Tags >> construction
Jul 13
2009

SMART's Railcar Decision

Posted by Bruce Robinson in transportation , technology , Sonoma County , policy , planning , nonprofit orgs , Marin , government , finances , environment , energy , economy , design , construction , community , carbon , business , budget , air quality

Bruce Robinson

The Sonoma-Marin commuter train faces a pivotal decision this week, as its directors choose the type of rail cars they will design the rest of the line to match.

The SMART Board of Directors Meets on Wednesday, July 15 at 12:30 pm in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chambers to consider the railcar purchase and other business.

 The regulatory standards set by the US Federal Railroad Administration are the biggest single factor shaping SMART's choice for new rolling stock (as railroad cars are often called). SMART General Manager Lillian Hames explains those standards are especially stringent in situations where freight and passenger trains share the same set of tracks.

 The global financial woes of the past year are also affecting SMART, Says Hames, particularly their plans to issue bonds against future sales tax revenues. They are hoping to bridge the funding gap with grants, cost savings in planning and construction, and other measures.

One of the variables tied to the choice of rail vehicles that SMART will use is the height of the floor height above the tracks, which is a function of such design considerations as fuel tank placement and structural engineering. The difference could be 24 inches or more, but either way, the passenger loading platforms at each of the 15 stations along the line will have to be built to match the train's floor level, so that wheelchair users can easily access the cars. These new platforms, says Hames, will likely look quite different than the wooden decks seen along historic train stations.

{mp3remote}http://media.krcb.org/audio/nbr/platformsremote}

 

Jun 25
2009

Sonoma County Economic Forecast

Posted by Bruce Robinson in transportation , tourism , speaker , Sonoma , planning , jobs , housing , government , employment , economy , construction , business , budget

Bruce Robinson

 Has the recession bottomed out in Sonoma County yet? Economist Steve Cochrane says the answer is....almost.

 

Housing prices have fallen by as much as 30%, a bursting bubble that has had repercussions throughout the economy. But Steve Cochrane of Moody's Economy.com points out that not all of them are negative.

 

While the California Legislature continues to wrangle over its response to the state's budget deficit, Steve Cochrane (right, in an old picture) says the federal stimulus programs are helping soften the situation a little. But he warns that help will only go so far.

 

 China and its trading partners are the brightest spot in the global economy, says Cochrane, and California's location on the opposite side of the Pacific Rim should eventually benefit from that.

Read Cochrane's full report here.

Jun 16
2009

Energy Efficiency Loans

Posted by Bruce Robinson in Sonoma , solar , legislation , housing , government , finances , environment , economy , construction , conservation , community , climate change , budget , alternative energy

Bruce Robinson

A new county program to help finance solar panels and other energy improvements for existing homes and businesses is up and running, and working out some early kinks in the system.

 

 One important aim of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, says John Haig, Sonoma County Energy and Sustainability Manager , is retrofitting the area's existing housing stock and other buildings to boost their energy efficiency.  You can read a general introduction to the program here.

How much will these projects reduce local energy consumption? There are a great many variables that go into that calculation, Haig explains.
 

Information, speakers and exhibits about solar energy and the county's retrofil program will be featured at the free Solar Sonoma County Solar Fair, Saturday, June 20, 11 am to 6 pm at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa. Click here for a full schedule of events.


 

 

Jun 14
2009

Grow Smart Bay Area

Posted by Bruce Robinson in transportation , resources , recreation , policy , planning , parks , open space , nonprofit orgs , jobs , housing , government , environment , economy , design , construction , carbon , business , alternative energy , air quality , agriculture , activism

Bruce Robinson

 

With another 2 million people expected in the Bay Area by 2035, Greenbelt Alliance is urging local governments to plan now where they are going to live. And they've got some ideas to suggest, too.

Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen (left) points to the east bay town of Hercules as one community that has proactively embraced a smart growth development plan for their city.

 How might that work in the North Bay? Greenbelt Alliance has already prepared a case study of Novato as an example.

There is mounting demand for smaller homes in attractive urban neighborhoods, says Madsen, and he predicts that builders and developers will need little encouragement to move toward meeting that demand.

If we change how the Bay Area grows, says Greenbelt Alliance, we can make our region more climate-friendly, affordable, and economically competitive, while protecting our farms, forests, and watersheds. Read more about the Grow Smart challenge here, or click here to see a regional map of projected residential growth sites.