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Interview With Out-Going State Senator Fran Pavley

Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) addresses the media after the passage of S.B. 32 in August. She's flanked by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Governor Jerry Brown, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, from left. Image courtesy Fran Pavley's office.

Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) addresses the media after the passage of S.B. 32 in August. She’s flanked by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Governor Jerry Brown, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, from left. Image courtesy Fran Pavley’s office.

Senator Fran Pavley is one of the members of the California legislature who will, with the end of the 2015-2016 session next week, bring a close to her tenure there. Pavley served for six years in the Assembly and six years in the Senate, where she worked hard to find consensus on environmental and climate change policies.

Pavley had a very successful career in the legislature, passing numerous bills on issues ranging from the environment and energy efficiency to education and women’s health. Among her biggest—and most famous—accomplishments is A.B. 32, California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, which created targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and set the stage for the state’s cap-and-trade system. She also wrote a followup bill, S.B. 32, which extended those targets beyond the fast-approaching original deadline of 2020. In addition, Pavley headed up a successful fight to win the unprecedented right for California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and she wrote a bill that could help California finally create a rational, sustainable groundwater management policy.

Streetsblog talked with Senator Pavley about some of her accomplishments recently. There was a lot more we could have talked about, but we had to cut the conversation short so she could deliver a speech. The conversation below has been edited for length.

Senator Pavley started by talking about her groundwater management bill, because, she said, “It doesn’t get as much attention as all the climate things.” With a growing population—“We are at 39 million people, moving probably in the next ten to fifteen years up to 50 million people”—California can’t afford to ignore the problems inherent in its historical approach to water rights. “Water supply is certainly part of the discussion on how you strategically plan for that growth, along with transit along with other kinds of necessities.”

Besides, S.B. 1168 was, she said, one of the toughest bills she’d worked on. “It was complicated,” said Pavley, “and it wouldn’t have passed without a couple of things going on. One was record drought: 125 of our 515 basins were in severe overdraft, and in a drought sixty percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.”

“Right now we have too many basins where whoever can drill the deepest well gets the water. People literally—especially small farmers or lower income people—have been left high and dry, with the state of California providing huge containers of water, trucking them to their homes. It’s just amazing,” she said.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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4 Ways Trump’s Transportation Plan Is Ripe for Corruption

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As long as Trump doesn’t release his tax returns, divest from his assets, and put his wealth in a true blind trust, the public can have no confidence that federal infrastructure spending will be based on merit and not Trump’s personal financial interests. Photo: Kamoteus/Flickr

Donald Trump’s opaque personal finances and business entanglements around the globe raise the possibility of unprecedented corruption for a United States president. And transportation is one area where the risk of Trump using the powers of the presidency to enrich his family and reward cronies is especially high.

As a candidate, Trump outlined a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, consisting mainly of tax incentives and subsidized loans for private companies to build things like roads and water systems. Paul Krugman and Ron Klain have noted that this would confer huge subsidies to companies that don’t need them, for projects that would get built anyway. In other words, government handouts for contractors and financiers.

In the transportation realm, Trump’s plan would mean building lots of privately-financed toll roads, an arrangement rife with examples of costly blunders, bankruptcies, and conflicts of interest. Letting the Trump White House oversee a huge program of privatized toll road construction would open the door to corruption on a massive scale.

While the vast sums we spend on infrastructure have always been vulnerable to various forms of corruption, the potential for Trump to game the system goes far beyond typical “highway to nowhere” graft. Here’s a closer look at why.

1. Trump has not released his tax returns, and his assets are not in a true blind trust

Alone among modern presidents, Trump has not released his tax returns. The public has no way to tell exactly what Trump’s financial interests are and how far they extend. And because Trump and his children have not divested from the family’s assets and put their wealth under the control of a disinterested third party, or blind trust, they can continue to profit from decisions made by the vast federal government apparatus that Donald Trump will soon steer.

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Streetsblog USA
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What Seattle’s Doing to Help Poor Residents Afford Transit

Transit is an incredibly affordable way to get around, but for people struggling to make ends meet, fares are still difficult to pay for.

Members of the group Transit Riders United pose before a King County Council meeting. They were demanding cheaper fares for very poor and homeless people. Photo: TRU

Members of Seattle’s Transit Riders United at a King County Council meeting where they called for expanding the city’s discount transit fare program. Photo: TRU

If local governments decide to provide discounted or free fares to people in need, however, they need to budget for that expense. Otherwise they risk cuts to transit service — and harming the people who count on it — or providing temporary fare relief that won’t last very long.

