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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.

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…

Via Streetsblog California
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Santa Monica’s Savvy Multimodalism Shows Moxie

Santa Monica certainly has a wave of transportation wonders taking flight. Like many cities they seem to be trying out a heaping of everything: bike share, a mix of bike lane treatments, a new rail line, neighborhood greenways, a pedestrian action plan (incorporating Vision Zero), a new people-friendly promenade/protected cycletrack where the Expo line terminates and of course they always have the hard-to-miss Big Blue Bus!

Just in the last six months they have launched both Breeze bike share and opened the Expo rail line to downtown Los Angeles which cuts travel times from an hour and a half by bus to 50 minutes. (Personal note: after spending the day shooting this story I endured a 2 hour and 15 minute bus ride back to L.A.’s Union Station. So at rush hour it can be even more tortuous than that!) The Breeze bike share was my first experience with the smart bike program and it was easy to use and comfortable.

So come see just some of the many options the city has employed to make getting around as easy as possible whatever mode you choose. Thanks much to the wonderful Cynthia Rose from Santa Monica Spoke who made my first visit there a joy by giving me the grand tour.

Via Streetsblog California
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#StreetsR4Families: Livable Streets Presentations for Very Young Students

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son's kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son’s kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, I used the dual media events of Bike Week and the opening of the Expo Line extension to speak at my kids’ schools about Livable Streets issues. Joe and I thought it could make an interesting follow-up to our 2014 guide to planning a Walk/Bike to School Day for a school that does not already have that event on the calendar.

After the four classes I taught, I gathered feedback from the teachers and parents to see what worked and what didn’t. Here are a few keys to making successful presentations to younger children about Livable Streets:

1. Let the kids talk – For both the pre-schoolers and the kinders, I made it a point to get the kids talking. For the kinders, I would have them tell me stories about the different kinds of trips they make after the student would pull a toy from a bag. If a kid pulled a train, they would be asked to tell me a story about riding the train. If they never rode a train, they would pass the train to a friend who did. Even kindergarteners don’t want to hear you lecture about your kickin’ new bicycle.

2. Talk about safety, but don’t dwell on it – Kids are used to being lectured about being safe, so while it’s probably important to talk about safety; it also isn’t our job to scare them. In the pre-school class, I had one of the more able young ladies put on a bike helmet for the class. Other kids helped me put on bike lights (provided by Metro, see below) on my daughter’s bike. Once that was done, we went into how much fun it is to ride a bicycle and we made a promise that my daughter would ride her bike from our house last Friday. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why Fixing the Rust Belt Could Help Save the Climate

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group

The form of the built environment – the shape of our cities and towns – is directly related to our consumption of energy and our impact on the climate (PDF). People who live in areas where walking, biking and transit are viable means of transportation – and where car trips, when they happen, are shorter – produce less carbon pollution in their daily lives than residents of more sprawling areas.

Over the last decade, America’s trajectory toward ever-greater suburban expansion has slowed. Cities such as New York, Boston, Denver and Seattle are experiencing an urban boom; in other places, suburban development has angled toward “live/work/play” arrangements in which a car may still be necessary, but is likely to be used a little less.

There is a problem, though. Demand for walkable living in a high-quality urban environment is outstripping supply in a growing number of places. Housing prices in the urban neighborhoods of “hot” cities are skyrocketing, leaving many who might otherwise prefer to live a lower-carbon lifestyle on the outside looking in.

The ongoing battle between housing NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) in places like the San Francisco Bay Area can be relied upon to light up the interwebs on a daily basis. But the world is not the Bay Area. And all of us would do well not to lose sight of what’s happening in a different set of cities, cities where what we now call “walkable urbanism” once existed on a grand scale: the cities of the Rust Belt.

