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  • Todd J. Binkley
    Jul 1 12:00 PM
      Hi Everyone,

      'Soaring Gas Prices' are here... hooray! I hear petrol is fetching
      around five dollars a gallon in the U.K. Oh, how Americans will holler
      when we hit THAT milestone. One miffed midwesterner paid $55.80 to fill
      up the 24-gallon tank of her Ford Expedition, yesterday. Just think, in
      a couple of years that same tankfull may cost $100. The Governors of
      Indiana and Illinois have suspended their state gas taxes to give those
      poor, helpless motorists a break. Raising fuel taxes, to reduce demand
      and fund mass transit (and carfree city construction?), should become
      politically feasible once sufficient numbers of motorists can no longer
      afford to fill up. At what price per gallon will the average motorist
      give up?

      Here's another good reason to remove cars from cities altogether: Even
      in walkable cities, with high numbers of highly visible pedestrians all
      over town, increasingly irate motorists still can't behave responsibly:

      Funding for more trains?
      'Bush.... err, (sorry, I get them confused) 'Gore Offers $25 Billion for
      Energy Efficient Transit':


      Monday, June 26,

      Deaths, Injuries Cloud 'Walkers'

      Safety: Eighteen pedestrians
      have been killed, 300
      hurt since January in San
      Francisco. Police and city
      step up preventive campaigns.

      By JOHN M. GLIONNA, Times Staff

      SAN FRANCISCO--Late at
      night, when the chaos
      of the city streets subsides,
      Ken Kelton whips his red
      truck to the curb at an
      offending intersection.
      Working quickly, he throws
      down a plywood stencil
      and spray-paints another street
      memorial to a fallen
      pedestrian. Resembling the
      chalked body outlines at
      crime scenes, the life-size
      white sketch proclaims the
      victim's name and accident date.

      "Pedestrian deaths are
      always cleaned up within
      hours--the body's gone, the
      blood washed away--like
      we don't want to know," said
      51-year-old Kelton, a
      building contractor by day and
      urban guerrilla after
      dark. "This way, people
      remember. They're reminded
      that this is a dangerous place."

      The city known worldwide as
      a walker's paradise
      has never seemed so dangerous.
      Since January, 18
      pedestrians have been killed on
      San Francisco streets
      and more than 300 have been
      injured--setting a course
      to easily exceed last year's
      death toll of 28.
      Victims have been hit in
      crosswalks, while waiting
      for buses, when dashing into
      traffic. The youngest--a
      3-year-old boy--was struck by a
      cab. The oldest was a
      98-year-old man run down by a
      trolley car.
      The deaths have moved
      police to step up
      enforcement and prompted city
      officials to hold a recent
      emergency pedestrian safety
      Supervisor Mabel Teng has
      vowed to use the
      summit proposals--such as
      narrowing streets and
      increasing fines levied on
      motorists--to create a safety
      master plan.
      And the San Francisco
      agency that created the
      national "Got Milk?" ads is
      devising a pedestrian safety
      awareness campaign.
      "I'm calling it the 'Got
      Brakes?' campaign," Teng
      said. "San Francisco is no
      longer a walkable city,
      because people have to take
      risks just to cross the
      street. We've got to change the
      behavior of both
      walkers and drivers. Until then,
      the streets will not be
      Studies show that San
      Francisco--where about
      10% of people walk to work--has
      the highest
      pedestrian injury rate in
      California. Nationwide, about
      13% of traffic fatalities
      involve pedestrians; in San
      Francisco the rate hovers around
      50%, studies show.
      The city's pedestrian death
      rate is second only to
      New York City's, officials say.
      "It's alarming," said James
      Corless, California
      director of the Surface
      Transportation Policy Project, a
      nonprofit agency that promotes
      more balanced
      transportation policies. "It's
      gotten to the point where
      people are literally afraid to
      step off the curb."
      San Francisco police
      reviewed 286 car-pedestrian
      incidents this year, blaming
      motorists in 123 and finding
      that 91 were the fault of
      pedestrians. In the others, the
      responsibility was unclear.
      Experts say there is a
      third culprit missing from that
      formula: the streets themselves.

