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Sebastopol to roll out county’s first electric bus

Alexandria Bordas, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sebastopol leaders are celebrating an environmental victory after becoming the first city in Sonoma County to receive an electric bus.

The county bus officially will be rolled out at the Sebastopol Transit Hub at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The launch comes at the heels of an announcement by Santa Rosa city officials that they plan to buy four zero-emission buses after securing nearly $3 million in federal funding.

Part of the county transit system, the Sebastopol electric shuttle will serve riders along the downtown corridor for free. Built in Lancaster in Southern California, the 30-foot coach has a range of 137 miles per battery charge and a 22-passenger capacity. It’ll offer riders wireless internet and USB charging ports.

“Sebastopol is the environmental leader of Sonoma County,” said Sarah Gurney, Sebastopol city councilwoman. “That’s why and how we got the first electric bus.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9029368-181/sebastopol-to-roll-out-countys?sba=AAS

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

Programs encourage Sonoma County high school students to ditch car commutes

SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Efforts to shift school commutes away from single-rider trips to more sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling, and public transit are making a difference at 12 Sonoma County high schools.

“Since September 2017 the Safe Routes to School pilot program has seen measurable increases in active and alternative forms of transportation among students at participating high schools,” said Kelly Elder, Public Health Division manager at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS).

The two-year pilot program is coordinated by DHS and funded by the Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, aims to increase physical activity among high school students and decrease greenhouse gas emissions related to vehicle trips.

The Department collaborated with the Center for Climate Protection to implement youth leadership trainings at 12 local high schools, while W-Trans, a traffic-engineering consultant, received funding to assess walking and biking infrastructure around the schools.

“Our team has gathered information on walking and bicycling to and from school, and we led walking audits in the spring to identify critical pedestrian and bike safety issues,” said Principal, W-Trans, Steve Weinberger.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-high-schools-reduce-carbon-footprint-during-commute

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

New ARB report finds California regions are falling short on climate goals, as pollution from driving increases

CLIMATE PLAN

Top findings

Today’s report on those plans finds that regions have made progress in some areas, but not nearly enough to meet their goals:

1. Regions are not on track to meet their climate goals, not for 2020 or even for 2035.
2. Statewide, driving is increasing. The trend is going in the wrong direction — each of us is driving more, not less.
3. Not enough investment is going toward climate-friendly transportation — including walking, bicycling, and public transit — or affordable housing near jobs and transit.
4. Action is needed at every level of government — cities, counties, regions, and the state — to get on track.

“To reduce emissions, the most sustainable options need to be the most convenient,” said Ella Wise, State Policy Associate at ClimatePlan.

Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a new report finding that California regions are not on track to meet either their 2020 or 2035 climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional action from every level of government is required, including more investment in sustainable transportation and affordable homes near jobs and transit. The report can be downloaded here.

Each metropolitan region in the state has a plan, required by law, to reduce emissions by reducing the need to drive. However, the report finds that regions are failing to deliver on their plans. Part of regions’ failure is due to challenges beyond their control, such as limited state funding and local land use decisions. But regions continue to invest in highways, which results in more driving, not less.

Read more at https://www.climateplan.org/new_report_california_regions_falling_short_on_climate_driving_increases

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SMART, Santa Rosa at loggerheads over Jennings Avenue pedestrian and bicycling crossing

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay’s year-old commuter rail line and the region’s largest city are embroiled in an increasingly entrenched public standoff over whether to construct a long-planned footpath across the tracks in northwest Santa Rosa — a crossing sought by the adjacent neighborhoods, bicyclists and some of the train system’s most vocal advocates.

Santa Rosa favors the pedestrian and bicycle crossing at Jennings Avenue, a project first outlined almost a decade ago and endorsed once again by the City Council this week. The crossing is meant to restore an east-west footpath that dates back to at least the early 20th century, according to the city, and until it was fenced off by SMART in 2015 remained a key community connector.

But the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, which previously backed the ground-level crossing and twice offered letters of support for grant funding to build it, abandoned the concept about a year ago and has sidestepped any scheduled public discussion of the disputed pathway.

