US National

Seattle’s Cap on Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar Rescinded by Referendum

Planetizen - 2 hours 6 min ago
After Seattle Citizens to Repeal Ordinance 124441 acquired twice the necessary number of signatures necessary to send a March ordinance capping the number of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar drivers in the city, the mayor will negotiate with the companies.
Categories: US National

The Economics Behind Crude by Rail

Planetizen - 4 hours 6 min ago
Sure, it costs more than moving by pipeline—double or triple the price per barrel. But look at the speed: five days versus 40. A new rail terminal in Beaumont, Texas sheds light on the economics that make CBR attractive to shippers and refineries.
Categories: US National

Enough with the Parking Garages: Baltimore's Inner Harbor Redo Criticized

Planetizen - 6 hours 6 min ago
The first step in the transformation of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a proposed renovation of Rash Field. But one commentator sees the subterranean parking garage included in conceptual plans as more of the same car-domination.
Categories: US National

Ohio River Bridges Project Price Tag Climbs Again, but Why?

Planetizen - 8 hours 6 min ago
The price tag for massive project to bridge the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky complete with dual approach tunnels, has long been a source of controversy. Another sudden cost increase has one commenter wondering how this keeps happening.
Categories: US National

Breaking News on Keystone XL Pipeline: More Delay

Planetizen - 10 hours 6 min ago
Don't expect President Obama to issue a yes or no decision on whether to build TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline until after the November elections. A pending Nebraska court case and millions of public comments were given as the reason for the delay
Categories: US National

Activist and radio show host trashes Tilikum Crossing, calls it 'Auto-ban' bridge

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 5:08pm
Concept drawing of path on Tilikum bridge.(Graphic: TriMet).

Rob Kremer, a talk-radio host and the Portlander behind a Republican-donor-funded movement to oppose "Portland creep" in Clackamas County, raised eyebrows on Friday afternoon when he said on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud radio program that TriMet's new Tilikum Crossing bridge is a "symbol of dysfunctional transportation priorities."

About 12 minutes into the program, Kremer shared his strong objections to the bridge because it won't allow access for private automobiles:

"I'm not quite sure about this name Tilikum. They say it means people, tribes and relatives — I think it means streetcars, buses and bicycles in Portland. They can call it Tilikum all they want but the real name of this bridge, by the people, will always be the 'Autoban' ... And it will always be a symbol of TriMet's, Metro's and Portland's dysfunctional transportation priorities.

To think we're building a bridge across the Willamette ... the first bridge in who knows how long, and not allowing cars to cross it is not only insane, but it's a symbol of dysfunction."

You can hear the exchange below (begins at about 12:46):

A couple minutes later, while challenging support for the bridge expressed by another guest (Bitch Media Online Editor Sarah Mirk, who said she doesn't own a car), Kremer claimed that the bridge is an example of "priorities completely out of whack" because "97% of the trips are by car."

He was off by about 911,000 trips per day. In fact, non-car modes carry 16 percent of Portland-area trips, according to a 2011 survey of 17,000 Oregon households.

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According to the Oregon Household Travel and Activity Survey, 9 percent of trips by Portland-area residents were on foot, 4 percent were by transit and 3 percent were by bike. That's a bit different than the ratio for commute trips, which account for about one in five trips Americans make; 19 percent of Portland-area commutes are by foot, bike or transit, according to the same estimates.

Inside Portland city limits, meanwhile, 28 percent of trips are by walking, biking or transit.

Kremer and his wife Mary, a 2010 state Senate candidate, own a house near the Willamette in Southwest Portland, but it's easy to see why he might be confused. Not every U.S. city has chosen to make walking, biking and transit so safe and convenient. Nationwide, their share of trips is only — well, actually it's 14 percent.

Until last year, Kremer was a political consultant who also served as treasurer of the Oregon Republican Party and director of the Oregon Transformation Project PAC, which drove an anti-land-regulation majority into power in Clackamas County in 2012. Kremer stepped down from those roles in early 2013 to focus on advocacy for charter schools.

