The Anti-Uber

A family walking past a bakery in Huron, Calif.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

HURON, CALIF. — Carmen Lopez, a retired farmworker, keeps a Bible on the back seat of her silver 2003 Honda and crochet hooks and a Spanish-language potboiler in her purse. In her line of work, she waits a lot.

In this isolated agricultural community of 7,000 in the Central Valley, one of the state’s poorest cities and a place where nearly a quarter of households don’t have cars, Mrs. Lopez works as a “raitera” — driving people to the doctor’s office, the courthouse and other places found only in Fresno, 52 miles away. She ferries asthmatic children and women who have overdosed on prescription pills to the hospital, and students who have missed the bus to the high school in another town. She once delivered a baby in her car, which has covered 194,000 miles and counting.

Carmen Lopez, a raitera in Huron.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Huron’s mayor, Rey Léon, thinks of the Latino tradition of rural ride sharing as “indigenous Ubers” and has plans to formalize the service. One of seven raiteras in town, Mrs. Lopez now works in exchange for gas money, lunch at a local buffet or taqueria, and the pleasure of some company and conversation. Passengers who can afford it pay $0.50 a mile.

Last week, the founder of the country’s most famous ride-sharing start-up, Uber, agreed to take a leave of absence. The company, valued at an estimated $68 billion, has been tripping over itself in a series of disasters, including allegations of sexual harassment and the exposure of an app cooked up to trick regulators. But anyone who thinks that the future of ride sharing is threatened by Silicon Valley’s misbehavior should look elsewhere, to some of the most isolated parts of America, where intrepid networks of volunteers and entrepreneurs are making it possible for their neighbors to get around.

The indigenous Ubers are a must in Huron, a predominantly Latino city ringed by garlic and tomato fields. There are no real Ubers here; few could afford them anyway. The lone county-operated bus takes nearly three hours to get to Fresno, making 16 stops at even tinier locales like Raisin City (population 380) before turning around four hours later and heading back. A round-trip ticket costs $9.

A man waits for the Fresno bound bus to come. The trip takes more than three hours.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Once called Knife Fight City and still plagued by gang violence, Huron seems like an unlikely incubator for renegade transportation ideas. But starting this fall, the city will provide two electric vehicles for use by Mrs. Lopez and others, part of a project called Green Raiteros that is supported by Valley LEAP, a nonprofit Mr. Léon founded. It will employ a longtime raitera as a dispatcher — riders will need only a phone number, no app necessary — and pay drivers a small amount based on the miles they travel. A flotilla of charging stations will open next to pistachio and almond groves on the roads to Fresno.

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The California Public Utilities Commission approved $519,000 to build the stations, and more funding will probably come from a novel policy that sets aside 35 percent of the state’s cap-and-trade auction dollars for clean energy in poor communities. The law is intended to wrestle “EVs” away from “their boutique-ish environment,” said Kevin de León, the state senator who sponsored the bill. “If the market is left to its own devices, it will not correct the inequities that exist,” he said.

Rey Leon, the mayor of Huron, a city ringed by garlic and tomato fields, has plans to formalize the raitera car services there.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Green Raiteros and Van y Vienan (“they come and go”), a shared electric van that, starting this summer, will connect nearby tiny Cantua Creek and El Porvenir — twin communities separated by a spine-rattling road — are the latest examples of a movement to democratize ride sharing as a solution to rural isolation. The goal is to lower transportation costs, provide a living wage for drivers and reduce pollution, which is a real problem in this area.

The air is consistently ranked by the American Lung Association as among the country’s worst. Those who have driven the Central Valley’s Highway 99 have probably seen the white scrim that often obscures the Sierra Nevada, a nasty blend of pollutants from tractor-trailers, farm equipment, pesticides and more.

More broadly, “people in rural communities really get social capital,” said Katherine Freund, founder of ITN America, a nonprofit network of more than 700 drivers across the country, most of them volunteers, who give rides to seniors and the visually impaired.

