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Santa Rosa narrows permit streamlining to areas near transit

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa City Council Tuesday narrowed the scope of its latest effort to streamline its permitting process in areas where it has prioritized housing.

The move was a reversal of a council vote earlier this month to cut the red tape for housing projects throughout the city, and was cast as a sign of the city’s renewed commitment to downtown development.

The council faced pressure to limit the streamlining effort to only those areas of the city known as “priority development areas,” which include Roseland and areas near transit, including downtown.

Groups such as the Greenbelt Alliance had argued that the city should do everything it can to incentivize housing closer to the infrastructure best able to handle it, such as Highway 101 and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit line.

Mayor Chris Coursey, who voted for the more expansive version earlier this month, praised narrowing it Tuesday.

He said the change would help preserve a rare alliance between environmental and business concerns who agree on the importance of focusing development near downtown.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8349877-181/santa-rosa-narrows-permit-streamlining

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Santa Rosa bicycle commuter beaten while riding through homeless camp on Joe Rodota Trail

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A bicycle commuter riding Tuesday along the Joe Rodota Trail was assaulted as he passed through a homeless camp on the popular bike and pedestrian path connecting Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.

Bill Petty, 42, was pedaling home when he said a group of eight to 10 people blocked his path. As he tried to walk his bike through the crowd, he said someone pulled on his shirt, an argument broke out and then a man punched him.

Petty said he suffered fractures just above his left eye and on his nose, which he had treated at the hospital.

“I didn’t even see the punch coming,” said Petty, a Roseland resident who for more than a year had been riding his bike every day to and from work on Auto Row on Corby Avenue.

He said he called out to the group as he approached on his bike but no one moved.

“They’re telling me that I should go around, I said, ‘I can’t go around because there’s tents on both sides of the trail,’” Petty said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8337445-181/santa-rosa-bicycle-commuter-beaten

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Bicyclists ride to promote safety through Santa Rosa streets

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cycling activists also want more money put toward dedicated pedestrian and bicycling paths in Sonoma County to make them safer, whether for commuters to work or athletes breaking a sweat.

After another dangerous year on local roads, a group of bicyclists pedaled through central Santa Rosa on Wednesday night to raise awareness for greater safety along public streets and roadways.

A small group bicycled a 2-mile route around downtown and the Cherry Street Historic District to commemorate those killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. The silent and somber ride was sponsored by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and was part of national event conducted annually in other cities across the country on the third Wednesday of May.

“Every year, we lose a few people,” said Eris Weaver, the coalition’s outreach and events coordinator. “It’s part of our mission. How do we make Sonoma County a safe place to bike?”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8334357-181/bicyclists-ride-to-promote-safety

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Study links rise of SUVs to the pedestrian safety crisis

Angie Schmitt, STREETSBLOG USA

Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed on American streets in 2016, an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2009.

The cause of the increase, however, has stumped some safety analysts. Groups like the Governors Highway Safety Association, for example, have advanced theories on “distracted walking,” without much evidence.

But a new study from a major group, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, points to real-world causes and practicable solutions. Using federal fatality and crash data, IIHS performed a regression analysis to examine “roadway, environmental, personal and vehicle factors” on pedestrian deaths between 2009 and 2016.

One of the key findings was that not only are crashes involving pedestrians increasing, they are becoming more deadly when they do occur. The share of pedestrian crashes that were fatal increased 29 percent during the study period. One culprit, according to the study, was SUV drivers.

Here’s what researchers found:

Read the article at https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/05/09/study-links-rise-of-suvs-to-the-pedestrian-safety-crisis/

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How to build a bike lane network in four years

Michael Anderson, STREETSBLOG USA

Here’s one way to understand the story of biking in Sevilla, Spain: It went from having about as much biking as Oklahoma City to having about as much biking as Portland, Oregon.

It did this over the course of four years.

