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Contra Costa County Transportation Sales Tax Measure X Pleases Some

A general breakdown of Contra Costa County's transportation sales tax plan. Note that "Sustainable Communities" includes money for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, community development, and Complete Streets pilot projects, among others.

A general breakdown of Contra Costa County’s transportation sales tax plan. Note that “Sustainable Communities” includes money for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, community development, and Complete Streets pilot projects, among others.

Contra Costa County voters are considering whether to tax themselves to pay for transportation, and the plan accompanying the measure has a few potentially game-changing aspects. That doesn’t mean that sustainable transportation advocates all support it, however.

Measure X, like most of the other county measures on November ballots, is a thirty-year ½ cent sales tax increase. It’s expected to generate almost $2.9 billion over that period of time. It comes with a plan for how to allocate the money it raises, and will require at least 2/3 of the vote to pass.

Like other local measures, it allocates funds for both transit and roads, but Measure X also has a separate allocation for “sustainable communities,” a category that includes things like complete streets pilot projects and pedestrian and bike infrastructure. It allocates a fifth of its funding for “congestion reduction,” but language in the measure specifically calls for doing so not by widening roads but by creating alternatives for drive-alone trips.

Bike East Bay, working with several other partners including Rich City Bikes, Bike Concord, and Bike Walnut Creek, is working to help pass the measure. They see big gains for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including a robust “complete streets” program for major arterials, which includes almost $60 million for several pilot complete streets projects that will include accommodations for walking, biking, transit, and shuttles. That money will be distributed in the first five years of the measure, frontloading projects to test out concepts and show what can be done to make streets work better.

“People will realize we don’t have to widen roads to relieve congestion, and that they can be better for everyone, including drivers,” said Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay.

In addition, a separate four percent set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects, is expected to run to about $115 million. Two-thirds of that amount will go to cities, and one-third to the East Bay Regional Parks District for trails and bike access.

It’s less than advocates were hoping for, but they are willing to compromise for a reason: Measure X has strong language about accommodating all road users on “complete streets.” Read more…

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Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Projects Funded by SGC

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The Downtown Loop was one of 25 projects awarded funding under the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

Today the Strategic Growth Council approved 25 projects for funding under the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program. All of them combine affordable housing development and transportation improvements for either transit, walking, biking, or a combination of all three modes.

The council also briefly discussed preliminary rulemaking for a new program, the Transformative Climate Communities program (TCC), and draft guidelines for a pilot grant program to encourage local governments and agencies to plan for sustainable development.

The TCC is funded from a one-time allocation of $140 million from cap-and-trade as specified by A.B. 2722. Currently the proposed rulemaking calls for investing half of the money in Fresno, 25 percent in Los Angeles, with the remaining portion to be determined. Representatives from Fresno, including Mayor Ashley Swearingen and Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, showed up to praise this decision to invest in Fresno’s efforts to revitalize itself.

There will be a meeting on the proposed rulemaking, which precedes development of guidelines, on November 7 in Fresno. The SGC is welcoming comments until then by email to: tccpubliccomments [at]

The main event at today’s meeting was the vote on AHSC allocations. The goal of the AHSC program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled by bringing housing closer to destinations and providing ways for residents can get around without adding to the overall amount of driving. This is in keeping with the program’s funding source, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is fed by money the state raises through its cap-and-trade program.

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SGC staff showed this map of the distribution of projects awarded AHSC funding for 2015-16.

The projects recommended by staff and approved today by the council—see list after the jump—went through a complicated scoring process that took into account the presence of disadvantaged communities and differing urban and rural needs and realities. The approved projects are more or less evenly distributed throughout the state, with a similar number of projects awarded in the Bay Area, L.A., and across the Central Valley, with a few scattered farther north and throughout the state.

From an original 130 concept proposals, staff narrowed the field to 74 invited applicants requesting a total of $691 million. Of those, 25 projects were awarded a total of $289 million. The AHSC is one of the few sources of funding for affordable housing since Governor Brown closed redevelopment agencies, and this amount doesn’t come close to fulfilling the need.

Comments at the meeting reflected frustration from applicants who were not awarded funds, but there were other issues raised about this second round of funding.

Read more…

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CA Active Transpo Program Gets a Little More Money, With a Few Strings

Expanding the ATP by $10M with cap-and-trade revenues could help cities like Berkeley fix gaps in their bike network, making biking and walking safer for everyone. Image from Berkeley Draft Bicycle Plan Update

Expanding the ATP by $10M with cap-and-trade revenues could help cities like Berkeley, for example, fix gaps in their bike networks, making biking and walking safer for everyone. Image from Draft Berkeley Bicycle Plan Update

The most recent cap-and-trade allocation bill, A.B. 1613, allots $10 million to the Active Transportation Program. The money comes with a few strings attached. Any projects funded by cap-and-trade have to show that they reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also, the money must be allocated by 2018 and spent by 2020.

