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Funding California Rail With Cap-and-Trade Revenue Hits a Snag

California’s cap-and-trade program is one of the boldest state-level climate change policies in the U.S. By capping statewide carbon pollution and then auctioning off emissions allowances, the state hopes to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate about $10.6 billion for projects to improve energy efficiency. Among other things, that money would support various rail and transit projects, including the state’s high-speed rail line.

The state plans to borrow against future cap-and-trade revenues to provide a local match for $3.5 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, according to the LA Times. But Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reports that there’s been a hitch:

Results of the most recent Cap and Trade auction announced yesterday, where only 2% of carbon credits were sold, pose risks to Caltrain electrification funding, the High Speed Rail project, and other state transportation and housing goals. The auction brought in $10 million, compared to $150 million that the state was expecting.

The LA Times reports that the reason for the low auction reports is unclear…

Caltrain is seeking $225 million from state Cap and Trade funds this summer to be able to move ahead with the electrification project, and High Speed Rail’s budget depends on a 25% earmark of Cap and Trade funds. The budget has a $500 million reserve in case of auction shortfalls, but cuts are expected to spending for programs that had been depending on the funds.

Auction revenue may have fallen short because reducing emissions has been easier than expected, or due to uncertainty about the program created by a pending legal challenge, or greater-than-expected trading on the secondary market.

Does this mean the cap-and-trade program is broken? In terms of meeting the state’s emissions-reduction targets, probably not, says the Environmental Defense Fund. But as a revenue source for rail and transit projects, there are now some big question marks.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee reports that Milwaukee County’s decision to make transit free for seniors and disabled people, regardless of income, has not worked out well for the transit system as a whole. And Biking Toronto reports on a Twitter bot tracking where people are getting hit by motorists.

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Today’s Headlines

  • City Surveys How Kids Get to School (SFExaminer)
  • Mission Bay Childrens Park Finished but Still Closed (SFist)
  • San Francisco Parks Rate Fifth in Nation (SFGate)
  • More on Masonic (SFGate)
  • BART Adding Hand Straps (SFist)
  • Planning Commission Considers Restrictions on Formula Retail (Socketsite)
  • Transportation Projects Could Feel Impact of Lower Demand for Carbon Credits (KQED, SFGate)
  • Urban Planning for Animals (KQED)
  • New San Mateo Dense Mixed Use Development Near Caltrain in the Works (SMDailyJournal)
  • City Sharing Costs for Menlo Park Sidewalk Cafes (AlmanacNews)
  • Photo History of Divisadero (Hoodline)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend! See you on Tuesday.

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Breaking News: Cyclist Assaulted on Market

“BBnet3000” posted this video of an assault on a cyclist on Market Street on the Streetsblog website this morning:

The video shows a confrontation between a cyclist and a motorist who parked his car in the bike lane on Market at Van Ness. It’s a disturbing incident and unfortunately all too common. Other commenters are already taking the cyclist to task for being aggressive, but wherever you stand on that question, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s against the law to park in the bike lane, even to discharge passengers. It’s also against the law to drive a car at a cyclist and get out and spit at them. This is a case where SFPD can do something, but they need your help.

Streetsblog has been in touch with Supervisor Jane Kim’s office and the SFPD about the incident. Here’s part of what SFPD Commander Ann Mannix had to say in an email to Streetsblog:

Terrible event. Does the video come from the woman the driver spat at? She would have to sign a citizen’s arrest for the incident then the district investigations can follow up on the incident. The passenger did the right thing to calm the situation…Let me know if she [the cyclist] is willing to sign a citizen’s arrest and then we will attempt to identify the driver (not necessarily the registered owner of the car). I have cc’ed the captains of both the Mission and Southern Stations as the event likely occurred in both of their districts.

So if somebody out there knows the victim, please email tips@sf.streetsblog.org

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A Safer Masonic on the Way

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Maconic improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Michael Helquist and Dale Danley looking pleased to see Masonic Avenue improvements finally happening. Photo: Streetsblog

Wednesday evening some 130 local residents and other interested parties dropped in at the San Francisco Day School to learn about the construction phase of SFMTAs Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project. To quote SFMTA’s own release about the project:

With construction starting in June 2016, the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project is an effort to improve safety for people walking, biking, taking transit and driving on Masonic Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street. It will bring a variety of improvements to the corridor including, wider sidewalks, a new median, new paving, landscaping, raised bikeways, better lighting and upgraded sewer infrastructure.

The meeting was primarily to let local residents know what to expect from the jack hammers and traffic delays they will experience from June through late 2017, when construction is scheduled to be completed.

