Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Save the Drakes Bay Oyster Co
Sunday 9 Dec 2012, 09:24
Filed under: Marin | Tags: , , , , ,

There is an insanity to the decision to not renew the lease. Forty percent of the oysters in California are produced there. Thirty jobs. Yet in the same decision the ranches are allowed to stay in this “pristine” area. Yes they should stay, but so should the oyster business. Even the creators of the original bill stated it was never the intent to close down these businesses. Oysters filter the water and make it cleaner. Yet though a convoluted process aided by junk science, the decision was to not allow the renewal of their lease. The aftermath is importing of oysters in to the area using planes according to one retail shop. That does not strike me as very environmental. The other thing to consider is existing oyster beds are under threat due to pollution and acidification.

Please sign the petition to save this important part of California. As of today there is 3k signers.

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SR Democrat: Novato representatives have no business being on NCRA board
Tuesday 22 Apr 2008, 06:53
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad | Tags:

April 22, 2008

The internal conflicts involving the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) board have moved from the politically suspicious to the absurd.

Marin County’s only two NCRA appointees are residents of Novato, a city that is suing the rail authority over plans for restoring freight service. Regardless, these two say they should be included in closed-door meetings on strategy for fighting the lawsuit.

Sound ludicrous? It is.

Other board members are wisely balking and have decided to ask the state attorney general for an opinion. For technical reasons, it’s likely to be a close call. That’s because Marin County is supporting Novato’s case only as a “friend of the court,” which may not present a direct conflict for the appointees. Furthermore, the Novato representatives are not decision-makers for the city.

Regardless, Marin County should be embarrassed by this blatant attempt by Novato interests to stack the deck and block the resumption of freight rail service from the inside.

The intent here was evident a year ago when Marin’s only two appointees to the NCRA board were Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold, a former Novato City Council member and a freight opponent, and Novato Mayor Pro Tem Jim Leland. Arnold and Leland left the board after the lawsuit was filed in September. But Arnold encouraged the supervisors to appoint two others: Former Novato Mayor Bernard Meyers and Novato resident Tom MacDonald.

NCRA officials contend Meyers and MacDonald have since hindered efforts to reopen the rail line and have made many demands for information, including reports on defense strategy in the lawsuit.

Adding to the intrigue is evidence that MacDonald has fed information to Novato City Manager Daniel Keen. The NCRA has produced copies of an Oct. 25 e-mail that MacDonald sent to Keen alerting him to a special NCRA meeting about awarding a contract to fix railroad crossing signals. “As I find out more I’ll keep you posted . . .,” MacDonald writes. “Maybe they are accelerating schedules to beat your TRO (temporary restraining order) threats.”

Keen responds, “We will definitely want to review that contract and give you our input. These signal contracts are potentially at the heart of our case . . .”

While MacDonald was not disclosing confidential information, it clearly demonstrates a willingness on the part of a board member to share information with the NCRA’s legal adversary. It also clearly shows an “us vs. them” mentality. If it’s not a direct conflict of interest, it’s dirty politics.

The NCRA should not be have to fight a lawsuit by Novato handicapped by two Novato board members who appear to be no friend of freight service. The city and county should trust that they have a better case without resorting to such shenanigans.

Marin County residents, especially those who recognize that freight service is environmentally superior to having trucks on Highway 101, should demand a change in their representation on the agency. It’s time to clear the foxes out of this hen house.Marin County should be embarrassed by this attempt by Novato interests to stack the deck

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MIJ: Trolley plan interests San Anselmo officials
Thursday 10 Apr 2008, 10:06
Filed under: Railroad, SMART | Tags:

Interesting thing here is that again only 5% of Marin takes public transit. Also this is being preposed as another feeder for the SMART train, boosting it’s chance of success.

By Rob Rogers
Article Launched: 04/10/2008 04:00:50 PM PDT

San Anselmo leaders have expressed interest in a plan for a streetcar line linking the Ross Valley to Southern Marin.

But the Town Council stopped short of allocating town funds to boost the idea.

“I’m a major advocate of this kind of transportation,” said Councilman Peter Breen. “But I don’t think we should be investing in it while a study is still being done.”

The “corridors plan,” which would place 11 trolley stops on a three-mile line between downtown Fairfax and San Rafael’s transportation center, is the brainchild of a pair of architects who see it as a way to tackle traffic as well as the lack of affordable housing. The two have identified six routes throughout Marin and hope to establish a demonstration line between Mill Valley and Sausalito.

