Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frozen at Grand Central Station

Joel Sandberg Podcast

Some people had a hard time locating it's getting a repost.

Listen Here!

Joel Sandberg, one of the key staff at the Expo Line Authority, recently came to Professor Woo's PPD-227 class and gave a lecture concerning the relationship between the Expo Line and the USC campus. It's around 40 minutes long and can be downloaded to your iPod or MP3 Player, Here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama's Transportation Plan

Street heat recently posted the link for President Obama's transportation plan.

You can directly download his transportation plan here.

His plan emphasizes government funding to increase transportation security, Amtrack lines and bicycle and pedestrian traffic. While the idea is nice he also wants to increase rail mass transit options and reduce or eliminate congestion in small to medium cities.

I think Obama needs to read Brian Taylor's Rethinking Congestion paper. I would think medium cities would most likely want controlled congestion rather that less congestion.

Also, Obama's desire to rebuild the walkable city by emphasizing bicycles would be new. After looking at the Bogata BRT system, however, one would think emphasizing a BRT program would make more sense with bicycles.

While Obama's plan has some shortcomings, the emphasis on having citizens use bikes and walking as modes of transportation is refreshing to hear, and a victory for Smart Growth advocates.

Honolulu Transit

Professor Kodama sent me an interesting article to put on the blog.

Residents of Honolulu will be getting a new mass transit system. On February 22, the city of Honolulu was recommended by experts to install a rail system. While only one other official objected the rail system, instead preferring a BRT system. It's interesting that the city would think a rail system would be better for them than a BRT system. With all the enthusiasm for the rail line it seems like the BRT system will not be properly thought out. You can read more about the article here.

The article is also featured on youTube and can be seen here.

RTKL, LA Live, and Parking PODCAST

Listen Here

Yesterday the developers of LA Live, RTKL design firm came to USC and spoke about LA Live. They spoke briefly about the parking situation and how they will widen the roads to increase pedestrian traffic.

Click here to listen or download it

It's pretty long, but there are some worthwhile things to hear and listen too.

Pasadena TMC Tour - Important for PPD 360 Class!!

We'll be having our Pasadena TMC Tour with Judi Masuda and Joaquin T. Siques, a transportation engineer, on Friday, April 18.

If we plan on using the red line lets use the comment option to set up when and where we'll meet.

Here's the info.

Pasadena TMC tour, Friday, April 18, 10:30 a.m.
Meet you on the steps of City Hall/Garfield side at that time.

Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide

From Professor Kodama!

The Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide is the most comprehensive resource for planning a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, beginning with project preparation all the way through to implementation.

Click here for online purchase

It is the culmination of over five years of efforts to document and improve the state of the art in cost-effective public transport solutions for cities. This edition, expanded to over 850 pages, includes contributions from a wide range of professionals and practitioners with direct experience in designing and implementing BRT systems all over the world. It is currently only available in English, but it is being translated into Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Download it below or purchase a printed copy by clicking here.

Beginning with an overview of BRT, the Planning Guide proceeds to give a step-by-step description of the planning process, including operational design, financial modeling, physical design, multi-modal and land use integration, business plan development, communications and marketing, contracting, vehicle and fare collection technology, evaluation, and implementation.

The BRT Planning Guide is intended as a guidance document mainly for planning and engineering professionals. However, others, such as non-governmental organizations, national and regional policymakers, and business groups, will find it a valuable resource as well, when advocating for their issues and finding solutions to the problems that they are addressing.

BRT systems have proven to be catalysts in transforming cities into more livable and human-friendly environments. The appeal of BRT is the ability to deliver a high-quality mass transit system within the budgets of most municipalities, even in low-income cities. Planning and implementing a good BRT system is not easy. This guide aims to make the task a little easier.

