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30 Jul 21:36

Don’t Hate the Parking App Profiteers, Hate the Free Parking Game

by Stephen Miller

Haystack, the latest app allowing drivers to sell access to a parking space, blazed across the Internet this month after Boston Mayor Martin Walsh threatened to ban it. Valleywag called it a “scourge.” The Awl compared it to profiteering off access to clean water. The haters have it wrong though: The apps aren’t screwing over the public — local governments are.

Following on the heels of MonkeyParkingHaystack is a recent Baltimore-based entry that borrows heavily from car service Uber for its look and feel. If you’re new to the grey market of sell-your-parking-spot apps, take a look at the promotional video. The premise is simple: A driver about to leave a parking spot can use the software to sell the space to another app-using driver cruising for parking. Haystack also has a “make me move” feature where users offer to move their vehicles for the right price, even if they hadn’t planned on going anywhere.

The video itself is a bit much. Over cheery music, a smiling young woman about to drive around Baltimore says things like, “Together, we did our part to make our neighborhood a little greener.”

Go ahead and vomit at the smugness of the marketing campaign. But putting a price on curbside parking isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that these apps are a poor substitute for real public policy that manages the curbside parking supply for the public good.

The ability to store private vehicles for free on scarce public street space is not an inalienable human right, nor does it make cities more equitable. In fact, underpriced car storage has a whole host of negative consequences. In New York, for example, most parking is free or underpriced, so there usually aren’t too many open spots. That leads drivers to circle in vain, clogging the streets and slowing down transit. With a better system of curbside parking management, New York would have faster buses, better air quality, and safer streets — not to mention less double-parkingfraud, and maybe even physical violence.

And if cities actually charged the optimal price for parking, the value of curbside parking spaces would be captured by the public instead of being pocketed by a small population of app users. Governments could use the money to improve schools, or transit, or to make streets safer for walking and biking.

So far, most cities have demonized the apps without confronting their own broken parking policies. In a statement against Haystack, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the app “may artificially inflate the cost of spaces.” But if people are willing to pay more for the ability to access a parking spot, local governments and the public they serve are the ones missing out on the benefits. The status quo that Walsh is defending is essentially a subsidy for parking that hinders transit and street safety.

It’s easy to get mad at parking-for-profit app makers. The object of derision, though, should be local governments and the political refusal to change policies that created an opening for these apps in the first place.

14 Jan 12:00

Irony

by Matt

Oh the irony . . . spotted in Amsterdam.

Irony

24 May 00:10

“Closing” Lombard Street: The Language of Taking Cars For Granted

by Aaron Bialick

Crooked Lombard Street is being partially closed to cars, and mainly opened to people. But you wouldn’t know that from reading the headlines. Photo: SFMTA

A peculiar thing tends to happen when we talk about streets and transportation: We don’t talk about cars. Seriously — listen to conversations, read news headlines, and you’ll start to notice that even when cars are the main subject, people will, consciously or unconsciously, fail to explicitly mention them.

This phenomenon was particularly apparent to me this week, with media coverage of the SFMTA’s proposed (and subsequently approved) trial to restrict cars on world-famous crooked Lombard Street. The headlines started pouring out hours after I broke the story with this headline: “SFMTA considers restricting cars on crooked Lombard Street.”

Clearly, cars are the key subject of this proposal. It will restrict car access on two blocks, and nothing else. Non-”local” drivers will be banned for some hours on some days over a few weekends, but access for people not in cars — the vast majority of people on the crooked street — will actually be made safer and more enjoyable.

Yet from reading headlines found in other news sources around the country, you’d think the street is simply being closed to everyone. Cars are vaguely mentioned, if at all, while the whole “temporary trials on some afternoons” thing often gets washed over, with Lombard deemed simply and totally “closed.” Here are a few typical examples:

  • Washington Post: “San Francisco to close off iconic Lombard Street to tourists”
  • USA Today: “S.F. to temporarily close ‘world’s crookedest street’”
  • SF Chronicle: “Lombard Street to close on 4 busy weekends this summer”

Put simply, unfettered access by cars is equated with “access.” If one cannot drive there, one cannot go there. And as those important distinctions are blurred, we lose sight of what we deem important uses of our streets.

The verbal gymnastics used to avoid mentioning cars are present not just in headlines, but in everyday conversation. In discussions about behavior on the streets, notice how often the operators of motor vehicles are described as just “people” — for example, “People are always flying down this hill.” Not that drivers aren’t people, but the mode of transport is a key distinction to make. People using other modes usually get explicit labels that posit them as “others” — people on bikes are “cyclists,” and people just walking around are “pedestrians.”

The Lombard Street car restrictions have roundly been deemed a “closure,” a term with negative connotations. The other side of that action, that of opening the area for people, is ignored — as is the fact that auto domination is the status quo on San Francisco’s streets. Any impingement upon that norm that is framed as a loss.

We’ve seen this with Sunday Streets. Especially at first, the event was universally described as a “street closure,” even though the streets are actually open more than ever, at least to the majority of people not inside a car at any given time. As Sunday Streets has become more normal, and people realize the benefits it brings, I’ve noticed that it’s less frequently described as a “closure.”

Another example: What might be most accurately called “car storage” is usually referred to as “parking,” and loosely conflated with general quality of life. At community meetings about street redesigns, I typically hear some argue that “the neighborhood” requires parking — even if they really refer only to that subset of people in the neighborhood who value private automobile storage more than bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

“Traffic” is also typically used interchangeably with “car traffic” (the “car” is omitted). In reality, there is also foot traffic, bicycle traffic, and transit traffic. But when we hear “traffic,” it’s assumed by default to refer to automobiles, while other means of getting around remain tacitly marginalized.

That usage popped up in the SF Examiner‘s headline about Lombard: “SF giving twisty Lombard a vacation from traffic.” What kind of traffic? Pedestrian traffic will continue to flow freely on the street, but we all somehow know that doesn’t count as “traffic.”

When the discussion is framed in ways like these, the role cars play is put behind the curtain. The conversation then takes for granted that most public space will be devoted to the private automobile, and most people will travel by car.

If we can’t explicitly talk about problems and their causes, we can’t talk about fixing them. And if we can’t acknowledge the subtle ways in which our lexicon is inherently centered around cars, we can’t talk about the ways in which we’ve adapted our lives, and cities, to accommodate their costs.

21 May 20:33

What If You Behaved Like an Obnoxious Road Hog at the Supermarket?

by Angie Schmitt

This PSA, produced by the Norwegian government, does a brilliant job reminding people that the way you act behind the wheel affects everyone around you. Wouldn’t it be nice if people observed the same decorum driving a car on city streets as they do pushing a cart in the grocery store aisles?
23 Apr 16:11

Spotted: Coyote crossing at 37th Avenue & Geary

by Administrator


Photo by Jennifer Anwaya

Reader Jennifer A. spotted a coyote on Monday night, but not in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio or Lincoln Park where they’re usually seen.

This one was crossing the street at Geary and 37th Avenue. Maybe he was on his way to the Balboa Theater to see Captain America?

Sarah B.

01 Apr 17:00

Someone Did NOT Want Another Sister

27 Feb 16:30

Arthursday is here: Shintaro Ohata

by m e l i g r o s a
So poetic! ♥ found via mi longtime cyber/IRL friend Dave:
「さよなら三角」/ ''SAYONARA SANKAKU'', 2008, panting, polystyrene based sculpture

–Screenshots for showing+admiration purposes only–
Please visit Shintaro Ohata for viewing his beautiful work.
xxom
19 Mar 18:54

Who Pays for “Free” Park-and-Ride Parking?

by Angie Schmitt
Volker Neumann

true costs

Park-and-ride lots, writes Matt Steele at Streets.mn, are the “darling infrastructure of the transit planning profession.” In exchange for providing a parking spot at no charge to suburban commuters, says Steele, transit systems can increase ridership.

Suburban Minneapolis park-and-riders don't pay to park here, but their spots aren't free. Photo: Streets.mn

Suburban Minneapolis park-and-riders don’t pay to park here, but their spots aren’t free. Photo: Streets.mn

But “free” suburban parking isn’t such a sweet deal for everyone. Steele writes that a Metro Transit park-and-ride expansion at the Maplewood Mall station, outside Minneapolis, cost around $24,000 per space to build. Meanwhile, transit riders in the city proper continue to be shortchanged.

In Minneapolis, we’re lucky to have anything more than a sign at our transit stops. We have plenty of room for improvement for our local service. But we instead choose to binge on ridership growth on the fringe, no matter how much money it costs us to “buy” those riders. Yet there are opportunity costs: For less than the cost of two Maplewood park and rides serving up to (2×580=) 1160 parked cars, we’re building a full Arterial BRT line on Snelling Avenue scheduled to open next year. Those improvements will serve an estimated ridership of 8,700. And, unlike additional parking spaces, these amenities serve all riders (not just the 3,000 new ones). This is 7.5 times more productive than the same investment in parking.

Taking maintenance, lighting and other upkeep expenses into account, and considering that many spaces go unused, Steele says Maplewood Mall commuters would need to pay a $9.50 parking fee to cover costs.

“Suburban park and riders are clearly not paying $9.50 to park before paying an additional fare to get on the bus,” writes Steele. “Someone else is paying to subsidize their car storage habits. And you’re it.”

