Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bike zealots fan hysteria over Masonic Avenue


Since Leah Shahum is in voluntary exile in Amsterdam where bicycles roam free, Michael Helquist (pictured above, after he fell off his bike) of Bike Nopa has filled the vacuum and appointed himself Anti-Car Demagogue in Chief. Helquist has adopted Masonic Avenue as a cause, issuing a series of hysterical bulletins packed with disinformation about a street that now efficiently handles more than 32,000 vehicles a day and on which Muni's #43 Masonic line carries 12,000 passengers a day. This major north/south city traffic artery does this with few accidents and little danger to anyone---cyclists, pedestrians, or motorists---according to the city's own numbers. Helquist is pushing the hysteria to a fever pitch now that the final city-sponsored community meeting to determine exactly how it's going screw up the street is this Thursday evening.

One of Helquist's recent propaganda bulletins contains a bit of cluelessness and unintentional comedy in a statement by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:

Option C offers the type of sweeping changes needed to make Masonic a safer, calmer, and more livable street, one that would better serve pedestrians, cyclists, MUNI, drivers and the surrounding neighborhoods. In doing so, the plan would enhance the entire Masonic Avenue corridor in much the same way that the redesign of Octavia Boulevard did for the Hayes Valley area.

Since Ammiano now spends most of his time in Sacramento, he and John King may be the only people in the city who haven't noticed that Octavia Blvd. is a complete traffic and planning fiasco, perpetually jammed with freeway traffic to and from Fell and Oak Streets, with more than 45,000 cars a day creeping through the heart of the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

If you think Octavia Blvd. has "enhanced" the Hayes Valley neighborhood, you're going to like what Ammiano, Helquist, the Bicycle Coalition and the city are determined to do to Masonic Avenue.

The Option C plan Ammiano refers to takes away street parking on Masonic to make bike lanes, thus rendering obsolete the present system that removes street parking during commute hours to create extra lanes when traffic is heaviest. Plan C means that there will soon permanently be only two lanes in each direction, which means a perpetual traffic jam like Octavia Blvd. and, by the way, slowing down the busy #43 Muni line. How's that for "transit first"? In reality we now live in a Bikes First city, where our Muni system---the only realistic alternative to driving for most city residents---takes a back seat to the bike people's anti-car agenda, which is also the city's official policy, as Mayor Newsom announced two years ago.

If the city is going to slow down traffic on Masonic, it's also going to slow down a Muni line that carries more than 12,000 passengers a day---to create a street that the city's bike people feel "comfortable" riding on. What could go wrong with that?

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Train robbery in L.A.

by the Antiplanner

In 2008, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised voters that extending the city’s Red Line subway would relieve congestion. Voters believed him and supported a sales tax increase to build the line. Now the environmental impact report finds that the subway line will increase rush-hour traffic speeds on parallel streets by, at most, 0.3 mph (p. 3-34). Not surprisingly, some voters — or at least writers at the LA Weekly — feel ripped off.

LA Metro’s response quibbles about the cost of the project. LA Weekly says “Metro plans to use up to $9 billion in sales taxes” on the project, while Metro says the construction cost will be only $4.0 to $4.4 billion. Metro is being disingenuous as both statements can be correct if (as is likely) Metro borrows enough money to incur $4.5 billion or so in interest and finance charges. (Half of the overall payments on a 30-year loan at 5.3 percent turn out to be interest.)

Meanwhile, Metro says nothing about the impacts on traffic. LA Weekly urges that the $9 billion be spent on “county road-capacity projects put off for decades, extensive bus lines to bring the region into the 21st century, and scores of less glitzy projects.” These would be far more cost-effective at reducing congestion.

Still, rail nuts are still claiming that the project is “key to solving traffic problems.” The new EIR proves this wrong. New rail transit lines never relieve congestion because they simply do not attract enough people out of their cars to make a difference. Yet voters often support them because they foolishly believe politicians who lie to them about the benefits of rail. Los Angeles voters should demand that their money be spent more effectively than on a 9.3-mile train tunnel.