It is hard for those of us who grew up in recent decades to imagine it, but Rust Belt cities once loomed large in the nation’s urban life. In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the nation’s fifth-largest city, followed immediately by Baltimore, Cleveland and St. Louis. Pittsburgh was 12th, Milwaukee 13th, Buffalo 15th. Today, Detroit is still the most populous of those cities, but it is only the 18th largest in the country. Its population has dropped by more than 1 million.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Anthony Foxx Envisions a “Gradual Shift” Away From Car Dependence

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx criss-crossed the country last week on a tour of the seven finalists for U.S. DOT’s $50 million “Smart City Challenge” grant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is taking a "measured" tone about changing transportation in the U.S. Photo: Bike Portland

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Photo: Bike Portland

When Foxx was in Portland, Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland got a chance to ask him how he plans to change the transportation “paradigm” so walking, biking, and transit become the norm. Six years after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed on a table at the National Bike Summit and announced “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” Maus notes, federal policy still tilts heavily in favor of car-based infrastructure.

Here’s what Foxx said:

I think we’re going to need cars. We’re going to need a mix of transportation options. I think we have a supply-side mentality right now at the federal level where we presume that 80 cents on the dollar should go to the automobile within the Highway Trust Fund. And I actually think over the longer term we’re going to need to look at a more performance-based system where we look at things like: How it congestion best reduced? How do we increase safety? How do we move significant numbers of people most efficiently and effectively and cleanly. And I think that’s going to push us into a different mix of transportation choices.

But I think it’s a slow, gradual process. Look around the world and no country has created a multimodal system overnight; but I think that’s ultimately where we’re headed. We have to have a mix of transportation choices. It includes the automobile, but it’s not exclusive to the automobile.

Foxx’s power to set transportation policy pales in comparison to Congress and the White House, but he could be doing more to speed up a shift of priorities at the federal level. U.S. could, for instance, reform the way states measure congestion, so people riding the bus count as much as solo drivers. But so far Foxx’s agency has been reluctant to do that.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transport Providence considers how insight from conservatives could improve transit projects. The Transportationist explains how the “modernist” vision for transportation undervalued places and diverged from thousands of years of human experience. And City Block considers the advantages and drawbacks of Denver’s new airport train.

Via Streetsblog California
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TransForm/CalBike Summit Tackles Transportation Equity, Including Funding

Advocates prepare to meet with legislative staff. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Advocates prepare to meet with legislative staff on Advocacy Day. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

In a wide-ranging conversation at the TransForm/CalBike Equity Summit, Malcolm Dougherty kept right on saying things that advocates are not used to hearing from the director of Caltrans. He reiterated Caltrans’ commitment to its goals of  tripling biking trips and doubling the number of walking trips in the state. He said that California is investing more in transit than it ever has before, and he even said there are freeways in the state “that may not be serving their original purpose” and maybe should be removed, using the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco as an example of the improvements that could bring.

Further , Dougherty proclaimed “We should cap the 101.”

Dougherty’s comments came during a panel that included him, Kate White, Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at CalSTA, and Stephanie Jones of the US DOT in a conversation that acknowledged past transportation planning errors that led to divided communities and inequitable distribution of mobility benefits. They talked about funding challenges, the state transportation agency’s attempts to be more open and transparent, and what the state can do to help guide local transportation planning decisions.

The two major transportation funding streams in California are the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, or SHOPP—which focuses on safety upgrades and rehabilitation of existing roads—and the State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, most of which is allocated to local jurisdictions. The locals decide how to spend that money, said Dougherty, but “the state needs to provide goals and incentives for them to spend it on the right things.”

“California is focused on maintenance and ‘fix-it-first,’” said White. “The state is not building any new highways.” However, she warned, local sales tax measure plans have their own expenditure plans, and if local governments think a highway expansion will help get them the necessary two-thirds vote—or if they believe adding capacity will solve their congestion problems [see: induced demand]—then expansions will be included in the plans. “Get involved in conversations on local sales tax measures,” she said, “because that’s what’s driving highway expansion.”

Advocates recognized the efforts of allies in the state Assembly. From left: Stuart Cohen, TransForm; Genoveva Islas, CalBike; Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica); Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella); Dave Snyder, CalBike; and Asm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

Advocates recognized the efforts of allies in the state Assembly. From left: Stuart Cohen, TransForm; Genoveva Islas, CalBike; Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica); Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella); Dave Snyder, CalBike; and Asm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

The remarks came at the opening session of the TransForm/California Bicycle Coalition Transportation Equity Summit on Monday in Sacramento, which gathered advocates and planners to talk about gaps in equity and how to address them. It was followed by an Advocacy Day, in which groups of advocates met with legislative staff to discuss a transportation equity agenda that includes budget allocation requests and support for several bills (more on that below).

