Get ready for LA’s first Walk to School Day

A walking school bus! Photo: Walk to School Day L.A. Official Facebook

A walking school bus! Photo: Walk to School Day L.A. Official Facebook

When I was in elementary school, I walked to school every day. I lived four blocks away and it just didn’t make any sense for my parents to drive me. These days, however, many parents prefer to drive their kids to school, despite living within walking distance. Well, October – a.k.a. Walktober – is the perfect chance to have kids to try walking to school, and they won’t have to do it alone.

Wednesday, October 9 is Walk to School Day, both nationally and in the City of Los Angeles, and many schools and communities are organizing events to help get their kids to school on foot. It’s a way for parents, students, school personnel and other community members to directly experience the walk to school, and it generates awareness about the importance of physical activity, the fun of walking, and early identification of safety concerns.

Check with your school to see if they’ll be participating on Oct. 9. A list of participants can also be found here.

Head back to school with Safe Routes, School Pools and Metro

Photo: East Bay Bicycle Coalition via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: East Bay Bicycle Coalition via Flickr Creative Commons

Do your kids walk or ride their bikes to school?

More than 50% of kids in Los Angeles County are driven to school in private vehicles, despite the fact that the majority of students live within 2 miles of their schools. Parents have cited different reasons for why they chose driving over other options, one being traffic safety: They just don’t think it’s safe for their children to walk or bike to school. However, walking and bicycling are an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle, and being able to start their day with a little physical activity greatly benefits children in many ways.

With this in mind, Metro has recently launched the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Pilot Program that will help schools, parents and students develop safe and active travel options. Ten schools within L.A. County have been selected to participate in this SRTS Pilot Program, and Metro is planning workshops and activities with the chosen schools and local communities. SRTS programs exist throughout the nation, and individual programs can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a school, community or city.

As part of the program, Metro will help train walk leaders and provide opportunities for kids to learn about pedestrian, bicycle and public transit safety. Metro will also work to make walking and biking to school a positive experience for kids by helping the schools implement Walk/Bike to School Days, hold community and school events and work with schools to develop pedestrian and bicycle travel plans.

The end goal of SRTS is to create an environment where children can get active while getting to school safely. In addition, by encouraging kids to walk or bike to school, SRTS hopes to reduce congestion related to school travel, which will also benefit traffic and air quality in local neighborhoods.

The pilot program is part of a larger effort by Metro, in partnership with the Southern California Association of Governments, to develop a Countywide Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, which will identify strategies to help cities and local communities establish new SRTS programs. In places where these programs already exist, the strategic plan explores how existing SRTS programs can be sustained and enhanced. For more information, visit metro.net/srts.

If driving is still the best travel option, try carpooling. Metro School Pool alleviates traffic at schools by providing a free, voluntary and confidential service that helps parents find carpooling partners at participating elementary, middle and high school campuses throughout Los Angeles County. The carpool directory  also helps parents find other parents who are interested in having their students who walk or bike to school together. For schools not currently in the carpool directory program but interested in joining, it’s easy to sign up – have your school administrator fill out a Metro Carpool Directory Enrollment Form.

Then there’s the transit option. K – 12 students can acquire a Student TAP Card to ride Metro to school at reduced rates. Frequent riders will benefit from the Student 30-day Pass. And getting a Student TAP Card is free!

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 17

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Our response to So Cal Connected’s segment on pedestrian safety (L.A. Walks)

The pedestrian advocacy group wasn’t happy with the piece that focused on new high-visibility crosswalks and where they are installed in the city of Los Angeles. My three cents: I thought the segment was interesting; I also think poor pedestrian infrastructure and the almost complete lack of enforcement of motorists encroaching on crosswalks could be the subject of many more hours of media coverage.

Here’s the KCET piece:

Tabloid columnist calls for bicycle ban in Toronto (The Urban Country) 

The Urban Country spends a few hundred words completely taking apart the argument that traffic congestion in Toronto, the largest city in the Great White North, is caused by cyclists. It’s a very satisfying taking apart/takedown.

Smart tips for building a better subway car (The Atlantic Cities) 

More doors, better spread is the way to avoid crowding and get people to the seats they covet, so says this blog post.

New bicycle friendly universities announced (League of American Bicyclists)

One local school makes it: the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. I bike through there all the time and it is a bike friendly campus — mostly because it’s small and cars are mostly kept out of the two main east-west paths through it. Of course, CalTech is in Pasadena, which hasn’t done much for cyclists in recent years. On the east side of campus is Hill Street, where the city of Pasadena could easily install bike lanes but has decided that providing street parking for cars is more important despite the fact that homes on the street all have big driveways. On the west side of campus is Wilson Avenue, which has bike lanes that are dangerously close to the parking lane and where it’s very easy to get doored.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 3

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

L.A. 2050 — some of the best ideas for the city’s livability (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The GOOD and the Goldhirsh Foundation are awarding 10 grants of $100,000 apiece to people, organizations and nonprofits that have an idea to make Los Angeles a better place. And there are a lot of ideas out there — 279 applications were received. Damien Newton looks briefly at some of his favorite suggestions. The two that caught my eye were creating bike-friendly business districts and a plan to install electronic signs that count how many cyclists are using particular streets/bike lanes.

As for the bike district idea, I think it’s great. I live in Pasadena where existing bike routes are pretty lame and completely break down when you get to either Old Town or the South Lake business districts. I see a lot of cyclists riding on sidewalks on Lake because the sharrows (a good way for making it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing) are roundly ignored by motorists and it’s not a pleasant street to ride on.

I also love the bike counter idea, but good luck: I’m not sure any city wants to publicly advertise the effectiveness of its bike lanes. Don’t get me wrong. I love bike lanes — but they have to be done right to succeed. And by ‘done right’ I mean they need to offer some type of separation from car traffic and they need to be plugged into a bigger network instead of just ending and dumping the cyclist into vehicular traffic. (See: Cordova Avenue, Pasadena, California).

Quick question to no one in particular: where the heck is the media on this? If the region was building miles of new roads or transit lines, the media would likely be doing stories. Yet there are miles upon miles of bike lanes being installed across our region with little media scrutiny of their design and ability to serve those they intend to help — cyclists!

Okay, got that out of my system….

Cincy proposes eliminating parking requirements to save buildings and neighborhoods (Cincinnati Post) 

My hometown is as car-centric as most places in the Midwest. Yet there’s a proposal now in some parts of town get rid of parking requirements that mandate how many parking spaces each residential building must have. The problem is that many buildings in downtown’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood were constructed in the later half of the 1800s and have no parking spaces. That means that some building owners either have to find parking for tenants, demolish the building or let it languish because redevelopment is too expensive. I’m guessing many residents of old buildings will want cars anyway — there’s certainly no shortage of downtown garages or parking lots where they can store them, just like car owners do in other large cities.

The great Red Car conspiracy of Los Angeles — is it real? (KPCC/99% Invisible)

This podcast takes a look at the alleged conspiracy that car interests dismantled the old streetcar lines in order to force people into cars. Sorry, but the reporters here don’t buy it, nor do I. What happened? A lot of things. Low fares kept streetcars unprofitable and poorly maintained, streetcars were slow and unable to serve the sprawl they helped create and many people enjoyed the newfound freedom of having a car.

A streetcar on Brand Boulevard in Glendale in the mid 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive's Flickr collection.

A streetcar on Brand Boulevard in Glendale in the mid 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive’s Flickr collection.

Crosswalks in New York are not havens, study finds (New York Times) 

The new study looks at injuries suffered by pedestrians and cyclists brought to Bellevue Hospital Center. The major findings: of those pedestrians struck by cars, most were in the crosswalk and had the crossing signal in their favor and cyclists tend to be disproportionately injured by taxis. The study also found that many of those injured were using electronic devices. Overall traffic-related deaths in New York have plummeted in recent years and officials hope that the new data may help with future safety initiatives.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Jan. 11

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

High-speed rail official says July 2013 groundbreaking still on track (California High-Speed Rail blog) 

The official says that the first phase in the San Joaquin Valley could begin work this summer and if many hurdles are cleared, a two-hour, 40-minute ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles possible by 2029.

Hurray for pedestrian improvements…if only drivers would respect them (L.A. Streetsblog)

Excellent post. Sahra Sulaiman spends a few hours watching a recently-improved crosswalk in Watts and comes with this conclusion: children are often given a wider berth by cars than adults and compliance is inconsistent. I’d love to see police in the region crack down on motorists who drive through or get too close to crosswalks when there are people in them — I can’t recall the last time I saw police looking for such violations.

Questioning the commuter parking subsidy (NRDC Switchboard Blog) 

Federal tax law allows employees to shelter money used for transit or parking at work from payroll deductions. That’s great — except the NRDC says the parking benefit costs the country about six times the transit benefit. Their conclusion: get rid of the parking subsidy for most people (perhaps exempting carpoolers) as a way to promote transit.

L.A. becomes more pedestrian friendly with new crosswalk upgrades

DTLA Bike Patrol officers demonstrate how to properly cross a crosswalk with a bike. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

DTLA Bike Patrol officers demonstrate how to properly cross a crosswalk with a bike. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

53 intersections throughout L.A. will be upgraded with continental crosswalks (a.k.a. zebra crossings, see above pic) by March of 2013, which is fantastic news for the thousands that live and work in L.A. Continental crosswalks provide higher visibility to advise motorists that pedestrians may be present, making for a safer walking environment. There’s also a set-back limit line to help reduce vehicular encroachment into the crosswalk area.

Cross with care! Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

Cross with care! Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

Mayor Villaraigosa joined Los Angeles Walks and local business owners this morning to announce the new pedestrian safety intiative at the corner of 5th St. and Spring St., the first intersection to be upgraded. The conversion of the 53 crosswalks is funded through Measure R monies set aside for pedestrian improvements by the mayor and City Council.

Eventually, LADOT would like to make continental crosswalks the new standard for all development and transit projects.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Aug. 8

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

After a few blissful days in the Sierra backcountry — see above — I'm back at the helm of The Source. And, as has seemingly become custom, I managed to miss a lot going on in the past few days. I'll try to catch up with everything ASAP. In the meantime, geographically-attuned readers should feel free to guess the name of the above lakes in the comments section. The color of the water is a hint.

Board of Supervisors approves putting Measure R extension on ballot (L.A. Times)

The Board voted 3 to 1 to put the 30-year extension of the Measure R half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. Supervisor Don Knabe, who is against the extension, said the Board was told by county attorneys that it was legally bound to send the issue to voters and could only vote against for technical violations. There are still hurdles to clear: A bill still must be approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Brown in order for the issue to reach voters this fall.

Number of pedestrian deaths climbs in 2010 (NHTSA)

There were 4,280 pedestrians killed by vehicles in 2010 in the United States, a four percent increase from the 4,109 who perished in 2009. The new report from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration lists only numbers — not causes. The overall trend is better, as the number of deaths has dropped in the past decade. The obvious question is whether increased distractions to motorists — i.e. smartphones, weather, etc. — has anything to do with it.

Customers taking to wi-fi in New York subway (Associated Press)

The wi-fi is available in a handful of subway stations in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, along with cell phone service for AT&T and Sprint customers. The lure for the company providing the wi-fi is the potential to advertise to smartphone users. Metro, by the way, is still working on providing wi-fi and cell phone service in the subway system here.

 

Safer pedestrian crossings for the Expo Line

“Tiger stripes” at Expo/USC crossing. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro

Some of you may have noticed the neat new stripes at the crossings of 23rd Street Station and Expo/USC Station.

It’s all part of making Expo Line’s pedestrian crossings that much safer. Not only do the stripes designate proper crossing areas, they remind everyone to be a little bit more aware of the train tracks. Even if you’ve got your head down and eyes glued to your phone, the glittery stripes are hard to miss.

The tiger stripes will be installed at all non-gated pedestrian crossings along the Expo Line over the next few months and eventually cover crossings at the Blue and Gold Lines as well.

Every transit rider is a pedestrian

Image provided courtesy of Los Angeles Walks

Ask anyone smart enough to get off the tour bus at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and they will mention something many people don’t know about Los Angeles. This is a city made for walking. Albeit not along every street, but think about those stars on the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. The fact is that the best way to see Hollywood, and countless other parts of the city, is on foot.

But that doesn’t mean walking doesn’t face an uphill battle getting the attention of policy makers, planners and others involved in shaping the built environment.

Enter urban designer Deborah Murphy, Safe Routes to School advocate Jessica Meaney and Alexis Lantz of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Murphy, with the blessing of her sister complete streets advocates, recently started volunteer-driven Los Angeles Walks, to promote a more pedestrian-friendly Los Angeles. According to Murphy — though all of us are pedestrians to a greater or lesser degree — we have not been terribly well represented to date in the sprawling county we call home.

The group is holding a fund-raiser this Saturday night; details are after the jump.

When I spoke with Murphy about Los Angeles Walks, we kept the conversation focused on how every transit rider is a pedestrian. In turn this means addressing the so-called first mile, last mile problem — or how we get between the train and bus and our final destination.

For Murphy, promoting transit ridership goes hand-in-hand with having a good, safe trip to and from the bus stop or train station. The challenge for pedestrian improvements has been funding, with pedestrian projects receiving a fraction of the money allocated to road or transit construction. Less than one percent of the national transportation budget goes to pedestrians projects, according to Los Angeles Walks.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Friday, Nov. 18

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog.

 

A 1930s-era painting of the 6th Street Viaduct by the artist Emil Kosa, Jr. Credit: George Stern Fine Arts gallery.

After five years of study, 6th Street viaduct’s fate goes to Los Angeles City Council (Blog Downtown)

The decision is in the City Council’s hands this morning: Vote to demolish and replace the historic 1933 6th Street viaduct over the Los Angeles River, or not. The Council’s hand appears to be forced by the fact that the bridge has “concrete cancer,” which “causes the concrete to crumble from the inside, steadily reducing the chances that the structure would survive a major earthquake,” writes Eric Richardson. Some outstanding concerns about the bridge’s replacement include if a new bridge should pay homage to the original bridge and how construction would impact adjacent businesses.

Thinking outside the bus (New York Times)

Writer Lisa Margonelli provides a great overview of communities that are tackling the issue of mobility in some unconventional ways. I’m particularly intrigued by ITNAmerica (Independent Transportation Network), a non-profit that connects people, especially the elderly, who need rides around town with those who have rides to give. But instead of operating on cash or good will, those who provide rides earn transferable credits to take a ride. Founder Katherine Freund puts it this way: “So I could give elders rides in California and transfer the credits I’ve ‘banked’ to my mother in New England.” If I have one critique of the story, it’s that Margonelli seems unnecessarily dismissive of the yeoman’s work of municipal transit agencies in favor of a more “organic” conception of mobility.

Through the looking glass — L.A.-area communities suddenly become bike friendlier (Biking in L.A.)

The opening of Santa Monica’s bike center has stalwart bike writer and advocate Ted Rogers reflecting on the success of several So. Cal. communities in becoming more bike friendly. SaMo and Long Beach are leading the way, but Burbank, Glendale, South Pasadena and West Hollywood are making some noise as well. Challenges remain, Rogers says, but I’d agree that bicycling improvements seem to be happening remarkably fast, given how slowly regions typically change. This Slate.com article from 2005 about biking in Los Angeles — I just stumbled upon it — seems practically quaint in hindsight.

Hybrids safer for drivers, less so for pedestrians, study finds (L.A. Times)

That ultra-quiet hybrid cars would be more dangerous to pedestrians makes immediate sense. But I didn’t expect that hybrids would necessarily be safer for drivers than comparable non-hybrids. It turns out, however, that hybrids tend to be heavier than similar models because of their extra batteries, so they fair better in collisions — at the expense of everyone else I’d imagine. Physics!