Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fresno to get a couple new bike lanes

Two bike lane projects are going forward this year in Fresno, one of which is a road diet.

The first is the "Shields Ave Bike Lane Improvement" Project which

will infill gaps in existing bike lane paths along Shields Avenue between West Ave. and Chestnut Ave. The Shields Avenue Bike Lane Improvements project will also install parking bays to accommodate on-street parking, therefore providing for a safer bicycle route along a major east/west corridor along Shields Avenue.
 Shields currently has some bike lanes, but the project will apparently make them continuous. It was scheduled for this spring, but due to a problem with a contractor, it's been delayed a few months. In all, its a 4.5 mile project.

Project length:
 photo shields1_zps2de2d1b4.jpg

Existing bike lanes. As you can see, there's no continuous east-west route.
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The second project is in conjunction with the county, to put Fruit on a diet. Between Shaw and Herndon, Fruit will go from four lanes to three, with two added bike lanes. It will help fill a north/south gap. Because the majority of Fruit goes through county islands, the county will pay for most of the costs. This is a 2 mile project.

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Existing bike lanes:
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Current configuration. As you can see, capacity is not an issue.
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There's no specific timeline, but I would expect it this fall as well.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Next GV Urban project revealed

Earlier this year, GV Urban proposed their newest residential project downtown, around the site of the former Met museum. This week they go before the planning commission with their next project, this time on Broadway.

The company has focused almost exclusively on Fulton, so it's nice to see them branch out a block over to Broadway, which has been neglected. For those not familiar with the area, Fulton is the main street, and has Broadway on one side and Van Ness on the other as other major streets in the area. Today, Broadway is mostly auto-focused businesses, and most of them are closed.

Here's a map of the project area.

Red square: New project
Green square: Buildings being knocked down for park
GV1:  Fulton Village
GV2: 1612 Fulton (under construction)
GV3: Proposed Met plan
R: Rainbow Ballroom

 photo gvbroadway_zps6533319c.jpg

The entire area is quickly being dominated by GV. It's great to see that they keep adding new projects, which means there's been sufficient demand for their old projects. One downside is that they've been the recipient of plenty of corporate welfare. While other cities might require GV set aside some space for a park, in Fresno, the city is buying up existing properties and knocking them down to build one for the company. While other cities require developers to fund infrastructure, in Fresno the city is reaching into TOD funds to improve the alleys for GV.

Is the end result worth it? While it's certainly great to see all this construction, I sometimes feel the city is giving in a little too much. On the other hand, no other company has stepped up to build residential units downtown.

Anyway, let's take a look at the plan.

As you can see from the above map, the parcel has two empty halves, with a historic home in the middle. The right side of the property used to be an abandoned business - which the city knocked down on their dime.

 The plan is to build apartments in the empty lots, and restore the existing home. The historic home will have something I've been saying GV has been lacking for years: Amenities for their residents!

You see, every north Fresno apartment offers pools, saunas, party rooms, lounges, etc etc. GV charges higher rents, tries to convince people to take a risk downtown, but offers no amenities. Looks like they're finally trying to fix it. The first floor of the home will offer a billiard table, a lounge area and a community kitchen. The second floor with be for the on-site manager. No pool, but it's a start.

As for the new construction....it's exactly the same as Fulton Village and 1612 Fulton. Multiple three story buildings, two units per building. Balconies, but flat surfaces and identical designs.

I wish they'd add some flair. Their first project, the Iron Bird Lofts had some great design features. Since then, it's been cookie cutter molds. How about some different roof designs? A decorative 6 foot addition? Anything?

 photo gvbroadway2_zps9177bb77.jpg

Notice how the existing home adds to the project by not making it so uniform. Why not add a sloped roof to one of the new buildings?

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The site plan. 

It looks like the rear units actually require use of the alley....a first for the company?

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Note the diagonal parking configuration on Broadway. That's part of the new street-scape project I talked about way back in 2011. Supposedly, it's going to happen this summer or fall. Now I sort of understand why they decided to remove the promised bike lanes and build angled parking - it's what GV urban wants. Fulton Street also has angled parking and no bike lanes. I guess what GV urban wants, they get, even if it contradicts the bike master plan.

The street-scape project has not been modified since I posted about it over a year ago. I asked why they're not using back-in parking, and was told it was because that didn't exist in California...

Except that San Francisco is putting it in. Back-in parking is many times safer for cyclists because cars aren't backing into the street blindly.

