Skip to content

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

To Speed Service, Seattle Looks to Separate Streetcars From Auto Traffic

Seattle's South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar might get a dedicated lane. Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

As streetcars make a comeback in cities across America, they are under scrutiny from transit advocates who complain about service quality.

Atlanta’s new streetcar has produced disappointing ridership numbers, with sources reporting it’s not much faster than walking. And Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic reports that after a fairly strong start, Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar has seen ridership sputter, with a 7 percent decline in the last year.

But the good news is Seattle has zeroed in on a key issue with the line. Freemark reports:

The problem may have something to do with the way the streetcar runs: In the street, sharing lanes with cars. The results have been slow vehicles — the line’s scheduled service averages less than eight miles per hour — often held back by traffic and a lack of reliability. This can produce horror stories of streetcars getting stuck for half an hour or more behind other vehicles and, combined with infrequent service, it certainly reinforces the sense that streetcars are too slow and unreliable to provide any serious transportation benefit.

This is a problem shared by every existing and planned modern streetcar line in the country, suggesting that the streetcar designed to run in the street with cars may, over the long term, simply fail to attract riders who grow increasingly frustrated with the quality of service provided.

Seattle may offer a solution, however. CityLab‘s Nate Berg reported last year that the city is planning a new streetcar line — the 1.1-mile Center City Connector that in 2018 would run along dedicated downtown lanes as it links the South Lake Union line with another service, the 2.5-mile First Hill line, which is currently under construction. That’s great news, but even more interesting is the fact that the city is considering giving dedicated lanes to the existing South Lake Union line.

Read more…

22 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Charges Dropped Against SFFD Truck Driver Accused of Hitting Motorcyclist While Drunk (ABC)
  • SFPD: Reports of Bike Theft Down 8.5 Percent Last Year (SFBike)
  • Former BART Director: With New Momentum, Second Transbay Tube May Be at “Tipping Point” (Chron)
  • Balboa Park BART Station Closed Sunday After Death on Tracks (ABC)
  • More on Sup. Farrell and Cohen’s Fight to Reclaim Parking Spots From Construction Workers (NBC)
  • “Tactical Urbanism”: The New Guide to Livable Streets Experimentation (CityLab)
  • Seven CA Companies Have DMV Licenses to Test Self-Driving Cars (SFGate)
  • Four Men Carjack Uber Driver’s Car, Crash it and Flee in the Inner Richmond (CBS)
  • Man Speaks First Words Since Being Hit on Bike By Driver and Robbed in West Oakland (CBS)
  • Elderly Driver Crashes Into Cupertino Starbucks (SFBay)
  • Green Caltrain: VTA Proposes “Useless” Bus Lines, 30 Minutes Apart, to San Jose Airport
  • SM Daily Journal Editor on New SamTrans/Caltrain Chief’s Selection: “Surprising But Solid”

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

25 Comments

Four Protected Bike Signals Coming to Polk Street By May

This post supported by

The SFMTA has promised signals to separate southbound bike traffic from right-turning drivers at four intersections along Polk Street by May. Image: SFMTA

Today the SFMTA announced details about the first package of safety upgrades coming to Polk Street in the next few months. They include signals at four intersections that will give southbound bike traffic a separate phase from drivers turning right, making Polk the second street in SF to get the configuration.

By May, the SFMTA said it would install the bike signals at all four intersections in the Polk plan: Geary Boulevard, Ellis Street, Eddy Street, and Turk Street. The signals “will be implemented to address existing right-hook crash patterns,” the SFMTA said in an email announcing the upgrades.

The prevailing design of SF current bike lanes calls for people on bikes to merge with right-turning cars, putting them at risk of drivers who turn without looking. At the four Polk intersections, right-turning drivers will have a separate lane and signal phase. The configuration is widely used in cities like Amsterdam, and is planned for protected bike lanes on streets like Second.

The only street in SF that already has the configuration is Cargo Way in Bayview, where a two-way protected bikeway separated by a fence was installed in 2012. A similar configuration exists at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, where a left-turn signal was installed to protect people in a crosswalk along the Panhandle’s mixed bike and pedestrian path.

As part of the first batch of improvements on Polk, the SFMTA said the conventional southbound bike lane will be extended from Union to Post Street by April. That space will apparently be created by narrowing traffic lanes.

When construction of the rest of the Polk project starts next spring, the southern segment of the bike lane will get green paint and a buffer zone. Many sections will run curbside, eliminating the risk of dooring.

The northbound Polk bike upgrades will also come next spring, with the construction of a raised bike lane from McAllister to Pine Street, which won’t include separate signal phases at intersections.

