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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation and activities related to sustainable transportation.

With the legislature in recess, Sacramento waits for Governor Brown to decide on hundreds of bills passed by lawmakers before they left town. His deadline is the end of this month, and he has begun signing small groups of bills.

A Win for Bikes on Buses: The governor signed A.B. 2707, from Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), allowing 40-foot buses (not longer) to carry mounted bike racks that can carry three bikes. L.A. Metro, the bill’s sponsor, will be able to add half again as much bike-carrying capacity to more than half of its fleet, including new buses on order, and the new regulation applies to transit agencies throughout the state. See Streetsblog’s coverage here.

Climate Change Conversation: State leaders held a symposium in Sacramento this week to pat themselves on the back for state efforts on climate change. Both former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Governor Jerry Brown spoke at the gathering, which also featured talks by climate change researchers and business leaders who are finding ways to thrive under California’s regulations.

The overall themes were: California leads the world; California needs to do more, and soon; the economy will not wither and die if we try to fix climate change; and individuals still do not understand the impact of their individual choices. See Ethan Elkind’s recap of the symposium here

Bicycling was mentioned twice in the course of the morning. It’s hard to say whether that’s progress: a life-long bicycle activist I spoke to afterwards told me there’s a sense that bikes will never be able to replace long driving commutes and therefore a focus on bikes seems too small and too slow in the face of the enormity of the climate change challenge. But Jim Brown of Sacramento Bicycle Advocates had a different reaction: he was inspired, he said, to focus on what individuals can do now, and on helping them overcome obstacles to doing it.

I think my colleague Joe Linton has it right: put a map on your fridge, draw a two-mile (or one-mile) circle around your home, and commit to walking or biking every trip you make within that circle. You won’t convince me that enough people taking that one individual action won’t make a big difference.

High-Speed Rail Foes Prolong Litigation: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and other opponents of California’s high-speed rail program announced they will take their case against the project to the California Supreme Court. They are appealing the recent Court of Appeals reversal of a lower court’s ruling against the sale of bonds to build the train.

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. about California transportation to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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Governor Brown Signs Bill Allowing 3-Bike Racks on Longer Buses in CA

Under a new law California law, transit agencies are now allowed greater use of racks that carry three bikes, like this one on L.A. Metro’s Orange Line BRT. Photo by Ensie via Flickr

California transit agencies are now allowed greater use of bus-mounted bike racks that hold three bicycles. Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 2707 Tuesday, a bill authored Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) to allow 40-foot-long buses to be equipped with folding bike racks that can carry up to three bikes.

It was the first bill signed by the governor this year that’s on Streetsblog’s unofficial watch list of bills related to sustainable transportation.

Current law restricts the length of vehicles equipped with bike racks on California roads to a maximum length of 40 feet. An exception was created for AC Transit in the Bay Area, after legislation was passed several years ago to allow the agency to exceed the length limit when it added three-bike racks to the front of its buses.

Another bill in the most recent legislative session was aimed at creating a similar exception for Santa Cruz, but it was dropped when L.A. Metro came forward with A.B. 2707 to change the law throughout the state. Metro will soon receive a large order of 40-foot buses, and thanks to the new law, will be able to expand its bike-carrying capacity on the majority of its fleet.

“It’s a major, major gain. I’m terrifically happy this made it through the system,” said Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition, which had been pushing local legislators to address the issue since 2012“If a bus only comes by every half hour, then there’s only space for four bikes every hour. People were being left stranded. This bill will enhance capacity by another half.”

A sticking point in 2012 was pushback from operator unions, who wanted a say in when and how the longer bike racks are used. Until now, exceptions to the 40-foot rule have allowed three-bike racks on buses up to 60 feet long, but only after approval from a Route Review Committee that must include representatives of the transit agency, the driver’s union, and an engineer.

“The Route Review Committee is required to convene and unanimously approve every route for triple bike racks,” said Michael Turner of Metro. “Our concern is that we have over 100 bus routes, with over 2,000 buses in service. We want to work with our operators, but it’s not good policy to give them veto authority; it’s also not practical, given the size of our operations.”

Since Metro the Route Review Committee requirement has only been applied to 45- and 60-foot buses, the agency has thus far focused on placing three-bike racks on the 40-foot buses that make up a large part of their fleet.

“Bike use has been growing, and we’ve seen more demand, especially on our rail system,” said Turner.

