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How Cities Like Cleveland Can Grow and Tackle Climate Change

City leaders from around the world are meeting right now in Quito, Ecuador, for the summit known as Habitat III — convened by the United Nations to map out a strategy for sustainable urbanization as more people flock to cities.

If the next 1 billion urban residents live in sprawl like this, the planet is in serious trouble. Photo: Future Atlas via Flickr.

If urban growth is funneled into sprawl like this, the planet is in serious trouble. Photo: Future Atlas/Flickr

Demographers forecast enormous populations shifts to urban areas in the coming decades. The nature of this growth will have profound effects on the climate. Will it be walkable and served by transit? Or will it be haphazard sprawl?

Another factor is whether a region’s ecology is well-suited for a bigger population. Marc Lefkowitz at Network blog Green City Blue Lake says cities like Cleveland have the right natural characteristics to sustain more people. But regional growth isn’t happening the right way:

In an article, “Where to put the next billion people” Harvard’s Richard Forman and Arizona State University professor of sustainability science, Jianguo Wu, note that “for people and nature to thrive, the arrangement of land systems and water across the urban region must be managed holistically.”

For water-rich regions like Cleveland, this holds true. But a regional plan should probably be developed this time to “limit the loss of valuable (farm) land.”

A temperate climate, abundant water and rich soils are assets that Greater Cleveland has. By contrast, the authors predict that water stress in the West and Southwestern U.S. and Mexico will limit their growth.

Cleveland could play a significant role in the fight against climate change by developing a strategy for more compact communities and with a more open and encouraging immigration policy, the report concludes.

Read more…

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This Week: Yes on J, K and Measure RR, Game of Floods, Designing for Tomorrow’s Workplace

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

    • Monday tonight! Bike the Vote: Letter-Writing Marathon for J&K and RR. This year, the SF Bicycle Coalition is endorsing Yes on J&K and Measure RR. Let’s remember 2016 as the year San Francisco voters said ‘yes’ to investing in transportation. Come to a letter-writing marathon to learn how to write the most compelling letters and what the submission process looks like. Dinner will be provided. BYOB is welcome. Monday, tonight! Oct. 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m. the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Offices, 1720 Market St., S.F. This will be followed by a “transit blitz” campaign on Thursday, Oct. 20
    • Tuesday Game of Floods. Come learn about coastal planning in the age of rising sea-levals. And grab a beer and play a round of “Game of Floods,” Marin County’s interactive sea level rise adaptation game. Tuesday, October 18, 6 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members
    • Wednesday Designing for What We Don’t Know Yet II. When we think about the workplace of the future, are we thinking about the right things? What if we expanded our imaginings to include things like gaming, artificial intelligence, driverless cars and more stuff from science fiction? Join SPUR for a talk on thinking beyond the cubicle. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members
    • Wednesday Women, Biking and the Law. Want to learn more about your rights as a bicyclists? Looking for information on what to do if you’re in a crash? Interested in how the legal process works, from working with police and lawyers to court? Presented by Shaana Rahman, founder of Rahman Law*, this workshop will cover topics including common causes of bike crashes, what to do if you have a collision or incident on the road, how to talk to the police and lawyers when you’re navigating the legal system. Contribute your own experiences and ride away with confidence as women, trans* or female-identifying bicyclists in San Francisco who knows their legal rights on the road. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 6-7:30 p.m. RSVP requested.
    • Thursday Blitz for BART. Come out and help spread the word about Measure RR to its base supporters — BART commuters. Volunteers with the “Yes for RR campaign” will be at (almost) every station in BART’s system during the morning and evening commutes to reach as many people as possible. Thursday, Oct. 20, 7:30- 9 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sign up for a location assignment.
    • Thursday Learning from Megaprojects. Megaprojects–like the $6.4 billion Bay Bridge eastern span–are essential to our region, but often end up controversial thanks to delays and cost overruns. Through focusing on the Bay Bridge, what lessons can we learn that can determine how to achieve these megaprojects differently in the future? Hear from an expert on the topic. Co-presented by ULI San Francisco. Thursday, Oct. 20, 12:30 p.m., SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway, Oakland. Free for SPUR and ULI San Francisco members. $10 for non-members.
    • Saturday Oakland Mobility (OakMob) 101 Oakland residents–what moves you? How do you get around? If carshare and bikeshare options came to your neighborhood, would you use them? How could carshare and bikeshare help you stay connected to work, school and family? Bring your friends and family for a day of food, prizes, music, and the opportunity to plan a better connected and more equitable Oakland. Saturday, Oct. 22, 12-4 p.m., Defremery Park, 1651 Adeline Street, West Oakland. RSVP requested.

Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

Streetsblog USA
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American Traffic Engineering Establishment Finally Approves Bike Boxes

Bike boxes are going to become part of the standard street design guidance. Photo: NACTO

Bike boxes are on their way toward becoming a standard street design measure. Photo: NACTO

The wheels of change grind slowly at the institutions that guide the American traffic engineering establishment, but they are moving forward.

This week, U.S. DOT issued interim approval for bike boxes [PDF], a treatment that positions cyclists ahead of cars at intersections.

Dozens of American cities currently use bike boxes — some for the better part of the past decade — and the federal government is now satisfied enough by the results to conclude that they lead to “reductions in conflicts between bikes and turning drivers” and less crosswalk encroachment by both drivers and cyclists.

Cities installing bike boxes will still have to submit a request for “interim approval” to the Federal Highway Administration until a final rule is adopted, but now bike boxes will be perceived as less risky by transportation engineers.

The committee responsible for approving new bike infrastructure treatments for the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommended approval of bike boxes nearly three years ago. The same group has been dragging its feet on protected bike lanes, a key obstacle to their widespread installation.

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Today’s Headlines

  • How is N-Judah Shuttle Working Out? (Hoodline)
  • BART Bond Necessary (SFExaminer)
  • A Look at the BART Board Candidates (SFExaminer)
  • BART Extends Owl Bus Service (KQED)
  • Planning Dept Cuts Housing in SoMa Development (Hoodline)
  • More Mixed Use for Haight (Socketsite)
  • Plans for Another Transbay Tower (Socketsite)
  • Impressions of BART’s New Train (BizJournal, SFBaySFChron)
  • Cyclist Injured in Hit and Run (CBSLocal)
  • Police Seek Help in Finding Hit-and-Run Motorist Who Killed a Woman in Millbrae (DailyJournal)
  • Novato Motorist Charged with Manslaughter (MarinIJ)
  • SMART Train Opening Delayed Due to Engine Flaw (MarinIJ)

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

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Remixing the Future of Transit Planning

This week I’m joined by Tiffany Chu, co-founder of the transit planning software firm Remix, which helps agencies quickly assess the impact of potential changes in service. Tiffany discusses the response the company has received from the transit industry and what got it started. We also talk about the possible policy implications of Remix, as well as the movement towards open data.

Streetsblog USA
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Affordable Transportation and Affordable Housing Need to Go Hand-in-Hand

In Pittsburgh, combined housing and transportation costs are still lower in urban areas. Map: Center for Neighborhood Technology

In Pittsburgh, combined housing and transportation costs tend to be lower in central areas, but rents are rising in central neighborhoods. Map: Center for Neighborhood Technology

Rents continue to rise in cities across the U.S., and Pittsburgh is no exception. Noting the escalating housing costs in walkable neighborhoods, Alex Shewczyk at Bike Pittsburgh looks at how transportation and housing policy can coordinate to make places more affordable.

We know from resources like the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing+Transportation Index that transportation costs are a large household expense and closely tied to housing location. If you live somewhere with good options besides driving, you can save a lot. But these places are where housing costs are rising. To address the challenge of affordability, cities need to use both transportation strategies and housing strategies — and there’s a lot of overlap between the two, Shewczyk writes:

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Guidebook for Creating Connected Communities, typical households in auto-dependent neighborhoods spend about 25 percent of their income on transportation costs, but this number drops to 9 percent in neighborhoods that are more connected with a variety of mobility options.

Recently, the Obama Administration’s “toolkit” on housing development made local zoning and land-use regulations a national issue. The White House reports, “Significant barriers to new housing development can cause working families to be pushed out of the job markets with the best opportunities for them, or prevent them from moving to regions with higher — paying jobs and stronger career tracks. Excessive barriers to housing development result in increasing drag on national economic growth and exacerbate income inequality.”

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Streetsblog LA
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New Bruce Schaller Report: Recommendations for Regulating Taxi & Ride-Hail

Bruce Schaller speaking at UCLA yesterday. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Bruce Schaller speaking at UCLA yesterday. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller released a new report with valuable advice for states and municipalities as they work to ensure that ride-hail companies best serve the common good. Ride-hail, or TNCs (Transportation Network Companies), includes primarily Uber and Lyft. Schaller was one of Janette Sadik-Khan’s key deputy commissioners in the New York City Department of Transportation. His report, titled Unfinished Business: A Blueprint for Uber, Lyft and Taxi Regulation, was the subject of a talk Schaller gave yesterday at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

Throughout the report, Schaller recaps successful examples where regulations and programs are solving problems. He also provides a primer on the tangled taxi-TNC relationship in California, where state legislators tried to level the playing field by passing A.B. 650. That bill attempted to bring taxi regulation into the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which already regulates TNCs. A.B. 650 passed at the last minute, but was vetoed by Governor Brown.

