Spend San Francisco’s Transportation Dollars

If you were the budget czar for San Francisco, how would you allocate the city’s transportation dollars? Now, you can try your hand at making it all work online here. You can submit your final budget proposal, and it will be used to help develop the San Francisco Transportation Plan.

Check out the details here.

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Interactive Map of ARPA-E Projects

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ARPA-E (the Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy) has launched a new interactive project map that allows users to identify ARPA-E funded projects based on a project location and project type. You can play with the map here.

There are a number of projects in the Bay Area in the following areas, among others:

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Energy-Related Recovery Act Money

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 I’ve been having quite a bit of fun investigating where some of the energy-related recovery act money has gone via the interactive map here. If you zoom in to look at the Bay Area, you can hover your mouse over each circle to see who received the money and how much. For example, the City of Berkeley received $118,155 for a renewable energy project, and Fremont received $1,891,200 for energy efficiency.

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Oaklavia

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Thousands Play in Oakland’s Streets at the First-Ever ‘Oaklavia’ fromStreetfilms on Vimeo.

On October 2, Oakland will hold an event called Oaklavia, closing a few miles of roads to cars to let people experience car-free city streets. Today’s video is the community reaction to the first time Walk Oakland Bike Oakland organized Oaklavia, last year.

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You can learn more about Oaklavia at its website, oaklavia.org, or at walkoaklandbikeoakland.org.

See you there?

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.

Photos of BART Under Construction

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The San Francisco Chronicle website has a gallery of photos from when the BART system was originally under construction in the 1960s and 1970s. You can see the photos here.

There is a photo of people on a walking tour through the Transbay Tube.

Also, there is a photo of then-President Nixon riding BART in 1972.

Go. Look.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Dublin Pleasanton BART Station under construction, much later, in 2009.

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Reconnecting America: Transit Space Race 2011

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image: Wikimedia Commons

Reconnecting America has just released its 2011 report on transit projects in the United States.

The report, titled “Transit Space Race 2011: A Catalog and Analysis of Planned and Proposed Transit Projects in the US“, is a compendium of transit planning across the country. Due to the fluid and changeable nature of transit planning, the report comprises  a “snapshot in time” during a survey period of late 2010.

The result is a window into transit demand in communities nationwide, and most notably the huge gap between the volume of competitors and the number of available transit infrastructure dollars from the federal New Starts program.

Download the report here

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California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 1

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On Tuesday, January 25, I was in the audience at the SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco as Panama Bartholomy, California Energy Commission (CEC), and Emma Wendt, PG&E, gave presentation about California’s clean energy future.

The post below consists of Part 1 of my record of the presentation – the first part of Panama Bartholomy’s presentation. 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 photos or images.

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The speakers were introduced by Raphael Sperry and Geoff Danker.

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Panama Bartholomy

I’m honored to be here… Obviously, I’m a bureaucrat. All my life I’ve wanted to be a bureaucrat. It’s true… … So I have achieved my dreams – I work for the state of California… I am here to talk about what I hope are some of our shared goals… building a  future that’s healthy for our economy, our environment, and our communities… …

I was supposed to talk about, and will talk about, California’s Clean Energy Future…  big ambitious goals. A massive document describes the process of how we’re all going to reach these goals… and how the agencies are going to work on it. In brief, it outlines very ambitious energy goals. It calls for zero net energy buildings… ways to shave peak demand… want to build carbon capture and storage in California by 2020… also want 1 million electric vehicles in California by 2020. So these are the goals. So I’m going to talk about the programs and activities behind the goals to make them a reality…

… … …

I have to give some background, then talk about efficiency…  then major market barriers around energy efficiency and what’s stopping a strong retrofit market, then renewables. Finally, I’ll talk about what’s coming from the Brown administration… …

So some energy context… I’m only going to talk about electricity and natural gas… One of the jobs of the CEC is to measure energy demand and project demand into the future… [looking at a chart] Here, you can see impacts of downturns in the economy… We’re expecting that the economy will pick up later this year or early next, then we will see about 1.2% growth in demand a year. Much of that is from the building sector… We expect to see continued increases in demand, especially from the commercial and residential sectors.

So we have several options. Do nothing. Then we get demand exceeding supply. Or we can build power plants. Or we can find ways to reduce demand… Efficiency is by far our most cost-effective choice in terms of how to meet demand.

