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Will Washington Governor Jay Inslee Sacrifice Safer Streets?

As we reported yesterday, it looks like Washington Governor Jay Inslee may move forward with a low-carbon fuel standard, triggering a legislative “poison pill” that would eliminate funds for transit and street safety initiatives.

Safe Routes to School funding would be cut if Washington Governor Jay Inslee swallows the poison pill. Photo: Washington Bikes

Safe Routes to School funding would be cut if Governor Jay Inslee swallows the poison pill. Photo: Washington Bikes

The Seattle Times reports that Inslee is gambling on restoring those funds at a later date, but Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog says the governor would be making a costly mistake:

By abandoning the only funds in the transportation package that would actually help residents of our state get around without a car, he’s not doing the environment any favors.

But far worse, the money he’s considering pulling is designed to prevent people from being killed or seriously injured while walking or biking. This isn’t just horse trading one environmental policy for another. These are lives we’re talking about.

Safe Routes to School would be slashed nearly to death by this decision. $56 million can build a ton of safe crosswalks, sidewalks and bike routes for kids all across the state to get to school safely. That’s the great thing about walking and biking safety projects: Your money goes a lot further. $56 million doesn’t get you very far in a highway expansion project (it’s about 1.3 percent of the 520 Bridge Replacement budget), but it could dramatically improve safety in communities across the state.

Washington Bikes is calling on people to urge Inslee not to sacrifice funding for safer streets. “There doesn’t have to be a choice between safer and healthier communities and climate change,” says policy director Blake Trask. “Governor Inslee knows he has other avenues to implement his climate change agenda.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region explains why New York has the smallest ecological footprint of all U.S. states (spoiler: it’s housing density and transit), and ATL Urbanist says a suburban bus rapid transit line should be a catalyst for a more humane public realm.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Man Suffers Head Trauma After Driver Strikes Him on South Van Ness and 16th (SF Appeal)
  • SFPD Park Station Captain Responds to Criticisms on Bicycle Crackdown Plan (SF Examiner)
  • Muni to Shut Down Rail Service at 10pm Starting July 31 for Six Months for Upgrade Work (SFBay)
  • Woman Killed by Suspects Fleeing in Car Not Included on Police’s Homicide List (SF Examiner)
  • Former SFPD Officer Took $25,000 in Bribes to Help Taxi Drivers Pass Exams (CBS, SF Examiner)
  • Department of Public Works Looks for Solutions to Keep SF Streets Clean (SF Chronicle)
  • State Legislation to Ban Pedestrian and Bike Tolls on GG Bridge Moves Slowly (MIJ)
  • 4.0 Magnitude Earthquake Delays BART (SFist)
  • Oakland Driver Dead After Crashing Into Object On Telegraph (SFBay)
  • Uber Can Get Sued Over Safety Claims (SFGate); UberASSIST Announced for Disabled (ABC)
  • CHP, Tow Companies Reach Agreement to Protect Drivers Who Abandoned Cars During Fire (ABC)
  • Broken Asphalt Paver Shuts Down Southbound I-680 Lanes in Dublin (NBC, SF Gate)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SMCTA: East Palo Alto Can’t Use Highway Money for Safe Crossing at Less Cost

East Palo Alto wants to save money and build a ped/bike bridge over Highway 101 at the University Avenue interchange, but the SMCTA says it can’t use its highway grant for that. Image: AECOM

East Palo Alto is the latest city to be prohibited by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA) from using highway funds to build a bike and pedestrian bridge across a highway.

In this case, city planners actually found a way to cut costs on a planned ramp expansion at the Highway 101 interchange at University Avenue and use the savings to build an overcrossing for people on foot and bike. But according to East Palo Alto officials, the TA insists that its $5 million Highway Program grant must be spent primarily on highway lanes — not safe highway crossings.

Rather than build a new off-ramp, the city wants to add a second right turn lane to its existing off-ramp, which would move cars at least as quickly, according to a 2014 traffic study. (A note of clarification: This project is separate from the bike/ped bridge planned to the south of the University interchange, at Newell Road and Clarke Avenue.)

“The TA feels that the funding for Measure A highway operations is not flexible and cannot be used towards ped/bike improvements,” East Palo Alto Senior Engineer Maziar Bozorginia wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “The City believes that by providing a safer ped/bike route through this section, it would help to reduce conflicts and congestion on the highway system.”

With the money saved from forgoing construction of a new highway ramp, East Palo Alto could build a new bike/ped bridge. The rest of the funds for the interchange project would come from a $1.8 million federal grant awarded to the city in 2003.

Read more…

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Transpo Funding Intrigue in Washington State

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the Streetsblog Network today…

Washington Governor Jay Inslee may go ahead and swallow the “poison pill” that Republican legislators insisted on including in a state transportation package, reports Frank Chachiere at Seattle Transit Blog. That would mean Inslee will go ahead with a low-carbon fuel standard for the state, which will torpedo a funding package for roads, transit, and street safety projects. With Inslee having already secured a separate $15 billion authorization for Sound Transit that will be untouched by the poison pill, however, local transit advocates don’t seem too worried about the governor’s strategy.