Huron has no movie theater, no newspaper, no pharmacy, and the main highway is impassable in heavy rains. As in many rural towns, increased consolidation — regional schools, hospitals, courthouses and malls — “makes the transportation element more vexing,” said Scott Bogren, the executive director of Community Transportation Association of America.

In Cantua Creek, there is only one bus: the school bus. “The lack of transit is a huge obstacle to economic opportunity,” said Phoebe Seaton, a co-director of the nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, which is working with residents on the new electric van. “It affects access to employment, health services, education and healthy food.”

Silvia Mora, a 52-year-old case manager for a social services agency in Huron, had no car in the 1990s when her baby Minerva, now a 26-year-old teacher, became seriously ill and had to be airlifted to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, 62 miles away. Mrs. Mora had to scrounge for a ride.

Now Mrs. Mora spends one day a week volunteering as a raitera; she recently drove a victim of domestic violence to the Mexican consulate in Fresno to get a passport so that she could apply for a special visa for crime victims. “I tell myself, if I can help this person, why not?” she said from behind the wheel, a crystal angel hanging from her rearview mirror.

Silvia Mora giving a woman a ride to the Mexican Consulate in Fresno. The woman, a domestic abuse victim needed to obtain a Mexican Passport.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Central Valley isn’t the only place where grass-roots models are flourishing. In Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota, drivers for a start-up called Liberty Mobility Now are familiar with 16-mile gravel roads and addresses that don’t exist on Google maps. Passengers pay $1 a mile (the drivers keep up to $0.80), and local social services agencies pay a monthly fee to request rides for clients through an “enterprise portal.” Valerie Lefler, the start-up’s executive, recruits drivers at the local Lions and Rotary Clubs. “Those are the drivers who are going to get out of the car to help you into the hospital and find your doctor,” she said.

In Watertown, N.Y., about 30 miles from the Canadian border, the 25-year-old Volunteer Transportation Center has 250 drivers covering a three-county area the approximate size of Connecticut. Charlie Lehman, a 75-year-old retired teacher, frequently takes people in wheelchairs to dialysis. He has to dodge winter whiteouts and twice totaled his car after hitting deer. The center reimburses drivers for mileage, subsidizing the operation through Medicaid and contracts with local social services agencies. “Our model is about neighbors helping neighbors, versus a side hustle,” said Samuel M. Purington, the agency’s executive director.

These rural areas have “a culture of engagement and a level of benevolence that could be galvanized to create innovative forms of mobility,” said Susan Shaheen, a co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The challenge will be finding ways to make initiatives like Green Raiteros sustainable over the long haul.

Driving in Mrs. Mora’s van, past fruit-packing warehouses and palm trees, I thought about transportation as a human right, like clean air and potable water, and the best way to protect it. At a moment when autonomy is the darling of Silicon Valley, efforts like Mrs. Mora’s represent the opposite: community.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/opinion/sunday/the-anti-uber.html

New Funds Boost Clean Car Ridesharing in Central Valley

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2017

New Funds Boost Clean Car Ridesharing in Central Valley
“Green Raiteros” Will Use EVs to Build on Grassroots Transportation Networks

Contact: Rey Leon, (559) 269-9563

HURON, CALIFORNIA – Recently announced funding will allow creation of a unique, pollution-free transportation service that builds on the informal ridesharing networks already used by local residents.

Administered by EVgo and Valley LEAP and funded by a portion of proceeds from a settlement between the California Public Utilities Commission and NRG, Green Raiteros will build on existing grassroots ridesharing networks run by raiteros, retired farmworkers. The project will operate in the corridor from Huron to Fresno and will improve mobility for low-income residents and demonstrate the feasibility of electric vehicle ridesharing in the Valley.

“Local farmworker communities long ago developed informal ridesharing networks to cope with the Valley’s long distances and the cost of operating a car,” said Valley LEAP executive director Rey León. “We can combine these networks with electric cars to improve reliability, affordability, and help clean our air. We think this pilot program will be the start of something much bigger that will provide a vital resource to our poor rural communities.”

