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CA’s “Hidden Gas Tax” That Doesn’t Exist

GasTaxMobileBillboardYou may have seen the ads on Facebook, or on one of the roving billboards being pulled by a gasoline-powered truck. They warned darkly of a coming “hidden tax” on fuel that was so hidden nobody in the media was talking about it. You may have wondered what it meant, even as the ads urged you to sign a petition today.

Last week, the oil-industry-backed effort to get people riled up about the “coming hidden gas tax” delivered its petition [PDF] to the California Air Resources Board’s monthly meeting in Diamond Bar.

The California Drivers Alliance gathered a whopping 115,000 signatures, and “dozens” of people showed up to deliver them. It urges the Air Resources Board to delay its “plan to increase fuel prices next year” and charges that the agency has been “unresponsive” and “has not even put this far-reaching policy on its agenda for public discussion.”

Not a word of which is true.

There is no “hidden gas tax” that will suddenly come into being in January. The Air Resources Board has no “plan to increase fuel prices,” nor could it do so. The only change coming is that transportation fuels will become subject to California’s cap-and-trade system.

That means that distributors and transporters of fuels must either 1) comply with requirements to produce no more than a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions (the “cap” on emissions), or 2) buy enough “pollution credits” from the state to “meet” the cap. This is the “trade” part of the system.

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Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report Monday that, the organization claimed, showed that the ongoing surge in American biking has increased bike fatalities.

Transportation reporters around the country swung into action.

“Fatal bicycle crashes on the rise, new study shows,” said the Des Moines Register headline.

“Cycling is increasing and that may be reflected by an increase in fatal crashes,” wrote NJ.com.

“Bike riding, particularly among urban commuters, is up, and the trend has led to a 16 percent increase in cyclist fatalities nationwide,” reported the Washington Post.

Bike fatalities are a serious problem that needs to be tackled. The United States has dramatically higher rates of injury and death on bikes than other rich countries, and it would be appropriate for GHSA, an umbrella organization of state departments of transportation, to issue an urgent call to action to make biking safer. So it’s especially troubling that the main thrust of this report is complete baloney.

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Why a Street Designed for Transit Is Also Great for People

In Minneapolis, Washington Avenue prioritizes transit, biking, and walking. Photo: Michael Hicks/Flickr

When cities devote street space exclusively to buses or trains, they usually encounter some stiff resistance to change. Dan Reed at Greater Greater Washington has been giving the topic some thought, because many of the DC region’s upcoming transit projects will require reallocating some lanes from cars to transit.

Reed cites Minneapolis’s Green Line, which runs through the University of Minnesota (“The U”), as an example of how this type of redesign can work out beautifully. Initially some local players were nervous to see space for cars on Washington Avenue turn into space for transit, biking, and walking. But the results have been more than reassuring:

The U’s cooperation with the Metropolitan Council meant that the Green Line could transform Washington Avenue from a traffic sewer to a gathering place. Today, the street feels like a natural extension of the campus. Trains run down the middle of the street, and there are shared bus and bike lanes on either side. The sidewalks are wider, and the crosswalks have special paving materials to make them more visible.

There’s also more green space than there was before. Since the Green Line stations are in the center of the street, there’s a space between the tracks. It would have been easy to just make it a grassy median, or find a way to squeeze in a car lane. Instead, it’s a plaza with tables, chairs, and lush landscaping.

A significant amount of development is happening around the Green Line as a result. Over 2,500 apartments have been built around the U’s three Green Line stations, with another 2,000 in the pipeline. New shops and restaurants have opened along the tracks to cater to the influx of students.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Prop L’s David Looman: “The Bike Lobby Thinks They’re Saving the Fucking World” (SF Mag)
  • SFGate Bay Bikers Blog Takes Down Prop L, an “Attack on Safe Streets”
  • Haight and Hayes Streets to Get Major Sewer Main Replacement and Sidewalk Bulb-Outs (Hoodline)
  • SF Public Press Explains the Barriers to Building Transit-Oriented Housing in the Western Neighborhoods
  • On One Block in Potrero Hill, Parking Lawlessness Reigns More Than Usual (People Behaving Badly)
  • Perla Avina, Oakland Mother of Four, Killed in Road Rage Shooting (CoCo Times, NBC)
  • Oakland City Council Considers Plan to Add 4,900 Housing Units Around Lake Merritt BART (Biz Times)
  • Silicon Valley Leadership Group Predicts Caltrain Ridership Will Double by 2024 (Green Caltrain)
  • Committee Vows to Continue Push for Bringing Rail Back to Dumbarton Bridge (Green Caltrain)
  • Cupertino Teenager Killed on Bike by Trucker (NBC); SJSU Student Killed by Drunk Driver (CoCoCBS)
  • Bike/Ped Upgrades Headed to Mill Valley’s Miller Ave (Marin IJ), Richmond Bay Trail Segment (RS)
  • CA Bike Fatalities Increasing With Ridership; SFGate Blogger Points to Helmet Use and Drinking

