Nearly $1 billion in side deals for California gas tax approved

by Kate Murphy of bayareanewsgroup : eastbaytimes – excerpt (video linked)

SACRAMENTO — Nearly $1 billion in controversial side deals that may have persuaded key California lawmakers to get behind a controversial gas tax this month cleared the Legislature Monday.

In the lead-up to the April 6 gas-tax vote, funding for a handful of transportation projects surfaced in a separate bill, Senate Bill 132. The projects will benefit the districts represented by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced; Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, and Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside.

All four lawmakers voted in favor of the gas tax — which passed narrowly, without a vote to spare.

Also part of the deal — and passed Monday — was Senate Bill 496, by Cannella, that would protect architects, engineers and other “design professionals” against legal claims made by public agencies. Cannella is an engineer.

The gas tax will generate more than $5 billion per year for road repairs and local transit projects by indefinitely increasing gas and diesel taxes and hiking vehicle registration fees. The increases will cost the average driver roughly $10 per month or less, the state estimates…(more)

They just called it a pothole gas tax. There is no guarantee on what will happen to the funds raised by the tax, other than special interests will benefit from it. Potholes effect everyone negatively. Fixing them is the most democratic use of public funds. Fixing them would reduce the costs of public transit repairs and make biking and walking a lot safer. SFMTA is literally painting over potholes to create red lanes and bike paths, making them more hazardous with the slick paint.

If you want to do something positive about potholes, join the international “Adopt a Pothole” movement:
https://metermadness.wordpress.com/adopt-a-pothole/

Today’s SB-1 as Amended

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1

If this is the Governor’s Pothole bill, it is badly labeled as most the money will not be going to potholes. Potholes look like an afterthought. Here is the law as amended today according to the official site. I dare you to find how much of this tax will go to fixing the potholes.

If you object to these new taxes being marketed as a pothole tax, without a clear description of how the money will be applied to fixing potholes, call the state reps and request a no vote on SB-1. Insist they give us the option of a “pothole only” tax: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/state-legislators/

RELATED:
Editorial: Gov. Brown’s roads taxes veer way off course  

Would higher gas tax fill our spreading potholes?

By Gary Richards : mercurynews – excerpt

With heavy storms wreaking havoc on California roads to the tune of $600 million — damages that Caltrans says could top $1 billion by spring — Bay Area traffic heavyweights joined forces Monday to push for higher gas taxes and auto registration fees to raise $6 billion a year for the state’s dilapidated roads.

“It is fiscally irresponsible to wait until our roads fail,” said State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, at a press conference to garner support for his gas tax bill. “We can’t ignore repairs. Eventually, we have to pay.”

SB-1 would hike the state gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years, charge electric cars an annual fee of $100 and increase the registration for all vehicles by $38. San Jose would be one of the big winners, getting $39 million a year from Beall’s measure, with $19 million more coming from the Measure B sales tax approved in November. San Jose transportation director Jim Ortbal called it a game changer, “huge.”…

Republicans and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, however, oppose any tax increases and, instead, want to divert money from the high-speed rail project and the state’s general fund to filling potholes…

But Beall doesn’t want the general fund touched for road repairs. “That’s a non-starter,” he said. “No way.”

Coupal suggests taking nearly $9 billion in bonds from high-speed rail for road construction.

“If voter approval is deemed necessary,” Coupal said, “that measure passes in a heartbeat.”… (more)

Here comes Lucy again with the football. What are the chances she will not pull it away again?

RELATED:
Gas tax proposed to help pay for much-needed San Jose road repairs: (video included)

The real reason for New York City’s traffic nightmare

By Shawn Cohen : nypost – excerpt

Time for some traffic problems in Manhattan!

City officials have intentionally ground Midtown to a halt with the hidden purpose of making drivers so miserable that they leave their cars at home and turn to mass transit or bicycles, high-level sources told The Post.

Today’s gridlock is the result of an effort by the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations over more than a decade of redesigning streets and ramping up police efforts, the sources said.

