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Will Caltrans Get On Board With a Contraflow Bus Lane on the Bay Bridge?

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Image: SPUR

Image: SPUR

The proposal to improve transbay transit with a contraflow bus lane on the Bay Bridge is gaining traction, as the SF Chronicle reported yesterday. The idea has been pushed by proponents at SPUR, AC Transit, and some BART board members for years as a relatively quick and inexpensive solution to move more people between SF and the East Bay. BART is already experiencing “crush loads” under the Bay, but a second transbay tube may not come for decades.

As SPUR explained in a video in 2011, converting an eastbound traffic lane into a westbound bus-only lane during morning commute hours could move an additional 10,000 bus riders per hour — “almost the entire capacity on the entire upper deck” of the Bay Bridge — on AC Transit’s 30 transbay lines, which currently carry an estimated 14,000 passengers per day. It would require the construction of new bus ramps, including one to connect to the Transbay Transit Center in SF.

“With our packed capacity, and all of the development in the Transbay area and [Transbay Center] nearing completion, we’re going to really need that bus capacity,” said Tom Radulovich, a BART board member and director of Livable City. “Building a shiny, multi-billion dollar terminal and having those buses stuck in traffic doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The biggest barrier to implementing the idea is convincing Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over the Bay Bridge, said Radulovich. According to him, the agency has said that the contraflow lane is unnecessary because it can manage car congestion through ramp metering. Caltrans didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Streetsblog USA
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From Minneapolis, Evidence That the Census Undercounts Walking and Biking

Biking jumped 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

Biking increased 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Census is the most widely cited source of data about how Americans get around. It’s updated regularly and it covers the whole country, but it comes up short in a number of ways. The Census only asks about commute trips, and commuting only accounts for about 16 percent of total household travel [PDF]. What happens when you measure the other 84 percent?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to design a better way to track how people move around the Twin Cities region, and one key finding is that walking and biking appear to be growing a lot faster than the Census indicates.

The UMN survey asked about 1 percent of the region’s residents to keep a travel diary, recording every trip. This resembles the National Household Travel Survey, a more detailed but infrequently-conducted cousin to the Census data on commuting, but the sample collected by the UMN team was much bigger. That’s especially important for measuring less prevalent modes of travel like walking and biking. The UMN study also provided more detailed information about people’s origins and destinations than the National Household Travel Survey.

The UMN team found that driving decreased in the region between 2000 and 2010, while biking and walking grew. Cycling rose over that period from 1.4 to 2.2 percent of trips. That’s about 190,000 daily trips, or a 58 percent increase. Meanwhile, walking grew from 4.5 to 6.6 percent of trips, a 44 percent increase, or almost three quarters of a million daily trips. Residents of the Twin Cities region typically make about 12 million total daily trips.

What’s especially interesting is that the share of biking and walking trips in the UMN survey is much bigger than what the Census indicates — about two to three times larger.

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Streetsblog.net
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If Larry Hogan Kills Maryland’s Purple Line, It’s Not About Saving Money

Building the Purple Line, a major expansion of the DC-region Metro system in Maryland, seems like a no brainer. The project is almost fully funded, with federal, local, and private commitments covering most of the expense. It promises to spur development that will provide major economic benefits as well. Business groups in that populous and growing part of Maryland have been pushing hard for its continuation. But recently-elected Governor Larry Hogan has hinted that he may kill the $2.4 billion project since early in his campaign.

A vintage photo of the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Its members have been lobbying Governor Larry Hogan to kill the Purple Line. Photo: Library of Congress

Members of the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, have been lobbying Governor Larry Hogan to kill the Purple Line. Photo: Library of Congress

Ben Ross at Greater Greater Washington says Hogan’s justification — cost concerns — just don’t hold up to scrutiny:

Given his sudden announcement last week of lower highway tolls, that’s clearly just an excuse. The real obstacle to building the light rail line is the pressure of a few well-placed opponents, chief among them the Columbia Country Club.

If the Purple Line dies, cost will be the excuse rather than the real reason. The project’s current financing plan calls for only $288 million in state outlays during construction. This is a very modest amount of money for a major transportation facility—the price of two highway interchanges. The savings that Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn has identified will make the number even smaller.

Over the six years of construction, Maryland will spend less on the Purple Line than on last week’s toll cuts. The toll cuts, targeted to benefit big trucking companies and owners of beach houses, will cost $54 million a year.

