Skip to content

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Obama’s Politically Impossible Transpo Plan Is Just What America Needs

Even with a tax on oil, the U.S.'s effective gas tax rate would be the lowest in the industrialized world. Graph: Tony Dutzik via FHWA

Even with a tax on oil, the U.S.’s effective gas tax rate would be the lowest in the industrialized world. Graph: Tony Dutzik via FHWA

It may be “seven years too late,” as tactical urbanist Mike Lydon put it, but President Obama has released a transportation proposal that calls for big shifts in the country’s spending priorities.

Obama’s proposal would generate $30 billion annually from a $10-per-barrel surcharge assessed on oil companies. More importantly, the revenue is linked to a substantial shift in what transportation projects get funded. It’s the kind of thorough proposal, on both the revenue and spending sides of the equation, that Obama shied away from for most of his presidency. (It would only have stood a chance during his first two years in office.) While this Congress would never pass it, the proposal does lay down a marker for what smart federal transportation policy could be.

In a rough sketch laid out by the White House yesterday of the upcoming proposal, Obama calls for major increases in transit funding and investing in a network of efficient high-speed rail. Perhaps even more innovative is a $10 billion program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. This program, among other things, would fund states to better coordinate housing and job development with transportation. Obama’s proposal also calls for $2 billion to support research and development and the implementation of autonomous vehicles.

Not surprisingly, what has gotten the most press is the oil tax, which even Obama admits would likely be passed on to consumers through higher gas prices. Already, Republican Congressional leaders have called the proposal “DOA.”

Obama’s people have acknowledged the bill faces long odds in Congress, describing it as a conversation starter. An unnamed administration official told Politico the plan would help shift the nation’s transportation policy out of the Eisenhower era.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Which Cities Are Adding Walkable Housing the Fastest?

Since 1970, most American metros have seen their share or walkable urban housing decline, according to this analysis by data guru Kasey Klimes.

Since 1970, most American metros have seen walkable housing decline as a share of total housing. Chart: Kasey Klimes

As more Americans look for walkable places to live, cities are struggling to deliver, and a lot of neighborhoods are becoming less affordable. A new analysis by Kasey Klimes of Copenhagen’s Gehl Studio illustrates how major metro areas have let their supply of walkable housing shrink over the years, contributing to today’s housing crunch.

In this chart, Klimes shows how much walkable neighborhoods, which he defines as places with 10 or more housing units per acre, have grown or declined as a share of total housing in the nation’s 51 largest regions, from 1970 through 2010.

In most places, Klimes writes, the trend since 1970 has left cities in bad shape to handle the increasing demand for walkable neighborhoods:

The percentage of housing in walkable neighborhoods has dropped from 19.4% to 12% since 1970. Overall, though the number of housing units in America has outpaced population at a ratio of 3:2 since 1970, the number of housing units in walkable neighborhoods has trailed behind population growth at a ratio of 3:1. Now that market preference has returned to dense housing, this mismatch has left us far behind in adequate supply.

The silver lining is an uptick in decade to decade construction of dense housing. The net gain of housing in walkable neighborhoods as a fraction of total net housing gain by decade has increased from just 0.3% in the 1970’s to 10.7% in the 2000’s.

Despite some recent progress, the mismatch between low supply and high demand is contributing to rising housing prices and burdening people with rents they can’t afford in many cities and neighborhoods. Zoning that outlaws walkable development and the disproportionate political power of development-averse property owners are two factors that have hindered housing development where it is most in demand.

Read more…

1 Comment

Today’s Headlines

  • A Look at BARTs New Seating Layout (KQED)
  • More on Super Bowl BART Rideship Boost (SFGate, Kron4)
  • No More Getting Whacked by a Backpack on BART (SFGate)
  • More on BART and Shake Alert Earthquake Warning System (AlmanacNews)
  • Former VTA Manager to Oversee Caltrain Modernization (MercNews)
  • SFMTA Warns People Away from Super Bowl Party (Grist)
  • Woman Punched on Muni (SFExaminer)
  • Market Street Mixed Use will Have no Car Parking (SFExaminer)
  • Man Dies in Suspected DUI Crash (SFGate)
  • More Old Eastern Span of Bay Bridge Coming Down (SFExaminer)

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

77 Comments

The Bay Area Should be Hyper Skeptical about Hyperloop

Hyperloop cutaway drawing. Image from SpaceX.