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California Legislation Watch: End-of-Session Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

A substantial crop of bills relating to safe and sustainable streets successfully wended its way through this year’s legislative session. Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign the following bills so they become law in January 2015. Alternatively, he can veto them–or ignore them. If he lets them languish until after the deadline, they will die on their own.

Hit-and-run crimes:

A.B. 47, Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles): Would create a statewide Yellow Alert system for hit-and-run crimes.

A.B. 1532, also from Gatto: Would require an automatic license suspension for hit-and-run convictions in which a person was hit, no matter how light the injury.

A.B. 2673, Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena): A civil compromise with the victim would no longer release a driver from criminal prosecution for hit-and-run crimes.

A.B. 2337, Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona): Would extend license suspension for felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run convictions from one to two years.

Bicycles:

AB 1193, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco): Would require Caltrans to create standards for protected bike lanes and would allow local jurisdictions to follow other standards.

SB 1183, Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord): Would allow cities, counties, and park districts to submit a ballot measure for a local vehicle registration surcharge to pay for bicycle paths; would require passage by 2/3 of voters.

Pedestrians and cyclists:

A.B. 2398, Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael): Would define “vulnerable road users” and raise fines for causing them bodily injury.

Other forms of transportation:

S.B. 1275, Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles): Would add a “mobility option” (public transit or car sharing vouchers) to existing monetary incentives for retiring older polluting vehicles, and addresses the fact that electric vehicle incentive programs largely benefit the rich – by providing higher incentives to low-income buyers of electric vehicles.

A.B. 1646, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley): Would add a question to the driver’s license exam about the dangers of distracted driving associated with cell phones and texting, and assess a point against a driver’s record for cell phone infractions.

A.B. 2293, Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord): Would require drivers for rideshare app companies like Uber and Lyft to carry more insurance. The companies raised a stink about the proposed bill but ultimately came to an agreement with the author over the amount of insurance required ($200,000) and when it is required (while logged on and carrying passengers).

S.B. 1077, Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord): Would create a pilot program to test the concept of replacing gasoline taxes with a Road User Charge, which could more closely reflect actual road costs caused by individual drivers than a tax on fuel.

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.
For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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Protected Bike Lane Bill Approved By Legislature, Awaiting Governor

With Governor Brown’s approval, protected bike lanes like these ones on San Francisco’s Market Street could become easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes was passed by both houses of the state legislature this week and only awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to establish engineering standards for protected bike lanes or “cycletracks,” a new category of bike lanes for cities to use.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that cities that want to build separated bike lanes must still go through a process to get an exemption.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its convention of naming bike lane types by “class” and numeral, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways,” adding to Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

“We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition. ”He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

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Four Hit-and-Run Bills Pass CA Legislature, Wait for Governor’s Signature

Hit-and-runs have been a problem in California for a long time. In this 1973 publicity still, Adam 12′s fictional television LAPD officers speak to the relative of a victim of a hit-and-run. Four bills to curb these crimes await Governor Brown’s approval. Photo: Wikipedia

Four bills targeting hit-and-run crimes in California await Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, including two from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who has made hit-and-runs a focus this year. The bills have passed both houses of the California legislature and are awaiting the governor’s signature.

One, a late addition to the legislative calendar (A.B. 47), would allow law enforcement authorities to broadcast information about vehicles suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run collision using the existing “Amber” alert system, which notifies the public about child abductions via changeable message signs on freeways across the state.

The system is strictly limited to avoid its overuse, and the Senate made amendments to the bill to further tightened restrictions. The new “Yellow” alerts would only be allowed when a hit-and-run has caused a serious injury or death. There has to be at least a partial description of the vehicle and its license plate available, and there must be a chance that making the information public will help catch the suspect and protect the public from further harm.

Another Gatto bill, A.B. 1532, would require an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit. Currently, consequences for leaving the scene of a crash are light if the victim has less than serious injuries, but someone who drives away can claim not to know how badly the victim was hurt. With this law, anyone who drives away and gets caught will face more serious consequences just for the act of leaving.

Meanwhile, the bill from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), A.B. 2673, which would remove the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit-and-run conviction, has also passed both houses of the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Current law allows someone convicted of a hit-and-run to avoid criminal prosecution if they come to an agreement with the victim of the collision, and this bill removes that possibility.

Yet another bill, A.B. 2337 from Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), would extend the period of time that a driver’s license is suspended for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years. This would apply to anyone caught and convicted of a hit-and-run that caused the death or serious injury of another person.

