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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RM3 now before CA Supreme Court–Update 1

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) filed a Petition for Review with the California Supreme Court in August 2020. The Petition asserts that prior to Proposition 26, a clear body of law differentiated between taxes and fees. Whereas the Proposition was enacted to close several loopholes, the Court of Appeal decision opened up a brand-new huge loophole that would allow any fee for access to public property to be imposed without a two-thirds vote. In addition, the Petition points out that a different division of the same Court of Appeal had issued a ruling (Zolly v. City of Oakland) that…

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Brighter days for RM3 litigation?

Appellant Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a Petition for Rehearing with the Court of Appeal.  Although the Petition offered a brilliant new argument, the Court denied the petition. It is expected that the Appellant will seek review by the California Supreme Court.

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Sad day for RM3 litigation

The First District Court of Appeal handed down its decision today, affirming the lower court’s dismissal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s challenge to the Bay Area Toll Authority’s Regional Measure 3 (RM3). The decision, which echoed the detailed textual analysis of the trial court’s decision, had one new significant element. Another panel of the same appellate court had recently ruled on a very similar matter. The Zolly court ruled that Proposition 26 placed the burden on the state or local agency imposing a purported fee to demonstrate its reasonableness in relation to the value received by the fee payor.…

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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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TRAC comments on HSR Business Plan punch hard

The Train Riders Association of California, now led by TRANSDEF’s President David Schonbrunn, filed comments on the 2020 HSR Business Plan. It identified the infeasibility of building anything beyond the Governor’s proposed Merced-to-Bakersfield line, and identified far worthier rail investments instead of building that. Interestingly, the Transportation Committee Chair of the State Assembly has introduced HR-97, a resolution that would instruct CHSRA to not sign any contracts for track, signals and electrification, or a vehicle procurement, prior to getting funding approval from the Assembly. The bipartisan cosponsors make up more than a majority of the Assembly, so it looks like…

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