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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Commutes Aren't Twice as Long in Cities With Twice the Population

You probably don’t love your trip to work, but researchers have identified three reasons it’s not much, much worse.


By Eric Jaffe, January 4, 2016

 Image joiseyshowaa / Flickr

It’s no surprise that larger cities are more productive cities. As a metro area expands it becomes home to a stronger labor market: workers can pick from more and better jobs, and jobs can choose from more and better workers. Meanwhile the collective powers of an urban environment—the ability to share knowledge and basic infrastructure, for instance—give rise to greater wealth and ideas than population growth alone would predict.

What is a little surprising is that even as cities get larger, life in them doesn’t necessarily grind to a halt. Sure, it can sometimes feel like that’s the case when you’re stuck in rush-hour gridlock. But while traffic congestion may be a personal annoyance, it’s also a broad indication of a healthy economy. If it’s easy for you to drive right downtown at 9 a.m. on a Monday, there probably isn’t much downtown to do.

Take the comparative example of New York and Chicago circa 2000. New York at that time had more than twice Chicago’s population and nearly twice the jobs: 7.6 million to 3.9 million. But it didn’t have twice the commute trouble. On the contrary, workers could reach 85 percent more jobs in New York than in Chicago within an hour (6.2 to 3.6 million) and 82 percent more jobs within a half hour (3.7 to 2 million).

In other words, the friction of New York’s heavy commuter activity only slightly compromised the power of its labor market. And New York is no outlier in this case. A productivity analysis of 40 U.S. metros of varying populations, conducted by Shlomo Angel and Alejandro Blei of
 the Urbanization Project at New York University, found that cities with twice the number of jobs sustained a labor market nearly double in size within a “tolerable” commute of 30 (87 percent), 45 (94 percent), or 60 minutes (97 percent).

The reason bigger workforces don’t translate into total stagnation is that metros have “nimble and self-adjusting commuting patterns” that preserve their economic advantage, report Angel and Blei in a paper in the journal Cities. Those patterns have three key components: density, job and home relocation, and overall mobility. Together these forces keep commute time growth to a tolerable 7 percent, on average, in a city with twice the population of another one—instead of the awful 41 percent expected by mathematical calculations.

The three key factors

The role of density is straightforward. When homes and jobs are clustered together, commuters don’t need to travel as far to reach either one. Angel and Blei find that, among their sample of 40 U.S. metros circa 2000, density helps cities with twice the population fit into just 70 percent as much area, on average. In these cities, densification reduces the growth of commute lengths to 30 percent from the expected 41 percent.
Densification helped cities with twice the population of smaller ones take up just 70 percent more area, on average. (Angel and Blei, Cities, 2015)
Then there’s relocation by both parties. On the employee end, workers don’t tend to move unless their job falls outside a tolerable commute range, in which case they typically move closer to work, not farther away, according to Angel and Blei’s analysis. Businesses, meanwhile, moved closer to key employment pools in the 40 cities included in this study, reflecting the recent emergence of multiple metro area job centers and reduced reliance on a central business district for jobs.

Together these moves result in an average commute distance just 13 percent larger in a city with twice the population—rather than the 30 percent increase expected from densification alone.
Home-work commute maps show that job corridors exist across a given metro area—not just through the central business district. (Angel and Blei, Cities, 2015)
Finally, Angel and Blei found that commuting times grew at a slower rate than commuting distances in larger cities as a result of greater mobility. They attribute these savings to traffic in larger cities shifting from low-speed arterial roads to higher-speed (and ever-expanding) freeway systems. (The researchers focused on metro area road networks, given that the overwhelming share of Americans still drive to work alone, but previous work has shown that public transport plays an integral and enormous role in urban agglomeration economies, too.)

So commute times rose just 7 percent in cities with twice the population of a smaller one—half the 13 percent rise expected after the combined effects of densification and relocation are taken into account.
Commutes time in the study sample increased just 7 percent in cities with twice the population, in part due to greater mobility. (Angel and Blei, Cities, 2015)

What it means

All told, density, relocation, and mobility reduced expected commute times in a large metro area by a factor of six, relative to one half its population size. For those keeping close score at home: density contributed to 25 percent of the reduction, relocation 41 percent, and mobility 34 percent. Angel and Blei conclude with some broad policy suggestions for urban planners: help people find affordable homes near work, help businesses relocate near workers, and help commuters get from home to office.