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network: Bike Portland reports that Elly Blue’s “Wheelwomen Switchboard” is up and running; a guest writer for NRDC Switchboard surveys the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, after a 25-year absence; and Copenhagenize discovers that playing in the streets of Los Angeles is actually against the law.

20 Mar 21:58

Rock Star or Comedian? Donald Shoup Takes His Parking Show to Berkeley

by Melanie Curry

“Parking is the single biggest land use in any city,” said UCLA Professor Donald Shoup to a packed house in Berkeley last night, “and it’s almost completely unmanaged.” At the same time, “zoning requires a space for every car but ignores the homeless. In our cities, free parking is more important than affordable housing.”

Professor Donald Shoup, the stand-up comic of parking.

Shoup entertained the crowd of public officials, developers, students, and community members with his signature witty observations on the irrational ways cities plan and price parking.

“Parking is free for us only in our role as motorist–not in our roles as taxpayer, employer, commuter, shopper, renter, as a homeowner. The cost of parking does not cease to exist just because the motorist doesn’t pay for it,” he told the rapt audience. They had all come to hear the “parking rock star” talk about parking.

Given his polished delivery of dry one-liners skewering American parking policy that kept the audience chuckling throughout the talk, it’s more accurate to call him the standup comic of parking. But it’s his simple, rational, and yet radical-to-many approach to the storage of cars that has earned him a growing fan base of “Shoupistas” throughout the state and the nation.

The event was sponsored by Transform, an Oakland-based advocacy group working for rational land use and transportation planning in California. Transform has taken Shoup’s work to heart, using the principles he proposes as a basis for their Green Trip program that seeks to convince cities to allow housing developers to replace overbuilt, expensive parking with alternatives like car share, bike parking, and transit passes.

Shoup had a great time poking fun at pretty much everyone, including himself. He compared himself to a cat, sniffing and marking the tires of parked cars, while most transportation planners he likened to dogs, “running after and trying to bite at cars as they drive down the road.”

“I thought I could find something useful if I studied what cars do for 95% percent of the time, which is park,” he said.

He made fun of planners. “No planner can claim to have any training in parking policy,” he said. “Planners are winging it.”

The American Planners Association’s “Parking Standards” book lists parking requirements for land uses that look sensible at first glance—until you look at the connection to people, he said. As he spoke, a list of minimum parking requirements appeared on the screen behind him. Barbershop: two spots per barber.

“There seems to be some gender disparity,” he said [Beauty Shop: three parking spots per beautician]. “Even in religions institutions [Convent: ten parking spots per nun. Church: three parking spots per clergyman], and when you don’t have people, you have to base it on something” [Swimming pool: one parking spot per 25,000 gallons].

In many cities the size of a building is dwarfed by the size of its required parking lot. Minimum parking requirements “look scientific,” said Shoup, “but they’re not—it’s just pseudo science.”

The house was packed

He poked fun at the huge parking lot outside the building where he spoke, the Ed Roberts Campus on the Ashby BART parking lot. “Most cities would think that was a good place for transit oriented housing,” he pointed out. “Instead, it’s a cheap parking lot for downtown workers.”

On the screen behind him, “Parking at Ashby BART: $2. Parking in downtown Berkeley [one stop away]: $15.” (The roundtrip fare is $3.70.)

He also made fun of a local group that protested changes in parking policies under SFpark, San Francisco’s attempt to apply some of Shoup’s principles on the ground. “[This group] is against foreign wars but for free parking at home,” he said, to knowing chuckles from the audience.

But “free parking for everybody reduces municipal funds and therefore public services, and poor people are less able to substitute private services for public services. Subsidizing free parking for everybody is not the best way to help the poor.”

Shoup elaborated on his three recommendations for parking sanity:

  1. Remove parking minimums
  2. Charge for curb parking
  3. Spend parking revenue on neighborhood services

His basic advice to planners: get out of the way and allow developers to build the amount of parking that makes sense.

“Getting out of the way would solve a lot of the problems that we as a society face. [Replacing parking lots with housing] could be the largest land reclamation project outside of the Netherlands. These are unplanned land reserves in places where we want it most.”

He pointed out that such a policy would increase housing supply, shorten commutes, lessen the need for cars, use less fuel, and lessen congestion.

And, he said, everyone should be behind it:

  • Liberals, because “it creates opportunities for new public spending.”
  • Conservatives: “It relies on markets rather than government regulation.”
  • Environmentalists: “It would lower carbon emissions.”
  • Businesses: “Parking becomes their decision, not something dictated by a planner who never learned one single thing about it in planning school.”
  • Libertarians: “It increases individual choice, and reduces regulations on land use.”
  • Developers: Decreased building and permitting costs.
  • Neighborhood activists: “There’s a nexus between funds and what they’re spent on” when parking fees are used to improve neighborhood services.”
  • Local politicians: “There is no more need for city council meetings until 3 am arguing about whether to increase parking fees by 25 cents.”

We all need to be a little more rational about the impacts parking is having on our cities. “People address parking as a personal issue, never as a policy issue,” he said. “I think people’s level of thinking regresses to a lower part of their brain—the reptilian brain, that we use for marking territory and mating, when they talk about parking.”

13 Mar 21:52

Does It Take a Crime This Egregious to Hold Drivers Accountable?

by Tanya Snyder

A driver trying to avoid a police check for drunk driving killed at least two people last night in Austin’s SXSW festival. Photo: CNN

A lively night out at one of the year’s most popular festivals turned to carnage last night as a driver rammed through barricades into a pedestrian-only zone at the South By Southwest music-and-film festival in Austin.

In an attempt to avoid a drunk-driving check by a police officer, the driver — allegedly driving a stolen car — killed two people and injured 23 others. Two are in critical condition and three are in serious condition. The driver — identified by the Austin American-Statesman as 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens of Killeen, Texas — tried to get away on foot after the car crashed.

It’s a grim reminder of how dangerous automobiles can be. People tend not to think of their cars  — mundane tools of everyday life — as deadly weapons when they’re driving. But motorists kill 92 people a day in the United States. Fifteen of them are struck while walking or riding a bicycle.

Owens faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle for the mayhem he caused last night. Unfortunately, it takes an event this over-the-top to get law enforcement to prosecute drivers who kill. Last fall, a cabbie who drove up onto a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan, severing a tourist’s leg, got off without even a citation. The driver — a repeat offender — only lost his taxi license for six weeks and now he’s free to drive the streets again.

Of the two people killed last night in Austin, one was a Dutch man riding a bicycle. In his home country, drivers are far more likely to face consequences for injuries and deaths they cause with their cars.

The Netherlands applies a concept called “strict liability” to motorists who hurt pedestrians or cyclists. In their civil courts, the operator of the larger vehicle is presumed to be liable.

That would end the driver’s common defense of “she came out of nowhere!” attorney Bob Anderton of Washington Bike Law told an audience at the National Bike Summit last week:

When the bicyclist or pedestrian is on her way to hospital, or worse, who’s there to explain what happened? The driver. [And the driver says], ‘Well she came out of nowhere!’ It can’t be the fault of the driver; she just jumped right out; she must have been going too fast; she must not have been lights — who knows? But it’s those crazy bicyclists.

In the Netherlands, Anderton said, drivers are liable for a crash unless they can prove it was caused by a force majeure — an act of God. If a person on a bike or on foot is deemed to have half the blame, she still recovers 75 percent of her damages. And if the cyclist or pedestrian is 14 years old or younger, even if the driver can prove force majeure, it’s still the driver’s fault.

Denmark’s law isn’t quite as comprehensive, but drivers are found fully liable in 90 percent of crashes with bicyclists. Even Iceland, known for a car culture of long roads in wide open spaces, holds drivers responsible for damage caused by their motor vehicle, period.

These laws aren’t just punitive. “We need laws that motivate motor vehicle drivers to avoid these collisions in the first place,” Anderton said.

Strict liability isn’t as unthinkable as it may initially seem here, in a country that is so accustomed to giving drivers the benefit of the doubt.

“Can we really do it? It’s not crazy,” said Anderton. “There’s something called the following car doctrine — which is not a statute but it’s common law — and the basic rule is, if you’re driving behind somebody and you run into them, you’re presumed to be at fault.”

The same holds true with dogs. “The question isn’t, ‘were you negligent in controlling your dog?’” Anderton said. “The question is, ‘is this your dog?’ If your dog bit my kid, you’re responsible for it. That’s strict liability.”

Adults are often even held responsible for damage caused by their minor children, on the assumption that it’s the parents’ duty to keep their kids in line. Given that teenagers have minds of their own and cars don’t, it seems only reasonable to apply at least that level of liability to cars.

01 Mar 05:00

March 01, 2014


07 Feb 23:49

Watch: N-Judah Riders Lift Car Out of the Way of Their Train

by Aaron Bialick

Maybe Muni ought to start paying riders for getting cars off metro tracks.

Last night, the N-Judah train I was on with my fiancee (whom I happened to meet on the N) was approaching the east portal of the Sunset Tunnel when my fellow riders and I spotted a set of tail lights up ahead. We pretty much all knew what it meant — another driver tried to enter the transit tunnel.

