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New Caltrans Video Claims Widening 5 Freeway Is Good for Air, Congestion

In this new promotional video, Caltrans District 7 inexplicably proclaims that widening a stretch of the 5 freeway in southeast L.A. County will “reduce congestion” and “improve air quality.” The video, shown at Metro’s board and committee meetings recently, further boasts about “better safety” and how outsized new bridges over the freeway will each “dwarf the original bridge.” It goes on to herald Caltrans’ $1.9 billion project (funded by Metro’s Measure R) as a “21st-century transformation.”

What it really resembles are all of those dreadful 20th-century transformations that gave L.A. County its current congestion and foul air, plus plenty of child asthma, noise, disconnected neighborhoods, obesity, and other problems. These are all accompanied by budget-breaking infrastructure maintenance costs passed along to our children’s generation.

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans website

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans project promo website

The flaws inherent in Caltrans’ outdated thinking are summarized well by UCLA professor Michael Manville, in what he calls “Transportation Economics 101”:

We’ve known for a very long time that simply adding capacity doesn’t reduce traffic congestion. This was first pointed out in very clear language in the the 1960s by an economist named Anthony Downs in what he called the fundamental law of road congestion, which basically said that whenever you add road capacity to the road all you are doing is essentially lowering the price of driving.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Cap-and-Trade May Not Be Working

Emissions in sectors covered by cap and trade have not gone down, according to A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

Emissions in sectors covered by cap and trade have not gone down, according to A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

At last week’s California Air Resources Board hearing to discuss its plan for meeting climate change goals, the cap-and-trade system that has underpinned much of the state’s efforts got raked over the coals. But not by the industries subject to the emissions cap.

Instead, representatives of the communities that are supposed to benefit from investments made possible by money raised by cap and trade asked the board to jettison the program.

Cap and trade, they say, has always been a way for polluters to continue polluting as long as they pay for it. And the harm to communities located near those polluters outweighs any benefits they might get from the money produced by charging them.

Environmental justice advocates have been talking about this for a while, and now there is data backing up their claims. A study by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program [PDF], found a tight correlation between the locations of polluting industries and of low-income communities, especially communities of color.

High-polluting industries tend to be located near low-income communities and communities of color. Graph from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

High-polluting industries tend to be located near low-income communities and communities of color. Graphic from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

But the study found more. The report says that cap-and-trade has not decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and that in fact the opposite is happening: in several industry sectors subject to the emissions cap, in-state greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up since the program began.

Only about a quarter of offset credits, purchased to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, come from California. Image from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

Only about a quarter of offset credits, purchased to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, come from California. Image from A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program.

The assessment also found that the highest emitters of pollution tended to buy out-of-state offset credits and use them to meet their emissions cap, rather than reducing their emissions locally.

Cap and trade specifically targets the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, and yes, those need to be reduce everywhere, not just in California. In that sense out-of-state offsets make sense.

However, the study also found that the companies that emit the most greenhouse gases are the same ones that emit high levels of other serious pollutants like particulate matter, which affect the health of local communities.

In other words, the worst-case scenario seems to be true about cap-and-trade: that polluters who can afford to are continuing to pollute, buying their way out of making actual reductions. And those polluters tend to be located in or near low-income communities that are frequently also communities of color, where their continued emissions of particulate matter and the like are degrading residents’ health.

The purpose of Thursday’s ARB meeting was to discuss its scoping plan for meeting greenhouse gas emission targets, and to that end staff had prepared a fat report detailing the trade-offs of various adjustments that could be made to the existing cap-and-trade system. It was written before the legislature passed S.B. 32, which extends and deepens the greenhouse gas reduction targets that led to the creation of cap and trade—although ARB staff was working under the assumption that the targets would be extended.

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Streetsblog USA
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More Evidence That Speed Cameras Work

The evidence is clear: Speed cameras save lives.

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Photo: PBOT via Bike Portland

Here’s the latest success story — an update from Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland on the city’s first speed camera, which was installed on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway last month:

Here are some facts about the BHH camera released by PBOT today:

  • Before the cameras were installed, an average 1,417 vehicles a day traveled 51 mph or faster, according to readings by a pneumatic tube laid across the roadway.
  • During the warning period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 18, an average 93 vehicles a day were found traveling 51 mph or faster — a 93.4 percent reduction from the tube count.
  • In the first week of the warning period, cameras recorded an average 115 violations a day. Violations dropped to an average 72 a day by the week of Sept. 12 to 18.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why a Struggling Industrial City Decided Bikes Are the Way Forward

Reading, Pennsylvania, isn’t your stereotypical biking mecca. It’s a low-income, largely Latino, post-industrial city of almost 90,000 people.

