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CA Adopts Guidelines for Cap-and-Trade Affordable Housing Program

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 11.50.22 AM The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program hopes to support projects that transform neglected, auto-dependent streets like the one on top into vibrant mixed-use transit corridors. Image: Strategic Growth Council

Yesterday the Strategic Growth Council adopted guidelines for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program and scheduled workshops for early February to provide technical assistance to potential applicants.

California’s Strategic Growth Council is a state committee that coordinates a variety of activities by multiple state agencies, including efforts to improve air and water quality, increase affordable housing, improve transportation, and other issues related to quality of life in California. The Council was given the task of overseeing the AHSC program, created last year during negotiations on how to spend cap-and-trade revenue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The AHSC is tasked with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the development of affordable housing near transit and by creating walkable, bikeable communities that encourage few car trips.

There is $130 million in AHSC’s first round, and staff estimate it will be able to provide partial support for between 15 and 25 projects. The second round of funding is slated to receive $300 million, pending how much revenue cap-and-trade raises this year as well as final budget decisions in June.

The AHSC is a new program, and the process of creating the guidelines has been on a fast pace. After a series of intensive public workshops held throughout the state, proposed guidelines were released in October. At yesterday’s hearing, speaker after speaker remarked that SGC staff succeeded in creating a remarkable, important program in an extremely short time.

And almost everyone agreed it still needs work. Read more…

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Designs From Dutch Burbs Should Unite Vehicular Cyclists and Bike Lane Fans

Photos from Dutch suburban areas and countryside by Marven Norman.

This is the second in a two-post series about Dutch suburbs.

It’s understandable why vehicular cycling techniques thrive in suburban America. In the absence of good bike infrastructure, taking the middle of the travel lane really is the safest way to ride — uncomfortable though that is for many of us.

But if American suburbs are ever going to be made truly better for biking, today’s suburban bicycle drivers will need to find common ground with me and my fellow fans of Dutch infrastructure.

Here’s what that might look like.

1) Infrastructure opponents should take the time to offer meaningful suggestions beyond “no”

Sharrows in Indianapolis. Photo: Michael Andersen/PeopleForBikes

I’ve seen it myself numerous times: The bicycle drivers only demand “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs and sharrows while shunning anything else exclusively for bikes. Meanwhile, the planners and engineers are hearing from the rest of society that they want “more bike lanes.” But without any valuable input about design features, they resort to their manuals… and the result is bad infrastructure.

It’s long past time for the more experienced riders to adopt an approach of pragmatism.

Read more…

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Koch Money Seeps Into Milwaukee to Oppose Streetcar

Back in September we wrote about the various ways the Koch brothers are using their money to upend local transit projects. Four months later, Koch money is intensifying the assault against two more transit lines.

The proposed Milwaukee streetcar would be a two-mile starter route that could expand in future phases. Image: The Milwaukee Streetcar

Right now in the DC region, opponents of the Purple Line are trotting out Koch-funded “expert” Randall O’Toole, whom the press still consider to be a legitimate authority on transportation issues despite his completely cartoonish ideas.

And Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee says it’s happening in Wisconsin’s largest city as well. As the city prepares to build a streetcar system, an opposition group has sprung up that is not what it claims to be, Murphy writes:

For weeks, organizers of the petition drive calling for a referendum on the streetcar have emphasized the grass-roots nature of the effort. After all, as Chris Kliesmet of the CRG Network, which is organizing the petition drive, put it: “the sentiment in the city is wildly against” the streetcar.

Kliesmet laughed off the idea that the effort was getting any funding from conservative groups outside the city. They’ve received “no funding” nor was any on the horizon, he assured me. Republican PR operative Craig Peterson, also involved in the petition drive, said he had paid personally for anti-streetcar radio ads and not one dollar of support (“No. None at all”) was coming to the group from elsewhere.

But in answer to my email inquiry, David Fladeboe, state director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, told me his group is quite involved in the effort: “We have been educating the public on the why the streetcar is wrong for Milwaukee since the mayor started on this project. Now we are working on pushing the referendum to allow the people of Milwaukee to decide the fate of the streetcar.”

When I pressed for more detail, Fladeboe said, “Our field teams are working with several coalition partners to gather the required signatures to have a referendum in Milwaukee. We have both paid staff and volunteers working on this project.”

