Purpose

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

After tough audit, Metro moves to strengthen transit police oversight

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-transit-police-metro-sheriff-20140904-story.html

By Laura J. Nelson, September 4, 2014




Metro station
 Sheriff's deputies man the platform at the Hollywood and Highland Red Line Metro station.


Following a bruising audit that criticized the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for failing to reduce violent crime on Metro trains and buses, transportation officials Thursday proposed new regulations to tighten oversight of the lucrative policing contract.

 In a motion proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chairman of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, board members asked for several new Metro staff members who would keep tabs on key contract benchmarks, including fare evasion, system safety and response times. The board also asked Metro's inspector general, the internal agency watchdog, to audit the transit police contract every two years.

The audit, written by an outside firm and commissioned by Metro officials, also faulted the transit agency itself for weak oversight of the contract.

"We didn't hit some of the most basic things that are part of the contract," Garcetti said during a meeting at Metro's downtown headquarters. "We have failed on the oversight."

The push comes as officials weigh awarding a three-year security contract expected to cost about $400 million. The transit police agreement with the Sheriff's Department expires Dec. 31.

Sheriff's Department officials said they agree with the majority of the findings and are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.


Metro station

 Commuters wait for an eastbound train at the 7th St. Metro station.

  Auditors said transit police struggled to maintain a "felt presence" on Metro's sprawling transit system, which has more than 85 miles of commuter rail tracks, dozens of train stations and thousands of buses. Their blistering report found a host of management and safety problems over the last five years of contracted service, which has cost Metro more than $365 million.

Auditors also noted some improvement in recent months, including more fare checks and citations. The agency has also struggled to gauge how many passengers are riding for free.

The Sheriff's Department was tasked with reducing crime on the Metro system by 8% a year, but total reported assaults, robberies and other crimes increased 28% in 2012 and 8.5% in 2013, according to the audit. Over a four-year study period, aggravated assaults climbed 75% to 280 in 2013, while robberies increased 43% to 407, according to FBI statistics included in the study.

Deputies do not have a coordinated plan for policing the countywide bus and rail system, the audit found, and do not have a "felt presence" on transit and in stations. It also found that the department has no way to quickly route emergency calls to other law enforcement agencies when help is needed.
There are fewer than 100 sheriff's deputies patrolling the system at any given time of day, officials said during the Thursday board meeting.

Sheriff's Department response times appeared to meet Metro contract requirements, but paint a misleading picture, the auditors wrote. They said that's partly because the department begins tracking response time when a deputy is dispatched, not when a call for help is received.

"When I talk to customers about safety on Metro, they will not use your standard," board member Jacqueline Dupont-Walker told sheriff's officials. What matters to customers, she said, is that uniformed deputies arrive as soon as possible.

The Sheriff's Department has been Metro's lone law enforcement agency for more than a decade. The Los Angeles Police Department lost the contract in 2003.

4500 Americans are Killed Crossing the Street Each Year

http://everybodywalk.org/4500-americans-killed-crossing-street-year/

By Jay Walljasper, September 6, 2014


 shutterstock_71497639



More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America–more than those who died in the horror of 9/11.

A recent report from the National Complete Streets Coalition studying ten years of data found that 16 times more people were killed crossing the street than in natural disasters over the that same period. Another 68,000 walkers on average are injured every year. The victims are disproportionately children, seniors and people of color, according to the report.

This pedestrian safety crisis is even more dire internationally. More than 270,000 people are killed while walking every year–22 percent of a total 1.24 million traffic fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s like an airplane falling out of the sky every other day. If that actually happened, the whole system would be ground to a halt until the problem was fixed,” notes Scott Bricker, Executive Director of America Walks, a coalition of walking advocacy groups. “We need to address this terrible problem with the same urgency.”

“Where’s the moral outrage?” asks Katherine Kraft, America Walks’ Campaign Director and National Coalition Director of Every Body Walk!, a collaborative of citizens, businesses and organizations across many fields convened by the health care non-profit Kaiser Permanente.

Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths (and all traffic fatalities) are viewed as an inevitable side effect of modern life. “People accept this as normal, just as 100 years ago most people accepted that women could not vote,” observes Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, an international organization working to make streets safe for people of all ages.

Yet recent history offers genuine hope for making our streets safer. A generation ago domestic abuse and drunk driving were seen as sad, unalterable facts of human nature. But vigorous public campaigns to prevent these tragedies have shown remarkable results, offering clear evidence that destructive human behavior can be curbed when we put our minds to it.

