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Washington State’s Faustian Bargain to Fund Transit

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state legislators have agreed to enable funding for a major Seattle transit expansion, but the deal comes with drawbacks.

The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia

The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia

If approved, the state would fund a $15 billion package of transportation projects and, separately, authorize Sound Transit to raise $15 billion to expand light rail via regional taxes.

Martin H. Duke at Seattle Transit Blog reports that, as a concession to Republican lawmakers, Inslee accepted a “poison pill” that would prevent the state from adopting low-carbon fuel standards.

In addition, Duke says the agreement would fund road-building projects that have support from Republicans and Democrats.

[T]he package doesn’t adequately fund highway maintenance and actually makes the problem worse by adding many more decaying lane-miles on SR 520, I-405, SR 167, and in North Spokane. Highway expansion is a futile response to congestion, encourages environmentally damaging driving, and literally destroys neighborhoods. About the only good thing to say about it is that it’s funded by gas taxes, which in a small way offsets a little of the environmental carnage.

The poison pill and the highway funding have turned off some environmental orgs, according to Duke, and they’re lobbying lawmakers to reject the deal.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on potential cuts to Metro service, and Mobilizing the Region says Governor Chris Christie and state lawmakers have officially doomed New Jersey transit users to fare hikes and service cuts.

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Today’s Headlines

  • UCSF Nurses Union Blasts Warriors Arena Traffic Plan, is Not Familiar With Plan (NBC, SFGate, Exam)
  • Port Opens Applications for Waterfront Advisory Group on Transportation, Vision Zero (Hoodline)
  • Muni Monthly Pass Fares to Rise Tomorrow (SF Examiner)
  • Motorcyclist Crashes on Van Ness Avenue, Suffers Head Injuries (SF Appeal)
  • Scoot Networks Tests Tiny Electric Car to Add to Its Fleet (Hoodline)
  • SPUR Rounds Up Solutions for a More Efficient Commute Between SF and the East Bay
  • SF Magazine: BART Board Members Offered “Surreal” Reasons for Keeping Station Bathrooms Closed
  • Despite On-Board Capacity Crunch, Caltrain May Leave Off-Board Bike Parking Underfunded (GC)
  • GG Bridge District to Raise Toll By 25 Cents Tomorrow; Woman: “We Are At Their Mercy” (Marin IJ)
  • The Greater Marin: Will North Bay Cities Ever Take Action to Fix Deadly Streets?
  • Man Rear-Ends Driver on I-880 in Milpitas, Killed By Passing Driver After Exiting Car (SFGate, NBC)
  • Pleasanton Preps to Stave Off July 4th Traffic and Parking Crunch (Inside Bay Area)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SF Firefighters Take Campaign Against Safe Street Design to North Beach

At a community meeting about bulb-outs in North Beach tomorrow evening, some residents and firefighters are expected to speak against the curb extensions on the grounds that they make streets more dangerous.

Image: KTVU

As Hoodline has reported, the leadership of the North Beach Neighbors and the SF Fire Fighters Union have drummed up opposition to bulb-outs proposed at four intersections along Columbus Avenue. NBN will hold its second public discussion on the issue tomorrow.

While the SF Fire Department’s top brass has shown signs of letting go of its opposition to curb extensions, SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 has maintained a campaign for wider, more dangerous roadways.

Now there’s tension between the union and the fire department about street design. In a June 18 letter to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White [PDF], Local 798 President Tom O’Connor protested the department’s “very troubling” approval of “obstacles” that “will require our members to knowingly drive into oncoming traffic” (yes, some firefighters still make that claim):

We further assert that any and all obstacles that have already installed [sic] should completely [sic] removed on the basis that they are a danger to public safety, to our members and to the integrity of our apparatus and finally as a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

NBN President Trish Herman has fueled the flames. She told Hoodline that “bulb-outs in the Castro have caused traffic back-ups,” presumably referring to Castro Street’s recent sidewalk expansion, which narrowed its excessively wide traffic lanes. She also complained about sidewalk space removing parking: “They’re not considering the vehicle public,” she said.

Bulb-outs improve the visibility of pedestrians, shorten crossing distances, and keep drivers from barreling around turns at high speed and hitting people. They are an increasingly common street safety measure in SF.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Can a New Way to Measure Streets Help Advocates Tame Speeding?

