Archive for July, 2011

Interesting development in Livermore:

In a surprising about-face, Livermore’s leaders Monday yielded to a group that wants the future BART-to-Livermore extension to stay on the freeway. Mayor Marshall Kamena, Vice Mayor John Marchand and Councilwoman Marj Leider voted 3-2 for an initiative aimed at keeping stations along Interstate 580. Councilmen Jeff Williams and Doug Horner were the dissenters. Kamena made the motion to adopt the initiative, essentially forcing the council to renounce its earlier endorsement of BART’s plan to build stations downtown and at Vasco Road.

A downtown location is better than a freeway median, but not if it means digging a $3 billion subway through ex-urban greenfield. Still, it is disheartening that residents opposed the downtown alignment for all the wrong reasons:

A coalition called Keep BART on 580 formed earlier this year, with members walking door to door to gather signatures for the initiative. The group argued an underground route downtown was a bad idea, citing undesirable high-density housing, the planned destruction of 11 homes and possible increased crime though City Council had pledged to build a police substation at the station.

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Billions of dollars are being spent to extend BART to Milpitas. And that’s after billions were spent running VTA light-rail to Milpitas. So what is Milpitas planning to do with this transit infrastructure? Perhaps build some transit-oriented development, or nice walkable neighborhood?

Milpitas City Council, convening as the city’s redevelopment agency, voted 3-0 on consent June 21 to execute a $100,000 contract agreement with San Jose-based David J. Powers & Associates Inc. for a plan line study for the Montague Expressway widening, which will add a fourth lane in both directions of the expressway.

Incidentally, the VTA will be covering some of the costs of this monstrosity.

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Happy Malaise Day

July 15, 1979 – On this day in history, President Jimmy Carter gave his “malaise” speech:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. . . .

I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel… I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy-secure nation.

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Can a parking lot at a Caltrain station be “blighted”? That was the logic behind a convoluted Redwood City plan to build a transit-oriented development project.

The most important things are that the project be very successful and that it supports downtown as a whole, for example, by creating a lot of sidewalk activity on nearby streets. For that kind of flexibility, however, the land must fall under the redevelopment agency before it can be transferred to a selected developer.

Good grief. If a city wants a walkable neighborhood, then just sell off the parking lot and re-zone the neighborhood for higher density.

But noooo, that would be too easy. And even worse, it means the City sells to the highest bidder!

Unlike its redevelopment agency, Redwood City would have to sell the property to the highest bidder “without consideration of other factors, such as who is most experienced with similar developments, who is proposing the best project for downtown, or whether the buyer even plans on building anything,

To recap: the City Council believes it knows better than a developer how to best utilize the parcel. And they want taxpayers to subsidize the politically-juiced developer. No wonder Governor Brown wants to shitcan the redevelopment process.

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Tulare Express

At tomorrow’s meeting, the CA High-Speed Rail Authority will consider initial start-up options. Among their severely constrained options is a Central Valley express, running from San Jose to Bakersfield. Never missing an opportunity to shill for San Jose, the Mercury News boasts:

In addition to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, attractions on the line would include the Kern County Museum, the World Ag Expo and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

Sometimes its hard to not be a tea-party-train-to-nowhere critic…

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London Mayor Opposes HS2

Boris Johnson

London Mayor Boris Johnson has become the highest-profile “Nimby” to oppose HS2.

In a June 20th letter, he writes:

It is perverse that a section of the route through Greater London, clearly affecting large numbers of people, has been subject to so little environmental mitigation. I am seeking substantial changes in design of the route to ensure these impacts are properly addressed, preferably by tunnelling the whole route through London.

Without such changes I cannot support the current proposal.

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Suburban Whiners

Lately, there is trend among “Big City” newspapers to feature columns catering to the suburbanites. Perhaps it is just a lame attempt to attract a more affluent demographic, but the columns have a boring predictability. Each week one can expect a gripe about the usual urban failings — lack of parking being the biggest complaint.

But even with that mind, this column from Chris Johnson deserves extra special mention for his gripe that the Oakland Coliseum should have provided parking for 70,000 U2 concert goers:

U2 fans who drove to the stadium assumed there would be ample parking for the event, and they were sadly mistaken. And Coliseum officials – and apparently BART operators – who assumed that Coliseum visitors were aware that parking options are limited and that BART always runs late for Coliseum events – didn’t hold up their end well either.

Pity the poor out-of-down yokels who didn’t know there was a modern train service, and tried to drive to a venue with limited parking.

Crowds Walking from BART Station to Coliseum

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