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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Hits Ped on Sixth Street (HL); Driver, Motorcycle Cop Crash at G. Gate & Leavenworth (SFGate)
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Critically Injures Pedestrian at Mission Street and Precita Avenue (SFist)
  • North Beach Driver Injures Two Car Occupants After Blowing Stop Sign, Flees on Foot (SFBay)
  • Dozens Protest Tree Removal for Van Ness BRT at City Hall Hearing (SFGate, NBC)
  • SFMTA Contemplates Solutions to Allow Scoot Exemption From Residential Parking Permit Zone (Exam)
  • SFMTA to Drug Test Taxi Drivers Annually Without Exemption for Medical Marijuana (Examiner)
  • Muni’s New Paper Transfers Could Come in 2016 at the Earliest (SFGate)
  • Major BART Delays After Man Jumps in Front of Train at Embarcadero (ABC, KQED, Biz Times)
  • BART Delayed in East Bay After Person Flees Police on Tracks at Lake Merritt Station (ABC)
  • BART to Soundproof 250 San Jose Homes in Preparation for Expansion (NBC)
  • Caltrain Ridership Hits Record Ridership With Average of 58,429 Daily Passengers (Daily Journal)
  • People Behaving Badly: Redwood City Drivers Make Illegal Turns and Block Intersections

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SFBC, 3 Supervisors Say Law Should Let Cyclists Treat Stops as “Yield” Signs

The SF Bicycle Coalition announced its “unfettered support” today for a “Bike Yield Law” that would enable cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and cautiously roll through when there is no cross-traffic.

Until now, the SFBC has had no official position on the stop sign law, focusing instead on the message that police enforcement of bicycle riders who harmlessly roll through stop signs distracts from efforts to enforce violations that actually hurt people.

But when SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford attempted to crack down on bike commuters at stop signs earlier this month, the idea of changing the current law gained steam. After his first bike ride in many years, Sanford told Streetsblog that he can see how the “bike yield” practice can make sense, and that police already use “subjective” discretion in their enforcement. Last Thursday, he took a ride with a group of bike advocates to make amends.

Letting bicyclists treat stops as yields would entail changes to city ordinances and state law, which the SFBC refers to under the umbrella of the “Bike Yield Law.” The organization wrote in a statement:

The Bike Yield Law clarifies that people biking absolutely have to yield to people walking, but no one should waste time cracking down on people biking safely. The SFPD deserves this clear direction on how best to keep our streets safe, and that is the goal of the Bike Yield Law, which we support.

The SFBC plans to throw its support behind an ordinance proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, which Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener plan to co-sponsor, that would “make citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority.”

But for now, there’s no broader campaign to change the state stop sign law, which is more challenging. California Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Dave Snyder told SF Weekly last week that while the current law is “inappropriate,” the organization’s energy is focused on creating safer streets.

A similar law has been in effect since 1982 in Idaho, where it’s been credited with reducing injuries and clarifying expectations between drivers and bicyclists. Idaho’s law also allows bicycle riders to proceed through red lights when safe, and Paris adopted a similar law last month.

In the Bay Area, there was an effort in 2008 at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to endorse a “bike yield” law, on the tails of an (unsuccessful) effort in Oregon to change its law. But the MTC legislation stalled and was never approved. MTC staff wrote in a 2007 memo [PDF], “Allowing cyclists to roll through takes the ambiguity of the law away and allows law enforcement to focus on more serious violations.”

Streetsblog USA
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Feds to Traffic Engineers: Use Our Money to Build Protected Bike Lanes

The feds say there’s no excuse not to use federal funding on designs like protected bike lanes.

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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When DOT Refuses to Acknowledge That Its Streets Have a Design Problem

The intersection of North College and Ninth Street is the third-most dangerous in Charlotte. The city DOT will only consider tiny, cosmetic changes. Image: Google Maps via Naked City

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Mary Newsom at the Naked City has a classic story about a dangerous street in desperate need of a design overhaul, and a DOT that’s only willing to try out tiny, cosmetic changes.

