Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

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By Rachel Altman of Santa Barbara

After an event such as the Climate Strike, we inevitably see critical letters asking “How many people drove cars to this event?” or “How many rode their bikes?”

Good questions. Let’s look at this in a larger context.

Oil corporations have spent vast amounts of money to convince us that we cannot live without their products. As a result, there are hundreds of gas stations, but few electric charging stations in our town and our state -- despite the fact that alternatives are becoming more efficient, while their cost becomes more affordable than oil.

Second, our local bike infrastructure pales compared to cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and Boston, considered the most bike-friendly cities in the US, despite their weather.

With more than 40 miles of bikeways, Santa Barbara is highly ranked as a bicycle-friendly town; however, we are also ranked third highest in bicycle collisions, due to the lack of sufficient, safe commuter bike lanes, and the lack of automobile driver awareness.

We have made great strides. Our bus system plans to go emissions-free by 2030 —10 years earlier than anticipated. Our Board of Supervisors has likewise voted that our county fleet must go fully electric by 2030, both of which will require greater EV infrastructure.

These are achievable goals and important steps, but more is needed and inevitable. Please join me in calling upon our City Council and Supervisors to build a 21st-century infrastructure that includes more electric vehicle charging stations and a greater network of bicycle lanes. Or, we can stay stuck in the past, with the dinosaurs. 

And by they way – they are extinct.


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Channelfog Oct 04, 2019 09:28 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Union Pacific is a freight company and own the rails. Period. They abhor passenger train interference with their freight trains and the passenger trains will always be sacrificed first = non reliable service. Real estate costs and geographical/geological obstacles are extreme with regard to double track ($$$). There has never been a coordinated effort between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties to jointly pursue passenger rail, though Ventura has connection to Metrolink. Imagine that extending to SB. A lot must change before passenger rail becomes a viable option.

bigone Oct 03, 2019 12:35 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Of course we need to tackle the environmental problems we have created, but I find this article rather simplistic and typically somewhat hypocritical and uninformed in it's premises, especially in regard to electric cars. Why the heck do people who own electric cars think they don't pollute and where do they think that "free" electricity to recharge them comes from? It comes from fossil fuel plants located elsewhere that everyone eventually pays for. I saw a photo the other day that would be pretty funny if it wasn't true; it was of a diesel generator hooked to and providing power to a recharge station that cars were plugged into. First Law of Thermodynamics: "Energy is neither created or destroyed; it is conserved." And let's not forget about the lithium-ion batteries that are built with fossil fuel plants and that will eventually have to be disposed of. Sorry, electric cars are not the answer and the energy they run off is not "free." Can you imagine the amount of fossil fuel power plants that would have to be built if everyone in the world would be forced or voluntarily switch to? Yes, we could build solar power plants to replace them, but how much land, energy, and infrastructure would that take? And those thinking we will go "emissions free" with our cars and buses are delusional - it can not happen because of Thermodynamics. Sure we can reduce emissions, but what about the other consequences such as waste heat, water vapor, etc? It would be great if there were simple answers, but these are complex situations and will require thoughtful and complex answers.

macpuzl Oct 03, 2019 01:55 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

You really don't understand thermodynamics. And if all you're talking about is the efficient use of energy, you'd know that internal combustion automotive engines are nowhere near the efficiency levels of power plants, from both energy usage and total emissions standpoints. Just more politically-motivated big carbon FUD from the willfully ignorant.

a-1594284946 Oct 03, 2019 11:01 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

One of the reasons, if not the main reason, why I stopped riding my bike around Santa Barbara/Montecito is thanks to the horrible uptick in other vehicles on the road. The tail pipe emissions, the aggressive and distracted drivers——-no thanks. When I see bike riders here in heavy traffic I wonder about the damage done to their lungs from breathing in car exhaust. I wonder at how they think they are at all safe. Drivers rule our roads. It’s a damn shame.

a-1594284946 Oct 03, 2019 11:12 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

11:01 - Yes, drivers DO rule the roads - they were built for cars! Why do you think they're so wide and have lines the size of car widths? Sorry this is new to you, but it started over a hundred years ago....

Luvaduck Oct 03, 2019 10:37 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

How about good local transportation, perhaps using jitneys to make the rounds in residential areas--during commuter hours more often--rather than big buses on a sparse schedule? There are whole areas of residential housing that aren't served at all w/i a mile or so and require a number of transfers to get downtown or out to the industrial/heavily employed areas of Goleta.

Ahchooo Oct 04, 2019 08:58 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

The main cost at our local bus service is labor (drivers). Many small jitneys would not be feasible unless they had no drivers, which may be possible in the future, but not yet. I do like the idea.

a-1594284946 Oct 03, 2019 09:03 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

I ride a stationary bike daily at the gym. Does that count? SB Hills and narrow streets make it too dangerous to bike SB. Elsewhere, like NYC & Boston, bike lanes are adjacent to parkways with cars parked on the outer side of bike lane to buffer cyclists from moving vehicles. SB can easily do this. 1. Let’s think cyclist safety. 2. Stop street parking. Turn into bike lanes. 3. Make bike lanes width of where cars now parallel park. 4. Build more architecturally interesting multi-story parking lots in every SB neighborhood near schools and parks. We’ve the best designers ever in SB!

yacht rocked Oct 02, 2019 08:35 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

I see Union Pacific pick-up trucks with aux railroad wheels that lower onto the tracks run up and down between Ventura and SB at least once a week. Companies such as Cherokee Truck Equipment modify vehicles to be able to do this. Instead of using heavy railroad locomotives and double-decker railroad cars, use higher end buses that are able to enter and exit the tracks under railroad central control to provide commuter service between Ventura and Goleta. Add some additional "bus stops" in places like Viola Fields for commuters heading to Procore and Continental in Carp, and a few other key locations between SB Amtrak station and Goleta station.

a-1594284946 Oct 02, 2019 05:49 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

For a little comic relief.... for anyone who is not easily offended. This is a potty mouth song out of Ireland, but it's awesome. If needed you can look up to find the lyrics.... Rubber Bandits - Horse Outside. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljPFZrRD3J8

Flicka Oct 02, 2019 04:14 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

I don't get the idea that people are comparing our city to any others (San Francisco, Boston, etc) but rather saying that is how those cities solved getting people onto bikes instead of into cars. And pointing out why we don't have more people commuting on bikes. Suggesting anyone move to one of those cities is, what?, nutty?

PitMix Oct 03, 2019 09:43 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

2019 Mobility study for SF shows increasing population, increasing jobs, increasing car registrations, and small decreases in transit ridership and bike commuting. Given that situation, it is no wonder that the traffic congestion in SF is worse no matter what they have tried to do.

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 06:50 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

As a reminder, San Francisco did not "solve" any issue by increasingly limiting lanes and parking for cars. Their internal grid lock is worse than ever.

420722 Oct 02, 2019 04:59 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Flicka, people are constantly comparing SB to other (bigger) cities on Edhat and I think the best solution is for them to just move there. There is nothing “nutty” about that or me being tired of people that have moved here from those cities and are trying to change Santa Barbara to make it more like wherever they’re from.

Zenyatta19 Oct 02, 2019 04:09 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

You cannot compare biking in Santa Barbara to LA, Boston or Minneapolis. We are a seaside town with a varied topography. We are situated between the mountains and the sea, virtually cut off from other jurisdictions. Many people who work here commute from cities 30-60 minutes away. Families who live here are not riding bikes to work when needing to get kids to school, after school activities the grocery store etc... The dream of a city of young professionals who ride bikes everywhere is simply not feasible and will never happen. People need cars to get around Santa Barbara, Montecito, Goleta and Carpinteria. Those riding bikes around town are exercising and pleasure riders. Very few are riding bikes to get to work or go about their regular business. It just isn’t feasible. No amount of better designed bike lanes will change that.

