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Posts from the California Category


Funds for Walking and Biking Under Attack in Congress This Week

Funds for walking and biking infrastructure account for a tiny portion of federal transportation spending. Safer streets don’t cost much, though, so for the cities and towns that count on these programs, a few dollars from the feds can be a huge help. Despite the relatively small sums at play, walking and biking programs are a constant target for a certain breed of hardline conservative in Congress. This year is no different.

Three proposed amendments to the House transportation bill take aim at programs that fund walking and biking infrastructure.

Georgia Republican Buddy Carter is leading a charge to eliminate the small pool of federal money that helps protect and support cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Buddy Carter

Georgia Republican Buddy Carter is leading a charge to eliminate the small pool of federal money that supports walking and biking. Photo: Buddy Carter

Tomorrow these amendments will be considered in the Rules Committee, which will decide which get a vote by the full House of Representatives during a markup session Wednesday and Thursday, says Caron Whitaker, vice president of government relations for the League of American Bicyclists. People for Bikes, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Rails to Trails Conservancy are all urging supporters to contact their representatives and tell them to oppose these amendments.

Here’s a summary of what’s proposed:

Amendment 68 — Buddy Carter (R-Georgia)

What’s at stake: The flexibility to spend any funds from the Surface Transportation Program on walking or biking infrastructure.

What it would do: Amendment 68 would forbid funds from the $10 billion Surface Transportation Program from being spent on walking and biking projects. This program accounts for about one fifth of annual federal transportation spending, with a small fraction of that going toward biking and walking projects. In 2014, about $128 million from this program was allocated to walking and biking projects, according to FHWA.

Why it’s a bad idea: States and localities have been choosing to invest more STP money in biking and walking — especially since MAP 21, the current transportation law, reduced the dedicated pool of funding for those activities. That $128 million spent in 2014 represented an 83 percent increase over STP funding for biking and walking in 2009.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Late Late Show’s James Corden Opens Fire on Coronado Bike NIMBY’s

Mocking people who fight safe streets improvements and bike lanes is hardly a new sport. From the subtle humor of the bicyclist crashing into Stephen Colbert’s desk to Jon Stewart’s rant about Dorothy Rabinowitz and the freakout about Citibike.

If you don’t already know him, meet James Corden, host of the Late Late Show. Corden focuses on America’s Most Famous NIMBYs, the white-haired residents of Coronado who took to City Hall to stop the influx of safe street projects graffiti-ing the streets.

I’ve been a fan of Corden since he appeared in Dr. Who a couple of years ago, so I highly recommend watching the entire clip. If you can’t here are some highlights.

“The problem of too many bike lanes ranks somewhere between, ‘my new BMW’s air conditioner works a little too well,’ and ‘The Starbucks near my house doesn’t take $100 bills,'” Corden exclaims near the start of the clip.

Later, after a woman compares a plan to increase the number of bike lanes to taking her daughters to a tattoo parlor for full-body-tattoos, Corden snarks, “If you are going to town hall to complain about bike lanes, you’re kids are definitely going to get tattoos.”

But he save the best for last. After a thirty-second call to arms where he promises a ride to Coronado to paint our own bike lanes if the NIMBYs win the day, Corden channels his inner-Braveheart when he declares, “You may take our bike lanes, but you will never take our freedom…to ride in those bike lanes.”

Incidentally, if someone from the Late Late Show is reading this, and you are planning to do more on Coronado, drop me a line on Twitter @damientypes or leave a note in the comments. Let’s talk…and ride…


The World’s Nuttiest Bike Lane NIMBYs Live in a San Diego Beach Community


Look at this visual cacophony long enough and it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.

Think you’ve read about every possible NIMBY objection to bike lanes? Think again. These recent comments from a public meeting in San Diego’s affluent Coronado beach community are definitely, um, different.

At the meeting, city leaders were bombarded with objections — not about parking, traffic, or “scofflaws” on bikes, but about the “visual pollution” of painted stripes on the road. There’s just something about a bike lane stripe that aesthetically revolts these people in a way that, say, a dashed yellow center stripe never will.

