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Dallas Transport Agency Cooks Up Fishy Traffic Projections for a New Road

We’ve reported on the way state agencies justify spending on expensive road expansions by overestimating the traffic that will materialize in the future. In an encouraging sign, one local press outfit is calling out the fishy traffic projections before a project gets built.

The regional transportation agency for Dallas justifies this highway project with traffic projections that far exceed even the estimates from the notorious sprawl enablers at Texas DOT. Map: Northeastgateway.com

Brandon Formby of the Dallas Morning News‘ Transportation Blog (yes, it’s a long-time member of the Streetsblog Network) has been taking a critical look at traffic projections from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Big D’s regional planning agency. Residents who oppose the 28-mile Northeast Gateway-Blackland Prairie toll road – planned for a rural area between Garland and Greenville — question the assumptions behind the project.

The numbers certainly do look suspicious. Here are some excerpts from Formby’s reporting (emphasis added):

  • “Some of the council of governments predictions are hundreds of percentage points higher than the Texas Department of Transportation’s forecasts.”
  • “NCTCOG predicts that 72,300 drivers will use State Highway 66 at County Road 6 in Lavon in 2035. That’s six times as many as the 12,000 drivers the agency says used it last year. It’s also more than triple the 22,880 drivers TxDOT estimates for the same spot in 2030, the closest year to the NCTCOG estimates for which the state has forecasts.”
  • “While the regional agency’s traffic estimates for spots in the corridor predict anywhere from a 70 percent to 503 percent increase in drivers, the state predicts population increases in the four counties to be between 23.3 percent and 65.1 percent.”

Formby reports that NCTCOG has been reluctant to divulge how its traffic projections were developed. No wonder, because they seem to be practicing highway voodoo.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure, responding to an absurd case of police overreach in San Francisco, points out that  places where it’s safe for children to be on bikes don’t require them to wear helmets. And Delaware Bikes outlines data from Active Living Research that shows the many health benefits of biking and walking for transportation.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Bike Thief Attacks on Panhandle Cyclists Continue as SFPD Steps Up Patrols (Hoodline, KTVU)
  • Citywide Number of Bike Corrals Nears 60 (SFBC)
  • Two Years After SF Chronicle Report, Muni’s 10-Townsend as Unreliable as Ever
  • ADA Laws Do Not Require Transit Passengers to Give Up Seat to Disabled Riders (SF Weekly)
  • SF Examiner Overviews Prop A, the $500M General Obligation Bond for Transportation
  • SFPD Says Car Thefts Up 18 Percent in Last Eight Months (KTVU)
  • 25 Years Later, A Look Back at Freeway Collapses Caused by the Loma Prieta Earthquake (SFist, NYT)
  • Golden Gate Transit Drivers Prepare to Strike This Friday (Marin IJ)
  • SF Chronicle‘s John King: Fremont’s Planning Around Warm Springs BART “Puts SF’s to Shame”
  • 62-Year-Old Kurt Wehner, Cyclist Killed in Berkeley Crash, Found at Fault (Berkeleyside)
  • Man Killed on Tracks by Caltrain in Palo Alto (ABCKTVU)
  • GJEL Reiterates: 12-Foot-Wide Traffic Lanes Cause Speeding, Dangerous Streets

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Advocates: Ocean Ave Plans Come Up Short for Safer Bicycling at Balboa Park

Proposed designs for Ocean and Geneva Avenues include some pedestrian bulb-outs and a new plaza, but wouldn’t add much to the intermittent bike lane network. Ocean’s traffic lanes would remain mostly untouched. Images: Planning Department

A city proposal for Ocean and Geneva Avenues would do little to make bicycling safer and more comfortable between the Balboa Park BART and Muni station and destinations west of City College’s main campus, say bike advocates. While plans to add bulb-outs and tame the hairy Ocean and Geneva intersection would make the streets somewhat safer, overall, the car-centric status quo wouldn’t change significantly.

The proposal, presented at a community meeting last week by the Planning Department, SFMTA, and other city agencies, is intended to complement other plans to spruce up Ocean to the west of Phelan Avenue at City College. No roadway space on that stretch is set to be reallocated for biking, walking, or transit, save for a few planted bulb-outs with seating.

The eastern section that passes over Highway 280 and connects to Balboa Park station was addressed separately, planners say, because it’s more complex and they wanted to look at re-configuring the roadway there. The designs also take into account the future removal and re-configuration of freeway ramps in the Balboa Park area, which is currently being developed by the SF County Transportation Authority.

The Planning Department is asking people to weigh in via an online survey [PDF] until October 29 (extended from the 22nd, though the website hasn’t been updated yet).

These sections of Ocean and Geneva are currently some of the most stressful streets to bike on, despite serving as a vital connection for commuters biking from BART and neighborhoods to the east. Ocean has intermittent bike lanes that disappear at some of the hairiest spots, while Geneva has four traffic lanes and two parking lanes. Both streets have steep inclines in the westbound direction. Combined with heavy motor traffic, it’s no wonder planners counted very few people biking on them.

