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Today’s Headlines

  • Vision Zero Progress Report: 17 Ped Deaths in 2014, Six to Date in 2015 (KTVU)
  • Ride of Silence to Honor Victims of Traffic Violence in Support of Vision Zero (SF Gate)
  • At Least One Person Killed in Concord Big Rig Crash on Highway 242 (NBC)
  • Muni Will Begin Simultaneous Boarding of Subway Trains This Sunday (SF Bay)
  • Muni Requests $2.2 Million for Elevator and Escalator Upgrades (SF Examiner)
  • Photos: Completed $241 Million Central Subway Tunnels to Chinatown (Muni Diaries)
  • Video: Driver With Expired Plates Passes School Bus Stop Sign (YouTube)
  • Caltrain Suicides Continue at Record Pace Despite Enforcement Efforts (KQED)
  • Parking Glut Threatens San Jose Caltrain Station Area With Approval of SAP Arena Deal (GC)
  • Lesser-Known Urban Routes Recommended for East Bay Cyclists (EB Express)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Design of High-Speed Trains Threatens to Diminish Caltrain Capacity

When High Speed Rail begins operating in 2029, passengers will access Caltrain via the upper set of doors (blue) at stations shared with high speed trains, and via the lower set of doors (yellow) at all other stations. Image: Clem Tillier

When High Speed Rail begins operating in 2029, passengers will access Caltrain via the upper set of doors (yellow) at stations shared with high speed trains, and via the lower set of doors (blue) at all other stations. Image: Clem Tillier

The insistence of California High Speed Rail officials on running trains with floors 50 inches above the tracks threatens to reduce the capacity of Caltrain and hamper the benefits of level boarding for the commuter rail agency.

Last Tuesday, Caltrain officials gave an update on the electric trains the agency plans to purchase next year, which will begin operating in 2021 [PDF]. To enable level boarding for Caltrain passengers before and after CAHSR raises platforms to be compatible with its 50-inch floor trains, the new design has two sets of doors at different heights. This way, both Caltrain and high-speed trains will have level boarding at every station.

High Speed Rail Authority officials insist on the high-speed train industry standard floor height of 50 inches above the tracks. Building trains compatible with this specification, however, will diminish both the speed of Caltrain service and its capacity, though the scale of these effects has yet to be determined.

In order to achieve level boarding fully compatible with High Speed Rail, Caltrain will need to allow passengers to board at the 50-inch height. But a lower 25-inch floor height above the tracks is needed for the main section of each car in order for the trains to have both a lower and upper level, like today’s newer Bombardier models, without being too tall to operate.

This will require passengers to navigate sets of internal stairs on the lower level. This will increase the length of time people spend boarding and alighting, especially people carrying bicycles or luggage. Mechanical lifts will also be needed for passengers in wheelchairs to get between the 25-inch and 50-inch levels. The overall effect will be to lengthen the amount of time trains spend at each station (the “dwell time”) compared to trains with a single lower-level floor height.

That delay hasn’t yet been estimated by either agency, but it will affect Caltrain’s schedules. “The reason to go to level boarding for Caltrain is dwell time,” said Friends of Caltrain Director Adina Levin. “So the question of how much the internal stairs extend dwell time is a very important question about the benefits of level boarding.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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What Oakland Mayor’s Proposal for a Department of Transportation Means

Oakland

For the city of Oakland, the creation of a Department of Transportation is a first step towards formulating a cohesive transportation policy. Photo: Telegraph Avenue, looking towards downtown Oakland. Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

This week, Streetsblog California takes a look at changes occurring in Oakland, California, related to the way the city plans and implements transportation projects.

Today, Ruth Miller, a local planner, former Streetsblog contributor, and a member of Transport Oakland, writes about what the formation of a Department of Transportation will mean for Oakland. Later this week look for Streetsblog’s interview with Matt Nichols, the city’s newly hired Director of Transportation Policy.

Like a surprising number of other cities, despite its size, Oakland, California, currently does not have a Department of Transportation. Decisions about transportation projects from signal timing, to paving, to designing and applying for grants to fund a bike and pedestrian bridge over the estuary leading to Lake Merritt, have been made within either the Planning Department or the Department of Public Works — or both.