One thing became very clear at the opening panel, however: what constitutes the administration’s proposed “Low Carbon Roads” program, which under Governor Brown’s current budget proposal would be allocated  $100 million from the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, remains murky. “Any program funded by cap-and-trade,” said White, “has to, first and foremost, reduce greenhouse gases. There are only so many types of road improvements that would do that.” Dougherty pointed out that the California Air Resources Board “would have a large role in developing the program, including new guidelines for it,” and that Caltrans “will be driven by those guidelines.”

There is still no clear explanation forthcoming as to why it’s necessary to create a new program when the existing, highly competitive and underfunded Active Transportation Program has already done all that work, and is focused on the same things.

The Summit offered discussions and presentations by planners, advocates, and community organizers that covered a range of topics. Check out TransForm’s Storify here for some highlights.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Problem With “Infrastructure Week”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.37.06 PM

You may have noticed that it’s “Infrastructure Week” in America — a time where engineering and construction industry groups beat the drum for more money, using big numbers and images of collapsing bridges.

You can follow the dialogue on Twitter. It’s full of value-neutral statements like this one from Democratic members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:

It’s hard to dispute the value of infrastructure, or that America’s transportation, water, sewer, and utility systems are generally in bad shape. But the big prescription that comes out of Infrastructure Week is not so much about making better infrastructure — it’s mainly about spending more money.

Infrastructure Week is brought to you by some of the largest engineering firms in the world. The coalition is broader than that, and includes some perspectives that emphasize quality and efficiency. But the driving force is the American Society of Civil Engineers, an organization with plenty of self-interest in bigger public construction budgets.

So it’s no wonder that the message from Infrastructure Week boils down to an orchestrated appeal for funds. It’s also not difficult to see why this message doesn’t get a lot people very excited: For more money, we can get a less defective version of what we’ve already got.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Priced Lanes Can Move Everyone Faster — Even People Who Don’t Pay

Since adding tolled lanes o I-405 outside Seattle, all the lanes are less congested. Image: Washington DOT

Since tolling began on two lanes of I-405 outside Seattle, all lanes are less congested. Image: Washington DOT

Remember the uproar over the HOT lanes on I-405 outside Seattle? Republicans in the state senate fired transportation commissioner Lynn Petersen to register their displeasure with priced roads. The political furor isn’t over. Bill Bryant, a GOP candidate for governor, continues to use the HOT lanes as a wedge issue against incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee.

Look at the actual effect of the tolls, however, and the complaints seem like so much hot air. Josh Feit at PubliCola reports the tolls are reducing traffic even for people who opt not to pay:

Despite the noise, the latest data (such as measuring traffic speeds) shows that I-405 tolling has actually improved traffic conditions and commutes. What’s more: the surveys show that people are pleased with the program. (By the way, earlier data, available during last session’s attack on Peterson, found similar results.)

A presentation on the I-405 tolling program put together by WSDOT this week documents the following:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Google Patents “Flypaper” to Save Pedestrians By Sticking Them to Car Hoods

Google engineers' newest concept for pedestrians would glue them to the front of cars. Image: U.S. Patent Office

Not the Onion. Image: U.S. Patent Office

The minds at Google have come up with a novel idea to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision with the company’s self-driving cars.

The tech behemoth was awarded a patent this week for what it describes as a “flypaper or double-sided duct tape”-type substance beneath an “eggshell” exterior on the hood of the car. In a collision with a human being, the shell would crack and the person would stick to the adhesive. The idea is that after the initial collision, the flypaper will prevent people from hitting the asphalt or getting run over, which is how severe injuries are often inflicted.

A Google spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News the patent doesn’t mean the company will go ahead with implementation. Even if the idea works as planned, it’s easy to envision scenarios where it would backfire, like if the car strikes another vehicle or a tree while someone is glued to the hood.

A much more important question for the impending autonomous car future is how these systems will minimize the potential for collisions with pedestrians in the first place. A fleet of robocars won’t need flypaper if they can’t exceed, say, 15 mph while operating on crowded city streets.