Monday, April 30, 2012

Bike lanes: Keeping fast cars safe from opening doors

You know how it seems like most American bike lanes are almost entirely in the door zone?

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And you know how most local governments will claim it's just an unfortunate side effect of limited road space?

Well, the Fresno Public Works Department has decided to be extremely candid about the REAL benefit of bike lanes. That is, bike lanes are great because they keep drivers safe from those pesky doors that may suddenly be opened.

Behold the department's report to the city council about an upcoming road diet.

This Gettysburg Avenue Bike Lanes project will improve Gettysburg Avenue by installing on-street bicycle lanes and creating a center two-way left turn lane between Fresno Street to Winery Avenue. No parking will be impacted along Gettysburg Avenue and through vehicles will be separated from opening car doors by the bicycle lanes.
PDF, report on page 138

Isn't that sweet? The REAL reason the council should approve this project is because it makes driving fast so much safer.

That shouldn't be too much of a surprise though. The "bike lanes project" was modified so that almost half the project mileage includes no actual bike lanes.



If this project rings a bell, it's because I discussed it back in December when a council member decided to delay a routine public works project (a resurfacing and restriping) and make it political.


Of course, the entire project is a game of politics. It became clear at that meeting that the bike lanes were simply there so that the city could grab money from a grant program and be able to use it to repave a street and make it safer for cars.

The project is funded with CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds, namely funds intended to reduce air pollution. That's where the bike lanes come in, as obviously people on bikes are not causing air pollution.

As was stated in the meeting, the real purpose of the road diet was to increase safety to motorists. This is definitely not a bad thing, as safer streets are obviously better (and road diets are also safer for pedestrians and cyclists). However, the attitude of the city representative was pretty bad. He pretty much stated that the only reason bike lanes were going in is because the grant required them.

The person from the city was a disappointment. He went out of his way to make it clear he wasn't a cyclist, and he would never use a bike lane. The emphasis from him was also the safety benefit of a turning lane, and the bike lanes were a necessary evil.

Half a year later, I guess the city has found a way to make that necessary evil into a positive. Now that bike lanes can be rebranded as door buffers, all is well.



But that's not all.

Remember the Bike Master Plan (BMP) that was promoted in 2010 as a great new thing, a turning point in cycling infrastructure in Fresno?

The plan that the report makes sure to mention?

This Gettysburg Avenue Bike Lanes project from Fresno Street to Winery Avenue will allow for a safer route for existing bicyclists to use this corridor as an alternate to the heavier travelled Shaw Avenue to the north and Ashlan Avenue to the south. Gettysburg Avenue was identified in the 2010 City of Fresno Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Master Plan as a critical east-west link in the bike lane network. Neither Shaw Avenue nor Ashlan Avenue is considered viable for bicycle lanes.


That's funny. Neither Shaw nor Ashlan are viable for bike lanes? But yet that very same master plan shows....

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PDF, maps begin on page 161

Bike lanes on Shaw and Ashlan in the project area.

(Gettysburg is between the two)

Whoops.

I guess since those streets don't have street parking, door buffers aren't needed.

I mean seriously, look at the size of that right lane and tell me with a straight face that bike lanes aren't feasible.

Shaw
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And I guess Gettysburg isn't THAT critical for cyclists, because the plan was changed from what was supposed to go in last year. I guess they did the math and figured out the absolutely bare minimum bike lane mileage required to be able to pillage the CMAQ fund.

Somehow, that math worked out so that a little less than half the bike lane project will actually involve bike lanes.

In response to neighborhood concerns, the Public Works Department was able to modify the planned roadway striping to maintain four lanes of traffic between First Street and Cedar Avenue, the location where traffic volumes are the highest along the corridor. These four lanes of traffic consist of two eastbound travel lanes, a single westbound lane and a center two-way left turn lane

Of course, the BMP includes bike lanes between First and Cedar. But I guess that no longer matters because a couple of seniors expressed concerns.





So what is it Fresno. Is the BMP important or not? You can't claim the plan called for lanes on a minor street, and hype that up, and then ignore the very maps in the plan that call for lanes on streets people actually want to use. And you can't claim that Gettysburg is critical for cyclists but then throw them under the bus (or SUV) because of the small chance that congestion MAY appear for a few minutes a day...in 20 years (during the meeting, the studies shown states that congestion wouldn't be an issue until 2030).


