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Study: “Shared Space” Slows Drivers While Letting Traffic Move Efficiently

The idea behind “shared space” street design is that less can be more. By ditching signage, traffic lights, and the grade separation between sidewalk and roadbed, the shared space approach calms traffic and heightens communication between drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Instead of following traffic signals on auto-pilot or speeding up to beat the light, motorists have to pay attention to their surroundings.

A "shared space" in Austria. Image: Transportation Research Board

A shared space in Graz, Austria. Image: Transportation Research Board

Shared space design has been shown to calm vehicle traffic and allow more freedom of movement for pedestrians with no increase in traffic injuries. A new study from professor Norman Garrick and Benjamin Wargo at the University of Connecticut finds that in the right conditions shared space also makes intersections more efficient for both pedestrians and motorists.

The study examined six sites around the world that have some degree of “shared space” and where each approach to the intersection has one lane of motor vehicle traffic. Because of the limited number of shared space designs in the U.S., only one American example is included: Uptown Circle in Normal, Illinois.

Using video, the researchers measured driver speeds and pedestrian and vehicle delay. The authors then compared those observations to computer-simulated estimates of how much delay would occur if the streets were designed with more conventional traffic control measures, like stoplights or roundabouts.

They found that in this context, shared space design calmed traffic while also creating less delay for both pedestrians and motorists than traffic signals.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Active Transportation Program 3rd Round: Guidelines, Workshops

The Active Transportation Program provides funds to encourage people to get out of their cars. Image: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The Active Transportation Program provides funds to encourage people to get out of their cars. Image: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans has released the draft guidelines [PDF] for the third round of the Active Transportation Program. Ongoing workshops to discuss the guidelines started a week ago and are continuing, with one this Friday, February 12, in Fresno; a last one will be held some time during the week of February 15 in Sacramento.

The last workshop will focus on applications and technical assistance for those preparing to apply.

A summary of the draft changes to program guidelines since the last round of funding are available here [PDF]. The final guidelines will be adopted in mid-March and the call for projects is expected to be announced in late March, with a mid-June deadline for applications.

Cycle 3 will allocate approximately $230 million over two fiscal years: 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The schedule for this round leaves a little more time for applicants to work on final applications and for the screening process, and it also gives regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations more time between the adoption of projects that win statewide funding and the MPOs’ submission of regionally preferred projects.

At the first workshop, held in Sacramento on January 29 and open to call-in participants, a discussion arose about the low percentage of plans and programs (e.g. bike plans or safety and encouragement programs) that received funding compared to infrastructure projects like bike lanes and paths.

Commissioners on the California Transportation Commission, who decide the funding allocations, have made it clear that they are more interested in funding projects than planning. ATP staff pointed out that they didn’t get many requests for planning funds in the last round. But this may be because the applications and scoring process are better suited for infrastructure projects than planning and programming.

There was some disagreement about the value  of funding non-infrastructure projects among participants. Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Tentative Deal to Extend Tech Shuttle Program Another Year (SFGate)
  • Earthquake Warning Systems that Could Save BART Needs Cash (CBSLocal)
  • Computer Glitch Delays BART (SFGate)
  • Hayward BART Station Closed When Crime Victim Comes to Station for Help (InsideBayArea, SFGate)
  • Huge Wait Lists for Transit Adjacent Affordable Housing (KQED)
  • AT&T Office Building Near Downtown Oakland BART Getting New Owners? (BizJournals)
  • Relax Palo Alto Height Limits Near Transit? (Almanac)
  • Slow Street Part of Plans for Eagle Plaza (Socketsite)
  • How the Super Bowl Traffic and Transit Meltdown was Averted (BizJournal)
  • More Details on Crash that Killed Woman in Wheelchair (SFExaminer)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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Two Horrific Bay Area Crashes Highlight Need for Faster Action

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured while cycling. Image from Google Street View.

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured. Image from Google Street View.

Megan Schwarzman, 42, a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, was riding her bike southbound on Fulton Street near Bankcroft Way on Tuesday around 5 p.m. when she was hit and dragged under a car driven by Berwick Haynes, a Sunnyvale resident. Haynes remained at the scene and was later arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, according to reports. Schwarzman’s injuries were so severe that the Berkeley Police sent its “Fatal Accident Investigation Team.” Fortunately, Schwarzman is expected to live, reported Berkeleyside, an independent news site.

