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Governor Brown Signs Bill Allowing 3-Bike Racks on Some Buses in CA

Under a new law California law, transit agencies are now allowed greater use of racks that carry three bikes, like this one on L.A. Metro’s Orange Line BRT. Photo by Ensie via Flickr

California transit agencies are now allowed greater use of bus-mounted bike racks that hold three bicycles. Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 2707 Tuesday, a bill authored Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) to allow 40-foot-long buses to be equipped with folding bike racks that can carry up to three bikes.

It was the first bill signed by the governor this year that’s on Streetsblog’s unofficial watch list of bills related to sustainable transportation.

Current law restricts the length of vehicles on California roads to a maximum length of 40 feet. An exception was created for AC Transit in the Bay Area, after legislation was passed several years ago to allow the agency to exceed the length limit when it added three-bike racks to the front of its buses.

Another bill in the most recent legislative session was aimed at creating a similar exception for Santa Cruz, but it was dropped when L.A. Metro came forward with A.B. 2707 to change the law throughout the state. Metro will soon receive a large order of 40-foot buses, and thanks to the new law, will be able to expand its bike-carrying capacity on the majority of its fleet.

“It’s a major, major gain. I’m terrifically happy this made it through the system,” said Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition, which had been pushing local legislators to address the issue since 2012“If a bus only comes by every half hour, then there’s only space for four bikes every hour. People were being left stranded. This bill will enhance capacity by another half.”

A sticking point in 2012 was pushback from operator unions, who wanted a say in when and how the longer bike racks are used. Until now, exceptions to the 40-foot rule have allowed three-bike racks on buses up to 60 feet long, but only after approval from a Route Review Committee that must include representatives of the transit agency, the driver’s union, and an engineer.

“The Route Review Committee is required to convene and unanimously approve every route for triple bike racks,” said Michael Turner of Metro. “Our concern is that we have over 100 bus routes, with over 2,000 buses in service. We want to work with our operators, but it’s not good policy to give them veto authority; it’s also not practical, given the size of our operations.”

Since Metro the Route Review Committee requirement has only been applied to 45- and 60-foot buses, the agency decided to focus its legislation on allowing three-bike racks on the 40-foot buses that will make up about half of their fleet once the new buses are delivered.

“Bike use has been growing, and we’ve seen more demand, especially on our rail system,” said Turner.

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CA Tackles the Question: What Is a “Disadvantaged Community”?

Workshop attendees discuss what makes a project eligible for cap-and-trade funds. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Workshop attendees discuss what makes a project eligible for cap-and-trade funds. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

In a packed, airless room last night in Oakland, several hundred people grappled with the question of how to define “disadvantaged communities” in California that shoulder the heaviest burden of pollution.

The workshop was led by the California Air Resources Board and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to gather input on the question. The room was packed with experts and advocates from a wide variety of fields — from emissions, to housing, to transit, to recycling — and there may even have been a few members of disadvantaged communities present. The meeting was the final of three in this round, following two held recently in Fresno and Los Angeles.

The question of how to define a disadvantaged community is not merely an academic one. Potentially billions of dollars are at stake from pollution credits collected under the state’s cap-and-trade system. By law, a portion of that revenue must be spent in, or for the benefit of, “disadvantaged communities.”

The mayors of Richmond, Oakland, and Berkeley showed up, as did state Senator Loni Hancock. Invited to speak briefly, each brought up local concerns, with Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan quipping: “We’re probably all going to say the same thing.”

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin addresses the workshop on defining “disadvantaged communities” that will benefit from cap-and-trade funds. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Indeed, each mayor pointed out communities in their areas that bear a heavy pollution burden but did not show up on the preliminary maps of disadvantaged communities produced by CalEPA. Quan said she was surprised that several areas in Oakland were left out, including low-income tracts along the heavily traveled 880 corridor and East Oakland.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, noting her city lays claim to the state’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the Chevron oil refinery, added, “Our community has shouldered the burden of pollution and subsequent health impacts for 100-plus years. Those communities that suffer the most should be put front and center—not in the back, not in an appendix–for getting the resources that we need.”

