CA Legislation Watch: Bills Introduced That Could Impact Livable Streets

by : streetsblog – excerpt

The deadline to introduce new bills to the California legislature was Friday, so a slew of new legislation is currently being assigned to committees for hearing. Some of them are so-called “spot” bills, as in “hold a spot in line for me, bub,” containing a bare minimum of information, with the plan being to shape them in legislative discussion. All of them are likely to be amended before reaching a vote, and they must go through two voting processes (one in each house) before being passed on to the governor to be signed. Meanwhile, they give some clues about what our lawmakers are thinking about.

Here are the bills in play that could potentially impact livable streets.

A.B. 2398 would raise fines for drivers who injure “vulnerable road users” in California — primarily, bicyclists and pedestrians. Vulnerable Road Users Law: Asm. Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced A.B. 2398, which raises the fines charged when drivers cause injury to “vulnerable road users,” defined as pedestrians, bicyclists, and people using farm equipment and riding horses…

Bicycle Tax: Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) has proposed S.B. 1183, which would allow local jurisdictions to set a tax on bike sales. Funds from the tax would go towards trail improvement and maintenance. Cyclelicious got this right, pointing out that while bike tax proponents argue that the tax would provide “political credibility that cyclists pay their way,” this is a “bankrupt excuse of an argument,” since road infrastructure is disproportionately bankrolled by non-drivers through general taxes.

Redefining Electric Bicycles: Asm. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) put forward A.B. 2173, which would define electric bicycles with motors that are limited to a top speed of 20 mph as “low-speed” electric bikes, and allow them to ride in bike lanes and on bike paths and trails…

Cycle Track Standards: A.B. 1193, from Asms. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Mike Gatto (D-L.A.), is still alive from the last legislative session. It would require Caltrans to define and establish design standards for a new type of Class IV facility for bikes: physically separated, buffered bike lanes, or “cycle tracks.”…

School District Planning: School districts have separate planning departments with their own methods and priorities that don’t always mesh with those of their surrounding communities. A.B. 1179, introduced by Asm. Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) last year, was an attempt to merge school district planning into regional planning efforts…

School Zone Violations: In the Senate, Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) introduced S.B. 1151, which would double fines for traffic violations near schools and use the proceeds to fund the Active Transportation Program, under whose umbrella Safe Routes to Schools Programs are funded. This would make fines for traffic violations in school zones equal to those in construction zones.

Increased Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers – Asm. Mike Gatto (D-L.A.) introduced A.B. 1532 legislation that requires at least six month of driver’s license suspension for any driver found guilty of a hit and run, regardless of whether or not someone was seriously hurt in the crash. The intent of Gatto’s legislation is to balance the penalty for hit-and-run crimes with those for drunk driving misdemeanors and felonies. This effort follows a new law Gatto authored last year that increased the statute of limitations for hit-and-run crashes.

Carbon Tax on Fuels: A bunch of bills want to control how revenue from cap-and-trade is applied (see below), but none directly address the market mechanisms used to control greenhouse gas emissions except for Darrell Steinberg’s (D-Sacramento) proposal to replace cap-and-trade with a carbon tax, S.B. 1156. Cap-and-trade is scheduled to apply to fuels starting next year.

Money from Cap-and-Trade: Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach/Huntington Park), Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), and Assemblymember Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) have each introduced bills that designate a specific use of cap-and-trade funds: S.B. 1204 (Lara and Pavley) would fund the technological development of zero emission trucks and buses; S.B. 1122 (Pavley) would designate funds for regional Sustainable Communities Strategies and the Alternative Transportation Program; A.B. 1639 (Grove) would clarify that the intent of the legislation is to use the funds specifically for cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of these bills will transform in the hearing process, morphing and perhaps combining  until the very last minute (hopefully with as salubrious effects as S.B. 743‘s last-minute amendments last year)… (more)

San Ramon needs to plan transportation before building

by Jim Gibbon, Sierra Club Mount Diablo Group – theyodeler – excerpt

The Sierra Club is urging San Ramon to prepare a transportation master plan to figure out how to solve our transportation problems for the coming decades–before  spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects that may not help in the short term and that may close off long-term solutions. (There is a 2009 Countywide Comprehensive Transportation Plan, but it doesn’t really do the job.)

For example, the city is studying building on- and off-ramps for high-occupancy vehicles in the middle of I-680 at the Norris Canyon overpass. The ramps might shave three minutes off commute times for about 500 bus passengers a day using the Walnut Creek and Dublin BART stations–but at a cost of $101 million dollars. Unfortunately, because the freeway right-of-way is limited, the ramps would require reducing the number of freeway lanes, thus turning what is now a congested stretch of freeway into an absolute bottleneck. The ramps would replace the current Norris Canyon Road overpass, which provides a safe path for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians between neighborhoods on the west side of the city and the schools and parks on the east side. Even worse, the ramps would preclude other future freeway traffic solutions… (more)