CalSTA programs continue to improve service and access for public transit in Orange County

As part of CalSTA’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) recently implemented a mobile ticketing system through their OC Bus app to make purchasing tickets on the go more convenient for transit riders. The application and ticketing equipment was partially funded by TIRCP funds and mobile ticketing is available for regular fares and college passes. The OCTA anticipates including senior and disabled fares in Spring 2017. Riders can add fares instantly and store multiple passes within the app making boarding the buses faster and easier than before.

CalSTA’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) also helped fund a reduced day pass for OCTA riders for a six-month period. Riders can travel across Orange County with these day passes. The pass can also be purchased on the mobile ticketing app.

Both the LCTOP and TIRCP programs are funded through the Cap and Trade Program’s auction proceeds and its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The LCTOP provides funding to transit agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility, with a priority on serving disadvantaged communities. The TIRCP funds transformative capital improvements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase transit ridership, integrate rail services and improve safety.

For more information on these programs:
http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/MassTrans/tircp.html
http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/MassTrans/lctop.html

UC Berkeley studio course envisions additional Transbay crossing

CalSTA staff recently joined two sessions of a city and regional planning studio course at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design that analyzed the path for a new Transbay crossing for the San Francisco Bay Area. Due to increasing economic and population growth, many organizations have done preliminary analysis on the need and utility of a “second crossing” to add rail and transit capacity in the region in addition to the Bay Bridge and the current BART tunnel. This course asked graduate students studying transportation planning, engineering, and public health to study this issue from multiple angles in studio.

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Taught by Karen Trapenberg Frick, a former transportation planner at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the course examines topics related to project delivery, governance, funding and costs, policy and planning issues related to land use and transit-oriented development, environmental issues, and system connectivity.

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Throughout the semester, the course engaged with outside participants, including CalSTA Deputy Secretaries Kate White and Chad Edison, who provided expertise and feedback. Using these participants’ input and insight, and through regular consultation with dozens of stakeholders, students developed analyses and recommendations to deliver a final professional report on the alternatives that they presented this week.

The studio created a website to give the public access to their report for a larger discussion. The students utilized MTC’s travel demand model to estimate changes in travel patterns and UrbanSim to estimate the impact on land use to create their preliminary findings for each alternative.

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This work could potentially set the foundation for a plan that stakeholders will use to move forward on one of these alternatives to address the continuing growth of the Bay Area region. You can explore an interactive map of the alternatives here: http://thirdcrossing.org/map.html and find out more about the project.

Capitol Corridor Celebrates 25 Years of Service

On Tuesday, Secretary Kelly joined the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) to celebrate 25 years of service from Sacramento to San Jose. In 1990, voters recognized the need to fund passenger train service between the Bay Area and Sacramento and, through Prop 108 and Prop 111, supported bond measures to help fund the Capitol Corridor.

Service started in 1991 with just six trains making three round trips daily, at that point annual ridership was 238,000. For Valley locals and Bay Area denizens alike, the amenities of passenger rail did not go unnoticed. In 1991, a review in the Lodi News-Sentinel noted that the train had an observation platform, spacious cars with high-backed reclining seats, and a snack-bar car.

inagtrainPhoto Courtesy of CCJPA

In 1996, SB 457, the Intercity Passenger Rail Act authored by State Senator David Kelley created the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board, comprised of six local transportation agencies along the route. The CCJPA was tasked with running the train service and increasing ridership. Today, the Board also includes two metropolitan planning organizations, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

Over the past 25 years, the Capitol Corridor trains have continued to increase service from three to fifteen weekday round trips and provide important direct connections with 10 local public transit systems and five passenger rail systems. Perhaps as a nod to California’s innovation centers, the Capitol Corridor was the first in the nation to test and develop Amtrak’s mobile ticketing systems and among the first to add in-train Wi-Fi.

2016 was a record-setting year for the CCJPA with ridership and revenue up significantly. The Capitol Corridor is the second highest ridership corridor on the Amtrak system, outside of the Northeast Corridor, carrying a record 1,560,000 riders last year.