If stiffer penalties can make people think twice about leaving the scene of a crash, then these bills may well help reduce the incidence of hit-and-runs. As long as people believe they can escape the consequences, however, the heavier penalties may not act as a deterrent. But combined with a new system that will broadcast a car’s description and license plate for all to see, it will be more difficult to escape.

As Assemblymember Gatto said, “Together, these bills will empower the public to help us catch hit-and-run drivers before they can cover up the evidence of their crimes and ensure the perpetrators of these cowardly acts think twice before leaving fellow citizens dying on the side of the road.”

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Steinberg Kills Bill That Sought to Delay Cap-and-Trade on Fuels

Mobile billboard against the "hidden gas tax." Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

Mobile billboard against the “hidden gas tax.” Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

The misinformation campaigns trumpeting an imminent “hidden gas tax” in California lost a battle with the defeat of Assemblymember Henry Perea’s bill, A.B. 69, which was designed to delay application of cap-and-trade to the fuels industry for three years.

Fuel companies have already begun participating in the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, buying pollution credits that they can use to help them meet the greenhouse gas emission cap set by the state. Emission caps will not apply to the fuel industry until this coming January, but they have had years to prepare for it.

Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg sent a letter to Perea [PDF] explaining his decision not to let A.B. 69 go forward. The bill may not have had much of a chance of passing anyway, but this settles the question without the Senate or Assembly having to take it up in the final few days of the legislative session.

A.B. 69 was originally a bill about water quality, and had been considered and passed in the Assembly as such, when at the last minute Perea completely rewrote it, in what’s called a “gut and amend.” At that point, it was in the Senate, where it would have had to pass out of several committees and then pass with at least a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor before the Assembly could take it up.

Steinberg killed it in the Rules Committee. In his letter to Perea, he wrote that “bringing non-stationary fuels under the cap is not an unforeseen issue that demands legislation which sidesteps the democratic process.” And “a measure of this importance should not be considered in the final weeks of a two-year session.”

Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

Today was the last day to amend bills for this legislative session. Any bill that doesn’t get passed by midnight next Sunday, August 31, will be officially dead.

Among the flurry of votes, the following bills passed out of both the Assembly and the Senate and are now waiting for the governor to sign—or veto:

Vehicle registration surcharge for bike paths and trails: SB 1183 from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) would allow local jurisdictions–cities, park districts–to place initiatives on the ballot to fund bike paths and trails with a local vehicle registration surcharge. Because this fits Brown’s ideals about fiscal responsibility—that is, the surcharge cannot be imposed unless 2/3 of voters approve—let’s say this one is likely to be signed.

Bike racks on buses: AB 2707, from Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), would allow newer, longer buses to carry bike racks that fit three bikes. Right now buses are generally restricted to two-bike racks, except in a few places that argued for an exception. This would make the rules consistent statewide.

Traffic violation fines in school zones: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres). Despite unanimous passage in both houses and all the committees it passed through, advocates are worried that Brown may decline to sign this bill because it uses fines to generate revenue. In this case the revenue would have been used for active transportation projects.

The bill originally called for fines to be doubled, to match fines in construction zones. However, the original language would have required new signage and legislators balked at burdening locals with those costs. Now, the bill merely adds a mandatory $35 increase to any other fines a scofflaw motorist would incur for unsafe driving in a school zone.

Meanwhile the following bills passed the Senate and returned to the Assembly for approval of Senate amendments: Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

With a deadline for amendments looming next Friday, marathon floor sessions are keeping legislators in the capitol churning through long lists of bills.

Protected Bike Lane Bill Still Being Amended: A.B. 1193 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) is the bill that would add protected bike lanes, or “cycletracks,” to the four types of bike facilities defined in the California Street and Highways Code, and would require Caltrans to create engineering standards for them by January of 2016.

A secondary aspect of the bill, which allows local jurisdictions to choose a different safety criteria than that created by Caltrans, is meeting some resistance on both sides of the liability debate (cities don’t want liability, and consumer advocates want someone to take responsibility). The bill actually passed on the Senate floor on Wednesday, but it was pulled back to make amendments to address those concerns.

The California Bicycle Coalition, the bill’s sponsor, is pleased with the results of negotiations. “We have come to an agreement with both sides of the debate,” said Dave Snyder, CalBike’s director. “We’ve agreed to new language and that this bill will not affect liability.”

A.B. 1193 will be heard again in the Senate some time next week. It’s expected to pass, but the Assembly will have to approve the new amendments.