How many paid staff, how much money is being spent? I asked. Fladeboe did not respond.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Board Approves Free Muni for Seniors and Disabled Riders (ABC, SFBay, SFGateExaminer)
  • SFMTA Board Approves Seven Percent Muni Service Increase (SFBay)
  • Uber’s Market 3x Bigger Than SF Taxis (Biz Times); Lyft Looks to Catch Up in Funding (Biz Times)
  • Art Galleries to Check Out Within BART’s Reach in Oakland (KQED)
  • More on the Kirkham Heights Redevelopment: Car-Centric Relic to Be Brought “Up to Date” (Hoodline)
  • Downtown Berkeley BART Station Shut Down During Large Power Outage (ABC)
  • Protesters on San Mateo-Hayward Bridge Could Face Harsh Penalties Due to Related Collisions (ABC)
  • San Rafael Assemblyman Wants to Fast-Track New Car Lane on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (Marin IJ)
  • Atherton Mayor Disapproves of Caltrain Electrification After Environmental Review Approved (Almanac)
  • Pedestrian Killed in Downtown Santa Rosa After SUV Driver Crashes, Flips (ABC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: Another Driver Jumps the Curb in the Tenderloin

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Photo: Cheryl Brinkman

No sidewalk is safe.

Another driver jumped the curb and crashed into a building at Post and Taylor Streets near Union Square on Sunday. Cheryl Brinkman, who sits on the SFMTA Board of Directors, captured this photo of the aftermath and remarked: “I’ve been keeping a mental list of ‘Things we can’t trust car drivers not to do.’ Add ‘drive into buildings’ to that list.”

Drivers careen on to sidewalks more regularly than you might think — often on high-speed streets in dense neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, which is criss-crossed by one-way “arterials.” Two blocks away from the scene of yesterday’s crash, a driver destroyed a Muni shelter at Sutter and Taylor Streets in June 2013.

Miraculously, it appears no one was injured in either of those crashes, but people are not always so fortunate.

In November, a driver crashed onto the sidewalk and struck someone on a bike at McAllister and Leavenworth Streets, where a heavy flow of cars heading north from Seventh Street makes a zig-zag movement to get on to Leavenworth.

It’s not just a problem in the Tenderloin. Just two weeks ago, a driver smashed into Olea restaurant while making an illegal left turn at California and Larkin Streets. In September, another driver barreled into Comstock Saloon on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. According to ABC 7, that driver wasn’t arrested for the crash, but was arrested for an outstanding warrant for drug possession.

It’s typical for drivers to face no legal penalties for jumping curbs and destroying property, despite the threat to public safety and the costs they impose. They may be arrested or cited for driving under the influence, or for another violation that led to the crash, but driving into a restaurant or coffee shop in San Francisco is apparently not a crime.

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Free Parking Addicts Blast Proposed Parking Permits Near Alamo Square

Residential Parking Permit Area Q would encompass nearly 50 blocks around Alamo Square. Image: SFMTA

After months of planning, the SFMTA gave initial approval on Friday to a new Residential Parking Permit (RPP) zone known as Area Q in the Alamo Square and North of Pandhandle neighborhoods. If the zone is enacted, parking permit holders would pay a $110 annual fee (about 30 cents per day) to get an exemption from two-hour parking limits instituted during daytime hours.

Even though a majority of households in an area have to request RPP just to reach this point in the process, the hearing, held on a Friday at 10 a.m., was swarmed by loud opponents. Perhaps recognizing that the people who shout the loudest at meetings don’t necessarily speak for the neighborhood, hearing officers signed off on the new zone and sent it to the SFMTA Board of Directors for final approval.

These anonymous flyers, imitating a parking ticket, were placed on car windshields throughout the Upper Haight and may have helped draw out opposition to the so-called “parking tax.” Photo: Stan Parkford

The proposed RPP zone is currently a parking free-for-all surrounded by other RPP zones. While permits do little to effectively manage parking demand — they merely give resident car owners higher priority for on-street spots – Area Q would at least establish some order on streets where car commuters have flocked to take advantage of unregulated parking.

Gus Hernandez, president of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, said that some residents are concerned about out-of-district car owners who are attracted to the free, long-term parking in their neighborhoods. An SFMTA analysis in 2012 found that more than half the cars parked on streets in the area are registered in another zip code.

“Car owners don’t want to be stuck in this ‘doughnut hole,’ where its basically a magnet for people who choose not to, or can’t, buy a permit,” said Hernandez.

JJ Strahle, president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, added, “People drive in, park their cars, and get on a bus to head downtown. Those types of situations would be alleviated if we had parking permits.”

The impetus for a new permit zone came after roughly 100 parking spaces were removed to make way for protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets. All of Masonic Avenue’s 167 spaces are also set to be removed later this year for a long-awaited street redesign. The SFMTA has already added 43 parking spaces on Baker, Fulton, and Scott Streets to appease local car owners, but some still feel that more has to be done to address “the parking problem.”

While Hernandez and Strahle said they have seen substantial support for the RPP zone before Friday’s hearing, most of the residents who turned out to speak were vehemently opposed.

Neighborhood resident Daniel White said RPPs only “push that [parking] problem into adjoining neighborhoods,” and that the proposal is “pitting neighbors against each other.”

