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Posts from the "San Francisco" Category

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Parking Madness: Portland vs. El Cerrito, California

The contenders in today’s Parking Madness competition prove parking craters can happen anywhere, even in progressive metro areas where the regional economy is booming and transit is a solid travel option.

This face-off to get one step closer to the Golden Crater pits Portland, Oregon, against El Cerrito, California.

First let’s take a look at bike-friendly Portland:

portland

Minus 50 points for proximity to a MAX light rail station.

Reader Byron Palmer submitted this photo, which shows where the Morrison Bridge — one of Portland’s most heavily used — empties into the city. The heavy traffic and highway-like design depress land values and lead to low-value uses like surface parking. Who would want to have lunch, or take a walk, in that area?

“Part of the problem,” adds Palmer, “is that for many owners it is cheaper to tear down the building and have parking than to pay taxes, and they are waiting for the economy to improve before selling.”

Our next contender is El Cerrito, California, a San Francisco suburb located north of Berkeley.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Hug This Streetcar

Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire (now working with NRDC’s crack transportation team) and I talk to Randy Simes in this week’s podcast about the streetcar movement in Cincinnati — and how they finally grabbed the long-elusive gold ring.

Then Randy stayed with us to discuss the false choice between transit that’s useful and transit that’s fun and beautiful. And we analyze an architect’s proposal to expand BART’s capacity by building a second tube under the San Francisco Bay.

Image: ##http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/2nd-BART-tube-under-the-bay-would-serve-region-5236682.php##SF Gate##

This fantasy map is only tepidly endorsed by Jeff Wood, fantasy mapper extraordinaire. Image: SF Chronicle

You can subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes — and please give us a listener review while you’re at it.

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Four Reasons Cities Can’t Afford Not to Invest in Bike Infrastructure

Guadalupe Street in Austin. Image: ###http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/these-15-stories-show-exactly-how-great-bikeways-help-local-economies## People for Bikes##

Guadalupe Street in Austin. Photo: People for Bikes

It isn’t window dressing. Or a “hip cities” thing. Bike infrastructure — not the watered-down stuff, but high-quality bikeways that get more people on bikes — is becoming a must-have for cities around the U.S.

That’s according to a new report from Bikes Belong and the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Researchers at these groups interviewed 15 business leaders from around the country about what impact bike facilities are having on their bottom line.

Here are the four main takeaways.

1. Bikeways make places more valuable

David Baker, founder and principal at David Baker + Partners Architects, is a huge proponent of the protected bike lane near his Second Street offices in San Francisco. It’s crucial for keeping his employees safe on the way to work, he said. He also admitted liking it for “selfish” reasons.

“I own the office. I know that if we have protected bike lanes out there, it will improve my property value,” Baker told researchers.

There’s data to back up this claim. A 2006 study found that in Minneapolis, median home values rose $510 for every quarter-mile they were located closer to an off-street bikeways. In Washington, D.C., 85 percent of nearby residents say the 15th Street bike lane is a valuable community asset.

2. Bikeways help companies attract talent

Founders of the Portland-based advertising start-up Pollinate used the firm’s location in central Portland, and the nearby bikeways, to attract and build its team. About two-thirds of the company’s employees bike commute at least occasionally.

Bike infrastructure “used to be a perk,” said Ben Waldron, co-founder. “Now it seems like it’s a right.”

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Talking Headways Podcast: Get Off My Lawn

Jeff Wood and I talk about the news of the week that most tickled us or burned us — the BBC’s exposé of anti-social urban design features intended to repel people, San Francisco’s social tensions over the Google bus, and the decision by Cincinnati’s new mayor and City Council to “pause” construction of the streetcar. (Update: The streetcar might be salvaged!)

Meanwhile, I wax nostalgic for public space in Havana and Jeff laments slow progress on San Francisco’s Geary Boulevard BRT.

You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes. And participate in the conversation by commenting here.

This will be our last podcast of 2013. Have a Happy New Year and we’ll see you in January!

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In California Cities, Drivers Want More Bike Lanes. Here’s Why.

Whenever street space is allocated for bicycling, someone will inevitably level the accusation that the city is waging a “war on cars.” But it turns out the people in those cars want separate space for bicycles too, according to surveys conducted in two major California metropolitan areas. Bike lanes make everyone feel safer — even drivers.

