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Federal Regulators Will Let U.S. Railroads Run Faster, More Efficient Trains

European-designed traincars are on their way to the U.S. Photo: Paris' high-speed TGV via Wikipedia

American passenger railroads will be able to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by using trains designed to standard European specifications. Photo of France’s TGV, via Wikipedia

Why are American trains so expensive and yet so slow? One factor that rail advocates often point to is the Federal Railroad Administration and its rail safety regulations — rules that are finally on the verge of changing.

Antiquated regulations that date all the way back to the late 1800s (they were updated in the 1930s) compel American passenger rail operators to use trains designed like “high-velocity bank vaults,” as former Amtrak CEO David Gunn once put it. While European and Asian railcars became lighter and sleeker in recent decades without compromising safety records, FRA rules continued to insist on heavy, slow, outdated, and expensive equipment.

That finally appears set to change with the FRA’s release of new draft safety rules for traincars.

The FRA expects the new rules will enable railroads to use trains that are safer, more energy efficient, and cheaper to operate. The rules will allow American passenger train operators to purchase rolling stock designed to European safety standards (but not Japanese standards), without going through an expensive waiver process.

Read more…

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Old Places Built for Driving Are Failing New Residents Who Don’t Own Cars

Langley Park, a low-income suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But now its residents rely a lot on walking, and the environment puts them at risk. Photo via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park, a suburb of Washington, D.C., was built around cars. But many current residents rely on walking, and the street environment puts them at risk. Google Street View via Greater Greater Washington

Langley Park in Prince George’s County, outside Washington, D.C., took on its current form when World War II vets moved there in large numbers, aspiring to the suburban lifestyle: a single-family house with a yard.

The area was built around cars. But as in many other suburban areas, the population has changed over time. Now, reports Carolyn Gallagher at Greater Greater Washington, Langley Park is largely Latino, lower income, and home to many recent immigrants. Many current residents get around by walking and transit, even though the area wasn’t built for walking. Gallagher writes that officials aren’t doing enough to make the streets safe for people on foot:

People aren’t just going to and from their cars; they’re walking, hanging out in front of stores, or sitting on retaining walls and shooting the breeze. One strip mall even has a semi-regular street preacher. Armed with a megaphone and boundless conviction, he exhorts and cajoles passersby in equal measure.

Getting from home to shop and back again isn’t easy when you have to cross six lanes of traffic. And unlike the Palisades or Chevy Chase, the distance between cross streets in Langley Park is substantially longer.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Protected Bike Lanes Approved for 7th and 8th (Hoodline)
  • Supervisors Say Goodbye to Scott Wiener, Praise His Transit Work (SFExaminer)
  • Chariot Plans SF Expansion (SFChron)
  • Warriors Win Legal Battle over Mission Bay Development (Socketsite)
  • Plans for Another Downtown Oakland Development (BizTimes)
  • Public Housing to get Revamp (SFExaminer)
  • Are Cargo Containers an Answer to the Housing Crisis? (SFGate)
  • Sewer Leak on Cole Valley Sidewalk, yuck! (Hoodline)
  • Marin’s Broken Roads put Cyclists in Danger (MarinIJ)
  • Freemont Pedestrian Killed “Outside the Crosswalk” (EastBayTimes)
  • Belmont’s Bike and Walk Plans (DailyJournal)
  • In Support of Millbrae TOD Housing Proposal (DailyJournal)

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


Incoming Director Simon Talks About Her Vision for BART

Lateefah Simon will be taking over the District 7 seat on the BART Board of Directors. Photo from her campaign website

Lateefah Simon will be taking over the District 7 seat on the BART Board of Directors. Photo from her campaign website

Lateefah Simon was one of three new BART directors elected earlier this month. She will take over District 7 from outgoing director Zakhary Mallett. District 7 is unique in that it encompasses portions of San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa. That means balancing the requirements of the outlying suburban areas with those of West Oakland and dense parts of San Francisco.