School Zone Violations: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), would raise fines for traffic violations in school zones and put any proceeds from those fines towards the Active Transportation Program. The bill passed the Assembly this week, and must go back to the Senate for another vote because of minor amendments made on the Assembly floor. If it passes there, it will have to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who has been unwilling to sign bills that raise fines in the past.

Hit-and-Run Fines: It’s also unclear whether Brown will sign A.B. 1532, from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would raise fines for hit-and-run convictions. The bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee and is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Hit-and-Run Alert System: A.B. 47, also from Assemblymember Gatto, would create a “Yellow Alert” system to notify law enforcement and the public about hit-and-run crashes when someone has been seriously injured, and solicit help in finding the perpetrator. This bill has sailed through the legislature, with the Senate adding one requirement to the list of conditions under which the system can be activated: that “public dissemination of available information could either help avert further harm or accelerate apprehension of the suspect.” The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week and it’s awaiting a Senate vote.

Bicycle Infrastructure Surcharge: S.B. 1183, from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), would authorize local agencies to impose a motor vehicle registration surcharge — upon approval by 2/3 of local voters — to fund bicycle paths and trails. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week on a partisan vote and has moved on to the Assembly floor, where it is set to be voted on next week. If it passes without amendments, it will go straight to the governor. Will he sign it?

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PM

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

The legislature just came back from its August recess and spent the week catching up on its to-do list. The next few weeks will see a flurry of bills being voted on—and amended—before the session deadline on August 31.

LOS gone from CEQA: Big news! California is taking a big step away from wholly car-centric planning measures. Jarrett Walker calls it the toppling of a tyrant. Earlier this week, a bit after its July 1 deadline, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research published its draft recommendation to replace Level of Service (LOS) standards with Vehicle Miles Traveled under the California Environmental Quality Act. A 45-day public comment period just started, so if you have something to add to the conversation, say it by 5 p.m., October 10: CEQA.guidelines@ceres.ca.gov.

School zones treated as safety zones: S.B. 1151 from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) flew through the Appropriations Committee Wednesday and is headed to a vote by the full Assembly. The bill would raise the fines for infractions and moving violations within school zones. Any funds generated would go into the state’s Active Transportation Program.

Gas price scare tactics: A.B. 69, the attempt by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) to delay the application of cap-and-trade emission limits to fuels, has been causing a ruckus. The press has been covering the issue with uneven success; some completely missing the mark (including  this story claiming that the law requires a gasoline “tax” to go into effect as soon as the new year hits: wrong). State Air Resources Board (CARB) chair Mary Nichols last week responded to a letter from Perea [PDF], emphasizing that any gas price volatility would likely  be less than what California consumers experience regularly.

Meanwhile the Legislative Analyst Office sent Perea’s office its analysis of the possible price effects of bringing fuels into the cap-and-trade program [PDF]. The LAO put its estimate of gas price increases—resulting from oil companies passing on the costs of cap-and-trade, NOT because they would be required to charge consumers more money—at between 13 and 20 cents per gallon by 2020 (and maybe as high as 50 cents). However, the letter continues, if fuels are not made subject to cap-and-trade, hypothetical alternative strategies might have a similar effect on gas prices. It also notes:

Even if cap-and-trade leads to a large price increase, it might be difficult to distinguish this increase from other fluctuations in gasoline prices. For example, a price increase of 60 cents per gallon of gasoline—an increase larger than many of the estimates we reviewed—would be smaller than the difference between the highest and lowest weekly gasoline prices observed in 2013.

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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California Bill Would Remove Legal Loophole for Hit-and-Run Drivers

Assemblymember Steven Bradford

California Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena)

The California Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill next week from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) that would close a loophole in state law that allows some hit-and-run perpetrators to avoid criminal prosecution.

Current law requires any driver involved in a collision that results in injury, death, or property damage to stop and provide contact information to the victim or to police at the scene of the crash. But if the driver later returns, and eventually works out a civil agreement with the victim, the court can drop misdemeanor hit-and-run charges. Bradford’s bill, A.B. 2673, would remove that option when a hit-and-run causes injury or death.

“Hit-and-run crimes are a particularly dangerous offense, and they are on the upswing,” Bradford wrote in a press release. “A person involved in an accident who refuses to even stop poses a great danger to society and they should not be able to buy their way out of facing punishment for endangering the public. Writing a check may clear a dangerous driver’s conscience, but it should not automatically clear their record.”

Read more…