June 22, 2015 5:10 pm Leave a Comment


Image from Richard Masoner: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/3270467253/in/photostream/

Americans have been driving less every year since 2007. This shift has been accompanied by regional and local planning efforts that are increasingly focused on giving residents transportation options that go beyond the automobile. There has been lots of positive momentum around transit expansion, planning for complete streets, and adopting initiatives aimed at making streets safer for people who ride bikes and walk. As planners, advocates, and their allies continue to make major multi-modal policy wins, groups are now focusing on the next big challenge. How do we translate successful experiments and policies at the local level to scalable interventions with adequate, sustainable funding? And how do we ensure that these interventions are implemented in a manner that reduces the systemic inequalities that characterize our existing transportation network?

At the local level, we’ve seen a number of plans and initiatives that have pursued multi-modal and active transportation investments. In California alone, local revenues accounted for “nearly half of the $20 billion spent on transportation” during the 2005-06 fiscal year. Following Sweden and New York’s lead, San Francisco was an early adopter of the Vision Zero campaign. The initiative envisions zero fatalities or injuries related to traffic accidents through improved street design, increased education, and enhanced enforcement of safety laws. San Jose recently adopted a similar plan and Los Angeles is considering committing to Vision Zero as part of the city’s multi-modal Mobility Plan 2035. In addition, cities across the state are adopting plans that aim to increase the share of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets. In LA, the city’s Sustainable City Plan aims to have these trips represent 35 percent of all trips by 2025.

So there’s a lot of momentum and planning afoot, with much of the innovation bubbling up from the local level. What seems to be missing from the equation, however, is a consistent pool of adequate funding to implement these multi-modal projects. Although 20 percent of California trips are made on foot or by bicycle, the state’s preeminent source to finance active transportation projects, the aptly named Active Transportation Program, represents just one percent of the Caltrans’ annual budget. The fund provides $300 million biannually, but due to its popularity, more than $800 million worth of projects were left unfunded during the last round. And, although local taxpayers are willing to pitch in to expand transit, the federal investments in transit continues to make up just 20 percent of total spending on surface transportation, even as people are driving less and in spite of steadily increasing transit ridership.

While the prospect of significantly increasing funding at the federal level isbleak, California’s cap-and-trade program represents a sustainable (and growing) revenue source to fund transit operations as well as capital projects. And even though the Active Transportation Program’s funding isn’t being augmented, Caltrans has pledged to adopt “new transportation funding programs to strengthen leadership in multimodal transportation.” (Perhaps the 2014 report that criticized the state agency as “out of step” with best practices has forced the organization to undergo some bureaucratic soul-searching.)

Finally, as we continue to implement projects and enact policies, let’s ensure that multi-modal transportation investments reduce inequities rather than perpetuate them. Policies like Vision Zero rely on enforcement to ensure that all road users are safe. But selective enforcement and efforts to place the onus of safety on the most vulnerable road users only serve to discourage active transportation and foster resentment between law enforcement and the communities they’re supposed to protect. Likewise, we need to critically examine who benefits most from new public transit investments. The sales taxes used to finance these methods tend to affect low-income taxpayers more acutely, but the benefits created by many new transit projects disproportionately accrue to more affluent individuals.

As we move toward a more multi-modal future, it’s encouraging to see that policies and programs are gaining traction. And, at least at the state level, there’s positive momentum to identify and secure sustainable funding sources to advance these types of projects. Let’s be sure that as we implement these projects we add value by ensuring that the benefits of a more robust transportation network accrue to the communities that need it most.

Featured Image -- 302

Cesar Chavez’s Quiet Yet Complicated Approach to Leadership

Originally posted on TIME:

“Shy,” “self-effacing” and “introspective.” The words LIFE used to describe Cesar Chavez in 1966 may not sound like the qualities befitting one of America’s most effective labor leaders. But Chavez’s power, at least as LIFE observed in that year, was not to be found in displays of volume or might. It was his quiet leadership and deep commitment to nonviolence that empowered thousands of farm workers to transform their working conditions into something more humane.

This legacy has, in recent years, been both recognized and complicated. Last year, President Obama declared Chavez’s birthday, March 31, a national holiday. Also in 2014, author Miriam Pawel published The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, the first comprehensive biography of Chavez, offering a more nuanced view of his leadership. For decades, Chavez had been held up more as hero than human, and Pawel’s thorough excavation of his life injects humanity—blemishes and all—into the narrative.

View original 256 more words


from WIRED: MICHAEL HODGES GEAR  |  04.03.15  |  10:00 AM

Aerovelo Engineer Todd Reichert and his team are on a mission to prove that human strength alone can propel helicopters, planes - and maybe their 145 KPH bicycle. Click to Open Overlay Gallery
Aerovelo Engineer Todd Reichert and his team are on a mission to prove that human strength alone can propel helicopters, planes—and maybe their 145 kph (90 mph) bicycle. CHRIS CRISMAN/WIRED UK


from WIRED GEAR  |  04.03.15  |  7:00 AM

Autonomous car from Delphi drives on Treasure Island in preparation for a cross-country trip from San Francisco to New York City in San FranciscoClick to Open Overlay Gallery
Featured Image -- 295

Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World

Originally posted on Business & Money:

Karl Marx was supposed to be dead and buried. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s Great Leap Forward into capitalism, communism faded into the quaint backdrop of James Bond movies or the deviant mantra of Kim Jong Un. The class conflict that Marx believed determined the course of history seemed to melt away in a prosperous era of free trade and free enterprise. The far-reaching power of globalization, linking the most remote corners of the planet in lucrative bonds of finance, outsourcing and “borderless” manufacturing, offered everybody from Silicon Valley tech gurus to Chinese farm girls ample opportunities to get rich. Asia in the latter decades of the 20th century witnessed perhaps the most remarkable record of poverty alleviation in human history — all thanks to the very capitalist tools of trade, entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Capitalism appeared to be fulfilling its promise — to uplift everyone to new heights…

View original 2,062 more words

Clean Energy Progress Has Valley Communities Seeing Green

Rey León and Veronica Garibay

Rey León is Executive Director and Founder of San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Adv. & Policy Project (Valley LEAP). Veronica Garibay is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Valley-based Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

San Joaquin Valley residents can’t choose whether or not to grapple with climate change. Its threats are real, and its impacts felt. The Valley is at a crossroads as water becomes more scarce, precipitation patterns change, temperatures increase, in turn impacting air quality, energy costs, water availability, health and employment options.

Fortunately, there’s a growing climate for opportunity in our region as California confronts the complementary challenges of climate change and dependence on petroleum.

Unlike Assemblymember Jim Patterson (“Senator de Leon’s Green Vision Has Valley Seeing Red” March 18, 2015), we believe clean energy opportunities abound and we applaud state legislators for taking the next step to cement California’s position as a national leader.  

California’s groundbreaking policies, led by AB 32, are injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, affordable housing and active transportation projects across California, including in disadvantaged communities often most impacted by climate change—$832 million this year, and more than a billion expected next year.

The growing clean energy industry is providing opportunities for high quality careers as well, including more than 10,000 jobs in the San Joaquin Valley alone. And the transition from petroleum dependence promises not only benefits to the environment but to community health and economic security though consumer savings from reduced reliance on energy and fuel.

Yes, we have to ensure that the benefits of California’s clean energy and energy efficiency policies reach California’s lower income communities and residents, including those communities and residents in the San Joaquin Valley, farmworkers being of the most vulnerable often undermined by local elected officials. Increased transportation options – such as transit and car- or ride-share programs – must extend to our small cities and rural communities; employment opportunities must focus on communities most in need of high quality jobs and career development opportunities; emission reductions programs must focus on those emissions that most impact health and well-being; weatherization and energy efficiency programs must continue to serve lower income households; all communities must be walkable and bike-able with safe paths; and programs and policies targeting the sustainability of water and water infrastructure must ensure water – and good water quality-  for communities vulnerable to a diminished water supply.

We need to ensure that a transition to a healthy, sustainable economy does not unfairly, and inadvertently, burden those Californians least able to weather the short-term costs that may accompany the changes that we will confront. At the same time, no amount of push-back or spending by dirty energy industries should delay progress.