420722 Oct 02, 2019 02:25 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

I wish people would stop comparing Santa Barbara to Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles & Portland etc. If you love those cities so much please pick one and move there.

a-1594284946 Oct 02, 2019 01:14 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

“Our bus system plans to go emissions-free by 2030.” Nothing is emissions-free. This is forbidden by the laws of thermodynamics. Electric or other esoteric vehicles simply generate emissions somewhere else, i.e. where the power is generated or stored.

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 06:57 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

You cannot make any quantifiable comparison between "emissions" and "damage" from hydroelectric which would be better typified as a "change". Solar farms, in addition to the load on the planet created by mining, manufacturing, transporting, installing etc., not to mention their low efficiency, also create wastelands for the flora and fauna where they are densely installed.

a-1594284946 Oct 03, 2019 05:04 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Electric vehicles are much more efficient use of resources than ICE powered vehicles when accounting for cradle to grave emissions. Ever more so if they use solar energy exclusively. That includes the manufacturing of pv system components or natural gas fired power plants. With coal fired power generation is about equal or slightly less.

jqb Oct 02, 2019 04:37 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

"This is forbidden by the laws of thermodynamics. " Completely wrong, and not just because "emissions" here refers to greenhouse gases and other pollutants, not all substances.

Sam The Dog Oct 02, 2019 02:26 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

In the case of hydropower the "emmissions" equate to the damage to the river ecosystem when it's natural sedimentary flow and animal habitat/migrations are disrupted.

Yeti Oct 02, 2019 12:05 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

That all sounds great Rachel, though I feel it is very clear that electric charging stations and bike lanes can not possibly do enough to fix the congestion and pollution issues in this area. The majority of the traffic issues are due to the huge number of people commuting solo from Ventura County and the North County communities. The % of electric cars on the roads and people willing to ride a bike to work is very insignificant and NOT worthy of a MAJOR effort in this regards..Some improvements would always be nice, but overall it just will not make that big of a volume of use difference. The best solution would be to negotiate better scheduling with Union Pacific to facilitate the track access for commuter rail runs from these outer two areas to and from Goleta and Santa Barbara during Normal Peak commuting hours. Currently we have one commuter train from Ventura County coming into to town at SIX THIRTY AM, and then returning back very late in the day. This does not jive with most people's normal schedules. IF they were to have 2-3 runs for commuters during normal hours in the morning and afternoons in both directions.. make it easy and convenient.. and coordinate these with MTD schedules.. then you should have a significant improvement. It will take some real bullying of schedules with Union Pacific..but it should take priority and can IF it is really pushed by officials.. Most everything can be negotiated out IF it is made a priority. Add a few more rail sidings in some strategic locations, add a bunch more cars on the commuter trains... and watch ridership take off!

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 08:34 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Building and buying more track would solve an increasing need for flexible transportation? First, the only thing that moves efficiently by rail are commercial goods, not people. Second, the cost of land in this state makes massive, new rail systems irrefutably not economically feasible. Third, buying access to the railroad right of way and then putting dedicated, even self driving, electric/hydrogen buses that can also leave the comically limiting, point to point right of way DOES make sense. We can have flexibility and dependability if we stop thinking in terms of 100 years ago...

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 08:34 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Building and buying more track would solve an increasing need for flexible transportation? First, the only thing that moves efficiently by rail are commercial goods, not people. Second, the cost of land in this state makes massive, new rail systems irrefutably not economically feasible. Third, buying access to the railroad right of way and then putting dedicated, even self driving, electric/hydrogen buses that can also leave the comically limiting, point to point right of way DOES make sense. We can have flexibility and dependability if we stop thinking in terms of 100 years ago...

