Friday, March 2, 2018

Life Inside Hong Kong’s ‘Coffin Cubicles’ Part 1

Life Inside Hong Kong’s ‘Coffin Cubicles’

Pushed out by the sky-high prices of rent in glittering Hong Kong, these people get by in illegally subdivided apartments.


The "Zero Mobility" Plan (aka "Road Diet") has failed in L.A

L.A. reverses course on lane reductions that 'most people outright hated'

JUL 27, 2017 | 4:00 PM

The city of L.A. recently reduced traffic lanes on Vista del Mar near Dockweiler State Beach. (July 28, 2017)
Los Angeles officials said they had to act quickly to address the brewing legal concerns with Vista del Mar, a favored commuting route near Dockweiler State Beach.

City Hall had recently paid $9.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a teenage girl who was killed by a driver there, and another lawsuit loomed. Transportation officials scrambled to eliminate a traffic lane in each direction and reduce the city's liability before summer beach crowds began to arrive.

The resulting "road diet" on Vista del Mar — combined with lane reductions on other streets in the area — sparked a wave of opposition that engulfed the Westside and the South Bay. City Hall was flooded with calls. A condo association sued. And frustrated commuters began raising money to recall Westside Councilman Mike Bonin.

After weeks of backlash, Bonin backpedaled late Wednesday night, acknowledging in a YouTube video that "most people outright hated" the Vista del Mar changes. He apologized to drivers and said lanes would be restored next month.

"If you are one of the many people who were inconvenienced, who were late to work, or who missed a bedtime story with your toddler, I am truly sorry," Bonin said. "We are working to make this right."

In an agreement with Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, the city will remove Vista del Mar's street parking and reduce parking fees at a nearby Dockweiler Beach lot. City officials said the changes were a win-win, making room for four traffic lanes while preserving residents' access to the coast. Nevertheless, it delivered a painful learning experience for city officials who have a sweeping plan for improving street safety by reducing vehicle lanes on key corridors.

The project emerged as a flashpoint in L.A.'s ambitious plans to eliminate traffic fatalities and shift drivers to other transportation options by adding hundreds of miles of bicycle and bus-only lanes.

Those plans, called Vision Zero and Mobility Plan 2035, both hinge on the elimination of vehicle lanes in an effort to reduce speeds. Some projects have already sparked similar debates as advocates, elected officials and drivers work to divide a limited amount of space on the city's street network.

Traffic backs up on a recent weekday in Playa Vista. (Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)

On Wednesday, Councilman Gil Cedillo — who has long been at odds with cycling advocates — moved to crack down on “road diets” in his district, which stretches from Westlake to Highland Park. Cedillo drafted a motion calling for the Transportation Department to halt any effort to remove traffic lanes, or even reconfigure them, until he approved the changes.

In May, Cedillo easily beat back an election challenge from a candidate who criticized him for failing to put in place bicycle lanes on Figueroa Street in Highland Park and Cypress Park. Cedillo said his proposal, which heads to the council’s transportation committee, “speaks for itself.”

"For the most part, these road diets appear to be disastrous with respect to what the public thinks of them," he said.

Cedillo’s proposal throws into question a Vision Zero project proposed for a two-mile stretch of Temple Street, just west of downtown, which runs through the Echo Park section of his district. Two weeks ago, the city’s Vision Zero team held a community workshop on plans for restriping Temple, taking it from two car lanes in each direction to one.

The city’s workshop for the Temple proposal was “poorly attended,” said Freddy Ceja, a spokesman for Cedillo. He said his boss does not support the project.

Bruce Gillman, a Department of Transportation spokesman, said his agency is working with council offices to conduct outreach on the Temple project. He said his agency cannot comment on council proposals that “haven’t been voted on yet.”

The Vista del Mar redesign should calm some of the vitriol that arose over the last two months and help Los Angeles officials “hit the reset button,” Transportation Department general manager Seleta Reynolds said.

In recent weeks, residents from Playa del Rey and neighboring Manhattan Beach had spoken out against the Vista del Mar lane reduction and formed a grass-roots advocacy group to fight future road diets in Los Angeles and other cities.

The group has received calls from neighborhoods in L.A., including Studio City and Woodland Hills, as well as Long Beach, said Kara Mendelson, a Manhattan Beach resident who heads the group Keep L.A. Moving.

“We’re showing people that you don’t have to roll over and let things happen to you,” Mendelson said. “As these road diets roll out, more and more people are going to find that their quality of life is brought to a barely habitable level.”

The anger over Vista del Mar and other proposed street restriping projects has sparked some alarm among street safety advocates, who say Los Angeles officials have to improve their communication with drivers about why the projects are important.

"I want our elected officials to stand their ground as long and as hard as they can," said Deborah Murphy, executive director of Los Angeles Walks, a pedestrian advocacy organization. "We want them to stand by the things that we've promised to Angelenos — that we're going to create safe streets and that we're going to reduce traffic fatalities to get us there."

