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Posts from the "Urban Habitat" Category

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Some AC Transit Service Restored, But Funding Problems Could Return

Photos: Matthew Roth

Photos: Matthew Roth

AC Transit riders took solace in the news on Tuesday that the agency plans to restore service that was cut twice this year after a labor arbitrator settled a contract dispute. Transit advocates worry, however, about the agency’s long-term solvency and have called on elected officials to develop significant revenue measures for funding buses in the East Bay.

The arbitration panel in the AC Transit labor negotiation reached a decision on a contract between the transit district and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents 1,750 of its bus drivers and mechanics, saving the agency $38 million over three years. The binding decision calls for increased contributions from the members to their health and benefit plans, as well as work rule and holiday changes.

AC Transit had cut service in March by 7.8 percent, or $10.3 million in service hours and in October by 7.2 percent, or $11.4 million in service hours. Fare increases this year amounted to an increase of 25 cents per trip for local riders and $10 for the price of a monthly pass. Transbay riders have been paying an increase of 50 cents per trip and $16.50 for a monthly pass. Youth, senior and disabled riders saw a hike of 15 cents per local trip and 30 cents for Transbay trips.

Because of the arbitration decision, AC Transit also expects to halt an additional round of cuts approved to go into effect in December, including the elimination of weekend service on lines affecting nearly 25,000 riders, what transit advocates and church groups lamented as a “death spiral.”

“There are no winners or losers in this arbitration,” AC Transit Interim General Manager Mary King said in a statement. “Both AC Transit and the union focused on what is best for the riders and taxpayers of this district and what is in the long-term interest of maintaining public transit for the people we serve.”

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Grassroots Coalition Jumps Into the Fight to Protect AB32

4544049143_8503ae5ac4.jpgA protest earlier this year against efforts to rollback AB 32. Photo: Ella Baker Center

A new coalition launching in the coming weeks is mobilizing groups with deep roots in their communities to take on Proposition 23, a measure on the November ballot that seeks to overturn AB32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas regulation bill.  Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Proposition represents those who suffer the worst effects of greenhouse gases but often have the most trouble being heard.

The contrast could hardly be sharper.  In one corner, there are the big Texas oil companies who are Prop 23's most prominent backers. In the other, you have groups like the Green the Rez Campaign, a project of the Bishop Paiute Tribe in the Eastern Sierra that promotes renewable energy and sustainable living on the local reservation.

The oily Texans trying to roll back AB32 already face opposition from a number of mainstream politicians and environmental groups. Now they’re about to get clobbered by a concerted effort that pulls together organizations with strong ties to Asian, Latino, African American, and Native communities. The connections they make between their health needs and the economy call into question the stale jobs versus environmental rhetoric and will give the No on Proposition 23 campaign loads of street cred.

“Prop 23 is a dirty oil industry trick to try to undo a major California environmental law, and if passed, will put all people at risk from more pollution, especially low-income and people of color, who bear a huge and disproportionate burden of fossil fuel and industrial pollution,” said Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, a member of the new coalition. “The health of our state’s most vulnerable communities is more important than dirty oil company profits.”

Greenaction has been in the thick of the struggle to stop expansion of a waste dump in Kettleman City, where residents have reported a cluster of birth defects they attribute to the current dump already nearby.

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Strong Show of Public Support at City Hall for Watershed Restoration

One of the PUC's suggested treatments would daylight Yosemite Creek along city streets.One of the PUC's suggested treatments would daylight Yosemite Creek along city streets.

Want to see an unprecedented outpouring of public support for a government agency? Look no further than your nearest sewer.

A Monday afternoon presentation before the Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was met with great interest and support by numerous public speakers. The primary topic was the PUC's Urban Watershed Management Program, an ambitious blueprint for cleaning local water, restoring wildlife, and putting an end to beach-closing sewage spills.

Tommy Moala, the Assistant General Manager of the SFPUC's Wastewater Enterprise, explained that the PUC's emphasis has shifted away from building more concrete structures and toward low-impact designs like green roofs, daylighted creeks, rain barrels, and permeable pavement. This represents a massive change in the way cities think about water: For decades, it's been about reducing natural areas and channeling water into treatment plants. Now, for the first time, San Francisco is among a handful of cities experimenting with more ecological alternatives.

These new practices are often met with skepticism. "A few years ago," Moala said, "the most difficult presentation was to our own staff." Engineers often appreciate the measure of predictability gained by getting rid of green space and putting water underground. But gradually, PUC staff has come around.

The PUC's Rosey Jencks explained that the city's sewers are old, and face increasing risk of failure. We have a choice: to rebuild the same way, or to adapt our streets to function more like parks.

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MTC Gives BART Until Mid-February on Civil Rights Review

Denman.jpgReverend Scot Denman of Genesis and Oakland Airport Connector opponents rally outside MTC headquarters in Oakland. Photos: Matthew Roth
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), at its monthly meeting in Oakland today, voted 11-5 to reaffirm its commitment to the Oakland Airport Connector, despite BART's recent problems with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) over its Title VI civil right requirements for federal stimulus money. The MTC resolution gives BART until February 16th to comply with FTA's obligations, and if the operator fails to comply, the MTC would redistribute the $70 million to the region's transit operators.

Elected officials, transit advocates, construction workers, business groups and numerous other speakers gave testimony and debated the merits of the OAC before an overflow audience of at least 200 people

The first speaker was Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who used impassioned rhetoric about race and equity in an argument to support the OAC. Though he noted that the FTA ruling on BART's Title VI deficiencies indicated the agency had a long way to go, he said, "Title VI was designed to challenge large organizations to change. That ultimately is what needs to happen here."

Dellums said he  spoke with US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff in Washington last week and urged their patience and care in dealing with BART's Title VI obligations, which he assumed they would.

"Fairness not just about acknowledging the problem, it is about making sure there is a process for resolving this problem," said Dellums. "I asked them for time to resolve this matter."

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