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California Brings Home Four TIGER Grants, Three for Passenger Rail

Map of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project. For more information, click ##http://www.sanbag.ca.gov/projects/redlands-sb-rail/RPRPFactSheetFebruary262014FINAL_000.pdf##here.## (PDF)

Map of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project. For more information, and a larger map, click here. (PDF)

The State of California earned four federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants to improve transportation from the federal government totaling $40 million, Senator Diane Feinstein announced earlier today.

“Upgrading our transportation infrastructure is key for economic growth and improving the quality of life for Californians,” said Feinstein in a press release. “Our state is home to 40 million people and it’s critical that we invest in a wide range of transportation options. This important federal funding will allow California to do just that.”  

Three of the four grants will improve transit service with another grant funding a one-mile road widening project in the small Sutter County city of Live Oak. The four grants are:

  • $15 million to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to separate the roadway and rail tracks at the intersection of Rosecrans and Marquardt Avenues in Santa Fe Springs, which sees more than 45,000 vehicles and 130 train crossings daily.
  • $8.7 million to San Bernardino County to construct the Redlands Passenger Rail Project from Redlands through Loma Linda to San Bernardino.
  • $6.3 million to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to refurbish the 19th Street Oakland BART station, including better bicycle and pedestrian access.
  • $10 million to the City of Live Oak to redesign a one-mile stretch of State Route 99, adding a fourth lane and a two-way turn lane.

Read more…

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New CA Law Requires Temporary Plates for Newly Purchased Cars

DS-326Via Ted Rogers at Biking in L.A. comes news that the State of California will be joining dozens of other states in requiring all new cars to have temporary 90-day license plates. The goal of the law, A.B. 516, is to make it easier to identify drivers breaking the law, be they toll-lane scofflaws or hit-and-run murderers.

Rogers is effusive in praise of the new law:

In a big step forward in the fight against hit-and-run drivers, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring all motor vehicles sold in the state to have temporary license plates when they roll off the lot.

Currently, drivers only have to display a small bill of sale, which can’t be read at a distance to identify a driver trying to flee the scene, or report them to the police for some other reason.

Later in his piece, Rogers dismisses the concerns of consumer rights advocates who oppose the law noting that there have been few complaints about similar laws in other states. While I, and I imagine most Streetsblog and Biking in L.A. readers approve of laws such as this, we should take the concerns of the detractors into account to make sure the DMV rules are as fair as possible.

The Los Angeles Times quotes a letter by Rosemary Shahan, president of the advocacy group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. Shahan ticks off a list of her concerns that people will get tickets for using expired temporary plates when dealers don’t submit paperwork, go out of business or sell vehicles with unpaid liens or tickets.  Read more…

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CAHSR Paints Rosy Picture, but Rail Line Is Still Political Hot Potato

After years of being beat up on conservative talk radio and in numerous other press outlets, the California High Speed Rail Authority finally hit a positive streak running several months this year. The organization broke ground on a major part of the program in Fresno, cleared a legal hurdle, passed a new business plan that pivoted construction to the Bay Area and Central Valley, and can now report that there will be high speed rail trains running in California within a decade.

The above video, created by the authority, covers these accomplishments and some lesser ones (We held hearings! We celebrated Earth Day!) and CAHSR is feeling, perhaps for the first time since funding for the first portion of the line was approved by voters in 2008, that they have the momentum needed to see this project through.

But that doesn’t mean that everything is in place. Even CAHSR’s promotional video concedes that funding to complete the line south from Bakersfield through Greater Los Angeles down to San Diego is uncertain.

The state’s cap-and-trade program has produced hundreds of millions of dollars every year for transportation and housing projects, including the California High Speed Rail program. But the program is currently set to expire in 2020.