But without much of anything in the way of bike infrastructure, Reading has the third-highest rate of bike commuting in Pennsylvania and is among the top 15 cities on the East Coast.

Some civic leaders in Reading have seized on the idea of better serving people who bike as a way to improve safety and community, as well as to help reverse the legacy of sprawl and disinvestment.

We’re excited to be the first to post this video from the Portland-based publishing crew Elly Blue and Joe Biel.

The film is part of a short series that Elly and Joe produced to show a broader cross-section of regions and people working on bike issues. They made the films while traveling around America on their Dinner and Bikes Tour.

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This Week: Fossil-Free Bay Area, High-speed Rail, Prop. 13

sblog_calendar1Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Monday Today! Fossil-Free Bay Area. California has the most ambitious climate policy framework in the world, and the Bay Area has the resources, political temperament and innovative spirit to demonstrate how to work toward eliminating fossil fuel use. But is that spirit enough to go fossil-free? SPUR’s latest report lays out an agenda for the region to transition to a high-efficiency, 100 percent renewable energy system that will create a model for other urban regions while improving climate resiliency. Monday, today!, Sept. 26, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members, $10 for non-members.
  • Monday Tonight! Bicycle Advisory Committee. The committee meets monthly to consider bicycle transportation projects and policies to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA, and other City and County agencies. Monday, tonight! Sept. 26, 6:30-7:30 p.m. City Hall, Room 408, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, S.F.
  • Wednesday High-Speed Rail on the Horizon. California’s high-speed rail project is under construction in the Central Valley. What is the current status of the project and its funding? When and where will the first high-speed trains arrive in the Bay Area? What can riders expect once trains begin running? Learn more about this groundbreaking project. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members.
  • Wednesday Solutions for 101 Congestion. Tens of thousands are stuck in traffic on 101 every day. What are strategies to move more commuters, with less time and stress? What is the role of express bus service? What options can best support climate goals? A cast of experts from state, local, employer, and advocacy perspectives (SPUR, TransForm, CalTrans, Stanford, C/CAG) will discuss options to ease the commute pain. Co-sponsored by SPUR, TransForm, and Friends of Caltrain. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m., San Mateo Public Library, 55 W. 3rd Ave., San Mateo. Admission is free but RSVP is requested.
  • Thursday Who’s Afraid of Prop. 13? The state limitation on property tax has had significant, far-reaching impacts on our education system, housing costs and public services. Join a panel of statewide leaders, experts and activists for a wide-ranging discussion of the impacts of Prop. 13 and the growing campaign for reform. Co-presented by Evolve. Thursday, Sept. 29, 12:30 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, S.F. Free for SPUR members. $10 for non-members.
  • Saturday Ride the Waterfront on Bay Day. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is teaming up with Save the Bay for the inaugural Bay Day celebration. This six-mile, casual-paced bike ride will start at Brannan Street Wharf and end at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, with stops along the way to talk about changes coming to the waterfront and ongoing ways to get involved in the planning process. Saturday, Oct. 1, 11-1 p.m. Start Location: Brannan Street Wharf, End Location: Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture. Free but RSVP required.
  • Saturday Oakland Mobility (OakMob) 101 – East Oakland. Oakland residents – what moves you? How could carshare and bikeshare help you stay connected to work, school, family, and more? Come to OakMob 101 to help chart the course for new car share and bike share programs coming to Oakland. Bring your friends and family for a day of food, prizes, music, and the opportunity to plan a better connected and more equitable Oakland. Saturday, Oct. 1, 12-4 p.m., Martin Luther King Branch Library, 6833 International Blvd, Oakland. RSVP requested.

Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Millennium Tower Residents Can Expect more Tilting (SFGate)
  • Rents Still Outpace Wages (MercNews)
  • More Bike Share Locations (Hoodline)
  • Small Ways to Make Your City Nicer (Curbed)
  • Golden Gate Bridge Traffic is a Lost Cause (SFExaminer)
  • Evaluating California’s CO2 Reduction Measures (KQED)
  • Scoop Carpooling App Aims to Reduce Congestion (DailyJournal)
  • The Wonderful Weirdos of the Cable Car Turn Around (SFGate)
  • Wheels Transit Agency Looking for New Name (EastBayTimes)
  • Commentary: Preservation Bill Will Held Solve Housing Crisis (SFExaminer)
  • Commentary: Yes on Measure B Transportation Tax (Almanac)

Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA
Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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SFMTA Takes Public Input to Make SoMa Safer

Bicycle advocate and sometimes Streetsblog contributor Adam Long at the curbside access table at SFMTA's SoMa open house. Photo: Streetsblog.

Bicycle advocate and sometimes Streetsblog contributor Adam Long at the curbside access table at SFMTA’s SoMa open house. Photo: Streetsblog.