And you can't claim that bike lanes will reduce air pollution but then promote the project as a way to make driving safer.

Well actually, I guess they can, because that's exactly what the city has done.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Can it really be? Expo line finally opens

It finally happened. After delayed and more delays, the Exposition Light Rail line in Los Angeles has finally opened.

The first public Expo Line passenger train was a sweep train departing from 7th/Metro at 4:54 am on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

I've written about the line three times before, and it was always about the never-ending delays.

9/19/2011 Expo line delays should not be tolerated
11/26/2001 Expo line to miss 2011 opening
3/24/2012 Endless Expo delays coming to an end...?

See a theme?

Originally scheduled for a summer 2010 opening, the line was delayed and delayed and delayed again. The mayor finally set in stone an April 29th opening, and it looks like that official announcement was enough to motivate the contractors to finally do their jobs.

Sure, the line missed CicLAvia, and sure, the line missed the festival of books, and yes, the line missed almost the entire USC semester....

But it finally opened.

Barely.

After years of delay, the Expo Line is finally opening today. But within the last few days, there was still some question about whether the line would open on time.

MTA engineers have been working over the last several weeks to correct a persistent signaling problem, which can cause trains to stop automatically -- sometimes in intersections.
LA Weekly


But what has passed has passed. The line is finally open and can help people better use their time, reach more jobs and have more opportunities. It brings better mobility to a whole new part of the city and yes, it will get some cars off the road. The line should also have a positive effect on the other LA rail lines and help them all break ridership records this summer.


So what's next? Well, first Metro needs to serve the expected ridership levels with appropriate service. At launch, the line will operate at best every 12 minutes during the day and 20 at night. Not very good. Hopefully, that is improved by the end of the year, at least to 10/15.

And construction isn't over. The line will eventually reach Santa Monica, but not for another four years. Or six. Or eight. We'll see.

It's an improvement though, and it's good to see that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What chain could "anchor" downtown Fresno?

When people talk about ways to get shoppers and visitors to downtown Fresno, a common theme is the idea that a single well known anchor would bring enough shoppers to have the entire area pick up.

Of course, the anchor has to be a chain. Fresno loves chains. You can open the world's best....well, anything, but if it's not a chain, than expect sparse crowds. People will camp overnight for the grand opening of a chain like Buffalo Wild Wings, but ask people if they've ever heard of "Come And Get it Chicken and Waffles" which offers much better food, and the answer will obviously be no.

The question is, is there such thing as a well known chain that can both bring in enough people to spark something, AND would also ever consider locating downtown?

A big issue with chains is that they have their location planning down to a science. It's not always a GOOD science, but these chains believe that the only places they can be successful is somewhere that meets some arbitrary and predefined set of criteria.

The big factor of course, is number of households above a certain income threshold within x miles. The exact formula obviously varies by chain, but the idea is always the same. It's the reason almost every new national chain that has set up shop in Fresno in the last decade has picked River Park. It's the only place that meets the formula. Indeed, in a couple of months the DSW chain (shoes) will open their first valley store....across the street from River Park.

The formula doesn't always make sense. Having 20,000 households that make $60,000 or more a year within 3 miles can certainly impact sales....but these formulas ironically don't take into account the local populations' ability to drive.

You can bet that the location formulas place a very high premium on highway access (River Park borders CA-41) and ability to provide ample parking, but the irony is that these formulas seem to imply that people will only drive a couple of miles to get to the store.

That may very well make sense if your chain is a store that caters exclusively to a local neighborhood, like SaveMart or CVS, but if you're a national retailer that will only have one location for 200 miles, doesn't it make sense that people will in fact drive a little further to get there?

After all, RiverPark isn't so successful because of the people living within 2 miles, but because it attracts people from Madera, Sanger, Kerman etc....all 20+ miles away. Remember, River Park is home to two Sports Authority stores, one directly across the street from another. It takes more than shoppers from northeast Fresno to justify that.

So if a big-name retailer opened their own and only valley store downtown, would they be successful? Sure. People have no problem driving here.

But that doesn't mean it will ever happen. Nordstrom, if they ever do come to Fresno, will not open a store downtown simply because it doesn't fit with their scoping formula. Indeed, River Park doesn't even make the cut today, which is why they're not in town.

In Santa Monica, Norstrom helps anchor the popular pedestrian mall. Doesn't mean they'll ever do the same on the Fulton Mall
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So what chain has the magic power?

-Bass Pro was once talked about half a decade ago. It didn't happen, and even if it did, it's not a good fit with downtown, or really, as an anchor anywhere. How many people follow up their kayak-purchase with a stroll for designer jeans?

-Dave and Busters gets brought up all the time, but the chain isn't exactly expanding. It's an expensive operation to run, and has limited appeal. Their big competitor, Gameworks, went out of business a few years ago. The chain can barely make it work in much bigger cities, Fresno isn't in line.

-Ikea is another one that gets brought up, but the big-box format obviously doesn't work downtown.


A few months ago, Yardhouse opened their first Fresno location, and at the time I thought they would be one of the few brands that could make it work absolutely anywhere. They're a growing chain with a good reputation, and a concept that can draw people from all over. Their theming also could complement the baseball stadium downtown. Of course, they opened up in River Park to big crowds.....but less than 6 months after opening, Yardhouse has already cut back their hours and their staff. I was excited about them opening here primarily because they'd be the only (non fast-food) place in the River Park area with a kitchen open past 10pm. While they are still open past 10, they've cut their hours down to 11:30 on weekdays and 1:30am on weekends. I stopped by last weekend, and the place was almost empty a little after midnight. Just three months ago, there was still a wait at 10pm.

Discouraging. Fresno loves chains, but apparently the love affair is is quite fickle. Texas Roadhouse opened this week on west Shaw to large crowds, but will that last? Probably not.


So, back to the title of this post...what chain, if any, would and could anchor downtown Fresno?


The only one I can think of is the well known LA burger-place Unami, which just opened a large new concept space in downtown LA. They've chosen locations that show they're not afraid to go beyond the "formula" and it's helped their image.

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You can read about their "UMAMIcatessen" concept which opened in LA in an article here.

Check out their menu, it would certainly be unique to Fresno.
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Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FAX: Wasting money on ads about bad signs

Once again, a Fresno Area Express (FAX) ad in the Fresno Bee newspaper caught my eye. The ad was absurd, almost comical really. It was an ad about the transit agency putting up new signs at bus stops.

I found many things about the ad to be absurd. Simply the idea of spending money to tell Bee readers that bus stops will have new signs is odd. I'm all for giving the Bee advertising revenue, but this doesn't exactly seem like a good use of transit money. Also, if you're going to be spending money on something like this, I'd hope that the signs would be amazing. On the contrary, the new signs appear to be quite poor, and the three bullet points explaining the virtues of the new signs are pretty bad. Super bad. Finally, the last time FAX ran an ad in the Bee, it was for service changes that never happened.

The ad
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Bus stop signs are a very important part of a bus transit system. As buses can stop anywhere, knowing the predefined locations where to be to catch the bus is of the utmost importance. The signs confirm to the rider that they're in the right place, that the right bus is coming, and that they will get to where they're going. For riders who have done no research beforehand, the signs should have enough information to get someone going towards their destination.

Or at least they should. A missing, unreadable or defaced sign removes a lot of confidence from the rider. If the transit system can't maintain a small piece of metal affixed to a poll, can they be trusted to arrive on time, and provide a safe ride? And if the sign is incorrect or missing information, then how does the rider know they're in the right place?

In Fresno, many of the signs have been washed out by the relentless sun. others, are dirty or have been defaced. Can you read these signs?
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The signs also play an important guiding principal in getting people to the bus system. If the signs are too small, they don't help people know where to go. A new rider may know that the bus they wants stops at Shields and Chestnut. But where? Before, or after the intersection? A visible sign can help.

Can you spot the FAX stop?
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Size is important in a landscape littered with signs. In the same way that FAX is marginalized on the road, even the important informational signs get a lesser treatment than useless signs aimed at drivers. Compare the size of this seat belt sign with the bus stop sign.

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Of course, the most important part of the sign is the information it conveys. It's important to know the sign is about the bus system, yes, but isn't the bus route pretty damn important? How about the direction, terminus, and major stops along the way?



So what do the new signs do to address these concerns? Well, if your primary concern is a lack of humor on the business page, the ad does a fantastic job.

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The sign itself? Not much use at all. It's a picture of a bus. Super important. Where the hell is the route information...? Yes, having a distinctive and recognizable bus image is certainly exciting....but what use is that to someone wanting to know if they have the right bus route?