Despite Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton’s observation that Governor Jerry Brown’s best hope to get the line funded is the election of Donald Trump, Brown’s immediate plan is to extend the expiration date for the state’s cap-and-trade program to 2050. Whether that will be possible remains uncertain – some legislators, mostly Republicans, argue that cap-and-trade is a tax and requires legislative approval. A ruling from a state lawsuit is expected later this year or in 2017. Read more…

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Environmental Justice Committee Seeks Input on Climate Change Plan

Sekita Grant of the Greenlining Institute and a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, leads a discussion about transportation. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Sekita Grant of the Greenlining Institute, a member of ARB’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, leads a discussion about transportation. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in 2006, opened the door for cap and trade, which among other things collects revenue to be invested in reducing emissions. The bill, A.B. 32, also created an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to help the state spend those revenues equitably.

The existence of this committee was an acknowledgement that the costs of cap and trade would ultimately be borne by consumers, and that communities that have been more heavily affected by climate change and pollution—usually low-income communities and people of color—while contributing monetarily, could potentially miss out on its benefits.

A.B. 32 also set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In April of this year Governor Brown signed an executive order that extended that goal, to a target of forty percent below 1990 levels by 2030. If the world could achieve that level of emissions, global warming would remain below the threshold of major climate disruptions, according to scientific consensus.

Brown’s executive order also calls for a new scoping plan to define priorities and create strategies to reach the new emission reduction target.

Air Resources Board (ARB) staff released a draft Scoping Plan Concept Paper [PDF] last month. The scoping plan is a giant effort that integrates existing plans, including the Sustainable Freight Action Plan and the California Transportation Plan 2040, and identifies policies to minimize costs and maximize solutions for multiple state goals, including economic vitality. It has to create a flexible framework, both because there are many, sometimes competing, goals and because greenhouse gas reduction strategies vary widely and need to be evaluated and adjusted as we learn more about them and their interactions with each other.

The environmental justice piece includes the recognition that “the capacity for resilience in the face of climate change is significantly driven by living conditions and the forces that shape them, such as income, education, housing, transportation, environmental quality, access to services such as health care, healthy foods and water, and safe spaces for physical activity, and good health status,” according to the Scoping Plan Concept Paper. Therefore strategies that focus on alleviating poverty, increasing opportunity, improving living conditions, and reducing health and social inequities “will result in more climate-resilient communities.”

The concept paper discusses various scenarios, for example: business as usual, continued cap and trade with a lower cap, or replacing cap and trade with a carbon tax. Each scenario would require different strategies and would vary in emission reductions.

Right now, the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee focuses on listening to advocates and the public’s concerns about environmental justice issues to keep in mind as they advise the ARB on the scoping plan. To that end, they have held meetings so far in San Bernardino, San Diego, and Oakland—the last of which Streetsblog attended last night.

The Air Resources Board's greenhouse gas inventory shows lower emissions since the passage of A.B. 32. Image from Scoping Plan Concept Paper

The Air Resources Board’s greenhouse gas inventory shows lower emissions since the passage of A.B. 32. Image from the Scoping Plan Concept Paper

Future meetings will be held starting next Monday in Wilmington, followed by meetings in South Los Angeles, Fresno, Modesto, Bakersfield, and Sacramento. See the end of this post for details.

At last night’s meeting, ARB staff and Environmental Justice Advisory Committee members first talked about what the state has achieved so far (some progress toward achieving the 2020 statewide GHG target accompanied by solid economic growth) and what it needs to achieve in the future (much more aggressive reductions in greenhouse gases, requiring more aggressive action by everyone— “all hands on deck”).

Then the meeting broke up into smaller discussion groups to tackle four issues in particular greenhouse gas-producing sectors: transportation, energy, industry, and natural and working lands, including urban forests.

Read more…

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Voices from the OCTA Active Transportation Leadership Program

Seventeen-year-old Alma Perez , from left, and Sergio Nieto, 16 in blue shiirt, of Anaheim High School listen to a presentation from a representative of the Orange County Transportation Authority. Residents of Anaheim and Garden Grove are currently attending workshops to learn about how transportation goes from policy to reality.

Sixteen-year-old Alexandra Retana, front left, and Sergio Nieto, 16, front right, both students at Anaheim High School, listen to a presentation by a representative from the Orange County Transportation Authority. Residents of Anaheim and Garden Grove are attending workshops this summer to learn about transportation policy and design, and how the state, counties, and local cities play a role in the funding and planning process.

Last week, I stopped by Garden Grove’s and Anaheim’s third Active Transportation Leadership Program workshops to meet some of the attendees.

The third workshop invited staff from each city, from Orange County Transportation Authority, Southern California Association of Governments, and from Caltrans to present their sector’s work in forwarding active transportation initiatives. Though the presentations pretty much stayed in the realm of wonky planner-speak, both the Anaheim and Garden Grove groups learned a lot.

Garden Grove’s more than fifteen attendees were mainly older adults, and the Anaheim group’s 24 participants were all teenagers. That’s reflective of the program partners, said Caro Jauregui, California Walks’ Southern California policy manager and ATLP lead. All of the young men in the Anaheim workshop are members of Anaheim Bros, a Chicano student leadership group out of Anaheim High School, and the young women are members of its sister group Crown, Jauregui said. Orange County League of United Latin American Citizens has been leading the efforts to invite Garden Grove residents.

Some attendees shared their thoughts with me about the program, the improvements they hope to see on their city streets, and the ways they get around town. Spoiler: running is one of their preferred modes. Read on after the jump to meet some of them. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Read more…

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ClimatePlan Studies SCAG’s Progress on Climate Change

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Climate Plan’s report looks at the results of SCAG’s Sustainable Communities Strategy

Can California meet its climate change goals? A.B. 32, which set in motion the state’s current climate change policies including cap and trade, is set to expire in 2020. The legislature and the governor are taking up the question of what’s next. Do we continue down the same path? Adjust our policies? Scrap them entirely and start over?

Now would be a good time to ask questions about whether we are on the right track. ClimatePlan, a coalition of environmental, equity, and transportation advocacy groups, just spent two years asking questions about one such policy in one part of the state.

Its report, Towards a Sustainable Future: Is Southern California on Track?, looks closely at the Southern California Association of Governments‘ Sustainable Communities Strategy. The SCS is part of SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP/SCS), as required by S.B. 375. These strategies are supposed to outline how each region will meet its state-mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets, including how changing land use patterns will reduce vehicle travel.

The Air Resources Board is charged with checking every region’s SCS and judging whether the plans will help the region meet targets. But its oversight seems to end there. That’s a big problem, because while the regions come up with the SCS, local cities and counties actually plan and approve land uses and the transportation that connects them. It’s possible for the SCS to be ignored at the local level where planning decisions are made, especially if no one is tracking or monitoring progress at that level.

SCAG adopted its first SCS in 2012, covering a massive and diverse six-county region including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. The plan’s goals included reducing passenger vehicles greenhouse gas emissions by nine percent per capita by 2020, and 16 percent per capita by 2035. SCAG has since updated the plan, in April of this year, to include a 21 percent reduction in GHGs by 2040. Attainment will be achieved by increasing carpooling, biking and walking, and transit use, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and increasing transit ridership.

So they say. But have the strategies in the first SCS even been put into practice? If so, are they working? ClimatePlan and its nonprofit partners studied SCAG’s 2012 SCS and asked two questions: is the region meeting its goals? And is that enough?

“The Sustainable Communities Strategies are twenty-year plans,” said Chanell Fletcher, Associate Director of ClimatePlan, “and they’re not going to change everything overnight. But climate change is happening right now. We need to know whether what we’re doing is working, and how to avoid exacerbating the problem. We need to be able to show whether these plans are being implemented, and whether we are making the needed changes—not just in our planning but in our decision making.”

Read more…

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CA Legislative Update: Student Transit Passes, ATP, Equity in Climate Policies

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bikeatCapitollabel2This week in Sacramento, policy committees are rushing through a last-minute load of bills. The July recess is looming, and this week is the last opportunity to pass bills in the 2015-16 session. That has led to limited public discussion in some committees, with committee chairs admonishing attendees to keep remarks short. Meanwhile amendments are being proposed, revised, and refined behind the scenes.

The biggest recent news is that Governor Brown signed the state budget, thus meeting the legal deadline to do so. But while the budget is officially complete, there are still some big holes in it.

