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Oil Industry Blows Smoke at CA’s Climate Change Policies

CARE is paying for Facebook ads to get some traction for its faulty reasoning.

CARE is paying for Facebook ads to get some traction for its faulty reasoning. OMG! Dollars are burning!

The major lobby group for the California oil industry has launched a new, and particularly dimwitted, effort to denigrate California’s climate change policies. Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy, or CARE, one of the Western States Petroleum Association’s front groups (as reported in Streetsblog several years ago), started a new website that purports to show how the state is wasting its money on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But its thesis makes no sense.

Right up front, the website declares authoritatively that the cost per ton of carbon is $12.80, and that therefore any higher amount paid to remove greenhouse gases from the air is a waste of money. It even provides a handy chart comparing what California pays for greenhouse gas reductions through programs like the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program to the site’s definition of the “actual cost” of that pollution. Its inevitable conclusion: California is wasting huge amounts of money.

Except that the comparison makes no sense. As Bruce Mirken of the Greenlining Institute puts it, “This isn’t comparing apples to oranges. It’s comparing apples to building new orchards.”

The figure of $12.80 reported on the website is, give or take a few cents, the current price paid per metric tonne of carbon by industries that emit greenhouse gases under California’s cap-and-trade system. Cap-and-trade works by putting a cap on total allowable emissions, and then charging industries actual money for the pollution they emit. The price is set by auction, which means it’s driven by demand, and depends on how many “credits” are available for purchase and how many industries want to buy them. It has nothing to do with the actual cost of carbon in our atmosphere—it’s just the current going price, at auction, of the credits.

So it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that California only needs to spend $12.80 per ton to remove greenhouse gases. In fact, more than disingenuous, how about deeply cynical. Evil?

It’s not as if you can go to the store and buy a carbon reduction. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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A Better Way to Track How Well Transit Performs


“Excess wait time” — or how long riders have to wait beyond the scheduled time between buses — captures the inconvenience of unreliable transit better than on-time performance metrics that many agencies prefer to use. Graphic: NYC Bus Data API

When you’re riding the bus or the train, an unexpected delay is the last thing you need. If transit agencies want to know how well they’re doing and how they can improve service, they have to track how reliable their service is for riders.

But not all reliability metrics are created equal, writes TransitCenter. Some agencies track their performance in a way that’s much less rider-friendly than others:

At the moment, the [New York] MTA and many other agencies tend to use indicators of success that reflect the concerns of the people who actually run subway or other systems. These include on-time performance and the average distance a train car travels between mechanical problems.

But those measurements might not actually indicate whether the agency is delivering good service to riders. For example, regarding subway delay, the MTA relies heavily on a performance metric known as “wait assessment,” defined as the percentage of train arrivals that cause passengers to wait at least 25 percent longer than expected.

Wait assessment has two major problems. First, it is not obvious what it means to have a “good” wait assessment score. If the A train has a wait assessment score of 85 percent, what does that mean for riders? Second, wait assessment is indifferent to how late a train is or how many riders are affected by its lateness. On a line with service every four minutes, a gap of six minutes between trains in the Bronx at 6 A.M. is equally as “bad” as a gap of 15 minutes between trains passing through Grand Central at rush hour.

TransitCenter says Boston’s MBTA has adopted a metric more in line with international best practice, one that captures what matters to riders:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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We Can Do It: A Zero-Carbon Transportation System Is Possible

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group.

The Paris Climate Agreement, approved by world leaders last December, represented a bold commitment to prevent the worst impacts of global warming – a commitment that must now be followed by action.

Meeting the agreement’s target of limiting global warming to no more than 2° C (and ideally no more than 1.5° C) above pre-industrial levels will require the United States to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 80 percent, and possibly as much as 100 percent, by 2050.

That is 34 years from now. And the clock is ticking.

Can it be done? In March, we joined with Environment America Research & Policy Center to produce We Have the Power, a report that argued that it is possible to repower America with 100 percent renewable energy. And in two weeks, we will release A New Way Forward: Envisioning a Transportation System without Carbon Pollution, which makes the case that America has the tools and strategies it needs to eliminate carbon pollution from urban, light-duty transportation by 2050.

The report explores scenarios by which U.S. metropolitan areas might reduce energy demand for light-duty travel by as much as 90 percent – making it possible to repower our transportation system with clean renewable energy at the same time we eliminate carbon pollution from other areas of the economy.

Ours will not be the first analysis to suggest that decarbonizing transportation is possible. Over the last several years, government agencies, academics, environmental advocates and others have explored a variety of pathways (warning: PDFs) by which we can move toward a zero-carbon transportation system.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Crucial Connection Between Street Width and Walkability, in 3 Photos

There’s a good deal of empirical evidence that narrower travel lanes are safer for everyone because they slow motorist speeds.

On a perceptual level, narrow streets just feel more inviting, writes Katie Matchett at Network blog Where the Sidewalk Starts. Matchett looked at Jewel Street in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego, which varies in width. She shows how, as it transforms from a narrow neighborhood street to a wide road for fast-moving traffic, Jewel Street becomes more forbidding for people on foot:

Here’s what Jewel Street looks like when it’s 30 feet wide, with parallel parking on both sides and a parkway between the sidewalk and street.

