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Archive for March, 2014

Data

Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) is a database maintained by the California Highway Patrol. It contains extensive collision data from all over California, and is a powerful tool for transportation planners and bike/ped advocates.

The CHP is not very skilled at web design. Their web site is so primitive that I can almost picture a 1980’s-era IBM mainframe still being used in some back office to manage the database. Fortunately, the UC Berkeley SafeTREC researchers have geo-coded the data, and made it available through a nicely designed web page. The tool not only gives details on each collision, but will even bring up the Google Streetview image of the location!

For example, here is a map generated for the bike and ped collisions in Berkeley during the year 2011. There were 108 total:

berkeley_injury_map

 

If you are a transport planner, or bike/ped advocate, I think you will find this web tool to be invaluable.

 

 

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Socialist Parking Meter Hours

The nerve of those Berkeley socialist hippies! Restricting automobile traffic in order to increase the value of private property:

Berkeley’s attitude towards automobiles has always been pretty plain if you’ve ever tried to drive there — bring ’em if you want, but we ain’t making it easy. The city has closed off many of its side streets with barriers and huge potted plants, pushing up property values on those lucky streets at the stroke of a pen, while pushing traffic onto just a few clogged, noisy streets.

Oh, but it gets worse:

But Berkeley isn’t against making a buck off parked cars, and over the past year or so it has been looking for ways to charge more in busy areas.

Why? Because Berkeley hopes to change the behavior of drivers, who park longer in downtown spaces after 6 p.m., when they don’t have to pay. Calling those two extra hours “a high-demand time for many businesses,” Berkeley says it will be helping them by forcing shoppers to shop quickly, hustle back to their cars and make room for more shoppers to park and spend.

Something I will never understand is why business types think the law of supply-and-demand doesn’t apply to parking.

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Things you did as a kid that your kids will never do” is the title of a posting to the SF-Moms blog today. Here is the main photo shown at the top:

sfmoms

And when I saw this, my first thought was this was going to be a nice story about how parents have become too paranoid about allowing kids to play with bikes out in the neighborhood.

Then I read the caption under the photo:

Ride a bike without a helmet tand do other dangerous things on your bike. Note: We’re glad kids are now wearing helmets. This is a good step forward.

Excuse me while I go slap my forehead…

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The US once led the way in providing equal access to those with disabilities. But now the US is refusing to sign the UN Convention on Disabilities. In 2012, the Senate failed to ratify the treaty by 6 votes. Since then, right-wing opponents have succeeded in keeping the treaty from coming up for a vote again.

PBS also interviewed Micahel Farris. Farris is chairman of the “Home School Legal Defense Organization” and one of the leading opponents of the Treaty. He has previously said that the Treaty would give the UN custody over American kids who wear eyeglasses.

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Here is one group of economists that understands the problem with Buy-America policies. In their paper The Political Economy of Public Bus Procurement: The Role of Regulation, Energy Prices and Federal Subsidies, Professors Li, Kahn, and Nickelsburg report that the American bus fleet is more expensive and more polluting than that of other countries:

This absence of international trade has multiple implications. First, the absence of international competition likely leads to high prices. This could result in fewer buses due to capital constraint and hinder the economics of scale that is vital for public transit (Morhing 1972; Parry and Small 2009). While it is difficult to construct a hedonic bus price regression where we control for key metro bus characteristics, our research suggests that measured in comparable units, buses in Tokyo and Seoul are half the price of U.S. buses and buses produced in China are even cheaper. While cynics might question the quality of China’s buses, it is notable that wealthy and well governed Singapore is importing buses from China.

In the absence of international competition, U.S. tax payers face a higher price for subsidizing urban bus services and U.S owners of the domestic firms that produce the buses gain some monopoly rents. There is a fundamental asymmetry in that a small group of domestic producers benefit from the absence of imports while the costs borne by tax payers are broadly spread out (Stigler 1971, Becker 1985). Based on data from 1997 to 2011, the average price for a U.S metro bus (in year 2011 dollars) was $309,000 with the 10th percentile of the empirical distribution being $104,000 and the 90th percentile at $497,000.

A second implication of the absence of bus imports is extra energy consumption and hence greenhouse gas emissions. The bus fleets in Seoul and Tokyo are both more fuel efficient than in the U.S. The fleet fuel economy of buses in the U.S. was 3.54 miles per gallon (of gasoline-equivalent fuel) in 2011, compared with 4.74 in Tokyo which also operates a diesel-dominated fleet of about 1500 buses. In Seoul, the average fuel economy of 61 diesel buses was 5.05 and that of 7,469 CNG buses was 4.04 in 2011.

Chinese electric bus, being tested for use in Los Angeles. A rare example of a foreign bus manufacturer selling to the US market.

This Chinese electric bus, being tested for use in Los Angeles, is a rare example of a foreign bus manufacturer selling to the US market.

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A key stretch of Highway 1, the world-famous coastal highway, would be widened to 6 lanes under a proposed Caltrans project. The Calera Parkway widening project would affect a scenic 1.3-mile stretch of highway above Rockaway Beach.

Here is the before and after:

pacifica

According to Caltrans, the project is needed to reduce peak hour delay by 5 minutes — in the year 2035. Many residents in Pacifica are not convinced that the environmental impact of the project is worth a hypothetical 5-minute travel savings.

Highway 1 is also a world famous bicycling route. Caltrans has incorporated bikes into its planning, by proposing cyclists use the 10-foot shoulder that would be built as part of the project. I don’t know about you, but riding on a high-speed 6-lane expressway is not very “accommodating”.

The project would be funded mainly by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. San Mateo County has always been indifferent to the safety needs of bikes/peds, and yet has no problem coming up with money for idiotic highway widenings.

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The Diridon Station Area Plan leaves a lot to be desired. Billions will be spent on bringing BART and HSR into the station — and yet, the San Jose City Council will do little to take advantage of that infrastructure. For the most part, the station area will be a sea of parking.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. Even Rod Diridon says the plan sucks:

Missing from the plan itself is Diridon’s larger vision for Silicon Valley. Diridon, currently the executive director of the congressionally created Mineta Transportation Institute, advocates for a Silicon Valley dominated by high-rise, mixed-use towers built on car-free platforms above train stations.

It’s the only way to escape a future clogged with miserable traffic, he says.

The current plan for Diridon Station, while exciting compared to the area’s current uses, doesn’t propel San Jose — and Silicon Valley — forward as far as it should. The development envisioned for the area can be taller and denser, forming a model for future transit-oriented development. “The current plan is the next generation of the modest evolution of San Jose instead of the paradigm shift that would make San Jose an internationally recognized city,”

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