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Hastily-Debated Collins Measure Could Put More Tired Truckers on the Road

Truck crashes killed almost 4,000 people in 2012. Sen. Susan Collins wants to suspend a safety rule aimed at reducing that number. Screenshot from 6ABC

It just wouldn’t be Congress if we weren’t trying to debate substantive policy changes, with drastic implications for public safety, with a government shutdown deadline fast approaching.

As Congress tries to wrap up the hideously-named “cromnibus” (continuing resolution (CR) + omnibus) spending bill for the rest of FY 2015 by Thursday, one provision is attracting a heated debate over road safety.

An amendment introduced over the summer by Maine Senator Susan Collins would repeal elements of a 2011 U.S. DOT rule requiring truck drivers to get adequate rest. The two basic pillars of that hours-of-service rule are: 1) drivers have to take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift, and, more contentiously, 2) drivers have to take a 34-hour “restart” period once every seven days. That 34-hour rest period must include two consecutive overnights between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “The net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.”

The Collins amendment would maintain the 34-hour rest mandate but would remove the requirement that it include two overnights, and it would allow drivers to take more than one restart in a seven-day period, thereby starting a new 70-hour workweek.

Truck crashes caused 3,921 deaths in 2012 [PDF]. Bloomberg News reports that the fatal-crash rate increased each year from 2009 through 2012, reversing a five-year trend.

Sec. Foxx noted in his blog post that most truckers “behave responsibly and drive well within reasonable limits,” but that the rules guard against those “who are tempted to push the limits.”

“Additionally, new research available on the subject demonstrated that long work hours, without sufficient recovery time, lead to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue,” Foxx wrote. “That fatigue leads drivers to have slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly.” He added that drivers often can’t accurately assess their own fatigue.

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Devastating Job Sprawl Intensifies in Milwaukee’s Economic Recovery

In a continuation of a long-term trend with devastating results for city residents, job creation in the Milwaukee region in the wake of the Great Recession has been focused in the suburbs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that Milwaukee County has recovered only 35 percent of the jobs it lost in the economic downturn, meanwhile the surrounding suburban counties have recovered 70 percent. The report also found that new jobs in Milwaukee County tend to be lower paying, with a higher share of temporary positions.

James Rowen at the Political Environment writes that while suburban interests seem to take a perverse glee in the city’s troubles, in the end the whole region and state suffers:

The wealth and jobs data that [the Journal Sentinel's Rick] Romell cites show the result of decades of discriminatory public sector policies that disconnected transit links and thus intentionally reduced work and housing options for lower-income, minority Milwaukee residents by literally putting jobs and affordable housing out of reach.

While government builds more highways to serve suburban commuters – - despite a federal court ruling to the contrary - – and even now is contemplating giving the [suburban] City of Waukesha an exception to a multi-state water management agreement and allow Waukesha a diversion of Lake Michigan water not only for current needs, but to serve undeveloped acreage.

The sad irony in all this is that while the suburban counties and their louder political and media voices find votes and comfort manipulating Milwaukee, the state will not succeed like, say, Minnesota, because you cannot have an economically vibrant and attractive state economy if you deliberately constrict, abuse and stunt its largest city – - the center of the state’s commerce, banking, culture, entertainment and, in our case, the connection to an even bigger economy – - Chicago.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington explains why the new tolled lanes on I-95 in Maryland are likely to drain money from people who never use them. Twin City Sidewalks runs with the notion of freeways as public spaces for the expression. And Broken Sidewalk sees what lessons can be drawn from a heat map of where people are tweeting in Louisville.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Uber Driver Who Killed Sophia Liu, 6, Last New Year’s Eve Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter (Exam)
  • Supes Discuss Challenges in Building Compatible Platforms for Caltrain and CA High-Speed Rail (GC)
  • Planning Dept Report Reviews Shifts in SF’s Commuter Census Data in Recent Years (SocketSite)
  • New Park Space Over Presidio Parkway Tunnel to Be Designed by NYC’s High Line Architect (SFGate)
  • BART and AC Transit to Announce Details of Late-Night Transbay Bus Service From the Mission (SFist)
  • In SF, Millenials Are Driving Less Than in 1980, But More in Some Comparable Metros (CityLab)
  • Sinkhole at Lake and 6th Ave Repaired (Exam); Another Sinkhole in Cole Valley Still Open (Hoodline)
  • Private Company Issuing Possibly Unlawful Tickets to Cars at Safeway Parking Lot on Market (Hoodline)
  • Marin IJ‘s Dick Spotswood: “Bike Lobby” Would Be More Effective if Some People Were Better Bikers
  • Continued Protests Shut Down Downtown Berkeley BART Station, Highway 80, Amtrak (CBSKQED)
  • San Jose Considers Two-Way Protected Bikeway to Improve Highway 680 Crossing (Cyclelicious)
  • I-680 Closed in San Jose After Person Threatens to Jump Off Overpass (SFBay)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Union Square’s “Winter Walk” Plaza on Stockton a Hit – Why Bring Cars Back?