And how is being reflective of any interest to a bus rider? Signs being reflective is of the utmost importance...if you're driving! Pedestrians don't have headlights that can flash beams of light on a sign. pedestrians needs street lights that actually work, not a sign whose apparently second best feature is that it's made of the same material other signs are made of.

Which leaves us with bullet point three. Apparently the picture of the bus is so groundbreaking that not only is it on both sides of the sign (!!) but telling us this information required an entire bullet point.


No route info. No scheduling info. No destinations. No bus tracking. Not even a damn website link. Just a picture of a bus, and a telephone number. Oh, and the word bus. Because the picture was sort of vague.


So who's the brave soul that will give them a call and ask for more information about this exciting new sign?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For the longest time - traffic signal fail

I've been planning on writing a post about how building bigger streets can actually slow down traffic. A central point of that post will be how bigger roads require lengthier traffic signal cycles.

I got lucky, or shall I say, unlucky, the other day as I found myself driving home and yet again getting stuck at Herndon and Fowler. Mind you, it's not really luck. As I'll talk about later, the wider the road, the more likely you'll get red....

There is a signal here that is not working properly, and while I reported it to the city back in January (the 7th), no change was made.

Basically, the signal operates on rush hour timing at all times during the day, instead of reverting to sensor/demand mode at night.

I decided to finally document the frustration that comes with this signal. I had my camera with me, and I came to a full stop, pulled it out and began filming. So note that I, on Herndon (the 6 lane, 50mph major road), had red for at least ten seconds prior to the start of this video.

Take special note of the amount of cars that cross this intersection during my seemingly endless wait.

(Warning: Radio music is slightly loud at first. Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time" would be better I'd think)



That's a hell of a wait. Watch the whole thing, and I promise you;ll smile at one point.


At 1am, or whenever this video was taken, the wait is absurd, and a waste of time and gas.

But now imagine this same wait during the day, with 20, 30 or more cars on Herndon just sitting there, enjoying the cycle.

Doesn't seem like the best way to manage traffic, does it?

I'll have the full post next week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fresno: Use TOD funds to open pedestrian mall to cars...?

The mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin, made one of her central campaign focuses a revitalization of downtown Fresno. That is certainly a great thing. Unfortunately, one of the center pieces of her plan involves ripping up the city's one and only pedestrian mall and making it a street like any other.


The Fulton Mall today, the city does little to maintain it
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Her logic is as follows:
The mall is in bad shape. It has a high vacancy rate and the shops that exist are low end. To get shoppers and developers back, the street needs car traffic (because apparently cars are big spenders).

Ripping up the mall, knocking down the mature trees, removing the dozens of art pieces and fountains and laying asphalt requires money. A lot of money.

Playgrounds don't remove themselves
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Fresno does not have money. Well, sort of. There's lots of money for things like street widening in the suburban parts of town, but nothing available to revitalize the urban areas.

So the mayor took the most cynical step possible...

She applied for a TOD grant to fund the removal of the mall.

How to get the revitalization dominoes to begin falling? For starters, Swearengin wants $700,000 in TOD funds to fill the developer-incentive gap caused by the death of redevelopment agencies. Then she wants the remaining $2 million in TOD funds to pay for engineering work on the corridor/mall's future.

Swearengin wants cars on Fulton. But the city is considering other options, as well. The $2 million would tackle them all.
Bee

No, not to add a streetcar, or BRT, or anything like that. Just to add cars. Oh, and that $2 million? That's just the engineering. Not a single tree can be felled or fountain ripped up without another $20m in fed bucks.

The saddest part is? In the past five years, Fresno, the only city in the county really eligible for TOD funds has never applied for them, until now.


Transit-oriented development funds were born in 2006 when voters renewed Measure C, the county's half-cent transportation sales tax. In theory, any of the county's cities -- or any noncity hall group -- can apply for the money. In reality, Fresno with its huge population and equally huge need to curtail sprawl is the prime candidate.

There now is about $2.7 million in the so-called TOD account. No TOD grants have been awarded yet. In fact, the TOD scoring committee hadn't even scored an application until Monday


Fortunately, the request was rejected. At least for now. The rejection didn't come because the committee thought it was ridiculous to give TOD funds to a 100% auto project. No, the rejection came because they thought the city as trying to move too quickly, and the fed money would never come through.

