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, August 7, 2014

In Singapore, Senior Citizens Can Now Stop Traffic

As the county joins the ranks of "super-aged" nations, its new Green Man Plus program is using tech to give older pedestrians extra time to cross busy streets.


By Michael Silverberg, August 7, 2014


Since Roman times, cities have struggled over how to get pedestrians across the street safely. The current default for large intersections in most parts of the world is a traffic light that operates at fixed intervals, accompanied by buttons that sometimes do nothing at all. But as a recent UK study (pdf) found, many elderly people can’t cross in the allotted time. As a result, they are more likely than younger pedestrians to avoid busy intersections, and more likely to die or get hurt while crossing the street.

In Singapore, where the median age (pdf, page 7) has doubled from 19.5 years to 38.9 years since 1970, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has tried to give elderly and disabled pedestrians the extra time they need. In 2009, the LTA started a small pilot program at five intersections called Green Man Plus. Singaporeans who are over 60 or have disabilities can apply for a special version of the LTA fare card used on trains and buses. Swiping the card at a sensor at the intersections gives them an extra 3 to 13 seconds to walk across, depending on the size of the crossing. Lights, beeps, and a vibration signal that the request been accepted. Here’s a video of the system in action:

By now, the LTA has added almost 250 Green Man Plus crossings around the city. It’s in the middle of expanding the program island-wide, with a planned total of 495 crossings by the end of 2015. The agency chooses spots where a lot of elderly people live, and where “the impact on traffic is manageable,” Sarah Lua, a spokeswoman for the LTA, tells Quartz. She adds that the agency has received “numerous requests” to extend the program to new intersections. And with the ranks of “super-aged” countries rapidly growing, it’s a model that other cities might do well to consider.

$11 Billion Later, High-Speed Rail Is Inching Along


California's slow ride to new transit


By Ethan N. Elkind, August 6, 2014

 With BART, other transit systems and highways jammed throughout the state, Californians must demand faster action to improve transportation infrastructure. Photo: Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle

 With BART, other transit systems and highways jammed throughout the state, Californians must demand faster action to improve transportation infrastructure.

Traffic is crushing, buses and BART train passengers are packed in like sardines, and California's airports and planes are jammed. We're told relief is on the way, from new rapid-bus and rail-transit lines to high-speed rail. But unless "decades from now" is your idea of right around the corner, Californians have to exercise extreme patience waiting through the interminable planning and construction processes associated with major new transit projects.

In almost every area of life, productivity has increased: We get more done better, faster and cheaper than those who came before us. But when it comes to infrastructure projects, despite all the advanced technology, we seem to be rivaling ancient pyramid builders - without the free labor.

What explains the delays and cost increases? Certainly some of it is better safety standards, higher prices for real-estate acquisitions and construction materials, and more advanced construction equipment. But ultimately these public infrastructure projects, from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to Boston's Big Dig, too often seem to get mired in complacent public-sector management and oversight. Developer campaign contributions can shadow the awards process with conflicts of interest, and good project management often seems lacking.

But even before the construction phase, planning for these badly needed mobility projects can take years with little ultimate benefit. Voters in San Francisco approved the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit line in 2003, but the plan didn't receive final approval until late 2013 because of lengthy and counterproductive environmental review. It's now scheduled to open in 2018.

This situation should not be acceptable to Californians. While we want to ensure careful transit planning with proper community input, safety and cost-effectiveness, the multiyear processes are unnecessary and counterproductive. We must accelerate high-priority transit projects, which are vital for our economic competitiveness, quality of life, and environment.

To put transit back in the fast lane, Californians should insist that our leaders:

Engage in strict oversight of construction management and awards and ensure no conflicts of interest due to construction-firm campaign contributions, possibly through the creation of more independent construction authorities.

Reform state laws to reduce litigation over environmental review of transit projects.

Allow local agencies to prioritize transit infrastructure over automobile traffic without requiring expensive new planning studies.

California's infrastructure and mobility crisis is too central to our lives and economy to ignore. The steps outlined above could help, provided that residents pay attention and demand action. Ultimately, the state will still need to increase spending on transit, such as by enabling more local funding measures by reducing voter approval from two-thirds to 55 percent. But we can certainly do more with the resources we have, and Californians should demand no less.