Hyperloop cutaway drawing. Image from SpaceX.

Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s pitch for a transportation technology that he says will whisk people from somewhere north of Los Angeles to the East Bay in 35 minutes, was in the news again thanks to a two-day conference held at Texas A&M University. Engineering students from around the world displayed designs for a Hyperloop vehicle.

So what is a Hyperloop? And what does any of this mean for advocates for safe, sustainable transportation?

It shouldn’t mean anything, because for now it’s just a big experiment. Except that Musk sets the whole thing up as a challenge to California’s statewide rail modernization and electrification project, also known as High-Speed Rail (HSR). HSR will bring clean, sustainable mass transit into the realm of city-to-suburb and city-to-city transportation. That’s why it’s getting funded in part by cap-and-trade proceeds. It will help fund Caltrain electrification and the connection to Transbay. It will replace many short-haul flights and cars for trips to and from Northern and Southern California and the cities of the Central Valley. So Musk, developer of the Tesla electric car and sometimes environmentalist, should be solidly behind it. Instead, here’s the start of his introductory paper for Hyperloop:

How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile. The underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one. It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving. The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate (if unsubsidized) and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
View Comments

Crowdsource Bicycling App ‘Ride Report’ Goes National Today

Crowdsourced map xxxx

Example Ride Report crowdsourced map of Portland streets. Redder streets are more stressful, greener streets more chill. Image via BikePortland.

Since last September, Portland cyclists have been generating bike trip data via the free Ride Report app. Today, Ride Report has completed its Portland beta and is now open for use throughout the United States.

Ride Report, currently available for iPhone only (Android coming soon), runs in the background. The app knows when riders are riding their bikes, and tracks these trips. After each trip it prompts a short one-question survey: was the last trip “stressful” or “chill”? The app aggregates survey data to form a crowdsourced bicycling map showing which routes cyclists rate best and worst. End users–likely to be mostly folks who are already regular riders, according to Ride Report co-founder William Henderson–can track their trips and can view crowdsourced maps. Ride Report also works with municipalities to license data for bicycle planning. Much of the data is available free in an open source format; for full data, cities contract with Ride Report.

BikePortland’s Michael Andersen writes that Ride Report is “simple, seamless, and some of the messages are gently funny, which makes it a pleasure to use.” Andersen’s recent article reviewed Ride Report data maps for Portland, identifying which streets are stressful at which times of day.

There are a few apps that are helping cities better understand cycling patterns. For example, Strava has licensed its trip data to cities. With its trip evaluation tool, Ride Report builds in the additional data layer of the bicyclist experience.

These apps are still in their early stages; none are perfect. They, of course, only track the trips of people who are well enough off to own a smart phone, hence low income riders and low income neighborhoods are very likely underrepresented in their data. Andersen mentions that during the past week Ride Report “accounted for 7% of my battery power. It turns off automatically when I’m under 20%, which is nice.”

Cyclists – are you using Ride Report and/or other apps to track your trips? What do you like or dislike about the app? What additional features could make your trips, your neighborhoods, and your region better?

Via Streetsblog California
View Comments

Take CalBike’s Survey About California’s June Primary

California needs elected representatives that understand the importance of stress-free, connected bikeways. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

The California Bicycle Coalition is in the process of planning candidate endorsements in the 35 state races that are up for election in the June 7th California primary. CalBike knows that it is crucial to elect representatives who understand the importance of strong complete streets policies and of building good low-stress bike networks for everyone to use.

To help it formulate an endorsement strategy, CalBike is looking for feedback on candidates and issues that matter to bicyclists in the state. Fill out the survey here—it takes about ten minutes, and asks about your affiliations and interests.

Who doesn’t want to share their opinions?

While you’re at it, if you’re not registered or you’ve moved in the past year, register to vote.

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

A University Built Around the Car Sees the Light

Fresno State University was, until very recently, your prototypical car commuting school. The school began as an isolated agricultural institution and is still connected to a large university farm. Its transportation services haven’t extended much beyond subsidized parking.

Fresno State University is trying to transition from a drive-to campus to one with a more balanced menu of transportation options. This pedestrian scramble is designed to reduce pedestrian injuries. Photo: Stop and Move

Fresno State University is trying to transition from a drive-to campus to one with a more balanced menu of transportation options. This pedestrian scramble is designed to reduce injuries. Photo: Stop and Move

But over time, writes James Sinclair at Streetsblog Network member Stop and Move, the area around Fresno State became more residential. And the university’s transportation systems began to creak under the weight of increasing traffic.