“The traffic is being engineered,” a former top NYPD official told The Post, explaining a long-term plan that began under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and hasn’t slowed with Mayor de Blasio.

“The city streets are being engineered to create traffic congestion, to slow traffic down, to favor bikers and pedestrians,” the former official said.

“There’s a reduction in capacity through the introduction of bike lanes and streets and lanes being closed down.”

“The traffic is being engineered,” a former top NYPD official told The Post, explaining a long-term plan that began under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and  hasn’t slowed with Mayor de Blasio. “The city streets are being engineered to create traffic congestion, to slow traffic down, to favor bikers and pedestrians,” the former official said.

“There’s a reduction in capacity through the introduction of bike lanes and streets and lanes being closed down.”

The concerted effort includes:

  • Pedestrian plazas that have cut off entire lanes of traffic and created bottlenecks.
  • Protected bike lanes on major avenues that eat up a traffic lane and force trucks to double park.
  • Cross streets where turns are forbidden on nearly all avenues.
  • Intersections where drivers must wait for green arrows to turn onto avenues.
  • Ordering traffic agents to focus more on writing tickets and less on directing traffic.

The goal of the jammed traffic is to shift as many drivers as possible to public transit or bicycles.

An added benefit was supposed to be safer streets, but city officials have said that while 45,000 fewer cars and trucks now come into Midtown daily than in 2010, pedestrian deaths are on the uptick this year…

Green Light includes pedestrian plazas and protected bike lanes that are still being completed under de Blasio, who has further snarled traffic with reduced speed limits, redesigned intersections and aggressive summons-writing as part of his Vision Zero initiative.

(more)

RELATED:
NYC is already tired of Christmas and Donald Trump – New York is the city that never moves… A veteran Manhattan firefighter said Manhattan traffic is so bad that members of the Bravest can’t respond to emergencies as quickly — and a delay of two or three minutes can be the difference between life and death…“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” the firefighter said. “It’s causing a delay in response times, slowing us down and taking us longer to get to emergencies. Sometimes the fire engines are having a tough time even pulling out of quarters because of the congestion in front of the firehouse.”…“It’s not just Trump security, it’s everything from bike lanes to rush-hour traffic to new bus lanes,” he added… Cops are complaining, too, saying they haven’t seen anything like it in ­decades on the job…Manhattan’s traffic woes aren’t restricted to roads — sidewalk congestion is so bad that even pedestrians are moaning about it(more)

New York Post spills the beans about the traffic jams. Our municipal transit agencies  are using our taxes to social engineer our cities to meet their goals and stopping traffic is the first step in controlling us. You can start fighting now or wait for the next round. I’m staring now. I DON’T WANT SF TO BE MANHATTAN.

Governor vetoes bill to mandate parking after street sweeping, prevent tickets at broken meter

By Sophia Bollag : latimes – excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have required communities to reopen parking immediately after street-sweeping.

The bill also would have prevented residents from getting ticketed if they parked next to a broken meter for up to two hours.

In his veto message Brown said the bill would have hindered municipalities from performing regular road maintenance and would have confused drivers about when they were allowed to park in certain areas… (more)

Watch for the SFMTA to take advantage of this if they can. Ask the supervisor candidates what they will do to protect us from these infringements.

Time to mandate bicycle licenses

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Bicyclists in San Francisco should have to register their bike, obtain a license and carry a minimum amount of liability insurance — the same requirements for driving a car.

We have one set of roads long dominated by automobiles. But as a growing number of bicycle commuters assert political power to get their own lanes, they need to put some skin in the game. If cars and bikes are going to share city roads — which is where the future is headed — the responsibility for safe co-existence should also be shared.

Mandatory registration, license and insurance could ease ongoing resentments between cyclists and motorists. Cyclists will get more protection while motorists will be glad they aren’t alone in being held accountable on the road.

Before protesters on bikes jeer at me for suggesting this idea, they should know I’m pro-bike. I even rode my bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles for charity. I share a car with my husband but mostly take public transportation and walk — and we live on the westside, in the “suburban” part of town near Stonestown Mall, where cars and parking spaces are still abundant.

Before my neighbors accuse me of undermining westside entitlement to drive and park, they should know I support putting parking garages with ground floor retail in neighborhood business districts.

And before transit-first urbanists get mad, they should know that I’m an advocate for investing in the subways and transportation infrastructure we regret not building decades ago. But until we get that world-class transportation system, we can’t pretend Muni is the Paris Metro…(more)

Good arguments for sharing responsibility for safety on the streets. Good reason for a balanced transportation plan. Very good idea to phase in the changes. The pace of change is largely responsible for the anger on the streets.

Continue reading

Why plunging asphalt prices haven’t sparked an infrastructure boom

By Rayhanul Ibrahim : yahoo – excerpt

NY-pothole.jpg

A massive NYC pothole. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

If you haven’t repaved your driveway or parking lot yet, now might be the time to do so.

Over the past 18 months, asphalt prices have plummeted from about $600 to a ton to about $300 a ton. That’s because petroleum prices dropped during the same time period, and that’s the biggest cost factor for asphalt mix, which is needed for driveways, parking lots and roads.

At first blush, it may seem like falling asphalt prices would be a boon for public-road building contractors. You’d think governments would want to get as much road work done right now before the price of asphalt starts to rise again. In theory, this explosion of construction would boost contractor revenue in the short-term while helping improve our roads.

Seems like a win-win scenario, right?

It turns out falling asphalt prices haven’t been such a boon for contractors because governments have very limited annual funding for infrastructure improvement like new roads, according to T. Carter Ross, spokesperson for the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Governments can’t take advantage of low asphalt prices to give contractors much more work, because they’re already using all the funding they have for roads every year.

“The amount of work our road system needs far outstrips the available funding at every level,” T. Carter Ross said to Yahoo Finance.

To be sure, roads partly pay for themselves, via tolls and state and federal taxes added to the cost of gas for your car. However, gas taxes and motor vehicle license fees covered just 41.4% of funding for road construction in 2013, the last year for which data is available, according to the Tax Foundation. That tax-focused think tank further noted that this ratio is likely to fall over time “as state gas tax rates do not keep up with inflation.”

The state of roads may be particularly bad because for over a decade before 2015, the US went without a long-term federal bill for road funding. While Congress finally passed a five-year bill to fund roads and other infrastructure projects in 2015, it hasn’t been sufficient to compensate for years of underfunding.

Last year, the Business Roundtable — a pro-business association of CEOs — put out a paper noting “much of the nation’s infrastructure has fallen victim to neglect, underfunding, under-appreciation and the natural erosion that comes with age.”

To be clear, local governments may be able to use the low price of asphalt to repave a few more of these eroded roads than they would if asphalt were more expensive. They could also be getting some more bang for their buck because contractors might end up lowering their bids to compensate for the lower cost of the asphalt, according to Carter Ross.

Unfortunately, the number of newly paved roads will be limited since local governments can’t ramp their spending up too much — even though it doesn’t make economic sense to defer the spending to the future when asphalt will likely be priced higher…(more)

