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Caltrans Bicycling/Walking Survey Closing Soon, Draft CA Plan This Fall

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Caltrans is developing the first-ever statewide effort to provide guidance on bicycle and pedestrian planning

As part of the process to develop the first-ever statewide bike and pedestrian plan, Caltrans has been collecting general information from people about their current walking and bicycling experience. The survey, available here, closes on June 30.

So far the department has collected about 2,500 responses from around the state. The information will be used to help formulate a draft California State Bike and Ped Plan, with the completed plan due in February 2017.

While at the State Bike and Ped Plan website, sign up for updates on the next phase of public outreach. A webinar about the plan is being put together for some time in late July or August. When the draft plan is released this fall, there will be “another round of public engagement,” according to Scott Forsythe, who is managing the effort for Caltrans.

The plan’s website is also due for an update in the next few weeks.

So far Caltrans has held ten regional workshops—well, nine, with the tenth happening in Eureka tomorrow—with local agency partners to gather feedback about coordinating on bike and pedestrian issues. The regional workshops gathered about 170 representatives from cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, health departments, and law enforcement agencies. Bicycle and pedestrian advocates were invited to attend as well. See earlier SBCA coverage of a recent state plan workshop in Los Angeles.

The regional forums were an “early outreach effort,” according to Forsythe. A summary of the input from the forums will inform the draft plan. Then, in the fall, “there will be further opportunities for public input to the plan. We’re still looking for the best way to reach out to get the most effective input,” said Forsythe.

Currently Caltrans is developing draft objectives for the plan, with the help of a technical advisory committee made up of representatives of about forty planning agencies, state agencies, and advocates. The advisory committee “is a good cross section of California,” said Forsythe. “It includes representatives from urban areas and rural areas, mountain communities, coastal communities.” The advisory committee provides feedback on the draft objectives, and will help with developing strategies to meet those objectives and performance measures to evaluate whether they are being met.

The plan’s objectives are based on the six goals already developed for the statewide California Transportation Plan 2040. “There was an extensive statewide effort to develop the CTP goals,” said Forsythe, “and they apply to this plan.”

The goals in the CTP are a good start for a bike/ped plan. They are to: Read more…

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Beyond Fitness: The Social Benefits of Open Streets Events

Milwaukee's Ciclovia was planned in part to help bring together different groups in a Hispanic neighborhood. Urban MIlwaukee

One goal of Milwaukee’s Ciclovia is to bring neighbors together in public space. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

It’s a beautiful thing to witness just how much neighborhood streets can change when you remove car traffic. As open streets events, modeled after Bogotá’s Ciclovia, have spread across the U.S. in the past several years, they’ve brought not just opportunities for physical activity, but a joyful new way to use streets as public spaces.

In Milwaukee, this year’s Ciclovia overlapped with the city’s Pride parade. Writing at Urban Milwaukee, Dave Schlabowske of the Wisconsin Bike Federation says the combination of the two events underscored how open streets are about so much more than biking:

Our Ciclovía ended at 4 p.m. and I packed up the van with the now empty bike racks and put them back in the basement of our office. Pedaling home from our office after such a successful day, I kept reliving the smiles of all the cute kids, the infectious beat of the Zumba, and generally basking in a day that made me proud to work for the Wisconsin Bike Fed and be part of such a wonderful, healthy, community building event. It was one of those days I couldn’t imagine living anywhere but Milwaukee.

Then I got home and my wife told me the news about the mass shooting in Orlando. I was shocked. I can’t believe our event and the Pridefest Parade overlapped and yet I had no idea of the horrific attack on the LGBT community the night before. It took me awhile to write about this. At first I felt guilty for being so self-absorbed that I missed learning about the biggest mass murder in our nation’s history while busy with a “bike event.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Ghosts of Motordom’s Past and Future

This week we’re doing something a little different with the podcast. It’s the morning plenary from last month’s Live.Ride.Share conference in Denver. You’ll hear Jill Locantore of WalkDenver introduce University of Virginia Professor Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic, who discusses how automobiles were sold to the public at the beginning of the motor age. Following Norton is Gabe Klein, former transportation director in Washington DC and Chicago, who talks about how cars are changing and what that means for streets and cities.

Norton starts at the 5-minute mark and Klein starts at 28:15, then questions from the audience and an open discussion come at 1:02:15.

