Steinberg: CA Cap-and-Trade Must Fund Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing

Negotiations over the California state budget are producing dueling proposals on how best to spend revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

steinbergatMacarthur
Senator Steinberg proposes affordable housing as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Photo courtesy TransForm.

While Governor Jerry Brown continues to call for a third of the cap-and-trade funds to go to CA high-speed rail, Senate President ProTem Darrell Steinberg last week expanded upon his alternative proposal to spend a larger share of the revenue on affordable housing and transit at the local and regional level.

State cap-and-trade funds are collected under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, A.B. 32. The law provides a way for companies to meet a state-mandated cap on greenhouse gas emissions by buying “pollution credits” produced when others exceed emissions reductions. Estimates vary on how much revenue the program will generate, but it could produce billions each year between now and 2020.

Standing in front of an active construction site for new housing units near Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last Thursday, Steinberg called for permanent sources of funding for affordable housing, mass transit, and sustainable communities development. The Senator argued that  California is facing a “catastrophic funding crisis” as affordable housing bonds run out, and noted that the transportation sector is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Californians are logging more vehicle miles annually than ever before,” Steinberg said.

Behind him, a forklift raised a load of lumber high up in the air, with an attached sign reading, “At least 972 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced every day.” That’s the amount by which  the housing project, which will provide 624 housing units next to the BART station, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other housing developments. Of those apartments, 108 will be leased at below-market rates.

Stuart Cohen of TransForm emphasized the link between affordable housing at transit-oriented developments and transportation, citing a new report from the Center for Neighborhood Technology that studied greenhouse gas reductions from building affordable homes near transit.

The report [PDF] found that low-income people living within ¼-mile of frequent transit drive half as much as those living where transit service is not as good. It also found that low-income households living near transit drive less and ride transit significantly more often than higher income people living the same distance from transit.

“If we could build 15,000 affordable homes near transit,” said Cohen, “there would be 105 million fewer miles per year traveled on our roads. With three years of funding for affordable housing, we could produce 1.58 million metric tonnes of carbon reduction.”

Steinberg’s cap-and-trade spending plan includes a smaller percentage of revenue — 20 percent — for high-speed rail than the governor’s proposal. Governor Brown’s plan would allocate 30 percent to transit, including capital and operations, and another 10 percent on street and highway repairs, deferred maintenance, and complete streets. “Active transportation,” or walking and biking projects, don’t have dedicated funding in either proposal.

  • “The report [PDF] found that low-income people living within ¼-mile of frequent transit drive half as much as those living where transit service is not as good.”

    Didn’t Steinberg read the reports from the World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins and the Sierra Club that housing within 1/4 mile of freeways (typically the location of transit) is now proven to cause increased rates of cancer, autism, birth defects, cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases?

    Sources:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3367838/
    http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/74715/E86650.pdf
    http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report04_highwayhealth/report.pdf

    In Europe people don’t live right adjacent to noisy and polluted stations – take a look next time you visit, that 1/4 mile around the station is filled with commercial. People like to live a few minutes away from stations/transit.

    Then let’s not forget that in most cases transit emits more GHG than cars (source: analysis of CARB EMFAC data).

    More: http://www.planningforreality.org

  • DMalcolmCarson

    The particular station where the press conference was held is located in the median of a major freeway. Not really a great example of where to build 15,000 units of new housing in the state.

  • jonobate

    Rail stations are not inherently “noisy and polluted”. In Europe it is extremely rare for transit to be located in freeways, and there are usually both commercial and residential uses within a quarter mile of stations. Even in the US, transit stations in the middle of freeways (e.g. MacArthur) are the exception rather than the rule.

    The sensible conclusion to draw from the studies you cite is that freeways should not be built through urban areas, not that housing should not be built near transit.

    Also, transit absolutely does not emit more GHG than cars on a per passenger-mile basis, which is the only sensible way to assess transportation GHG emissions.

  • @jonobate:disqus Sadly in Sonoma and Marin the stations for the new “SMART” train are almost all immediately adjacent to 101, and in Larkspur the very busy Sir Francis Drake Blvd. MTC station area planning grants are driving to build as many housing units as possible within the immediately adjacent 1/2 mile perimeter – which intersects with the areas that should not be developed for housing as they are unhealthy.

