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High Speed Rail Update: Animations of Potential Palmdale-Burbank Routes

Animation of one of the proposed HSR routes through the San Gabriel Mountains. The E2 alignment has a long tunnel in the valley, under the community of Shadow Hills. Image: Screengrab from HSR Blog.

Animation of one of the proposed HSR routes through the San Gabriel Mountains. The E2 alignment features a long underground section in the San Fernando Valley, under the community of Shadow Hills. Image: Screengrab from HSR Blog.

The California High Speed Rail Authority released three simple animations showing possible routes for the Palmdale to Burbank section. The animations appear on separate maps, so it’s hard to compare them side-by-side, but they give a pretty good idea of how very, very long the proposed tunnels are.

The routes vary slightly in the San Fernando Valley. They all begin in a tunnel, and cut either under Pacoima, emerging to pass around Hansen Dam, or under Shadow Hills, emerging for a moment in the recreation area before dipping back underground to cut through the San Gabriel Mountains. The routes also differ as they approach Palmdale, with the train emerging from the tunnels in a few places and then going back underground before finally emerging just west of Palmdale itself.

All three routes feature extensive tunnels through the San Gabriel Mountains. Estimated costs for the different HSRA segments were released in its 2016 Business Plan, but the cost differences between these three potential routes are buried in a Supplemental Alternatives Analysis. Buried deeply. The short version is that the most expensive of the three is Route E1, the middle route that passes close to the Pacoima Dam and steers mostly clear of Highway 14.

Check out the routes.

Note that there is a public meeting on the alignments tomorrow night, Thursday, September 22, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Fernangeles Recreation Center, 8851 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Sun Valley.

 

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The Streetsblog California Park(ing) Day Post

Today is Park(ing) Day, the now-ten-year-old celebration that repurposes street parking spots for people rather than cars.

Westwood Village in Los Angeles was the first picture we found today via Twitter.

Westwood Village in Los Angeles was the first picture we found today via Twitter.

The concept is simple. People “take over” a parking space and use it for something other than car parking for a day, or a couple of hours, or until the meter runs out. As you would expect, Streetsblog generally finds Park(ing) Day pretty exciting and has led bike tours, produced maps, programmed our own spaces, and of course covered the heck out of the annual event.

This year, we’re asking for your help to cover Park(ing) Day throughout California.

The goal of Park(ing) Day is to show how much public space is wasted for below-market-rate storage of people’s personal property. Once people experience what can be done in even a small amount of space, they usually want changes in cities’ public parking policies.

Park(ing) Day is something of a success. Today, the concept of a “parklet” has taken hold in many cities, and what were temporary have in many spots become permanent people parking spots.

ReBar, the group that started the idea in 2006, no longer exists, and participation on the official Park(ing) Day website is spotty, so there’s no one central place you can go any more to see where parking spots are being turned into temporary parks in your city, or others. But other groups have taken over and run with the concept, from local advocacy groups like WOBO in Oakland to the American Society of Landscape Architects, which is designing and putting up parklets throughout the country today.

So there are still plenty of great Park(ing) Day parklets popping up around the state. Send your media from Park(ing) Day throughout California to damien@streetsblog.org or melanie@streetsblog.org and we’ll include it in this post. If we get enough media, we may even make our own video. More California Park(ing) Day Media, after the jump. Read more…

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Report: For Best Results, Address Equity and Climate Change Together

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 3.05.40 PMCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown just signed major new climate change legislation, and people will be grappling for a while with what the new laws will mean on the ground—and how California will be able to achieve its new greenhouse gas reduction targets. Tomorrow, several state agencies will be tackling the question of how to reach those targets in the transportation sector—Streetsblog will have more coverage of that later.

Meanwhile, a new report from researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California Berkeley sets out to guide the ongoing policy conversation by pointing out the interconnections between climate change and equity.

The report, Advancing Equity in California Climate Policy: A New Social Contract for Low-Carbon Transition, discusses why climate change policies need to address equity and outlines benefits that will accrue if the state gets it right:

While many economists—and more than a few politicians—believe that disparities are simply a necessary (although unfortunate) consequence of economic growth, recent research shows otherwise: high levels of inequality are toxic for economic prosperity and sustainability. Research on environmental and health disparities parallel this finding, revealing that environmental injustices have negative spillover effects for society at large.

“What is climate equity?” ask the authors. “How can it be defined in a way that promotes both good jobs and prioritizes those communities that are hardest hit by climate change, multiple environmental hazards, and socio-economic stressors?”

