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SMART gets $22.5 million federal grant for Larkspur rail extension

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The extension of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit line from San Rafael to the ferry terminal at Larkspur was awarded a key federal grant Monday, a $22.5 million check that will help make the line more accessible for both commuters and Bay Area tourists.

The Federal Transit Administration grant virtually assures that the 2.1-mile section already under construction will have the $55.4 million needed to complete the job, now envisioned for the end of 2019.

While Congress set aside the funds in 2016, allocation of the money by the federal transportation bureaucracies was never assured, so the decision to release the funds was a huge relief and represents a significant accomplishment for the local rail agency, said Farhad Mansourian, SMART general manager.

“This is a big story,” Mansourian said. “We are one of five projects in the nation — out of a pipeline of 50-something — that has been approved.”

The project is important because it will make the transition between rail and ferry more convenient for commuters on the 43-mile line, and will also make the North Bay more accessible for tourists, Mansourian said. Riders currently take a shuttle bus between the ferry terminal and the downtown San Rafael rail station.

“When this is done, we’ll be connecting a regional ferry to a regional airport,” he said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8205751-181/smart-gets-225-million-federal

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Sonoma County advances key Bay Trail link, with projected cost of up to $14 million

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The estuary of Tolay Creek southeast of Petaluma offers refuge to a host of wildlife, including rare shorebirds and waterfowl and a species of endangered mouse that lives only in the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay.

But the tidal waterway, which widens as it drains into San Pablo Bay just south of where it crosses under Highway 37, also sits in the way of a key link in the 500-mile trail envisioned to one day circle San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the network is complete.

To span the creek and close the 0.8-mile gap between two existing trails, parks officials are proposing a foot and bike path with a hefty projected price tag: $9 million to $14 million, depending on the design and alignment.

“It’s not a cheap endeavor,” said Ken Tam, planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Where the trail alignment is located is actually in mud flats, and the materials to support a pier structure have to go very, very deep in the bedding to be sound. That increases the overall cost of the construction.”

The money could come from an proposed ballot measure in June that would increase in tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area by $1 to raise an estimated $4.45 billion for transportation upgrades in the region. Up to $100 million could go to a long-delayed overhaul of Highway 37, where rebuilding costs are estimated at $1 billion to $4 billion.

The proposed Sears Point trail connector was endorsed as a parks priority last month by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors after an initial study highlighting the recreational demand and obstacles associated with the project.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8156043-181/sonoma-county-advances-key-bay

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

A bold, divisive plan to wean Californians from cars

Conor Dougherty and Brad Plumer, THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s an audacious proposal to get Californians out of their cars: a bill in the State Legislature that would allow eight-story buildings near major transit stops, even if local communities object.

The idea is to foster taller, more compact residential neighborhoods that wean people from long, gas-guzzling commutes, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

So it was surprising to see the Sierra Club among the bill’s opponents, since its policy proposals call for communities to be “revitalized or retrofitted” to achieve precisely those environmental goals. The California chapter described the bill as “heavy-handed,” saying it could cause a backlash against public transit and lead to the displacement of low-income residents from existing housing.

State Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s sponsor, responded by accusing the group of “advocating for low-density sprawl.”

In a state where debates often involve shades of blue, it’s not uncommon for the like-minded to find themselves at odds. But the tensions over Mr. Wiener’s proposal point to a wider divide in the fight against climate change, specifically how far the law should go to reshape urban lifestyles.

Although many cities and states are embracing cleaner sources of electricity and encouraging people to buy electric vehicles, they are having a harder time getting Americans to drive less, something that may be just as important.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/energy-environment/climate-density.html

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Proposed rail plan envisions ‘world class’ North Coast hiking trail

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State Sen. Mike McGuire is proposing to reorganize management of the North Coast’s railroad system aimed at enabling people to walk — not ride — along a trail from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, including the spectacular Eel River Canyon in Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said McGuire, D-Healdsburg, to create a “world-class experience in our own backyard.”

Caryl Hart, a former Sonoma County parks director, joined McGuire in hailing the proposed trail as an opportunity to traverse the coastal redwoods from Cloverdale to Arcata.

