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A Plea for City Leaders to Support Smart Projects, Not Crony Subsidies

The top image shows a 191 aerial map of south downtown Atlanta. The below image shows what it looks like in the present day. Image: ATL Urbanist

The top image shows a 1919 aerial map of south downtown Atlanta. The below image shows what it looks like in the present day. Image: ATL Urbanist

Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist is retiring his blog after five years writing about city planning in Atlanta. Thinking about the future of Atlanta in his final post, he touched on something important and universal: Who gets public resources, and what types of projects should city leaders support?

City leaders bend over backwards as they prioritize mega developments like stadiums and corporate relocations. That’s when they bring out the big guns and use all the available municipal tools for making something happen — rezoning, tax breaks, grants, partnerships, fees… whatever it takes.

Leaders are likewise capable of prioritizing things like safe streets, blight, disused land near transit stations, geographic segregation of economic classes, the need for comprehensive services for people experiencing homelessness … all of this and more. Those issues should be getting the priority treatment.

Atlantans: don’t be afraid to step up and lead with boldness or to support others who will.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Planning Commission Approves Warriors Arena, Mission Bay Alliance Still Concerned About Traffic (CBS)
  • More on Opposition to Pedestrian Bridge Demolition for Geary BRT (SF Exam)
  • Oakland Development on City-Owned Land Planned to Have 350 Parking Spaces (East Bay Express)
  • Oakland Driver Killed After Crashing Into Tree on I-580 Ramp (SF Gate, NBC)
  • Milpitas Pedestrian Killed Crossing I-880 During Rush Hour (SF Gate, SF Bay)
  • GJEL: Dangerous Intersection on High-Speed Road Contributed to Palo Alto Bicyclist’s Death
  • People Behaving Badly: Redwood City Drivers and Bicyclist Fail to Stop Before Yellow Crosswalks
  • San Jose Airport Relaxes Rules for Ride-Hailing Companies (Merc News); Taxi Drivers Plan Strike (NBC)
  • One Dead, Two Injured After San Jose Driver Crashes Into Tree (SF Gate)
  • Sonoma Driver Arrested With DUI Conviction (CBS)
  • Santa Rose Car Crash Results in One Death and Severely Injured Six-Year-Old (CBS)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA
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With Big Levy Vote, Seattle is Ready to Lead the Nation on Bike Infrastructure

Dexter Avenue.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The last two years have revealed a very clear new superstar in the country’s progress toward protected bike lane networks.

It’s the Emerald City: Seattle.

In the last two years, Seattle has completed seven protected bike lane projects, more than any other city in the country in that period except New York.

Seattle heaved through a significant “bikelash” a few years ago, and it’s discovered an ocean of political support on the other side.

On Tuesday night, the city’s voters did something remarkable: By 56 percent to 44 percent, they approved a property tax increase that will spend $65 million on a 50-mile protected bike lane network and a 60-mile neighborhood greenway network over the next nine years. It’ll also put $71 million toward Seattle’s goal of eliminating serious and fatal crashes, $15 million to repair 225 blocks of damaged sidewalks, $250 million to maintain existing roads, and $140 million to maintain existing bridges.

The project list goes on. But it never stoops to the mistaken claim that a fast-growing city can fix its transportation problems by building more and more lanes for cars, always hoping that the next lane will be the one that never fills up.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Every Traffic Fatality in the U.S. — Mapped

This map, developed by NYC-based data scientist Max Galka, shows every traffic fatality in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013. Click to access the interactive version.

This map, developed by NYC-based data scientist Max Galka, shows every traffic fatality in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013. Click to access the interactive version.

What is the most dangerous street in your region? Which one most needs improvements to protect cyclists? Where do drunk drivers do the most damage? Thanks to a new tool from New York City data scientist Max Galka, you can get a pretty good sense with a few clicks.

Galka recently completed a map of every traffic fatality in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013, using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Zoomed out, it looks like a map of population density and highways in the U.S. The real insights come when you zoom in to a local level.

Streets in Atlanta with a high concentration of pedestrian fatalities. Image via

Streets in Atlanta with a high concentration of pedestrian fatalities. Image via Metrocosm

The map is coded to convey information about victims and contributing factors like speeding or drunk driving.

While a handful of cities make more detailed traffic crash information available publicly online, in most places, Galka’s map can provide fresh insight into the scale of traffic violence on our streets. You can locate your own neighborhood by entering your address in the search bar.

Galka told Streetsblog he tried to stay away from interjecting his views too strongly into his analysis, but his work on the map revealed a couple of things.

