Friday, July 27, 2007

ECOS and NAST file suit against Caltrans

ECOS and NAST have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of
Caltrans' environmental analysis for the Highway 50 expansion project.
While it's unfortunate that we had to resort to litigation, it's also
exhilerating that we've been able to put together a coalition to
forcefully stand up to the state's leading transportation agency to demand
honesty and accountability concerning the impacts of this project for our
region and our neighborhoods.

I've posted our press release that gives more details.

The story has also been picked up by the Capital Public Radio and by the Sacramento Business Journal.

ECOS has never opposed carpools. We do, however, oppose road widening projects dressed up as dubious incentives to carpooling. More importantly, we demand that our policymakers and the public at large be told the full story about the costs and benefits of highway widening. If we as a region are going to invest in road projects that will increase traffic, air pollution, and the other woes that come with an automobile-based transportation system, then we also need to be investing in mitigation measures that will counter those impacts. Those measures could include further investment in the fledgling light rail line that runs parallel to the highway Caltrans proposes expanding. It could mean cooperating with other agencies to implement programs that are proven to reduce automobile traffic. Any number of mitigation measures are imaginable-- but the first step is to admit that widening freeways will induce more vehicular traffic.

Litigation is, of course, expensive, and we are actively soliciting support. PLEASE continue to support this effort by sending us a check. Friends of ECOS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is accepting donations specifically for this lawsuit. Mark your check "Highway 50 litigation fund" and send it to:

Friends of ECOS
909 12th Street, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95814

Donations are tax deductible.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NAST Starts Hwy 50 Lawsuit Fund

Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation (NAST) has begun collecting funds for a CEQA lawsuit to challenge the environmental impact report done by Caltrans for its Highway 50 expansion project. While the group continues to discuss how to best use its resources to forcefully advocate for sustainable, neighborhood-friendly transportation, they have decided that they need to raise money now because of the short statute of limitations on CEQA cases.

I've posted the email message seeking support for the legal fund here, on the NAST website.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rally For Transit at the Capitol!

Governor Schwarzenegger, who has crafted a political persona as a "green" politician, has made some curious policy proposals for an allegedly environmentalist governor. Most recently, his proposal to raid state transit funds to pay for other state programs raises the question of whether he has the courage to be anything more than a cheerleader for alternative-fueled Humvees.

The Governor's original proposal, which would have removed $1.3 billion in funds from transit agencies like Sacramento Regional Transit, has been whittled down to a mere $591 million cut in a "compromise" measure ratified by the State Budget Conference Committee. That's still a punishing blow to programs that should be the center of rational transportation and land use policies.

As reported in earlier posts on this blog, both the Transportation and Land Use Coalition and Odyessy have provided suggestions for citizens who wish to help protect the state funding streams that are the lifeblood of California transit. Now comes an opportunity to make a personal appearance at the Capitol in support of transit.

On Monday, July 16, at 12:30 PM, supporters of transit will rally on the West Steps of the Capitol Building to let the "big five" (Schwarzenegger, Perata, Ackerman, Nunez, and Villines) know how important state support for transit is. It's important to demonstrate the depth of public's commitment to transit is. Join us, and bring your friends.

For more info you can call Richard Seyman at 475-3820.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More Road Construction

Three transportation agencies are circulating the initial (Tier 1) DEIR for a proposal to build a new four- or six lane road connecting State Route 70/99 in Sutter County with State Route 65 in Placer County, near Lincoln. Just for laughs, they've given the project an amusingly pseudo-conservationist monicker: "Placer Parkway Corridor Preservation."

The agencies-- the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans, and the South Placer Regional Transportation Authority-- estimate that building such a road would involve converting between 676 and 990 acres of farmland, and the agencies dryly report that all the alternatives considered "could present similar potential inconsistencies with General Plan policies involving preservation of agriculturally designated areas."

The Executive Summary to the DEIR also notes that loss of agricultural land, growth inducement from the construction of the new road, and conflicts with Placer County's proposed Natural Communities Conservation Plan are all "areas of controversy."

The DEIR estimates that the construction of the new road could increase total Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT) by anywhere from 441,000 to 505,000 by 2040, when compared to the "no build" scenario in 2040. The Executive Summary also mentions that the new route would produce significant impacts on Reactive Organic Gases (ROG) and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx).

Those with long memories may recall that Angelo Tsakopoulos has proposed to build a new Placer County college town along the "parkway."

The deadline for submitting written comments is August 20, 2007.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

HOV lanes & Toll lanes

SABA's Walt Seifert was kind enough to send along a link to this opinion article by Heather MacDonald in today's L.A. Times:

CALTRANS' crusade to add more carpool lanes to Southern California freeways continues unabated; too bad the department doesn't know how many real carpools use them. Unless the department can show that the high-occupancy-vehicle lanes are actually reducing the number of cars on the road, its multibillion-dollar plan to add hundreds of miles of new HOV capacity around Los Angeles will be a colossal waste of taxpayers' money.
The article goes on to point out that HOV lanes have a "negligible" effect on true carpooling rates, once you account for all the freeloaders who incidentally qualify as 'carpools'-- limos with passengers, parents transporting children, friends with a common destination who would have been riding together anyway, etc.

MacDonald's proposed solution is toll lanes. Unlike so-called carpool lanes, the premise of a toll lane is that everyone who uses the lane pays. Bona fide, employer-sponsored carpools could be exempted, but families and other 'circumstantial carpools' would have to pay just like everyone else. And single-occupancy cars could use the lane as well, if they're willing to pay to do so.

MacDonald's solution seems geared at preventing further public subsidies for automobile commuters. That's a laudible goal. But she doesn't directly address the question of whether a toll lane would more effectively encourage carpooling, thereby reducing the number of vehicles and the pollution they cause.

Then, of course, there's the question of whether a toll lane would be an equitable transportation solution, or whether it would simply allow a free pass, for those who can afford it, out of one of the most bothersome aspects of life in cities designed around the automobile.