SMART officials say the at-grade crossing would endanger path users, including schoolchildren. The proposed crossing, about 1 mile north of the downtown Railroad Square station, would traverse tracks where oncoming trains usually travel at 35 mph, according to SMART.

But public comments from Santa Rosa council members over the stalled project reflected the city’s growing sense of frustration. Some were confused by the impasse. Others were incensed. The path is meant to serve an area of the city that otherwise lacks suitable pedestrian access across the tracks.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re having a conversation about the safety of this crossing at this point,” said Mayor Chris Coursey, a former SMART spokesman. “If this crossing as designed isn’t safe, then there isn’t a safe crossing on SMART’s line. It’s a railroad that needs to be integrated with these communities. Crossings are part of the design. This crossing needs to be part of the design.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8866793-181/smart-santa-rosa-at-loggerheads

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , ,

Sonoma County mulls changes to controversial quarry project

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday revived one of their most controversial land-use debates, examining potential changes to a planned quarry west of Cotati that has been in the works for a decade and a half.

Quarry developer John Barella wants to alter some of the conditions the county imposed when it narrowly approved his project off Roblar Road eight years ago. The Board of Supervisors last year hired a consultant to study Barella’s proposed changes and is now considering a draft of the resulting environmental analysis.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion centered around a 1.6-mile stretch of Roblar Road that would be used hundreds of times daily by large trucks hauling aggregate from the quarry. Barella’s team says the original county requirement to widen the road to 40 feet proved unworkable and proposed constructing a road that’s 32 feet wide instead.

The proposal prompted safety concerns from some supervisors and community members, particularly since the road is used by cyclists.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the only current board member who was in office when the project was approved, called for further road improvements that would slow traffic and better accommodate bicycles.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8845302-181/sonoma-county-mulls-changes-to

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California counters Trump on car emissions standards, expands other climate rules

Tony Barboza, LOS ANGELES TIMES

In an escalation in the fight against climate change and the Trump administration, California regulators approved new measures to defend the state’s vehicle emissions standards and bolster rules to cut carbon pollution from transportation.

The state Air Resources Board voted Friday to require automakers to comply with California’s strict rules on car and truck pollution if they want to sell vehicles in the state. It’s California’s latest move against the Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel economy targets and revoke California’s power to set its own standards. State officials said the counterstrike was necessary to close a potential loophole automakers could use to evade compliance with California’s more stringent rules.

“The health of our state, our nation and the globe are at stake, and that is a fight worth having,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who sits on the board.

The measure seeks to strengthen California’s footing as it fights to preserve its emissions rules, both in court and in negotiations with the White House. At the same time, the move brings the nation one step closer to having two different standards: One for California and the dozen other aligned states that account for one-third of the U.S. auto market, and another for the rest of the country.

During the board’s meeting in Sacramento, the 16-member panel also expanded a climate rule that reduces carbon pollution with tradeable credits that gasoline and diesel producers must purchase from producers of lower-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and biodiesel. By further incentivizing those cleaner technologies, the low-carbon fuel standard is expected to cut the cost of a new electric vehicle by up to $2,000 while raising gas prices by up to 36 cents over the next 12 years.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-carbon-fuels-20180928-story.html

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , ,

SMART to begin work on extension of commuter rail to Windsor

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board of directors Wednesday authorized spending $24 million to launch the next, highly anticipated phase of railwork needed to extend commuter train service north to Windsor.

The unanimous board decision represents a major expansion geared toward fulfilling the promise made in 2008, when voters approved a two-county, 70-mile line stretching from Cloverdale to Larkspur.

The SMART board approved the spending with two 12-0 votes, setting in motion rail safety upgrades and design work needed to expand the rail line north by 3 miles from the current northbound terminal near the Sonoma County Airport.

The work is set to begin this fall, with heavy construction in 2020 and system testing in 2021. Agency officials said SMART could start serving Windsor, with a population of 27,000, by late 2021 or early 2022.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8754419-181/smart-to-begin-work-on

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

California’s new energy law (SB 100) is a piece in a larger puzzle

Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET

Rooftop solar,storage and energy efficiency still play critical roles

California’s new landmark energy law should be a matter of pride for the whole state. It calls for electricity providers to rely on renewable sources for at least 60% of their delivered power by 2030 and on zero greenhouse gas-emitted sources for the remaining 40% by 2045. People refer to this as the 100% clean energy bill, and it represents a bold new approach for reducing California’s carbon footprint. The California Legislature deserves praise for its dedication to these important issues and for its leadership.