“I’ve tried to promote workforce housing in Marin,” said Michael Rex, a San Anselmo resident who developed the idea with fellow architect Allan Nichol. “But whenever you try to add more people to an area, you get push-back from neighbors who think ‘more people, more cars.’ To achieve our land goals of infill and mixed-use development, we need to think about how we can get denser neighborhoods without adding more cars.”

Rex believes Marin residents are more likely to give up their cars for a streetcar than for a bus.

“Right now, less than 5 percent of Marin takes public transit. People see it as a second-class mode of transportation, used principally by those who are not able to afford or maintain a car,” Rex
said. “If we want friendlier, more pedestrian-oriented communities, we’re not going to succeed until we provide people with an alternative (to automobiles) that’s there when they want it and goes where they want to go in a fun, efficient, affordable manner.”

Rex and Nichol see the streetcar system as a potential east-west feeder to the proposed Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) passenger train system, which would run north and south along the Highway 101 corridor.

“We’re not looking at regional transit. We’re looking at a transit system that would get us Marinites around,” Rex said. “If the SMART rail comes in, how are workers going to get to their jobs from their stations? The trolley could also really promote bike riding. It’s hard to put your bike on a bus, but like a wheelchair, you can just roll it on a trolley.”

The idea of using the trolley as a link between the train, Marin’s downtown centers and the ferry terminals in Larkspur and Sausalito has caught the attention of public transit advocates.

“I met Allan Nichol few years ago at an event, and told him ‘SMART sounds fabulous, but how do you connect to it?'” said Mary O’Mara, executive director of MarinLink, a nonprofit acting as the trolley project’s financial sponsor. “He showed me this grandiose plan (for the trolley) and I said, we need this. It would be a wonderful way to bring the community together – all ages, all socio-economic groups could ride it.”

Vintage trolleys have been making a comeback since Portland, Ore. began its two-mile downtown system in 1991. Sacramento added a trolley to its light rail system in 1999, and the city is considering a $53 million, 2.2-mile streetcar link to West Sacramento. Los Angeles launched a wireless trolley system, with vehicle batteries charged by regenerative braking, for its Grove at Farmer’s Market in 2002. San Francisco has operated streetcars on its 5.8-mile Muni “F” line since 1988.

Rex and Nichol believe it would cost $20 million to $50 million to build a demonstration line between the Depot in Mill Valley and the Sausalito ferry terminal. Mill Valley, Sausalito and Marin County supervisors have each agreed to put $5,000 toward a feasibility study of the project.

Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at

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Judy Arnold: SMART urged to kill freight.
Wednesday 26 Mar 2008, 07:08
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad, SMART | Tags: , ,

Marin County supervisor Judy Arnold shows her true colors. She will only support SMART if it helps to KILL freight/NCRA. All gloves are off now.

MIJ: Judy Arnold: SMART urged to fight freight
Staff Report
Article Launched: 03/26/2008 12:03:53 AM PDT

Judy Arnold

THE REVISED cumulative impacts report by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has some new facts that are critically important to the northern part of Novato and all of Sonoma County.

It strikes me after reading the report that freight is preventing SMART from providing superior passenger rail service for Marin and Sonoma.

The most important point is that if SMART wants to run the light Diesel Multiple Units that it proposes for passenger service, it must obtain a Federal Rail Authority waiver. It would also be subject to California Public Utilities Commission approval.

A federal waiver is required because SMART is running on the same track as freight service (up to 32 trains a week).

Waivers historically have been granted “only under the condition of time separation, which limits freight operations to hours during which passenger trains are not in operation, precluding passenger-freight meets.” A “meet” is when two trains running in opposite directions move by each other, with one on a siding.

The report goes on to state that the Federal Rail Authority would likely only consider a waiver with the application of time separation or a new technology known as positive train control.

A PTC system is a computer-based information and braking control system using a Global Positioning System. This is especially important on single-track systems like that proposed for Novato. However, the Federal Rail Authority has not yet authorized the use of positive train control systems.

If SMART wants to use light DMUs it must either:

– Obtain a federal waiver to run light DMUs with strict time separation, which would likely mean the elimination of a midday train allowing time for midday freight service between the SMART morning and evening peak periods.

– Or hope the Federal Rail Authority will authorize the use of positive train control, which hasn’t happened yet.

Residents now are faced with heavy diesel freight trains, some as long as 60 cars, with loud horns running through their neighborhoods into the night. Many residents have grave concerns about the impact of freight.