Also disappointing, it appears that the left corner will get a fake, painted bulbout and not a real concrete one (compare red arrow with green arrow).

 photo gvbroadway5_zps7f0e2d5a.jpg

Considering streets like this are redone only once every 50 years at best, it's a shame to lock in a poor design for so long.

I'm excited to see this project go through, but like most GV Urban projects, it has its fair share of faults, mostly thanks to value engineering. Expect to see it pop up in 2014.

You can see the entire planning commission document here (warning, large PDF).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Texas mayor: Cyclists endanger motorists

A Texas mayor, Bill Krawietz, yesterday penned a newspaper opinion column claiming that cyclists endanger motorists. Did he trying using stereotypical “arguments” such as claiming that all cyclists run red lights and bike against traffic? Nope, his argument was that cyclists strictly following the law are a menace. In fact, it was the mayor who broke not one but two laws.

Not only did he admit to breaking the law, but he then threatens to use his position of authority to harass cyclists. 
I was sitting in the parking lot of the post office April 15 when suddenly there was a loud and abrupt knock on my truck window. It turns out that a couple of cyclists did not like me passing them between Luke's Chevron and Bulverde Hills Drive.
Traffic was quite heavy at the time. School had just let out, there was a scramble to get income tax checks mailed and the evening rush was beginning. My patience was already worn thin and being stuck behind a couple of slow-moving cyclists riding side-by-side did not help.
So I gave a brief tap on the horn. The cyclists changed formation to single file. Then a break in traffic gave me the opportunity to accelerate and pass on a stretch of road that has a double-yellow center stripe which you can't cross.

The two laws he broke were using a horn in a non-emergency situation, and crossing a double-yellow line to pass. He also later admits to “unleashing on the pair”  - something that sounds like a case  of road rage.

He ends his column with a thinly veiled threat

The last thing we want to do is to start ramping up citations for the littlest infractions to get you to notice.

The mayor is from the town of Bulverde, a suburb of San Antonio. It is unacceptable that any public official would take to a newspaper to argue against legal behavior while describing his own scofflaw activities. However, it’s extremely unlikely his actions will be questioned by those in positions above him.
Sadly, his attitude is common in the area north of Fresno, were cyclists must share narrow and winding foothill roads with motorists. Last year, one cyclist, which happened to be a sheriff deputy, was shot in the back for having the audacity to ride. Hopefully that behavior does not become more common now that the mayor has displayed his opinion on the matter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Renovating a historic downtown building

The Bee ran an article the other day about some great renovation work going on in a 90 year old building on the Fulton Mall. With a 72% office lease rate, which is actually good for Fresno, this story proves that businesses aren't scared to locate downtown - as long as the building isn't falling apart.I believe the ground floor retail is fully occupied.

Over the last two decades, a Fresno financial adviser and his family have poured nearly $3 million into repairing and renovating the historic T.W. Patterson Building on the Fulton Mall hoping to attract more businesses to the city's central core.

Rick Roush of Roush Investment Group has updated the decades-old air conditioning system, replaced old lights, repaired the elevators and built office suites. After doing so much work over the years around the rest of the building, Roush over the last few months finally has renovated his own office.
Bee article with gallery

The building is in the south side of the mall, near the stadium, and will be just a block away from the new high speed rail train station. Once that opens, any vacancy should be a thing of the past.

 photo renovation1_zps0062763a.jpg
(The SUV that appears to be heading onto the pedestrian mall is probably a maintenance vehicle) 

The inside looks great.

 photo renovation2_zpsc1d14d38.jpg
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The link above from the Bee has the rest of their pictures.

Unlike other developers, this appears to have been done without financial gifts from the city.  Unfortunately, many other beautiful buildings downtown remain empty and abandoned. I just hope that the arrival of the high speed rail station on their doorsteps spurs this same kind of work. 

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/04/20/3266977/roush-family-renovates-historic.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chipping away at the Clovis trail system – again.

A few years ago, Clovis developed master plans for future residential areas of the city, namely the Harlan Ranch and Loma Vista areas. Both of these master plans required that all new development include a new trail system, and provide the necessary connections so that cyclists and pedestrians can use the trails for recreation and commuting. 

Most developers comply with the requirements and build the trails. They realize that it’s an important asset that will increase the value of their property and make their new homes easier to sell. Residents who move in expect that the planned trails will materialize.

Some developers, however, disagree. They care only about the shortest of terms, and request that the trail requirement be removed so that they can fit in one extra lot, or a larger backyard somewhere.

Sadly, the city is usually quick to agree to these changes, even when the developer wants to block existing trail connections with a masonry wall.