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Neighbors Celebrate the New “McCoppin Hub,” Dog and Skate Park

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The McCoppin Hub, along Valencia near Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Neighbors near McCoppin Street recently celebrated the completion of the McCoppin Hub, a plaza created from a street stub that sits against the Central Freeway ramp towards Market Street. The plaza, a nearby dog run, and skate park have been in the works for years as a package of newly depaved public spaces planned after the freeway’s partial reconstruction.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Lynn Valente, a neighborhood activist, at the plaza last month. “This was a true grassroots effort. The neighbors worked on this for ten years with the city to have some amenities in our neighborhood, for pedestrians and traffic and bicycles… It would kind of mitigate the effect of the Central Freeway ramp which goes over the neighborhood.”

“I couldn’t be prouder, because it was a lot of people really sticking to it and making sure we got these amenities,” she added.

Waiting for the spaces has certainly required patience among neighbors. When we wrote about the neighborhood in July 2011, the projects were already considered a long overdue follow-up to the freeway’s completion in 2005. At that time, construction on the McCoppin Hub was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

Other improvements in what’s officially called the SoMa West Improvement Projects included traffic-calming revamps of side streets like Elgin Park and Stevenson Street, as well as greenery, bike lanes, and raised crosswalks along McCoppin Street.

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NACTO to Take Safer Street Designs to Developing World Cities

Last year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials brought us the Urban Street Design Guide, and now it’s going global.

A Delhi traffic jam. Traffic collisions kill about 250,000 per year in India. Photo: Wikipedia

During the organization’s national conference in San Francisco last Thursday, NACTO chair and former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that it will be developing a “Global Street Design Guide” to help developing nations set standards for safe, livable streets.

Executive Director Linda Bailey said the guide will take principles from NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide and adapt them for cities in places like India and East Asia. Streets and travel patterns in those nations are very different than in America, with much higher levels of walking and scooter use, for instance, as well as the looming threat of rapid growth in private automobiles.

“The U.S. is already influencing heavily many developing countries,” Bailey said. “The idea is to try to skip over any lag time… Under the same principles as the Urban Street Design Guide, how does this work in a country that has a very different mode split?”

The organization hopes to release the guide in early 2016. NACTO will also be working with a group of selected global cities interested in implementing safer street designs, much like the organization has done in the U.S., Bailey said. NACTO noted that 1.2 million people die globally from traffic collisions and that the guide is seen as an international public health tool.

“One of the things that’s exciting about working in an international context is you already have a high pedestrian mode share,” said Bailey. “Just making things more comfortable for pedestrians could make a huge difference.”

The design guide is being supported in part by the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety.

Streetsblog NYC 39 Comments

Sources: Alta Bike-Share Buyout a Done Deal; NYC Citi Bike Fleet to Double

The REQX purchase of Alta bodes well for bike-share in NYC and beyond. Photo: Brad Aaron

The buyout of Alta Bicycle Share rumored since July is finally a done deal. Alta — which operates New York’s Citi Bike, Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare, Chicago’s Divvy, San Francisco’s Bay Area Bike Share, and several other cities’ systems — will be purchased by REQX Ventures, an affiliate of the Related Companies and its Equinox unit.

The injection of capital from REQX is expected to help resolve lingering problems with Citi Bike’s supply chain, software system, and operations, which until now have prevented any expansion of the bike-share network.

The sale was reported Friday by Capital New York’s Dana Rubinstein, and Streetsblog has confirmation from two people with knowledge of the deal.

Rubinstein reported that REQX plans to double the size of the Citi Bike fleet to 12,000 bikes. Annual membership prices are expected to increase about 50 percent.

