California speeding toward fight over driving limits in age of climate change and electric cars

By Joshua Emerson Smith : sandiegouniontribune – excerpt

Top air-quality regulators at the state Capitol may be on a collision course with local power players when it comes to how frequently Californians should drive their cars in the state’s internationally lauded fight against climate change.

Many regional lawmakers and other officials have started pushing back on the notion that commuters need to limit their daily driving — which overwhelmingly consists of people cruising to work alone in their cars and trucks…

As the California Air Resources Board tightens its standards for greenhouse-gas emissions from regional transportation sectors, many local authorities have started arguing that adoption of electric vehicles will make it unnecessary to reign in so-called vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.

“I think it’s a very bad metric to hang our hat on,” said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also serves on the region’s premier transportation and planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG…

“We know that more needs to be done to make transportation more reliable and to reduce vehicle miles traveled across the state,” Mary Nichols, long-time chair of the air board, told members of the California Transportation Commission at a first-ever joint meeting in June…

“If everyone … had a zero-emission vehicle, give me the breakdown of how that would not help us meet our greenhouse-gas goals?” Commissioner Paul Van Konynenburg said at the gathering, seemingly somewhat perplexed…

While the air board is tasked with cleaning up pollution from vehicles, the commission is responsible for doling out nearly all of the transportation dollars in the state that aren’t locally controlled

The state celebrated last week when it announced that it had already satisfied its 2020 target years ahead of schedule, thanks largely to low-carbon fuel standards, renewable-energy requirements on electric utilities and a wet winter nearly two years ago that generated lots of low-carbon hydropower.

The news seemed to bolster the idea that efforts to fight climate change may not require people to radically shift their driving habits…

“You do transit or roads. You can’t do both,” she added. “It’s going to be a fight for the soul of our transportation future.”… (more)

Lots of arguments here for voters to have their say in the matter. The Gas Tax Repeal will give us a better picture of how the state wants to go. As we have recently learned there are states doing a better job of generating clean cheap energy. That does not seem to be the goal in California. The goal here is to tax and spend. The more the better. We need to look at the best way to produce clean cheap energy not how to incentivize behavior. As we found out with cap and trade, incentivizing is expensive and does not always work.



Volvo Life Paint under study in London

If the life paint works in soggy, foggy London, Volvo may role it out in the US. This product, as well as other reflective materials already on the market, makes it easy for cyclists to take responsibility for their own safety.  as SB 192 intends. See details and links below.

SB 192 – Senator Carol Liu, Bicycle Helmet and Reflectors – Extend the helmet requirement to adults and also require all riders to wear reflective clothing when cycling at night. Contact Robert Oakes: 916-651-4025 – Sent to Transportation and Housing Committee

A list of related state bills we are tracking:
Contacts in Sacramento:

Political push needed for reopening bridge lane

By Dick Spotswood : marinij – excerpt

A gullible public is frequently told regarding proposed legislation and general plan changes something to the effect of, “Don’t worry. It’s just a plan. The proposal isn’t an authorization to do anything specific.”

While literally true, the whole truth is that such moves are often time bombs. When they finally explode, we hear, “That was done years ago. It can’t be changed. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Here’s another example demonstrating that intense scrutiny is needed when we hear that a new law or a change in a planning document is just a flexible guideline…

MTC effectively is saying that for motorists to get the third traffic lane reopened, that project must be simultaneously coupled with construction of a hugely expensive trans-bay bikeway. Not only is it expensive, the bike segment will take years to design, obtain environmental permits and then build…

The argument is based on Section 888.2 of the California Streets and Highways Code.

Enacted in 1993, it mandates that the Department of Motor Vehicles shall “incorporate nonmotorized transportation facilities in the design of freeways on the state highway system along corridors where nonmotorized facilities do not exist, upon a finding that the facilities would conform to the California Recreational Trails System Plan … or upon a finding, following a public hearing, that the facilities would conform to the master plans of local agencies for the development of nonmotorized facilities and would not duplicate existing or proposed routes, and that community interests would be enhanced by the construction of the facilities.”…

It’s a bad law that needs to be amended. Under its language, all that needs to be shown is that vague “community interests would be enhanced.”

