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A 50-Year-Old Cartoon Satirizing Car Culture Still Rings True Today


If aliens came to Earth, who would they assume is in control — people or cars? Cars, of course. That’s the premise of this 50-year-old animation dug up by Alex Ihnen at NextSTL.

It’s worth noting, says Ihnen, that the piece was made by Canadians:

It tells the story of aliens viewing earth and concluding that the automobile is the dominant species on the planet. It’s a biting commentary, and the culture that produced it is the same that prevented highways from decimating Vancouver, and other Canadian cities to the extent of their American counterparts. It’s hard to imagine an American equivalent, though even locally around the same time we were well [aware] of the negative impacts of the automobile [Mass Transit as a Regional Priority – St. Louis 1965].

Ihnen also posts this summary from the National Film Board of Canada:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • BART Approves Student Gator Pass (SFExaminer, SFBay)
  • Harrison Street Transformation Starting (SFChron)
  • 300 Foot Housing Construction Near Caltrain (Socketsite)
  • Muni Gets AC (SFExaminer)
  • Progress in Getting More Housing in Burlingame and Near Millbrae Transit (DailyJournal)
  • San Mateo Caltrain Grade Seps (DailyJournal)
  • Some Affordable Housing in Menlo Park Deal on Facebook Campus (BizTimes)
  • Golden Gate Transit to Upgrade Cameras (KQED)
  • San Rafael Raises Speed Limit in Response to Speeding at Site of Deadly “Accident” (MarinIJ)
  • Larkspur Residents Object to Adding Space for Bikes and Peds on Bridge (MarinIJ)
  • Editorial: San Francisco Needs By-Right Housing (SFExaminer)

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

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Accomplishments and Looking Ahead at the Golden Wheel Awards

Scott Wiener addresses the audience during the Golden Wheel Awards. Photo: SFBC.

Scott Wiener addresses the audience during the Golden Wheel Awards. Photo: SFBC.

Last night the Golden Wheel Awards were presented at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in downtown San Francisco. This year’s winners: Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, and Assemblyman Phil Ting.

The event, which was attended by some 300 planners, city staffers, advocates, and other officialdom, celebrated recent accomplishments in making San Francisco a more people and bike-friendly place. But it was also a fervent call to action.

To kick off the ceremony, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s new executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, talked about his main goals for the organization. “People who bike in San Francisco should look like people who live in San Francisco. We must include more people of color and lower income residents,” he said. “I pledge we will continue to fight hard for protected bike lanes throughout the city. On Market Street alone we call for fully separated and protected bike lanes from Embarcadero to Octavia.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Bike-Share Can Get State Funding to Reach Low-Income Communities

CARB staff check out electric bikes at a recent demo in the capitol. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

CARB staff check out electric bikes at a recent demo in the capitol. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

At its meeting a few weeks ago, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) agreed to include bike-share in its Car Sharing and Mobility Options pilot program. That means that areas that are figuring out how to get bike-share into low income areas now have a new funding option.

The Car Sharing and Mobility Options program funded car-sharing in low-income communities last year with $2.5 million. As the board was considering increasing this year’s allocation to $8 million, the California Bicycle Coalition was trying to get it to also include incentives for buying electric bikes. Pilot programs created last year provided grants and rebates to buy electric motorcycles and electric “neighborhood vehicles”—basically golf carts—but not bikes.

CalBike has argued that a separate pilot program focusing on bicycles, which could include incentives to buy electric bicycles, grants for bike-share, grants for bike repair, and the like, would give more bang for the buck in terms of getting people to switch to clean vehicles. There would also be advantages to creating a program that focuses solely on bikes, in that at least someone at CARB would take bicycles seriously and understand their usefulness as the ultimate clean vehicles.

Instead of a separate bike pilot program, the CARB board decided to allow bike-share programs to apply for funding within the existing Mobility Options program. How much money ultimately goes to bike-share will depend on how many areas apply for funding.

“We applaud CARB for showing leadership by expanding the scope and funding of this pilot program to include bike-sharing, and appreciate the innovative twist of adding electric bike-sharing,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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No, Driverless Cars Won’t Make Transit Obsolete

When driverless cars hit the market (which may not be as soon as advertised), nobody denies that they will change transportation planning.