We all got out to find the woman’s car lodged on the edge of the concrete. Pretty soon, another train showed up headed in the other direction, and she was blocking Muni’s busiest line, both inbound and outbound. Fortunately, some good Samaritans from our train decided not to wait for a tow truck — seven men lifted the front of the car back on top of the ledge, allowing the woman to drive the car away (I don’t know if she got a citation).

Despite all of the signage and even raised bumps signaling “Do Not Enter,” drivers — especially drunk drivers — try to enter Muni tunnels surprisingly often. Haighteration posted a photo of folks lifting a drunk driver’s car at this same spot last June. I didn’t exactly examine the driver in my case, but she appeared sober as far as I could tell (she simply apologized repeatedly).

This is also not the first time I’ve personally encountered N-Judah riders moving a stuck car out of the way of their train. In 2012, I saw a group push a pickup truck off the tracks on Irving Street — the driver’s girlfriend apparently threw his keys out, and he had gone to try to find them.

There’s got to be a better way. Does the Muni-riding experience really have to include occasionally moving private automobiles out of the way with your bare hands?

27 Feb 21:09

The Problem With Speed Cameras That Don’t Catch Most Speeders

by Angie Schmitt

A few miles per hour can mean the difference between life and death for a pedestrian who is hit by a motorist. Image: PEDS Atlanta

Residents of urban neighborhoods across the country are increasingly advocating for lower speed limits and automated traffic enforcement. As the above graphic illustrates, the stakes are high for pedestrians.

But in some jurisdictions where speed cameras are in use, motorists can drive much faster than the speed limit without penalty. In New York, for instance, state lawmakers allow New York City to ticket drivers only when they exceed the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour.

Matt Johnson at Greater Greater Washington says speed cameras in his community nab only the extremely dangerous drivers, while people going 5 or even 10 mph over the limit don’t get caught:

In Maryland, speed camera tickets can only be issued to motorists going at least 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. That severely blunts the effectiveness of the cameras for saving lives.

In my neighborhood on the east side of Greenbelt, the city has installed speed cameras on 2 neighborhood streets near Eleanor Roosevelt High School. One of the cameras is near a well-used, mid-block crosswalk that many students use. The speed limit in these areas is 25 mph, which means that drivers have to be going 37 mph before they get a ticket.

A collision at 25 mph would be less than 50% likely to kill a pedestrian. But a collision at 37 mph would bring an almost 90% chance of death.

On Monday, I witnessed a driver flying down the street, well above the speed limit. But I wondered if he was even going fast enough to get a ticket from the speed camera. Even on a quiet neighborhood street, drivers in Greenbelt can go fast enough to cause almost certain death for pedestrians without fearing a speed camera ticket.

That’s the real effect of Maryland’s speed camera restrictions: It allows drivers some leeway, but puts vulnerable road users at risk.

The 12 mph rule is even worse, Johnson adds, because engineers already determine speed limits according to the 85th percentile rule, meaning they observe how fast people drive and set the limit at the speed that only 15 percent of motorists exceed.

Elsewhere on the Network today: City Block looks at how strict zoning stifles new housing in cities across the U.S. The Oregonian’s Hard Drive blog shares a guest column from a writer who was terribly shaken after viewing the aftermath of a fatal collision involving an elderly pedestrian. And Beyond DC says the best place for NFL stadiums is in the suburbs.

01 Mar 01:09

Car Alarms: San Francisco’s Most Needless Nuisance

by Aaron Bialick

Going by the notes left on this car parked on lower Haight Street in 2003, its alarm wasn’t exactly serving its intended purpose. Photo: jennconspiracy/Flickr

You’ll have to forgive me if this post sounds cranky. I lost some sleep last night when I was woken at 3:30 a.m. by a car horn that continuously blared from my neighbor’s house for 20 minutes. It was probably triggered by debris blowing in the storm.

Car alarms are not an uncommon sound in my apartment, since my building has a parking lot instead of what could be ground-floor apartments and/or a backyard. My street is also lined with autos parked along the curb and in “driveways” (illegally), so my neighbors and I are surrounded by noise bombs that could be detonated by the slightest touch or glitch.

There are a couple of remarkable things about car alarms — one is how numb we’ve become to them, and the other is how utterly useless they are. The two are related.

False alarms account for as much as 99 percent of events in which automobile anti-theft devices are triggered, according to two studies published in the 1990s by the New York State Legislature and the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. Car alarms are largely ineffective at deterring professional thieves who know how to work around them.

So no one’s actually alarmed by them. People are mostly just annoyed.  ”An audible system is really just a noisemaker,” General Motors spokesman Andrew Schreck told NYC’s Transportation Alternatives in a 2003 report. “Most people, when they hear an alarm, they just walk the other way.”

Banning them seems like a no-brainer, though the legislative hurdles are apparently not insignificant. A TransAlt campaign to ban car alarms in NYC resulted in the passage of a 2004 City Council bill that included only ineffective measures.

Like NYC, San Francisco could — and should — be a much quieter place. I know if it weren’t for sounds from cars, I wouldn’t hear much other noise in my home. It’s not just some natural fact of “city life” — it’s a completely unnecessary byproduct of private automobile ownership, one that we’ve allowed to become inexplicably prevalent and persistent.

20 Feb 21:03

The Next Breakthrough for American Bike Lanes: Protected Intersections

by Angie Schmitt

As protected bike lanes become more widespread in the United States, creating physical separation from motor vehicle traffic that makes more people comfortable cycling on city streets, advocates are starting to push for even safer bikeway designs.

One area where the current generation of American protected bike lanes leaves something to be desired is intersections. How can streets be designed so cyclists can safely turn from the protected lane across oncoming traffic? And what’s the best way to reduce conflicts between cyclists continuing straight and drivers turning across the bikeway?

Dutch intersections solve this problem with a mix of physical protection and clever signal timing. Portland urban planner Nick Falbo has adapted those ideas for the above video and an accompanying website. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland explains why this could be groundbreaking:

The problem with protected bike lane (a.k.a. cycle track) designs in America is that they disappear at intersections. The favorite treatment of U.S. planners has been to create “mixing zones” where people in cars and people on bikes share the lane just prior to the corner. This design creates a weak link in the bikeway right where it should be its strongest. In contrast, cycle tracks in Dutch (and other) cities have dedicated space for cycling all the way to the corner and then bike-specific signals to get riders through safely.

With his protected intersections for bicyclists, Falbo is trying to translate that Dutch design into an American context. As you can see in the image [above], there are four key elements to the design: a corner refuge island, bicycle-friendly signal phasing, a forward stop bar, and a setback bicycle crossing.

While he’s obviously enthused about the benefits of this design and committed to moving this idea forward, Falbo acknowledges there are some major challenges to overcome like large truck movements, auto capacity impacts, and how to make the design work well for people who walk and/or use a mobility device.

Falbo intends to tackle these challenges and post updates on his design to ProtectedIntersection.com, which he hopes will, “develop into a clearinghouse for exploration, examples, images, references related to the Protected Intersection design concept.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Beyond DC explains why the Silver Spring transit center in suburban Maryland is a terrible place for a park. Cincy Map uses street configurations to create a heat map of the most connected places in the Cincinnati region. And as St. Louis explores bus rapid transit, Urban Review STL weighs in the the best places for the service in the region.

15 Feb 00:56

The More Space SF Uses to Store Cars, the Less We’ll Have to House People

by Aaron Bialick

The Fifth and Mission parking garage. Can SF afford to continue devoting so much space to personal car storage? Photo: Sirgious/Flickr

What if San Francisco stopped adding car parking? The idea might sound a little odd to the average person, but when you look at where the city is heading, the really crazy scenario would be to keep on cramming more cars into our neighborhoods. Under current policies, SF is poised to build 92,000 spots for personal car storage by 2040, consuming an ungodly amount of space in our compact, 7-mile-by-7-mile city. At what point does it stop?

“If we were really serious about” curbing emissions and creating a livable city, “we would just cap it at zero right now,” said Jason Henderson, author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco,” at a forum this week on San Francisco’s parking policies.

Henderson took the figure of 92,000 projected spaces from Plan Bay Area, which is supposed to start the region on a path toward smart growth, but still foresees a heavily car-dependent future in 25 years. The SF Transportation Plan, created by the SF County Transportation Authority, projects “total gridlock” within the same time frame unless the city makes serious changes to its car-centric land-use planning policies.

Although the move away from policies like minimum parking requirements, which mandate a certain number of cars per household in new buildings, is often framed as an ideological shift, Josh Switzky of the SF Planning Department says it’s simpler than that — there are physical limits to cramming cars into the city. “It’s about geometry,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to accommodate people more efficiently.”

In other words, there’s a finite amount of space in the city. Does it make any sense to squeeze thousands of additional cars into San Francisco when we’re still struggling to create enough space to house people? What are the full costs SF will absorb if it continues to build more infrastructure for cars?

As studies have shown, building parking leads to more driving — if you build it, they will come. Yet the Planning Department has never seriously considered a citywide parking cap. In fact, the closest the city has come to the concept is a recommendation in the Transbay Center District Plan to study an absolute limit on parking within that portion of SoMa, which is set to grow around a major hub for regional transit and high-speed rail.

That study, however, has no timeline or funding behind it. And much of the rest of the city still has minimum parking requirements for new development, though progress in recent years has been made in the eastern neighborhoods on abolishing minimums and setting parking maximums.