The report sets out to help create a framework under which policies like renewable energy standards, incentive programs, and cap and trade can be developed—and assessed. It calls for policies to promote environmental justice, economic equity, and public accountability.

Professor Manual Pastor, Director of the Center for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC and one of the authors of the report, said that a well-thought-out framework is key. Read more…

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CalBike Reminds Local Leaders: It’s Okay to Build Protected Bike Lanes

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CalBike and Alta Planning designed this brochure to update local planners on Caltrans-approved designs for separated bikeways.

The California Bicycle Coalition launched an unusual campaign this week to inform local leaders that building protected bikeways is not only allowed, but encouraged.

In the past designing and building separated or protected bike lanes was deemed too difficult or impossible because of Caltrans’ disapproval. The state planning department, although it doesn’t control every local street and road, sets standards that local planners and engineers tend to follow. That has essentially meant that any innovative street design—like protected bike lanes—has needed strong local champions, extreme tenacity, and more patience than it normally takes to just follow a pre-approved Caltrans street design.

But the Protected Bikeways Act of 2014 changed that by requiring Caltrans to come up with design guidelines for separated bike lanes on which bicyclists can feel safe.

Since then, Caltrans has been allowing locals to use the NACTO urban street design and bikeway design guidelines, incorporated protected bikeways into its Highway Design Manual, and written its own Class IV Bikeway Guidance. It also has issued other publications encouraging innovative street designs such as its Complete Streets Implementation Plan—and let’s not forget it created a goal of tripling the number of trips made by bicycle in California by 2020.

CalBike wants to make sure local transportation decision makers are aware of these changes and that they can incorporate separated or protected bikeways into their plans. Working with Alta Planning, CalBike leaders designed a brochure and is mailing it out to over 250 leaders throughout the state, including city traffic engineers, mayors, city managers, public works directors, and elected officials.

The brochure, Class IV Separated Bikeways: Approved for Use in California, is a four-page introduction to separated bikeways, their definition and benefits, as well as the basic fact that they are approved by Caltrans. It also contains lots of great photos, and a list of the California cities that have already built protected bike lanes—a list that is rapidly becoming out of date, as more cities build them. The cover, seen above, features a picture of protected bike lanes in Modesto.

The brochure can be found here [PDF] and will be available for download soon on the CalBike website, in case Streetsblog readers want to forward one to their own city’s planners.

Read more…

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Governor Brown Signs Legislation Extending CA Climate Change Targets

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Governor Jerry Brown (at podium) speaks before signing climate change legislation. Behind Brown are, left to right, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Assemblymember Anthony Rendon, Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Senator Ricardo Lara, Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, Assemblymember Richard Bloom, and Assemblymember Matt Dababneh. Hidden behind Governor Brown is Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In a signing ceremony at Vista Hermosa Park in Los Angeles today, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation extending state climate change targets through at least 2030. The governor was joined by key legislators who shepherded the legislation’s approval. These included Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Senator Ricardo Lara, and assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Jimmy Gomez, Richard Bloom, and Matt Dababneh.

The governor officially approved S.B. 32 and A.B. 197. S.B. 32 sets targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, while A.B. 197 creates more oversight and requirements for the Air Resources Board, the agency in charge of defining and regulating emission reduction methods. These bills are expected to enable the state to continue and strengthen the state’s cap-and-trade programs, which fund transit capital, transit-oriented affordable housing, high-speed rail, and other programs designed to reduce harmful emissions.

In a hard-fought battle this summer, where commentators asserted that the state’s cap-and-trade program was dead, senate and assembly leaders secured last minute approval for this critical legislation.

Though Governor Brown did not call out big oil by name this time, he made clear today that this approval had been “a fight” against “the biggies” who pressed to defeat these “far-sighted and far-reaching” bills.

To some extent, today’s ceremony represented a changing of the guard for California climate change leadership. Senator Pavley, who led efforts to create the state’s initial climate change regulations in 2006, spoke of the history of California’s successful past efforts to limit greenhouse gases. Pavley, who represents the west San Fernando Valley, western L.A. County, and eastern Ventura County, is termed out of the senate. Pavley acknowledged the new generation of younger environmental leaders, especially embodied by Eduardo Garcia. Garcia, who represents the Coachella Valley, acknowledged the importance of Pavley’s leadership, and went on to speak of the importance of environmental legislation addressing disparities by improving the health and well-being of people of color living in economically distressed communities.

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State Updating Disadvantaged Community Screen, Workshop Tonight in L.A.

Attendees at workshops on previous versions of CalEnviroScreen grapple with how to define a "disadvantaged community." Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Attendees at a workshop on previous versions of CalEnviroScreen grapple with how to define a “disadvantaged community.” Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is updating CalEnviroScreen, holding a series of workshops and webinars starting this week and continuing throughout September—see the end of this post for locations and details. The first one takes place in Los Angeles this evening.

CalEnviroScreen is the official tool used by state agencies to determine what constitutes a “disadvantaged community” so that it can prioritize funding as called for by law—in particular by S.B. 535, which requires that cap-and-trade money be invested in communities that bear a disproportionate burden from pollution. The state recognizes that some communities suffer more than others from climate change and environmental problems—communities located in areas with bad air quality, for example—but has struggled with the question of how to define those disadvantages.

Because it involves money, the question quickly becomes very political. San Francisco, which has pockets of overburdened communities, was upset when those communities were too small to show up on CalEnviroScreen. Other cities want adjustments so as to better highlight communities that are disadvantaged in terms of income, since there is a history of ignoring low-income community’s environmental struggles.

CalEnviroScreen uses nineteen measurable characteristics to identify the state’s disadvantaged communities. For example, communities that are closer to hazardous waste sites or polluting industries score higher on the CalEnviroScreen map. The “pollution burden” includes factors like levels of ozone and diesel, quality of drinking water, and exposure to traffic and pesticides.

The tool also measures characteristics like higher rates of asthma, low birth weight, poverty, and unemployment, factors which would indicate populations that are more vulnerable to pollution.

In its new version 3.0, the CalEnviroScreen methodology has been refined. It also takes advantage of more and better data than was available when it was first formulated.

Read more…

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DamienTalks 40 – Michael Manville on Automatic Road Widenings

It’s been a while since we recorded a #DamienTalks specifically for the California website, but now we’re back with a good one. In this week’s edition, Damien Talks with Michael Manville, a professor and researcher at UCLA.

#DamienTalksManville has hit a bit of Livable Streets fame with an article he wrote for the Journal of Transportation and Land Use. In that article, he outlines why laws requiring developers to invest in road widening to “mitigate” traffic created by their development don’t actually do anything to improve traffic flow locally or regionally.

Almost nobody who understands transportation planning believes that these requirements do anything to improve traffic flow–yet these laws persist.

Manville doesn’t only debunk the theory behind the laws, but also offers a solution…should policy makers heed his call.

You can read “Automatic street widening: Evidence from a highway dedication law” at the Journal of Transportation and Land Use here, and a summary of the article from Streetsblog USA here.

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 Report: Speeding and Aggressive Driving Cause Most Crashes

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Speeding was by far the most common cause of crashes. Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

Caltrans crunched four-year-old collision data from the California Highway Patrol and found that nearly twenty percent of traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries are speed-related.

In the 2013 report, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 71,000 collisions were attributed to speeding. Likewise, rear-end collisions occurred far more often than “sideswipes,” the second-leading type.

But, the article continues,

Despite these seemingly large numbers, traffic-related fatalities on California’s highway system — and the nation as a whole — are actually continuing a downward trend.

That is, measuring since 1995, collisions resulting in fatalities and severe injuries declined by as much as 25 percent, despite a small uptick between 2010 and 2013.

It’s too bad there’s such a huge lag time in collecting information from the CHP. Other sources, such as the National Safety Council, have more recent data that shows national trends have continued that upward tick—and that they took a dramatic leap in the first six months of 2016.

Also unfortunately, the Mile Marker doesn’t help interpret the data. Why, for example, are rear-end crashes far and away the most common type? Could it have something to do with distracted driving? Or maybe it’s because drivers feel invulnerable after years of safety efforts that have focused on the occupants of cars–with airbags and seatbelts–but not on the people they hit?

And why, oh why, is Caltrans still calling crashes “accidents”?

This Mile Marker also charts progress towards some of the department’s 2020 goals, including reducing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities—and let’s just say, there is a ways to go on that one. Fatalities rose between 2012 and 2013, rather dramatically, instead of dropping. What’s happened in the four years since?

Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

The Mile Marker is a newish way for the department to get information out to the public about what it’s up to and why. Other articles in it don’t rely so heavily on old data. They include discussions of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan and this year’s state budget, great photos of artworks on highway underpasses, and an outline of the California Transportation Plan 2040’s recommendations for reaching state greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Via Streetsblog California
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Opposition Grows To Problematic Assembly Taxicab Bill A.B. 650

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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…

Via Streetsblog California
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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…