Murphy said drivers in Los Angeles "have gotten too entitled, thinking that a trip should only take a certain amount of time. Who said that? Where is it in the Angeleno owner manual that it will only take 20 minutes to get somewhere?"

In addition to the court of public opinion, the Vista del Mar project will have its day in court.

A condo association in Playa del Rey sued the city earlier this month, and the Keep L.A. Moving advocates are “dotting the I’s and crossing the Ts” on a lawsuit that will accuse L.A. of bypassing state environmental laws, Mendelson said.

"These projects being litigated is not a new thing, and it's not even a uniquely Los Angeles thing," said Reynolds of the Transportation Department. "What it requires is that you hold yourself to a really high standard. You have to do good work."

The world's worst traffic: can Jakarta find an alternative to the car?

Attracted by the air-conditioning and the status, many of the 3.5 million people who commute into the hot and humid Indonesian capital come by car. With four hours in traffic not unusual, Jakarta is searching for solutions
Motionless in macet: Gridlocked cars as work continues on Jakarta’s metro system.
 Motionless in macet ... (left to right) construction on Jakarta’s new metro; a dedicated bus lane; and gridlock. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

The average Jakartan spends 10 years of their life in traffic, wrote novelist Seno Gumira Ajidarma, and you don’t have to spend long in the Indonesian capital to believe it.
Three and a half million people a day commute into this hot and humid city from the wider metropolitan area of Greater Jakarta and many come by car, attracted by the status and the air-conditioning. Their cars, though, are motionless in macet(gridlock) during most of the 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm rush hours, and for much of the day.
Jakarta was named the world city with the worst traffic in one index last year based on satellite navigation data, which found the average driver starting and stopping more than 33,000 times in a year. An estimated 70% of the city’s air pollution comes from vehicles.
It typically takes two hours to drive 25 miles to the centre from Bogor, the largest of the satellite cities, where many office workers live. A bad journey can take three hours. As cars idle in endless queues, scooters slalom past, missing by inches. It seems there are often more passengers on the bikes than in the cars.

Efforts to reduce car use are limited to an odd/even scheme on the main thoroughfare of Sudirman and few other key routes during rush hour: vehicles with odd numbered plates are allowed on odd dates, with even plates on even dates. Odd/even came in after a three-in-one car-pooling rule was scrapped in April after years of abuse. “Jockeys” would stand at the side of the road, offering themselves for rent so the driver could get the required two passengers; many were children, who took huge risks getting into the vehicles of strangers.
With the population of Greater Jakarta expected to increase from about 30 million today to more than 40 million by 2040 , wasting hours trapped in traffic looks set to become even more of a daily frustration for residents. Is Jakarta destined to be jammed forever, or does the city have an alternative?

A motorcycle taxi for smartphone app Go-Jek picks up a customer.
 A motorcycle taxi for smartphone app Go-Jek picks up a customer. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scooter city: ‘You can get anything delivered by bike here’

“Motorbikes are twice the speed of a car in Jakarta, they use a 10th of the fuel, are a 10th of the cost and use far less space,” says Nadiem Makarim, founder and chief executive of Go-Jek, the city’s two-wheeled version of Uber. “Motorbikes are much more efficient. There’s no reason for cars to exist in this city at all.”
Since Makarim’s company revolutionised the motorcycle taxi – or ojek – industry with the launch of a smartphone app last year, numbers have risen dramatically. Along with Malaysian rival Grab, and Uber’s Motor service, they have driven down fares – to the anger of some drivers.
The app has been downloaded 25 million times. As well as getting around, customers can get a massage therapist or a cleaner delivered to their door within 90 minutes. His food delivery business is now Asia’s largest outside China, and the Go-Jek also offers makeovers, theatre tickets, flowers, prescription medicines …

“It’s pretty hard to find something you can’t get by motorbike delivery,” says Makarim. “You don’t need to waste time in traffic to get what you want. We bring everything to you. If you didn’t want to you wouldn’t have to leave your apartment.”
Some in the city, though, are concerned the rise of motorbike taxi apps could tempt people away from buses and trains. “Motorcycle taxis kill public transport,” says Yoga Adiwinarto, country director of ITDP-Indonesia, the local branch of the non-profit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
Makarim doesn’t see it that way. “Our customers are smartphone users,” he says. “They are middle class people switching from private cars. They wouldn’t have travelled on buses anyway.”