Sweden Paves the Way for Zero Traffic Deaths 

 Campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape around the country from Philadelphia to Chicago to Oregon.

This new safety strategy, called Vision Zero, is modeled on successful efforts in Sweden, where overall traffic deaths have been cut in half since 2000–making Swedish streets the safest in the world according to a front page story in the New York Times. Pedestrian deaths in the country have also plunged 50 percent since 2009.

The Economist magazine reports that Sweden accomplished all this by emphasizing safety over speed in road design. The influential conservative newsweekly cites improved crosswalks, lowered urban speed limits, pedestrian zones, barriers separating cars from bikes and pedestrians, and narrowing streets for the impressive drop in traffic deaths.

Sweden takes a far different approach than conventional transportation planning, where “road users are held responsible for their own safety” according to the website Vision Zero Initiative. Swedish policy by contrast believes that to save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist and walker errors, “based on the simple fact that we are human and we make mistakes.” This is similar to the Netherlands’ policy of Forgiving Roads, which has reduced traffic fatalities by 75 percent since the 1970s, compared to less than a 20 percent reduction in the US over the same period.

Three US states that adopted aggressive measures to cut traffic deaths similar to Vision Zero–Utah, Minnesota and Washington–all have seen traffic fatalities decline by 40 percent or more, 25 percent better than the national average.

Streets of New York

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio won office last year on the promise of reducing traffic deaths in a city where someone is killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle every two hours on average.

“The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable,” he wrote in a letter to New Yorkers… “They happen to people who drive and to those who bike, but overwhelmingly, the deadly toll is highest for pedestrians–especially our children and seniors.” Traffic accidents are the largest preventable cause of death for children under 14 in New York, and the second highest source of fatal injuries for people over 65.

In May New York’s City Council passed 11 bills and six resolutions to implement de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan across many city departments, including:

-Increased police enforcement for speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians and dangerous driving;
-A campaign in the state legislature to allow the city to lower speed limits to 25 mph (and 20 mph on some streets), which passed in June;

-Safety improvements such as traffic calming, speed cameras, and “slow zones” on streets;
-Stricter scrutiny of taxi drivers’ safety records;

-Street safety curriculum in schools; and

-Creation of a permanent Vision Zero Task Force at City Hall.

One of New York’s biggest problems, according to walking and bike advocates, is that the police department focuses far more resources on street crime than on street safety, even though 356 people were killed in traffic accidents last year (half of them pedestrians and bicyclists), compared to 333 murders. Advocates cheered when de Blasio chose as his police chief William Bratton, who has spoken out about the need to curb traffic injuries and deaths. As New York’s police chief in the 1990s, Bratton’s “Zero Tolerance” policies were widely credited for the dramatic decrease of violent crime and advocates hope for the same with unsafe driving.

“It’s really impressive what Mayor de Blasio has done,” explains Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “He has put his money where his mouth is” by finding funding for street safety projects and increased police enforcement in an era of tight budgets.

Streets of San Francisco & Beyond

After New York, Vision Zero planning in the US is most advanced in San Francisco, which last year saw a near-record high of 25 pedestrian and bike fatalities. Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition recently launched the Vision Zero Coalition with the San Francisco School District and more than two dozen community organizations. Their mission is to encourage city officials to:
-Fix dangerous intersections and streets;

-Ensure “full and fair enforcement of traffic laws,” with an emphasis on curbing dangerous behavior;
-Invest in training and education for all road users, focusing on helping frequent drivers share the road with walkers and bicyclists;

-Eliminate all traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

“Vision Zero is about changing the culture of our dangerous streets….” Nicole Schneider of Walk San Francisco and Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicyle Coalition wrote recently. “Vision Zero is also about empowering historically underrepresented communities that are disproportionately burdened by traffic injuries and chronic disease.”

The plan has been already been endorsed by the San Francisco Police Department.

A number of local advocacy organizations around the country (New York’s Transportation Alternatives, Walk San Francisco, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Bike Pittsburgh, Oregon’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Oregon Walks) are working with the national Alliance for Biking and Walking to launch the Vision Zero Strategic Collaborative to push for these policies across the nation.

America’s Emerging Walking Revolution

America is on the verge of a walking revolution. After many decades in which walking continually lost ground to other modes of transportation and recreation, there’s growing interest across many fields about restoring walking as a way of life. A diverse network of organizations came together at the first-ever walking summit last year to champion walking as one solution to our health care crisis (one-half hour of walking each day reduces the risk of many major diseases), as a tool for strengthening our hometowns (people out walking heighten the sense of community and security), as a clear route to reducing climate change (more folks walking means less CO2 emissions) and as a boost for the economy (by lowering health care costs and stimulating local business districts).