Clean ridesharing in Central Valley communities like Huron is a necessity. The Valley is one of the poorest and most polluted regions in the country. Thirty-five percent of Huron residents carpool to work—double the 14.5 percent state average. The new funding will support the Green Raiteros pilot project with $519,400 over the duration of 15 months to develop a business model tailored to the needs of the Central Valley, build capacity among local communities, deploy charging infrastructure that enables EVs for ridesharing, and expand existing outreach, education, and training programs to help demystify EVs for residents who may be unfamiliar with them.

A kickoff date for the program will be announced shortly.

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California’s grid geeks: The keepers of a clean future

Gregory C. Staple

Friday, January 20, 2017 – 1:45am

ShutterstockTitima Ongkantong

This exclusive six-part series takes an in-depth look at California’s transition to over 50 percent renewable electricity. In the face of President Trump’s apparent indifference to global warming, the state has become a beacon of hope for climate activists. The entire series will appear here, with the next piece running Monday. Read Part I here.

The Sacramento-based Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) and its allies long have seen themselves as prime keepers of California’s clean energy future. To keep the state on track, the center long has contended that a much more balanced portfolio of renewable sources is needed.

The state’s rapid growth of rooftop and utility-scale solar installation must be matched by generation with a different daily production profile: more wind, geothermal and biomass resources as well as utility-scale storage (such as pumped-hydro reservoirs). 

V. John White, CEERT’s executive director,  believes that part of this capacity actually could come from one of the state’s own agencies, the Department of Water Resources. It largely has been overlooked thus far, said White, despite having the potential to back up the electric grid by developing its existing storage reservoirs and generation.

V. John White, CEERT

V. John White, CEERT

“It’s clear you can’t just have more and more solar photovoltaic, PV solar… When you add supplies to the grid, and this is supply for everyone, you need to make sure the resource provides the best fit for the longer term goal… for the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions to the levels we want,” he said.

White pointed to California’s new 50 percent renewables mandate, adopted by the Clean Energy Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, often referenced simply as Senate Bill 350. It requires the state’s electricity regulator, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), headed by Michael Picker, formerly part of the governor’s small energy staff, to ensure that future utility purchases of new generation facilities are a “best fit” (taking into account costs) for a much lower carbon grid.

“They haven’t really done that yet at the Commission,” said White. “We’re in the PUC’s dockets but you still have people fighting about the details of how to harmonize a bunch of proceedings that impact climate, how to set up a long-term procurement plan for the state and lots of related plans… It’s supposed to lead to a so-called integrated resource plan for each utility but it’s being dragged out — it’s a mess.” 

For White, the “best fit” problem is bigger than the PUC. The largest input that the commission oversees — new generation bought by the state’s legacy utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) — has become a shrinking part of the overall market for new facilities.

Much of the recent investment in PV solar has been driven by new corporate buyers (including Apple, Google and Kaiser Permanente), private home-owners and a rising group of competitive municipal energy businesses. The latter aggregate the “100 percent renewable” energy choices of their constituents in the wholesale market but still use the wires of existing retail companies for local power deliveries.

California's three new climate laws


These new community choice groups have won growing support since 2013, spreading from liberal enclaves such as Marin County and San Francisco to more than a dozen markets, including San Jose, Los Angeles County and San Diego. Fed by a populist desire for both greener and cheaper energy, community choice is something of a “black swan” for the state’s energy policy with unknown future consequences.

For example, PG&E recently asked the PUC to retire its last nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon based, in part, on the fact that municipal choice groups may win as much as 40 percent of its market by 2025. Some choice advocates say their statewide market share could top 50 percent by then.

