TRAC files STB response, challenging transfer of freight rights to SMART

In response to the threats to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP, which spans over 300 miles from Larkspur Landing in Marin County to Samoa in Humboldt County), the Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) took action today based on its letter to Senator McGuire about his Great Redwood Trail Bill, SB 69.  TRAC filed comments with the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal regulatory agency that governs railroad legal matters. (The bookmarked comments are a 20 Mb. download.) Today’s action opposes the request of the current freight operator on the NWP, which is named NWPCO, to have the transfer of…

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NCRA’s Lame Response

The North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) finally responded to TRANSDEF’s demand letter, but its response was lame. Descending into belittlement and disparagement, NCRA’s lawyer huffed and puffed, to dance around the fact that he was unable to offer a valid citation to legal authority for NCRA’s Board action to railbank the line north of Willits. TRANSDEF sent a further demand, after receiving this letter.

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Stopping NCRA from tearing up its RR tracks

A Bay Area environmental group is seeking to save the rail tracks in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties from being torn out. The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, TRANSDEF, sent a letter to the North Coast Railroad Authority demanding that the NCRA Board rescind the action it took last month. TRANSDEF asserted that the Board had no legal authority to direct its staff to begin the process of abandoning the railroad and turning it into a trail, in a process called railbanking. Railbanking means tearing out the tracks while claiming that the railroad can be restored in the future. North…

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Comments to Caltrans on SB 743 implementation

With the new SB 743 requirement to use VMT as the metric for evaluating transportation impacts under CEQA, Caltrans has reached out for comments on its draft documents. Those documents imply that Caltrans pretty much expects life after SB 743 to be similar to life before it. Caltrans expects to keep on widening highways, which will increase VMT due, in part, to the phenomenon of induced demand. TRANSDEF’s comments stress a broader perspective: the entire mission of Caltrans must change in response to the recognition that the State’s largest obstacle to achieving its climate change targets is the ever-increasing amount…

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Lawsuit charges CCTA with misrepresenting Measure J benefits

After its role in drafting the ballot arguments opposed to Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s (CCTA’s) Measure J on the March 2020 ballot, TRANSDEF became concerned about the misleading language of the question on the ballot. Working with our attorney, we sent multiple letters to the County Registrar of Voters, the Board of Supervisors, and Contra Costa County Counsel. The second set of letters was sent after we discovered that County Counsel had modified her Impartial Analysis of the measure, taking out the first paragraph reference to the proposed sales tax being an additional tax. We decided that this was an…

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State losing its war on carbon

Dan Walters had it partly right in his piece “State losing its war on carbon” in explaining why the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions are going up instead of going down as planned. Yes, it’s true that “So far, Californians aren’t buying what their politicians are selling” when it comes to buying electric vehicles and increasing their use of transit. Those numbers are disappointing… But the problem is much bigger than that: The public keeps driving more (as measured in Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT) because suburban development makes its residents dependent on the automobile. With a large percentage of…

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Update: Lawsuit challenges claims made by Measure J

A lawsuit was filed on December 30, 2019, seeking to have the ballot letter designation, the ballot question and the Impartial Analysis modified before the Voter Guide for Contra Costa County is printed. The suit was granted priority status, because it is an election matter. A hearing was held Monday, January 6 on the merits of the suit. The court dismissed the suit, asserting it had been filed two days late, after the 10-day inspection period had passed. Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, and sought an early hearing date, which was denied. Petitioner then filed a Notice of Appeal,…

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