Is the Republican story about repealing the gas tax hike too good to be true?

By Ben Christopher : calmatters – excerpt (includes graphics)

California Republicans say that drivers can have smoother roads, more reliable public transit—and lower taxes.

In November, voters will get the chance to repeal a recent increase in the state gas tax and assorted vehicle fees. That tax hike—an extra 12 cents per gallon of gasoline, 20 cents per gallon of diesel, and two new vehicle registration fees—was signed into state law last year, part of a Democratic-led transportation package that directs an extra $5 billion per year toward the state’s dilapidated roads and highways. Making voters pay more at the pump is a tough political sell, but Democrats and other defenders of the law argue that our infrastructure is long overdue for an upgrade. The gas tax hasn’t been increased in over 20 years while the cost of highway construction has tripled. And, they say, you can’t get something for nothing.

Not so, say supporters of the repeal, Proposition 6. Chief among them is John Cox, the Republican running to be California’s next governor… (more)

RELATED:
How California Really Spends Gas Tax Dollars

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“Transit Latest Trends”

By Howard Wong

Salesforce Transit Center:  Grand Opening Block Party, Saturday, August 11, 2018, 12pm-4pm, Mission Street (Beale & Second Street)—FREE

Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) Needs Acceleration:   Now, the long-promised Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) needs fast-tracked design and construction.  Without DTX, the shiny new Transit Center will lose its luster without 33,000 daily rail riders, generating commercial, operating and maintenance dollars.  We need 100% commitment to DTX. 

Citywide Transit Transformation:   Traffic congestion, air pollution, neighborhood revitalization and neglected transit needs, particularly in western/ southern San Francisco, must be addressed with sound decision-making..

FUTURISM:  Attached “Transit Latest Trends”,  Regards, Howard Wong, AIA

Interview with BATWG Chair Jerry Cauthen

batwgblog – excerpt (includes video)

Chris Pareja interviews Jerry Cauthen, Chair of Bay Area Transportation Working Group.(BATWG) BATWG works to improve alternatives to cars to entice people out of cars vs. forcing them out of cars….https://batwgblog.com

New, simpler plan for SF’s downtown rail extension

By Michael Cabanatuan and J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Cautious optimism for San Francisco’s East Side communities – there is a less disruptive, cheaper alternative plan for the downtown rail extension

San Francisco’s latest vision for South of Market preserves Interstate 280, gets rid of the Caltrain rail yard, and has the commuter rail line’s downtown extension bypass Mission Bay, instead dipping underground a mile before its current station at Fourth and King streets.

A study to be released Monday, after 3½ years of work, significantly revises an idea raised by then-Mayor Ed Lee in 2013 to improve transit connectivity and create a new neighborhood…(more)

The last thing we need is to destroy another neighborhood to create a new one.

 

 

PLAN-IT LOS ANGELES

A collection of important articles and original commentaries on planning issues in the greater Los Angeles area

Updated analysis of Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827 Real Estate Deregulation Bill

Platkin on Planning: Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through planning, zoning, and environmental deregulation.

This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.

To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they truly wanted to increase transit ridership and address the climate and housing crises, but they are totally mute on these options. As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their mantra to magically solve LA’s many urban ills: “build more market housing.”

Increasing transit ridership through the following is not on their to-do list:..

My conclusion about SB 827, by itself, and in combination with the supplemental land use ordinances I reviewed above, is that it is one of the most destructive pieces of planning legislation I have encountered in over three decades of professional work in the city planning profession.  Like all miracle cures, it won’t work.  It might make some landowners and landlords rich, but its fatal flaws will destroy many neighborhoods, without increasing transit ridership or reducing the cost of housing…

Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local city planning controversies for CityWatchLA…(more)

Please read and comment at the source if you can.

Massive cost overruns threaten to derail the bullet train. Here’s what has to change

by Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

Only two years ago, the California rail authority unveiled an ambitious plan to begin operating a segment of bullet train service between San Jose and the Central Valley by 2025. It would take nearly every penny in its checkbook, but the rail authority assured the public it would work.

But that plan has been crushed by the acknowledgment Tuesday that the cost of building just 119 miles of rail between the farm towns of Madera and Wasco has soared from about $6 billion to $10.6 billion, siphoning off money that the authority had planned to allocate to the ultimate goal of connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It has left the broader high-speed rail project, a lofty objective that Gov. Jerry Brown has pursued since the 1980s, in an existential crisis.

Over the next year, Brown, the Legislature and the next governor will have to decide whether to create new revenue sources, dramatically delay its construction or scale it far back from a complete 550-mile system, among other possibilities… (more)

 

 

Rail Gauge: A Transit Adventure on SMART

by Peter Lawrence Kane : sfweekly – excerpt

Having opened this fall with a 43-mile leg of its eventual 70-mile route, SMART connects Sonoma and Marin counties by rail — and it’s fun to ride.

