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Paris to Return Its Great Public Squares to the People

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Paris’s Place de la République, before and after a 2012 redesign. Before photo: Google Street View; after photo: Clem/Flickr

If you look at paintings from the pre-automotive era, Paris’s monumental public squares were full of people strolling comfortably. But over time, car traffic has consumed most of these squares.

Now, under Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris is setting out to remake the city’s squares as great public gathering places.

The city is currently in the midst of an initiative to turn seven plazas and squares into pedestrian-friendly spaces, including the Place de la Bastille, Place de la Madeleine, and Place du Pantheon. Each will be redesigned with the goal of dedicating at least 50 percent of the land area to walking, biking, and public space. And for each project, the city will test out several different configurations, with public feedback and a rigorous analysis of how people use the space determining which version sticks.

The New York-based firm Placemeter is observing how people use the squares and compiling data for Paris officials. The company is currently using cameras to collect travel information from Plaza de la Nation, where six different designs will be piloted over the course of a year.

“You could call it tactical urbanism — testing,” said Placemeter’s Florent Peyre. “All of them will go through a phase of temporary installing with deployments before selecting the winning design.”

Place de la Nation “has a lot of symbolic importance for Parisians,” said Peyre, and serves as a major gathering center for protests. But on a typical day it is practically overrun by fast-moving car traffic.

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Streetsblog USA
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Highlights From Park(ing) Day Around the Globe

Today is Park(ing) Day — a day to demonstrate how scarce street space can do so much more than store parked cars. Around the world, people are setting up camp in parking spots and turning them into public spaces.

Here are some of the fun and creative installations we’ve come across on social media. Just for fun, vote for your favorite at the bottom.

Cambridge

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This Week: Measure DD, Taraval Boarding Islands, SoMa Protected Bike Lanes

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

    • Monday Tonight! Oakland Measure DD Coalition Meeting: Lake Merritt/Bay Trail projects. The Measure DD Community Coalition was formed to establish an ongoing dialogue between the City of Oakland and interested members of the community on how the bond measure will be implemented. The group meets every other month and is open to anyone interested in finding out more about Measure DD projects. Monday/Tonight, September 19, 7:10 p.m., Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave, Oakland.
    • Tuesday SFMTA Board of Directors Meeting. The SFMTA Board meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at City Hall. On the agenda this week: Taraval! Currently, the SFMTA’s L Taraval Safety Project includes only 11 boarding islands, instead of the 16 that safety advocates say are needed. Anti-transit and parking-over-safety voices oppose all new boarding islands, which prevent riders from having to step directly into oncoming traffic. Come speak in favor of having concrete boarding islands at every stop. Tuesday, September 20, 1 p.m., City Hall Room 400, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., S.F.
    • Tuesday Safe Passages for Women in Oakland. Women have different needs for safety and security and yet their concerns are often not considered. Join SPUR for an interactive workshop through model making and designing; this workshop will help give women tools to become part of the decision making process. Co-presented by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, TransForm, and the Jack London Improvement District. Tuesday, 6 p.m., SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway, Oakland. Free for SPUR and WOBO members, and supporters of JLID and TransForm, $10 for non-members.
    • Thursday 2016 Housing Ballot Measures. This November, voters in Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties will weigh in on ballot measures that will impact how these counties will respond to our region’s growing housing shortage. Come learn about what is at stake and what a win on these measures will mean for the Bay Area. Co-presented by Silicon Valley @ Home. Thursday, 12 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, 150 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose. Free for SPUR and Silicon Valley @ Home members. $10 for non-members.
    • Thursday 7th Street and 8th Street Safety Projects Open House. As part of Mayor Lee’s new Executive Directive on safety, SFMTA has been asked to put in protected bike lanes on 7th and 8th street in SoMa. As SFMTA explains it: 7th & 8th streets are intersected by multiple high-injury corridors on San Francisco’s High Injury Network, which is the 12 percent of city streets that account for 70 percent of the city’s traffic crashes. Staff will be on hand to explain how this project will make the street safer and more comfortable, and hear your feedback on how parking and loading can be better managed. Thursday, 5:30-7 p.m., Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission Street, S.F.
    • Thursday Northern California’s Rail Network. Railroads carrying both freight and passengers crisscross Oakland. Both services could be improved if the right projects are incorporated into the right local plans. Come learn what it will take for Oakland to maintain its role as the cornerstone of Northern California’s rail network. Thursday, 6 p.m., SPUR Oakland, 1544 Broadway, Oakland. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members.

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

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Today’s Headlines

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Via Streetsblog California
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The Streetsblog California Park(ing) Day Post

Janelle Wong and Kelsey Roeder at the pop-up Parklet at Valencia and Market. Photo: Streetsblog.

Kelsey Roeder and Janelle Wong at the Bicycle Coalition pop-up Parklet at Valencia and Market. Photo: Streetsblog.

Today is Park(ing) Day, the now-ten-year-old celebration that repurposes street parking spots for people rather than cars.

The concept is simple. People “take over” a parking space and use it for something other than car parking for a day, or a couple of hours, or until the meter runs out. As you would expect, Streetsblog generally finds Park(ing) Day pretty exciting and has led bike tours, produced maps, programmed our own spaces, and of course covered the heck out of the annual event.

Westwood Village in Los Angeles was the first picture we found today via Twitter.

Westwood Village in Los Angeles was the first picture we found today via Twitter.

This year, we’re asking for your help to cover Park(ing) Day throughout California.

The goal of Park(ing) Day is to show how much public space is wasted for below-market-rate storage of people’s personal property. Once people experience what can be done in even a small amount of space, they usually want changes in cities’ public parking policies.

Park(ing) Day is something of a success. Today, the concept of a “parklet” has taken hold in many cities, and what were temporary have in many spots become permanent people parking spots.

