Category Archives: Transportation

Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents who don’t want to own a car but might like to zip around in one sometimes are in luck — Zipcar, the nation’s largest car-sharing company, is coming to town.

The City Council today is expected to sign off on a deal allowing the company to operate two of its rental cars from city parking lots — one at the downtown SMART train and the other next to the Russian River Brewery.

The hope is that the service will give people yet another reason kick their fossil-fuel burning cars to the curb in favor of more environmentally friendly options like bicycling or public transportation.

“We’re looking for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the car-share concept is a way to allow people to eliminate car ownership, or at least reduce the number of miles they need to drive,” said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking manager.

The service, which began in the Boston area in 2000, is already available in 500 cities around the nation. After a period of rapid growth, the company was sold in 2013 for $500 million to Avis Budget Group. The company first rolled into Sonoma County in March 2016, when it began renting out two cars at Sonoma State University.

The expansion to Santa Rosa was made possible by a $170,130 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority providing subsidies to Zipcar and SCTA for administration of the program for two years.

Read more at: Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

How about a shiny new electric car for less than $10,000?

Price has long been a concern for motorists interested in ending their relationship with petroleum, and Sonoma Clean Power, the not-for-profit public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is bringing the cost of electric vehicles down to clearance-sale levels.

The second year of the agency’s Drive EverGreen electric vehicle (EV) incentive program — on now through Oct. 31 — offers deals on nine models sold and leased by seven local dealers, ranging in base price from a $51,095 BMW i3 down to a Volkswagen e-Golf listed at $28,995.

The e-Golf, a hatchback with a 124-mile range, comes with a $7,000 dealer credit and a $2,000 Sonoma Clean Power incentive for the average utility customer, plus the possibility of a $2,500 state rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit. The incentive package, which totals $19,000, slashes the price to $9,995.

“It’s a smokin’ deal,” said Cordel Stillman, director of programs for Sonoma Clean Power, which delivers electricity to 600,000 customers in the two North Bay counties.

But it can get even better for power customers who live in the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which offers an additional $3,000 incentive in a parallel program called 3-2-1 Go Green. The district covers about 60,000 residents in western and northern Sonoma County.

For Sonoma Clean Power customers who qualify for all the incentives, including a full federal tax credit as well as low-income bonuses, the cost of the e-Golf sinks to $4,495.

Read more at: New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars

David R. Baker, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

California has far more electric cars and plug-in hybrids plying its roads than any other state — about 300,000 so far. But they’re still just a tiny fraction of auto sales.

Now, legislation in Sacramento is designed to juice the market, just as a new generation of long-range electric cars hits showroom floors.

A bill from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would revamp and expand California’s existing rebate program for people who buy electrics or plug-in hybrids. The bill, a version of which has already passed the Assembly, would devote $3 billion to clean car incentives. The money would come from the state’s cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

The new rebates would start big — how big has yet to be determined — and then shrink over time, as plug-in cars become more common and affordable. Eventually, the rebates would disappear altogether.

It’s the same approach California used 10 years ago to kick-start sales of rooftop solar arrays. That rebate program helped create the state’s solar industry.

Even in eco-conscious California, sales of battery-powered cars have not accelerated as quickly as state officials wanted, due to relatively low gasoline prices and the limited range of most electric vehicles.

Read more at: California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Luxury resort, winery approved in Sonoma Valley

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A proposed luxury hotel resort and winery in Kenwood that withstood court challenges before languishing for more than a decade is again moving ahead following a favorable decision from the Sonoma County Planning Commission.

Despite a vigorous campaign by opponents, the commission on Thursday unanimously upheld design changes to the future inn, spa and restaurant and affirmed that the project has a vested right to go forward.

“Legally we really don’t have a big leg to stand on if we decide this project isn’t going to go through,” said Commissioner Dick Fogg, adding that the design changes were not sufficient to require further review, or delay.

“I think it’s a better design. I like it,” said Commissioner John Lowry, echoing the comments of his colleagues on the 50-room hotel, luxury spa and 125-seat restaurant and bar. A relatively small 10,000-case winery and 11 homes that were previously approved have yet to undergo design review.

