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10 Years of Streetsblog and Streetfilms — Celebrate With Us November 14

Ten years ago today, Aaron Naparstek hit “publish” on the first official Streetsblog post.

“The $46 Million Parking Perk” was an exposé of the city’s parking placard system based on the work of analyst Bruce Schaller. I don’t have a screengrab of the story as it appeared that day, but here’s a look at the banner readers saw when they punched streetsblog.org into their browsers on June 16, 2006. (In those early days, Streetsblog and Streetfilms were the media arm of the New York City Streets Renaissance, a multi-pronged advocacy campaign to upend the cars-first status quo at, primarily, NYC DOT.)

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Aaron and Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton started the site out of a sense of both frustration and optimism. Frustration at the inertia inside a city government that still viewed streets’ primary purpose as moving and storing motor vehicles. Optimism about the future of city streets and the capability of online media to change public policy for the better. Together with videomaker Clarence Eckerson and his fledgling Streetfilms operation, they set out to shake things up.

Mark, Aaron, and Clarence hatching plans in 2006.

Mark, Aaron, and Clarence hatching plans in 2006.

To honor Mark and Aaron and to celebrate all the progress we’ve made since they brought their brainchild into the world, Streetsblog and Streetfilms will be putting on a big 10-year anniversary benefit on November 14 at Current, right off the Hudson River Greenway at 18th Street. Save the date, mark your calendars, and watch this space — we’ll keep you posted on the event as we firm up the details.

If you have a minute, go back and read that first story about parking placards. Even that proto-post bore the hallmarks of the Streetsblog strategy. It turned transportation wonkery — the value of parking spaces and the effect of free parking on commute habits — into breezy prose that anyone could latch onto. With a whiff of corruption in the headline, it caught the attention of the tabloids, which picked up the story. And it got under the skin of people in government (in this case, the fellows over at NYPD Rant).

The steady drumbeat of placard coverage also prompted a response from City Hall, which cut back on the number of placards issued. Sure, in 2016, we’re still fighting the placard scourge. But take a moment to think back on how different New York City streets were 10 years ago.

There were no on-street protected bike lanes, no plazas in Corona or Jackson Heights or New Lots, no pedestrian safety plan, no speed enforcement cameras. Not a single bus route in the city allowed passengers to save time by paying before boarding. Hundreds of thousands of people walking through Times Square every day were shunted off to the margins of the street, hemmed in by a motoring armada. New Yorkers made about 200,000 fewer trips by bicycle each day. And about 90 more people lost their lives in traffic each year.

The most-watched Streetfilm of all time (more than half a million views!) tells the story well:

It took a small army of advocates, volunteers, and public servants to attain all the progress we’ve made since then. And it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have come this far without Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

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Manhattan Community Board 4 Transportation Committee Meeting

The agenda includes an update from the DOT on M23 Select Bus Service; a presentation from the MTA on the L train Canarsie tunnel reconstruction; a presentation from ReThink Studio on the trans Hudson crossing; and a discussion of Tri-State Port Authority Bus Terminal Working Group principles.

Streetsblog.net
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Death By a Thousand Cuts: Sprawl, State Neglect Crippling Cleveland Transit

According to a recent analysis by the Century Foundation, during the recession and recovery Cleveland transit riders endured more bus service cuts than any other major system in the country. But just a few years later Cleveland transit riders are facing further cuts, and a fare hike to boot.

Cleveland's RTA is one of the 20 largest transit systems in the country. But it's been in cutback mode for a long time. Photo: Green City Blue Lake

Cleveland’s RTA is one of the 20 largest transit systems in the U.S. But it’s been in cutback mode for a long time. Photo: Green City Blue Lake

A bad economy, an unfriendly state government and a steady trickle of Cleveland sprawl are killing the system, which is by far the most robust in the state of Ohio, RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese said at a mobility event Wednesday.

Marc Lefkowitz at Network blog Green City Blue Lake caught the speech and summarized:

When Joe Calabrese left Central New York RTA to take the helm at Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 16 years ago, 1.392 million people lived in Cuyahoga County, where they provide 1 cent on every purchase to support RTA operations. The sales tax contribution covers more than 70% of RTA’s operating budget, but has been sliding since 11 separate transit companies merged under the regional banner in 1978 when 1.539 million county residents contributed.

A one-two punch of job losses and sprawl has dominated Calabrese’s tenure as CEO and general manager, the longest of any major, U.S. transit system boss, according to his introduction at today’s Hope for the City: Mobility Matters series at the Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland.

By 2010, another 100,000 people had left Cuyahoga County and wouldn’t be supporting RTA with its purchase power. When the U.S. Census came out, RTA would also have to contend with the federal government trimming $3 million (based on population size) from its budget.

