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Are More Families With Kids Choosing to Live in Walkable Areas?

According to an analysis by Family Friendly Cities, in walkable American neighborhoods the number of children is shrinking.

Bradley Calvert at Family Friendly Cities has done some impressive number-crunching to identify trends in where families with children are living. Using Walk Score and Census data, he analyzed the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. to determine whether the population of children is growing or shrinking in walkable and unwalkable areas. (Some regions had to be excluded because they didn’t have any places with a Walk Score over 70.)

Calvert found that the total number of kids under 18 living in walkable areas is shrinking, but the trend is not as pronounced among parents with young children:

Overall the growth of families, measured by number of residents under the age of 18, in walkable communities has been unimpressive. Walkable communities lost 11.99 percent of residents under 18 while non-walkable communities posted a gain of 2.78 percent. The difference signifies that families are not finding their way into our most walkable communities. While most of the nation’s largest cities have shown growth in residents under 18, particularly in more recent years, they are not choosing more walkable communities. Of the cities studied only Charlotte and Seattle posted growth in all residents under 18 in walkable communities.

The outlook for our youngest families, those with children under the age of 5, was slightly more optimistic. While of the 50 largest cities they still posted a loss of 2.98 percent, 13 cities posted growth. Still, non-walkable communities experienced a growth rate of 3.78 percent.  Of the 13 that posted growth it was a smattering of Sun Belt boomtowns, Pacific Northwest growth, and Mid-Atlantic & Midwestern staples. The growth in these 13 cities hints that younger families, particularly young professionals that are now having children might be more inclined to stay in more urban walkable areas. Being that their children are still below school age, there is still the concern that they could leave much like a report earlier this month from Washington, D.C. suggested.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Video Shows Muni 29 Bus Driver Running Red Light on Crossover Drive in Golden Gate Park (Weekly)
  • Petition Launched Against Transit-Priority Traffic Signal Planned for Haight and Scott (Hoodline)
  • “Chariot” Shuttle App Service Adds Route From Cole Valley to Downtown (TechCrunch)
  • Lyft Competes With Uber By “Matching Muni” (Biz); Uber Reports More Female Drivers Than Taxis (Exam)
  • SF Bicycle Coalition Reviews the Numbers on Polk Street, One of SF’s High-Injury Corridors
  • SF Planning Dept Pushes to “Bridge the Bay” With Priority Development Around Transit (SocketSite)
  • CHP Officer Hospitalized After Cruiser Catches Fire on Bay Bridge Treasure Island Off-Ramp (SFGate)
  • Driver Crashes Into San Bruno Pizza Parlor (CBS); Cyclist Killed on Hwy 85 was Drunk (Mercury)
  • Child Hit While Walking to School in San Mateo (CBS); Woman Killed By Racing Drivers in East SJ (ABC)
  • After Pushing Bike Lanes and Boulevards, Palo Alto’s Transportation Chief Resigns (Palo Alto Online)
  • Palo Alto Considers Caltrain Electrification Suit (PAO); BART SJ Extension Ahead of Schedule (CBS)
  • Marin Transit District Sees Record Ridership While Staying on Budget (Marin IJ)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: Muni Paints More Downtown Transit Lanes Red

The Clay Street bus-only lane in the Financial District is the latest to get the red carpet treatment. Photo: Muni Forward/Twitter

The SFMTA is rolling out more red paint on transit lanes to keep cars out of Muni’s way.

The agency is currently coloring the two-block bus-only lane on Clay Street in the Financial District, which is expected to be done tomorrow. This Muni Forward project, aimed at speeding up the 1-California and 41-Union lines, is also set to include an extension of the transit-only lane one block west to Montgomery Street, which must first be approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors. That extension is scheduled to go on the ground in April.

The SFMTA has not stopped painting the town red since rolling out the treatment on transit-only lanes on Church, Market, Third, Geary, O’Farrell, and eastern Haight Streets, as well as a left-turn lane at 19th Avenue at Lincoln Way

On Church, which was the “pilot” for red lanes, Muni found that its J-Church and 22-Fillmore lines sped up by 5 percent, and that the buses and trains are 20 percent more reliable, arriving closer to their scheduled arrival times.

On Sansome Street near the Clay transit improvements, the SFMTA also plans to create a three-block contra-flow transit lane extension to eliminate a detour for Muni’s 10-Townsend and 12-Folsom lines. That’s set to go in by spring 2016.

