Los Angeles Union Station patrons may have noticed a change that went into effect Monday: the seating area at the front of the facility is now available only for passengers with tickets to board Amtrak or Metrolink trains within two hours of their departure times.
Union Station is owned by Metro and agency officials say the change was prompted by an increased number of homeless individuals who have been using Union Station as shelter — an average of 135 per night in recent weeks (numbers were higher over the summer). That, in turn, has at times created extremely unpleasant sanitary issues in the seating area that in some cases posed a health threat to passengers using the station.
Metro had been receiving complaints about the number of homeless in the station for quite some time and over the past summer began trying to find some remedies to the issue, said Ken Pratt, the director of Los Angeles Union Station Property Management for Metro. That has included bringing in workers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority who have been meeting with homeless individuals to try to connect them to shelters, potential housing opportunities as well as psychological and medical care.
The new rules for the seating area are part of a pilot program. Security guards will be checking tickets in the seating area. The seats are not open to Metro riders because Metro bus and rail service at the station is frequent compared to long-distance and commuter rail offered by Amtrak and Metrolink.
The pilot program comes as Metro is beginning more work to restore Union Station, which opened in 1939. In coming weeks, some of the seats in the waiting area will be removed so that wood and metal materials can be reconditioned.
“All this really comes down to this question: who does Union Station really serve?,” Pratt said. “Our customers were being accosted and couldn’t even use the restroom at times because people have been camping in there. We really are trying to do this on two fronts — not just enforcement, but with outreach to homeless in the area surrounding Union Station to bring people to services they need and services to individuals. We are trying very hard to figure things out and working to solve this problem in the right way.”
This summer, the city and the “Bringing Back Broadway” coalition announced an exciting program to recreate the physical layout of the historic theatre district on Broadway between 1st and 11th Streets. Phase I, or the appropriately named “dress rehearsal” involved the creation of semi-permanent infrastructure to create plazas, barrier planters, and other traffic calming and pedestrian enhancement obligations.
Enthusiasm was high, and the Bringing Back Broadway website boasted that the dress rehearsal would begin in November of 2013 (aka, last month). A promised road diet, transit plaza for the future streetcar and other amenities would be far behind. For a full breakdown of everything that’s planned, revisit this July 2 article on Streetsblog.
Ok, so obviously the November 2013 goal was missed, but the project is still moving forward and all participants, downtown businesses, LADOT, City Councilmembers and residents remain enthusiastic.
At tomorrow’s Transportation Committee hearing, the City Council will take the first step in making sure the future enhancements are properly maintained by authorizing contracts with the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), the Fashion District BID and the Downtown Center BID. Each of the contracts are for two years, with a possible renewal for a third year and are not to exceed $350,000 for the two-year term.
City staff confirms that it can’t give a definite timeline for when the street treatments will be completed, but will have a much better idea after the agreements with the BIDs are completed. Staff for the BIDs and LADOT confirmed that both sides are working together in what is being referred to as a model “public private partnership.”
Streetsblog will continue to monitor this story as it develops.
A wave of new residential construction projects in places like Seattle, Boston, and Miami are showing that, yes, modern American cities can build housing without any car parking on site.
Officials in Boston gave their approval last week to what Curbed called the city’s “first big-time parking-less condo,” a 175-unit project named Lovejoy Wharf. The “plan was met with disbelief in some quarters,” according to Curbed, but the city’s redevelopment authority approved it unanimously.
Portland developers have been building housing sans parking for a few years. Last summer, NPR reported that about 40 percent of Portland’s under-construction housing was parking-free. Portland’s zoning rules have allowed zero-parking developments since the aughts, but builders and lenders weren’t pursuing that type of project until recently, the Oregonian reports. Unfortunately, the city pulled the rug out from under parking-free housing this summer, responding to car owners who feared increased competition for curbside parking spots. Portland’s new rule requires some parking in apartment buildings with more than 30 units.
