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Today’s Headlines

  • Budnick Resigns After Leading SFBC Eight Months (Exam)
  • SFPD Continues to Target Wiggle Bicyclists While Ignoring Deadly Vehicle Traffic (SFBC)
  • Tour Bus Driver Says Mechanical Failure Caused Union Square Crash (Gate, SFist, Hoodline)
  • Super Bowl Host Committee Says Market Street Muni Wires Can Stay (Exam, GateHoodline)
  • More on Permanent Regulations for Private Commuter Buses (Hoodline, SFist, Mission, Kron4)
  • MTC Funds Two Vessels for Future San Francisco-Richmond Ferry Service (KQED)
  • Nearly Complete Central Subway Tunnel Is Impressive (Chron)
  • Sonoma-Marin Transit Officials Fund Engineering Work on 2.2-Mile SMART Extension to Larkspur (IJ)
  • Caltrain Seeks Members for Volunteer Bicycle Advisory Committee, Applications Due November 30 (PA)
  • Palo Alto to Extend Signature Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard South of East Meadow Drive (PA)
  • Residents Weigh In on Redwood City’s Farm Hill Boulevard Road Diet (Daily)
  • More on San Mateo’s 50-Bike Pilot Bike Share System (Exam)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA
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“Bright Clothing” Isn’t the Answer to Pedestrian Deaths

So far this year, nine people have been killed while walking in Columbus, Ohio. Predictably, pedestrians have been caught up in the police response, as the cops increased enforcement of jaywalking. It got even worse with comments from Sergeant Brooke Wilson made to the local NPR station.

North 4th Street in Columbus runs right through Ohio State University's campus area. Image: Google Maps via Transit Columbus

North 4th Street in Columbus runs right through Ohio State University. Image: Google Maps via Transit Columbus

“It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian,” Wilson told WOSU. “You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing.”

Joshua Lapp at Transit Columbus responded:

If you read these as misguided or as anti-pedestrian you aren’t the only one. As an advocate for walkability and better transportation, reading this, I’m reminded that now is the time to shift the Columbus conversation. It’s easy to catch the light rail or high-speed rail fever, but walkability is just as urgent, if not more, in Columbus.

Sidewalks aren’t sexy, yet 50-60% of Columbus remains without them. Crosswalks aren’t in the news, but all too often they’re ignored by drivers and unmarked for pedestrians. Jaywalkers are coming under enhanced enforcement, but how often are they just responding to unsafe, auto-centric road designs?

You may not ride a bus, you may hate getting on a bike, but one thing you can’t escape is the pedestrian experience. We all deserve a safe way to cross the street, a smooth sidewalk for our feet, or a safe ramp for our wheel chair. Light rail may be long term, but we can build a sidewalk in a week; we can paint a crosswalk in a day.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Move Arkansas shows what a much wider Interstate 30 would do to Little Rock. Bike Portland reports the city is using 135 “ghostly” cut-out silhouettes as an educational tool to dramatize the problem of traffic violence. And Transportation for America explains how metropolitan planning organizations can save money with complete streets.

Via Streetsblog California
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Caltrans Admits Building Roads Induces More Driving, But Admitting a Problem Is Just the First Step

Screen shot 2015-11-17 at 10.00.35 AM

Fifty lanes of traffic is not what we want. Image: Screenshot of a tweet from People’s Daily China this summer.

Eric Jaffe, in CityLab, recently reported that Caltrans “admitted” that expanding highways increases traffic by posting a policy brief on the subject of induced demand to its website. He called it a rare admission from a state department of transportation.

State DOTs, as the country’s road builders, have usually responded to congestion, and even safety concerns, by expanding and widening roads, expecting that more lanes will solve problems caused by too many people wanting to drive on them at the same time. But research has shown that making it easier and quicker for people to drive somewhere just encourages more driving. By linking to the policy brief, “Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Reduce Congestion,” [PDF] Caltrans is openly acknowledging the connection between building new capacity and more driving.

But linking to a policy paper doesn’t mean that California will stop building roads altogether.

There is still plenty of pressure to keep building roads—from rural areas that want wider highways, for example, to local areas that tax themselves for new highway expansions (as Placer County is considering doing).

Meanwhile the State Transportation Improvement Program, which is the blueprint for investing in highways in California, contains locally preferred projects including highway expansions, and the California Transportation Commission continues to approve funding for them.