And it also means balancing the needs of some of the wealthiest and most depressed parts of the Bay Area. Simon is President of the Akonadi Foundation, which has the mission of “eliminating the structural racism at the heart of inequity.” Here’s some more background from her campaign website:

Lateefah has received awards for her work, including the California Assembly’s “Woman of the Year,” inclusion in O Magazine’s first ever “Power List,” the ROOT 100, the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “40 Under 40,” Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World, the Remarkable Woman Award from Lifetime Television, the Levi Strauss Pioneer Activist Fellowship, and the New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Lateefah has served on numerous boards of directors and advisory committees. Her affiliations include the Oakland Public Safety Steering Committee, San Francisco Foundation’s Kroshland Committee, Bay Area Girls’ Coalition, California Executive Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of Northern California, Women’s Foundation of California, Essie Justice Project, At the Crossroads, and MISSEY (anti-trafficking organization). She is an alumna of Emerge California and the Values Based Leadership program.

Simon comes in with the awesome responsibility of helping to rebuild BART’s core infrastructure, made possible by the passage of Measure RR, the $3.5 billion BART bond. What direction will Simon take BART? And what will be her approach to helping run the Bay Area’s vital transportation network?

Streetsblog talked with Simon and tried to find out.


Streetsblog: Let’s start with the obvious question—why do you want this job? Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Trump’s Pick for U.S. DOT Is GOP Insider Elaine Chao

Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao to serve as transportation secretary in his administration, according to Politico. Chao was secretary of labor under George W. Bush and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. An official announcement is expected shortly.

Chao has a long resume in federal government under Republican presidents. She served as deputy secretary of transportation under George H. W. Bush, rising through the agency from a post in maritime administration.

Chao’s family owns an international shipping empire, and her father is singlehandedly responsible for making McConnell one of the richest men in the Senate, according to the Nation.

While Chao has more experience in government and a less extreme ideological background than other Cabinet picks, she has been on the Trump team for a while, serving on the campaign’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council, according to Politico.

Chao is no environmentalist, having resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies as a result of its “Beyond Coal” campaign. Her involvement with the foundation reportedly became an issue in McConnell’s reelection campaign in Kentucky. She’ll now be operating for a White House that denies the science of climate change. Federal efforts to coordinate transportation and land use policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not survive in the Trump DOT, but that would have been the case no matter who landed the transportation secretary job.

Read more…

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Support Streetsblog Today

Click on the logo to make a donation.

Click on the logo above to make a donation.

By now you’ve gotten at least a dozen emails about #GivingTuesday asking you to donate to an important and worthy nonprofit. This year, of all years, there are a lot of great causes to support.

And I hope that you believe supporting Streetsblog is one of those causes.

Today, throughout California, staff are working on stories and podcasts to cover and explain issues both locally and statewide. Our talented and devoted team has broken news, framed stories, broadened conversations, and played a crucial role in creating safer, more attractive and more equitable cities.

In San Francisco, Roger Rudick hit the ground running during his first full year at the helm of Streetsblog San Francisco. Roger has proven himself as a talented reporter and unbiased watchdog finding the balance to praise government agencies when they deserve it, criticize them when they don’t, and put individual projects into a larger framework to explain why things happen the way they do happen.

At Streetsblog California, Melanie Curry has been covering issues around the state including local stories on the many transportation sales tax proposals on the ballot throughout the state, the ongoing attempts to modernize Caltrans, and how the legislative agenda can be set by local issues. At the same time, we’ve begun to add regular local coverage of the Central Valley and Orange County, two often neglected areas that have a lot going on.

In Los Angeles, Joe Linton and Sahra Sulaiman continued to be an amazing reporting team. Streetsblog Los Angeles was named the Best Blog in Los Angeles for the third year in a row by the Los Angeles Press Club. While Joe sets the editorial schedule and writes daily on the goings on in the city, Sahra works on deep dives such as her recent piece on the REEF Project in South Los Angeles.

