Snippets – City Infrastructure

Today, stories about developing and improving cities and their infrastructure.

The City of Chicago announced the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which will leverage private investment for retrofits pending City Council approval. For the first project, they will be doing an energy efficiency retrofit of municipal buildings (via Greentech Media).

Bay Area cities begin to adjust to life after redevelopment agencies shut their doors on Feburary 1st. A blog post by SPUR walks through the impact of these changes in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Caltrain is in Serious Trouble


(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A few days ago, I began to see news that Caltrain will face a huge operating deficit starting this summer. However, the magnitude of that deficit didn’t sink in until an article pointed out that the $30 million operating deficit will be nearly one-third of its operating budget.

According to the article, cuts on the table include:

  • Weekday trains would be reduced from 86 to 48, with service limited to commute hours.

  • No weekend service, eliminating up to 68 trains.

  • Service eliminated from Gilroy to the Diridon Station in San Jose.

  • Up to seven of 23 stations along the Peninsula closed.

    The article also made the following point:

  • Caltrain is unique in the Bay Area, as it is the only transit line that lacks a dedicated source of funding. Instead, agencies from the three counties in which it runs contribute funds to help cover operating costs.

    But the Valley Transportation Authority, SamTrans and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency all face their own budget battles and will reduce their aid by $25 million next fiscal year.

    You can read the entire article here.

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    Cool Pavements – Melvin Pomerantz


    In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

    On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 3 of my record of the presentation – Melvin Pomerantz gives an overview of cool pavements. All portions are included in chronological order.

    An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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    Now we’re talking about cool pavements … because they are a significant fraction of a city … including the streets, parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks.

    We need to understands that they are a composite material … they are aggregate, an array rocks of different sizes … We then have to hold them together. So we have to glue the rocks and sand together by coating each rock with a  binder of some sort. For “asphalt”, the binder is asphalt, which is a petroleum product …  We can also bind the rocks together with cement, which is a mineral product, and we call that concrete … The key thing is that because you’re coating the aggregate, you mostly see the color of the binding … Our target is the binder.

    Of the third of the city that is covered with pavements of various kinds, 50% is streets, 40% are exposed parking, and about 10% are sidewalks … Because it covers about 90% of the paved city streets, our target is the asphalt concrete.

    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Start with fresh asphalt concrete … which is very black and has a solar reflectance of about 5%. As it ages, sunlight breaks it downs … Typically, its solar reflectance goes up to about 15% … The question is can we do any better … If you use a light-colored aggregate, it will show as the binder wears off … can use seashells, or porcelain … For old pavement, which required resurfacing periodically … we can put on a layer of asphalt emulsion, and put light-colored aggregate on top. That is called a “chip seal” … One issue is that aggregate is heavy, so it’s expensive to ship. So we want to use rock that’s nearby, and it may not be white … If the road stay cool, it doesn’t deform as much …

    An example is from San Jose … They happen to have a quarry nearby that has white rock, and they’ve used a chip seal …

    The other type of road, a little less common, is cement concrete … Fresh cement has a solar reflectance of about 35% … as it ages, it gets darker and reflectance drops to about 20% … The fine aggregate tends to float to the top … If you have light-colored fine aggregate, you can get an initial solar reflectance of about 40% …

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    Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here. Part 4 is posted here.

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    Lots of Bay Area News

    U.S. Representative and  House Appropriator Mike Honda secured funding to the tune of $2 million towards extension of the BART system to Silicon Valley as part of the FY 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill. What is the “BART to Silicon Valley” project? It’s an extension of the existing BART system to Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara starting from the future Warm Springs station in Fremont (along the eastern side of the South Bay).

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    Google Energy has signed its first contract, a 20-year wind power contract in Iowa. Google will sell the electricity on the spot market and retire the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) – via TechCrunch.

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    More people are freaking out about smart meters, but this time not in the Central Valley…

    The Fairfax Town Council gave the nod to the creation of an ordinance that, if passed, would try to prevent PG&E from installing smart meters in Fairfax –  via the Marin Independent Journal.

    The Marin Association of Realtors has issued a statement calling for a moratorium on its SmartMeter program due to concerns in three areas: concerns about overcharging, concerns about health effects from the radio waves, and concerns about PG&E imposing meters on folks that don’t want them – via the Marin Independent Journal.

    The Marin Independent Journal also reports that the Marin supervisors have sent a letter to Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), asking the CPUC to suspend PG&E’s SmartMeter rollout until a commission has reviewed the funtion of the meters and until the health implications of the electronic emissions from the wireless devices has been addressed…

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    The Department of Energy announced yesterday that $122 million has been awarded to a team of scientists from California (including Lawrence Berkley National Lab) to establish an Energy Innovation Hub that will be focused on converting sunlight into liquid fuel.

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    San Jose Might Sell Its Water System


    To close budget gaps (the current shortfall is $116.2 million for the fiscal year 2010-2011), San Jose is considering privatizing its municipal water system, which provides water to about 124,000 people (via Silicon Valley Mercury News). The sale could net the city $50 million.

    The current potential buyer is reported to be San Jose Water Company, which provides water to about 1 million people in the Bay Area, including about 80 percent of San Jose residents. The potential sale would likely result in higher water rates for the formerly municipal customers. The company has also expressed interest in leasing and operating the water system.

    While I think it is shortsighted to sell city assets to fix budget gaps (what will be sold next year?), San Jose Water Company boasts on its website that it delivered less water in 2007 than it did in 1987, despite serving an additional 80,000 people. And the company credits its water conservation programs (more info here).