Meanwhile, other cities are marching ahead. In Seattle, parking-free housing developments are becoming more common. Mark Knoll, CEO of Blueprint Capital, led the development of a 30-unit building with no parking in one of the city’s “urban villages.” These designated areas, chosen for their walkability and proximity to transit, have special zoning rules that allow Seattle developers to forgo parking. These relaxed parking requirements were set in motion by Washington state’s Growth Management Act in the 1990s, which was intended to combat urban sprawl. Since the new zoning rules came online in Seattle in 2010, between 20 and 30 parking-free projects have been developed, Knoll estimates.
Car parking is expensive: Each space in a city garage costs tens of thousands of dollars to build and hundreds of dollars annually to maintain [PDF]. Eliminating on-site parking brings down the cost of apartment construction between 20 and 30 percent, Knoll estimates. That makes it possible for developers to deliver more affordable housing. Knoll’s California Avenue development, for instance, is targeted at people making 60 percent of the area median income, or about $15 per hour.
“There’s been quite a few developments [of this type] and they’re quite popular,” said Knoll told Streetsblog. “There’s a waiting list for these types of housing.”
Parking-free housing is attracting buyers at the upper end of the spectrum too. Luxury apartments and condos are now appearing in cities like Miami and Portland without any car parking. Miami’s under-development, 352-unit Centro Lofts will have just five Car2Go spaces, covered bicycle parking, and a space for a future bike sharing station. No storage for private cars. That doesn’t seem to be hurting demand, according to the Miami Herald:
If you think this sort of thing won’t fly in auto-centric Miami, guess again. Half of Centro’s 352 units are sold even though the building hasn’t broken ground. Prices start at $220,000 and top out in the mid-$400,000s.
“These types of projects are really the wave of the future,’’ Oscar Rodriguez, the developer, told the Herald.
CREDIT: © 2012 Julie Dermansky
Several cities and counties in the U.S. have instituted bans or moratoria on the oil and gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in recent years and Fort Worth’s experience with urban fracking shows why.
“Fort Worth has been fracked to capacity,” resident Don Young told DeSmog Blog. “There is no turning back. Some days the air is so bad you can’t see downtown.”
Chesapeake Energy began offering $300 and a pizza party for owners of mineral rights in predominantly poor and working class African American neighborhoods in 2003 and encountered little resistance, DeSmog Blogreported. Now Fort Worth has around 2,000 wells.
Residents have been sickened by vapors from drilling operations, found their neighborhoods suddenly ruined by noise and fumes, and had their water sucked up by drilling operations in the middle of severe drought. Five sites were found in 2011 to be emitting pollution above state limits, according to a study commissioned by the Fort Worth City Council, and most of the 388 sites studied released visible emissions.
Right next door to Fort Worth, the Dallas city council is considering letting fracking start up in town with a vote likely to come next week, capping a three-year fight over the future of fracking in the city. Until recently, Dallas had rejected attempts to frack in town, but that stance seems to be over. Current debate is over the distance required between wells and homes or wells and other wells: 1,500 feet or 1,000.
Dallas’ fracking ordinance is being considered just as researchers from Southern Methodist University linked a series of Texas earthquakes to injection of fracking wastewater into the ground. The Fort Worth Basin hadn’t experienced an earthquake prior to 2008, but 2009 and 2010 saw over 50 occur.
Experiences like Fort Worth’s are a key reason communities across the U.S. and the world have mobilized to place bans or moratoria on fracking. Four Colorado cities passed fracking bans in November by popular vote, in spite of drilling industry campaigns against the initiatives. Their ultimate success is uncertain, as the Colorado gas industry is suing to try and block three of the four, a battle that will likely end in the state Supreme Court, but towns in New York and Pennsylvania, and counties in New Mexico and Hawaii maintain theirs.
The post Fort Worth Shows Why So Many Towns Are Banning Fracking appeared first on ThinkProgress.
For anyone that’s missed it, after month’s of planning and a week of social media fun, yesterday marked the re-launch of LongBeachize, a popular source for news and views on the Long Beach Transportation scene. LongBeachize ceased publication in March of 2012 before yesterday’s re-launch.
