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#StreetsR4Families: Livable Streets Presentations for Very Young Students

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son's kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son’s kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, I used the dual media events of Bike Week and the opening of the Expo Line extension to speak at my kids’ schools about Livable Streets issues. Joe and I thought it could make an interesting follow-up to our 2014 guide to planning a Walk/Bike to School Day for a school that does not already have that event on the calendar.

After the four classes I taught, I gathered feedback from the teachers and parents to see what worked and what didn’t. Here are a few keys to making successful presentations to younger children about Livable Streets:

1. Let the kids talk – For both the pre-schoolers and the kinders, I made it a point to get the kids talking. For the kinders, I would have them tell me stories about the different kinds of trips they make after the student would pull a toy from a bag. If a kid pulled a train, they would be asked to tell me a story about riding the train. If they never rode a train, they would pass the train to a friend who did. Even kindergarteners don’t want to hear you lecture about your kickin’ new bicycle.

2. Talk about safety, but don’t dwell on it – Kids are used to being lectured about being safe, so while it’s probably important to talk about safety; it also isn’t our job to scare them. In the pre-school class, I had one of the more able young ladies put on a bike helmet for the class. Other kids helped me put on bike lights (provided by Metro, see below) on my daughter’s bike. Once that was done, we went into how much fun it is to ride a bicycle and we made a promise that my daughter would ride her bike from our house last Friday. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why Fixing the Rust Belt Could Help Save the Climate

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group

The form of the built environment – the shape of our cities and towns – is directly related to our consumption of energy and our impact on the climate (PDF). People who live in areas where walking, biking and transit are viable means of transportation – and where car trips, when they happen, are shorter – produce less carbon pollution in their daily lives than residents of more sprawling areas.

Over the last decade, America’s trajectory toward ever-greater suburban expansion has slowed. Cities such as New York, Boston, Denver and Seattle are experiencing an urban boom; in other places, suburban development has angled toward “live/work/play” arrangements in which a car may still be necessary, but is likely to be used a little less.

There is a problem, though. Demand for walkable living in a high-quality urban environment is outstripping supply in a growing number of places. Housing prices in the urban neighborhoods of “hot” cities are skyrocketing, leaving many who might otherwise prefer to live a lower-carbon lifestyle on the outside looking in.

The ongoing battle between housing NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) in places like the San Francisco Bay Area can be relied upon to light up the interwebs on a daily basis. But the world is not the Bay Area. And all of us would do well not to lose sight of what’s happening in a different set of cities, cities where what we now call “walkable urbanism” once existed on a grand scale: the cities of the Rust Belt.

It is hard for those of us who grew up in recent decades to imagine it, but Rust Belt cities once loomed large in the nation’s urban life. In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the nation’s fifth-largest city, followed immediately by Baltimore, Cleveland and St. Louis. Pittsburgh was 12th, Milwaukee 13th, Buffalo 15th. Today, Detroit is still the most populous of those cities, but it is only the 18th largest in the country. Its population has dropped by more than 1 million.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Anthony Foxx Envisions a “Gradual Shift” Away From Car Dependence

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx criss-crossed the country last week on a tour of the seven finalists for U.S. DOT’s $50 million “Smart City Challenge” grant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is taking a "measured" tone about changing transportation in the U.S. Photo: Bike Portland

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Photo: Bike Portland

When Foxx was in Portland, Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland got a chance to ask him how he plans to change the transportation “paradigm” so walking, biking, and transit become the norm. Six years after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed on a table at the National Bike Summit and announced “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” Maus notes, federal policy still tilts heavily in favor of car-based infrastructure.

Here’s what Foxx said:

I think we’re going to need cars. We’re going to need a mix of transportation options. I think we have a supply-side mentality right now at the federal level where we presume that 80 cents on the dollar should go to the automobile within the Highway Trust Fund. And I actually think over the longer term we’re going to need to look at a more performance-based system where we look at things like: How it congestion best reduced? How do we increase safety? How do we move significant numbers of people most efficiently and effectively and cleanly. And I think that’s going to push us into a different mix of transportation choices.