It's easy to laugh at inaccurate grandstanding like this — he presumably remembered the ratio for biking and forgot that there are any other alternatives to driving everywhere — but I have to say: if I thought, even subconsciously, that after all of Portland's work to make things better for active transportation, 97 percent of trips were still happening by car, I'd be pretty upset, too.

Kremer, who would obviously be in a better mood if he read BikePortland more religiously, didn't respond to an emailed request for comment Friday afternoon.

Editor/publisher Jonathan Maus contributed to this story.


Categories: US National

Mapping Where People Don't Live

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 4:00pm
A map released this week and shared on numerous websites shades the 4,871,270 U.S. Census Blocks with zero population. That includes rugged backcountry and suburban super malls.
Categories: US National

How Cities Miss the 'World Class' Mark

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 3:00pm
A recent article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog argues that instead of chasing gleaming skyscrapers, planners in developing cities should build a new model of the "world class" city.
Categories: US National

Novick wants $1 million from general fund for beacons at 15 crosswalks

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 2:51pm
An active warning beacon in North Portland.(Photo: City of Portland)

The City of Portland's general fund has a few million dollars to spare, and Commissioner Steve Novick is mounting an unusual campaign to spend some of it on safer street crossings.

In a city where you're twice as likely to die from traffic as from homicide, Novick and other backers say making roads safer is the most cost-effective way to improve public safety.

In an interview Friday, Novick called out a few police operations in particular as having lower returns on investment.

"Maintaining an excessive number of command staff isn't as essential to public safety as having safer intersections."— Steve Novick, City Commissioner of Transportation

"To the extent that what they're doing is chasing down drug dealers who are just going to be replaced by other drug dealers, that's not a good use of public safety funds," he said. "I think investing in pedestrian safety is more valuable than maintaining the mounted patrol. ... Maintaining an excessive number of command staff isn't as essential to public safety as having safer intersections."

The plan would use $1 million in city general funds to add flashing beacons and/or median "refuge" islands to 15 crosswalks in outer East and Southwest Portland, such as this one at NE Glisan and 130th:

(Image: Google Street View) Locations of 15 crosswalks where the city is considering adding flashing beacons and pedestrian refuge islands.(PDF version here)

In Portland, unlike in many cities, almost no general fund dollars (which in our case come mostly from property, business and utility taxes) go toward transportation. In the 2013 fiscal year, it was only 4 percent of the city's transportation budget (PDF), and most of that went to power streetlights.

Novick thinks there's a strong chance the council will be willing to change that this year.

"Certainly my colleagues have indicated that it's something they'd like to support," Novick said. "But there's $30 million of new requests chasing $6 million of money."

Oregon Walks President Aaron Brown said Wednesday that the crosswalks had been selected based on PBOT models that showed high demand for safe crossings of those streets.

Last year, 10 people died in Portland after cars or trucks hit them while they were walking. Seven of those people were hit east of Interstate 205. (Another two were killed in collisions with MAX trains.)

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Of the 15 crosswalks proposed for improvements, six would get pedestrian refuge islands and active-warning beacons. The other nine would get beacons only. Another $70,000 would go toward police crosswalk enforcements.

Gabe Graff, a traffic safety specialist for PBOT, said the beacons are useful on big streets for two main reasons: their elevated flashing lights make people in cars four times more likely to stop for a crosswalk, and they also reduce the chance that someone in a car will zip into a crosswalk without seeing a person behind a second car that has stopped for the crosswalk.

Portland's beacons also announce "CAUTION: VEHICLES MAY NOT STOP" twice in a stern male voice to people who use them. It's unpleasant but accurate.

"If there had been 11 pedestrian fatalities and all of them had happened in downtown Portland, it would be a much bigger deal. We would be hearing about it all the time."— Aaron Brown, Oregon Walks

This effort is the latest sign that safe walking, especially in the city's outer neighborhoods, has political momentum at City Hall — which isn't so different, perhaps, from the days when people on bikes were dying more regularly in central Portland, and central-city bike improvements were a priority. The common thread: when people die, politicians react.

The question in both cases: are safety improvements enough to actually change the experience of getting around Portland?

