High-Speed Rail releases Project Update

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) just released its 2019 Project Update Report. This $20 billion plan would provide HSR service between Bakersfield and Merced. That’s $15 billion more than the $5 billion that have already been spent. These numbers goes so far beyond the world of ordinary transportation projects as to verge on self-parody or an extremely elaborate hoax. TRANSDEF does not consider the Project Update Report to be a credible transportation plan. No rail professional in Europe or Asia would ever present a proposal so over the top. Here are TRANSDEF’s observations after a quick read of the…

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The personal dimension of climate change activism

Over the years, I’ve often compared the emotional difficulties of being a climate activist with the challenges faced by hospice workers: we are surrounded by death. Huge numbers of species are dying in the present, and far more will go extinct as temperatures continue to rise. It’s truly crazy-making to advocate for a strong governmental response to the seemingly obvious threat of climate change, yet receive only blank stares from the elected and appointed officials who have the authority to initiate action. It seems that most people just can’t imagine a world different from their current pleasant existence. Unfortunately for…

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I just went carless

By Steve Heimoff When I told my old friend, David Schonbrunn, I was going carless, he asked if I would tell my story for TRANSDEF. So here it is. I’m 72 years old. I came of age during an era when having a car was practically a matter of patriotism. Of course you need a car! This is America! Every American has to have a car. How else can you get around? My father bought a new car every three years. As soon as I was able to afford one, I bought a car. too. Not having a car was—well,…

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Here’s why MTC is a policy failure

By a convenient coincidence, The Chronicle published a chart entitled The Bay Area’s 11 biggest transportation projects that provides graphic proof of policy failure. A quick look at the list of projects is enough to show the absence of a coordinated strategy. What stands out instead is the prominence of extremely expensive yet low-public-benefit projects that are being pushed by powerful economic and political interests: Central Subway BART extension to San Jose Caltrain electrification An even bigger push from the Bay Area Council and others is promoting a project many times more expensive than anything that has ever been attempted…

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New data: MTC still a policy failure

A updating of data of the chart on our Bay Area Basics page shows that MTC is continuing to fail at fostering any kind of change in Bay Area travel habits. As a result, the total amount of driving, VMT, has more than doubled since 1980. That’s why the roads keep feeling more crowded. They are! Note in particular the flat VMT per capita trace, indicating no change in the propensity to drive. This is the direct result of MTC’s failure to supply alternatives to driving. Despite spending many billions of dollars on BART extensions, total transit ridership actually dropped…

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We Don’t Need More Infrastructure — We Need Congestion Pricing

Streetsblog covered the release of an important study by Brookings titled Local Transportation Policy and Economic Opportunity, which is far more exciting than its title would suggest. The study provided the basis for Streetsblog’s provocative title, We Don’t Need More Infrastructure — We Need Congestion Pricing: The U.S. does not need to build more highways — it needs to spend more on aging urban rail systems and use congestion pricing to ease gridlock in urban areas, a new report shows.   … “Claims about the dilapidation of U.S. transportation infrastructure should be regarded with a critical eye,” says Turner.  

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San Diego Can’t Hit State Climate Goals Without Major Transportation Changes

The Voice of San Diego reported on a refreshing statement of the obvious as to the level of changes needed in the county’s transportation planning to meet State climate goals: The region simply can’t meet state requirements for thwarting climate change the way things are and the way they’re headed, Hasan Ikrhata, director of the San Diego Association of Governments, said at a Friday board meeting. Even if the region built the trolley lines and bus services leaders have been discussing, it would not change enough. Either state law would have to change, or regional leaders need to reimagine plans…

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Holy Grail found in Minneapolis & Seattle

Streetsblog has produced another policy great: the article “Minneapolis and Seattle Have Achieved the Holy Grail for Sustainable Transportation” describes two cities that are reducing their Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT). The following chart by Yonah Freemark illustrates how Seattle is increasing bus ridership while most cities are seeing losses in ridership. The Bay Area’s bus ridership is stagnant, reflecting the sector’s lack of prioritization by MTC. Perhaps most striking is that these two cities have enacted strategically-based investments in their transit network, leading to their effectiveness. MTC, on the other hand, is uninterested in regional strategy. Instead, it confines itself…

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Strong Towns offers important insights on congestion

The Strong Towns website has posted a series of important articles on congestion. Taken together, they frame how public agencies in California and the U.S. have been doggedly heading in the wrong direction in transportation and land use planning. Here’s a sampling: The Causes of Traffic and Congestion, addresses the question of whether new development causes more traffic. Here is its excellent summary: Development can add traffic. However, development that brings amenities and people closer together and reduces the need to travel so far can actually reduce traffic. With a mixture of uses, you can achieve a high population density…

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Editorial totally nails the housing crisis

In an editorial that TRANSDEF believes to be the best policy work of a generation, Bay Area News Group Editorial Page Editor Dan Borenstein takes on the housing crisis. “Stop deepening Bay Area transportation, housing crisis” takes on the stale thinking that has powered Bay Area decision making for decades: It’s time to stop digging this housing deficit hole deeper. We need more housing. But we need it in the right places.   Bay Area cities with housing shortfalls – San Francisco, Cupertino, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, for example – should stop adding more buildings for jobs unless they…

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