Streetsblog reached out to Steven Cliff, Caltrans’ assistant director of Sustainability, to find out whether the department really has come to accept the concept of induced demand–that if you build more highway miles, more miles will be driven. Cliff said, in short: yes. “It’s pretty settled science that capacity expansion induces demand,” he said. “We know that while it relieves traffic in the short term, there’s pent-up demand that suggests it just fills up again in short order. There’s ample evidence that if you lower costs, demand increases.”

And what does that mean for the department formerly known as the state highway department? (Under Caltrans’ new mission and vision, it’s now the department that “provides a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability”–not just highways for cars.)

Caltrans, within its new strategic management plan, developed goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). “We can’t keep using single occupancy vehicles as our primary way to get around,” said Cliff. “Arguably, we’re not moving people efficiently now,” he said, and it will only get worse as California’s population increases.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Regulations for Private Commuter Buses Approved With Few Changes (Exam, Gate, SFBayCBS, NBC)
  • More on Union Square Tour Bus Crash (Exam 1, 2, SFist, MercABC, CBS, Kron4)
  • MuniMobile Smartphone Payment App Reviewed (SF Business)
  • New BART Train Cars Under Construction in New York (BART)
  • SFMTA Surveys Residents on Whether Illegal Church Parking Should Continue (48 Hills)
  • Millbrae Station Plan That Ignores Dangerous Streets Blessed by Planning Commission (Daily)
  • San Mateo Opts for 90-Day Instead of Two-Year Extension of Red Light Cameras (Daily)
  • Regulations Loosened for San Jose Airport Taxi Drivers to Accommodate Uber, Lyft (MercNBC, ABC)
  • Driver John Donovan Arrested After Intentionally Injuring Bicyclist in Marin (Gate, Merc)

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

Streetsblog USA
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Tell FHWA You Want Safer Designs for City Streets

Earlier this fall, the Federal Highway Administration proposed a major policy change: Instead of requiring roads that receive federal funding to be designed like highways, the agency would change its standards to allow greater flexibility. The implications for urban streets were huge — with less red tape, cities would have a much easier time implementing safer designs for walking and biking. Now FHWA is accepting public comment on this proposal, and you can help ensure that it’s enacted.

Applying highway design standards like wide lane widths and “clear zones” to city streets encourages speeding and recklessness, increasing the risk of walking and biking especially. FHWA’s October rule change proposal acknowledged those dangers, saying that scholarly research doesn’t support 11 of the 13 standards the agency had imposed on roads intended for speeds less than 50 mph.

Many urban streets would be affected by updating the FHWA rules. Freed from outdated design standards, cities will be able to change their streets much more quickly.

But the change isn’t official yet. The public comment period — part of the process of changing federal rules — is happening now Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says its critical that FHWA hear from people who support this change. Unlike other types of public comment periods — environmental reviews of highway projects, for example — these rulemaking comments are taken seriously, says Davis.

Transportation for America has created a tool to help people send their thoughts to the right people.

“For the cities out there leading the way on building smarter, safer, complete, walkable streets that are also magnets for productive economic growth, this is a really encouraging move that will make their work easier,” he said. “We hope others will support FHWA’s proposal.”

Streetsblog USA
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The Looming Transit Breakdown That Threatens America’s Economy


Categories of maintenance needs, in billions of dollars, for America’s large transit agencies. Graph: RPA

While federal transit funding stagnates, the nation’s largest rail and bus systems have been delaying critical maintenance projects. Without sustained efforts to fix infrastructure and vehicles, the effects of deteriorating service in big American cities could ripple across the national economy, according to a new report from the Regional Plan Association [PDF].

RPA focuses on ten of the nation’s largest transit agencies — in Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Between them, these agencies face about $102 billion in deferred maintenance costs. To bring the systems into a state of good repair will require about $13 billion in maintenance spending per year — more than twice the current rate of investment.

These regions house about one-fifth of the country’s population and produce about 27 percent of the nation’s economic output. They also carry about 60 percent of the nation’s total transit ridership, up from 55 percent 20 years ago. That’s a reflection of how transit has become increasingly important in these regions, with passenger trips growing 54 percent over the same period.

