To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Trucks and Cities Are Like Oil and Water. Is There a Solution?


By Tanya Snyder, January 9, 2014

 This freight truck killed 73-year-old pedestrian Ngozi Agbim in Brooklyn this June. Photo: Daily News via ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/06/25/ngozi-agbim-73-killed-by-truck-driver-at-crash-prone-brooklyn-intersection/##Streetsblog NYC##

 This freight truck killed 73-year-old pedestrian Ngozi Agbim in Brooklyn this June.

About 350 pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are killed each year by large trucks in this country. Big freight trucks are incompatible with cities in many ways, bringing danger, pollution, noise, and traffic congestion. They park in bike lanes and have shockingly big blind spots, putting everyone around them at risk. And yet, most cities haven’t found a way to reconcile the need to move goods with all their other priorities.

Meanwhile, as more and more cities prioritize walkability and bike-friendliness, they often neglect the task of reconfiguring freight logistics.

As part of the MAP-21 transportation bill, U.S. DOT convened a Freight Advisory Committee to help inform the creation of a national strategic plan for freight transportation. One of the advisory panel’s six subcommittees focuses on the first mile/last mile problem, but even that one subcommittee is reportedly more concerned with port access than delivery issues at the destination. The interplay between urban freight transportation and smart growth is far from a core focus of the committee.

It should be a top priority for urbanists and complete streets advocates, though. If we don’t help cities plan for freight movement, what we’ll get is unplanned freight movement, and all the chaos that comes with it. About 80 percent of freight in cities is delivered by trucks, and those trucks pose a significant threat to livability.

Loading and unloading slows traffic and takes up street space. When businesses do have dedicated loading docks, they reduce available space for the business and for the pedestrian activity that enlivens urban spaces. Then there’s noise pollution, air pollution, and safety concerns.

And yet, our cities run on the goods these hulking trucks deliver — and the garbage they take away. (Yes, trash pick-up is a freight question too.)

Suburbs are paradise for freight companies. Density is high enough that they can fill their trucks to the brim but low enough that roads are big and wide and parking lots stretch to the horizon.

Destinations are close enough together that trucks can make multiple deliveries, and distribution warehouses tend to be located in suburbs.
How density impacts freight efficiency. Image courtesy of Genevieve Giuliano
How density impacts freight efficiency. 

But according to Genevieve Giuliano, a member of the national Freight Advisory Committee and the nation’s top expert on urban goods movement, everything there is to love about cities is everything that makes freight movement hard. Land values are high. Everybody’s fighting for scarce street space. Big trucks can’t fit around all the tight corners. Stores have a smaller footprint, and less storage space means more frequent deliveries. And the distribution center is 40 miles away.

“Smart growth is all about moving up that curve to become more dense,” said Giuliano. “And the more you move up the curve to become more dense, the more all of these challenges will kick in. And in smart growth, nobody ever thinks about freight.”

That sentiment is echoed by SUNY-Buffalo Professor Qian Wang, who is presiding over an urban freight session at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting next week, in which dozens of researchers will present their work on the issue.

“Now researchers are talking about how to add freight and the trucking industry into the big picture,” Wang said, “so that the ‘smart’ is not just smart for the community, but also for the truck and the freight.

FedEx and UPS notoriously pay cities millions a year in parking tickets, considering it a necessary cost of doing business. Often, rather than pay each individual ticket, they negotiate a lump sum with the city, removing the incentive for drivers to park legally.

The fact is those cities have never come up with a realistic plan for how to supply the stores, restaurants, and offices that make them tick. So double-parking has, essentially, become a foundation of our nation’s unsustainable freight strategy.

Giuliano — a member of a federally-convened national committee on freight, mind you — isn’t so convinced that any of this is really a federal issue. There’s a lot cities can’t control when it comes to freight — the fact that you eat out every day instead of subsisting purely off your rooftop garden, for example, resulting in the need to stock restaurants with all your favorite imported beers and off-season produce. But cities can control some things, and Giuliano says they should probably be the ones taking leadership here.

It’s unlikely a single city street will be designated part of the official, 27,000-mile national freight network that U.S. DOT is also currently tasked with coming up with — after all, there are 47,000 miles of interstate vying for the title — but cities can designate their streets as truck routes.