There’s not even a parking cap in the Market-Octavia Plan, which encompasses the area around Hayes Valley. According to Switzky, that land use plan is looked to nationally as a model for limiting parking. Created after the removal of the Central Freeway spur a decade ago as a guide for the development of newly-opened land, it contains some of the nation’s strictest maximum parking ratios — generally, 0.5 parking spaces per housing unit.

But like the rest of the city, the Market-Octavia Plan allows the expansion of car storage to scale infinitely with housing growth. There is no overall limit on new parking.

Unless plans and the priorities of our leaders change (lately, some supervisors have actually pushed for more housing for cars and less for people), San Francisco is destined to have worse congestion, less effective transit, and unlivable streets.

The point was powerfully conveyed by a quote Switzky cited from Allan Jacobs, once the head of the SF Planning Department, and a former professor of city planning at UC Berkeley: “No great city has ever been known for its abundant supply of parking.”

Streetsblog won’t be publishing on Presidents’ Day.

11 Feb 23:03

Can Snow Inspire Better Streets? It Already Has.

by Angie Schmitt

In Philadelphia, a snowy neckdown at Baltimore and 48th Street in 2011 inspired permanent upgrades to the pedestrian environment at the intersection. Photo courtesy of Prema Bupta

Sneckdowns are having a big moment. In case you’ve missed the viral blog posts and major press coverage, sneckowns (a contraction of “snowy neckdowns” popularized by Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. and Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek) are leftover snow piles on city streets that show space that could easily be reclaimed for pedestrians.

As a visual tool, sneckdowns can be powerful. At least one city has already used snow formations as the inspiration for better streets.

After a winter storm in Philadelphia in 2011, snow piles became the basis for a major pedestrian upgrade at Baltimore and 48th Street in the University City District, according to Prema Gupta, the district’s director of planning.

Gupta said her organization, inspired by New York City’s example, was already looking around for potential spaces for pedestrian plazas when a staffer produced the above photo. ”That very quickly made the case that there’s right-sizing to do here,” she said. At the time, no one had heard the word “sneckdown.”

“For us it was just a really compelling way of showing there was way too much street and not nearly enough place for people,” she said.

Based on the snow patterns, the city produced a plan to expand pedestrian space at the intersection:

The plans

The final design was implemented this summer:

The finished result

After the recent snow storms this year, Gupta says, her organization has continued to search for unnecessary pavement “because it’s so obvious that there’s need here.”

It’s possible that we’ll soon be hearing similar stories from places all over the United States. Public officials in places like Raleigh and Boulder are getting in on the #sneckdown hashtag, soliciting sites for potential road diets via social media. Chances are, there are plenty of good examples of this wherever you live. It’s definitely worth Tweeting at or emailing your your photos of #sneckdowns to local officials.

03 Jan 18:15

Ernesto

by Reza

ernesto

31 Jan 23:55

Long-Delayed Polk Contra-Flow Protected Bike Lane Jumpstarted by DPW

by Aaron Bialick

DPW crews at work today on the contra-flow protected bike lane at Polk and Grove. Photo: SFBC/Facebook

In a surprising development, the Department of Public Works broke ground today on a contra-flow, protected bike lane on the two southernmost blocks of Polk Street, from Market to Grove Streets (at City Hall), which are currently one-way southbound. By Bike to Work Day, two of the city’s busiest bicycling streets are expected to be linked with the first bike lane in San Francisco to be protected with a landscaped median, against the flow of motor traffic.

The short but vital connection, first proposed by the city ten years ago and included in the SF Bike Plan, was threatened with yet another year of delay due to poor coordination and a missed contracting deadline. But DPW Director Mohammed Nuru was apparently convinced by the SF Bike Coalition that the project should become a top priority. The SFBC credits Nuru with kickstarting construction, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

“When they see there’s a problem, there’s often more they can do to get things back on track, and they were able to do it in this case,” she said. “I can’t emphasize how important these two blocks are for so many people. This is going to be a game-changer for helping people ride where they need to go in a safer, more legitimate way.”

Currently, bicycle commuters have no legal way to turn from eastbound Market onto northbound Polk, except to travel a block ahead to Larkin, a one-way, heavily-trafficked three lane street with no bike lane. They must then turn left onto Grove to get back on to Polk.

To access the new contra-flow bike lane, which will replace an existing car parking lane, people bicycling on eastbound Market will have a new bike box to wait in at the intersection with 10th Street before making the turn on to Polk.

“With all the new developments, this is going to be a great way to connect a whole new community in mid-Market with the businesses on Polk Street,” said Shahum.

It’s important to note that the contra-flow lane project is being managed separately from the contested plans for partial protected bike lanes for Polk north of McAllister Street.

The existing southbound bike lane on the southern stretch of Polk will also be widened with a buffer zone and plastic posts on teh block south of Hayes Street, said DPW spokesperson Rachel Gordon. Since that bike lane runs between a parking lane and traffic lanes, it’s unclear if parking will be removed on that side of the street. No southbound bike lane improvements appeared in the Bike Plan design as of 2012, and they appear to be a recent addition.

The plan for a contra-flow bike lane on Polk at Market. New improvements to the existing southbound bike lane are not shown. Click to enlarge.

15 Jan 21:50

Bam! The Pakistani Safe Driving PSA That Says It All

by Angie Schmitt

It’s official. Safe driving PSAs made outside the U.S. are far, far better than anything you’ll find in a domestic media outlet. This latest example comes from The Frontier Post, an English language Pakistani news site.

The image, which appears to have been made by the newspaper’s advertising arm, is going viral on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand anti-speeding commercial we featured last week is up to almost 7 million views on YouTube. So, perhaps the good news for Americans who are concerned about traffic safety is that messages as strong as these may no longer need a major media platform to reach a large audience.

07 Jan 22:23

Is This Anti-Speeding PSA Too Real for America?

by Angie Schmitt

Wow. This public safety spot from New Zealand really brings home how decisions we casually make while driving can have grave consequences.

The PSA questions the whole idea that traffic violence is somehow unavoidable, the result of fate more than human error. In the United States the notion that traffic collisions are nothing but tragic “accidents” remains baked right into the language that most people use to describe these incidents.

We were alerted to this video by Erik Griswold, who asserted that the Federal Highway Administration and the Ad Council “would never allow” such a powerful public safety message about speeding to air here in the United States.

09 Jan 19:49

Why Pedestrians Sometimes Do “Stupid” Things

by Angie Schmitt

People are often blamed for doing “stupid” things while walking, like “darting out in front of cars.” Why would anyone “dart” in front of a moving vehicle? Seems strange. But that’s the way it could seem, if you’re driving past pedestrian crossings at high speeds.

When road conditions are hostile for walking, pedestrians have no choice but to take some risks. Image: Project for Public Spaces

Nathan at Carfree With Kids explains how poor street conditions for walking can lead to situations where people have no choice but to do something that looks risky. Citing his experience crossing a street in Providence, Rhode Island, on his daily commute, he shows how pedestrians’ behavior could be misunderstood by people behind the wheel:

Cars on these busy four-lane roads are not expecting pedestrians. They are moving quickly (I’d guess the average speed when traffic is moving well is 45 miles per hour). Even if one car sees you waiting to cross and stops, granting you right-of-way, cars coming behind will honk at that car and whip around in the next lane. I’ve gotten to the point in navigating these crossings, where I will stand on the sidewalk, 8-10 feet back from the intersection, avoiding eye contact with drivers so that none will be tempted to stop for me, because I know for certain other drivers will not stop. My safety, and likely the safety of the considerate driver who may be rear-ended, will be compromised if I too aggressively attempt to cross at these crosswalks.

So I stand there, averting my eyes, waiting for a clear gap in traffic across all four lanes. I’ve learned that that gap eventually comes, but at rush hour in the early evening, sometimes I have to wait a long time (multiple minutes, far longer than any vaguely reasonable light cycle). I’m often tempted to overestimate my ability to cross safely.

I do wait. I do cross safely. But I’ve seen multiple near misses at these intersections. And in these near misses, I’m certain that the driver was surprised and shocked by how “stupid” the pedestrian was who crossed in front of them. But every pedestrian I’ve seen in this situation (a) had the right of way (we were in a crosswalk!) and (b) had attempted to cross safely in an extremely difficult situation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Green Lane Project says bike-share is contagious — after a city opens a system, nearby cities tend to follow. Urban Indy reports that clearing the Cultural Trail of snow in Indianapolis is a duty the city takes seriously. And Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage reflects on bike advocacy’s progress in Alaska’s largest city after a cyclist was killed.

02 Jan 21:57

Level the Commuter Playing Field By Reducing the Tax Break for Parking

by Angie Schmitt
Volker Neumann

damn straight

Happy New Year, transit riders! Congress has a special present: Some of you will be getting a tax increase this year.

Some transit riders will get a tax hike this year. Image: Ohio Watchdog

Legislation that puts tax subsidies for transit commuters on equal footing with car commuters has been allowed to expire by Congress. That means people who drive to work can deduct up to $250 in parking expenses each month from their taxable income. But for transit riders, the new limit is $130.

Last year the two were equal at $245, thanks to some shrewd last-minute manuevering by lawmakers in New York and Massachusetts. This year, no such luck, straphangers. Drivers, on the other hand, get a little bump.