That level of ridership growth can’t be sustained if the transit systems aren’t maintained properly. RPA cites a 2012 report from San Francisco’s BART that says if the system is allowed to deteriorate…

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Possible Brake Failure on Unregistered Tour Bus That Crashed (Gate, SFist, Kron4, ABC, CBS)
  • Removal of Overhead Muni Wires on Market Street for Super Bowl Party Proposed (Exam, SFist)
  • Opinion: Regulate Private Buses Using San Francisco’s Public Streets (Exam)
  • Wiggle Neighborhood Green Corridor Project Final Meeting Tonight (Hoodline)
  • Even More on MuniMobile Smartphone App, Available Now (CBS, SFBay)
  • San Mateo City Council Approves 50-Bike Pilot Bike-Share System (GC)
  • Next Caltrain Grade Separations Are New Hillsdale Station, Ravenswood, and Broadway (GC)
  • Caltrain Strikes, Kills Pedestrian Near Santa Clara Station (Gate, Merc, ABC, CBS, Kron4)
  • Mission Driver Attacks Two People Sitting on Sidewalk, Hospitalizing Both (Local, Hoodline)
  • Taxi Driver Injures 33-Year-Old Walking in Crosswalk in Parkside (Appeal)
  • Bicyclist Strikes Elderly Man Walking Across Market Street (Exam)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA
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Why Transit Agencies Are Looking to Taxis and Uber to Provide Paratransit

In a six-month pilot program, Boston’s MBTA is exploring the use of taxis as an alternative to large vans for paratransit service, which is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Could paratransit vans that transport customers with disabilities door-to-door be more efficiently replaced with taxis? Photo: Wikipedia

When it comes to paratransit, vans aren’t always the right vehicle for the job. Photo: Wikipedia

The program is “already earning praise from customers” according to the Boston Globe. Jarrett Walker at Human Transit explains why this could be very good news for both people with disabilities who rely on paratransit and people who count on trains and buses:

Subsidizing taxis has always been an option to meet the paratransit requirement, but in big cities the routine solution has been paratransit van services. These vans can theoretically serve multiple people at once, but the sparseness of paratransit demand means they often carry just one person, or zero between runs. So paratransit operating cost is often over $30/passenger trip, as compared to more like $5 for an effective fixed route service.

MBTA is now testing using taxis — or in the future, taxi competitors like Uber and Lyft — in the same way that small towns often do. It will encourage some customers to use taxis instead of paratransit vans — which is not hard to do, since taxi service is much more flexible. (Paratransit vans must be booked 24 hours in advance, but these taxis can be called spontaneously.) The customer will pay a reasonable transit fare, $2, and MBTA will add an average of $13/trip to round out a typical average taxi fare of $15.

Read more…
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Speeding Is a Big Problem Where Police Stopped Google Car for Slow Driving

A Google car made headlines last week when police pulled it over for driving too slowly on El Camino Real in Mountain View, California.

El Camino Real in Mountainview is a pretty dangerous street for pedestrians, but apparently police are out patrolling for cars not going fast enough. Image: Metrocosm via Cyclelicious

El Camino Real in Mountain View is a dangerous street for pedestrians because drivers go too fast, not because they go slower than the speed limit. Image: Metrocosm via Cyclelicious

Most media accounts treated the incident as a funny anecdote, but Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious says it reveals a lot about what’s broken with how police approach traffic enforcement:

Guess which area of Mountain View is the most dangerous for pedestrians?

I zoomed in on this map showing 10 years of FARS traffic fatality data. El Camino Real is highlighted in blue. The yellow line to the left is Rengstorff, the other line is El Monte.

This is the area where Mountain View police say a Google autonomous car traveling at 24 MPH in a 35 zone is impeding traffic, even with two other lanes available for passing traffic on a Thursday afternoon.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Mourners March on Market Street in Remembrance of Victims of Traffic Violence (Exam, Gate)
  • Driver Crashes Tour Bus Near Union Square, 20 Injured (ExamGateSFist, Merc, ABCCBS, Hoodline)
  • SFMTA to Consider Permanent Private Bus Regulations Without Environmental Review (Exam, Weekly)
  • Lower Powell Street Closed to Private Vehicles For 18-Month Pilot (Gate, SFBay, AppealABC, CBS)
  • Muni to Reroute Bus and Streetcar Lines for Super Bowl Party (Chron)
  • More on MuniMobile Smartphone App, Available Today (Gate)
  • San Mateo Considers Own 50-Bike Bike Share Program (Daily)
  • Driver Kills Pedestrian in Downtown Pleasanton (Kron4)
  • Motorcyclist Kills Man With Shopping Cart Crossing Street in Santa Rosa (ABC, NBC, Kron4)
  • Driver Arrested After Injuring Five People Outside Bar in Santa Rosa (Kron4)
  • Hit-And-Run Telsa Driver Who Injured Bicyclist in Marin County Arrested (Merc, Kron4)

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