Sierra Club

Transportation Nation

Car Share Parking Attracts an Unlikely Foe in San Francisco

Thursday, February 21, 2013

(photo by Guerilla Features/Jason Tester via flickr)

(San Francisco -- KALW) San Francisco's Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance to allow residential developers to add more parking spots to their new apartment buildings–- if those spots are dedicated for car-share programs.

The city considers itself a national leader in car share, and in 2011 it began reserving on-street parking for area nonprofit City CarShare.

So it wasn't a surprise when the ordinance, which was proposed by Supervisor Scott Wiener, passed unanimously. What surprised some was the opposition to it.

In a letter, Sierra Club secretary Sue Vaughan said the plan "will add to overall congestion and negatively impact the flow of transit and air quality.”

The Sierra Club says building more parking spaces -- even for car share -- violates the city’s Transit First policy. That's a 1973 initiative that puts public transit investment as the city’s top transportation priority, and is designed to discourage private automobile traffic.

Apartment parking is hot commodity in San Francisco– under the current rules, developers can only build one space per unit. But for many San Franciscans, that’s not enough. A quick search on Craigslist shows people renting their coveted spots upwards of $300 a month.

Now, the city is considering reducing that amount: a recent development on Market and Castro was allowed just one half of a parking spot per unit. The idea behind the restriction is to get people out of cars and into other methods of transportation, like Muni or biking.

Before the new ordinance, car-share spots counted toward the development’s maximum. For example, the planned building on Market and Castro has 24 units, so that means 12 parking spaces. If the developer wanted to add a car-share spot, it would have to be included in that 12. Under the new ordinance, they could add between two to five spots designated for car-share only, in addition to the 12.

Instead of making new parking spots for car-share programs, The Sierra Club suggested converting existing street parking spots. But Supervisor Wiener’s office countered by offering studies that show each new car share vehicle replaces between eight and ten private cars. In fact, a UC Berkeley study found that after signing up with a car-sharing program, almost half of households with a car got rid of their vehicle.

The San Francisco Supervisors hope that developers will take advantage of these new car-share spots. So do the city’s car-share members, who are seeing their usual spots at gas stations and open-air lots disappear as they get converted into buildings and other uses.

This isn't the first time the Sierra Club has taken a counterintuitive position. Last summer, the group opposed a regional transportation referendum in the Atlanta area that would have generated $3 billion in transit funding. The Sierra Club said that proposal didn't go far enough.  The referendum didn't get the majority it needed to pass.

Follow @IsabeltheAngell on Twitter.

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New Jersey News

Football Rivals Team Up Against Possible Traffic Tie-ups from Mega-Mall

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Concerns about potential traffic from the expansion of the former Xanadu mega-mall project at the Meadowland has brought together unusual allies: the Sierra Club, the New York Jets and Giants.

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Transportation Nation

Traffic Light Along New Maryland Toll Road

Friday, March 30, 2012

Photo: Martin Di Caro

(Washington, DC -- Martin Di Caro, WAMU) Traffic appears pretty light on the Intercounty Connector, especially now that electronic tolls are being collected, but the Maryland Transportation Authority says traffic volumes are on target.

The completion of the eastern segment of the Intercounty Connector in late November promised to transform commuting by opening an 18-mile toll road cutting east-west across Montgomery County, Md.

Approximately 20,000 vehicles travel the ICC on average on weekdays, with the western segment seeing more volume than the eastern one by about 10,000 vehicles per day.  It takes three years for volume to ramp up on a new toll road, according to an ICC spokeswoman.

Raw data show that traffic volume significantly dropped after the collection of tolls began in early December.  On December 4, a Sunday, more than 44,000 vehicles drove the western segment of the ICC.  The next day saw volume fall to fewer than 26,000 vehicles.

In the Tanglewood subdivision of Silver Spring the sounds of birds and crickets on pretty suburban streets is now mixing with the constant, distant hum of traffic.  But the sound is less distant for Ken Schmidt, who purchased his home on Trebleclef Lane two years ago.  A new sound barrier standing about 20 feet high runs right behind his backyard.

“There is the old saying ‘not in my backyard.’ But here it is,” Schmidt says.  “When we purchased the house, the state website for the ICC spoke of two plans that ran north and south of Rt. 198.  This plan was not on the main page.  I assumed it wasn’t an option.”

Schmidt says he might have done more thorough research, because he would not have bought his home had he known where the ICC would be built.  Instead he recently spent $13,000 for new windows to block the sound of traffic from filling his home where he lives with his wife and baby boy.

“It’s 100 times better than it used to be but unless we went with even more expensive windows with more layers of glass, even that wouldn’t have solved the problem completely,” says Schmidt, who says dust kicked up by passing traffic and carried by the wind often covers his home, another reason to keep the windows closed.

Two doors down Trebleclef Lane lives Jeff Owrutsky, who bought his home in the early 1990s.  Over the past 20 years he witnessed the long-running public process that ended with the construction of a highway he actively opposed.

“This has been on the books since the ‘50s so we got wind of it before we moved here.  Certainly everybody said they would never build it but I guess you can say they have now,” Owrutsky says.  “A lot of the problem with this road is that it cost so much money.  It’s busting the bank in terms of our whole transportation budget.”

Owrutsky says he is getting used to his new environs but misses what his backyard used to be like.  “It was dense, full of trees, and there’s also an auto park over there.  It used to be that the trees would shield us from all the lights of the auto park.”

The ICC was designed to reduce traffic congestion on heavily congested east-west roads in Montgomery County, but the Maryland Transportation Authority says traffic analyses will take months to complete and there are no studies available.

In interviews with, residents near one of those roads, Briggs Chaney Road., say it’s difficult to tell whether traffic has dwindled over the past four months.

“I don’t see a major difference since the ICC road has been open.  When I go to Rockville, I take Rt. 28 and I think it is more congested,” says Alfiya Akhmed, who has lived on Briggs Chaney for seven years.

Some have noticed a positive change.  “Before we were kind of congested but now there is less traffic on Briggs Chaney,” says Gladstone Botsoe, a commuter who uses the road three times per week.  But commuter Rob McKellar says the traffic seems about the same, and he blamed the tolls on the ICC for keeping people on the local roads.

“With the economy the way it is I don’t think people want to pay.  I wouldn’t pay to go on that road,” McKellar says.

About six miles southwest of where Briggs Chaney Road runs parallel to the ICC, a stream runs through Northwest Branch Park, where many trees have fallen or are tilting down, their roots exposed above the stream bank.  Environmentalists say the ICC will exacerbate the problem of storm water run off that has already caused so much damage to the ecosystem.

“It’s hard to say whether any particular thing has caused the increased damage, but you have to figure that all those acres of concrete with run off is going to have an effect that is different than acres of forest where the water seeps in slowly,” says Anne Ambler, the president of Neighbors of Northwest Branch.  She and Dave O’Leary, the chairman of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, described to the cycle that may transform the forest permanently for the worse.

“When we have lots of pavement… the storm pours in really quickly and the streams will come up quickly and gouge out the sides of the streams.  This water level will bounce right up and could be two or three times as deep as it is now.  Where we have these sharp bends in the stream that water pounds against the sides, undercuts the banks, and trees will fall in,” O’Leary says.

As more trees tumble into the stream, roots and all, the stream grows wider, causing further erosion.  As more trees fall, more sunlight breaks through the canopy, causing the growth of invasive species which now blanket the forest bottom.  The invasive plants prevent the seeds of older trees from taking root, and the forest will fail to sustain itself.

“Over the next couple of decades we will see this whole area transform.  A forest will become a few trees, different vegetation on the ground, the water is polluted.  What was appealing in 1990 or 1995 is much less so in 2015,” O’Leary says.

The state has five ongoing storm water management projects just for the area of the Northwest Branch, but Ambler says the problem is to a considerable degree irreversible.

“Progress is not a question of putting down more concrete.  The situation where we find ourselves now with climate change, progress would mean concentrating preserving our fresh water which is scarce and investing in other forms of energy,” she says.

Listen to an extended audio report on this issue here.


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It's A Free Country ®

Why did Bloomberg Tap the Sierra Club for his $50 Million Donation?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why the Sierra Club?

They were the lucky environmental group to get $50 million pledged from Bloomberg Philanthropies Thursday. Turns out that Mayor  Bloomberg, who was the nation's second largest donor in 2010, has been chummy with the senior leadership of the Sierra Club since 2007. Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Cub, was present at the launch of the city's Greener Greater Buildings Plan in 2009, one of the mayor's signature environmental achievements.

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The Empire

Bloomberg's philanthropy group gives $50 million to Sierra Club anti-coal campaign

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(Courtesy of the Sierra Club)

The Sierra Club announced this morning that Mayor Bloomberg's charitable arm is donating $50 million to the environmental groups "Beyond Coal" campaign to shut down a third of America's coal fleet by 2020.


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Transportation Nation

Initial Reaction to Gateway Tunnel, Son of ARC, is Positive

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route of defunct ARC project in blue; route of proposed Gateway Tunnel in red.

(New York - Jim O'Grady and Kate McGee, WNYC) Gateway Tunnel--bride, son, mutant offspring of ARC--you choose--has been unveiled.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman joined New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Monday to pledge $50 million for an engineering and planning study of a new trans-Hudson rail link between New York and New Jersey. It was the first of many steps if the $13.5 billion project is to come to fruition.

Like ARC, which was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for potential cost overruns, the Gateway Tunnel is meant to address a bi-state rail crisis.

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Transportation Nation

Christie Owns His Role in Halting Giant Transit Tunnel; Planners Dismayed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) "People who use New Jersey Transit have to pay for New Jersey Transit." That's what Governor Chris Christie told the Star-Ledger Editorial Board last spring. NJ Transit fares hadn't been raised in years, he argued, and that wasn't responsible. But neither, a member of the board pointed out, had the gas tax. In fact, the fare had been raised three years earlier -- the gas tax, not in 21 years. "What's the difference between a gas tax hike and a fare hike -- besides who it lands on?" asked another of the journalists.

"That's the difference," Christie said. "My policy choice is that drivers have paid increased tolls two years in the last four years and I didn't think it was their turn to feel the pain." (The Tri-State Transportation Campaign fact-checks that -- they say it's actually been one raise, in seven years.)

Christie seems to making a similar policy choice today: with the highway trust fund broke, and no money to pay for roads, Christie says he's reluctant to use state funds to pay for a transit tunnel. Not when there are so many other pressing infrastructure needs. "And if I can’t pay for it, then we’ll have to consider other options," he told reporters.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Sierra Club Thrilled Over Hudson Tunnel Moratorium

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) This just in from the Sierra Club on the ARC Tunnel:

Stopping a Runaway Train

The Sierra Club is pleased that New Jersey Transit’s Access to the Region’s Core project (ARC) has been halted. This month long hold on the project is the right course of action. This multi-billion dollar tunnel is like a runaway train that’s on track to go at least a billion dollars over budget.

This time out should be used to allow the different agencies responsible for our transit needs to get together and come up with a comprehensive transportation plan for the region that will actually work. This is important because Amtrak has decided to build its own tunnel due to the fact that the ARC tunnel does not meet any of its needs. The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is broke and no money is available for cost overruns. That should be incentive for New Jersey Transit to work with Amtrak to fit the ARC Tunnel in with the Amtrak Capital Plan.

The Sierra Cub thanks the Christie Administration for temporarily stopping this project. We believe this break will allow us to look at the real costs of the project, fix it so it better meets the needs of the people, and save taxpayers money.

“This time out is important for the transportation needs of the region because we can come up with a comprehensive transportation plan that works and that will save the taxpayers of New Jersey money,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

In a phone conversation, Tittel tells me that his group is in favor of a transit tunnel, but feels the current plan to have the tunnel terminate a long block away from the Amtrak station is ill-advised, and that it will undermine NJ Transit's ability to lure more passengers or to run through trains from Long Island to New Jersey.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a group generally in synch with the Sierra Club on environmental issues, says it's baffled by Tittel's opposition. "By getting more people out of their cars and into automobiles, this project will help the environment," spokeswoman Veronica Vanterpool says. "We wish they were for it."

The rest of the Sierra Club's release after the jump.

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