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Proposal for a huge new garage

The City of Santa Cruz is proposing to build a new five-level parking garage above a new relocated city library on the parking lot bordered by Lincoln, Cedar and Cathcart Streets, where the Farmer's Market currently meets. We strongly believe that the City should implement a Commuter Benefits Program first, before it considers the construction of a much more costly garage.

Click right here to sign our petition!

The Campaign for Sensible Transportation is urging the City to follow the recommendations of its parking consultants: Offer incentives to people who work downtown to get to work on bus, carpool, bicycle and walking.

This is a less costly and more environmentally sound way to increase customer parking than building another garage. Commuter Benefits Programs have demonstrated remarkable success in several Bay Area communities, and are easily implemented.

These Commuter Benefits could include bus passes, credit at bike stores, discounted parking for carpools, and cash rewards for people who work downtown and choose not to park downtown.

Click here for a detailed analysis of why we should not build another garage, including excellent references on what a Downtown Commuter Benefits program might mean. (This analysis was updated on March 6, 2017.)

No Parking Here

Mother Jones, in the January/February issue of 2016, published an excellent piece by Clive Thompson under the above headline. (The third of the images in the header above is from this article.) Thompson notes this:

If you totaled up all the area devoted to parking, it'd be roughly 6,500 square miles, bigger than Connecticut.

For the full article, click here.

Forget about building downtown parking lots: You won't need them

Earlier this year the SF Chronicle published an opinion piece by Edward Church under the above headline. At the start, he writes:

Leaders in several cities across the nation … are rethinking the future of parking downtown. They're saying, “Don't build parking lots, don't build garages, you aren't going to need them.”

At the conclusion, he offers this advice:

Don't build them, because they won't be needed. And adopt local regulations that require justifying new parking, especially in cities served by transit. Otherwise, we all will be stuck with the bill.

For the full article by Church, click on this link.

Here's another piece, from Christopher Pollon, writing from Canada. It's headlined:

Imagining City Life After the Car
Our love affair with the private vehicle is waning. Does it still deserve a third of our urban living space?

He writes:

The current trend of young urbanites shunning the private automobile is widely expected to grow in the decades to come.

Much of the land historically consumed by cars and parking can be greened, to create the kinds of urban spaces people want to frequent. In this three-dimensional North American urban core of the future, the car is not only inconvenient, it's irrelevant.

As for the family car, in the city of the future, who'll need it?

For the full article by Pollon, click on this link.

Rail with Trail

Listen to Susan Handy


Professor Susan Handy, the Director of the Sustainable Transportation Center at UC Davis, explains, in an interview recorded on January 29, 2016, why widening a highway not only will fail to relieve traffic congestion but also will increase vehicle miles traveled, and will be environmentally damaging.

Click on the audio strip below to listen to this 20-minute interview. She summarizes her recent study done for the Air Resources Board. If you want to read a transcript of the interview, it is here.

A brief summary of Susan Handy's talk

On May 14, in our own Louden Nelson Center, Susan Handy treated us to a fine presentation. Here are a few of her main points:

  • katy freeway For decades, our road engineers have used “Level Of Service” (LOS) as a criterion to characterize traffic flow on our roads. Level “A” is freely flowing traffic, and level “F” is a traffic jam—when the demand is greater than the capacity. The idea has been to raise the LOS by adding capacity, i.e., lanes to the road. Susan showed us this photo of the “Katy Freeway” in Houston. At 23 lanes, it's the widest freeway in the world, and it's still at level “F”. Click on the image to enlarge it. See this link for more information.

    Recently the trend has been to replace LOS with “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) when evaluating the environmental impact of a road widening project. Now the idea is to reduce the VMT. An increase in VMT always implies an increase in Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  • Whenever a road is widened, there is the probability that more cars will eventually be induced to travel on the road, as is described in Linda Booth Sweeney's video below. This is called “Induced Travel”, a phenomenon that has been dismissed by Caltrans, but is gradually now becoming accepted by them.
  • Any increase in the capacity of a road—even auxiliary lanes—always leads to an increase in VMT, and hence to an increase in Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  • To reduce the demand for automobile travel, one may either (a) make driving less attractive, or (b) make alternatives more attractive. Which would you prefer?