But I think it’s a slow, gradual process. Look around the world and no country has created a multimodal system overnight; but I think that’s ultimately where we’re headed. We have to have a mix of transportation choices. It includes the automobile, but it’s not exclusive to the automobile.

Foxx’s power to set transportation policy pales in comparison to Congress and the White House, but he could be doing more to speed up a shift of priorities at the federal level. U.S. could, for instance, reform the way states measure congestion, so people riding the bus count as much as solo drivers. But so far Foxx’s agency has been reluctant to do that.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transport Providence considers how insight from conservatives could improve transit projects. The Transportationist explains how the “modernist” vision for transportation undervalued places and diverged from thousands of years of human experience. And City Block considers the advantages and drawbacks of Denver’s new airport train.

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This Week: Parking Permits, Designing Transit, Women’s Bike Workshop

sblog_calendar1Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Monday: Tonight! San Francisco’s Residential Parking Permit Community Workshop. The SFMTA is seeking public comment to update and (hopefully) improve San Francisco’s parking permit program. This is one of 11 workshops they are holding throughout the city. Once the public meetings are complete, staff will take recommendations to the SFMTA Board of Directors in fall 2016. Monday, May 23, is the session for District 7, 6-8 p.m., at St. Stephen Catholic Parish, 401 Eucalyptus Drive, SF.
  • Wednesday: Another of San Francisco SFMTA’s Residential Parking Permit Community Workshops. Wednesday, May 25, is the session for District 11, 6-to-8 p.m. Minne Lovie Ward, 650 Capitol Avenue, Rec Center, SF.
  • Wednesday: SPUR is hosting a Transit+Design Workshop. Come join and learn about the research and design tools that help create a great experience for transit users. Learn from talented designers as they celebrate transit design successes happening around the region. Wednesday, May 25, 2:00-5:00 p.m., at SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway, Oakland. Free for SPUR members, otherwise $10.
  • Wednesday: Transit Demystified. How do we get transit-friendly corridors? Why do we have light rail in some places and BRT in others? Why is walking to transit so daunting in some places? Six presenters will discuss these Bay Area transit mysteries, with pictures, and beer. Join the Young Urbanists for an evening of rapid-fire presentations. Wednesday, May 25, 6:00 p.m., at SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway, Oakland. Free for SPUR members, otherwise $10.
  • Thursday: Envision Silicon Valley. This is one of several meetings VTA will hold. The public is invited to learn about progress made toward developing an expenditure plan for a possible transportation sales tax on the November 2016 ballot. Thursday, May 26, 7 p.m. Mountain View City Hall, Council Chambers; 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. Served by bus routes 52, 81, 34 and 35.
  • Sunday: PUBLIC Bikes Women’s Workshop: Join the San Francisco Women’s Bike Clinic, led by PUBLIC Bikes employee Samantha Goodwin and learn the basic mechanics of a bike. Learn how gearing works, how to change a flat, and the best ways to lock your bike. The free clinic is limited to 20 women, trans, and femme participants. Sunday, May 29, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sign up a few ways: In PUBLIC’s Hayes Valley store (549 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102), call the store: 415-688-4000, or via eventbrite page.

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

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFPD Focusing on the Five Most Dangerous Infractions (SFExaminer)
  • Tenderloin Safety Improvements (KQED)
  • Kim and Wiener Debate Transit and Housing Cred (SFExaminer)
  • Explainer on Prop C (SFExaminer)
  • Editorial: Support Prop C for More Exclusionary Housing (SFChron)
  • Counties Working to Raise Funds for Transportation Projects (KQED)
  • Is MTC Office Building over the Top? (EastBayTimes)
  • Major Delays After Man Struck by Caltrain in Burlingame (SFGate, EastBayTimes)
  • Possible Marin County Gas Tax to Make up for Transportation Revenue Loss? (MarinIJ)
  • Cyclist Robbed in South SF (SFBay)
  • Tourists Break into Alamo Square Park (Hoodline)

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


Police Chief Resigns: What Does it Mean for Livable Streets?

