Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Declaration of Independence!

As of a few minutes ago, I am car-free. Dani and I sold our aging Honda Civic to somebody who could better take care of her. We have no plans to buy another car. How were we able to accomplish this monumental feat in the middle of car-centric suburbia?

Well, to be honest, dear reader, we cheated. My wife works as a substitute teacher, and it is impossible to reach around half of her school sites on time by transit- and she won't be bicycling to Redlands any time soon. (I'm working on it!) Therefore:


We're now the owners of a 2009 Aprilia Sportcity 250 scooter. Before you laugh, it gets 3.6l/100km (65 MPG) and will haul both of us at freeway speeds. So are we motor vehicle free? Not yet at least. But I have to think that going from 816kg (1800lbs) of vehicle to 158kg (350lb), and from ~9l/100km (25MPG) to 3.6l/100km (65MPG), is a significant improvement.

Without a car, our transportation toolkit has changed quite a bit- a subject which I'd like to cover in a later post. Just now, it's a time for celebration.

The Downtown Parking Epidemic

In meeting after meeting, I have noted the same observation as this Fresno blogger: people think that there is a parking shortage downtown, and yet parking is so plentiful it is strangling decent urbanism there.

I assume this is because *free* parking downtown is relatively scarce, when compared to everywhere else in suburbia, and that parking is somewhat slightly further away from their destination than they are used to. This minor inconvenience imposed upon drivers is so alien from their usual day-to-day travels (if they don't visit downtown regularly) that it is unthinkable to them, and obviously the City should be doing something to remedy that inconvenience immediately.

Meanwhile, those of us who choose to use alternative forms of transportation put up with greater inconveniences regularly: long waits for buses, unsafe streets for bikes and pedestrians, a lack of bicycle parking, the list goes on. This is transportation inequity in action.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grids, Permeability, and Cycling

I mentioned in a few recent posts that grids are pretty much the ideal network design for any mode of transport, assuming high frequencies. (Low-frequency transit networks, from local bus to airline, can often work best in a hub-and-spoke design, but that's a post for another day.) I'd like to mention a related concept now: permeability. Permeability is a measure of how easily one can move through a city. If you can move easily through an area, without a lot of twists and turns, that area is permeable. Most importantly for those of us trying to create a better city, permeability can be different for different modes.

View Larger Map

Take a look at this slice of Riverside, for example. This is Central and Chicago Avenues, in Canyon Crest. If you are in a car heading down Central and you want to continue west towards Riverside Plaza, you need to turn south on Chicago, drive up the hill to Alessandro/Central/Arlington/Chicago*, and turn west again. If you're walking or on a bike, however, you can use one of my favourite bits of cycle infrastructure in the city- a class I bike path that snakes up into the hills, roughly continuing the line of Central Ave. to Fairview, which takes you through to Central on the other side. (You'll have to zoom in on the above map to see it.)

This particular bit of city is more permeable to cyclists and walkers than it is to drivers- and that's a good thing. It means its a bit easier for a cyclist to get around this neighbourhood than it is for a driver to do the same, which should lead more people to cycle or walk. This is also the central insight behind bicycle boulevards, which allow through cycling but block through motor vehicles.

Of course, facilities out here in the 'burbs can also be designed with improved permeability for motorists, at the expense of other modes. Coming back to Canyon Crest, the Towne Centre shopping centre provides an excellent pedestrian experience- once you're inside. On the outside, there are only three dedicated pedestrian entrances, compared to 7 car entrances- and all pedestrian entrances simply dump you out into the parking lot, often on the hood of a parked car. Even though the Towne Centre is in a relatively walkable area, it is significantly more permeable to auto (and, to some extent, bicycle) traffic than pedestrians.

Making our cities more permeable to pedestrian traffic is not terribly difficult, but it requires thinking about mobility in different ways. There is, for example, no reason for a development to wall itself off entirely from the arterial road it sits on. Adding pedestrian paths (or, for the paranoid, gates) at the end of culs-de-sac would allow residents to choose to walk, rather than being discouraged by a roundabout process for exiting their subdivision. Perhaps some roads could receive a bicycle boulevard-style treatment, becoming closed to through car traffic. (Best of all, those sorts of changes are often clamored for by folks looking to calm neighbourhood traffic.) Small- and cheap!- changes in road design could easily make active transportation the obvious choice for a huge proportion of trips, without disturbing the flow of arterial traffic.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More Delays?

Thanks to a group called Friends of the Riverside Hills, who filed a lawsuit challenging the EIR, the Perris Valley Line will be delayed yet again.

I think it's telling that the bulk of links that come up on Google for this organization are litigation-related.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good news!

Long Beach bike consultant and livable streets hero Charlie Gandy may soon have a new home. It was reported at last night's Bicycle Advisory Committee that the City is finalizing a hiring deal with him, and will be taking him on for a short period as a bicycle consultant.

To quote Joe Biden, this is a big f**king deal.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Update: General Assemblies are held on Monday and Saturday at 7pm on the pedestrian mall, between University and 9th.

This isn't transit-related, but it is related to having a functional democracy in our society. I hope you're all aware of the #OccupyWallStreet movement by now, and those of you who are very clued-in will know that there are now occupations around the nation, including in downtown Los Angeles.

What I doubt most of you know, and what you really ought to know, is that there is a nascent OccupyRiverside organization. (They're also on Facebook.) The first General Assembly meeting will be held tonight at 7pm, at the Gandhi statue in downtown Riverside. The location is easily accessible by public transit, a short walk from either the Riverside Downtown Terminal (1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 29, 49, 204, 208, 210, 212, 216, Omni 215, Greyhound) or the Riverside-Downtown Metrolink (Riverside Line, IE-OC Line, 91 Line, Amtrak San Joaquins, Amtrak Southwest Chief). The occupation hasn't begun yet, but meetings like this are critical to planning the eventual protest.

Now we return you to your regularly-scheduled bus blogging.

SoCal Rideshare Week- with a free Omni ride!

It seems Omni must have read my post about free trials*, because they're handing out an Internet coupon for a free day pass. Simply print it out (in colour!), cut it out and hand it to a bus driver any day during SoCal Rideshare Week, which happens to be this week, 3-7 October.

You'll have to answer a one-question survey to get the link to the coupon.

*They actually do this a lot, so I can't really take credit.