Bay Area’s Controversial Housing & Transit Plan Clears Hurdle

State law requires that every metro area have one–but try pleasing everybody

Drawing of a proposed string of high-density, bike- friendly, mass transit-oriented developments along a stretch of El Camino Real between Daly City and San Jose.

A sweeping “green” vision for the future of transit and housing in the Bay Area inched a step closer to realization in Oakland last night.

Officials from the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted on portions of Plan Bay Area, a 25-year strategy for land use and transportation for the Bay Area’s growing population, which is expected to surpass nine million by 2040.

The plan also proposes ways to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction target of 15% by 2035 outlined under SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act – namely by encouraging high-density housing near transit hubs and along corridors. Continue reading

State Joins Suit against San Diego Regional Transportation Plan

Critics say long-term, San Diego’s plan will add greenhouse gas emissions, not reduce them

Critics say that San Diego's regional transportation plan focuses too much on freeways.

The spotlight is on San Diego to lead the way on regional transportation planning that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But critics say that the regional planning agency’s proposal is anything but a model for sustainable planning.

San Diego’s regional planning agency, SANDAG, is the first to develop a plan since California passed a law requiring that regions try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transit planning. The law, SB 375, went into effect in 2010, and falls under the Air Resources Board’s Sustainable Communities program. The ARB approved SANDAG’s plan when it was submitted in November of 2011, saying it would meet short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020-2035. Continue reading

Sneak Preview of Living in a “Zero-Net Energy” World

Davis housing development claims to the the nation’s biggest

West Village features sleek lines and cutting-edge energy-efficient design concepts.

The typical American master-planned community sill features cookie-cutter houses, cement driveways and green lawns. But UC Davis is putting a new spin on the concept with the unveiling of West Village, a $300 million student and faculty housing community designed to be “zero-net energy.” Developers say it’s the nation’s largest to employ this kind of green construction.

And although “zero-net” [PDF] may sound complicated, the concept is actually quite simple: All the buildings in West Village will take in as much energy as they put back into the power grid — not on a daily basis but at the end of each year, the total consumption of the entire housing development should “net out” to zero. Continue reading

Should California Put Hybrids Back in the Carpool Lane?

You’d think that kicking thousands of solo drivers out of the carpool lane would make traffic move faster…at least for carpoolers. But you’d be wrong, according to researchers from UC Berkeley.

In 2005, California granted drivers of hybrid vehicles access to carpool lanes (regardless of the number of riders) as a way to spur adoption of low-emissions vehicles. But that program ended this summer, after critics argued that the 85,000 cars that had qualified for special lane access were too many, and all the new hybrid drivers were clogging things up for carpoolers. Continue reading

Blame My Driving Habits on that Parking Spot

Being the true confessions of a solo driver in L.A.

Hear Krissy Clark’s companion radio feature from The California Report.

Afternoon rush hour with a mostly-empty HOV lane

I’m a Bay Area native who has about evenly divided my adult life between San Francisco and Los Angeles. So, I have a schizophrenic relationship to driving. Which is to say, I have the same kind of relationship that California as a whole has to driving.

Here’s what I’ve learned during my intra-state sojourns: my transportation habits have very little to do with how environmentally conscious I am as a person, and have a lot to do with parking spots.

When I lived in San Francisco, my daily life was 90% car-free. I owned a car but aside from moving it on street sweeping days (or trying to remember to), I barely thought about the thing unless I was leaving for a weekend trip. My bike, my feet, the bus, BART and the transbay ferries were my chariots. Some of it had to do with the city’s human-scaled streets and efficient public transit. But mostly, it was just too damn time-consuming–or expensive–to find a parking spot most of the places I wanted to go. I couldn’t be bothered to drive. Continue reading

Central Valley Faces “Smart Growth” Conundrum

How “smart” is it if you can’t walk to the store…any store?

Reporter Sasha Khokha hits the road.

By Jefferson Beavers

When we decided to take a look at smart growth in the Central Valley, we wanted to see if the goal of compact, walkable living was a realistic option for the largely suburban, car-loving communities of central California.