Intercity rail continues to play a pivotal role in our transportation landscape. At CalSTA, we’ve recognized the great success of the Capitol Corridor route and have continued to work with the CCJPA to make service more efficient, reliable, and accessible. In 2015, CalSTA invested Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) funding in a $15 million effort to reduce travel times by 10 minutes between Sacramento and San Jose, benefiting not just the Capitol Corridor, but also ACE and San Joaquin rail services.

In August, CalSTA announced an additional award of TIRCP funding as part of a $70 million program to increase rail service to Roseville, and to develop a service optimization plan to increase ridership through improved reliability, better schedules and service integration, and more efficient service delivery. The funding will conduct track and facility improvements for 3 peak period Amtrak trains in each direction per day between Sacramento and Roseville. The additional service will not only benefit commuters to Sacramento, but those traveling to Davis, Solano County and all the way into the Bay Area.

We look forward to celebrating another 25 years of success with the CCJPA!

For more information on the Capitol Corridor, click here.

Caltrans Welcomes New Deputy Director for Sustainability

Caltrans announced the appointment of Ellen Greenberg as its new Deputy Director for Sustainability, who will oversee Caltrans’ continued efforts to shift and align its policies and practices to improve the environment, the economy and social equity for all Californians.

“Ellen will be a valuable addition to the Caltrans Executive Team,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “She will help Caltrans advance its sustainability commitment by applying those principles into the planning, design, maintenance and operation of California’s vast transportation system.”

Greenberg has overeg 30 years’ experience working with cities, transportation agencies and non-governmental organizations to guide development, conservation and transportation decisions. She comes to Caltrans from Arup, an independent design, planning and engineering firm, where she’s worked since 2010. Greenberg served in the leadership of Arup’s planning and infrastructure groups in San Francisco. During her time at Arup, she worked with transportation agencies including LA Metro, the Maricopa County (Arizona) Association of Governments, Translink (Vancouver Region) and the SF Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Ellen was lead author of Caltrans’ Smart Mobility Framework, which was initiated with support from the U.S. EPA Office of Sustainable Communities. Other areas of work with the EPA office have included urban eco-districts, reuse of obsolete shopping malls and sustainable street design. She also was appointed as the first visiting practitioner at the University of California, Davis National Center for Sustainable Transportation.

For further details about Ms. Greenberg’s background, view Governor Brown’s appointment announcement here.

Learn more about the sustainability efforts underway by visiting Caltrans’ Sustainability page at http://www.dot.ca.gov/sustainability/

Road Charge pilot is approaching its halfway mark!

California continues to face a transportation funding shortfall and the state’s drivers are paying the price. According to the latest National Urban Roads report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, California has some of the worst road conditions in the country. The TRIP report emphasized the need for a long-term sustainable funding source for highway maintenance.

Caltrans is doing its part with its “fix it first” method to utilize funding to perform preventive pavement maintenance to save taxpayer money on more expensive repairs in the future but with fuel efficiency on the rise, aging roadways, and increased construction costs, the gas tax no longer meets California’s current and long-term transportation funding needs.

In response to this problem, the Legislature directed CalSTA to study a mileage based fee as an alternative to the current gas tax revenue system. The pilot allows CalSTA to explore an alternative to the traditional gas tax which has not been raised since 1992. The program examines how this type of sustainable transportation funding model might function in a large state like California, while taking into account important aspects like privacy concerns, usability, and participant feedback.

In July, Caltrans launched the California Road Charge Pilot Program (RCPP) to research the viability of a mileage based transportation funding model.The RCPP has enrolled over 5,000 private and commercial vehicles statewide. Participants of the 4,567 private vehicles in the program represent the diverse demographic, geographic and socio-economic population of California.

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Participants are utilizing multiple mileage reporting methods including manual reporting, low technology, or high technology (automated) reporting. Mileage reporting technologies being tested in the pilot range from plug-in devices and smartphone apps to time permits and odometer readings. Of the participants using automated reporting, 65% opted for location based reporting. A more detailed breakdown of participant mileage reporting methods can be viewed here.