While Brian Addison, the Long Beach writer for Streetsblog Los Angeles (SBLA), will be doing the bulk of the writing, he will continue to work with me and the rest of the Southern California Streets Initiative (SCSI), the non-profit publication that co-publishes SBLA and publishes Santa Monica Next. Contributions will also come from an advisory board that includes Antonio Cruz, Kayte Deioma, Michelle Molina, Baktaash Sorkhabi, and Brian Ulaszewski.
Sorkhabi’s name is familiar to long-time LongBeachize readers. He and Stephanie Libanti were the original editors.
In the last 24 hours, LongBeachize has published three stories:
Mayoral Candidates Chime In on Bicycling – Brian Addison
Before we go down this gopher hole that is the Long Beach mayoral race, let’s get one thing cleared: can we please, for the love of all things diplo-wheeled, not use the term “CicLBia” for the maybe-could-happen Long Beach ciclovía? I know mayoral hopefuls Doug Otto and Vice Mayor Robert Garcia are a fan of the term, but it is an all-too-close reference to female anatomy minus one letter (and despite what other vowel you insert between the L and B, the resemblance still remains).
The Man Determined to Connect Downtown to the Water: Sean Warner by Brian Addison
“Bringing more parking downtown doesn’t bring people downtown,” Warner said. “It’s people on the streets that attract more people. And people, especially in Southern California, are beginning to realize this.”
Welcome to the New LongBeachize – by Damien Newton
“But the intention is for LongBeachize to provide coverage about what makes this city unique, including but not limited to bike culture, Long Beach Transit, the Ports and Airport, skateboarding and freeway removals. With the recent adoption of the updated Mobility Element of the Long Beach General Plan and upcoming updates of the Housing, Land-use and Urban Design Elements, there should be significant changes to the city’s urban fabric.”
ART OF TRANSIT: A nice wintery scene, courtesy of Amtrak’s Instagram feed.
Rail to River: a Vision (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas website)
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is proposing to take 8.3 miles of the old Harbor Subdivision railroad right-of-way and turn it into a greenway and park connecting South Los Angeles to the Los Angeles River. Metro is currently studying what might be done with the right-of-way, which runs from 26 miles from south of downtown Los Angeles to Wilmington near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; a few miles of the right-of-the-way is being used for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
The greenway idea is certainly interesting — although, of course, a major challenge that would involve securing funding and real estate. Check out the video about the proposal on Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ website that shows some other rail corridors converted to parks, most notably the High Line elevated tracks in lower Manhattan.
CurbedLA has also posted about the proposal. The comments are interesting, with several readers saying that transit may be the best use of the Harbor Subdivision.
Report: 21st Century transportation (U.S. Public Interest Research Group)
The new study offers a more detailed look at the decline in vehicle miles driven in the U.S. in recent years. These bullet points offer a good quick summary:
Transportation trends are changing in America’s biggest urbanized areas.
The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle – either alone or in a carpool – declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.[i]
The proportion of residents working from home has increased in 100 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas since 2000.
The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.
The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.
There is additional evidence of declining driving in those urbanized areas with standardized data on vehicle-miles traveled.
The average number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita declined in 54 out of the 74large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2006 and 2011.[ii]
New Orleans has seen the largest drop in per-capita VMT – 22 percent – since 2006, possibly a result of Hurricane Katrina. The urbanized areas containing two Wisconsin cities, Milwaukee and Madison, saw the second and third biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Two Pennsylvania urbanized areas, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, saw the fourth and fifth biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Based on the data, U.S. PIRG has a number of recommendations including — and not surprisingly — more investments in transit and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.
The plot continues to thicken in the Queen City, where the new mayor and several new council members last week voted to suspend a downtown streetcar project that was under construction. In turn, the Federal Transit Administration has given Cincinnati officials until Dec. 19 to decide to continue the project or forfeit a $44.9-million federal grant to help build the line.
Five project supporters now say they aim to collect the thousands of signatures needed to call an election within the next 60 to 120 days that would ask voters to approve the project — thereby possibly over-riding a threatened mayoral veto of the streetcar. It remains unclear if such an election could salvage the federal grant if it is lost.
