising program supported by small donors, large donors, foundations, advertising, and corporate sponsorships. We seek an experienced development leader to work with our staff, board, and volunteers to grow our fundraising, so we can increase the impact of our media outlets.


Working closely with the Streetsblog Editor-in-chief, the Development Director will be responsible for strategic planning, implementation, and oversight of all efforts to raise approximately $800,000 annually and grow additional support over time. Activities include:

  • Work with the Streetsblog and Streetfilms Advisory Board to grow our base of small and large donors
  • Identify prospective foundations, write grant proposals and reports, cultivate relationships with existing philanthropic supporters
  • Grow individual funding base through online fundraising campaigns, direct mail, and events
  • Solicit corporate sponsorships and manage corporate funding relationships
  • Oversee all events including our annual fall benefit, The Streets Ball (250+ attendees)
  • Write organizational materials including funding reports, appeals, and acknowledgments
  • Manage the Salesforce donor database, generate reports for finance reconciliation and budgeting
  • Supervise volunteers and other members of the development team


Qualified candidates have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years development experience, with demonstrated growth in responsibilities over time and a track record of raising funds from a number of sources. Must have experience working with major donors and managing an annual funding program. A passion for and understanding of livable streets issues is a plus.

Please send your resume and cover letter to Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with the position to start by June 15th or earlier.

Streetsblog USA
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Streetsblog Capitol Hill Is Now Streetsblog USA

I’m pleased to announce that our national news site has a new name: Streetsblog USA. Say it with pride.

Why the change? Simply put, “Streetsblog USA” is a better reflection of the nationwide coverage that Tanya Snyder and Angie Schmitt are producing.

The new name was a long time coming. Streetsblog Capitol Hill launched five years ago, aiming to connect our readers to the important yet byzantine process of reauthorizing the federal transportation bill. At first there seemed to be a window of opportunity to pass a landmark piece of legislation. That changed when the Tea Party Congress came to power, and expectations for major policy reforms at the federal level deflated. There were still important fights to track on Capitol Hill, but they were all about playing defense. Transit and active transportation programs had to be protected from a hostile Congress.

Meanwhile, cities aren’t waiting around to build safer, more multi-modal streets. Mayors are tossing aside the cars-first approach to transportation policy, local governments are shedding 1960s-era regulations that prioritize space for automobiles above space for people, and grassroots advocates are winning battles to bring down highways. With or without support from Congress, great ideas for city streets are popping up everywhere, and we want to help them spread. We also want to show all the ways that national, state, and regional policies foil this progress, and we’ve had no shortage of stories about state DOTs using federal cash to go on highway binges or regions sacrificing their future to build more sprawl.

So we’ve been doing all that for a few years now, and “Streetsblog USA” has been brewing for a while. The new name is really an acknowledgment that our publishing title needs to catch up with our published content. Streetsblog USA will continue to provide the mix of Beltway coverage and livable streets updates from around the country that our readers have come to rely on. We’ll keep on looking for better ways to bring you Streetsblog content, like the new Talking Headways podcast, but the basic purpose, style, and scope of that content isn’t going to change.

A few notes about the details. The location of the site is now You may have to refresh your browser cache to see the new header graphic. We’re wrapping up the new navigation graphics today — pardon the temporary inconsistencies. As we complete the transition, all pages using the previous domain will redirect seamlessly to the new one. The @StreetsblogDC Twitter account will morph into @StreetsblogUSA later today. For everyone who subscribes to the RSS feed, the new URL you want is feed:// If you subscribe to the daily email feed, you don’t need to change a thing.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned. There are more changes coming to Streetsblog that we’re really excited to share with you later on in 2014.