Safety and comfort in a city are "complementary, they're not exclusive," Novick said. "People dying is pretty unpleasant too."

"We need to be having a long-term conversation about what our long-term objectives are in addition to the short-term," Graff said. "That's my opinion."

For Brown, adding the flashing beacons is also a matter of social justice.

"If there had been 11 pedestrian fatalities and all of them had happened in downtown Portland, it would be a much bigger deal," Brown said. "We would be hearing about it all the time."

You can Join Oregon Walks' campaign to support the crosswalk funding by signing their petition here and using the hashtag #15crosswalks on social media.


Categories: US National

Chicago Planning Flyover Fix for North Side El Lines

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 2:00pm
Fairly sizable funding contingencies still have to be resolved, but the so-called Red-Purple Bypass Project could increase rush hour capacity at a critical North Side junction by 30 percent.
Categories: US National

Businesses and bikeways: City reveals more details about street fee plans

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 1:30pm
PBOT's Mark Lear laid out priorities for spending revenue raised by a new street fee.(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland is slowly leaking out more details of their plans to create a new fee to boost transportation investment. At a town hall meeting in North Portland last night, Mayor Charlie Hales, PBOT Director Leah Treat, and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick sat at a table in front of a small crowd to present, promote, and defend the idea.

We covered one of these same town halls back in February, but since then PBOT has sharpened their pitch and their plans into a much finer point. As we reported a few weeks ago, the fee on the table will be either $8 or $12 per household per month. But what about businesses? Up until this latest round of town halls, PBOT has kept details about how much business owners would pay under wraps. Also revealed last night was a clearer picture about where exactly the new revenue would be spent. According to a presentation by PBOT's Mark Lear, the fee businesses pay would be based on an algorithm that calculates the number of trips their business generates times the square foot of the property. Here are three examples they shared:

  • A cafe that generates 1,144 monthly trips would pay $29 per month (at the $8 level) or $45 per month (at the $12 level).
  • A "sit down restaurant" that generates 5,281 monthly trips would pay $130 per month (at the $8 level) or $201 per month (at the $12 level).
  • A movie theater that generates 20,860 monthly trips would pay $344 per month (at the $8 level) or $534 per month (at the $12 level).

With households and businesses paying the new fee, PBOT estimates they'll be able to raise about $34 million or $53 million a year (at the $8 and $12 levels respectively).

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It will be interesting to see how local businesses react to the fee idea as more of them hear about it and PBOT gets closer to a final proposal. When we had this debate about a street fee for transportation back in 2007, it was ultimately a business lobbyist (representing gas stations and convenience stores) who killed the entire thing.

Another element of the fee we learned more about last night is how exactly PBOT would spend the money. Here's the chart showing how the money would be spent according to the three main buckets: "maintenance", "safety", and "other".

Note that at the $8 fee, more of the new revenue — 63% — would go toward maintenance and just 34% would go to safety. If the fee is $12, the maintenance percentage would drop to 53% and 44% would go to safety.

How exactly does PBOT define "maintenance" and "safety" expenditures. They revealed some of their thinking about that last night as well...

As you can see from the slide, maintenance investments would be primarily pavement preservation. However, it would also include things like traffic signals, street signs and street lights (all of which would improve street safety as well). In the "safety" category, PBOT says the projects could include investment in things like sidewalks, Safe Routes to School, protected bikeways, neighborhood greenways, High Crash Corridors program (speed reduction), crossing improvements, and so on. In the "other" category, which would potentially get just 3% of the new revenue, PBOT would fund things like frequent bus service and work with ODOT to hasten a transfer of state-owned arterials to local control (we'll have more to report on that later).

To further bolster support for the fees, PBOT is now sharing a list of specific project types they'd fund (over the next five years)...

30 to 60 signalized intersections rehabilitated, 60 to 115 intersections with safer crossings, 200 to 420 blocks of new sidewalks — these are all vast increases over what the agency is able to do with current revenues. One notable addition to that list is an investment that would allow PBOT to respond more quickly to their popular 823-SAFE citizen reporting system.