But if Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, has her way, this will change soon. Her proposed 2015-17 budget, currently under discussion, includes within it a reorganization of city departments to create one specifically for overseeing transportation policy and decisions — a Department of Transportation. Advocates for better transportation choices in Oakland, including the advocacy group Transport Oakland, believe that creating a DOT could help the city better plan for and manage its transportation.

DOTs often publish mission statements.

For example, the Los Angeles DOT “leads transportation planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations in the City of Los Angeles.” The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is equivalent to a DOT, works “to plan, build, operate, regulate, and maintain the transportation network” [PDF]. Essentially, these and most other city DOTs lead transportation projects from policy through planning, implementation, and maintenance. Because they govern the full life cycle of transportation projects, DOTs have the ability, and thus a certain obligation, to work strategically.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Can LA Make “Great Streets” If the Mayor Won’t Stand Up for Good Design?

This plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge was preferred by neighborhood residents. But the city capitulated to a more status quo design. Photo: KCET via Los Angeles Walks

Residents preferred this plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge across the Los Angeles River, with bike lanes, sidewalks, and a road diet, but appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti opted for more space for traffic instead. Image via Los Angeles Walks

Los Angeles, with its expanding transit network, is supposed to be in the process of shedding its cocoon of car-centricity and emerging, in the words of a recent Fast Company headline, as America’s “next great walkable city.” The city’s streets, however, didn’t change a whole lot under former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. When Eric Garcetti was elected mayor in 2013, advocates thought he could provide the leadership to finally prioritize walking, biking, and transit on LA’s streets.

And Garcetti got off to a great start. He chose Seleta Reynolds, a standout from the San Francisco MTA’s Livable Streets program, to lead LADOT. The city retained groundbreaking former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to help shape its Great Streets strategic plan. The city is expected to adopt a Vision Zero policy in just a few weeks.

Garcetti himself has said, “As city leaders, we need the backbone to make the bold changes necessary to build great streets.” But the mayor’s failure to go to bat for a pedestrian-friendly redesign of the critical Glendale-Hyperion Bridge calls into question the strength of his commitment to changing streets — and with it, Los Angeles’s potential to become a walkable, bikeable, transit-rich city.

Last week, the city’s Public Works Board, whose members are all appointed by the mayor, rejected the bridge design that neighborhood advocates favor. That design, reported Streetsblog LA, would have repurposed one motor vehicle lane to create safe access for walking and biking on both sides of the bridge. The mayoral appointees, bowing to pressure from City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge, went a different route, voting for a design that preserves all the car lanes while removing an existing sidewalk from one side of the bridge.

About 1,200 people had signed a petition supporting the proposal with bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, as had dozens of businesses, nearby schools and the neighborhood councils in two of the three surrounding districts. Traffic studies showed that reducing the road to three lanes wouldn’t affect car congestion significantly. But the Public Works Board voted for a proposal that maintains four traffic lanes and leaves pedestrians with just one sidewalk — and a long, uncomfortable detour.

Advocates did not expect a decision so soon. LaBonge is at the end of his tenure in the council, and the leading candidates vying for his seat favor the more pedestrian- and bike-friendly design. With elections this week, the local politics were guaranteed to shift in favor of the better design in a matter of days. Instead, Garcetti’s appointees rushed through a decision the week before the election.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Like Great Transit, a Compact City Gives People Freedom

The Congress for New Urbanism has posted a video of Jarrett Walker (of Human Transit fame) delivering a new presentation, “Learning the Language of Transit.” There’s a passage where Walker frames transit as not simply a mode of transportation, but a means to access your city and, ultimately, the freedom and opportunity to do the things you want.

Inspired by Walker’s talk, Dan Keshet at Network blog Austin on Your Feet says the same rationale applies to building a compact city:

Access here is the stuff of life. Can I get to that job interview on time? Can I get home from work in time to see a movie? Can I meet my friends for dinner? Does this okcupid match live close enough to make dating possible? When my daughter asks to play on the traveling soccer team, can she get to practice?

The context of Walker’s talk is public transportation network design. But access is just as much an issue in land use — what buildings, parks, roads, etc get built where. Whether you’re driving, riding, walking, biking, ubering, or whatever, the basic fact is that you can reach more destinations in the same amount of time when those destinations are close together. And more destinations means more opportunities — whether that’s opportunities to work, to learn, to shop, or to meet people. This was the basic lesson I took from living my own life in different parts of Boston.

