Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Inside the anti-car bubble

Inland Empire Transit Talking Points
A CEQA "reform" site

What's surprising is how our long-ago litigation---filed in 2005 and settled in 2006---that forced City Hall to do the legally required environmental study of its 500-page Bicycle Plan traumatized the pro-bike, anti-car movement. Apparently those folks couldn't---still can't---believe that anyone would challenge their attempt to make the world a better place!

When I challenge their religion, often manifested with anti-CEQA rants, ancient history must be revived and old psychic wounds must be brandished.

The latest such exchange on CEQA was on Streetsblog CAL:

I objected to the link to an anti-CEQA site:

Another bogus anti-CEQA story is linked here. CEQA litigation doesn't stop a project; all it does is require that project supporters---whether public or private---must do an adequate environmental study before projects---especially big projects---are implemented. Since "transit" projects are about traffic, they in particular must do traffic studies to analyze their impacts, since traffic is obviously a major environmental impact.

neoroden replies:
No, it doesn't. You're thinking of NEPA, the national version.

CEQA is different---it was badly written. It allows for unreasonable delays to projects due to litigation which is *entirely* frivolous. Obviously all these transit projects do perfectly good traffic studies. Traffic isn't an environmental impact, but they do them anyway. Then they get idiotic CEQA lawsuits claiming that some one guy's commute will be a minute slower. At the NEPA level this would be thrown out quickly, but with CEQA this can tie things up in court for years for some reason.

Rob: Simply untrue. Please cite some examples.

Streetsblog's Melanie Curry reveals her PTSD: The injunction against bike projects in SF immediately comes to mind. Wait--do I really need to point this out? What strange world is this?

Rob: You show the ignorance that's typical of those advocating CEQA "reform." San Francisco did no environmental review of its ambitious 500-page Bicycle Plan. We got the injunction that stopped its implementation while the city did what the law clearly required. It was an easy decision for the judge to make:

You do understand that CEQA requires some kind of environmental review of any project that even might have an impact on the environment? CEQA's critics often don't seem to understand that. Or they seem to think that only projects they don't like should bear that burden.

Clearly taking away dozens of traffic lanes and thousands of parking spaces on busy city streets to make bike lanes will have an impact on the city's environment, both the obvious physical impact and the probability of making traffic congestion worse.

Curry: And since then CEQA has been changed to make clear what should have been clear from the get-go: traffic congestion in and of itself is not an environmental impact. Emissions from traffic--now that's an impact. Luckily the law also now recognizes that bike facilities do not increase emissions and are now exempt from CEQA. I guess that's one silver lining from that specious lawsuit against SF's bike plan.

Rob: Of course traffic congestion increases emissions, and taking away traffic lanes and street parking on busy city streets makes traffic congestion worse. What exactly was "specious" about our litigation? The court thought otherwise. You did read the link I provided, didn't you? You're faking it by covering up your ignorance with rhetoric.

Curry: I was going to ignore your rude personal attack. But I'm tired of people like you trying to silence people who want to engage in civil discourse by bullying them.

As I said before, traffic congestion is not an environmental impact. Just because a traffic engineer wrote it into CEQA doesn't make it so, and---as I said---now CEQA is being changed to acknowledge that error. Traffic congestion does not produce emissions---DRIVING produces emissions. And if you can build a city so that people don't need to drive---so they feel safe riding their bikes, for example---then you can cut emissions, and it makes little difference how many drivers are inconvenienced or squished into a single lane as a result. See all those bicyclists riding on Market every day, now that the time-wasting injunction against the bike plan was lifted? Imagine how many emissions they would be producing if they were driving downtown instead.

The only result of your lawsuit was that SF wasted a whole lot of money and a whole lot of time arriving at the same conclusion that planners had already come to without going through the costly CEQA process: that the bike plan did not create any negative environmental impact. Oh, yes---it also enriched your attorney. So thanks for that.

Rob: "Rude personal attack"? I just noted your apparent ignorance on CEQA, which is a fact. You're somehow now a victim of "bullying" and I'm trying to "silence" you?

That just shows how you Streetsblog folks live in a bubble of your own construction. I appreciate your succinct account of the bicycle fantasy that hopes to redesign city streets on behalf of your small minority against the interests of more than 95% of those who now use the streets of San Francisco.

Not surprising that City Hall has never put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot, since citywide support for that project has never been tested. Maybe you saw the latest Chamber of Commerce poll that showed only 49% supported removing traffic lanes to make bike lanes with 47% opposed, not exactly a ringing endorsement:

The notion that people who used to drive down Market Street are now riding bikes down that street is preposterous. Muni is the real alternative for people who don't want to or can't afford to drive in the city, not bikes. Besides, very few people really need to drive on Market Street.

Market Street is also not a typical city street, since it's flat in this hilly city. The reality about cycling in SF overall: it's only increased from 2% of commuters to 3.5% or 4% in fifteen years according to the city's own documents:

Yes, of course the "CEQA process" didn't stop City Hall from continuing its pro-bike, anti-car bike projects. As you should know but probably don't, CEQA doesn't stop projects; it just requires environmental review before they are implemented.

In fact the EIR on the Bicycle Plan did show that removing traffic lanes in busy city streets to make bike lanes was an environmental impact, but the city and the court brushed those conclusions aside:

Yes, the city wasted a lot of time and money by not doing what the law clearly required in the first place. And yes city "planners" regard CEQA as a nuisance, even though it's a sensible law and the most important environmental law in the state. Why should San Francisco have to comply with the law when they have such wise, farsighted "planners"?

The reality is that the city lied about the Bicycle Plan throughout the process and continued to lie about it during the litigation. Odd that Streetsblog endorses that kind of conduct by public officials even when it's done on behalf of their favorite transportation "mode."

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At 4:42 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

Funny how these urban-bicycle types don't need an environmental study unless it might give them special advantage, then by god you'd better do one:

"One Oak EIR contains an extensive discussion of potential impacts of wind on pedestrians and public transit passengers waiting for buses at nearby bus stops. It completely omits analysis of the impact of wind on the thousands of cyclists using Market and other nearby streets." --Jason Henderson.


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