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damientalks's podcast

SGV Connect is Streetsblog Los Angeles' podcast that explores the people, places, projects and events that make up the changing face of transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. SGV Connect is hosted by Damien Newton and includes interviews by Brian Velez. This feed also hosts SGV Connect's predecessor podcast, #DamienTalks.
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Now displaying: December, 2017
Dec 21, 2017

In today's Ask the Editor podcast, Streetsblog contributors Damien Newton, Melanie Curry, Jason Islas, and Kristopher Fortin talk about some of the main stories Streetsblog California covered in 2016.

But we didn't get very far, because there are so many stories to talk about. Streetsblog California covers statewide issues, which tend to be policy-focused and wonky, but we also cover local stories that reflect the influence of those policies on the ground. Right now we have Kris Fortin covering Orange County, and Minerva Perez reports on local issues in the Central Valley. We'd like to be able to cover local stories all over the state, to help local advocacy efforts learn from each other, but we are limited in our capacity, both in time and manpower. Womanpower. Peoplepower.

Which brings us to the reminder that these podcasts are also fundraisers. Please click here to donate to Streetsblog California to support unique coverage of the issues you care about.

Those issues include the gas tax bill, S.B. 1. In the podcast, we talk about how this long-overdue gas tax increase raises money for needed infrastructure maintenance. Over the last year we reported on how the bill got passed and what the final bill ended up including. We followed up with reporting on how state agencies in charge of transportation funding have been formulating guidelines to spend the money wisely and, we hope, not just on building new roads that will mean more needed maintenance in the future (and won't solve congestion). Here, we also touch on the effort to repeal the bill, which would be a giant step backwards.

See the S.B. 1 website, here, which is the state's first move towards advertising the benefits coming from the gas tax: “Your Tax Dollars At Work.”

We also talk about the Active Transportation Program, which got a shot in the arm from S.B. 1—doubling funding for the program over the next ten years—and which in turn is kind of a poster child for the state to show immediate results from S.B. 1. And that brings its own complications, including the possibility that not-so-great projects could get funding just because they do something for bikes or pedestrians, rather than create a true transformation in the way planning for active transportation happens.

As Melanie points out in the podcast, transformational change is a slow process, but in California, it is going in the right direction. Sometimes.

Finally, we attempt to answer one of the questions we got from readers in response to our previous podcasts. This question was related to S.B. 1. Getting Around Sac asked: how much of the state's road projects are paid for by state gas taxes? And the answer is: we don't know, and we're not sure anyone else has pinned down the answer. That's because the state's transportation funding system is complex beyond belief, even without the so-called gas tax swap that will eventually be repealed by S.B. 1.

Here's a link to some Caltrans charts that explain it in less than three hours.

But to the question: even with the new, higher taxes, state gas taxes probably don't cover a much larger portion of road charges than they did in 2015, when it was about 25 percent. In that year, more than half of all transportation spending was from local tax measures, many of which are sales taxes.

Which means, to answer an unstated but underlying question: no, roads are still not paid for mostly by gas taxes.

Here are some references for people who like to delve into the complexities of transportation funding. A Legislative Analyst Office report here describes S.B. 1 in some detail. And here's a report that takes apart the “user pays” myth of gas taxes.

And remember to donate to Streetsblog California so we can continue to study and write about these issues and future ones, statewide and local.

Dec 20, 2017

Believe it or not, here at Streetsblog we prefer to cover good news. That doesn't mean we wear Rose Colored Glasses all the time. Rather, when something happens to improve our transportation networks or how people experience their community; we like to write about it.

Which is one reason that yesterday and today's podcasts are so much fun, because when it comes to transportation reform in the San Gabriel Valley there is a lot to celebrate.

Today, I talk with Wes Reutimann of Bike SGV and Joe Linton of Streetsblog Los Angeles. We talk a lot about the 626 and how awesome it was. But we also talk about road diets, protected bike lanes and e-buses. There's a lot of good things happening locally, and it's nice to take a moment and reflect on the some of the highlights of 2017.

#SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Dec 19, 2017

As the year begins to wind down, SGV Connect will broadcast twice this week to look back at some of the biggest stories in the San Gabriel Valley this year.

Today, we talk to Felicia Friesema with Foothill Transit and Albert Ho with the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority.

For Foothill Transit, we discuss their recent fare and service changes as well as the march towards electrifying their bus fleet.

For the Construction Authority, we review the march to the groundbreaking of Phase II of the Gold Line Foothill Extension and review the timeline to bring Phase II online sometime in the not-so-distant future.

A little later this week we'll continue the conversation with Joe Linton, the editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles and Wes Reutimann with Bike SGV.

#SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Dec 15, 2017

Welcome to the third podcast in our end-of-year-fundraising series in which we address questions from you, our readers, about almost anything you want to know.

Today our editors Damien Newton, Jason Islas, Melanie Curry, and Kristopher Fortin answer a few ringers in some perhaps unexpected ways. Damien thinks we may have gone off the rails a bit, but it all comes together to make some sense in the end.

We addressed a question from Kathleen Ferrier, who asks: 

(block quote) What are the top three strategies for countering inflammatory NIMBYism? What have you seen work?

Jason, who has had plenty of experience in his advocacy work with Santa Monica Next, thinks the first strategy is to get rid of labels. Our answers, in brief: pay attention, don't assume, and be human. While “Not In My Backyard” knee-jerk opposition to efforts to fix things is definitely a problem, it doesn't always stem from the reasons you might suspect, and you have to listen to find out what underlies people's objections to change.

Our second question is kind of related, in that it demands a human response. Jeff Tumlin asks:

Why don’t we talk more about the neuroscience of mobility? Like how being stuck in congestion triggers our fight-or-flight responses, shutting down the prefrontal cortex of the brain and reducing our ability to think through the consequences of our actions? Or why hopping on a bike can bring simple joy, and trigger the biological precursors of social trust?

Listen in to hear how we think this should play out—and to hear about what might or might not have been a response to last week's podcast about sidewalks.

And don't forget that we are asking for donations to keep Streetsblog California alive and well into the next year. Please support our work by clicking here and donating today.

Do you have a question you want us to talk about? Submit it in the comments below, or by email to melanie [at] streetsblog.org, or tweet them @streetsblogcal

Support journalism that covers the issues you want to know about. Streetsblog California reports on issues few media outlets cover, and we can't do it without you. Click here to donate today.

 
Dec 8, 2017

Today, the editors at Streetsblog California bring you the second podcast in our “Ask the Editor” series, in which we attempt to answer readers' questions about whatever you want to ask.

This podcast series is part of our year-end fundraising effort to keep informing you, our readers, about local and statewide policymaking, funding, and laws affecting your transportation options. Please consider supporting our work by clicking here and donating today. Who else, we ask you, could bring you a podcast dedicated to: sidewalks?

That's right, today's podcast addresses several questions we received from readers about sidewalks, a crucial part of our transportation system that is frequently ignored and almost always under-appreciated. At some point, everybody is a pedestrian, and everyone is affected by the presence—or absence—as well as the condition of walkways wherever they're headed.

“Why don't sidewalks get all the love they deserve?” asked our friends at Los Angeles Walks. We agree that sidewalks are not given the attention we need them to have. How much love do they deserve? Plenty!

Reader Getting Around Sac also asked why California law makes property owners responsible for maintaining sidewalks, which are part of the public right of way. It's true that's what the law says—and also that it changes from place to place. Some cities split costs with homeowners; some use parcel taxes, or require new owners to make needed repairs at the time of purchase. Los Angeles, for one, has its own complicated relationship with sidewalk repair rules, and some there don't think Vision Zero safety efforts have anything to do with sidewalk repair needs.

We learned a little bit about the history of the sidewalk law—it was created during the Great Depression, when cities had no money to build or maintain anything. The question sent us off on a discussion of equity and liability, and then right back to our first question, because nobody seems to want to take responsibility for sidewalks.

Do you have a question you want us to talk about? Submit it in the comments below, or by email to melanie [at] streetsblog.org, or tweet them @streetsblogcal

Support journalism that covers the issues you want to know about. Streetsblog California reports on issues few media outlets cover, and we can't do it without you. Click here to donate today.