    The evidence against building around freeways has emerged in the last 10 years, I don’t see us building many new freeways, although I do see freeways being widened. So your conclusion while valid, may be somewhat moot.

    The real conclusion to draw is that we should be careful not to place human habitation, especially for those deserving opportunity and their health – like the affordable apartments proposed here – in locations known to have significant adverse health impacts. We really need to get beyond “Transit Oriented Development” to genuinely habitation friendly, sustainable and ultimately healthy housing solutions.

  • jonobate

    “I don’t see us building many new freeways, although I do see freeways being widened”

    Yes indeed, such as the Greenbrae interchange project, which the website you link to appears to support, complaining that SMART has diverted money intended for the project. How about we stop making things worse by widening the freeways that have already been built? Or does the impact of pollution from vehicles only count when it can be used as an spurious argument against transit projects?

    Where would you build housing, if not in already developed areas? The alternatives to building housing in developed areas are to build housing on previously undeveloped land, or to impose immigration and birth control policies to achieve a zero net increase in population, or to push population growth to other parts of the Bay Area and force them to deal with the impacts. I’m genuinely curious as to which one of these you support, or if you have some other strategy for dealing with population growth that I haven’t thought of.

  • Jame

    Although I think high speed rail is worthwhile, most people rack up most of their miles going to work or errands around town. Reducing VMT for those trips would make a huge impact.

  • Presenting that we must allow sprawl or stop births is a false dichotomy:
    http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/fallacies/false-dilemma.php

    There are many opportunities to achieve measured growth through second units and building conversions, and low density growth within existing urban boundaries without radically transforming towns with mid-rises and high rises.

    We need to take the many subsidies being offered exclusively to new building developers and allow people offering to provide second units homes, or developers performing conversions to gain equivalent benefits. Right now all benefits are exclusively geared towards development of new high density housing.

    Following measured growth we can grow while still ensuring we don’t create droughts, don’t incur the need for emitting desalination plants that require substantial energy causing release of GHGs, and don’t further compound sewer leakage issues that are causing the Bay to become toxic and further endanger wildlife.

    There is a very real “carrying capacity” to each locality within the Bay Area. Local planners and elected officials need to be involved to ensure these are not exceeded. We need to avoid dangerous use of carrots (grants) and sticks (failing to achieve RHNA numbers and exposing the town to lawsuits) by unelected regional government that can push us into unsustainable situations. This is not helped by ABAG’s preposterous population growth projections – projections that were developed without consideration of carrying capacity (I met with Steve Levy personally in Palo Alto who developed the projections where he attested to the fact that projections did not consider constraints e.g. carrying capacity).

  • These errands are very hard to perform on public transport – e.g. go to the grocery store, pick up kids… Even in places like the UK where gas is nearly double the price, vehicle miles travelled are almost identical to the US:

    Although the data is old, 1991, you can see the impact here:
    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/hs93/Sec7.pdf

    Page 7: VMT per car
    USA: 10,727
    UK: 10,553

    Gasoline Price:
    USA: $1.43
    UK: $2.55

    Remember Britain has a highly extensive public transit network, especially rail (Lord Beeching and his cuts of the 1960s aside), and distances between places are typically lower.

  • Jame

    It is all about placement and layout. If your kids have close neighborhood schools, there is no need to drive them to school.

    I started going grocery shopping on my bike, and I am no hardcore cyclist. It just takes a basket/rack I haven’t even optimized yet. I’ve got a small basket in the front that holds my purse, and a small bag of groceries. A rack in the back and a side basket that is grocery store bag sized. You could easily fit 3 full bags of groceries on my bike. I found that biking to the store takes maybe 5-10 minutes longer than the drive, and I get the bonus of a little exercise.

    This doesn’t mean you never need your car, but it is absolutely possible to use your car less with proper planning and design.

    If the grocery store is a 5-7 minute walk, it is no big deal to head over there twice a week. If your neighborhood park has the soccer field, your kids can walk (or bike) home after practice.

