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

Monday, December 7, 2015

This Week in Livable Streets


By Joe Linton, December 7, 2015

Lots to see and do this week! We are really excited about ULI’s Transit Oriented Los Angeles conference this Thursday morning – follow @StreetsblogLA for live tweeting from it!
  • Monday 12/7 – Metro is holding a round public workshops on its Active Transportation Strategic Plan. There’s a meeting tonight 4 to 6 p.m. at the Norwalk Community Meeting Center at 13200 Clarkdale Avenue in Norwalk. For additional details see workshop flier [PDF], project summary [PDF]. Pre-registration is recommended via Metro website.
  • Tuesday 12/8 – Metro is holding a round public workshops on its Active Transportation Strategic Plan, with a meeting Tuesday 4 to 6 p.m. at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center at 3330 Civic Center Drive in Torrance. For additional details see workshop flier [PDF], project summary [PDF]. Pre-registration is recommended via Metro website.
  • Tuesday 12/8 – The Culver City Bicycle Coalition hosts its final monthly meeting of the year – from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pieology Pizzeria at 3850 Main St, in Culver City. Details at Facebook event.
  • Wednesday 12/8 – Metro is holding a round of public workshops on its Active Transportation Strategic Plan, with a meeting Wednesday 4 to 6 p.m. at the at Julia McNeill Senior Center, 4100 Baldwin Park Boulevard in Baldwin Park. For additional details see workshop flier [PDF], project summary [PDF]. Pre-registration is recommended via Metro website.
  • Wednesday 12/9 – This week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee takes place at 1 p.m. at Room 1010 of Los Angeles City Hall. There’s nothing earth-shattering on the agenda, but the committee will discuss the Metro 7th Station tunnel to The Bloc, and some specific oversize vehicle restrictions and preferential parking districts. For more details see agenda [PDF].
  • Wednesday 12/9 –  Latino Urban Forum presents a panel discussion Latina Urbanism Shaping, Enhancing and Preserving the Community with panelists Carmen Argote, Adonia Lugo and Isela Gracian. The free event takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at El Pueblo America Tropical Interpretive Center at 125 Paseo de La Plaza, in downtown Los Angeles. Details at Facebook event.
  • ULI's Transit-Oriented L.A. conference takes place this Thursday
    ULI’s Transit-Oriented L.A. conference takes place this Thursday

    Thursday 12/10 – The Urban Land Institute hosts its Transit Oriented Los Angeles conference from 7 a.m. until 12 noon at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. Speakers include Phil Washington and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Registration is $90, with discounts for nonprofits and students. For more details and to register, go to ULI.
  • Thursday 12/10 – Join the East Side Riders and other bike clubs as they host a mini bike show at the Watts Winter Wonderland Festival to illustrate the diversity of bikes, clubs, and riders in the area. The event runs from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on 103rd St., between Compton Avenue and Success Street. Details at Facebook event.
  • Thursday 12/10 – Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson will hold a listening session to discuss ideas with community members about what to do with potential community assets like vacant lots. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. 239 W. 86th Place in South L.A. Details, here.
  • Thursday 12/10 – The Transit Coalition hosts a dinner to learn about High-Speed Rail, featuring Michelle Boehm, the Southern California Regional Director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The dinner takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the conference room at Metro Headquarters behind Union Station. Tickets are $25, includes dinner, and attendees must purchase in advance via Eventbrite.
  • Friday 12/11 – Westside Urban Forum hosts a breakfast panel on L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035, featurning FAST, Investing in Place, and Fix the City. The sparks will fly at 7 a.m. at The Olympic Collection at 11301 Olympic Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Tickets are $55, with discounts for students and members – early registration deadline is Wednesday 12/9. More details at Westside Urban Forum.
  • Friday 12/11 – Celebrate the Triforium’s 40th birthday from 4 to 9 p.m. at Temple and Main in downtown L.A. Details at Facebook event.
  • Friday 12/11 – Support Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) at their  Turnt Up fundraiser starting at 6:30 p.m. at Self-Help Graphics, at 1300 E. First Street in Boyle Heights. There are easy bike parking and a convenient Gold Line stop. It is only a $25 suggested donation but you’ll want to give even more! Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/12 – Want to do a 20-mile walking tour of pedestrian overcrossings? Partial versions available, too. Meet at 7:30 a.m. at East L.A. Civic Center. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/12 – Take a walking tour of Boyle Heights with James Rojas! The “Lady Of Guadalupe and Jane Jacobs’ tour of the Flats” meets at 10 a.m. at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/12 – Southern California Transit Advocates host their free monthly meeting at 1 p.m. at Angelus Plaza (4th floor) at 255 S. Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles. The guest speaker will be Jerard Wright, co-chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee, outgoing Chair of Metro’s Citizens’ Advisory Council, and a Policy Analyst with Move L.A.
  • Saturday 12/12 – Various feeder rides converge for Midnight Ridazz All City Toy Ride! Start times and locations at Midnight Ridazz.
  • Sunday 12/13 – take a deep breath, walk, rest, relax, garden, walk again.
  • Next week: Metro keeps on hosting Active Transportation Strategic Plan workshops: Monday 12/14 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Roy A. Anderson Recreation Center, 3980 Bill Robertson Lane in Exposition Park in South L.A. and Tuesday 12/15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Santa Clarita Activities Center at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita. For additional details see workshop flier [PDF], project summary [PDF]. Pre-registration is recommended via Metro website.