Local news station says Coronado is a “haven for bicyclists” (the League of American Bicyclists named it a silver-level Bike Friendly Community in 2013). Apparently, it’s also a haven for world-class NIMBYs, as evidenced by these amazing comments captured by KPBS (we left off the names to be merciful):

  • “You are covering Coronado with paint stripe pollution.”
  • “The graffiti on the streets does not help our property values.”
  • The lanes “bring to mind a visual cacophony that if you look there long enough it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.” [Editor’s note: This one wins!]
  • “These black streets with these brilliant white lines everywhere … believe me, it takes away from your home, from your outlook on life.”
  • “It’s very similar to personally taking all three of my daughters to a tattoo parlor and having them completely body tattooed.” [Editor’s note: Okay, maybe this one.]

Now that you’ve had a laugh, here comes the not-funny part: As a result of these ridiculous complaints, the City Council voted not to continue with a plan to add 12 miles of bike lanes. According to KPBS, from 2005 to 2013, bicyclists were struck by motor vehicle drivers more than 800 times in Coronado, resulting in 48 severe injuries and 7 fatalities.


Study: Uber Reduces Drunk Driving Deaths

There’s an unexpected upside to the introduction of Uber into more and more U.S. cities, according to a study published earlier this year: the service helps reduce drunk driving fatalities.

The entry of Uber X — driving services offered by people using private vehicles — into a new city decreased drunk driving deaths by an average of 3.6 percent, according to the study, funded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Uber and carried out by researchers at Temple University. The difference took about nine months to take effect, they found. No similar benefit was found for the entry of Uber Black, the luxury driver service offered by the same company.

Researchers examined about 12,500 collisions from 2009 to 2014 across 540 townships in the state of California, comparing DUI fatality rates before and after the introduction of the service. (Researchers used econometric models to control for factors like size of population and size of elderly population.)

The study concluded that would-be drunk drivers appear to be sensitive to price as well as the availability of driver services. In others words, Uber X makes it easier and cheaper to hire a driver, offering an alternative to drunk driving for a small but significant percentage of the population, the authors concluded. On the other hand, the availability of a more expensive but more accessible driver service than a traditional taxi — Uber Black — did not seem to impact drunk driving behavior.


Parking Madness 2015: Detroit vs. Walnut Creek

The Parking Madness competition has never been fiercer. In yesterday’s match-up, Parkersburg, West Virginia, edged Boston by a slim 12 votes, and before that, Amarillo beat out Nashville by just six votes. Your ballot counts.

We have two doozies to feast your eyes on today. The Detroit waterfront is taking on the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek, California.



Submitter Luke Klipp describes this crater as “a swath of surface parking lining the city’s waterfront just east of the Renaissance Center,” a cluster of office towers that serve as General Motors HQ.

Read more…


Talking Headways: Level of Disservice

podcast icon logoIn California, whether you’re building an office tower or a new transit line, you’re going to run up against the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law determines how much environmental analysis you need to do for new projects. But sadly, in practice it’s better at propagating car-oriented development than improving the quality of the environment.

That’s because instead of looking at a project’s effect on the environment, CEQA looks mostly at its effect on traffic. And the measures CEQA uses to determine traffic impacts focus on individual intersections, instead of the region as a whole. As a result, they end up penalizing urban infill development and transit projects while promoting sprawl and road expansion.

Here’s the good news: The core traffic metric embedded in CEQA, known as Level of Service (LOS), is set to be overhauled in California. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB743. One thing that bill does is allow the Sacramento Kings to build a new stadium. But the other thing it does is allow for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to come up with a new metric to replace LOS — a very hot topic on Streetsblog.

This week’s Talking Headways is a special one-hour episode all about how LOS works against sustainable development patterns and what is being done to change it.

Jeff produced this podcast for the NRDC Urban Solutions Program. Guests include Jeff Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard, Amanda Eaken of NRDC, and Chris Ganson of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. Hope you enjoy it.

Catch us on iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed. And we’ll see you on Twitter.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Uber and the Case of the Hidden Gas Tax

podcast icon logoUber is celebrating. DC passed an Uber-legalization law that Uber thinks cities the world over should follow. The problem is, most cities have much more tightly regulated taxi industries than DC, with a far higher cost of entry. In those cases, letting Uber get away with providing taxi services while complying with none of the rules is unfair. The taxi companies have been screaming about this for a while now. Uber’s response is something like, “Catch me if you can, old geezer.” DC’s contribution to that conversation strengthens Uber’s position.

