Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

rob_fordToronto has two systems of justice. One for normal folk, and another for crack-smoking drunk-driving Mayors:

Toronto police officers helped Rob Ford on “multiple occasions” after stopping his vehicle while he was still mayor, rather than charge him with driving impaired, his former chief of staff says.

The allegation emerged Saturday in an excerpt from a soon to-be-released book by Mark Towhey titled Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable. “Two senior members of the Toronto Police Service had told me officers had pulled over the mayor’s car late at night on multiple occasions and driven him home rather than charging him for driving under the influence.”

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Justice is Blind

Here is another one of those outrageous cases, where a driver can hit and kill a cyclist without consequence:

The felony conviction for an attorney who killed a Chinese tourist in a hit-and-run crash in 2011 was reduced to a misdemeanor by an Alameda County judge on Friday over “strenuous objection” by prosecutors, according to the district attorney’s office.

Hayward Judge Michael Gaffey also changed the terms of the sentence he handed down to Spencer Freeman Smith just two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of an American friend of the man Smith killed.

“Obviously, I am not a judge or a lawyer but, for me, using common sense, it’s an outrageous decision,” said Dr. Arnold Owens of Oakland. “Everything has gone so much in favor of the defendant, it seems like some shenanigans are going on.”

Smith, 36, was living in San Ramon working as a San Francisco labor attorney on March 12, 2012 when, after a night of drinking with a paralegal from his firm, he fatally struck 57-year-old Chinese financial adviser Bo Hu on Dougherty Road in Dublin, prosecutors say. Hu was in the country for his fiancee’s relative’s graduation and was killed while he was walking a bicycle.

Smith did not stop or even brake at the scene and was apprehended by Dublin police investigators after they matched broken vehicle parts left at the scene to his brand new Mercedes-Benz sedan.

Oh, did I mention that the driver is blind in one eye? Incredibly, that fact worked in his favor:

“Anyone driving down that dark roadway could have hit Mr. Hu; it just happened to be Mr. Smith,” he said. “The judge recognized that this was a tragic accident and Mr. Smith was in a more vulnerable situation because he is blind in his right eye.”

The Judge did not even take away Smith’s driving license. Though I suppose the real question is why the California DMV gives out driving licenses to people blind in one eye.

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Blame the victim

A driver illegally crosses a double yellow line to pass, and fatally hits a bicyclist coming the other direction. Of course, the CHP says the driver was not at fault:

The accident unfolded after a vehicle moved toward the center of the road to pass one of the racers, CHP Sgt. Andy Hill said. As the driver moved to pass, she failed to see a second racer, riding near the middle of the road in the opposite direction, Hill said. The car was traveling about 35 mph and the bicyclist about 30 mph when they collided, according to the CHP.

“Unfortunately the (victim) was not riding on the far right side of the lane. He was riding in the middle of the road where the yellow line is,” Hill said. Hill said both parties contributed to the collision. Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible, he said, while cars are required to have appropriate space before passing. Authorities have not identified the driver, a 35-year-old woman from Esparto. No charges or arrests have been made.

It is disappointing (but not all that surprising) that the CHP misinterprets both the 3-foot passing law and CVC 21202. CVC 21202 permits cyclists to move to the center of the lane for any number of reasons: to avoid hazards, or when the lane is substandard width. As in so many car-bike collisions, the police in this case found creative legal interpretations to absolve a driver of her dangerous and illegal behavior.

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The dreaded 85% rule strikes again:

Princeton residents spoke sharply against a Caltrans proposal to raise the speed limit on Highway 45 through the town at a meeting on Thursday.Representatives from Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, along with Colusa County authorities, staged the meeting at Princeton High School’s cafeteria to explain the proposal to raise the speed limit from 35 to 40 mph.

Many residents at the meeting were not persuaded. They said the increase would only encourage travelers to speed even more through their community. Residents said the stretch of road in question has blind left turns, unprotected pedestrian crossing and no sidewalks, and and they said they’ve seen people driving up to 80 mph through the area.

One reason for the speeding is that CHP rarely patrols the highway. The result is a downward spiral: lack of enforcement leads to speeding, whereupon the CHP just raises the speed limit:

Caltrans representative Don Rushton said, a speed limit set too low causes frustration, road rage and other unreasonable driving conditions. “Arbitrarily low limits become speed traps,” he said. That comment drew a laugh from many in the crowd, who said the CHP rarely enforces the speed limit in the area. CHP Lt. Etic Walker, Williams area commander, said that since the economic downturn, the CHP’s office has been sorely understaffed.

Caltrans will also be raising the speed limit through Willits:

Caltrans is planning to raise the speed limits on Highway 20 by 5 miles per hour in the stretch immediately approaching the city of Willits from Fort Bragg, as a result of regularly mandated engineering and traffic surveys. The speeds will be raised from 30 to 35 mph, from 40 to 45 mph, and from 50 to 55 mph between post markers 32.5 and 33.0, a zone which includes three local road intersections and one route to Blosser Lane Elementary School.

Caltrans officials also met with Willits city officials including Chief of Police Gerardo Gonzalez, who expressed their concerns about maintaining adequate safety measures on the 20, particularly to protect pedestrians and bicyclists who may be crossing at the Blosser Lane intersection.

“I think locals tend to avoid that route,” said Gonzalez, “you’re not seeing kids walk there the way they used to.

Pedestrian accommodation is needed. But in order to secure Caltrans approval there needs to be sufficient pedestrian traffic. Again, it is a downward spiral — higher speeds means fewer pedestrians:

Hill said the survey did not demonstrate enough pedestrian volume to consider greater pedestrian safety measures such as a “pedestrian refuge,”

Schoolkids running across Hwy 20

Schoolkids run for their lives across Hwy 20

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Parking garages are wasteful and environmentally damaging. So of course the industry has invented a greenwashing campaign, called the Green Parking Council:

LAS VEGAS – July 1, 2015) — The Green Parking Council (GPC) today announced the first seven parking facilities in the U.S. to achieve Green Garage Certification, a comprehensive sustainability standard for existing and new parking facilities evaluating 48 elements of garage operation, programs, structure, and technology. The Green Garage Certification program will be delivered and promoted globally by the Green Business Certification, Inc., the certification body for the U.S. Green Building Council’s global LEED® green building rating system.

“Cars are getting smarter, people are getting smarter, and parking garages are getting smarter,” explains Paul Wessel, executive director of the GPC, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute. “The greening of parking facilities transforms them into enablers of sustainable mobility. Certified Green Garages offer significant benefits for drivers, tenants, building owners, property managers, and society overall.”

When parking garages are built with green elements, it is often to mitigate stupid planning decisions. That is certainly the case with the 7 “winners”. In a way, we can thank the GPC for finding the country’s most ridiculous parking garages — a list which includes the following:

  • Silver Spring Metro Plaza – parking garage built at a Washington Metro “intermodal” station.
  • Bank of America Plaza – situated in downtown Los Angeles, near several Metro stops, and dozens of bus lines.
  • Westpark Corporate Center – another facility near the Washington Metro, and located in a Tysons neighborhood that certainly doesn’t lack for parking.

Also on the list is the Corrnell University Forest Home Garage. It deserves special recognition for most ironic location of a “green” parking garage. The 3-level facility was built (at considerable expense) under the new Human Ecology building, in a prime lakefront location:

Constructed in 2009, Forest Home is a 254-space garage located under the LEED Platinum-certified Human Ecology Building. Electric vehicle charging stations, building systems commissioning, nearby public green space and a highly efficient LED lighting system contributed to the certification. “Cornell’s pioneering efforts toward greening parking facilities is a tremendous source of pride for us” Bartt Smith, Transportation Services’ project specialist for GGC. “Progress continues toward the certification of the Hoy Field Garage.”

Congratulations to this year’s winners! And looking forward to learning about other sustainable, green parking garage from the GPC in the years to come…


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The VMT Grift

The gas tax is a perfect method to charge for the impact of motor vehicles. Heavier, gas-guzzling vehicles pay more, while more fuel-efficient vehicles pay less. Electric cars pay nothing, serving as an incentive to switch away from fossil fuels. And there is no complex technology required to collect the gas tax.

So why all the push for VMT (vehicle-mile traveled) taxation? Perhaps because private vendors will make a fortune:

There is also growing concern about the cost of the program. OReGO vendors will collect up to 40 cents of every dollar drivers are charged, and green car drivers could be in for some serious sticker shock every month.

If the 40% figure is correct, then that is quite a scam. Almost half the money would go to private firms, instead of paying for road maintenance or other transportation programs.

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Residents in Coronado are fed up with dangerous Caltrans highways:

Another traffic accident in Coronado, just a week after a man was killed in the same area, has neighbors on edge. On Tuesday afternoon, a woman suffered minor injuries when her car was t-boned pulling out onto Third Street from B Avenue.

“I heard a Godawful boom, crash, screeching of brakes,” said Thomas Slattery, who lives around the corner. The crash came as no surprise to him. “It’s depressingly frequent.”

Last week, a 70-year-old man was hit and killed trying to cross Fourth Street near A Avenue.

And the solution…

Third and Fourth Streets are state routes owned by Caltrans. The state recently conducted a speed survey to estimate traffic patterns. Based on the results, the speed limit may actually be increased from 25 miles per hour to 30 or 35. Until a decision is made, police are not able to enforce the speed limit using radar.

“Their goal, people need to understand, is to move traffic as efficiently and fast as they can, to get you from point A to point B,” Coronado Councilmember Carrie Downey told 10News. “Traffic calming is the antithesis.”

Caltrans logic: If too many drivers are speeding, then just keep raising the speed limit until there is no more speeding. Problem solved.

SWITRS map of fatalities and serious injuries in Coronado shows the Caltrans highways to be a major hazard

SWITRS map of fatalities and serious injuries in Coronado shows the Caltrans highways to be a major hazard (click to enlarge)

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