Fair points. But shouldn't the first and most important consideration have been.....how the hell do you spend $2m in TOD funds for a project that has nothing to do with transit?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More thoughts about Philly - East Cost Trip Part 3

Here are the rest of my thought about Philly, in which I spent a whole day! Part 2 is here.

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When we left off, it was evening and I was walking around center city. This was on a Monday, and things were oddly quiet. Certainly not the hustle and bustle of NYC.

I noticed an oddly placed sharrow for bikes.

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The city has great signage for pedestrians. Lots of signs and even maps. This was was oriented so the top of the map is "forward" making it very useful for pedestrians. My one complaint was the location up there makes it hard to read for those with poor eyesight.
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Philly has much more extensive bike infrastructure than I was expecting. When bike lanes didn't fit, they had bus/bike lanes. One thing is that they could do a better job painting them.

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One thing that caught my eye was the almost complete lack of pedestrian signals. Instead, pedestrians use the standard traffic signals. This was especially interesting because most streets are one way, but there are traffic signals facing every single direction, for use by pedestrians. Boston should certainly take this into consideration.

Note the location of this signal, far to the right of the intersection, and facing the "wrong" way. Its exclusively for use of pedestrians. There is no countdown, but the streets are narrow enough that yellow is all that is needed. No stupid flashing hands here.

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Construction never looks like this in California.
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Lots of bike lanes, including buffered ones.
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Philly has many great small alleys. Look at the signs, this is for two way traffic.
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They make for great spaces, but the one biggest failing is how pedestrians are treated when the alley breaks the sidewalks. Instead of raising the alley so that drivers must enter (and yield) into a pedestrian space, people are forced to step down to cross.

This is very pad for the disabled, as wheelchair ramps are very poor. This must also be a huge hassle in the winter, as these look like prime puddle grounds.

Why not construct them more like driveways instead of streets? Take note of the ramps, one is facing diagonally, and one is straight. Fail.

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These streetcar tracks appear to be abandoned.

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The parking signs are very informative, and easy to read. They are not ambiguous at all. You can see an older model hiding underneath.

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Only the historic area has cobblestone, all cities need more cobblestone.
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Sidewalk dining makes everything look nicer, even in the winter.
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More of those pedestrian signs.
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Unlike Boston, Philly actually sees fit to provide a night network of public transit. The signs are also very useful to tourists.
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9:30pm and this subway stop looks desolate. I wonder why that is?
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One thing I didn't get into but should mention is the many instances of terrible drivers. Haven't seen anything like it before.

In a five minute span, I witnessed the following while being a passenger in a car.

1) We were waiting at a light to make a left onto a small one way street. The street was only one car wide. Except a car was stopped there, driving the wrong way. We were signalling our intention, and honked, as this idiot had to get out of the way. He didn't move. Eventually, we said screw it and decided to just continue to the next street. As we did so, the light changed, and the guy driving the wrong way had the nerve to honk.

2) 2 blocks away, we were on a two way (2 lane) street, driving behind a slower moving car. Suddenly, another car is driving along next to us, in the wrong lane, as if it were a one way street. ignoring the double yellow line, this driving continued cruising with as if nothing was wrong. We slowed down to let this idiot merge into our lane. Instead, he made a right turn directly across our path into the next street. WTF.



Anyway, it was fun to visit Philly, and I hope to be back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Using homeland money to actually help transit riders?

Something odd caught my eye in a recent Clovis city council agenda. Two things I've talked about before on this blog being found together on the same agenda item in a way I didn't expect.

Homeland Security.
Bus tracking technology for riders.


The second is something I've talked about before as being a great way to show respect for transit riders and increase ridership. Indeed, implementation directly led to more riders in Visalia. The same would be true in Clovis, which has an extremely infrequent bus system. If a bus comes only once an hour, knowing exactly when it will arrive is critical.

So what does it have to do with homeland security, an agency that enjoys spending time inconveniencing and harassing transit riders?

Apparently, Clovis found a way to tap the endlessly wasteful bounty that is homeland security funding and use it for something that will actually help people.

The City of Clovis is eligible for $76,479 in FY 10-1 1 Proposition I B grant funds and $79,326 in FY 11-12 funding for transit safety and security capital projects. The 10-1 1 funding is phase one (1) of a two (2) year funding cycle, and the 11-12 funding is phase two (2). Funding will be used to procure dispatching software for Roundup, mobile data terminals for buses; and, a system that informs passengers of bus arrivals at specific bus stops. The project has already been deemed eligible for funding by California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA).
PDF


That certainly sounds like bus arrival technology to me.