In other news, a front group for the oil industry is trying to cause panic among California drivers about a “hidden gas tax” that’s going to hit come January. What they’re really talking about is California’s landmark cap-and-trade law to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which will start including transportation fuels at the beginning of the year. Jeff and I called up Melanie Curry of Streetsblog LA to explain to us a campaign that didn’t seem to really make any sense and she assured us that we’re not crazy; it really doesn’t make any sense.

Stay tuned; our election recap edition will be coming out shortly.

You can find this podcast on iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed, or wherever cool kids gather.


Southern California Road Agency Courts Bankruptcy With Highway Addition

California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it. Photo: Transportation Corridor Agencies via U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it. Photo: Transportation Corridor Agencies via U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

Today, U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group released a new report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.” In it, they examine 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now.

This week we’ve previewed the report with posts about the proposed Effingham Parkway in Savannah, Georgia and the harebrained scheme to widen I-240 through Asheville, North Carolina. Here we continue with an egregious example from the Golden State. 

Southern California’s toll road agency has proposed extending an existing toll highway that might eventually span inland Orange County and connect to Interstate 5. The number of cars on previous sections of the highway, however, have failed to meet projections. Also, the agency is already struggling to avoid default on its debts.

California 241 is one of several toll roads in Orange County built and operated by the legislature-created Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). California officials enabled the creation of toll roads in the area in the late 1980s amid both a shortage of state transportation funding and the perception of insatiable demand for more highways.

Traffic on California 241, however, hasn’t met official projections for a decade. In recent years — and especially since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 — driving on existing sections of California 241 has declined.

The TCA measures road use by counting the number of transactions conducted by toll payers on the combined Foothill/Eastern Toll Roads, which include not only Route 241 but also Routes 133 and 261. The TCA’s count shows fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal 2004. As indicated by the dotted trend line below, there were about 32 million fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than would have been expected if the trend from 2000 to 2006 had continued.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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California Has Officially Ditched Car-Centric ‘Level of Service’

Vehicle Miles Traveled in California has been on the decline for a couple of years. Changes in how the state manages transportation changes promise to drive it even lower. Photo: ## Traffic##

Vehicle Miles Traveled in California has been on the decline for a couple of years. Changes in how the state manages transportation changes promise to drive it even lower. Photo: Peak Traffic

Ding, dong…LOS is dead.

At least as far as the state of California is concerned.

California will no longer consider vehicle delay an "environmental impact." ##

California will no longer consider vehicle delay an “environmental impact.” pbo31.

Level of Service (LOS) has been the standard by which the state measures the transportation impacts of major developments and changes to roads. Level of Service is basically a measurement of how many cars can be pushed through an intersection in a given time. If a project reduced a road’s Level of Service it was considered bad — no matter how many other benefits the project might create.

Now, thanks to legislation passed last year and a yearlong effort by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), California will no longer consider “bad” LOS a problem that needs fixing under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) . This won’t just lead to good projects being approved more quickly and easily, but also to better mitigation measures for transportation impacts.

OPR today released a draft of its revised guidelines [PDF], proposing to substitute Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for LOS.

In short, instead of measuring whether or not a project makes it less convenient to drive, it will now measure whether or not a project contributes to other state goals, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing multimodal transportation, preserving open spaces, and promoting diverse land uses and infill development.

“This is exciting,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard. “Changing from LOS to VMT does away with a  contradiction that applicants currently face under CEQA. The contradiction between the state’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements and the transportation analysis requirements is no more.”

This revision in state law promises many positive changes. Read more…


Talking Headways Podcast: Good Riddance, “Level of Service”

All the buzz right now is about Arlington, Virginia — the DC suburb has seen its population rise and its car traffic drop since the 1980s. How did they do it? It could be a lesson for Palo Alto, California, which is considering various growth proposals, including one that would invite greater density as long as it comes with no additional driving, carbon emissions, or water use.

Denser, more transit-oriented development would be a big win for Palo Alto, but ironically, California’s environmental law has long penalized projects like that for diminishing “level of service” for vehicle traffic. A new basketball stadium came to the rescue, however, and the state is poised to dump level of service as a metric to evaluate transportation and development projects. That change could potentially slow down highways like “level of service” used to slow down smart growth and transit projects. It’s a whole new world.

Check it all out on Talking Headways. Talk at us in the comments, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or sign up for our RSS feed.