Many observers — from outlets including Timeand the New Jersey Star-Ledger — have pointed out that this is obviously backward policy. And they’re absolutely right: It’s a bad idea to provide an additional financial incentive to commute by car, which has so many negative consequences for society, from air pollution to increased congestion.

Common sense dictates that at the very least, there should be equity between the tax incentives for transit commuters and car commuters. While the path of least political resistance seems to be to raise the maximum transit benefit again, the fact is that most American transit commuters (though definitely not all) would not be affected by that.

Congress should instead achieve commuter tax benefit parity by reducing the incentive for parking so that it’s equal to the transit tax break, especially since deficit reduction is purportedly a high priority on Capitol Hill.

How is the national interest at all served by a tax break for parking? It’s hard to imagine there are many workers for whom this incentive is essential to afford access to a job. The parking tax benefit is more like a popular but unnecessary perk, enabling car commuters to reduce their taxable income by as much as $3,000. Meanwhile, we’re slashing food stamp benefits. As a simple matter of social policy, anyone car commuting to $250 a month parking spot probably doesn’t need another handout.

But commuter financial incentives do affect how we get around. Multiple studies have proven that leveling the playing field between different modes of commuting leads people to drive less and choose other ways to get to work.

Today, it’s the very cities with high land values like Boston and Chicago — places where parking rates reach $250 a month or higher — that most need to reduce congestion and cut the number of cars flowing into the city. Using federal tax policy to subsidize parking in a city like Boston leads people to consume more parking and, in turn, space that could be put to more productive use. But monthly costs for most transit commuters in these cities don’t come close to $250. While commuter rail and express bus passengers might get something out of the higher tax benefit, the vast majority of train and bus commuters won’t.

It won’t be politically popular, but lowering the parking benefit is the smarter way to achieve commuter benefit parity.

As a compromise, there’s a bill with bipartisan support on the table that would create a $220 maximum monthly tax-deductible benefit for parking and transit (and include bike-share as a form of transit). Unfortunately, so far, Congress seems to be less interested in sound policy than in keeping a broken system of incentives.

10 Oct 21:16

Traffic

by Adrienne Johnson
Don't we all know deep down that WE are the cause of all traffic in the world?  We should be ashamed!




Really.  We should be ashamed.
21 Oct 15:50

two dropped chains, two feel good stories

by calitexican
after riding a bike for more than a few years, one is bound to have more than a few dropped chains. for me, they happen at the most inopportune times, like shifting my downtube shifters to go up a hill. there was an incident a couple of months ago where i looked rather funny on polk street trying not to fall. i was rather determined not to do so on my way to work.

this is not the dropped chain from either story, but to gives you all an idea what i'm talking about.



so, this not about my dropped chain, but rather two dropped chains from people i don't know.

one friday i was rushing home to work before rushing out to sf bike party and a block away from home i see two bikers on the sidewalk. the woman appears in her 50s, and her bike is upside down. there's a younger man with her in about his 20s (son perhaps?) on the phone. both are looking around rather helpless. i decide to stop to see what the problem is because if it's a large problem, i know where the bike shop nearby is.

so i pull over, ask what's wrong, and i see the chain. THE CHAIN. it also looks like there is all that's wrong with it, so i get my fingers in, turn the cranks a bit, and voliá. chain back on. the woman and the young man look incredulous. she said they had been there for 15 minutes trying to fix it. i show her what to do if it happens again.

the woman clapped her hands, brought them to her chest, and said, "thank you so much!" i said, "it's no problem." she looks at my chain greased fingers, and apologizes, i said, "again, no problem since i live a block away."

i ride off feeling good that my limited bike knowledge helped out two people in minor distress.

fast forward to 10 days later, which was wednesday of last week. i'm off to a fancy pants dinner event on foot in the financial district. i see a woman with a nice and new cannondale, with a male colleague, in a similar state of distress, only this time everyone involved was well dressed. not going to get bike grease on anything this time.

i take a look, and again, looks like a dropped chain. i said "i can fix it, if someone has a pen." the woman says, "we're reporters, we have lots of pens." the man produces a pen, i pop the chain back on, and they again were so grateful. she said, "now i'll be on time for my meeting! thank you so much!" i forgot her name, but she introduced herself.

all of these scenarios took less than a minute to diagnose and fix. but the gratitude and the good feelings are still around a few weeks later.

so go out and help out some people. feels good.
12 Nov 21:20

The Times Blows a Chance to Tackle America’s Broken Traffic Justice System

by Angie Schmitt

In the United States, it’s pretty much legal to drive into and kill a cyclist, as long as you’re sober and stay at the scene. Writer Daniel Duane made that point last weekend in a New York Times op-ed titled, “Is it O.K. to Kill Cyclists?

The New York Times weighs in on the issue of traffic justice, with a largely laudable but imperfect story that has inspired some thoughtful responses. Image: ##http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/is-it-ok-to-kill-cyclists.html?_r=0## New York Times##

The image of a devil-red fixie rider with knuckle tattoos was one sign that something was off-kilter in a recent piece about traffic justice in the New York Times. Image: New York Times

The question mark in the headline was the first sign that the piece wasn’t going to take a firm stand, even though Duane sets up the essay with some good insight:

When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it’s like there’s a collective cultural impulse to say, “Oh, well, accidents happen.”

If that was the high point of the article, the low points come when Duane equivocates, suggesting that “everybody’s a little right” despite the fact that people are capable of far more harm when they’re behind the wheel than when they’re in the saddle.

Bike Snob (a.k.a. Eben Weiss) called Duane out for concluding that the response to reckless drivers who bear no consequences should be for cyclists to “obey the letter of the law”:

We deserve respect for being human, and it ends there. Yet we’re supposed to be good little boy scouts and girl scouts–even when it’s more dangerous for us to do so–to prove we’re deserving of not being killed? That’s just stupid and insulting.

Where Duane and the Times failed, the Economist nailed it, pointing to the differences between an American justice system that imposes little or no consequences on deadly driving, and the Dutch system of strict liability. In the Netherlands, writes the Economist, “if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist, the accident is always assumed to have been the driver’s fault.” Even in cases where a cyclist is breaking a rule, the onus is on the motorist to explain why the collision could not have been avoided. As a consequence, American bike fatality rates per mile are five to nine times higher than in this famously bike-friendly country.

And, far from being victimized, motorists in the Netherlands also reap the safety benefits from this legal system:

Does this result in rampant injustice to drivers when accidents occur? No. It results in far fewer accidents.

In the end, writes the Economist, people’s willingness to accept a strict liability system “depends on how much one values human life, as against the inconvenience of having to look in the rearview mirror more often.” Will such a clear case for reforming America’s broken traffic justice system ever appear in the Times?

17 Oct 19:48

“Bikes vs Cars” Director Fredrik Gertten Sets Out to Expose the Car Lobby

by Angie Schmitt

Films like Fast Food Nation and Gasland introduced critiques of the food industry and fracking to a broad audience. But as of yet, the active transportation movement has lacked a full-length documentary feature that screens widely in theaters or goes viral on Netflix.

Fredrik Gertten, a Swedish filmmaker with two full-length documentaries under his belt, hopes his film Bikes vs Cars — trailer above — just could be that film. Gertten’s first film – Bananas! — prompted a defamation lawsuit by Dole Food Company. The lawsuit is the subject of his second film, Big Boys Gone Bananas! (Gertten ultimately won.)

Gertten is trying to raise $50,000 before November 1 via Kickstarter to make a film focusing on the global bike movement. So far, it has brought in more than $24,000 in pledges. I caught up with him by Skype recently to learn more about the project:

Angie Schmitt: So I think the trailer sort of nails it. Can you tell us more about why you’re trying to raise this money?

Fredrik Gertten: My last film opened at Sundance and we’ve been playing at all the major festivals, so we have the ability to make a big splash if we do it well. At the same time we, as anybody else in this world, have to fight for survival. It’s complicated when you talk about arts. Both my last films have played in 80 countries and every single state in the U.S.

Documentaries now, is a very strong genre and so they really reach out. We are kind of stuck we have like 50 percent finances. We need a Kickstarter to get moving again.

AS: What’s going to be the gist of the film?

FG: I read a survey about young people, what their biggest worries were, and they were all about climate change. I mean so much that they had pains in their stomach every week. And at the same time the [auto] industry is rolling like nothing ever happened. I mean in Europe and the United States car sales aren’t going up anymore, but in the rest of the world … I’m kind of interested in the mechanisms that make us not change when we know that we should change.

The car industry, the oil industry, the construction industry, they’re all lobbying for all this really big-scale urban planning, so they just push for no change. So that’s what I’m interested in: those forces. I’m also looking into the lobby.

AS: So the car lobby will be part of your focus?

Bikes vs Cars Director Fredrik Gertten. Image: Bikes vs Cars

FG: Yes, because they’re very influential in making the changes that are needed. So that’s something I’m looking into but I’m also looking into the bike activists. Because the bike activists are not kind of a traditional political force. A lot of people are just people that started to go on the night ride somewhere and got a passion for bikes and then one day they decided, ‘you know what, if I can do this on a Friday or in evening, maybe I can do this on a Monday to my work.’ And then are out in very dangerous traffic, they also become politicized, because then they have to enter into debate about city planning. We also know that there are more bicyclists killed in traffic than ever before because there are more bikes on the streets now. These people who are not traditional political people, they get political and they are now becoming a very important force in many cities for better city planning.