A developer’s rendering of a mixed-use project in the works by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station in DC. Not depicted are the 2,000 parking spaces the plan calls for. Image via GGW

Darla Letourneau at BikeWalkLee has a mid-year progress report on street safety in Florida’s Lee County. After spikes in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in recent years, street safety is getting more attention from the press and policy makers. However, injury rates for walkers and bikers don’t show signs of improvement yet. “The bottom line is that while there are lots of efforts underway to make it safer for people walking and biking in Lee County, we need to step up our game, if we expect to lower our stubbornly high bike/ped fatality and injury numbers,” she writes.

At Greater Greater Washington, Jonathan Neeley reports on a big mixed-use housing project coming to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. While the development would replace car-oriented retail, the plan currently calls for 2,000 parking spaces — more than the number of new apartments. Is this the best DC can do?

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA on Track With 24 Vision Zero Projects in 24 Months (Except for King Street Bike Lanes) (Chron)
  • More on SFPD Park Station’s on Bike Crackdown (People Behaving Badly, Examiner 1, 2, KQEDNBC)
  • Attorney Chris Dolan: CA’s Three-Foot Bike Passing Law is About Education and Respect (SF Examiner)
  • Market Street Driver Makes Illegal Left Turn From Right Lane Into Streetcar’s Path (SFist)
  • Safety for Cable Car Operators a Campaign Issue for Peskin, Christensen in D3 Supe Race (Examiner)
  • Civil Grand Jury: SFFD Emergency Response Times Still Slowed By Management Issues (SFBay)
  • Mission Mission Author and Reader Say Google Buses “Have Complete Reign of the Streets”
  • Former SF City Planner Evan Rose Dies, Leaving Legacy of More People-Friendly Streets (SFGate)
  • AC Transit Plans Expansion of Bus Service Thanks to Alameda County’s Tax Measure BB (IBA)
  • Oakland’s Plans for Transit Village at Coliseum BART Falter With Nonprofit’s Management Issues (Chron)
  • Palo Alto Officials Consider Cameras Along Caltrain Tracks to Prevent Suicides (CBS)
  • Eric Palmquist, 63, of Palo Alto Dies of Injuries After Being Hit on Bike By Driver in Mountain View (PAO)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SFMTA Wants to Remove King Street Bike Lanes, Won’t Improve Alternative

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The ghost bike at King and Third is for Diana Sullivan, who was killed on the stretch where the bike lane disappears. Photo: Google Maps

The SFMTA wants to remove bike lanes and sharrows on King Street in SoMa’s South Beach area to discourage bicycling on the truck-heavy street, Hoodline reports.

The agency wants to divert bike commuters to the parallel stretch of Townsend Street, but has no plans to improve the bike lanes there, which are unprotected and routinely blocked by drivers near the Caltrain Station.

The SFMTA originally proposed extending King’s striped bike lanes (one of its 24 Vision Zero projects). But the agency instead decided to remove all bike infrastructure on the street until concrete changes can be made.

The existing bike lanes are narrow and disappear suddenly, which “is not comfortable for people biking,” said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. “By directing people to bike on Townsend or the Embarcadero Promenade, we can improve safety for people biking and reduce confusion in the area.”

“In the long-term,” said Jose, the agency “will be examining how biking can be improved in the area through the larger-scale Embarcadero Enhancement Project,” which could bring protected bike lanes along the waterfront years down the road. In the meantime, the agency’s “goal is to encourage people biking in the area to use Townsend when appropriate.”

The SF Bicycle Coalition isn’t fighting the removal of King’s painted bike lanes. But Communications Director Chris Cassidy said it “highlights the importance of protected bike lanes on Townsend.”

Read more…

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Senate Banking Committee Slow to Take Up Transit Portion of Transpo Bill

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has unanimously passed the highway portion of a six-year transportation bill. The Commerce Committee has done its work on the rail and safety portion. The Finance Committee has the hardest job, the one that’s flummoxed Capitol Hill for six years now, but it’s held a hearing on transportation funding and Committee Chair Orrin Hatch says he’s confident they’ll get it done. But it’s the Banking Committee, with jurisdiction over transit, that’s the least far along with its work to complete a transportation bill.

Will the Banking Committee renew a yet-unused pilot grant program for TOD planning? Photo: Willamor Media/Flickr

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the whole transportation issue to go away quickly and not come back until after the 2016 elections. Rather than take up the five-month extension the House passed earlier this week, McConnell has set up a Tuesday vote on a measure that will clear the way for the Senate to consider the bill, finished or not.

Banking Committee members have told the bill drafters their priorities for a bill, but no language has been released yet. If timing gets tight (and who are we kidding; it’s already tight), Committee Chair Richard Shelby could forgo committee consideration and bring his section of the bill directly to the floor. With transit defender Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio occupying the top Democrat seat on the committee, one hopes he’ll be able to help shape the bill.

The transit portion of MAP-21 included a $10 million transit-oriented development planning grant pilot program but has failed to award any funds so far. A pilot doesn’t do much good if it’s never utilized, so advocates hope the Banking Committee will extend the program to provide an opportunity to evaluate it (and that U.S. DOT will disburse the MAP-21 money already).