Far from constituting a war on cars, protected bike lanes are a big relief for drivers. Streetsblog SF

Rebecca Sanders is a doctoral candidate in transportation planning and urban design at the University of California-Berkeley. She’s spent a lot of time asking people — drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians — what kinds of street treatments would make them feel safer, giving them a list of safety improvements to choose from. Most drivers said their top priority was bike lanes. (In the Los Angeles area, the top choice was for improved pedestrian crossings, but bike lanes were a close second.)

Sanders began this research with Jill Cooper of Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, under the sponsorship of the state department of transportation (Caltrans). They interviewed drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists on major corridors in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles, asking drivers why they picked the mode they did, and asking everyone how they perceived safety issues, especially for biking. Then they asked what kinds of street treatments would make the street safer for them.

“What was interesting about that study was that in the San Francisco Bay Area, the most requested item, across the board, was a bicycle lane on the corridor,” Sanders told Streetsblog. “It was the most requested item by drivers, it was the most requested item by pedestrians, and it was the most requested item by bicyclists. That was quite surprising to us.”

It’s no shock that cyclists asked for dedicated street space in overwhelming numbers, and it stands to reason that pedestrians want bicycles off the sidewalk. Perhaps it should be just as obvious that drivers would welcome dedicated bike infrastructure, too. They find that bike lanes help them be aware of cyclists and make cyclists’ behavior more predictable, according to Sanders’ research. In general, there’s less potential for conflict between drivers and cyclists when they each have their own space.

“We have not done a good job of recognizing and validating the concerns of drivers about predictability,” Sanders said. “For a long time, cyclists have been defensive; they’ve been fighting for space, and legitimately so. But in the process, some areas where we could really work together, I think, have fallen to the wayside. Everybody wants predictability on the roadway. Nobody wants to feel like they’re going to get hit or hit someone else and it’s going to be beyond their control.”

The results of Sanders’ San Francisco-area research are due to be published soon in the Transportation Research Record and are available now on the Berkeley website. Meanwhile, Sanders has continued to look into drivers’ attitudes toward bike lanes, making it the topic of her (as yet unpublished) dissertation. She has conducted focus groups and internet surveys to shed light on what drivers and cyclists need to feel safe.

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Study: Homes Near Transit Were Insulated From the Housing Crash

Percent change in average residential sales prices relative to the region, 2006-11. Image: APTA and NAR

If you live close to a transit station, chances are you’ve weathered the recession better than your friends who don’t.

Your transportation costs are probably lower, since you can take transit instead of driving. Transit-served areas are usually more walkable and bikeable too, multiplying your options. And while home values plummeted during a recession that was triggered by a massive housing bubble, your home probably held its value relatively well – if you live near transit.

The National Association of Realtors and the American Public Transportation Association commissioned the Center for Neighborhood Technology to study the impact of transit access on home values during the recession. For the report, “The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation” [PDF], CNT looked at five metro regions — Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and San Francisco.

While nearly everyone in hard-hit cities experienced some setback from tanking housing prices, transit-served areas were largely insulated from the worst of it, CNT found:

Across the study regions, the transit shed outperformed the region as a whole by 41.6 percent. In all of the regions the drop in average residential sales prices within the transit shed was smaller than in the region as a whole or the non-transit area. Boston station areas outperformed the region the most (129 percent), followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul (48 percent), San Francisco and Phoenix (37 percent), and Chicago (30 percent).

This is consistent with a study released last year by the Center for Housing Policy showing that access to rail transit created a “transit premium” for nearby home values of between six and 50 percent. That study, like CNT’s, looked at Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as Portland. The Center for Transit Oriented Development has also looked at this phenomenon and found transit premiums as high as 150 percent.

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Poll: The Hunt for the Worst Intersection in America Continues

Earlier this week we looked at the intersection of Route 355 and Shady Grove Road near Rockville, Maryland, flagged by Ben Ross at Greater Greater Washington for being especially hostile to pedestrians, even though it’s the site of a bus stop. We asked if it might be the worst intersection in the country and put out a call for readers to send their nominations for the title.

