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Posts tagged "California"

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Los Angeles: The Great American Transit Experiment

Los Angeles is in the midst of building an unprecedented number of rail transit projects. Some are slated for potentially high ridership parts of LA’s urban core. Others are more dubious.

Today, transit use is down. Bus ridership is falling sharply. Rail use is flat despite strong ridership on the Expo Line, the city’s newest rail transit. L.A. is taking steps to reorganize its bus routes, but needs a variety of major street and service policy changes to make buses more attractive.

Also missing in L.A. are efforts make the city more walkable and more dense that correspond in scale to the massive rail building program. The city and region also still heavily cater to cars when decisions about transportation priorities need to be made.

“What we as a region have not yet done is have the sort of political fights that really make a transit system effective. Which are not fights over money but fights over space,” says UCLA professor Mike Manville.

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Riverside, CA Tries Out Pedestrian Scramble Intersections

Go Human is a community outreach and advertising campaign with the goals of reducing traffic collisions in Southern California and encouraging people to walk and bike more. Developed by the Southern California Association of Governments, Go Human implements open streets and pop up events throughout the Southern California region.

Recently in Riverside, CA, the Go Human campaign employed Street Plans & Alta Planning to help install temporary tactical urban installations at two intersections and develop and implement a 3-week pilot for a pedestrian scramble on Mission Inn Avenue and Market Street, considered to be the gateway to the city of Riverside. These efforts are a fun way to help educate and inform city residents while gathering feedback both visual (from city engineers) and written (from users) at kiosks set up by Go Human.  The quick feedback in our Streetfilm shows people seem to love the idea!

Over the years, also known as the Barnes Dance and Diagonal Crosswalks, the NYC Council recently passed legislation that would require having the NYC Dept. of Transportation bring 25 such treatments to high-crash, dangerous intersections in the city.  This is great news.

But let me add this: although Pedestrian Scrambles are an effective implementation in very complicated, high volume places, Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) - where pedestrians get a 5 to 7 second head start on traffic - are also extremely effective and can be done with a flip of the switch.  NYC DOT has installed many of these in my neighborhood in the past few years.

All in all, the more tools to slow cars and tame the streets, the better.

 

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Santa Monica’s Savvy Multimodalism

Santa Monica is trying just about everything in its transportation system: bike-share, a mix of bike lane treatments, a new rail line, neighborhood greenways, a pedestrian action plan, a new promenade/protected bike lane where the Expo line terminates, and of course they have the hard-to-miss Big Blue Bus!

In the last six months alone the city has launched Breeze bike-share and opened the Expo rail line to downtown Los Angeles, which cuts travel times from an hour and a half by bus to 50 minutes. (Personal note: At rush hour the discrepancy can be even bigger -- after spending the day shooting this story I endured a two-hour, 15-minute bus ride back to L.A.'s Union Station.) Breeze bike-share was my first experience with a smart bike system, and it was easy to use and comfortable.

Come see how Santa Monica is making it easier to get around without a car. Thanks much to the wonderful Cynthia Rose from Santa Monica Spoke, for giving me the grand tour and making my first visit there a joy.

StreetFilms
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Marin County’s Cal Park Tunnel (finally) opens to much fanfare!

In what was one of the most incredible showings of humanity for the opening of a bicycle & pedestrian path anywhere in the U.S., hundreds of cyclists - and hundreds more walkers and elected officials - showed up on a Friday afternoon to cut the ribbon on the long-awaited Cal Park Tunnel in Marin County, California.

The project has been talked about since the late 70s and in active development for the last twelve years. For Marin cyclists, the 1.2 mile bike-ped path/tunnel combo adds a critical, safe link to the north-south bikeway that will eventually run from the Golden Gate Bridge to Cloverdale in Sonoma County.  It is expected to shave nearly 15 minutes off of trips and serve up to 800,000 riders a year. And also just as important: the rail right-of-way has been maintained so that in the future SMART light rail vehicles can use the tunnel too!

The Cal Park Tunnel has some top-notch features: ample lighting, cell phone reception, emergency phone call boxes, a ventilation system and smooth pavement.  To read up on loads more history of the tunnel and information, check out StreetsblogSF's great recap from last week.

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Long Beach Shifts Cycling in to High Gear

Although their proximity to car-dominated Los Angeles can't be denied, southern neighbor Long Beach has put the money and effort behind making cycling an attractive and safe mode, and it's already paying dividends.

Bicycling Magazine's 2010 rankings for bike-friendly cities ranked Long Beach a respectable 23rd, but that doesn't satisfy them.  In fact, their goal is to ultimately make Long Beach "The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America," a bold statement that adorns the art at City Hall (photo by Greg Page/Page One Studio).