Case in point

In 1925, Los Angeles opened a downtown subway tunnel (four-fifths of a mile long). After just one year of planning, construction took 18 months at a cost of $3.5 million ($47.4 million in today's dollars). In 2014, after four years of study, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimated it would cost over $1.427 billion to build a similar 1.9-miledowntown "regional connector." At $751 million per mile, it's almost a 13-fold price increase from the 1925 project. And the 23.75 months per mile construction rate became 40 months in 2014.

How to speed up public transit projects: Get the public involved, UCLA report says


By Molly Peterson, August 6, 2014

Public transit project are taking longer to plan, approve and build. That’s according to a new report out this week from UCLA.

Almost a century ago, it took about two years to plan and construct a mile of a transit project in California. Now, even with modern construction techniques, it takes twice as long to go that mile, says Ethan Elkind, who directs the Climate Change and Business Program at the UC Berkeley and UCLA law schools.

He pins the blame for the delays on over-planning, underfunding and regulations that bog down projects. Elkind urges Southern California commuters to demand answers about slow transit projects from public agencies and public officials.

“After the Northridge quake in Los Angeles, when part of the 10 Freeway collapsed, that was brought back up right away — it was way ahead of schedule because there was so much public scrutiny,” Elkind said.

Elkind also favors lowering the threshold for voter initiatives that fund transit projects, from two-thirds to 55 percent — but that’s harder than it might sound. It would require amending California’s constitution.

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


By Damien Newton and Melanie Curry, August 7, 2014

 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: ##http://www.peaktraffic.org/graphics/vmt-california.jpg##Peak 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.

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." ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/pbo31/122200686/##pbo31##.
California will no longer consider vehicle delay an “environmental impact.”

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.
Late yesterday, OPR 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.

Under the previous CEQA regs, the transportation mitigation for a development such as this would have been sprawl-inducing road widenings. Image:##http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/67469#.U-OVrI1dUs0##Arch Paper##
Under the previous CEQA regulations, this kind of sprawl was much easier to build than compact, people-friendly places.

The most obvious one is that sponsors of projects that aim to reduce car dependency will no longer have to spend time and money measuring their potential to delay cars. VMT is easier and faster to estimate, and it produces a measure of a project’s effect on overall travel, rather than just focusing on delay caused to cars at certain intersections.

In an extreme example of LOS wreaking havoc, a lawsuit in 2009 forced San Francisco to spend more money studying the traffic impacts of its bike plan than it will take to completely implement it.
Such a study will no longer be necessary.

But perhaps a larger change will be what kind of development the law now encourages. When the state measured transportation impacts of a project based on car delay, it was fighting against its own environmental goals. Using LOS, it was easier and cheaper to build projects in outlying areas where individual intersections would show less delay resulting from new development. At the same time it was much harder and more expensive to build in dense areas where there was already a lot of traffic, and where measured LOS impacts would require expensive mitigations or reduced project size — but also where higher density would make transit, walking, and bicycling more viable transportation choices.

Now, projects that are shown to decrease vehicle miles traveled — for example, bike lanes or pedestrian paths, or  a grocery store that allows local residents to travel shorter distances to shop — may be automatically considered to have a “less than significant” impact under CEQA.

Another change will come in how developments mitigate their transportation impacts. In many urban areas, under LOS analysis the only way a development could lessen its impact would be to slim the sidewalk and widen the roadway. This was particularly frustrating along major bus routes or near rail transit stations, or anywhere bicyclists wanted to travel safely.

Under the new rules, the hypothetical development would instead be able to mitigate transportation impacts by funding better transit, creating better access to transit, building better pedestrian facilities, or a host of other improvements that would actually improve travel choices.

The change in law does not require individual cities and local governments to change the way they analyze traffic impacts for other purposes, although some cities have already been working on more creative analysis than LOS.

While the change from LOS to VMT is clearly a good one in many respects, many of the state’s most progressive transportation leaders hope this is just the first step towards more progressive transportation planning in the state. In her confirmation hearings, incoming Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds argued that when projects are analyzed, they should be scored on their value in creating a stronger community by providing better housing, cleaner air, more transportation options, or something else.

Tumlin agrees. “Ultimately, what we need is a process and tool to help us imagine what a better California would look like and what we would need to move toward that vision,” he said. “Even with these improvements, CEQA can’t do that.”

The proposed guidance must still go through a formal rulemaking process, which may involve further revisions. OPR welcomes public comments on the draft. Send them by 5 p.m., October 10, to: CEQA.guidelines@ceres.ca.gov.