Saturday, April 30, 2016

R-2, the New Suburbanism

Sometimes it strikes me how people will accept things as normal and inevitable without even stopping to consider why.  In urban design one idea that seems invincible is that suburban neighborhoods are made by subdividing land into residential lots with one house per lot.

Single-family residential (R-1).  The default.  As American as apple pie, right?  Well, why not two homes per lot (R-2)?  This approach has a lot of advantages.  What if you want to live close to someone but still give them a measure of privacy; say your 25 year old son or your 75 year old mother?  With R-1 you can't on the same lot.  With R-2 you can.  With R-2 you can earn some extra income by renting out a second unit when times get tough.  With R-2 we can increase the supply of housing in our expensive metro areas where people are getting crushed by the cost of housing.  With R-2 the local transit agency can run buses through the neighborhood more often, because there are more people there to ride them.  With R-2 there are more customers near stores, stronger businesses and more jobs.  With R-2 we can save natural habitat from the bulldozer.  With R-2 we can double the the amount of housing units in suburbia without even changing the look of suburbia: put little cottages in back yards, it's not rocket science.  We can make suburbia work better, while looking the same.

Sure, there will be objections.  Too many cars parked on the street.  Too much noise.  Loss of neighborhood character.  "Undesirables" moving in (code for poor people and people of color more often than not).  And, thought but seldom stated, loss property values, and hence, social status and sense of identity.  I think these objections exaggerate the problems of higher density arrangements, but even if we grant that they are valid for the sake of argument, I submit to you that these considerations pale in importance compared to the objectives outlined in the previous paragraph, particularly the need to provide more affordable housing and house "non-traditional" families.

R-1 has serious cultural inertia, but it's also increasingly being challenged by people who see its flaws more and more clearly as they struggle to afford housing and care for their extended families.  We need a New Suburbanism with its defaults set to R-2.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Primer viaje en Compartir Bicicletas Long Beach

Por eso se llama Playa Larga . . .

Pues, es oficial: ¡he usado un sistema de compartir bicicletas!  Específicamente Compartir Bicicletas Long Beach (CBLB).  Vea mi ensayito anterior para más información.  Es muy chido.  Fui un poco torpe al principio intentando usar la aplicación, pero después de un rato lo aprendí.  Hay que poner dinero en su cuenta primero, y despues, cuando usas una bici, empieza cargando dinero.  Un reloj aparecerá en la aplicación y en la bici.  Carga $7 por hora ($0.12 por minuto) debajo del plan que escogí.  Esto es bueno porque al principio pensé que hay que pagar por una cantidad más grande de tiempo aun si no usas todo el tiempo.  Recibes un número de cuenta y haces un código personal y los entras en la computadora del bici como mostrado abajo.

¡Sí, esa es una computadora en una bici!

Una vez que has dicho al bici quien eres y que tienes dinero, el candado U amarillo del bici abrirá.  Pones el candado en el lado de izquierda en los dos agujeros.  Las bicis tienen ocho velocidades ¡y una campana!  Además son muy pesados por una razón que no entiendo.  Disfruté montando bici a través del Centro de Long Beach y fui a la playa (primer foto).  Si montas a la costa puedes reresar al Centro por la calle 3rd, que tiene un carril de bicis.  Puedes usar la aplicación encontrar una estación para devolver la bici (no necesariamente donde empesaste).  ¡La aplicación te dirá cuantos espacios y bicis hay en cada estación!  

Me gusta esto.  Es bonito bajar de la Línea Azul y rentar una bici para divertirse.  Una preocupación que tengo es que las condiciones de uso dicen que hay que pagar $2,000 si la bici es robado.  Debes pagar algo en esta situación, pero $2,000 parece demasiado.  Esa obligación quizás será una razón de no intentarlo por unas personas.  Una pregunta que tengo es si hay una carga extra por reducir debajo de cero la cantidad de dinero que tienes ya cargado en tu cuenta.  Sin embargo, será bueno ver la expanción del sistema.  Mirando el sitio de internet, parece que el número de estaciones ya ha aumentado desde la vez que lo había usado.  ¡Este nuevo sistema quizás será muy popular!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Long Beach Bike Share Trial Run

So that's why they call it Long Beach . . .