Speaking last week at the PlacesForBikes conference, one of the masterminds of that transition — which is only now becoming widely known in the United States — filled in some of the gaps in that story.

Manuel Calvo had spent years in Sevilla bicycling activism and was working as a sustainability consultant when he landed the contract to plan a protected bike lane network for his city. The result was the Plan de la Bicicleta de Sevilla, mapping the fully connected protected bike lane network that would make Sevilla’s success possible.

But as Calvo explained in his keynote Wednesday and an interview afterward, the story might not have played out that way.

Here are some things for U.S. bike believers to learn from Calvo’s account:

1) Driving had been rising sharply in Sevilla for years before 2007

2) Politicians’ support for a major biking investment came from a single poll

3) The network was built so fast because leaders saw a chance to deliver it within a single election cycle

4) Sevilla created its network by repurposing 5,000 on-street parking spaces

5) Bike lane designs were shaped by public input – but only after officials made clear that doing nothing was not an option

6) Once the network was built, its benefits were obvious

Read the complete article at https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/05/07/six-secrets-from-the-planner-of-sevillas-lightning-bike-network/#new_tab

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

Daisy Dunne, ECOWATCH-CARBON BRIEF

Worldwide tourism accounted for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.

The study, which looks at the spending habits of travelers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought.

The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris agreement, a study author told Carbon Brief.

However, the results may still be underestimating the total carbon footprint of tourism, another scientist told Carbon Brief, because they do not consider the impact of non-CO2 emissions from the aviation industry.

Tourism’s Footprint

The global tourism industry is rapidly expanding. Fueled by falling air travel prices and a growing global middle class, the number of international holiday-makers is currently growing at a rate of 3-5 percent per year.

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, explores how the recent growth of global tourism has impacted greenhouse gas emissions.

Tourists contribute to climate change in a number of ways—through travel by air, rail and road, for example, and by consuming goods and services, such as food, accommodation and souvenirs.

For the new analysis, the researchers considered all of these factors together in order to calculate tourism’s “global carbon footprint,” explained study author Dr. Arunima Malik, a lecturer in sustainability from the University of Sydney. She told Carbon Brief:

“Our analysis is comprehensive and, hence, takes into account all the upstream supply chains to quantify the impacts of tourist spending on food, clothing, transport and hospitality.”

The research finds that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s annual global carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

This figure is four times higher than previous estimates and accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the research finds. The rise is largely driven by an increased demand for goods and services—rather than air travel, the research finds.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/tourism-global-greenhouse-gas-2566752788.html

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, TransportationTags , ,

Op-Ed: The Sonoma Coast’s ‘bridge to nowhere’

Richard Charter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Peaceful little Gleason Beach is nestled midway between Bodega Bay and Jenner, hidden in a pastoral valley just north of the small communities of Carmet and Sereno del Mar, where Highway 1 crosses tiny Scotty Creek.

Its fate will come before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, shortly after 9 a.m. in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers.

Decades of unfortunate policy decisions and a few poorly sited crumbling homes once built atop unstable cliffs have led Caltrans to propose a 3,700-foot highway bypass with an 850-foot-long concrete bridge, all just to cross over seasonal Scotty Creek, a rivulet only a few feet wide most of the year.

The early history of the Sonoma Coast was one of small tribal villages until the Spanish and Russians sought riches here. Thus the sheltered coves along the coast gradually became transportation hubs for coastal sailing vessels. As early agricultural families decided to improve ancient game trails along the shoreline by building the first gravel wagon roads, they pursued a level path hugging the seaside along the clifftops. World War II brought the tangible fear of an enemy invasion of our county by sea, so urgent highway improvements enabled rapid access for a coastal defense that, fortunately, was never needed.

As the coast became a desirable second-home destination, large landowners near Gleason Beach apparently decided to subdivide cliffside lots into a skinny development between Highway 1 and the ocean.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8294059-181/close-to-home-the-sonoma

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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