Charlotte is out with its annual list of high-crash intersections, and not for the first time, the most dangerous locations are predominantly on wide, one-way streets like North College Street. When Newsom suggested to Charlotte DOT a few years back that the design of these streets is causing problems, an engineer told her that changing the configuration of College Street is not on the table:

Engineer Debbie Self, in charge of CDOT’s traffic and pedestrian safety programs, pointed out in 2013 that of the 150 intersections in uptown Charlotte, the majority involve at least one one-way street and most are not on the high-accident list. About North College Street in particular, in 2013, Self wrote:

“College Street in the areas of 7th, 8th & 9th Streets has been on the HAL [high accident list] for many years. It’s been hard to pin point a single underlying cause. Angle crashes account for about half of the crashes at College and 7th, 8th and 9th. CDOT will likely consider reflective back plates at the signals as a mitigation given our successful reduction in crashes at 5th/Caldwell.” [CDOT had attributed the 2013 decline in accidents at Fifth and Caldwell to the installation of the back plates.]

Newsom writes that tinkering on the margins is increasingly inadequate given the growing foot traffic around North College Street:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Neighbors to Protest Tree Replacement for Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (SF Chronicle)
  • Driver, Motorcyclist Crash at Polk and Ellis Streets (Hoodline)
  • Activist Fran Taylor: Don’t Let Police Use Vision Zero Enforcement as an Excuse for Racist Harassment
  • SF Bicycle Coalition Publishes Questionnaire Responses From Candidates in Mayoral, Supes Races
  • More on Captain Sanford’s Ride With Bike Advocates (SF News)
  • Man and His Mules, Roaming to Highlight Car Dominance, Barred From Crossing GG Bridge (SF Weekly)
  • GG Bridge Board Takes Major Step to Build $76M Suicide Net (ABC, Marin IJ)
  • SF Chronicle Columnist: Art at BART Stations Wouldn’t Improve Service and Would Only Get Dirty
  • Breakdown Delays BART Near Glen Park Sunday (KTVU); Toy Grenade Closes North Berkeley Station
  • Drunk Driver in Castro Valley Hits Cop, Breaking His Leg, After He Pulls Over Man on Bike (CBS)
  • CA Senator’s Proposal to Hike Gas Tax, Car Registration Fees Faces Uphill Battle (SF Chronicle)
  • CA Transit Agencies Blocked From Federal Grants Over Employee Pension Rules (Mercury News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Signs of Lax Enforcement of Car Restrictions on Market Street

SFMTA parking control officers posted to instruct drivers not to turn on to Market at Eighth Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFMTA parking control officers posted to instruct drivers not to turn on to Market at Eighth Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Nearly two weeks in, the bans preventing private auto drivers from turning on to most of lower Market Street have, by all accounts, made the street safer and more efficient.

But at an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting this week, member Gwyneth Borden noted that officers posted on Market “don’t seem to be as vigilant as one might like,” particularly during the evening commute.

Enforcement is provided by SFPD officers posted at some intersections, in addition to SFMTA parking control officers (who can’t ticket moving violations) stationed to provide guidance.

While there are no stats available yet to evaluate Borden’s observation, I also noticed two separate instances at Market and Eighth Streets last week where SFMTA officers posted at the corner weren’t paying attention to oncoming car traffic. On two different days when I passed through the intersection, I stopped to get photos of the officers facing traffic to help illustrate the enforcement for a post. But both times, I watched the officers talk to each other for several minutes without looking for turn ban violators.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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FHWA Gleefully Reports That Driving Is Rising Again

Chart: Doug Short

Chart: Doug Short

After flatlining for nearly a decade, the mileage driven by Americans is rising once again. That means more traffic overwhelming city streets, slowing down buses, and spewing pollutants into the air. But to the Federal Highway Administration, it’s a development to report with barely contained glee.

This June, Americans drove 8.7 billion more miles than last June, according to FHWA, a 3.5 percent increase. Total mileage in 2015 is on pace for a new high — finally “beating the previous record” of 1.5 trillion vehicle miles set 2007, the agency reports, as if the further entrenchment of America’s car-dependence is some sort of achievement.

Low gas prices, population growth, and an expanding economy are three factors nudging traffic back onto an upward trajectory, not to mention a transportation policy regime that remains tilted overwhelmingly toward highway construction.

The recent growth in traffic, however, does not negate lasting signs of a long-term shift away from driving. Economist Doug Short gets into more detail about the nuances in the trends, pointing out that on a per-capita basis, Americans are now driving about as much as we did in 1997.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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What’s the Actual Cost of Amtrak’s Trans-Hudson Gateway Project?