Pedestrian safety improvements are on the way this spring, include zebra crosswalks at 25 intersections and painted bulb-outs at five intersections. By summer, the SFMTA said it will install leading pedestrian intervals, which “allow pedestrians a few seconds of a ‘WALK’ signal before vehicles receive a green light at certain intersections.” By that time, daylighting will also be in place at “various intersections,” along with “new and relocated” loading zones to reduce double parking.

24 Comments

Facebook Expansions Could Spur Dumbarton Rail in Menlo Park

Facebook wants to develop new housing, office, and retail within walking distance of two potential Dumbarton Rail stations. Image: City of Menlo Park

Long-delayed efforts to restore train service on the Dumbarton Rail Corridor, which links the mid-Peninsula to the East Bay, could get a boost as Facebook looks to add housing and offices along the tracks in Menlo Park.

This spring, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority will study how to bring service to a 4.5-mile segment of the Dumbarton tracks between the Redwood City Caltrain Station and Willow Road in Menlo Park, as recommended by the Dumbarton Policy Advisory Committee. Restoring service to that segment would not require the replacement of sections of the Dumbarton Rail Bridge or major track reconstructions. (Both would be needed to restore service on the full 20.5-mile Dumbarton corridor between the Redwood City Caltrain and Union City BART stations.)

Facebook is rapidly expanding its “East Campus” headquarters in Menlo Park, where roughly 4,600 employees now work. The campus is located within walking distance of a proposed Dumbarton Rail station at Willow Road, a source of potential ridership unforeseen in a 2011 study of the project [PDF]. The company still has room to grow to 6,600 employees at the East Campus and add another 2,800 at its nearby West Campus. One parcel over, Facebook plans to add another 1,500 employees at a refurbished warehouse on a ten-building, 59-acre site purchased in September.

Facebook wants to develop up to 3,500 housing units on its East Campus parking lots and at the adjacent 56-acre Menlo Science and Technology Center, a sprawling 21-building commercial site purchased from Prologis in February. The company sees these sites, as well as another another site owned by developer David Bohannon near Marsh Road to the west, an opportunity to create mixed-use neighborhoods within a half-mile walk of potential Dumbarton Rail stations.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Parking Madness 2015: Asheville vs. Syracuse

Only two spots remain in the Elite Eight of Streetsblog’s Parking Madness bracket. Yesterday, the parking fields by GM headquarters along the Detroit waterfront prevailed over the parking crater around the BART station in Bay Area suburb Walnut Creek.

Today, Asheville, North Carolina, faces Rust Belt stalwart Syracuse.

Asheville

original-3

This entry comes to us from the fine folks at Kostelec Planning, who identify it as “downtown Asheville’s ‘South Slope’ area”:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

The American Highway Safety Establishment Warms Up Some Leftovers

TZD_chart

Thinking of all traffic deaths as “highway fatalities” and measuring safety in terms of how much we drive is part of the problem. Graph: Toward Zero Deaths [PDF]

A group of heavy hitters in the road building and traffic safety establishment recently came out with a plan called “Toward Zero Deaths” [PDF], presented as an ambitious strategy to cut traffic fatalities in America. But don’t get too excited by the branding — the ideas inside don’t present much of a challenge to practices that have made the U.S. a shameful laggard on traffic safety compared to other affluent nations.

The document was produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (the body represents state DOTs), in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and a number of safety and law enforcement groups. Take a look at what they’re proposing and it’s clear the mentality of these institutions hasn’t evolved much in the past 40 years, even as America falls farther behind countries with far safer streets.

Is it still 1975?

The report starts off stale and doesn’t get any fresher. The three main recommendations are the same ones the U.S. transportation establishment has focused on for decades:

  1. Increasing seat belt use and reducing drunk driving
  2. Improving the driving practices of young people and old people
  3. Regulating vehicle safety more strictly

All fine ideas that make a difference, but this formula leaves out many other strategies adopted by countries like Germany, Japan, and the UK — countries where the per capita traffic fatality rate is less than half the rate in America.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

NJ Police Chief Responds to Pedestrian Death: “Think About the Driver”

Route 130 has been named the most dangerous road in New Jersey five times in a row. Photo: Delran Township

Route 130 consistently ranks as the most dangerous road in New Jersey. Photo: Delran Township

After Richard Price, 56, was struck and killed by a driver on Route 130 in New Jersey’s Burlington County, the local police chief took to the pages of the local paper to scold pedestrians and implore people to “think about the driver… and about the life trauma they now have to endure.” The full piece, titled “If you must cross Route 130, use common sense,” is unfortunately behind a paywall.