  • It’s a nice idea, and a great anecdote – but despite decades of pushing for more people to bike, here’s the actual US Census data for Alameda County:

    People commuting to work by bike, Alameda County:
    1990: 7,919 (1.3%)
    2012: 11,945 (1.7%)
    That’s tiny – as an absolute percentage that’s just 0.4% more biking in an entire 22 year period. The mass switch to bikes is not happening.

    Source: US Census commuting data
    http://www.census.gov/censusexplorer/censusexplorer-commuting.html

  • Jame

    Rates of commute do not tell the whole story. I live 30 miles from work, I am not biking. But I keep my car on the weekend as much as possible to use my bike instead. I’ll never show up on the stats. A few years ago a new Whole Foods opened in Oakland. After a few weeks they needed to double the bike parking due to overwhelming demand. Now there are about 60 bike spots for the store. I usually see at least 20 bikes parked all times of day, and I do not go past the secondary lots. Apparently a lot of people are biking to their errands.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Doesn’t matter if these trips are still done in car. If people are located closer to destinations, that’s fewer vehicle miles traveled.

    But what your data show is that in the UK, people actually are giving up their cars. Because the distances are lower, the only way you’re getting the same VMT per car is if people living closer in just don’t have cars at all. (Either that, or they’re adding additional travel in cars to make up for all the time they spend on rail and all the short trips they have for their “essential” local vehicle use.)

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Given that nationwide, most of the increase in biking has come since 2000, it looks like that’s a 30% increase in cycling in just over a decade. And Alameda County isn’t a particularly friendly one for biking. (Sure, Berkeley and Oakland are fine if you don’t live in the hills, but most of the population growth has been in the inland areas.)

  • Kenny Easwaran

    How much do all those unhealthy things increase with close proximity to freeways? How much do each of those unhealthy things (and others) decrease with greater amounts of walking? Until we can compare those numbers, there’s nothing here.

  • calwatch

    Unfortunately, one thing often not brought up is the decentralization of family activities. First of all, more kids are going to schools of choice, not just for high school (like I did) but for elementary and middle school as well, to take advantage of immersion programs, focused career academies, etc. in addition to the old reasons of escaping the failing neighborhood school. Kids have dance practice, gym, karate, soccer, etc. which are not necessarily in the same location as each other. This didn’t happen 20-30 years ago when middle class parents may have just participated in the local Little League or Girl Scouts, and not all of these specialized activities that have sprung up around a child’s interests.

    I’ve noticed a trend where teenagers are getting Uber’ed or Lyfted around from school to gymnastics or whatever, but that is primarily for well off parents. In addition with divorces and the trend towards joint custody, there’s a lot more driving involved than when the noncustodial parent sent a check and visited every other weekend. From a family perspective, there are more factors encouraging longer distances and more driving than there are walking and biking to destinations.

  • Darren

    What about VMT per *person* as opposed to per car? Using the population and total (car) VMT data from the report, VMT/person in the US was substantially greater than for the UK (3653 VMT/person in UK versus over 6000 in the US).

    But yes, I do agree about the difficulty of completing many ‘errand’ trips via transit, and especially trip chaining (e.g., leave work, pick up kids, go to grocery store, etc., then home–such multi-stop journeys would be beastly on transit unless all of the stops are impeccably located along very high-frequency transit routes).

  • These are the droids you’re looking for:
    http://goo.gl/bI8gxm
    Try page 52 to show official cancer risk increase based on distance from road or freeway based on traffic count.

    For traffic counts in any specific California freeway here’s the data that you need:
    http://traffic-counts.dot.ca.gov/2012TrafficVolumes.pdf

    For reference, in Marin highway 101 at N San Pedro Rd is 177,000 cars per day (off the chart).

    Also a “sensitive receptor” in these documents is planner/scientist speak for a human being. Wish they’d just say that.

  • Thanks – this is interesting and useful perspective. Good insight. Let me know if you find more recent data, particularly with VMT / person not /car.

    Public transit as you mention works really effectively when people travel along arterials into major employment centers. For other trips – not so much.

  • I suspect just like NYC distorts the stats, so does London. London has it’s own unique dynamics and a great transit system (that I used to use for many years).

  • @calwatch – this is really interesting perspective and the first time I’ve heard this noted. Any data on this really appreciated. But spot on.

  • There are two issues:

    – reducing GHGs; using a bike here, when practical clearly helps. Even EVs emit (electricity has to be generated somewhere, and you have to look a tthe last power station fired up (the marginal cost) – typically the last station fired up for us in California (or California EV users) is at Four Corners
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Corners_Generating_Station
    Sadly this means the emissions you think you’re getting might not be that amazing. But this said, I think EVs are great things.

    – reducing congestion, which is more of an issue during peak commute (e.g. not Whole Foods runs on weekends)

  • For another perspective, here’s a revealing article from Slate about the nationwide bike commute figures:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/05/08/bicycle_commuting_still_not_that_popular.html

  • baklazhan

    Well, there are two conclusions you could draw from that:

    London and NYC are simply unique and impossible to imitate, so it would be foolish to try.

    Or, London and NYC are successful models for a less car-dependent way of life, and should be learned from and imitated.

  • baklazhan

    Well, if you live in a society which favors car-based, geographically decentralized development, it’s no surprise that you end up with car-based, geographically decentralized lifestyles.

  • Guest

    I think you’ve got a “windshield view” here. A few of my friends don’t drive at all. They don’t even have a license so they can’t zip car, car share, rent a car etc. (These people are all over 30, child free, and have income to afford a car if they wanted. They also do not live in NYC, they live in the Bay Area). They do not bike either.

    When you are car free, you choose locations that make it possible to chain errands together. Let’s pretend you need to go to the post office, pharmacy, library, drug store and post office. You aren’t going to hop on the bus to the post office, then hop on another bus to the dry cleaner etc. My sister chains those errands together all the time, all of those places are within 3 blocks of her apartment. No bus needed. When she goes to Trader Joes, she takes the bus, but Trader Joes is located in a busy commercial district with other helpful stuff nearby: cheese shop, pharmacy, her dentist etc. So she can chain those trips as well with one bus ride.

    When she needs to do some shopping, she heads to downtown SF because it has all the stores and a Target easy to access via transit, several errands with one train ride.

    It is all back to planning and layout again. If useful stuff is concentrated together, chaining errands is easier in a car or not.

    I have found having a bike helps me chain Saturday errands as well. When I drove to those errands, sometimes I’d need to go to multiple close neighborhoods. All with not very easy parking. I hate hunting for parking (and paying), so I’d usually only go to one of those areas and skip the other ones for another day. Bike parking is way easier, so I can go to all of the popular commercial districts with no parking or meter drama. I just need my basket and a reusable bag, and I am all set!

  • Jame

    Almost all of Oakland’s BART stations are right by the freeway. Oakland is a little strange, as the freeway ramps are very randomly places, and development is a lot closer than in most places.

  • Jame

    Alameda county is a little strange though: even Piedmont has a higher bike commute rate than the national average, and there is no way to get around steep hills there: https://www.ebbc.org/modeshare

  • Jame

    I think you’ve got a “windshield view” here. A few of my friends don’t drive at all. They don’t even have a license so they can’t zip car, car share, rent a car etc. (These people are all over 30, child free, and have income to afford a car if they wanted. They also do not live in NYC, they live in the Bay Area). They do not bike either.

    When you are car free, you choose locations that make it possible to chain errands together. Let’s pretend you need to go to the post office, pharmacy, library, drug store and post office. You aren’t going to hop on the bus to the post office, then hop on another bus to the dry cleaner etc. My sister chains those errands together all the time, all of those places are within 3 blocks of her apartment. No bus needed. When she goes to Trader Joes, she takes the bus, but Trader Joes is located in a busy commercial district with other helpful stuff nearby: cheese shop, pharmacy, her dentist etc. So she can chain those trips as well with one bus ride.

    When she needs to do some shopping, she heads to downtown SF because it has all the stores and a Target easy to access via transit, several errands with one train ride.

    It is all back to planning and layout again. If useful stuff is concentrated together, chaining errands is easier in a car or not.

    I have found having a bike helps me chain Saturday errands as well. When I drove to those errands, sometimes I’d need to go to multiple close neighborhoods. All with not very easy parking. I hate hunting for parking (and paying), so I’d usually only go to one of those areas and skip the other ones for another day. Bike parking is way easier, so I can go to all of the popular commercial districts with no parking or meter drama. I just need my basket and a reusable bag, and I am all set!

  • Charles_Siegel

    Go to Amsterdam, and you will see supermarkets that have no parking for cars but large parking areas for bicycles. Many people use cargo bikes or trailers that let them carry large loads of groceries and children. See some pictures at http://preservenet.blogspot.com/2011/07/fietsen-van-amsterdam-bikes-of.html

    I live in California, but I have done my grocery shopping by bicycle for decades.

    I grew up in New York, and my mother used to do her grocery shopping by walking. Remember that we are talking about very compact neighborhoods around transit stations: you don’t have to take transit to get groceries, if you live in a pedestrian and transit-oriented neighborhood, where the grocery store is just a block away.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Compact development around transit stations has two goals:
    –build neighborhoods that make it easy for peoople to take transit, eg, for commuting to work.
    –make it easy for people to walk on other trips. The people who live here will have stores within walking distance, as well as having a transit stop within walking distance.

    You miss the second point by thinking only about public transit and not about walking.

  • Charles_Siegel

    That is because transit is generally better for commuting to work. Walking or biking is generally better for errands.

  • RichardC

    The idea of a particular location in the Bay Area having a “carrying capacity” assumes that the resources consumed per capita remain constant. Fortunately, dense multi-family development consumes fewer resources (water and energy in particular) than do single family homes with yards. And we can do a lot to make housing of all types more efficient both with better technology (low-water toilets, etc) and incentives or regulations to encourage people to use less (e.g. by switching to drought-tolerant plantings). So really we should focus on how we can accommodate as many people as we need to within the Bay Area within our resource constraints, not on shutting people out so everyone in Palo Alto can continue to water their lawns to their hearts’ content. And the best way to do that is with dense housing with sustainable (e.g. LEED) features located in transit, walking, and bicycle-accessible places.

  • neroden

    These shouldn’t be called alternatives; they go together. Local transport, intercity high speed rail, and dense housing next to train stations are *complements*, like ice cream and bananas. They aren’t substitutes.

  • neroden

    In Sonoma and Marin, the entire population is clustered around the rail line. And the freeway was dumped next to the railway line.

    The real conclusion to draw is that we should get rid of the freeway. Your conclusions are ridiculous.

  • But you’re talking about either:
    – additional, newly built multi-family homes
    OR
    – knocking down single family homes and replacing them with multi-family homes

    Either way you’re talking about adding capacity, even if per capita consumption decreases.

    I don’t think anyone is talking about “shutting people out” – almost everyone accepts continued slow growth.

    Regardless of how people get to work, the issue of water availability, sewers and ability to add taxes to support additional services remain. Some counties have exceptionally high taxes (E.g. Marin) yet are still being asked to subsidize more new residents – often having residents subsidize new residents that earn more than them. Taxes are another factor of “carrying capacity”.

  • @neroden:disqus
    Once built, the SMART train can carry 620 people an hour (theoretical maximum), but this is unrealistic. The ACE train has an average ridership of 44, but serves areas with much higher populations. The average of the US is 40 riders per train, this is elevated by trains on the East coast serving monocentric employment centers such as New York City and Boston. In actuality since SMART is in a suburban / rural area and does not directly serve major employment centers it’s unlikely to achieve this national average.

    101 in Marin today carries over 25,718 people an hour (Source: Caltrans). Emissions of GHGs per passenger mile on the freeway by passenger cars are lower than the railway line (Source: EMFAC / CARB figures specific to Marin, SMART published mpg & US average ridership). The locomotives will last 30 years with static emissions, while cars continually improve.

    The $1.6 billion cost of the railway line far exceeds other alternatives that could achieve equivalent “mobility” (e.g. buses). Buses are much better suited for suburban and rural Marin (not everything is immediately adjacent to the freeway as you suggest).

    It’s interesting that you suggest shutting down the freeway and not the rail line. The facts are against you.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    No, build new housing in already developed areas that aren’t within 500 feet of a freeway.