Michael Helquist, an advocate with “Fix Masonic” who helped raise support for the changes over the years, was thrilled. “This took several years of going door to door to build support,” he said. “Safety is my biggest concern.”

And, indeed, this is a corridor that needed it. Also from SFMTA’s data:

From 2009 to 2014, there were 113 traffic collisions on Masonic Avenue between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard. This includes 14 pedestrian collisions and 24 bicycle collisions, including two fatalities.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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A Different Ride of Silence: Rich City RIDES

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Riders gather at City Hall before the Ride of Silence begins. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Last Thursday, May 18, was the day of the International Ride of Silence. In many cities—26 Californian cities, according to the California Bicycle Coalition—bike riders gathered to commemorate bicyclists and pedestrians who have died in traffic crashes. San Francisco was one such city. So was Richmond. But that city’s Ride of Silence was about a lot more than traffic violence.

In Richmond, riders gathered to remember four young people who died as a result of gun violence since 2016 began.

Najari Smith, founder of Rich City RIDES, wanted to create a Ride of Silence that acknowledged the serious problems that keep people not only from riding bikes in Richmond but that prevent young people from feeling safe in their own neighborhoods. “This event is part of the national annual Ride of Silence that brings attention to cyclists maimed or killed while riding on urban streets,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook page, “but Rich City RIDES is remixing it to address the needs of our community. In the Rich, my sisters and brothers are far too busy dodging beef and bullets to worry about car traffic and so for this, the fifth Annual Richmond Ride of Silence, we’re bringing the attention where it needs to be.”

Some people’s attention was still on car traffic. At Richmond City Hall, where the riders gathered before the ride, Alex Knox, representing the Mayor, pointed out that the city had seen no serious injuries or fatalities among bicyclists this year, “although we did have one dooring incident,” he said. The victim of the dooring spoke for a moment, reminding the gathered listeners that she was lucky. “Never assume that you are seen,” she said.

She was lucky, indeed. And she’s right—cyclists are safer when they are seen. But that is not always the case for everyone in the public space. For the four victims honored by Rich City RIDES this night, the problem wasn’t that they weren’t seen. All of them died as a result of the the kind of violence that won’t be fixed with traffic calming or bike lanes and road diets.

Which is why the community work being undertaken by Smith and Rich City RIDES is about much more than getting out on a bike on a balmy May evening and experiencing new, “safe” bike lanes. Smith spoke to the group of the importance of making biking safer, but also of making the entire city safe for all of its residents.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Supes Kill Peskins 100 Percent Affordable Housing Plan (SFist)
  • Page Street Bike Plans (Hoodline)
  • Bus Stop Consolidation for Van Ness BRT (SFExaminer)
  • Large Divisadero Housing Development Proposed (Hoodline)
  • More on BART Overtime (SFGate)
  • Commentary on Dolores Park Reservation Changes (SFExaminer)
  • What are Those Yellow Dots on the Street? (SFist)
  • Motorists Stopping on Railroad Tracks (Kron4)
  • Surviving Memorial Day Weekend Traffic and Transit (BizJornal)
  • Editorial: Protect our Parks (SFExaminer)
  • Editorial: BART Needs to Own Up to Police Brutality (EastBayTimes)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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SFSU Students Study How to Un-Suck Biking to BART

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Professor Jason Henderson's "Bicycle Geographies" class explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: ???TK

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class (seen with additional university staff in this photo) explores how infrastructure could make cycling from BART to class safe and fun. Photo: Nolen Brown

Professor Jason Henderson’s “Bicycle Geographies” class wants the ride from Daily City BART to San Francisco State University’s campus to be comfortable and fun.

And why shouldn’t it be?

After all, it’s only a 1.6 mile trip that should take even a novice cyclist about 15 minutes. Given the proximity to BART, this should be a no-brainer. But thanks to some harrowing intersections, high-speed traffic lanes, and oddly placed and timed “safety measures,” it’s anything but.

“That route probably felt quite calm in a big group with 40-plus people in a group ride,” said Joshua Handel, one of five students in the class, during a presentation to administrators at the school. Handel is referring to a Bike to Work Day ride done earlier this month with staff and students.

“But when one does it alone, there’s a lot of traffic stress,” he continued.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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7 Steps to Phase Out Carbon Emissions From American Transportation

Eliminating carbon emissions from the American transportation system can be done, according to a new report from the Frontier Group [PDF]. The tools to reduce energy use from cars and light trucks at least 90 percent are at our disposal or in advanced stages of development. The remaining 10 percent could be supplied by renewables like wind power.