“What struck me most was the number of accidents that were likely preventable,” he said. “Fifty-eight percent were caused by either alcohol, speeding, or driver distractions. In particular, speeding appears to be far more dangerous than I realized.”


Today’s Headlines

  • San Francisco Plans For Citywide Subways (Diaries)
  • Geary Boulevard Merchants Oppose More Frequent, Faster Buses (Exam)
  • Drunk Driver Who Hit 12-Year-Old Boys in Crosswalk Charged With Four Felonies (KRON4ABC
  • Central Subway Construction Closes Streets Near 4th & King Caltrain Station (Exam, GateCBS, SF Bay)
  • Hazardous Fell and Gough Intersection Gets New Sidewalk Bulbouts and Crosswalk (Hoodline)
  • Facebook Offers $1 Million to Continue Dumbarton Rail Corridor Studies (GC)
  • Caltrain Electrification Project Faces Delays (GC)
  • Palo Alto Advisory Boards Cancelling $1.5-Million Matadero Creek Trail Project (PA)
  • Two-Year-Old Boy in Car Seat Killed in Pittsburg Car Crash (ABC7Kron4, CBS)
  • Community Holds Vigil For Two Teenagers Girls Killed in Martinez Car Crash (Kron4)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways: Richard Jackson on City Environments and Public Health

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How do the places we inhabit lead to systemic public health problems?

On the podcast this week, I discuss this question with Dr. Richard Jackson of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. Jackson is the author of three books on the subject of the built environment and public health, and hosted the PBS series Designing Healthy Communities. He has also served as director of the CDC’s National Center on Environmental Health and California’s State Health Officer.

Jackson shares his thoughts about the federal silos of housing, transportation, food policy, and health, as well as the under-appreciated issue of indoor air quality. At the CDC, he says, his message that the built environment is responsible for poor health outcomes was so threatening that some members of Congress wanted him fired.

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion that touches on how the internet is affecting kids, migration in Syria, the future of the LA River, the health benefits of trees, and the frustrations of doctors at the “end of the disease pipeline” treating young kids and adults with type 2 diabetes.

Streetsblog USA
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Just How Bad Is the Final House Transportation Bill?

Nobody was expecting the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to put together a transportation bill that did much for streets and transit in American cities.

Congress passed a 6-year transportation bill this morning. Yay? Image: Transportation Dems

The House passed a six-year transportation bill this morning. Yay? Image: Transportation Dems

And they were right — there’s nothing to get excited about in the bill. But neither is it the total disaster for walking, biking, and transit it could have been. So how does the House bill stack up against the current law? It’s looking a little worse.

Amendments to the bill were heard earlier this week, and the final bill was passed just hours ago. Some last-minute changes made it in, but in general not the ones that would help modernize the nation’s transportation policy and reduce our dependence on driving.

The final House bill includes a $40 billion funding patch to cover the gas tax shortfall, which means it now has funding for six years instead of three. But the new money is very gimmicky. At the last minute, Texas Re­pub­lic­an Randy Neuge­bauer introduced an amendment to raid the Federal Reserve’s Capital Surplus Account, and it was approved overwhelmingly.

Prior to that, House leaders had not indicated (or figured out) how they intended to pay for the bill. Yesterday, they refused to even hear an amendment from Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer to raise the gas tax.

Neugebauer’s amendment allowed lawmakers to pass the long-term bill industry and government agencies have been begging for without doing the responsible (and politically courageous) thing and finding a revenue source that doesn’t amount to a desperate one-shot.

Read more…
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Funds for San Diego “Park” Go Mostly to Free Parking for County Employees

Nobody’s going to give San Diego County an award for park planning — we hope! — on its “Waterfront Park project,” which is more accurately described as the “subsidized garage project.”

Bike SD

The top photo shows the county administration building pre-park. The bottom photo shows the site of the new $36 million garage built with park funds. Images: Bike SD

Grinning county officials recently cut the ribbon on a $36 million parking garage that will be free for county employees. With 640 spaces, the cost works out to $56,250 per space. The parking garage cost about three times what was spent to build the actual park on the nearby surface lot that the garage replaced, writes John Anderson at Network blog Bike SD

He explains:

The new county parking garage is the second portion of the “Waterfront Park project” that created a 12-acre park across Harbor Drive from San Diego Bay, replacing 8 acres of surface level parking lots adjacent the County Administration Building. That project cost $49.4 million dollars after an initial project cost estimate of $44.2M with $19.7M for building the park, $18.5M for building underground parking, and $6M for design and administration costs.