It’s difficult to see what, if anything, Schwarzman could have done to ride more safely. Reportedly, she was wearing florescent green safety gear, a helmet, and she had lights on her bike. She was struck from behind. There’s no way anyone can call this an “accident,” given the conditions on Fulton—its design encourages dangerous speeds and provides no protection for cyclists.

According to the Daily Californian citing data from the California Highway Patrol, there were ten reported bicycle-versus-motor vehicle collisions at the intersection of Fulton Street and Bancroft Way from 2001 to 2014. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates has declared that he wants to make Berkeley the most bike-friendly city in the US.

Then why do such conditions persist? It wasn’t a cost issue: the city repaved Fulton last year. “We asked them to put in bike lanes and got our usual response that they need to do a traffic study,” said Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay. “We were told both would take time and they didn’t want to delay the paving. It would have been very easy to do.”

Campbell said it’s a problem endemic to Berkeley and other cities: the paving engineers work in a different department from the city planners. Putting protected bike lanes on Fulton “was in the 2000 bike plan. It was in the 2005 bike plan. It was in the 2010 downtown plan — every five years the city says ‘yes, do this’ and then they repave without doing it,” said Campbell. He hopes that with the end of CEQA’s car-centric “Level of Service” (LOS), things might improve, but he’s fears the foot-dragging and excuses will continue.
Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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New Evidence That Protected Bike Lanes Get People Cycling More

Protected bike lanes so seem to encourage new people to try cycling, according to a new study Photo: Martin Reis via I Bike TO

A survey in Toronto shows that a protected lane led to new bike trips. Photo: Martin Reis via I Bike TO

Cities making the most progress on protected bike lanes are seeing bicycling rates go up. But at the scale of a specific street with a new protected lane, it’s hard to know how much of the increase in bike counts is due to cyclists moving over from nearby streets, and how much is due to people biking the route for the first time thanks to safer conditions.

Network blog I Bike TO shares a recent survey that sheds light on the question. Raymond Ziemba at Toronto’s Ryerson University looked at ridership along a new protected bike lane on Sherbourne Street in Toronto [PDF]. The results indicate that a substantial share of people riding in the protected lane made bike trips because of the street redesign:

Ziemba found that “[t]here was a strong association between travel route change and mode substitution, where the likelihood of switching to cycling was 11 times higher for those who did not use the street before 2012.” That is, the transformation of Sherbourne Street cycling facilities from painted bike lanes to physically separated bike lanes with curbs on the north end and raised to near sidewalk level on the south end. This is not surprising given the almost 300% increase in cyclists on Sherbourne.

There were some interesting findings of the survey that point to how important physical separation is to growing the mode share of cycling. Ziemba surveyed 214 cyclists on Sherbourne St in 2014. As [Ziemba’s former professor] Dr. [Ratkim] Mitra summarized in his email to me:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Super Bowl Helps BART Break Weekend Ridership Record (SFGate, SFBay, NBCBayArea)
  • Bikes Spurned but Gridlock Averted at Super Bowl (InsideBayArea)
  • Reward Offered for Information on BART Shooter (SFGate)
  • BART Reveals Cost of Getting Real Security Cameras (SFExaminer)
  • Editorial Says BART Unions Should Cut Costs (InsideBayArea)
  • SFMTA Unveils Plans for $3 Billion M-Ocean View Subway (SFExaminer)
  • Woman in Wheel Chair Struck and Killed by Motorist on Market Street (SFGate)
  • Berkeley Cyclist Critically Injured in Crash with Suspected DUI Motorist (Berkeleyside, DailyCal)
  • Protesters who Block Transit and Roads Face Mild Punishments (SFGate)
  • SamTrans Seeks Electric Bus Pilot Program (SMDailyJournal)
  • Editorial Supports Downtown Novato Train Station (MarinIJ)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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Super Bowl Blocks Bikes

Santa Clara Police close a one-mile section of the San Tomas Aquino Trail during events at Levi's Stadium

Santa Clara Police close a one-mile section of the San Tomas Aquino Trail during events at Levi’s Stadium, forcing the public to use a two-mile on-street detour. During the stadium’s construction, city officials promised that the trail would remain open at all times. Photo: Andrew Boone

Want to walk or bike to Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday? It won’t be easy. The big game’s organizers have banned the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) from providing free valet bike parking at the stadium. The City of Santa Clara also agreed on a ten-day closure, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, of the San Tomas Aquino Trail for the construction of an entertainment area on the surface parking lot next to the stadium.