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up during happier times (in this case on a bike-share celebration ride to City Hall). Photo: Aaron Bialick

As Streetsblog readers have surely heard, police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign Thursday after the shooting of an apparently unarmed woman by SFPD. The police shootings of Mario Woods in December and Luis Gongora in April both seemed to show a department where officers are failing to deescalate situations and are too quick to resort to deadly force. As the Chronicle explained:

Mayor Lee had stood by the chief he appointed in 2011 through two controversial police shootings within the past six months and revelations that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. But at a late-afternoon news conference at City Hall, the mayor said that after Thursday’s shooting, he had “arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

It’s a tricky thing, taking a safe-streets perspective on the resignation. Obviously, the shootings, the texts, and other incidents have contributed to a heightened distrust between the SFPD and communities of color. But it would be remiss not to point out the overlap between vulnerable road users, the disadvantaged, and the way they are treated by city agencies, including the police. It’s no coincidence that the Tenderloin, in addition to all its other problems, is the district with the highest rate of pedestrian-versus-car injuries. And it is the last to get any bike lanes and safety measures. As Walk San Francisco’s director Nicole Ferrara put it:

The recent actions by SFPD have been deeply troubling and we support rapid reforms to ensure that black and brown communities in San Francisco are treated with respect, dignity and equity. We have been working with SFPD to ensure that they are sharing data on crashes and citations, including racial data.

Chief Suhr supported Vision Zero, San Francisco’s ambitious program to eliminate traffic deaths, publicly. But that didn’t seem to bear out on the ground. As Streetsblog readers will recall, just last month a tipster sent us a photo of Suhr’s car parked illegally in front of City Hall, blocking sight lines a few feet from where 68-year-old Priscila Moreto was mowed down by a motorist a few years before.

He was also at odds with bike community over the Bike Yield Law. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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TransForm/CalBike Summit Tackles Transportation Equity, Including Funding

Advocates prepare to meet with legislative staff. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Advocates prepare to meet with legislative staff on Advocacy Day. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

In a wide-ranging conversation at the TransForm/CalBike Equity Summit, Malcolm Dougherty kept right on saying things that advocates are not used to hearing from the director of Caltrans. He reiterated Caltrans’ commitment to its goals of  tripling biking trips and doubling the number of walking trips in the state. He said that California is investing more in transit than it ever has before, and he even said there are freeways in the state “that may not be serving their original purpose” and maybe should be removed, using the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco as an example of the improvements that could bring.

Further , Dougherty proclaimed “We should cap the 101.”

Dougherty’s comments came during a panel that included him, Kate White, Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at CalSTA, and Stephanie Jones of the US DOT in a conversation that acknowledged past transportation planning errors that led to divided communities and inequitable distribution of mobility benefits. They talked about funding challenges, the state transportation agency’s attempts to be more open and transparent, and what the state can do to help guide local transportation planning decisions.

The two major transportation funding streams in California are the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, or SHOPP—which focuses on safety upgrades and rehabilitation of existing roads—and the State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, most of which is allocated to local jurisdictions. The locals decide how to spend that money, said Dougherty, but “the state needs to provide goals and incentives for them to spend it on the right things.”

“California is focused on maintenance and ‘fix-it-first,’” said White. “The state is not building any new highways.” However, she warned, local sales tax measure plans have their own expenditure plans, and if local governments think a highway expansion will help get them the necessary two-thirds vote—or if they believe adding capacity will solve their congestion problems [see: induced demand]—then expansions will be included in the plans. “Get involved in conversations on local sales tax measures,” she said, “because that’s what’s driving highway expansion.”

Advocates recognized the efforts of allies in the state Assembly. From left: Stuart Cohen, TransForm; Genoveva Islas, CalBike; Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica); Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella); Dave Snyder, CalBike; and Asm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

Advocates recognized the efforts of allies in the state Assembly. From left: Stuart Cohen, TransForm; Genoveva Islas, CalBike; Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica); Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella); Dave Snyder, CalBike; and Asm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

The remarks came at the opening session of the TransForm/California Bicycle Coalition Transportation Equity Summit on Monday in Sacramento, which gathered advocates and planners to talk about gaps in equity and how to address them. It was followed by an Advocacy Day, in which groups of advocates met with legislative staff to discuss a transportation equity agenda that includes budget allocation requests and support for several bills (more on that below).

