San Francisco – November 21, 2014 – Lately Paul Supawanich, an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco, has been noticing ads for commercial delivery vehicles in popular magazines. That’s strange enough, in a way, but what’s even odder is that these aren’t your typical 30-foot trucks. He’s seen ads for the Chevy City Express, a 15-foot cargo van, and the Nissan NV Cargo series, with 15- and 20-foot models. At half the size of their bulky predecessors, these new options seem perfectly suited for tight city streets.

“It was like, wow, things have changed,” says Supawanich (a past CityLab contributor). “Something’s different.”

To Supawanich, that seemingly wonky difference in vehicle size could lead to major benefits for pedestrian safety. Whereas big trucks need gigantic intersections to take a turn, going from outside lane to outside lane, smaller cargo vans can hug a corner using much less space. Such a fleet shift could help city street designers implement any number of pedestrian-friendly elements: shorter crosswalks and more median islands, for instance, or curb-extenders that slow down the speed of traffic.

(CityLab, Eric Jaffe)

Sacramento, CA – November 7, 2014 – California planning experts continue to debate how to most effectively measure transportation impacts in a way that will foster smarter growth, after the state abandoned the car-centric metric known as Level of Service (LOS).

The acronym-laden process of measuring transportation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may be complex and wonky, but it’s certainly important. In creating a replacement for LOS, the CA Office and Planning and Research (OPR) will shape the future of development in California for many years to come. …

Jeff Tumlin, senior planner with the transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard, pointed out that local planning agencies use VMT baselines that differ widely throughout the state. “As planners, we are routinely called upon to reduce vehicle miles traveled by up to forty percent,” he said. “Why not set a threshold of fifteen percent below any of the local baselines, including General Plans, county or regional averages, and Sustainable Communities Strategies?” he asked. “This way local jurisdictions can set their own thresholds, as long as they meet that fifteen percent reduction.

(Streetsblog LA by Melanie Curry)

San Francisco – Nov. 5, 2014 – The mid-term elections brought good news for state and local transportation initiatives. Major new transportation tax measures were approved in Seattle, Atlanta (Clayton County), Rhode Island, Fairfax County, and Alameda and San Francisco counties.

At Nelson\Nygaard, we are celebrating the passage of Measure BB in Alameda County, CA. This measure, which we drafted along with public and policymakers of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, focuses on programmatic capital spending, ensuring that the best projects will be funded as well as providing operating funds for transit and paratransit in unprecedented amounts. Principal and Founder Bonnie Nelson says, “Residents of Alameda County have shown that they understand the value of a balanced transportation system that focuses on the joint goals of mobility, economic vitality, and public health.”

Rhode Island’s approval of a $35 million transportation bond measure is another victory for Nelson\Nygaard. Boston staff worked with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and Department of Transportation to develop a vision for the way transit works in downtown Providence, components of which depend on this funding. “We proposed improvements to bus circulation, transit emphasis corridors for easy travel within downtown, and two additional transit centers to enhance connections between buses and the MBTA/Amtrak,” says Associate Alex Lew. “Although there is still a lot on the road ahead, the approval of Measure 6 is a big step forward for better transit service in the state of Rhode Island.”

In Seattle, proposition 1 passed, a sales tax and car registration fee to expand transit service, a huge win. “These new funds will benefit Seattleites in a significant way,” says Principal Tim Payne. “Working through the blueprint laid down in the Seattle Transit Master Plan, a Nelson\Nygaard project, we look forward to helping prioritize investments in service that ensure the greatest results for what is rapidly turning into one of the most transitable cities in North America.”

Other important wins:

San Francisco residents voted to support Proposition A, a $500 million bond measure to be used for redesigned streets, more bike and transit-only lanes, updated traffic signals, improved maintenance facilities, and new elevators and escalators at Metro stations. They also defeated a pro-car measure that was partially an attack on SFpark.

Residents of Clayton County, Georgia voted in a sales tax to join with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. The county had been without transit since a 2010 budget crisis. “It is very good news that Clayton County passed its measure,” says Randy Farwell. “This is the last core county in the region to agree to join MARTA.”

In Fairfax County, the Transportation Bond Referendum passed. “Congratulations to Director Tom Biesiadny and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff for the visionary work in anticipating and planning for a multimodal future for the county,” says Principal Karina Ricks. “These funds will help them implement that vision.”