So, Central Valley bureau chief Sasha Khokha decided to get out of her car, put on her walking shoes, and burn some shoe leather…almost literally.

As the story’s field producer, I first researched dozens of developments in Fresno and Madera counties. I looked for good examples of high-density housing and sustainable neighborhoods as defined by the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, the area’s land use and transportation planning process. Continue reading

Cutting Emissions…With Car Insurance?

The “Pay As You Drive” approach to auto coverage could save some drivers money–and cut lots of CO2, studies say.

Los Angeles traffic (Photo: Gabriel Bouys)

Most car insurance is priced in the United States kind of like an all-you-can-eat salad bar, says Justin Horner, a transportation analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. You pay a set amount once or twice a year, and then you can eat one little salad, or you can totally chow down, making several trips back for more food, piles of cole slaw and jello threatening to topple from your over-filled plate. Either way, it makes no difference to your wallet.

And, of course, regardless of hunger level, it can be kind of tempting to go back again and again, just because you can.

On the other hand, if you get your salad at one of those pay-by-weight places, you’re likely to be a lot more discriminating about what’s on your plate. That’s how we buy gas, says Horner.

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L.A.’s Holy Grail: Transit that Works for Most

When cities add light rail and cut bus service, are they “robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

By Alex Schmidt

It really is true that decent public transport to Angelenos is like the Holy Grail to Indiana Jones — especially on L.A.’s Westside. Looking a bit more deeply into transportation in L.A. makes you check certain assumptions that you may have grown up with. There are, after all, over one million people who ride public transport here every day, and most of that takes place on buses.

L.A. Metro bus stop headed downtown..for now. (Photo: Alex Schmidt)

Now, and when bus cuts were previously threatened L.A. (notably when the Red and Gold lines opened on the east side of town), Metro has been accused of racism. In fact, in 1996, the NAACP and Bus Rider’s Union sued the MTA in federal court and won a consent decree to expand the bus system every year for 10 years. Now that the consent decree has ended, bus lines have been cut regularly. And once again, the Bus Rider’s Union has filed a complaint with the FTA’s Office of Civil Rights. Such investigations take many months, and sometimes as long as a year, so it’s not likely that it will halt the cuts this time around. Continue reading

High Marks but Few Takers on California Transit

So…if Bay Area transit is so good, why don’t more people use it?

(Photo: Craig Miller)

A new study from the Brookings Institution finds that compared with the rest of the nation, the Bay Area offers pretty good public transportation options.

Among 100 major metropolitan areas, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont ranks 16th, and San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale ranks second.  Areas were ranked according to how accessible transit is to riders, how long it takes to get to work on transit and how often the systems run during rush hours.

So…if Bay Area transit is so good, why doesn’t anybody seem to take it?

Just one out of ten people in the Bay Area commute by public transportation, according to John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He says that number hasn’t changed much over the years, despite huge investments in the system. And the Bay Area isn’t alone in that. A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that between 1990 and 2008, the share of commuters taking transit increased by less than one percentage point, from 5% to 5.5%, despite the construction of 217 new rail stations, and the fact that more than a third of California’s transportation spending since the early 1980s has gone to public transit.
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Planners Seek Public Input on Bay Area Growth

How do you want the Bay Area to look in 2040?

Tonight the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) kicks off the first of nine “Plan Bay Area” workshops, aimed at gathering public input on plans for sustainable growth in the region. The planning agency is seeking comment on the Initial Vision Scenario, which was released by MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) last month.  This scenario is the first draft of the Bay Area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a planning document required under the state law, SB 375, which was passed in 2008 and requires planning regions throughout California to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars by integrating land-use and transportation planning.

The Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Diego
have some of the most aggressive reductions targets: seven percent per capita by 2020 and 13-16% by 2035 (compared to 2005 levels).  The South Coast (by far the biggest region, including Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Ventura, and other counties) is shooting for an eight percent reduction by 2020, and 13% by 2035.
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