JUST THE FACTS
U.S. Economy Would Benefit from Rebuilding America’s Transportation Infrastructure
In Road to Growth: The Case for Investing in America’s Transportation Infrastructure,
Business Roundtable outlines the economic cost of neglecting the nation’s
transportation infrastructure and the positive effects of rebuilding it for the 21st century:
◗ America Is No. 16: The United States’ overall infrastructure quality ranks 16th, behind Germany, France and Japan.
◗ Highways and Bridges: Urban highway congestion cost the economy more than $120 billion in 2011, and nearly one in four bridges in the national highway system is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
◗ Waterways and Ports: Lock delays, port congestion and lack of facilities for larger ships added $33 billion to the cost of U.S. products in 2010.
◗ Aviation: The United States is home to just four of the world’s top 50 airports, and aviation congestion and delays cost the economy $24 billion in 2012.
◗ Transit Rail: Only 25 percent of transit rail station infrastructure is rated “good” or “excellent.”
Increased investment in public infrastructure leads to significant economic benefits:
◗ Up to $320 billion in economic output would be generated in 2020 if U.S. infrastructure investment were boosted by 1 percent of GDP per year.
◗ 1.7 million jobs would be created over the first three years by an $83 billion infrastructure package.
◗ As much as $3 in economic activity is created by every $1 invested in infrastructure. The nation’s leaders can change course and rebuild this vital national asset. It’s time to strengthen our economic foundation by reinvesting in transportation
infrastructure. Learn more about how investment in America’s transportation infrastructure will pay off for all of us at brt.org/road-to-growth.
Business Roundtable CEO members lead companies with $7.2 trillion in annual revenues and nearly 16 million employees. Business Roundtable member companies comprise more than a quarter of the total market capitalization of U.S. stock markets and invest $190 billion annually in research and development — equal to 70 percent of U.S. private R&D spending. Our companies pay more than $230 billion in dividends to shareholders and generate more than $470 billion in sales for small and medium-sized businesses annually. Business Roundtable companies also make more than $3 billion a year in charitable contributions.  Please visit us at www.brt.org, check us out on Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter… (more)

 

Merchant concerns only half of Muni battle

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

On the surface, a meeting in the Mission District on Monday night was meant for the community to weigh in on new “red carpet” bus-only lanes on Mission Street. The lanes rolled out in February and stretch from 14th to 30th streets.

But the meeting exploded.

“A woman got hit by a car on Cesar Chavez!” shouted Roberto Hernandez, a community advocate often called the “Mayor of the Mission.”

Hernandez decried transit officials for allowing the new red lanes to cause traffic mayhem, not reaching out enough to residents and for hurting small businesses in his life-long home.

Half of the meeting’s 200 attendees cheered in support. The other half howled for Hernandez to stop.

In the crowd, two men stood within a few inches of each other’s faces, pointing and shouting.

This same scene has played out at recent Geary Boulevard and Taraval Street transportation meetings and may soon play out at West Portal, too.

Merchants from those neighborhoods were present for the Mission meeting as well.

A tide of merchant and neighborhood resentment is rising against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency — and they’re now banding together for support.

“I think it’s real clear a citywide coalition is in the formation and building to really address how we need to put a stop to the way [the SFMTA] is planning,” Hernandez told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday.

And in small ways, those merchants are winning… (more)

Continue reading

SF Budget: Better Muni and Vision Zero…But November Tax Has to Pass

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee released his 455-page budget proposal on Tuesday. It includes $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2016-17  for transportation, police officers, and street cleaning, a $700 million increase in funds. The fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year until June 30 of next year.

The transportation section runs from pages 315 to 322–here are some highlights:

The proposed budget includes an additional $15 million in FY 2016-17 and $62.2 million in FY 2017-18 in new transportation funding. Once fully implemented in FY 2017-18, these investments will provide $28.7 million for Muni fleet, infrastructure upgrades, and transit optimization, $9.6 million for equity and affordability initiatives, $14.3 million to support regional transit projects and fleet needs, and $9.6 million to fully fund street safety projects that are consistent with the City’s Vision Zero policy.

Lee was presenting the budget as a step forward for the city’s transit programs and safety initiatives.

“The result is the SFMTA’s first-ever $1 billion operating budget to improve transit performance and reliability. The SFMTA operates the nation’s eighth largest public transit system and it serves every neighborhood,” said Lee in his Proposed Balanced Budget Speech, on Tuesday…

The ability to grow the budget is due to the strong economy. However, the mayor’s proposal also depends on a sales tax increase to balance the budget. “It is budgeted on the assumption that a half-cent tax for transportation will pass this November,” said Wiener. “It includes $105 million a year for roads, Muni, capital investment, support for BART vehicles, and for street safety improvements.”