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Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

When it comes to smart transportation options and city planning, Zurich can credibly claim to be the global champ. This Swiss city has enacted a number of policies and practices that have produced streets where people come first. Getting around and simply experiencing the city is a pleasure.

How did they do it? In a 1996 city decree referred to as “a historic compromise,” Zurich decided to cap the number of parking spaces. From then on, when new parking spaces were built anywhere in Zurich, an equivalent number of spaces had to be eliminated elsewhere within the city limits. Many of the new spaces that have been built since then come in the form of underground garages, which allow for more car-free areas, plazas, and shared-space streets.

Zurich also has an intricate system of more than 4,500 sensors that monitor the number of cars entering the city. When that number exceeds the level Zurich’s streets can comfortably accommodate, all cars are halted on highways and main roads into the city until congestion is relieved. Thus, there is never significant traffic back-up in the city itself.

It’s tough to top the city’s transit options. Zurich has a network of comfortable commuter trains and buses, plus the magnificent gem of the city: its 15-line tram system. Trams run everywhere frequently and are easy to hop on and off. The coordination of the lines is a wonder to behold. And it’s the preferred way to travel in the city center – business men in suits traveling to the richest banks in the world ride next to moms and skateboarders.

That’s only the beginning of some of the great things going on in Zurich. Bike mode share is now 6 percent and climbing. People flock to the amazing parks and rivers that have been cleaned up. Car-free and car-lite streets are filled with restaurants and people at all times of day. If you can never get to Zurich yourself, I hope you’ll be able to experience a bit of what it’s like via this Streetfilm.

Note: All stats in the video are from the Mobility and Transport Microcencus of 2010 by the Federal Government of Switzerland. The survey on travel behavior has been conducted every five years since 1974.

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What’s Your City’s Ratio of Places to Non-Places?

 Andrew Price used a sunburn map to highlight the places (blue) and “non-places” (red) in downtown Phoenix. Image: Strong Towns

Here’s a really interesting way to look at cities. Andrew Price at Strong Towns has developed a graphically compelling way to break down developed areas into what he calls “places” and “non-places.”

He explains:

Places are for people. Places are destinations. Whether it is a place to sleep, a place to shop, a place of employment, or simply a place to relax – it has a purpose and adds a destination to the city. Building interiors are the most common form of Places found in cities. Examples of outdoor Places include;

  • Parks and gardens
  • Plazas
  • Human-oriented streets

Non-Places are the padding between destinations. Examples of Non-Places include:

  • Roads
  • Freeways
  • Parking Lots
  • Greenspace

Price has developed a method that instantly conveys the ratio of places to non-places. Below he compares part of San Francisco to a suburban area of Little Rock.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Man Biking With Chest-Strapped Baby Sues SFPD for Arresting and Choking Him, Taking Baby (SFGate)
  • Jeep Driver Arrested After Running Light, Hitting Cab at Octavia and Fell, Attempting to Run (NBC, CBS)
  • SFMTA Installs Daylighting, Signal Changes at Stockton and Sacramento After Woman Died (SFGate)
  • SF Bay Guardian Shuts Doors After 48 Years of Alternative Coverage (SF Weekly, KQED, SF Examiner)
  • SF Weekly‘s Joe Eskanazi: Prop A Transpo Bond Language “May” Be Too Permissive and Broad
  • Annie Alley in SoMa Under Transformation to Become Pedestrian-Friendly Plaza (SocketSite)
  • Private Parking Lots Charge $100 During Giants Games; Most of SF’s Street Parking Still Free (CBS)
  • SideCar Acquires Permits to Serve at SFO, Uber and Lyft to Follow (KTVU, SF Examiner)
  • BART Unions Won’t Back D4 Director and Bike Advocate Robert Raburn Over Treatment of Strikes (EBX)
  • Alameda County’s Transpo Funding Measure BB Gains More Support This Time Around (SFGate)
  • After Pedestrian Deaths, Mountain View Seeks Public Input to Make Intersections Safer (Peninsula Press)
  • At “Growth Without Gridlock,” Silicon Valley Leaders Talk Traffic Reduction Strategies (PTA)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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It’s the Little Things: A Notably Positive SFPD Encounter on My Bike

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Last night, I was biking home on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset when I encountered an all-too-familiar sight: A double-parked car. I signaled and moved to the left to pass the car, in view of an SFPD cruiser behind.

At Irving Street near 10th Avenue, where drivers routinely double park, I had a refreshing encounter with an SFPD officer. (This photo was taken at a separate time.) Photo: Aaron Bialick

Normally, I’d expect the police to move along, doing nothing about this kind of situation. Other bicycle riders have reported far worse encounters with the SFPD.

But to my surprise, the driver of the police cruiser stopped behind the double parker and used their horn to buzz at them until they moved.