“In a way, we call for a rebirth of ‘regionalism’ or ‘metropolitanism’ at the expense of the celebrated ‘localism’ of today,” Angel tells CityLab via email. “It is still difficult to implement fair housing policies in American metropolitan areas. It is difficult for poor people to move to suburbs that still practice exclusionary zoning. It is still difficult to find grid-like bus networks that get people to and from work quickly and efficiently.”
The analysis has many limitations. By focusing on data from 2000, for instance, it fails to capture the past decade of city center growth. By focusing on road networks it undervalues the role of balanced transport systems, the need for all-day urban transit, and the social and economic costs of excessive road expansion. And by focusing on a group of cities it can’t isolate whether, say, a heavily sprawling city like Atlanta fared better or worse than a concentrated place like Chicago or New York.

The work also offers some mixed planning messages. On one hand, the benefits of density and mobility suggest a need for compact development near transit lines; on the other hand, the benefits of freeway speed would seem to endorse a transportation status quo that centers on car travel. Angel prefers to focus on the bigger picture: local initiatives that make commuting less tolerable might reduce overall productivity—and right now, for better or worse, commuting in American metros mostly means driving.

“The only realistic future, as far as I see, is replacing the car with driverless cars that are less polluting, require less road space and less parking space, and offer services for the car-less,” he emails. “Compact development along transport corridors is fine and I have nothing against it, but it is certainly not a comprehensive solution for cities that now have three out of four jobs outside these corridors.”

Let It Now Be Resolved: LA will Stop Pandering to Motorists


By Richard Risemberg, January 5, 2016


JUST SAYIN’--The New Year is here: the time when Americans make all sorts of resolutions they know they won’t keep. And since the City of Los Angeles as an administrative entity has not, so far, been very good at keeping to its own resolutions—note the modest progress on implementing Complete Streets and Vision Zero, and the roadblocks already being set up in front of Mobility Plan 2035,–I offer a grand resolution absolutely free of charge to City Hall. Hell, even if they don’t ignore it as completely as I expect, they won’t keep it anyway, so it fits right into the tradition.

“I , the City of Los Angeles, hereby resolve to stop pandering to motorists, and start building a city for people.”

Sounds like more of that “War on Cars” crap, doesn’t it? But the fact is, that the “War on Cars” is a suicidal one waged by cars themselves, who are eternally in each other’s way—and the rest of us, the diverse urban cultures that struggle to live and thrive among our snarl of battlefield streets, are collateral damage.

Listen: even CalTrans now admits that you can’t build your way out of congestion: thanks to induced demand, new lanes, roads, and parking spaces fill up within a very short time. The truth is , that no matter what you do, the intensity of congestion will remain the same, or get worse: absent techniques such as congestion charging, motorists will see roads as a free resource to be exploited to the ultimate limit. In any thriving city, there will always, always, always be the same intensity of congestion in all facilities that permit cars. The way to reduce congestion is to grant less space to cars. There will still be congestion, just less of it.

But there will then be space to allocate to more efficient modes of treavel, such as walking, cycling, and transit, as well as to community space or economic development. Those who do not feel comfortable driving in clots of traffic will have other options that they do not have now—since we have been subjected to an eighty-year automotive jihad designed to force us all to drive everywhere, all the time, forever. A social engineering failure at its worst!

Magic technologies won’t solve the problem: massed ranks of platooning robocars won’t do it, ragged amateur armies of Uber galley slaves won’t do it, feeding electric power from Four Corners into Tesla batteries won’t do it.

Only emulating the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 wlll do it: back then, Mother Nature tore down the Embarcadero Freeway, and San Fran replaced it with a Complete Street comprising just a couple of car lanes, a couple of bike lanes, a trolley line, and big wide sidewalks. And the waterfront suddenly turned into a commercial and community centerpiece!

This is hard to do without tectonic assistance (though many cities are starting to tear down freeways voluntarily), because the congestionnaires are very good at whining loudly to make us all subsidize their predilection for driving three blocks to pick up a bottle of cinnamon whiskey (this week’s slug of choice for the obliterati, who will then ever so fragrantly run us down)….

However, if we wish for Los Angeles to remain a world-class city, we will have to emulate what San Francisco, New York, Paris, Seoul, and other thriving burgs have begun to do, and push back against the insurgence of private cars, an insurgence that crushes our cultures even more effectively than it squashes our neighbors.

LA can do it. LA could do it. All it takes is resolution …

Time is Running Out and We Still Don’t Know How to Follow Up on the Measure R Sales Tax


By Ken Alpern, January 5, 2016


GETTING THERE FROM HERE--There has been talk for years about building on the momentum of Measure R, the last of three passed sales taxes used to fund and maintain transportation infrastructure for the past few decades.  Some worry that the taxpaying public's patience to wait decades more for projects already decades overdue is gone. Unfortunately, we STILL don't know how to followup on the successful Measure R sales tax.

Measure J, a 2012 followup tax measure to expedite projects funded by the 2008 Measure R half-cent sales tax, which ensured and expedited funding of the Expo, Foothill Gold, Crenshaw/LAX, Downtown Connector, and Wilshire Subway lines, as well as a host of freeway and road upgrades combined with operational expenses, actually was APPROVED by 66.1% of the voters but didn't hit the 66.7% voter tax threshold to officially PASS.

Whether or not one agrees that we need another transportation sales tax has nothing to do with the fact that 66.1% is still a majority--in one way, shape, or form, most of us feel we need more transportation funding.

But WHICH type of tax, and for WHAT projects, is HOW Metro will need to proceed in order to win in November 2016.  And it finally IS 2016.

Many voters are angry, and feeling fleeced, about spending good money after bad.  How DO voters feel about pensions, and how their city/county taxes are being spent?  You know, the taxes ALREADY being spent, and for which many feel should have paid for this already?

This is particularly true for the City of LA (which, for many who don't know it, is quite different than the County of LA).  We're being asked to pay for sidewalks, roads, sewers, etc. that should have been paid for over the past 15-20 years but which went to all sorts of different locations instead--such as City giveaways to special interests, City retirees who abused the pension system, and unaffordable raises.

So how do we proceed?

1) Do we extend Measure R, which expires in 2039, to 2057?  That would allow the Measure R projects to be built much sooner by borrowing on the future.  New taxes:  $0.

2) Do we create a new half-cent sales tax from 2017-2017?  That would be a new tax, and the fourth transportation sales tax for our county.

3) Do we do both?  That would raise $120 billion for approximately $156 billion need to construct countywide projects currently prioritized by local governments and voter feedback (the rest would come from the state and federal governments).

If we want it all, we'll need to do both.

Do we want that San Fernando Valley to Westside rail tunnel under the Sepulveda pass or not?

Do we want the Wilshire Blvd. Subway to the Beach built in our lifetime or not?

Do we want all the countywide roads and freeways upgraded or not?

Do we want the operations of all these buses and rail lines beefed up and funded or not?

Yet do we have the actual political will to do all this ... or not?

At least we have more time than the last-second Measure J, which still almost passed.  And certainly the prospect of the 2024 Olympics is one to make most of us motivated to do yet one more sales tax hike...presuming that the argument and pitch can be made that LA City/County will make money off that Olympics if it comes here.

Perhaps the recognition of how our tourism industry is growing, and how it relies on transportation/transit, will help convince more voters.

Yet there are other swaths of voters who will demand to be heard--in particular, motorists who have been abused and bullied simply because they need their car to access their work and other destinations (and with precious few alternative choices that are viable and aren't associated with all sorts of painful sacrifice).

Which is kind of key, because those motorists will be paying the bill for any new sales tax extension/hike.

November 2016 is NOT very far away, and the need to tell voters what they'll pay for in any new sales tax hike and/or extension is paramount.

Because the reasons for voters to be fed up with how their current taxes are being spent, and the reasons for voters to avoid adding any new tax fuel to the government spending wildfire (to say nothing of resultant overdevelopment that is turning our formerly-favored rail lines into potentially-dangerous blight-magnets), are myriad and impossible to ignore.

So the need to replicate the transparency and credibility of Measure R must be finalized ASAP--with many taxpayers probably annoyed that the final product of the voting initiative for 2016 isn't already done.

Particularly for an initiative which many voters--even pro-transportation voters like myself--are ambivalent and really wondering to vote yes or no on a November 2016 initiative in an era where we need more mobility but rightfully blame the local governments for causing the mobility problem to begin with.