“Many of us were hoping to see Super Bowl 50 be the most bike-friendly big game yet. Instead, attendees will apparently have no place to park a bike, even if they are able to navigate past the closed bike path and double detour on surrounding streets,” wrote SVBC in an online petition to the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee that has gathered 280 signatures. “In a region with soaring traffic and a country where transportation accounts for 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, ignoring people-powered transportation seems both irresponsible and antiquated.”

Valet bike parking and quality pedestrian and bike infrastructure cut both car traffic and reduce demand for car parking on event days, direct benefits to both Levi’s Stadium and those living or working in the area.

“The largest bike parking area takes up about 4000 square feet for up to 285 bikes,” wrote SVBC Bike Parking Coordinator Alison Pauline in an email. “We are parking up to 285 bikes in an area that could fit 13 cars.” Paluine said volunteers typically park between 100 and 200 bikes at 49ers games, depending on how many fans show up to watch the team play. Record turnout to date was over 700 bikes for a two-day Grateful Dead concert in June of 2015.

SVBC Bike Parking Volunteers at Levis Stadium

Volunteers park hundreds of bicycles at every Levi’s Stadium event, except Super Bowl 50, for which organizers have banned valet bike parking and closed the San Tomas Aquino Trail. Photo: SVBC

A network of over 100 miles of continuous off-street walking and bicycling paths stretching from Mountain View to San Jose connect directly to the football stadium’s main entrances along the San Tomas Aquino Trail in northern Santa Clara. “Our publicly funded San Tomas Aquino Trail has been taken over by a private corporation with the complicit support of the City of Santa Clara,” said former SVBC Board of Directors member Scott Lane. “This world-class network of off-street trails is intended for everyone to enjoy, not only those wealthy enough to afford 49ers football tickets.” Lane led successful negotiations in October 2014 between active transportation advocates and Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers to allow trail access for people walking or bicycling to stadium events.

“While there will likely be a sizable increase in pedestrians on the San Tomas Aquino Creek
trail before and after NFL events, the creek trail is open to both pedestrians and cyclists and there are no restrictions on use,” promised Santa Clara city officials in the stadium’s Environmental Impact Report. “Anyone at anytime can access and use the trail.”

Additionally, the Super Bowl will cost Caltrain an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 to operate extra trains to shuttle fans to and from Mountain View, where they can transfer to Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail trains – operating for the exclusive use of Super Bowl ticket-holders. VTA rail ridership to the stadium is capped at 12,000, and even at $20 a ticket the agency said it will not recover Super Bowl costs either. SamTrans is paying 12 bus drivers to remain on call so that bus bridges can be set up in case Caltrain breaks down. None of the transit agencies will be compensated by the National Football League or Levi’s Stadium.

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Friday Job Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers.

Looking for a job? Here are some current listings:

5278 Planner II, San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco
This position performs difficult city planning work and participates in all phases of city planning; assists in the preparation of planning, research, surveys and projects; conducts investigations, collects and analyzes data on zoning, subdivision design, urban renewal, rapid transit and other land use problems; assists in the conduct of environmental impact reviews; assists in the preparation of written and graphic reports; may supervise subordinate survey, clerical and office personnel; and performs related duties as required.

Store Manager, PUBLIC Bikes, Santa Monica
PUBLIC Bikes seeks a a results-driven, marketing-oriented, high energy Store Manager to lead a new Santa Monica store scheduled to open in late February. This person will be the literal face of PUBLIC bikes in the Santa Monica-area market, manage the local team, and work closely with that team to engage local merchants, neighborhood and city influencers, cycling advocacy groups to plan community-based events and partnerships in and out of the store.

