Archive for the ‘automotive’ Category

Texas (yes, Texas!) has passed a new pedestrian safety measure. It would actually penalize drivers who severely injure someone walking or biking:

A new safety law that is now in effect in Texas could see a driver go to jail if they hit someone walking or cycling. Senate Bill 1055 was signed into law by Governor Abbott in June, and drivers can now go to jail if they cause bodily harm to a pedestrian. The new law says drivers who cause bodily harm to pedestrians will face stiff consequences which include being charged with a class A misdemeanor and possible time behind bars.

Senate Bill 1055 was signed after a Houston mother was killed by a driver while crossing the street with her son; the driver in that accident walked away without any charges. 

“You can spend up to a year in jail. So now, we’re talking about jailtime, not a ticket where you go pay a fine. Although, there could be a fine up to $4,000,” said Sgt. Charlie Eipper of the Wichita Falls Police Department.

The real question is whether the new law will be enforced. Perhaps Texas can implement a bounty system…

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The “E-BIKE” Act would have provided a refundable tax credit up to $1,500 on the purchase of a new e-bike. Authored by Congressmen Panetta (D-Calif) and Blumenauer (D-Ore), it would have paid up to 30% of the cost of a new e-bike.

But now the bill has gone into the Legislative buzzsaw of the House Ways and “Means-Testing” Committee, and has been significantly watered down — to the point of being largely useless. The e-Bike refundable tax credit is now just 15% of the purchase price, capped at $1,500 total. And the credit phases out starting at $75,000 of adjusted gross income.

For comparison, the same bill would provide a $12,000 subsidy for the purchase of a $74,000 F150 electric pickup truck to a family with $800,000 annual income.

(For details, see Sec. 136401/136407 here)

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Some cities do infill-development. Then there is Waltham, MA — which used eminent domain to protect a parking lot:

The city is preparing to take a parking lot between the Boys & Girls Club and the library by eminent domain. The city council approved on Monday spending just under $1.4 million on a parking lot across the street from the Waltham Boys & Girls Club. Mayor Jeannette McCarthy is proposing to take the lot by eminent domain to keep as a municipal parking lot. Although there is a municipal garage within walking distance, the library and the Boys & Girls Club share street parking.

The 12,000 square foot property that fits about 40 parking spaces was listed for $1.4 million in February, according to Realtor.com, which mentioned that condominiums, singles, two families, commercial bays with offices above are allowed by right in that space.

Waltham also took a nearby property at 481 Main St, and will demolish the building there to make into yet another parking lot.

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The Biden Administration has released an outline of its $2 trillion infrastructure plan. It is important to note that this amount would be spent over a period of 8 years, i.e. $250 billion annually. Over that 8-year period, the plan would spend $300 billion on transportation projects, including:

  • $95 billion on roads and highways
  • $20 billion bike/ped projects
  • $20 billion fixing neighborhoods destroyed by highways
  • $80 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects
  • $85 billion for public transit

Normally, these types of projects would be funded by the Federal gas tax. But the gas tax was last raised in 1992, and inflation has reduced revenues by half. If the gas tax had kept pace with inflation, the Highway Trust Fund would have an additional $37.5 billion to spend annually. If you do the math, $37.5 over 8 years is exactly $300 billion.

Even worse, the Biden Administration would finance all of this through deficit spending.

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UC Riverside is raising tuition, cutting staff, and faces a reduction of $30 million in state support. Coincidentally, $30 million is how much the campus is spending on this gigantic new parking garage:

UC Riverside’s new four-level parking structure at the east end of campus is nearing completion. The main elements of the project — its concrete levels and frame — are finished though other features still remain to be done, said John Franklin, a project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction. He estimated it will be completed by the end of April.

“It’s quite a substantial structure when you walk by it,” Franklin said.

Work on the 1,079-space parking structure on the east side of Parking Lot 13 on Big Springs Road began in January 2020. When complete, the structure and surrounding space will provide a total of 1,287 spaces — a net increase of 800.

Parking Lot 13

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Many drunk and drugged out drivers are notorious repeat offenders. But with a AB 3234, a new law that has gone into effect, previous misdemeanor convictions for DUI can be removed from a driver’s record — as if it had never occurred:

AB 3234,  taking effect on January 1, 2021, allows for diversion in almost all misdemeanor cases, including DUI, vehicular manslaughter, elder abuse, child abuse, assault, hate crimes, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of a firearm in a school zone, criminal threats, and dissuading a witness.  Upon completion of diversion, as defined by the judge, the case shall be dismissed and the crime deemed to never have occurred. Under AB 3234, a judge in the superior court in which a misdemeanor is being prosecuted can offer misdemeanor diversion to a defendant over the objection of a prosecuting attorney.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has argued that the law may cost the state Federal highway safety funds. The Federal FAST Act requires states receiving funding to enact and enforce a repeat intoxicated driver law (23 CFR 1275.4).

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Virginia decriminalizes jaywalking

HB 5058 has been signed by the Governor, meaning police in Virginia can no longer hassle pedestrians:

HB 5058 Marijuana and certain traffic offenses; issuing citations, etc,

Introduced by: Patrick A. Hope

Issuing citations; possession of marijuana and certain traffic offenses.

The bill prohibits a law-enforcement officer from stopping a pedestrian for jaywalking or entering a highway where the pedestrian cannot be seen. The bill provides that law-enforcement officers are not permitted to stop a motor vehicle for an expired safety inspection or registration sticker until the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date. The bill also provides that no evidence discovered or obtained due to an impermissible stop, including evidence obtained with the person’s consent, is admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

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Berkeley just opened a fancy new $40 million parking garage — then COVID-19 hit. The garage requires debt financing, but nobody is paying to park there. The city is tapping a one-time emergency bond reserve fund, but if there is a further economic downturn the impact to the General Fund would be considerable. The problem isn’t only the downtown garage but the other parking facilities as well:

$3 million taken from General Fund to cover deficit

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Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

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Dining with the Devil

By now you may have heard about Governor Newsom’s controversial dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant. Most criticism has focused on whether the party violated COVID social-distancing rules (almost certainly it did).

The cherry-on-top is that the party was to honor Jason Kinney — an oil industry lobbyist. Kinney had worked on getting permits approved for a major expansion of fracking in Kern County. The Newsom Administration approved those permits less than a month before the party:

The exquisite dinner was held to celebrate the 50th birthday of Kinney, a Newsom insider and lobbying firm partner with a knack for getting his way in the corridors of power. For example, Newsom — who claims to care deeply about climate change — came under fire from environmentalists after his administration approved fracking permits for Aera Energy. Who represents Aera in Sacramento? “That company, Aera Energy — a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil — is represented by the lobbying firm Axiom Advisors. Axiom’s lobbyists include Jason Kinney, a senior advisor to Newsom while he served as lieutenant governor,” reported Steve Horn of Capital & Main.

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