And while it wasn't shown on the slide (which is interesting to me, as I watch how careful PBOT is about bringing up bicycling in these discussions), Lear made a point in his presentation to mention how many new bikeways they'd build with the new revenue (again, these would be "delivered over five years"):

  • At the $8 level: 5 miles of protected bikeways and 15 miles of neighborhood greenways
  • At the $12 level: 7 miles of protected bikeways and 18-19 miles of neighborhood greenways

Lear stressed throughout his presentation that all the current numbers and spending priority categories are still preliminary and under discussion.

"Focusing on safety and maintenance is the right direction. But we'd like to see more focus on safety and we'd be much more excited if more than half of the money went into the safety category." — Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

On that note, while last night's crowd was relatively sparse, some spirited questions and criticisms emerged during the Q & A session that followed the official presentations. One man repeatedly spoke up for cars, saying that the city would have plenty of money for roads if they hadn't spent so much on light rail and "bike paths". Another man offered an interesting idea: Would there be a way to use a different trip generation calculation that would enable PBOT to reduce the business fee if business owners encouraged people to walk, bike, or take transit?

Making the fee change depending on how people get around — in other words, encouraging modes that have a lower impact on the system — might seem like good policy; but it doesn't appear that PBOT is interested in going that direction. Novick said polling showed them that most Portlanders want the flat-fee system so that "everyone pays the same amount". And Lear, a veteran at PBOT who was former Mayor Adams' wingman on the 2007 street fee effort, said that they want to avoid any fights over who's paying. This type of flat fee, he said, is all about "Getting us out of the unproductive modal wars of the past."

I think Lear's onto something. You could feel those "wars" trying to surface last night. There was that one guy claiming a PBOT "war on cars", while another guy passionately explained how overuse of cars is the reason we're in this mess to begin with. "This proposal does nothing to reduce driving," he said, "I want to hear a much more ambitious proposal that will discourage driving and promote biking and walking. You're choosing a dangerous middle course."

The response by Commissioner Novick was that the safety investments will ultimately make biking and walking more attractive and therefore fewer people will drive.

But just how much of the money goes into the "safety" category is something that could be another future topic of debate. Gerik Kransky, advocacy director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), used last night's Town Hall to thank the Mayor and PBOT for their work on this initiative. "Focusing on safety and maintenance is the right direction," he said, "But we'd like to see more focus on safety and we'd be much more excited if more than half of the money went into the safety category."

From here, PBOT will host two more town halls and they'll work internally with the Needs and Funding Advisory Committee to continue to hammer out the final package they expect to be ready for City Council by next month. We strongly encourage folks to show up, learn more about what's being proposed, and share your feedback.

— PBOT's official site: OurStreetsPDX.comOur "Street Fee Proposal" story archive.


Categories: US National

Study Maps the Spatial Patterns of U.S. Environmental Injustice

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 1:00pm
A new study by researchers from the University of Minnesota presents a sweeping portrait of trends in exposure to nitrogen dioxide across the United States.
Categories: US National

Seattle Adopts New Bicycle Master Plan

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 12:00pm
Resolution 31515, which officially approved the Bicycle Master Plan, is called a “transformational new way of thinking about bicycle projects within Seattle.” Time, and funding, will tell if the plan lives up to its promise.
Categories: US National

50s Bikeway: still alive, just moving slowly

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 11:11am
One holdup after another, but still moving.(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Maybe it's a mark of the eastward spread of low-car life that someone seems to ask us every few days when the 50s Bikeway is going to finally start construction.

The latest word from the city: early May. Hopefully.

"The contract prep has taken longer than expected," project manager Rich Newlands wrote in an email last week. "But we do now have the pre-con[struction] scheduled for 4/29. In theory, the notice to proceed will be issued that day and within a week the contractor will start. But, still contingent on the contractor being timely in submitting all the final pre-construction submittals."

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The 4.3-mile, $1.5 million route down Portland's middle east side, which was delayed last August due to higher than expected bids, was previously supposed to start construction in late March and wrap up by late July.