Going back to natural gas… California only produces 13% percent of our own natural gas – the rest comes from other areas. We are at the end of the line when it comes to natural gas delivery. We are starting to compete more and more with Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico… …

Overarching a lot of activity on energy efficiency, I have to talk about California’s new climate policy… … AB 32 calls for us to reduce our economy-wide emissions levels to 1990 levels by 2020. This is about a 25-30% reduction in GHG emissions… The big player is transportation. Also, we have to look at electricity generation. The 1/4 of our electricity that we import is equal in GHG emissions to the 3/4 that we produce in-state. The built environment is the second largest wedge when we add the bits together. The built environment dictates how we need to get around, so it has a big impact… We have some work to do…

(Image credit: CA Climate Change Portal)

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Part 2 and Part 3 will be posted soon.

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Location Location Location

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A recent article in the LA Times discusses efforts by green builders to quantify the energy used in reaching the building, not just used in and by the building itself.

From the article:

If you plop a green building in the middle of nowhere, is it still green? … … …

Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be green. Transportation emissions account for 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation.

Commutes to work matter, said Emma Stewart, senior manager for sustainability at Autodesk Inc., a San Rafael, Calif., maker of 3-D design software applications. Overall, one out of five trips and one out of four miles are traveled in commutes, according to Census Transportation Planning Products. For work, people fly to conferences, hail cabs on lunch breaks and drive to far-flung suburbs.

“This is a new frontier in carbon accounting,” said Stewart, who is part of a separate effort to digitally map buildings and infrastructure like train lines for urban planning purposes. “The practice thus far has really been focused around direct emissions.”

You can read the entire article on the LA Times website, here.

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Assorted Links

A climate skeptic, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, seeks the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship.

San Francisco transportation officials are facing a shortfall of at least $137 million as they try to move forward with plans for a new subway tunnel for the city’s light-rail service.

Several glazing industry associations successfully appealed changes to ASHRAE Standard 90.1 that would have reduced the amount of glass allowed in commercial building envelopes.

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Is the Grid Ready for Electric Cars?

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photo: the Nissan Leaf

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding electric vehicles as the first “mainstream” fully electric vehicles (EV) are hitting the road with the promise of many new models coming down the pipeline in the coming years. But are electric cars a truly “green” solution, or will we be simply replacing one problem (fossil fuel dependence) for another one (increased electricity demand, not necessarily met by “clean” energy technologies)? And, importantly, can the American energy grid sustain a powerful new surge in demand?

Casting around for answers, I have assembled a few of the arguments from both the “worry” and “don’t worry” camps.

Worry

Grid stress could be felt on the local level if, for example, a single neighborhood has a high proportion of electric vehicles on one transformer and regular charging times are not sufficiently staggered or at off-peak hours.

– The only way to adequately manage supply-demand optimization is with smart grid technology that can communicate directly with vehicles and manage charging times. That widespread technology is still several to many years off.

– A 2007 Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNL) report found that even if smart grid technology were in place and charging regularly took place at off-peak hours, the nations energy infrastructure as it exists now could only accommodate a maximum 15% of vehicles being EVs.

Don’t Worry

The average age of cars on the road is nine years and going up.  Thus, it is unlikely that electric cars will hit the road en masse, but rather slowly integrate into the car stock, giving utilities time to prepare for increased demand.

-Incentives provided by utility companies can be enough encouragement to persuade most drivers to charge at off-peak hours in the years before smart grid technologies are widespread. Time-of-use plans can have substantially lower rates at off-peak hours.

– Experiments with “Vehicle to Grid” (V2G) technologies (in which Eletric Vehicles actually can store excess energy when demand is low and feed it back to the grid at peak hours) are already underway around the world, and could play a key role  in the grid of the future. See Journalist Dave Levithan’s article on the subject here.

– The U.S. Government has pledged $2 billion in grants for the manufacture of EV car batteries as well as a $400 million “downpayment” to jumpstart EV infrastructure.

Read more articles on electric cars and grid capacity here:

PHEVs: Will the Grid be Ready?, Matter Network

Can US Power Grid Handle Surge of Electric Cars?, Aol News

8 Myths About the Electric Car, Alt Transport

Is the Power Grid Ready for Electric Cars?, MSNBC Answer Desk

Ford Studying Ways to Charge Electric Vehicles, New York Times