Those preliminary maps, included in the ninety-plus pages of materials passed out at the workshops, were developed by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as part of CalEnviroScreen. This was presented at the workshop as the state’s chosen tool for defining disadvantaged communities. It combines twelve pollution factors (such as ozone, diesel emissions, and groundwater threats) with seven population factors that studies have found make people more vulnerable to the effects of pollution (for example, asthma rates and poverty). The data is available at the census tract level so the information can be mapped at a fairly detailed level.

It’s a groundbreaking tool resulting from years of work, and is an impressive achievement. But as evidenced by the mayors’ remarks, it’s also just a starting point.

Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: End-of-Session Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

A substantial crop of bills relating to safe and sustainable streets successfully wended its way through this year’s legislative session. Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign the following bills so they become law in January 2015. Alternatively, he can veto them–or ignore them. If he lets them languish until after the deadline, they will die on their own.

Hit-and-run crimes:

A.B. 47, Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles): Would create a statewide Yellow Alert system for hit-and-run crimes.

A.B. 1532, also from Gatto: Would require an automatic license suspension for hit-and-run convictions in which a person was hit, no matter how light the injury.

A.B. 2673, Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena): A civil compromise with the victim would no longer release a driver from criminal prosecution for hit-and-run crimes.

A.B. 2337, Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona): Would extend license suspension for felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run convictions from one to two years.

Bicycles:

Read more…

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Bill Streamlining Protected Bike Lanes in CA Awaits Governor’s Signature

With Governor Brown’s approval, protected bike lanes like these ones on San Francisco’s Market Street could become easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes was passed by both houses of the state legislature this week and only awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to establish engineering standards for protected bike lanes or “cycletracks,” a new category of bike lanes for cities to use.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that cities that want to build separated bike lanes must still go through a process to get an exemption.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines would could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its convention of naming bike lane types by “class” and numeral, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways,” adding to Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

“We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition. ”He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

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Four CA Hit-and-Run Bills Await Governor Brown’s Signature

Hit-and-runs have been a problem in California for a long time. In this 1973 publicity still, Adam 12′s fictional television LAPD officers investigate a hit-and-run. Four bills to curb these crimes await Governor Brown’s approval. Photo: Wikipedia

Four bills targeting hit-and-run crimes in California await Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, including two from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who has made hit-and-runs a focus this year. The bills have passed both houses of the California legislature and are awaiting the governor’s signature.

One, a late addition to the legislative calendar (A.B. 47), would allow law enforcement authorities to broadcast information about vehicles suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run collision using the existing “Amber” alert system, which notifies the public about child abductions via changeable message signs on freeways across the state.

The system is strictly limited to avoid its overuse, and the Senate made amendments to the bill to further tightened restrictions. The new “Yellow” alerts would only be allowed when a hit-and-run has caused a serious injury or death. There has to be at least a partial description of the vehicle and its license plate available, and there must be a chance that making the information public will help catch the suspect and protect the public from further harm.

Another Gatto bill, A.B. 1532, would require an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit. Currently, consequences for leaving the scene of a crash are light if the victim has less than serious injuries, but someone who drives away can claim not to know how badly the victim was hurt. With this law, anyone who drives away and gets caught will face more serious consequences just for the act of leaving.

Meanwhile, the bill from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), A.B. 2673, which would remove the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit-and-run conviction, has also passed both houses of the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Current law allows someone convicted of a hit-and-run to avoid criminal prosecution if they come to an agreement with the victim of the collision, and this bill removes that possibility.

Yet another bill, A.B. 2337 from Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), would extend the period of time that a driver’s license is suspended for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years. This would apply to anyone caught and convicted of a hit-and-run that caused the death or serious injury of another person.

If stiffer penalties can make people think twice about leaving the scene of a crash, then these bills may well help reduce the incidence of hit-and-runs. As long as people believe they can escape the consequences, however, the heavier penalties may not act as a deterrent. But combined with a new system that will broadcast a car’s description and license plate for all to see, it will be more difficult to escape.

As Assemblymember Gatto said, “Together, these bills will empower the public to help us catch hit-and-run drivers before they can cover up the evidence of their crimes and ensure the perpetrators of these cowardly acts think twice before leaving fellow citizens dying on the side of the road.”

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Steinberg Kills Bill That Sought to Delay Cap-and-Trade on Fuels

Mobile billboard against the “hidden gas tax.” Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

The misinformation campaigns trumpeting an imminent “hidden gas tax” in California lost a battle with the defeat of Assemblymember Henry Perea’s bill, A.B. 69, which was designed to delay application of cap-and-trade to the fuels industry for three years

Fuel companies have already begun participating in the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, buying pollution credits that they can use to help them meet the greenhouse gas emission cap set by the state. Emission caps will not apply to the fuel industry until this coming January, but they have had years to prepare for it.

Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg sent a letter to Perea [PDF] explaining his decision not to let A.B. 69 go forward. The bill may not have had much of a chance of passing anyway, but this settles the question without the Senate or Assembly having to take it up in the final few days of the legislative session.

A.B. 69 was originally a bill about water quality, and had been considered and passed in the Assembly as such, when at the last minute Perea completely rewrote it, in what’s called a “gut and amend.” At that point, it was in the Senate, where it would have had to pass out of several committees and then pass with at least a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor before the Assembly could take it up.

Steinberg killed it in the Rules Committee. In his letter to Perea, he wrote that “bringing non-stationary fuels under the cap is not an unforeseen issue that demands legislation which sidesteps the democratic process.” And “a measure of this importance should not be considered in the final weeks of a two-year session.”

Read more…

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CA Agencies Host Workshops on Cap-and-Trade Funding Programs

“Disadvantaged communities” in California, as determined by CalEnviroScreen.  Image: CalEPA.

State agencies are figuring out how to best spend new cap-and-trade revenue, and the first step is asking the public for input on creating guidelines for eligible projects.

The Strategic Growth Council held workshops last week on guidelines for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

This week and next the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) will ask for help figuring out how to define “disadvantaged communities,” which by law must benefit from a proportion of projects funded by cap-and-trade money.

Last week and this week, the California State Transportation Agency is hosting input sessions for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (which will receive $25 million, and 10 percent of future cap-and-trade proceeds) and the Low-Carbon Transit Operations Program (which will get $25 million and 5 percent of future proceeds).

These somewhat overlapping efforts are all intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as mandated by AB 32, which requires a reduction in GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020.

Transit Capital and Operations Funding

The low turnout at Friday’s workshop on transit funds—the first of three—may have been due to lack of publicity or the relatively small amount of money at stake — $50 million throughout California. There are more than 100 transit agencies, large and small, throughout the state. While the Intercity Rail portion will be allocated to particular projects, the Low-Carbon Transportation Fund will be divided up according to existing state funding formulas.

With only $25 million spread among transit agencies statewide, small agencies in areas with low populations and low farebox revenues are likely to see only very small amounts of money added to operations. For some, this will be less than $100 — at least in this first year.

That’s hardly enough to enhance or expand services to increase mode share, as required by the allocation.

And it may not be worth the effort at all, if reporting requirements are anything more than simply checking a box. A number of those attending the workshop requested that administrators keep the process as simple as possible so as not to cause more work for small and understaffed agencies.

The last workshop on transit funding will be in L.A. this Wednesday, August 27,  from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
at the Metro Board Room. Written comments on transit funding can be submitted to tircpcomments@dot.ca.gov and lctopcomments@dot.ca.gov

What Qualifies as a “Disadvantaged Community”?

CalEPA workshops this week and next on defining “disadvantaged communities” will play a crucial role in deciding how to allocate cap-and-trade funds. Overall, at least 25 percent of all cap-and-trade funds must be spent in, or somehow benefit, a disadvantaged community. In the case of the Affordable Housing/Sustainable Communities category, half of funds must benefit these communities.

So the definition of “disadvantaged community” is pretty important.

Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

Today was the last day to amend bills for this legislative session. Any bill that doesn’t get passed by midnight next Sunday, August 31, will be officially dead.

Among the flurry of votes, the following bills passed out of both the Assembly and the Senate and are now waiting for the governor to sign—or veto:

Vehicle registration surcharge for bike paths and trailsSB 1183 from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) would allow local jurisdictions–cities, park districts–to place initiatives on the ballot to fund bike paths and trails with a local vehicle registration surcharge. Because this fits Brown’s ideals about fiscal responsibility—that is, the surcharge cannot be imposed unless 2/3 of voters approve—let’s say this one is likely to be signed.