This month, another developer is at it again, and is requesting that their new subdivision not include any trail at all. Like usual, the city is ok with it, even though once these homes are built, the missing trail will be all but impossible to build in the future.This type of policy not only hurts future residents, but current residents who bought their homes with expectations that the master plan will be followed. 

Map showing the proposed trail link being eliminated, in the red bubble
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Image showing the existing trail was planned to continue straight....now it will just end. Existing homes to the north will lose a planned amenity.
 photo paseo2_zps0b8761b0.jpg

That's not all - in the master plan, this property was zoned for high density residential (15.1-25 units per acre) and the developer asked for the city to change the zoning to medium density (4.1-7 units per acre). Of course, they got that change. So the developer wants to build suburban housing instead of apartments, AND they want to eliminate the path requirement? 

The item being discussed (PDF) goes before the planning commission on April 25th, which is open to the public if you want to speak against the change.

Incidentally, if you look at the previous image, notice something....even though everything you see here, the roads, houses, sidewalks etc were all built within the past 8 years, it was done wrong. The crosswalks don't connect. Three curb ramps point diagonally and one only points in one direction. In all cases, pedestrians and cyclists must leave the crosswalk and enter the center of the intersection to cross the road.

 photo paseo3_zpsc3448d05.jpg

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Federal budget includes more money for Fresno BRT

Part of the recent release of the 2014 federal budget included a list of what the FTA will fund as part of their "small starts" program. That budget includes another piece of the Fresno BRT (bus rapid transit) funding puzzle - another $10 million. The Fresno Bee last reported on the initial $17.8m grant over two years ago. No money was handed out in the 2013 budget.

BRT in Fresno is supposed to improve bus service along Blackstone and Kings Canyon, via downtown (and eventually the high speed rail station). Those are currently the corridors with highest bus ridership.

Unfortunately, Fresno isn't getting real BRT. Very few bus lanes, street-level boarding and really nothing more than you'd find on what other cities might label an express route or special route. Regardless of the lack of features, the project is expensive - almost $50 million. Some of those costs are for new articulated buses. A little more goes towards improving bus stops and shelters. But the meat of the funding will go towards....well, this is Fresno, so you know the answer. Road widening. Even though Blackstone and Kings Canyon already are very wide (6 lanes + parking + turn lanes), that apparently isn't enough to paint a bus lane. The laughably small 20% of the project that will involve exclusive lanes revolves mostly along wider roads. Oh, and new traffic signals.

Regardless of the fact that the project isn't really a good one, the feds are so happy to see Fresno propose any kind of transit improvement they're ready to fund almost all of it.

This shows the previously allocated funds, the 2014 allocation, and Fresno's peer cities for this kind of project.

 photo brtfunds1_zpse60371ca.jpg

While that section is for small starts, the budget also includes money for San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Sacramento. $130 million for LA alone in 2014.

Fresno is trying to get the maximum possible from the feds - 80%. The rest would come from the state.

 photo brtfunds2_zpse5bf594a.jpg
The numbers come from this PDF. This second PDF has a route map.

Planning began in 2008 (PDF) and the project was originally supposed to begin construction in 2012. Now, the plan is for 2014, with service in 2015. It's just new buses and bus stops with actual benches, but don't be surprised to see the project delayed until 2016. That is, if it does go through. This past January, city council members were talking about pulling the plug.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Walmart and McDonalds - the Clovis way of life?

Clovis is Fresno's smaller, richer and more suburban neighbor. It plays a role common in metropolitan areas around the country - the Pasadena to Los Angeles, or the Cambridge to Boston for example. The cities share a common border but the demographics and income levels don't quite match up.

To differentiate itself, Clovis positions itself as the more traditional and rural alternative to "big city Fresno."  Downtown Clovis is called "Old Town", and two decades ago the entire district was re-themed in an old-west motif that works quite well on the single or two-story century-old buildings. Along with the annual rodeo, the farmer's markets and other activities, Clovis tries to preserve what they tout is their "way of life". The recent centennial for example was branded as "Celebrating the Clovis Way of Life for 100 Years."

(Note: This post got longer than I thought, if you're here for charts, they're at the bottom!) 

In parts, it works. Go to a bar in Clovis, and you'll see many more cowboy hats and boots than you would in a bar in Fresno, and obviously the parking lot will have seven pickups for every sedan. Try and find good Mexican food, and you might have to eat at a chain like Robertitos - tasty, but not quite the same as what you'd find in south Fresno.