I put this to Jan McFarland, who co-founded CEERT in 1989 and brought the idea of a business-backed environmental coalition to White. McFarland, a born organizer with strong management skills, has represented energy companies for most of her career, with stints at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (when Mary Nichols was a senior official) and the state’s energy commission. She now works as program manger for Sonoma Clean Power, one of the leading community choice providers with over 200,000 customers.

Yes, she acknowledged, buying new generation is fragmented in California. However, McFarland noted that the first wave of community choice buyers, based in Sonoma County and Marin, have contracted for a more diverse mix of renewables than now exists on average.

Jan McFarland, co-founder of CEERT

Jan McFarland, co-founder of CEERT

“They are buying in mostly wind, geo-thermal and hydro rather than solar,” she said. She agreed, however, that there is no grid-wide standard for renewable facilities contracted by choice companies, and low cost solar PV may only get more attractive.

As with community choice, the state’s climate initiatives also have been affected by the rising Latino power base in Sacramento (both state Sen. Kevin DeLeon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon are Latinos, some 40 percent of the state’s population). One result is that environmental and social justice issues have become much more closely linked. The impact of any new carbon cuts on poor and middle income consumers is also getting much closer scrutiny, as is the distribution of clean energy jobs. 

Notably, a 50 percent cut in gasoline use by 2030 had to be dropped from climate legislation in 2015 because the measure did not adequately deal with the likely economic hit for commuters. The state’s oil industry tirelessly messaged this shortcoming. 

White is acutely aware of these trends and has used his longtime support for progressive causes to build bridges to new legislators. He also has used his expertise to help new members leave a mark by, for example, suggesting bills they could introduce, following up with technical support and quietly working behind the scenes to get a bill passed.

Huron, California, Mayor Rey Leon

Huron, California, Mayor Rey Leon

In the last legislative session, for example, White helped Eduardo Garcia, a first-term Assembly member from Coachella, sponsor a key bill giving the legislature greater oversight of the air resources board and its plans for implementing deep carbon cuts. Garcia’s measure, Assembly Bill 197, also prioritizes climate action for the state’s “most disadvantaged communities.” They “are affected first, and most frequently by adverse aspects of climate change, including… drought, heat and flooding,” stated the bill; they also suffer the “deleterious effects of climate change on public health.”

When Garcia was mentioned at the retreat, Rey Leon, an energetic young mayor from the state’s Central Valley, was polite but direct: “We want natural gas plant emissions to go down where these plants are located as much as the people do who live there.” Leon, who also founded a state-wide action group known as Latino Environment and Advancement Policy, had people’s attention: “I really need to take you to the ground where I live… You will not be able to read a book and understand it the same way.”

​https://www.greenbiz.com/article/californias-grid-geeks-keepers-clean-future

No dejen atrás a las comunidades de bajos recursos en el plan climático

04 AGOSTO 2016

Por Martha Dina Arguello and Byron Gudiel

California se encuentra ante una encrucijada con nuestra estrategia para combatir el cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire de California (ARB, por sus siglas en inglés), está considerando opciones sobre cómo lograr sus objetivos climáticos para el 2030, en un momento en el que la industria petrolera quiere socavar cualquier intento serio por poner fin a nuestra dependencia en los combustibles fósiles. Mientras tanto, las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero siguen ensuciando nuestro aire, empeorando el cambio climático y asfixiándonos. Como tal, nuestra comunidad está exigiendo reducciones de contaminación y el lograr beneficios económicos para los que más los necesitan.

Reducir la contaminación en comunidades de color y de bajos ingresos es absolutamente fundamental si se espera que la legislación del cambio climático, AB 32, alcance su pleno potencial. Las familias de bajos ingresos sufren algunos de los niveles más concentrados de contaminación en sus comunidades. Según el informe “Estado del Aire” del 2016 de la American Lung Association, Los Ángeles y Bakersfield ocupan los lugares de mayor contaminación del aire en el país.