      "There's a lot of
      finger-pointing going on over who's
      responsible for all the
      accidents, the walker or the
      driver. But the truth is that
      traffic engineers can share
      some of the blame," Corless
      In San Francisco, there are
      many blind intersections
      where vehicles often barrel over
      hills. And the loss of
      downtown's Embarcadero Freeway,
      torn down after
      the 1989 earthquake, has turned
      many downtown
      surface streets into urban
      The city's new Internet
      commerce has added to the
      problem. Because most products
      bought online need to
      be delivered the old-fashioned
      truck--double-parked delivery
      vehicles routinely clog
      downtown streets, city officials
      Residents and city
      officials agree that San Francisco
      needs to rethink the very makeup
      of many streets. In
      the 1960s and '70s, traffic
      engineers believed that the
      fastest way to move vehicles was
      along wide one-way
      thoroughfares with few trees or
      impediments to block a
      motorist's vision.
      "Back then, engineers
      figured pedestrians would
      soon be a thing of the past,
      that people wouldn't need
      to walk," Corless said. "In
      fact, until the 1990s, the city
      engineer's bible put out by the
      American Assn. of State
      Highway and Transportation
      officials referred to
      pedestrians as 'traffic flow
      interruptions.' That's how
      car-centric the thinking was."
      Now, Teng says, city
      officials are exploring such
      "car-calming" street design
      changes as speed humps,
      traffic circles and "bulb-outs,"
      or extensions of the
      sidewalk into the street to
      create better visibility for
      both drivers and pedestrians.
      Mayor Willie Brown plans to
      expand the city's red
      light photo enforcement program,
      which snaps pictures
      of violators, and begin several
      projects, such as countdown
      crosswalk signals that
      inform walkers how much time
      they have in an
      intersection before the light
      The downtown bedlam is made
      worse by other
      factors officials cannot
      control. Many busy, stressed
      pedestrians absent-mindedly talk
      on cell phones.
      Motorists take chances behind
      the wheel.
      "It's a crowded urban
      environment with too many
      people and too many cars," said
      Michael Radetsky, an
      injury prevention specialist for
      the city Department of
      Public Health. "Frustrated
      drivers are often stopped at
      every light on clogged streets.
      So they tend to race
      between intersections."
      And many run stop signs.
      Just ask Alvin Ja, whose
      85-year-old mother was
      killed last month when a sport
      utility vehicle did just that
      and plowed into her motorized
      wheelchair as Mabel Ja
      cruised across a crosswalk,
      smashing her skull.
      "People drive too
      aggressively," Alvin Ja said. "They
      whip around corners, make turns
      into narrow streets,
      assuming there won't be anything
      there. The whole
      culture says, 'Screw the other
      guy. I'll take whatever
      shortcuts I have to, to get
      where I'm going.' "
      Every day when he sees a
      reckless driver, Ja thinks
      of his mother, who for decades
      ran a Chinatown
      clothing store. "Irresponsible
      driving killed my mother,"
      he said. "It disgusts me."
      That same disgust has led
      Kelton to stencil scores of
      body outlines at scenes of
      fatalities. Working at odd
      hours, he uses orange barricades
      and flashing red lights
      to appear like a city worker and
      avoid an arrest for
      But city officials have so
      far looked the other way,
      even leaving the white body
      outlines on the street long
      after Kelton is gone, as long as
      there are no complaints.

      One city traffic official
      said the stencils are the kind
      of graphic reminder of mortality
      that pedestrians need
      to see every day.
      "In many people's minds,
      these accidents are all so
      isolated," Kelton said. "I'm
      just trying to connect the
      Michael Kemmitt also has
      seen too many
      pedestrians die. The commanding
      officer for the San
      Francisco Police Department's
      traffic unit, he visits most
      pedestrian accident scenes and
      remembers one recent
      week in which he began to
      question his sanity.
      The police captain went to
      where a 50-year-old
      teaching assistant was struck on
      his walk to school;
      where a 69-year-old man was
      dragged by a bus and
      lost his left hand; where a
      71-year-old woman was hit
      and killed by a water delivery
      truck; where a young boy
      was critically injured as he
      dashed across the street
      near his school.
      "It was just one after the
      other," Kemmitt recalled
      with a shudder. "And you began
      to wonder 'Is this ever
      going to end?' "

      June 30, 2000

      Gore Offers $25 Billion for
      Efficient Transit
      Politics: The proposed
      trust fund, part of a
      $148-billion plan, would be
      made available to cities
      hoping to upgrade their
      transportation systems.

