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Toronto’s Simple Measure to Cut Traffic and Improve Transit: Toll Highways

Tolling Toronto's Gardiner Expressway and one other highway could help the city function better. Photo; Wikipedia

Tolling Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and one other highway could help the city function better. Photo: Wikipedia

American elected officials are notoriously skittish about turning freeways into toll roads, but in Canada’s biggest city the political stars are aligning to put a price on two major highways.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, facing intense budget pressures, has proposed tolling two urban freeways: the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Tory is proposing a $2 flat fee, which would generate some $200 million in net annual revenue. While the political decisions to implement tolls are getting made right now, implementation is not expected until 2024.

As a measure to reduce traffic on the highways — and the city streets those highways funnel into — the plan could be better. The tolls would do more to cut traffic congestion if Toronto opted for dynamic pricing that charges drivers more during peak periods. But even if the initial toll is flat, the government could convert it to a sliding scale later on, transportation engineering professor David Levinson told the Globe and Mail.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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How Much of Your City Is Really Urban?

Only a small portion of Seattle is considered "urban" in a new study by the Urban Land Institute. Image: ULI

Only a small portion of the Seattle region is considered “urban” in a new report by the Urban Land Institute. Image via RCLCo

Editor’s note: Read to the end of this post for an important update on the Streetsblog Network.

Many places that get categorized as “suburbs” are actually pretty urban. They may not be located in a central city, but they are compact, walkable places. But the inverse is also true: Large portions of nearly every American city are pretty spread out and suburban in character.

A new report from the Urban Land Institute [PDF] divides every metro area into a number of classifications based on density and other factors. You can click through ULI’s map and see whether they consider your neighborhood urban or suburban.

Frank Chiachiere at Seattle Transit Blog notes that ULI classifies almost all of Seattle as suburban, and he thinks that’s basically correct:

The report seeks to subdivide suburbia, using census tracts, into five categories — Established high-end, stable middle-income, economically challenged, greenfield lifestyle, and greenfield value — to reflect the diversity of communities that are often lumped together as “the suburbs.”  The modern suburb, they argue, is a hodgepodge of very different housing and land-use types, a continuum that stretches from stately, tree-lined streetcar suburbs close to the center to the sprawling planned communities on the exurban fringe.

What’s interesting its that the report finds that there’s not much different between North Ballard and Bellevue: both are classified as “established, high-end” suburban communities. Seattleites might chafe at the comparison, but there’s something to it.

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Via Streetsblog California
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Repeat Until Complete: Transportation, Housing Bills Reintroduced

bikeatCapitollabel2Wasting no time, lawmakers opened the first day of the California legislative session by introducing a slew of bills and resolutions to get things started.

The two biggest bills—S.B. 1 from Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose)  and A.B. 1 from Assembly member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley)—are pretty much identical, and pretty much the same bills that got nowhere in the Transportation Special Session that ended a few weeks ago. Both raise funds by increasing gas and diesel taxes, by increasing vehicle registration fees and imposing a higher fee on zero emission vehicles to make up for not contributing any gas taxes, and by finding and identifying “efficiencies” within Caltrans to save money and reallocate it to other priorities.

The crucial issue is, what are those investment priorities? And will they align with other state priorities like greenhouse gas reductions? So far, the answer is: not exactly.

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Streetsblog USA
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UPS Begins Delivering Packages via E-Trike in Portland

Deliveries by E-bike: Now happening in Portland. It's a beautiful thing. Photo: Bike Portland

Deliveries by e-trike: Now happening in Portland. Photo: Bike Portland

Delivery trucks are terrible for city streets, polluting the air, blocking bike lanes, endangering pedestrians and cyclists. But cities need the goods they carry.

One way around the problem of big trucks is to divide deliveries into smaller loads, carried with smaller vehicles. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports on an encouraging development on that front: UPS is piloting the use of an electric-assist trike for deliveries. There were already independent companies using trikes for deliveries in Portland, and the UPS move suggests larger companies may want to get in on the action, Maus reports:

Using trikes and other small, pedal-powered vehicles to deliver cargo in dense urban areas is relatively common in Europe. The European Cyclists’ Federation (an EU-funded non-profit) says 25 percent of all goods could potentially be delivered bicycles. That number rises to 50 percent when just considering lightweight cargo…

UPS Senior VP of Global Engineering and Sustainability Mark Wallace, UPS senior VP of global engineering and sustainability said using pedal-power gets back to his company’s roots. They started 109 years ago as a bike messenger company. “While we have evolved and developed a vast network of ground and air vehicles,” Wallace said, “the bicycle may be making a comeback as we navigate through crowded urban areas and continue our focus on environmental sustainability.”