Alrighty, it's official:  I've used bike share!  Specifically Long Beach Bike Share.  See my previous post for more info.  It's pretty cool.  I was a little awkward at first figuring out how to use the app, but got the hang of it after a while.  You pre-load money and then, when you check out a bike, it starts deducting money.  A timer will appear in the app and on the bike.  Turns out it charges you by the minute at the rate of $7 an hour (about 12 cents per minute) under the plan I chose.  This is good, since I guess I was initially under the impression that you had to pay for a larger chunk of time, even if you didn't use it all.  You get an account number and a PIN and then put it into the bike's on-board computer as shown below.

Yes, that is a computer attached to a bike!

Once you've told the bike who you are and that you have money, the yellow U lock will disengage.  You just mount the lock on the left side in those two holes.  The bikes have eight speeds and a bell!  They're also really heavy for some reason.  I really enjoyed biking around Downtown Long Beach and made my way down to the beach (first pic).  If you ride down the coast you can come back Downtown on a bike lane on 3rd Street.  You can use the app to find a station to return the bike to (not necessarily the one you started from).  The app will tell you how many available racks there are at each station!

Overall, I'm a fan.  It's nice to get off the Blue Line and just rent a bike for fun.  One concern I have is that the terms and conditions say that you have to pay $2,000 if the bike is stolen.  Certainly you should have to pay something in that situation, but $2,000 seems a little steep.  That kind of liability might be a turnoff for some people.  One question I have is whether there is a penalty for going below the amount of money you have pre-loaded in the app or if it just charges you for any extra riding time with no penalty.  Still, it'll be neat to see the system expand.  Looking at the website, it seems like the number of stations has already increased a bit in the short time since I used it.  This newfangled bike share thing might just catch on!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Compartir Bicicletas Long Beach está en las calles

¡Esta estación de Compartir Bicicletas Long Beach (CBLB) en las calles 3rd y Promenade te permite empezar directamente en un carril protegido de bicis!














Estuve en el Centro de Long Beach el otro día y ¡miré una estación de compartir bicis!  Primeras cosas primeras: "compartir bicis" no es correcto.  Compartir Bicicletas Long Beach (CBLB) está compartiendo bicis conmigo en el mismo sentido que el dueño de mi edificio me está "compartiendo" un departamento.  De hecho esta es una red automatizada de estaciones de rentar bicis.  Puede descargar la aplicación Social Bicycles a tu celular para rentar una bici y devolverla en otra estación dentro de la área de servicio (o pagar más si la devuelves en un lugar que no es una estación oficial).  KPCC hizo un informe sobre el comienzo del sisteme recientemente.  Parece que el dinero para empezarlo, $2.3 millones, vino de un regalo del Metro del Condado de Los Ángeles, centavos en comparación con lo que gastamos en carreteras y proyectos de transporte público.

No lo he montado todavía pero quiero hacerlo pronto.  Esto puede ser muy útil si quieres una bici en el Centro pero no quieres poner tu bici en un tren o un coche.  Los precios favorecen fuertemente tener un plan mensual, que se puede hacer por tan poco como $15 al mes (que incluye una hora cada día de montar).  De otra manera, puedes rentar un bici por $7 la hora o cuatro horas por $21, segun el sitio de internet.  Probablemente empezaré con la $7 por hora y ver como va.  El Centro de Long Beach, donde está centrado el sistema, tiene dos carriles protegidos de bicis, uno de ellos se puede ver en el foto arriba, más oportunidades muy buenas de montar en la playa o en el Río de Los Ángeles, así que no tienes que ser un guerrero de las calles normales para usar una bici.  ¡Esto es emocionante así que sigue mirando para más información!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Long Beach Bike Share Hits the Streets

This Long Beach Bike Share station at 3rd Street and the Promenade lets you take off directly onto a parking-protected bike lane!