You’ve heard of sensors that can count cars or bikes. Tools like that can help transportation planners make smarter decisions about where bike infrastructure is needed, for example. A new digital tool called Placemeter aims to measure streets at a much more fine-grained level, analyzing a variety of different aspects of movement in an urban environment.

Placemeter’s software extracts information from video of streets — it can measure the movement of vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians and then tell you about things like the incidence of speeding or the foot traffic for a specific storefront. Cities are finding lots of interesting ways to use it — but it’s not just for bureaucrats. The people behind Placemeter think it will be very useful for advocates too.

I caught up with Alexandre Winter and Florent Peyre, the founders of Placemeter, to find out how their platform can help us understand what happens on streets.

How do you see Placemeter being useful for improving streets for people using various modes of transportation, including walking?

Florent Peyre: When you want to optimize a city, you need to be able to quantify and measure it first. We’re making it a lot easier and a lot cheaper to measure continuously at a fraction of the cost of hiring a data collection company.

We work with the city of Boston, where they’re interested in building more parklets, but they get pushback from people who think there should be more parking space. What we bring to the table is the ability to quantify the effect of such a change by measuring baseline and then how many people use that parking spot now that it is a temporary pedestrian zone. Bringing a layer of data removes a lot of the passion from a lot of those discussions.

Read more…

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DC’s Silver Line: A Transit Expansion 34 Years in the Making

Image via Greater Greater Washington

Image via Greater Greater Washington. Click to enlarge

When a politician like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan kills off a transit project, not only does he rob citizens of anticipated improvements, he could be wiping out decades of intricate planning.

Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington notes that by 2019 it will have taken 34 years to complete the Metro’s Silver Line, which will connect DC and suburban counties with Dulles Airport.

Malouff explains the above graphic:

The timeline begins in 1985, when the idea of a Metro line to Dulles Airport went from vague concept to serious planning initiative following a study that determined it would be feasible.

Planning (yellow on the timeline) and environmental work (green) took the next 21 years, until 2006. It took another 3 years for officials to finalize funding (blue) before construction (purple) could begin in 2009.

Plopping a rail line down the middle of a gargantuan suburban highway with a capacious median is easy compared to putting one virtually anywhere else. Almost any other potential Metrorail expansion imaginable will be harder to plan, fund, and build.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing,” Malouff writes. “But it’s definitely going to be hard.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn tests whether motorists are yielding to pedestrians; and Biking Toronto reports that there is fresh green paint, but no physical separation, on a much-needed bike lane.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Woman’s Mission: Get Drivers Out of the Townsend Street Bike Lanes at Caltrain (SFBike)
  • Marina Times Editor Rants Against City Bureaucracy. Also, Bikes.
  • More on the 22-Day Muni Challenge: Mayor Claims He Rode Six Times, Forgot to Use Hashtag (SFBay)
  • Sup. Farrell Legislation Would Create “Greener” Car-Sharing Fleet for City Workers (Marina Times)
  • City Study on Removing Hwy 280 Spur, Developing Caltrain Yard Delayed From March ‘Til Fall (GC)
  • BART, Caltrain Packed to the Brim During Pride Weekend (CBS)
  • BART’s General Manager to Propose $3B Infrastructure Bond (Biz); Voters Say They’d Pass it (IBA)
  • BART Board Approves Funds to Hire Public Arts Director, But Puts Arts Program on Hold (Chron – Scroll)
  • BART May Not Re-Open Bathrooms Soon Because of Staffing Costs, Security Concerns (CoCo Times)
  • People Behaving Badly: CHP Tickets 168 Alameda Drivers in 3.5 Hours for Failing to Yield at Crosswalks
  • Report: Alameda Point Development Won’t Increase Off-Island Traffic (AS); Engineer Says That’s “Crazy”

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Safer Path Could Help Untangle the “Alemany Maze” Highway Interchange

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

The “Alemany Maze,” the deadly Highway 101 and 280 interchange in the southeast city, could get a safer crossing for walking and biking. Funding to study a walking path and bike lanes through the junction was approved this week by the SF County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, comprised of the Board of Supervisors.