UPS’s new trike will share the bike lanes with existing local pedal-powered freight delivery companies like B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery and Portland Pedal Power — two businesses with successful track records…

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Via Streetsblog California
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ATP Funding Recommendations Get Reshuffled; More Projects Added

The CV Link multi-use path will not be recommended for ATP funding. Image: CV Link

The CV Link multi-use path will not be recommended for ATP funding. Image: CV Link

Just before the California Transportation Commission (CTC) was set to approve staff recommendations on Active Transportation Program funding, the largest project on the list was moved down and is no longer recommended for funding. CTC staff recommended that CV Link receive $24.3 million, or almost a fifth of the total funding available, for a fifty-mile multi-use path connecting cities in the Coachella Valley. However, a mistake was discovered in its application, which led to its score being revisited. The new score put it further down the list, so that it will not be recommended for funding at tomorrow’s CTC meeting in Riverside.

The immediate consequence is that funding is freed up for five other projects that hadn’t previously made the cut-off. Those include: a project to build bike and pedestrian connections in Sunnyvale (which had been recommended for only partial funding, but will now receive its full request of $4.8 million); the Central Avenue Complete Street Project in Alameda (for $7.3 million); the McGowan Parkway, a bike lane and pedestrian improvements in Yuba County (for $1.2 million); pedestrian improvements along First Street in Santa Ana (for $4.5 million); a regional Safe Bicycling and Wayfinding project connecting the cities of Compton and Carson (for $1.6 million); and Long Beach’s Citywide 8-80 Connections project (for $6.7 million).

CV Link is a planned multi-use path that would have allowed bicycles and pedestrians, as well as “low-speed (up to 25 mph) electric vehicles”—golf carts—to travel along its route. Eventually the path would connect Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, although not in the first phases of construction.

In their funding application, planners had to address the question of how the project would benefit disadvantaged communities, in keeping with equity requirements in state law. The project emerged with a high score in this section, showing that the areas it served had a low median household income.

Equity advocates reviewing the ATP applications noticed this—and that it didn’t seem to ring true. The communities that the CV Link would go through include areas of very high median income, and closer inspection revealed that those areas weren’t included in the calculations used for the application.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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How to Spend a Fortune on Roads and Make Potholes Worse

The conventional wisdom about America’s infrastructure woes is that cash will solve everything. That’s the pitch Donald Trump is making with his vaguely-defined $1 trillion infrastructure package.

But simply spending a lot on infrastructure is no guarantee of better transportation conditions. It can easily make things worse. Wisconsin is a perfect example.

James Rowen at The Political Environment notes that under Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin has gone on an enormous road spending spree. The state has lavished more than $6 billion on huge highway interchanges in the greater Milwaukee area. But this orgy of road spending has coincided with the neglect of basic maintenance, which even the Walker administration has been forced to admit, the Journal-Sentinel reports:

The share of roads in poor condition will double, debt payments and the state’s stream of cash for road and highway projects will barely grow, a state official told lawmakers Tuesday.

By 2027, the share of state roads in poor condition would double to 42% while the money available to address those growing challenges would increase at only one-quarter the recent inflation rate, state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb testified to lawmakers Tuesday.

The state now has more highways to maintain thanks to the billions Walker spent, which only makes the maintenance backlog worse. Rowen says this situation will cost Wisconsinites dearly:

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Via Streetsblog California
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CA Legislative Leaders Open Session: Defiance, Promises on Transportation

bikeatCapitollabel2The new California legislative session opened today. Both Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon delivered speeches that celebrated California’s diversity and defied the new leadership in Washington. Both also made a point of mentioning transportation funding as a crucial unfinished task that will be at the top of their agendas for the new session.

“This past election was a powerful reaffirmation of our collective work to make California a stronger, safer, more inclusive and prosperous state,” said Senator de León, calling this a “portentous” moment “in our state’s and our nation’s history”

Assemblymember Rendon went further, saying “This is no ordinary time.” The nation, said Rendon, faces a “major existential threat—and a threat to the progress that we have attained [in California]. Californians may accept the lawfulness of the November election, but millions of us do not accept the sentiment delivered by this election.”