 

Dec 1, 2017

Streetsblog Editors Tackle Your Questions

Welcome to the first podcast in our Ask the Editor series, in which the editors at Streetsblog California attempt to tackle your questions about almost anything you want to know. Today we discuss three of the questions we've received from our readers. Next week we will talk about more of them.

You can still submit questions either by emailing them to melanie@streetsblog.org or tweeting them @streetsblogcal

By the way, this is also a fundraiser. Yes, in this podcast we attempt to show how lovable we are, and how deserving of your support, because it's not enough that Streetsblog California brings you news about sustainable transportation that few other outlets report on. We also want you to know that we're kinda fun. And, it seems, a little bit wonky, if this podcast is anything to judge by.

Please consider supporting to our work to bring you information about local and statewide policymaking, funding, and laws affecting your transportation options by clicking here and donating today. [LINK]

You will hear Kris Fortin, our reporter in Orange County; Melanie Curry, editor of Streetsblog California and fearless explainer of wonky topics; Damien Newton, founding editor of Streetsblog LA and director of the Southern California Streets Initiative, which oversees all the Streetsblogs in California; and Jason Islas, Editor of Santa Monica Next and associate director of SCSI.

In this inaugural podcast, we tackle three questions from readers and supporters. We were hoping for softballs, but you, dear readers, sent in some doozies. Or maybe we just like to talk too much.

The first question was from our friend Pedal Love, who asks: “I believe that car crashes are the number one cause of preventable death in youth under 21—am I correct?”

Yes, it turns out to be so—for youth ages 15 to 24, the most common cause of preventable death, according to the Center for Disease Controls, is car crashes. And they are the fifth most common cause of preventable death for people age 0 to 14. 

The question is, why? Does it go up at age fifteen because that is when people start navigating traffic on their own? Maybe it has to do with the dearth of driver education in California, or the ease with which even inexperienced drivers obtain drivers' licenses. There's a lot to unpack here.

The second question came from Marvin Norman, a regular reader and a member of the Streetsblog California steering committee. “When,” asks Norman, “will the VW Electrify America money start to show up in projects on the ground?”

Damien tells us that the $2 billion settlement agreement between VW, the federal government and several states—with California, whose regulators caught VW cheating diesel emissions tests, at the forefront—is already on the ground in other states, and “coming soon” to California. A timeline, here [PDF], shows electric charging stations being planned and built by the end of 2018, and an electric car-share program being developed for a 2019 launch.

On the ground: 
https://electrek.co/2017/07/10/vw-ev-charging-network-electrify-america/

coming soon: 
https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/vw_info/vsi/vw-zevinvest/documents/california_zev_investment_plan_supplement_062917.pdf

The third question was from Jeffrey Tumlin, planner at Nelson\Nygaard, first leader and formulator of the Oakland Department of Transportation, and also a Streetsblog California steering committee member. His question was about congestion, and why we can't seem to solve it although we throw so much money at it.

Transportation investments have a powerful effect on public health, land value, social equity, economic opportunity, CO2 emissions, air quality, and other values. But no transportation capital project has ever succeeded in reducing congestion – at best, all infrastructure does is congestion chokepoints around. Why in California do congestion metrics remain central to most transportation funding formulas and performance analyses? If California thinks of itself as a global leader, why don’t we learn from other countries in doing more sophisticated business case analyses to ensure good outcomes from our transportation tax dollars?

A quick summary of the ensuing discussion, which does it no justice: because habit, inertia, lack of understanding of or belief in the concept of “induced demand,” political expediency, and funding. 

But there is some hope. California is finally in the process of changing rules to require new developments to measure and report on how much vehicle traffic they produce instead of just how much congestion they produce. [LINK] 

And the new gas tax will fund several programs that could help shift the focus away from just congestion. The Congested Corridors program, for example, will—if it's done right—invest in figuring out how to move people through congested corridors, not just cars. That program is set for adoption at the next California Transportation Commission meeting on December 6, so cross your fingers (or contact a commissioner).

http://www.catc.ca.gov/programs/SB_1/103017_SCC_Draft_Guidelines.pdf

http://www.catc.ca.gov/ctcstaff/members.htm


Listen to the podcast, and please consider donating to Streetsblog California.

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