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How Lyft and Uber can fix—not cause—congestion

Dan Sperling and Austin Brown, PLANETIZEN

Studies of New York and other cities, including by our colleagues at UC Davis, suggest that Uber, Lyft, and other app-based car services are increasing congestion by facilitating a shift away from mass transit. That shift is to be expected. App-based car services offer users many of the same advantages as mass transit (the ability to avoid parking, the opportunity to travel without a driver’s license, etc.) at an increased level of comfort and convenience, while remaining relatively affordable. Of course Uber and Lyft will skim travelers from transit.

Though app-based car services may increase congestion in this limited regard, there is even greater—yet largely ignored—potential for such services to reduce net congestion by facilitating multi-passenger pooling. So far, pooling has not caught on widely. Since the 1970s, hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested into building a web of carpool lanes in most major U.S. cities. Yet carpooling has steadily declined from about 20% of commute trips in the 1970s to less than 10% now (see figure). Today, each car on the road in the United States contains an average of only 1.6 passengers, and the majority of the time vehicles are occupied only by the driver.

Read more at https://www.planetizen.com/features/97135-how-lyft-and-uber-can-fix-not-cause-congestion?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=dlvr-twitter&utm_campaign=newfeed

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New Santa Rosa bike rentals, advocates, encourage visitors to skip the car

Melody Karpinski, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Buying a car used to be a hallmark of adulthood. Yet today, the renaissance of two-wheel transportation is surging. Reducing environmental impact is not the only driving force –– instead it’s a trend mixed with a desire to return to the outdoors and create sustainable community within urban environments.

Nearly 40 percent of all bike trips in the U.S. are less than 2 miles, and the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

“People want to live near where they work and they don’t need a car to do much of their daily commuting,” said Eric Anderson, a long-time developer and Santa Rosa resident. “The growing trend of ‘urban’ cycling is really related to the growing trend and shifting demography of how and where people live.”

Anderson is one of the key developers in the newly opened Astro Motel on Santa Rosa Avenue, which caters to cyclists. Guests can rent bikes from the hotel, have existing bikes fixed at the motel’s in-house bike shop, or even have them shipped ahead and assembled in their rooms when they arrive.

Read more at: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/outdoors/7864448-181/new-santa-rosa-bike-rentals

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. 

Miguel Jaller, VOX

…online shopping would be greener than driving to local stores if we did three simple things: 1) Planned ahead and consolidated our orders so we get everything we need in fewer shipments; 2) Avoided expedited shipping (even if it’s free); 3) Bought less stuff.

Given the date, it’s a near-certainty that a package marking one holiday or another has already landed on your doorstep, and that others are making their way there now. It’s also very likely that you didn’t stop to think much about the environmental implications of how the package got there. Most of us don’t, but there are very good reasons to start.

We’re shopping online more than ever throughout the year, but December represents an astonishing climax of consumer activity. The US Postal Service anticipates making 850 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — shipping around 15 percent of the entire year’s packages in a little over a month. That’s 10 percent more holiday shipments than just last year, and the environmental impact is growing along with it.

In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call “the last mile,” meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The “last mile” can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)

Before the online revolution, the majority of last-mile deliveries were to stores, which tended to cluster in areas that can be more easily served by large trucks. Today, most packages are now going directly to residential addresses. We’ve traded trips to the mall, in relatively fuel-efficient cars, for deliveries to residential neighborhoods by trucks and other vehicles. The last mile today ends on our doorsteps.

Read more at: Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. – Vox

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Bikes for fire victims

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition

For many kids and adults, a bike is an important mode of transportation and/or recreation. A number of organizations have been working to obtain donated new and/or used bicycles for North Bay Fire Victims, and recently began launching their programs to distribute bicycles to individuals and families in need.  We hope that helping get bikes into the hands of those who lost so much will bring some joy and a sense of normalcy to the thousands of  families affected by this disaster.

Check this page for a list of bike giveaway programs: http://www.bikesonoma.org/bikes-for-fire-victims/

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Proposed Sonoma-Marin program envisions 200-bike fleet at SMART train stations

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Plans are underway for the North Bay’s new commuter rail system to be outfitted with as many as 200 bicycles for use by SMART riders getting to and from stations and their final destinations.

A joint proposal by Sonoma and Marin counties netted more than $800,000 in grant funding last month from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Once the money is disbursed, it will help launch the first large-scale, taxpayer-funded bike share program in the region — at train stops in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Petaluma, as well as Novato, San Rafael and the eventual Larkspur station now under construction.

The financial boost comes as SMART, now into its fourth month of operation between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, faces an unexpected surge in riders bringing their bikes aboard, straining space on some trains. The bike share program, which if everything goes smoothly will be ready in mid-2019, could help ease that crunch, according to local transportation planners.

“The direction that we’re looking at is really to add another first- and last-mile solution between SMART and nearby destinations,” said Dana Turrey, a planner with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “There’s been a larger number of bicycles trying to get on the trains than was expected, so we’re really seeing this as another way to get back and forth to and from the train and on short trips without using a car.”

Read more at: Proposed Sonoma-Marin program envisions 200-bike fleet at SMART train stations

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Ferries, trains and automobiles: a somewhat SMART way for Sonoma County to do a weekend in San Francisco

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

I love train travel. I’m no expert on the viability of SMART, but I can tell you I won’t soon forget that ride. After passing Rohnert Park, we looked out on a thin ribbon of clouds just below the thickets of oak that crown the eastern mountains. Between Petaluma and Novato, we passed among wetlands where birds great and small hovered and glided over and dipped into shallow green waters. Along the route we saw vineyards and ranchettes, farms and grazing lands — most of them unseen from the freeway to our west, and all of them beheld from a fresh vista.