Watch this good video

For a good companion to Susan Handy's presentation, watch this excellent video by systems educator Linda Booth Sweeney. In two and a half minutes she provides a clear explanation for why widening a highway does not relieve traffic congestion.

Watch two good videos

Here are two good videos by renowned planner Peter Calthorpe. Click on the links to watch them.

  1. Here Calthorpe describes what Portland did in 1990—a key decision that encouraged sustainable transportation and resulted in a livable downtown.
  2. Here Calthorpe summarizes the steps to take to achieve Transit Oriented Development, with excellent illustrations, both negative and positive.

New definitions are needed

It has long been the case that the phrase “alternative transportation” has meant walking, or riding a bicycle, or using the bus or other modes of public transportation. The implication is that the primary mode is driving a car. However, everyone walks. Unless you are disabled, you cannot get through the day without walking.

Furthermore, in our planning for the construction of transportation-related projects, short shrift is frequently given to pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks and crosswalks. Bicycle amenities, such as bike lanes or bike paths, are often only added as an afterthought.

Therefore: It's time to re-define what we mean by “alternative”:

Alternative Transportation Mode: Driving in a car, especially as a single occupant.

Primary Transportation Modes: Walking, and bicycling or using public transportation.

Speed kills

If you're driving a car and there are pedestrians around, speed matters a lot. Data for this graph come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Traffic jams. Lots of cars. Parking problems. Air pollution, neighborhood degradation, global warming.
Nearly 90% of the cars on our streets and roads have only a single occupant.
In California, roughly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation (50% in the Bay Area), mostly from private cars.
What shall we do?

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Lots of New Stuff

December 16, 2017: Don't tear up the tracks: We have posted two opinion pieces—one by Paul Schoellhamer that appeared in the Sentinel, and the other by George Dondero that appeared in the Aptos Times, the Scotts Valley Times and the Capitola Times—explaining why tearing up the tracks is a bad idea. To read them, click here.

December 16, 2017: We have also posted a new video, entitled “Top 10 Reasons to Build the Rail Trail” Created by Friends of the Rail & Trail and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and sponsored by seven other Santa Cruz County organizations, it's a good one, and at only a minute and 19 seconds, easy to view. Click here to watch it.

October 10, 2017: You can still sign our petition!!! See the information here regarding the huge new garage being proposed by the City of Santa Cruz, and then please sign our petition, which is right here.

For those of you who missed Debbie Bulger's good presentation on October 7, 2017, you can still do your Homework: Watch this classic video by Peter Calthorpe. In three and a half minutes, Calthorpe describes a few key components that have helped to make Portland, Oregon one of the most walkable cities in the nation.

October 2, 2017: We have updated our Highway 17 Express/Caltrain timetable page to reflect the recent changes in both the METRO and Caltrain schedules and fares. It's right here.

July 11, 2017: We have updated our rail section, and now have a new detailed map of the population density along our rail line. We have also posted Bruce Sawhill's new slideshow, with his expert vision about how viable public transportation in our rail corridor might succeed. Please check it out. It's right here. This is our response to those who keep saying we should throw away millions of dollars and remove the tracks.

June 16, 2017: Please take action: President Trump's budget would eliminate train service for 23 states and over 220 communities in the US. Click here to take action.

April 7, 2017: Stephen Kessler penned a good piece for the Sentinel. It's entitled Santa Cruz needs to think outside the parking structure box. You can read it here.

January 4, 2017: Please consider making a donation to help us pay for our website charges, which are very reasonable. Just click here, or on the green donate button above to learn how to do it.