Public Service Director, City of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio
The City of Columbus is seeking a strong manager and a collaborative and innovative leader with previous executive leadership experience to serve as the Director of the Department of Public Service. This position will serve as an advisor to the Mayor, at the cabinet level, on a wide range of public and infrastructure services essential to the citizens of Columbus. This position directs the activities of four divisions, which have the primary duties of removing solid waste, snow and ice removal, transportation planning and operations, design and construction activities, graffiti removal and pothole repair.

Families for Safe Streets Organizer, Transportation Alternatives, New York
Supported by TA, Families for Safe Streets members engage in advocacy and targeted awareness campaigns to press for changes to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries on NYC streets. The FSS Organizer will play a critical role in supporting existing FSS members, growing the group by reaching other New Yorkers impacted by traffic violence, and coordinating new support service activities.

Streetsblog USA
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Obama’s Politically Impossible Transpo Plan Is Just What America Needs

Even with a tax on oil, the U.S.'s effective gas tax rate would be the lowest in the industrialized world. Graph: Tony Dutzik via FHWA

Even with a tax on oil, the U.S.’s effective gas tax rate would be the lowest in the industrialized world. Graph: Tony Dutzik via FHWA

It may be “seven years too late,” as tactical urbanist Mike Lydon put it, but President Obama has released a transportation proposal that calls for big shifts in the country’s spending priorities.

Obama’s proposal would generate $30 billion annually from a $10-per-barrel surcharge assessed on oil companies. More importantly, the revenue is linked to a substantial shift in what transportation projects get funded. It’s the kind of thorough proposal, on both the revenue and spending sides of the equation, that Obama shied away from for most of his presidency. (It would only have stood a chance during his first two years in office.) While this Congress would never pass it, the proposal does lay down a marker for what smart federal transportation policy could be.

In a rough sketch laid out by the White House yesterday of the upcoming proposal, Obama calls for major increases in transit funding and investing in a network of efficient high-speed rail. Perhaps even more innovative is a $10 billion program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. This program, among other things, would fund states to better coordinate housing and job development with transportation. Obama’s proposal also calls for $2 billion to support research and development and the implementation of autonomous vehicles.

Not surprisingly, what has gotten the most press is the oil tax, which even Obama admits would likely be passed on to consumers through higher gas prices. Already, Republican Congressional leaders have called the proposal “DOA.”

Obama’s people have acknowledged the bill faces long odds in Congress, describing it as a conversation starter. An unnamed administration official told Politico the plan would help shift the nation’s transportation policy out of the Eisenhower era.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Which Cities Are Adding Walkable Housing the Fastest?

Since 1970, most American metros have seen their share or walkable urban housing decline, according to this analysis by data guru Kasey Klimes.

Since 1970, most American metros have seen walkable housing decline as a share of total housing. Chart: Kasey Klimes

As more Americans look for walkable places to live, cities are struggling to deliver, and a lot of neighborhoods are becoming less affordable. A new analysis by Kasey Klimes of Copenhagen’s Gehl Studio illustrates how major metro areas have let their supply of walkable housing shrink over the years, contributing to today’s housing crunch.

In this chart, Klimes shows how much walkable neighborhoods, which he defines as places with 10 or more housing units per acre, have grown or declined as a share of total housing in the nation’s 51 largest regions, from 1970 through 2010.

In most places, Klimes writes, the trend since 1970 has left cities in bad shape to handle the increasing demand for walkable neighborhoods:

The percentage of housing in walkable neighborhoods has dropped from 19.4% to 12% since 1970. Overall, though the number of housing units in America has outpaced population at a ratio of 3:2 since 1970, the number of housing units in walkable neighborhoods has trailed behind population growth at a ratio of 3:1. Now that market preference has returned to dense housing, this mismatch has left us far behind in adequate supply.

The silver lining is an uptick in decade to decade construction of dense housing. The net gain of housing in walkable neighborhoods as a fraction of total net housing gain by decade has increased from just 0.3% in the 1970’s to 10.7% in the 2000’s.

Despite some recent progress, the mismatch between low supply and high demand is contributing to rising housing prices and burdening people with rents they can’t afford in many cities and neighborhoods. Zoning that outlaws walkable development and the disproportionate political power of development-averse property owners are two factors that have hindered housing development where it is most in demand.

Read more…