This shouldn’t be a complicated or counterintuitive concept. Even with a car, traveling from one end of Austin to another is already quite a daunting trip to make more than occasionally. The more people Austin gets, the more destinations there will be — economic, cultural, or otherwise. But the more we spread out, the less access new and old residents will have to each other and to the destinations we create. We are foreclosing options by where we build.

Elsewhere on the Network: Systemic Failure shares five factoids from the IMF about the staggering scale of global fossil fuel subsidies — $5 trillion annually. And the Wash Cycle has some ideas about Capital Bikeshare can get subscribers to rebalance bikes.

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Wants Cameras to Catch Speeding Drivers Near Schools (CBS)
  • Central Subway Entrance at Fourth and Harrison Streets Completed (SF Bay)
  • City Officials Tour Finished Central Subway Tunnels (SF Gate, NBC)
  • New Area Q Residential Parking Program Permits For Sale (Hoodline)
  • Uber Cuts Pay for Part-Time Drivers With Pilot Tiered Rate Program (SF Business)
  • Video: SFMTA Aims to Cut Traffic Congestion With Increased Enforcement (CBS)
  • Planning Commissioner Secretly Told By Mayor Lee to Reverse Airbnb Vote (SF Examiner)
  • Willie Brown Slams Highway 280 Removal Claiming Environmental Review Issues (SF Chronicle)
  • Medical Emergencies Result in BART Delays During Monday’s Evening Commute (CBS)
  • Veteran Muni Driver Doug Shares Behind the Scenes Stories in Two Books (Muni Diaries)
  • Caltrain to Decide How Much Space for Seats, Bikes, Bathrooms on Future Electric Trains (GC)
  • Stanford Perimeter Trail to Begin Construction in Late May (PA Online)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Fixing SoMa Gridlock, Ride of Silence, Safer Octavia

Don’t miss an “all-star transit panel” discussion tonight about solutions to fix gridlocked car traffic in the South of Market District. The international Ride of Silence also returns, and upgrades for a safer Octavia Boulevard are up for comment at a public hearing.

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

  • Monday: The South Beach D6 Democratic Club hosts “Solving the Daily Traffic Nightmare in SOMA,” a forum featuring an “all-star transit panel”: Supervisor Scott Wiener, Livable City Director and BART Board member Tom Radulovich, SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang, Mayoral Transportation Policy Director Gillian Gillett, and April Veneracion Ang, aide to Supervisor Jane Kim. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday: This week’s SFMTA Board of Directors agenda includes an update on the agency’s Vision Zero efforts. 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday: The annual Ride of Silence honors those who have been injured or killed while bicycling. The group ride takes place in over 50 countries. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Thursday: Come celebrate Streetsblog Happy Hour‘s new status as a monthly event at Virgil’s Sea Room. 6 p.m.
  • Friday: This week’s SFMTA public engineering hearing agenda includes the first wave of Octavia Boulevard safety upgrades: Parking removals for bulb-outs and daylighting and a pedestrian refuge island at Octavia and Oak Street. You can speak at the hearing or email sustainable.streets@sfmta.com. 10 a.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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Third Thursday Every Month Now Streetsblog Happy Hour at Virgil’s Sea Room

Now you can get your livable streets jabber every month.

Due to popular demand, Streetsblog happy hour has become a monthly institution. The sustainable transportation hootenanny happens at Virgil’s Sea Room the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.

You won’t have to contain your excitement for long — the next shindig is this Thursday.

By virtue of Virgil’s altruism, 10 percent of drink proceeds will support Streetsblog every third month. So in January, April, July, and October, your drink may taste especially delicious knowing it will help fuel advocacy journalism for safer streets.

I’m very happy that we could partner with Tom Temprano, Virgil’s owner, to give Streetsblog readers a venue to meet up IRL. Ironically, I’m going to miss the first one since my wife and I are flying out tonight for a long-planned trip to Japan and to see her family in the Philippines, returning Memorial Day weekend. (Streetsblog SF will continue posting with light coverage in the meantime.)

Virgil’s Sea Room, located at 3152 Mission Street (south of Cesar Chavez), will have a reserved table ready on the back patio each month. Here’s to the first of many revels.