Bike racks on buses: AB 2707, from Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), would allow newer, longer buses to carry bike racks that fit three bikes. Right now buses are generally restricted to two-bike racks, except in a few places that argued for an exception. This would make the rules consistent statewide.

Traffic violation fines in school zones: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres). Despite unanimous passage in both houses and all the committees it passed through, advocates are worried that Brown may decline to sign this bill because it uses fines to generate revenue. In this case the revenue would have been used for active transportation projects.

The bill originally called for fines to be doubled, to match fines in construction zones. However, the original language would have required new signage and legislators balked at burdening locals with those costs. Now, the bill merely adds a mandatory $35 increase to any other fines a scofflaw motorist would incur for unsafe driving in a school zone.

Meanwhile, the following bills passed the Senate and returned to the Assembly for approval of Senate amendments:

Read more…

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CA Seeks Input for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program

Housing and transportation advocates discuss California’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities guidelines, last week in Oakland. Photo: Melanie Curry

Housing advocates and local officials gathered in Oakland last week to discuss guidelines for California’s new Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC). It was one of three packed meetings held throughout the state by the Strategic Growth Council (SGC), the state agency that oversees the AHSC, to gather input on the new program’s guidelines. 

The ASHC was created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by fostering the development of affordable housing near transit hubs, as well as improvements to transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure in those areas to provide low-emission alternatives to driving. A funding stream for the program was created through a late-hour deal last month between Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators which provided $130 million in revenue from CA’s cap-and-trade program.

The $130 million, however, is a drop in the bucket for California’s affordable housing funding needs. Despite growing demand, revenue for housing subsidies was slashed heavily in recent years after Governor Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies and federal sources of affordable housing funds dried up.

If the legislature sticks to its budget bill plan, the AHSC will receive 20 percent of future cap-and-trade funds each year. This is projected to be between $600 million and $1 billion per year over the next five years, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

=Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

With a deadline for amendments looming next Friday, marathon floor sessions are keeping legislators in the capitol churning through long lists of bills.

Protected Bike Lane Bill Still Being Amended: A.B. 1193 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) is the bill that would add protected bike lanes, or “cycletracks,” to the four types of bike facilities defined in the California Street and Highways Code, and would require Caltrans to create engineering standards for them by January of 2016.

A secondary aspect of the bill, which allows local jurisdictions to choose a different safety criteria than that created by Caltrans, is meeting some resistance on both sides of the liability debate (cities don’t want liability, and consumer advocates want someone to take responsibility). The bill actually passed on the Senate floor on Wednesday, but it was pulled back to make amendments to address those concerns.

The California Bicycle Coalition, the bill’s sponsor, is pleased with the results of negotiations. “We have come to an agreement with both sides of the debate,” said Dave Snyder, CalBike’s director. “We’ve agreed to new language and that this bill will not affect liability.”

A.B. 1193 will be heard again in the Senate some time next week. It’s expected to pass, but the Assembly will have to approve the new amendments.

School Zone Violations: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), would raise fines for traffic violations in school zones and put any proceeds from those fines towards the Active Transportation Program. The bill passed the Assembly this week, and must go back to the Senate for another vote because of minor amendments made on the Assembly floor. If it passes there, it will have to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who has been unwilling to sign bills that raise fines in the past.

Hit-and-Run Fines: It’s also unclear whether Brown will sign A.B. 1532, from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would raise fines for hit-and-run convictions. The bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee and is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Hit-and-Run Alert System: A.B. 47, also from Assemblymember Gatto, would create a “Yellow Alert” system to notify law enforcement and the public about hit-and-run crashes when someone has been seriously injured, and solicit help in finding the perpetrator. This bill has sailed through the legislature, with the Senate adding one requirement to the list of conditions under which the system can be activated: that “public dissemination of available information could either help avert further harm or accelerate apprehension of the suspect.” The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week and it’s awaiting a Senate vote.

Bicycle Infrastructure Surcharge: S.B. 1183, from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), would authorize local agencies to impose a motor vehicle registration surcharge — upon approval by 2/3 of local voters — to fund bicycle paths and trails. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week on a partisan vote and has moved on to the Assembly floor, where it is set to be voted on next week. If it passes without amendments, it will go straight to the governor. Will he sign it?

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