New management and an infusion of funds from REQX bodes well for all Alta bike-share programs over the next year after a stagnant 2014. Alta’s supply chain troubles have hampered system expansions in Chicago, DC, Boston, and San Francisco, among other cities.

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Is the U.S. Ready for Seniors Who Want to Stop Driving?

A recent New York Times article urged baby boomers preparing for retirement to consider their future transportation needs. The average American woman is living 10 years beyond the point when she is physically able to drive, and the average man is living seven years longer, the Times reported.

It’s time to plan for seniors who want walkable housing. Photo: Brett VA via Flickr

But as important and practical as it is for older Americans to seek housing in walkable, transit friendly locations, it’s not always easy. The article featured a couple in San Diego who were considering a cross-country move to find the right mix of amenities.

Dave Alden has been digging into walkable senior housing at Network blog Vibrant Bay Area. Today he offers an example of one development that fell through. The 200-unit project, planned for “an attractive parcel of land, near a viable and active downtown,” was to include a walkable boulevard, with development costs shared by the local government.

I thought the proposal was exceptional. The city appeared to agree and offered to help facilitate the project. First, they agreed to help secure the land rights for the boulevard, some of which were still privately held. Second, in exchange for a concession by the developer on a related land-use issue, they agreed to an expedited entitlement process as permitted under state law.

And then, it all came unwound. After a year of delay, and long after the developer’s concession had been banked, the city withdrew their promise of expedited entitlement.

After an unexpected staff shakeup, the city ceased assisting with land acquisition for the boulevard. Relieved of the city’s jawboning, one property owner promptly increased his asking price by a factor of fifty. The land was never acquired.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Golden Gate Bridge Ped/Bike Toll Narrowly Approved for Study (GM, Examiner, SFGate, SFBC, ABC)
  • One Car Occupant Dead, Three Injured in Solo Crash on Fifth Street Off-Ramp in SoMa (SFGate)
  • Muni’s 9-San Bruno Set to Get Bus Bulbs With Bike Lane Cut-Throughs (SF Examiner)
  • Muni Drivers Get More Bathrooms (SFBay); Old Buses Coming Out for Muni Heritage Weekend (SFGate)
  • More on Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Two Blocks of McAllister Street in Civic Center (SFBay)
  • Mission Local Runs Into NACTO Planning Conference Goers on a Traffic Calming Tour in the Mission
  • After Threatening Punishiment for Prop B, Mayor Calls Apartment Association’s Attacks “Insane” (SFist)
  • Sup. Wiener Holds Hearing on Reducing Towing Fees for Car Theft Victims (SFBay)
  • Hayes Valley Housing Construction Puts All These Damn Walkways in Your Parking Spots (Hoodline)
  • Yellow Cab Resists Flywheel App in Favor of Company’s Own (SF Examiner)
  • New “Caltrain Commuter Coalition,” Including Tech and 49ers, Forms to Find Funding Solutions (SFGate)
  • Free BART Parking is Ending (NBC); TransForm: Fund BART Maintenance for World Series Crunches

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Woman Killed at City Hall’s Doorstep, Right After Ped Safety Ceremony

Priscila “Precy” Moreto, a 67-year-old employee in the City Controller’s Office, was run over and killed by a tour trolley driver within a wide, clearly-marked mid-block crosswalk on Polk Street, leading to the steps of City Hall, at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

About 20 minutes earlier and just across the Civic Center Plaza, at McAllister and Larkin Streets, city officials had just wrapped up a groundbreaking ceremony for pedestrian safety upgrades along two blocks of McAllister. In attendance were D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, and SF County Transportation Authority Director Tilly Chang.

None of those who attended the event, myself included, were apparently aware of the death until they heard reports about it later in the day.

“Yesterday morning, the pedestrian safety crisis hit home at City Hall’s doorstep,” Kim said in a statement today, noting that “the central crosswalk in front of City Hall yields heavy pedestrian traffic as constituents, workers and tourists alike travel to and from this historic building.” Supervisors themselves can often be found using the crosswalk.

Moreto was run over by the driver of a tour vehicle designed to look like a cable car on rubber tires, operated by Classic Cable Car Charters, which issued a statement saying “our thoughts and prayers are with the pedestrian and her family.”

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying that “Precy was a dedicated employee who served our city and residents with great distinction.”

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