The Brazilian girl in the trailer says, “this is not a war, it’s a city.” The title is, of course, provocative but for me it’s the war between two kinds of city planning, where one kind of machine took away all space. That’s something you see a lot of time in America. It’s a fight for space. In many places there is no space left anymore.

If you drive through the big American cities, you can see these big car pool lanes, and there’s no cars in the carpool lane. So there is one person in every car, and together they can consume all the space. Imagine if you 100 years ago said, ‘oh in the future we will all be sitting in big boxes and we’re not going anywhere, we won’t get anywhere because we’re all waiting for each other.’ Somebody, a professor in L.A. said that if you put all the space created for cars and you put it flat out in L.A., it would cover 80 percent of the livable area. Can you imagine selling that idea? People would say it was crazy.

I think this is a result of the lobby. They have been lobbying for suburban housing and for suburban shopping and for more cars and more streets and we shouldn’t blame the guy in the car because most of us are sometimes forced to drive by car. We are all victims of a very poor city planning, and of city planning that is kind of lobbied for by mighty forces. We know that we shouldn’t consume that much oil. But we cannot just keep going. The only answer is the people that would lose if we change, they invest so much to keep it going, in publicity and lobby and PR.

In the US, 25 percent of all trips are less than 1 miles, 40 percent are less than two miles. People could keep their cars, if they need to go further, longer distances, then have a car, but they could maybe try to go by bicycle to buy the milk or have coffee with their friends instead. In most of the United States, city planning is totally car based. So it’s very hard for people, it’s not an easy change, but it’s not impossible.

A number I would like to play with in this film … I live in Malmö, which is a really bike friendly city rated like number 7 in the world in bikes. But our neighbor, right near by, Copenhagen 40 percent commutes on bike every day. Take 40 percent and move it to any big American city or all big American cities, and you could say, wow if we had 40 percent less cars, imagine the oil consumption or the climate effect it would have and it’s totally mindblowing. This is an existing utopia, it actually exists and it works.

17 Sep 21:26

Apartment Blockers

by Alan Durning

Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!”

Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging is finally done, construction rockets upward in no time. For the past few months, I’ve been watching a crew excavate the site of a new condo tower on Seattle’s First Hill. It’s on a route I walk three times a week, so I’ve had a ring-side seat. And here’s the thing that finally dawned on me, after years of not really thinking about these holes in the urban ground: what’s all the excavation for? It’s for parking. Underground parking. In most cities and in most soil conditions, the giant holes are only there to satisfy off-street parking rules, and to do that, you need a deep, deep hole. A hole like this one.

At Eighth Ave. and Seneca St. in Seattle. Photo by Alan Durning

Digging these holes is astronomically expensive. They’re real-life money holes. The crew I’ve been watching has been laboring away for weeks, deploying enormous machinery and keeping a fleet of dump trucks in constant motion. They’ve undoubtedly spent millions of dollars removing rock and dirt. One Portland developer told me that each successive layer of excavation—each floor down in the garage—costs two to three times as much as the previous one.

Such costs are one reason housing is so expensive nowadays. A one-bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle rents for upwards of $1,300 on average. In Portland, rents are approaching $1,000 and, in Vancouver, BC, $1,400.

City requirements for off-street parking spaces jack up rents. They jack it up a lot at the bottom of the housing ladder. Proportionally speaking, the bigger the quota and the smaller the apartment, the larger the rent hike. For one-bedroom apartments with two parking places, as is required in places including Bothell and Federal Way, Washington, as much as one-third of the rent may actually pay for parking. A flotilla of studies supports that claim, and I’ll summarize them in this article, but first, a case study of residential real estate development may illuminate how critical parking is to the affordability of housing.

A Housing Dream (in which you are a developer)

Imagine you’re starting business as a developer of housing.

You take a loan from a bank and buy a city lot zoned multifamily. You sit down with your architect and start laying it out for apartments. The more apartments, the more housing you can provide, and the more money you can make. So the architect fills the lot with housing, right out to the city-required “set-back” boundaries near the edges of your property. She builds it as tall as the legal height limit for that zone too. You can erect 50 one-bedroom apartments, she announces, each of about 550 square feet. You do some figuring and realize you can earn a 7 percent return on investment while charging $800 a month in rent. That’s not a screamingly profitable venture, but it’ll do. And you’re sure that price will be popular with tenants, which will keep the building full. A schematic diagram of the development looks like this:

No parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

But there’s a problem, the architect points out. She reminds you that your city requires you to provide off-street parking on the property for each of the apartments you build. Cities such as Kent and Yakima, Washington, and Nampa and Meridian, Idaho, require two spaces per unit, but fortunately yours only requires one. You say, “That’s OK. We’ll put it underground.” The architect makes you a new drawing. It looks like this:

Underground parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Underground parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

She tells you that the access ramps to the underground garage will subtract six apartments, and your general contractor estimates that excavating will cost $55,000 per parking space—almost as much as the $60,000 you’ve budgeted to build each apartment. To make a 7 percent return on investment, you’ll have to raise the rent up to $1,300 a month on the remaining units. Will the market support that price? You’re not sure. They’re one-bedroom apartments, after all. Worse, the floor space of your garage won’t even fit one slot per apartment. You’ll have 44 apartments and parking for 33 cars or 0.75 spaces per unit. You’ll either have to apply to the city for a waiver from the usual one-space-per-unit parking code—a risky and time-consuming process—or give up more apartments on the ground floor to add more parking. That’ll push rent even higher.

You contemplate whether to dig a second subterranean level in the garage, but the deeper you go, the contractor explains, the more expensive it gets. In fact, the cost grows geometrically. Unfortunately, your architect says, you can’t just dig enough space for 11 more cars. You have to do an entire additional level, at a cost that might approach $100,000 a slot. Then you’ll have 66 spaces, the total construction cost of which would be substantially greater than the cost of building the apartments. Obviously, going deeper won’t work.

“What if we shrink the building and do a surface lot in the back?” you ask the architect. She lays it out for you, like this:

Surface parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

You’re now considering a building with 30 apartments, plus 19 spaces behind. That’s only 0.6 parking spaces apiece, so you’ll still be in trouble with the city. To get one space per apartment, you’ll need to drop down to 25 apartments or fewer and raise the rent again. Your architect says it’s hard to fit the stairs and halls into the building with so few units. (You might have to lower your aesthetic standards and do a parking-courtyard building.) Even if you can get a city waiver to put in just 19 spaces, you calculate, you’ll still have to charge rent of $1,200 a month. Will you be able to keep the apartments full at $1,200 a month? You’re not sure.

You try other configurations, such as devoting part of the first floor to parking. This option gives you nine indoor spaces (nowhere near enough to meet your parking quota) and sacrifices five apartments. Out of curiosity, you calculate that if you could charge $250 a month for each of the parking spots, you’d make up for the five lost apartments. That would let you leave rent at $800 for the apartments, same as in the no-parking scenario. But you doubt you can rent the slots for $250 a month, because parking is abundant in the neighborhood.

Tuck-under parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

The whole situation is aggravating, because the area surrounding your building has vast, untapped reservoirs of parking: surface lots at grocery stores and movie theaters, underground spaces at shopping complexes and office buildings, and idle spots at nearby apartments. Each category of parking has its own rhythm of filling and emptying: the theater lots, for example, fill during the evenings, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, but remain empty during daylight and after the late show. Overnight, when your tenants’ cars will most likely be at home, the office buildings’ garages are usually empty. And, of course, there are hundreds of curb spaces within six blocks of your building, though neighbors’ vehement territoriality about “their” spaces would make it impolitic to mention those in an appeal to the city for a parking waiver. Odds are that your tenants could secure whatever parking they wanted for much less than $250 a month per spot. You could even rent a group of overnight spaces at a nearby garage and sublet them to tenants, but such innovative solutions are not a legal substitute for on-site parking in your city.

You’re stuck with no good options: a long and risky waiver application, underground parking with extremely high rents, or a half-sized building with high rent and slots out back. You now understand why architects, in moments of dark humor, change their discipline’s mantra of “form follows function” to “form follows parking.” And you’re starting to understand how parking requirements are such an enormous barrier to affordable housing.

Five Rent Raisers (in which I hear the ghost of Econ past)

This case study, based on scenario analysis by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability that uses state-of-the-art real-estate planning tools, illustrates the way parking requirements raise the price of housing. It also hints at how they elevate the rent for everyone, even people who do not own cars or use parking spaces. But let’s be more precise. How do parking requirements raise rents? They do it in five ways, some of which affect all of the housing market and some of which only affect parts of it.

1. More Costly Housing. Parking quotas drive up construction costs. (“But supply and demand, not cost, set prices,” I hear my Econ 101 professor Hirschel Kasper pointing out. “Raising costs doesn’t raise prices.” “Yes,” I respond in my head, “but costs limit what goes to market, as you often said.” He nods approval.) High parking costs for construction effectively exclude new, less-expensive apartments from the market. There’s no way you can legally build your no-parking $800-a-month apartments, nor can anyone else, anywhere in town. The whole apartment market will be missing its bottom end. (It’s already missing most of its granny flats and rooming houses, as I argue in my new book Unlocking Home.)