Will it help fight terrorism? Of course not, but it's not like anything that agency does actually makes people safer. Fortunately, some nimble minds in Clovis found a way to justify the funding.

This project is eligible because it enhances security at bus stops by providing information about bus times, passenger pick up locations on Roundup as well as creating a database of those passengers who may need extra assistance during an emergency or disaster.

Perfect. It makes perfect sense. By informing you what time the bus will actually arrive, you don't have to sit all alone at an isolated bus stop waiting for it to arrive, letting yourself be a prime target for muggers. You can arrive seconds before the bus does and be safely transported.

Sure, Clovis is extremely safe, but in theory it works. Mind you, it's more likely that you'll be killed at a Clovis bus stop by some idiot teenager who is driving 80mph on a local road in an Escalade than by an intentional criminal, but the danger is still there.


So fantastic job Clovis.


And again, Fresno, get on the ball. Visalia did it, Clovis is doing it, why on earth are you not looking for free money that will make transit more attractive....and safer?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thoughts about Philly - East Cost Trip Part 2

Last Monday, I was in Philly. Ok, I was there for a wee bit on Sunday night as well, but it was pretty much one day. Here are my pictures and thoughts.
Part 1 was Jersey

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Arriving in Philly was fun. After transferring to SEPTA in Trenton, I boarded a train for Philly. I had purchased a ticket to 30th station, but was told I could get off anywhere downtown, so I went one station further to "Suburban". The name is a bit misleading. The station is a lot like Penn Station in New York, in that it is very subterranean, and you have no idea where you are. As it was Sunday, it seemed like every stairway was closed, but when I did manage to find my way out, the first thing I saw was this.

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Nice. Sort of like New York though, at least in how wide that avenue is.


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Not bad. Nice being in a real city again.

I was meeting someone who I would be staying with, so I began that walk, only about a mile or so.

Very pleasant walk, even when looking at the back side of some buildings.
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Oddly out of place building.

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After meeting up and settling in, I went out for another stroll. It was raining, but I was ok with that, as I enjoy walking in the rain. That's not something you get to do quite often here in Fresno. I was staying near 15th and Pine, and the neighborhood looked a lot like Boston. I headed over to Rittenhouse Square, and then began walking East on Walnut.

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Walnut is very European, at least at night in the rain. Reminded me of a typical "high street". The Spanish retailer, Zara, probably added to that.

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(time to break this post up, click to read more)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Clovis crosswalk update

The fancy pedestrian crosswalk I mentioned being built in Clovis is almost done.

Remember how I was a wee bit pessimistic about it? That is, while I'm thrilled to see a trail connection and the installation of a much safer crosswalk, I wish they had done it right and built the safest crosswalk possible. So what they're building is good, but far from great.


I posted this rough diagram showing what I was expecting they'd build in terms of sidewalk extensions (in red) and what I would build (in green). Well, my pessimism wasn't even right, as they're only building an extension on the east side. Mind you, even my green drawing could be improved, as the entire intersection could be raised and built with pavers for maximum safety. The best way to build it would have allowed crossing at all points, as the location of the crosswalk means school kids have to cross two streets instead of one.



Let's take a look at what was on the ground on Friday.

The east side, with the trail, has a very small sidewalk extension. Again, good, but could have been even wider. The parking area is around 10 feet wide, and the extension could have been just as big. Note in my above diagram, I nailed how small the extension would be. You can see a faint white line in the street, the extension could have reached that and still allowed the complete bike lane to fit.

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The sidewalk is now connected with the trail. A light was put in on the trail, but apparently none is being put in on the street, over the crosswalk itself. That's where most of the light is needed.

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The curb ramp itself is great. It's wide (same width as path), smooth and the gradient is very low. Excellent. However, as I said, it could be even better by making the crosswalk raised so that the cars, not the people, had to deal with the up and down.

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The crosswalk is quite wide, and the embedded lights are being installed. The lights are super visible and are a great addition.

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The side where the school is baffles me. Absolutely no change here to the existing curb. No sidewalk extension, no improved ramp. Even though it's a small residential street right by a school, the corner is still designed to allow turns at high speeds, and allows cars to park all the way up to the intersection.