The U.S. transportation sector produces about 28 percent of domestic GHG emissions and 4 percent of total global emissions. Here's how we compare to other nations right now. Graph: Frontier Group

The U.S. transportation sector produces about 28 percent of domestic GHG emissions and 4 percent of total global emissions. No other nation produces more transportation emissions per capita. Chart: Frontier Group

“We have the technical capacity to do all of these things,” Frontier’s Tony Dutzik told Streetsblog. Here’s how it would work, if we can muster the will.

The first step is to reduce driving. Frontier Group estimates that the following four strategies could cut miles driven per capita by 28 to 42 percent, which amounts to a 10 percent total decline by 2050 when accounting for population growth.

1. Walkable Development: We have to build more walkable places where people don’t have to hop in a car for every trip. People living in compact neighborhoods drive 20 to 40 percent less than people living in spread out areas. If 60 to 90 percent of new construction between now and 2050 is walkable development with good transit connections, it could reduce total GHG emissions from transportation 9 to 15 percent.

To accomplish that, Frontier says big coastal cities like New York and San Francisco need to “build up” and make room for more people. Meanwhile, sprawling places like Atlanta and Houston need to seize opportunities to redevelop existing space — parking lots or closed malls, for example — in a compact form.

2. Pricing Roads: Pricing parking alone could reduce total vehicle miles traveled by up to 3 percent. A blanket vehicle miles traveled tax, meanwhile, could reduce mileage by 10 to 12 percent. Congestion pricing, which puts a higher price on road use where and when traffic is most intense, is another avenue to cut mileage. London’s congestion pricing system, which only covers the central city, has helped reduce driving 10 percent even as the population has grown, Frontier reports.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project to Break Ground this Summer (SFExaminer, Hoodline)
  • SFMTA to Close Bayview Bike Gap (Hoodline)
  • SF Officials Oppose Lowering Fines for Illegal Right on Red Turns (SFExaminer)
  • Rec and Parks Ends “Picnic Reservations” for Dolores Park (KQED)
  • Designs for Oakland Auto Row Development (Socketsite)
  • Woman Arrested in Connection with Union City Hit and Run on Cyclist (MercNews)
  • SUV Stops on Train Tracks, Mother and Daughter Killed (SFGate, EastBayTimes)
  • Editorial: Aaron Peskin on the 100-percent Affordable Alternative (SFExaminer)
  • Editorial: Browns Affordable and Dense Housing Proposal will Destroy Quality of Life (MarinIJ)
  • Op-Ed On Rec and Park Decision to Rescind Dolores Park Reservations Plan (SFExaminer)
  • More Weird Stuff on BART (SFGate)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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Northern California High-Speed Rail Scoping Meeting

Scenes such as this may be commonplace in the Central Valley by 2029. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Scenes such as this may be commonplace in the Central Valley by 2029. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Monday evening the California High Speed Rail Authority, in conjunction with Caltrain, held a scoping meeting at the William J. Rutter Center at UCSF in Mission Bay. They answered public questions and took comment on plans to electrify Caltrain and bring high-speed trains from Bakersfield to San Francisco by 2029.

Streetsblog readers will recall that a few months ago the California-High Speed Rail Authority released a revised plan to link up Northern California to the Central Valley spine (which is already under construction). This meeting was one of a series to prepare the environmental reports for this next phase of construction.

Casey Fromson explains Caltrain's electrification project. Photo: Streetsblog.

Casey Fromson explains Caltrain’s electrification project. Photo: Streetsblog.

The meeting started at 5:30, with members of the public invited to visit local information stations to ask questions about the projects. Casey Fromson, a government affairs officer for the Caltrain Modernization Program, was at the Caltrain information station. She explained that electrification of Caltrain, which, if all goes according to plan, should be completed in 2021, will offer faster service because of the better acceleration of electric trains. “A trip that our current, diesel baby bullets do in 60 minutes will take 45 with a train of electrics,” she explained. Still, it was disappointing to learn that Caltrain won’t be exploiting the top speed capabilities of its new electric fleet, which will start arriving in 2020. Although the trains will be capable of 110 mph, the tracks will only be able to handle about 80, because of the curves and the number of grade crossings. Getting the line up to full speed will have to wait for another round of improvements, such as adding more passing tracks, eliminating more grade crossings, and building more gradual curves, changes that will only come with the HSR project in 2029.

Brian Stokle, with the group “Friends of the DTX,” [the “downtown extension” of Caltrain to the Transbay Terminal] was among the visitors. He expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in connecting Caltrain to Transbay, currently under constructions. “There’s no true political champion for it yet. And it’s a lot of money,” he said. That was a concern echoed by others at the meeting.
Read more…