Commuters on the roof of train in Cawang, East Jakarta, in 2012. A crackdown has since stopped passengers roof riding and hanging from doors.
 A commuter train in East Jakarta in 2012. A recent crackdown means excess passengers no longer ride on the roof, or hang out of the doors, but inside the carriages the rush hour crush is as bad as ever. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The largest south-east Asian city without a metro

Regional rivals Manila (1984), Singapore (1987), Kuala Lumpur (1995) and Bangkok (2004), all got there first. But four decades after it was first mooted, construction has at last begun on Jakarta’s $1.7bn (£1.4bn) metro line, known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).
Difficulties acquiring land rights in the south of the city have delayed the overground section of the project but, when the first stage opens in 2019, it is set to halve the hour it takes to travel 12 miles from Lebak Bulus to Bunderan Hotel Indonesia in the centre by car.

A northern extension to Kampung Bandan near the waterfront is set to open in 2020. A second line running east-west, where many journeys are made, is under consideration.
A long-awaited link from the airport is set to start operating next year and the first phase of a light rail system is due to open in 2018, in time for the Asian Games. The new network should boost rail capacity from 800,000 to 1.2 million passengers a day.
Jakarta’s ageing Commuter Line trains make the journey from Bogor to the city centre in 55 minutes – twice as fast as the car. Excess passengers no longer ride on the roof or hang out of the doors after a recent crackdown, but inside the carriages the rush hour crush is as bad as ever.
The metro, light rail, airport link – and a planned bullet train from Bandung 100 miles to the east – will centre on a new hub at Dukuh Atas. The inevitable swanky shopping mall is being planned.
But is there a faster way to transform public transport in the city? Yoga says Jakarta’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which the ITDP helped promote and design, took just two years to set up and the bill to the city was a fraction of the cost of the metro.

Passengers on a bus in Jakarta.
 Passengers on a bus in Jakarta. Photograph: Beawiharta/Reuters

Bus Rapid Transit: ‘It’s quicker than cars for sure’

Twelve years ago Jakarta became the first south-east Asian city to open a BRT, inspired by visits from former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa.
The 120-mile Transjakarta network gives good coverage, within the city at least, and carries 350,000 people a day. Buses are air conditioned, with a separate section for women at the front, and 10 pink women-only buses have recently started operation.
“Within Jakarta itself the BRT is quite good,” says Yoga. “It’s quicker than cars for sure – and sometimes it’s quicker than motorcycle – but only within the city of Jakarta.”
Commuters trying to get to and from the outer cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi find the dedicated lanes stop as soon as they leave the city limits. A rush-hour BRT from Bogor to the centre takes two or three hours, and in Jakarta itself police officers turn a blind eye to cars and motorbikes using bus lanes when gridlock strikes.
Better links to the wider Great Jakarta area are vital to get more people on BRT, says Yoga. “Getting links to the outer city is problematic, with businesses pushing back and the government lacking political will. The city government is much more progressive in terms of mobility – they’re bringing in MRT, pushing public transport, charging for parking – but the national government never takes any action.”

Jakarta’s car-free days are popular … Sudirman avenue is usually filled with noise and pollution.
 Jakarta’s weekly car-free mornings are hugely popular. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

Cycling: ‘Cars are usually stopped so they’re ok’

Every Sunday morning thousands of people take to the main drags of Sudirman and Thamrin to take advantage of Jakarta’s car-free day.
Spotting cyclists on other days is harder. One is Gandrie Ramadhan, who rides 10 miles a day to work as a transport associate at the ITDP. He uses smaller side streets where he can but says major roads are unavoidable.
He takes me on a cycle around the expensive embassy district of Menteng, where light traffic and shady tree-lined streets make for a pleasant ride, but as soon as we get on the main thoroughfare of Sudirman it quickly gets more serious. Worst are the unpredictable, battered green Kopaja and orange/blue MetroMini buses which belch black smoke from poorly maintained diesel engines.

“Cars are usually stopped so they’re ok but it is motorbikes which make it most dangerous,” says Gandrie. “Cycling has low status, and because we are seen as slow, the motorbikes always want to overtake us and get to the front. The Kopaja and MetroMinis are the worst, though. They make it horrible.”
Jakarta’s existing three cycle lanes are painted a foot or two wide – and ignored by motorists. Gandrie believes installing protected bike infrastructure is the only way to get more people cycling in the city. “And more offices with showers,” he adds.

Can Jakarta escape its nightmare traffic?

Instead of providing showers, most companies are more concerned with subsidising parking for their employees, says Yoga. Meanwhile, the government has approved plans for six new elevated toll highways crisscrossing the centre of the city, and its Low Cost Green Car initiative encourages car use by offering zero deposit and low interest on small-engined vehicles.
“Jakarta’s moving in the right direction but it’s not enough,” Yoga says. “The government is allowing low-density development outside the city, and the wider metro area is spreading. That makes it difficult for public transport because there isn’t the coverage. We need high density development where your first option is walking or cycling, and for longer journeys you can use the bus or metro.”
That may seem a long way from the current reality in Jakarta, but the government has a target to increase the share of trips on public transport from 23% to 60% by 2030 – and there is an incentive. As Yoga says: “Four hours every day wasted in a car is really not that pleasant.”