I was in Downtown Long Beach the other day and saw some sweet sweet bike share action!  First things first though: "bike share" is kind of a misnomer.  Long Beach Bike Share is sharing bikes with you in the same sense that my landlord is "sharing" an apartment with me.  Really, this is a network of automated bike rental stations.  You can download the Social Bicycles smartphone app and use it to rent a bike and then return it at another station within the service area (or pay extra if you lock it up somewhere that isn't a bike share station).  KPCC ran a story on the system's launch recently.  Apparently the startup funds are from a $2.3 million grant from LA County Metro, pennies in comparison to what we spend on highways and transit projects.

I haven't actually tried it yet, but I plan to soon.  This could be really useful if you want a bike Downtown but don't feel like stuffing one onto a train or into a car.  The pricing strongly favors having a monthly plan, which you can do for as little as $15 per month (which includes one hour per day of rides).  Otherwise, you can rent a bike for $3.50 per half hour with a $7 minimum or get four hours for $21, according to the website.  I'll probably start with the $3.50 per half hour thing and see how it goes.  Downtown Long Beach, where the system is centered, has two parking-protected bike lanes, one of which you can see in the photo above, plus great opportunities to bike on the beach or along the LA River, so you don't have to be a road warrior to feel comfortable biking around the area.  This is exciting, so stay tuned!

El Condado de Orange empieza jugar en el partido de transporte público


Video de Tranvía de OC por OCTA, a través de YouTube.

El Condado de Orange, el amigo/enemigo más rico, conservador y orientado a coches al suroeste del Condado de Los Ángeles, tiene unos planos interesantes de transporte público.  Gracias a la más o menos recentemente reauthorizado Medida M, un impuesto de ventas de medio centavo, hay dos proyectos de tranvía planeados: el Tranvía de OC (que recientemente avanzó un paso adelante), que conectará el Centro de Santa Ana con un calle grande en Garden Grove, y la Conexión Rápida de Anaheim (ARC, por sus siglas en Inglés), que conectará el estado de los Ángeles con Disneylandia.  Ambos tranvías tendrían poder de alambres eléctricas y conectarán con estaciones (Santa Ana y Anaheim) de la Línea de Condado de Orange de Metrolink, un ferrocarril orientado a los que van a trabajar.  El Centro de Santa Ana vale el viaje si nunca has estado allí.

Mientras Medida M es principalmente dedicado a la ampliación de carreteras y calles arteriales a favor de vehículos usados por una persona, es interesante ver el deseo de construir un sistema más fuerte de transporte publico en el Condado de Orange.  Quizás un día aun construirán unos carriles de bici y carriles dedicados a autobuses en esos ridículos arteriales de seis carriles también ;)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Orange County Gets in the Transit Game


OC Streetcar Video by OCTA, via YouTube.

Orange County, Los Angeles County's wealthier, more conservative and more car-oriented frenemy/neighbor to the southeast, actually has a couple of transit tricks up its sleeve.  Thanks to the somewhat recently reauthorized Measure M, a 30-year 1/2 cent sales tax, there are two streetcar projects in the works: the OC Streetcar (which recently took a step forward), which will connect Downtown Santa Ana to a major arterial street in Garden Grove, and the Anaheim Rapid Connection (ARC), which will connect Angel Stadium to Disneyland.  Both streetcars would be powered by overhead electric wires and connect to stations (Santa Ana and Anaheim) on the Metrolink Orange County Line, a commuter railway.  By the way, if you've never been to Downtown Santa Ana, you're really missing out.

While Measure M is overwhelmingly dedicated to widening freeways and arterial streets in favor of single-occupant vehicles, it's interesting to see the intent to build out a more robust fixed-route transit network in the OC.  Maybe they'll even build out some bike lanes and bus rapid transit on those ridiculous six-lane arterials someday too ;)