October 10, 2016: Here, from Wired, is a good clear piece on induced demand (also known as induced travel), recently uncovered by 6th grader Owen Morgan. Please check it out!

September 29, 2016: We've posted two opinion pieces, recently published in the Sentinel. One is by Liz Levy, entitled “What really works to relieve traffic congestion”. It is here, along with four helpful documents that are here. The other is by Dana Bagshaw, entitled “Measure D short-changes public transit”. It is here. Please feel free to share these well-thought-out pieces.

September 26, 2016: We've posted Lewis Mumford's relevant essay, entitled “The Highway and the City”. To find out more, click here. Please read it!!!!!

September 11, 2016: We have a new page of songs, which is right here. We would welcome additional songs, if you would like to contribute any. Just write to us here if you would like to.

August 19, 2016: The current issue of Transit California, the monthly magazine of the California Transit Association, has a Featured Story that highlights our own METRO, which just received a federal grant of $3.8 million for new “zero-emission” buses.

The article quotes METRO's CEO Alex Clifford:

“This grant could not have come at a better time. Our agency has been facing a fiscal crisis that has prevented us from replacing our aging bus fleet and last year the Board directed us to seek opportunities to add electric buses to our fleet in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to Congressman Sam Farr's (D-Calif.) efforts, we will use the federal assistance to address both of those challenges.”

To read the full story, click on this link.

July 12, 2016: We have recently received comments by the Center for Biological Diversity on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) for proposed Highway 1 construction projects. Their comments may be found here. Other comments, by local attorney Bill Parkin are here (with appendices here), and those by CFST are here.

June 23, 2016: We are not safe, and we can be safer. Steve Piercy has created a map showing all the collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Santa Cruz County for any time interval between 2002 and 2015. To learn more, and see his map, click this link.

June 12, 2016: Liz Levy of Soquel wrote an excellent letter to the RTC. We urge you to take a look at it. Just click this link.

Sunday, May 22, 2016: We had a lively (and breezy) celebration for Nancy Abbey this afternoon at the “MAH”. Good talk, good munchies, and a new song: Widening One Won't Work. Click on this link if you would like a copy. There are lyrics, a piano score with guitar chords, and an mp3 file.

May 14, 2016: Susan Handy came to Santa Cruz, and gave us a good presentation at our Louden Nelson Center. Her talk, entitled “Stuck in Traffic: Will More Lanes Help?”, was followed by many good questions from her large audience. It was well-received. We have now posted a short summary of her remarks. You may also listen to a recent interview of her by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, and watch a short informative two-and-a-half minute video by Linda Booth Sweeney. Click on this link to learn more.

March 23, 2016: We have a page of Stories by Bus Riders! Put together by Dana Bagshaw, it is right here. These are folks who enjoy using the bus to get around, and on this page, they tell you why.

October 27, 2015: Please see our Rail Line Info page, with lots of facts and figures about the RTC's Passenger Rail Feasibility Study. There are also a couple of informative videos. Click here to read it.

July 3, 2015: A summary of a transportation survey of County voters, done in early May, 2015, is now available here. Please read it and let us know what you think.

March, 2015: Responding to the proposal by Caltrans to widen Highway 1 in Pacifica (through Vallemar), Pacificans for a Scenic Coast, Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives and the Center for Biological Diversity are planning to file a second lawsuit. See this link for details. See also the PH1A Facebook Page.

March, 2014: We are proud to be a participant in the Caltrans Watch Coalition, a group of some 28 organizations who are keen to “put the brakes on Caltrans”, campaigning to stop some five egregious highway widening projects being pushed by Caltrans in Northern California. This coalition was formed through the efforts of the Center for Biological Diversity. Click on the above link for details.

February, 2013: Be sure to check out our special page: Car-free hikes. At the moment there are descriptions of good hikes in both Big Basin and the Fall Creek watershed. We expect to add more hikes in this category.

Anytime: Be sure to write to us (click here) if you have any comments or suggestions or if something about this website does not work for you.