      By BONNIE HARRIS, Times
      Staff Writer

      CHICAGO--Cities that
      choose to establish more
      transportation methods stand to share
      up to $25 billion in
      federal grants and other incentives
      over the next decade under
      Vice President Al Gore's
      energy plan.
      Overlooking a
      sparkling Lake Michigan on
      Thursday, Gore announced
      the third and final portion of
      what has become a
      $148-billion "national energy
      security and environment
      trust fund." The latest
      proposal would help cities
      pay for new rail systems and
      other mass-transit options
      to give Americans
      transportation choices and
      clean up the environment.
      Gore has tossed out a
      host of energy-related
      campaign proposals this
      week to voters, from tax
      credits for purchasing
      hybrid gas-electric cars to
      financial perks for
      entrepreneurs who develop
      cutting-edge technologies
      to help steer the country
      away from "expensive,
      unreliable and distant" imported
      "I am proposing today
      that we do a lot more to help
      communities build and
      extend rail systems as they want
      to," Gore told the friendly
      group of city leaders and
      activists, who cheered and
      whistled throughout the
      speech. "You won't be
      forced to pay high gasoline
      prices; you will have a
      choice in how you will get
      Gore did not break
      down how the $25 billion would
      be spent in his "keep
      America moving" initiative, but he
      said he would provide
      grants for upgrading existing rail
      systems and subways,
      building high-speed rail systems
      in major transportation
      corridors and converting city
      and school bus fleets to
      cleaner-burning fuels.
      Amtrak would receive
      funds to improve and expand
      existing passenger rail
      routes, and financial incentives
      would be available to help
      cities revitalize
      neighborhoods around
      transit stations.
      The vice president
      vowed to give grants to
      communities that meet the
      transportation needs of
      residents in rural areas,
      and he cited a new light-rail
      system in Portland, Ore.,
      as an example of ensuring
      mobility with "fewer
      arteries and more heart."
      "Real freedom is about
      having transportation
      choices," said Gore, who
      acknowledged Americans'
      love affair with their cars
      and stressed that he is not
      pushing them out of the
      driver's seat and into mass
      Rather, the presumed
      Democratic nominee for
      president said: "You
      deserve the independence to get in
      your car and drive anywhere
      you want to go--without
      emptying your wallet at
      every filling station. You should
      also have the choice, if
      you want it, to park your car at
      a light-rail station and be
      moved swiftly into a newly
      thriving downtown."
      Gore has been
      promoting his energy plan during a
      "progress and prosperity"
      campaign tour designed to
      highlight the country's
      booming economy and fat budget
      surplus. A cheerful Gore
      told reporters aboard Air
      Force Two on Wednesday that
      he has decided to
      extend the tour through
      next week, with stops in
      California, New York,
      Pennsylvania and Missouri. The
      three-week "progress" theme
      had been scheduled to
      end today.
      "It is going so well
      that I will announce to you right
      now it is going to be
      extended for a fourth week," Gore
      said, adding that he plans
      to take the Fourth of July off
      to celebrate the first
      birthday of his first grandchild,
      Wyatt. "I feel very good
      about the campaign. I feel very
      good. Something is
      happening out there. People want
      to see the prosperity and
      progress continue."
      Over the last three
      weeks, Gore has outlined how
      he would use the estimated
      $1.8-trillion budget surplus
      to build three so-called
      trust funds for education, health
      care and the environment.
      The country's rosy economic
      forecast has forged an
      unprecedented type of
      battleground for the
      presidential election, one that
      focuses on where to put all
      of the money rather than
      where to find it.
      In light of the
      summer's soaring gasoline prices,
      Gore also renewed his call
      for the Federal Trade
      Commission to hold public
      hearings in its investigation
      into possible price gouging
      and collusion. If oil company
      executives are made to
      testify in the hearings, Gore
      said, "the people can hear
      . . . how they explain the
      coincidence of these sharp
      price increases beyond any
      explanation offered so

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