Streetsblog USA
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Anthony Foxx to Local Officials: Transport Policy Should Tackle Segregation

Local transportation officials should actively work to reduce segregation and promote equal access to quality schools, three Cabinet members say in a “dear colleague” letter released last week [PDF].

Are good schools accessible by transit, or foot and bike safely? Federal officials say transportation officials have a role to play in improving equality. Image: Streetfilms

Are good schools accessible by walking, biking, and transit? Cabinet members say they should be. Image: Streetfilms

The message from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Education Secretary John King urges transportation, housing, and education officials at all levels of government to work together to ensure that people aren’t excluded from economic and educational opportunities.

The call to action builds on HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which requires local governments that receive federal housing funds to analyze segregation patterns and develop plans to reduce it.

“We recognize that a growing body of research supports the benefits of socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools and communities, and that such diversity can help establish access points for opportunity and mobility,” Foxx, Castro, and King wrote. “We also recognize that children raised in concentrated poverty or in communities segregated by socioeconomic status or race or ethnicity have significantly lower social and economic mobility than those growing up in integrated communities.”

In the transportation sphere, the letter recommends a few steps to take. To paraphrase:

Read more…

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A Bike Bell That Maps Where Cyclists Feel Unsafe and Pings the Mayor

This map shows where cyclists felt unsafe biking in London. Map: Hövding

A user-generated map of where people felt unsafe biking in London, via Hövding

London cyclists who encounter stressful, dangerous conditions can crowdsource a map of weaknesses in the city’s bike network by simply tapping button on their handlebars. Brandon G. Donnelly at Architect This City has more:

Hövding — a Swedish company best known for its radical airbag cycling helmets (definitely check these out) — is currently crowdsourcing unsafe conditions and cyclist frustration in London.

Working with the London Cyclist Campaign, they distributed 500 yellow handlebar buttons. Cyclists were then instructed to tap these buttons whenever they felt unsafe or frustrated with current cycling conditions.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Walkable Cities Are More Affordable Than You Think – We Need More of Them

People living in walkable cities may have high housing costs, but they also tend to have low transportation costs and better access to jobs, according to a new study from Smart Growth America [PDF].

The most walkable metro areas have better job access and lower transportation costs, helping cancel out the effects of high housing costs. Graph: Smart Growth America

The most walkable metro areas have better job access and lower transportation costs, lightening the burden of high housing costs. Table: Smart Growth America

SGA ranked the 30 largest American regions according to the share of rental housing, office space, and retail located in areas with high Walk Scores. Then, using data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, each region was also assigned a “social equity index” score based on housing and transportation costs for moderate-income households, as well as the number of jobs residents can access.

SGA found a significant link between walkability and its equity index, even though housing costs tend to be higher in walkable places.

In the areas with the highest walkable urbanism score, housing costs per square foot are indeed quite a bit higher than in car-oriented places — 93 percent higher, according to SGA. But moderate-income households in those six regions also have lower transportation costs — about 19 percent of their income, on average, compared to 28 percent in the least walkable places. Residents of compact places likely pay for less square footage than residents of spread-out places.

All told, SGA found that moderate-income households in the six most walkable regions spend about the same share of their income on housing and transportation combined as moderate-income households across all 30 metros — about 42 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Read more…

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Goodbye to the Era of Big Infrastructure?

Despite the occasional feature story about America’s “infrastructure crisis” and the campaign platforms for increased investment, the “era of big infrastructure is over,” argues University of Minnesota engineering professor David Levinson at the Transportist.

With maintenance a more pressing need than expansion, Levinson does not foresee major additions to either the highway system or rail and transit networks in the years ahead:

Once upon a time we did deploy big infrastructure. The railroads in the 19th century, and the interstate in the 20th were BIG. Turnpikes and canals were other large technical systems of the 19th century, as were the US Highway system, airports, container ports, and the like in the 20th. But they have been deployed, and many of them are already shrinking.

Instead, because the existing infrastructure systems are mature (built out), they need little expanding (and likely some contracting).

Certainly there are potential new infrastructure for surface transport. The most widely discussed would be intercity High Speed Rail and urban transit projects. Similarly there are proposals for water (rebuilding the water and sewer networks) and for energy (massive investment in renewables as well as smart grid technologies). I think the transport investments are unlikely, the water investments are mostly piecemeal replacements, and the energy investments will be a set of many small, decentralized power generators rather than large facilities. In short change is likely to [be] incremental rather than comprehensive.