Stockton Street, between Ellis and Geary Streets, has temporarily been transformed into well-loved “Winter Walk” plaza. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

Families are loving “Winter Walk SF,” the temporary holiday plaza filling two blocks of Stockton Street in Union Square. As CBS reporter John Ramos put it, the on-street downtown play space “represents the San Francisco everyone wants it to be.”

“I didn’t expect to see this,” one smiling girl told Ramos, standing on the green astroturf. “I thought it would be cars.”

Even former Mayor Willie Brown — not exactly known as a livable streets visionary — called it “spectacular” in his latest SF Chronicle column. “While you’re walking, think about what it would be like if the change were made permanent when the subway construction is complete.”

Brown was referring to the fact that the plaza will only be in place during a holiday construction hiatus for the Central Subway. After the new year, Stockton between Geary and Ellis Streets will once again fill with machinery, its use from 2012 until at least 2016.

Afterwards, cars, buses, and bikes are scheduled to once more clog Stockton — but even Brown suggests it shouldn’t go back to the way it was:

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Paris Mayor Pledges Bold Steps to Reduce Traffic in City Center

A decade of change to Paris streets has claimed significant space for transit, biking, and walking. Now Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to go further and limit cars in the central city. Photo: Wikipedia

After a decade of repurposing street space from cars to people, buses, and bikes, Paris isn’t done yet. The world’s most-visited city is now preparing to remove even more traffic from the streets in the name of walkability and clean air.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told the Journal du Dimanche this week that she intends to create four “semi-pedestrianized” zones near the city center. These areas would permit only bikes, taxis, buses, and cars driven by residents of the district. Delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles would also be given access, according to the Australian newspaper The Age.

Hidalgo said she plans to begin the policy of restricting through-traffic  during weekends, with the goal of ramping it up to a full-time policy. The proposal closely resembles a traffic reduction plan for central Madrid.

Hidalgo also promised to double the number of bike lanes in the city by 2020, pledging €100 million (US$123 million) to the effort. In addition, the mayor said she hopes to ban diesel engine vehicles within the city by 2020 and limit traffic on the famous Champs Élysées to “green” vehicles only.

These steps are largely a continuation of the path blazed by former mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who created bus lanes on nearly avenue in the city, overhauled wide boulevards with new bikeways and pedestrian spaces, reclaimed the banks of the Seine from cars during the summer with Paris Plage, and launched the huge Velib bike-share system with its 20,000 bicycles.

Those steps cut traffic in the city by 20 percent between 2002 and 2008. According to Hidalgo, the shift away from cars has only become more impressive since then. You may want to take this stat with a grain of salt, but the current mayor says the city’s car ownership rate has dropped from 60 percent to 40 percent since 2011.

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Poll: Support for Active Transportation Funding Is High Across Party Lines

Seventy-four percent of Americans want to maintain or increase federal funding for biking and walking. Image: RTC

When will Congress debate a new transportation bill? Your guess is as good as mine (May 31 expiration date of the current extension notwithstanding). But here’s some advice for whenever they do: Increase federal funding for biking and walking. Your voters demand it.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy wanted to know whether Americans support this kind of funding, which is subjected to regular attacks from the right. So RTC contracted two leading polling firms — one Democratic, on Republican — to ask 1,000 people what they thought.

Turns out strong majorities support increasing or maintaining current levels of federal investment in walking and biking paths, regardless of party affiliation. Four times as many voters favor boosting or maintaining funding as cutting it:

Republicans support biking and walking too, by a margin better than 2:1. Image: RTC

Republicans support biking and walking too, by a margin better than 2:1. Image: RTC

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CA Seeks Input on 2015 Active Transportation Program Guidelines

A rendering of a proposals for Oakland’s Lake Merritt/Bay Trail connector, the design of which was funded by the Active Transportation Program. Image: Oakland Public Works

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) is seeking input on revised guidelines for the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The ATP is the main source of state funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, mostly through federal transportation grants to local cities. The proposed changes to the ATP guidelines are mostly minor, but include eliminating the requirement for matching funds and de-emphasizing bike plans.

ATP is a very new program. Its first funding round was just completed in November, so it’s too early to judge the on-the-ground success of any of the projects it’s funded. Nevertheless, the second funding cycle will commence in the spring. CTC staff has proposed changes to program guidelines [PDF] and invited potential applicants and interested parties to weigh in. Although the changes are not extensive, they were the subject of three hours of detailed discussion at CTC’s workshop last Monday in Sacramento.