BRT Planning Guide - June 2007

Click on the chapter title to download the PDF document:

* Introduction (2.5 MB PDF)
* Part I, Project Preparation (13.5 MB PDF)
* Part II, Operational Design (11.4 MB PDF)
* Part III, Physical Design (12.6 MB PDF)
* Part IV, Integration (9.3 MB PDF)
* Part V, Business Plan (9.6 MB PDF)
* Part VI, Evaluation and Implementation (4.9 MB PDF)
* Resources, Annexes and References (788 KB PDF)

Complete Guide (55.7 MB PDF)

Additional Resources

* Annex 1, BRT System Comparisons (224 KB PDF)
* Annex 2, BRT Consultant Directory (116 KB PDF)
* Sample operator contract (1.5 MB Word file)
* BRT Infrastructure Cost Calculator (40 KB Excel file)

The Bus Rapid Transit Planning Guide is copyrighted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). It is intended for technical and educational use only and may not be used for commercial purposes. It may not be reprinted or modified without the explicit authorization of ITDP.

The BRT Planning Guide is co-edited by Lloyd Wright, Executive Director of Viva; and Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). It was developed through support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Global Environment Facility/United Nations Environment Programme, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH.

For more information, please contact

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pounding the Pavement (Deborah's Post for 2/27)

I want to talk this week about sidewalks, and the sidewalk in front of your house as a microcosm of transportation infrastructure. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council are proposing that homeowners should be responsible for the repair of damaged sidewalks in front of their property, regardless of the age, extent or origin of the damage.

Here is an LA Times article, and here is an LA Times blog poll.

The main points:

-It could cost the homeowner $15 per sq ft to replace damaged sidewalks

-Homeowners are already responsible for certain other upkeep expenses when their property changes hands, namely gas shut-off valves and low-flow toilets.

-The City’s current rate of sidewalk repair will not complete its backlog until 2091.

-Homeowners are not allowed to make decisions regarding planting or removing trees in the public right of way which may be causing damage or posing slip-and-fall hazards.

-Homeowners are not allowed to remove the sidewalks and make them part of their own private landscaping.

My beef and what this has to do with transportation planning:

A major theme in contemporary urban planning is the need to create more walkability, more compact developments that are pedestrian friendly. Putting the responsibility for the pedestrian infrastructure in the hands of potentially un-informed, poorly motivated individuals is as unwise as it is unfair. Our city sidewalks form an integral part of both the multi-modal transportation infrastructure and the stormwater management infrastructure. We should be looking for new innovations in the design and materials, and perhaps finding costs-savings by converting to pervious pavements where appropriate. We should not be looking for costs-savings by merely abdicating responsibility.

Joel Sandberg Expo Line Podcast

Listen Here!

Joel Sandberg, one of the key staff at the Expo Line Authority, recently came to Professor Woo's PPD-227 class and gave a lecture concerning the relationship between the Expo Line and the USC campus. It's around 40 minutes long and can be downloaded to your iPod or MP3 Player, Here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Update on Carmel, Indiana Roundabout Interchanges

One of my favorite blogs, The Urbanophile, just added an entry detailing the roundabout interchanges Carmel, IN is implementing, including renderings. Read this excellent blog entry here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Congestion Pricing in New York

Click here for the Congestion Pricing

The Queens Gazette reported on a recent meeting for the Community Board 2 meeting in Queens, NY where two different citizen expressed their viewpoints on Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan.

The plan would reduce vehicle miles traveled by 6.1 percent and an estimated 38.6 percent reduction in the most congested areas.

61% of the citizens at this meeting approve of this plan and 36% would approve the plan even if the money does not go towards improving mass transit.

Other residents at the meeting expressed different opinions about congestion pricing calling it a regressive tax using the London model where the prices have increased by 150% since the programs founding. They also claim that the majority of the congestion comes from taxis and limos therefore they suggest an alternative method to relieve congestion by specifically targeting those vehicles.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mayor Orders Implementation of Pico-Olympic Plan Despite Opposition

As posted today in the LA Times, Mayor Villaraigosa has ordered transportation officials to implement "mostly" one-way traffic flows on Pico and Olympic Boulevards. This is achieved by removing one parking lane during rush hour in the designated direction as well as adding new striping. Area residents, councilmembers and other officials have expressed concerns over how pedestrian-unfriendly the design is, and several councilmembers have threatened to remove their districts from the proposal. At this point, Villaraigosa is calling for implementation without consulting city planners. Ouch.