Read more…

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New Jersey May Finally Do the Responsible Thing and Raise the Gas Tax

Adjusted for inflation, New Jersey transit fares have been rising while the gas tax has been declining. Graph: Tri-=State Transportation Campaign

Adjusted for inflation, New Jersey transit fares have been rising while the gas tax has been declining. Chart: Tri-State Transportation Campaign [PDF]

For a long time now, New Jersey politicians — first and foremost Governor Chris Christie — have been playing a high stakes game of chicken with transportation funds, doing practically anything to avoid raising the gas tax. Only one other state in the nation has a lower fuel tax than New Jersey. Thanks to inflation, drivers pay less and less for the roads, but transit riders are paying as much as they ever have following a fare hike last year.

Necessity may finally prompt a change of course. The state’s Transportation Trust Fund is set to run dry in about three weeks. Joseph Cutrufo at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog reports that there’s some momentum in the state legislature to finally raise the gas tax:

The New Jersey Senate, led by Senators Paul Sarlo and Steve Oroho, announced bipartisan agreement on a $20 billion, 10-year plan with some more details.

Read more…

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Car Dependence and the Troubling Rise of Subprime Auto Loans

There have been warning signs about the growth in subprime auto loans for years now. But the issue got some very high-profile attention last week when JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon raised concerns that there may be a bubble in the auto lending market.

Since the economic recovery began, lending institutions have actually loosened standards for car loans. The auto finance sector was excluded from regulation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created after the housing crisis to help regulate the consumer banking and credit industry.

Since then, more Americans have chosen to borrow to pay for their cars. About 86 percent of new cars were financed in 2015, up from 80 percent in 2008, according to Tony Dutzik of the Frontier Group, who has been researching the issue. For used cars, the financing rate rose to 55 percent in the second quarter of 2015 — about 7 percentage points higher than in 2010.

Lower-income borrowers account for a large share of the growth in car loans. According to a 2014 New York Times story, subprime auto lending increased 130 percent in the five years following the recession.

Evidence suggests consumers are being stretched thin. Default rates have been climbing. CNN Money reported in March that unpaid subprime car loans are at a 20-year high. As Dimon indicated, this may pose a risk to the broader economy.

But the core issue, says Carjacked author and Brown University professor Catherine Lutz, is the high cost of car dependent development patterns for low-income people. The subprime auto market is booming because in so much of the country, owning a car is a necessity to access employment and other basics.

“If you look at what people have to pay to stay in a car it’s a phenomenal amount of money,” she said. “The bottom two [income] quintiles often have zero equity in anything. So to get a car they have to take a loan.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Many Americans Live Near Transit, But Few Live Close to Good Transit

Graph: Transit Center

In major American cities, most people live close to some type of transit service, but buses or trains that run every 15 minutes or less are much harder to come by. Chart: AllTransit/Center for Neighborhood Technology

This chart tells an eye-opening story about access to transit in the United States. Using the new data tool AllTransit, TransitCenter dug into who has access to transit in American cities, making a crucial distinction between residents near any transit whatsoever and residents with access to convenient, frequently running service.

The analysis encompassed the nation’s 25 largest cities and three others with sizable rail systems. Even in spread-out Jacksonville, most people “live within walking distance of a bus or rail stop,” writes TransitCenter. But access to buses or trains that arrive, on average, every 15 minutes or less — the kind of service that’s most useful to people — is much more scarce:

The number of large U.S. cities with no high-quality public transportation is substantial. San Antonio, which is the busiest bus-only transit system in the country, has no lines that qualify as high-frequency. Neither does Phoenix, which has recently opened new light rail and rapid bus lines. Even Atlanta, with its relatively large subway system, doesn’t run enough late-night and weekend service to make the cut. In all, 13 of the 28 cities (comprising 12.2 million people) fall into this category of offering no high-quality transit whatsoever.

In cities with some frequent service, but not much, access to high-quality transit tends to be unequal:

Notably, in cities with fewer high-frequency transit lines there tends to be a greater demographic skew among people who live near quality transit. Often, but not always, those neighborhoods have substantially smaller proportions of people of color.

Denver, Houston, and Detroit are examples of this inequality in the chart below. (Cleveland bucks the pattern.)

Read more…