What the New Federal Highway Act Means for U.S. Cities

There’s a little good, a little bad, and a whole lot of the same.


By Eric Jaffe, December 7, 2015

Image AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

It’s official—America’s new five-year, $305-billion transportation bill, dubbed the FAST act, became law on Friday with President Obama’s signature. The passage of long-term legislation amid the general gridlock of the current Congress is certainly a form of progress in its own right. But far less clear, as experts and advocates wade through the 1,300-page tome, is whether or not U.S. cities made out well in the deal.

The good news is there are some bright points for local governments. The brightest involves new flexibility on city street design. In the past, metro area planners had to follow the design standards used by state planners, particularly for projects that involved federal funding. If a city wanted to narrow the lanes of a particular road from 12 to 10 feet, for instance, it often could only do so with the state’s blessing.

The FAST bill flips that design script. Moving forward, for federally funded projects where city officials are taking the lead, planners will be able to use a street manual that differs from the state’s official road design publication, provided that manual is approved by the Federal Highway Administration. This theoretically frees cities from the conventions of car-first street standards and lets them design streets more friendly to bikes, pedestrians, and transit users—such as the celebrated Urban Street Design Guide put out by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“The City of New York could use their design manual and, with this code, be less at the mercy for the state DOT to turn around and say, no you can’t,” says Joe McAndrew, policy director for Transportation for America, an advocacy group that pushed for the change alongside the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Changes to the federal TIFIA financing program represent another win for U.S. metros. The TIFIA program offers local governments credits or loans for transportation projects at favorable interest rates. Under the old rules, the project threshold for accessing a TIFIA loan was $50 million—a figure that more or less limited the program to major public works efforts in large metros. The FAST act reduces that threshold to $10 million, bringing projects from smaller cities into play. Projects that involve transit-oriented development are now eligible for TIFIA financing, too.

The bad news here is those developments are tempered by a steep loss in overall TIFIA loan availability. FAST cuts the program from $1 billion down to about a quarter of that size, according to some initial estimates. And that also means the program is likely to remain biased toward larger metros that can get applications in more quickly.

A much more modest victory, if it can be called one at all, comes in the way that surface transportation funding is allocated to local leaders. Previously, states got half of this flexible funding, which covers certain highway or transit projects, and cities with populations over 200,000 got another half to use as their metropolitan planning organization deemed fit. The FAST act does advance the city’s share

That might seem like a nice gain when lumped together. But spread out across five years and the hundreds of metropolitan planning organizations in the U.S., and it’s “not going to amount to too much,” says McAndrew. Plus smaller metros—those under 200,000—remain beholden to states for this money. Some states distribute this money in ways that help cities, and some most certainly don’t. Still, taxpayers in these smaller communities won’t get to hold their mayor or council members accountable for transportation decisions, a failure that can result in a general lack of faith in planning operations.

The biggest failure of FAST, in McAndrew’s eyes, is its failure to authorize the popular TIGER program that provides so much transit funding to local officials. That keeps city and regional leaders guessing about appropriations each year, he says, and leaves the program generally more vulnerable to elimination. Lawmakers also cut the federal match for the New Starts program, which also funds transit, to 60 percent from 80 percent. (The Small Starts match, typically reserved for bus projects, does remain at 80 percent.)

On balance, then, the FAST law more or less keeps federal policy toward urban transportation right where past legislation left it. Which is to say it remains centered on the sort of highway spending and road expansion that has historically worsened traffic and sprawl for U.S. metro areas—even as federal funding relies less on the gas tax paid by drivers and more on general taxpayer funding that further weakens the traditional “user pay” system. Cities hoping to see more money go toward public transportation, or other forms of shared mobility, or preparation for autonomous cars may find themselves locked into a familiar frustration.

“It’s a couple small nods in improvement for cities,” says Transportation for America’s Stephen Lee Davis, who’s tracked the new bill’s minutia as closely as anyone. “But on the whole the bill will continue to do the same things done for the last 5 or 10 years. It really doubles down on the status quo.”
of this split by 1 percent a year, up to 55 percent in 2020, amounting to an extra $3 billion in funding all told.