At this point in the pilot, participants have had the opportunity to view mock up invoices for their road usage charge and make monthly simulated payments based on mileage driven. The pilot program allows for transparency, allowing drivers to see the relationship between how much they use the roads and how much they should pay to maintain them. Participants are now approaching the halfway point in the pilot program and they will have the opportunity to switch reporting methods and/or their Account Manager from November 1st to 15th.

The federal government has recognized California’s efforts to research funding alternatives and awarded Caltrans with a $750,000 grant to enhance the current pilot program. These grant dollars will help Caltrans engage with the public on transportation funding and future alternative methods of revenue generation. It will also allow the pilot to improve organizational structure, expand education and outreach, and explore alternative mileage reporting and recording options. This research will help inform the Administration and the Legislature on the efficacy of the program.

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Overall, the pilot has received positive feedback from participants in regards to satisfaction rates. Based on results from a participant survey, 76% of participants found the pilot easy to participate in and were satisfied with their mileage reporting option. Pilot program participant KPCC Reporter Meghan McCarty talked about her pilot experience so far on public radio, hear what she had to say here.

The diverse group of participants will help strengthen this potential transportation funding system. Their feedback will be included into a final pilot report that CalSTA will submit to the California Legislature, California Transportation Commission, and the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee in June 2017.

To learn more about the California Road Charge Pilot Program, visit its website at: www.CaliforniaRoadChargePilot.com

State Transportation and Safety Agencies Warn that Many At-risk Airbag Inflators Remain on Cars in California

California State departments that oversee vehicle and driver safety are warning that owners of tens of thousands of vehicles, particularly Hondas and Acuras, may not have received or have overlooked the recall notices urging replacement of potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators.  Recall repairs are free of charge to all vehicle owners.

The California Office of Traffic Safety, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Motor Vehicles and Bureau of Automotive Repair are working together to urge Californians who own certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles to immediately take their cars to an authorized dealer for repair of potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators.

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Recall notices have already been sent to registered owners of affected vehicles who have not yet taken action on the required recall repair. These vehicles are at high risk of an airbag inflator rupture. When a recalled airbag inflator ruptures, pieces of metal could shoot through the airbag cushion and hit the driver or passengers, resulting in serious injuries or death.

While all areas of the state are affected, certain regions have the greatest concentrations of recalled vehicles with owners who have not been heard from.  These include east and south Bay Area regions, northern Monterey County, the Central Valley, northern and central Los Angeles County, western Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and San Diego County along the border.  However, not being in one of these areas does not mean your vehicle’s airbag is safe.

The following are the 2001-2003 Honda/Acura vehicles that may be equipped with recalled Takata driver airbag inflators, and are the subject of this statewide call to action:

  • 2001-2002 Honda Accord
  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic
  • 2002 Honda CR-V
  • 2002 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Honda Pilot
  • 2002-2003 Acura 3.2TL
  • 2003 Acura 3.2CL

Honda and Acura owners should check for recalls by locating their vehicle identification number (VIN) – found in the top left corner of the vehicle’s dashboard through the windshield – and enter the number into the VIN check on www.recalls.honda.com, www.recalls.acura.com or www.safercar.gov.

Honda/Acura urges affected drivers to immediately call 1-888-234-2138 for repair information. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that these vehicles only be driven to an authorized dealer in order to have the Takata airbag inflators replaced as quickly as possible. To search for an authorized dealer, consumers can visit www.recalls.honda.com or www.recalls.acura.com depending on the make of their vehicle.

Consumers can also find answers to general questions about the Takata airbag inflator recalls, including about the higher risk inflators in these vehicles, at the following site: http://hondaairbaginfo.com/faq/. Any concerned customer can also contact Honda/Acura’s Automobile Customer Service at 888-234-2138.

The replacement of the Takata airbag inflator is free of charge for all customers. Customers are not obligated to have unrelated maintenance or other vehicle issues fixed at the same time as the recall repair. Honda/Acura will provide a loaner car, if necessary, while a customer’s car is being repaired and a Honda/Acura dealer can also arrange to tow a vehicle to and from the desired location at no cost.