The CTC plans to revise the guidelines based on comments from this workshop and a second one, which will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on January 8 at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) offices, on the 12th floor of 818 West 7th Street, in downtown Los Angeles.

The guidelines are scheduled for adoption by the CTC in March, and the Round Two call for projects would then go out immediately, with applications expected to be due in June.

Caltrans plans to offer workshops in March to go over program requirements, answer questions, and train applicants on the new benefit/cost model it has developed for the application process. Check the Caltrans website for updates.

After the jump are a few highlights from last week’s discussion.

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How to Make Shared-Vehicle Services Accessible to People of All Incomes

Capital Bikeshare struggles to draw low-income users, despite outreach efforts, station siting in low-income areas, subsidies, and efforts to include people without bank accounts. Photo: DDOT, via ITDP

Washington’s Capital Bikeshare is one of the biggest and most well-established bike-share systems in the nation. Its annual fee of just $75 buys you unlimited free half-hour trips. The system now has 2,500 bicycles at 300 stations in the District and the nearby suburbs.

It’s an incredible money-saver, especially for the 50 percent of users who report driving less and the 60 percent who report taking fewer taxis since joining bike-share. But if it’s such a thrifty transportation choice, why are only 8 percent of CaBi members low-income, compared to 45 percent who live in households that earn more than $100,000?

CaBi’s trouble attracting low-income users is not exceptional. Other transportation services based on the idea that people can economize by accessing a fleet of vehicles instead of buying their own — think bike-share, car-share, and ride-share services — have failed, for the most part, to draw people who stand to gain the most by saving on transportation costs.

Transportation eats up a disproportionate amount of low-income people’s household income — 24 percent for people earning between $5,000 and $30,000 per year. And low-income people tend to face longer commute times than wealthier residents. Transit options between their homes, which are most often in cities, and their jobs, which have in recent years sprawled out to the distant suburbs, are often lacking.

Shared transportation options can provide solutions when transit alone is deficient. But by and large, poor people are not taking advantage of those solutions. The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy looked at the barriers to widespread adoption of these options by low-income people and some possible solutions in a new report, “Connecting Low-Income People to Opportunity with Shared Mobility.”

Here’s how some services have bucked the larger trend and provided transportation for people on a wider range of the income ladder.

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Imagining a Bizarro World With Rational Discussions About Parking

Remember that time you attended a public meeting about redesigning a street, and when the issue of free on-street parking spaces came up, the discussion was so thoughtful and productive that you walked away feeling refreshed and full of optimism? Me neither.

Parking has a way of bringing out the worst in us. Photo: New Rochelle Talks

But Bill Lindeke at Streets.mn has imagined the rational community discussion about parking that you fantasize about — here’s what it might look like:

Most of the time, when people are discussing parking, parking lots, paying for parking, or whether or not it’s difficult to find parking, I’ve noticed how quickly someone who might have had concerns puts aside petty squabbles and embraces the big
picture view.

I mean, the absolute worst case scenario is that you have to pay a few dollars or walk a few blocks through our lovely city on the well-designed and always comfortable sidewalks filled with non-threatening street life. As we all know, walking in our city is such a pleasure that most people love strolling around.

For example, just the other day a new restaurant wanted to open up in our city, but their parking lot was small compared to the Coon Rapids Applebee’s. Well, once the business owner explained the situation, and how the neighborhood was walkable and historic, everyone was OK with it. That’s inspiring!

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Critically Injures Man at Second and Folsom Streets, Flees Then Calls Police (CBS)
  • More on the 53-Year-Old Man Killed by a DUI Driver on Great Highway While on Skateboard (CBS)
  • SFMTA Proposes Safety Measures Around Octavia Boulevard in Hayes Valley (Hoodline)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf Business Survey: 261 Employees Have Quit Due to Bad Transit Access (SF Examiner)
  • Reiskin: Most Drivers Won’t Notice More Car Restrictions on Market Street Since Few Use it (CBS)
  • More Subway-Oriented Towers Proposed to Spring Up at Van Ness (Biz), Moscone Stations (SocketSite)
  • How the Sunset Tunnel Came to Link the N-Judah to SF’s Western Dunes (Hoodline)
  • SF Chronicle Lauds Proposal for Second Transbay BART Tube: “It’s Time to Offer Weary Riders Hope”
  • BART and Bike East Bay Dole Out Anti-Bike Theft Tips at Stations (SFBay)
  • Jose Rosell, 78, Killed by Driver in Daly City (KTVUCBS); Among Other Bay Area Victims (SFGate)
  • More Protests Take Over Streets and Freeways in SF, Oakland, and Berkeley (SFGate 1, 2ABCM Local)
  • SFPD: People Cannot Save a Parking Spot by Standing in it Because of Pedestrian Yield Law (CBS)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA