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Opposition Grows To Problematic Assembly Taxicab Bill A.B. 650

Taxis xxx

Will A.B. 650 create a more level playing field for taxis? The city of L.A. doesn’t think so. Photo by Boris Dzhingarov via Wikimedia

It is no secret that taxis and ride-hail companies (Uber, Lyft) are in need of a more even playing field. California’s taxi industry is regulated tightly by local municipalities, generally cities. Ride-hail, also called TNCs (Transportation Network Companies), are regulated relatively laxly by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC). But proposed state legislation that would theoretically put the taxi industry on a more even footing is ruffling some feathers, especially in southern California, where the city of Los Angeles this week voted to formally oppose the legislation.

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) is the author of A.B. 650, called the Taxicab Transportation Services Act. The bill is working its way through the legislative process, currently awaiting approval of the Senate Rules Committee, and expected to be voted on by the Senate soon. If approved by the Senate, the bill will then have to go to the Assembly where it would need to be approved before Wednesday.

A.B. 650 would remove local control of taxis, shifting responsibility to the PUC.

Theoretically the bill would apply to the entire taxi industry statewide, but there is a carve out so it does not apply to San Francisco. San Francisco’s taxis operate on a medallion system, which serves as a sort of retirement benefit, so upending that system could constitute a “taking.” City of L.A. taxis operate under a franchise system, which does not feature a similar retirement benefit for drivers.

One big issue in Los Angeles’ opposition to A.B. 650 is the city’s bottom line. The city currently charges a fee of $30 per month per taxicab, totaling $360 per year. Under A.B. 650, cities’ or counties’ taxi permit fees may not exceed $50 per year per taxicab. L.A. uses the current funding stream to enforce restrictions against taxi’s other competition: “bandit” or unlicensed cabs. Bandit cabs are not subject to consumer protections including approved fare structures and disabled access.

L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds is critical of A.B. 650 because the city would lose the ability of ensuring taxis serve Los Angeles’s transportation, labor, equity, and environmental goals. Reynolds stated,

Local control matters because of what’s coming next–our ability to regulate an increasingly autonomous fleet of rides for hire. For the present, we lose the ability to require lifeline services for people with disabilities, equitable service to every neighborhood in the city, and a green taxi fleet. For the future, we lose the ability to encourage ridesharing through pricing and to prohibit things like empty taxis circling the street. Read more…

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CA Assembly Passes Bills to Extend Greenhouse Gas Targets to 2030

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.

Today, the California Assembly passed A.B. 197, the companion bill to the Senate’s greenhouse gas reduction target bill, S.B. 32, which it passed yesterday. A.B. 197 will now go to Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law, which he has said he is eager to do. S.B. 32, which extends greenhouse gas reduction targets out until 2030, passed the Senate later in the afternoon and is also headed to the governor’s desk.

Proponents hail the passage of the bill as a historic moment, continuing and expanding California’s precedent-setting climate change efforts. Senator Fran Pavley’s S.B. 32 extends her original 2006 bill, A.B. 32, which called for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The new bill sets new targets of 40 percent below those 1990 levels by 2030.

S.B. 32 leaves it up to the California Air Resources Board to adopt rules and regulations “in an open public process” to “achieve the maximum, technologically feasible, and cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

The passage of S.B. 32, which did not look like a sure thing a year ago, was surely helped by being connected to its companion bill, A.B. 197 from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). That bill gives the legislature oversight stronger oversight over the Air Resources Board, something that critics of A.B. 32 and its resulting rules about cap and trade have complained is needed.

Oversight is provided through the addition of two members of the legislature to the Board as well as by creating a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, to include at least three Senators and three Assemblymembers. The bill also requires the ARB to make its emissions data available to the public, and to report on each method and alternative methods it considers for reducing greenhouse gases.

Garcia, presenting his bill to the Assembly today, addressed charges that the two bills do not “go far enough.” But “doing nothing keeps us in the same position, with our hands tied behind our back, continuing to complain about ARB being out of control and losing our ability as a legislature to do anything about climate change,” he said. “I feel confident about the oversight this will bring.”

Read more…

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Stop Already with the “Cap-and-Trade Is Dead” Business

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Senator Fran Pavely, author of A.B. 32 and its potential successor, S.B. 32

Some members of the mainstream media seem to be enjoying a good rip on California’s climate change policies, especially its cap-and-trade program, heralding its imminent collapse and describing Governor Jerry Brown as desperate and “nervous” about whether he can save it.

And some of those media pundits are going a little overboard, like the Los Angeles Times’ in-house curmudgeon George Skelton when he derides High Speed Rail as Governor Brown’s “choo-choo.”

But hold up there, cowboys. Yes, there is a pending court case about whether cap-and-trade is a tax—and therefore whether it needed to have passed with a 2/3 majority—but there are pretty good arguments against that reasoning, and the case has already been shot down once.

And sure, last spring’s cap-and-trade auction was disappointing in terms of raising revenue, but greenhouse gas emission reductions from the cap are not affected by the amount of revenue collected in the trade. And while we still don’t know the results of this week’s auction, permits had recently been trading on the open market at a price above the auction’s floor price. So let’s not jump in to proclaim the program’s demise quite yet.

Skelton’s derisive column is not helpful in the midst of a proliferation of ramped-up pessimism and misleading allegations about cap-and-trade. Do we want California to do everything it can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or would we rather stand around arguing about it? We’re kind of running out of time here.

(Note to the author of the above-linked nonsense, and like-minded people: stop it already with the “hidden gas tax” stuff. It’s just silly. For one thing, any pass-along costs to consumers are minuscule compared to the fluctuations in gas prices we endure; and for another, consumers should be paying for cleaner air, since we’re contributing to the problem by driving so much.)

Read more…

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California Senate Proposal for Cap-and-Trade Revenues Focuses on Equity

bikeatCapitollabel2The Senate released a spending plan for the unallocated portion of cap-and-trade revenues today, in the form of Assembly Bill 1613. The plan, say Senate leaders and advocates, focuses on environmental equity while supporting projects that will reduce greenhouse gases.

Cap-and-trade revenues, raised at auction from companies that pollute, are required by law to be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Forty percent of the total auction revenues are allocated by formula to several programs that include High Speed Rail, the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, and transit. Just yesterday, the California State Transportation Agency allocated $390 million for transit projects throughout the state, including streetcars, rail extensions, and increased bus service.

The remaining sixty percent of the revenue has yet to be decided upon. This Senate plan is a step towards finding agreement with the Assembly and the Governor, each of which has previously proposed slightly differing expenditure plans. Last year, the end of the session passed with no agreement being reached. With only a few weeks remaining in this year’s session, an agreement is not guaranteed, although leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly have said they are committed to finding one.

Meanwhile greenhouse-gas reduction programs, like waste diversion programs, are in limbo until they know whether they will be funded or not.

The Senate proposal has support from advocates for its focus on environmental equity. “This represents good progress,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “This proposal means real help to low-income families and their neighborhoods.”

The plan would spend over $1 billion on programs and projects to reduce greenhouse gases, including the Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Transportation programs (which provide incentives for clean vehicles, among other things), waste diversion, methane emission reduction in the dairy industry, healthy forests, energy efficiency, and renewable energy programs.

The Active Transportation Program would receive $5 million under this proposal, which is better than the goose eggs offered in the previous Senate plan but a far cry from the $100 million called for by advocates and included in the original Assembly expenditure plan. As a method of reducing greenhouse gases, active transportation is hard to beat, yet so far it hasn’t received any money from the proceeds of cap and trade.

The plan does, however, set aside $175 million for a new program called “Transformative Climate Communities” that will support disadvantaged communities in efforts to coordinate and combine different projects and programs that together can multiply their greenhouse gas reduction benefits. That could include anything from bike infrastructure to planting trees to building charging stations for electric vehicles.

Read more…

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Garden Grove, Anaheim Residents Envision Pedestrian Friendly Cities

Anaheim

Anaheim High School students wait for their chance to speak during the Anaheim city council meeting on August 9. Image: Anaheim Bros. Facebook Page.

As 16-year-old Alexandra Retana walked up to the podium during last week’s Anaheim City Council meeting’s public comment period, she took a breath to calm herself.

It was her first time speaking to council. Dressed formally and perfectly groomed, she still felt nervous as she readied herself to speak.

“It was scary because they are so high up there, and we never speak to people like that,” said Retana, a junior at Anaheim High School.

Retana, along with other students from Anaheim High School, came to the August 9 council meeting to speak as part of the culmination of the Active Transportation Leadership Program, a crash course for residents who want to help reshape their streets for biking and walking. The students—for many it was their first time speaking to the council—spoke about the need for better safety and accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists in their communities.

Retana raised the issue of pedestrian safety on her route to school along Sycamore and Citron streets. The area favors cars more than pedestrians, she said, and people need more high-visibility crosswalks in yellow or white paint to help them safely get across the street.

At a different public forum Garden Grove on July 26, several residents who are participating in the ATLP program there spoke to city staff about their concerns. Read more…

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CA Legislative Update: Student Transit Pass Bill Is Dead—For Now

bikeatCapitollabel2A bill that would have created a statewide program to fund low-cost transit passes for students stalled out in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

There is still a slim chance to get something passed this session—more on that below—and there’s always next session, when bills can be introduced anew. But for now, A.B. 2222 from Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) is dead.

What stopped it, ultimately, was funding. As originally written, the bill would have used money from cap and trade to fund the program. But the Senate Environmental Quality Committee removed that language because legislators have not been able to agree on how to allocate the cap-and-trade money. With no funding source identified, the bill was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s “suspense” file.

There it stayed, and there it died, despite bipartisan support and a strong commitment from the author, for whom A.B. 2222 has been a priority.

Read more…

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Legislative Update: GHG Targets, Cap&Trade, Transportation Special Session

bikeatCapitollabel2The California legislature returned from its summer break last week and now has one month to finish all the business it started in this session.

If it can.

Pending issues include a bill that would extend current greenhouse gas emissions goals past 2020, creating an expenditure plan for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, and finding agreement on transportation funding as called for by Governor Brown with the Transportation Special Session.

It’s not clear whether any of these three issues will actually be resolved before the session ends on August 31, the last day either the Senate or Assembly can pass any bills.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

During an interview with reporters last week, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León renewed his commitment to extend the greenhouse gas reduction targets beyond 2020 via legislation “one way or the other,” but he did not commit to any specifics. Currently S.B. 32, which would extend and expand the 2020 targets laid out in 2006’s A.B. 32, is still in play, but it’s not clear whether it has enough votes to pass right now.

The California Air Resources Board has already put forward a plan to reduce emissions beyond the 2020 target, but that is an administrative action that could be changed should a future governor decide to do so. By setting targets via legislation, whether in S.B. 32 or some other future bill, lawmakers would be better assured that the targets would stay in place.

The disappointing results of the most recent cap-and-trade auctions has created some urgency around this, as some believe the results were due to uncertainty about the future of the program in light of the targets ending in 2020.

To complicate matters… Read more…

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Anaheim Bike Plan Aims to Add 120 Miles for Bikes: Open for Comments

The Anaheim draft Bike Master Plan can be found on the City's website at anaheim.net/bike.

Anaheim’s draft Bicycle Master Plan can be found on the City’s website at anaheim.net/bike.

The City of Anaheim released its draft Bicycle Master Plan on August 1 and is looking for public feedback. The plan proposes to add 120 miles of additional bike facilities to the city, which would triple currently existing infrastructure.

“We’re trying to make the most complete bike network,” said Jaime Lai, transit manager for Anaheim. 

The city will hold a workshop for planning commissioners at 5 p.m. TODAY, Monday, August 8, at Anaheim City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

The plan, with interactive maps, can be found at anaheim.net/bike. Comments on the plan can be sent to bike@anaheim.net until August 31.

The Bicycle Master Plan would be adopted as an amendment to the city’s General Plan Circulation Element and is expected to be carried out over the next twenty years.

Planners estimates it would cost more than $68 million to realize the entirety of the plan. Since 2004, Anaheim has only spent around $6 million on bicycle infrastructure projects.

While there is a lot to like about the plan—it addresses first/last mile access as well as integrating road maintenance with bike facility installation and maintenance—there remain a few concerns. Read more…

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Will California Legislature Make it Legal to Roll through Red Lights?

Drivers don't need any more encouragement to encroach on pedestrian zones. Photo: Melanie Curry

Drivers don’t need any more encouragement to encroach on pedestrian zones. Photo: Melanie Curry

No, this is not about a bill to allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, sorry. This is about a bill that supposedly set out to lower fines for cars that turn right on red without stopping. It is sailing unopposed through the state legislature.

The bill, S.B. 986 from Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), was already looking pretty bad to traffic safety advocates. But Brenda Miller at MyFeetFirst.org noticed something even more insidious in the bill’s wording. Its current draft removes the requirement that drivers “remain stopped” at a red light until it is safe to proceed.

“That seemingly small change,” she writes, “effectively legalizes the ‘California stop’ at red lights.”

The bill still requires drivers to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and approaching vehicles, but without the requirement to remain stopped it will be much harder to enforce that provision. It also puts pedestrians at much greater risk, as Miller points out:

SB 986 fails to consider our typical wide, arterial roads where cars in adjacent lanes obstruct a motorist’s view. With two to five lanes in each direction, edging forward is always dicey. Add a slight curve and/or a few parkway plants and/or a truck . . . even the safest drivers have a hard time seeing what’s coming, especially kids. “Remain stopped” in existing law is important.

Streetsblog has already complained several times about this bill, which supposedly was written to assuage complaints that automatic red light cameras were ticketing too many people for violating red light rules. Too many tickets means too many people are violating the law, not that the law needs to change or the fines need to be lowered.

The fine reduction seems like a distraction when you realize that if it is passed the way it’s currently worded, S.B. 986 could change the way drivers navigate intersections.

“It prioritizes the right to make a careless turn,” said Miller, a safety advocate who has worked in the city of San Clemente for many years. Read more…

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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…