Five years after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spiked the ARC transit tunnel to redirect money to roads, politicians are finally discussing how to go about upgrading rail capacity between Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, currently limited to a pair of century-old tunnels under the Hudson River. But just about every announcement related to the proposed Gateway Project comes with a different price tag.

rail_tunnels

Amtrak needs to be clear about how much it will cost to upgrade transit capacity between Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey, currently limited to these 100-year-old tunnels, and what’s included in the package. Photo: NJ Transit via Second Avenue Sagas

Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations says it’s time for clarity.

[E]ach time Gateway is the news, there usually seems to be a fresh cost escalation. Is it a $10 billion project? A $14 billion project? A $16 billion project? Or a $25 billion project? And what is included exactly? Amtrak does not make it clear what the various items are and how much they cost; I have not seen a single cost estimate that attempts to establish a baseline for new Hudson tunnels without the Penn Station South component, which would provide a moderate short-term boost to capacity but is not necessary for the project. The articles I’ve seen do not explain the origin of the $25 billion figure, either; it may include the tunnel and full four-tracking of Newark-New York, or it may include additional scope, for example Amtrak’s planned vertical circulation for a future (unnecessary) deep cavern for high-speed rail (see picture here).

Against this background, we see scare stories that Gateway must be built for reasons other than capacity and ridership. The old tunnels are falling apart, and Amtrak would like to shut them down one track at the time for long-term repairs. The more mundane reality is that the tunnels have higher maintenance costs than Amtrak would like since each track can only be shut down for short periods, on weekends and at night. This is buried in technical documents that don’t give the full picture, and don’t give differential costs for continuing the present regime of weekend single-tracking versus the recommended long-term closures. The given cost for Sandy-related North River Tunnel repairs is $350 million, assuming long-term closures, and it’s unlikely the present regime is billions of dollars more expensive.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFPD’s Captain Sanford Bonds With Bike Advocates on a Ride Through Park District (ABC)
  • Report: For Every $1 SF Invests in Muni, City Economy Gets $2 to $3 in Return (SF Examiner)
  • Muni Looks to Ditch Tear-Off Paper Transfers in Favor of Real-Time Printing Fareboxes (SFBay)
  • SFMTA’s Progress on Sustainable Transportation: Now an Interactive Webpage (SF Appeal)
  • More on Upper Market’s Safety Upgrades (SFBay), Approval of Second Street Redesign (Hoodline)
  • Planning Dept Wants Market & Franklin Development to Have Less Parking, Better Public Space (Socket)
  • City Hall Enforces All Laws! Except When Drivers Illegally Park Under Its Nose (GJEL)
  • Driver Fleeing CHP Crashes Into Fire Hydrant on Market, Runs and Slips on Water (CBS)
  • Water Emergency Transportation Authority Answers Calls for More Ferry Service (SF Business Times)
  • BART Answers Calls for New Elevator Floors (SFBay)
  • Caltrans to Upgrade Bay Bridge Metering Lights to Actually Respond to Traffic Conditions (Mercury News)
  • In San Francisco, Some Bike Racks Are Also Swings (Hoodline)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Upper Market Street Gets First Phase of Safety Upgrades

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The SFMTA has completed its first wave of safety upgrades on Upper Market Street. The changes include painted sidewalk extensions (a.k.a. “safety zones”), high-visibility crosswalks, and signs prohibiting drivers from turning right at red lights.

SFMTA officials and Supervisor Scott Wiener held a press conference today to mark the completion of the improvements between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street.

The 10 newly-installed safety zones narrow the roadway and reduce crossing distances, which should help calm motor traffic at the three Market intersections where they were installed: 16th/Noe, 15th/Sanchez, and 14th/Church Streets.

Most of Upper Market’s intersections converge with two other streets. The legacy of cars-first design at these complex six-point intersections is a disaster for public safety. Pedestrians must traverse long stretches of pavement in crosswalks regularly blocked by drivers, while drivers often speed up to beat the light.

Upper Market has six wide traffic lanes and a median strip that seems to encourage speeding. Walking and biking were an afterthought in its design.

From 2007 to 2012, motorists injured pedestrians in 27 crashes and injured bicyclists in 32 crashes on Market between Octavia and Castro, according to the SFMTA. During the same period, an additional 102 crashes involved only motor vehicle drivers and passengers.

Read more…