Opponents led by the Valley of the Moon Alliance have been fighting the hotel and resort since its inception about 15 years ago, viewing it as part of the steady onslaught of wineries, tasting rooms and events that have altered the face of the picturesque valley and piled more cars onto busy Highway 12.

Read more at: Luxury resort, winery approved in Sonoma Valley | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Transportation

Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

EV report: Beyond combustion in Sonoma County

Meeting Sonoma County’s climate protection goals will require putting 138,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and effectively ending sales of fuel-burning cars, a local environmental group said in a report due for release this week.

“We must now begin to create a future beyond combustion,” said the report by the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.

Advocating a dramatic shift in consumer preferences and current automobile industry sales, the report said electric vehicle (EV) sales must grow by 30 percent a year for the next 13 years to meet the county’s goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sonoma County has an estimated 4,500 EVs rolling now, the center said in its report, “Beyond Combustion: Electric Vehicle Trends, Goals and Recommendations for Sonoma County.

”Sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars, both considered in the EV category, accounted for nearly 5 percent of the state’s new car market during the first three months of this year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association’s latest report.

EV sales have grown steadily from 2.5 percent of the market in 2013 to 3.6 percent last year, the association said.

Read more at: Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

California Supreme Court issues ruling in closely watched North Coast rail case 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that publicly owned railroads are not exempt from the state’s bedrock environmental law, a decision hailed by environmental watchdogs on the North Coast and opponents of California’s high-speed rail project.

Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, called the court ruling “vindication.”

The Arcata-based group sued the North Coast Railroad Authority in a bid to force the state-chartered agency to study the environmental impacts of running freight along a 316-mile rail line that traverses Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt counties and runs through the Eel River canyon.

Greacen said as a result of the Supreme Court decision, NCRA won’t be able to rebuild the line through the canyon “without taking a hard look at the environmental impacts, which has been the goal all along.”

More broadly, the court ruling could have major implications for the state’s high-speed rail project. Several court cases are pending in state courts seeking to hold the California High-Speed Rail Authority accountable for construction and operation of the service.

Read more at: California Supreme Court issues ruling in closely watched North Coast rail case | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

California Supreme Court calls for more robust analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in planning

Sean Hecht, LEGAL PLANET

So SANDAG won the Supreme Court case.  Nonetheless, the opinion was framed very narrowly, and reaffirms that an Environmental Impact Statement for a planning project must develop a robust analysis of greenhouse gas emissions under the plan.  Here, I’ll explain why the opinion will ensure that local governments and courts seriously and rigorously consider greenhouse gas emissions when they develop plans for future growth, development, and transportation.

In May, Rick Frank posted his reflections on the oral argument in the California Supreme Court on Cleveland National Forest Association v. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and predicted that SANDAG would win the case.  His prediction has proved correct with the release of the Court’s opinion last week – but SANDAG’s narrow win provides a lot to be cheer about for advocates and policymakers who want to ensure that new development and transportation planning in California helps, rather than hinders, our statewide greenhouse gas reduction efforts.  [Disclosure: UCLA’s Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic, through the work of my colleague Cara Horowitz and several students, filed an amicus curiae brief in this case on behalf of a group of scientists, supporting the plaintiffs.]

Several prior Legal Planet posts have covered the issues in this case (including this detailed discussion by Rick after the Court accepted the case for review,  this one by Rick after the case was calendared, and this analysis by Ethan Elkind after the Court of Appeal opinion was issued) so I’ll just summarize them here briefly.  The plaintiffs – who included the California Attorney General as well as multiple advocacy groups – challenged the legal adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for SANDAG’s 2011 regional transportation plan, a legally-mandated plan setting forth a multi-decade strategy for meeting future transportation needs in the San Diego region.  At issue was the plan’s implications for future emissions of greenhouse gases, and whether the EIR did a good enough job explaining and addressing those implications.  The plaintiffs, including the Attorney General, alleged that the EIR didn’t do a good enough job.  They asserted that the EIR insufficiently disclosed and analyzed the plan’s inconsistency with state greenhouse gas reduction goals articulated in an executive order that required 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  They also claimed that the EIR failed to adequately consider alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce future emissions.