As some readers pointed out, the Rockville intersection at least has sidewalks on all four corners and some refuges for pedestrians caught mid-crossing, so it certainly can’t be nation’s worst. Several other submissions landed in our inbox where the engineers let the sheer car-centricity of the roads overwhelm the meager provisions for pedestrians even more.

Wouldn’t you know it: We received three nominations from Florida, which Transportation for America has singled out as the most dangerous state for pedestrians. One reader sent us this stunner: State Route 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington, Florida. From this satellite picture, it looks like a walk around this intersection would cross 45 lanes, plus — is that a bike lane? Wouldn’t want to be in the middle of that on a Cannondale:

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NACTO Wrap-Up: Cities Are Doing It For Themselves

Five city transportation chiefs -- Phildelphia's Rina Cutler, Chicago's Gabe Klein, NYC's Janette Sadik-Khan, San Francisco's Ed Reiskin, and Boston's Tom Tinlin -- shared their perspectives today on how cities have innovated by necessity.

The leaders of the nation’s big city transportation agencies have formed a tight-knit circle, brought together by the National Association of City Transportation Officials to share best practices, and yes, battle scars.

As NACTO’s first ever national conference drew to a close Friday, transportation chiefs from Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago and New York all talked about the progress their cities have made and shared their frustration at the lack of attention to cities and transportation in the state and national political arenas.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg set the tone by blasting the state government in his introductory remarks. “Our economy is dependent on transportation,” he said. “But our state refused to give us money for a new subway line, so we said ‘screw you’ and took city taxpayer money to extend a subway line.”

NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan put it even more starkly. She said that instead of the old New Yorker cartoon, a New Yorker’s view of the world, in which the map falls off dramatically after the Hudson River, “Washington’s view of the world is made up of Iowa, Ohio and lots of highways. And some dollar signs on the map where New York and Los Angeles are.”

Despite the lack of attention from Congress and the presidential contenders, Sadik-Khan explained that transportation innovations at the city level can cumulatively affect the nation’s economy, echoing the previous day’s plenary speaker Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution. “You’ve got two-thirds of Americans living in top 100 metropolitans areas, where three-quarters of US GDP is generated,” Sadik-Khan said. “Yet there is no mention of cities in presidential debates.” Added San Francisco Municipal Transportation Commissioner Ed Reiskin, “There was no mention at all of transportation in any of the debates.”

Given the progress that cities across the country are making on transportation reform, the question arises: How much more can cities do without the active support of Washington and state governments?

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The Best Amateur Music Videos in Support of Active Transportation

Transit and bike activists are creative folks. More and more young, car-eschewing millennials are making their case in amateur music videos. The result is funnier and more imaginative than anything you’ll find on basic cable.

Check out this one from the University of Michigan. Production value, casting, script — this video is almost too good. Extra points for creative use of puppets and originality in drawing on the tradition of the Broadway musical:

More than Broadway, however, the active transportation advocacy music video genre tends to draw its inspiration from hip hop. Who could forget this Legoman rap video promoting center-running light rail for Detroit? This was also produced by some wildly talented folks at the University of Michigan.

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Portland Back on Top in Bicycling Magazine’s City Rankings

Minneapolis versus Portland: This is shaping up to be quite a rivalry.

Portland rules in Bicycling Magazine's 2012 bike-friendly city rankings. Photo: Bike Portland

Today, Pacific coast sustainability standard bearer Portland topped Midwestern standout Minneapolis in Bicycling Magazine’s bike-friendly city rankings, bi-annual source of bragging rights or shame, depending on your locale.

The top-two results were a reversal of the 2010 rankings. Bicycling Magazine did not explain what boosted Portland but did mention the city’s stature as the only large city to receive the League of American Bicyclists’ “Platinum-Level” Bike Friendly City Award, as well as its tendency to be the earliest of early adopters when it comes to innovations like bike boxes (Portland had the nation’s first).

Meanwhile, Minneapolis recently snagged national bragging rights with its Bike Score — the new bikeability scoring system that the creators of Walk Score unveiled last week.

Overall, big cities enjoy a growing prominence in Bicycling’s top ten, reflecting a trend in bike-friendly political leadership in America’s major metropolises.

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