November’s record-low turnout means it will be easier than ever to qualify a voter initiative for the ballot, since the number of signatures required to qualify is a percentage of the total votes cast for governor. Since only 7.3 million people voted, the far for qualifying ballot measures will drop to about 366,000 to put a standard initiative on the ballot — down from 504,760 — and 586,000 for a constitutional amendment — down from 807,615. This means there could be an avalanche of citizen initiatives in November 2016.
When it comes to city pollution, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is clearly ready for battle. Speaking to the French press Sunday, Paris’ first female mayor announced what could be the most drastic anti-pollution measures any major world city has implemented yet: By 2020, no diesel fuel at all will be burnt within Paris. Regular cars will be banned outright from its more polluted roads, which will be open solely to electric and hybrid vehicles. Meanwhile, the city’s most central districts (the first four arrondissements) will be barred to all but residents’ vehicles, deliveries, and emergency services, transforming Paris’ Right Bank core into a semi-pedestrian zone. As a counterbalance, the number of cycle lanes will be doubled by 2020, while the city will fund an extended electric bikeshare scheme to encourage more people to get on two wheels. “I want us to be exemplary” Mayor Hidalgo has declared. She seems to be putting money where her mouth is.
Until this year, when he became the president of the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission, Eric Spiegelman, a 38-year-old attorney, was perhaps best known as the producer of the long-running Web series “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” Now Spiegelman and his board have been asked by the city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, to take steps to “insure equal competition” in L.A.’s taxi industry—a formidable task, as cab companies attempt to fend off competition from mobile-phone-based ride-sharing applications such as Lyft and Uber. Local authorities across the country and, indeed, around the world have responded to the runaway success of these services by forcing them to operate under new regulations designed to match existing taxi policies—or by attempting to ban such services outright.
This is taking place in California, too—district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against Uber, alleging that the company misleads consumers regarding driver background checks, and that it overcharges passengers. (Prosecutors reached a settlement in a similar suit against Lyft.) But Spiegelman’s draft plan—which was composed after months of hearings, and will be presented to the Los Angeles Taxi Commission on December 18th—takes a new approach. It proposes to require L.A. cabs to become more Uber-like, rather than the other way around.
According to the terms of the proposed draft order, every taxi in Los Angeles would have to become accessible via a mobile application similar to the ones used by Uber and Lyft. These applications will require certification by the Taxi Commission, which can then specify things like pricing maximums and limits on hours worked in a single shift, and can perhaps even set up a rating and complaint system for passengers.
Read more in the New Yorker.
California has alread set targets to reduce GHG emissions but discussions on expanding the program and setting new goals have begun. Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who announced legislation requiring the state's public pension funds to divest from coal, said "We are hard at work . . . to make sure we move forward with next steps."
Read more in the LA Times.
Streetsblog: Study Says Older Adults Who Live in Walkable Neighborhoods Stay in Better Shape Mentally
The study, presented to the Gerontological Society of America, finds that older adults stay in better shape both mentally and physically if they live in walkable neighborhoods than in car-dependent areas. Author Amber Watts of the University of Kansas examined 26 subjects with Alzheimer's Disease and 30 healthy subjects, tracking health outcomes over two years. Watts found that the individuals from both groups who lived in walkable neighborhoods had lower body mass index, healthier metabolisms and better memory and cognition, and that this was particularly true in neighborhoods where the paths to destinations were complicated. Read more on Streetsblog.
Currently, Uber is available in 52 countries and is continuing to expand. The transit behemoth’s empire is vast, stretching from the Americas to Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and it’s quickly making its way through the Asia Pacific. “Available locally, expanding globally,” the company’s locations landing page reads.
But even as the company, most recently valued at $41 billion, makes its way to the Asia Pacific it continues to fight regulatory battles in the locations where it is already operating — whether legally or illegally.
Most recently, New Delhi, Thailand, and Spain banned the service. In the United States, where Uber had its beginnings, a number of cities have either issued cease and desist letters to Uber and its rival company Lyft or have even gone as far as to sue. Earlier this week, Portland, Oregon, filed a law suit against the company for operating illegally within city limits, in addition to issuing a cease and desist and citing and fining drivers caught operating a vehicle for Uber. Shortly after, the district attorneys of both Los Angeles and San Francisco also filed a civil consumer protection suit against the company.
Lyft, on the other hand, operates exclusively in the United States in 30 states. Generally, the company is less aggressive in how it wages its regulatory battles. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, Lyft settled for $500,000 in a recent lawsuit — while Uber continues to be “uncooperative,” according to San Francisco District Attorney Jorge Gascon.
Read more . . .
Vancouver Looks to LA for Insight on Transit Referendum From "One of the Continent's Most Successful Pro-Transit Coalitions"
“There wasn’t clear evidence why,” Denny said. “The only thing we could conclude was that it’s paid in one lump sum, while the sales tax is paid in small increments. Our key criteria [when the referendum was being planned] was what would raise enough money to matter and [what was] politically viability. The sales tax scored high on both.”
The Globe and Mail story said that Move LA has become a model for other cities in Canada and the United States, especially Vancouver as it braces for its own transit referendum in March. The Globe and Mail is Canada's largest national newspaper.
Read more here.
Read more on City Lab.
"Our transportation infrastructure is at its capacity," Morales told the Planning Report. "We can’t keep building more roads. If you think what we are going through in clearing two tracks up and down the state is difficult, think about what it would mean to add 4,500 lane miles of freeway. That’s what would be needed to replace the capacity of our system. Think about what it would mean to try to add runways and new terminals at airports, because that’s what would be needed. Compared to our price tag, those alternatives are two to three times higher. An investment like this is absolutely critical.
"High-speed rail is filling a niche. That’s what it has done around the world. That’s what it will do here in California. It’s not about replacing cars or trains. It’s about providing transportation in a way that makes the most sense. A lot of people don’t realize that LA-to-San Francisco is the busiest short-haul air market in the country. In addition to the air quality issues that brings, it is not a very efficient way to utilize public facilities—runways—at airports. Airports would much rather use those to serve long-haul flights. That’s why San Francisco Airport is one of our major proponents, calling high-speed rail its third runway. That’s the answer to its capacity as we go forward. Our system will fill that niche, creating a much more efficient way to move people within the state on trips that aren’t efficient by car or plane.
"Very importantly—and I say this sometimes to the dismay of our engineers and manufacturers—it isn’t about the train. It’s about connecting up the state and what that can mean for its future. The folks who wrote Proposition 1A, which provides the initial funding for the program, had a lot of foresight to insist that the system connect all of the state’s population centers. That’s never been done before. When I-5 was built, it bypassed the Central Valley—which has 5-8 million people, depending on where you define boundaries.
"It’s going to be completely transformative to connect the Central Valley with the rest of the state for the first time. It’s going to connect Palmdale and the High Desert area to Los Angeles in a way it’s not connected today. It’s going to connect the Central Valley with Silicon Valley. Even within the Peninsula, driving up and down the 101 can take at least an hour, not to mention the aggravation that ages you even further as you’re driving. A half-hour connection between San Francisco and San Jose will change how that economy works."
Read more in the December issue of the Planning Report.