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CA’s Regional Agency Reps Tout Increased Ped Safety Funding in Sacramento

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG. Photo: Melanie Curry

The Peds Count! 2014 Summit kicked off in Sacramento with a panel of top-level executives from regional planning agencies celebrating their accomplishments in improving conditions for pedestrians.

The speakers represented an alphabet soup of major metropolitan transportation agencies in California: SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments; SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments; KernCOG, the Kern Council of Governments; and MTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The summit, the third bi-annual conference organized by CaliforniaWalks, brings together advocates and planners from throughout the state to discuss the current state of research, policy, and innovation in the realm of planning for pedestrians in California’s cities and counties.

According to the California Household Travel Survey, the number of walking trips has doubled since 2000, to 16.6 percent of all trips reported. However, less than one percent of transportation funding in the state goes towards improvements for active transportation (walking and bicycling). In addition, pedestrian safety goals were not included in a recent Federal Highway Administration proposal on new performance measures for national highways.

But the agency executives at the conference celebrated the progress that was made, and challenged pedestrian advocates to build support to make it easier for agencies to do more.

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CA Transportation Choices Summit Tackles Policy Issues

The California Transportation Choices Summit, held in Sacramento this week, was an opportunity for sustainable transportation and public health advocates to spend the day learning about current state policies and legislation in the works to change them.

Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, discusses bike infrastructure on a pre-summit bike tour along the Sacramento River. Photos: Melanie Curry

This year’s summit was titled “2014: A Year of Opportunity.” The “opportunity” comes in the form of new funds from cap-and-trade and current discussions in the legislature about how to spend that money. As Streetsblog has reportedthese funds are required to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which could include projects that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit.

The annual summit is hosted by TransForm and a long list of partners across the state including ClimatePlan, MoveLA, Circulate San Diego, the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, National Resources Defense Council, and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In addition to discussing current policies, the learning day prepared attendees for TransForm’s “Advocacy Day,” in which participants meet with State Assembly members and their staff to talk about the issues that matter most to them and push for legislation.

Summit speakers laid out facts about funding, discussed trade-offs between spending on different programs, and urged everyone to share their personal stories about why their issue is important. “Let’s pull those heart strings,” said Elyse Lowe of Circulate San Diego, “so we can do a better job advocating for good transportation policies.”

Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, created an “applause-o-meter” to gauge summit attendees’ views on trade-offs between funding categories. He asked participants to applaud for the categories of activities they thought were most important: planning; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; transportation demand management programs like shuttles, carpool programs, and guaranteed ride home programs; affordable homes near transit; and transit capital and operating costs.

The audience, mostly comprised of savvy transportation advocates, applauded for all of these categories, although there two clear “winners”: affordable homes near transit and transit capital and operating costs. These also were the most expensive categories, according to Cohen’s estimate of how much it would cost to fully fund needs in these areas: $6 billion for transit and $1 to $1.5billion for housing.

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TransForm to Host Third Transportation Choices Summit in Sacramento

TransFormLogoTransForm, an organization that advocates for sustainable transportation, smart growth, and affordable housing throughout California, will host its third annual summit next week to discuss the state’s transportation priorities. The Transportation Choices Summit will take place in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 22, and feature speakers from advocacy organizations including the Greenlining Institute, Move LA, and Safe Routes to Schools, as well as state legislators and representatives from state agencies.

The summit’s agenda includes panel discussions on opportunities and challenges in 2014, including cap-and-trade funds and Caltrans reform. Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), the keynote speaker, will discuss the connection between climate change and equity issues. De Leon authored S.B. 535, passed in 2012, which requires that at least 10 percent of funds earmarked for greenhouse gas reduction go directly to disadvantaged communities, and that 25 percent of them be spent in a way that benefits those communities.

Other highlights from the conference include a breakout session on increasing funding for walking and bicycling, led by Jeanie Ward-Waller, the California Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. Another session will feature Kate White, Deputy Secretary of Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency, who will talk about Caltrans reform with TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen. You can see the other speakers listed on the agenda [PDF].

Two related events will bookend the summit: On Monday, the day before the summit, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates Executive Director Jim Brown will lead summit attendees on two local bike tours. One will showcase the innovative bicycle master plan in West Sacramento. The other will focus on issues around new infill housing in the city.

On Wednesday, after the summit, Transportation Choices Advocacy Day will bring advocates and volunteers to the offices of legislators to talk about biking, walking, transit, and affordable, accessible housing near transit. This event is free and all are invited, but pre-registration is required.

Streetsblog LA 31 Comments

Meet Our New Sacramento Teammate: Melanie Curry

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Melanie Curry

Streetsblog SF and Los Angeles have a new hire starting on February 1 that will dramatically expand our coverage. I am pleased to announce that Melanie Curry will be as full-time writer covering news out of the California capitol and across the state.

Melanie will be covering statewide issues that impact transportation, open space, livability and public health. Her focus will be watching laws as move through the legislature, policies as they advance through the executive branch, regional plans as they are adopted by regional planning organizations, projects as they advance through Caltrans, the California High Speed Rail Project and anything else that pops up.

Her work will appear on Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, sometimes on the other Streetsblogs, and on other Southern California Streets Initiative publications including Santa Monica Next and LongBeachize.

Melanie worked for many years as an editor, most recently for Access, the University of California-published transportation research magazine. She has a Masters degree in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and has worked in transportation consulting and at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Her preferred mode of transportation is a bicycle, although buses and trains can be useful too. Her daughter’s first commutes were in a child seat on the back of a bike.Melanie has lived in Culver City, Mexico City, Cordoba (Spain), Singapore, Oakland, and Berkeley, where she now makes her home with husband and nearly grownup daughter. Her goal is to change the perception that bicycles are dangerous, and wants everyone to have the chance to experience the joy and freedom of that perfect transportation machine.

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Streetsblog Hiring a Reporter to Cover Statewide News Out of Sacramento

Streetsblog is happy to announce the opening of a new, full-time Sacramento-based reporting position to cover livable streets news from around California and the state capitol beginning in early 2014.

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The writer would cover the state legislature, executive branch, Caltrans, high-speed rail, and other issues outside of the greater Los Angeles and Bay Areas, working closely with the editors of Streetsblog LA and San Francisco, as well as the team at OpenPlans, Streetsblog’s parent organization.

Major funding for the position comes from the California Endowment and a generous anonymous donor. And, of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our readers.

Streetsblog LA is also hiring a local reporter in that area. You can find the text of the applications for the Sacramento position and LA position on Google Drive. They will be posted tomorrow on the Streetsblog jobs board.

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Like Bike Lanes and Transit? Hope You Like the Sacramento Kings Too.

Note: This post originally appeared at Climate Plan.

What do the hoop dreams of a software mogul have to do with CEQA reform? As of last night, everything. In the waning days of session, strange things happen in Sacramento.

If this person happens to like bike lanes, they probably love SB 734. Photo: Associated Press

Late last night, Senate President pro Tem Steinberg announced that he cut a deal with Governor Brown to abandon SB 731, his main CEQA reform bill, in favor of a new gut-and-amend bill, SB 743, that would allow the Sacramento Kings to build a new arena in the ruins of the K Street shopping center without litigation delay. This is, of course, an attempt to stave off the courtship of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who wants to move the Kings to Seattle.

Roll your eyes, dear reader, but then read on.  Apparently some provisions of SB 731 have been grafted onto the stadium bill.  ClimatePlan and our CEQA + Infill Dialogue spent months working to influence SB 731. We hoped to align CEQA with our goals of building sustainable and equitable communities – and we had a lot of success. Of particular interest to us ClimatePlanners were two provisions in SB 731 that would:

* Reform CEQA’s transportation analysis to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and car trips, rather that the outdated and car-centric metric known as Level of Service (LOS). This would be a game changer for transit-oriented development, bike lanes, bus rapid transit and other projects that are good for GHGs but bad for cars.  It would also eliminate insufficient parking as a standalone impact under CEQA.

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Coalition of California Advocates Headed to Sacramento to Save Transit

Members of a broad coalition hailing from throughout California are headed to Sacramento next week to push policymakers to save transit funding and enact sustainable transportation planning reforms.

The Oakland-based transit advocacy group TransForm has amassed about 150 advocates to descend on the capitol for its two-day Transportation Choices Summit, the first known event of its kind, where they will meet with state representatives and urge them to prioritize walking, bicycling, and transit.

TransForm State Policy Director Graham Brownstein said the action came out of the organization’s Invest in Transit campaign, launched last year to address the “very, very serious crisis” facing transit systems in California. The state has made dramatic funding cuts totaling more than $4 billion over the last decade, and TransForm recognized the immediate need for “creative policy reforms that will stabilize, and then grow transit funding in California,” said Brownstein.

The cornerstone of the campaign is a push to ensure that a major portion of the revenue from California’s nascent cap-and-trade program will be dedicated to transit operations and affordable housing projects located near transit.

The cap-and-trade revenue could go a long way toward restoring the damage done to transit funding under the Schwarzenegger administration. By selling emissions permits, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration anticipates the cap-and-trade program will generate $1 billion in the 2012-2013 budget and $10 billion annually by 2020, according to TransForm [PDF].

Brownstein said transit agencies need all the help they can get to avert a much deeper statewide crisis.

