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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An End to LOS in Pasadena


November 4, 2014

 Members of Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition pose for a celebratory picture after the City Council voted unanimously to end the city's old car-centric LOS transportation metric. (Photo courtesy PasCSC)

 Members of Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition pose for a celebratory picture after the City Council voted unanimously to end the city’s old car-centric LOS transportation metric.

On November 3, Pasadena’s City Council voted unanimously to ditch the car-centric measure of mobility called “level of service,” or LOS.  The policy change was developed and proposed by the staff at Pasadena DOT and is a critical element of Pasadena’s efforts to become a more environmentally-friendly city by encouraging multi-modal transportation, and denser, mixed-use development downtown.  Pasadena’s local complete streets advocacy group, Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition (PasCSC), lobbied for this change as a necessary step in making the city’s streets safer and more user-friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users.  The state of California is currently reassessing LOS and working on its own statewide multimodal metric, but to my knowledge Pasadena is the first city in Southern California (though certainly not the last) to break from the old LOS standard.

For the policy wonks, LOS was developed by traffic engineers decades ago as a means of measuring the increased automobile traffic that often comes with the growth of cities.  It made sense in an era when cities were being redesigned around the automobile and it was assumed that everyone would—and should—drive.  It makes far less sense when cities are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, automobile pollution, and encourage alternative modes of personal mobility.  Providing for the convenience of automobile mobility as the only measure of transportation quality had the unintended consequence of creating what is known as “induced demand” as wider roads encouraged more driving, more driving begat more auto-centric development, which, under LOS, mandated wider roads, ad infinitum.

One of the downsides of LOS has been that it measured the transportation impact of property development and road use solely by its impact on automobile wait times at intersections.  Put another way, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users didn’t count, so their needs usually went unmet under the LOS rubric.  A short wait time for cars at an intersection would, for example, receive an ‘A’ grade, while a longer wait time for cars would receive lower grades.  Pedestrians who had a long wait at a traffic light and then a dash across the street to beat the short crossing signal were not counted under LOS.  A bus with 25 passengers counts as much as a single occupancy automobile under LOS.  A bike lane that might slightly reduce road capacity for automobiles would be D.O.A. under LOS, on the assumption that it might make drivers wait a few seconds longer at a stoplight, triggering a failing LOS grade.  Never mind that more people would be willing to leave their cars at home if they had safe, convenient alternatives, LOS meant drivers, and only drivers, counted.  Moreover, the widening of roads to achieve a good LOS score often resulted in unused road capacity during off-peak hours and has also been shown to induce higher automobile speeds and deadlier collisions.  The ‘S’ in LOS thus stood for service to motorists only, and reflected the domination of streets by cars in the late 20th century.  The new standard reflects the idea that cities should measure the movement of people, not just cars, when judging the impact of development.

The new standard uses a mix of Vehicle Trips (VT) generated, Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per capita, access to alternative modes (walking, biking, transit) of transportation, as well as LOS.  The new measure also provides that mitigation of the traffic impact of development can include funding for alternative modes of transportation, whereas previously a developer would be required to provide more parking or road-widening.  Pasadena DOT staff believe that the new measure provides a fuller picture of the multimodal reality of modern city mobility and give the city the flexibility to encourage multi modality, safety, and sustainability.

Pasadena still has a long way to go to achieve its complete streets vision, but it is gratifying to see the city take one more step toward that vision.

Local Ballot Results: The Good, the Bad, and the Highway Money Grabs


By Angie Schmitt, November 5, 2014

While last night’s election is looking like decisively bad news for transit in the Senate and in several statehouses, the results from local ballot initiatives are a little brighter. Here are the highlights that have Streetsblog Network members buzzing, as well as results from other referendums around the country.

Seattle transit will get a much-needed boost. Photo: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr
Seattle transit will get a much-needed boost. 


Seattle voters approved a ballot measure to shore up and expand transit service. After a regional vote earlier this year rejected new revenue measures to prevent massive service cuts, a new proposal was put to voters just in the city itself. The 0.1 percent sales tax hike and $60 car registration fee passed handily with 59 percent support, according to the Seattle Times. As many as 49 routes will see expanded services thanks to the $45 million infusion, the Times reports.

Seattle Transit Blog called it a victory for both the local political establishment and transit riders.

Clayton County, Georgia

The Atlanta region’s transit agency, MARTA, will see its first major expansion in 40 years after voters in Clayton County approved a new sales tax. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the 1 percent sales tax sailed to an easy victory. Clayton County, a lower-income suburban county, had been totally without transit service since a 2010 budget crisis. The ballot measure is expected to restore bus service as well as provide for commuter rail, which would be the first major expansion of MARTA’s rail system in a very long time.

Darin at ATL Urbanist says he expects the whole region to benefit:

Now, MARTA will operate in three counties and that system overall will benefit from an added revenue stream (the City of Atlanta also contributes sales tax to the system).
This new revenue is significant because MARTA is the only heavy-rail system in the country not funded by its home state government (a status not likely to change given the big Republican win in yesterday’s mid-term election).
Fairfax County

By a wide margin, voters in Fairfax County, Virginia, approved a transportation bond package full of good stuff. According to Network blog Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling:
The $100 million bond includes $77.5 million in pedestrian projects, $6.5 million in bike projects, and $16 million in spot road projects. The vote shows that Fairfax residents want safe walk and bike routes and they are willing to pay for them.

Austin voters struck down a ballot measure that would have provided $1 billion for light rail and another $400 million for roads, reports the local ABC affiliate. But the rail plan failed to win over many local transit advocates, some of whom actively campaigned against it. Carfree Austin wrote that the light rail route was poorly conceived and would fail to serve walkable development and draw sufficient riders. Following the 57-43 vote against the measure, advocates called for a new, better transit plan for the city, and passed around a petition asking the mayor to put forward smarter transit policies.
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Oakland and Alameda County

A half-cent sales tax hike cleared the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass in Alameda County, funding nearly $8 billion in transportation projects with most going toward transit, biking, and walking.