In the last SMART election, 56 percent of Novato voters supported the passenger rail system because of the ever-increasing traffic congestion on Highway 101. I hear from more and more Novatans who can’t get in and out of town. Business owners tell me their customers can’t get to them easily. The impact on the environment from cars idling in freeway traffic jams also is of great concern.

Because of these facts, I have decided that I will support SMART, but only if the SMART board takes a public stand against the resumption of freight service. I am not willing to turn my back on Novato residents north of Highway 37.

If we did not have to accommodate freight, which already has failed repeatedly under past operators, SMART could run light diesel units, which are environmentally superior and quieter.

It is possible to stop the North Coast Rail Authority and its operator, NWP. We elect the policy makers who grant the rail authority its funding, such as our North Bay state legislators and federal congressional representatives. We can tell them we don’t want our public dollars to subsidize a private company. If the state and federal money dries up, the NCRA can’t survive.

I call on the SMART board to join with me in this effort and end the strained “arranged marriage” it has with the North Coast Rail Authority.

If this happens, I ask Novato to join me in embracing the SMART ballot measure in November with a light diesel system that will add another mode of travel in the Highway 101 corridor of Marin and Sonoma.

And in two years (after a demonstration project is up and running), we can supplement the light rail system with the addition of personalized rapid transit and really put a dent in our oil dependence.

Judy Arnold represents the Novato area on the Marin Board of Supervisors.

MIJ: Bicycle advocates face big challenge
Monday 3 Mar 2008, 07:47
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

MARIN BICYCLE advocates are convinced they can move the needle and get more residents to walk and ride bikes instead of driving cars.

The federal government has given the county $25 million to show they are right.

The pilot program is about more than wishful thinking. A report to Congress last week established some important baseline data by measuring travel behavior in Marin and the three other communities selected for the $100 million Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.

The next report will be released in 2010-11 and show what progress has been made.

Any progress will be welcome, but numbers that show significant increases in walking and cycling will make a strong case for committing big chunks of money to such programs. That is why hard data are so important.

The numbers were based on surveys of residents and traffic counts last year. They show that Marin, while doing better than many areas, has much room for improvement.

– 82 percent of daily trips here were by car or truck.

– 11.8 percent were on foot.

– 3.2 percent were by bus.

– 1.8 percent were on a bike.

– The average trip on a bike was 8.6 miles; it was 2.3 miles for those who walked.

Recreational cycling was not counted as a

Marin’s percentage of daily trips by walking and cycling was 13.6 percent; the national average was 9.5 percent.

Advocates and county officials are betting that spending $20 million on bike and pedestrian paths and other infrastructure improvements will encourage residents to leave their autos at home and prove that the federal grant was money well spent.

Marin’s history of bicycle advocacy is a big reason why the county was selected.

Twenty-five million dollars seems like a lot, but the list of potential projects in Marin would have required far more.

Marin’s spending plan was winnowed down to 23 capital projects and studies, including bike paths along Alameda del Prado in Novato, Doherty Drive in Larkspur and Mahon Creek in San Rafael. One study will look at opening the Alto Tunnel to provide easy bicycle access between Mill Valley and Corte Madera. That long has been a dream of bicycle advocates.

The federal pilot program, while ambitious, also should be viewed in the larger context of what the Marin County Bicycle Coalition has been working on for a decade. Its goal is to build out the bike and pedestrian infrastructure throughout the county and encourage residents to use it.

That means changing more than just the culture of how we get around. It means working with city and other public engineers to think about improving bike and pedestrian access when making any street improvements.

Creating the political will to open tunnels and build more bike paths is an accomplishment in which bicycle advocates should take pride. They have moved that needle.

But changing Marin’s auto-centric mindset, which has been engrained by decades of land-use planning based on driving, is a far greater challenge. For many local cyclists, riding is a form of recreation. Making major inroads into daily vehicle use ultimately will require a huge shift in how we live and work that will take decades.

Marin advocates deserve credit for tackling this complex issue. The stakes, after all, are high and getting higher, including the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change and global warming.

We urge you to think about these numbers – and think twice before you get behind the wheel to run an errand.

Every trip counts. And moving the needle includes keeping an eye on the one in your dashboard that shows how much gas you are using.

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MIJ: Ferry parking a major headache
Tuesday 11 Dec 2007, 07:56
Filed under: Railroad | Tags: ,

Seems as though Marin is good about the using the ferry, but not good about using public transit to get there. Yet we trust these hypocrites to make sound environmental decisions on the railroad?

