Friday, June 26, 2015

Opinion: Will California use congestion to coerce motorists?

Opinion: Will California use congestion to coerce motorists?

Jerry Brown says NO to California car culture.  

Gov. Brown ignores traffic congestion in special session

New Caltrans plan seeks auto travel reduction

Plan opposes work to relieve jammed roads, highways


When Jerry Brown staged a symbolic “groundbreaking” for his pet bullet train project in downtown Fresno five months ago, he traveled to his event by car.

He wasn’t alone. The 350 miles or so he traveled on his round-trip that day were a minute fraction of the approximately 900 million miles that California motorists drive on streets, roads and highways each day.

Or to put it another way, autos account for well over 90 percent of Californians’ transportation. Even the most optimistic projections of non-automotive travel say that’s unlikely to change much in the future as the state’s population and transportation demands continue to grow.

That fact and years of political neglect generate two problems – the nation’s worst traffic congestion and its third-worst pavement conditions.

Brown says he wants to do something about the state’s deteriorating roadways and has called a special legislative session to explore ways to put billions of dollars more into maintenance and reconstruction.

However, he is silent on congestion. The special legislative session may bring a simmering dispute over that facet of the transportation conundrum into sharper focus.

Three months ago, Brown’s Department of Transportation, fulfilling a 2009 legislative mandate, began circulating a draft of a California Transportation Plan, aimed at setting policy for the next quarter-century.

Citing California’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gases and improving access to non-automotive transportation, the CTP proposes to reduce automotive travel by increasing motorists’ taxes, flatly rejecting “road capacity enhancing strategies,” and urging the state to “avoid funding projects that add road capacity.”

Implicitly, therefore, it contends that increasing traffic congestion and the cost of driving would compel Californians to abandon their cars in favor of transit, bicycles and other non-automotive modes.

A punitive approach doesn’t sit well with the California Transportation Commission.

This month, the commission declared the CTP “is planning for significant actions that will fundamentally alter how Californians will utilize our transportation system” and urged that it balance “environmental goals with economic and mobility needs.”

The CTP, the commission says, puts too much emphasis on reducing automotive travel and too little on technological advances, such as electric cars, that could reduce fossil fuel use – Brown’s goal is a 50 percent cut – while maintaining personal mobility.

Californians support greenhouse gas reduction. But do they also want the state to compel them to change their lifestyles by parking their cars, jumping aboard trolley cars and bicycles, and trading their single-family homes for denser housing, as the CTP and other state policies assume they must?

It would be interesting to put that question on the ballot.

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1 comment:

  1. June 26, 2015 - Density bonus law alert!

    Several state legislators are pushing through amendments to the density bonus law that will take away cities' rights to require a minimum number of on-site parking spaces in density bonus projects. Most density bonus projects consist of a majority of market rate housing and just a few low income. Assemblyman Chau, the author of the bill, also added wording called the legislative intent "allowing builders and the market to decide how much parking is needed."
    Density bonus law amendment to change to no parking spaces required, no parking minimums, if developer requests density bonus.
    AB 744 by Chau and Gonzalez, and now includes Quirk has passed the Assembly and will be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 30. AB 744 adds a long, non-required section on legislative intent on density bonus, mixed-use, eliminating vehicle parking, and declares that infill development and excessive parking requirements is a matter of statewide concern and is not a municipal affair.
    The League of California Cities requested a "No" vote on the Assembly Floor on June 3.

    Among the reasons listed in the League of California Cities alert for voting no on this bill that will remove parking minimums:
    AB 744 offers a complete exemption from city parking requirements for senior housing, 62-plus, with no connection to transit.
    AB 744 offers a complete exemption from city parking requirements for housing for lower (80 percentage of median) income, near transit.

    Also, the letter request for a no vote states:
    The cities of California and their elected councils take no comfort in subdivision (q) of the intent language which advocates: "allowing builders and the market to decide how much parking is needed."

    If you oppose this bill contact your State Senator, Assembly member, and the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee before the hearing date of June 30. If AB 744 is passed out of the committee, it is on its way to becoming law. Also contact your City Council.