El plan de ámbito de la ley AB 32 que está desarrollando la Junta de Recursos del Aire es el vehículo mediante el cual la legislación del cambio climático de nuestro estado abordará las necesidades de nuestras comunidades. El plan dictará cómo cumpliremos con el mandato de la ley 10 años más allá del año 2020. Este plan solo se actualiza cada cinco años, así que es muy importante que se desarrolle correctamente.

El plan debe contar con la aportación de nuestras comunidades y debe dar prioridad a objetivos locales y regionales para reducciones de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y otros contaminantes. La ARB también debe mejorar la transparencia en cómo implementa su plan y evitar que los contaminadores adinerados evadan la ley. El establecimiento de metas concretas para la reducción de emisiones de instalaciones contaminadoras debe ser una principal consideración.

Estrategias adicionales en el plan para el beneficio directo de comunidades vulnerables deben incluir la adopción de objetivos fuertes para electrizar nuestro sector de transporte y acelerar el acceso a la energía limpia para comunidades de bajos ingresos. La ARB debe también considerar seriamente las maneras de reducir la contaminación en comunidades ubicadas cerca de instalaciones contaminadoras—incluyendo la tarificación de las emisiones de carbono.

También debemos aprovechar la oportunidad de expandir el crecimiento que está teniendo nuestro estado en los empleos de energía limpia. Un informe reciente del Centro Laboral de UC Berkeley evaluó las inversiones en la energía renovable del 2002 al 2015, revelando que el programa de California está generando empleos de calidad bien remunerados en zonas económicamente desfavorecidas del estado, incluyendo comunidades que son altamente latinas. Entre el 2002 y el 2015, se sostuvieron más de 32,000 empleos manuales (blue-collar) de construcción en la industria de la energía renovable.

Eso es testamento de lo mucho que podemos lograr si nos enfocamos a invertir en nuestras comunidades. Con este proceso de planificación, la ARB puede seguir impulsando a nuestra economía hacia una transición para alejarnos de los combustibles fósiles y generar la prosperidad y los “empleos verdes” para todos los californianos—especialmente en las comunidades de color de bajos ingresos.

Necesitamos examinar y estar dispuestos a adoptar estrategias innovadoras que impulsen a nuestro estado, especialmente a comunidades impactadas, hacia una economía limpia moderna y más justa, y que nos proporcione los recursos necesarios para hacer frente a los impactos del cambio climático.

Como californianos, nos encontramos en un momento clave para nuestras políticas de aire limpio y cambio climático. La Junta de Recursos del Aire puede continuar nuestro avance contra al cambio climático. Lo podemos lograr mediante la adopción de un plan que incluya beneficios económicos, fuertes medidas para reducir emisiones contaminantes en nuestras comunidades, y responsabilizando a entidades contaminantes para que limpien el aire que respiran nuestras familias.

Martha Dina Arguello es Directora Ejecutiva de Médicos por la Responsabilidad Social, Los Ángeles, (PSR, por sus siglas en inglés), y Byron Gudiel es Director Ejecutivo de Comunidades para un Medio Ambiente Mejor (CBE, por sus siglas en inglés).

http://www.laopinion.com/2016/08/04/no-dejen-atras-a-las-comunidades-de-bajos-recursos-en-el-plan-climatico/

Clear the Way for local pollution reductions in California’s climate plan

August 4, 2016

By Martha Dina Arguello and Byron Gudiel

California is at a crossroads with our landmark climate law. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is considering options on how to reach its 2030 climate targets at a time when the oil industry is determined to gut any serious attempt to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to dirty our air, worsen climate change, and choke our lungs. As such, local communities are raising their voices to demand real reductions in air pollution to clean up our air and bring economic benefits to those who need them most.

Reducing pollution in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color is absolutely critical if our state’s climate change law, AB 32, is to reach its full potential. Low-income families suffer some of the most concentrated levels of pollution in their neighborhoods. According to the American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” Report, Los Angeles and Bakersfield top the list of worst air pollution in the nation.