In total, between the two projects $54.5M was spent on moving parking spaces and $18.5M was spent on the actual park that people enjoy. This is excluding the $5.2M of difference from the original estimate to the actual construction costs and the $6M of design and administration costs. Those cost breakdowns yield a result of 75% of funds used to move spots for empty cars and 25% of funds used to build a park. For purposes of this article let’s assume the admin and cost over-run figures split on the same lines. The vast majority of the funds used for these joint projects was for moving parking spaces, not for building a park.

This project was sold as a project to build a great park – it would seem fitting if most of the funds were actually used to build a great park. Instead we spent 75% of the funds to relocate parking spaces, not creating new spaces but moving existing parking spaces. 251 spaces moved approximately 15 feet, they were undergrounded in the same location as the previous surface level lots.

To make matters worse, a beautiful historic building was demolished — of course — to make way for the subsidized garage with the extra-wide stalls. Little Italy was thriving without it, and the giant monolithic structure will probably just make the neighborhood less attractive, writes Anderson. Well done, San Diego!

Elsewhere on the Network today: You’ll never believe what’s blocking the bike lane in Louisville, via Broken Sidewalk. And Seattle Bike Blog says that voter approval of the “Move Seattle” transportation levy will lead to an “unprecedented effort to end traffic violence.”

Streetsblog LA
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Equity Advocates Discuss Needs of “Invisible” Cyclists on HuffPost Live

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians and cyclists both take refuge on the sidewalk as they head south on Central Ave. in South Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University published a story declaring that “Most Cyclists Are Working-Class Immigrants, Not Hipsters.”

If you spend any time in the streets and/or pay attention to cycling issues, this is something you probably already knew. At least, intuitively. It’s been a little harder to substantiate that claim using data, as the article explains, thanks to the way the Census lumps bicycle commuting to work in with motorcycling and taking taxis. The fact that the poor may also combine multiple modes to get from A to B (and C and D, depending on how many jobs or obligations they have) complicates the data. So does the fact that lower-income residents of color, particularly immigrants, are the people least likely to answer Census or other surveys or have habits that fit well into standardized categories.

The fact that the urban hipster persists as the face of cycling despite being the minority, author Andrew Keatts suggests, means that we aren’t dedicating enough time or resources to understanding and responding to the unique needs of the “invisible” majority — the cyclists that have the fewest resources or options at their disposal.

And then an interesting thing happens. Keatts reaches out to Adonia Lugo, former Equity Initiative Manager at the League of American Bicyclists, Sam Ollinger, who heads up Bike San Diego, the L.A.-based group Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), and Watts-based John Jones III of the East Side Riders Bike Club to ask about specific challenges that keep poorer cyclists from being seen, heard, or able to ride safely. He hears about gangs, fears of gentrification, lack of access to reliable transit at off-peak hours, lack of access to reliable bikes and safety equipment (e.g. lights), and the lack of time to participate in city planning processes, among other things.

But instead of broadening the analysis to think about transportation in a more holistic context that accommodates these issues, he seems to try to fit their needs back into a bike-specific box.

He ends the article by paraphrasing his conversation with Geoff Carleton of Traffic Engineers, Inc. (tasked with putting together Houston’s bike plan), who he says argues that “there’s a formula out there…for increasing bike safety and multi-modal access that fits what each neighborhood wants. In some places it’s better infrastructure, but in others, it’s finding a balance between safety, education and enforcement.”

But what if there isn’t a bicycle-specific formula out there? Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Bay Street Safety Upgrades in Marina Where DUI Driver Struck Two Boys Were Delayed (SF Exam, ABC)
  • Blinq Retail Pods to Open in Embarcadero and Montgomery BART Stations Today or Tomorrow (Hoodline)
  • SF State Students Angered Over Lack of Response to Campus Bike Theft (GG Express)
  • Exploratorium Water Taxi Landing Expected to Be Finished November 13 (Hoodline)
  • More on 48-Year-Old Bicyclist Who was Fatally Struck by a Muni Bus Driver (SFist)
  • Caltrain Holds Public Hearing on 50-Cent Fare Hike Today (The Almanac)
  • Northbound 101 Lanes in San Jose Closed After Three Vehicles Collide (Mercury News)
  • SamTrans Approves Four-Year Plan to Raise Fares, Begins 2016 (The Daily Journal)
  • Mountain View City Staff Say Neighborhood Plan With Most Housing Results in Less Driving (PTA)
  • Palo Alto Bicyclist Fatally Struck by Driver Identified; Friend Says Streets Not Safe Anymore (PAO)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA