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Archive for the ‘automotive’ Category

A jury has just award $9.5 million in damages to the family of a man struck and killed in a crosswalk on El Camino:

Caltrans was aware of studies discouraging the marking of crosswalks in busy uncontrolled intersections and was aware of accidents elsewhere along El Camino. But Caltrans refuses to remedy any particular crosswalk until someone has been killed or injured in that location.

This was not the only lawsuit over the lack of pedestrian safety on El Camino. A court awarded $8 million to the family of Emily Liou, a 17-year-old who was struck in a crosswalk on El Camino in Millbrae.

El Camino is notorious for having a large number pedestrian fatalities and injuries. So if this keeps up, it is going to get prohibitively expensive for Caltrans to continue its inaction on ped safety.

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San Jose has a $1 billion backlog in street maintenance, and the police department is understaffed. Despite all that, the city tried purchasing a parking garage in order to give away some free parking to Safeway customers:

One of those properties is the 330-slot garage that the Safeway customers use at 88 E. San Fernando Street. The city of San Jose bid $850,000 to buy the garage last year.

Citing state guidelines for the dissolution of redevelopment property, the oversight board rejected the city’s offer, challenging the city’s method of appraising the property. Earlier this year, the board accepted the garage sale to a private operator, MVP REIT Inc., which paid $3.575 million. At that price, the new owners needed to charge more for parking.

Quelle horreur! Charging market-rate pricing for parking — a whopping $4/hr. And for those who can’t afford that, there is a light-rail stop across the street, and the (free!) bike racks.

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Das Liar

das_liar

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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.

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Smog Exemption Bill Advances

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.

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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.

 

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