Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: For Uber and Lyft, the rideshare bubble bursts

Greg Bensiger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.

Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution. The companies have long insisted their services are a boon to the environment in part because they reduce the need for short trips, can pool riders heading in roughly the same direction and cut unnecessary miles by, for instance, eliminating the need to look for street parking.

It turns out that Uber rides do spare the air from the high amount of pollutants emitted from starting up a cold vehicle, when it is operating less efficiently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found. But that gain is wiped out by the need for drivers to circle around waiting for or fetching their next passenger, known as deadheading. Deadheading, Lyft and Uber estimated in 2019, is equal to about 40 percent of rideshare miles driven in six American cities. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that driving without a passenger leads to a roughly 20 percent overall increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to trips made by personal vehicles.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags ,

Higher tides will threaten Bay Area roads. Highway 37 shows the challenge ahead

John King, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

It is by no means the only one. All along San Francisco Bay, low-lying roadways and rail lines face the potential of being flooded as sea levels rise and the bay expands.

“This is a much bigger thing than most people realize,” said Randy Rentschler, director of legislation for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “The whole area is a transportation network at risk.”

That risk is the result of generations viewing the shoreline’s shallow tidelands and mudflats as easy places to build the infrastructure required by a growing region, including highways and railroad tracks lines. The assumption was that the bay was locked in place — portions could be filled in, but it would never grow.

That assumption didn’t take into account larger changes in the climate triggered by global temperatures that have climbed steadily since 1980 and show no signs of leveling off.

As a result, a study last year by state and regional agencies said the combination of higher tides and rough storms in coming decades could upend travel in all nine Bay Area counties.

Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2021/san-francisco-bay-area-sea-level-rise-2021/highway-37

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

SCTA releases draft Comprehensive Transportation Plan

Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA)

Moving Forward 2050 — the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) tells the story of Sonoma County’s transportation system. The plan examines the current state of transportation in the county and looks at future needs and goals and provides information on how these needs and goals can be met. The CTP is updated frequently enough to ensure that the plan is still relevant, useful, and represents the current transportation needs and goals of SCTA and Sonoma County jurisdictions. The previous CTP was completed in 2016.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, TransportationTags , , ,

Board of Forestry set to weaken Wildfire Safety Regulations

Daniel Barad, Sierra Club California CAPITOL VOICE

Sierra Club California’s fight for common-sense wildfire safety continues. Later this month, the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection will consider revised regulations that would drastically weaken road safety standards that have been in place for 30 years.

If adopted, these regulations would make it more difficult for communities to evacuate during wildfires and more dangerous for firefighters to access existing, substandard roads.

Sierra Club California has been a steadfast advocate for fire-safe communities at the Capitol and in state agencies. We have called for more funding for defensible space and home hardening. We have supported legislation that would require wildfire safety planning to be incorporated into cities’ general plans.

So naturally, we’ll be urging board members not to adopt these harmful regulations.

In addition to making it more dangerous to evacuate during emergencies, these harmful regulations could also make it easier to build new homes and buildings in fire-prone wildland areas — putting more families in harm’s way and increasing economic risk from future fire. To make matters worse, the board is unlikely to examine the major environmental impacts that these regulations could have under the Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Without a CEQA analysis, it is much more difficult for the state of California to plan for and avoid these environmental consequences.

California wildfires have destroyed countless homes and taken far too many lives, and the climate crisis will only make wildfires more severe in coming years. The state must take steps that make wildfire-prone communities safer. The proposed regulations would do the opposite.

Join us to fight against these dangerous regulations. Send a message to the Board of Forestry at PublicComments@BOF.ca.gov and tell members to reject the proposed road safety regulations and to complete a CEQA analysis. Click here for a sample email.

Thank you for taking action!

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Sonoma County winery events could be limited by Planning Commission

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After years of wrangling, Sonoma County officials are moving forward this week with a measure that will spell out what wineries can and can’t do when it comes to hosting events.

It’s the latest chapter in a long debate that has pitted the politically powerful sector against local activists and residents who say an influx of tourists is threatening their quality of life with traffic congestion and noise.

The county’s Planning Commission will hold a Thursday meeting in which the panel intends to vote on a draft ordinance that has been crafted by staff.

Planning Commission Meeting information

Planning officials searched for a middle ground between the interests of a main economic driver in the county against mobilized community groups in the areas of Sonoma Valley, Westside Road and Dry Creek Valley where the issue has become a flash point. Permit Sonoma held a virtual forum in February to solicit suggestions from stakeholders and their input went into the document.

The ordinance would set new standards for winery events, spelling out rules covering parking and traffic management; food service; event coordination with neighbors; and noise.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/sonoma-county-winery-events-could-be-limited-by-planning-commission/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, TransportationTags , , , ,

Press Release: Sonoma County Planning Commission to hear draft winery events ordinance

Bradley Dunn, PERMIT SONOMA

Permit Sonoma has published Sonoma County’s first draft Winery Events Ordinance, which would set new standards for winery events like parking requirements, food service, event coordination, traffic management, and noise standards to address the impact of winery visitor-serving uses on agricultural land.

“The wine industry plays a critical role in Sonoma’s economy,” said Tennis Wick, Director of Permit Sonoma. “We are proud to work with the industry and neighbors to develop regulations which balance winery needs while protecting our rural communities and agriculture.”

The standards will provide a baseline for how the County balances preservation of agricultural areas with sustainable development of wine industry events when evaluating individual projects and their impacts. Permit Sonoma will utilize these standards when considering new and modified use permit applications for winery visitor-serving uses. The draft Ordinance provides consistency and clarity to the use permit evaluation process, reduces impacts to surrounding properties, protects agricultural lands, and preserves rural character.

Staff will present the draft to the Planning Commission at a virtual public hearing on June 3 at 1:50 p.m. The Planning Commission public hearing will be conducted via videoconference. Members of the public may watch, listen and participate in the hearing through Zoom or by phone. Additionally, written comments can be submitted through May 28, by 5 p.m. via email at PRMD-WineryEvents@sonoma-county.org.

After the Planning Commission Hearing, staff expects to present a final draft Winery Events Ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for approval on Aug. 17.

The draft Ordinance is posted on the Winery Events website.

The agenda for the virtual Planning Commission hearing and project staff report will be posted one week before the hearing on the Planning Commission calendar. https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Planning-Commission/Calendar/Planning-Commission-Meeting-May-20-2021/

For more information about the public hearing, to submit comments, or to review project files digitally, members of the public can send an email to PRMD-WineryEvents@sonoma-county.org, call (707) 565-1900, option 5, or visit the project website: www.sonomacounty.ca.gov/WineryEvents

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-planning-commission-to-hear-draft-winery-events-ordinance/

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , ,

West County Trail extension opens near downtown Forestville

Elissa Chudwin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An extension of the West County Trail that connects to downtown Forestville now is open, according to a news release from Sonoma County Regional Parks.

The .2-mile extension connects the trail’s northern end at Parajo Lane to Front Street in Forestville for the first time in the trail’s history. An 8-foot-wide raised boardwalk also was constructed on a section of the extension so cyclists and pedestrians can access the trail despite seasonal flooding.

The West County Trail is part of a 13-mile network that links Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Graton and Forestville.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/west-county-trail-extension-opens-near-downtown-forestville/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags ,

Sonoma County startup Solectrac builds electric tractors for vineyard managers, hobbyists

Susan Wood, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Steve Heckeroth is a natural for running a novel electric tractor business — which is believed to have environmentally created a line in the “soil” to get generations of farmers to know the dirt on noisy, unhealthy diesel engines.

The 72-year-old businessman, who moved his Solectrac operation from Mendocino County to Santa Rosa near the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport a few weeks ago, has dedicated his life to finding alternatives to burning fossil fuels.