Clovis tries to brand itself as the richer, safer town that doesn't have to deal with the problems Fresno has. In part, that's true. There aren't as many homeless people, but that's because all the county social service offices are located in Fresno. There's not as much crime, but that's because the city is five times smaller. While Clovis likes to pretend they've done better due to planning, the fact is, they're better off because growth arrived decades later than it did to Fresno.

The problem with Clovis, is that they keep making decisions that are making them more and more like Fresno, and not in a good way. They're repeating the bad decisions Fresno made many years ago, and are being forced to deal with the unpleasant consequences. The Clovis way of life is being chipped away as the growth has finally caught up with poor planning. 

Pick a road that goes from Fresno to Clovis - maybe Shaw or Herndon going East, or Clovis and Fowler going North. Aside from the change in the street sign colors, it's almost impossible to tell when Fresno ends and where Clovis begins. The same strip malls (many vacant) lie on either side of the municipal border. The same cookie cutter homes are dropped into any available lot.

Here's an example:

The municipal boundary lies exactly in the middle of this picture. Can you tell the difference?

 photo clovis1_zpsfe694bfb.png

Trailer parks, big box stores, and mostly empty parking lots. Is this Clovis or Fresno?

 photo clovis2_zpse0b5c03a.png

A month or so ago, Clovis's newest "attraction" opened- a brand new Walmart Super Center and an assortment of smaller chain retail outlets. That center was allowed to open just a mile from the town's main attraction (Old Town) and just three miles from an existing Walmart. While I haven't stopped by to visit the new monstrosity, I do have some pictures of parts of the center while it was under construction.

That development was held up for almost a decade by retailers who argued that a new Walmart would bring blight to town as other stores closed. The city didn't care about that argument - they wanted shiny new construction. Those who brought the lawsuit were right. Old Navy for example, currently located on Shaw, is set to abandon their existing location for the new one by Walmart. That store is located in the middle of a corridor that Clovis is trying to revitalize. They've not helped themselves by inciting retailers to leave. I wrote about why Shaw is doing so badly.

The opening of the Walmart, and many development like it (such as yet another Mcdonalds), made me wonder if Clovis is transforming into Fresno faster than expected.

Clovis has a population just shy of 100,000, while Fresno proper is over half a million. I decided to see how both cities compare to their California peers in terms of Walmarts and Mcdonalds.

Why those two? Because they're the standard when it comes to exceptionally poor urban design, auto-domination, poor product quality, and generally, low standards. Basically, you don't find Wal-Marts in "classy" places like Beverly Hills and Cambridge, and while Mcdonalds are ubiquitous, they're pretty rare in upscale cities.

Essentially, if Clovis was actually working to keep itself wealthier, more attractive and more desirable than Fresno, you would expect to find less mass-market chains and more unique retail options. That would be either because the city actively worked to turn down that kind of development, as is the case in many small coastal cities which ban chains, or because proper planning had made locating in town undesirable. Walmart, for example, doesn't lift a finger to make their stores attractive for pedestrians. If city planning required for example that parking be hidden in the back, Walmart might simply look elsewhere because they're not fans of adapting.

After doing some quick research, I think the transformation into being just another no-name city has arrived.  The Clovis way of life is now firmly entrenched in big box stores and fast food - let's take a look.

For Wal-Mart, I counted up their retail locations inside city borders. There are three types of Wal-Marts - I counted their standard stores as 1, their supercenters as 1.5 stores, and the new neighborhood markets as .5 stores. For Clovis and Fresno, I counted the new neighborhood markets set to open this summer (one each).

So we start by looking at Walmart and population.

This chart is essentially read where the top is the worst - the closer you are to the top, the more dominating Walmart is.

 photo clovis3_zpsdfbf0e9c.png

For example in Selma, there's less than 16,000 people per Walmart. Compare to LA, where 1.5 MILLION people share each Wal-Mart. Clovis finds itself very near the top - lots of Wal-Marts for such a small city. Fresno, surprisingly, is near the bottom.

Walmart per 100k means that for every 100,000 people, Clovis, has just over thee Walmarts available. Fresno, only .69.

San Francisco has no Walmarts. Makes sense, they're the most urban....and the richest. As I said before, upscale, walkable and attractive places are not where you'll find a supercenter.

It's not all about population, lets look at land-area too.

 photo clovis4_zpscfd9fd79.png

The chart is very similar. Bakersfield goes up a few spots, but Clovis and Fresno remain the same. Essentially, you can drive for hours in LA and not see a Walmart. in Clovis? They're  EVERYWHERE. (It's a small area).