The Alemany Maze. Photo: Chuck B. / my back 40 (feet)

The study, set to be completed by next June, will look at creating a “multi-modal pathway” where residents already cross the “nasty mess of ramps” to reach the Alemany Farmers Market, SFCTA planner Colin Dentel-Post told an SFCTA board committee this week.

“People currently use an informal pathway and dangerous, unsignalized crossings through the interchange,” he said. The maze “creates a barrier between the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Bernal, Portola, Bayview, and Silver Terrace neighborhoods.”

The $100,000 approved for the study was requested by D9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos was apparently swayed by the Portola Neighborhood Association to push for a safer crossing, according to a recent post by Chris Waddling at D10 Watch.

Waddling, chair of the SFCTA Citizens Advisory Committee representing District 10, lauded the advancement of the project:

Read more…

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San Mateo County Officials Insist on Failed Strategy of Widening Highway 101

San Mateo County wants to add two more lanes to Highway 101, a strategy that has failed to reduce traffic congestion. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Mateo County officials are moving forward with plans to widen Highway 101 in a futile attempt to pave their way out of traffic congestion.

The City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) has dismissed a more effective and less costly proposal to avoid highway expansion by converting two existing traffic lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes, also known as express lanes.

“If we build more capacity for cars, what we’ll end up with is more cars,” said Joseph Kott, vice president of Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities and a former transportation planning manager for C/CAG. “We’ll have spent a lot of money to get more cars, and will live with all the consequences of having more cars. It’s just not very sensible.”

Rather than convert two of Highway 101’s eight lanes to express lanes between San Bruno and Redwood City, C/CAG wants to keep all existing lanes free for solo drivers while expanding the roadway to 10 lanes.

C/CAG plans to conduct an environmental review that will only evaluate the addition of carpool lanes, which could then be converted to express toll lanes. The agency’s board passed a resolution greenlighting the study on June 11.

But according to a 2013 report from Kott and TransForm called “Innovation Required: Moving More People with Less Traffic,” converting existing lanes to express lanes would move 75 percent more people on 101 using 10 percent fewer vehicles, at far less cost, compared to building new, un-tolled carpool lanes. Even C/CAG admits that widening Highway 101 would increase driving and air pollution, and result in less transit ridership.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Charlotte’s Urban Web

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Mary Newsom of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute joins me this week to discuss everything Charlotte, from its beginnings as a crossroads of Native American pathways to its current incarnation as a fast-growing metropolis. The enormous growth of the region, she says, includes a recent surge of suburban subdivisions that were lying in wait during the recession.

Transit is expanding in Charlotte, but the city also just finished a loop highway it began building decades ago, and the street network is not so conducive to urban growth. Tune in and learn all about it, and hear what prompted Mary to get into urban issues.

And don’t forget! You can find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Streetsblog.net
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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan: Purple Line for DC, Bupkis for Baltimore

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says the Purple Line, a long-planned light rail expansion of the DC transit system in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, will move forward. But Hogan stiffed the people of Baltimore by canceling the Red Line in favor of road projects.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington reports that Hogan made his announcement yesterday.

To reduce costs, trains on the Purple Line will come every seven and half minutes rather than every six. The state will not change the alignment, nor the number or location of stations.

The longer headways mean there need to be fewer trains, saving money, and also cutting out the need for one staging area. Hogan also announced that the state would now pay only $168 million, rather than, he said, the original $700 million (but the state’s future contribution had only been $333 million). Montgomery and Prince George’s would have to pay more, though the exact amount, and whether they can do so, was not yet clear.

Malouff notes that the Purple Line was in the works for decades, with construction set to begin this year, before Hogan threatened to nix the project.

As for the Red Line, according to Malouff, “Hogan said the line is not cost-effective.” Funds to add light rail in Baltimore “will instead go toward nearly $2 billion in road and bridge projects all across the state, including widening Route 404 on the Eastern Shore, some unspecified ‘congestion reduction’ on I-270, and new ramps to and from the Greeenbelt Metro to accommodate a future FBI headquarters.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region reports that Albany’s failure to fund transit in New York City also hurts upstate economies, and the League of American Bicyclists examines what it takes to nurture bike-friendly businesses.