Now, Sinclair reports, the university seems to be getting serious about moving beyond the car, and it’s rolling out a respectable Transportation Demand Management program.

He outlines what’s included:

Free Bus Passes

Also new as of last summer, Fresno State students and staff now have unlimited free access to FAX and the Clovis bus systems!

Scramble Crosswalk

This one was a very pleasant surprise, and another example of Fresno State finally (FINALLY) realizing that the infrastructure around the campus influences which mode of transport people use…

Unfortunately, the walking/biking facilities are poor. Very bad lighting at night, narrow sidewalks, and then an intersection which strongly favors cars.

Read more…

7 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Super Bowl City Protests Block Buses (SFGate, InsideBayArea)
  • Expect Ferry Delays from Super Bowl Protests (SFExaminer)
  • TSA Provides Extra Security on Bay Area Transit for Super Bowl (SFAppeal)
  • More on BART and Muni Rideship Surge from Super Bowl Events (SFExaminer)
  • More on Earthquake Warning System for BART and Other Systems (KQED)
  • Designs for Bay Bridge Western Span Bike Path (SFExaminer, SFist)
  • More Work to Remove Old Bay Bridge Span (Kron4)
  • Very Transit Adjacent Car Barn Ready for Re-purposing (Socketsite)
  • Suspect Sought in San Jose Hit and Run (MercNews)
  • Novato Bus Hub Design Debates Continue (MarinIJ)
  • Muni Wants your Old Photos (SFist)

Get national headlines at StreetsblogUSA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

11 Comments

Bigger Intersections and More Traffic Planned for Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station

This post supported by

El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue

Millbrae Avenue at El Camino Real in Millbrae, slated for expansion with even more traffic lanes despite its location at San Mateo County’s busiest transit hub. Photo: Google Maps

As the City of Millbrae inches closer to final approval of plans for new construction at the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station, officials have quietly proposed adding new traffic lanes and traffic signals to intersections near the station. The traffic expansions aim to cram even more auto traffic through the area, worsening already hazardous conditions for people walking or bicycling to and from the station.

The draft Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan to construct two major mixed-use developments on the Millbrae Station’s surface parking lots and along El Camino Real west of the station was released last June. The draft proposed only two new traffic signals and no lane additions be considered to support additional auto traffic, and envisioned a redeveloped station area that would boost both transit use and retail sales by making major safety improvements for pedestrians.

“Streets and intersections in the Plan Area will be reconfigured to provide a safer and more pleasant walking and biking environment that can be enjoyed by children, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” states the station area plan.

But last Tuesday Millbrae’s City Council approved a set of General Plan amendments allowing city engineers to add new traffic lanes to El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue – already eight lanes across, including turn lanes – as well as lane additions or new traffic signals to three other intersections. This despite the fact that the project’s Environmental Impact Report, adopted by the city on January 12, recommended against these traffic lane additions, calling them “legally infeasible.”

“The plan as laid out in text and drawings prioritizes the convenience of auto traffic and parking at the expense of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit,” wrote Sierra Club representatives in a January 22 letter to the City Council. They also wrote that it contradicts “the concept of a Transit Oriented Development.”

Intersection Expansions

Traffic lane additions planned for two El Camino Real intersections adjacent to the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station. Image: City of Millbrae


Read more…

2 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Developing Earthquake Warning System Could Avert Future BART Disaster (MercNews, LATimes)
  • Plans Solidify for Huge Residential Towers Near 19th Street BART in Oakland (BizJournal)
  • Tech Shuttle Decision Delayed (SFExaminer)
  • Reservations Needed to Take Rail to the Super Bowl (InsideBayArea)
  • Alleged DUI Motorist Hits and Drags Cyclist in Berkeley (InsideBayArea)
  • Plans for Tucking More Residential into Small Bayview Parcel (Socketsite)
  • More on Super Bowl Transit Security Precautions (KTVU)
  • Marin Civic Center Facelift will Include Train Station and Bike Lanes (MarinIJ)
  • San Rafael Decides on Grade Crossing Plan for SMART (MarinIJ)
  • Muni Drivers Not Down for Brown? (SFExaminer)
  • Columnist Discovers Doobies on BART (SFGate)

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