Delivery bikes like these aren't such a far-fetched solution to urban freight woes, but they do increase labor costs. Photo: ##http://teachabletravel.com/nicetown-a-new-nickname-for-portland-oregon/##Teachable Travel##
Delivery bikes like these aren’t such a far-fetched solution to urban freight woes, but they do increase labor costs.

Unfortunately, many cities haven’t done a great job of establishing truck routes, and there’s little to no public data about where trucks go once they leave the port, so there’s not much to work with. But Wang says freight companies have excellent data on the movement of their trucks; they just don’t share it readily with academics or city planners.

Giuliano said truck route enforcement in many cities is quite robust, and truckers are far more sensitive to moving violations than parking violations. But as Wang notes, every mode is jockeying for space on “truck routes” too.

Cities can also work freight into their building codes. New York City has mandated that developers have to plan for onsite loading facilities as part of their design. And there are other creative ways some researchers have come up with for managing freight in dense communities:
  • Smaller trucks. Large trucks can shift their loads onto smaller trucks for urban deliveries. That means more trucks but smaller ones, which can also be electric, reducing some of the negative impacts on the city. It also means more time, labor and cost for trucking companies. I asked Giuliano if unions had been a part of the conversation, and she said that most local delivery companies aren’t unionized. Where you have unions, she said, is the receiver side, making the following idea challenging:
  • Off-peak delivery times. Though this can create noise pollution in residential areas in the dead of night, bringing trucks into the city during low-congestion times makes a lot of sense. However, as Giuliano said, that means someone either needs to be at the store (getting paid time-and-a-half during a time there’s usually no one on the clock) to receive the shipment, or they need to trust the distributor that everything will go perfectly without supervision. Variable road pricing, more expensive at peak times, also helps to incentivize trucking companies to delivery at off-hours but doesn’t do anything to entice the receivers.
  • Load consolidation. It can be hard for competing suppliers to cooperate, but when they group their goods together on one truck, it can make for fewer trips — though it can also make for bigger trucks.
  • Cargo bikes! The European Union has a project to study ways to move freight to modes with fewer negative externalities than trucking. The project, called Cycle Logistics, has estimated that 42 percent of urban freight could go on bikes instead of trucks. A Boston-area company, Metro Pedal Power, uses pedal-trucks to haul up to 500 pounds of localized freight. Again, it’s a lot of load-shifting and a whole lot more labor costs, but wow — I want to live in the city that has 42 percent of its freight delivered by bike. At the very least, you’d have some ripped delivery men.
Giuliano is skeptical that bikes can take over such a high percentage of truck freight, but she allows that it’s not impossible. “In Tokyo, the truck comes in and it parks. And then a bunch of people hand deliver or bike deliver from that point.” It’s a lot of loading and unloading and a lot higher labor costs. “If that’s the price of a more pleasant environment and cleaner air, then it’s a good bargain, right?”

Let’s Take A Ride: 5 Largest US Public Transit Systems [Inforgraphic]


By Chasity Cooper, January 7, 2014

Five major US cities including Chicago, New York City, Boston, Washington, DC, and San Francisco have the largest, most extensive public transit systems in the country. To gain a better understanding of the history and scope of each city and its public transportation system, MPA@UNC, the online mpa degree, has created a visualization to show how millions of Americans travel daily via mass transit—Let’s Take a Ride: 5 Largest US Public Transit Systems.


LAX Needs to Reduce Pollution, Says Councilman Bonin

A recent air pollution study, conducted as part of a 2006 settlement agreement involving LAX, found higher levels of ultrafine particles in communities near the airport than in other urban areas.


By Liz Spear, January 8, 2014

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin called Wednesday for a report on efforts taken to reduce pollution from jet fuel and ground vehicle emissions experienced in communities near Los Angeles International Airport.

A recent air pollution study, conducted as part of a 2006 settlement agreement involving LAX, found higher levels of ultrafine particles in communities near the airport than in other urban areas, Bonin said in a council motion introduced Thursday.

The extremely tiny particles from airport activity carry toxins into the lungs that later become lodged in tissue or absorbed into the bloodstream, according to his motion.

Exposure to such particles is linked to heart and respiratory disease, according to research by the Southern California Particle Center at UCLA, according to Bonin's motion.

The LAX Air Quality and Source Apportionment Study was conducted by Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX and other airports.

"LAX should not only be a world-class airport, but also a first-class neighbor," Bonin said. "The results of LAWA's recent air quality study are crucial to people living in communities near LAX, as well as the traveling public, and we need to be better informed about the possible health impacts caused by pollution from this potentially dangerous form of jet emissions."