Another opportunity for TOD comes in the Commerce Committee bill, which included a provision to better use the underutilized Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, authorized at $35 billion. The bill would allow local communities and real estate developers to access the funds directly to finance transit-oriented development, including commercial and residential development around passenger rail stations.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Commerce Committee’s portion that we failed to mention when it came out and all we could talk about was the proposed elimination of TIGER: It includes a rail authorization. Despite the fact that rail runs on the surface, it’s historically been excluded from the surface transportation bill. With the current rail authorization expired since 2013, the Commerce Committee has the opportunity to correct that mistake, and they’re taking it. So far, it doesn’t look like the rail authorizations alters current policy very much, but we’ll keep you posted if we uncover a big change.

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Transit Alone Won’t Lead to Transit-Oriented Development

Top: The area around what is now the Garnett MARTA station in 1913. Bottom: The same area today. Images via ATL Urbanist

Top: The area around what is now the Garnett MARTA station in 1913. Bottom: The same area today. Images via ATL Urbanist

When MARTA opened its Garnett rail station in south downtown Atlanta in the early 1980s, the city expected development to follow. Darin at ATL Urbanist writes that documents from the 70s show that planners believed the station could spur offices and a residential high rise.

More than three decades later, that hasn’t happened. In fact, over the years commercial buildings and houses in the vicinity of the station were obliterated for parking. The station currently sits in the middle of a parking crater.

Writes Darin:

A catalyst like a transit station is similar to a garden — it can produce great things, but only if you take care of it and give it the nurturing environment it needs. City government did not do that with Garnett. In regard to its potential for spurring growth, it’s turned into a waste of money because of the lack of care taken to give it a proper environment for growth.

Here’s what it looks like now, from above. A city that sits back and waits for the market to work is not doing everything it can to help the station fulfill its potential. Imagine what could be here.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Second Avenue Sagas has a smackdown of transit deadbeat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; A View From the Cycle Path examines how the decline of the public realm in Wellington, New Zealand, was mirrored across the globe; and Chicago Bicycle Advocate says Uber is designed to evade responsibility for driver crashes.

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Today’s Headlines

  • WalletHub Names SF Worst City for Drivers; KTVU Blames Colored Lanes for Buses and Bikes
  • SFMTA Wants to Remove Bike Lanes on King Street, Encourage People to Bike on Townsend (Hoodline)
  • More on SFPD Park Station’s Plan to Crack Down on People on Bikes (SF Examiner)
  • Woman Struck by Driver at Lincoln and 43rd; Another Woman Falls Off of Hood in Tenderloin (KTVU)
  • On-Street Car-Share Continues to Expand With Two Getaround Curb Spaces at Alamo Square (Hoodline)
  • West Side Seniors Demand Better Transit Options (Ingleside-Excelsior Light)
  • Jeb Bush Rides Uber in SF (KQED, KTVU); CPUC Threatens to Suspend Its License (KTVUWeekly)
  • Caltrans Uncertain Road Flares Caused Bay Bridge Fires (KTVU, ABC)
  • Sunnyvale Driver Crashes Into Liquor Store (NBC)
  • El Camino Drivers Kill Man, 12-Year-Old Boy in Separate Bike Crashes in South Bay (Cyclelicious)
  • Self-Driving Car Gets Rear-Ended; Google: They’re “Hit Surprisingly Often” By Distracted Drivers (Exam)
  • 33 San Jose Drivers Charged for Insurance Fraud With Repeat “Coffee Spill” Claims (CBS, NBC, SFGate)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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New SFPD Park Station Captain’s Bike Crackdown Won’t Make Streets Safer

In the name of “protecting life,” SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has promised a crackdown on people on bikes rolling through stop signs.

The SF Bicycle Coalition and some neighborhood leaders are calling on Sanford not to divert precious enforcement resources away from the most deadly traffic violations in the district, none of which are bicycle violations.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

The SFPD has committed to Vision Zero, an end to traffic deaths. Its ostensible strategy is called “Focus on the Five” — the idea being that most citations should be for the five top causes of traffic injuries in the city, which are all driver violations. All stations but one have failed to meet that goal. The share of tickets issued to people walking and biking is actually growing faster than “the five.”

“This crackdown is a significant departure from the SFPD’s Vision Zero Commitment and risks lives by diverting resources away from the deadliest traffic violations,” the SFBC wrote in a blog post today announcing a petition. “This program at Park Station ignores the SFPD’s Vision Zero goal and their own data… which show that the behaviors most likely to result in someone being hit or killed in the Park Station area are failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and sudden left or right turns.”

Park Station has a history of targeting people on bikes on the Wiggle and streets in the North of Panhandle and Upper Haight neighborhoods, often at intersections that are nowhere close to being the district’s most dangerous.

But Sanford, who became captain of the station in April, seems less convinced by data than by his personal perceptions. He explained his reasons for the crackdown at a community meeting in June, reports Hoodline:

Read more…