When people in power blame victims like that, it helps explain why Route 130 got to be the deadliest road in New Jersey. Matthew Norris at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog explains:

Two pedestrians have been struck — one fatally — by cars while walking on Route 130 in Burlington County just since the March 5 release of Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report, which named Route 130 the most dangerous road in New Jersey for the fifth year in a row. Now more than ever, it is clear that Route 130 must be transformed to allow all road users to travel without putting their lives at risk — and it needs to happen as soon as possible.

Both sides of Route 130 are home to many places of work, restaurants, shops and transit stops. But like many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with as many as six lanes of fast-moving traffic, few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk.

While the New Jersey Department of Transportation has added new sidewalks and mid-block crossings in a few of locations along the corridor, more life-saving measures like continuous sidewalks, additional crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands must be added. These necessary short-term improvements could then be followed by a full-scale overhaul which could transform the roadway from a high-speed thoroughfare into an attractive multi-modal boulevard. These changes would do more than help to save lives — they could also help spur the development of walkable, mixed-use development on adjacent abandoned or underutilized land.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Purple Line supporters are hard at work trying to reduce the costs of that project and gain approval from Governor Larry Hogan. 1000 Friends of Wisconsin notes that while the state is splurging on highway expansions, one in three of the state’s local roads are in need of immediate repair. And Better Cities & Towns! shares a new study pegging the annual cost of sprawl to America at about $1 trillion.

17 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Yee’s Proposed Narration Ban for Some Tour Bus Drivers Moves Through Supes Committee (SFBay)
  • Did Construction Steal Your Parking Space? Farrell and Cohen to the Rescue (SF Examiner)
  • Chinatown’s Spofford Alley to Get Greener and More Water-Absorbent (SF Examiner)
  • More on the SFMTA’s Daylighting at 80 Tenderloin Intersections (Hoodline)
  • Woman Who Was Shot and Killed After Driving at Police ID’s as Alice Brown, 24 (SF Appeal)
  • How Many Years Did it Take to Get Protected Bike Lanes on Fell and Oak? SFBC Looks Back
  • Peninsula Press Provides a Visual Timeline of Caltrain’s Progress on Bike Accommodation
  • ABC Report on Proposed Bike Helmet Mandate Doesn’t Question Helmets’ Efficacy
  • CityLab: Golden Gate Bridge’s Movable Median Barrier a Model for Reversible Lanes
  • “Left Out” Union Stalls Palo Alto’s Downtown Residential Parking Permit Program (PA Online)
  • Hayward Mother and Infant Hit By Driver at Hwy 880 On-Ramp Remain in Critical Condition (SFBay)
  • Concord Driver Arrested for Running Red Light, Killing Another Driver (SFBay)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

20 Comments

SFPD Sends 86-Year-Old Driver On Her Way After She Injures Mom and Child

SFPD returned an 86-year-old driver (left) to her SUV after she hit a mother and child in a crosswalk outside the Stonestown Galleria. Images: KTVU

An 86-year-old driver hit a 45-year-old mother and her 5-year-old daughter in a crosswalk yesterday at 20th Avenue and Buckingham Way, outside the Stonestown Galleria mall. According to KTVU, the driver was taken away in an ambulance “for an undisclosed ailment” but was soon returned to her SUV to drive home. The police said “they didn’t need to impound the vehicle because they have the evidence they need to investigate.”

The child was reportedly sent to the hospital with a life-threatening head injury, and the mother suffered a broken arm. They were in a crosswalk at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way, according to California law.

With an aging population in car-dependent areas, California cities have seen many cases of elderly drivers causing injuries and property damage, often reporting losing control of their vehicles while attempting to park. But like most drivers who hit pedestrians when they were sober and stayed on the scene, they’re rarely known to face a license suspension, let alone citations or charges.

In December 2013, a 74-year-old driver was attempting to park on Jackson Street in Chinatown when she suddenly accelerated and plowed into a car, a power pole, and two people, killing 84-year-old neighborhood activist Isabell Huie. In 2011, a driver in his 70s jumped the curb and smashed into Naan N’ Curry restaurant on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Parking Madness 2015: Detroit vs. Walnut Creek

The Parking Madness competition has never been fiercer. In yesterday’s match-up, Parkersburg, West Virginia, edged Boston by a slim 12 votes, and before that, Amarillo beat out Nashville by just six votes. Your ballot counts.

We have two doozies to feast your eyes on today. The Detroit waterfront is taking on the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek, California.

Detroit

detroit_crater

Submitter Luke Klipp describes this crater as “a swath of surface parking lining the city’s waterfront just east of the Renaissance Center,” a cluster of office towers that serve as General Motors HQ.

Read more…