Residents in communities such as Playa del Rey, Westchester, El Segundo and Lennox are concerned that the particles could negatively impact them where they "live, work and play," the motion reads.
"People are justifiably concerned about how this air pollution affects the health of their families," Bonin said. "The health and safety of our neighborhoods must come first."

Bonin wants LAWA staff to report to the City Council on the study and offer an "overview of environmental mitigation efforts" involving the ultrafine particles.

Highway 99 tunnel: What’s being done to get Bertha unstuck


January 7, 2014

Objects encountered by the SR 99 tunneling machine

That’s one of three photos WSDOT shared late today along with an update on what’s being done to figure out how to get “Bertha,” the Highway 99 tunnel machine, going again, one month after it got stuck. The update says the steel and boulder are some of the items that passed through Bertha and onto its conveyor belt before it stopped moving forward in early December; this section of pipe was removed, too. They still aren’t sure the widely reported pipe is the whole problem. So they’re drilling to continue investigating, as you might have noticed to the west what’s left of the Alaskan Way Viaduct:

SR 99 tunnel crews drilling to look for obstruction

Read the entire update here. What this will cost in terms of time and money has not yet been determined, since they say they don’t know yet what it’ll take to get tunneling back on track, but KIRO TV quotes the state Transportation Director as suggesting the tunnel contractor could be held responsible for not clearing the way first.


The Challenge of Selling Bike-Share in a Hilly City


By Feargus O'Sullivan, January 9, 2014

 The Challenge of Selling Bike-Share in a Hilly City

Cycle regularly in Lisbon and you'll end up with buns of steel. Beyond a very compact central grid, streets in Portugal's capital are notoriously steep. Winding up hillsides and down into unexpected dips, the charming irregularity of these streets requires cyclists to navigate narrow lanes and bone-shaking cobbled surfaces.

It's not cyclists alone who suffer from this, of course. The trams navigating some Lisbon streets can feel like fairground rides, while pedestrians find the many (and sometimes stepped) slopes tough enough that the city has resorted to public elevators and several funiculars to help them. In a city with this sort of topography – Lisbon isn't likened to San Francisco for nothing – getting a bike-share scheme off the ground isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Lisbon from atop a hilll.(left); One of Lisbon's elevator shafts. 

It’s a task that Lisbon is taking on nonetheless. This April, the city will launch its first bike-share scheme, starting off with a smallish network that adapts itself to local conditions. Staying away from the city's inland slopes for now, the stations (run by a private company) for the initial 300 bikes will all be situated along the Tagus riverfront, between the railway station and the landing stage beyond the monastery at Belem. Not only does this keep routes manageable (and following a trail that many tourists already cover), it profits from the cycle paths laid out along the spruced up waterfront.

Lisbon's future bike-share plans do stretch beyond this modest beginning. More bike lanes are already being laid out, and the scheme plans to lay out signposted routes through the city that allow riders to tackle the lowest gradients possible. The ultimate idea is to extend the current waterfront routes and stations far beyond the city, over 19 miles along the Tagus round a nose-like headland on the Atlantic to the surfing beach at Guincho. With an accompanying extension in the opposite direction towards Lisbon's bay, this would create a regional bike-share, as much use for getaways and long distance commuting as for reducing vehicular traffic in the city core.


Simply getting bikes visible on the street is an important start, of course. The number of regular cyclists in Lisbon is relatively low, so the scheme is also an advertisement for cycling itself. Lisbon’s hills may mean it never becomes a second Amsterdam, but these ambitious plans show that a city doesn’t need to be as flat as a pancake to make cycling feasible.

Peggy Drouet: You may be thinking that the bridge in the above photo looks much like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Its name is the Ponte 25 de Abril and it was designed by the same company that built the Golden Gate Bridge and it was built to look like the one in San Francisco. One of my photos of the Ponte 25 de Abril (named after the date the dictator Salazar was overthrown--25 April 1974):

San Francisco Is Going to Charge the Google Bus to Use Its Bus Stops


By Emily Badger, January 8, 2014

 San Francisco Is Going to Charge the Google Bus to Use Its Bus Stops
a protest in San Francisco in December

Earlier this week, the city of San Francisco reached a detente with the Silicon Valley tech firms whose private buses have become a major source of traffic and civic discord. For several years, companies like Google and Apple have been running what amounts to a parallel private transportation network – with much nicer amenities – from the heart of the city to their far-flung campuses, often using public bus stops in the process. And the congestion has only grown worse as protesters have descended on the buses as a symbol of the mixed blessings of a new tech boom.