One thing became very clear at the opening panel, however: what constitutes the administration’s proposed “Low Carbon Roads” program, which under Governor Brown’s current budget proposal would be allocated  $100 million from the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, remains murky. “Any program funded by cap-and-trade,” said White, “has to, first and foremost, reduce greenhouse gases. There are only so many types of road improvements that would do that.” Dougherty pointed out that the California Air Resources Board “would have a large role in developing the program, including new guidelines for it,” and that Caltrans “will be driven by those guidelines.”

There is still no clear explanation forthcoming as to why it’s necessary to create a new program when the existing, highly competitive and underfunded Active Transportation Program has already done all that work, and is focused on the same things.

The Summit offered discussions and presentations by planners, advocates, and community organizers that covered a range of topics. Check out TransForm’s Storify here for some highlights.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Problem With “Infrastructure Week”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.37.06 PM

You may have noticed that it’s “Infrastructure Week” in America — a time where engineering and construction industry groups beat the drum for more money, using big numbers and images of collapsing bridges.

You can follow the dialogue on Twitter. It’s full of value-neutral statements like this one from Democratic members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:

It’s hard to dispute the value of infrastructure, or that America’s transportation, water, sewer, and utility systems are generally in bad shape. But the big prescription that comes out of Infrastructure Week is not so much about making better infrastructure — it’s mainly about spending more money.

Infrastructure Week is brought to you by some of the largest engineering firms in the world. The coalition is broader than that, and includes some perspectives that emphasize quality and efficiency. But the driving force is the American Society of Civil Engineers, an organization with plenty of self-interest in bigger public construction budgets.

So it’s no wonder that the message from Infrastructure Week boils down to an orchestrated appeal for funds. It’s also not difficult to see why this message doesn’t get a lot people very excited: For more money, we can get a less defective version of what we’ve already got.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Priced Lanes Can Move Everyone Faster — Even People Who Don’t Pay

Since adding tolled lanes o I-405 outside Seattle, all the lanes are less congested. Image: Washington DOT

Since tolling began on two lanes of I-405 outside Seattle, all lanes are less congested. Image: Washington DOT

Remember the uproar over the HOT lanes on I-405 outside Seattle? Republicans in the state senate fired transportation commissioner Lynn Petersen to register their displeasure with priced roads. The political furor isn’t over. Bill Bryant, a GOP candidate for governor, continues to use the HOT lanes as a wedge issue against incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee.

Look at the actual effect of the tolls, however, and the complaints seem like so much hot air. Josh Feit at PubliCola reports the tolls are reducing traffic even for people who opt not to pay:

Despite the noise, the latest data (such as measuring traffic speeds) shows that I-405 tolling has actually improved traffic conditions and commutes. What’s more: the surveys show that people are pleased with the program. (By the way, earlier data, available during last session’s attack on Peterson, found similar results.)

A presentation on the I-405 tolling program put together by WSDOT this week documents the following:

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Feds Could Help Fund Second Transbay Tube (KQED, BizJournal)
  • Cause of Wed BART Breakdown Found (CBSLocal)
  • Fix It Teams to Clean up Sidewalks and Repair Pot Holes (SFChron)
  • More on Smart City Grant and Self Driving Buses (SFist)
  • Future of SF Urban Farm Uncertain (SFExaminer)
  • Woman Struck by BART Train (SFGate)
  • Trespasser Struck by Amtrak Train (EastBayTimes)
  • Lower Office and Housing Costs Still Luring Growth to East Bay (EastBayTimes)
  • One Day Police Sting Nets 171 Traffic Violations in Burlingame and Belmont (SMDailyJournal)
  • More on Francis Drake Boulevard Rehab Plan (MarinIJ)
  • Castro Rainbow Escalators Launch (Hoodline)

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