To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It’s time to put LOS in the past. Will SoCal make it define our future?


By Jessicam, March 9, 2016

In January, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released draft guidelines that would usher in a new era of transportation planning that prioritizes greenhouse gas emissions reductions, improving public health, and providing more transportation choices over decades of sprawling auto-oriented development. The OPR’s guidelines would replace the prioritization of the Level of Service (LOS) with reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

But, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the region’s six county transportation agencies are resisting the change.

Many of our partners working to address climate change, support safer communities for walking, bicycling, and transit access, saw the OPR recommendations as a “rational next step, and a national precedent,” as written by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Climate Plan (See their blog post here). Prioritizing the reduction of VMTs, overall, would result in more bikeable, walkable, healthy, and low-carbon communities. We couldn’t agree more.
“The new guidelines remove “Level of Service” (to cars) as a significant transportation impact of new development. The new measure is Vehicle Miles Traveled.” Bill Sadler at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
But, SCAG and their group are asking for exemptions from the revised guidelines. Specifically, they are asking to be grandfathered in all projects in the 2016 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS), State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and voter-approved sales tax measures. However, many of those projects, including many road widenings, wouldn’t be subject to these new guidelines even though they will inevitably increase VMT. SCAG argues that these road widenings are necessary to accommodate future growth, and that any increase in VMT would be balanced out by VMT reductions in transit-oriented areas that will see growth. (See SCAG’s letter to OPR here)

Pushing back against the Governor’s OPR, SCAG recommended preserving LOS and congestion impact analysis. If we preserved this old-school method, projects that increase the amount of driving would further promote suburban sprawl and exacerbate public health problems rather than prioritize affordable housing, safe walking and bicycling infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our regional transportation network.

The Governor’s OPR recommendations are a major milestone for battling climate change and advancing healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities across the state. Some cities, including Pasadena and San Francisco, are getting a head start and adopting these changes before OPR even finalizes these guidelines.

We welcome these progressive changes in Southern California, especially when the Governor’s office is leading the charge — let’s just hope SCAG jumps on board before we get left behind.

To help get Southern California back on track to become a leader in climate change and transportation equity, please sign your organization onto this response letter to SCAG by Friday March 12th by emailing jessica@investinginplace.org.

Fix California’s crisis-plagued transit funding


March 9, 2016

 Highway repair work causes drivers entering Sacramento on Highway 50 to come to a near stand still. The future problem will be funding such repairs. (AP file photo by Rich Pedroncelli)

 Highway repair work causes drivers entering Sacramento on Highway 50 to come to a near stand still. The future problem will be funding such repairs.

California transportation authorities have been warning for years about problems in our state’s gasoline tax-based structure of paying for highways and their repair.

That’s because the good news on so many fronts associated with higher-mileage and hybrid and electric vehicles — American energy independence, attacking global warming — also is the bad news when it comes to fuel-tax revenues coming into Sacramento’s coffers. California has a large backlog of roadway and transit-infrastructure repair, and that is why we have supported experiments looking at the best way to change the ways motorists pay for our highways, including moving toward a tax based on miles traveled, not just fuel purchased.

Until recently, the problem had seemed a looming one, but not a cause for institutional alarm.
That’s all changed. In a letter dated Jan. 27 sent to all members of the California Legislature, the California Transportation Commission called the funding situation a “crisis” that “continues to worsen.”

And the commission is using more than strong words. Charged with overseeing spending not only on roads but on state-funded rapid transit such as urban rail systems, its members announced a cutback of $754 million in available funding for projects that have already been approved over the next five years. Not only that — there will be “no new projects” funded, since no new money is available.

“There will be a significant delay (in funding) for the projects that remain ... almost all are at risk of delay,” commission Executive Director Will Kempton told the editorial board this week.
For California motorists, for users of rapid transit, for long-haul truckers, this is very bad news indeed.

The letter to legislators includes a list by county and legislative district of projects that may be delayed or terminated because of the funding crisis. For various bureaucratic and political reasons, the hits to road repairs come harder to tiny counties such as Lassen and Lake than they do to Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. There are only four at risk for “deletion and delay” in L.A. County, for instance, whereas Mendocino has 10. We may be OK without a couple of small boulevard-widening schemes. But then check out this line item: “Light Rail Vehicles. $102,400,000.” The CTC is warning, right as Southern California is on the verge of major new rail connections, that we may be short a few cars.

In San Bernardino County, the biggest of five projects at risk for cutback or elimination is the Kramer Junction four-lane expressway, with $155,095,000 potentially on the chopping block, along with projects to improve the 215 and 210 freeways. In Ventura County, planned HOV lanes on the 101 are threatened.

The problem of saving what the CTC calls California’s “crumbling transportation infrastructure” isn’t off in the future — it’s today. Last year the Legislature took up but failed to come to agreement on any bills that would address that problem. Senators and Assembly members, we realize you believe your constituents don’t want to hear about new taxes. But unless we change the way we fund both roadways and rapid transit, we fall into a pothole from which there is no escape. Do the brave thing and quickly adopt comprehensive improvements to the fuel tax to keep California on the move.

Action Alert! Support New CEQA Guidelines for Sustainable Transportation

From Sylvia Plummer, March 9, 2016

Voice your support for the revised CEQA Guidelines by signing on to this letter by 5pm Friday, March 11. Please email Bill Sadler at bill@saferoutespartnership.org with your name, organization and logo.

Goodbye, “Level of Service” for cars! It’s taken years to develop, but the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has finally released its proposed update of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines on evaluating transportation impacts. The new guidelines are a major step forward. For too long, CEQA actually measured delay to cars as a negative environmental impact – as if cars speeding around was good for the environment. In fact, slowing cars down makes streets safer and helps get people into other, healthier forms of transportation. This step will advance the healthy, sustainable, equitable communities that sustainable transportation advocates across the state are working hard to create. But opposition to the guidelines is growing from government agencies and business interests who are happy with the status quo, especially in Southern California, which is why your support is important. You can read more about our support for the guidelines and our original comment letter to OPR here.