Archive for November, 2017

What strange times we live in. The Trump Administration has floated the idea of a 7-cent gas tax increase to pay for public works. But the Democrats are opposing any gas tax increase. They want to fund infrastructure spending through a one-time cut in the corporate repatriation tax:

“The bottom line is that we don’t want to raise taxes on working people right now,” Schumer said. “As it stands now that is where we are at. Income distribution is so bad, I would rather pay for infrastructure by taking the money that comes from overseas [repatriation] and putting it into infrastructure.”

Repatriation refers to profits large corporations earn overseas. Companies such as Apple and Google have accumulated hundreds of billions in foreign profits, but don’t have to pay tax on those profits until the money is repatriated to the US. Schumer’s proposal is to provide a one-time reduction in the tax rate to “encourage” these companies to pay up more quickly the money owed the US Treasury.

To describe Schumer’s plan as good for working people is incredibly misleading. Any decrease in corporate tax receipts has to be made up by regular taxpayers (i.e. the working class). And Schumer’s plan isn’t sustainable because it is a one-time deal, which means the gas tax will inevitably be raised. So working class taxpayers will end up paying for both a gas tax hike and a corporate tax cut.


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Caltrain had a celebratory groundbreaking for its new South San Francisco station:

Years of planning and coordinating culminated with a few public acknowledgments lasting just a little longer than the time Caltrain doors stay open during a stop at the South San Francisco station. But following state, regional and city officials digging their ceremonial shovels into loose dirt during a groundbreaking, Monday, Nov. 6, construction on the new South City station is now on track.

According to the project plans, the existing station will be replaced with a new center boarding platform leading to a pedestrian underpass connecting travelers to downtown South San Francisco, at Grand Avenue and Poletti Drive. The improvements will also make the station fully compliant with Americans with Disability Act standards.

In fact, the station will not be ADA compliant. The “new” station continues Caltrain practice of building low platforms that do not provide level-platform boarding. Wheelchair users, and others with mobility issues, will have to use a wayside lift.

FRA regulations require level platform boarding at newly built stations. It is curious that the FRA rejected plans for new stations at places such as Roanoke and Milwaukee due to platform interface issues, but apparently signed off on this deficient design at SSF.

Level platform boarding benefits not just wheelchair users but all train passengers. Trains get seriously delayed when conductors must hoist wheelchair riders onto trains. Level boarding also speeds up loading of bicycles, rolling suitcases, etc. Level boarding is a key part of the Caltrain Modernization Project. Caltrain even ordered specially built trains with doors at two levels for this purpose, the but SSF platforms won’t line up with either of the door levels.

caltrain steps


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“Smart City” has become one of those inane buzzwords that can mean almost anything:

One of Bill Gates’ investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in the far West Valley. The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah.

The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own “smart city.”

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” Belmont Partners said in a news release.

Ronald Schott, executive emeritus at the Arizona Technology Council, says the land Gates’ company purchased is in a good spot, in part due to the proposed I-11 freeway, which would run right through Belmont and connect to Las Vegas.

Ex-urban car-centric development is the dumbest city imaginable. But it will have high-speed internet and “autonomous logistics hubs” so there’s that…


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UK Roads Minister Jesse Norman doesn’t think enough is being done to dissuade cycling. He is conducting a safety review that may result in some new laws:

A review into cycling safety announced last month would be broad, possibly including whether cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and high-visibility clothing, Norman said. But he promised any conclusions would be led by evidence.

On possible laws for helmets and high-visibility clothing, Norman said the review would “ask very general questions and if the feedback is that we should consider that stuff, then we’ll look at it”.

He added: “Obviously there will be some people who feel very strongly that there should be hi-vis, and there will be plenty of people who think very strongly the other way. It’ll be the same with helmets. The literature on risk is quite a well developed one, I don’t need to tell you.”

Norman’s safety review was triggered by the tragic fatality of a pedestrian, Kim Briggs. She was struck by a cyclist as she crossed against a light. The cyclist was jailed because his bike lacked front brakes. Norman has proposed increased penalties for what he calls “dangerous cycling”.

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The Disney Corporatocracy

Anaheim taxpayers are wondering why their city paid for a $108 million parking garage, but Disney gets to keep all the parking revenues:

They zoom into the six-story concrete structure, carloads of costumed kids, foreign tourists and graying baby boomers sporting Mickey Mouse ears, “Frozen” dresses and “Star Wars” backpacks.

The cash pours in too: Each vehicle pays $20 to park at the Mickey & Friends facility, $35 for a preferred space close to the escalators and elevators. Even if the parking garage fills just half its spaces, it would still generate more than $35 million in annual revenue and easily hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the structure.

That money all goes to Walt Disney Co. The city of Anaheim, which owns the garage and spent $108.2 million to build it, charges the company just $1 a year for the lease.

More than 20 years after Anaheim agreed to pay for the parking facility as part of Disneyland Resort’s expansion, it has become a symbol of the city’s complicated and increasingly tense relationship with its biggest and most powerful corporate citizen.


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