Staff Report
Article Launched: 12/09/2007 12:04:32 AM PST

THERE IS some irony surrounding the shortage of parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

The ferry is a mass transit success story that keeps getting better as more commuters take it to San Francisco.

Ridership topped 2 million passengers in the year that ended June 30, and another fast ferry has been ordered.

The result is a parking problem at the terminal. All 2,000 spaces – and that includes makeshift accommodations involving sidewalks and auxiliary lots – typically are occupied by 10 or 11 a.m. on weekdays. That’s been happening for more than a year, frustrating potential riders who can’t find a parking space.

Golden Gate Bridge District officials have proposed building a four-story garage to ease the parking crunch. A 969-space garage at the main parking lot would create 569 new spaces and cost $20 million. Much of the cost would be covered by the state and federal governments, but the cash-strapped district still would have to come up with several million. A $10 million structure could be built across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at the Marin Airporter, but it would be farther away and generate only 258 additional parking slots.

The cost, however, is the least of the district’s concerns.

A four-story parking
structure will dramatically change the landscape near the terminal. The Larkspur City Council has not discussed the issue, but incoming Mayor Kathy Hartzell expressed concern last week after a bridge district committee heard about the parking garage proposals.

“There are some visual aspects to think about,” Hartzell said. “We should look at public transit first to get people to the terminal before we build something to pay homage to the car.”

She makes two good points.

Aesthetics will be a major issue. There is no way to completely disguise a four-story parking structure.

But the irony involves her second point.

The ferry is popular, but the vast majority of riders have demonstrated over the years that they won’t take shuttles or other forms of public transit to the terminal. They want to drive.

We understand why ferry riders prefer to drive to the terminal – it is far more convenient and usually faster than waiting for a shuttle in the morning and evening. Perhaps that will change as traffic congestion increases and the price of gas goes up. But don’t hold your breath.

The bridge district is shifting away from the shuttle concept. A district committee pulled the plug on a shuttle route to the terminal the same day the garage proposal was aired because of lack of ridership, what officials called the “empty bus syndrome.”

It also is ironic that a Larkspur leader would be worried about a parking garage paying homage to the evil automobile. The Larkspur City Council has been a vocal critic of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, which is designed to encourage people to leave their cars at home. The train’s final stop would be at Larkspur Landing, where passengers would be able to walk to the ferry terminal.

What is important to remember is there is a parking problem at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal because people want to ride the ferry and not drive to San Francisco. That’s a very positive thing and a big reason why traffic flows so smoothly across the Golden Gate Bridge.

A vibrant ferry system is important and must be encouraged.

There is no question that parking structure at the ferry terminal would ease the parking crunch and accommodate the additional passengers in coming years. The bridge district is wise to get that ball rolling. But finding ways to encourage ferry riders to find other ways to get to the terminal, whether through shuttles or a commuter train, also must be a priority.

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Marin Considers trolleys
Saturday 17 Nov 2007, 03:45
Filed under: Railroad | Tags: ,

BACK TO THE future. Two local architects are pushing a trolley system – complete with electric cars that are replicates of antiques. Given Marin’s increasing traffic congestion, the concept certainly is worth exploring further. A trolley won’t solve all of Marin’s traffic woes, but Michael Rex and Allan Nichol deserve credit for stepping forward with an intriguing proposal.They also have gotten the attention of elected leaders in Southern Marin, who say the trolley plan could work.

Money, of course, will largely determine whether the trolley system ever becomes reality.

Rex and Nichol envision a trolley that would run on tracks built into existing roads and flow with traffic. They would be powered by a single overhead electric wire.

They figure it would cost $20 million to $50 million to get a demonstration line up and running from the Depot in Mill Valley to ferry terminal in Sausalito in five years. Trolleys would stop every quarter or half mile along Miller Avenue and then Bridgeway.

Trolleys eventually could serve Novato, San Rafael, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross and Tiburon.

Southern Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan and Sausalito Councilman Paul Albritton said the idea is worth pursuing.

The next step will be to develop some realistic projections on what a trolley system would cost, what it would take to build and where the money would come from. Even $50 million seems wildly optimistic, but given Marin’s desperate need for more transit options, it certainly is worth a serious look. It wasn’t that many decades ago that Marin had a vibrant passenger train system. Perhaps it is time to start borrowing from the past to address our current and future transportation needs.

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