Milwaukee’s underfunded transit agency is facing this very problem. Milwaukee County voted last year to make fares free for seniors and disabled people. But the county underestimated ridership and didn’t budget adequate funds, and now the discount fare program is running a $3.3 million deficit and in danger of elimination.

One city that’s building what looks to be a more sustainable model is Seattle. Katie Wilson at Seattle Transit Blog reports that King County officials are expanding the discount fare program to meet overwhelming demand:

Back in 1991, SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) was spending most of their budget buying bus tickets so people could travel from their South Lake Union shelter to an overflow church on Capitol Hill. Nearly broke, they began meeting at the King County Administration Building before making the trek on foot. After weeks of this public demonstration of need the Metro Council relented: SHARE and other service providers could purchase tickets at a discount. The program has expanded steadily for twenty-five years, and last year 138 service providers distributed over 1.4 million tickets to homeless people, seniors, youth, students, veterans, refugees, and victims of domestic violence.

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Streetsblog USA
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Don’t Forget to Expose Your City’s Parking Failures This Black Friday

Photo: Brandon Lerch

If it’s half-empty on Black Friday, it will never be full. Photo: Brandon Lerch

It’s that time of year again — time to show how much space we waste on commercial parking!

Strong Towns is organizing its annual #BlackFridayParking campaign, asking readers to snap photos of half-empty parking lots on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Vast parking lots and garage consume far too much space in our cities and towns. They make places unwalkable. Their impermeable surfaces generate runoff that pollutes our water. And they erode the fiscal viability of local governments by increasing infrastructure costs and weakening the tax base.

And yet, everywhere you look in America, enormous seas of parking are the norm at retail centers. The fact that many parking lots remain half-empty on Black Friday is proof that we’ve gone way too far with all this asphalt.

The Strong Towns contest is a chance to step back and call attention to this problem, so get your cameras ready and remember the #BlackFridayParking hashtag.

Streetsblog USA
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Signs That the Car-Share Industry Is Losing Steam

Car-share usage declined in 2015. What's going on? Graph: Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen via Transportationist

Car-share usage declined in 2015. What’s going on? Graph: Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen via Transportationist

Back in 2013, when Avis purchased Zipcar, car-share seemed like the wave of the future.

But is the industry already peaking? David Levinson, a transportation engineering professor who has been bullish about car-sharing in the past, notes at Transportist that Car2Go is pulling out of Minneapolis. Is this a sign of wider problems with the car-share business model or an isolated event due to unique circumstances? He says the situation is still murky:

The company complains about taxing, and I am sure that is also an element. Clearly carsharing should not be taxed a the same rate as rental cars, which are aimed to extract money from out-of-towners (taxing foreigners living abroad) who don’t vote locally, this is a case of public policy not catching up with changing technology.

There is also the rise of ridehailing apps like Uber and Lyft, which are only slightly more expensive and loads more convenient than carsharing for many trips. That they are only slightly more expensive is due to tremendous Venture Capital subsidies, which are great to exploit as customers, while they last. This also did not help carsharing.

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Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Will the Autonomous Future Be Heaven or Hell?

This week’s podcast comes from the Shared Use Mobility Summit in Chicago, where Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase recently gave a keynote. You’ll hear Robin’s ideas about the future of shared mobility services and autonomous vehicles. In one scenario, which she calls “heaven,” the efficiencies of autonomous vehicles help claim street space for walking and biking. Then there’s the “hell” scenario, where we just swap out everyone’s private cars for driverless versions and continue business as usual.

Toward the beginning of the talk you’ll hear the sound of a video that played before Robin’s talk. It’s not absolutely necessary to watch it before listening to the podcast but you can catch it here if you wish.

Streetsblog USA
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The Silent Epidemic: Families of Traffic Violence Victims Speak Out

Kristi Finney, whose son Dustin was killed when he was hit from behind by a truck while biking in 2011, stands before 421 pears of shoes, which symbolize those killed by traffic in Oregon so far this year. The average person is indifferent to this until it happens to them," she told Bike Portland.

Kristi Finney, who lost her son Dustin when  a truck driver hit him from behind while biking, stands before 421 pairs of shoes symbolizing each person killed in traffic in Oregon so far this year. “The average person is indifferent to this until it happens to them,” she told Bike Portland.

Sunday was the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Violence, which memorializes people killed in traffic.