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 08:34 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Building and buying more track would solve an increasing need for flexible transportation? First, the only thing that moves efficiently by rail are commercial goods, not people. Second, the cost of land in this state makes massive, new rail systems irrefutably not economically feasible. Third, buying access to the railroad right of way and then putting dedicated, even self driving, electric/hydrogen buses that can also leave the comically limiting, point to point right of way DOES make sense. We can have flexibility and dependability if we stop thinking in terms of 100 years ago...

forrestmv18 Oct 03, 2019 08:34 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Building and buying more track would solve an increasing need for flexible transportation? First, the only thing that moves efficiently by rail are commercial goods, not people. Second, the cost of land in this state makes massive, new rail systems irrefutably not economically feasible. Third, buying access to the railroad right of way and then putting dedicated, even self driving, electric/hydrogen buses that can also leave the comically limiting, point to point right of way DOES make sense. We can have flexibility and dependability if we stop thinking in terms of 100 years ago...

PitMix Oct 02, 2019 01:14 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

In a perfect world there would be a bunch of commuter trains serving our needs. In our imperfect world we did not preserve the right to the tracks, so are forced to beg their owners for some leeway to run just one commuter train each way. If you want a bunch of trains, you have to compensate the owners for their use. Really, the smartest thing we could do is take our defense budget and buy all of the track, and then build double tracks and grade-separated crossings everywhere. But we're not that smart.

a-1594284946 Oct 02, 2019 11:36 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Sorry, but blaming bike/car collisions on the lack of bike lanes and "the lack of automobile driver awareness," without even mentioning the plague of stop sign/red light blowing cyclists is just irresponsible. We have a huge population of entitled cyclists who believe "share the road" means "cyclists don't need to obey traffic laws." You can't leave out that giant factor that is contributing to so many of the local collisions.

a-1594284946 Oct 03, 2019 08:37 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

JQB - sure, we do. But, we also have a huge population of entitled cyclists, wouldn't you agree? It's not like only one group is to blame here.

PitMix Oct 03, 2019 08:06 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

1:55, you don't have to agree, you have to read the studies and then understand why 2 states acted on them. Are you saying that this info has no effect on your reasoning?

a-1594284946 Oct 02, 2019 01:55 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

PITMIX - is laughably simple, stop overthinking it. I just don't agree with the idea that allowing cyclists to ignore stop signs is safer. And all the other "bicyclist behavior" you claimed I "dragged" in, was to simply support my opinion that obeying the existing traffic laws is more safe than allowing them to ignore stop signs. Simple.

PitMix Oct 02, 2019 01:44 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Pretty typical response. I offered actual information on one specific item referenced by 11:36 and you didn't offer any additional info and then dragged a bunch of other bicyclist behavior into the discussion. Really hard to actually resolve anything if you are using those strategies. But maybe that isn't your intent?

a-1594284946 Oct 02, 2019 01:40 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

PITMIX - If spending less time in an intersection is "safer," then how about they just get off the road altogether? See? Just as silly an idea, but a logical extension of the argument - less time in the way of cars = safer. No, cyclists can obey the laws of the road and actually be safer than if they were blasting through stop signs, riding on sidewalks, swerving into the road as they ride 2-3 abreast instead of single file, etc etc etc..... Stop making excuses for law breaking cyclists.

PitMix Oct 02, 2019 01:11 PM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Studies show that having cyclists treat stop signs as a yield is safer for them because they spend less time in the intersection where it is very dangerous to them. Idaho and Delaware have passed these laws. I know as a driver it is disconcerting to see a bicyclist ignore laws that I am subject to, but really they are in an entirely different and exposed situation and deserve different treatment.

EastBeach Oct 02, 2019 11:24 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

I rode my bike to work the last two Fridays 14 miles each way. I realize not everyone can do that, and I drive my car most of the time, but it was a great way to start the day and get some exercise. There is nothing hypocritical about supporting system-wide changes in our energy/transportation infrastructure while still using the old one - you have to start somewhere.

Red Creek Oct 02, 2019 11:13 AM
Opinion: Transportation in the 21st Century

Good letter and an appropriate response to the "what about ?" folks who have disparaged the rally goers . Change does begin with us, and choosing more efficient, less polluting transportation is something we can do. Electing national and local leaders who are willing to commit to infrastructure changes (such as electric charging stations, safe bikeways and pedestrian walkways) is essential.

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