This week in Fresnoland, Cassandra wrote about Clovis City Council refusing a new 40-unit apartment complex in Old Town, and Danielle wrote about how Fresno County taxpayers spent over $ 1 billion. dollars on highways despite lingering concerns about how cars are contributing to the local air. Pollution.
Fresnoland readers: we need your help to prioritize our coverage by 2022! Please fill in this small survey here to share your thoughts with us.
Do you like the public service journalism that Fresnoland offers? Can you help Fresnoland reach our goal of raising $ 18,000 by December 31? Donate Here Today. (Fresnoland is an independent nonprofit, and we rely on donors like you to survive!)
It’s Danielle Bergstrom, political writer here.
This week I spoke with Dr Aly Tawfik, the director of Fresno National Institute of Transportation (funded by Measure C) and associate professor of civil engineering, on his thoughts on improving transportation choices for more residents of Fresno County, and the links between transportation and the quality of the ‘air. He also sits on the Executive Committee of Mesure C.
Our conversation has been condensed for clarity.
Let’s start with transport and climate change. How are they related in the San Joaquin Valley?
They’re related pretty much everywhere. Transportation is therefore one of the usual four industries into which we divide society, namely housing, industry, business and transportation. Transport is the main contributor to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy consumption. The relationship is therefore inseparable. In the United States, we have metropolitan planning agencies responsible for transportation planning. They are responsible for identifying and funding projects. They don’t get funding if we don’t meet air quality standards. Air quality is one of the main externalities, negative impacts of transport, whether in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or pollution.
There has been a great effort in California to do a lot of different things to improve air quality. What is working in the valley so far?
This question is very, very complex. Some people think that if we build the infrastructure, like riding a bicycle or walking, then people will start to walk. If we get more buses, people will start taking buses. I don’t think it is. A study we funded looked at the impact of having more cycling and walking infrastructure on the share of active transportation. [how many commuters walk/bike to work]. He discovered that there was no real relationship. The study was not done in Fresno, but in Kansas City. How can this be the case? One of the main explanations is that it is a culture. People have a very negative view of buses. So just by having more buses, people will not take them if they have a negative view of public transit. Same with walking and cycling, unless I can walk somewhere or cycle somewhere, I’m not just going to walk and cycle. As if I had time to waste. No one has time to waste unless we start planning our cities more effectively so that people can reach destinations on foot or by bicycle. The mere existence of infrastructure will not make a big difference.
Take Paris, for example. At the start of the year, they set a new goal: they wanted everyone to be able to access their destinations. [without a car] within 15 minutes.
Is it possible to make Fresno a place where different neighborhoods could become a city in 15 minutes?
Long-term? Yes. I mean, we have to start somewhere, right? Now also take into account, we have a lot of evolving technologies and trends, autonomous vehicles for example. So autonomous vehicles are not coming anytime soon. We will have a lot of this propaganda, but we have several decades before we get to this. But when that happens, it is expected that the use of self-driving taxis will be much cheaper. And if it does, then all that public parking lot that we have won’t be used. There is no information in Fresno, but the national average is about 30-40% of all urban space in the United States for parking. So if self-driving taxis become the norm, then we can reinvent this public parking space.
I have heard some people say that the way to fix our air quality problems is to give everyone an electric car and electrify all the trucks. How would you respond to that?
Electric vehicles are just vehicles with a very long tailpipe, as the emissions occur in the power plant. It’s still cleaner than a small engine. Maybe with hydrogen things will get better. But with electrification alone, we will still have pollution. I am happy that the State of California is pushing in this direction. We have a project that studies access to electric vehicles for low-income Californians. At present, electric vehicles are bought only by the elite, not even by middle-income communities. It is not just the price, but the lifestyle of the people who use these vehicles. It is not practical that there are no vans, for example.
In our region, the first place people charge their vehicles is at home. If you look at low-income Californians who make up the vast majority of people in our area, if you rent or live in an apartment, in most cases you can’t really charge your electric vehicle. So there are all kinds of obstacles and this could be one of them. In some parts of our region, the electrical infrastructure in some cities cannot handle charging stations for electric vehicles. The Fresno County Rural Transportation Agency was investing in electric buses, and in some towns PG&E said it did not have electricity. We must therefore also invest in the electric power sector.
Let’s talk about public transport. What should be the role of public transport in our efforts to improve air quality?
Some of these older models of scheduled transit may not be as efficient as newer models of demand-based transit or smaller electric vehicles.
One of the big obstacles for us in our region is the lack of information and data. For the next measure C, we need to start collecting and analyzing data so that we can make informed decisions, so as not to guess in the dark, especially since transport funds are very limited.
Public transport is extremely important. Not just because it’s cleaner, because sometimes it isn’t, when demand is insufficient. But it’s a social responsibility – some people can’t drive and therefore need public transportation. Without public transit, people cannot get food or medical care or send their children to school. But I think we need a lot of improvement. It’s not just about infrastructure – we have to start with education. We have to change the way people see public transit or they won’t take it.
THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC SESSIONS
Make sure you catch Heather Halsey Martinez to @heatherhalsey for the live-tweeting of Clovis City Council, Fresno Planning Commission (November 17) and Clovis Planning Commission (November 18).
At Clovis Town Hall meeting on November 8 Martinez said Clovis Police Chief Curt Fleming briefed the board on the state of the police service: the service needs 32 more officers and a budget of $ 9.2 million per year over the next five years; the council refused the modification of the general plan and a rezoning of a 1.6 acre lot near Osmun and Baron avenues, of medium to very high density, necessary to allow a development project of 40 units and three floors . Read this for more information.
At Reedley Town Council meeting on November 9 Documenter Dani Huerta reported that Council has approved the following: a resolution to append a River Bottom Area Overlay District to the Town of Reedley Landscaping and Lighting Maintenance; consulting services agreement with Mintier Harnish to update the city’s municipal code, specific to housing and land use. The board further approved the resolution establishing a funding policy for pensions and other post-employment benefits, adding $ 348,329 to next year’s budget. Read this for more information.
At Tulare County Supervisory Board meeting on November 9 Documenter Josef sibala reported that staff reviewed new community maps in Geographic Information System (GIS) software and presented a staff analysis. A member of the public – Colijia Feliz – said during the public comments that the redistribution process must ignore the “prospects of re-election, race or class of incumbents”. She feared that the process would make the residents of Tulare and northern Visalia “underrepresented”. Read this for more information.