Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May SRTS conference call

All are welcome and invited to join this month's call.

Thursday, May 10th from 9-10 am
Conference Call Number: 866-394-4146
Guest Code: 878934528#

Lots of good stuff on the agenda, including:
SCAG RTP/SCS Update and Next Steps (5 mins)
  • Next Steps – lessons learned, going from here. Developing our SoCal SRTSNP Network Regional Platform 2.0
Regional Planning Spotlight
  • Orange County Regional Bikeways Planning with Carolyn Mamaradlo, Associate Transportation Analyst, Transit & Non-motorized Planning, Orange County Transportation Association
Get the full agenda here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Complete Streets Abu Dhabi

Lest you think the US and Europe have the monopoly on Complete Streets, take a look at this Urban Street Design Manual from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Aside from noting that with enough money from oil and gas production, your planning department can have a pretty snazzy website, I was fascinated by a number of small (but significant) policies that marked this design manual as unique to its city, such as:
A sikka in Abu Dhabi
  • A whole section devoted to techniques for shading sidewalks
  • The use of sikkas (narrow pedestrian pathways found in new and historic neighborhoods)
  • An emphasis on creating spaces that allow privacy and security for women
  • The incorporation of ablution sinks into the street furniture (and reuse of their water for landscape irrigation) 
This highlights something important about complete streets: they're not just about building sidewalks, they're about building community identity. Streets should reflect and encourage the character of the neighborhood  they are located within. That means more than just adding some pretty street furniture, or "branding" the community with special signage. There are real cultural differences in the way different communities use streets. For example, in South and Central American countries (and many Latino neighborhoods in the US),  streets function as a sort of extended front yard where a diversity of activities (vending, socializing) take place. They have a different place in the culture of the community than you might find in, say, a neighborhood in Woodland Hills. (For more info, see James Rojas discussion of Latino Urbanism here.)

True complete streets should be designed to take into account the way a particular culture uses its roadways, including spaces and features that will complement the history and demographics of a particular neighborhood. A roadway in a area with an aging population, for instance, might include a particular focus on universal design. Space for street vending or small-scale businesses might be more important in some commercial areas than room for cafe seating. As we move towards more function-driven street design, we should consider not just the generic purpose of a roadway (commercial-serving, residential neighborhood, bicycle corridor), but also the specific desires and needs of its users.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Walk with Jane this Weekend

Photo courtesy of Jane Jacobs Walk

Or at least, with her spirit. This weekend planning aficionados across the country hold walks in honor of Jane Jacobs,  author, activist, coiner of the phrase "eyes on the street" and generally planner extraordinaire. Find out more about walks in your area at this link, or this one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Payback for Promoting Walkability

As detailed in this recent story from the Daily News, the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce plans to drop the Woodland Hills Homeowners Association from its membership because the homeowners have filed a suit over the recently-approved Village at Topanga here in Woodland Hills. The homeowners are concerned about the project's lack of walkability, saying the project violates the Warner Center Specific Plan because it encourages car use, and that potentially significant project impacts weren't considered in the project's environmental impact report. They are particulary concerned that the anchor store--a Costco--will do little to promote alternative transportation use.

But Chamber of Commerce representatives argue that, "This is in direct conflict with what the chamber stands for...We want this development for our community." Maybe the Chamber hasn't read the studies showing walkability is good for business?

While I agree that pretty much anything is better than the empty parking lot that covers the site right now, I find this kind of petty retaliation for legitimate concerns over project design discouraging....almost as discouraging as our Councilmember's feigned bewilderment over why anyone wouldn't want an auto-oriented development in their neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Free Webinar - Federal Funding 101

May 3, 11:00 AM

Join the SRTS Partnership for an overview of the basic federal funding process for walking and bicycling and Safe Routes to School.

Transportation funding can be a complex and confusing process, from applying for money and completing paperwork and forms, to the ‘obligation’ process which can take years to complete. Understanding these systems can help you to better navigate and advocate for federal funds that can increase bicycling and walking.

Have you wondered how the mysterious federal transportation funding process works?
Do you want to learn techniques to successfully apply for federal Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and other funding through your state department of transportation?
Are you curious about how the new federal transportation bill may end up and what that may mean for you?

Find out the answers to these and other questions, and ask your own! Register here.