This is not likely to present huge problems, but California Transportation Commission staff held a meeting Thursday to discuss their proposed guidelines for these funds with stakeholders, and they are accepting public comments on them through Friday (submit comments to mitchell.weiss [at]

Since the Active Transportation Program already incorporates goals to encourage people to walk and bike rather than drive, the question of whether ATP projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be met with a collective “DUH!” to quote our former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But it is a hoop to jump through. The Air Resources Board has a tool for estimating greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and interested applicants will need to add it to their already complex applications.  The tool is undergoing an update, but for the moment it incorporates data such as an estimate of annual average daily traffic on parallel roadways, the length of a project, and the number of activity centers like hospitals and transit stations near the project.

Applicants will also need to estimate the total cost per ton of greenhouse gas emission reduction, which reflects a move towards quantifying the cost of reductions across all cap-and-trade investments. The focus on cost could be misleading, however, since there are so many other benefits that come from people bicycling and walking that don’t get quantified in a simple cost ratio. Nevertheless, ATP projects in general are likely to do well on this score, if prepared accurately. Bike lanes are a lot less expensive than most infrastructure projects, for example.  Read more…

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Local Sales Taxes for Transportation on Merced, Stanislaus County Ballots

Expenditure Plan for Measure V, Merced County. Source: Measure M factsheet

Expenditure Plan for Measure V, Merced County. Source: Measure V factsheet

One thing everyone seems to agree on: California’s transportation system needs fixing. On exactly what to fix and how to get money to do so, however, it is not so easy to find common ground.

The latest proposal from the state legislature is hanging in the balance, and there may or may not be a vote on it before the special session ends on November 30. But locals aren’t waiting around for the state to act. At least twelve counties have placed transportation sales tax measures on local ballots to help fund infrastructure, transit, and other transportation needs.

Streetsblog has already endorsed Los Angeles County’s Measure M. Below, Minerva Perez looks at two other local transportation sales tax measures in the Central Valley. Streetsblog will cover other counties in the coming week or so.


Stanislaus and Merced counties are both proposing half-cent sales tax measures to generate revenue to repair and refurbish local roads, improve on or build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and improve local and county transit services.

The taxes will also help fund several regional transportation projects. In addition, they will provide matching funds that will make it easier for the counties to compete for federal funds for additional projects.

“The funding addresses problems,” said Stacie Dabbs, public information officer at the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG), “but we will continue to fall back without the measure.”

Merced County: Measure V

If voters approve it, Measure V, Merced County’s initiative, would generate $450 million in revenue over the next thirty years. The expenditure plan calls for allocating half of the funding to local jurisdictions to spend on transportation needs as they see fit. The plan intentionally does not include specific projects, instead leaving those decisions for the most part in local hands. Dabbs noted that this means they can build new roads if they want to, or they can use the funds to repair potholes, repave streets, and replace traffic signals.

“We do have a huge backlog of maintenance needs,” she said.

About five percent of the remainder is for transit projects, and the rest will go for regional transportation projects, which can include highway “improvements,” passenger rail, or ride-share and vanpool programs.

There is one requirement on the local allocation, however. Cities must use at least twenty percent of it (ten percent of the total $450 million) for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Dabbs said the committee that drafted the expenditure plan, which included representatives from all of the county jurisdictions, wanted to make sure “everyone gets something out of this measure.”

“People that don’t have a car or use transit as their mode of transportation are still required to pay the sales tax, and we wanted to make sure that they see improvements across the board–not just on our streets and roads,” she said.

Read more…

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California Legislative Wrap-up: Session Over, Bills Signed

bikeatCapitollabel2Today is the deadline for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or reject any bills passed by the legislature this session, so there has been a flurry of activity in the last few days. Here’s a quick look at few freshly signed laws pertinent to sustainable transportation and the climate.

Transportation Safety

We’ve written about A.B. 1785 a few times, and watched it get watered down as it moved through the legislative process. In its final form, the bill by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) prohibits the operation of any handheld electronic communication device while driving a vehicle. They can be used, however, if they are attached to the dashboard, so distracted driving is not going away any time soon.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving was happy that Senator Jerry Hill’s S.B. 1046 was signed. The bill extends a pilot program requiring convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices if they want to get their drivers licenses back. The bill also lets someone who’s been convicted avoid the punitive license suspension if they install the locks right away. Our culture so strongly believes that driving is a necessity that we fail to imagine how useful it might be for someone to have to forego driving for a while.

Planning, Environmental Justice, and Climate Change

S.B. 1000 from Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) is a really solid bill that requires cities to consider environmental justice when updating general plans. Cities have to do so either by adding a new element to their general plans, or incorporating environmental justice into the entire plan. The new law specifically calls for cities to look at which communities are unduly burdened by health risks or pollution, to find ways to promote civil engagement in decision making, and to prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Read more…

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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.


Via Streetsblog California
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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 or 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…

Via Streetsblog California
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Governor Brown Signs Legislation Extending CA Climate Change Targets


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.