In 2016, traffic deaths in America have continued an alarming upward trend, and are expected to reach about 35,000 by the end of the year. we are seeing an alarming spike in deaths. But statistics alone can numb us to the staggering human suffering they represent.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland was out Sunday at Portland’s remembrance event, and he had a chance to talk to some people who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. He reports:

David Sale recalled the death of his 22-year-old daughter Danielle in 2010 with vivid details. Danielle was one of two people killed in 2010 when TriMet bus operator Sandi Day made an illegal and dangerous left turn and ran them over in a crosswalk on NW Broadway. “These are not accidents,” he said as he fought back tears.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Steve Bannon Would Love to Team Up With Chuck Schumer on Infrastructure

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Imagine all the Trump signs marking projects that get tax breaks from the infrastructure plan Steve Bannon is pushing for. Schumer photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Wikimedia Commons; Bannon photo: Don Irvine/Wikimedia Commons

We mentioned it briefly last week, but Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s comments to the Hollywood Reporter about infrastructure are worth a closer look. It helps explain why Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are making a grave mistake when they line up to help Trump implement this plan.

Bannon is the propagandist who entered the Trump campaign team after turning Breitbart into the world’s leading “news” source for white supremacists. In the Hollywood Reporter article, he refers to cities as “the metrosexual bubble” and lashes out at his enemies list, which includes “globalists,” liberals, elites, centrists, and Megyn Kelly.

Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is the central piece of what Bannon calls his “economic nationalist” (read: white nationalist) agenda:

Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.

Policywise, Bannon seems to have no idea what he’s talking about. The references to “ship yards” and “iron works” don’t make much sense. We’re talking about a plan to build roads, water systems, and electrical grids.

There’s a good reason a propagandist wouldn’t want to talk about the actual infrastructure policy that Trump’s team has floated. The construction industry is at nearly full employment right now, and Trump’s plan won’t have much if any stimulative effect.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Advocates of Color are Elevating a Different Perspective on Safe Streets

Photo: Argenis Apolinario via Better Bike Share Blog

Photo: Argenis Apolinario

Last week, advocates convened in Atlanta for the Untokening, a gathering for people who’ve felt isolated or tokenized within the safe streets movement, and an opportunity to put their perspectives front and center.

Stefani Cox, who attended, posted this report on the Better Bike Share Blog:

According to one attendee, about two-thirds of the Untokening participants were people of color, and the event had over 100 estimated attendees.

A Streetsblog article published before the event underscored the importance of the Untokening in a professional world where discussions on biking, walking, and transit in low-income communities of color are often derailed or misunderstood. Even well-meaning colleagues can sometimes fail to give equity conversations the space and time needed to be meaningful.

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Via Streetsblog California
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CalBike: Make it Easier to Build Good, Safe Streets for People

Caltrans needs to help make it easier to build streets that are safe for all users. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans needs to help make it easier to build streets that are safe for all users. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The California Bicycle Coalition delivered a petition to Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty yesterday, urging the department to update its guidelines to match state law.

Several years ago, California lawmakers passed S.B. 743, which requires rethinking of how to measure environmental impacts from traffic. It used to be that car congestion was considered an environmental impact, as measured by Level of Service, which resulted in wide, fast streets being easier to build than bike- and walk-friendly streets. But S.B. 743 said: “Stop that nonsense. Delaying car drivers is not inherently an environmental problem, especially if using that measure means everybody else suffers by being forced to travel along and cross wide, fast streets.”

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has been working on replacing LOS with a more sensible measure of how much vehicle travel a project produces—or helps reduce. This will make it easier to include bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly designs in developments and transportation projects.

Many local jurisdictions rely on official Caltrans guidelines for local roads, and Caltrans is still in charge of many state highways that cut through cities. But Caltrans’ traffic analysis guidelines still prioritize LOS, placing the efficient movement of cars above the safety and comfort of bicycle riders and pedestrians. This makes it harder for locals to transform their streets into streets that are safe  for everyone.

Caltrans needs to update its guidelines. CalBike’s petition reads:

Petition To Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty:
Move Forward With Strong Traffic Analysis Guidelines

As people who care about biking and walking in California, we urge Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty to move forward immediately with creating strong traffic analysis guidelines that require state highways to be analyzed and designed to reduce vehicle travel and mirror VMT thresholds in the Office of Planning and Research’s new CEQA traffic analysis guidelines.

We need strong prescriptive guidelines that make clear that Caltrans engineers should transform how they evaluate and redesign state highways to be complete streets rather than high-speed arterials that divide neighborhoods. Level of service is an outdated way of analyzing traffic impacts on our communities and our environment. Our priority as a state should be to reduce vehicle travel and greenhouse gases and build healthy communities where it is easy and safe to walk and ride bicycles.

The petition is still available for signatures here.