Katherine Kraft warns, “We won’t increase walkability–which is good for people’s and comm
unities’ health–until we make the streets more safe and comfortable for walking.” Vision Zero, she says, is the path toward a better life for all of us.

“Everyone wants to live in a community that they can enjoy.” agrees Scott Bricker. “Where their children can grow up safely. Where we can all live, work and play without fear at any age. We have the public will to do this.”

How to Restore Walking as a Way of Life

The gravest danger to walkers as well as bicyclists and motorists is other motorists who drive dangerously. According to data collected by the New York City Department of Transportation from 2008-2012, “dangerous driver choices” contributes to pedestrian deaths in 70 percent of cases.
“Dangerous pedestrian choices” is responsible in 30 percent of cases and joint responsibility in 17 percent of cases.

As the old saying goes, speed kills. Two landmark studies, one from the US and one from the UK, found that pedestrians are killed:

-5 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 20 mph

-37-45 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 30 mph

-83-85 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 40 mph.

In light of these findings, it’s scary to realize that traffic on many if not most American roads travels closer to 40 mph than 20 mph.

“If we could do one switch to make safer streets it would be to reduce car speeds to 20 mph,” says Bricker, “which would reduce pedestrian fatalities by 90 percent.”

Many experts think it’s not as simple as changing the speed limits. Charlie Zegeer, project manager at the University of North Carolina’s authoritative Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) says, “Research shows that lowering a speed limit doesn’t work to slow traffic– it’s the roadway design that affects the speed.”

Here’s a few of practical steps to slow speeds, deter distracted driving and help make walking a safer, comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone. This is where Vision Zero hits the road.

Reduce the number of travel lanes on wide streets wherever possible. Downsizing four-lane suburban and urban streets to two travel lanes with an alternating turn lane in the middle has become a popular trend across the country. Not only does this create safer streets, it lessens noise for residents and creates an opportunity to add sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping. (This is known as a road diet, lane reduction or 2+1 road.)

Reduce the width of travel lanes. Wide lanes send an unmistakable message for drivers to speed up.

Reduce the length of crosswalks. A shorter walk across the street is a safer one. This can be done in a number of ways, but most commonly by extending the sidewalk out into the intersection. (This is known as a curb extension or bulb-out.)

Add medians in the middle of busy streets as a refuge for crossing pedestrians. This has been shown to reduce traffic accidents by 56 percent, according to Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities.
Make crosswalks more visible. Elevate them to curb level, or mark them with wide swaths of paint.
Give pedestrians a head start at traffic lights. Five seconds allows pedestrians to enter the crosswalk first and be far more visible to motorists, says Penalosa. Lining up waiting cars a few feet back from the intersection accomplishes the same thing.

–Ban right on red turns at busy intersections. Drivers, busy watching out for other cars, often don’t see pedestrians crossing the street on green lights.

Keep the turning radius 90 degrees at intersections. Rounded street corners encourages drivers to turn without stopping or looking for pedestrians.

–Install traffic circles, roundabouts, speed bumps, speed tables and other traffic calming devices, which help motorists drive safely and keep an eye out for pedestrians.

–Convert one-way streets to two-way, which encourages safer, slower driving.

Pay close attention to road designs at bus stops. Pedestrians often rush across the street to catch their bus, not paying attention to oncoming traffic.

Create pedestrian streets, bridges and underpasses in busy areas to minimize conflict with traffic and enhance the convenience of walking.

–Separate bike lanes on busy streets with curbs, posts or other physical dividers. Protected bike lanes create a more comfortable, enjoyable trip for pedestrians too.

Strict enforcement of laws against speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, drunk driving and reckless driving. Injuring or killing people with a car is no less tragic than doing it with a gun.

Install red light cameras and other of means photo enforcement. It’s expensive to station a police car at every unsafe intersection, but technology can nab lawbreakers at a fraction of the cost. Washington, DC now uses cameras to detect and fine drivers who do not yield right-of-way to pedestrians as well as those who speed or run red lights, says Charlie Zegeer of the Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center.

-Convert traffic lights to four-way stop signs at less busy intersections. Motorists rocketing through intersections to avoid a red light is one of the most common–and dangerous–causes of speeding.

