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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

A new road was recently constructed in South Fremont. Kato Rd was extended to connect with Mission Blvd. It provides a direct route between the the Warm Springs commercial district with various office parks along I880.

But as you can see, non-motorized users are not permitted to use it:

kato

This road was actually built as part of the Warm Springs BART extension project. There are some alternate routes available, but they are less safe and (depending on where you are coming and going) more circuitous.

 

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Here is a photo of new transit-oriented development under construction at the Fremont BART station. This is a prime location, directly outside the West entrance.

Yes, it is a parking garage, of course. That is how we do TOD in the Bay Area.

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When San Francisco removed the Embarcadero and Central freeways, it helped launch a property boom that made the city’s real estate some of the most valuable in the country. Across the Bay, Oakland is seeing a similar renaissance with the removal of Lake Merritt’s 12th Street Viaduct and the Cypress freeway relocation. Oakland (yes Oakland) has now passed San Jose to become the nation’s 4th hottest rental market. There is now talk in Oakland of removing I980 as well.

Inner-city highway removal has been so successful, you have to wonder why many cities cling to their outdated design. A really awful example of this backwards thinking can be found in Sacramento with the Capital City freeway:

It’s the Sacramento region’s worst freeway bottleneck, by far. Every day, traffic comes to a standstill on the Capital City Freeway near the American River. The snarls are even worse some Saturdays.

Now, after years of debating what to do, state and local leaders say they’ve reached a resolution: It’s time to drop the small-town mindset and go for a big fix.

Caltrans has begun laying the groundwork for a $700 million freeway widening from midtown to the junction with Interstate 80. That includes widening the American River bridge to add a new multi-use lane in each direction, as well as building wider shoulders for stalled cars to pull over, a separate lane on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, and other improvements. The proposed project area is 8 miles long.

The questions: Where will the money come from, and how long will it take to get done?

Caltrans officials say the project is so big and the funding sources so uncertain that it may not happen for a decade. That timeline is typical for major transportation projects in California.

But the region’s population is expected to grow in that time, including new housing adjacent to the Capital City Freeway at McKinley Village, putting more pressure on an already failing freeway. That section of the Capital City Freeway accounts for one-third of the Sacramento Valley’s freeway delays, which state highway data pegs at 3 million wasted hours.

Some history: The Capital City freeway formed the original I80 alignment through Sacramento. It is one of those notorious 1960’s projects, which blasted highways through the middle of cities. Because it did not meet modern interstate standards, it was replaced by a new I80 beltway that went through north Sacramento. At that point, the Capital City freeway had largely outlived its original purpose — and yet the ugly elevated structure has remained.

Underneath the elevated structure, the old street grid remains. The neighborhood retains some of the classic craftsman houses. There is now light rail and a respectable amount of pedestrian activity from the nearby government office buildings.

Replacing the freeway with an at-grade boulevard would transform the neighborhood. And it would move the car traffic more efficiently. That is a much better outcome than spending $700 million and 10 years, just to make traffic worse.

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Caltrans headquarters on the left, Capital City freeway on the right. Streetcar tracks running under and across the highway.

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Aerial view

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Plans are taking shape for the area around the new Warm Springs BART station. As typical for suburban BART stations, the plans entail large amounts of parking:

warm_springs_parking

To give the neighborhood an urban-look, the parking garages are placed inside or below buildings:

warm_springs_parking_2

For each residential unit within 1/4 mile of the BART station (i.e. 5-minute walk), Fremont’s zoning code requires 1.5 parking spaces . Beyond the 1/4-mile threshold, the requirement increases to 2 parking spaces. These parking requirements apply even to the affordable housing.

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The Sierra Club has spent considerable effort fighting against development in San Francisco. Most recently, they endorsed Measure I, which would impose a housing moratorium in the Mission District.

And guess what happens when development is curtailed:

After 124 years in San Francisco, the Sierra Club is moving its headquarters across the Bay to Oakland because of rising rents in The City. The nonprofit on Thursday announced its headquarters will move from its current site at 85 2nd St. in San Francisco to 2101 Webster St. in Oakland in May 2016, after learning the group faced an annual rent hike of more than $1.5 million, said John Rizzo, political chair of the club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

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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…

forest_home_garage

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The IMF has published a new paper on global fossil fuel subsidies. The problem is worse than you thought:

1. Post-tax energy subsidies are dramatically higher than previously estimated—$4.9 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2013, and projected to reach $5.3 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2015.

2. Post-tax subsidies are large and pervasive in both advanced and developing economies and among oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries alike. But these subsidies are especially large (about 13–18 percent) relative to GDP in Emerging and Developing Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

3. Among different energy products, coal accounts for the biggest subsidies, given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption.

4. Most energy subsidies arise from the failure to adequately charge for the cost of domestic environmental damage—only about one-quarter of the total is from climate change—so unilateral reform of energy subsidies is mostly in countries’ own interests, although global coordination could strengthen such efforts.

5. The fiscal, environmental, and welfare impacts of energy subsidy reform are potentially enormous. Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion (2.2 percent of global GDP).

Correcting the price imbalance would improve the economy, improve the environment, and improve public health. A win-win-win proposition.

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