The charge for our legislative leadership and our communities is clear. We must reduce our reliance on petroleum to reduce the impacts of climate change and reverse the environmental degradation extractive industries have caused. We must take heed of the opportunities this transition presents and expand and ensure access to both environmental and economic well-being to those communities and regions that have for too long lacked access to either. We must buffer any short term costs that will accompany a long term trend towards a better health, increased equality, economic security, environmental health and a sustainable future.

We must elect those representatives that understand this challenge and can champion the change. We have no other choice.

Rey León is Executive Director and Founder of San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Adv. & Policy Project (Valley LEAP). Veronica Garibay is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Valley-based Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

Follow Valley LEAP @LatinoEnviro

Kevin de Léon: Valley is poised for green energy economic boom

Fresno | March 7, 2015

California’s great middle is a land set apart. No valley is more vast, no soil is more fertile, and tragically, no air is more polluted.

As a landscape of paradox, the San Joaquin Valley is a region where poverty and bounty sit side by side. This situation has been aggravated by state and federal investments that have historically focused elsewhere. The unique challenges of the Valley have been too often overlooked in Sacramento and Washington.

When I look at California’s increasingly post-industrial economy, renewable energy and clean technology are not simply smart for the environment, they are currently the fastest growing job sectors and I cannot help but see a giant opportunity for cities in the Valley.

Clean technology companies in California are creating more jobs and investing more money than competitors in any other state. We need to make sure this economic boom reaches the Valley.

Right now, Kern County is home to the largest wind power farm in the nation, the Alta Wind Energy Center at the Tehachapi Pass, contributing $1.2 billion to Kern’s economy. These kinds of projects create jobs here, bring revenue here, and they are not going anywhere.

Hundreds of millions of dollars from our “cap and trade” system are also being targeted for investment in disproportionately impacted communities, specifically going to many communities dealing with pollution in the Valley starting this year.

Two years ago, I authored a measure that became state law and requires at least 25% of the pollution fees paid by companies go toward these areas. For the first time, the California Environmental Protection Agency is mapping out precise neighborhoods so that new jobs and cleaner air can rise exactly where they are needed most.

Jobs in a green economy — installing solar panels, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, manufacturing wind turbines and water filtration systems or assisting in these companies’ offices — are solidly middle class and do not require advanced college degrees.

What they demand are ingenuity and hard work — the stock in trade of a valley that gets up before the sun, heads to farm fields with the latest advances in technology and out-produces the world.

This isn’t politics of the left or right. A decade ago, when California decided to become a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it was the Legislature working with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who set goals many thought could not be attained.

As a result, scores of new companies in every part of the state, jump-started by the spark of public and private investment, are now bringing clean power to our energy grid.

Rather that wield a coercive stick, California also decided to let utilities and businesses meet in the marketplace of “cap and trade.” The first quarterly auction of the pollution allowances they traded has raised nearly $300 million — funds that California must now invest wisely.

As leader of the State Senate, I will make it a priority that a considerable chunk of the money goes to where it was intended to go — to cities up and down Highway 99 — and that dollars will be spent on projects that truly clean the environment and create real jobs.

To help build on the momentum of the quickly-expanding green sector of our economy, several colleagues and I recently unveiled a package of bills that commits our state to standing at the vanguard of combating climate change.

One of the bills, SB 350, raises the renewable energy goal to 50%, and does the same with increasing energy efficiency in buildings and reducing petroleum use. These 50-50-50 targets for 2030 might strike critics, especially those in the fossil-fuel industry, as nothing more than California Dreamin’.

The Golden State has continually proven these cynics wrong. Our businesses possess the innovative and pioneering spirit that always advances our lead in building the economy of tomorrow.

California’s ability to see and touch the future explains why automakers first began producing cars with ever increasing gas mileage, and how the sun and wind were first harnessed on a large scale for power. Our groundbreaking past is not only a rich tradition but our future calling.

And so we lead the way in producing fruits and nuts and tomatoes and milk and now clean-energy innovation, too. California isn’t the nation’s great exception. California is the nation before the rest of the nation figures it out.


Kevin de Léon, D-Los Angeles, is president pro tem of the California Senate. He wrote this exclusively for The Fresno Bee.