How about Mcdonalds? I organized the charts in the same way. Note that the LA number may not be accurate. I rounded to 70 in case I missed a few during my count.

 photo clovis6_zps43d0d6e2.png

Here's a surprise....the ordering is almost the same! I honestly expected LA to be the worst on these lists, but it turns out, Sanger and Clovis are the ones being overwhelmed. Fresno, again, does better than expected, and LA even beats out SF. 

When adjusted for area, we get some different results. Here, San Francisco loses because you're always close to a Mcdonalds. Bakersfield takes the crown this time, but LA isn't far behind. Clovis and Fresno are closer here, but Clovis is still worse off.

 photo clovis5_zps16e2db17.png

Is this analysis perfect? Obviously not. While SF may for example, have a greater McDonalds density, the abundance of store-front retail means that if I did an analysis comparing total restaurants to Mcdonalds, I'm sure they'd be best off.

There's also an important point about LA: my numbers are city boundaries only. the greater LA area is overwhelmed by McDonalds and Walmarts. For whatever reason though, they choose not to locate in the massive city proper.

But really, the real point was to compare Clovis to Fresno, and Clovis isn't looking good.

They're losing what makes the city unique, attractive, and desirable. They're better off than Fresno when it comes to things like the City Hall treasury, but that's because the infrastructure is newer, and the population is smaller.

Want to know what Clovis may look like in twenty years? Visit the parts of Fresno that are twenty years older. Without correction, Shaw is heading straight down the path that south Blackstone did. And Herndon will eventually transition to look like Shaw today. 

Clovis could use their position of independence to strike a course different from Fresno, and yet they seem content to approve the same exact things Fresno has been doing for decades. Those decisions have consequences, and it's a shame the officials don't realize that before the mistakes are made.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Off-ramp "improvements", terrible for pedestrians

If you thought all the CA-41 on-ramp widening projects were finally finished, there's more work planned for this year. This time, it's an off-ramp that's getting widened.

This project will widen the off ramp of northbound SR41 at the intersection of Shaw Avenue from three lanes to four to provide dual left and right turns. Existing equipment affected by this project will be updated and this project will also upgrade the existing curb ramps to meet ADA standards. The project will improve traffic flow and relieve congestion at the off-ramp intersection with Shaw Avenue.
Council Documents (PDF)
Like most Fresno road projects, this one is yet another widening of the road to "improve traffic flow". Not mentioned at all in the report is the negative impact the work will have on pedestrians and cyclists using the busy Shaw corridor. 

Take a look at the off-ramp today.

 photo shaw1_zps95f238b2.png

I can think of many ways to improve it. One could add a bike lane. The on-ramp curve could be changed to a hard right turn, so that the crosswalk is actually respected. The off-ramp could see the extremely generous turning radius tightened to promote slower speeds and people actually coming to a stop on red. A stop bar could be added so cars don't block the crosswalk.

You know, improve it by making it safer.

Something like this

 photo shaw2_zps2575c272.jpg

But not in Fresno. Here the use of "improvement" is almost exclusively used when referring to more vehicle capacity. And because Fresno doesn't actually lack vehicle capacity, the improvements simply result in higher speeds - for vehicles.

Cyclists and pedestrians? They have to slow down....and wait, and wait, and wait, because at 45mph+ speeds allowed by these designs, the crosswalks are not respected. 

One of the main problems with the current design is the extremely generous right turn radius from the off-ramp. Thanks to the right-turn-on-red laws, many people don't come to a stop as they whiz around the corner. Most drivers arrive, heads craned to the left, hopeful that even on a red, they'll never have to go below 15mph. The pedestrian approaching from the right? Completely ignored.

Even when the vehicles do have to come to a complete stop, the lack of an advance stop line means  the crosswalk is always (always!) blocked. Google streetview, unsurprisingly, caught that in action.

Indeed, from every possible angle shown, while the vehicles coming off the freeway had red, they blocked the crosswalk.   (Explore yourself at http://goo.gl/maps/36z8A )

From above

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A different view from above

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Yet another view from above....

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One more....

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On the street...

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And again....

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I did say every possible angle right? In this last one, don't just notice the car blocking the crosswalk.....notice that the pedestrian ramp doesn't even direct people the right way.

 photo shaw92_zps5d61087b.jpg

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Now let's take a look at those proposed improvements....