When finished, the route will stretch from the Alameda Ridge south to Woodstock Street along 53rd and 52nd avenues (PDF), connecting the Rose City Park, North Tabor, Mt. Tabor, South Tabor, Richmond, Creston-Kenilworth and Woodstock neighborhoods, which include 20,000 residents and 12 schools. North of Division, it'll be a neighborhood greenway marked with sharrows and directional signs; south of Division, a pair of 6-foot painted bike lanes on either side of the street.

Also, let's all take a deep breath for Newlands, who's simultaneously managing the red-hot 20s Bikeway debate and the active North Rodney neighborhood greenway planning. He could probably use the oxygen.


Categories: US National

Freeway Cap, Penn’s Landing Waterfront Details Emerging in Philadelphia

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 11:00am
Project planners estimate that a $200 million investment in an 11-acre cap park over I-95 that will reconnect the city with the Delaware River could return $1 billion in private investment.
Categories: US National

'Can't you read?!': When one rider calls out another for rolling through a stop

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:48am
Bike stop markings at North Broadway and Flint.(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Is it out of line for one person on a bike to aggressively criticize another for pedaling through a stop sign in a safe situation?

That's the opinion of local writer and rider Diane Yee, who writes about biking and other subjects at her Tumblog Citymaus. Here's an excerpt of her story, posted Thursday:

there’s this one awkwardly, possibly misplaced stop sign in the middle of the hilly stretch of SE Salmon*. since I’m coming from uphill, i have a better view of the cross street, and there was no traffic as usual (small residential street, and four-way stop), so i just keep riding through the stop sign as usual…

except then a white guy in his 30’s wearing a helmet and sunglasses riding uphill the other way shocked me by yelling at me loudly, CAN YOU READ???...

yeah, cyclists are the only group of people who self-regulate themselves so well they’ll call out fellow cyclists for blowing through red lights, etc., because they don’t want to be one of those “SCOFFLAW CYCLISTS”, to keep up a good image in order to get more bike infrastructure. ...

PDX—not as bike-friendly as you’d think!

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Yee, who's pursuing a master's degree in urban planning from Portland State University, also mentions (accurately) that the rules of the road as we know them were written with cars in mind, not bikes, and that Idaho allows people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs with no apparent ill effects (unless you count the nation's fourth-highest statewide rate of bike commuting).

"This guy, does he insult people when they 'JAYWALK'?" she wrote. "If he drives, too, does he yell and honk at every driver who doesn't use turn signals?"

Yee also mentions the possible race/gender dynamic that may have motivated this bit of mobile mansplaining.

On the other hand, I don't know about her notion that people who ride bikes are the only ones who call each other out. I've been in plenty of cars where people, including me, have had angry words for fellow drivers. What's different about biking is that when one of us gets teed off while riding, the other person actually hears it.

Which in my book is a pretty big mark in biking's favor.

*The stop sign in question is quite notorious and has been the subject of quite a bit of coverage and debate here over the years. - Jonathan


Categories: US National

Jobs of the Week

BikePortland - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:39am

The spring hiring boom continues here in America's bike industry mecca. Last week had had a record nine job listings and this week we've got eight. Whether you're a wonk or a wrench, we've got some great opportunities for you. Check out the latest jobs posted to our Job Listings via the links below...

For a complete list of available jobs, click here. If you'd like more information about the BikePortland Job Listings, contact us, or visit the Job Listings page.

You can sign up for all the latest job listings via RSS, email, or by following us on Twitter.


Categories: US National

Coal Power Plants Dealt Blow by Appeals Court Ruling

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:00am
The nation's first standards requiring power plants to reduce hazardous emissions, including the neurotoxin mercury, a coal-burning by-product, was upheld by a federal appeals court in a major win for public health, the EPA, and President Obama.
Categories: US National

Is it a Suburban Exodus Yet?

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 9:00am
A new report finds that suburban areas are losing residents to urban areas like New York City and Washington D.C., even well past the point when people would have traditionally made the choice to return to the suburbs.
Categories: US National

Friday Funny: Goats Love a High Rise

Planetizen - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 8:00am
Part funny, part amusing, and part just plain cool, goat towers are vertical structures with winding ramps that goats love to climb. They are also are “an idea whose time has come” according to a recent article in Modern Farmer.
Categories: US National