All of these publications are nonprofits and rely on reader donations to keep going.

If you value the news, analysis, broadcasts, and event programming of Streetsblog California, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, LongBeachize and Santa Monica Next, then please consider making a donation today, right now. You can make your donations here:

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Hackers Threaten to Release Sensitive Data (Hoodline)
  • FBI and Homeland Security Investigate SFMTA Hack (SFBay)
  • Was SFMTA Cyber Attack Ongoing? (SFExaminer)
  • Transportation Demand Management Would Require More Bike/Walk Friendly Development (SFExaminer)
  • Satellite Images Detect Slowly Shifting Buildings of San Francisco (Curbed, SFGate)
  • Man Arrested for Allegedly Attacking BART Worker (Kron4)
  • Child Molested on BART (SFGate)
  • Motorist Strikes and Kills Pedestrian in San Jose (CBSLocal)
  • Anything Goes for Motorists in Private Parking Lots (MercNews)
  • San Rafael Police Get Electric Bikes (MarinIJ)
  • Marin to Buy Electric Buses (MarinIJ)
  • Commentary: SFMTA Hack Puts Focus on General Cyber Security Threats (SFChron)

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


SPUR Talk: Update on Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit

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A look at a short segment of Geary that will get true "BRT" upgrades. Image: CTA

A look at a short segment of Geary that will get true “BRT” upgrades. Image: CTA

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (CTA), along with SFMTA, is completing its final environmental review for “Bus Rapid Transit” and other street improvements on Geary. Last week, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) held an update/discussion about this busy corridor.

As many Streetsblog readers already know, the planned improvements are primarily in response to the overcrowding on the 38 bus, which runs the length of Geary to downtown San Francisco. “At 52,000 daily riders, it’s pretty crammed,” said Colin Dental-Post, Transportation Planner with CTA. “They’re stuck in traffic, so adding additional buses doesn’t necessarily work out…buses are so frequent they just bunch up…which results in further delays.”

CTA's Colin Dentel-Post, TransForm's Joel Ramos, Kevin Stull of the Geary CAC, and Nicole Ferrara of Walk SF. Photo: Streetsblog

CTA’s Colin Dentel-Post, TransForm’s Joel Ramos, Kevin Stull of the Geary CAC, and Nicole Ferrara of Walk SF. Photo: Streetsblog

True enough. And as readers are no doubt aware, Geary has long been eyed as a corridor badly in need of transit improvements, going back to old BART plans that had a line going under Geary before turning up to the Golden Gate Bridge for a trip to Marin County. But every rail and subway proposal has fallen by the wayside. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Early Draft of Transformative Climate Communities Guidelines Released

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 12.48.55 PMOne of the benefits of California’s cap-and-trade program is that it produces revenue that can be used to explore ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that might not fit into current ways of thinking about emission reductions. For example, the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program makes the connection between where and how people live and how they get around. As one of the few state sources of affordable housing money available, AHSC encourages developers to tie transportation in with housing at early planning stages.

In the last session, the legislature created a new program to do something similar for communities. The Transformative Climate Communities program, funded with $140 million from cap and trade under A.B. 2722, will focus on encouraging public participation and coordination among state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “provide local economic, environmental, and health benefits to disadvantaged communities.”

The money—pending approval by the Strategic Growth Council and other official channels—will likely go to Fresno ($70 million), Los Angeles ($35 million), and one more as-yet-unnamed location ($35 million). The program includes smaller grants for up to ten other communities to help them prepare for future possible funding rounds.

The idea is to engage people, institutions, agencies, community groups, and other organizations to find a way to transform those communities into sustainable, equitable, connected, economically and environmentally healthy places to live, so they can serve as a model to guide future state investments.

It’s one of those crazy aspirational ideas that California keeps coming up with—and keeps finding a way to succeed with.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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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…