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I don't see where the sensors that will turn on the flashing lights will go, so hopefully they will rip this up and rebuild it?

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The project should be finished by Tuesday, so I'll have the final pictures then.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

East Coast Trip Part 1 - Jersey

I spent last weekend on the East Coast. Here are pictures of my trip, with notes. Of course, the focus is on transportation infrastructure. I went from Newark to New Brunswick and then to Philly. of course, the entire trip was done using public transit and walking.

I was only there on Sunday and Monday, so I didn't get to take as many pics as I would have liked. Not enough time...I'd never been to either location, so it was all new to me.

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I arrived at Newark Airport Saturday night, after spending all day traveling, with a stop in Dallas. Like Dallas, Newark has a modern airport elevated train system that is fully automated. The Dallas one was a little better though. It's always amazed me at the speed cities go to spend hundreds of millions on airport transit systems, but aren't able to do the same elsewhere. How many train systems do you know in the US that run every 3 minutes, 24 hours a day, and are fully automated? All of them are inside airport.

The Newark train is outside security, so it includes a connection to the train station. After a free 5 minute ride, I was on the northeast corridor, ready to head south. It was Saturday night, and it was impressive to see so many trains going by. While I lived in Boston for 4.5 years, the northeast corridor doesn't see nearly as many trains.


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My train was perfectly on time and easy to identify

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I stayed in an indoor waiting area, but an outdoor one was also available.

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A short trip later and I was in New Brunswick. I didn't know what to expect from the city. On one side, it is small and suburban, but on the other it had some good height downtown. here is my hotel.

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I think I should split the rest of this post from the front page. So click for more.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Important planning decision at city council meeting tonight

This merits a long and lengthy post, but I've no time at all, so I shall let some other sources speak to what is going on.

The Fresno City Council is to vote on the 2035 general plan as recommended by the planning commission. A long list of developers who depend on sprawl development to make all their money are lining up on one side, so it's important to either attend the meeting or email the council-members asking them to oppose the developers and approve what the planning commission came up with (after months of community input).

The planning option is far...(far!) from perfect, but if the developers oppose it, you know they've done something right.

Of course, the developers want to ignore months of public process and get whatever they want.

Bill McEwen writes:

Now, after the formation of a citizens committee, 12 community workshops and a citywide telephone survey, we're about to see if the City Council has the backbone to stand up to developers seeking more Fresno sprawl.

The test comes 5 p.m. Thursday when the council selects one of five options for the 10-year update to the 2025 General Plan.

The Planning Commission last month unanimously approved "Alternative A," which would add 76,000 housing units. Thirty-nine thousand of the new residences would be in existing neighborhoods and 37,000 in planned growth areas.

But two days before the Planning Commission vote, developers unveiled their ideas during a citizen committee and community workshop at Dailey Elementary Charter School. A Building Industry Association executive then presented "Alternative E" to the Planning Commission.

The entire article is well worth reading.

Jamie Holt has a summary of what the 5 options were


The Boulevard Plan: Focuses on infill development, encourages higher density and stays well within the city's current sphere of influence (SOI).

The Growth Areas Plan: Second-highest amount of additional land annexed but still within the current SOI, allows for medium density in growth areas.

The Expanded Sphere of Influence Plan: The status quo plan with the lowest density and the greatest SOI boundary expansion.

The Hybrid Plan: A combination of the first three alternatives, expansion of the SOI for medium density development and higher density development in infill areas.

A fifth alternative was developed independently, outside of the public process, by a stakeholder group. This "Alternative E" is very similar to "Alternative C."

Fresno Bee


It's not just zoning that is at stake, as the general plan also affects the ways people get around. If the city approves more exurban sprawl in agricultural land, it means 15 mile car commutes. Infill development allows for more people to get around on their own.

Ibikefresno writes on their page


Council is considering the alternatives of the general plan update. Planning commission has selected the option most favorable to cyclists in Fresno, but least preferred by the building industry association. The BIA is lobbying council against this option.

We need people who use the bike lanes to come speak your support for the infrastructure. We need new faces before council. If you support the bike lanes or have recently started using them, please come let the Council know Fresno supports them.
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The council meets today at 5pm to discuss the matter. I'd bet that the final vote will be delayed, but if enough people speak up for option a, and oppose the developers, hopefully the council can vote on it tonight.