Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Hire City Consultants

Regional Active Transportation Forum October 14, Garden Grove, credit M Martinez

Last Friday 10/14 the Orange County Council of Governments (OCCG), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) hosted another Active Transportation Forum, this time in Garden Grove. The agencies share a common mission, to prepare our county planning documents to qualify for state and federal grant funding for new transportation infrastructure, that means if their planning documents are not in order, they cannot compete for the funding.  In 2016 there was $79 million available in Federal CMAQ grant money up for grabs yet Laguna's General Plan Circulation Element was updated once in the last 42 years. Councilwoman Diana Carey showed the audience six essential preparations her city of Westminster used to qualify for funding and prepare for Active Transportation, Laguna doesn't meet any of the six.

Other Orange County communities are struggling to meet ever-increasing vehicular traffic so the Departments of Public Health, MPO and SCAG are cooperating to redesign urban settings from car-centric back to livable environments and public space for people. Active Transportation plays a role by moving people not just cars, how we plan and design our public space makes an impact on the economic, mental, physical and social health of city inhabitants.

Our speaker Hasan Ikhrata Executive Director of SCAG had advice for city institutions. When hiring planning consultants Hasan said "provide choices, don't direct options" meaning ask consultants for best design choices, don't specify the requirements to win the job.  For example to update the Laguna Beach Specific Plan the hired consultant will read these instructions:  Balance the need to preserve the existing village character and pedestrian orientation with the objective to accommodate the traffic and parking demands generated by tourists.   Wha?  That's like saying preserve our pedestrian orientation but hide the parking garage. What should a consultant design? A Gateway Opportunity? A parking structure?

Our City sells the illusion that if we get the parking just right our traffic congestion problems go away, if we hire the right consultant they can work this out 'cuz they are experts. Well it just ain't so. Instead Laguna should hire experts for demonstrated best practices, not for options the city manager prescribes. If our city council cannot exercise oversight on behalf of residents (they don't) then it's time for new leadership from a council person who gets it. Judie Mancuso listens to consultants, she knows the difference between compensating for expert advice and paying for a jobs program. Judie knows to qualify for grant funding we need to get our General Plan in order and up to date.

Our keynote speaker was Founder and Director Daniel Iacofano of MIG Consulting -yes that MIG. Daniel explained a benefit of Active Transportation is Real Estate Value Capture:  to revitalize any business district and raise property values, you reduce automobile traffic and increase walk-in traffic. Parklets done right are a means of creating community space that people are drawn to, hence walk-in traffic.

Caltrans, OCTA and SoCal cities shared good company at the event, Laguna did not send a city Rep. Laguna needs council members who draw best practices from outside Laguna, vote Judie Mancuso for City Council.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Get-Moving OC Forum #2 Results

The I5 Bottle-Neck Problem Depicted for Toll-Road Solution
Orange County expects another 400,000 inhabitants between now and the year 2035. During that time the Orange County Transportation Authority will administer $14.8 Billion in Measure M funding to alleviate traffic congestion but the delay times are still projected to increase 64% if nothing more is done. Fortunately the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) that brought us the 241 and 73 Toll Roads have begun a rigorous program of public uptake to determine 1) if I5 has a congestion problem, 2) if a community consensus can be found 3) who holds the keys to gain community support for making infrastructure "improvements".  In Public Forum #2  held 5 October 2016 the TCA in collaboration with Caltrans and OCTA (Orange County Transit Authority) revealed 14 Ideas for road infrastructure projects, consisting mainly of Toll Roads and widening of existing roads. The following are highlights of the TCA plan.

Special Consultant Conclusions:
  1. A community-wide agreement on I5 solution is unlikely
  2. There is a high level of agreement that I5 has a congestion problem
  3. Due to 1. elected officials are perceived as the most appropriate persons to develop (I5) solutions
What the 14 Ideas (roadway modifications in the map) show
  • The single modality considered for moving people is automobiles
  • The single requirement for improving transport is car delay time (LOS)
  • The single performance criteria for improvement is reducing delay time
  • Among the roads modified is Ortega Highway 74 as 4-lanes
  • Idea #7 widens 133 Laguna Canyon Road and arterial highways
  • Toll-Road costs start at $100 million per mile 
  • Average reduction in delay time is a meaningless 1-5 percent.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Homer's Mobility Rule of Thumb

Homer plans his day
 Four simple mobility rules:

Trip distance 0-1 miles: Walk
Trip distance 1-5 miles: Bike
Trip distance 5-10 miles: Bus
Trip distance 10-100 miles: Car

Friday, September 30, 2016

Homer Solves Traffic Congestion Overnight

Homer the LB Homie lives downtown Laguna but relies exclusively on his car to get around. Here's how he plans his daily trips.

Homer's Brain on Cars

If Homer chose his travel mode based on the trip distance from his apartment, then his mode trips might look like this. 