Last night, SFMTA held an open house at the Bayanihan Community Center in the Mission to get input on the 7th and 8th Streets safety project, which will include parking-protected bike lanes on both streets on the six-block stretch between Market and Folsom. Some 45 people showed up to learn about the designs and give feedback.

Streetsblog readers will recall that as part of Mayor Ed Lee’s Executive Directive, SFMTA is supposed to complete these bike lanes in the next nine months. The open-house was a step in the process. “It’s to share recommendations for conceptual designs and collect input on curb management and accommodating loading and parking,” explained Jen Wong, a transportation planner with SFMTA’s Livable Streets division.

Curb loading issues–which were literally front and center in the room–at first seemed a bit over prioritized, considering the project’s new time frame and that the Mayor’s Directive, of course, was a response to the deaths of Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, who was killed at 7th and Howard. But an SFMTA official at the meeting explained they are trying to get in front of curb loading issues and “address people’s needs” to avoid the kind of blowback that came with street and transit improvement projects on Taraval and Mission.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Will US DOT’s Self-Driving Car Rules Make Streets Safe for Walking and Biking?

This week, U.S. DOT released guidelines for self-driving cars, a significant step as regulators prepare for companies to bring this new technology to market. Autonomous vehicles raise all sorts of questions about urban transportation systems. It’s up to advocates to ensure that the technology helps accomplish broader goals like safer streets and more efficient use of urban space, instead of letting private companies dictate the terms.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The rules that the feds put out will be revised over time, and the public can weigh in during that process. With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing the guidelines and talking to experts about the implications for city streets — and especially for pedestrian and cyclist safety. Here are a few key things to consider as regulations for self-driving cars get fleshed out.

Fully autonomous cars can’t break traffic laws.

The feds say self-driving cars should adhere to all traffic laws. In practice, this means they’ll have to do things like obey the speed limit and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Following the rules may be a pretty low bar to clear, but it’s more than most human drivers can say for themselves.

Transit advocate Ben Ross points out, however, that this standard will only apply to “highly automated vehicles” (HAVs). Cars that are lower down on the autonomy spectrum — where a person is deemed the driver, not a machine — wouldn’t need to have features that override human error.

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Streetsblog USA
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Restrictive Housing Policies in a Few Cities Hurt the Whole U.S. Economy

The San Francisco Bay Area is not building nearly enough housing to keep pace with job growth. The result is an affordability crisis. Graphic: Plan Bay Area 2040 via Kim-Mai Cutler

The San Francisco Bay Area is not building nearly enough housing to keep pace with job growth. The result is an affordability crisis. Graphic: Plan Bay Area 2040 via Kim-Mai Cutler [PDF]

It’s no secret that major coastal cities are dealing with a housing shortage that’s causing runaway rents. What’s less well understood, however, is how low-density zoning not only limits the supply of housing but affects the U.S. economy more broadly.

Pete Rodrigue at Greater Greater Washington points to a study estimating the economic impact of policies like single-family zoning and height limits, which restrict access to places where economic opportunity is greatest. Even looking at just three regions, the effect is huge:

Economists Enrico Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh find that if we lowered restrictions that keep people from building new housing in just three cities (New York, San Jose, and San Francisco) to the level of the median American city, US GDP would have been 9.7% higher in 2009—about $1.4 trillion, or $6,300 for every American worker…

Just changing zoning practices in those three cities would lead to some massive shifts, according to the authors. One-third of workers would change cities (although they wouldn’t necessarily move to those three metros). Even under a less drastic scenario, in which 20% of US workers were able to move, GDP would be 6.5% higher. Fewer people would live in places like Detroit, Phoenix, or Atlanta, but those who remained would earn higher wages. And, of course, the likely reduction in sprawl would help address local air pollution, global warming, and habitat loss.

Rodrigue suggests how the implications of this work should be applied in the DC region:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Supes Ask Why it Took Six Years to Disclose Millennium Tower Sinking (SFGate, Curbed)
  • More on SFMTrA’s Guerrilla Bike Lanes (SFGate)
  • How to Turn Across a Bike Lane (MercNews)
  • More on Uber Safety Videos (KQED)
  • Muni Bus Delayed by Rice Cooker (SFExaminer)
  • Smallest Park in San Francisco (Curbed)
  • EIR will Delay Market Street Housing (Socketsite)
  • Google Leases Space in Fruitvale Transit Village (BizJournal)
  • Housing Discussed for San Rafael Transit Center (MarinIJ)
  • Just a Fine for Driving in Front of a Train?!? (Kron4)
  • Commentary: Prop. L Lets Supervisors Meddle Too Much in Muni (SFGate)
  • Commentary: No on AC Transit Funding (EastBayTimes)

Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA
Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA