Legislation I’d like to see

In all my spare time, which means while commuting to work on my bike, I think about state legislation I’d like to see. Here is my list of the moment. Feel free to add suggestions.

Bicycling

  • Remove far-to-the-right bike lane provisions, CVC 21202
  • Flip parking in bike lanes from permissible unless posted to prohibited unless posted
  • Require that all signals detect bicycles within two years
  • Be explicit in CVC that placing waste containers in bike lanes is the same violation as leaving any material in a travel lane
  • Require that all waste containers be inscribed with ‘do not place in bike lane’, and have reflective stripes on the sides of the container
  • Implement ‘Idaho stop law’ (yield as stop) for stop sign controlled intersections

Pedestrians

  • Require full traffic studies for the removal or crosswalks or prohibition of crossing, with the default position being that crosswalks will not be removed and prohibitions will not be created or continued
  • Remove the prohibition on pedestrians crossing the street between signalized intersections on all streets 30 mph or less

Speed

  • Change the prima facie speed limit for residential and commercial streets (local) from 25 mph to 20 mph; change to 20 mph or less for posted school zones
  • Set the maximum speed allowable on collector streets to 30 mph; set the maximum allowable speed on arterial streets to 40 mph
  • Allow automated speed enforcement everywhere

Schools

  • Require law enforcement to send incident reports involving children going to or from school to school districts within 24 hours of completion, and investigations within 72 hours of completion
  • Prohibit U-turns within school zones
  • K-12 school districts and colleges/university would be required to have transportation demand management programs, since school-related traffic is a significant portion or overall traffic

Other

  • Shift the burden of proof to the motor vehicle driver for all collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists involving fatality or severe injury
  • Allow any citizen to challenge the professional license of an engineer who is aware of a traffic safety hazard and fails to request funding to mitigate that hazard
  • Decriminalize transit fare evasion
  • Allow conversion of any and all freeway lanes to toll

55% threshold for transportation maintenance

State Senator Scott Wiener has introduced SCA 6, a constitutional amendment that would change the threshold for transportation measures from 2/3 (67%) to 55%. While I understand the desire to make funding of transportation easier, I am also scared by possible outcomes. The Sacramento County Measure B would have passed under this new threshold, but it failed with 65% when 67% was required. Measure B was chock full of bad projects, including Capital Southeast Connector (a new freeway), widening of Capital City Freeway, new interchanges throughout the county (mostly to serve new and planned greenfield developments), and additional road widening and extension. It also had some good things, such as fix-it-first and light rail car replacement with low-floor/level boarding cars.

I am concerned that if this amendment were adopted, there would just be more and more investment in the same old infrastructure solutions that got us into this mess in the first place, and still less dedicated to what we really need for the time being, which is maintenance.

Continue reading “55% threshold for transportation maintenance”

Rolling the right on red

An article in the Sacramento Bee today by Tony Bizjak (Back-Seat Driver), Lawmaker challenges California’s $500 fine for right-turn violations, talks about the infraction of not stopping on red before turning right, and whether the fine is appropriate. The article invited people to comment. I’ve written several times about what I think about stop signs, so what I’m writing here is just about traffic signals.

My first reaction is that the people favoring lower fines, or no fines at all, for this infraction are the many of the same people who go ballistic when a bicyclist rolls through a stop sign. This is part of a typical attitude that the things I do on the road are OK, but what other people do endangers me and the social order, and they should be treated harshly. This attitude does not recognize that laws are (theoretically) in place to reduce wrong behavior and not solely for the purpose of punishment.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21453 says:

(a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).
(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

Continue reading “Rolling the right on red”

I don’t want a transportation bill

As the “deadline” approaches for passage of a transportation bill, and the balance in the highway trust fund is in free fall, everyone seems to be falling in line behind the idea that we must pass a bill. I disagree.

The federal transportation funding system strongly favors motor vehicles, with a small amount set aside for transit, and a pittance for walking and bicycling. Patching up funding for the existing system will only serve to prolong its life, and prolong the damage it does to our communities and our economy. I think a failure of the highway trust fund is in order. Before we can figure out what sort of transportation system we need, we have to stop funding the one we have. Yes, I agree that maintenance is important, but we already seriously underfund maintenance, and continuing to do so for a little while will be no worse a crisis than what we already have. I think the preference for passing a transportation bill, any bill, is akin to what a drug addict thinks – just one more hit and then I’ll be able to figure out how to get off this stuff.

What if we don’t pass a bill, or an extension, and federal funding stops? Well, then we have the opportunity to do the following:

  1. Institute a moratorium on all construction and widening on the federal aid highway system.
  2. Agree that our highway system is built out and that not a single lane mile will be added with federal funding, ever again.
  3. Develop criteria for determining the economic productivity of roads and highways. Since the system has never been challenged to do this before, it will take some time, bringing together expertise and data that has not been part of transportation decisions.
  4. Determine the size (in lanes) necessary for the Interstate and federal aid highways to carry traffic between economically productive places, and then fund maintenance of that minimal system from the federal level. The states, therefore, would have to fund maintenance of excess lanes, those that were built to accommodate commuting and do not serve to connect economically productive places. All roads and highways that are not part of the minimal system would be returned to the states who would then be fully responsible for maintenance. That means that many freeways would no longer be a federal responsibility.
  5. Develop criteria for determining the economic productivity of the freight and passenger rail network. We know somewhat more about this, but it will still take time.
  6. Designate a national rail network similar to the federal aid highways system that serves economically productive places and uses, and funds both construction and maintenance. Over time, right of way and tracks would be transitioned to public ownership, and both passenger and freight would rent space on that network, paying fees that fund all necessary maintenance, and expansion to meet national needs. This does not mean that rail could not or would not be subsidized, but that it would be done in a transparent manner that would allow us to adjust subsidies based on productivity and the national interest in a connected passenger network. (Note: Amtrak is subject to the same soviet-style thinking that plagues the rest of our transportation network, the difference being that they never received the huge subsidies that motor vehicles and airlines did.)

Would the temporary cessation of federal funding to public transit have a negative impact. You bet it would. There would be no new projects for several years, just when we need new projects to shift our transportation to more economically and ecologically (carbon) modes. Projects already underway might have to be modified, dropping some elements or shortening routes. I’m not oblivious to this impact, and it would impact me directly in a number of ways, including the local light rail expansion and improving capacity on the Capitol Corridor trains.

None of this would impose anything on the states. However, the states, long accustomed to  “free” money (our tax money) from the federal government, would start making different decisions once the gravy train stops.

I’ve written many times before about the disfunction in our transportation system, but my post today was triggered by a post from Kaid Benfield, Do Freeways Belong Inside Cities? on HuffPost Green.

AB-148 signed

Governor Brown signed AB-184: Statute of limitations (Gatto), which extends the statue of limitations for hit-and-run to make it similar to other crimes.

With this signing, all the bills that I was tracking have been resolved: signed, vetoed, or deferred. Tracked bills which passed were: AB-184, AB-206, AB-417, AB-1371, and SB-99.

SB-99, a budget bill which I was not tracking, included aspects of AB-1194, with a lower but guaranteed minimum for Safe Routes to School, and had a higher alternative transportation allocation than was expected.

SB-743 was a gut and amend bill that addressed the Sacramento arena and CEQA, and included elimination of level of service as the primary consideration in urban infill projects, which might in the long run be the most significant change of all.

AB-1290 did not pass, but the overall pass ratio was really great.

Of course many bills did not make it out of their house of origin or did not pass both houses, and they may be considered in the next session, or may be dropped.

More information is on my legislation page.

AB-1290 vetoed

Governor Brown vetoed bill AB-1290: Transportation planning (John A. Pérez). The purpose of the bill was to expand the membership of the California Transportation Commission in order to create better representation of bicycling, pedestrian, and transit modes, and to better consider air quality and land use. His veto message is at http://gov.ca.gov/docs/AB_1290_2013_Veto_Message.pdf. He indicates that other reforms will achieve the intended effects, but I have my doubts. The car-centric transportation cabal in California is very resistant to reform.

TransForm’s bill information is at http://www.transformca.org/ca-federal/ca-legislation#1290.

legislation update

There are several bills before the California Legislature that would affect bicycling, walking, and livability.

added: AB-184: Statute of limitations: lengthens statue of limitation for hit and run, probably a good bill

AB-206: Vehicles: length limitations: buses: bicycle transportation devices (SacRT): added complicating language, but still good

AB-417: Environmental quality: California Environmental Quality Act: bicycle transportation plan: no changes so far, a good bill

added: AB-666: Automated traffic enforcement systems: violations: red light cameras, it restarts the program, but with civil rather than criminal penalties, supported by CaliforniaWALKS and California Bicycle Coalition

AB-738 Public entity liability: bicycles: no changes so far, still a bad bill

AB-840: Vehicles: driver’s licenses: application requirements: stripped of all bicycling knowledge language, now only requires that drivers license applicants acknowledge the dangers of distracted driving

AB-956: Vehicle accidents: fleeing: no changes so far

AB-1002: Vehicles: registration fee: sustainable communities strategies: changed to remove urgency language and detail use for sustainable communities; still a good bill

AB-1179 Regional transportation plan: sustainable communities strategy: schoolsites: language slightly diluted, still a good bill

AB-1193 Bikeways: allows cities and counties to use industry standards rather than the requiring the use of the Highway Design Manual; language improved, a great bill

AB-1194: Safe Routes to School Program; maintains SRTS program at state level, added non-infrasture, statewide coordinator, and TARC; better

AB-1371: Vehicles: bicycles: passing distance: this bill originally had a different purpose, and was revised to be a three foot passing law, it looks to me to be good

Please let me know if you are aware of any other bills. I’ve signed up for tracking on these particular bills, but may not be keeping up to date.