Now, under an 18-month pilot agreement, the tech companies and shuttle operators will have to acquire – and pay for – permits to use some designated public Muni bus stops (the busiest stops won't be available to them). And the shuttles will be required to yield to Muni buses while they're there. The city has said the average permit will likely cost each company around $100,000 per year, a figure that will surely prompt more dispute over what constitutes a "fair share" for private use of public infrastructure.

Nancy Scola describes the rest of the details over at The Shared City:
Beyond that, there’s a bid in the plan to identify buses according to which company is responsible for running them — despite the moniker, not all the shuttles belong to Google. The city, [Mayor Ed] Lee said, will also get data from the companies that it can use in future planning, a point of contention that has emerged again and again in debates over quasi-public, quasi-private transportation. (Uber’s fight to operate in Washington D.C., for example.) The city will also share that data back with shuttle bus operators.
Part of the public fascination (or scorn) with these buses has stemmed from their opaque nature. Even the city admits that it's had a hard time keeping tabs on exactly how many shuttles are operating, how many people they carry, and where their routes run. The private network has also been the source of much rogue mapping.

San Francisco will now no doubt get a better sense of the extent of this private transportation system. And then maybe we'll be able to better judge the net impact of these buses in taking private cars off the region's roads, while enabling so many people to live so far from their jobs (or, rather, enabling companies to locate so far from their desired workers).
In the meantime, Google is already at work on its next foray into commuter services: It's reportedly launching a ferry shuttle.


After years of progress, is Southland air still making us sick? 


By Ilsa Setziol, January 3, 2014


If you’ve lived in the Pasadena area long enough, you remember those summers when you couldn’t see the San Gabriel Mountains for days on end. From those mountains, you’d look out on a brown pall of 
pollution shrouding the L.A. basin. 

The skies are clearer and cleaner now: The number of unhealthy air days in Southern California has been cut in half since 1976. And there hasn’t been a smog alert in over a decade. “We have done miraculous things through cleaner cars, better fuels, cracking down on refineries,” says Joe Lyou, who heads the nonprofit Coalition for Clean Air. The progress comes despite the region’s topography and growing population, both conducive to smog.

But — cough, cough — many of us are still breathing bad air, and changing that will require even greater efforts to clean up the way we live, commute and do business in Southern California. The metropolitan L.A./Riverside/San Bernardino area continues to have the nation’s most severe air pollution problem (tied with the San Joaquin Valley). In 2012, the region exceeded federal health standards for ozone on 111 days. The state estimates that, every year, Southland smog — primarily ozone and particulates — causes 5,000 people to die prematurely, shortening some lives by as much as a decade. The monetary cost in lost lives, hospitalizations, lost workdays, etc., is estimated at a hefty $14.6 billion. 

Part of our predicament is that the more public health officials study air pollution, the more health impacts they find, often at lower levels of exposure. “So the standards have gotten tougher over time,” says Lyou, also Governor Brown’s appointee to the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), a local regulatory agency. “The goalposts have been moved.” 

The Pasadena area fares better than spots further inland or near the ports, racking up fewer than 20 bad ozone days a year — down from about 100 in the early 1990s. But if you’re unlucky enough to live, work or go to school near a freeway, you could be breathing unhealthy air day in, day out. (It’s not certain how far one must be from a freeway to be considered safe, but California recommends that residences and businesses maintain at least a 500-foot buffer.) And just a few smoggy days can be dangerous — even deadly — for sensitive people, according to Dr. Daryl Banta, medical director of Pulmonary and Respiratory Services at Huntington Hospital. “I see it quite frequently,” he says. “When the air quality is bad, a lot of patients come to my office for coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing.” Some, he says, are even sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. A number of studies, including USC’s long-term Children’s Health Study, have found that children who live in highly polluted areas are more likely to become asthmatic, especially if they exercise outdoors frequently. The USC study also revealed that kids living in the most polluted parts of Southern California had lower lung capacity than kids breathing cleaner air.