  • So long as:
    – it fits in with the character of the neighborhood (no completely out of proportion buildings like WinCup in Corte Madera)
    – there’s a genuine plan to address any increased traffic, parking impact etc…
    – this does not increase risk of droughts or necessitate GHG generating desalinization plants
    – it does not add pressure to sewers that leak into the Bay and make it toxic
    – finally we’re not making ridiculous assumptions like (a) all the residents will take transit or (b) by taking transit this will reduce GHGs (depends on the form of transit – this may work for biking, walking, Caltrains and BART on major arterials with high ridership, but not the SMART train or ferries and potentially not buses)

  • murphstahoe

    Stockton is not more populated than Santa Rosa. “Oh but San Jose!!!!” ACE does not serve residents of San Jose, only commuters to San Jose

  • murphstahoe

    Same bullshit stats. VMT Per PERSON is what matters, not per car. The same reference shows that the UK has less than half the number of cars per person.

    You are such a liar

  • murphstahoe

    Nice try Richard. I called you out on that last week and you used the misleading analysis again.

  • @murphstahoe:disqus – I flagged your last post as you descended into obscenities and accusations rather than providing a clear explanation of why the analysis was invalid or how it could be improved.

    I have flagged your post above again for just the same reasons.

    Happy to have a civil constructive conversation with those interested. But start throwing around obscenities and accusations that people are “liars” and the conversation is over.

  • murphstahoe

    To me – civil means not knowingly misrepresenting data. You know what you did.

  • murphstahoe

    What percentage of the UK population lives in London. What percentage of the US lives in NYC?

  • DMalcolmCarson

    I was just referring to the previous comment that seems to allege that it’s somehow not possible to avoid freeways and accommodate growth.

  • Actually you were raising a new point last time you descended into obscenities at me. Your point needed elaboration , but the obscenities made me want to tune out.

    Someone else makes the valid point about VMT above without descending to incivility.

  • 94103er

    Oh look, it’s Rob Anderson of the North!

    Except one thing Rob manages to do right is communicate clearly and effectively (though he is an annoying gadfly who belabors the point to just fatiguing even the most patient of listeners).

    Since you’re so eager to plug it here, I’m gonna give you a couple protips regarding pulling off a ‘professional looking’ gadfly-mouthpiece website.

    You can get away with the garbage you splash on your home page if you can pull off the following: 1) clear, provocative statements that get to the point quickly; 2) proper grammar and mechanics; 3) A single cited source in any of the ledes to your ‘articles.’ Oh, and also it helps to not have a duplicated ‘article’ or to advertise events that happened several months ago.

    Seeing as you have exactly none of these features to offer, I’m declaring after a 30-second assessment that you should either hire someone who does, or better yet–since your platform of ‘information’ is entirely unoriginal and has been repeatedly debunked here on Streetsblog–may I suggest another comment section? How about the lively audience at SFGate?

  • 94103er

    Add this to my comments. You really should learn basic concepts like ‘induced demand.’ Look it up.

  • 94103er

    Really, you think the word ‘bullshit’ is an obscenity?

    How’s the weather up there in Mayberry?

  • It has always amazed me how advocates for rapid, high-density growth accuse those favoring measured growth of all kinds of things, most especially incivility. Yet here we see quite the most remarkable display of incivility!

    1) Ad hominem attacks
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

    2) Name calling (94103er: “”gadfly-mouthpiece website”, “it’s the Rob Anderson of the North”, “what’s the weather like up there in Mayberry?”

    3) Sweeping generalizations (94103er: “your platform has been repeatedly debunked here on Streetsblog”)

    4) Insults and criticism of the website that I write (not factual, just the grammar could be better, the ledes improved…)

    5) Topped off with obscenities

    But 94103er provides not one single fact or relevant argument, no citations, nada. These are the tactics that someone who knows they can’t win the argument resorts to when they throw in the towel.

    There are signs of intellect behind the insults and irrelevancies. I would welcome resumption by 94103er of a civil conversation. And if there is a specific area that he disagrees with let’s hear it and conduct a worthwhile conversation.

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