As I wrote last week, this is a pretty crazy story — and not just because it’s unfolding in my hometown. The story basically concerns one set of elected officials trying to undo the work of previous officials who began the streetcar project. The story is relevant because transportation infrastructure takes many years to plan and build, meaning projects almost always span multiple sets of elected officials and even voters.
In other words, are we going to make decisions via elections and then stick with them? Or continually vote for something, then vote against it, then vote back for it and so on — resulting in nothing ever getting done? Stay tuned, people.
CREDIT: A.P. Images
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil will dump 2.72 million tons of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere, according to FIFA. To put that number into perspective, it’s equivalent to the CO2 produced by 560,000 cars in a year, or 136,000 American homes. And that’s over one million tons more CO2 than was emitted by the previous World Cup in 2010.
Most of that heat-trapping gas, about 80 percent, will come from air travel as teams and spectators jet set around the world’s fifth biggest country in order to get to the 12 different stadiums where the 64 World Cup matches will be played.
Last week’s draw, held in a giant tent on a remote beach in Brazil and drawing around 3,000 guests, is estimated to have produced 5,221 tons of carbon dioxide all on its own.
FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, Federico Addiechi, has pledged to completely offset 100 percent of the CO2 produced during the games next summer. This could include financing reforestation programs in Brazil and new investments in wind energy and hydroelectric power. FIFA estimates that offsetting the 2.72 million tons of carbon will cost about $2.5 million, a tiny fraction of the billions in revenue that the games are expected to generate. None of the offsetting projects will be announced until next year, however, and it remains to be seen if FIFA will carry through on its pre-game commitments after the World Cup spotlight has moved on from Brazil.
“We need to develop the game of football, that means that people are traveling around the world,” Addiechi told the AP. “Otherwise we have to stop doing what we are doing and I don’t think that’s in everyone’s interests.”
Most of the World Cup stadiums in Brazil are planning to achieve LEED certifications, and many are installing rooftop solar panels in an attempt to make their massive energy consumption a bit more climate-friendly.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa ended up emitting about 1 million tons less CO2 than was initially predicted — 1.65 million tons instead of 2.64 million tons.
This smaller than anticipated carbon footprint was achieved by energy efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting, and natural ventilation at a number of the South African stadiums.
While the World Cup may be the world’s largest single-event sporting competition, FIFA certainly isn’t the only sport organization making an effort to better understand the ways in which sport affects climate and climate affects sport. Representatives from the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, WNBA and U.S. Olympic Committee joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) on Capitol Hill last month to discuss their efforts to reduce energy usage and address climate change. All of the representatives noted that their leagues felt a social responsibility for the environment and stressed that a healthy climate was in some ways essential to their businesses. Warmer summers and polluted air have already made playing sports like baseball, football, and basketball outside more dangerous at certain times in the year.
The post 2014 World Cup To Nearly Double Carbon Emissions Over 2010 appeared first on ThinkProgress.
Earlier today, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized Streetsblog Los Angeles editor Damien Newton for “Distinguished Work in New Media” for 2013.
The Distinguished Work in New Media award was created in 2008 and is given to a journalist who uses the new media’s unique characteristics and capabilities while striving to uphold traditional journalism’s highest standards of honesty, accuracy, responsibility and accountability.
In response to receiving this honor, Newton released the following statement:
“I am truly humbled by all of the recognition Streetsblog Los Angeles received this year starting with the American Planning Association, continuing with the Los Angeles Press Club, Los Angeles City Council, and Annenberg School of Journalism, and now from the Society of Professional Journalists. While my name is on the plaque, any award won by a member of our team is a reflection on all the writers, editors, donors, commenters and board members that works so hard to produce Streetsblog Los Angeles, Santa Monica Next and LongBeachize every single week day.
In particular, I would like to share this honor with Sahra Sulaiman, a uniquely talented and dedicated writer whose work has literally changed the way people think about Streetsblog and the communities that she covers.
A special thanks also to my family, especially Marybeth and my Mother, who supported my vision for Streetsblog in easy and hard times.
And last, a thanks to OpenPlans, the founders of all the Streetsblogs and our partners in publishing. “
The awards banquet will be held in Spring of 2014, with the date and location to be announced.