ReBar, the group that started the idea in 2006, no longer exists, and participation on the official Park(ing) Day website is spotty, so there’s no one central place you can go any more to see where parking spots are being turned into temporary parks in your city, or others. But other groups have taken over and run with the concept, from local advocacy groups like WOBO in Oakland to the American Society of Landscape Architects, which is designing and putting up parklets throughout the country today.

So there are still plenty of great Park(ing) Day parklets popping up around the state. Send your media from Park(ing) Day throughout California to damien@streetsblog.org or melanie@streetsblog.org and we’ll include it in this post. If we get enough media, we may even make our own video. More California Park(ing) Day Media, after the jump. Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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Proterra Unveils 350-Mile Range Electric Buses at APTA Conference in L.A.

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Proterra’s new Catalyst E2 electric bus parked outside the APTA conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At the American Public Transit Association’s annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles, electric bus maker Proterra unveiled its new Catalyst E2 transit bus. The Catalyst E2 electric bus is “named for its unprecedented Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity.” According to Proterra:

[A]n E2 series vehicle achieved a new milestone at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds where it logged more than 600 miles on a single charge under test conditions. Its nominal range of 194 – 350 miles means the Catalyst E2 series is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every U.S. mass transit route on a single charge and offers the transit industry the first direct replacement for fossil-fueled transit vehicles.

Proterra manufactures these buses at plants in L.A. County’s City of Industry and in Greenville, South Carolina.

Los Angeles County’s Foothill Transit is among the nation’s early adopters of electric bus technology, with a planned all-electric bus fleet by 2030. According to Doran Barnes, Executive Director at Foothill Transit and new APTA board chair:

We just surpassed one million miles of revenue service with our battery-electric Proterra fleet, and we’re looking forward to many more miles to come. Since our first EV bus procurement with Proterra in 2010, we knew that zero-emission buses were the future of mass transit. Now, with the new Catalyst E2, this vision is a reality. We’re excited by the possibilities of an all-electric future.

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Streetsblog USA
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Where Car Commuting Is Shrinking — And Where It’s Not

Where are Americans making the shift away from driving to work?

Crunching newly-released Census data, Yonah Freemark looked at how commute travel is changing in different cities and regions. In general, car commuting in major metro areas declined between 2005 and 2015, but the shift was greater than a couple of percentage points in only a few cities.

Keep in mind that commuting accounts for less than 20 percent of all trips, so these numbers may not reflect trends in other kinds of trips. Annual Census estimates also have fairly high margins of error, so any shifts that aren’t very significant in size should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here are the tables that Freemark compiled.

The share of people driving to work dropped in most major metro areas

Graph: Yonah Freemark via American Community Survey

Table: Yonah Freemark

The standouts here are greater Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. Meanwhile, the share of car commuters increased in greater Houston, L.A., and Charlotte. It’s worth nothing that both Houston and L.A. made significant investments in rail infrastructure over the last decade. But apparently that wasn’t enough on its own to shift commuting patterns.

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Today’s Headlines

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SamTrans Pushes Both Transit and Traffic Expansions for Dumbarton Bridge

Bicyclists approach the Dumbarton Bridge from the west. Photo: Jun Seita / Flickr

Bicyclists approach the Dumbarton Bridge from the west. Photo: Jun Seita / Flickr

SamTrans officials presented an update on the agency’s Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study at two community meetings this week, fielding questions from residents on ways the agency is hoping to provide better transit service over the Dumbarton Bridge. Facebook donated $1 million to the agency in January for the transportation study, which it hopes can expand commute options for its workers and cut traffic near the company’s Menlo Park headquarters on Willow Road.

While the long-envisioned Dumbarton Rail project to rebuild a cross-Bay rail bridge to carry passenger trains between Redwood City Caltrain and Union City BART is still alive in the study as a long-term (2030) option, a more frequent and expanded Dumbarton Express bus service tops the agency’s list as the most effective improvement that can be funded and implemented within five years.

“The cost of the [rail] bridge rehab ranges from $330 to $348 million in 2011 dollars, which would be up using 2016 dollars,” said Principal Planner Melissa Reggiardo at Monday’s community meeting in Newark.

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Via Streetsblog California
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Report: For Best Results, Address Equity and Climate Change Together

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 3.05.40 PMCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown just signed major new climate change legislation, and people will be grappling for a while with what the new laws will mean on the ground—and how California will be able to achieve its new greenhouse gas reduction targets. Tomorrow, several state agencies will be tackling the question of how to reach those targets in the transportation sector—Streetsblog will have more coverage of that later.

Meanwhile, a new report from researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California Berkeley sets out to guide the ongoing policy conversation by pointing out the interconnections between climate change and equity.

The report, Advancing Equity in California Climate Policy: A New Social Contract for Low-Carbon Transition, discusses why climate change policies need to address equity and outlines benefits that will accrue if the state gets it right:

While many economists—and more than a few politicians—believe that disparities are simply a necessary (although unfortunate) consequence of economic growth, recent research shows otherwise: high levels of inequality are toxic for economic prosperity and sustainability. Research on environmental and health disparities parallel this finding, revealing that environmental injustices have negative spillover effects for society at large.

“What is climate equity?” ask the authors. “How can it be defined in a way that promotes both good jobs and prioritizes those communities that are hardest hit by climate change, multiple environmental hazards, and socio-economic stressors?”

The report sets out to help create a framework under which policies like renewable energy standards, incentive programs, and cap and trade can be developed—and assessed. It calls for policies to promote environmental justice, economic equity, and public accountability.

Professor Manual Pastor, Director of the Center for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC and one of the authors of the report, said that a well-thought-out framework is key. Read more…