Another concern, according to Dr. Banta, is the possible link between particulate pollution — a mixture of microscopic solid particles and liquid droplets — and an increased risk for stroke, heart disease and possibly even lung cancer. “The lungs provide some form of defense from air pollutants,” he says, “but not 100 percent. Some particles will penetrate deep into the lungs, causing dangerous irritation and inflammation.” Other studies have correlated air pollution with birth defects and low birth weight. Dr. Banta adds that even people with no history of asthma or chronic bronchitis can experience respiratory problems on polluted days, including heightened vulnerability to cold and flu viruses.

For Southern Californians to breathe easy, nearly every source of air pollution must get cleaner, experts say. “We need to think about a virtually-zero-emission society,” says Sam Atwood, spokesman for the AQMD, adding that this would involve “transportation and all other sources of pollution being virtually zero emission.” 

Regulators hope rules and incentives in the works will ensure the region meets the current ozone standard within a decade, and a forthcoming, more stringent ozone standard by 2032. (The area is expected to meet the particulate standard in two years.) 

The road to clean air, though, will be steep and congested. To hit the ozone target, Atwood says the region will have to reduce some pollutants by an additional 80 percent, although the agency acknowledges in its 2012 Air Quality Management Plan that some of the measures and technologies for that task have yet to be developed. 

The AQMD has been tightening the screws on local industry for years, and state regulators have cleaned up car emissions considerably. But Southern California is bedeviled by sources of pollution it can’t directly regulate: chiefly, the diesel-spewing goods-movement industry. “You look at the fact that more than 40 percent of all the goods imported into the U.S. from anywhere come through the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, and it starts to sink in why it’s important that ships, trains and trucks be as clean as possible,” Atwood says. And pollution from goods movement (transportation of retail products from manufacturing site to point of sale) doesn’t just linger in communities near the ports and the 710 freeway — it also blows inland, contributing to smog in the San Gabriel Valley.

So far, federal rules for trucks and trains and international regulations on ships have fallen far short of what’s needed, according to clean-air experts. That’s left state and local regulators picking up the slack however they can. California now requires ships visiting state ports to burn cleaner fuel within about 200 miles of its shores. AQMD is paying businesses for diesel engine upgrades and helping to bring clean technologies to market. The agency recently allocated $18.7 million of state funds to retrofit or repower 172 diesel engines — trucks, construction equipment, small marine vessels — with cleaner technology. Also in the pipeline: a possible 710 freeway lane designated just for clean trucks, and a pilot program retrofitting trucks so they can tap into overhead electric lines when near ports. “We don’t have the luxury of allowing any source of pollution to go uncontrolled,” says Lyou. “If we can’t do transportation and land-use decisions properly, if we can’t get people in clean cars, we’re never going to attain federal ozone standards.” 

Despite the popularity of the Toyota Prius, cars are projected to be the region’s fourth-largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) this year, emitting 35 tons a day. “Angelenos need to do everything they can,” says Lyou. “[We] have to drive the cleanest cars, we have to make electrons available for charging our cars.” To free up space on the electric grid, he says, we need to invest in energy efficiency at home, as well as in home solar systems.  

One man doing his part is South Pasadena City Councilman Michael Cacciotti, the San Gabriel Valley’s representative on the AQMD board. When not driving his electric car, you can find him riding the Metro Gold Line or biking to the gym. Five years ago, he launched a bike-to-work day. “Now every two weeks, people who work with me, we bike to work,” he says. Cacciotti also traded in his gas-powered lawn mower for a clean and quiet electric model. It doesn’t get much use these days, though, as he’s converted his yard to drought-tolerant native plants. That cuts down on water and all the energy (i.e., pollution) it takes to transport water from far away. A remodel of his house employed paint that is low in smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “You will pay a premium,” he says, “but you won’t be inhaling those fumes, which we know cause respiratory problems.” 

If Southern California fails to meet clean air standards, the federal government could impose sanctions — withhold highway funds, say, or require “no-drive” days. But for Lyou, whose son has asthma, that’s not the most important reason to take action. “You have to clean up the air so children have a chance to live long and healthful lives,” he says. “They have a right to breathe clean air.” 

For hourly updates of Southland air quality, visit AQMD.gov.

Why Pedestrians Sometimes Do “Stupid” Things


By Angie Schmitt, January 9, 2014

People are often blamed for doing “stupid” things while walking, like “darting out in front of cars.” Why would anyone “dart” in front of a moving vehicle? Seems strange. But that’s the way it could seem, if you’re driving past pedestrian crossings at high speeds.