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has modeled a typical affordable housing development and concluded that including one parking space per dwelling raises the cost of each rental unit by 12.5 percent; adding a second parking space doubles that to 25 percent.

2. Less Housing. Parking quotas constrain the supply of dwelling units, particularly of modest, economical ones, which causes their price to rise. (Dr. Kasper affirms: “Supply and demand, not cost . . .”) You may end up building only 25 apartments, rather than 50. The same goes for every other builder in the city. Fewer new apartments mean more competition for all apartments. Rents go up.

3. Building Conversions Blocked. Parking quotas often make it prohibitively expensive to adapt buildings for other uses. Developers cannot convert vacant warehouses into lofts, or aging office blocks into condos, unless they somehow shoehorn floors of parking into the historic structures. (Again, Dr. Kasper intones, “when supply is constrained, prices rise.”) This effect may keep fewer apartments off the market than does effect 2 (above), but in older cities, it can still keep thousands of apartments from getting built.

4. Dispersed Housing. By suppressing the number of apartments on each city lot (see 2 and 3), quotas force housing demand to spread outward across the landscape. In a word: sprawl, which raises travel distances and commuting expenses. Instead of 50 apartments on your in-city lot and many others like it, there may be only 25. Apartment hunters will have to go farther afield, increasing their cost of living, if not their rent.

5. Billing Non-parkers. Parking quotas shift the cost of storing vehicles from those vehicles’ owners into the rent of non-owners. By flooding the market for parking, quotas make it impossible to recoup the full cost of parking by charging its users. (Dr. Kasper agrees: “Supply increases, prices drop.”) You can’t charge $250 a slot, because the neighborhood is awash in mandatory parking stalls. Fortunately for you, the same parking quotas that have flooded the parking market are starving the apartment market, making it possible to charge higher rents. This effect does not raise the rent on average beyond what effects 1, 2, and 3 do, but it does shift the cost of storing vehicles from car owners to non-owners. Even tenants who do not use parking pay for it.

A forthcoming Sightline analysis will likely reach similar conclusions. If preliminary results hold up, it will show that, at actual apartment and condominium projects in Seattle, the cost of parking is as much as 35 percent of monthly rent. The cost of parking, furthermore, exceeds its market price almost everywhere in King County, so even tenants who do not own cars end up paying for parking through their rent.

These five effects interact and reinforce one another. They knock the bottom off of the apartment market, pushing working-class people to double up or commute longer distances. They raise the rent for everyone, driving up the cost of living while lowering the price of parking. And they shift parking costs to those who don’t use it.

Two Proofs (for extra credit)

Together, these five mechanisms raise housing prices. How much? It’s hard to say exactly. No two dwellings are exactly the same, so rigorously distinguishing the effects of parking requirements—as opposed to the many other variables like “look” and “neighborhood”—on housing prices is what Dr. Kasper would have termed an extra credit problem. Fortunately, studies from Oakland and Los Angeles have earned at least part of the credit.

In 1961, Oakland introduced a quota of one space per new apartment. Immediately, as housing economist Brian Bertha has documented (see page 143), the construction cost per apartment jumped by 18 percent and typical apartment buildings shrank: the number of units per new building fell by 30 percent. Developers built fewer, larger apartments, and the rent rose.

A newer proof comes from urban planning professor Michael Manville of Cornell University. He described in the Journal of the American Planning Association what happened in downtown Los Angeles after 1999 when the city enacted an adaptive reuse ordinance (ARO). Manville writes, “The ARO exempted qualifying buildings from minimum parking requirements. Although developers could not remove any existing parking, they were under no obligation to add any. New ground-up residential construction in the downtown, however, was still subject to the city’s parking requirements.” Quickly, the deregulation of parking yielded more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, some of them in previously dilapidated historic office buildings that dated from the Art Deco era. Meanwhile, new developments were erecting thousands of other dwellings in the same neighborhoods. The side-by-side existence of ARO buildings with new buildings gave Manville a natural experiment to study. The findings, as Manville summarized them:

When parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also . . . developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces.

Manville’s research confirms in detail everything you’d expect from your own time as an imaginary housing developer. Minimum parking requirements do not jack the rent up much in the kinds of pricey buildings where the developer would have installed an abundance of parking anyway. The richest renters and condo owners expect parking spots of their own, on-site, and plenty of them. What minimum parking requirements do is force more-modest buildings to squeeze out living space in favor of parking space.

Across all of the ARO rental projects, the average amount of parking installed was 1.2 spaces per unit. That’s more than the waived quota of one space. Does that mean that the parking quotas didn’t matter? No. High-end buildings pulled up the average. (Remember, this is in high-rent, downtown, auto-centric Los Angeles, often in restored historic buildings.) Meanwhile, many ARO buildings provided fewer than one space per unit, and some provided none. It all depended on the developer and what the building’s structure would accommodate cost-effectively.

A Market to Park It (in which developers act like you)

What’s more, half of the parking spaces developers provided to tenants were at neighboring or nearby properties. In fact, at 16 of the 57 ARO buildings, all the parking was off-site. These developers did what you wanted to do for your 50-unit building: they secured tenant parking not by pouring concrete but by sipping coffee with the owners of nearby garages.

Some developers did not assign individual spots. They used a pooled parking system. Just as airlines overbook flights, statistically confident that a few passengers won’t show up, pooled parking takes advantage of probabilities: at any given time, some cars will be away.

Some developers put in tandem spaces, where two cars nose into the same slot, one behind the other. Others looked into parking lifts, contraptions that double the capacity of each place by stacking cars.

Lifts and tandem parking at The Strand condominiums in Portland. Photo by Ari Ronai-Durning

Developers in 20 of the buildings unbundled parking charges from rent: they leased them separately. Residents could take an apartment without parking. Or they could take two spaces. Or three. In some buildings, they could rent one space on-site and another off-site. They could adjust month by month, depending on their needs. In short, they could participate in an actual, functioning market for car storage.

Compared with the new non-ARO buildings in the same area, Manville found that ARO buildings had about 0.3 fewer spaces per dwelling total, and half of it was off-site—illegal for the new-built structures. In the ARO rental units, each additional parking space (again, many of them off-site) raised the rent by about 6 percent or $85 a month. No one can build parking spaces in downtown Los Angeles for as little as $85 a month, but the availability of abundant off-site parking—the legacy of decades of parking quotas—pushed parking’s price below its cost. (Dr. Kasper again.)

Reading the Meter (in which I guess)

The research hints at the rent increases caused by some of the “rent raisers” above: 6 percent higher rent per parking space in Los Angeles, 12.5 percent in Litman’s model, up to 35 percent in the forthcoming Sightline analysis.

But none of them captures the most powerful rent raisers: numbers 2 and 3, in which parking minimums constrain apartment supply and thereby push up rents across the entire city. Detecting and measuring that effect would be exceedingly difficult, because it is incremental and market-wide. Still, anything that so constrains the number of apartments—30 percent in Oakland, for example, or enough that a narrow parking exemption for adaptive reuse of buildings in downtown Los Angeles could induce the rapid-fire construction of 6,000 new units—surely has enormous impacts on rent. If parking minimums in Northwest cities have reduced the number of in-town apartments by 30 percent, the resulting average rent hike must be giant. A quarter? A third? More? It’s impact on sprawl must be similarly big.

Los Angeles’s ARO experience illustrates another important lesson: deregulating parking eliminates neither on-site parking nor its construction. It simply allows developers and residents to come up with innovative solutions to the age-old question of where to park. It lets millions of individual actors making daily decisions about alternatives and costs determine how much parking gets built, rather than expecting city councils and a few officials in planning departments to decide how much parking to build based on nonexistent theory or divine revelation. Parking deregulation lets residents decide how much they’re willing to pay to park, how far they’re willing to walk to park, and ultimately how much it’s worth to them to own a car that needs parking.

Eighth and Seneca, a few days later. Photo by Alan Durning

As the cost of parking disentangles itself from the price of housing, ending parking quotas will bring rents down, especially for those with few or no cars and for people looking for modest dwellings. Developers, for their part, will be free to build the least-expensive parking spaces but stop before the cost skyrockets, as when they’d need to start excavating craterous, multi-million-dollar holes in the ground.

Thanks to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability for permission to publish its diagrams and to Hirschel Kasper for teaching me economics.

18 Sep 19:31

Alan Durning on Reasons to Be Optimistic About Parking Reform

by Tanya Snyder

We hope you enjoyed part one of our Q&A with Alan Durning, which we published yesterday. Durning is publishing a series of articles on his blog at the Sightline Institute — where he serves as executive director — about the ways that underpriced parking drives up rents, eats up space, and makes no sense.

A reader asked in the comments yesterday whether performance pricing could actually lead to more driving — a question that I also asked at the end of the interview. Durning responded in the comments, but his thinking on the subject is more fleshed out here — along with his thoughts on the political calculus of parking policy, how cruising drivers can be a menace to cyclists, and reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Sometimes the revolution in transportation reform looks like this. Photo: ArsTechnica

Tanya Snyder: Free and abundant parking gives drivers an incredible incentive to drive, because they can just put their vehicle wherever they want and they won’t have to pay for it. But even with all the ways parking policies incentivize driving, it’s still not enough to fill all the spaces developers are building. You are still counting all these empty spaces. Considering the cost that goes into building those spaces, why is it taking so long for cities and developers to say, “Oh, we’re doing this completely wrong; we’re losing tons of money.” You’d think the bottom line would have translated a long time ago into a correction of this. Why has that not happened?