“It’s a dream,” she said likening the trail along the tracks to the Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra Nevada and giving the local area an economic boost in the process. “I really think it has the potential to be a bedrock of the economy of the North Coast.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8114152-181/proposed-rail-plan-envisions-world

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

New greenhouse gas report highlights successes, challenges, and opportunities for Sonoma County and California

Ann Hancock, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION

The Center for Climate Protection just released the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Sonoma County for 2016. The good news is that emissions from electricity have gone down since the inception of Sonoma Clean Power, the region’s Community Choice Energy program. The reduction of emissions in electricity was so significant that Sonoma County’s overall GHG emissions were lower in 2016 than they were in 1990 even though the County’s population increased during this same period.

Emissions shown in millions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide (eC02). (www.climateprotection.org)

As other communities throughout California consider Community Choice Energy, Sonoma County’s GHG report offers them powerful proof that Community Choice Energy works to lower GHG emissions.

The report also reveals that Sonoma County, similar to other communities, is challenged to reduce emissions produced by transportation. This sector now accounts for about 70% of Sonoma County’s emissions.

Read more at https://climateprotection.org/updated-greenhouse-gas-inventory-highlights-successes-challenges-and-opportunities-for-california/

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

This miracle fuel has a few problems

Chris Martin, BLOOMBERG NEWS

In the space of an hour on a recent evening, a couple dozen cars refilled their gas tanks at a Valero service station just off the Redwood Highway in Mill Valley, a northbound stop on the way into California’s Marin County. During that time, the only pumping station that sat mostly unused was the cobalt blue one supplying hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen pump received only three visitors: two of the 3,800 hydrogen-powered sedans on California’s roads, each looking for a quick fill-up, and one old station wagon that parked there for a few minutes. An attendant who’s worked at the Valero for three years says that’s a pretty busy day for the hydrogen pump, which usually fuels one car per hour.

That’s not much of a return on the roughly $100 million California has spent over the past several years to build fueling stations for hydrogen vehicles. Each of the 31 hydrogen pumps around the state cost at least $2.5 million and was heavily subsidized with funds from the public and from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and other automakers. Demand, however, remains so low that even with subsidies, they aren’t busy enough to turn a profit. (A typical fill-up costs customers about $45, but that’s heavily subsidized, and most lessors cover fuel costs.)

At Governor Jerry Brown’s direction, the state is spending more than $2.5 billion in clean energy funds to accelerate sales of hydrogen and battery vehicles. That includes $900 million earmarked to complete 200 hydrogen stations and 250,000 charging stations by 2025. A larger hydrogen network will help make the market more sustainable, the thinking goes—part of a kitchen sink approach to reducing carbon emissions alongside electric cars. Brown’s office referred requests for comment to the California Energy Commission, which said in a statement that the governor aims to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030, and that hydrogen is a part of that calculus.

Read more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-05/california-should-focus-on-electric-cars-not-hydrogen-fuel

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

German court rules cities can ban diesel cars to tackle pollution

Kate Connolly, THE GUARDIAN

Millions of heavily polluting vehicles could eventually disappear from roads across Germany after its top administrative court ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel motors in an effort to improve deadly air quality levels.

Tuesday’s historic decision potentially affects an estimated 12m vehicles and has delivered a heavy blow to Europe’s largest car market, while being celebrated by environmental campaigners.

Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favour of upholding bans that were introduced by lower courts in the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, two of the most polluted German cities, after appeals were lodged by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
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The Leipzig court ruling in the case, which was originally brought by the environmental groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German environmental aid or DUH) and ClientEarth, paves the way for cities across Germany to follow suit.

“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” Jürgen Resch, of the DUH, said.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/27/german-court-rules-cities-can-ban-diesel-cars-to-tackle-pollution

Posted on Categories TransportationTags

The ride stuff

Alex T. Randolph, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

After years of planning, Sonoma County Regional Parks has just come one step closer to starting work on a proposed 15-mile bike trail that would connect the cities of Petaluma and Sebastopol.

Sonoma County Regional Parks presented the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with an extensive feasibility study on Feb. 6. The purpose of the study was to determine the safest and most feasible route for a currently unnamed pedestrian and bike trail between the two cities, and also to consider routes to connect unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. The board accepted the findings and recommendations of the study on Feb. 13, allowing Regional Parks to receive final reimbursement and meet obligations of the grant used to pay for the study.

According to a summary of the study, the ideal route for the paved trail is the corridor next to Highway 12 and Stony Point Road. However, according to Fifth District Supervisor Linda Hopkins, there is some debate between those who want the trail to follow the highway and others who want it elsewhere.

Read more at https://www.bohemian.com/northbay/the-ride-stuff/Content?oid=5317498

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , ,

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

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

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