They take the same poor design, and simply expand it

 photo shaw94_zps124fd41c.jpg

There was more than enough room to actually add the new lane, and still make the pedestrian experience somewhat acceptable. Here, the yellow trapezoid is what I would make concrete sidewalk, but they propose as asphalt. I also add an advanced stop bar and make the crosswalk visible with stripes.

 photo shaw96_zps95411fd0.jpg

The difference? In a design that prioritizes multi-model safety, the curve wouldn't be designed for high speed turns. 

The crossing distance for pedestrians gets expanded from 40 feet, to 54 feet.

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So now instead of taking about 13 seconds to walk across this ramp, it will take 18 seconds.

And now there will be one more vehicle, guaranteed to be blocking the crosswalk, attempting a right turn on red.

And the cost of this "improvement"?

The consulting alone is a bit over $80,000.

Total price?


Why does making things less safe cost so much?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

EV buses, not cars, will be the real urban revolution

For the past two, maybe three decades, the arrival and widespread adoption of the electric vehicle (EV) has been seen as some kind holy grail for transportation, cities, and well, the world. The benefits are obvious; the replacement of gasoline with electricity would mean a massive decrease in pollution, from global-warming causing carbon dioxide to those pesky particulates which make their way into lungs.

Sadly, the development and adoption has been excruciatingly slow. The EV-lite, also known as the hybrid, hit the roads well over a decade ago (the Prius is turning 15!). The two major mainstream EV's, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, have been rolling around for over two years with anemic sales. And that's without even mentioning the false starts, like the electric Toyota of a decade ago. Even though the technology exists, is somewhat affordable, and is no longer new, the sales aren't there. Today, in the US, hybrids and EVs combined together make up a tiny 3% of monthly sales. The most optimistic projections? 8% of new cars sold by 2020 (LAtimes)

And again, that's hybrids and EVs combined - and new sales only. The existing fleet has an even smaller market percentage,

As important as the widespread adoption of the EV will be to improving the way we live, thanks to cleaner air, I believe the real revolution will come with the widespread use of the electric bus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking along a street, when an articulated bus roared by. And by roared, I mean the one bus was creating the noise of an army rushing to the battlefront, with full aerial support. You see, the bus had hit a minor hill, and the engine revved up to push the vehicle up the gentle slope.

The noise was an assault on me, the pedestrian, and to those poor souls whose apartments had their windows shaken by the bus. And yet, this assault is repeated over and over again, in cities around the world as the trusty transit bus delivers happy commuters to their destinations.

The electric vehicle doesn't just promise to rid cities of dirty exhaust and carbon pollution, but it brings with it a very special benefit that will greatly enhance livability - quiet.

Today, both diesel and CNG engines have the unpleasant side-effect of being very, very noisy. The biggest problem with the side-effect is that it makes living near transit unattractive.

When moving to a new town, the average person is more likely to ask which street the buses run, not so they can pick a prime location closest to a stop, but to search elsewhere to avoid the constant roar of the engines. Today, bus routes can be a major nuisance, preventing sleep and waking up babies, rather than an essential amenity,

Of course, as one seeks to move away from the bus route to avoid the noise, one is less likely to use it. Out of sight, out of mind after all.

But with electric buses? Near silence. Noise wouldn't be completely eliminated, as the friction from the tires is still audible, but that kind of noise disappears in the background and is easily blocked by windows.

Suddenly, living on a bus route wouldn't be something to avoid, it would be something to value.

Ask most people if they would prefer to live by a streetcar or a bus line, and the majority will answer streetcar. Ask them why, and you'll start to see the reasons have less to do with the types of tires (steel vs rubber) but mostly related to where the power comes from. That is, to the average person, the streetcar is electric (even though not all are), and the bus is fossil-fueled (even though electric trolley-buses have been around for decades).

Streetcars " glide" because electric power provides silky smooth acceleration. Buses "belch" because of the ugly diesel engines. At the end of the day, people want to live near the electric line, not the diesel line.

As all buses move to EV technology, I think you'll see the stigma around the bus change, and with it, the use of transit will rise as the vehicle becomes more attractive.

Electric buses, both powered by wire and battery already exist. On the battery side of things, the cost, reliability and efficiency isn't quite there yet for most transit agencies to take the plunge. The government has spent millions working to improve EV technology, but wouldn't it be better to focus on the short term on EV buses? Especially considering that one of the biggest barriers to batteries in cars is space (no one wants to sacrifice their trunk) - obviously not an issue with the city bus.

Cleaner air, quieter streets, and more transit riders. That's quite the package, and I think, quite the revolution.