Streetsblog USA
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Transpo Bill Update: Congress Tees Up Two More Months of the Same

Can anything spur Congress to overhaul a federal transportation policy that lets states run amok building highway expansions while the rest of our infrastructure goes to seed? Don’t hold your breath — the cycle of extending the status quo transportation bill is starting all over again.

Senators Boxer and Inhofe say they have a six-year bill. But we don't see it until after the current one expires. Photos: Wikipedia

Senators Boxer and Inhofe say they have a six-year bill. But we won’t see it until after the current one expires. Photos: Wikipedia

Last Monday, the Obama Administration began warning state departments of transportation that their funding could be cut off if lawmakers do not reach an agreement by month’s end.

On Wednesday, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-California) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) announced that they would be presenting a six-year transportation bill, but that discussions wouldn’t even begin until after the May 31 deadline. “We can no longer wait on Congress,” said the senators in a joint statement, as though they are somehow separate from Congress. (During the nine months since the last short-term extension, Boxer and Inhofe, along with everyone else in Congress, never got around to introducing a long-term transportation bill.)

Now there’s only two weeks left until that extension expires. So late Friday, House Republicans announced that they would put forward another short-term extension of the current transportation bill, giving Congress through the end of July to come up with a long-term plan.

What has Congress been up to in the past nine months? Well, they haven’t been figuring out how to get state DOTs to stop wasting billions of dollars on highway expansions. Instead, lawmakers devoted most of their energy to coming up with ridiculous new ways to raise revenue without raising the gas tax.

And they couldn’t even agree on something. So House lawmakers instead settled for having the extension expire soon enough to avoid having to enact a source of additional revenue.

As for the Senate, Boxer has said she grudgingly backs a plan from Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to generate revenue with a temporary tax holiday on overseas business profits — an idea with so many problems it’s worse than just bailing out the transportation program with general fund revenues.

Speaking of which, as the size of those bailouts keeps getting bigger, so does the subsidy for roads. The way things stand, the nation’s transportation program will need an infusion of $10 billion to cover current spending levels through the end of the year without raising the gas tax.

Streetsblog.net
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What Can We Learn From an Unbuilt Highway in St. Louis?

Route 755 was supposed to slice through the ? half of the city. But it was never built. Image: NextSTL

Route 755 was supposed to slice through the northern portion of St. Louis, but it was never built. Image: NextSTL

Back in the 1960s, planners envisioned a series of expressways slicing through St. Louis. And almost all of the Bartholomew Plan, as it was known, was eventually built. Today St. Louis has among the most highway lanes per capita of any American city. These roads teed up a wave of urban flight and astounding population loss.

One of the Bartholomew Plan highways was never built: Route-755 on the city’s north side. Brendan Wittstruck at NextSTL recounts the demise of the project:

It would have connected the City’s four major Interstates and provided an expressway route across the center of the City. But on its rocky path to fruition, it encountered a furious swarm of complications that would ultimately keep it from ever seeing construction. Public outcry, galvanized after seeing the adverse affects of earlier highways, took on a new and more powerful role in opposing the Distributor, and may have seen new, more effective tactics employed against the arterial expansion. Funding issues also served to derail the project, as did a cultural shift in how our nation views its major roadways. The North-South Distributor, the City’s massive unbuilt civic project, has within its history much of the story of the American roadway, and its failure remains — perhaps now more than ever — an important lesson.

The need for a general expansion of vehicular arteries in this country — from road widenings to the construction of highways and Federal interstates — continues to be predicated upon the assumption of a limitless propagation of vehicular traffic. Even as early as 1969, in the earliest years following the completion of the City’s major highways, Highway Department Engineer James Roberts lamented –without, it seems, a sense of irony — “these highways, particularly the Daniel Boone Expressway… are too small,” adding, “there’s just not enough capacity.” Discussions of the need to widen the highways were tragically immediate.

E. Michael Jones later wrote on what he terms “traffic generation,” pointedly arguing, “the automobile as a form of mass transportation is a self-defeating proposition. The more the culture builds roads and bridges and parking lots to accommodate the automobile, the more it creates the very traffic it attempts to alleviate.” Given the extreme dynamics facing urbanism between the 1940s and the present, it is somewhat difficult to pin traffic increase entirely upon arterial expansion, but Jones is correct to note that it did allow for more cars, as well as a more mobile citizen base that could commute from the County to the City.

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