An increase in sales taxes as they are removing bus stops and bus seats is the biggest insult so far to the Muni riders. If this is SFMTA’s idea of a friendly Muni I hate to think what their idea of an unfriendly Muni looks like.

Removing bus stops was bad enough because people are forced to walk longer distances carrying carrying their packages than they were previously. Now they are forced to walk longer distances carrying loads and then stand for long periods of time with their packages, on moving vehicles? And they want to charge extra for using cash to pay to ride the Muni. Where do they stop harassing us?

IMG_4627.jpeg

This is a model BART car with a single seat on one side and a double of the other.

This is not right. This is why we need to pass the Charter Amendment and replace the MTA Board with people who understand the needs of human beings.
Write your supervisors. Sample letters are here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/3318-2/

 

Muni’s impact on small business

from hoodline – excerpt

May 9 Small Business Commission meeting: From transit-only lanes to the loss of parking spaces, neighborhood activists have been using the Commission as a venue to criticize San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for projects that they say put small business in jeopardy. This meeting was no different.

Staffers from various departments within the SFMTA gave presentations on a variety of topics, including the agency’s public outreach, the residential parking permit program, capital projects and improvement projects on Lombard and Mission streets.

Neighborhood activists attended the meeting to speak during the public comment period on all items. They represented commercial corridors on which SFMTA has ongoing or recently-completed projects, including Mission Street, Geary Boulevard, Lombard Street and Taraval Street.

Safety was consistently cited by SFMTA staff as the reason behind all their improvement projects to heavily-used corridors.

The criticisms of those who commented on each item centered largely on the agency’s re-engineering of streets to accommodate transit, bicycles and pedestrians over private automobiles, leading to reduced auto traffic along commercial corridors and an attendant loss of parking spaces.

Bob Starzel, a representative with the Greater Geary Merchants and Property Owners Association, laid out the small business perspective of transit changes as a counterpoint to the City’s Transit First policy approach.

“If we took [SFMTA’s] numbers, and they were right, and only 30 percent of people drive, think to yourself what it means to your business if now some good proportion of that 30 percent is not gonna come to do business with you,” Starzel said. “What that means is your profit margin is hurt.”

SFMTA staff will continue appearing before the Commission to address how their projects and programs affect small businesses for the next few months… (more) Scroll the the page for this part of the article.

SFMTA is using our taxes to against us

Business owners all over town are doing a lot more than just going to meetings and City Hall. They are organizing to fight for their businesses. Fighting the taxes that feed the SFMTA are a big part of the fight.

Plans to remove traffic from our major commercial corridors are not the only thing SFMTA is doing to close businesses in the city. We know of at least three new taxes they have planned for us that are guaranteed to raise the cost of living and doing business in the Bay Area.

Prop AA – the SF Bay Authority (SFBA) is a new regional taxing entity that wants a $12 parcel tax from all property owners within a 9 county region. The claim they need it is to clean the Bay. There are plenty of other entities working on that already. If Prop AA passes the SFBA will request an additional 10 cents per gallon gas tax next. Do yourself a favor and vote against Prop AA. Look what happened when the voters voted down Prop L. They decided they could get away with tearing up our streets and removing street parking that is what they are doing. (more 0n Prop AA)

Another Sales Tax – The SFMTA assumes the voters will approve another half cent sales tax in November. In fact, they informed the Board of Supervisors that they have budgeted in that tax increase for the next two years. What will that and the parcel tax and the 10 cents per gallon do to the businesses in San Francisco? Let your supervisors know how you feel about these regressive taxes.

If you haven’t yet signed the StopSFMTA petition, please do and share it with your friends. Join the many who are fighting to keep San Francisco for the residents who live here. Leave a comment below if you want to be put in touch with your local business organization.