Pinellas County, Florida

A ballot measure to expand bus service significantly and add light rail in St. Petersburg, Florida went down hard, with 62 percent voting against it, according to the Tampa Bay Times. This clouds the prospects of other ballot measures to provide more transit options in the three-county region. In 2016, nearby Tampa will ask voters to support a transit expansion of similar scale, which would make a bigger difference combined with the Pinellas measure.

Apparently Pinellas voters weren’t ready for that type of change.

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Gainesville, Florida

Voters in Alachua County rejected a 1 percent sales tax to fund bus service, biking and walking infrastructure, and road repair.

Transportation Funding

In Texas, voters decided to raid the state’s rainy day fund to pay for roads, as the state continues to waste billions of dollars trying beat congestion by building highways. The measure will provide $1.7 billion.

Massachusetts repealed a 2013 measure that indexed its gas tax for inflation, which will mean less money for infrastructure.

Meanwhile, both Maryland and Wisconsin voters passed “lock box” amendments stating that transportation funds can only be spent on transportation. This was totally unnecessary in Wisconsin, which rather than shortchanging transportation has been raiding its general fund to pay for expensive road building.

How Transit Measures Fared on 2014 Midterm Ballots

It wasn't a great night, but it was far from a total loss.


By Eric Jaffe, November 5, 2014


The 2014 midterm elections are officially over, and the D.C.-based blog Greater Greater Washington summarized the results as a "bad night for Democrats and transit." The first half of that headline is unequivocally true: Republicans made gains across the political spectrum, at both the national and state levels. But it's far less clear that November 4, 2014, was a bad night for public transportation; in many respects it was just the opposite.

At the broadest level, it's fair to say that urban mobility didn't have the most encouraging day. In recent years, conservative transportation policy has been much more inclined to favor highways serving rural and outer suburban regions than alternative modes that boost balanced city networks, and the ascension of Republican governors in several states (namely Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland) could shift local priorities likewise. Meanwhile, high-speed rail opponents Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida also held their governor's seats, punctuating any last Obama hopes of a federal fast-train program.

But at the city and county level, where most transit initiatives occur, the midterms yielded a number of big victories, in keeping with the general success of transit ballot measures in recent years. The Center for Transportation Excellence, which tracks the fates of transit-friendly referenda, registered 17 wins to 9 losses—for a 65 percent success rate. (Five votes went uncounted.) And many of these positive outcomes occurred in states where Republicans made gains at the state or national level.

By far the biggest win of the day for transit occurred in Georgia, the state's election of a Republican governor notwithstanding. In a vote that currently stands at 74-26, Clayton County approved a one-cent sales tax to join the MARTA regional transit network. Clayton rejected a vote to join MARTA back in 1971 and has struggled to provide good mass transit ever since—the latest blow coming in 2010, when a funding shortage forced its local bus system to stop running. The new MARTA tax will reportedly generate roughly $45 million year, with half the money going toward a new bus service and the other half toward long-term commuter rail or BRT plans.

Transit got some good news in three other states where Republicans gained or kept the governor's seat. In Maryland, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment that blocks the governor from shifting money out of the transportation fund to a general fund (except for emergencies and with three-fifths legislative approval). In Wisconsin, a similar measure that requires transportation fees to go into a transportation fund also won big. While neither vote explicitly develops transit, both stabilize funding for long-term projects. And in Michigan, four localities adopted measures to secure dedicated transit funding (with one narrow loss).

California cities also took some steps toward stronger transit. San Francisco easily passed Measure A, a $500 million transit bond that will go toward a number of alternative transport improvements; the city also rejected a measure asking officials to shift planning priority toward cars. Alameda and Monterey counties passed transit measures—the former a full penny sales tax to fund $8 billion in transit upgrades over 30 years. San Bruno raised a building height restriction around a Caltrain station from 50 feet to 90 feet, which should encourage more transit-oriented development there.

The list of wins goes on. Rhode Islanders voted to let the state issue $35 million in bonds for enhancements to mass transit hubs. Seattle increased transit funding through a $60 car tab and a modest sales tax increase. Fairfax County, Virginia, easily approved a $100 million bond for pedestrian, bicycle, and road improvements in Tysons along the new Metro Silver Line—a ballot that CTFE didn't count as a win but that certainly seems like one for an area trying to transform itself from a car-first edge city into a transit-first livable one.

For sure, transit suffered local losses, and some bad ones at that. Alachua County and Gainesville, Florida, rejected a penny sales tax with a strong multi-modal component. Pinellas and Polk counties, in metro Tampa, also defeated a sales tax to improve regional transit in the form of improved bus service and a proposed light rail line through St. Petersburg. Wichita, desperately in need of dedicated transit funding, nevertheless voted down a ballot to use part of a local sales tax for bus service. Austin beat back an urban rail project, albeit one that many transit supporters also opposed.

The biggest loss of the day—and in many ways the vote with the widest potential impact—came in Massachusetts, where voters passed a measure (53-47 at last look) that repeals a 2013 law tying the gas tax to inflation. Federal and state gas taxes are still the primary funding sources for America's transportation projects, yet they have lost purchasing power for decades (in some cases) because lawmakers generally refuse to keep the tax in line with inflation, let alone raise it. The outcome here will only confirm official fears that touching the gas tax at all—even in the most rational possible way, even in a rather progressive state—is political poison. That's indeed a big defeat for transit, though it's arguably a bigger one for common sense.

Election 2014: Stephen Sham leading in Alhambra’s First District