For all the grumbling about how the Bay Area is sclerotic when it comes to ambitious transportation projects, trains are enjoying something of a resurgence. High-speed rail seems inevitable, BART opened an extension to Warm Springs with further infill stations planned, Caltrain electrification seems likely, the much-delayed Central Subway chugs along, and Muni may yet extend the F-Market streetcar to Fort Mason. Down south, car-choked Los Angeles plans major subway expansions along its Purple Line ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

The rail-scape is impressive. While U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier talk about building another Bay crossing for vehicular traffic, perhaps the time is right to relieve overcrowding and delays with a second Transbay Tube instead. That idea sounds farfetched, but the county that famously declined to participate in the original BART system — Marin — now has a functioning train running from downtown San Rafael to Sonoma County Airport in one hour and seven minutes.

“They’re really learning how to transfer to buses to get to San Francisco or get to the Larkspur Ferry,” she adds. “People here are learning transit because they haven’t had transit. I’m watching them learn schedules and meet ferries and they’re so excited.”… (more)

 

China’s tests out world’s first driverless train that runs on virtual rails

By

bus_train11

Look Ma, No rails! or Medians!

The Hunan city of Zhuzhou is currently testing out an unmanned train that doesn’t run on rails. You know, like a bus.

The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) is being dubbed by Chinese state media the “world’s first smart rapid rail bus,” whatever that means. The train/bus (trus?) was first shown off in June this year. It uses sensors to determine the dimensions of the road and make a virtual track for itself to ride along…(more)

This kind of technology may be the best argument for putting a halt on new projects while we finish the ones underway now. Eliminating the rails, medians and other “traditional” infrastructure elements costing billions of dollars now, could be the cheap public transportation answer in the very near future. Give the public a break while the technology catches up.

 

CA bullet train authority postpones critical $30M contract award

Kim Slowey : constructiondive – excerpt

Dive Brief:

  • The California High Speed Rail Authority has postponed awarding a key, $30 million operations and management contract for the first leg of its new rail line through the state’s Central Valley region, according to Courthouse News Service. CHSRA was scheduled to award the contract at its monthly meeting Thursday.
  • The CHSRA had planned to tap DB Engineering & Consulting USA, a subsidiary of German rail company Deutsche Bahn, for the project, but Spain-based bidder Renfe protested the decision at the last minute. Renfe objected based on its scoring process, during which the company said it received high marks in two out of three categories.
  • The CHSRA’s reluctance to move forward with an operations contract led some meeting attendees to suggest that the authority was dragging its feet at a “critical time” in the bullet train’s schedule. The agency, which is already late in delivering the first segment of the high-speed rail by eight years, will address the contract award issue at its next meeting in November…

Dive Insight:

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a June CHSRA report that said the 119-mile line through the Central Valley cost $1.7 billion more than originally forecast, which raised the total price tag to $8 billion. The CHSRA chalked up the increases to the rising cost of land, the cost of utility relocation and negotiations with freight companies over the logistics of running high-speed trains near their tracks. It is unknown whether this add-on will raise the entire projected cost of the rail past its current budget of $64 billion… (more)

California’s bullet train is likely to face more environmental hurdles after a high court ruling

By Maura Dolan and Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court.

In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

It clears the way for opponents of the $64-billion bullet train to file more lawsuits as construction proceeds and also allows Californians to challenge other rail uses, such as the movement of crude oil from fracking… (more)

High-speed rail gets us stuck in traffic

By David Schwartzman : californiapolicycenter – excerpt

It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed r.ail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: it is more expensive and smaller in scope, and it will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas.

High-speed rail will cost Californians billions of dollars. In urban areas, increased traffic may cost Californians billions more. Its business plan relies on unrealistic ridership projections. The project is devoid of private funding because businesses see high-speed rail as likely to run at a loss. While high-speed rail wastes more taxpayer dollars, the private sector makes it obsolete with technological innovation, which will reduce future income from the high-speed rail system. High-speed rail authorities have violated federal law by making significant changes to the proposition approved by voters. High-speed rail has not been the success voters imagined when the bill passed.

When voters approved Proposition 1A with 52.7%, the estimated cost for high-speed rail going from Sacramento and San Francisco to San Diego was $45 billion. However, a 2011 business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority projected costs to be $98.5 billion, and potentially as high as $118 billion, while also ending at Anaheim rather than San Diego. Despite the enormous difference in cost, Californians were not consulted about whether they were still interested in high-speed rail. Instead, the project was scaled down, with slower speeds and fewer new tracks, estimated to cost $68.4 billion, and later $64 billion... (more)