When road conditions are very hostile to pedestrians, self-preservation might encourage them to behave in unorthodox ways. Image: ##http://www.pps.org/blog/wider-straighter-faster-roads-arent-always-safer/## Project for Public Spaces##
When road conditions are hostile for walking, pedestrians have no choice but to take some risks.

Nathan at Carfree With Kids explains how poor street conditions for walking can lead to situations where people have no choice but to do something that looks risky. Citing his experience crossing a street in Providence, Rhode Island, on his daily commute, he shows how pedestrians’ behavior could be misunderstood by people behind the wheel:
Cars on these busy four-lane roads are not expecting pedestrians. They are moving quickly (I’d guess the average speed when traffic is moving well is 45 miles per hour). Even if one car sees you waiting to cross and stops, granting you right-of-way, cars coming behind will honk at that car and whip around in the next lane. I’ve gotten to the point in navigating these crossings, where I will stand on the sidewalk, 8-10 feet back from the intersection, avoiding eye contact with drivers so that none will be tempted to stop for me, because I know for certain other drivers will not stop. My safety, and likely the safety of the considerate driver who may be rear-ended, will be compromised if I too aggressively attempt to cross at these crosswalks.

So I stand there, averting my eyes, waiting for a clear gap in traffic across all four lanes. I’ve learned that that gap eventually comes, but at rush hour in the early evening, sometimes I have to wait a long time (multiple minutes, far longer than any vaguely reasonable light cycle). I’m often tempted to overestimate my ability to cross safely.

I do wait. I do cross safely. But I’ve seen multiple near misses at these intersections. And in these near misses, I’m certain that the driver was surprised and shocked by how “stupid” the pedestrian was who crossed in front of them. But every pedestrian I’ve seen in this situation (a) had the right of way (we were in a crosswalk!) and (b) had attempted to cross safely in an extremely difficult situation.
Elsewhere on the Network today: The Green Lane Project says bike-share is contagious — after a city opens a system, nearby cities tend to follow. Urban Indy reports that clearing the Cultural Trail of snow in Indianapolis is a duty the city takes seriously. And Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage reflects on bike advocacy’s progress in Alaska’s largest city after a cyclist was killed.

Silver Lining to the U.S. DOT Shakeup: Barbara McCann Joins the Team


By Tanya Snyder, January 8, 2014

The loss of Polly Trottenberg and John Porcari from U.S. DOT was a blow for livability advocates. But into the void has slipped Barbara McCann, an architect of the Complete Streets movement. McCann starts Monday as the new director of the Office of Safety, Energy and Environment in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

Barbara McCann, shown here talking to former Sec. Ray LaHood, starts work at U.S. DOT on Monday. Photo: ##http://www.bmccann.net/##McCann Consulting##
Barbara McCann, shown here talking to former Sec. Ray LaHood, starts work at U.S. DOT on Monday.

“That’s a mouthful,” she said in an email to colleagues, “but I’ll be responsible for overseeing the Department’s strategic planning process and will help set Departmental policies, plans and guidelines relating to safety and environmental sustainability (and much more).”

McCann helped popularize the term “complete streets” while working at America Bikes in 2003, and with several other organizations, started the National Complete Streets Coalition in 2005. She left the coalition in June 2012 to write a book about building political and community support for complete streets. The book, Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks, came out this fall. The new job at DOT will cut short her book promotion efforts, but the Coalition — now officially a program of Smart Growth America — will continue to use it.

There are now well over 500 complete streets policies in states, cities and towns around the United States. While these policies don’t translate into better walking, biking and transit overnight, they commit planners and transportation officials to at least consider non-motorized modes when engineering a street.

Transportation reformers and smart growth advocates can look forward to seeing a very friendly face when dealing with the Office of the Secretary at DOT. Let’s hope all of their hiring decisions during this upheaval are as wise as this one!

Consensus Builds for Complete Streets as Metro Plans County-Wide Policy


By Damien Newton, January 9, 2014

This video is pretty impressive in that it features over half of the Metro Board basically repeating Complete Streets talking points. You can find the rest of the materials from the meeting here.

At their Board Meeting this June, Metro will pass a Complete Streets policy in accordance with state law. While the first official hearings won’t be held until later this year, the process was unofficially kicked off yesterday, with the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative Complete Streets Meeting held just north of Union Station, at the California Endowment.

