Monday, February 29, 2016

California Approves $133 Million for Bike Trails

Napa Valley Vine Trail | Photo courtesy Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition

Posted 02/26/16 by Laura Cohen in Building Trails, Policy

It was another great year for trails in California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP), the largest funding source for biking, walking and trails in the state. RTC recently learned that the California Transportation Commission has approved $133 million for 59 trail projects and separated bikeways in Cycle 2 of ATP.

On Sept. 21, 2015, RTC reported on the funding decisions for the statewide and rural shares of ATP Cycle 2, in which $64 million was programmed for 29 trail projects. In late-January, California approved its final piece of ATP, with $69 million going to 30 trail and separated bikeway projects. This brings California 59 projects closer this year to its dream of creating regional active-transportation networks that promote healthy lifestyles and improve the mobility of residents and visitors of the Golden State.

And with the $97 million approved in Cycle 1 in 2014, ATP’s total investment in trails to date is $230 million. Here is a quick look at some noteworthy trail projects funded in January ...

Get ready to plan an outdoor adventure in Napa County! ATP funds have been approved to construct a 9.4-mile segment of the Napa Valley Vine Trail. The project segment (which will be a Class I bicycle and pedestrian facility) will run alongside the CA 29 corridor in Napa County from Pratt Avenue in St. Helena to Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga. When complete, the full 47-mile trail will connect the entire Napa Valley from Vallejo to Calistoga.

The Bayshore Bikeway just got another segment closer to completion. Currently 15 miles, this popular trail will eventually span 24 miles around the San Diego Bay—providing even more scenic connections to both tourist and resident destinations in the area.
The Fresno-Clovis Rail Trail is in its final design stage and will use funding to secure NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) approval. The funds will also construct 1.6 miles of a 12-foot asphalt-concrete trail. Did you know? In the mid-2000s, the trail set a Guinness World Record for planting 4,400 trees by 3,000 volunteers!

With a half-mile on the ground, this rail-trail is on its way to complete a 4-mile route across the city of Brea from east to west. The completed trail will consist of a two-lane paved bikeway and a separate pathway for pedestrians. The trail will also connect to destinations such as the Brea Senior Center, the Brea Boys and Girls Club and six schools!
RELATED: California Trail Projects Just Got a $54 Million Boost

RTC’s Western Regional Office served as a consultant to the California Department of Transportation, providing technical-assistance training workshops to help disadvantaged communities successfully compete for ATP funds. We continue to be actively engaged in shaping active-transportation funding in California, and we hope to see more trails successful in future rounds of the ATP.

The next round of ATP funding—Cycle 3—takes place this year, with applications due in June. For the complete list of projects recommended for funding, and for general information on the ATP, go to the California Transportation Commission website. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The amount of K-Cups Trashed in Landfills Could Wrap Around the Planet 10 times.

Brewing coffee has changed dramatically over the years. Coffee no longer represents a time to gather with family, take a break, and recharge. Instead it’s about getting caffeinated as quickly and efficiently as possible to do more and more work. This excessive, on-the-go, convenience model of coffee consumption is creating more and more waste -- and big problems for our environment.

Nothing is more emblematic of this culture shift and waste problem than Keurig Green Mountain company’s plastic, single serve K-cups. Designed specifically for the Keurig brand coffee brewer, these white plastic pods with aluminum foil lids create a single cup of coffee with the press of a button. After the coffee is brewed, the pod is designed not to be reused, composted, or recycled - but to be thrown in the trash. Keurig Green Mountain company is widely recognized as the pioneer of these single serve pods - but there’s nothing pioneering about trashing the planet with excessive waste!

K-Cups may be small in size, but the waste is adding up fast. The amount of K-Cups trashed into landfills as of today could wrap around the planet more than 10 times! More broadly, almost 25% of American homes owned a single cup brewing machine. That’s over 75 million homes brewing single use pods like K-cups everyday, multiple times a day. This means that tens of billions of non-reusable, non-recyclable plastic pods have ended up in landfills thanks to companies like Keurig - and that number is exponentially growing as more companies join the industry.

Keurig Green Mountain Company’s President and CEO Brian Kelley said, “We have to think about sustainability in everything we do.” In response to backlash from consumers about the wastefulness of K-Cups, Keurig says that they have a commitment to make K-Cups out of #5 polypropylene plastic by 2020 so they can be recycled in most areas. While recycling is important, only a mere one third of major recycling programs accept this kind of plastic. The K-Cups that don’t get recycled will take thousands of years to decompose in a landfill and will contribute to our growing problem of plastic pollution.

Worst of all, as Keurig tries to live up to its motto to “brew a better world”, their short term environmental solution is to incinerate K-Cups! Through their Grounds to Grow On program they encourage their customers to mail their empty K-Cups back to Keurig where the plastic pods and aluminum tops are burned in energy incinerators. Incinerating trash is known to waste lots of energy and to put harmful, cancer causing toxins into our air, water, and soil. The best way to address these problems is to use existing technology to make K-Cups reusable or compostable instead.

We’ve seen this problem before - from microbeads to plastic water bottles to styrofoam cups - and we know better. We won’t let the notion of “convenience” be a marketing scapegoat for billion dollar corporations to trash the planet and get away with it. Keurig Green Mountain Company has an obligation to do right by the planet and its people. That means taking responsibility for its products’ waste all the way until the end of their life cycle.

Green Mountain should stop greenwashing. One of the first ways they can do that is by making the K-cup reusable and compostable. The practice of brewing and drinking coffee may have changed over the years - and it certainly will change further with time. But one thing that will never change is each generation’s dependence on a healthy planet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DumbingUs Down

We hear a lot about the 1% controlling everything, and the 99% is too busy buying into it.

The more I watch the news and hear the bullshit coming out of the Washington and the spin the media put on it, the more I think this is what we really deserve. After all we elected these buffoons. We knew going in they were all a bunch of self-serving, lying privileged hypocrites who only answer to the corporate interests who got them elected. 

Collectively the last election cost $12 billion. You would think there might be at least one shining knight. But this is what we wanted and this is what we got. Or did we.

We all sit around listening or texting our buddies about the last load of bullshit dumped on us by the media, then head off to the nearest coffee shop, bar or chat room looking for reinforcements just to sit around and bitch about it. 

The only opinion most of us really have are those trumped up by bought in corporate media experts such as Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Rielly et al making sure the dumbing down process stays on track.

But does it make it to prime time nightly news? Not likely, since the manufacturers of this stuff are the ones paying the bills. So is the media going to bite the hand that feeds them? Again, not likely. Occasionally they will run a fluff piece, but it doesn't sell like chaos, confusion and the Kardashians.Who determines what real news is anyway? 

Today most commercial, or mainstream media companies are owned by major corporations unrelated to media or news gathering. In their bylaws and fine print they will use words like unbiased, fair, balanced etc. But when you're signing the checks the game is played your way. 

They say they don't play favorites, but those who got them elected say otherwise. Money talks and bull . .  you know. 

Do you know where many of the politicians go after their term expires or voted out of office? Most of them find cushy board jobs, or become lobbyists for the very corporations that padded their election, plus drawing a pension. 

The worst part of this is we allow it to happen. We have choices. Nobody makes us shop at the Wal-Marts, eat Big Macs, slug down cokes or drive gas guzzlers. Non-particpation is an option. 

And like a bunch of sheep we obviously choose to pad their bottom line.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Toxic Black Sludge Pouring Out of Faucets in Texas Town Where FBI Arrested Every City Official

With each passing week, the consequences of our nation’s long neglect of infrastructure become alarmingly clear. The refusal of Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder to inform the people of Flint that their drinking water was contaminated with dangerous amounts of lead has been occupying the public’s attention, but similar crises around the nation are being revealed with a frightening frequency.

The rural town of Crystal City, Texas, received an unpleasant shock last week when they turned on their taps only to find black liquid spurting from the pipes. Apparently due to the flushing of a water tank that hadn’t been cleaned in decades, the water was found to smell awful and took on a greasy, oily texture. Complicating matters is the fact that all city officials but one were recently arrested by the FBI for perpetrating a massive bribery ring and illegal gambling.

“The indictment alleges that these public officials and this businessman solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for official action, such as voting to award city contracts to, waive certain tax payments by, and conduct certain inspections to give unfair advantage to those paying bribes,” announced U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin.

Left without any officials, who have all refused to resign while they are prosecuted, there isn’t anyone left to do anything. Residents were forced to take to social media to spread the world, and were only advised to “boil their water” by the lone city staffer – as if that could possibly help. Incidents like this will continue to happen unless we begin re-investing in our country, protecting our environment, and making sure public health is a top priority.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

President Obama’s budget proposal and bikes

On Tuesday February 9, President Obama released his fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget request, which lays out the administration’s spending recommendations for the coming year. How does this relate to getting more people on bikes? The federal government funds several important programs that help communities build places to ride, and the President’s budget highlights the need to expand transportation options across the country.

The budget proposes a significant increase in funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s popular TIGER grant program from $500 million in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion. This program provides grants to build multi-modal transportation projects and many communities have used TIGER grants to construct innovative facilities that incorporate bicycle infrastructure.

Another piece of the President's budget proposal relates to the implementation of the FAST Act, the five-year transportation reauthorization bill. Specifically, he highlights the $835 million in funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program, which is one of the primary federal programs helping communities build bicycle paths, lanes and trails. This matches the dollar amount already approved by Congress.

President Obama also proposes fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund program (LWCF) at $900 million in FY17. The LWCF provides opportunities to purchase and develop land for conservation and recreation, and communities across the country have built bike paths with these funds.

Both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will also release budget proposals, and then the various plans will be reconciled to produce the budget that will fund the government for the next fiscal year that starts on October 1, 2016.

We look forward to seeing the budgets proposed by Congress and ultimately hope that they reflect the critical need for more and better bike infrastructure across the country.

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