With a bike-friendly mayor and big support from the city council, their plans are ambitious. But most importantly they are think big and thinking fast.  A couplet of physically protected cycletracks, sharrows with unique green striping, Southern California's first bicycle boulevard, and hundreds of additional bike racks are just a few of the items already in the ground or coming very shortly.

This video doesn't even touch upon their comprehensive education program in place for students, police, and transit operators.  Ahhhh, well - I guess we'll just have to go back and cover that on another trip (and then go sit on the beach.)

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ATSAC: Behind the scenes at L.A. Traffic Control

I have to admit: the thought of being in a control room documenting technology that moves vehicles more efficiently didn't excite me at first, but once I met Senior Transportation Engineer Bill Shao and the friendly staff at Los Angeles' Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (or ATSAC), I was full of curiosity.

First off, one of the things that makes ATSAC so unique is that it's one of the only traffic systems in the entire country that is publicly owned. ATSAC was started in 1984 to help move traffic around the Coliseum during the Olympics; since then it has grown to over 3,000 of L.A.'s 4,100 signalized intersections, some of them incredibly complex. The technology is so advanced that even on its busiest days the control room only requires a few people present to run it.

I'm told there are regular group tours of the facility. Next time you visit L.A. I recommend checking it out.

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L.A.’s Orange Line: Bus Rapid Transit (plus bike path!)

Who would have thought that one of the best Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in the U.S. would be in its most crowded, congested, sprawling city? Well check this out. It's really fabulous.

In October 2005, the Los Angeles County Metro Authority (or Metro) debuted a new 14-mile BRT system in the San Fernando Valley using a former rail right-of-way. Unlike many "rapid" bus transit systems in the U.S., the Orange Line is true BRT - it features a dedicated roadway that cars may not enter, has a pre-board payment system so buses load quickly and efficiently, and uses handsome, articulated buses to transport passengers fast - sometimes at speeds approaching 55 mph! The roadway is landscaped so ornately you could almost call it a bus greenway.

But that's not all. The corridor also boasts a world class bike and pedestrian path which runs adjacent to the BRT route for nearly its entire length, giving users numerous multi-modal options. Each station has bike amenities, including bike lockers and racks, and all the buses feature racks on the front that accommodate up to three bikes.

Perhaps the biggest problem is its soaring success: ridership numbers have some calling for the BRT to be converted to rail, and Metro is exploring ways to move more passengers, including buying longer buses. Plus: expansion plans are underway. Whatever way you slice it, this is truly a hit with Angelenos. A formerly 81 minute trip now takes 44-52 minutes - over an hour in round-trip savings - making a bona fide impact in the lives of commuters.

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SF Critical Mass Halloween 2008

On my recent West Coast Streetfilms swing, I got to jump into the San Francisco Critical Mass dressed as a "bee" (ironically my childhood nickname!) Although we don't often cover alot of critical mass here on our pages, I thought this one would be apropos since it promised to have up to 5,000 participants, and after all Halloween is my favorite holiday. Furthermore, I got to buzz around the "birthplace of critical mass" briefly before the swarm of bikes started pollinating the streets.

Many said it was perhaps the biggest CM ever. Writes Dan Goldwater on the Portland Shift list:

I've only been in SF about 4 years, but it was by far the biggest I've been to; like 3x bigger than any other one. From the first bike to leave Embarcadero to the last one was over half an hour with a solid line down Market st. the entire time.

With monthly rides under attack in some cities, it is interesting to see the tactic that San Francisco takes. The police department is practically hands off, and the ride is very peaceful and non confrontational. Even drivers and spectators don't seem to mind the action. So, why can't it be the same in NYC? Of course, discuss.

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In Davis’ Platinum City Even the Munchkins Ride Bikes

With New York City recently scoring a medallion for "Bronze Achievement in Bicycling Direction" by the "LAB Academy" (you like us! you really like us!) we figured it was a good time to post our very brief StreetFilms visit to Davis, California back in August 2007. Even though Portland, Oregon is nipping at their heels, Davis is still the only city in America to attain the very prestigious Platinum status for overall bicycle friendliness in a city.

Credit for Davis's bike-friendliness goes back to the 1960's when forward-thinking University of California urban planners began thinking about ways to make it safe and convenient for college students and city residents to travel safely by bike. During an era when most California towns were focused on building freeways, strip malls and suburban arterials, Davis's planning wizards were developing off-street greenways, bike lanes and installing bike racks everywhere.

In the last decade, an influx of car-commuters moving to Davis from nearby Sacramento and San Francisco has decreased the bike commuting mode share from 25 percent to 18 percent. Still, Davis remains an amazing place to use a bike for transportation. Any place that has eliminated school buses and have children riding bikes to school is doing something right. And check this out -- Davis has its own Wiki page devoted to bicycling.

Now click your heels four times and repeat after me, "There's no place like Davis. There's no place like Davis. There's no place..."