Reeling from the recession, RTA faced possibly its worst year of revenues. Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers had an opportunity to ride in and preserve RTA, the largest transit system in the state and in the Top 20 in the country. Ohio refused Calabrese’s modest proposal to increase its funding support 3% per year, and RTA was forced to make deep cuts.

Meanwhile, state support for transit has dwindled from $43 million a year at the beginning of Calabrese’s tenure to just $7 million today. RTA’s share of that is a measly $225,000.

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Friday Jobs Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers.

Looking for a job? Here are some current listings:

Program Coordinator, Austin Transportation Department, Austin, Texas
The Austin Transportation Department (ATD) seeks a talented Project Coordinator / Pedestrian Coordinator to lead policy implementation, project development, planning efforts and programs related to active transportation, with a focus on pedestrian initiatives.

Membership Assistant, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco
The membership assistant will serve as the primary greeter and receptionist at our office, and assist with accounts and member services. The position will represent the SF Bicycle Coalition as the first point of contact for inquiries from members and the broader community.

5291 Planner III, San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco
The essential functions of this job include, but are not limited, to: managing the development of long-range citywide or neighborhood plans and programs; preparation, revision and updating of the General Plan and/or Planning Code; leading Community outreach and engagement processes; preparing recommendations for Department, Planning Commission and other city Commissions/Boards actions.

Special Event Staff, Sunday Streets/Livable City, San Francisco
Event Staff will assist with site set-up and breakdown of the Sunday Streets route and information booths at all eight events. During event hours, they will support Sunday Street Staff and lead volunteers staffing the event, conducting outreach, selling merchandise, and collecting data.

Streetsblog.net
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Philly Reduced Its Public Parking Supply and More Spaces Opened Up

Even has Philly has shed parking spaces, more parking spaces sit empty. Graph: Plan Philly

Even as Philly has shed public parking spaces, the occupancy rate has declined. Chart: Philadelphia Planning Commission via Plan Philly

If you remove a bunch of parking from the center of a city, you’ll get carmageddon, financial ruin, and the complete unraveling of society as we know it — right? That’s what you tend to hear at public meetings when a proposal that would reduce parking comes up, but as this real-life example from Philadelphia shows, there’s really nothing to fear.

Jon Geeting at Plan Philly reports that the city has steadily reduced the supply of parking in public lots while adding more buildings, but the public parking spots that remain aren’t in higher demand:

The Center City development boom reduced the number of public parking spaces by 7.2 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the Planning Commission’s 2015 update to the Center City Parking Inventory.

The inventory, which the Commission updates every five years, found that about 3,623 off-street public parking spaces disappeared during this period as several lots and garages were replaced by high-rise buildings. A “public” space in this sense is one than anyone can rent, as opposed to a private space that’s exclusive to building tenants or employees.

One might guess that losing more than 3,600 parking spaces in a five year span would drive up occupancy rates in the remaining lots and garages, but on the whole this hasn’t been the case. Counterintuitively, parking occupancy actually declined by 1.7 percent during this period, from 75.6 percent down to 73.9 percent. Parking occupancy peaked at 77.7 percent in 2005, so this is part of a 10-year decline.

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Give to Streetsblog and You Could Win a Sweet Tern Folding Bike

Are you a regular Streetsblog reader? Do you count on our reporting to stay informed about policies that affect walking, biking, and transit? Do you value the work we do to explain streets and transportation issues and hold public officials accountable for their decisions?

If you do, please keep us going strong as we head into 2016 and make a tax-deductible year-end contribution.

Streetsblog relies on reader support to produce original reporting and commentary. We’re making the case day in and day out to repurpose street space from cars to people. We’re prodding public officials to do more for safe streets and better transit. And we’re amplifying the voices of neighborhood advocates who want to be able to walk and bike free from the fear of traffic.

Our work commands the attention of decision makers in government and opinion shapers in mass media, and your donations directly fund our work.

This year we have a great prize to raffle off to one lucky donor — a folding bike from Tern Bicycles. (Thank you Tern!) Make a tax-deductible gift before the end of the year and you’ll be entered to win this beauty, a Link D8:

Tern-Link-D8-white-orange

If you’ve given before, continuing your support is essential. And if you’re giving for the first time, that’s going to make a big difference going forward. Thanks for your support and for making Streetsblog an effective voice for transforming our streets.

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The Streets Ball Is Tonight — Here’s How to Score Tickets

Hi everyone, the time for our annual benefit is fast approaching — it starts at 7 p.m. tonight. If you’ve come to the Streets Ball before, you know it’s a special night, and if you haven’t, now’s a great time to start.