Alan Durning: I’ve thought about that a lot and that’s why I started the series with “Who Parked in My Spot?!” to describe the intensity of territoriality that residents feel about free on-street parking. Business owners feel a similar protectiveness of free on-street parking for their customers. So you look around city, and there’s no neighborhood where there isn’t intense, visceral political pressure for lots of free parking.

So that’s the political fuel that perpetuates the whole system. Local elected officials are not passionate about parking. No one goes into politics or runs for elected office because they want to change parking policy.

Developers hate parking requirements but because all the developers in the city have to obey the same rules, they can usually pass the cost on to the tenants or to the buyers. So the loser in this is always the person who’s moving into a building. Those people don’t have a say. All the actors in this process are responding rationally to the incentives that they face.

TS: And it’s the people who are losing the most that have no way to respond.

AD: Right. So [parking requirements are] the perfect political solution to the problem. That’s why it hasn’t been fixed — because from a political perspective, it’s not a problem. It’s a solution.

But [if a city implements Donald Shoup’s recommendation to charge for street parking and rebate some of the meter revenue to the neighborhood] some residents in the neighborhood will switch sides. And now you have a situation where politicians have to choose, have to lead. And it doesn’t take that many people switching sides until the political dynamic is all scrambled and new things become possible.

The last article I’m planning to do [for the series] is going to be called “Seven Reasons Why Parking Reform Is Now Possible.” We’re going to talk about the things that are shifting, that are reasons to hope. The number of cities that are doing this whole package, of performance pricing, plus revenue sharing, plus reducing off-street parking requirements. The steady spread of information technology into the backwater of parking –

The ultimate gamble is that the benefits of urbanism beat the benefits of sprawl. And we’re winning it. Even though parking rules and transportation spending patterns are against us.

TS: Which allows enforcement to be easier and less costly.

AD: Exactly; which reduces the transaction cost so it makes sense to charge for parking in more circumstances, which makes enforcement easier. And it also allows the emergence of markets for small numbers of parking spaces. So there’s already a market for a parking garage full [of parking spaces], but ParkAtMyHouse and other apps make it possible to rent out a single space much more efficiently.

Car-sharing is a substantial factor. Some cities are now recognizing that if you have a car-sharing vehicle close to a new development you can eliminate four parking spaces. The scrambling of the taxi market that’s happening through ride-share companies like Lyft and Sidecar. And then peer-to-peer car-sharing — RelayRides, GetAround — that are allowing a private market to emerge for your neighbor’s car, by the hour. And even the Buck Rogers stuff about self-driving vehicles, the Google car that drives itself.

One of the biggest impacts of that — if it happens, which I expect will be much longer than the five or 10 years [projected] — is that right now, a car is parked 23 hours a day and driving one. But taxis — which are the present-day analog of these self-driving vehicles — are driving for how many, 18 hours a day?

TS: Well they’re just cruising around for some of those hours, but yeah.

AD: I’d be interested to know what share of the time taxis have a fare. But in any event, they’re on a trip way more of the time than private cars are — many, many multiples.

The point is, we continue to build parking and require new developments to build parking on the assumption that future automobile use is going to be the same as current automobile use. That is, that it will be mostly private cars and that almost everyone will have one or two or three.

TS: So, the same way we’re critical of travel forecasts that are prompting cities to build more and bigger and wider roads based on usage demand models that we think are antiquated, cities are also overbuilding parking for the same reasons.

AD: Exactly. For all the same reasons. And it’s not just that millennials haven’t yet fallen in love with the car, it’s that all these new alternatives are emerging. And we can see even more on the horizon, like self-driving vehicles, whenever they come. Even if that’s 50 years from now, that’s still within the lifespan of the parking requirements that we’re imposing on new developments.

And every one of these innovations reduces how much parking is really needed — even under the old model, where you assume it’s free. So those are some reasons we can be hopeful that parking reform will pick up speed after so many years of wringing hands among green urbanists.

TS: So there are all these factors that disincentivize driving, but one thing we haven’t talked much about is how free parking induces driving.

AD: We know it does — we know that free parking induces driving and even vehicle ownership. If you live in a building that charges even $50 a month for each parking space, you’re going to have on average, what, five to 10 percent fewer vehicles. People sell that third vehicle. And the same goes for individual trips.

If everyone had to pay for their parking every time, they would drive less. They would also carpool more.

When they do surveys asking people why they took transit on a particular trip, the number one answer is usually because there was no free parking. This is why suburban malls — some of them — get so excited about putting in put in lots of parking, because they think that they’ll attract more drivers. And to a certain extent, they’re right, people are very sensitive to parking. But they’re also sensitive to parking availability as opposed to price. So it’s the total opportunity cost of parking.

This is the way you parallel park, and this is the way you hit cyclists and annoy buses. Image: Driving School

TS: But if you are charging for parking and other places nearby are not… On U Street in DC, when they upped parking rates to $2 an hour, business owners were so sensitive to the idea that their customers were going to go to the suburbs.

AD: That’s a part of the political dynamic — the competition between shopping destinations. It tends to reinforce the territoriality. But if you don’t ask people what they think and instead just look at their behavior, you’ll find that people value certainty about parking. They may grumble a little bit, but they’re quite willing to pay for parking if they’re sure they’re going to find it. And they weigh the time plus convenience plus cost in choosing their destination.

So if they can drive further to free parking, sometimes they’ll do that because the total cost of that seems better than going someplace closer and paying for parking. But also, lots of times people choose to go to places where they have to pay for parking. And the most popular neighborhoods in America tend to have congested parking you have to pay for. People are not fleeing those neighborhoods.

The ultimate gamble for all us urbanists is that the benefits of urbanism — the huge agglomeration of people and activities — beat the benefits of sprawl. And we’re winning it. Even though so many rules like parking rules are against us, and transportation spending patterns are against us. We keep putting most of the transportation dollars in the United States into suburban freeways, giant engines of auto dependence, but still cities are hot. And suburbs trying to become more urban.

TS: I wanted to get back to the parking apps, and even market pricing, which seem to work both ways because they might be making parking more expensive but they’re also making it easier. There are people who live in dense neighborhoods who, if they’re going to be home after 6 p.m., just won’t take their cars out because they’re afraid they won’t find a spot when they get home. But if they know there will be a spot or two, they will.

AD: So let me phrase your question this way: Is information technology going to encourage driving because it makes it so much easier to find a parking space?

TS: Or even market pricing.

AD: There will be all conceivable effects, but the net effect will be big improvements. Here’s why.

Cruising for parking is a particularly egregious form of driving. Cruising for parking is, on average, a third of vehicles moving through popular commercial districts in cities. It is especially bad for people on buses and for cyclists, because people who are cruising for parking are in the same lanes where the buses and the bikes want to be. People who are cruising for parking drive unpredictably; they suddenly slam on their brakes; they suddenly do a u-turn.

TS: And back up.

AD: And back up! The time I was closest to creamed on my bike was someone backing up trying to get into a parking space, and he was screaming in reverse right up the bike lane. So performance pricing — because it eliminates cruising — is an immediate, enormous benefit.

And it’s driving with no purpose. It doesn’t have any up-side.

TS: Right, there’s this idea that VMT and GDP are somehow inextricably linked, but you’re not getting any GDP out of cruising.

AD: Exactly. You’re getting negative utility. So performance pricing is a pure plus. And performance pricing ends up with same number of parking spaces being used. It’s mostly being put in, so far, in neighborhoods where the spaces are almost all full right now. It’s redistributing them a bit, and more efficiently.

The apps, more generally, that allow you to reserve and go directly to an off-street parking space may in some cases induce people to drive who wouldn’t have driven, but at same time, the apps are making apparent to owners of private spaces their value. And that flips around the political pressure for off-street parking. So I think the net effect of all that is hugely positive.

17 Sep 20:38

Google’s AOSP leader Jean-Baptiste Queru hired by Yahoo

by Cory Gunther

The entire Android community and Android Open Source Project (AOSP) has suffered a great loss this month, as the lead technical engineer known as Jean-Baptiste Queru left the team last month and has now been hired by Yahoo. We all know him as JBQ, who’s done fine work managing Android’s source code, but now he’s no longer with Google.

AOSP

This all stems back to last month when he made the details public regarding Qualcomm’s patents which were preventing him from managing and releasing the factory images for the new Nexus 7. Essentially stating he didn’t want to go to work in the morning, and that he was quitting AOSP. It’s a little bittersweet, and here’s what it all came down to.

There’s no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can’t boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I’m getting the blame for something that I don’t have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead.” — JBQ

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.28.06 PM

This morning JBQ confirmed the news on Twitter, stating he’ll be in charge of mobile app development and engineering for Yahoo. According to reports he actually “quit” or left Google last month, and yesterday was his first day with Yahoooooo!

The folks from Yahoo haven’t had the best of luck lately with Android apps, and it took them forever to launch their Weather app for Android, which has been on iOS for quite a while. Hopefully this move will help their entire presence on Android, at least in terms of quality apps.

We are sad to see him go, but wish him luck with Yahoo and everything else moving forward.

VIA: Gigaom