The AB 32 scoping plan that the Air Resources Board is drafting is the vehicle through which our state’s climate change law will meet the realities of our neighborhoods. Consider it the blueprint for how we will fulfill the mandate of the law 10 years beyond its initial 2020 targets. The scoping plan is only updated every five years, so it’s critical we get it right.

The plan should be informed by grassroots input and it should prioritize bold local and regional targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. ARB should also enhance transparency in implementation and eliminate loopholes for large polluters. Setting direct emission reduction goals for major polluting facilities should be a key consideration.

Additional strategies in the scoping plan to directly benefit vulnerable communities should include adopting aggressive targets to electrify our transportation sector and accelerate clean energy access for low-income communities. ARB should also take a hard look at ways to reduce pollution in communities located near polluting facilities—including carbon pricing.

We also need to seize on the opportunity to expand the growth our state is seeing on clean energy jobs. A recent UC Berkeley Labor Center report assessed renewable energy investments from 2002 to 2015, revealing that California’s renewable energy program is creating quality, well-paying jobs in economically distressed parts of California, including heavily Latino communities. Between 2002 and 2015, over 32,000 blue-collar construction jobs were supported in the renewable energy industry.

That’s a testament to how much we can accomplish if we focus on investing where our communities need it the most. With this scoping process, ARB can continue to move our economy forward to transition away from fossil fuels and bring prosperity and green-collar jobs to all Californians, especially low-income communities of color.

We need to examine and be willing to adopt innovative strategies that catapult our state, especially impacted communities, into a modern and more just clean economy, and provide us with the resources needed to cope with the impacts of climate change.

As Californians, we are at a critical juncture with our climate change and clean air policies. The California Air Resource Board can keep our state on the right path by adopting a blueprint for addressing climate change that includes economic benefits, strong measures to reduce polluting emissions in our communities, and by holding polluters accountable to clean up the air our families breathe.

Martha Dina Arguello is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and Byron Gudiel is the Executive Director of Communities for A Better Environment.

Air Resources Board Meeting on Transportation in Valley’s West Side

On Thursday, August 11th, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is coming to one of the poorest rural cities in the state to learn about the challenges of transportation and to create awareness on the opportunities of Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs). This is unheard of for the community which is located on the furthest west side of the region approximately a 6 hours round trip to Fresno on the rural bus. A trip that would not take much longer than an hour and a half round trip in a personal vehicle. Huron is also the community where Valley LEAP’s green-house gas reducing guru and founding executive director, Rey Leon, has been working to enhance the local indigenous rural-ride sharing system to one that is more affordable, efficient and less polluting (ghg’s & criteria pollutants) using PEVs.

All communities from throughout the Valley are invited to share their concerns, experiences and recommendations to the CARB. Also, it will be a great time to learn more about the Valley LEAP model being developed known as GREEN Raiteros (raiteros, those who give rides, from the Spanglish term raite for ride) to supplement the existing regional public transportation system. The focus audience of the convening are Spanish speaking low-income farmworkers but all are welcome!

Join us for an important exchange on greening up public and private transportation options for a healthy populace, less polluted planet and cooler climate!

For more information: Rey Leon, (559) 269-9563 or rleon@valleyleap.org

Huron Flyer

 

 

The Climate Change Scoping Plan Workshop is coming to the Valley!

State of California officials and local environmental justice leaders want to hear from you about clean air and climate change.

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CLEAN AIR · CLEAN ENERGY · LIVABLE COMMUNITIES

How do we get there, what are our choices, and what does it mean for your family, neighborhood, and community?

Oficiales del estado de California y líderes locales de justicia ambiental quieren oír tus opiniones sobre la calidad del aire y el cambio climático.

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AIRE PURO · ENERGÍA LIMPIA · COMUNIDADES HABITABLES

¿Cómo lo lograremos? ¿Cuáles son nuestras opciones? ¿Qué significado tiene para nuestras familias, vecindarios
y comunidades?

Click on Fresno Flyers for details!

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