Even strictly interpreting the statute, there’s nothing in it prohibiting Caltrans or MTC from “decoupling” the lane reopening from the bikeway.

The proper strategy is to first reopen the third auto lane and then, if the law can’t be changed, build the bikeway.

Marin’s representative on MTC’s board, Supervisor Steve Kinsey, has joined the call for decoupling the two projects. So far that has not led to any action.

Kinsey could do much for his 2016 re-election chances if he can convince his colleagues, and more importantly MTC’s powerful executive director Steve Heminger, to promptly decouple the auto lane effort from the bike project and get traffic moving again… (more)

This is a perfect example of how the lobbies control Sacramento, and why the voters need to take it back.

Taxpayers paying for bike riders’ ‘entertainment’?   Since you are printing many letters from the bicycle advocates, and not many of us take the time to comment, I have appreciated all of Dick Spotswood’s informative columns. He is very astute and tells it like it is… The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been taken over by the bicycle lobby and has managed to tie all new improvements to our highways, railways and bridges to demands for multi-million-dollar bicycle paths that are used by few, if any commuters… Bike coalition needs to get riders to obey the law…


New California EPA Rules: Cities CAN Create Auto Gridlock for Hiking, Bikes, Horses and Government Transportation

By Stephen Frank

The proposed rules of the California Environmental Agency is too CREATE auto gridlock and to make it harder for you to drive your car. Read this section carefully. The bottom line is that instead of adding lanes for cars, they want to TAKE AWAY car lanes, to be replaced with lanes for bikes, walking and government buses. This will crowd the cars into one lane, force longer commute times in an effort to frustrate drivers out of their cars.

“Typical mitigation for automobile delay involves adding roadway capacity by increasing the size or width of intersections – a wholly automobile-focused solution which tended to disincentive increased adoption of alternate modes of transportation. SB 743, and as a result of OPR’s new proposal, seeks to eliminate this disincentive, with the legislative intent of “more appropriately balanc[ing] the needs of congestion management with statewide goals related to infill development, promotion of public health through active transportation, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”…

California Proposes Overhaul of Standards for Transportation-related Environmental Impact Analysis

Kristina Daniel Lawson, Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Earlier this month Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released for public review and debate a draft of proposed amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act’s implementing guidelines (CEQA Guidelines). If ultimately approved, the guidelines will fundamentally change the way transportation-related environmental impacts are analyzed and mitigated throughout California.

While the proposed amendments are currently in draft form and therefore remain subject to change or even withdrawal, if the proposal advances, automobile delay will generally no longer be considered a significant impact on the environment for CEQA purposes. Once approved, the provisions will take effect immediately in California’s transit priority areas, and then statewide in 2016, unless adopted earlier by a local community.

Today CEQA’s transportation analyses focus on the delay experienced by an individual automobile driver at a study intersection or on a roadway segment. Traffic engineers quantify this delay through a metric known as “level of service” or LOS.

Targeting the LOS standard, last year Senate Bill 743 was approved and signed into law requiring OPR to prepare revisions to the CEQA Guidelines that establishes criteria for determining the significance of transportation impacts within transit priority areas. SB 743 followed on the heels of the implementation of SB 375 and AB 32, which together placed a heightened focus on the link between land use and transportation planning decisions and greenhouse gas emissions in California. In addition to the increased need for local governments to focus on greenhouse gas emissions reductions through land use and transportation planning, the California Complete Streets Act of 2008 had required local governments to plan for a balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of streets, roads, and highways for safe and convenient travel

State legislators: To say that OPR’s proposal is an overhaul is an understatement – if adopted, the draft guideline will fundamentally change how California thinks about transportation and traffic. Because of the sweeping nature of the proposed changes to California’s standards for transportation-related environmental impact analysis, we can expect significant comments to be received by OPR. If you wish to weigh in, do so by October 10, 2014 to:…. (more)

Your state legislators are using your tax dollars against you. Find out who “They” are and who is financing this. Let them know how you feel about these plans and how unlikely you are to support them next time they run for office should they vote against your interest. Also note the lack of serious discussion about how these plans will improve public transit. Write your state legislators

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)