Reverend Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church, who is no stranger to using incendiary rhetoric in defense of free parking, said RPPs discriminate against African Americans. Others called the SFMTA “greedy” for imposing a “parking tax,” and questioned why something that’s always been “free” is suddenly being priced.

Read more…

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Active Transportation Gets Less Money in CA Budget Proposal

Active Transportation Project applications pile up at Caltrans headquarters on May 21.Photo: California Bicycle Coalition

Caltrans received over 770 applications for Active Transportation Projects in May last year.
Photo: California Bicycle Coalition

Governor Jerry Brown’s recently proposed 2015-16 budget summary [PDF] released on January 9 included a passing reference to $360 million previously allocated for the Active Transportation Program (ATP), but the budget summary offered no details about future funding, nor what allocations for the coming year might be.

The details were released late that afternoon, and they show that the state is not yet taking the commitment to walking and biking seriously. The ATP’s allocation for 2015-16 under Brown’s proposed budget is considerably less than the previous year’s funding level.

This is the first step in the budget process. The governor proposes a budget, which then is discussed in the legislature–the first such hearing was held Friday in the Assembly. In the spring Brown will propose revisions, based on legislative feedback, which will then undergo further discussions and revision. The final budget must be passed by June.

The budget proposal reads like an exercise in bureaucratic obfuscation. You can find the transportation section here [PDF], but good luck figuring it out. With some hand-holding and a lot of consultation with people who know way more than I do, this is what I found buried in the numbers:

Read more…

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Enhancing Public Life on Mission Street

The Planning Department is fielding ideas to improve the public realm on Mission Street at a meeting on Wednesday, and at the end of the week, you can get to know California’s newest transportation agency.

Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Tuesday: The SFMTA Board of Directors agenda includes the expected approval of free Muni for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday: The Planning Department’s third Mission Street Public Life Plan meeting is looking for a few good ideas about how public space improvements can reflect and celebrate neighborhood identity. You can also fill out this survey. 6 p.m.
  • Friday: At a SPUR lunchtime forum, learn how the fledgling California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) plans to shape the future of the state’s mobility. 12:30 p.m.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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Georgia Poised to Snub Transit in Huge Road Funding Increase

Georgia seems poised to double-down on its dysfunctional transportation policies. Photo: Wikimedia

Georgia seems poised to double-down on its dysfunctional transportation policies. Photo: Wikimedia

In the competition to be the worst state for transit, Georgia is one of the clear standouts. The state contributes nothing — yep, zilch! — to Atlanta’s transit system, even as the region grapples with an increasingly crippling traffic and car dependence problem.

State leaders are now pushing for a gas tax increase that would raise about a billion dollars per year for transportation. Unfortunately, the state’s constitution prevents even a cent of that revenue from being used for transit, and Governor Nathan Deal has shown no inclination to overhaul that policy.

The whole situation encapsulates why, when it comes to transportation, Georgia keeps digging itself deeper into a hole, writes Ken Edelstein at Renew ATL:

Whether Georgia even needs all that much money for roads and bridges is an open question. Reporters and politicians are taking to the bank the Joint Committee’s claim that the state Department of Transportation need to double its budget just to upkeep our current infrastructure.

The problem is that the report’s “verified” estimate of $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year just in increased road and bridge maintenance spending was provided to the Joint Committee by a contractor with a big self-interest in more transportation spending. And the committee’s rather thin report doesn’t offer any documentation for the claim. As so often happens in the political media, however, an unsubstantiated claim by an interested party quickly morphs into the neat number that journalists must latch onto. The result: breathless headlines and credulous editorials accepting an increase in the billion-dollars-plus range as absolutely dire.

Meanwhile, Deal himself noted that the state has found the money to add more than $1 billion worth of Interstate lanes in metro Atlanta during his final term. Go figure.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • An Argument Against Free Muni for Seniors and Disabled Riders in Favor of Funding Service (Medium)
  • SF Bicycle Coalition Maps Top Ten Spots for #ParkingDirtySF Sightings
  • More on the Civil Suit Over Amelie Le Moullac’s Fatal Bike Crash With Trucker (SF Examiner)
  • Burglars Drive U-Haul Truck Into Patagonia Store to Steal Merchandise (NBC, KTVU)
  • Oakland Residents Collect Donations for Man Hit on Bike by Driver, Robbed by Bystanders (EBX)
  • Oakland Airport Connector Goes Out of Service Yet Again (SF Weekly, CoCo Times)
  • Racial Justice Protestors Take the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (ABCKTVU)
  • Palo Alto Set to Approve New Bike Boulevard, Bike Ramp Near High Schools (PA Online)
  • Palo Alto to Hold Community Meetings on New Association Aimed at Reducing Driving (PA Online)
  • Marin IJ Calls for Enforcement of New Lower Speed Limits — On a Bike Path

More headlines at Streetsblog USA