Some choice quotations from the article:

It's unfortunate that the planning department is not going to be engaged. Planning and transportation should be joined at the hip. . . . You just don't bowl over the community like that. You have to appreciate who's there. It's disrespectful to my constituents, and it's an insult to my constituents.
-Bill Rosendahl

We were promised answers to our questions. We have not gotten those answers. There has been no meaningful input, and now the plan is happening anyway.
-Mike Eveloff, President of Tract 7260

So what do I think? First of all, I firmly believe that any action taken on Pico/Olympic should first involve input by transportation planners. There is no excuse for this to be railroaded to the point that councilmembers are wanting to bail out.

Secondly, the distance between Pico and Olympic in many parts of the route raise concerns on the viability of these two streets to be a legitimate freeway-alternate corridor. Residents on side streets most likely will see an influx of cut-through traffic.

Thirdly, the elimination of streetside parking to accomodate more auto traffic just demonstrates Los Angeles' lack of cohesion. Some parts of the city government have pedestrian-friendly initiatives, but Mayor Villaraigosa seems content to further the auto-centric status quo.

Finally, I think this plan is that it is a stinker and will lead to far more problems than it solves. Improving the signal timing or using lane control to add a reversible lane down the center are all much better alternatives than eliminating parking to create a virtual freeway. Business will drop on Olympic and Pico, but unlike the merchant in the article, I don't think it will be because of a lack of street parking, but rather because no one wants to walk alongside a virtual freeway.

More importantly, what do YOU think?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Men and Traffic do MIX!

Reuters today reported an odd story, indirectly related to transportation planning.

A group of 10 bodybuilders in Berlin helped lift a car out of a six foot ditch. The driver, a 38 year old man, lost control and flew into a meadow near the men's gym. It only took the men a couple of minutes to pull the car out of the ditch.

What can we learn from this? In the future when planning highways, we should always put gyms near curvy high speed paths.

Click here for full story

£25 SUV Congestion Charge

London Mayor Ken Livingstone will be passing a plan to charge £25 for cars that emits 225g per km of CO2 when entering congestion zones. Cars that emit less than 120g per km will be omitted and cars in between will be charged £8 for entering.

Two questions, where will the money collected from these funds go and how will delivery businesses respond?

Also, if Bloomberg successfully added a congestion zone in NYC do you think a fee like this would eventually be added as well?

To read the full article click here

Friday, February 8, 2008

Los Angeles ranks exactly ranks in the middle for Sustainability

The GoingGreenDC blog recently posted an article showing a list of sustainable cities as reviewed by

Sustainlane, is an independent online media company that offers peer reviews, where you can quickly find over 20,000 green products and great local businesses.

They recently listed the 50 most sustainable cities in the US and Los Angeles ranked at 25. Right in the middle of the pack. For all the details click here.

While they praise Los Angeles' SustainLA program, their study showed that we ranked 49 overall for metro congestion. On the bright side, LA was ranked 8th overall for mass transit.

Overall, an interesting read for anyone curious about how much progress Los Angeles has made the past few years.

All About Roundabouts

I was surfing on the City of Carmel, Indiana, website and came across this page explaining the safety and environmental benefits of roundabouts. For those unfamiliar with roundabouts, it's a nice little primer that includes both a presentation and an animation on "How to Negotiate a Roundabout" (sourced from the City of Clive).

As an Indianapolis native, I've frequently encountered the roundabouts in Carmel (they currently have over 40 with dozens more planned) and I've got to say they work really well! Traffic flows much better through these European-style intersections than more traditional stop signs and traffic signals.

They've worked so well that Carmel is converting an expressway with signalized intersections into a sunken expressway with roundabout interchanges for exiting/cross-street traffic, with construction starting this year and continuing throughout the next few construction seasons. Project site is located here.

Anybody else have experiences with roundabouts? Any places you think Los Angeles could use some more (PCH has one in Long Beach)?

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Bogotá

Professor Kodama found an interesting post about the Bus Rapid System in Bogota. The post comes from Streetsblog and offers a great 7 minute video talking about the BRT system in Bogota.
The Bogota BRT line travels at amazing speeds and runs like a subway. With stations located in the middle of large roads and smaller buses that bring people to their destinations to the smaller areas. Plus those smaller buses are free. With this "hive" sort of system the BRT line has bicycle use become an integral part of their BRT system and found a great balance for most commuters. Lastly their BRT system is monitored like air traffic. Maybe the MTA can change the road use on Wilshire to something like this.

You decide.