The US Is About to Waste $305 Billion On Roads We Don't Need


By Alissa Walker, December 4, 2015

 The US Is About to Waste $305 Billion On Roads We Don't Need


A big infrastructure bill finally passed the House this week, pushing $305 billion over five years to transit and highway projects. In the same week, Uber raised another $2.1 billion, bringing its total valuation to $62.5 billion—roughly the same amount the new bill spends on infrastructure each year.

Which of these figures do you think will impact our streets more? The answer will tell you everything about how the way we get around is changing—and how the way we plan for transportation needs to change along with it.

Uber is just one example of a company that’s radically altering our streets. Not only is it changing what it means to use a car, it’s now a major player in an autonomous revolution. Uber will transform the landscape of America’s road system, alongside its peers like Google, Apple, Tesla, and others.

Yet, if you look closely, nowhere in the new transportation bill is it clear that driverless cars, or even ride-sharing, is guiding the allocation of that hard-won $305 billion. That has to change, fast.

The Backwards Way We Build Infrastructure

The House bill, nicknamed FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation), will help pump much-needed funds into subways, light-rail lines, and other transit projects, including $4 billion per year for biking infrastructure.

This is good news. But the FAST Act will also allocate lots of money to expanding or building new highways—an ongoing, outdated attempt by transportation departments to “fix” congestion. This is the big problem with bills like FAST: For any kind of transportation bill to be effective in this country, highway projects need to be uncoupled from transit projects. Why? Because they’re two different things with two very different final outcomes.

Widening roads is not a solution for alleviating gridlock, as so many cities have spent billions of dollars over the past few decades learning. Investments in transit on the other hand, including walking and biking infrastructure, have been proven to help traffic flow and save cities money over time—not only due to decreased costs for construction and maintenance, but also from a public health perspective. A truly transformative transportation bill would require that states spend the money on forward-thinking sustainable transit solutions, not backwards car-focused policies.

But there’s another, even bigger reason why we need to think about highways separately from transit infrastructure going forward: Within the next five years, how we drive, where we go, and even the number of cars we use to get there is going to change forever.

Fewer Cars—and Fewer Human Drivers

Within the coming decade, America’s roads will likely see its biggest changes since the construction of the Interstate Highway System a half-century ago. Yet we’re still planning for cars like it’s 1956.

The US reached “peak car” in 2008. The absolute number of vehicles on US streets has slowly gone down in the last seven years. And whatever you believe about millennials choosing not to drive as part of their personal ethos, or because they can’t afford car payments, one fact is irrefutably true: Right now, the largest generation in the country is driving a lot less than any other generation before it. Then consider the growing improvements to transit, walking, and biking infrastructure, which gets even more cars off the streets.

When you toss self-driving vehicles into the mix, you can see just how drastically the urban landscape will change.

Because autonomous vehicles will be shared—providing true on-demand rides—there will be fewer cars on the road. That means the space we devote to them also can decrease. Surface parking lots will be a thing of the past. On-street parking will be replaced by a handful of loading and unloading zones. In fact, some experts warn that 85 percent of current road infrastructure should start to be reclaimed by cities now because it will be useless. That’s more room for housing, schools, parks, and economy-generating businesses.

Yet, if you look at the money being sprinkled all over the country by this five-year transportation plan, none of this money will likely be devoted to the self-driving future that’s coming. As I reported last month, just a handful of US cities have anything about on-demand services or self-driving cars in their long-term transportation plans—and only Los Angeles has a task force specifically assembled to address how the city should plan for autonomy.

If we do this right, we could divert all that money earmarked for unnecessary freeway lanes into projects reclaiming that car-centric real estate. But if we do this wrong, we’re on a collision course with disaster, designing for more and more cars that will never materialize.

We Have To Start Planning For Autonomous Cars

In addition to uncoupling road and transit infrastructure spending, there absolutely has to be a federal task force that will create a 10-year plan to bring autonomy to US streets, including how to help cities prepare their infrastructure intelligently for this reality. Sweden has a dedicated government department that collaborates with automakers like Volvo, and the US should do the same with self-driving companies here.

But it needs to go even further than that. The success of self-driving automakers and tech companies depends on the quality and performance of the country’s roads. Google and Apple and Tesla and Uber are not just users of these roads, they’re the stewards of these roads going forward. Roads are their hardware for solving our mobility problems with better technology.

It’s time to start treating these companies as the stakeholders that they are, bringing them into the long-term, high-level planning process. These companies can help build safer, smarter, more affordable streets if our country wises up about how to allocate its transportation money.

The FAST Act is heavily earmarked and it’s unlikely that cities can change how its funds will be spent now. But let’s hope we can see some true reform in the next five years. Cities absolutely have to work closely with the companies that are radically altering their streets and start preparing for the ways that people will get around in the future—because that future is nearly here.