Events, News & Blog

Urban Planning Guru Says Driverless Cars Won’t Fix Congestion

By John Markoff

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Peter Calthorpe thinks Silicon Valley has it all wrong. He rejects the ideas of tech industry visionaries who say personal autonomous vehicles will soon be the solution to urban problems like traffic congestion.


Mr. Calthorpe is a Berkeley-based urban planner who is one of the creators of New Urbanism, which promotes mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods. His designs emphasize the proximity of housing, shopping and public space.

He is not opposed to autonomous vehicles. Mr. Calthorpe’s quarrel is with the idea that the widespread adoption of personally owned self-driving cars will solve transportation problems. In fact, he worries it will lead to more urban congestion and suburban sprawl.

“One thing is certain: Zero- or single-occupant vehicles,” even ones that can drive themselves, “are a bad thing,” he and the transportation planner Jerry Walters wrote in an article last year in Urban Land, an urban planning journal. “They cause congestion, eat up energy, exacerbate sprawl and emit more carbon per passenger-mile.”

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SMART train system details roll-out to Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Sonoma

With the announcement last month that the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board authorized $24 million toward extending its north-south passenger rail system from Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport to Windsor by 2021 or 2022, many are wondering why it may take three years to see this relatively short 3.5-mile segment become a reality.

And officials themselves say they are facing uncertainty, despite the approval. California voters on Nov. 6 are being asked whether to repeal portion of the state gas tax, which could result in loss of funds for the Windsor extension.

Nonetheless, SMART officials say they continue to plan, not only for the airport to Windsor link, but farther into the future, extending the line further north to Healdsburg and Cloverdale and eventually Ukiah. There are also longer term proposals for a rail link east from Novato to Suisun City, Cordelia and Fairfield to connect with the Solano Hub and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor rail line.

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Tolay Lake Regional Park, co-managed by county and Graton Rancheria tribe, opening Oct. 27

Tolay Lake Regional Park, the largest in the Sonoma County park system, will open for daily public use late this month, marking a much-celebrated occasion that’s been 13 years in the making.

The park opening on Oct. 27 will lift the veil on hidden scenic treasures, miles of trails, diverse wildlife and hallowed aboriginal healing grounds — all of it mostly off-limits to the general public up to this point.

At 3,400 acres, “it’s a massive land base and an important ecological preserve for the county,” Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said. “And it has amazing cultural history.”

Located off Lakeville Highway about 8 miles southeast of Petaluma, the park takes in swaths of valley grasslands, rolling hills, creek canyon and oak woodland, as well as historic ranch buildings and the seasonal 200-acre lake itself.

The public unveiling gives Whitaker an answer to relentless questions he receives from an eager public about the park’s status.

“The feedback I’m getting is unbelievable,” he said. Management of the park is being called a model of cooperation between the county and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria, whose ancestors occupied villages on the site for millennia.

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Uber and Lyft’s Link to Traffic Fatalities Laura Bliss

Author Laura Bliss

Every convenience has its external costs, and economists love to count them.

With ride-hailing, the positive benefits to users, and society at large, are several. On-demand services like Uber and Lyft provide transportation in neighborhoods underserved by transit or taxis; safe rides home for late-night workers and partiers; and increased ease of access for people with disabilities, research has shown. There’s also some evidence that they reduce drunk driving. Besides providing a service to millions of riders, these companies are increasing access to safe mobility for groups that haven’t always had it.

But the growing demand for press-a-button transportation is coming from everybody, not just underserved riders. In cities, that is translating into more cars on the road. While the environmental and congestion impacts of this surge in vehicles have been much discussed, the potential uptick in traffic fatalities associated with Uber and Lyft usage has been one of ride-hailing’s lesser-studied negative externalities. In a new working paper, a team from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is now attempting to pin this down. The authors estimate that 2 to 3 percent of the number of crashes in a given area can be attributed to the introduction of ride-hailing.

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Safari Trek-&-Treat on the Sonoma Serengeti!

Before you go out to Trick-or-Treat, you and yours should come to Trek-and-Treat at the Safari West Halloween Spook-tacular! As always, kids in costumes will be the recipients of oohs and ahhs and a Safari West goodie bag when they visit our Conservation Pumpkin Patch!

While you’re visiting the pumpkin patch you can also purchase a pumpkin for yourself, or one to donate to our animals! Pumpkins make great enrichment items and whether the animals play with them, eat them, or smash them to smithereens, they sure do love these big orange gourds! Either way, the money spent will be donated to the amazing Vulture Conservation Foundation who work to protect some of the world’s most amazing and least appreciated .

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