Call me crazy, but for the past year I’d wanted to take the SMART train and Golden Gate ferry to San Francisco.

Readers may remember that last year I wrote about traveling there with my wife, Carol, cruising by motor scooter along the back roads of Sonoma and Marin counties and across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had loved that adventure, and we were ready to try yet another way to get to “Baghdad-by-the-Bay”, as famed newspaper columnist Herb Caen used to call his town.

The wildfires that struck Oct. 9 didn’t change our plans, especially when our home remained safe and the threats of evacuation had passed. If anything, by the third weekend of October I was all the more ready for a break after two weeks of breathing smoke and covering stories in the ashes of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood.

For anyone contemplating a “weekender” jaunt away from Sonoma County — for a Giants game, a concert, a bright-lights-big-city event — what we found venturing forth suggests both potential and some limitations of today’s North Bay public transit system.

We set out on a Friday morning for my maiden passage on SMART. The first challenge we faced was getting to the station. For that, I pulled out my smart phone and opened the Lyft ridesharing app. I’m not tech savvy, but I easily managed to request a ride. Within seven minutes we were seated in the back of a Kia sedan and on our way to the downtown Santa Rosa station. Cost: $11.96.

After stopping for a tasty hot chocolate at nearby Aroma Roasters, we walked past the historic stone train depot and climbed the platform. There we discovered that SMART was offering free rides that day due to the fires (normally the cost is $9.50 to San Rafael using a Clipper Card, which is accepted by all forms of public transportation in this story). A few minutes later the 8:31 a.m. train rolled up, and a highlight of our journey began.

Read more at: Ferries, trains and automobiles: a somewhat SMART way for Sonoma County to do a weekend in San Francisco

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SMART eyes eastbound rail extension toward Solano County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Up and running for less than three months on a portion of its planned 70-mile route, the North Bay’s new commuter rail line is pursuing a plan to branch out to Solano County, where it would connect with the national rail system running from coast to coast.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system already owns 25 miles of track from Novato to the north end of Vallejo and would acquire use of the tracks from there to an Amtrak station at Suisun City.

“You gotta have a vision so you can get places,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART general manager. At Suisun City, North Bay passengers could “go anywhere in the country,” he said.

The proposed extension, known as the Novato-Solano Hub, is included in the 2018 California State Rail Plan drafted by Caltrans as a blueprint for boosting ridership on the statewide rail and bus system from 110,000 daily trips currently to more than 1.3 million daily trips by 2040.

Read more at: SMART eyes eastbound rail extension toward Solano County

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Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks 

Glen Martin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County Trails Council

If you’ve hiked a newly built or reconstructed trail in one of Sonoma County’s regional parks, there’s a good chance Ken Wells had a hand in it.

Wells, director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, a key partner for the county park agency, is a connoisseur of the grunt work that goes into carving paths for hikers, bikers and horse riders in rugged terrain.He has been toiling in one capacity or another for the trails group for 25 years, building trails, supervising crews and goading people into volunteering for local parks.

“Most of my work consists of putting people together with projects that need doing,” said Wells, 63.

At one time, such public park maintenance was carried out by government crews — county, state or federal. These days, much of the burden falls on volunteers. And that’s not such a bad thing, said Wells, who thinks that support for regional parks has grown because local people are more heavily invested in stewardship.Indeed, most if not all of the park trail work in Sonoma County occurs either under the direct auspices or with the support of the Trails Council, which is also marking its 50th anniversary this year. Council crews regularly labor at Helen Putnam and Taylor Mountain Regional Parks, putting in new trail segments and rehabilitating existing ones. Overall, more than 150 miles of trail traverse county parks, with dozens of additional miles planned for existing and future sites.

Read more at: Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks | The Press Democrat –

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SMART confronts crush of bike-toting commuters

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay’s new commuter rail line is proving popular among commuters with bicycles — so popular that SMART officials may eventually adjust the way they run trains to better accommodate passengers who bring their wheels on board.

Throughout September, SMART’s first full month of operations, trains usually carried about 250 to 300 bicycles daily on weekdays, and less than 100 daily on weekends, according to figures recently provided by the transit agency.

Those numbers scrambled expectations of some Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit leaders who thought more bicyclists would ride on the weekends and more commuters would choose to leave their bikes behind before hopping on a train.

“There are way more people riding their bikes than I expected,” said Deb Fudge, Windsor mayor and the chairwoman of SMART’s board of directors. “That’s a good thing. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do in Sonoma County, is get people out of cars. And they’re doing it. And they’re getting to the stations lots of different ways.”

Fudge expected to see more people use the system’s bike lockers, available at all 10 stations. But many of those lockers have sat empty as more commuters instead brought their bikes to use trains.

Read more at: SMART confronts crush of bike-toting commuters | The Press Democrat –

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Santa Rosa, Petaluma buses free for SRJC students

Staff, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Santa Rosa Junior College students can now ride any bus line, any time for free on Santa Rosa CityBus, Petaluma Transit, and Sonoma County Transit. SRJC students simply show their validated SRJC CubCard to the bus driver when boarding a bus, and they are set to go. SRJC students ride free for travel anywhere in Sonoma County, not just for trips to and from campus.

Riding the bus is a sustainable transportation alternative that improves health, saves money and helps the environment. SRJC’s Associated Students recognize the importance of sustainable transportation alternatives and voted in favor of assessing themselves a transportation fee to support this free-fare program. The SRJC transportation fee, in combination with individual transit agency funding, will cover the cost of providing these free and unlimited bus rides.

Read more at: Santa Rosa, Petaluma buses free for SRJC students | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com