Homers Brain on Complete Streets Policy


Medi's Printshop
Bank of America
Wells Fargo
US Bank
The Grove
Marine Room
Sawdust Festival
Festival of Arts


Laguna Coffee
Broadway Pharm
Post Office 
City Hall
Whole Foods
Ganahl Lumber
Laguna Books
Dem Club
Friendship Shelter




Larry's Lumber
Ganahl Lumber

If all Laguna's homies used all four mobility modes Laguna would solve traffic congestion overnight. No tiresome agenda bills, no traffic cops, no Trojan Horse and no Gateway Opportunity at no cost to the city of Laguna Beach. Will our homies do the right thing?        -LS

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Laguna is Going for Gold

2007 Pedestrian Collisions
Dave Hansen referees in "Laguna Battles for Gold in Street Injuries" showing the pedestrian injury/fatalities for Laguna Beach is bad and getting worse. Dave explains that accident records show injury/fatalities compiled in police records since 2007 are not Riverside lunch-bag day-trippers, it's Lagunans too. It's not 3:00am July 5th but Wednesdays in December.
2014 Pedestrian Collisions

An LB City Council member recently said, Laguna's traffic congestion is caused by pedestrians.........  While pedestrians may remain the inconvenient truth for motorists, there is something seriously wrong when council members wear their Consciousness like a traffic cone.

The graphics show where pedestrian collisions occurred, in 2007 there were 19 collisions and 1 fatality, in 2014 there were 33 collisions and 2 fatalities, a 74% increase.   -LS

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Low Cost Housing for Laguna

Laguna Canyon Nada
Good news for car owners, soon you won't need one. In San Diego's Little Italy a new development has eliminated parking requirements in order to encourage car-free living and reduce the cost of rents.

In WSJ Ester Fong's endeavor to show both sides of the argument she is very successful, so thorough we completely loose the purpose for building low-cost housing. Rather we take the parking-brawl outside for a street-fight in the Commentary section because when it comes to urban planning, everybody is an expert.

So far 61 experts wrote commentary because every writer knows their piece of the elephant. Some writers remark how such a lefty progressive idea couldn't possibly work in Houston, others write how relaxing parking requirements failed in Portland. Yet others say let market forces determine housing densities so "keep-a you hands off my kaaa".  If free-market forces are such a good thing, why does Laguna suffer under the summer traffic congestion it experiences now? Maybe existing regulations and free-market forces - the availability of cars-on-the-cheap have something to do with it. In 2013 a quarter of US renters spent half their monthly income on housing made less affordable due to parking requirements.

Commentary can be misleading. The statements following Fong's piece distract the reader from the central idea: how relaxing parking regulations benefit affordable housing. If Ester Fong combined Complete Streets Policy with urban planning, then a community of low-cost housing connected by transportation free of parking costs would emerge.  Low cost housing development is sorely needed by the art community in Laguna Beach, in neighborhoods long ignored. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Laguna's Parking Requirements Uncool

It's not the 60's Man ....  so why regulate by old-rules?  Laguna like Ottawa should get hip - we have a Golden Opportunity not a Gateway Opportunity.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Steps to Complete Streets: Test and Verify
September 25 11a-6p is CARFREE Day in Paris (photo Gypsy Ninja)

Step 4. Influence Factors

Paris is removing cars from the city downtown and building a massive pedestrian zone, just as Time Square NYC did. As a public-outreach gesture the city is testing the actual street closure with more than a high-priced consultant workshop, they simply close the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and monitor public reaction. Plan, build, test and tweek, the simplified steps to a Complete Street. See more photos and detail at Gypsy Ninja here.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Latest Collision Map for Laguna PCH

Collision Maps for 2014-2015

The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) collects collision data from the California Highway Patrol and municipal police departments for all highways and surface streets in California. The Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) established by researchers through SafeTREC at the University of California Berkeley provides data and mapping analysis tools for traffic safety related research, policy and planning. In collaboration with Google Maps the collision data is presented as blue push-pins on the Google satellite views you see below. The three maps show the collisions for the latest data available from full years 2014-2015.  The collision data is immature for the 2014-2015 period, expect the number to increase above those shown here.

Click to enlarge
The first map shows the number and locations of collisions of all types recorded for South Coast Highway (PCH) through Laguna Beach. The bike-routes through Laguna Beach are colored green.

Click to enlarge

The second map shows all the recorded bicycle collisions on surface streets for Laguna Beach in the 2014-2015 period.

Click to enlarge

The third map shows the recorded bicycle collisions on PCH in Laguna Beach for the 2014-2015 period. The average number of these bicycle related collisions is 6 per year. When the OTS database for 2014-2015 is complete, expect the number of collisions shown to increase. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

Why We Pay Consultants

Forest Avenue 1938
According to MIG Consultants quote:


Downtown Laguna Beach has a unique eclectic character created by a series of architecturally varied one-and two-story buildings.This character exists because downtown Laguna Beach is a remnant from an era where cars were not the typical mode of transportation. Walking and bicycles were more commonly utilized and thus, these low-slung buildings were originally designed to be a comfortable pedestrian scale.