Establish Safe Routes to Schools campaigns, which bring educators, parents, neighbors and kids themselves together to find safe, satisfying ways for students to walk and bike to school.

Training programs about pedestrian safety for traffic engineers, transportation planners, police, city officials, citizens and children. “All the kids in the Netherlands have three weeks instruction in the rules of the road at school,” notes Penalosa. “They role play being pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.”

–Put Pedestrians First. “Every city should have a by-law of one sentence stating: “In this city, pedestrians come first,” declares Penalosa. “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during the day, even if you are just walking from your parking space. So everyone has a stake in Vision Zero.”

“These pedestrian improvements also improve motorists’ and biyclists’ safety,” Zegeer adds. “It’s a win-win-win. Everyone’s safer.”

How three little letters can make such a big difference: LOS, meet VMT.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aeaken/how_three_little_letters_can_m.html

By Amanda Easken, September 2, 2014



I think it’s important to remember—as we slap each other on the back about this year’s legislative victories—that getting a bill passed is just the beginning of making change happen. Fortunately, we have some great progress to report on one of the bills that made it through in the waning hours of last year’s legislative session—a bill that could fundamentally change the way we think about development and traffic in California.


As I’ve written in the past, the crux of this issue comes down to three little letters: L.O.S.  It stands for Level of Service, which is essentially just a measure of how much a project will slow down cars, and it’s the way the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has evaluated new projects for decades. Until now.


Last year the Legislature—in their infinite wisdom—decided that in fact, in California in the year 2014, transportation is about a whole lot more than moving cars quickly. In fact we have much more important goals, and volumes have been written about the deep flaws of the LOS paradigm: it makes road widening look good for the environment, discourages infill, encourages traffic engineers to remove pedestrian crosswalks and slows transit projects. Through Senate Bill 743, they directed the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to kick Level of Service (LOS) to the curb, and find a replacement that can better help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create transportation choices.


So here’s the good news: they’ve done it. OPR has just released their draft guidelines recommending Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as the much more appropriate metric. Let’s think about this for a second. Under the old system, a proposed bike lane had to analyze its transportation impacts and if it was found to slow down cars (by, say substituting a bike lane for a car lane) then our environmental statute would have said let’s either not build this project, or pay a lot of money to find some other way to speed up cars. Pretty backwards, eh? Considering the whole point of bike lanes is to encourage one of the cleanest, healthiest and most sustainable ways of getting around we know. Now, instead, the same project would be asked a simple question: will this project result in any more vehicle miles of travel? Even a four year old can figure this one out. NO! Abundantly clear that the answer is no. So these bike projects—not to mention transit projects, safe pedestrian crosswalks, and other livable communities projects—will get built faster, cheaper, with less headache. We all win.


We love OPR’s proposed new metric because it just makes sense. It’s worth pointing out that California is the first state in the nation to try to tackle the insidious LOS problem and OPR should be praised for setting the precedent. Comments are due October 10th, and we feel that certain elements of their draft guidelines need revision—such as the proposed threshold and which types of projects are presumed to be less than significant—and we will blog again with more information on these details.


But we can’t forget the bigger picture: we and a whole host of other livable, sustainable communities advocates have wanted to see the end of LOS for decades, and we say it’s about time. RIP LOS.

When Adding Bike Lanes Actually Reduces Traffic Delays

In New York, smart street design helped the city have its safety and its speed, too.

http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2014/09/when-adding-bike-lanes-actually-reduces-traffic-delays/379623/

By Eric Jaffe, September 5, 2014


 Image

 A big reason for opposition to bike lanes is that, according to the rules of traffic engineering, they lead to car congestion. The metric determining this outcome (known as "level of service") is quite complicated, but its underlying logic is simple: less road space for automobiles means more delay at intersections. Progressive cities have pushed back against this conventional belief—California, in particular, has led the charge against level of service—but it remains an obstacle to bike lanes (and multi-modal streets more broadly) across the country.

But the general wisdom doesn't tell the whole story here. On the contrary, smart street design can eliminate many of the traffic problems anticipated by alternative mode elements like bike lanes. A new report on protected bike lanes released by the New York City Department of Transportation offers a great example of how rider safety can be increased even while car speed is maintained.
To see what we mean, let's take a look at the bike lanes installed on Columbus Avenue from 96th to 77th streets in 2010-2011. As the diagram below shows, the avenue originally had five lanes—three for traffic, one for parking, and one parking-morning rush hybrid. By narrowing the lane widths, the city was able to maintain all five lanes while still squeezing in a protected bike lane and a buffer area.