There just isn't room for all these folks to drive into Seattle. Photo: Seattle Transit Blog

There just isn’t room for every Seattle transit rider to hop into cars instead. Photo: Oran Viriyincy at Seattle Transit Blog

But let’s put one claim to rest: Driverless cars will not make transit obsolete, especially not high-capacity transit serving dense urban areas.

Bryan Mistele, CEO of traffic data firm Inrix, recently placed a piece in the notoriously anti-transit Seattle Times arguing that the region’s $53 billion light rail expansion plan, known as ST3, could be “obsolete” by the time it’s finished.

Brent White at Seattle Transit Blog debunks the argument:

The claim that autonomous vehicles will render fixed-route transit obsolete is particularly unfounded, with basic geometric facts providing the reality check. Yet nonetheless the argument has become a trendy political talking point, as Fortune documented back in 2014. Generously assume that “small form factor” vehicles succeed in doubling vehicle throughput capacity (a big if!). Then assume a standard vehicle occupancy rate of 1.5. Assuming these two factors, the capacity test for autonomous vehicles as congestion reducers and transit replacers is whether or not transit could reliably carry more than 3 people in the same space. That’s a laughably low bar for any urban transit agency. And for a central city like Seattle’s, with 35% of people already taking transit while using 10% of the space? Any major transfer of people from transit to small autonomous vehicles would represent a loss of capacity, not a gain.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Transit Funds in the Mix Over Concerns Sales Tax Proposal Could Hurt Business (SFExaminer)
  • Architect Consultants Overcharged on Central Subway? (SFExaminer)
  • Supes Pass Watered Down Density Bonus Plan (Hoodline)
  • More Height on Mission (Socketsite)
  • Conflict Continues over Millbrae Station Area Proposal (DailyJournal)
  • San Mateo Asphalt Junkies Just Want Another Hit on 101 (SFChron)
  • Trying to Identify “Driving While Stoned” (KQED)
  • Bike Lane for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (MarinIJ)
  • AAA Study Shows Driving Turns Men into Rage Monkeys (NBCBayArea)
  • History of the SF Ferry Building (SFGate)
  • Pokeman Go Trumps SF Landmarks (SFist)
  • Editorial: Urgency Needed to Address Housing Demand (Almanac)

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

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Collecting Data to Push for Safer Biking on Valencia

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One of some 50 cars that blocked the bike lane on one side of Valencia between 16th and 17th at the peak hour Tuesday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

Altogether, some 50 cars took turns blocking the bike lane on the west side of Valencia between 16th and 17th at the peak hour Tuesday night. Photo: Streetsblog.

During yesterday evening’s rush hour, safe streets advocates, organized by Catherine Orland, District 9 representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee and longtime member and volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, started collecting hard data about how often the bike lanes on Valencia Street are blocked by motorists. Take a wild guess what they found: the bike lanes are a de facto loading-and-drop-off zone for cars.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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When Will the Feds Stop Outlawing Railcars Used By the Rest of the World?

The removal of 115 railcars from service in Philadelphia last week was the latest example of the troubles American commuter rail agencies face when purchasing rolling stock. Thanks to cracks in a critical component of the railcars, riders are looking at severe service reductions for at least the entire summer. While U.S. DOT floated a regulatory change that could prevent similar failures, it’s been tied up in the federal bureaucracy for three years.

Philadelphia's defective railcars highlight some of the problems with U.S. passenger rail regulations. Photo: SEPTA

Philadelphia’s defective railcars highlight some of the problems with U.S. train safety regulations. Photo: SEPTA

SEPTA purchased the flawed railcars three years ago. The exact cause of the defect has yet to be determined, but it’s clear that procuring rolling stock is riskier and more complex than it needs to be, due to Federal Railroad Administration safety regulations.

An FRA rule dating back to 1945 requires trains to withstand 800,000 pounds of force, according to a report by David Edmondson for the Competitive Enterprise Institute [PDF]. This makes American trains much heavier than European and Asian models, as well as more expensive to build and operate. Passenger railcars in the U.S. have been likened to “a high-velocity bank vault,” as former Amtrak CEO David Gunn put it.

