NORTH BAY – Napa County is searching for ways to become less dependent on cars in order to comply with state climate change protection targets.
“We are trying to figure out how to decongest, to provide alternatives to driving,” said Paul Price, the executive director for the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency.
Mr. Price came to the planning agency six months ago with 35 years of experience in the transportation industry.
“Planning and delivering is the real rush,” he said of working in transportation. “Figuring out the needs of a community and making it happen.”
There are a number of issues Napa has to deal with, said Mr. Price. One of the core issues is there is not a local transportation sales tax measure to fund the projects that need to be done. He said voters did not pass the measure the last time it went to a vote.
“I think we will be looking at it again in a few years, but we need to show the public some major accomplishments first and then that there are other needs for more money.”
One of the reasons he said that the county needs more money for transportation is to be able to deal with poor road conditions in a timely fashion. Currently there are unmet needs.
“There is a paving index for the Bay Area,” he said. “Napa County is one of the worst counties for infrastructure.”
Once the roads fail and the sub base fails, you have to repave, he said. To catch them early in order to deal with them saves money in the long run but costs money up front.
Another issue is public transportation.
“There is the I-29 corridor, there is Napa to the Vallejo ferry, and there is American Canyon. I am interested in how we will achieve remedying these problems. Is it an HOV lane? Rail corridor?”
He said they need to be innovative in their thinking because expanding the roadways is not something they want to do.
“We have to be sensitive to the environment and to what kind of community the citizens want.”
Not to mention how they deal with the transit-oriented development SB 375, greenhouse gas reduction AB 32 and the governor’s executive order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a press release from the office of the governor, “SB 375 enhances the Air Resources Board’s ability to reach our AB 32 goals by directing ARB to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be achieved from the automobile and light-truck sectors for 2020 and 2035.”
ARB will work with California’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations to reduce the vehicle miles traveled in their regions and to show a region’s ability to attain its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
“Spending less time on the road is the single most powerful way for California to reduce its carbon footprint,” according to the release.
SB 375 also had created incentives for developing “attractive, walkable and sustainable communities.”
In Napa, the transportation agency, the Planning Commission and the City Council have been working together to come up with ways to accomplish this.
There has been a bike trail concept brought forward that would run from American Canyon to Calistoga. It is a $60 million project that could be used for commuting and would reduce congestion.
“There really are not a lot of major hills, and the weather is fairly benign,” said Mr. Price, suggesting that bicycle commuting is a viable alternative to cars.
Another alternative would be improving the bus system. One challenge is only one bus an hour in many cases, which, Mr. Price said, discourages riders because if they miss the bus, what are they going to do?
There are currently 800,000 riders per year, and the planning agency is trying to double or triple that.
Another difficulty for the area is that it is a multiple-nucleus system, he said. There is no one big hub from which to house a transit area.
There is the pedestrian component, said Mr. Price. “How do we make the areas more walking friendly?”
Another area the transportation agency is trying to improve upon is transparency.
“Our Web site is not very good,” he said. It is developing a dashboard skin so that each project will be posted, and there will be status and budget information to create more accountability.
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