The biggest unresolved issues from the just-completed session—transportation and housing— got a shout out by both leaders. De León said:

As powerful as California’s economic engine is, our system doesn’t work if Californians cannot get to work. No matter what else we accomplish together, if we don’t comprehensively address the lack of investment in affordable housing and our crumbling roads, bridges, parks and water resources, it will continue to be a drag on the quality of life of our communities.

Assemblymember Rendon hit a similar note, noting that “home-grown challenges” need attention. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story


One of the best transportation stories of 2016 comes from Vancouver, British Columbia, which achieved its goal of having transit, biking, and walking account for 50 percent of all trips a full four years ahead of schedule. Bicycling is a big part of that shift, and now one of every 10 work trips is by bike.

Vancouver is a city that prides itself on rejecting freeways in the 1960s and 70s. It is the only major city in North America without freeways in the core. Recently the city set out to build on the achievements of previous generations by increasing “sustainable modes” to account for two-thirds of all trips by 2040 (read up on the city’s goals).

I was in Vancouver for the ProWalk ProBike ProPlace conference this summer and spoke to several people involved in the effort to make Vancouver a more multi-modal city, including former chief planner Brent Toderian, Manager of Transportation Planning Dale Bracewell, and Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, the activist couple behind Modacity.

I hope this Streetfilm provides a taste what it’s like to have so many different options at your disposal — bike, bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and more. And don’t miss our short from earlier this year: Vancouver’s Breathtaking Network of Protected Bike lanes.

Via Streetsblog California
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In L.A., NIMBYs Come Out Against Parking Reforms for Granny Flats

Map of permitted accessory dwelling units in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Department of City Planning [PDF]

Map of permitted accessory dwelling units in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Department of City Planning [PDF]

Streetsblog received a tip that someone is circulating wording to help L.A. Neighborhood Councils oppose reforms that would make it easier to permit new granny flats. The document, below, would be almost humorous if it was not such a NIMBY attack on affordable housing and bicycling.

Fostering granny flats, or in planner-speak “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) is one way to encourage affordable housing and gradually increasing density while preserving neighborhood character. ADUs help foster inter-generational connections by allowing a grandparent to live close to family or by helping young adults afford to live in neighborhoods they grew up in.

Fortunately, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council anti-ADU resolution [PDF] was defeated at last night’s meeting. The anti-ADU language was allegedly circulated by someone from the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, so there will likely be other similar resolutions before other councils. Readers are encouraged to keep an eye on Neighborhood Council agendas and weigh in on them.

Here is the wording of the HHPNC resolution:

Re: Parking space requirements to be enforced for both new construction and remodeling (CF12-1297-S1, ADU proposal CPC-2016-4345-CA et al)

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, which represents over 60,000 Los Angeles stakeholders who reside, own property, or conduct business in our neighborhood is concerned about the escalation waivers granted developers and others that reduces the number of parking spots that are required for residential units.

Under the proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance currently under discussion (CPC-2016-4345-CA), parking requirements are not applicable when located within half a mile of public transportation or within a block of a car share parking spot or located in a historic district or HPOZ.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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From Pennsylvania, a Preview of How Trump & Co. Might Bully Cities

How much will cities be threatened by the impending Trump presidency? An early front in this confrontation concerns immigration.

The money that supports revitalization programs in cities like Philadelphia is being held up for punitive cuts by a Pennsylvania lawmaker. Here Philadelphia's North Fifth Street Revitalization Project leaders participate in a community cleanup day. Photo: Plan Philly

Withholding Community Development Block Grants from from sanctuary cities would devastate organizations like Philadelphia’s North Fifth Street Revitalization Project. Photo: Plan Philly

Trump has threatened to revoke federal funds from hundreds of “sanctuary cities” that do not report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.

Jake Blumgart at Plan Philly reports that Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has already embraced the spirit of Trump’s proposal, calling for the feds to withhold Philadelphia’s Community Development Block Grants because of its sanctuary city policies:

The CDBG program is a flexible financial assistance program for economically distressed jurisdictions. In Philadelphia, it supports a diverse array of more than 20 programs, from financial counseling to help families access Earned Income Tax Credits to security deposit assistance for homeless families..

A quarter of the funding supports economic development initiatives like those that [Philip] Green’s North 5th Street organization utilizes. For commercial corridor support organizations in neighborhoods like Olney, and for community development corporations more broadly, CDBG are an essential source of support.

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