This might seem like a mundane encounter, but it left an impression since it’s so rare. I’m just not used to police actually caring about drivers who pose hazards to people biking or walking, or delaying Muni, even when the behavior is clearly illegal. Usually they just move along. When you get around by bike in SF for a while, it’s something you sadly can come to expect.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but if SF is fortunate, this officer’s little deed is not just a sign of a good apple, but rather of a larger shift in priorities at SFPD. Maybe it’s related to recent pushes from the top to pursue Vision Zero, or to crack down on double parking. Of course, citations might be more effective, but whoever the officer was — presumably from Taraval Station — thank you. The little things can speak volumes about SFPD’s attitudes.

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Eyes on the Street: Drivers Blatantly Park in the Oak Street Bike Lane

If the tow trucks stowed in the Fell Street bike lane weren’t enough a blatantly dangerous abuse of space for people on bikes, the situation on its Oak Street counterpart can be even more egregious. Patrick Traughber recently tweeted the above photo of five vehicles parked in Oak’s curbside, buffered bike lane, squeezing bike commuters alongside passing motor traffic in the door zone.

These drivers don’t even get to try the Ted and Al’s Towing excuse, i.e., limited space to store their trucks while they’re queued to pull into the garage.

Of course, we’re still awaiting a row of partial, protective planted islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic, which would send a stronger signal that the lanes are not to be parked in. The SFMTA is currently building bulb-outs and rain gardens in the area, also partially blocking the bike lanes in the process, as another part of the project. Maybe that’s a sign that the islands will be built in this decade.

The SFMTA initially installed temporary plastic posts to separate the Fell bike lane, but they were removed with a re-paving and never replaced. The Oak bike lane never got them at all.

Traugher’s suggestion for a short-term, seemingly no-brainer measure? “The curb needs to be painted red.” Some more enforcement from SFMTA and SFPD might also work, too.

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Conquering the Unbearable Whiteness of Bike Advocacy: An Equity How-To

In Los Angeles, Multicultural Communities for Mobility helped Latino residents learn both bike mechanics and bike advocacy. A PSA campaign heightened the visibility of cyclists of color within their own community. Photo: Multicultural Communities for Mobility

Many bicycle advocacy groups find themselves in a sticky position today: They’re increasingly aware that their membership doesn’t reflect the diversity of the broader population, but they’re not sure how to go about recruiting new members, or how to do it in a way that doesn’t amount to tokenism.

The League of American Bicyclists has been working hard to address equity in the bike movement, and their collaboration with a wide variety of local groups has led them to share some of the most successful practices in a new report, The New Movement: Bike Equity Today. Here are some how-tos, drawn from the report, for people who want to bring new voices into the movement.

Listen. How can bike advocates be sure that the infrastructure solutions and education programs they’re promoting work for everyone unless they ask everyone — or better yet, get everyone at the table in the first place when designing the advocacy program? “You can’t just go and say, ‘We need you to show up at a meeting,’” says Karen Overton of New York’s Recycle-a-Bicycle. “That’s not the way to do it. People may reach out to African American churches and say, they don’t call us back. But what if you actually go to church and then start talking?”

Elevate new leaders. Portland’s Community Cycling Center trained 12 members of the low-income, Latino housing developments they were working with to be bike educators “to cultivate and sustain [a] community-led bike culture.” The trainings were led in Spanish. “These projects also represent the promise that the best solution to barriers to bicycling are created by those experiencing the barriers,” said CCC Director Alison Hill Graves, “particularly when there are cultural, income, or age differences.” Local Spokes of New York City has a Youth Ambassadors program in which local teens explored the Lower East Side and Chinatown by bike, learning about urban planning, bicycle infrastructure, community organizing, public space, and gentrification along the way. They then created educational materials to share what they learned with local residents. “In the short term, youth became educators, stewards, and champions of this work,” says the League.

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Not Just a Phase: Young Americans Won’t Start Motoring Like Their Parents

Young adults in 2009 were driving less and walking, biking, and riding transit more than young adults in 2001, according to the National Household Travel Survey. Chart: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

A raft of recent research indicates that young adults just aren’t as into driving as their parents were. Young people today are walking, biking, and riding transit more while driving less than previous generations did at the same age.

The vast majority of state DOTs have been loathe to respond by changing their highway-centric ways. A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, points out the folly of their inaction: If transportation officials are waiting for Americans born after 1983 to start motoring like their parents did, they are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Though some factors underlying the shift in driving habits are likely temporary — caused by the recession, for instance — just as many appear to be permanent, the authors found. That means American transportation agencies should get busy preparing for a far different future than their traffic models predict.

“The Millennial generation is not only less car-focused than older Americans by virtue of being young, but they also drive less than previous generations of young people,” write authors Tony Dutzik, Jeff Inglis, and Phineas Baxandall.

There’s a good deal of evidence that the recession cannot fully explain the trend away from driving among young people. Notably, driving declined even among millennials who stayed employed, and “between the recession years of 2001 and 2009, per-capita driving declined by 16 percent among 16 to 34 year-olds with jobs,” the authors write.

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