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California’s Climate Laws Undermined by Weak Transpo Policies, Investment

California's lack of good transportation policies and transit investment points to a failure in Sacramento. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/aquafornia/2731909303/##aquafornia##

California's lack of bold transportation policies and transit investment points to a failure in Sacramento. Photo: aquafornia

A new report from NRDC and Smart Growth America — which examines what all 50 states are doing to curb greenhouse gas emissions from transportation — lauds California as the most progressive state on policy, but points out that its transportation and spending priorities don’t match the bold blueprints, particularly as it relates to public transit.

It all points to Sacramento, where legislators have continuously raided the only dedicated fund for transit, leading to massive cuts statewide.

The report praises the state’s smart-growth law, SB375, as a model for other states, noting that “it puts in place a strong framework that can be used to drive better coordination between transportation and land use, and, of particular relevance to this analysis, to do so in a way that reduces GHGs.” It remains uncertain, however, “whether SB 375 will deliver results on the ground as opposed to just changes in planning documents.”

In September, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2035, a move that will compel the state’s metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to better integrate land use and transportation planning. The real test for SB375 will come at the local level as MPOs draft plans to meet the targets.

Unless the state prioritizes investments in sustainable transportation, California’s progressive policies will continue to be undermined.

“Huge cuts to public transit threaten these (policy) gains and could lead to even more devastating consequences for California communities and the economy,” said a joint press release from Smart Growth California, NRDC, TransForm and the Sierra Club of California. “In California, transportation policies and spending decisions are not in line with the state’s bold commitments to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and other emissions being pumped into the air.”

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New Study Quantifies High Personal Costs of Building CA Cities for Cars

Household_transpo_costs_small.jpgClick to enlarge: Annual household transportation costs in the Bay Area.
California residents living in sprawling suburban developments could save billions of dollars every year if they lived in denser, urban zones and along transit corridors, according to a study released today by smart growth and transit advocates TransForm. Analyzing four metropolitan areas--Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento--Windfall for All found that shifting populations in those regions to denser development along transit corridors would save save $31 billion per year, or $3,850 on average per household [Report Summary PDF].

In the Bay Area, where annual car ownership costs on average over $8,000 per person, individuals spend roughly $34 billion every year on personal transportation costs, compared to only $4.6 billion spent by public agencies on transit and roads combined. Households with poor access to public transit not only spend double the amount per year on transportation when compared to those with good access to transit, they produce more than double the amount of CO2, a greenhouse gas.

"The most astounding thing is that agencies pinch their pennies on transit and cut back and we feel like we can't afford not to save that service," said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. "We're already spending more than seven times as much as our agencies spend on public transit and roads just on buying and operating our vehicles."

What's more, the report points out that fuel costs represent a small minority of the cost of owning a car, so the craze for electric and other low-emission vehicles will not dramatically reduce the transportation costs for those living far from their jobs and far from transit. The best solution to combating climate change, the report notes, is to build walkable, vibrant communities where residences are situated close to job centers. 

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Sacto Transit Agency Tries an “Exclusion Policy” for Misbehaving Riders

3471905364_94785050cc.jpgFlickr photo: moppet65535
With several well-publicized violent incidents on Muni buses recently, including two brutal attacks and a videotaped fight, security has become a hot issue for the MTA. Though the agency actually reported a slight decrease in crime over the past fiscal year, it hasn't matched the 13 percent citywide drop in the most serious crimes over the first half of 2009. The San Francisco Police Department responded in late September with a one-day sting called "Operation Safe Muni," and the MTA has scrambled to test its onboard camera equipment, which has failed during several incidents, including the stabbing of a young boy in September and the West Portal light rail vehicle crash in July.

Earlier this month, Sacramento Regional Transit launched a program it's calling "Ride to Abide," which allows the agency to ban riders who misbehave on its vehicles for up to a year. Given the recent high-profile violent incidents on Muni, we decided to take a closer look at the policy, which VTA Watch highlighted earlier this week, and see if Muni could benefit from a similar rule.

The policy is the result of Senate Bill 1561, authored by State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacremento). From Regional Transit's press release:

"Effective October 1, 2009, anyone arrested for a crime or cited on three separate occasions within a period of 60 consecutive days for infractions committed in or on an RT vehicle, bus stop or light rail station will now face a ban of 30 days. Offenders can be banned for up to a year if convicted of more serious offenses.

Interfering with an operator of a transit vehicle, willfully disturbing others on or in a system facility or vehicle, and defacing District property could all result in exclusion."

The policy also "provides an appeals process for individuals who opt to contest a prohibition order," according to the press release. Except in the case of the most serious offenses, banned riders can also petition for exceptions to their ban for absolutely necessary trips, such as to work.

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