Because of these unusual standards, American rail agencies can’t just acquire the same trains used in Europe or Asia. Instead, railcars here must be custom-designed for America’s relatively small market, which drives up cost and risk. Philadelphia’s Silverliner V cars — the ones with the defect — were 10,000 pounds heavier than originally planned. The manufacturer, an American subsidiary of the South Korea-based Hyundai, had never designed stainless steel railcars to FRA standards.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The “Choice” vs. “Captive” Transit Rider Dichotomy Is All Wrong

The conventional wisdom about transit often divides riders into two neat categories: “choice” riders — higher-income people with cars — and “captive” riders — lower-income people who must use transit because they don’t own cars.

Transit riders are more conscious of time than they are of features like wifi. Drawing via Transit Center

Transit riders are more conscious of time than they are of features like Wi-Fi. Graphic: TransitCenter

But this framework can undermine good transit, according to a new report from TransitCenter [PDF]. In the attempt to cater only to “choice” riders or “captive” riders, public officials often make decisions that don’t accomplish what everyone wants from transit — fast, frequent, reliable service that takes them where they want to go.

TransitCenter surveyed more than 3,000 transit riders across 17 regions — and conducted focus groups in three major cities — to get a better picture of why people take transit. The responses were combined with data from All Transit, a tool that assesses the quality of transit service in different locations, to inform the report’s conclusions.

While having access to a car does influence how much people use transit, other factors are more important. In walkable neighborhoods with frequent transit service, people with and without cars both ride transit more than people in areas with poor transit.

Far from being “captive,” transit riders without cars are in fact very sensitive to the quality of service. So-called “captive” riders have other choices available, like biking, taxis, and borrowing cars, and most do take advantage of them — almost two-thirds of car-free transit riders had done so in the last month.

A big problem with the “choice/captive” rider dichotomy, says lead report author Steven Higashide, is that it prompts planners to invest in “sexy” features aimed at luring “choice” riders out of cars — like Wi-Fi or comfortable seats. The notion of the “choice rider” has been used to justify mixed-traffic streetcar projects that operate slowly and don’t actually serve many people.

Regardless of whether transit riders own a car, what actually matters to them aren’t the bells and whistles, or even the type of vehicle, but the basics: service they can depend on to get places on time.

“Transit has to compete for every rider,” Higashide told Streetsblog. “There’s often this assumption that people without cars have no choice, have to ride transit. People are sensitive to transit quality regardless of car ownership.”

TransitCenter suggests another way to frame how and why people use transit — by looking at the types of trips they use it for:

Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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Ad Nauseum: Energizer Batteries Turn Drab Bikes Into Colorful Motorcycles

Energizer batteries are trying to appeal to consumer ecological consciences by “taking worn out batteries and making them into something strong” in the company’s new EcoAdvanced battery line. What better way to be ecological than to appeal to urban cyclists? In the above commercial, the Energizer Bunny helps out tired riders by turning their bicycles into fantastic motorcycles. Not cool and not eco.

First off, take a look at Energizer’s portrayal of urban bicyclists.

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Cyclists from Engerizer’s eco-battery commercial – Images via YouTube

In the Energizer commercial’s world, there are lots of cyclists, but all their bikes are old and crappy. One bike, at o:02, has a derailleur but no chain. Few of the bikes actually fit their riders, so the cyclists look cramped and uncomfortable.

Secondly, how does electricity help cyclists? Does transforming a bicycle – a truly environmentally-friendly human-powered vehicle – into a petroleum-burning motorcycle really serve the environment? Do urban cyclists really want to ditch their trusty steeds?

Energizer seems to understand that bicycling and bicyclists sell environmental leadership. For example, see this Energizer “how do you spot a leader?” video at 0:27. Energizer’s commitment to recycling battery materials appears laudable, but why not join with environmental leaders by affirming bicycling? Cyclists are Energizer’s customers. Batteries in bike lights to keep cyclists safe. Why not portray how fun, fast, and free urban cycling can be? Why not celebrate cycle chic by showing stylish bicycles and attractive fashion?

What do you think, readers? Can you come up with an Energizer Bunny commercial treatment that would affirm urban cycling? Add your thoughts in the comments below.