For example, it includes no provisions for expanded transportation funding, including no increase in funding for the Active Transportation Program. The Transportation Special Session, called last year to find agreement on the issue, has not met for months and it is unclear whether it will meet again before the end of the session.

Also, no decisions about allocating cap-and-trade funds in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) have been made. Last year, almost half of those revenues were left unallocated, and the same is true for this year’s budget. The total revenue available in the GGRF is unpredictable, given the volatility of the cap-and-trade auctions that feed it, but current spending plans divvy up the money by percentage, so there is nothing to prevent the legislature and the governor from allocating it—except an inability to agree on priorities.

Bills that passed policy committees this week now go to appropriations committees before being sent to either the Senate or Assembly for a vote by the entire membership. Some of the ones that recently moved ahead:

Transit Pass for Low-Income Students: Assemblymember Chris Holden’s (D-Pasadena) bill A.B. 2222 calls for a statewide program to provide free transit passes for low-income students. It has been sailing through various policy committees. Last week A.B. 2222 passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, but several members abstained from voting, including Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). He is the chair of the Environmental Quality Committee, and the bill had to pass that committee this week, so there was some concern about whether it would move forward. In the end, though, Wieckowski voted in favor of the bill and it passed the Environmental Quality Committee this morning with no votes against it.

The sticking point was the source of funding. The bill originally called for using the GGRF to pay for the program, since getting students to shift from driving—Holden says they are the “largest drive-alone population in the state”—has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But there are existing student transit pass programs, which is how we know they are successful in reducing driving, and those existing programs could be eligible for statewide funding under this new program. The GGRF, though, requires its programs to produce new greenhouse gas reductions, and it cannot be used to fund programs that are already working.

So the solution was to eliminate references to the GGRF, and put off the question of funding for now. How that fits into the already-signed budget deal, however, remains unclear.

Active Transportation Planning and Programs: Another key bill was Richard Bloom’s (D-Santa Monica) A.B. 2796, which passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee with a lot of support and no opposition. Read more…

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DamienTalks 40 – Brown’s Housing Legislation with Jason Islas

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Today, #DamienTalks with Jason Islas, the editor of Santa Monica Next. This podcast featured Islas a couple of months ago to discuss a proposal by Assemblymember Richard Bloom to make it easier to build more housing.

#DamienTalksThe spirit of Bloom’s proposal lives on in a rider to the California Budget by Governor Jerry Brown. Islas will discuss that rider and why, in his view, the legislation would help ease the affordable housing crisis in California, especially the overheated markets in Los Angeles and the Greater Bay Area.

The legislation is controversial, next week we’ll have someone in opposition featured on the podcast. We’re going to try and cover both sides of this issue, as there are a lot of good people on both sides of the conversation trying to protect communities and increase our state’s housing stock.

This week’s #DamienTalks is also the first interview given by Islas since Santa Monica Next was awarded the “Excellence in Communication” prize from the American Planning Association in Los Angeles. Just in time for our fundraising drive, “Next’s excellence” is a credit to the work done by the entire Streetsblog California team. So if you support our efforts, please consider donating today!

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

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Caltrans Bicycling/Walking Survey Closing Soon, Draft CA Plan This Fall

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Caltrans is developing the first-ever statewide effort to provide guidance on bicycle and pedestrian planning

As part of the process to develop the first-ever statewide bike and pedestrian plan, Caltrans has been collecting general information from people about their current walking and bicycling experience. The survey, available here, closes on June 30.

So far the department has collected about 2,500 responses from around the state. The information will be used to help formulate a draft California State Bike and Ped Plan, with the completed plan due in February 2017.

While at the State Bike and Ped Plan website, sign up for updates on the next phase of public outreach. A webinar about the plan is being put together for some time in late July or August. When the draft plan is released this fall, there will be “another round of public engagement,” according to Scott Forsythe, who is managing the effort for Caltrans.

The plan’s website is also due for an update in the next few weeks.

So far Caltrans has held ten regional workshops—well, nine, with the tenth happening in Eureka tomorrow—with local agency partners to gather feedback about coordinating on bike and pedestrian issues. The regional workshops gathered about 170 representatives from cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, health departments, and law enforcement agencies. Bicycle and pedestrian advocates were invited to attend as well. See earlier SBCA coverage of a recent state plan workshop in Los Angeles.

The regional forums were an “early outreach effort,” according to Forsythe. A summary of the input from the forums will inform the draft plan. Then, in the fall, “there will be further opportunities for public input to the plan. We’re still looking for the best way to reach out to get the most effective input,” said Forsythe.

Currently Caltrans is developing draft objectives for the plan, with the help of a technical advisory committee made up of representatives of about forty planning agencies, state agencies, and advocates. The advisory committee “is a good cross section of California,” said Forsythe. “It includes representatives from urban areas and rural areas, mountain communities, coastal communities.” The advisory committee provides feedback on the draft objectives, and will help with developing strategies to meet those objectives and performance measures to evaluate whether they are being met.

The plan’s objectives are based on the six goals already developed for the statewide California Transportation Plan 2040. “There was an extensive statewide effort to develop the CTP goals,” said Forsythe, “and they apply to this plan.”

The goals in the CTP are a good start for a bike/ped plan. They are to: Read more…

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CA Legislative Update: Active Transportation Program, Bikes, and Budget

bikeatCapitollabel2California budget negotiations have moved into high gear with the naming of Senate and Assembly members to the bicameral budget conference committee. Leaders of the two bodies named five members each—up from three in previous years—and the conference committee held its first hearing this morning. The committee’s job is to find agreement among the three competing state budget proposals before June 15, when it must submit a final version to both houses to be voted on. The final budget agreement must be signed by the governor by the end of the month.

More on the budget, and the transportation issues that remain to be worked out, after the jump.

ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM

Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) saw his bill A.B. 2796  pass unanimously yesterday on the Assembly floor, and now it goes to the Senate. The bill requires a minimum of five percent of funds in the Active Transportation Program (ATP) to be allocated for planning and community engagement in disadvantaged communities, and a minimum of ten percent of ATP funds to be programmed for noninfrastructure purposes, such as education and encouragement activities.

The California Transportation Commission (CTC), which is in charge of allocating funds to the ATP, has resisted awarding funds for plans and programs, setting aside only two percent for planning in the most recent round of funding. The commissioners have made it clear that they prefer to fund building things: paths and other infrastructure. While this is good, it has put communities without money for planning—including small, rural, and low-income communities—at a disadvantage in the complex, competitive application process for ATP funding. Bloom’s bill is an attempt to make the process a little more fair.

It also acknowledges something that the CTC seems reluctant to recognize: that education and encouragement programs are necessary to get people to change their behavior, and actually use the infrastructure that communities are building. Programs like Safe Routes to Schools have seen their funding threatened and reduced with the CTC’s focus on infrastructure.

The CTC’s opposition hasn’t stopped its progress through the Assembly, but it may mean amendments in the Senate.

BIKES

The “Ride Side by Side” bill, A.B. 2509 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), is running into trouble. The bill’s author tried to add the word “safe” to existing law that requires a bicycle rider to ride “as close to the right as is either safe or practicable to the curb or roadway edge” but the words in italics above were deleted from the bill’s language. Apparently “safe” is just too subjective (and the legalese “practicable” is not?) for some legislators and their staff.

The intent of the bill is to clarify, for law enforcement and everyone, that it is okay for bicycle riders to ride side by side under certain circumstances—for example, while in a bike lane. But even that has met with stiff resistance and perplexity in committee hearings, where legislators, while protesting that they support bicycling, have made it clear they think riding side by side is a dangerous activity that will cause chaos in the streets.

The bill passed the Assembly and has been referred to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

BUDGET

The California Bicycle Coalition has issued an “action alert” on the budget, urging people to contact their legislators and encourage them to support increased funding for the ATP while they negotiate the details. The Assembly and Governor’s proposals includes this increase, but the Senate version does not. A call is especially urgent if you live in a district represented by one of the Budget Conference Committee members (see end of this post for a list of members).

Read more…