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How SF’s Residential Parking Permit Prices Favor Car Owners

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Residential parking permits in San Francisco are a steal. At just $110 a year, or about 30 cents a day, the costs come nowhere near the market value for use of prime SF real estate. The fee is especially favorable compared to the single-day permit rate, which is 40 times higher. That means people who only occasionally need to park a car in their neighborhood pay a lot more per hour than people who take up street space every day for personal car storage.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Parking permits may be a small step toward regulating the free-for-all parking situation that reigns on 90 percent of SF’s streets. But even under the current permit fee system, year-round car storage remains severely underpriced, amounting to a vast subsidy that leads car owners to fill up every inch of available curb space. More traffic, double-parking, and slower transit are the inevitable results.

The discrepancy between short-term permits and annual permits was recently noted by Michael Smithwick, who lives in the proposed RPP Area Q, expected to be approved by the SFMTA soon.

Smithwick said the price hike for short-term parking permits “unfairly discriminates against non-car-owning residents,” which is “at least half of the households in the proposed area.”

The discrepancy “is in conflict with SFMTA’s own policies to reduce car trips in favor of other sustainable transit modes,” Smithwick said, noting that non-car-owners can occasionally find permits useful when they rent a car or have visitors.

Even the lowest available rate of $8/day for a book of 20 parking permits is 27 times higher than the annual rate, and a maximum of 20 permits per year can be purchased at that rate.

“Because the market prices for parking in San Francisco are so high, free and cheap parking in the city’s 475,000 on-street spaces (which amount to a total length greater than California’s coastline) are probably the biggest subsidy the city provides for its citizens,” said UCLA professor and parking policy guru Donald Shoup. “A city’s budget should reflect its policies, and free parking on so much city land suggests a car-first policy.”

Under current law, meters are the only way the city can put a better price on curb parking. State law limits the price of residential parking permits to the cost of administering the program, preventing rates from reflecting the true market value.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Speak Up for a Safer Polk Street

The Polk Street redesign and Muni Forward improvements for the 30-Stockton are the big-ticket items on the Streetsblog calendar this week:

  • Wednesday: The SFMTA is holding an open house about transit improvements for the 30-Stockton in North Beach, where you can weigh in on transit-only lanes, bus stop changes, and other proposals to speed up the route. 6 p.m.
  • Friday: Speak up for a safer Polk Street at SFMTA’s public hearing on the street’s redesign. Bike lanes (protected and unprotected), bulb-outs, and other changes are all in play. You can speak at the hearing or email comments to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com. 10 a.m.

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

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Talking Headways: Tune In and Find Out How You Can Support This Podcast

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In this week’s Talking Headways, Tanya and I discuss Uber’s planned data release, wondering whether it’s a boon to cities or just a clever PR move on the part of a company trying to deal with poor public perception.

Also, why do people think it’s cute when a dog rides transit on its own, but when kids walk by themselves in their own neighborhood, it’s labeled neglect? We discuss parenting and the growth of confidence that comes from going out on your own for the first time.

Finally, we have some news about the future of Talking Headways — while Streetsblog can continue to distribute the podcast, the funding to produce it will have to come from other sources going forward. If you love the show and can’t wait to hear it each week AND are interested in sponsoring it, please get in touch.

You can find Jeff on twitter @theoverheadwire or you can email jswood at theoverheadwire dot com.

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The Suburbs Aren’t Dying — They’re Growing Differently

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group.

In the Boston region, the fringes are still growing, but not like they used to. 1990, 2000, 2010 data: Metropolitan Area Planning Council; 2013 Census estimates: UMass Donahue Institute

Sommer Mathis said much of what needed to be said about the recent round of “the suburbs are back, baby!” stories on housing trends, including this analysis from Jed Kolko, housing economist at Trulia.com, and the related commentary from Matt Yglesias at Vox. Mathis argues that the concept of a battle for supremacy between cities and suburbs is fundamentally silly, especially at a time in history when the terms “city” and “suburb” each represent a wide variety of built forms and socioeconomic conditions.

There is another problem, however, with these stories, which is that they play into the narrative — recently championed by the likes of Wendell Cox and Joel Kotkin — that when it comes to housing trends, little meaningful (other than the recession) has really changed in the United States in recent years. Kolko, for example, states that, after a brief period in which urban population growth outpaced that of the suburbs, “old patterns have returned,” while Yglesias states that “the trajectory of American housing growth is still all about the suburbs.” But the “old patterns” have not returned. Far from it.

The old pattern of development, which prevailed during the second half of the 20th century (and the first few years of the 21st), was one of rapid suburbanization characterized by the universal spread of a particular kind of segregated-use, automobile-oriented development known colloquially as “sprawl.”

As Kolko notes, suburbs today are adding population a wee bit faster than cities, a shift from earlier this decade when cities were growing a wee bit faster than suburbs. But for most of the 20th century, suburbs weren’t just beating cities by a nose in the hypothetical growth contest, they were trouncing them like Secretariat at the Belmont.