Tickets are $50, and all proceeds go to support the reporting and filmmaking here on StreetsblogNYC and Streetfilms for the year ahead. It’s not too late to buy tickets online — we’ll be keeping the forms open until 3:30 p.m. If you miss that window, you can still get in at the door. Here’s where to go:

ADC Gallery
106 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001

Come out, raise a glass with me and Clarence, and give a warm Streetsblog reception to City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras and to advocacy heroes Lizi Rahman and Lisa Sladkus for their work supporting safe streets. It’s going to be fantastic.

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This Week: Get Your Tickets to the Streets Ball!

Come out on Thursday to support Streetsblog and Streetfilms at our annual benefit, the Streets Ball. We’ve got a fantastic evening planned, with great food from Kickshaw Cookery, beer and wine, live music, and . We’ll be recognizing the contributions of City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras, and advocates Lizi Rahman and Lisa Sladkus.

Buy your tickets now and help us produce media that makes a difference for NYC streets in the year ahead. We will have free bike valet courtesy of Spinlister. Thanks to the Law Office of Vaccaro & White for sponsoring the Streets Ball, which makes it all possible.

Here are more highlights for the week — for the full slate of events, check the Streetsblog calendar.

Monday: The Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee will discuss the Move NY toll reform plan and dangerous conditions at the FDR exit at 37th Street. 7 p.m.

Wednesday: On the agenda for the Manhattan CB 8 transportation committee — crosstown bike routes for the Upper East Side and a play street for Lycee Francais De New York. 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: The city presents findings from its South Williamsburg Transportation Study, “aimed at improving pedestrian safety, managing roadway congestion, enhancing mobility and accessibility, and better managing parking.” 6 p.m. (You can still catch almost all of the Streets Ball after this meeting wraps.)

Thursday: It’s the Streets Ball! Meet up with Streetsblog readers from all over NYC and pitch in for a year’s worth of reporting on safe streets and effective transit. Tickets start at $50 ($25 for students). 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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The Streets Ball Is Next Thursday — Get Your Tickets!

The big annual benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms is coming up next Thursday, November 5 — get your tickets now and support media that makes NYC streets better for walking, biking, and transit.

Streetsblog is an influential news outlet because we have readers who are highly engaged and care deeply about the issues we cover. We also count on our audience to sustain our work. Thanks to your contributions, we can go out and report on the obstacles to safe streets and effective transit in our city — and how to fix them.

Our guests of honor on Thursday will be City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras, and extraordinary advocates Lizi Rahman and Lisa Sladkus. They’ve all made huge contributions to the effort to tame the city’s most dangerous streets. Come out next Thursday and help us give them a big warm “Thank you!”

The Streets Ball gets started at 7 p.m. at the ADC Gallery on 106 W 29th Street, with bike valet provided by Spinlister. We’ll have great food from Kickshaw Cookery, beer and wine, a silent auction, live music, and the awesome company of hundreds of Streetsblog and Streetfilms supporters. Many thanks to our longtime sponsor, the Law Office of Vaccaro & White, for helping to make this event possible.

Get your tickets here (starting at $50, or $25 for students) and help us spread the word on Facebook. See you Thursday!

— Ben

Streetsblog USA
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House Transpo Bill Spells Trouble for Transit Projects Across America

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Chicago’s Red and Purple Line modernization project could be delayed or worse under the funding formulas in the House transportation bill, says Representative Dan Lipinski. Image via CTA

A provision in the House GOP’s new transportation bill threatens to upend how transit agencies fund major capital projects, delaying or killing efforts to expand and maintain rail and bus networks.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRR), released Tuesday and marked up in committee yesterday, would change funding rules for the three federal programs that support transit maintenance and expansion projects, known as New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity.

Currently, transit capital projects are eligible to receive 80 percent of their funding from federal sources, with local sources providing the remaining 20 percent. This is the same as the federal match available for highway projects. But the new House bill would cut the maximum federal match for transit projects to 50 percent while leaving the highway formula untouched. The bill would also prohibit transit agencies from counting funds from other federal programs (TIFIA loans, for instance) toward the local portion.

Representatives from urban areas warn that the House bill jeopardizes projects to maintain and improve transit systems. At the mark-up hearing yesterday, Representative Dan Lipinski, a Democrat who represents Chicago, said the measure “could end or delay Red and Purple Line modernization projects in Chicago.”

By cutting the potential share of project funds available from federal sources, the bill would also make transit projects less appealing relative to highways in the eyes of local governments, which would have to pitch in a smaller percentage for road projects.

Smaller cities are more likely to take advantage of federal matching funds that exceed 50 percent of a project’s total cost. Albuquerque, for instance, is counting on an 80 percent match to build its downtown BRT route. Larger cities are more likely to supplement a 50 percent federal grant with another source of federal funds, like TIFIA loans.

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