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Here is a “cycle track” that was just installed in Alameda, along Shoreline Dr:

cycle_track_alameda

And here is a cross-section diagram of the “cycle track” (click to enlarge):

cycle_track_alameda2

Can you spot what’s wrong? The answer, of course, is that there is nothing protecting the cyclists from the cars. A cycle track should have physical separation between car and bike traffic (preferably with a concrete curb). Alameda is only installing paint and stanchions. The other option for protecting cyclists is to put the cycle-track behind parked cars — but that was only been done in a few places during daytime hours. Alameda put most parking on the wrong side of the street.

For comparison, here is how a cycle track is supposed to look:

Amsterdam cycle track

Amsterdam cycle track

Alameda is hardly an isolated case. Here is what they are calling a “cycle track” in Minneapolis:

cycle_track_minneapolis

There is no reason cyclists should have to put up with this substandard infrastructure.

The Camden, NJ has a huge parking crater extending from the waterfront to downtown. Now the city’s Parking Authority wants to hollow out downtown even more:

When the Parking Authority of the City of Camden decided it wanted to tear down the decades-old Commerce Building in the heart of downtown to put up a parking garage, it made an offer far below the property owner’s expectations.

The Estate of Milton Rubin, a real estate investor in the city, had been paying property taxes on an assessment of $1.66 million, and in 2007 had prepared to sell it for $4.5 million.

The Parking Authority’s offer came in considerably lower.

In a letter in June, the agency raised the specter of eminent domain as it offered minus $200,000 – essentially asking the estate to part with the building and pay on top of it.

“There’s just a level of some inexplicable absurdity here,” Robert S. Baranowski, attorney for the estate, said last week. “I’d love to go around taking people’s property and telling them they have to pay me to do it.”

“Absurd” doesn’t even begin to describe it. The property sits one block from a PATCO subway station, and is across the street from the Walter Rand Transportation Center (an intermodal station with rail and bus service). It is the last place where a city should be replacing buildings with parking.

camden

ARTIC Disaster

Anaheim’s new ARTIC train station was built on the wrong side of the freeway, putting visitors further away from Disneyland. And whereas the old station had easy access to buses and parking, the new one forces passengers to walk long distances.

It is also a financial disaster:

The bulk of the $185 million ARTIC project cost was paid for by Orange County taxpayers with a special half-percent sales tax known as Measure M2.

But it’s Anaheim’s taxpayers that will shoulder the annual operating and maintenance expenses for ARTIC, which is several times over the cost to run train stations in other nearby cities.

For example, the Irvine train station saw 1,900 boardings a day in fiscal year 2013-14, according to city provided figures. That’s well over twice as many as ARTIC.

The cost to operate and maintain the Irvine train station annually is $485,000.

That cost for ARTIC is expected to be $4.7 million, nearly 10 times what it costs to run the Irvine station.

Oh, and rail ridership at Anaheim is down 32.2% over the past two years.

I was hoping to avoid comment on Senator Liu’s mandatory bike helmet law. It is a zombie idea that pops up every so often in the US. The California legislature last considered the idea in the early 1990’s. That was during the height of bike helmet hysteria, and even then Legislators thought it was a bad idea. Two decades later, the idea has even less traction now that we can look at the experience of nearly a dozen places that tried it. Senator Liu has yet to explain why it would work in California when it failed miserably in Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Seattle.

One argument frequently heard is that mandatory helmet laws are just like mandatory seatbelt laws. There is actually a lot of validity to that argument: Both are feel-good measures and yet counter-productive for safety.

Now you are probably thinking that seatbelt laws have saved tens of thousands of lives. You are also thinking that automobile fatalities have been on a long decline, and that seatbelts are largely responsible. You may also have watched slow-motion videos of crash-test dummies. But the inconvenient truth is that while seatbelts are good to have in an accident, there is no evidence that mandatory seatbelt laws improved safety:

seatbelt1

That figure comes from work done by Dr. John Adams. It covered 80% of the world’s car population at the time of publication. If you have not heard of the name and believe he is some crank, it is quite the opposite. Dr. Adams literally wrote the book on modern risk analysis.

Here is another figure, showing how fatalities and injuries increased when the UK passed its mandatory rear seatbelt law:

seatbelt2

And here is what happened when Australia implemented the law. Note again how fatalities went back up:

seatbelt3

It is worth considering why mandatory seatbelt laws have negative consequences. One reason has to do with the idea of risk compensation:

Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected. Although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits of safety interventions, it may result in a lower net benefit than expected.  By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes.

A consequence of risk compensation is that motorists drive faster, causing increased risk for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a major reason why pedestrian and bicycle fatalities have not declined.

Another reason why seatbelt laws didn’t work is because they were implemented instead of making changes in the infrastructure. It is a similar problem to bike helmet laws, which legislators also prefer to implement over more costly infrastructure improvements.

Parking is one of those things everyone in Berkeley complains about (ironic for a city that is supposedly environmental). Merchants especially have complained about parking “deficits” in downtown and southside areas. And yet whenever city planners measured parking occupancy, they found empty spaces even during peak hours.

What was going on here — was there or was there not a parking crunch? As it turns out, both sides were right. Due to inefficient pricing, the prime on-street spaces were monopolized while garages and other areas went under-utilized. Drivers would typically drive in circles hunting for the cheap on-street parking, avoiding more expensive garages.

Could market-pricing strategies correct the parking imbalance, and result in more efficient utilization? The city received a 3-year Federal grant to test that hypothesis. The transportation department analyzed parking occupancy rates in three neighborhoods, continually adjusting parking hours and pricing based on demand. Price and time limits were set with a goal of always having 65-85% occupancy on each block. Where parking exceeded the 85% threshold, prices went up and time limits went down. Where parking occupancy dropped below the 65%, prices were reduced and time limits increased. Clear signage was installed to inform drivers their pricing options.

The results of the program are quite impressive:

go_berkeley2

Here is another survey result:

go_berkeley

But the most surprising result is the large number of blocks where price and time limits were relaxed due to minimal parking demand (remember: price and time limits can go up or down depending on parking demand). On the map shown below, these are are indicated in green; i.e. the Max Parking Zones. It is interesting that areas that were thought to have very high demand, such as 2 blocks from campus, actually don’t have very high demand at all.

go_berkeley3

The program is on-going. One of the next challenges will be automating the collection of real-time data. It is currently done manually, which doesn’t scale well. The city is exploring technological solutions to automate the process, such as the use of parking sensors or license plate readers.

A good first step, but this really needs to be implemented nationally as a Federal safety mandate:

At least 200 municipal trucks will be outfitted with side guards this year as city officials try to cut down on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. The side guards — actually rails — to be installed between the trucks front and rear wheels help keep people involved in a collision with a truck from being dragged underneath, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a news release.

While trucks make up less than 4 percent of vehicles on city roads, collisions with trucks account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist fatalities, city officials said.

If you are planning to board Amtrak buses in San Francisco, be prepared for some insane TSA-style security checks:

Security Check

Upon entering the facility, passengers must show your Amtrak ticket or photo I.D. to the Greyhound Security Staff. Greyhound security will also inspect bags and wand passengers for metal contraband who enter the building. Please allow additional time arriving for this process.

So now you can’t even enter a bus terminal without a security check.

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