Through the years, he has dug deep into his imagination and will to reduce humankind’s carbon footprint by coming up with farm equipment that’s designed to heal the Earth and help the land’s stewards — known in industry circles as the ultimate environmentalists — operate more efficiently and with their own health in mind.

Read more at: https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/industrynews/sonoma-county-startup-solectrac-builds-electric-tractors-for-vineyard-manag/?ref=moststory

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

This California city banned the construction of any new gas stations

Kristin Toussaint, FAST COMPANY

Petaluma has decided it has enough gas stations to last until we transition to electric vehicles.

In the California city of Petaluma, which covers less than 15 square miles, there are currently 16 gas stations. But there will never be another one, even if one of the existing stations goes out of business. The ones that are left also can’t ever expand the number of fuel pumps, either, though they can add electric charging stations and hydrocarbon pumps. City officials recently approved a permanent ban on new gas stations in a move that climate activists say is national first, and a crucial step towards curbing our reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s a really important sign of things to come where, because we haven’t seen sufficient action at a state or federal level, cities have an opportunity to do the right thing and make sure we are planning a transition from a carbon economy to a clean energy economy,” says Matt Krogh, an oil and gas campaign manager with the environmental nonprofit Stand.earth. “There’s no need to build new fossil fuel infrastructure of any sort. We have all the tools we need for a clean energy economy, and these wasted investments are things that are going to become polluting liabilities, and communities get left holding the bag.”

Across the country the number of gas stations has been steadily declining, as big businesses like Costo, Sam’s Club, and Safeway have been adding gas stations to their existing stores. This can run smaller gas stations out of business—but also creates large environmental repercussions. “If they go out of business, there’s no one to pay for the cleanup or to offer new services like transitioning to electric charging or hydrogen,” Krogh says.

Gas stations have underground storage tanks which can crack and leak, polluting the soil and groundwater. That land has to be completely remediated before the ocation can be used for anything else, a process which often costs millions of dollars. In the U.S., there are currently 450,000 “brownfield” sites—previously developed land that currently isn’t in use and may be contaminated—and the EPA estimates half of those sites are contaminated by petroleum from underground tanks at abandoned gas stations.
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The growing importance of bike infrastructure

Bridgette DeShields, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

There is also a growing movement in the U.S. called “Complete Streets” – streets designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, enhance walkability, and increase transit efficiency. Already proven successful in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Copenhagen with encouraging bike commuting and actually revitalizing downtown areas by bringing more people to these safe spaces, features include: protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, accessible public transportation stops, safe crosswalks, and ADA compliant walkways, curbs, signals and more.

Last month, I wrote about the benefits of bike riding, and how attitudes about cycling differ between the U.S. and Europe (and other places). Now I want to examine why that might be and how that could change. One big difference is the investment in safe, convenient bike infrastructure. Bike infrastructure often appears to have a high price tag, but in comparison to the costs to build and maintain roadways for vehicles, the cost is relatively low. A study was conducted in the Portland, Oregon area (a mecca for cycling and bike commuting) in 2013 and found that the city’s entire bicycle network (over 300 miles of bikeways) “would cost $60 million to replace (in 2008 dollars), whereas the same investment would yield just one mile of a four-lane urban freeway.”

So where are we at in Sonoma County? We have really a very small and fragmented network of dedicated bike infrastructure with the main trails (e.g., Joe Rodota, creek trail, SMART path) making up maybe 50 miles at most. It is pretty tough to commute or even take the kids out for much of a spin without having to face less safe road conditions just to get from one trail segment to the other or utilize roadways with bike lanes. In comparison, there are over 600 miles of bike trails in the Denver Metro area. However, even places like the Denver area continue to have challenges. Denver is looking to the future with a plan to institute “Vision Zero,” a transportation planning philosophy about making streets safe for all users, “no matter their choice to walk, bike, drive or take transit.” Several California cities have adopted Vision Zero plans. Los Angeles has committed to end traffic deaths by 2025 in their ambitious Vision Zero Plan.
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