Growth in the U.S. taxi industry. Graph via Schaller report

Growth in the U.S. taxi industry. Graph via Schaller report

Schaller provides worthwhile context for the current changes in the taxi industry. Despite some perception to the contrary, prior to the advent of technology-enabled ride-hail about a half-dozen years ago, the taxi industry’s growth has been relatively healthy. Per the report, the number of taxicabs in the United States increased by at least 20 percent between 2002 and 2016. With the advent of Uber and Lyft, Los Angeles taxi ridership fell 43 percent, and revenue was down 24 percent, between 2013 and 2016.

Schaller makes the case that there are significant differences between “dispatch” and “flag” systems. Flag service–in which riders get rides from taxis already onsite (such as at airports)–are less subject to market competition and more in need of regulation. Dispatch markets, in which hailing was historically done by phone, now commonly via app, are less prone to individual abuse, hence less in need of regulation.

Schaller makes recommendations in five key areas:  Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Google Bus Issue in Supervisor Race (SFExaminer)
  • Transit Dancing (Hoodline)
  • Castro Escalator Upgrade Almost Done (Hoodline)
  • History of Tall Buildings in San Francisco (Curbed)
  • Rents Down in San Francisco–But Still High (Curbed)
  • Debating the BART Bond (EastBayTimes)
  • BART Proposes Web Site to Let Public Study its Inner Workings (EastBayTimes)
  • BART Delays (Kron4)
  • Opening Date Not Specified for BART Warm Springs Station (EastBayTimes)
  • Wealthy People Also Take Public Transit (MarinIJ)
  • Redwood City Housing Crisis Protest (DailyJournal)

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


French Flair and Bullet Trains at Rail~Volution’s California Day

The Strasbourg TGV Station was offered to the Audience at Rail~Volution as Inspiration for Designing HSR Stations in California. Image By Diliff-wikimedia

The Strasbourg TGV Station was offered at Rail~Volution as inspiration for HSR stations in California. Image By Diliff-wikimedia

The Rail~Volution conference at the San Francisco Hyatt concluded yesterday with three hours of presentations and break-out meetings about California High-Speed Rail. The focus: how to build the communities we want around HSR stations in Los Angeles, San Jose and Fresno. An important part of that was to learn from the experts: the French designers who have already developed and built beautiful, place-making stations in Strasbourg, Lille and other cities in France.

From the Rail~Volution guide:

High-speed rail has transformed cities and regions around the world. Now it’s our turn. California has begun its ambitious investment in high-speed rail. How our we building our high-speed rail stations? What can we learn from France and other countries? How can we put those ideas to work in Fresno, San Jose and Los Angeles? Hear from national and global experts on issues related to design, governance and balancing major new transit infrastructure with the land use and development opportunities created by high-speed rail.

Before heading to the breakout sessions for details on the planned California stations, attendees heard from some domestic experts. Robert Cervero, Professor and Chair of the Department of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, said that HSR has its biggest impact on certain economic sectors, including “…finance, business services, consulting firms, architects, engineers–those who depend on face to face contact,” he said. And that, he explained, means HSR will have the most impact where those types of firms cluster, such as the central business districts (CBD) of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Streetsblog USA
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DC Metro Doomsday Scenario Also Warning to Bay Area

A proposal from Washington's WMATA suggests closing 20 Metro stations, outside of rush hour, cutting bus service and raising fares to close a $275 million budget gap. Image: WMATA via Greater Greater Washington

WMATA says that without new revenue it will have to close 20 Metro stations outside of rush hour and cut bus service. Image: WMATA via Greater Greater Washington

WMATA, the DC region’s transit agency, is in crisis.

DC is a rarity among major American cities, with transit mode share declining over the last decade. In the past year, the federal government took over WMATA’s safety oversight authority after a number of embarrassing failures, culminating in the whole Metro being temporarily shut down. Confidence in the agency is in short supply.

On top of everything, WMATA now faces a $275 million budget shortfall. Jonathan Neeley at Greater Greater Washington reports that the agency just outlined an alarming doomsday scenario, including cutting service on high-profile recent expansion projects:

On Thursday, WMATA’s staff will give a presentation to the Board of Directors on potential ways to close a $275 million budget gap. Or, put another way, staff warn the board that without more money, some drastic measures may be inevitable.

The draft presentation that came out on Tuesday lists options like closing 20 stations during off-peak hours (nine of them on the east end of the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines, along with three on the west end of the Silver Line) and shutting down a number of bus lines, including the brand new Potomac Yard Metroway.

The first thing to remember is that this isn’t an official proposal; it’s a cry for help. It’s WMATA saying that it needs more money to operate the entire rail system, and if that money doesn’t come in, these are possible options for cutting costs to a level commensurate with current funding.

Read more…