So what is Hogan’s real motivation? Ross says follow the campaign contributions from the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase:

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Today’s Headlines

  • Mayor Announces Plan to Crack Down on Double Parkers, Box Blockers, Bad Construction (KTVU)
  • Another Beautiful Bike to Work Day in SF (KTVU, SFBay)
  • Tenderloin’s “Safe Passage” Program Raises Extra Money to Help Kids Walk to School (Hoodline)
  • Transbay Transit Center’s Physical Construction Less Dramatic Than Its Political Controversies (SFGate)
  • Transbay Buses Could Get a Contraflow Bus Lane for the Bay Bridge Morning Rush (Chronicle, ABC)
  • Broken Track That Shut Down BART in SF May Be Part of Bad Batch of Rail Segments (SF Examiner)
  • Caltrain on Track for “Positive Train Control,” Which Could Have Prevented Philadelphia Wreck (NBC)
  • Palo Alto Benefit Concert to Be Held in Memory of Amelie Le Moullac, Kids in Haiti (PA Online)
  • San Jose Council Member Trades Car for Bike for a Month, Discovers a New Way of Life (Cyclelicious)
  • First Google Cars Built for Self-Driving Coming to South Bay Streets This Summer (Biz Times, CBS)
  • Absurd “I Drive Alameda” Petitioners Fight Road Diet on Street With Low Car Traffic (GJEL)
  • California Just Doesn’t Have the Money to Maintain All the Highways It Built (Mercury News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SFMTA Says It’s Just Getting Started on Protected Bike Lanes

Mayor Lee rides with SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire (behind) and SFBC Executive Director Noah Budnick (right) on Valencia Street this morning. Photo: Volker Neumann, SFBC

City officials gathered for another Bike to Work Day rally at City Hall today to cheer for bicycling, celebrating a 206 percent jump in ridership since 2006, according to a new annual bike count released by the SFMTA today. There was the usual citation of bike traffic on eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue: 76 percent of all vehicles between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. were bikes.

So, was it another feel-good event in lieu of action? Maybe not…

After significant wins at the ballot box in November, these Bike to Work Day festivities felt a little different. There was legitimate cause to believe the city will accelerate its progress on bike infrastructure.

In 2015, the SFMTA expects to implement or start construction on an unprecedented 23 miles of bikeway upgrades, Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told Streetsblog. Then the real boom in bike infrastructure is expected to start in 2016, when “we’re going to look back and say, that was nothing.”

“We’re definitely going to be seeing more, better, and faster,” said Maguire. “That’s where we want go with the Bike Strategy.” As someone who helped deliver improvements at a rapid clip in New York City, Maguire’s word carries weight.

At the rally, Mayor Ed Lee touted the planned ten-fold expansion of Bay Area Bike Share and noted the need for “more sustainable ways to get around” as development and population increase.

“We are making it easier and safer to bike around our city with improved bike infrastructure and bike-share opportunities,” Lee said in a statement. “Biking isn’t just fun, practical and healthy; it also helps cut down on congestion. Every person on a bike is one less person in your traffic jam or fighting for a parking spot.”

A fine speech, but one that the mayor has given before without making the necessary decisions to back it up. It was only two months ago that Lee refused to say that protected bike lanes, which encourage bicycling and save lives, are more important than car parking.

Here’s the roster of officials who biked to City Hall this year along with Mayor Lee: SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, Julie Christensen, Katy Tang, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen. Absent were Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos, Norman Yee, John Avalos, and London Breed.

What’s different this year is that voters sent some clear signals at the polls. “Every neighborhood in San Francisco is asking for safer streets,” said Maguire. “What the design looks like on every block is going to be different, but there were victories for Prop A and Prop B, [voters] defeated Prop L — it was proven at the ballot box. That’s the kind of momentum we want to go by.” Proposition L, a cars-first advisory measure, was funded last year by Lee backer Sean Parker.

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Via Streetsblog California
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Happy Bike to Work Day, California

BTWT2015Ride

Mayor Albrecht Schröter of Jena, Germany follows Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates on a ride to city hall. They’re riding the blue bike-share bikes that will soon be available in the East Bay. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yes, yes, every day is bike to work day, but today is the day we get to celebrate it. Here’s a photo of one group of happy participants in Berkeley, California, where the mayors of Copenhagen, Denmark and Jena, Germany joined Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates for a “mayorpalooza” bike ride through town.

We’re putting together a post with photos from all over California. Do you have photos of Bike to Work Day, or Bike Month, in your city? Share them with us!

Send them to melanie@streetsblog.org

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: The Missing Middle

podcast icon logoThis week on the podcast, Dan Parolek of Opticos Design talks about their new website themissingmiddle.com, which explores housing types between high- or mid-rise buildings and single-family homes that cities don’t make much anymore.

We get into Austin’s development code, Cincinnati’s walkable neighborhoods, and how people are often worried by the phrase “density,” then surprised by density designed well.

Why are developers and bankers scared of “missing middle” housing forms like duplexes? And how come we don’t build rowhouses parcel by parcel anymore?

Join us in the middle and find out.

Streetsblog.net
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The Case for Building a Garden in the Middle of the Street

The addition of this rain garden improved a Louisville neighborhood in more ways than one. Image via Broken Sidewalk

The addition of this rain garden improved a Louisville neighborhood in more ways than one. Image via Broken Sidewalk

Here’s a great example of how excess street space can be repurposed to beautify a neighborhood, improve safety, and bring people together. Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk shares this story out of Louisville, where a public utility helped a neighborhood fix a problematic intersection by building a rain garden:

Louisville's Germantown rain garden. Photo: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville’s Germantown rain garden. Photo: Broken Sidewalk

One of the top many-problem-one-solution projects we’ve seen is also among Louisville’s smallest interventions, and it’s tucked away on one of the German-Paristown neighborhood‘s most unusual intersections.

“If you look at this intersection, there are five streets that come together including an alley,” Wes Sydnor, program manager at Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), told Broken Sidewalk. He was describing the intersection of Ellison Avenue, Swan Street, Dandridge Street, and an alley that was once an enormous swath of asphalt with traffic coming from all directions and no signage or markings to help pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists navigate the expanse. “So you have an intersection where the signage wasn’t as clear as it should have been and as a pedestrian it was a risky endeavor to cross there,” he added.

Why was Sydnor, who oversees green infrastructure programs at MSD, so interested in traffic patterns on an obscure neighborhood street? Because the paving was sending rainwater into an already overburdened Combined Sewer System, and in turn contributing to sewer overflows that continue to pollute nearby Beargrass Creek.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Happy Bike to Work Day (Exam); Predicted Rain Won’t Come (ABC); SFBC Offers Biking Tips for Women
  • Woman, 60, Seriously Injured By Driver at Bryant and Division, Where Cheng Jin Lai Was Killed (Appeal)
  • More on the Bicycle Rider Injured at Sixth and Folsom, Where Amelie Le Moullac Was Killed (KRON)
  • Aptos Middle School Honors Andrew Wu, 12, Who Was Killed By Muni Train on San Jose Ave (SFBay)
  • More on the SFPD’s Dismal “Focus on the Five” Enforcement (SF Examiner, Hoodline)
  • SF’s Taxi Industry Has Been “Disrupted” By Technology for the Past 100 Years (Taxi Cab Subjects)
  • Presidio Parkway Construction Closure Expected to “Wreak Havoc” for GG Bridge Commuters (Marin IJ)
  • Broke-Ass Stuart’s List of Worst Behaviors From People Who Are “Bad at” Riding Muni, BART (Examiner)
  • Train Engineer in Philadelphia Amtrak Crash Used to Work for Caltrain (NBC)
  • DUI Gilroy Driver Survives Crash That Kills All Four Passengers, Three of Them in High School (ABC)
  • U.S. Transpo Secretary Visits Mountain View to See Self-Driving Cars, “Connected” Car Tech (ABC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Wiggle Safety Upgrades Delayed Over Turn Bans to Reduce Thru Traffic

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The Wiggle would become safer and calmer with upgrades like a traffic diverter at southbound Scott and Fell streets. But Lower Haight neighbors oppose left-turn bans aimed at attracting cross-town drivers to Divisadero Street. Image: SFMTA

Improvements that would make the Wiggle calmer and safer have been delayed after continued driver protests against three left turn bans on Divisadero Street proposed as part of the project. Approval of the project was removed from the SFMTA Board of Directors’ Tuesday agenda and postponed until June.

Hoodline reported that some members of the Lower Haight Neighbors and Merchants Association can’t stomach the all-hours left turn bans from Divisadero on to Haight Street, and peak hour bans for turns on to Hayes and McAllister Streets.

The SFMTA says the bans are intended to complement the Wiggle improvements, which include a traffic diverter on Scott Street. By keeping cut-through drivers moving on Divisadero, the main driving route, that street would become the more attractive driving option. “This will reduce Scott Street’s appeal as a cross-town route, making it a more pleasant place to walk, bike, and live,” says an SFMTA fact sheet [PDF] on the Wiggle improvements.

“We want people to get where they need to go safely while keeping heavier traffic on Divisadero,” Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said in a statement. “The SFMTA’s proposals for Divisadero will improve traffic flow, cut down on congestion and reduce spillover traffic into the neighborhood. We have worked with the community extensively on this project, and we wanted to take a little more time to better understand the concerns of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association.”

A major feature of the planned Wiggle upgrades is a large sidewalk bulb-out which would physically block drivers from entering southbound Scott at Fell Street. That would reduce the car traffic on Scott, which runs one block parallel to Divisadero, that degrades the livability of the neighborhood and congests the intersection at Haight. The improvements also include raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and textured pavement.

“Thousands of people bike and walk through the Wiggle every day, and they and the neighborhood residents deserve a street that works for them,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. The SFMTA’s project “enhances the residential, family-oriented nature of the community and ensures that everyone is able to walk, bike, and enjoy the area in a safe, inviting place. This project will reduce the amount of water pollution and runoff from these streets, minimize traffic congestion for neighbors, and improve safety for people walking and biking. That is a clear win-win.”

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