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Tentative Good News for Maryland’s Purple and Red Lines

The Purple Line, connecting Montgomery County to DC, is expected to generate walkable development around its stations. Image: Rethink College Park

Since Republican Larry Hogan was elected governor in November, transit advocates in Maryland have been holding their breath.

During the campaign, Hogan threatened to kill the mostly-funded and ready-to-go Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the DC suburbs — two of the biggest transit projects on tap in the U.S.

A budget document recently released by the Hogan administration on Friday avoids the worst-case scenario of immediately abandoning both projects. Dan Reed at Greater Greater Washington reports that Hogan is setting aside $313 million for the Purple Line and $106 million for the Red Line — enough to keep the projects progressing.

But it’s too soon to declare victory, Reed says:

Hogan campaigned on a platform of reducing government spending and building roads instead of transit, so this news is a blessing for transit supporters. But the Purple and Red lines aren’t done deals yet.

For the Purple Line, it’s likely that Hogan is waiting to see the bids for a public-private partnership to build and run the project. Maryland wants the private partner to provide between $500 and $900 million, but if the bid is too low and the state has to provide more money than Hogan’s budgeted, then the Purple Line may be in trouble. The bids are due March 12.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Injures Man in Tenderloin (SFBay); Driver Hits L-Taraval Train (CBS, SFGate)
  • Two Injured in Three-Car Crash at South Van Ness and 24th Street (Mission Local)
  • Construction on N-Judah Improvements Halted After Noise Complaints From Neighbors (SFGate)
  • Tang Requests West Side Transit Study (SFBay); Joe Eskenazi: Don’t Bill Muni for Free Passes (Exam)
  • SF Fire Commission Calls for Vision Zero (KQED); NextCity Compares SF and NYC’s Approaches
  • SF Cabbies Still Buy Taxi Medallions Despite Their Lower Value in Competition With Lyft, Uber (SFGate)
  • Comedian/Union Organizer Nato Green: SF Should Sue Silicon Valley for Not Building Housing (Exam)
  • BART Board Urges Restitution Charges to Be Dropped for Black Friday Protestors (Exam, CBSSFGate)
  • Berkeley Cracks Down on ”Jaywalking” (Berkeleyside); Driver Kills Elderly Woman in East Oakland (ABC)
  • Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Could Get Bike/Ped Path and Third Traffic Lane by 2018 (Richmond Stan.)
  • Driver Kills Bicyclist on Hwy 85 in Sunnyvale (Mercury); Man Killed By Caltrain in Palo Alto (Mercury)
  • Hit-and-Run San Jose Driver Kills Woman in Her 60s Crossing Almaden Expressway (ABC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Redwood City Set to Approve 4-to-3 Lane Road Diet on Farm Hill Boulevard

Caption. Photo: Google Maps

Redwood City engineers have found adding white edge lines and sharrows to Farm Hill Boulevard in Summer 2013 hasn’t resulted in slower vehicle speeds or fewer collisions. Photo: Google Maps

After rejecting the idea as too ambitious in 2012, Redwood City transportation officials last week recommended a road diet on Farm Hill Boulevard as a one-year pilot project.

If the City Council approves the project on January 26, two miles of the street will get the road diet treatment in about six months.

Redwood City staff say going from four lanes to three “is one of the most effective engineering changes available to achieve the goals of enhancing safety and livability for residents, visitors, and commuters” in their report for Monday’s City Council meeting [PDF]. “It will reduce the existing, excess capacity during off-peak times which facilitates unsafe driving.”

City staff found that 60 to 90 percent of car drivers currently exceed the 35 mph speed limit on Farm Hill Boulevard, which crosses the southernmost extent of Redwood City from Alameda de las Pulgas to Highway 280 through neighborhoods of single-family homes. Speeding is the primary cause of more than 40 percent of crashes causing injury on the street, which occur roughly every other month on average.

“Farm Hill Boulevard is one area where the city is piloting a Complete Streets approach and has had a long history of community concerns,” wrote Redwood City spokesperson Meghan Horrigan in an email. “The city continues to receive complaints about safety and property damage due to speeding and reckless driving.”

Last May, two 19-year-olds seen speeding in a Mercedes on Farm Hill Boulevard crashed into a tree, sending them both to the hospital with serious injuries.

“The house at the corner of Glennan and Farm Hill has had cars ‘arrive’ several times and they now have large boulders on the corner to protect the house,” reported resident Rebecca Ratcliff. “Those boulders have been hit several times, including one last summer that woke the mother.” Ratcliff says she knows two families who moved away from Farm Hill due to the threat posed to their children by dangerous traffic.

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