NYC DOT

Rather than increase delay for cars, the protected bike lanes on Columbus actually improved travel times in the corridor. According to city figures, the average car took about four-and-a-half minutes to go from 96th to 77th before the bike lanes were installed, and three minutes afterward—a 35 percent decrease in travel time. This was true even as total vehicle volume on the road remained pretty consistent. In simpler terms, everybody wins.

Over on Eighth Avenue, where bike lanes were installed in 2008 and 2009, the street configuration was slightly different but the traffic outcome was the same. Originally, the avenue carried four travel lanes, one parking lane, one parking-rush hybrid, and an unprotected bike lane. Again, by narrowing the lanes, all five were preserved (though the hybrid became a parking lane) even as riders gained additional protection.

NYC DOT

After the changes, traffic continued to flow. DOT figures show a 14 percent overall decline in daytime travel times in the corridor from 23rd to 34th streets once the protected bike lanes were installed. That quicker ride was consistent throughout the day: travel time decreased during morning peak (13 percent), midday (21 percent), and evening peak (13 percent) alike. To repeat: a street that became safer for bikes remained just as swift for cars.

So what happened here to overcome the traditional idea that bike lanes lead to car delay? No doubt many factors were involved, but a DOT spokesperson tells CityLab that the steady traffic flow was largely the result of adding left-turn pockets. In the old street configurations, cars turned left from a general traffic lane; in the new one, they merged into a left-turn slot beside the protected bike lane (below, an example from 8th and 23rd). This design has two key advantages: first, traffic doesn't have to slow down until the left turn is complete, and second, drivers have an easier time seeing bike riders coming up beside them.

For good measure, let's also look at mobility on First Avenue, where protected bike lanes were added up to 34th Street in 2010. The design of First Avenue was dramatically altered. What was previously five travel lanes and two parking lanes for cars became three travel lanes, two parking lanes, a bus lane, and a protected bike lane—a significantly more balanced travel network.

NYC DOT

Despite all the changes, travel speeds remained just about the same as they had been before. Average daytime taxi speeds dropped maybe one mile per hour after the reconfiguration, according to DOT figures. But that minuscule delay was likely countered by an overall rise in mobility: bicycle volume increased 160 percent, for instance, in addition to whatever transit gains the bus enhancement provided.

So we see an example, in the busiest city in America, of smart street design improving travel for everyone. That's not to suggest you can jam unlimited new modes onto a given street and still have everything move well. But it does show that just because a city values travel alternatives over car-centric engineering doesn't mean that city's traffic has to come to a halt.

GRID Logistics Inc.

From Sylvia Plummer, September 5, 2014

This message is from Rick Risemberg, GRID Logistics Inc:

As many of you know, I have spent the last four years working working with a diverse team of innovators on an advanced harbor freight handling project, one whose ultimate goal is to put as many cargo containers as possible onto railroad trains for transport—including our own patent-pending all-electric underground shuttle train for local deliveries here in Los Angeles. Most of this freight now goes onto trucks that dominate freeways, jam surface streets, pollute the air, depress public health (especially in poorer communities), and wreak havoc on the roads. GRID would be a big step to the cleaner, healthier, more human-scaled, and more prosperous world that we all dream of.

GRID is entered in a competition for one of ten LA2050 grants of $100,000 each. This grant would let us concentrate on funding the CSUN feasibility study we need to convince venture capitalists that GRID would provide a good return on their investments, and so let us move towards actual design and construction. Details on how the grant would help, and on GRID itself, are on our project page at LA2050's GOOD.is website, where you and your friends can vote for GRID to be one of the ten grant winners. Simply go to the URL below and place your vote! It's easy and quick, and could kickstart the future of Southern California by helping GRID move that much closer to becoming a reality. (It does require creating an account, but LA2050 has nothing to sell and will not spam you.)

http://myla2050live.maker.good.is/projects/GRID

Or: http://tinyurl.com/LA2050GRID

Votes are accepted only till September 16th, so visit the link today and make your mark for GRID, then tell your friends and colleagues!

If you'd like to keep up on news about GRID, please consider signing on to our mailing list, which you can do on the GRID website at:

http://www.gridinc.biz/contact/

Thanks again for your help!

Rick Risemberg and the Team at GRID Logistics Inc.
--
Richard Risemberg
http://www.bicyclefixation.com
http://www.SustainableCityNews.com
http://gridlogisticsinc.com
http://www.rickrise.com