Screenshot (186)

Notice that even with only a few scrawny palm tree for shade and relatively narrow sidewalks, the street still feels comfortable and “human-scaled.” (It also feels safe to bike on, even without fancy bike infrastructure, because the narrow travel way forces cars to slow down.) I regularly see kids playing in the street here, using the roadway as an extension of their yard.

Here’s Jewel Street a few blocks further down, with a 40-foot width. This would be considered the pretty much the minimum width for a street built today.

Read more…

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More Views of Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day 2016 at San Francisco City Hall

Bike to Work Day 2016 at San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog

Thursday was Bike to Work Day in many parts of California, including the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. That meant: lots of bikes on the road—maybe more than usual, maybe not—but also lots of smiles, bike-bell-ringing, and high fives all around for everyone who chooses to use this most environmentally friendly way to get to work and everywhere else. And not just one day a year.

However, on this day we get to make a big noise about how great it is to be able to bike to work and how much better it could be. Here are more photos of the event from around the Bay Area.

We’ll start with the East Bay, where no fewer than THREE ribbon cuttings on new bike facilities got the day started off right. That’s on top of the Telegraph Avenue protected bike lane ribbon cutting that took place two days ago—is this a record? Probably.

Plenty of pictures after the jump.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Governor’s Budget Revision: Nothing New for Transportation

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.13.31 AM

Governor Brown shows why California needs to prepare for a coming recession. Image: Screengrab from CATV

Governor Brown issued his May revision of the state budget proposal, and in terms of transportation, it’s pretty much the same story we told in January. That is, he proposes a variety of new revenues, including a “road improvement charge” and higher gas taxes, to fix California’s transportation infrastructure.

But the revision shows no fundamental change in thinking about transportation, despite the increasing realization in many quarters that we need to fundamentally shift the way people travel.

In Brown’s budget, money will still be allocated to “local streets and roads,” highway repairs, and trade corridors. Under the proposal, each of those sectors would receive an increase in funding from the new revenues. The governor also proposes using more money from cap and trade for transit, specifically an extra $400 million to the already existing Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, which provides money for capital (equipment, vehicles, track, and the like) but not for operations (to increase or improve service, for example).

And then there’s the still-undefined “Low Carbon Road Program” which Brown proposes allocating $100 million from cap and trade “for Caltrans to implement . . . local projects that encourage active transportation such as bicycling and walking, and other [undefined] carbon-reducing road investments, with at least fifty percent of the funds directed to benefit disadvantaged communities.”

It’s still not clear why this money isn’t being proposed for the already existing, already oversubscribed, highly competitive Active Transportation Program, which state agencies and advocates have already invested a lot of time and effort into creating and refining. And there’s still no indication of what those “other” road investments would be. Could repaving be considered a “carbon-reducing road investment”? Some would like to think so.

“We are disappointed that the Governor’s May Revised Budget reflects no changes to the proposed transportation allocations, despite the clear need to shift traditional transportation funding toward providing Californians better, safer, healthier, and cleaner travel options, especially for residents that can’t afford to drive,” said Jeannie Ward-Waller, Policy Director of the California Bicycle Coalition. “The Administration still directs the vast majority of the $16 billion for transportation to roads and highways, including $100 million of climate funds, with no new funds proposed for the state program dedicated to expanding walking and bicycling facilities.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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For the Record, the Feds Don’t Require Streets to Speed Car Traffic

Don't blame the feds. Photo: T4A

Don’t blame the feds. Photo: T4A

When advocating for a street redesign that will take some space away from cars, it’s common to run up against this classic brush-off from your local transportation agency: The federal government won’t allow it.

Well, the Federal Highway Administration recently went on the record to shoot down that excuse. The FHWA doesn’t require states and local governments to speed cars through streets, even ones classified as part of the National Highway System. Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America published this excerpt of a memo from FHWA regarding Level of Service, or LOS, a measure of congestion:

…FHWA does not have regulations or policies that require specific minimum LOS values for projects on the NHS. [National Highway System] The recommended values in the Green Book are regarded by FHWA as guidance only. Traffic forecasts are just one factor to consider when planning and designing projects. Agencies should set expectations for operational performance based on existing and projected traffic conditions, current and proposed land use, context, and agency transportation planning goals, and should also take into account the input of a wide cross section of project stakeholders.

Davis explains why this matters:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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D.C. Poised to Strike Down Law That Blames Cyclists When They Are Struck

When cyclists and pedestrians are injured in traffic crashes in D.C., there’s a big legal obstacle standing in the way of justice. That obstacle is a legal standard called “contributory negligence.”

Supporters demonstrate on behalf of the changes at a press conference in 2014 Photo: WABA

Supporters demonstrate on behalf of the changes at a press conference in 2014 Photo: WABA

Now the City Council is poised to strike down that rule and replace it with the more widely used and fairer “comparative fault” standard, report Tracy Hadden Loh and Tamara Evans at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Loh explains how D.C.’s current law prevented her from seeking compensation when she really needed it:

In 2008, a driver in a minivan hit me (Tracy) when I was riding my bike on Connecticut Avenue, fracturing my pelvis in three places. The driver’s insurance company denied my claim because of a law that says if you’re even 1% at fault, you can’t collect anything. The good news? DC is moving to change this.

Currently, DC, Maryland, and Virginia use what’s called a pure contributory negligence standard to decide who pays what damages after a vehicle collision involving someone on bike or foot. I wrote about contributory negligence in 2014, but the basic thing you need to know is that under this standard, if the person is even 1% at fault for a collision, they can’t collect anything from the other party (or parties).

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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USDOT to Shut Down Nation’s Roads, Citing Safety Concerns

Crossposted from City Observatory.

WASHINGTON, DC – Citing safety concerns, today Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced he was contemplating the closure of roads to all private vehicles in nearly every city in the country until he could assure the nation’s drivers that they would be safe behind the wheel.

The announcement comes on the heels of comments by Secretary Foxx that the Department of Transportation may shut down the Washington Metro heavy rail system because of ongoing safety issues.

Since 2009, 14 Metro riders and employees have died in collisions, derailings, and other incidents. On an annual basis, that translates to about 0.48 fatalities per 100,000 weekday riders.*

However, Secretary Foxx noted that this is exceeded by the fatality rate of car crashes in every single American metropolitan area for which data was compiled in a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In San Francisco, 3.75 people died in automobile crashes per 100,000 residents in 2014, a rate 7.8 times higher than the fatality rate on Metro. In Raleigh, NC, the automobile crash fatality rate was 7.50 per 100,000, or about 15.6 times higher than the fatality rate on Metro. And in Dallas, the automobile crash fatality rate was 12.02 per 100,000, or about 25.0 times higher than the fatality rate on Metro.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Bike Month: Santa Cruz Celebrates its 29th Bike to Work Day

Santa Cruz offers free breakfast for people biking to work tomorrow. Photo by Karen Kefauver/Ecology Action

Santa Cruz offers free breakfast for people biking to work tomorrow. Photo by Karen Kefauver/Ecology Action

I stand corrected.

Last week I reported that San Diego, or perhaps the East Bay, has had the longest-running Bike to Work Day celebration in California at 22 years. While that’s impressive, it turns out that Santa Cruz has been commemorating Bike to Work Day since 1987—so next year will be the 30th anniversary of Santa Cruz BTWD.

Ecology Action, the local bike advocacy group, actually holds two annual Bike to Work Day events, one in May—the same day the Bay Area celebrates BTWD, that is, tomorrow—and one in October. That means that Santa Cruz has probably held way more Bike to Work Day events than anywhere. And because this week is Bike Week, it’s hosting a series of events, at least one every day, leading up to tomorrow’s big celebration. These include a wide variety of group bike rides, bike maintenance classes, and bike-in movies.

In Santa Cruz, rather than offering quick-stop “energizer stations” that offer rushed bike commuters a quick cup of coffee, pastry, and a goodie bag, organizers create a sort of “mini bike festival” at thirteen sites in Santa Cruz County. There, in addition to a free breakfast, local businesses set up booths and offer all kinds of information and services including massages and bike checkups.

“Our sites are meant to encourage cyclists to stop and stick around for a while, said Emily Gomez of Ecology Action. “We focus on community building, and want to provide opportunities for people to meet each other.”

The free breakfast sites are listed here, and include downtown Santa Cruz, the UCSC campus, and surrounding areas.

Ecology Action also has a big focus on educating and encouraging school kids to ride bikes, so in addition to the free public breakfasts, they will provide breakfast and mini festivals with raffles and games 45 area schools.

“A huge part of what we do is our Bike Smart program,” said Gomez. “We go to local schools and do presentations about bike safety in classrooms, then return to conduct on-bike training and bike rodeos so the kids can practice what they learned. It’s not just an encouragement program once or twice a year; we pair it with an ongoing education program. A number of our school sites now do a monthly bike/walk to school day.”

Somehow I missed Sonoma County’s Bike to Work Day in my coverage of the the Bay Area. Reader Murphstahoe says he helped stuff bags with goodies that will be handed out tomorrow at twenty energizer stations throughout the county. The list of stations is here. The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition will also host two Bike Home Parties, on in Sonoma (meet at MacArthur Place, 29 East MacArthur Street, at 5:45 p.m.) and one in Santa Rosa (meet at Community Market, 1899 Mendocino Avenue, at 5:45 p.m.).

In addition to the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, Arcata is also celebrating Bike to Work Day before the National Bike to Work Day on May 20. That happened today, with an energizer station at the Arcata North Coast Co-op and a noon rally on the Plaza, followed by a bike ride along the Arcata City Trail. Tomorrow, a program of Bike Film Shorts will be held at the Siren’s Song Tavern from 7 to 9 p.m., and Bike Party takes place on Saturday, May 14, among other events.

We’ll have coverage of areas that celebrate Bike to Work Day next week in the coming days. Send in your photos and reports of your local event—and let us know if we’ve missed any, and thanks to readers who’ve already corrected us!

(Hat tip to Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious for pointing out the longevity of Santa Cruz’s BTWD)