The meeting was not just a choir-preaching session comprised of the usual suspects.

Packed to overflow capacity, the room held staffers from a number of local advocacy groups, including TRUST South L.A., Pacoima Beautiful, and Community Health Councils. The very Metro staff that will work on the Complete Streets policy were also in attendance. In addition, three Metro Board Members, Glendale City Council Member Ara Najarian, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, and Mayoral Appointee Jackie Dupont-Walker, were joined by staff from the offices of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Metro Board Chair Diane Dubois.

By the time the conference was over, nearly everyone was in agreement that a forceful Complete Streets policy — one with both teeth and incentives — is needed in L.A. County.
“It appears we do have significant cities in the county which don’t have Complete Streets policies. We need to find ways to encourage those communities to come up with Complete Streets policies very quickly,” said Dupont-Walker in a phone interview following the meeting. ”We want policies that don’t just penalize those that don’t comply, but ones that provide incentives for those that do.”
In this, L.A. County is somewhat behind in the game.

Most counties have already passed their laws in line with the Complete Streets Act of 2008, which requires all municipalities, counties, and regional governments to institute policies ensuring that transportation agencies design (or retrofit) roadways to accommodate all users. Such streets should have wide sidewalks, marked lane crossings for pedestrians, bicycle markings, and appropriate speed limits to support anyone that wants to use the street, not just those that wish to drive on it. 

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Even as the ink from the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing pen was drying, Dave Snyder, the Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition, warned that the effort to bring Complete Streets designs to California wasn’t over. As always, the devil would be in the details.

But, with meetings to solicit public feedback in the works for February and April (dates TBD), Metro is now taking the lead in creating the L.A. County program.

Better known as the region’s largest transit agency, Metro is also the state-designated Regional Transportation Planning Agency. As such, it is Metro’s job to help regional cities come into compliance with state law on Complete Streets.

“LACBC is excited to see Metro step into its natural role as a transportation policy leader for Los Angeles County,” writes Eric Bruins, the Planning & Policy Director for the Bicycle Coalition. ”Walking and biking are implemented locally, but there’s still a need for strong support, coordination, and funding at the county level to help cities build good projects. This policy will help Metro catch up with Caltrans, SCAG, and cities that are already doing Complete Streets, while setting an inclusive vision for L.A. County’s transportation system.”

Metro will replace and refurbish scores of aging Blue Line cars


By Laura J. Nelson, January 8, 2014

 Metro Blue Line

 Refurbished Metro train cars like this one are part of Metro's planned multi-year, $1.2-billion overhaul for the Blue Line.

As part of a multi-year upgrade to the aging Metro Blue Line, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority will spend more than $850 million to purchase 78 train cars and renovate 52 more, officials said Wednesday.

The Blue Line, which connects Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles, has been plagued by maintenance-related delays for years as Metro put off costly repairs.

The $1.2-billion investment, including replacing train cars and worn overhead power lines, will erase a $391-million maintenance backlog over the next six years, spokesman Marc Littman said.

"The Blue Line is, today, indispensable," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves as the vice chair on the Metro Board of Directors. He added that the "long overdue" repairs would make the system safer and more convenient.

A refurbished train car shown to the news media Wednesday looked noticeably different from its predecessors, which are white with a mustard-colored stripe. The new trains will be mostly gray with bright yellow fronts and backs. The highly reflective design is based on a popular look in the United Kingdom, and is designed to make the trains more visible.

The trains are being built in Los Angeles County by Kinkisharyo International, and will be shared between the Blue and Expo lines. The new designs will be introduced into the fleet as they are finished, Metro said.

Also included in the retrofit: more canopies to shade riders from the sun and LCD displays showing when the next train will arrive.

The agency will also spend nearly $13 million to replace overhead power lines, which flatten over time, causing shortages and outages. In September, an arm holding a Blue Line overhead wire damaged the cable, causing a power outage. The agency has also replaced 19 power substations.

Metro has invested millions in gates intended to keep back cars and pedestrians at some of the Blue Line's busiest rail crossings. The agency will install swinging gates for the line's at-grade stations, many of which have few barriers between pedestrians and oncoming trains.

Since 1990, nearly 120 people have died on the Blue Line -- more than all other Los Angeles lines combined.

The dollar amount allotted for Blue Line repairs represents only part of a $1.7-billion maintenance backlog across the entire rail and bus network, according to Metro's 2014 budget.