Let’s be clear, however, about what this change is and what it isn’t. The new law is not a 100% renewable energy mandate. The zero-emitting 40% could include large-scale hydroelectric, which is not called “renewable” for the purposes of California’s mandate, and nuclear power. It could even include natural gas or coal-fired power if people can figure out an economical way to capture and sequester all of the related greenhouse gas emissions. Although the new law leaves it to regulators to define what “clean” means, arguably some of the eligible power sources are not particularly clean, as I will explain below. Nonetheless, at this point only Hawaii can boast of a similar broad effort to eliminate carbon-based powerplant fuels.

So, we’re done! Since all power is going to be clean, we are all off the hook. It doesn’t matter how much we use. It doesn’t matter if we generate power on our rooftops, or if we provide community solar parks. We can plug in our cars, set up new districts with neon lights that rival Las Vegas, and get a second or third refrigerator to store beer in the garage — our friendly retail electricity provider will take care of everything.

Well, not so fast. It is still important for us all to do what we can to reduce demand for energy, across-the-board, and shift our usage to periods of lower demand. It is still valuable to distribute power generation throughout a utility service area (closer to customers), add solar photovoltaics to suitable rooftops, and rely on storage in batteries and other devices to make renewable energy available at night and when the wind doesn’t blow.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/09/10/californias-new-energy-law-sb-100-is-a-piece-in-a-larger-puzzle/

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , ,

Op-Ed: Self-driving cars are not the future

Paris Marx, MEDIUM

For the past several years, Silicon Valley’s tech titans have been telling us that autonomous vehicles will become the future of urban mobility. No longer will we have to drive personal vehicles or even walk the “last mile” from transit stops to our final destinations — pods piloted by computers will whisk us wherever we want to go at minimal cost.

Our most ambitious technologists even claim that mass transit is outdated — it’s dirty, scary, and doesn’t get you to your final destination. Autonomous vehicles will make “individualized” transportation accessible to all — space limitations of dense urban cores be damned!

Can you seriously see us trying to cram all the pedestrians of New York City, or almost any major city around the world, into autonomous pods without creating the worst gridlock we’ve ever seen? It’s a hilarious proposal, but some technologists still believe it. (Remember, Elon Musk wants to build a ton of tunnels below Los Angeles for this exact reason.)

The truth is, autonomous vehicles will probably not dominate the streets of the future. Tech boosters’ blind fantasies are finally being revealed for the pipe dreams they really are. Self-driving cars aren’t imminent, the technology isn’t there yet. And while the reality of being sold a lie leaves some discouraged, a much more exciting vision of the future of mobility is emerging. Instead of streets hostile to anyone not in a metal box weighing a ton or two, we may see people reclaiming roadways for themselves.

The fatal crash of a self-driving Uber that killed a pedestrian as she crossed a Tempe, Arizona, street in March impacted the industry enormously. Ambitious visions were replaced by cautious statements about the prospects of autonomous technology. For once, it seemed industry leaders were coming to terms with the realities of a technology that they’d lost touch with after several years of building hype.

Read more at https://medium.com/s/story/the-future-of-mobility-belongs-to-people-not-self-driving-cars-625c05b29692

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

Study: Sonoma County getting older, more reliant on commuters

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County is heading into a period of powerful change: The rising number of senior citizens will outpace growth in working-age residents, increasing the county’s reliance on workers who live in other parts of the Bay Area.

A shortage of affordable housing is compounding the demographic shift, forcing more and more people to commute into the county every day to fill employers’ need for workers.

Those projections are addressed in a new, wide-ranging report from county economic development officials. The report, the 2018 Unabridged Sonoma County Indicators, is a virtual almanac of facts about the local economy, housing market, environment and health of residents.

The report is one of many released in 2018 that offer a wealth of socioeconomic data on the county. The compilation of statistics comes in a year where officials have been studying both threats and opportunities for the county and the greater Bay Area.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/8664855-181/study-sonoma-county-getting-older