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Das Liar

das_liar

Silicon Valley is supposedly America’s capital of innovation. But its transportation sales tax measure is a huge step backwards. It would spend $3 billion on highway expansions, leaving hardly anything on bikes and transit. According to the environmental group TransForm, the measure performs badly on reducing automobile VMT.

Silicon Valley already suffers from some of the nation’s worst gridlock. Rather than provide transit alternatives, the VTA is proposing further cuts to the bus network. The transportation expenditure plan would lock those cuts in place for the next 2+ decades.

Getting around by bicycle won’t be any easier either, as the plan allocates just 4% of funds for bike/ped infrastructure. Compare to Alameda County, which will be spending 10% of its local funds on bike/ped. Or the upcoming measure in San Luis Obispo county, which would spend 15% of funds on bike/ped projects.

The one big transit capital project is, of course, the BART extension to San Jose. However, the expenditure plan would continue the line out to Santa Clara Caltrain station, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars duplicating the existing Caltrain service.

Speaking of Caltrain, the Caltrain advocates are happy that the expenditure plan includes $1 billion for grade separations and “capacity improvements”. Their joy will probably be short lived as the VTA has always re-purposed Caltrain funds to pay for BART cost overruns.

SB-1239, the Smog Exemption bill, received a unanimous vote in favor by the Appropriations Committee. This is the bill that would exempt older cars from smog checks. Even though it affects a relatively small number of cars, the pollution impacts would still be considerable. An average of 30% of 1976-1981 vehicles failed smog tests.

The Sierra Club, NRDB, BAAQMD, he Lung Association, and the Coalition for Clean Air have all come out against the bill. They point out that California already provides financial assistance to owners high-polluting older cars. The Coalition for Clean Air also notes that:

the smog check program allows for deterioration of the vehicle’s emission controls over time. To pass smog check, owners of older vehicles simply need to maintain their vehicles.

It is ironic that California is considering this bill at the same time it is going after VW for defeat devices. Passing the bill will really undercut the public health arguments California has made in its case against VW.

After the VW Dieselgate fraud was revealed, investigators began looking at other manufacturers. German transport authorities tested 53 vehicles, and 22 of them show suspiciously high levels of nitrogen-oxide. Fiat, in particular, shows striking irregularities:

Bild am Sonntag reported that testing by the KBA of a Fiat model had shown that the emission control system shut down after 22 minutes – two minutes after the end of a standard test.

This caused the dangerous pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx) to be released into the atmosphere “at more than 10 times the permitted level“, the report said according to the newspaper.

The KBA had concluded that there was “sufficient evidence of an impermissible defeat device“, said the newspaper, adding that the automaker had declined to comment on the claims.

Fiat is now stonewalling the investigation:

Fiat officials had been due to hold a meeting with German authorities on Wednesday but cancelled the talks abruptedly through a lawyer’s letter, the transport ministry said in a statement. The carmaker had declined to meet as it deemed Italian officials to be the only authority responsible on the question of whether their vehicles complied with existing emissions regulations, the ministry said.

“This uncooperative attitude of Fiat is completely incomprehensible,” said Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt.

 

To accommodate higher passenger loads, BART has been testing new seating layouts. There are three configurations being tested:

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This evening, I was riding in the 3rd one. Most of the seats were removed along one side of the car. I have to say, it did a good job accommodating five bikes, airport luggage, and an oversized wheelchair. The wheelchair user was thrilled that she finally got a window seat. Passenger volume was not that high, though, despite being rush hour.

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Approaching 12th St Station 

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Relatively empty at the end of the line in Fremont

The good news is that planners are finally embracing cycle-tracks. The bad news is that they are still designing substandard cycle-tracks.

A previous posting discussed a substandard cycle-track in Alameda. On the other side of the channel in Oakland, we find yet another example of half-assed bike infrastructure. Oakland bike planners are proposing to build cycle-tracks on Fruitvale Ave. The cycle-tracks would run from the BART station, under I880, and out towards the Bay. For the most part, the project is satisfactory — except for the segment running past I880. It is that segment which is by far the most dangerous for cyclists. And it is in that segment where the cycle-tracks would disappear entirely. Bicyclists would have no physical protection from the heavy traffic coming on and off the freeway.

Even worse, the plan would sandwich an unprotected bike lane between a right-turn lane and through traffic. This is a proven failure, as demonstrated most spectacularly last week in San Francisco.

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