Both the trial court and Court of Appeal agreed with the plaintiffs that the environmental review was inadequate.The Supreme Court granted review on one issue: “Must the environmental impact report for a regional transportation plan include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals reflected in Executive Order No. S-3-05 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act?”  The Court did not, however, review the Court of Appeal’s judgment that the EIR didn’t sufficiently consider mitigation or alternatives.

All the parties’ briefs are archived here, for anyone who might be interested.

Read more at: Cal. Supreme Court Upholds SANDAG CEQA | Legal Planet

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling

Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

Eventually, upon the trail’s completion, the 8-foot-wide paved trail, with 2-foot gravel shoulders, is designed to provide two-way bike traffic with room for pedestrians along a trans-Valley route parallel to Highway 12.

The 13-mile, $24 million Sonoma Valley Trail moved a half-million dollars and a half mile closer to reality recently, as the Board of Supervisors approved a construction contract for a portion of the proposed bicycle path in the Agua Caliente area.

The funding was approved for the Central Sonoma Valley Trail, a portion of the more comprehensive Sonoma Valley Trail, roughly from Agua Caliente Road to Maxwell Farms. It is designed to connect the Sonoma Valley Trail with the City of Sonoma’s Bike Path.

The board voted to award G.D. Nielson Construction a total of $468,832 to build .42 miles of trail, in two segments. The first is just over a tenth of a mile, from the Larson Park trail north through Flowery Elementary, to connect at Depot Road with the existing trial. As of Monday, July 24, crews were at work on this section of the path.

The second .31 mile section starts at Main Street – that little spur off Sonoma Highway at the McDonald’s restaurant – and continues west on the north side of Verano Avenue to Sonoma Creek, on the edge of Maxwell Farms Regional Park. This section of trail is primarily designed to provide access to Sonoma Creek, as it does not advance the overall direction of the Sonoma Valley Trail toward the city’s bike path.

Read more at: 13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

SMART advances path segments along tracks in Sonoma County 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Segments of a bike and pedestrian path designed to skirt North Bay railroad tracks where occupied passenger trains are soon slated to run inched closer to reality under funding proposals advanced Wednesday.

One of the segments, a 1.2-mile path running along railroad tracks over the Petaluma River and under Highway 101 between Payran Street and Southpoint Boulevard in Petaluma, is now fully-funded, with construction plans in the works.

The other segment reviewed Wednesday would extend from Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park to Todd Road south of Santa Rosa.

The timetable for the start of SMART’s passenger service, meanwhile, remains unclear.

Read more at: SMART advances path segments along tracks in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation

Sonoma County airport grows, bucking a trend 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Airlines took interest in starting service here after the airport in 2014 completed a $55 million runway expansion, allowing larger aircraft to fly in and out. Airport and business officials long had sought the facility upgrade and the expanded air service for its benefits to commerce in general and the county’s hospitality sector in particular.

For most of the past decade, the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport has enjoyed steady but incremental growth in the number of passengers served by one commercial airline.

But with the addition of more carriers this year the number jumped, prompting the airport to erect a new temporary waiting area and to make plans to build a larger terminal that could cost roughly $25 million.

Even as Allegiant Air last week confirmed it will end its weekly Santa Rosa-to-Las Vegas service later this month, the airport is about to gain its third new airline of the year. On Aug. 24, Sun Country Airlines will begin a weekly seasonal route from Minneapolis to Santa Rosa.

The comings and goings will result in a total of four airlines, three of which offer routes with daily year-round service.

The growth is rare among small U.S. airports, say airport officials and airline industry analysts.“We definitely are not the norm,” said airport manager Jon Stout. “We are the exception.”

Read more at: Sonoma County airport grows, bucking a trend | The Press Democrat

Filed under Transportation