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Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

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…

forest_home_garage

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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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Here is another one of those ridiculous subsidies for the auto industry:

Individuals in disadvantaged census tracts who make up to four times the federal poverty level will be able to trade in their pre-1994 models and receive as much as $12,000 toward the cost of a new or used fuel-efficient vehicle.

A $4.8 million pilot, expected to replace about 600 cars, is currently rolling out in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air districts. The Air Resources Board plans to expand the program, which is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenue, by about 10 times next year.

Whereas cap-and-trade started with the best of intentions, it really has turned into a joke of a program. It provides no dedicated funding for bike projects (and only minimal support for transit services), and instead is being used to subsidize private car purchases.

Even viewed as an anti-poverty measure, this is a bad idea. Car ownership is really costly, and it is a mistake to encourage low-income families to hang onto cars when there are much lower cost transportation alternatives.

 

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The motorcycle fatality rate has more than doubled over the past 20 years. The GHSA is once again ignoring street design and driver behavior, and instead promoting helmets:

Motorcycle fatalities for 2014 remained stubbornly high, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association said. Though motorcycles account for only 3 percent of vehicles on the road, their riders and passengers account for 14 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle-related deaths.

Estimated total fatalities for 2014 will total 4,584, GHSA said, when the data set is complete. That’s a 1.8 percent drop from 2013, when 4,668 people died in motorcycle incidents.

But that fatality rate is double the number of deaths tabulated during the late 1990s, GHSA said — and are more stark because automobile traffic deaths have dropped, due to improved auto safety features. Motorcycle deaths accounted for only 5 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle deaths in 1997, but represented 14 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in 2013.

Only 19 of the 50 states have universal helmet laws, most of the remainders requiring helmets only for riders under 18 or in some cases 21. In those states, the GHSA report stated, helmet use is typically below 50 percent.

The GHSA report came down squarely against limited or lax helmet laws. “Motorcycle deaths … were substantially lower in states with universal laws than in those with no laws or laws applying only to young motorcyclists.”

In fact, mandatory motorcycle helmet laws actually have the opposite effect — causing an increase in the fatality rate.

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As one of the most scenic places on Earth, the California coast is not the place to be constructing expressways. The fact that CEQA allows this is a huge problem:

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner tentatively denied the claims in the CEQA lawsuit brought by Pacificans for a Scenic Coast about the proposed widening of Highway 1. The Calera Creek Parkway project seeks to widen Highway 1 from Fairway Park to Rockaway by adding an additional traffic lane, a shoulder and a bike lane on each side.

The CEQA lawsuit contends the Calera Creek Parkway project was not adequately described at the time of the EIR, that the project is out of scale with Pacifica’s scenic nature, the EIR contains contradictory information on impacts of threatened species, and that the EIR did not adequately address adverse impacts of the project, according to Pacificans for a Scenic Coast.

The topics explored during the two-day hearing included concerns about noise, water run-off, species protection, traffic and pedestrian safety, greenhouse gas emissions and what the new road will look like in the neighborhood.

The “bike lane” in this case just means cyclists get to ride on the shoulder of an expressway. The new Devil’s Slide Class I path opened just down the road, but who wants to ride on an expressway to get there?

Before and after photosimulation

Before and after photosimulation

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Behold, the “ultimate” highway widening. Seriously, that is actually the word Florida DOT officials used to describe it, and they may not be exaggerating:

ultimate_I4

This highway engineering nightmare is the new-and-improved I4. It is where the Obama Administration once tried to build a new high-speed rail line. Governor Scott killed the train idea, because he said it would cost Florida taxpayers too much (even though it was fully funded by the Feds).

The I4 widening will cost a whopping $2.1 billion for just 21 miles. And whereas Florida taxpayers would not have had to pay anything for the train, they will pay at least half the cost of the highway project. The rest of the funding is supposed to come from a PPP tolls. And given the dismal record of PPP-funded highways, taxpayers should expect to pay even more.

A giant highway overcrossing is a great place to a street fair!

A giant highway overcrossing is a great place for a street fair!

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